A.Veteran carpenter Mike Shannahan of La Porte, Texas, responds: It's an excellent question. Since specifics could fill a book, I'll offer some generalities. Economics will guide most decisions. By and large, unit replacement is the less expensive course of action wherever possible. It's a straightforward job, so the labor costs are usually reasonable.

That said, rebuilding is sometimes the only option, especially when you're dealing with historic, discontinued, or custom-fabricated members. A well-equipped woodworking shop should be able to duplicate just about anything. My working philosophy is that if something can be built once, it can be built again. To avoid future rot, I mill window and...

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