Welcome to Bob Vila


How To: Clean a Down Comforter

Forget dry cleaning—you can clean a down comforter at home, for free, without losing any fluff. Here's how.

How to Clean a Down Comforter

Photo: wayfair.com

Just about every down comforter has a tag with care instructions that read, “Dry Clean Only.” But if you’re on a budget, or reluctant to expose your bedding to the harsh chemicals used in dry cleaning, or simply intent on avoiding yet another errand, there’s good news: You can clean a down comforter at home. It’s only possible, however, if you have a large-capacity front-loading washer. In a small machine, the considerable weight of a comforter can damage the appliance, while in a top-loader, the agitator can rip the fabric, causing feathers to spill out everywhere. But assuming that your washer is both large in size and front-loading in design, you can clean a down comforter by following these steps!

STEP 1
First things first, load the comforter into the washing machine. Next, add in a mild soap or, better yet, a soap specially formulated for down—yes, such things exists! Avoid using standard laundry detergent. What you’d normally use to clean your clothing would, if used on a down comforter, strip away the natural oils that are responsible for making the feathers so exceptionally light and delightfully fluffy.

How to Clean a Down Comforter - Bedding Detail

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 2
Set the washer to run with warm water on a delicate cycle. If there’s an extra rinse option, enable it. If there isn’t, that’s OK; you’ll simply need to run the comforter through a separate rinse cycle manually. No matter how you achieve it, the extra rinse is needed to remove soap residue from the down.

STEP 3
Immediately transfer the comforter to a high-capacity dryer. Set the dryer to operate on low heat, and toss in either dryer balls or clean white socks stuffed with tennis balls. Yet another option is to periodically remove the comforter from the dryer and give it a vigorous shake. All three methods perform the same important function, which is to prevent the down from clumping.

STEP 4
As the comforter dries, be sure to check on it every now and again, particularly at the beginning of the cycle. There is a danger of the comforter overheating, in which case the fabric could either melt or get burned. If you notice the comforter sticking to the interior walls of the dryer, stop the machine, remove the bedding, and hand-fluff it before continuing.

STEP 5
Keep the comforter in the dryer until it is bone-dry and the down has returned to being soft and fluffy. This may take several hours. Resist the temptation to take the comforter out of the dryer before it’s completely dry. Doing so would, at best, compromise the bedding’s insulating power and, at worst, encourage the growth of mold and mildew.

Want an easier cleaning routine? 
Keep the bedding covered, at virtually all times, with a duvet cover. Like a pillowcase for your down comforter, a comparatively easy-to-clean duvet protects the underlying bedding from stains. Every three or four months, remove the comforter from its duvet and hang it outside by means of clothespins. Save this chore for a dry, sunny, and preferably windy day. Once it’s hung, leave the duvet out until the sun sets. Cared for in this way, a down comforter may only need to be cleaned once every five or ten years!


So, You Want to… Install Recessed Lighting

With a flick of a switch, recessed lighting can suffuse a room with a warm glow, without the fussiness or limitations of elaborate fixtures. Before you decide to install this appealing convenience in your own house, however, you have some homework to do, and a few decisions to make.

How to Install Recessed Lighting

Photo: billfryconstruction.com

Recessed lighting has been around since the 1930s, and even though its popularity seems to have waned in recent years, manufacturers continue to innovate in the category. Homeowners in the market for recessed lighting have an ever-growing number of functional and aesthetic choices to make. So whether you’re renovating an old house or building a new one, successful recessed lighting installation starts with you—your project and its specific variables, as well as your vision for the completed space.

Before beginning the installation—and even before making any purchases—take the time to understand what limitations (or opportunities) lie in the project you’re planning. Recessed lighting comes with certain requirements. For instance, the housing must be tucked between framing joists. It’s easiest, therefore, for recessed lighting installation to take place during major remodeling or new construction. That said, there are work-arounds: fixtures specially designed to be retrofitted in existing homes. If you plan on doing nothing more than install recessed lighting, then you must be careful to purchase only those fixtures that can be installed under those circumstances.

Early on, you must also decide what type of recessed lighting you would like to install. Shopping is often easier with other types of fixtures, because table and floor lamps, pendants, and sconces each provide only one type of illumination, be it task, ambient, or accent lighting. Recessed lighting fixtures, however, can serve any of these applications, depending on the product you select. You just need to know what you’re looking for.

How to Install Recessed Lighting - Dining Room Detail

Photo: billfryconstruction.com

Wall-washer recessed fixtures emit wide swaths of light. When positioned around the perimeter of a small room, they can make the space appear much brighter, larger, and more inviting. Coupling wall-washers with dimmer switches provides even more control over the mood of the space.

Adjustable narrow-beam eyeball fixtures are used to highlight features and objects, such as works of art. Positioning the light directly in front of the piece and about a foot and a half from the wall usually gives good results. If your aim is to illuminate a three-dimensional object, you might want to consider installing two or three eyeball fixtures, as that combination produces the most dramatic effect.

Task lighting calls for the most light possible, so opt for recessed fixtures that include reflectors. Again, dimmers can be used to precisely tailor the amount of light. Just make sure the fixtures are positioned directly above the target area, so your head and shoulders don’t block the light.

Most recessed lighting fixtures come in one of three standard diameters: 4-inch, 5-inch, and 6-inch. The 6-inch models are the most powerful, and as such, they are best suited for rooms with very tall ceilings. Smaller-diameter fixtures are better for average-size rooms. Bear in mind that the diameter of a fixture also determines how close it can be can be placed to another fixture. A common rule of thumb is to position fixtures at least one foot apart for every inch of the fixture’s diameter: For example, 4-inch fixtures should be spaced four feet apart.

Some recessed lighting fixtures require special wiring and/or a transformer, so you must be at least somewhat familiar with the construction of your home. How far apart are the ceiling joists? What sorts of wiring are you likely to encounter? If you have questions, hire a pro who can do some poking around to see what’s in the ceiling.

One final note: Many municipalities require you to pull a permit before installing recessed lighting. Take care of that before doing anything else. Much better to be safe than to risk having to tear out a nice new installation!

Also, once the fixtures are in place, give careful consideration to the question of which of the many types of light bulbs you are going to use. Bulb costs run the gamut, color rendition levels span from poor to exceptional, and energy efficiency differs, sometimes dramatically, from product to product. Know the pluses and minuses of each type of bulb, and choose wisely.


How To: Clean a Garbage Disposal

If your sink smells like the dumpster behind a restaurant, take ten minutes to clean out your garbage disposal with these freshening tips.

How To Clean A Garbage Disposal

Photo: shutterstock.com

Consider the environment within the average in-sink garbage disposal: It’s cool, dark, and moist, and there’s a near constant influx of food that gets shredded and scattered about. No wonder it gets smelly from time to time! To clean a garbage disposal and eliminate the odor-causing bacteria, follow these instructions.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Flashlight
- Needle-nose pliers or tongs
- Ice cubes
- Rock salt
- Vinegar
- Baking soda
- Old toothbrush
- Liquid dishwashing soap
- Lemon or orange peels

STEP 1
There are two cardinal rules when it comes to cleaning a garbage disposal. The first is always to disconnect the power to the appliance before working on it. The easiest way to cut its power is simply by unplugging it. Normally, it’s plugged in to the wall under the sink. If you can’t locate the outlet, go to the electrical panel in your house and cut electricity to the circuit on which the garbage disposal is powered. To confirm that the power is off, try turning on the garbage disposal.

Next, point a flashlight down the drain to identify objects that may be lodged in, or wound around, the impellers that macerate the solids sent through the disposal. Look for such things as bottle caps, aluminum can pull-tabs, or vegetable fibers. If you find any, remove these items with needle-nose pliers or tongs. Yes, the second rule of cleaning a garbage disposal is never to stick your hand into the chamber.

Clean a Kitchen Sink's Garbage Disposal

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 2
Drop about a dozen ice cubes into the garbage disposal, followed by a half-cup of rock salt. Restore power to the disposal, so that you can turn on the mechanism while running water down the drain. Keep it on for about a minute, until all the built-up grime and gunk has fallen away from the disposal blades. Check the drain with a flashlight again. If the blades are clean, go and shut the power back off.

STEP 3
Pour a cup of vinegar and a half-cup of baking soda into the disposal. Let the combination fizz for about 15 minutes. In the process, the acidity of the solution kills bacteria, including salmonella and E. coli. Stick with the natural cleaners here; no toxic chemical should be used. Just as bacteria can come flying out of the disposal, compromising the sanitation of your kitchen sink, so too could a chemical.

STEP 4
While the vinegar and baking soda are busy fizzing inside the disposal, combine the two again—this time outside the appliance, on the counter—to create a thick paste. Put some of that paste on an old toothbrush, and use it to scrub down the top and bottom surfaces of the rubber flaps along the neck of the disposal. Those flaps are likely to be as bacteria-ridden as any other component. So while you’re at it, think about giving a good scrubbing to the rubber parts on your sink stopper, too, if there are any.

STEP 5
Now’s the time to engineer one final flush of the garbage disposal. First, plug the drain opening. Second, run the water in the sink until its basin is about three-quarters full. Add a teaspoon of dish soap, then finally remove the drain plug, letting the water drain out all while the disposal runs.

Additional Notes
You can add a fresh aroma to the sink and disposal by sending citrus peels through the disposal. And in the future, with regular cleaning of the garbage disposal, you can make sure odors stay away. Mark your calendar with a reminder to clean the garbage disposal every two weeks or so. For regular cleaning, any method works, be it ice and rock salt or vinegar and baking soda. Each takes only a few minutes, and if you stay on top things, you can avoid the more laborious and time-consuming process detailed above.


Show Love to Your Leather Furniture

Protect your investment in leather furniture by keeping the material soft and supple, free of cracks, with the regular application of conditioner.

Homemade Leather Conditioner

Photo: shutterstock.com

When our hands get dry and the skin cracks a bit, we quickly reach for the lotion. The same logic applies to leather furniture, which often deteriorates under conditions of low humidity. Besides regularly cleaning your leather sofa or armchair, consider going a step further and treating the material with a leather conditioner. Doing so not only keeps the leather soft and supple, but it also goes a long way toward ensuring the furniture lasts a long time. There are many leather conditioners on the market, but you can actually make your own using nothing more than common staples found in most kitchen cabinets. So without further ado, pull out a soft cloth, open your pantry, and show a little love to your leather with one of these all-natural homemade leather conditioner recipes.

Essential Oil and Vinegar
Oil-based conditioners are a controversial topic in leather care. While many homemade leather conditioner recipes involve the combination of olive oil and vinegar, some experts warn that olive oil can cause damage over time. What do those experts recommend instead? Lemon essential oil. Though the liquid has the desired conditioning qualities, it’s comparatively safer to use. After cleaning the leather, gently massage its surface with a cloth dipped in, or dampened with, 10 to 15 drops of lemon essential oil. In addition to leaving behind a fresh scent, this works to prevents cracks and promote the longevity of the leather piece.

Homemade Leather Conditioner - Sofa Arm Detail

Photo: shutterstock.com

Beeswax
An alternative to a liquid solution, beeswax-based leather conditioner works great but requires more preparation. To make, combine beeswax, cocoa butter, and sweet almond oil in a saucepan, using a 1-1-2 ratio. Apply medium heat, being very careful not to overheat. As soon as the solid fats have melted into the oil, remove the pan and allow the mixture to cool. After 30 or 40 minutes, you should have a thick balm. Apply the balm directly to the leather with your fingers, gently massaging in the conditioner, wiping away any excess. Once finished, buff the leather with a dry cloth to make it shine.

Mild Baby Soap
When it comes to homemade leather conditioner, most soaps are poor choices. Natural baby soap is an exception. Just be sure to choose one that includes no potential stain-causing color additives. To make baby soap-based leather conditioner, mix one quart of warm water, one tablespoon of soap, and a couple drops of vinegar. Dip a cloth into the mixture, wring it out so it’s damp and not wet, then wipe down the entire surface of the leather furniture piece. Allow the leather to air-dry once finished.

A note before you go to work: As with any leather care product, homemade or store-bought, be sure to test your conditioner in an inconspicuous spot before you commit to using on the entire piece of furniture. Only proceed if you’re happy with the results of the conditioner in the test area.


Genius! Copper Pendant Light

Inspiration struck when this DIYer saw a pricey designer lamp. Here's how she made her own for a mere $50.

DIY Copper Pipe Icosahedron Light

Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention—but so is thriftiness. When a $2,000 light fixture was out of the question, Brynne from The Gathered Home created her own icosahedron (that’s 20 sides!) copper lamp for a price tag that was well within reach. 

It can take guts to tackle a geometric project when you’re not a math whiz; Brynne has called herself a fearful/fearless DIYer. When asked what allows her to work through her critical, perfectionist side to see a project through, she said, “A lot of research! I like to have my plans and expectations set before I dive into a project, so I spend a good chunk of time on the front end researching techniques and supplies online or running ideas past someone knowledgeable. Once I have a basic outline in my head of the steps I’ll take to complete the idea, I feel much less intimidated to gather up the supplies and get started!”

That diligence has paid off as she’s shared her DIYs on her website. “When I first started blogging, I really had no idea how inspiring and encouraging the online DIY community could be! I never imagined the support and friendship I would find among fellow bloggers and it’s truly one of the best parts of doing what I do.”

So now, we’re sharing one of her tutorials with you, too. Read on to see how she brought this incredibly sleek knock-off to life.

Inspiration Copper Pendant Lamp Knock Off

MATERIALS & TOOLS

- 10″ IKEA Foto pendant light
- (2) 10’ 1/2” copper pipe
- 25’ copper wire, 2 packages
- Spray paint
- Tube cutter
- Measuring tape
- Marker
- Steel Wool, 0000 grade

STEP 1

DIY Copper Pipe Light Geometry

Math. To say it is not my strong suite would be an understatement. Truthfully, I had a little help with the geometry.

I began by tracing the base of my light fixture. I knew that I needed to fit the circle inside a pentagon, so we divided our circle into 5 sections with a protractor (72 degrees/section). In retrospect, once assembled, the entire icosahedron came out a little large for the IKEA pendant light, so I probably could have shaved the sides down to 7.25” or so.

STEP 2

DIY Copper Light - spray paint

The 10” IKEA Foto lights from come in silver, green, red and beige, but I wanted/needed black, so I taped around the wire and did a few coats of glossy black spray paint.

STEP 3

DIY Copper Light - Pipe Cutter

An icosahedron has 30 equilateral edges, so I needed to cut my copper pipe into thirty 7.5” pieces. A 10’ pipe will give you sixteen 7.5” pieces (plus 1/2” to 1” extra, I discovered, as they aren’t exactly 10 feet), which is why I needed to purchase two 10’ pieces. If a 10’ pipe is too long for you to safely transport home, and it very nearly was for me even in the bed of my truck, you could always cut the pipes in half at the 5’ mark before loading them into your vehicle, using a tube cutter.

DIY Copper Light - Measure

Although cutting all thirty pieces was a little tedious, this small copper pipe cutter worked just fine. First, I made dots at the 7.5” mark all around the diameter of the pipe with a marker. Then I lined the blade in the pipe cutter up with the marks, tightened it, and laid it on its back on a flat surface.

STEP 4

Once all 30 pieces were cut, I used some very fine 0000 grade steel wool to remove the red ink markings from the copper pipe. It worked like a charm—fresh, shiny, pure copper pieces ready for assembly.

STEP 5

DIY Copper Light - copper pieces

Assembly. This is the most detailed step, and the one for which I have the least amount of advice and helpful photos. I began with three copper pieces and as long a piece of copper wire as I could manage.

After I made one complete equilateral triangle, I kept adding triangles using one of the existing pieces as a side. While I wish I could be more informative, I’ll repeat that I do not have a geometrically inclined mind, so I had a hard time visualizing what exactly I was doing. I just kept in mind that each “point” of the icosahedron had five edges running into it, and the shape really did build itself.

DIY Copper Pipe Icosahedron Light - wire

Before closing up the icosahedron entirely, I made sure to fit my light fixture inside. I didn’t do this at first, but you will want to run the wire for the light fixture through the center of one of the points of the icosahedron, and then close it up around it. I forgot to do this at first, so I had to open up one of the points after the fact and re-thread my wire.

DIY Copper Pipe Icosahedron Light - desk

Thanks, Brynne! For more amazing DIY projects, like these Agate Slice and Copper Sconces, visit The Gathered Home.


Bob Vila Radio: The Basics of Drilling Through Metal

Metal is hard, but drilling through it is easy, so long as you take the time to do it right and give due credence to safety.

Provided you have the right tools, it’s not difficult to drill through metal. But for the job to go smoothly and the results to be satisfying, make sure you know the basics.

How to Drill Through Metal

Photo: shutterstock.com

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to BOB VILA ON DRILLING THROUGH METAL or read the text below:

First, be sure to wear safety goggles—not glasses—when you drill through metal. The goggles prevent any tiny flecks of metal from getting into your eyes. To hold the metal in place as you work, use a vise or a set of clamps. Also, it helps to create a small dimple, using a center punch, in the spot where you are planning to drill. The dimple doesn’t need to be big, just large enough to keep the drill bit in place.

As you’re drilling, keep a little light motor oil in the hole to help with lubrication and to keep the bit from overheating. Don’t try to rush the job by applying too much pressure on the drill and running it at top speed. You’ll achieve better control, and end up with a more accurate and cleaner cut, if you use moderate pressure and keep the drill at half speed.

Bob Vila Radio is a daily radio spot carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.

Radiant Heating Gives You Total Design Freedom

The benefits of radiant floor heating range from increased energy efficiency to improved indoor air quality, but for design-conscious homeowners, its greatest appeal may be that it's unnoticeable.

Radiant Heating Gives You Total Design Freedom - Warmboard

Photo: warmboard.com

By now, you’re familiar with the many benefits of radiant floor heating: It runs silently, circulates no dust or airborne impurities, and operates at least 25 percent more efficiently than the forced-air systems in so many American homes. Still, for some homeowners, what’s most impressive about radiant heat is how it stays out of the way, its  components always invisible. There are no vents, radiators, or baseboards to work around, enabling you to enjoy true design freedom. You get to lay out and decorate your home without coming up against any impediments, and without having to make any sacrifices. Radiant heat stays out of your way.

Radiant heating isn’t magic. The concept actually dates back to the Roman era, and 21st-century versions are the result of sound building science and savvy engineering. The principle is that, instead of distributing heat from a single source within a room, it would be more effective to deliver heat across the entire square footage of a space, from beneath the floor (or even from within the walls). Hidden from view, hydronic tubes deliver heated water to a series of panels, which in turn conduct heat into the rooms of the home. What results is an even, enveloping heat whose source does not encroach at all into the heated areas.

Over the past few decades, we’ve gradually become accustomed to setting up our living spaces only in ways our heating system components permit. For instance, knowing that obstruction would disrupt their proper operation, you’d seek not to place anything in the way of a forced-air vent or air return. Likewise, is there anyone who’s never chosen a spot for a piece of furniture specifically so that it would conceal the rusty baseboard or radiator with peeling paint? With radiant heat, meanwhile, there are no such limitations, because, quite simply, there are no visible components the homeowner would need to make allowances for.

Photo: warmboard.com

Even among radiant heating products, there are a range of technologies. Traditional radiant systems rely on concrete, with hydronic tubes set inside. Though it may be the most common approach, concrete isn’t always the best, in part because it doesn’t install easily under every floor type. To work under hardwood, for example, the concrete must be supplemented with an intermediate layer of either “sleeper” beams or plywood. The extra layers not only steal height from the room, but they also put more material between the heat source and the home interior. Sleeper beams, in particular, break up the heating area and cause surface temperature to vary across the floor. That decreases comfort while increasing the likelihood of uneven temperatures leading to floor damage.

Only Warmboard radiant heating panels are manufactured in a way that allows wood floor boards to be installed directly on top. With Warmboard’s highly conductive aluminum panels heating the floor material directly, with no intervening layer, the risk of damage to the wood goes away. In fact, Warmboard products are compatible not only with solid and engineered wood, but with virtually all types of flooring, including tile, vinyl, linoleum, and carpeting.

In the past, thick carpets and radiant heat were rarely used in combination, because with its insulating properties, carpeting worked against under-floor heating. That’s no longer the case, thanks to Warmboard. Because its aluminum panels conduct heat so efficiently, there’s enough power to heat through even thick-pile wool carpeting. So while radiant heating affords greater flexibility than traditional systems, innovative Warmboard technology takes it all a step further, eliminating what few obstacles remained. Now you have total freedom to design your home exactly how you please, and isn’t that how it should be?

Photo: warmboard.com

This post has been brought to you by Warmboard. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


How To: Clean an Oven

Smell something smoky? Check your oven. Spills and splatters from long-gone casseroles could be to blame. Roll up your sleeves and follow this step-by-step to get your oven back to working order.

How to Clean an Oven

Photo: shutterstock.com

You’ve put it off for months, hoping the little spills and splatters inside the oven would vanish of their own accord. There comes a time, though—as much as you wish it weren’t true—when you must clean an oven to ensure its continued operation. Of course, that’s assuming you don’t have a self-cleaning oven. These marvelous inventions have been around for a number of years. They maintain themselves by heating to an extremely high temperature that burns away residue. Older appliances are not so conveniently equipped. But by following the instructions detailed below, you can clean an oven completely in only a handful of steps.

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- Baking soda
- Water
- Sponge
- Old newspapers
- Spray bottle
- White vinegar
- Clean microfiber cloth

STEP 1
Start be removing the oven racks. These may need to be cleaned, too. The most effective method of cleaning oven racks is to give them a good, long soak in hot, soapy water (liquid dish soap or a crumbled dishwasher tablet ought to suffice). Can’t fit your oven racks in the kitchen sink? As an alternative, you can soak them in the bathtub. Just be sure to line the tub with an old towel so as to prevent the metal racks from chipping or scratching the delicate finish on your tub.

How to Clean an Oven Door

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 2
Within the oven itself, use a metal spatula to gently scrape away residue. The sides of the oven may be messy too, but most of your effort is likely to be spent on clearing ashy chunks off the bottom of the oven chamber. Most baked-on spills and splatters can be removed this way, but you’re not finished yet!

STEP 3
Mix baking soda with just enough water to create a thick paste. A typical ratio is one half-cup of baking soda and two or three tablespoons of water. Apply the paste to every surface inside the oven, including the back side of the door. Let sit for several hours or overnight, allowing the paste to penetrate deeply.

STEP 4
Once six or eight hours have gone by, lay old newspapers or paper towels on the floor in front of the oven. Next, using a slightly moist sponge, wipe out as much of the paste as possible. Lots of grease and ash should come out along with the paste. Continue wiping, rinsing the sponge as necessary, until no more paste remains in the oven. If the chamber still seems dirty, you may want to repeat the process, reapplying the baking soda and letting it sit before attacking the oven with a sponge yet again.

STEP 5
Fill a spray bottle with a 50-50 mixture of white vinegar and water, using it to spray down the glass portion of the oven door. Wipe away the moisture with a clean, dry cotton or microfiber cloth.

Additional Notes
In the future, to make oven maintenance less of a time-consuming chore, why not regularly wipe down the oven chamber with soapy water? If you stick to a program of more frequent, less intensive cleaning, your oven may never again need such major TLC. Hey, it’s something to think about, at least!


A Contractor’s Tips for a Long-Lasting Front Door

To keep entry doors looking and performing their best, heed the advice of contractor, author, and old house expert Scott Sidler.

Front Door Maintenance

Photo: masonite.com

If there were one rule in home exterior maintenance, it might be this: Don’t skip the door. With their frequent daily use and constant exposure to the elements, even well made, properly installed entry doors are prone to wear and tear. Given their partly utilitarian role in the home, doors are too often taken for granted and left out of monthly or annual upkeep routines. That’s a mistake, according to contractor, author, and owner of Austin Home Restorations, Scott Sidler. Here, Scott tells us what threats exist to the appearance and functioning of doors, and more importantly, what can be done to ensure that the door enjoys a long life. 

Front Door Maintenance - With Plants

Photo: masonite.com

What about ongoing maintenance? Are there annual upkeep tasks that you would recommend?

Scott: Spot-check the finish at least every year. Because of the stronger sun we have in the South, I see a lot of peeling paint. Here, paint chalks very quickly and doesn’t last nearly as long as it does in the rest of the country. But as long as you care for the door by keeping it painted, you’re not likely to have issues. I’d say that around here, a front door probably needs a fresh coat of paint—and at least a little sanding—every five years. It depends on the level of exposure it gets. If the door isn’t covered by a porch and is out there in the full sun, you may need to paint it as often as every two or three years.

Parents always scold children for slamming the door, but the sun and the rain are really a door’s worst enemies, right? Are there any steps you would recommend taking to minimize with the vulnerability of an entry door installation to the elements?

Scott: Many door jambs come with a factory finish on the side that’s visible to everybody coming and going in the house. But the back side of the jamb is usually left unfinished. So when we install a pre-hung door—whether it’s a fiberglass, steel, or wood door—we always make sure to back-prime the wood jamb to give it that much more resistance to moisture and insects. The other thing you can do is a borate treatment. It’s nothing complex. Borate either brushes or sprays on. Once applied, it migrates through the jamb, helping to the lengthen its life at minimal extra cost. It takes five minutes.

Editor’s note: Borate products are inexpensive and readily available at The Home Depot, which is also a great place to buy a entry door. The retail chain sells the full line of doors made by Masonite, a long-established leader in the product category whose fiberglass, steel, and wood doors come with a limited lifetime warranty when purchased at The Home Depot. If you need help choosing a new door, check out Masonite Max. Offered jointly by Masonite and The Home Depot, Masonite Max is an easy- and fun-to-use tool that guides you through the process of designing the perfect door for your project.

What other issues are there to watch out for? 

Scott: Of course, these problems don’t tend to affect fiberglass or steel doors, but in the warm, humid season, doors made of wood often stick. Then in the winter, everything works again. What some people do is shave down a sticking door in the summer so that it opens and shuts smoothly again. But now you’ve got a problem, because in the winter, that door is going to shrink, leaving big gaps all around it. If you’re going to modify a wood door because you’re having trouble with it, be sure to make allowances for the time of year. Fiberglass and steel doors are less sensitive to weather conditions, so they’re free of these seasonal issues.

Front Door Maintenance - Veranda

Photo: masonite.com

Assuming you’ve got the new door, it’s the style for your house, and you’re properly maintaining it—what are the benefits that can be expected? 

Scott: I don’t think a lot of people think about it this way, but the front door is the only part of your house that anyone will stand and stare at, with nothing else to do. This is how I explain it to homeowners: A guest doesn’t walk up to a wall in your house and just stare at it. But at the front door, while they’re waiting for you to answer it, visitors are just going to stand there and stare at the door. The door and its hardware. That’s the stuff your guests and potential homebuyers see first and linger on. Meanwhile, you probably go in and out of the front door every day. So make it something you love. And if there is one door in the house that should work smoothly, it should be your front door. It just gets so much attention. It’s the first impression your home makes. Don’t skip the door!

Editor’s note: Choose a new entry door with the best chance of standing up to the inevitable wear and tear it’s going to experience. In continuous operation since 1925, Masonite manufactures doors in an array of materials and style, and the company specializes in durability. Among the many Masonite product lines are its Barrington fiberglass doors, which stand out for their resistance to denting, warping, splitting, and cracking. Not sure what type of door you want? Don’t forget to try Masonite Max, a new online tool that guides you through the process of designing the perfect door and easily purchasing it from The Home Depot.

Front Door Maintenance - Glass Inset

Photo: masonite.com

This post has been brought to you by Masonite. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com


5 New Smart Home Gadgets for 2015

There were all kinds of gadgets and gizmos on display at this year's Consumer Electronics Show. Most exciting are the ones bringing us ever closer to the dream of a fully automated smart home.

As surely as the tides ebb and flow, each new year retires older technology and witnesses the arrival of a new generation, one more innovative and exciting than what had previously been state of the art. Of course, it’s only January right now. The year is still young. But if what’s to come resembles these favorites seen at the recent International Consumer Electronics Show, 2015 may prove to be the year in which smart home technology finally lives up to its compelling promise.

 

1. INTELLIGENT VENT

New Smart Home Technology 2015 - Keen Home

Photo: keenhome.io

If you’re spending the day in the kitchen, dining room, and living room, why should you pay to heat or cool the home office and den? With a system of smart HVAC vents, you can specify different temperatures for different rooms, all from your laptop, tablet or smartphone. Since they are sensitive to temperature, Keen Home vents can even self-adjust, sending heated or cooled air only to where it’s necessary, never to where it’s not. Check out the product video.

 

2. LIGHTER LOAD

New Smart Home Technology 2015 - Whirlpool

Photo: whirlpool.com

The latest washer-and-dryer combo from Whirlpool can behave differently depending on whether you’re home or away. For instance, if you’re at the office, the dryer can snap into “wrinkle-shield mode,” keeping your clothing fresh until you return later. At night and on weekends, or if you’re hosting guests, the machine can run on “quiet mode” so as not to create a disturbance. Plus, the machines boast item-specific cycles; that means you no longer need to wonder about which wash would be best for the bedding. Simply press a button on the control panel and let the appliances work their magic. Check out the product video.

 

3. LIGHT-BULB MOMENT

New Smart Home Technology - Stack

Photo: stacklighting.com

Light bulbs went for decades without changing. Then, in the past few years, these once-humble components have undergone at least a couple revolutions. Stack Lighting may have the final word: Its responsive light bulb, the first of its kind, automatically adjusts according to the amount of natural light there is available at any given time. These bulbs can even sync with your alarm clock, slowly but surely brightening to help you wake in the morning. Check out the product video.

 

4. SEE YOUR GUESTS IN

New Smart Home Technology - Netatmo

Photo: netatmo.com

It’s every mom’s dream come true: You can practically have eyes on the back of your head with Netatmo Welcome, a new home monitoring system. When a familiar face comes into view of the system’s camera component, you can be alerted by the system’s smartphone app. That way, you can know if and when a family member makes it home safely. Likewise, the camera can keep tabs on unrecognized faces, too. Check out the product video.

 

5. GARDEN SITTER

New Smart Home Technology 2015 - Parrot Flower Power

Photo: parrot.com

Whether you’re going away on vacation or are simply prone to bouts of forgetfulness, Parrot has the solution for keeping your houseplants alive. The company’s new device senses how much water your plant needs and delivers the right amount, for up to three weeks at a time. Whereas you might over- or under-water the ficus or philodendron one day the Flower Power H20 has been specially designed never to make that mistake. Check out the product video.