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- Kitchen >
- Fill the Awkward Gap in Your Kitchen with a Pullout Organizer
Fill the Awkward Gap in Your Kitchen with a Pullout Organizer
In a kitchen with scant storage, a pullout organizer offers a space-smart way to put every last inch to good use.
In nearly every kitchen remodel that involves cabinets of standard dimensions, you’re left with at least one gap between a cabinet and a wall (or a major appliance). You can always live with the void, but if yours is a small kitchen, you probably want to capitalize on every spare inch. I recommend installing a pullout organizer. These versatile, nontraditional kitchen storage options fit into spaces as slender as three inches. The narrowest organizers are perfect for such things as spice jars and cutting boards. Wider pullouts accommodate deeper items you want to keep within easy arm’s reach (for example, pans). No matter the width of the pullout—whether it’s five, six, or nine inches—stored items are accessed not by opening a door and reaching in, but rather by drawing the panel out.
When I redid my own kitchen recently, there was a five-inch space left over in a run of base cabinets. Knowing how our family typically uses the kitchen, I decided to install a pullout organizer here for our collection of cutting boards. (While most fillers are installed at the same time as the regular cabinetry, I was able to install mine afterward by fastening a level cleat to the rear wall.) If you wind up deciding that a pullout organizer would make a good addition to your kitchen, keep these tips in mind as you complete the project:
1. Secure the pullout in place
The first step is to secure the pullout in place. Having rested the pullout on the cleat I’d put on the rear wall, I proceeded to fasten the pullout to the side of the adjacent cabinet. (Don’t use screws that are so long that they interfere with the sliding action.) Be sure to recess the pullout to a depth that equals the width of the cabinet sheet material. That way, when you attach the cabinet front later in the process, the pullout sits flush with the surrounding cabinetwork for a seamless result.
2. Cut the sheet material
Anticipating that the cabinets would leave a gap—and that I’d want to fill the gap with a pullout—I made sure to order extra sheet material along with my cabinets. I knew that some of the sheet material would be needed to create a front for the pullout that would match the cabinets I was installing in the kitchen. Cut yours to the appropriate width using either a table saw or a circular saw and guide. In the picture above, you can see my simple setup for making the cut with the latter tool.
3. Tape the edges
This is an optional step, but I think it’s worth doing, not only for aesthetics, but also to protect the wood. Adhere the banding tape to your cut edges with a clothes iron; the heat activates the factory-applied tape adhesive. If it’s not available through your cabinetmaker, banding material can be found at your local home center.
4. Sand for a perfect fit
Eliminate sharp edges and excess material by sanding the newly taped portions of the workpiece with fine-grit paper. For best results, use a sanding block.
5. Position the pullout front
Prior to attaching the workpiece to the frame of the pullout, use clamps to position the panel in the gap. Drive screws from the inside so as not to mar the facade.
6. Enjoy the finished product
As you can see, I outfitted the pullout front with hardware that complements the style of my cabinet pulls. What’s most satisfying for me, though, is that the pullout area sits perfectly flush with the adjacent drawers. Not only that, but—crucial to a professional-looking result—the seams at the sides of the pullout are the same width as the seams between the drawers.
The pullout has been installed now for two months, and I can report that second only to the silverware drawer, it’s the most-used storage space in our kitchen.
- Green >
- How To: Clean Pewter
How To: Clean Pewter
Regular cleaning helps preserve of pewter pieces. Whether you're simply dusting or administering a full tarnish-removing shine, these steps can help you care for this soft, durable, and beautiful metal.
Used in everything from caskets to kitchen utensils, pewter remains popular with artisans and crafters in part because it does not easily rust or corrode. Pewter’s easy-clean, low-maintenance requirements make it the perfect material for jewelry, vases, picture frames and sculptures. On the flip side, the soft metal is susceptible to nicks and scratches. But kept clean and protected from extreme temperatures, pewter pieces keep their beauty for generations.
To clean pewter, start by filling a bucket with hot water. Squirt in some mild dishwashing soap. Dip in a sponge and squeeze out the excess water, then proceed to wipe down the surface. You’ll find that doing so eliminates a surprising amount of dirt and tarnish. Finally, rinse off the piece and dry it with a soft cloth.
At this point, you may wish to brighten the pewter with a polish. The best approach depends on the type of pewter you own:
Polished pewter has a smooth, shiny surface that’s easier to clean but also shows more imperfections on its reflective surface. Polish this type of pewter regularly with an all-purpose metal polish or a homemade cleaner (see recipe below). How often you polish depends simply on how shiny you like your pewter to be.
Satin pewter has a rougher-grained matte patina that requires only annual washing. If it’s time for a touch-up, the best way to clean such pewter is with a mildly abrasive homemade scrub (see recipe below). Apply the polish with very fine steel wool in the direction of the grain; be careful not to leave scratches.
Oxidized pewter has been treated with a darkening agent to give it an antique look. It should not be polished. A gentle wash is all you want to keep it clean.
If you do choose to polish your pewter, remember that while there’s nothing wrong with store-bought metal polish, you can achieve similar results for less money with an easy DIY concoction:
Mix one cup white vinegar with a half-cup white flour to create a paste (for grainy-finished satin pewter, add in one teaspoon of salt, which makes the paste slightly abrasive and improves its cleaning ability). Use a soft cloth to apply the cleanser, rubbing it in with a circular motion. Leave it in place for 30 minutes, then rinse off with warm water and let dry.
Optional: Boil a small amount of linseed oil, then mix in rottenstone (a powdered limestone available at your local home center). Apply this second paste with a soft cloth. Rinse immediately, then dry thoroughly.
If a pewter piece has sentimental or monetary value, the wise course may be to leave it alone. Talk to a professional jeweler; some collectors prefer not to clean or polish pewter, because the metal gradually takes on a patina that people prize. To preserve this aged finish, many choose to maintain pewter simply by dusting it occasionally.
- Painting >
- How To: Paint Tile
How To: Paint Tile
If you're unhappy with your ceramic tile, ripping it out isn't your only option. Did you ever consider painting it?
You are itching to redesign your kitchen or bathroom, but the color of your existing tile limits your options. Certainly, one possibility is to remove or replace the tile, but that’s an involved process, not to mention an expensive one. Another option—by comparison, a much easier and cheaper one—would be to paint the tile. Yes, it’s possible to paint ceramic tile! Follow the steps below to paint tile like a pro, and proceed with your kitchen or bathroom redesign, confident that any style is within reach.
Here’s the catch: It’s not a good idea to paint tile in the immediate area of the sink or bathtub/shower, because the moisture may cause the paint to peel. Focus your painting efforts on walls, floors, countertops—indeed, any tiled area that isn’t likely to come into contact with a great deal of water on a frequent basis. Also note that because painting tile requires the use of epoxy and other compounds that contain harmful chemicals, it’s essential to ventilate the room well and to wear proper protective gear.
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Two-part epoxy
- Bonding primer
- Painter’s tape
- Drop cloth (or plastic sheeting)
- High-gloss or semi-gloss latex paint
- Paint thinner
- Urethane sealer
- Paintbrushes (or rollers)
Before you begin in earnest, thoroughly clean the tile. First, sand it. Next, wash the tile with a store-bought cleaner formulated to kill mold, or with a mixture of one cup bleach and about a gallon of warm water. Allow the tiles to dry completely before you proceed any further in the project.
Examine the tile. In order to look its best once painted, the tile should be free of imperfections. If you encounter any chips or cracks that you would like to repair, do so with a two-part epoxy. Mix the product according to manufacturer’s directions, then apply it carefully to the affected area, being careful to make your repair level with the surrounding tile.
Having successfully readied the tile, move on to coat it with an application of epoxy bonding primer. You can use either a brush or roller, depending on the size of the area you are planning to paint. Resist the temptation to skip the primer; you really need it for the paint to adhere in a lasting way.
Use painter’s tape in combination with a drop cloth or plastic sheeting to protect nearby surfaces from errant paint. Next, with a brush or roller, apply high-gloss or semi-gloss latex paint to the primed tile. If you find the paint isn’t spreading evenly, add a bit of paint thinner to the formulation. Once you’ve finished painting, wait for the tile to dry completely. In some cases, drying can take as long as several days.
Finally, apply two or three thin coats of clear, water-based urethane sealer to the newly painted tile. During the process, let each coat dry before you apply the succeeding one. This, too, isn’t a step to skip, because the sealer can be expected to safeguard the tile against threats like scuffs, scratches, and moisture.
- How To's & Quick Tips >
- Genius! DIY Trash Can Shed
Who hasn’t admired a great product in-store before balking at the price tag? When daring DIYer Anne Davis saw a $300 plastic trash can shed, she was determined to build her own on the cheap. And she succeeded in doing just that—spending only $30! Now, that’s Genius!
This project is par for the course with Anne. “I love the challenge of building and creating things that I see and would like to have,” she says. But there’s a limit to her DIY prowess—when it comes to upholstery, she’d rather buy than DIY.
We often hear from readers who love the idea of DIY but have a power saw phobia. And believe it or not, Anne used to be one of those folks too. “I was terrified to use power tools in the beginning, but after watching YouTube videos on how to use the different power tools, I felt more comfortable trying them out. I bought a small circular saw to start—it was a cordless 6 1/2″ circular saw that was lightweight and easy to maneuver. It was the best tool I ever bought!”
For readers looking to get their feet wet with power tools, she recommends a shelving unit for the garage. “If you mess up on the project, it isn’t front and center in your home!” she points out.
For pointers on making your own DIY garbage shed, read on.
- (6) 2x4s
- (25) 3′ fence boards
- OSB board pieces
- (6) 10′ tongue-and-groove pine boards
- #30 tarpaper
- (6) roofing shingles
- Wood pallet
- Modified wood shed plans
- Circular saw
I found a plan online for a garbage container and wood shed that looked fairly easy to build. I modified the plan to suit my needs and began cutting the wood. All I have is a circular saw, so that’s what I used. I used a cardboard template for the angled roof rafters so I could cut the two pieces with the same angle.
Then I built the very basic frame and began attaching the fence boards as siding.
I used a pallet as the base.
Anne was able to create this project for $30 by using repurposed items she or her neighbors had on hand. Here’s the breakdown.
Here is the list of scrounged items:
- (25) 3-foot fence boards (didn’t use them all)
- Used OSB pieces I found while cleaning out my crawlspace as sheathing for the roof. (I had to add one more rafter in the centre because the OSB kinda sagged, the short piece of 2×4 was left over from the wood I had bought.)
- #30 tarpaper from my neighbor
- 6 roofing shingles found in my shed
- Tongue-and-groove pine boards for the doors (a little warped but serviceable!)
- (3) 2x4s
- (3) 2x4s
There are still a few finishing touches that are needed—some lattice, paint and trim and the hinges need adjusting, but this is what it looks like now:
Total out of pocket cost: $30.00—a far cry from $299 plus tax!! Now I can have my garbage in my front yard, neatly hidden away. And it’s quick and easy to chuck it out to the curb on garbage day. I need to paint the underside of the roof and attach a couple of pieces of lattice over the triangular openings on both sides. But it looks not half bad, even if I do say so myself!
A year later, Anne gave her DIY garage shed an upgrade with new paint and hardware. It’s certainly held up to the elements and looks great.
Thanks to our Genius blogger Anne Davis for sharing with us!
- Tools & Workshop >
- Bob Vila Radio: Reciprocating Saw Safety
Bob Vila Radio: Reciprocating Saw Safety
It's one of the most handy tools in the do-it-yourselfer's repertoire, but like any power tool (especially ones outfitted with a blade), the reciprocating saw demands special safety considerations.
Reciprocating saws—the ones with a motor and a thin, straight blade that juts back and forth—are one of the most useful tools you can own.
Listen to BOB VILA ON RECIPROCATING SAW SAFETY or read the text below:
Reciprocating saws can cut through wood, metal, and all sorts of construction materials. But they can also be dangerous and need to be handled with the utmost care.
One of the main hazards of recip saws is their potential for kickback. That can happen if you make the mistake of pulling the blade out of your cut while the blade’s still moving. The tip of the blade smacks into the material you’re cutting, and the whole saw, including the moving blade, kick back toward you. If you happen to be on a ladder, that’s especially bad news.
You also need to keep in mind that the blade can bind unexpectedly. That’ll cause the blade to stop moving, but not you and the saw. Be sure to keep a tight grip. One final caution: a saw blade can generate a lot of heat, so give it some time to cool down before trying to change it.
Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.
- Historic Homes & More >
- An Army of Artisans Descends on a California Craftsman
An Army of Artisans Descends on a California Craftsman
See how skilled 21st-century artisans brought an early 20th-century home back to life.
In La Verne, California, a small, sunny city roughly 30 miles east of Los Angeles, renovation expert Ray Adamyk recently deployed a half-dozen specialists from what he calls an “artisan army” to restore a down-on-its-heels Craftsman-style home to its former glory.
Occupying a prominent corner lot, the residence was built in 1911 for Henry L. Kuns, a mover and shaker in this town that dates back to the late 1800s and was initially known as Lordsburg. Kuns’s father, David, was a cofounder of the college that went on to become the University of La Verne, and Henry himself had a successful career in business, ran a local bank, and served as mayor.
After Kuns died in 1930, his home slowly fell into disrepair. The university bought the place in 2012, and Adamyk entered the picture shortly thereafter. “We bought the house from the University of La Verne,” he says. “We looked at it and saw some potential to bring it back to its grandeur.”
That was no inexpensive proposition. The company Adamyk runs, Spectra, spent $400,000 on the purchase. It then dropped another $900,000 on the building’s rehab. For a full year, carpenters, stonemasons, tile workers and plasterers joined the project, laboring not with the breezy insensitivity that can at times characterize contractors, but in the deliberate, painstaking manner of truly expert restorationists.
The Kuns House typifies the Craftsman style that remained popular from the late 1800s through the 1930s. In its simplicity, the architecture signaled a reaction against the highly decorative—some would say overwrought—Victorian aesthetic that had come before. In no small part influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement and the value it placed on honesty of materials, Craftsman homes harbor such signature traits as exposed beams and generous wainscoting.
Inside, the artisans found plenty of wood in need of refinishing. There was the omnipresent wainscoting, of course, but also oak doors and stairs, and wooden windows that had become inoperable. Hardware throughout was made to shine anew. Where the hardware couldn’t be fixed, the artisans replicated exactly what had been there instead of opting for replacements that, while considerably less expensive, would not have shown the same level of respect for the original building.
The goal, however, was not to create a museum. Rather, Adamyk and his artisans crafted a home equally committed to the past and the present. In the course of work, all plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems were brought up to date. Although the kitchen was completely redone, its design is in keeping with the rest of the house. In the master bath, the original tub and subway tiles were retained. And in the basement, what was once a coin collector’s vault is now a wine cellar.
Perhaps the most intense restoration efforts went into the granite exterior, large portions of which had become loose or had fallen down. Where possible, stones in need of replacement were switched out for granite from the same quarry from which the original stone had come. Artisans gently pressure-washed the granite that had been there for over a hundred years, then scrubbed it all by hand with natural-bristle brushes before pressure-washing it once again. Finally, the artisans applied two coats of sealer to both the granite and the mortar binding it together, preparing the structure for its next hundred years.
Completed two months ago, the Kuns House is now on the market for $1.6 million—and it’s turning heads. Sotheby’s reports that potential buyers are inquiring about the residence on a weekly basis. Much of the credit for that interest belongs to the skilled craftspeople who carefully and lovingly brought the place back to life.
J. Michael Welton writes about architecture, art, and design for national and international publications. He also edits and publishes a digital design magazine at www.architectsandartisans.com, where portions of this feature first appeared.
- Kitchen >
- Buy or DIY: 5 Ways to Fit More in Your Fridge & Freezer
Buy or DIY: 5 Ways to Fit More in Your Fridge & Freezer
To buy or DIY: It's one of life's great dilemmas. Whichever route you choose, if you have a fridge that fills up fast, organization accessories can be super helpful, enabling you to pack more food into cold storage.
Spice racks, knife holders, and towel bars—there’s no shortage of organizational helpers aimed at bettering one’s life in the kitchen. Ironically, though—given how frequently we use the fridge and how crucial the appliance is to our daily lives—refrigeration organization flies under most people’s radar, even those who have eagerly gone to great lengths to improve storage elsewhere in the kitchen. If poor design or lack of space in the fridge or freezer frustrates you on an ongoing basis, it’s time to act. Proper organization can make your next interaction with the fridge a little easier, whether you’re preparing a meal or grabbing something on the go. Scroll down to see five favorite refrigerator organization ideas, any of which can you buy, usually cheaply, or easily create the DIY way.
1. WIRE BASKETS
Raise your hand if this has ever happened to you: After making an extra trip to the market for item X, you return home only to find that you had item X all along, only it was hidden beneath something else. To make it easier for you to see what you have and what you need, buy or DIY at least one wire basket to corral all those packages and bags in the freezer.
You can keep frozen foods organized with a set of wire baskets like these. Put veggies in one, meats in another, dessert items in a third. You might find that the baskets not only help you create and maintain organization, but also free up space, enabling you to pack even more into your freezer. (Ice cream, anyone?)
To make the most of every inch in the freezer, custom-make baskets to fit your freezer’s dimensions exactly. Hardware cloth makes it pretty easy to do this. You’ll need a pair of tin snips, needle-nose pliers, and sturdy gloves. You might choose to use some graph paper, and you’ll definitely want to use this walkthrough from Four Corners Design.
2. CONDIMENT CADDIES
The next time you fire up the grill and set the patio table for an alfresco dinner, wouldn’t it be so much more convenient if you could carry all your condiments outside at once? That’s where the condiment caddy comes in—this is the fridge version of those sweet little handled baskets on the table at your local diner.
The Refrigerator Condiment Caddy slides right into the door compartment of your refrigerator, and it keeps items like ketchup, mustard, and hot sauce handily portable. When the meal is about to be taken out back, simply lift the caddy out of its perch and take the durable plastic basket along with you.
Create your own condiment caddy with a six-pack carrier and contact paper. (If you’ve never experimented before with contact paper, trust me—you’re going to love how versatile and DIY-friendly it is.) For step-by-step instructions on how to make your own caddy, run—don’t walk—over to Neat Nest Organizing.
3. ABSORBENT MATS
When it’s all over the refrigerator shelves, there is indeed reason to cry over spilled milk. If you don’t clean up the mess immediately, it soon becomes crusty and caked-on. And what about that rotten tomato in the crisper? Or was it a pepper? Yuck! What you need is the fridge version of cabinet shelf liner.
The Fridge Coaster absorbs drips and can be cleaned or replaced when necessary. It’s available in colorful prints and in an array of sizes to fit different parts of your fridge, such as the shelves, crispers, and door bins. Not only is the Fridge Coaster functional, but it also relieves the stark whiteness of the fridge interior.
Take a tip from 2 Little Superheroes and make your own fridge mats out of dollar-store placemats. To get a snug fit, simply remove the fridge shelves you wish to cover, trace their outlines onto the placemats, then cut the mats and insert them. These are as pretty as a picture and ready to rock, no matter what messes arrive.
4. LAZY SUSANS
Meal prep would be so much easier if you didn’t have to rifle through almost every jar and plastic storage container in your fridge to find the one thing you need. Oh, wait—there’s such a thing. It’s a lazy Susan, and you can definitely have one in your refrigerator.
A lazy Susan performs the same role in the refrigerator that it does on your dining table: It make things much more easily accessible. And it need not be an eyesore, as this rotating white marble tray amply proves. Remember to measure your refrigerator beforehand to make sure that your purchase will fit in nicely.
With only a few inexpensive materials from hardware and craft stores, you can make your own lazy Susan, customizing the creation to your exact specifications in both functionality and style. Seriously, you can do this. Visit iHeartOrganizing to find out what you’ll need and how to get it done.
5. FREEZER SHELVES
There’s only problem with stacking things Tetris-style into the freezer. Let’s say you do it very well, brilliantly placing a bag or box into all available space. What happens when you want to get something out of there? You have no choice but to undo what you previously did. Freezer shelves come to the rescue.
With stackable freezer shelves, you can organize like items into separate compartments. This not only makes it a cinch to find what you need, but also makes it a cinch to reach and remove what you want. That’s right—no more tumbling hockey pucks of hamburger hurtling dangerously toward your toes.
If you’re like me, then these days you are using your paper storage accessories less and less. If you have any magazine files lying around, why not repurpose them into instant, magnificently simple DIY freezer shelves? For details on this project and even more repurposing ideas, visit Aunt Peaches.
- Flooring & Stairs >
- How To: Install Click Flooring
How To: Install Click Flooring
Thanks to click-together flooring, it's easier than ever for homeowners to put engineered hardwood underfoot. As with so many other do-it-yourself jobs, careful planning is the key to pro-quality results.
Over the last decade, engineered wood flooring has developed by leaps and bounds, making it more affordable than ever before for homeowners to put hardwood underfoot. That’s partly due to the fact that engineered floorboards are so friendly to do-it-yourself installation. Click-together flooring products are the simplest of all, requiring neither glue nor nails. The tongue-and-groove design allows boards simply to click together and float, so to speak, over the subfloor. Even a relatively experienced DIYer can install click flooring using basic tools and a handful of inexpensive, readily available supplies. Read on to learn how it’s done.
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Click flooring
- Tape measure
- Moisture meter
- Moisture barrier and/or underlayment pad
- Table saw (or circular saw)
- Wood glue
- Jigsaw (for cutting around pipes)
Like solid wood flooring, engineered wood products are sensitive to moisture, alternately shrinking and expanding as temperatures and humidity levels fluctuate. Therefore, the first step in installing click flooring is to bring in the boards, remove any packaging, and give your purchased flooring time to acclimate to the conditions of your space. A period between one and five days normally suffices. It may be somewhat of a drag, but exercising patience here is the best thing you can do to ensure that the floorboards do not separate or cup over time.
No matter the material of the subfloor, test its moisture content by means of a moisture meter to confirm that it’s not above 12 percent. Next, use a level to make sure the subfloor lies, if not perfectly flat, then within a 1/8-inch incline over any given six-foot radius. Make any adjustments necessary before moving on to lay down the moisture barrier and/or underlayment recommended by the manufacturer.
Now is the time to plan your installation strategy. Best practice is to install floorboards so that they run parallel to the longest dimension in the room. You may wish to dry-fit at least some of the material as a way of proving not only that your strategy is going to work, but also that you have enough flooring to get the job done. Before you proceed any further, inspect all planks for damage and defects.
As you prepare to install the first course of floorboards, remove some planks from at least three different boxes (typically, engineered products are boxed by length). Lay out a line of boards in random sequence, then grab the first board and place it in the corner, with the grooved side facing away from the wall. Place expansion spacers between the wall and the board edges that meet the wall. Repeat the process with additional floorboards, running them along the wall and locking together the short ends of any boards that meet (although a full lock isn’t possible until you put down the second row). It’s very likely that you’ll need to cut the last plank to size. Measure the distance from the wall to the leading edge of the penultimate plank, then cut the final floorboard to that length, leaving a little room for the spacer.
Now install the second row. To keep the joints between the rows from lining up, start this second run with a board whose end hits at least six inches away from the nearest joint in the initial row. Remember to place a spacer between that first board and the wall. Then slip the long tongue of this first board into the groove on the first row of flooring. To guarantee a secure connection between boards, be careful to keep dirt and debris out of the grooves.
Continue installing floorboards over the surface area of the room until you come to the last row. Here, you may find that the space remaining is not wide enough to accommodate a full board. In that case, measure what space is available, then rip as many boards as necessary down to the appropriate width. If you encounter a clearance issue that prevents you from locking any of these last boards against the groove of the adjacent second-to-last row, simply do this: Using a utility knife, plane the tongue off the edge of the boards that would not fit otherwise, then affix them in position by means of wood glue.
Remove the spacers from the perimeter of the room, and in the gap those spacers were occupying, install transition moldings directly to the subfloor. Quarter-round or baseboard moldings, installed against the wall, are also recommended (but not strictly necessary). Finally, clean the floor per the manufacturer’s guidelines and replace all furniture in the room. And you might want to put felt protectors on the legs of any chairs to protect your beautiful new floor!
It depends on the size of the room, of course, but in most cases it’s eminently possible to install a click floor within a single weekend. With proper planning, you can begin the project on Saturday and be done in time to host friends for a get-together on Sunday evening. They would never guess that you did it all yourself!
This post has been brought to you by Lumber Liquidators. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.
- Kitchen >
- Buyer’s Guide: Best Dishwashers
Buyer’s Guide: Best Dishwashers
Dirty dishes, meet your match. Today's dishwashers can handle the toughest grease and grime while using less water and energy than ever before. Whether you're finally moving up from hand-washing or are itching to upgrade, your dishwasher search starts now.
When you’re planning a dinner party, it’s not long before you start picturing the pile of plates that will await you once your guests depart. Hand-washing your way through pots, mixing bowls, and place settings would take you—approximately—ages. At the prospect of all that drudgery, you might find yourself reconsidering the party. But before you call off your get-together, consider investing in a dishwasher. Having a machine to clean your dishes could save you an estimated 230 hours—that’s nearly 10 days!—per year.
Even if you already own a dishwasher, you too have a lot to gain by purchasing a new model. Today’s dishwashers use at least 40 percent less water than similar appliances manufactured 20 years ago. Besides conservation, there’s a compelling financial reason to upgrade: An Energy Star-rated dishwasher could save you more than $40 per year. The question really isn’t why should you buy a dishwasher; it’s why shouldn’t you?
On the market today are a generous variety of options, ranging from plain-Jane models with few frills to pricier, fully programmable “smart” models that do everything but load and unload automatically. Not certain where your needs fall in the spectrum? We’ve laid out a handful of key considerations to keep in mind.
Size and capacity. Dishwashers normally come in two sizes. The standard dimensions are 24 inches wide by 34 inches tall (34 inches being the height of most countertops and base cabinetry). Compact models are 18 inches wide. A compact washer is usually fitted with one or two racks, while a standard size holds two or three, enough to accommodate at least eight place settings. In any case, adjustable upper racks and removable baskets earn bonus points, as either feature goes a long way toward accommodating awkwardly shaped items. Dishwashers in custom sizes are available by special order, but be prepared to pay more.
Cycle selections. The number and variety of cycle selections will vary from washer to washer, and finding the best selection of cycles for your needs will often be the deciding factor in your purchase. A typical washer will come with settings for a “normal” wash cycle, which can run anywhere from 90 to 135 minutes, depending on the make and model of the machine; a“heavy” cycle for pots and pans; and perhaps a “light” (also known as “delicate”) cycle for stemware. Pricier models offer additional options, including a “rinse and hold” cycle; a cycle for china; and a heavy-duty sanitizing cycle. Some dishwashers also offer different drying cycles, and some feature a programmable delayed start option.
Water usage. Today’s dishwashers are required by law to use a maximum of 5.8 gallons of water per cycle. Some upscale dishwashers even include an “eco” cycle that utilizes less water than a regular cycle, while others are equipped with a sensor that determines how dirty the dishes are and adjusts the water usage and cycle automatically.
Energy efficiency. Models on the market today are required by law to carry an Energy Guide label that estimates how much power the appliance consumes per year as well as the estimated cost of running the appliance based on the national average cost of natural gas and electricity. Look for the Energy Star logo, which indicates that the unit exceeds the federal minimum standards for efficiency and quality.
Noise level. The noisiness of dishwashers is rated in decibels; the louder the noise, the higher the decibel level. Newer models boast thicker insulation around the dishwasher tub and noise levels around 45 decibels. (For reference, a decibel rating of around 50 is roughly equivalent to the volume of a conversation.)
Other bells and whistles. Popular extras available in today’s dishwashers include innovative spray arms to move wash water more efficiently, stemware clips to secure wine glasses, spray nozzles for cleaning bottles and jars, special cutlery racks, programmable controls, and child locks. A variety of exterior options can complement the look of your kitchen (or a pending remodel), including ever-popular stainless steel, mirrored finishes, or a variety of colored finishes, and some dishwashers can even be outfitted with insert panels to match and blend in with cabinetry.
Even if you shop with a checklist of ideal features in hand, finding a dishwasher that fits the bill in such a crowded market can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve culled some of our favorite options to make your search even simpler, weighing the above factors against critical reviews on several of the top shopping sites. Here are the top-rated Energy Star-approved dishwashers you’ll want to have in your kitchen:
Bosch SHP65T55UC 24-inch Pocket-Handle Dishwasher 500 Series
This 24-inch-wide unit garnered 4.3 out of 5 stars on Amazon. It boasts a 16-place-setting capacity and features a third rack for smaller items that fits up to 30 percent more in each load. This model offers five cycles and five additional wash options, including Sanitize to wipe out bacteria and ExtraShine to dry glasses—no need to follow up with a microfiber cloth for a spot-free shine. Meanwhile, its 44-decibel sound rating led reviewers to praise this model as “the quietest dishwasher ever.” Price: $899.
Rated the best dishwasher of 2014 by Reviewed.com, this 24-inch-wide washer’s structure makes loading super simple. It boasts three easy-lift racks, nine stemware grips to secure glasses, and a cutlery basket that can split into two for flexible positioning wherever you find space. We think this model’s wealth of high-tech features makes up for the higher price tag. Among its slick offerings are a circular spray arm for more cleaning coverage, a smart soil sensor, a “clean” light to indicate when the load ends (because it’s that quiet), and a touch-sensitive control panel. Plus, its Fast Wash—one of nine cycles total—cleans a load in 30 minutes, perfect for those nights when you’re short on time. Price: $1,099.
Whirlpool Front Control Dishwasher WDF530PAYM
A favorite of Home Depot shoppers, who gave it 4.4 stars and a recommendation rate of 92 percent, this 24-inch-wide unit is both smart and budget-friendly. Its Sensor Cycle intuitively selects the best wash and dry settings for a specific load, saving time and money. Other cycles (there are a total of six) range from the typical normal to an overnight cycle that can tackle the toughest of sticky situations. This unit loads up to 15 place settings comfortably in its tall tub design due to features like a movable AnyWare Plus silverware basket; an adjustable (even removable) top rack; and a large-capacity lower rack that easily accommodates plates, bowls, and large dishes. Price: $549.
- Basement & Garage >
- Bob Vila Radio: Flooded Basement Cleanup Tips
Bob Vila Radio: Flooded Basement Cleanup Tips
Among the litany of ways in which a serious storm can damage your home is the pernicious, hard-to-solve problem of basement flooding. These cleanup tips can help you back to life as you knew it before the rain.
What a huge job it is to clean up a flooded basement! But the job can be a lot less of a headache if you keep some key points in mind.
Listen to BOB VILA ON CLEANING BASEMENT FLOODS or read the text below:
First, don’t panic. You do need to act quickly, though, to salvage your belongings and also to minimize the growth of unhealthy mold and bacteria. Use a pump or wet vac to suck up as much water as you can.
Next, haul wet items up to an area where they can begin drying. Get a couple of dehumidifiers going, plus as many fans as you can muster. If the flooded area is large, it may be a good idea to call for some heavy-duty commercial fans and dehumidifiers.
Your aim is to get as much dry air moving around as possible. Pull off baseboards and moldings. It’s probably also a good idea to cut a few small holes in sheetrock so air can get to the inside of the walls as well as the outside.
Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.