Author Archives: Bob Vila

Bob Vila

About Bob Vila

You probably know me from TV, where for nearly 30 years I hosted a variety of shows – This Old House, Bob Vila’s Home Again, Bob Vila, and Restore America with Bob Vila. You can now watch my full TV episodes online. Now it's this website that I am passionate about and the chance to share my projects, discoveries, tips, advice and experiences with all of you.

Stinky Situations: What to Do If You’ve Been Skunked

An unfortunate encounter with a skunk can mean weeks of a lingering stink. But with the right combination of cleaners, you can neutralize the odor on your body, your clothes, and inside your home before the day's over.

How to Get Rid of Skunk Smell

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The stench of a skunk attack—it’s unmistakable, even when you’re in the passenger seat of a car, with the windows closed, driving through a neighborhood sprayed hours prior. But what do you do when there’s a skunk smell in your own backyard or worse, actually inside your house? Well, for one thing, you’ve got to act fast, ideally within an hour or two of the spray. If neglected, that foul odor could linger for months on household textiles, everything from bed linens to furniture upholstery. It can even wind up on your skin! Fear not: There are effective ways to neutralize the odor. To get rid of skunk smell for good, read on.

How to Get Rid of Skunk Smell - View 2

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Scenario 1: Your Clothing Stinks
Hydrogen peroxide ranks as perhaps your best weapon against the scourge of the skunk. Because it can damage the fibers of your clothing, however, it must be diluted prior to application. Mix one part hydrogen peroxide with six parts water, then soak your clothing in the solution for an hour or two.

If the affected piece is delicate or dry clean only, skip the peroxide, opting instead for a staple of the pantry—vinegar. Though somewhat less effective than the alternative, vinegar works reasonably well to get rid of skunk smell, and it’s much less harsh. If you’re cleaning your clothes in a vinegar bath (one part vinegar, four parts water), leave the garments to soak a little longer, for as long as three hours.

Once the recommended soaking time has elapsed, place your clothing into the washing machine, adding a half-cup of baking soda to your usual cycle. Finally, if you can, let the clothing dry outside. Believe it or not, the sun’s ultraviolet rays work to further break down any odor that still remains.

Scenario 2: Your House Stinks
To get rid of skunk smell indoors, place open containers of vinegar in room corners or adjacent to any affected furniture. The vinegar should work to absorb odors over the course of the next day or two.

For tile or stone countertops, scrub with diluted bleach (following the instructions printed on the bleach container). For wood, use water and ammonia. And for harder-to-wash materials, such as fabric curtains or wall-to-wall carpeting, think about hiring a steam cleaning service (or renting the tool).

Scenario 3: You Stink—or Your Pet Does
If you or your pet has been sprayed, grab the hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and dishwashing detergent. (If you’re outside when sprayed, send a family member indoors to retrieve the supplies.) Mix a quart of three-percent hydrogen peroxide, a quarter- to half-cup of baking soda, and a teaspoon of dishwashing detergent. Dip a rag into the solution, using it to rub yourself down or to wash your pet. Avoid the eyes and any sensitive area. When you’re finished, dump the mixture; it shouldn’t be stored (this potent brew can actually destroy its container).

No matter the game plan, do your best to air out the house by opening windows, using fans, and changing your HVAC filters. Most of all, remember that addressing the skunk smell immediately can save you days of multiple showers and endless household cleanings. This, too, shall pass!


How To: Paint Metal

A fresh coat of paint can do wonders to revitalize and protect your household metals. You'll just need a few tools and as always in DIY painting projects, a focus on prep work.

How to Paint Metal

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A fresh coat of paint can brighten the look and prolong the life of metal surfaces in and around your home. Painting metal is no more or less difficult than painting other surfaces. And, as with other paint jobs, whether you’re painting a vintage desk or an aging fence in the yard, your success will largely depend on how much effort you put into the prep work. Sorry, no shortcuts. But here’s the good news: Follow the steps below, and the paint job can be expected to last and look great for years.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Stiff-bristled wire brush
- Sanding block or fine-grit sandpaper
- Drop cloth
- Clean cotton cloths
- Spray primer
- Spray paint
- Protective gear (safety glasses and dust mask)
- Clear spray lacquer (optional)

STEP 1
Start by inspecting the metal surface you intend to paint. Assuming that it’s portable, move the item to a well-ventilated space where you have prepared a drop cloth-covered work area. Inspect the metal for cracks and peeling or chipped paint. You will probably find no shortage of surface imperfections, but don’t worry—these can be removed by means of a wire brush (if the rust doesn’t budge, consult these instructions). To be on the safe side, wear a dust mask as you work.

How to Paint Metal - Corrugated Detail

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STEP 2
Having removed all rust and old paint—or as much as it was humanly possible to remove—proceed to sanding the metal. Use either a sanding block or a square of fine-grit sandpaper. (Here, too, it’s wise to wear not only a dust mask, but also protective glasses.) After sanding the metal, wipe it down with a moistened cotton cloth, using it to clean all the sanding dust off the surface. Before continuing onto the next step, wait for the metal to dry out completely.

STEP 3
Apply a specially formulated metal primer. If the object you are painting doesn’t have a smooth surface—if it features lots of nooks, crannies, and crevices—opt for spray primer. Otherwise, use a brush or roller to apply traditional primer, choosing one or the other tool based on the surface area. Check the instructions on the product you’ve chosen, but generally speaking, primer needs about 24 hours to dry.

STEP 4
Now it’s finally time for paint. Use a brush or roller, or use a spray paint formulated for application on metal. Apply several light coats, letting the paint dry for a few hours between coats. Once you are happy with the coverage, let the paint dry for about eight hours (or overnight). After that, you’re basically all done!

STEP 5
Last but not least is the optional step of finishing the paint job with a sealer intended for use on materials including metal. Not only does sealer protect the paint, but it also imparts a nice shine.

Now that you know how to paint metal and you’ve witnessed how easy the process can be, you may find yourself studying your home and garden with renewed attention, looking for other things to revitalize with a fresh coat of color. Yes, one successful DIY project inevitably leads to another!


Bob Vila Radio: Fend Off the Power Surge Scourge

A spike in electricity can fry your electronics. Protect your beloved gadgets and gizmos with a surge protector. Here's how to choose one.

These days, we’re increasingly sharing our homes with electronic devices. Many of them are pretty pricey, and that includes computers, home theater setups, and sophisticated AC or heating systems. One characteristic most of those devices share is that they have circuit boards that can be easily damaged by power spikes.

How to Choose a Surge Protector

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Listen to BOB VILA ON SURGE PROTECTORS or read the text below:

The best way to avoid such calamities? Surge protection. Here are some tips on how to choose: Look for protectors that have a “joules rating” of 700 or higher. Joules ratings tell you how much power the protector can absorb before it fails. You’ll also want a protector that has a “clamping voltage rating” of 400 volts or less. Clamping voltage describes how much voltage the unit needs to sense before it begins absorbing energy.

You’ll also want to have a look at the warranty. Many companies reimburse for devices that get fried while plugged into their protectors. Check the fine print. Another option—whole-house surge protectors. Many types are available, and they’re not all that expensive.

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.


Bob Vila Radio: Planting Ground Cover

For all of its rewards, lawn maintenance can become a loathsome chore. If you're sick and tired of mowing and watering, why not ditch the grass and plant ground covers instead?

If you’ve grown a bit weary of spending your weekends wedded to your lawn mower, perhaps it’s time to replace some of your sod with low-maintenance ground covers.

How to Plant Ground Cover

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Listen to BOB VILA ON GROUND COVERS or read the text below:

Here’s what you’ll need to do: First, use a rototiller or a sod-stripping machine to clear your intended plot of grass and weeds. Next, water the area, then cover it with clear plastic for several weeks. The sun will heat the soil and boost its potential to support the new plants.

Once you’ve removed the plastic, cover the area again, this time with a water-permeable landscaping fabric to discourage weeds. Cut small holes in the fabric, fold back the flaps, and plant your plants.

There are literally hundreds of plant varieties that work well as ground covers. They spread quickly, need little  maintenance, are drought-resistant and lend an elegant touch to your landscaping. As you would with any other landscaping effort, keep the climate in mind when you’re choosing what to plant.

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.


5 Steps to Hiring the Right Roofer

Roofing ranks among the largest and most expensive projects a homeowner can undertake, so take the time to be certain you find a roofing contractor you trust to put a roof over your head.

How to Find a Roofing Contractor

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Whereas other home upgrades are purely elective, roof repairs aren’t a choice; they’re essential. Besides being critically important to personal comfort, structural integrity, and the resale value of your home, roofing ranks among the largest and most expensive projects a homeowner can undertake. The significant costs involved motivate some ambitious do-it-yourselfers to do the work on their own. But for the majority of us, a roofing job means hiring a professional. So if you’re at an early stage of the process, take control by finding a qualified contractor with a solid reputation. Hire well, and you can expect the roofer not only to get the job done on time and on budget, but also to offer valuable insight on the best materials for your house style and the climate where you live. So rather than flip open the yellow pages and settle on the first company listed, follow these steps designed to help you find someone you can trust to put a roof over your head:

How to Find a Roofing Contractor - Shingles

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1. Get a referral
One tried-and-true method of finding a reliable contractor is to query your friends and neighbors. Within the past few years, has anyone in your life had work done on his roof? Make a list of names, reach out to each person, and ask two questions: Was he happy with the job done and would he work with that contractor again? Testimonials provide the most accurate picture of what your experience might be with a given company, and you can count on personal contacts to give you honest feedback. Outside of your circle, you can also get leads from lumber yards and hardware stores.

2. Do your research
If you’ve identified at least three qualified roofers, you can get started investigating each one. Start by verifying the businesses’ contact information. Next, confirm that each one is licensed and insured. Consult your chamber of commerce and the Better Business Bureau to be certain there are no red flags to be aware of. Then finally look for reports on contractor review sites, such as Angie’s List.

3. Meet face-to-face them
Having narrowed the field, invite the prospective contractors to visit your home and scope out the job. You’ll want to discuss roofing materials and the extent of work to be done, but don’t forget to ask about the time and manpower needed for completion. Observe the contractor: He should be enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and professional in demeanor. Certainly, you’re dealing with an authority on materials and methods, but don’t be deterred from participating in the decision-making process! Ask a lot of questions and before he leaves, remember to get a list of references (then remember to check them).

4. Get it in writing
Work shouldn’t begin until you have a signed contract detailing every aspect of the job. Make certain it covers safety procedures and liability, including workers’ compensation. The contract should also specify such things as clean-up methods, payment amounts, and the schedule. Consider requesting a lien waiver to protect against claims that could arise if the roofer fails to pay a vendor for materials.

5. You get what you pay for
The cheapest bid probably isn’t your best bet. Of course, the estimates issued are a factor to consider. But more important is your level of confidence in a given roofer’s ability to do an outstanding job. If you’re impressed by a company that isn’t the cheapest, ask yourself, “How much is peace of mind worth to me?” For many homeowners, it’s worth quite a lot.

Good luck!


How To: Remove Water Stains from Wood

Those white, cloudy rings on your wood furniture don't have to stay there forever. Try one of these methods for removing—or at least minimizing—water stains on wood.

How to Remove Water Stains from Wood - White Ring

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Wood furniture is beautiful, but it’s not impervious to the wear and tear of everyday life. To retain their looks, new and antique wood tables and chairs must be properly maintained. It’s for good reason that your parents sternly insisted that you use coasters: Water and wood are indeed natural enemies.

If the damage has already been done, and you now have to figure how to remove water stains from wood, don’t be discouraged—many have been there before you and successfully eliminated—or at least made significantly less visible—the unsightly marks that moisture can leave in its wake. In fact, for anyone researching the issue, it can be difficult to know where to start, not because there isn’t enough advice available, but because there’s so much. How do you know which of the many repair methods are most reliable? What follows are details on the three approaches that we and others have found to be the most effective. You may need to work through a bit of trial and error before discovering the trick that works in your case. Be patient, and good luck!

Water stains show up as white or light-colored rings or clouds. The light color is a sign that the moisture hasn’t reached the actual wood; rather, it’s trapped within the finish. (It’s when the stain is black or dark-colored that you have a real problem and should either refinish the piece yourself or consult a pro.)

How to Remove Water Stains from Wood - Coaster

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Method 1: Ironing
As with most stains, it helps to act quickly. If the stain has been there for only a few days, try this: Empty your clothes iron of all the water inside, then bring it into the room with the affected piece of furniture. Plug in the iron, then lay a cotton napkin, towel, or T-shirt over the stain. With the iron set on low, apply it briefly to the fabric before lifting the cloth to see if the ring has diminished. Repeat until (we hope) the white stain has disappeared. Alternatively, you can try using a hair dryer to achieve the same effect. Move the dryer back and forth over the area for about 10 minutes until the moisture evaporates.

Method 2: Mayonnaise 
Assuming Method 1 gets no results, it’s worthwhile to experiment with what may at first sound like an odd thing to put on furniture: mayonnaise. Dab a bit onto a rag, then gently apply the mayonnaise directly to the stained area. Let it sit for at least an hour or as long as overnight, reapplying the mayonnaise if the initial coating dries out. If there’s no mayonnaise in your fridge, petroleum jelly may be used as an alternative. Either way, the idea is for the oil in these substances to seep into the finish, displacing the lodged moisture. Note that if you’re seeing some results but wish the remedy packed a little extra punch, consider bringing cigarette ashes into the equation. Many have reported that the penetrating power of oil works best when combined with the abrasiveness of cigarette ashes.

Method 3: Toothpaste
If the above methods have gotten you nowhere, walk to your bathroom, reach into the medicine cabinet, and pull out a tube of toothpaste—but not just any toothpaste. You’ll need the white, non-gel variety. Squeeze some onto a rag, then massage it onto the stain. You shouldn’t need to scrub hard or for very long to see results. To avoid causing any further damage to the furniture in question, it’s best to concentrate your efforts only on the affected portions, because the toothpaste can wear away the finish.

If the water stain isn’t gone completely, then it may at least have lightened enough to be less noticeable. The ace up your sleeve is that, if all else fails, you can always sand the furniture down to bare wood and refinish it. (If you’re dealing with a prized piece, you may want to consult a pro.) To prevent similar damage in the future, heed your parents’ advice and use a coaster!


How To: Get Rid of Moles

All summer long, you've put hard work into maintaining a lush lawn. Don't let it go to waste! If you see signs that moles are wreaking havoc with your lawn, save yourself a migraine by trying these methods to remove the disruptive underground pests from your yard.

How to Get Rid of Moles - Culprit

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There’s no mistaking when a mole or two have invaded your lawn and garden. Though you’re not likely to see one above ground, the hills and ruts a mole leaves in its burrowing wake can spoil, if not devastate, your landscaping. Beyond the eyesore of new mounds sprinkled throughout your lawn, the tunneling can separate roots from soil, killing grass and other vegetation. If you’ve been researching the topic of how to get rid of moles, then you’ve probably come across scores of reports, each touting this or that method as being the best solution to a mole problem. It might be worth trying one or some of those recommendations, but in our experience—and according to most experts—trapping remains the only reliably effective means of stopping these creatures.

First, the bad news: If you were hoping there’d be a way to get rid of moles without getting your hands dirty, it’s time to either modify your expectations or call in a professional. Trapping is not only somewhat labor-intensive, but it’s also going to bring you up close and personal with at least one mole. If you’re squeamish about such things, enlist the help of a neighbor or hire a pro.

How to Get Rid of Moles - Mounds

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If you’re used to dealing with animals—or if the damage caused by the moles has driven to you a point of frustration-induced courage—then you’re ready to get to work. Basically, there are two options: You can try to catch a mole, so to speak, in the act, or you can set out a series of mechanized traps. The former is the more humane approach, because it doesn’t require killing the mole. The latter is more likely to produce results, but the mole may die in the clutches of your trap.

Option 1: More Humane, Less Effective 
Here’s the prevailing wisdom on how to catch a mole and keep it alive. It turns out that things haven’t changed much since Bill Murray portrayed a hapless, mole-crazed groundskeeper in Caddyshack.

First, use the back of a shovel to flatten out and pat down any molehills that you’ve noticed on your lawn or garden. Next, remove yourself to a vantage point elsewhere on the property, somewhere at a distance—and ideally downwind—from the patches of earth you’ve shoveled over. If a mole catches your scent in your air, or if your footsteps send vibrations into the ground, the mole isn’t likely to show itself. Wait patiently and be as still as you can be until you see a disturbance in the soil caused by the mole returning to repair the hill you’ve covered. Carrying two shovels, rush to the disturbed area and plunge the shovels into the ground, one on either side of where you saw the ground move. The mole should now be trapped in the small section of its tunnel between your tools.

Now that you’ve isolated the mole, dig it out from its tunnel, transfer it to a cardboard box, and take it to a field far away from your property. Repeat the process until you’ve relocated all the offending moles.

Option 2: Less Humane, More Effective 
Purchase a mole trap online or at your local home center. Place the spring-loaded snare into a mole’s tunnel, being sure to choose an active tunnel. If you’re not sure of a given tunnel’s status, cover over the nearest molehill. Wait a day or two, and if the molehill has been uncovered, that’s a pretty clear indication of activity. Once you’ve set the mole trap, check it often. Also, remember that catching one mole doesn’t mean the problem’s behind you. You’ll need to set the trap again and again, because additional moles may decide to occupy the initial one’s pre-established tunnels. Indeed, several moles may need to be trapped before the tunnel goes dormant. Finally, know that it may not be legal in your state to set a trap that kills moles. Check with your local authorities.

Until you’re rid of the pesky critters, know that it can be OK and even beneficial to live with your underground neighbors for the time being. Their quick digging actually aerates your yard and circulates nutrients in the soil. Plus, a mole’s diet of  grubs and other insects could get rid of pests that would otherwise eat at the roots of your plants. While you’re cohabiting, just follow a little bit of maintenance to be sure their shallow tunnels don’t completely disrupt the roots of your plants: Press any raised soil back into place with your foot, and water thoroughly so that the roots do not dry out. To discourage moles in the future, cut back on the watering in your lawn-care routine, and maybe even consider choosing a grass that can survive on less water. The drier soil will attract fewer earthworms and thus minimize your chances of tempting a mole to move in and chow down.


Bob Vila Radio: Installing a Fold-Down Ironing Board

To save space wherever you do the laundry, install a fold-out ironing board. Here are some tips on getting it done.

If you’re like a lot of people, space in your home is at a premium. In other words, figuring out where to stash your stuff is an ongoing preoccupation. One prime example of a “where do I put this?” item is the ironing board.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON FOLD-DOWN IRONING BOARDS or read the text below:

Why not solve that storage problem by installing a fold-down unit? Sure, you can build one from scratch, but they’re also available—pre-assembled and ready for installation—online or at your local home center.

Whether you build or buy, it’s best to install the fold-down unit in a stud bay that has existing wiring. That way, you’ll have ready access to power for the iron (and for a lamp, so you can see what you’re doing).

First, measure the dimensions of the unit, then use a drywall saw to cut an appropriate size hole in the wall. Next, cut and screw-mount two sections of 2×4 to frame the top and bottom of the cavity. Once you drill a hole for your wiring, you’re ready to slide your cabinet into the framed cavity and secure it with wood screws.

Chances are your old ironing board will find a new home at your next yard sale!

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.


Are You Safe from Bedbugs?

Are a few suspicious bites making you think that you have a bedbug infestation on your hands? Here are some tips for determining if those blood-sucking pests have invaded your home.

How to Spot a Bedbug

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Bedbugs haunt homeowners’ nightmares like the bogeyman. These nasty little critters that feast on your blood while you sleep cause you to check under your bed any time your skin begins to tingle. But in the summer months, when outdoor activities mean exposure to mosquitoes, gnats, and fleas, how are you to tell that your red, itchy bites came from a bedbug? Read on for the tips and tools to help you with early detection of an infestation.

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Recognize Bedbug Bites
Reactions to bedbug bites can vary, but they generally take the form of itchy, red bumps that appear in straight rows—often in threes—rather than scattered on the body. If you’re still uncertain whether your bites are signs of an infestation or just souvenirs from last night’s buggy barbecue, try this: Check your body for bites before you go to bed and then again when you get up in the morning, making a mental note of any new ones that occurred overnight. Bites that appear while you sleep may suggest that you are sharing your home with a nibbling pest.

Search Your Sheets, Mattress, and More
On your hunt for more evidence, start with your mattress. Keep your eyes peeled for four signs: bug droppings (which will appear as tiny, dark spots); red blood stains left over from feeding; insect eggs; and the bugs themselves. Bedbug eggs are white ovals about 1/16 of an inch in length, while the bugs are wingless, brown ovals that can grow up to a quarter-inch long.

First, pull your bed and nightstand away from the wall, and watch to see if any bugs scurry away. You may also see excrement stains on the wall. Then remove the top layers of bedding (your blankets or comforters), leaving just the fitted sheet on the bed. Hold a flashlight close to the sheet to examine thoroughly. If you don’t find anything on the sheet, then move on to check the mattress. Pull the sheet back and pay particular attention to the mattress seams, where bugs like to hide. You can press a credit card against the seam to hold it back while you shine the flashlight on the darker areas. You’ll want to flip the mattress over and check the other side as well. Finally, check the joints of your bed frame, shining the flashlight into all the dark crevices to search out the bugs. Snap photos and bag any evidence you find.

Continue your search through the rest of the apartment or house, pulling all upholstered furniture away from walls and thoroughly checking around zippers and seams.

Invest in Tools to Help
Just because you don’t see any bugs doesn’t mean you’re safe. More than just inspecting visually, you’ll want to employ a few tools to do the work for you.

Adding bedbug interception devices to each leg of your bed frame allows you to keep an eye on the situation without having to flip your mattress every morning. Instead, monitor the devices every few days to see if any pests show up. Consider using these on other upholstered furniture in the bedroom as well. Trapping a bug and identifying the pest is the only way to be truly sure of an infestation.

At the same time, you may also want to invest in encasements for your mattress and box spring. Although pricier than a detection device, these work double duty: They protect your bed by sealing out bugs, and they also cover crevices, leaving a smooth surface for easier inspection in the future.

Call In the Pros
Whether you find signs of a bedbug infestation or are still simply itching from an unknown cause, phone a professional. A qualified pest-control expert has much more experience with the search and knows exactly what to look for—and in this case, it’s better to have a second opinion. Bedbugs spread easily from room to room by hitching a ride on human clothing or other objects that are moved around the house.


What Would Bob Do? Repairing a Door That Sticks

Wood doors can be sticky, but the repair doesn't need to be. If your doors have been a little temperamental lately, try one of these fixes to get them opening freely again.

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In my house, several of our wood doors keep sticking. I’ve tried candle wax and have made sure all the screws in the door frame are tight, but the doors are still sticking. Any advice on how to fix a sticking door would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

How to Fix a Sticking Door - Panel

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In a situation like this, sometimes the door itself is to blame. Over time, joints in a wood door relax, causing the construction to sag and stick against the jamb. A more common cause is a hinge or strike plate that has become loose. But you’ve mentioned that the screws are tight, presumably in both the door and the jamb. So, although failing hardware is typically the first thing to check when a door is sticking, that doesn’t seem to be the cause of your predicament.

I’d speculate that humidity is the issue. Doors usually stick in summer, when relative humidity is high. The moisture expands the wood, making your doors too tight in their frames. In the winter, humidity levels are usually lower, because cooler air cannot hold as much moisture. If you have better luck with these doors in the cooler months, it’s simply because environmental factors are not causing them to swell.

What you should do is buy a hygrometer and take a reading of the relative humidity indoors. Common causes of high humidity include wet basements and improper use of the bathroom or kitchen vents when bathing or cooking, respectively. If you happen to have a lot of houseplants, that too might add to the humidity, particularly in combination with other factors. So check the hygrometer reading, and if the reading comes in at over 70 percent, there’s your explanation. Get the humidity down, and you’re likely to find that those annoying doors finally unstick on their own.

If getting the humidity down isn’t in the cards, then you can always trim down the door panel. Concentrate on the problem edge, the one that rubs against the jamb; you can usually identify it by the worn finish. Ultimately, the space left between the door and jamb should be about 1/8 inch wide, or roughly the thickness of a nickel. Follow these steps:

• As a test, open and close the door with the aim of identifying the precise area where the problem’s occurring. Use a sharp pencil or carpenter’s compass to scribe the panel where it rubs against the side or top of the jamb. Having drawn a line on the door, proceed to take it off the hinges and carry it somewhere you feel comfortable kicking up a little sawdust.

• Next, use a hand plane, power planer, or belt sander to shave off the excess material. Remove only the minimum required for the door to close. (When the panel shrinks in winter, you don’t want there to be a big gap between the door and jamb.) Now put the door back into place and check the fit. A certain amount of trial and error is almost inevitable with this task, even for people who’ve done it before. You may need to remove the door again in order to sand off a little more. Keep at it until you’re satisfied.

• Once the door fits well and you’ve managed to achieve an approximately 1/8-inch reveal, you’re ready to refinish the part of the door that you’ve planed. You can either remove the door or finish it in place, but time is of the essence. The door wants to swell up again; refinishing limits its capacity to do so.

If the humidity is under control and you’ve already tried trimming your doors, then it’s possible you’re seeing a symptom of foundation settlement. Unfortunately, foundation problems are not DIY-friendly repairs. Consult with a foundation repair specialist. Fair warning: Foundation repair work is rarely cheap, but it’s in your best interest to understand precisely what problems, besides sticking doors, your foundation may bring about in the future.