Author Archives: Joe Provey

Joe Provey

About Joe Provey

Joe Provey is an expert on all things home and garden. His work has appeared in many national magazines, including E, The Environmental Magazine, Popular Mechanics, House Beautiful, Better Homes & Gardens Specials, and Fine Homebuilding. Joe also has more than a dozen books to his credit. His latest, Convert Your Home to Solar Energy, was published last year. Other titles include Outdoor Kitchens, Easy Closets, 1001 Ideas for Decks, Green-up Your Cleanup, Design Ideas for Flooring, Toro's Expert Guide to Lawns, 1001 Ideas for Kitchen Organization, and the Parent's Complete Guide to Soccer. Joe is the president of Home & Garden Editorial Services (HGES), a company that produces books for publishers in the home, garden and related fields. In the past, he has served as chief editor to several national home improvement magazines, including The Family Handyman, Mechanix Illustrated, and Practical Homeowner. He was also the founding editor of Soccer Jr., the Soccer Magazine for Kids, and several other soccer-related magazines. Joe lives in Bridgeport, Connecticut with his wife MaryAnn, where they have seven children and four grandchildren between them. Check him out on Google+!

In the War Against Wet, A New Weapon

A new line from Rust-Oleum repels water, mud, ice and other liquids from a variety of surfaces. We put one member of this product family to the test. Read on to find out what happened.

Spray an even coating on leather or fabric. Here I'm using it to renew the waterproofing on a pair of old boots. Photo: JProvey

In the war against wet, homeowners have a new weapon: It’s called NeverWet. Designed to repel water and keep surfaces dry, the NeverWet line of products from Rust-Oleum includes four different formulations—Multi-Surface, Fabric, Boot & Shoe, and Auto Interior. Armed with a single one of these sprays or the complete trio, homeowners can now bring protection from the weather to a wide range of household items that spend time outdoors, including garden tools and outdoor furniture.

Don’t get me wrong—I like the rain. But moisture in itself isn’t the problem. What’s really at issue is the mold, mildew, corrosion, rot and (last, but surely not least) skin discomfort that often comes along with an excess of moisture. So when recently I got the opportunity to review the NeverWet fabric formulas, I jumped at the chance to see how the product could help me safeguard those items in my life that I count on to remain dry. For my experiment, I chose leather boots and a cotton patio furniture cushion.

To both, I applied an even coating of NeverWet, according to the instructions, and I wetted but didn’t soak the surface I was treating with the spray. Next, I waited the recommended 24 hours before exposing the items to water. Once enough time had elapsed, I hurried to see how my boots had stood up to the ultimate test—being submerged in a bucket water. Keep reading to see what happened.

Photo: JProvey

In the photo above, the boot I did not spray is on the left. You can see that after five minutes of submersion, the leather became saturated, particularly around the stitching. Meanwhile, the boot on the right of the photo—the one that I did spray with NeverWet—shed water effectively and came out of the tub as good as new.

Equally impressive results arose from my test of the patio furniture seat cushion, which I hosed down in a way that would simulate rainfall. Where it encountered the NeverWet-treated cushion, the water simply beaded up and rolled off. A few days later, I tried again and was satisfied to see no performance change whatsoever.

The treatment worked equally well on the outdoor cotton chair cushion. Photo: JProvey

Down the road, I’ll need to re-apply NeverWater at some point—to the boots sooner than to the cushion, I’m guessing, being that I wear the boots fairly often. Also, even though NeverWet didn’t discolor my boots or the cushion, if I were going to spray anything whose surface I judged to be delicate, then I would first try the spray in an inconspicuous area before committing to spray the entirety. Depending on what you are spraying, you can get 20 to 60 square feet of coverage per bottle.

It’s recommended that you only use NeverWet outdoors, where there’s plenty of ventilation. Be safe using the product, and you’re likely to enjoy the experience as much as I did. Today, I’m deciding what I want to waterproof next!

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


Tubular Skylights 101

While bringing natural light to interior spaces of a home was originally limited to costly, difficult-to-install, and problem-riddled traditional skylights, today's tubular devices are lighting up interiors with smart and sophisticated style.

Solatube Daylighting

Solatube International Tubular Daylighting

Bringing natural light into a home is a relatively easy prospect, provided the room is adjacent to at least one exterior wall. Windows and glass doors have been flooding interiors with light for centuries. But when an interior room is in need of daylight, the options become far more limiting—namely skylights. Since the 1980s, tubular skylights (a.k.a. solar tubes, light tunnels, daylighting devices) have been gaining popularity as an easy way to bring natural light into just about any room of the house. More compact, less expensive, and easier to install than their traditional counterparts, they are lighting up today’s homes in a much smarter and more efficient way than ever before.

What are tubular skylights?
Tubular skylights, like the name suggests, are tube-shaped devices that, through a rooftop lens and reflective-lined tube, capture sunlight and deliver it to the interior space of a home or office. Consisting of three main components—a dome, a tube, and a diffuser—they are more compact than standard rooftop skylights and, as a result, more affordable and less labor-intensive to install. With designs that feature rigid, adjustable, and flexible tubing, they can also be configured for spaces where a conventional skylight is not feasible.

Illustration: Solatube International

How do tubular skylights work? 
A tubular skylight uses a rooftop dome to capture the sun’s rays. The light is then transferred indoors through a highly reflective tube-shaped duct. A diffuser mounted in the ceiling disperses the natural light to the room below. Unlike traditional skylights that need direct line of sight, tubular devices can be configured easily to avoid attic obstructions and deliver the light where it is needed—in some cases, as much as up to 40 feet for Solatube products. Installed in hallways, laundry rooms, bathrooms, and walk-in closets, tubular daylighting devices not only help lighten interiors, but save on electric costs.

Of course, tubular skylights, like traditional skylights, do share one problem. When night falls or clouds pass overhead, the light disappears or fades. Solatube International, a leading manufacturer and innovator of daylighting products, offers an inventive solution with their Smart LED technology. Winner of the 2013 LightFair
International Innovation Award, it combines daylighting with LED lighting. When there’s plenty of sunlight, the tube delivers natural light. Too much light, an optional motorized baffle dims the output. At night, energy-efficient LEDs automatically turn on. The result—a seamless blending of natural and LED light throughout the day and night.

Photo: Solatube International

What to look for when shopping for a tubular skylight?
Though the parts may appear similar from system to system, not all tubular skylights are created equal. Technology makes a big difference in lighting performance.  You’ll want a product that delivers the full spectrum of light, so that you get the brightest and whitest natural light possible. Look for a device that is suitable for your roof style and manufactured with built-in, leak-preventing flashing. Also, choose one that offers adaptability in terms of tubing configuration and carries the Energy Star label, guaranteeing thermal performance and efficiency.

Solatube Daylighting is designed with a patented light-capturing dome that redirects low-angle sunlight and rejects overpowering midday summer sun to deliver a consistent natural illumination throughout the day. The Spectralight® Infinity Tubing promotes maximum sunlight transfer with pure color rendition. And, the products can be outfitted with a variety of flat-, recessed-, and decorative-mount ceiling fixtures, along with warming and softening lenses, ventilation, dimmers, and occupancy sensors.

To learn more about tubular skylights, watch the video below.

 

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


5 Upgrades to Consider When Re-Roofing Your Home

Although re-roofing is not necessarily a glamorous home improvement, it is certainly an important one. If you are planning a new roof, consider these 5 upgrades that will make your roof more beautiful, functional, and long-lived.

LeafGuard gutters

Photo: LeafGuard Brand Gutters

Re-roofing your home is not the most glamorous of home improvements. You’ll note that HGTV shows rarely even mention the roof. Unlike decks, kitchens, and baths, the roof is not really something you’d invite your friends over to admire. But re-roofing does present some appealing opportunities for the homeowner who wants to reduce maintenance and unnecessary expenses for years to come. Here are five roof upgrades to consider when you are about to reroof your home.

1. Install an airtight chimney cap
Unlike masonry and metal chimney caps that are designed to keep rain and (if screened) birds and other critters out of your chimney, airtight caps are about saving energy.

When your fireplace is not in use, warm air from inside your home is literally gushing out the chimney when the weather is cold. The damper in your firebox does little to stop it because it is not airtight.

Ask your roofer about installing an airtight chimney cap while the roof is being worked on. These units are spring-activated. To open the chimney cap, you just tug on a steel cable that’s attached to a bracket inside your fireplace. Pull it shut after your fire is completely out. An airtight cap has the added benefit of keeping animals from nesting inside your chimney.

2. Install eave flashing
If you’ve ever experienced damage from an ice dam, you might want to invest a little extra when re-roofing to install eave flashing. These peel-and-stick bituminous membranes are applied prior to shingling to a depth that is 2 feet inside the exterior wall plane (three feet on low-pitched roofs). The membranes self-seal around roofing fasteners, forming a watertight seal over the eaves, which are the portion of the roof most susceptible to ice dams. Bituminous eave flashing may also be specified for other vulnerable roof areas, such as over valleys and around skylights and dormers.

3. Improve roof ventilation
Attics become like furnaces in summer if they are not well ventilated. That heat buildup radiates to the rooms directly below the attic, making them uncomfortable. To keep the attic—and your home—cooler, be sure your roofing contractor installs ridge vents across the top of your roof. Barely noticeable from the street, ridge vents allow air movement beneath the ridge cap shingles. For ventilation to be effective, soffit vents located under the eaves draw cooler air into the attic as hot air is being expelled. Gable vents, which are located near the roof peak of exterior walls, may also be needed to ensure adequate airflow. A cooler attic means your home will be more comfortable during the summer without your having to spend a fortune on air conditioning.

4. Choose an energy-efficient shingle
The recommendation for a cooler roof used to be to select light-colored or white shingles. This option, however, wasn’t always aesthetically appealing to homeowners. Today’s new reflective shingles come in assorted colors, from popular slate to wood tones. The granules not only reflect the sun’s radiation but also quickly reemit much of the heat that is absorbed. Depending on your climate and your home’s construction, a cool roof can save between 7 and 15 percent of your cooling costs.

LeafGuard gutter

Photo: LeafGuard Brand Gutters

5. Install low-maintenance gutters
While you’re having your home reroofed, it’s also a good time to scrap your old gutters and install new ones—especially if your existing gutters are misaligned or unsightly. Gutter systems with built-in curved hoods, such as those from Englert LeafGuard, are designed to be maintenance-free. The patented design works on the scientific principle of water adhesion, allowing rainwater to travel down and around its curved hood and into the gutter while deflecting leaves. This prevents clogs and unsightly staining on gutters and siding due to gutter overflow. It also means you can forget about the messy and hazardous chore of climbing a ladder to clean your gutters. The one-piece, seamless LeafGuard Brand gutters are generously sized for the heaviest of downpours, and homeowners like the clean architectural way they define the roof eaves. They even come in a variety of colors, allowing you to choose a tone that will complement your trim, roofing, and siding. Use LeafGuard’s design tool to get a preview of how the gutters will look with your new roof.

With all these improvements, maybe a new roof is worth celebrating.

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


17 Reasons You Need a Good Multi-Tool

For your next DIY project, you'll minimize trips to the garage and workshop if you keep a multi-tool on hand. Here are 17 good reasons why you should have one in your pocket.

HYDE 17-in-1 Painter's Multi-Tool

HYDE 17-in-1 Painter's Multi-Tool

We’d all like a little more time. Unfortunately, you can’t buy it. You can, however, save some time as you go about your daily routines. Ordering online, using a GPS, and always putting your keys in the same spot are just a few common time-savers.

There are also plenty of ways to conserve time in your home improvement and maintenance tasks. The venerable adages “measure twice, cut once” and “a stitch in time saves nine” immediately come to mind. To these I add my own advice for time seekers: “put a multi-tool in your pocket.”

Nothing slows you down (or wears you out) more than constantly having to fetch tools or search for ones that have been misplaced. I try to minimize trips to the basement workshop and garage by keeping a spare set of basic tools in the kitchen junk drawer. The set includes two screwdrivers, a utility knife, a tape measure, a putty knife, a set of Allen wrenches, and a hammer. In the past, I had considered consolidating the tools with a multi-tool, but unfortunately most of the ones I had seen were too insubstantial to be of much use.

Recently, however, I was able to get my hands on a multi-tool made by HYDE, the company that created the first multi-tool 60 years ago and now makes all sorts of tools for painters, paperhangers, masons, and drywall contractors. Made of stainless steel, it combines 17 tools that can be used for hundreds of jobs around the house.

The 3-inch-wide blade works as a paint scraper, putty knife, and paint can opener. It is pointed on one end for digging out loose grout or caulk, scoring, and cutting. All it takes is a file to keep it razor sharp. The 8¼-inch overall length gives you plenty of leverage for prying but fits nicely in your back pocket or tool belt.

In the middle of the blade is a slot for pulling small nails and brads. The edges of the blade include two concave cutouts for scraping paint from large and small rollers, two wrench cutouts (thoughtfully sized for air hose and airless paint sprayer hose connectors), and a bottle opener.

On the opposite end of the tool is a steel-butted handle that can drive small nails. It’s also handy for knocking trim pieces into alignment prior to nailing them off. Pop off the handle to access four screwdriver bits (flat and Phillips) in two sizes and a small-diameter nail punch that can be used also as a scribe or awl.

In the short while I’ve owned my 17-in-1 HYDE Painter’s Multi-Tool, it has come in handy for filling voids in the bathroom subfloor that I’m prepping for tile, removing old caulk along the base of the tub, setting protruding nail heads, removing old drywall screws, and knocking down the nubs on the wall I’m about to paint. It has now earned a permanent place in the kitchen junk drawer.

HYDE offers a full range of multi-tools in stainless steel, brass, and high-carbon steel.

 

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

 

 


5 Reasons Why Recessed Lighting Is Still Cool

Long a favorite with homeowners, recessed lighting offers unobtrusive, extremely functional illumination. Now, with an expanded range of bulb types, trim styles, and new applications, it's becoming even more attractive.

Installing Recessed Lighting

Photo: whittenarchitects.com

Since the technology arrived in the 1930s, installing recessed lighting has become de rigueur in new construction and home additions as well as in the renovation of existing rooms and buildings. Today, we hardly notice it, in part because it’s ubiquitous, as likely to appear in the living room as in the bedroom closet.

Recessed lighting’s popularity is due largely to its many advantages over table and floor lamps, pendants and sconces. Whereas other types of fixtures best suit one or another specific application—be it ambient, task, or accent lighting—versatile recessed lights can meet all average household needs.

Of course, another advantage of recessed lighting is its unique design. Flush to the ceiling, with its housing tucked neatly between framing joists, recessed lighting takes up virtually zero usable square footage, and its self-effacing style means that it can coordinate with almost any decor, modern or traditional.

If you are in the midst of planning a remodeling project, be sure to consider the full range of functional and aesthetic possibilities that installing recessed lighting can offer. Being that manufacturers continue to innovate in this product category, recessed lighting remains an exciting choice for homeowners. Here are five reasons why.

 

1. HEAVY ACCENT

Installing Recessed Lighting - Eyeball

Photo: rda-architecture.com

Recessed lighting with so-called “eyeball” trim enables homeowners to direct a bright, focused beam toward any object they wish to call attention to, whether it’s a work of art, family memento, or an architectural feature like a fireplace mantel or built-in bookcase. Note that multiple fixtures may be needed to highlight an oversize item.

 

2. RIGHT BRIGHT

Installing Recessed Lighting - Halogen

Photo: bunkerworkshop.com

Outfit recessed lighting fixtures with halogen bulbs to bring your rooms to life. Compared with general lighting, halogens shine three times brighter, imbuing paint colors and boldly hued furniture with a special richness and clarity. Although high-performing, halogens operate at an efficient low voltage, which minimizes running costs.

 

3. UN-THIN TRIM

Installing Recessed Lighting - Trim

Photo: eurofase.com

Recessed lights are justly known for being unobtrusive, but people may be starting to view these fixtures with a fresh eye. Many newer models hitting the market have protruding, light-diffusing trim in a variety of eye-catching materials that range from glass to crystal to composite, in translucent as well as colored variations.

 

4. STEP LIVELY

Installing Recessed Lighting - Steps

Photo: photoklik.com

No longer is recessed lighting confined to the ceiling. More and more homeowners are installing recessed lighting in walls and flooring. In walls, recessed lights resemble mini windows and work extraordinarily well in hallways. In floors, recessed lighting lends a dramatic punch to vertically oriented objects like potted trees.

 

5. MULTIPLICITY

Installing Recessed Lighting - Multiples

Photo: abramsonteiger.com

In some unfortunate circumstances, installing recessed lighting gives a ceiling an unflattering “spotted” look—an effect that can be avoided by choosing a multibulb fixture. As shown here, a series of bulbs—as many as four, and often LED—are arranged in a linear setup in rectangular housings, creating a look similar to, but much less noticeable than, traditional track lighting.

 

Even if you choose to stick with regular recessed lighting, you still have plenty of options. A visit to your local lighting store or favorite online vendor should reveal a surprising number of color, finish, trim, and baffle choices. Give careful consideration to the question of which type of bulb to use. Initial costs run the gamut, color rendition levels span from poor to exceptional, and energy efficiency differs extensively from product to product. Know the pluses and minuses of each type of bulb and choose wisely.


What Would Bob Do? Preventing Window Condensation

Does water condense on the inside of your windows all winter long? If so, try a few of these moisture-controlling solutions.

Window Condensation

Photo: shutterstock.com

It’s winter and I keep getting condensation on the inside of my windows. What’s the solution?

When moist, warm air makes contact with a window—typically the coolest surface in a given space (at least during the winter)—condensation forms. That’s because cool air cannot hold as much water vapor as warm air. If window condensation drives you crazy throughout the winter, I can recommend any number of solutions, most of which are geared toward lowering the relative humidity in your home. One or a combination of the actions listed below should do the trick. It may be worth it for you to purchase a hygrometer, an instrument that measures relative humidity, to assist you in your efforts to reduce household moisture.

• Operate room humidifiers strictly on an as-needed basis. If you are running a whole-house humidifier, reduce its output, then wait a day to see what happens. If the problem persists, turn the humidifier down even further. (It is usually necessary to do this only when outdoor temperatures drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.)

• Run the bathroom exhaust fan while you’re showering and the range hood exhaust fan while you’re cooking. Leave fans running for 10 or 15 minutes after either activity. Double-check that both of these fans—and indeed all the exhaust systems in your home—ventilate to the outdoors and not to the basement, attic, or garage.

• Inspect the entirety of your home—including the basement, roof, and plumbing—for evidence of leaks, because they can have a significant impact on relative humidity.

• If you’re in the habit of drying your laundry on racks indoors, try suspending the practice to see whether that prevents window condensation from forming.

• Avoid indoor storage of freshly cut, nonseasoned firewood, because it contains a high degree of moisture.

• Pull back window treatments so the heated air in your home can raise the temperature of the window glass, thereby reducing the likelihood of condensation.

Install storm windows, which can raise the temperature on the surface of your interior windows, keeping them from reaching the point at which water condenses.

In addition to high relative humidity, insufficient household ventilation can also cause window condensation. If you live in a climate with cold winters and your home is very tightly sealed—and if there are more than a few inhabitants, each of whom adds moisture to the home every day—consider a heat recovery ventilation system. This type of system controls the introduction of fresh air from the outdoors and the expulsion of stale, overly moist air from within.


Weatherstripping 101

Sealing drafts is one of the best—and smartest—ways to reduce your home's energy costs in winter and summer alike. While the concept is easy to understand, there's plenty to know about the various types of weatherstripping products and how they are best used.

Weatherstripping 101

Photo: familyhandyman.com

Weatherstripping is a time-honored method of minimizing window and door drafts. In the winter, weatherstripping prevents heated air from escaping the home and bars the entry of cold from the outdoors. In the summer, weatherstripping performs the identical role, except at that time of year, the air inside tends to be cool (in a house with air conditioning, at least), and the air outside tends not to be. Most homeowners have heard of weatherstripping and are comfortable with the concept, but some are intimidated by the highfalutin name, because it may conjure up images of a complex system or an elaborate installation process. The reality, however, is not at all scary. Weatherstripping refers to a group of straightforward, easy-to-install products that do nothing more than seal gaps in house components that swing, slide, or lift. Here is a rundown of the most popular weatherstripping products.

TAPES

Weatherstripping - Tapes

Photo: thehomedepot.com

Weatherstripping tapes are popular and inexpensive. Made of compressible, flexible material, these work well to fill irregular gaps. Most foam tapes and felt strips can be cut to size with scissors, and because they’re self-adhesive, they are very easy to install. Be sure, however, that you are applying the product to a clean surface.

Best uses: doorstops, casement window stops, double-hung window rails

 

V-STRIPS

Weatherstripping - V Strips

Photo: frostking.com

V-strips are made of vinyl or thin, flexible lengths of metal. The former option costs less and is easier to put in because one side of the vinyl self-adheres; metal V-strips are nailed into place. In either case, installation involves removing the window sashes to access the channels along which they slide.

Best uses: meeting rails, double-hung window jambs, window stops

 

GASKETS

Weatherstripping - Gaskets

Photo: thehomedepot.com

Tubular in shape and rubber-like in composition, gasket-style weatherstripping installs along the bottom of exterior doors by means of nails or screws. (Door sweeps are more common for this application.) A gasket might also be employed to seal between an overhead garage door and the concrete floor slab.

Best uses: exterior doors, garage doors

 

SWEEPS

Weatherstripping - Door Sweeps

Photo: thehomedepot.com

Door sweeps, which are made of vinyl or rubber, or of bristles with a backing, attach via screws to the bottom of an exterior door. They are commonly available at hardware stores and home improvement centers; some door sweeps go on the outside, while others are meant for the inside. Consult the manufacturer’s instructions.

Best uses: exterior doors

 

Every home is different, of course. Each has its own quirks and idiosyncrasies—and particularly in older constructions, a host of air leaks that defy general, one-size-fits-all classification. Still, the following are perhaps the most common places where homeowners use weatherstripping to improve air sealing:

• Exterior doors (including French doors and sliding patio doors)
• Attic hatchways
• Doors to nonconditioned spaces (for example, from the house to the garage)
• Garage doors
• Windows (casement, sliding, awning, and double-hung)

First, seal any gaps around doors or hatchways that connect to the attic—this is where air pressure and air leakage are greatest. Next, check exterior doors; if you see daylight around a closed door, install weatherstripping. By the same token, if your windows rattle in the wind, that’s a pretty sure sign that they too would benefit from weatherstripping. On a cold day, it’s easy to judge these things: If the area feels chilly to the touch, weatherstripping is (at least part of) the answer.


How To: Stain Concrete

Applying stain to a concrete floor can add beauty and depth to this hard-wearing material, and make it even easier to maintain. If your concrete floor is already in good shape, you're just a few easy steps away from a durable, dramatic new finish.

How to Stain Concrete - Basement Floor

Photo: dmarcht.com

Homeowners used to think of concrete as being strictly utilitarian stuff, resorted to only when a better-looking material would be either unsuitable or far too expensive. Today, many people appreciate not only the hard-wearing durability of concrete, but also its aesthetic qualities, which can be greatly enhanced by a number of different techniques. One popular way to finish concrete is through either acid- or water-based stain. I recommend acid: It lasts longer and looks better. The downside of acid stain, however, is that it can be somewhat unpredictable.

Rather than coating on like a wood stain, acid concrete stain generates color through a chemical reaction. Results depend in part on the stain you’ve chosen and how much of it you apply, but also on the concrete itself—its location, age, and mineral composition. The color you end up with may be quite different from the one you expected to get. And there’s no way to erase or undo the stain once you’ve applied it. Your only option is adding more stain to intensify the effect.

STEP 1
To stain concrete successfully, the first step is to prepare the surface, being sure that it’s free of residual adhesive, flaking paint, and similar debris. Scrub the concrete with a solution of TSP and water. Treat stubborn stains aggressively with a degreaser or chemical paint stripper. Mechanical abrasion is a last resort.

How to Stain Concrete - Open Floor

Photo: arkintilt.com

STEP 2
Tape off any sections of the concrete surface that you do not wish to stain. Do this very carefully, as it may prove impossible to remove the stain if it lands somewhere you didn’t intend it to go.

STEP 3
To get an impression of how the stain is going to look, test it in an inconspicuous corner or along a remote edge of the concrete. Don’t love how it looks? Adjust the stain accordingly, diluting or intensifying it.

STEP 4
Now you’re ready to start applying the stain. The goal here is to achieve even coverage. To that end, many choose to employ a sprayer (whose parts are plastic so as not to corrode upon contact with acid). After spraying—never so much that there’s puddling—use a shop broom to ensure that no parts of the surface look relatively darker or lighter. If necessary, spray again to eliminate marks left by the broom.

STEP 5
Different stains take different periods of time to set properly; consult the label on the product you have chosen. While the stain is setting, the chemical reaction actually continues. It ceases only when you neutralize it by washing the floor in a solution of water and detergent (and sometimes baking soda).

STEP 6
Finish up by protecting the stained concrete with a sealer. Again, consult the product label; it’s a good idea to use the manufacturer-recommended sealer. Indoor concrete flooring is usually sealed with wax, although in a high-traffic area, I would opt for epoxy beneath urethane. Note that you can use a buffing machine to facilitate the sealing process, so long as you are working on a floor surface indoors.


How To: Remove and Replace Grout

Even the best tiling jobs show their age eventually. When that day comes, remove the grout and replace it to rejuvenate the installation and make the surface gleam again.

How to Remove Grout

Photo: shutterstock.com

Several years after you complete a bathroom or kitchen renovation, it inevitably starts to show some wear. One culprit is grout: Over time, it stains, cracks, and becomes loose, even if it was professionally installed. And if the grouting was done poorly to begin with, then the job really isn’t likely to last very long. Fortunately, it’s well within the range of the average do-it-yourselfer to remove and replace grout. Indeed, regrouting tile can restore lost luster and is well worth the time and effort.

How to Remove Grout - Tool

Photo: milwaukee.com

How to Remove Grout
It’s certainly possible to remove grout by hand, the old-fashioned way, but it’s recommended that you opt for a power tool. Doing so makes much quicker work of what can be a labor-intensive, time-consuming, and potentially frustration-inducing home project.

If you’re up for taking the power-tool-free route, you need a manual grout removal tool. These typically come in one of two flavors. One looks like a screwdriver with a triangular carbide blade mounted on its end. How does it work? You pull the tool through a grout joint until at least one-eighth of an inch has been removed. The second type of manual grout removal tool features a carbide grit-edged blade—that’s why it’s sometimes known as a grout saw. To use one, you simply saw into the the old grout in the same way that you would saw into wood.

If power tools are more your style, you have at least a couple of effective options. One is to outfit your reciprocating saw with an accessory that is specially designed to remove grout (pictured at right). Alternatively, you can opt for an oscillating tool, such as the Dremel Multi-Max; these excel at smaller jobs, because they afford a high degree of control. No matter what power tool you end up choosing to help you remove grout, remember to keep a chisel or a flat-blade screwdriver on hand. The stubborn bits often need a little coaxing to come out.

Related: Top Tips for Cleaning Grout Lines

Regrouting Tile
The first step in regrouting tile is to mix a certain amount of grout powder with a specific quantity of water. Stick closely to the manufacturer’s directions. Whether you pick sanded or unsanded grout depends on the desired width of the joints between tiles. Unsanded grout is typically used to achieve relatively thin grout lines; the sanded variety is recommend for joints any wider than one-eighth of an inch.

Photo: shutterstock.com

Once you have properly mixed the grout in a bucket, apply it with a plastic towel, then use a grout float to press the mortar deeply into the joints. As you do this, hold the float at a 45-degree angle to the wall or floor surface. Once you are satisfied with the distribution of grout, the next step is to clean off the excess before it has the chance to harden. To do this, use the grout float again, this time holding the tool at an 80-degree angle to skim the excess grout from the face of the tiles. In concert with the grout float, a large, damp sponge can be handy for wiping off any lingering grout haze. (Rinse the sponge often and change the rinse water as it becomes cloudy.) Finally, allow the grout to harden for a period of 24 to 48 hours. Walk on the tile surface only after that amount of time has elapsed.


How To: Paint Wood Paneling

If your wood-paneled walls seem dark and dated, painting is a great way to brighten them up. Follow these simple steps to achieve a professional-looking, up-to-date finish.

How to Paint Paneling

Photo: ranchremodels.com

In a room with wood-paneled walls—particularly if that wood is a veneer—your instinct may be to start fresh, either by tearing out the paneling or by concealing it behind drywall. Both of these options, however, involve avoidable expenses that may be difficult to justify if you are trying to keep costs to a bare minimum. So long as your paneling has stayed in decent condition over the years, perhaps the least expensive way forward is to leave the paneling in place and paint over it.

That may be easier said than done, partly because solid-wood paneling so often has knots, the kind that appear invincible to paint coverage and leave the well-intentioned homeowner feeling a bit trigger-shy. Just as often, there’s a wax or varnish to deal with, and do-it-yourselfers know that sanding can be not only taxing, but really messy. And then there’s veneer wood paneling: Isn’t there something about its hard, almost plastic-like surface that looks like it simply wouldn’t take paint very well?

Related: How To—Paint EVERYTHING

How to Paint Wood Paneling - Roller

Photo: woodfurniturehub.com

The truth is that, regardless of whether yours is solid or veneer, it’s pretty easy to paint wood paneling. If you’ve ever painted a piece of wood furniture, then you’re probably already familiar with the few simple steps that make up the process. Follow these guidelines and you ought to achieve professional-level results.

Start by thoroughly washing the wood-paneled walls with a solution of TSP and water. Next, proceed to lightly sand the walls using a technique aptly known as “scuffing”; the goal here is to create a good mechanical bond between the paneled wall and the initial coat of primer that you will soon be applying.

Today’s primers are so good that you can probably skip the sanding, but I think it’s worth doing. Even though it takes only 20 or 30 minutes, scuffing gives you long-lasting insurance against chipping paint. Just be sure to wear a dust mask and, for health reasons as well as cleanliness, wipe away dust with a damp rag as you go.

Having finished scuffing the full width and height of the paneling to be painted, you can then move on to giving the surface its initial coat of primer. I prefer Zinsser’s (for solid wood, use a water-based product; for veneer, use a shellac-based one). Two primer coats are normally sufficient. Note that while it’s not strictly necessary to do so, you can have the primer tinted to match the shade you eventually plan to paint the wood paneling.

Finish by applying your chosen paint. Lightly sand the surface between coats; expect to do two or three. In order to avoid ending up with the orange peel–like texture that roller-applied paints sometimes produce, opt to use a foam sponge roller cover (inexpensive and easily purchased at your local paint supply store or home improvement center). Keep a paintbrush handy for cutting in at corners and dabbing away drips.

Once you are done, stand back to admire the difference painted wood paneling can make in a room!