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How To: Choose a New Bathroom Faucet

How to Choose a Faucet

Delta's Cassidy Faucet

In the overall scheme of a bathroom, the sink faucet might seem like an incidental detail, but its design can set the tone for the whole space. If it’s been a while since you last shopped for a faucet, you’ll be amazed by the broad range of styles, finishes, and state-of-the-art functions available today.

Buying only one from a field of so many options may seem daunting. Allison McKinney, a product manager at Delta Faucets, says that “the three main considerations when choosing a new faucet are style, function, and fit.” Indeed, zeroing in on these criteria helps simplify the selection process.

Are you updating an old sink or planning a complete bathroom remodel? If you’re focusing on the sink, your choices will be somewhat limited, since the faucet will need to fit into the existing setup (ideally, it will coordinate with other fixtures in the room). If you are redoing the entire room, all avenues are open. Curvy or sleek, one handle or two, there are truly styles to fit any taste.

Related: 12 “Decorator Worthy” Bathroom Vanities

Once you’ve honed in on a silhouette you like, next you will need to decide on a finish. Do you prefer traditional chrome or something a little unexpected, such as old-rubbed bronze? McKinney reminds renovators: No matter what shape and finish you love, be sure the faucet has matching tub and shower fixtures so that you can complete the whole room.

If you want a faucet with no bells and whistles, take your pick—there’s no shortage on the market. But a lot has changed in faucet technology over the past decade, so you may find it worthwhile, not to mention fun, to see what’s out there.

Popular now are hands-free designs that use motion sensors to turn on and off automatically. (These are a great option for households with young children who tend to leave the water running.) Or maybe a luxurious waterfall flow is just what you’ve dreamed about for your new master bath.

Before visiting a showroom, consider your lifestyle and the amount of use the new faucet is likely to receive. A more decorative style better suits a powder room used mainly by guests, while your high-traffic kids bath may warrant a sturdier choice.

Whereas style and function are often a matter of personal taste, “fit” is the technical part of the equation that will be of particular importance if you are replacing the faucet on an existing sink.

The basic sink configurations and their associated faucet types are:

  • Single-hole sinks fit either single-handled or smaller two-handled faucets.
  • Centerset (also called mini-widespread) sinks feature three holes drilled within four inches and accommodate single-handled desins or two-handled faucets mounted on a plate or escutcheon.
  • Widespread sinks, which have three separate holes at least eight inches apart, accept larger two-handled designs.

Wall-mounted designs are also available. If replacing an old faucet, be sure to bring a picture and dimensions of your sink to a showroom.

How to Choose a Faucet - Oil Rubbed Bronze

Delta's Victorian Faucet

Prices vary from about $50 to more than $500, depending on style, finish, and technology. Have a budget in mind before you begin your search and realize that to get the look you want, it may be necessary to compromise. Affording a hands-free design, for instance, may mean opting for a less expensive finish.

Inquire how the finish on a faucet was applied, as this usually affects price. So-called PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) coating is extremely durable but costs more. Also, note that warranties on faucets (for both finishes and inner valve construction) are usually worthwhile.

Before you begin your search, take a picture of the sink you plan to update, jotting down its dimensions and hole configurations. Or if you’re renovating the space in its entirety, collect pictures of dream bathrooms and fixtures to develop a sense of what you like. Installing the faucet yourself? Ask which models have the greatest ease of installation. “Bring all the information you can with you to the showroom, so there are no surprises when you get there,” McKinney concludes.

For more on bathrooms, consider:

Delta Innovation: Then and Now
5 Simple Ways to Modernize Your Bath
Bathroom Sinks That Rise Above the Rest

Formica Goes Retro Upon Turning 100

Retro Formica

Formica's 100th Anniversary Collection

Formica, the colorful laminate used in American homes for generations, turns 100 this year.

It was back in 1913 that Daniel J. O’Conor, a young research engineer at Westinghouse Electric, first discovered that layers of resin-coated fabric, when pressed together, made a laminate that worked well as an electrical insulator.

O’Conor partnered with fellow Westinghouse associate Herbert A. Faber to start a new business, Formica, named for the insulating properties of the new material that acted as a substitute “for mica,” a mineral often used for electrical insulation. Read the rest of this entry »

How To: Bring the World’s Most Romantic Color into the Home

Red Decor - Front Door


As Valentine’s Day approaches, the color red becomes more and more apparent in our homes. Red roses, red hearts on Valentine’s cards, and for true holiday enthusiasts, red-colored lights draped on a mantel or at the window.

Traditionally seen as the color of passion, red is also associated with power and assertiveness. Small wonder then that so many homeowners choose to surround themselves with the vibrant hue all year ’round.

“Red is an excellent color to use if you want to create an effect that is stimulating and invigorating,” says color consultant Doreen Richmond, whose blog investigates the use of color in interior design. “It is a color that makes you conscious and alert. In the home, it adds strength and warmth.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Top New Year’s Resolutions for Your Home

Home Improvement Projects 2013


The start of each new year is a hopeful time. People vow to get to the gym more often or to finally quit smoking. But as winter turns to spring, even the most steadfast determination can begin to wane, and resolutions often get sidelined. The same is true in remodeling. There always seem to be things on our wish lists that we never get around to.

We spoke with three experts to identify the home improvement projects most of us think about but rarely tackle. And we got tips on how to finally get these projects done.


1. Making Our Homes More Energy Efficient

Home Improvement Projects 2013 - Energy Efficiency


Bob Vila knows a thing or two about the home improvement projects people dream about. One that he hears mentioned frequently is increasing a home’s energy efficiency. “People often ask me about energy conservation methods, from installing a programmable thermostat to adding insulation in an attic to replacing old windows and doors,” he says.

Why It’s Important: Boosting your home’s energy efficiency saves you money—a common resolution in and of itself!

What Holds Us Back: Budget concerns can be roadblocks to success, Bob points out, but they don’t have to be. “There are $50,000 window replacements, but there are also options as inexpensive as a tube of caulking to seal out drafts.”

How To Get It Done: “Take a realistic look at your finances and start with what you can afford,” Bob advises. “For larger projects, you may have to adjust your priorities in order to save money, like taking a one week vacation instead of two weeks.”


2. Remodeling a Kitchen or Bath

Home Improvement Projects 2013 - Kitchen and Bath


Modernizing an outdated kitchen or bath is a project that Amy Matthews, licensed contractor and host of DIY Network’s hit show “Sweat Equity,” is asked about time and again.

Why It’s Important: Aside from the aesthetic qualities, a beautiful new kitchen or bath can increase the value of your home.

What Holds Us Back: “I think people feel overwhelmed by the scope of these projects,” Amy reflects. “There are other rooms you can renovate for less money, but kitchens and baths can involve plumbing, gas lines, fixtures—they are expensive places to fix.”

How To Get It Done: “Begin by making a detailed plan of your dream room, but be realistic about the costs,” Amy says. To have the stove of your dreams, for example, you may need to compromise on cabinets—or the other way around. “A good contractor will be able to help you adjust your plan to fit your budget.”


3. Conquering Clutter

Home Improvement Projects 2013 - Storage and Organization


“Getting rid of clutter and finally getting organized is always on our readers’ list of New Year’s resolutions,” reports Amy Panos, Senior Editor for Home Design at Better Homes & Gardens.

Why It’s Important: Clutter-free spaces not only help you save time by making it easier to find what you need, they also foster an overall sense of serenity in your home.

What Holds Us Back: The urge to get it done all at once. “Remember, you didn’t accumulate the clutter in a day, and you’re not going to organize your whole house in a day,” Amy says.

How To Get It Done: Start small. “Think about the three areas that, if you could get them organized, would make the biggest difference in your daily life,” Amy suggests. “Work on one of them each month, even if it’s only for an hour a week. Focus on one and work on it until you finish, then move on to the next one. Let success breed success.”


For more on remodeling, consider:

New Year, New Color
Kitchen Design Trends for 2013
5 Market Trends to Cash In On This Year

New Year, New Color

Emerald Green - Pantone 2013

Pantone, the global authority on color for the design industries, has announced the Color of the Year for 2013: Emerald Green. (Or more specifically, PANTONE 17-5641.) Leatrice Eiseman, executive director for the Pantone Color Institute, reflects on the choice: “Symbolically, Emerald brings a sense of clarity, renewal, and rejuvenation,” she says, “which is so important in today’s complex world.”

Slideshow: Trending Now: Emerald Green

How will the choice of Emerald affect your decorating decisions in the year ahead? Perhaps quite a bit—or perhaps not at all—depending on how much you like the hue and to what degree you enjoy bold colors in your home.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sweet Dreams: A New Line of No-VOC Paints for Nurseries

Lullaby Paints - Golden Slumber Nursery

Lullaby Paints' Golden Slumber Nursery

The health benefits of low-VOC paints for people with chemical sensitivities and respiratory conditions are well documented. Earlier this year, those benefits inspired one company to launch a line of non-toxic paints targeted towards the most susceptible among us: infants.

Lullaby Paints—intended specifically for nurseries and playrooms—are free of benzene, formaldehyde, and a host of other compounds often found in traditional household paints.

Related: Fresh Coat: 10 All-Natural House Paints

Company co-founder Julian Crawford points out that parents often paint a nursery mere weeks or months before a baby’s arrival, and that, once home, newborns spend many hours a day sleeping in their rooms. “We have baby monitors now that allow parents to shut the nursery door to keep out noise,” says Crawford, who adds that new homes are also better insulated and therefore less drafty than they used to be. “It’s more important than ever to have high air quality indoors.”

Lullaby Paints - Palettes

Lullaby Paints' Designer Palettes

Although designed for nurseries, Lullaby Paints’ broad palette is sophisticated enough to look great beyond the nursery. There are bold hues like Tangerine and Citron and more subdued choices such as Portobello, Celadon, and Sheep’s Wool. Pale pinks and blues are offered as well, but overall, Crawford reports, “these are not typical baby colors.”

Also available from Lullaby Paints are chalkboard paints in 16 vibrant hues like Royal Blue and King’s Red, all safe and toxin-free so that children can help with the application. The chalkboard paint is sold by the gallon or quart. It’s also sold in a convenient kit, which includes roller, tray, edging tape, enough paint to cover a 30-foot square surface with two coats, and even some chalk to get little artists on their way.

Coming in 2013: a line of stains and varnishes for woodwork, floors, and furniture. “It’s even harder to find varnishes that are low- or no-VOC, so it was really a natural extension of what we offer,” Crawford states. Now in the final stages of color development, expect to see shades that are both traditional and a bit unexpected—charcoal gray, for instance.

Lullaby Paint's packaging

Lullaby Paints' Eco-Friendly Packaging

Homeowners seeking green products will undoubtedly appreciate Lullaby Paints’ packaging. Gone are the paint cans that would sit on your garage shelf year after year. In their place: resealable pouches that cut down on manufacturing and shipping costs and keep paint fresher for future touch-ups.

For more information, to order paint or samples, or to find a retailer near you, visit Lullaby Paints.

Fore more on painting, consider:

Fail-Safe Colors
What to Do with Old Paint
Paint Guide: 10 Essentials for Successful House Painting

A Brief History of Nutcrackers

These fancifully painted fellows herald the holiday season in grand style.

assorted traditional nutcrackers

Assorted Traditional Nutcrackers. Photo: Christmas Spirit

Slideshow: Nutcrackers on Parade

Read the rest of this entry »

Feather Trees: Yesterday’s Christmas Decor, Today

A century-old tradition, these artificial Christmas trees continue to charm homeowners and DIY enthusiasts alike.

Feather Christmas Trees at MaisonDecor

Photo: Maison Decor

Like many of our cherished holiday decorating traditions, feather trees originated in Germany during the Victorian era. Their construction was simple but ingenious. Dyed goose feathers were attached to branches with wire to resemble pine boughs. The branches were then inserted into a wooden dowel “trunk”, which in turn was set into a base. Tiny faux berries or candleholders sometimes graced the tips of branches as well.

Feather Christmas Trees - Vintage German

Vintage German Feather Tree

Feather trees were brought to our shores by German immigrants in the early part of the 20th century, enjoying widespread popularity with American consumers during the 1920s and 1930s.

Importation was halted during the Second World War, and in the years that followed, the use of feather trees declined. The delicate decorations now seemed a bit old-fashioned for post-war tastes.

Slideshow: Trending Now: Feather Trees

Collectors kept the tradition alive. Today, feather Christmas trees have made a comeback. Antique examples are highly sought after by some, but their high price tags ($300 and up) and fragile condition lessen their appeal to others. Fortunately, there are numerous new creations to choose from, many of which sell in the $40 to $80 range.

The classic styles feature green branches with red berries or ivory branches. Updated variations boast bright colors like fuchsia, lime, and turquoise.

Tall feather trees can be found, but most are intended for tabletop use and commonly measure between two and three feet in height.

Feather Christmas Trees - Goose Feather

Artisan Dennis Bauer wraps a goose feather to make a traditional feather Christmas tree. Photo: Michael Chritton for Arron Beacon Journal

Feeling crafty? Many people choose to make their own feather trees, either in the traditional manner of wiring goose feathers to branches, or in an alternate style where soft feathers are layered in rows up the sides of a wood or Styrofoam cone.

For more on holiday decorating, consider:

Holiday Lights 101
Christmas Trees—Real vs. Artificial?
Bob Vila Radio: Picking a Christmas Tree

The Pellet Stove: An Eco-Friendly Heating Option

Pellet Stoves - Napoleon Fireplaces

Photo: Napoleon Fireplaces

The warmth of a wood stove appeals to many homeowners as much for its practicality (it can cut down on heating costs) as for the undeniable charm it adds to a room. For anyone considering such an investment, pellet stoves have become an increasingly popular option.

Slideshow: Trending Now: Pellet Stoves

Similar in appearance to traditional wood-burning stoves, pellet stoves burn, well, pellets—compact, one-inch-long pieces made from recycled sawdust and wood shavings. Because pellets are higher in density and lower in moisture than wood, they burn more efficiently and with less smoke and ash.

Pellet Stoves - Popular Mechanics

Photo/Illustration: Popular Mechanics

Another desirable feature of these stoves is that once pellets have been loaded into the hopper, they are automatically fed into the burn chamber over the course of the day, eliminating the need for the repeated loading and stoking of wood that is necessary with a traditional wood stove.

Opening a bag of pellets, too, is considerably less hassle than stacking or splitting a cord of firewood. And while all wood-burning units require regular cleaning and maintenance to perform at their peak, low-ash pellets will make the cleaning process less arduous.

Pellet Stoves - Pellets in hopper

Photo: RexKnows

Pellet stoves come in two basic styles. Fireplace inserts are set into a home’s existing fireplace, utilizing the same chimney and flue. Freestanding units can be placed anywhere in a room once proper floor guards and vents (specifically intended for wood-burning stoves) have been installed.

Either option will need to be situated near an electrical source to run the automated features of the stove. As for as the appearance, pellet stoves can be found in a wide range of designs, from old-fashioned to modern and from ornately decorated to streamlined.

Lennox Whittfield pellet stove insert

Lennox Whittfield Pellet Stove Insert

Pellet stoves sell for about $1,500 to $3,500 depending on size and styling, which is somewhat higher than traditional wood-burning stoves owing to the automated features built into each unit.

Installation costs usually fall in the $500 range but are worth the expense. When introducing any wood-burning unit to the home, be sure it meets local safety codes.

The pellets themselves are typically sold in 40-pound bags for $5 to $8 (or by the ton for about $250; similar in price to a cord of firewood).

Before committing to a pellet stove, research pellet availability in your area, as supplies and costs vary depending on factors—whether there are pellet mills nearby or they will need to be shipped a long distance, for instance.

Before purchasing a pellet stove, determine your own home’s heating needs and compare features of various brands. In a helpful article, Consumer Reports analyzes the pros and cons of pellet and wood-burning stoves.

For more on home heating, consider:

Radiant Floor Heating 101
11 Ways to Winterize Your Home on a Budget
Quick Tip: Make Your Fireplace More Efficient

Cork Flooring Steps Up

Cork Floors - Lisbon Cork "Mora" Flooring

Lisbon Cork (Mora) Flooring from Lumber Liquidators

Something’s stirring underfoot—a growing interest in cork floors. Crafted from sustainable materials and available in a wide array of patterns and colors, cork flooring is proving to be an attractive alternative to tiles, hardwood, or carpeting. Here we take a look at some of the qualities of cork that are making today’s homeowners look twice, and we offer advice on buying and installing cork in your home.

Related: Trending Now—Cork Flooring

It’s Sustainable. Cork flooring is made from the cast-offs of cork wine-stopper manufacturing. The cork itself comes from the bark of the cork oak tree, native to Portugal and Spain. After the bark is harvested, it regenerates and can be trimmed again in nine years, ensuring the ongoing health of the tree.

It’s Comfortable. Soft underfoot and warm to the touch, cork flooring is a pleasure to walk on—even on the coldest days. Its pliancy makes it a good choice for kitchens, workspaces, or anywhere you may be standing for long periods of time. It’s also a sensible option for nurseries and playrooms.

It’s Durable. For years, cork flooring has been used in public buildings like museums, libraries, and churches, proving that it can withstand regular foot traffic. Most dents will fill themselves in again, much in the same way that a cork wine-stopper expands once removed from the neck of a bottle.

It Absorbs Sound. Cork’s acoustical properties make it a natural choice for music rooms, homes prone to echoing, and apartment buildings with strict sound attenuation requirements. It has thermal properties, as well. Because cork maintains room temperature, it reduces heat loss in cold weather.

Cork Flooring - Colors


It’s Versatile. With colors ranging from wood tones to vibrant rainbow hues, cork can complement any decor. Some homeowners opt for the neutral path, allowing the natural grain patterns to take center stage. Others play with color, creating classic checkerboards or more elaborate configurations.

Buying and Installing Cork
Cork flooring is available in two styles—tiles that are installed with the aid of adhesives and floating floors with a click-and-lock system. The choice of which to use is a personal one. Some feel that click-and-lock installation is simpler. Others find cork’s beneficial qualities even more pronounced in tiles, which are usually cork all the way through.

At approximately $3 to $10 per square foot, depending on pattern and color, cork is comparable in price to other flooring options such as hardwood, laminate, and ceramic tile. Be sure to request samples before placing an order, so you can see how the cork will look in your home’s lighting. Most manufacturers and retail sources will send samples either for free or for a small charge.

For more on flooring, consider:

Radiant Floor Heating 101
Bob Vila Radio: Squeaky Floors
Eco-Friendly Flooring: 5 Ways to Go Green from the Bottom Up