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Genius! The DIY Fire Pit You Can Bring Indoors

Many homeowners want to cozy up around a fireplace when temperatures drop—but no one misses hauling wood and cleaning out the chimney. This season, try a hassle-free alternative: a DIY (and flameless!) campfire.

Fake Campfire - Made with String Lights

Photo: blog.freepeople.com

Camping season is nearly over, but the cozy season is only just beginning. Along with the urge to stockpile blankets and keep the oven filled with pumpkin pie, you’re probably ready to curl up by a fire. But not everyone has a hearth at home—and even if you are so lucky, you probably know how its expenses (fuel, chimney cleanings, and so on) make it a bit of a mixed blessing anyway. If you want the glow of burning embers in your living room without installing an entire fireplace, consider this craftier alternative from BLDG 25 that gets its luminescence from a set of string lights.

Obviously, a fire pit that bridges the gap between authentic and appropriate for the indoors starts with a handful of supplies from outside, so the design team at Free People first collected a number of small branches and rocks. But each piece of wood—then wrapped in foil, Elmer’s glue, and overlapping strips of white lace—serves only a temporary cast in this project. After the glue dried completely overnight, the sticks were cut out with a sharp utility knife. Once you peel away the foil, all that’s left is a set of ghostly birch-like branches. The rest of the DIY lighting project was as picnic in comparison: They grouped the large rocks in a circle, bundled string lights inside, and arranged the faux branches like real firewood in a cone-like structure.

As the temperatures dip and rainy fall weather ensues, this creative reuse of twinkling Christmas lights has us scoping out the best outlet near which to situate a fake fire pit (not to mention pondering whether it’s too soon to pull out the holiday decorations). Sure, you’ll have to make the s’mores over the stove, but you’ll also have access to electricity and Netflix. So invite a few friends over, and gather ’round the glow!

FOR MORE: Free People 

Fake Campfire - Lace Logs

Photo: blog.freepeople.com

5 Questions to Ask Before Replacing Your Roof

Replacing your roof? The contractor you hire sets the trajectory of the project, determining whether it becomes a success story or a cautionary tale. To arrive at the right choice, be sure you ask the right questions.

Installing a New Roof

Photo: fotosearch.com

Replacing the roof: Many people do it only once, if at all, in their tenure as the owner of a home. For that reason alone—simply because it’s unfamiliar—re-roofing can be a daunting prospect. Aside from the stress of hiring a contractor, there are new terms to learn and tough decisions to make. Then, of course, there’s the financial dimension: A major home improvement job, roof replacement typically costs thousands of dollars, enough to make any budget-conscious homeowner hesitate. When you dig a little deeper, though, you begin to understand that replacing the roof doesn’t just take money out of your pocket; the upgrade often adds considerable value to the home. Upon resale, owners typically recoup more than half of the amount they invest in a new roof, according to Jim Eldredge, a manager with Sears Home Services. Still, anxiety comes with the territory whenever you undertake a high-price-tag project, even if the component at issue serves a vital purpose in safeguarding the integrity of your home.

Certainly, more glamorous home improvement projects exist, but there may be none more essential than securing a sturdy, impervious roof. Besides keeping out the weather and preventing water damage, a sound roof offers a suite of less obvious benefits, including but not limited to improved energy efficiency and curb appeal. It’s a “functional upgrade,” says Eldredge. Simply put, a newly roofed house performs better, generally speaking. The variable here is that hiring and working with a reliable contractor are key to success. Everyone has heard horror stories of amateurish crews doing a slapdash job (or not even completing the work). You can avoid such terrors by asking a series of simple questions at the outset of your relationship with a given pro. Unless you are an ambitious do-it-yourselfer handling it all on your own, the quality of your new roof largely depends on the people you entrust with the task at hand. So, before spending a penny, make it your business to find out the details of how contractors conduct their business. In your interviews, be sure to hit the following topics.



Installing a New Roof - Budgeting

Photo: fotosearch.com

Is the estimate comprehensive? It’s one thing to invest thousands in a new roof. It’s another to shell out much more than you were prepared to spend. Do yourself the favor of reviewing estimates in full, rather than skipping to the section that specifies the project total. Keep an eye out for anomalies, but just as important is to walk away if you encounter an estimate that doesn’t seem complete. Give seriously consideration only to written estimates that factor in all costs, from the permits and inspections on down to the fasteners and flashings. In addition, look for allowances made to cover miscellaneous unexpected expenses, such as the repair of the plywood sheathing beneath the shingles. Everyone knows the old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” That wisdom certainly applies to estimates, but equally suspicious is any contractor who isn’t willing to explain an estimate in depth. Bear in mind that the project consultants with Sears Home Services take the homeowner through every line of a work proposal. The reason? When client and crew are on the same page, unpleasant surprises are rare.



Installing a New Roof - Asphalt Detail

Photo: fotosearch.com

What materials are going to be used? You get what you pay for. While that’s true in virtually every home improvement project, it’s never truer than in roofing. Often, when a roof fails prematurely, sub-standard shingles are to blame. Cutting corners simply doesn’t work. In fact, you’re likely to spend more over the long term if you try to scrimp at first. Explain your quality concerns to the contractors on your radar, and in turn, expect each to offer insight into your options. Before work begins, get a materials specification in writing. Then later, once the materials have arrived, double-check that they match what was agreed. In general, be wary of any contractor who does not recommend the best. In its commitment to lasting results, Sears Home Services works exclusively with Owens Corning, a leading shingles manufacturer since the 1930s. In addition, Sears consults with the client to select shingles that complement the house style, boosting its outward appearance. Re-roofing can be as much about aesthetics as it is about performance, if you have the help you need to make the right choices.



Installing a New Roof - Cutting Shingles

Photo: fotosearch.com

What methods does the installer plan to employ? To save you money in the short term, some contractors may suggest applying new shingles directly over the existing layer. Cutting a step out of the process may be enticing, but there are compelling, legitimate reasons to pursue the correct order of operations. Basically, shingles are more secure when fastened directly to the roof deck. In addition, removing the existing roof materials brings about the valuable opportunity to inspect the roof deck. Ignore the opportunity, and it may only be a matter of time before currently concealed issues make themselves known in the form of extensive, expensive water damage. That’s why, in every re-roofing job it undertakes, Sears Home Services strips away the old shingles to reveal the underlying sheathing and, if necessary, repair it. Before applying the new shingles, installers add an ice-and-water shield to protect against ice dam damage. Along the way, important accommodations are made for adequate attic ventilation. The wise course is to hire a contractor eager to do not the easiest thing, but what’s best for your home.



Installing a New Roof - Liability

Photo: fotosearch.com

What happens if something goes wrong? When the average homeowner hires out a roof replacement job, he or she does so on the assumption that final responsibility for the project now falls to the professional. The harsh reality is that, while most states and municipalities place reasonably strict requirements on contractors, not everyone in the industry follows the letter of the law. That means it’s in your best interest to confirm that your contractor has bonding and insurance certification, in addition to the relevant licenses. One virtue of choosing a larger, firmly established company like Sears Home Services is that in addition to foremen and workers, there are team members focused not on the construction work, but on the paperwork. That way, you can enter into the project with peace of mind, fully confident that you’d be protected in a worst-case scenario. Most small, local contractors are licensed, insured, and bonded, but before hiring one, triple-check that you wouldn’t be liable for any accidents.



Installing a New Roof - Warranties

Photo: fotosearch.com

How long can the new roof be expected to last? Typically, asphalt shingle roofs last for decades, but whereas some must be replaced after about 20 years, others remain viable for a lifetime. For instance, the Owens Corning shingles installed by Sears Home Services come with a guarantee of problem-free performance for a full 50 years (view details). Of course, if the shingles were improperly installed, even a generous product guarantee would be of little help to the homeowner. Sears Home Services sets itself apart here. Very few local contractors offer warranties on their workmanship. But Sears knows that, when it comes to such a large-scale investment, the customer service received post-installation often matters most of all. For that reason, the company provides a written limited warranty on labor, not to mention a Satisfaction Guarantee. Hire well, and you can expect your chosen roofer to get the job done on time and on budget. With Sears Home Services, you can expect that and more—namely, a commitment to your satisfaction that extends long after the installers have packed up their things and left.

Other home improvements are purely elective, but roof replacement is something different. It’s not so much a choice as it is an essential step forward in defending the structural integrity of your home, while giving a tremendous boost to its resale value. Don’t just flip open the yellow pages and settle on the first company listed. Instead, do your due diligence, ask good questions, and devote thought, care, and attention to your section of whom you trust to put a roof over your head.


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

Bob Vila Thumbs Up: The Banquette Seating Competition Starts Today

Vote now—and vote daily—to choose your favorite among the banquette seating projects competing to win this month's Bob Vila Thumbs Up competition!

Kitchen Banquette

When it comes to seating a crowd, nothing rises to the challenge like a hardworking banquette. Whether paired with a stately dining room table or a tiny breakfast table, a banquette brings a cozy, homey feeling to any space. But those buying a new banquette know the task comes with not a little sticker shock. However, some rather resourceful and industrious bloggers prove you don’t need to spend an arm and a leg to get the look. This month we’re featuring some of our DIY banquettes from around the web in the Bob Vila Thumbs Up competition.


Bob Vila Thumbs Up highlights some of the best and brightest DIY bloggers, and this month we’re excited to share four amazing banquette seating projects. Though each banquette serves the same purpose, providing well-designed seating, every one comes together in a totally unique way. They all win points in our book but we’re counting on you to help us name one blogger as the champion of this month’s competition and the prize—a $250 gift card.


So cast your vote today and every day in October to help your favorite blogger become this month’s Bob Vila Thumbs Up winner. After all, it’s your vote that determines the outcome of this competition.

Congrats to last month’s winning blogger, Brooklyn Limestone. Read more about the winning Bob Vila Thumbs Up project right here.

Would you like to recommend a blogger for the next Bob Vila Thumbs Up? Tell us about it on Facebook or Twitter!

Enter Bob Vila’s $3,000+ Kitchen Appliance Give-Away Today!

Enter for one of four chances to win a Cuisinart prize package!

kitchen appliance give-awayThe kitchen is the hub of the home. It’s where the family gathers to cook, eat, and share their lives with each other. But the kitchen appliances you need to feed and entertain today’s growing family don’t come cheap, and sometimes your old or outdated models just can’t get the job done. That’s why Cuisinart and Bob Vila have teamed up to bring you the $3,000+ Kitchen Appliance Give-Away, which will award four winners their choice of one of eight top-of-the-line packages to complete their dream kitchen.


Today and every day this month (starting at 12:00 p.m. EST on September 30, 2015 through 11:59 a.m. EST October 31, 2015), enter to win your choice of one of eight kitchen appliance packages from Cuisinart. (See Official Rules below.)

Cuisinart products were first hailed by enthusiasts like Julia Child, who praised the company’s now iconic food processor as an innovative appliance that paved the way for a new era of cooking. Now offering an endless variety of top-of-the-line and award-winning products, Cuisinart has become a household name in every home cook’s kitchen.

If you’re a lucky winner in this month’s give-away, you’ll be able to choose your prize from the following packages, each valued at around $800:

Busy Baker: Chef’s Classic Non-stick Champagne Bakeware 6-Piece Set, VELOCITY Ultra 7.5 1-HP Blender, 2-lb Convection Bread Maker, Power Advantage® PLUS 9-Speed Hand Mixer with Storage Case, 7-Quart Stand Mixer

Coffee Lover: Cuisinart® for illy® Buona Tazza™ Super Automatic Single-Serve Espresso, Caffè Latte, Cappuccino, and Coffee Machine, PerfecTemp 14-Cup Coffeemaker, Programmable Conical Burr Mill

Home Chef: Elite Collection™ 14-Cup Die Cast Metal Food Processor, Hurricane Pro 3.5 Peak HP Blender, Electric Pressure Cooker

All the Basics: VELOCITY Ultra Trio 1-HP Blender/Food Processor with Travel Cups, GreenGourmet Tri-Ply Stainless Cookware, Attrezzo Collection of Tools & Gadgets, Metal Classic 4-Slice Toaster, Vacuum Sealer, Round Classic Waffle Maker

Better Breakfast: Vertical Waffle Maker, PowerEdge™ 700 Blender, Juice Extractor, Pulp Control Citrus Juicer, Electronic Yogurt Maker with Automatic Cooling, International Chef Crepe/Pizzelle/Pancake Plus, GreenGourmet® Electric 14-inch Skillet, 12-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker

Movie Night: EasyPop Plus™ Flavored Popcorn Maker, Compact Deep Fryer, Sparkling Beverage Maker, Electric Fondue Pot, Griddler Elite, Chef’s Convection Toaster Oven, Frozen Yogurt – Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker

Healthy Home: Juice Extractor, Electronic Yogurt Maker with Automatic Cooling, Egg Central, Electric Pressure Cooker, GreenGourmet Hard Anodized 12-Piece Set, Prep 11 Plus 11-Cup Food Processor

Frozen Favorites: Commercial Quality Ice Cream and Gelato Maker, Mix It In Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker, Hurricane Pro 3.5 Peak HP Blender, Barrel Handle Ice Cream Scoop

Enter Bob Vila’s $3,000+ Kitchen Appliance Give-Away daily to increase your chances of winning one of these amazing packages.

To learn more about Cuisinart and their innovative kitchen products, click here.

Bob Vila’s “$3,000+ Kitchen Appliance Give-Away” is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Contest Period for Prize runs from 12:00 p.m. (EST) Wednesday, September 30th, 2015 through 11:59 a.m. (EST) Saturday, October 31st, 2015. One entry per household per day on BobVila.com. Alternative means of entry for Drawing is available by faxing your name and address to 508-437-8486 during the applicable Entry Period. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. See Official Rules.

How To: Paint a Brick Fireplace

Sometimes it pays to skip the remodel! Rather than pulling out an outdated brick fireplace, save money and still transform this feature into one you'll enjoy for seasons to come—with just a bit of paint.

How To Paint a Brick Fireplace - White Brick

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Oakland, CA

Sometimes, even despite attentive maintenance and care, brick masonry fireplaces amass a fair amount soot, mildew, and efflorescence that cumulatively dates a modern home. While a teardown of this brick feature for something more modern can be cost-prohibitive to many homeowners, you can still brush off outdated design before winter’s cold arrival by brushing up your fireplace exterior—with paint. Unlike drywall or wood, brick has a unique texture that should be taken into consideration when painting. Follow this tutorial to fix up your bare brick masonry fireplace in under a weekend.

- Water
- Soap
- Stiff-bristle brush
- Trisodium Phosphate (optional)
- Bleach (optional)
- Wire brush (optional)
- Acrylic caulk (optional)
- Painter’s tape
- Drop cloth
- Paint roller fastened with a thick-nap roller cover (1 ¼” nap recommended)
- Paintbrush
- Telescopic roller extension pole (optional)
- 2 5-gallon buckets
- 2 paint bucket screens
- Masonry primer
- Acrylic latex paint

How To Paint a Brick Fireplace - Painted Brick

Photo: fotosearch.com

Due to the tendency of brick to accumulate grit, you should wet and clean the brick fireplace prior to painting it to ensure better paint adhesion. Using a stiff-bristle brush doused in soapy water, first scrub the face of the brick fireplace with a brush to remove dirt or efflorescence—that is, white, powdery, mineral deposits. If your fireplace also contains leftover soot, follow with a mixture of 1/2 cup of trisodium phosphate and 1 gallon of water.

Then proceed to remove any visible mildew with a solution of one part bleach to three parts water. Sponge the diluted bleach over your brick, let it soak in for for half an hour, and scrub the surface with a wire brush. Once you’ve wrapped up cleaning, allow the brick to dry for at least 24 hours before painting.

Inspect the fireplace for small cracks in the brick. If you find any, pick up some acrylic caulk from your nearest home improvement store and use it to fill in. Check your bottle’s instructions for required dry time before you move on.

Using painter’s tape, cover the areas around the fireplace that you do not want to paint, such as where the brick meets the floor and walls. Protect the floor and the fireplace hearth from splatter by laying out a drop cloth.

Pour your masonry primer into one of the 5-gallon buckets and insert a bucket screen on end; this painting tool will assist in both minimizing mess and achieving an even coat on your roller. Now dip the roller into the bucket, roll it along the screen, and repeat until it’s completely loaded with primer.

Carefully apply the first coat to the entire surface of the brick, ensuring that you cover the surface as well as the mortar joints. Switch to a brush to paint deep joints that the roller misses. If your brick structure reaches the ceiling, you may also opt to bring in a telescopic roller extension pole to help you access hard-to-reach areas near the top of the fireplace.

Wherever you had cleaned off efflorescence in Step 1, go back and apply an additional coat or two. Then, wash up your painting tools and allow the primer to dry completely overnight.

The next day, set out to prep your acrylic latex paint the same way you had your primer in the second 5-gallon bucket with its own bucket screen. (While you can choose any paint finish, a matte paint really complements the natural texture of the brick.) Then, dip your roller into the bucket and coat it evenly with paint. Generously apply a top coat of the paint to the brick using overlapping strokes to cover nooks and crannies as best as possible, and leave it all to dry.

Perform any paint touch-ups as desired with the brush, and then give all of your tools a thorough wash before the paint dries. When you’re finished, pull back the painter’s tape and the drop cloth from the fireplace area. If you encounter paint splatter where it shouldn’t be, just wipe it away using a soft cloth damp with warm water—the sooner, the better! Otherwise, all that’s left to do to enjoy your newly refreshed fireplace this season is to stock up on kindling.

5 Paints You Can Make Yourself

There’s no need to shell out the big bucks for your next painting project. Instead, try one of these five recipes to mix up your own paint—and the perfect color—from scratch.

Homemade Paint - Five Types of DIY Paint

Photo: fotosearch.com

The next time you’re faced with a painting project, don’t head to the hardware store straight away. Whether you’re coloring a piece of furniture or an exterior wall, there are plenty of homemade options available for you to consider—many of them cheaper than store-bought counterparts and chemical-free. But that’s not all: Mixing up your own homemade paint offers more control over the finish so you end up with one that’s more in tune with your décor needs. Check out five varieties you can craft to brush up your DIY game.

Homemade Paint - DIY Chalk Paint

Photo: etsy.com via brasshipposhop

If you want to achieve an easy-to-distress matte finish and you like the sound of less work—no primer or sanding required before your first coat of paint—check out chalk paint. It’s slight grit and forgiving texture make it a prime candidate for painting wood pieces in a distressed style. To make your own, simply stir up 1/3 cup of Plaster of Paris in 1/3 cup of cool water until it’s completely smooth. Then mix that solution with 1 cup of flat latex paint. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t store and reuse chalk paint, so, depending on the project, adjust the amount you mix up accordingly and use it as soon as it’s ready.


Homemade Paint - DIY Chalkboard Paint

Photo: Zillow Digs home in New York, NY

Not to be confused with chalk paint, chalkboard paint turns any old wall into a fun way to jot reminders to self and notes for family or guests—an especially trendy upgrade in the kitchen or entryway. No need to limit yourself to black here! This recipe works for any color of your choosing.

To mix up your own paint, fill a plastic bucket with a ratio of 2 tablespoons non-sanded tile grout to every cup of flat-finish latex or acrylic craft paint, depending on the scope of the project. (You might choose the latex for a wall but mix up a smaller batch with acrylic to paint on smaller housewares like the inside of a medicine cabinet, for example.) Mix thoroughly to remove any and all clumps. Apply with a roller or paint brush in a nice, even coat, then—after it dries—smooth the entire wall with a fine sandpaper and wipe away the dust with a slightly damp cloth.


Homemade Paint - Milk Paint Desk

Photo: etsy.com via GreenhillLaneDesigns

For painting over furniture with an aged and almost translucent finish, milk paint should be your go-to. The texture tends to be a bit thinner than other paints, which creates a beautiful vintage effect when layered over wood. (To cover non-porous surface like glass, metal, or plastic, mix in a bonding agent.)

Start by squeezing a lemon or lime to get 1/2 cup of juice, and mix that with a quart of skim milk in a pot to curdle overnight. (For larger projects, you can increase the quantity following the same ratio.) The next day, pour the liquid through the sieve lined with cheesecloth in order to fully separate out the curds from the whey. Rinse off the curds in water to keep them moist, toss them into a mixing bowl. Sprinkle in dry color pigment, which can be found online or at an art supply store, until you get your desired hue; stir all together. Apply immediately to your wood, leaving it no time to spoil, and paint on an extra coat than you think is necessary—it’s sure to dry lighter than you expect. Don’t worry about any lingering odor while you work: That will go away as soon as the paint dries.


Homemade Paint - Flour Paint for Exteriors

Photo: fotosearch.com

Best for giving a matte finish to exterior walls, this easy-to-make paint is not only cheap—it’s non-toxic. Ready a batch sizable enough for your outdoor project by starting 7 quarts of water over high heat on the stovetop; while waiting for the pot to come to a boil, combine 23 ounces of white flour with 1-1/2 quarts of cold water in a separate bowl. Then pour in each of the next ingredients in the following order, with 15 minutes of stirring and cooking between additions: first the flour-water mixture, then your coloring pigments and 9 ounces of iron sulfate, and lastly 1 quart of linseed oil. Pull the large pot off of your heat and stir in about 3-1/2 ounces of (colorless) dishwashing soap while it cools. When the paint is cool to the touch, you’re good to get to work with the rest of your DIY paint job.


Homemade Paint - DIY Fabric Paint

Photo: fotosearch.com

As you may have experienced with prior house-painting or furniture-painting jobs, regular paint easily adheres to clothing and its hard, impermeable finish withstands many washes. That’s all well and good, but occasionally you may be interested in intentionally adding a paint-on design or coloring over old upholstery without leaving your fabric stiff.

To create your own flexible fabric paint, simply mix the acrylic paint of your choice with an acrylic medium (also found at most craft stores) in equal parts. A medium thins your acrylic so that it goes on your fabric with a softer, more malleable texture. Apply to your heart’s content. Then, 24 hours after it dries, help your design survive future machine washing by heat-setting the fabric paint—swiping a dry iron on medium heat back and forth over the paint for three minutes should do the trick.

Bob Vila Radio: Sharpening Your Hedge Trimmer

Electric hedge trimmers are only as effective as their blades are sharp. Restore the original cutting power of the tool by taking the time to file down its now-dull cutting edges. Here's how.

Powered hedge trimmers are a tremendous time-saver for any homeowner who prefers to handle his own landscaping. But if the blades of the tool aren’t sharp, the hedge trimmer tears and shreds foliage instead of cutting it cleanly. Follow these simple steps to sharpen hedge trimmers safely.

How to Sharpen Hedge Trimmers

Photo: fotosearch.com

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

Listen to BOB VILA ON SHARPENING HEDGE TRIMMERS or read the text below:

First, don a pair of gloves and protective goggles. After you’ve removed the bolts that hold the two blades together, clamp each blade, one at a time, into a bench vice. Next, run a metal file down each cutting edge, being sure to keep the file at the same angle as the cutting edge. Push the file in one direction only—not back and forth—and continue until the cutting edge looks shiny. To test for sharpness, draw the edge of a sheet of paper against the cutting edges. If they’re really sharp, the blades should slice the paper. Before reassembling the too, lightly coat the blades with linseed oil to protect against corrosion and preserve their useful lifespan.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!

Quick Tip: Deodorize Old Books with a Pantry Hero

Once upon a time, you had to live with that “old book smell.” Now, you can banish it to a faraway land with one pantry staple.

How to Get Rid of Old Book Smell

Photo: fotosearch.com

No matter whether you prefer heart-warming classics or heart-pounding thrillers, your personal library of paperbacks and hardcovers runs the risk of collecting a fair amount of dust and a musty, “old book smell”—that unpleasant aroma emitted when the organic compounds in the pages of books degrade with time. While it’s easy to eliminate dust, banishing that old book smell has remained as elusive as the ending of a mystery novel—until now. So gather your books from their place on a shelf, the back of the closet, or attic boxes. You can banish antagonizing smells from them with the help of an unexpected pantry hero: cornstarch.

How to Get Rid of Old Book Smell - Home Library

Photo: fotosearch.com

Though traditionally used as a thickening agent, cornstarch is also a natural odor remover that is gentle enough not to damage the delicate pages of your books. Open your books partway and stand them on end over a long piece of parchment paper. Then, grab a box of cornstarch and sprinkle it over the books, and fan out the pages a little more for a well-distributed coat. Leave the setup overnight to allow the cornstarch to set and pull out odors. The following day, you can shake off the excess—carefully, so as not to damage the binding or the pages. Now for the sniff test: You shouldn’t be able to detect a hint of “old book smell” in your freshened books! Sweep up the remaining cornstarch with the parchment paper, and toss or reuse to give another pile of malodorous books a fairy-tale ending.

How To: Frame a Mirror

Mirrors are both handy for checking your look as you run out the door and strategically decorative, capable of visually expanding your space. But an attractively framed mirror can set you back a pretty penny. Save some cash by making a custom frame for an inexpensive mirror. You'll get just what you need—for less!

How to Frame a Mirror

Photo: fotosearch.com

Done any shopping for your home recently? In perusing the aisles, you may have noticed that even a very simple mirror can be surprisingly expensive, considering it’s just a piece of glass flanked by wood on four sides. If you have intermediate woodworking skills—or the willingness to persist through a bit of trial and error—you’ll get a better deal on one by buying the materials separately and frame the mirror yourself. Apart from saving money, taking the DIY route also means you can customize the dimensions, ensuring that the framed mirror will fit precisely in the spot where you’re planning to hang it. Read on to learn how to frame a mirror. It’s easier than you think!

- 1″ x 3″ lumber (3/4″ x 2-1/2″ actual dimensions)
- Miter box with saw
- Dado blade
- Table saw
- Caulk (optional)
- Sandpaper
- Silicone glue
- Band clamp
- Wood putty (optional)
 Hammer or finish nailer
- Finish nails

Note: This step-by-step tutorial describes how to use a pair of 1″ x 3″ boards (each 7 feet in length) to frame a 30″ x 22″ mirror. That said, so long as you’re working with lumber that measures at least 3/4 inch thick, you can freely modify these instructions as necessary to frame a mirror of virtually any size.

How to Frame a Mirror - Isolated Detail

Photo: fotosearch.com

Measure the length and width of your unframed mirror. Let’s say that it’s 30 inches long by 22 inches wide. Meanwhile, being that stock 1″ x 3″ boards are actually (and yes, confusingly) 2-1/2 inches thick, we know that there would be a border of 2-1/2 inches running around the glass. So, from your twin planks of wood, proceed to cut four pieces—two that are 35 inches and another two that are 27 inches. (Don’t forget to wear safety gear, as there are hazards associated with any cutting tool.)

Cut a dado into each of your four wood pieces. In an assembled frame, the dado serves as the groove in which the mirror sits and remains securely held. In other words, you can’t skip this step.

Though it’s possible to create a dado using a router, it’s much easier and more accurate to use a table saw. Here’s how to set up your cuts. First, attach a 1/4-inch dado blade to the table saw, being sure to set a 1/2-inch blade height. Next, align the table saw 3/8 inch away from the fence. Finally, having turned on the saw, slide the boards, one by one, along the fence. (Again, safety first!) Each board now has a 1/4-inch dado, designed to accommodate the thickness of the mirror. If your mirror happens to be thicker than the standard 1/4 inch, simply adjust the dado blade accordingly.

Select any one of your four wood pieces and get your miter box and saw ready for action. Being sure to keep the dado oriented toward what’s going to be the inside of the frame, cut one end of the wood piece at a 45-degree angle.

Next, select an edge of the mirror that matches up with the length of your board. Slip the mirror edge into the dado, lining up one of its corners flush against the angled miter cut. Then, holding the corner of the mirror in position, carefully mark where the opposite corner of the mirror meets the dado.

Now, go back to the miter saw and shift the saw to the opposite side. At the point where you made your pencil mark on the dado, cut an opposite-running 45-degree angle. At this point, the board has two angled ends, each pointing away from the other. Using the same technique outlined above, proceed to cut angles into both ends of your remaining three wood pieces.

Sand down any rough edges of your wood pieces, taking the time to remove sawdust with a damp cloth. Once the wood has dried out completely, go ahead and apply silicone glue to each joint and along the inside of the dadoes. Before the glue has begun to dry, fit the boards together around the mirror and wipe away any excess glue. Then, with a band clamp, apply compression to the frame so that the wood pieces remain in the correct position as the glue dries.

At this point, if you would like to conceal the seams as much as possible, consider applying caulk where the mitered boards meet. If you decide to use caulk here, follow the instructions printed on the package and be sure to smooth the sealant with your finger before allowing it to dry. Having glued and clamped—and perhaps caulked—the frame, give it at least a couple of hours to set.

If you trust yourself to handle the framed mirror gently at all times and if you don’t plan to move it very often in the future, you can probably stop here, trusting the glue to hold the frame together. But if you want to strengthen the construction, then you need to drive a nail or two into each corner. Be careful, though; a forceful impact could potentially undo what you’ve accomplished with the glue. If you have access to a finish nailer, use it. This power tool is capable of setting nails with precision (and only a concentrated jolt); it’s ideal for this application. That’s not to say you can’t use a hammer. You can. Just be sure to do so with care.

Finally, once the nails are in place, you have the option of concealing their presence with wood putty or wood filler. If you use either, you may want to sand again, cleaning off the sawdust and letting the frame dry once more. Beyond that, consider applying paint or stain (either will help disguise your wood filler even further) to give the perfect finish to a job well done!

Custom Kitchen Banquette

This blogger added style and function to her kitchen with this stylish banquette she crafted herself.

custom banquette end


You would never believe that this custom banquette is a renter-friendly project. But when Rita from Crane Concept needed a solution to lend more space to her kitchen, she created the plan for this stylish seating that rings up at just about $200. 


custom banquette tools and materials


- Top
- Legs
- Cleat (used some extra wood from the top as my cleat)
- Front panel
- Baseboard
- Corner molding
- Paint
- Foam roller
- Wood filler
- Finishing nails
- Hammer
- Screws
- Drill
- Jig saw
- Sander



custom banquette step 1

I used a jig saw to cut the shape of the baseboard out of the legs. This really gave it a more custom look.



custom banquette step 2

After cutting out all of the grooves, I screwed the top of the bench to the legs. You might need a friend to help you balance and lift the top of the bench.



custom banquette step 3

Find the studs and screw the cleat to the wall. The bench should sit securely on the cleat. Screw the top of the bench to the cleat.



custom banquette step 4

Slide the rest of the legs underneath and screw or nail the boards down.



custom banquette step 5

Add your paneling to the front of your banquette. Nail the panel to the legs. I used a pencil to mark where the legs were located. I did the same thing with the 1×6 baseboard, nailing the baseboard to the legs with finishing nails.



custom banquette step 6

Again, I cut the groves out for the baseboards.



custom banquette step 7

After this point, I filled in any holes with the wood filler, sanded all of the corners and edges, and gave a good coat of paint with my foam roller. To give it a little more detail, I mitered the corners of the corner molding. I use a few finishing nails to secure into place. I gave the banquette a couple more good coats of paint, and done!


custom banquette opener

Thanks, Rita! For more stylish solutions, visit craneconcept.com.