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Enter Bob Vila’s Brand-New Refrigerator Give-Away from Kenmore!

Enter today and every day in November for your chance to win a $4200 black stainless steel​​ refrigerator from Kenmore!


Kenmore Contest

The kitchen is the heart of the home—a functional space for cooking, eating, and spending quality time with loved ones. But new appliances cost a pretty penny, causing many families to stick with their outdated refrigerators, ovens, microwaves, and dishwashers. That’s why we partnered with Kenmore to bring you Bob Vila’s Brand-New Refrigerator Give-Away!

Today and every day this month (starting at 12:00 p.m. EST on October 31, 2016 through 11:59 a.m. EST November 30, 2016), enter for the chance to transform your kitchen with a new Black Stainless PreView™ Grab-N-Go™ Door Refrigerator from Kenmore, valued at $4,199.99. See Official Rules below.


Bob Vila Kenmore Give-Away

Photo: kenmore.com

Founded more than 100 years ago, Kenmore is a leading provider of household appliances. The trusted brand is recognized for its focus on customer satisfaction and innovative product designs. Kenmore manufactures a wide variety of household products, including refrigerators, ovens, dishwashers, washers and dryers, grills, air conditioners, and more. The appliances are designed to improve daily life, allowing customers to have better cooking and cleaning experiences.

The Black Stainless PreView™ Grab-N-Go™ Door Refrigerator has many innovative features, including:

  • A Grab-N-Go™ Door that separates your most-used items in a compartment. When retrieving an item from the Grab-N-Go™ door, you don’t need to access the main refrigerator and let the cold air escape, thus saving energy.
  • A sleek black stainless steel finish that resists smudges, fingerprint stains, and other kitchen messes
  • Thin insulation panels that provide more efficient food storage
  • A convenient in-door ice machine, air and water filters, LED lighting, digital temperature control, and more

Enter Bob Vila’s Brand-New Refrigerator Give-Away today and every day in November to increase your odds of winning a $4,199.99 Black Stainless PreView™ Grab-N-Go™ Door Refrigerator from Kenmore.

To learn more about Kenmore and their variety of appliances, click here.

“Bob Vila’s Brand-New Refrigerator Give-Away” is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 48 contiguous 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) Monday, October 31st, 2016 through 11:59 a.m. (EST) Wednesday November 30th, 2016. 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. By entering, all entrants agree to the Official Rules.

Buyer’s Guide: Faucet Water Filters

Hundreds of pollutants can contaminate your tap water, but one inexpensive kitchen addition will ensure that yours is clean for drinking and cooking: a faucet-mount water filter. Here, how to choose one fit for your needs—and your sink.

Best Faucet Water Filter

Photo: istockphoto.com

More than four out of every 10 Americans use a home water treatment unit of some sort, according to the Water Quality Association and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—and for good reason. Clean drinking water is an essential building block of general health. With hundreds of pollutants in most drinking water, including lead and arsenic, finding and installing the right filter is one of the most important things you can do to your home to ensure wellness in your household.

While available in a variety of types—carafes, faucet attachments, under-sink mounts, and countertop varieties—the water filtration system that proves most versatile and easy-to-install is one that mounts to any standard kitchen faucet and filters right as the water flows. (By contrast, an under-sink model requires a direct hookup to your plumbing system, and a carafe has to be refilled almost constantly, occasionally making you wait for cool water to filter through the full pitcher before you pour a glass.) So if ease and convenience is up your alley, look no further than this variety. As you select one to fit your kitchen sink, consider the following key variables as well as the best faucet water filter options to date.

Find the right filter for your needs. Water contaminants vary by community, and knowledge is power. Start by researching what’s affecting your own water supply through the National Drinking Water Database created by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Once you have an idea of the contaminants you’re exposed to daily, you’ll be better able to determine your needs.

When it comes to the mechanism that makes water filters work, there are two types: reverse osmosis and carbon.

• Reverse osmosis is considered to be the Cadillac of water filtration—superior at removing contaminants (including those too small for other filters to catch, like arsenic and perchlorate) but pricier and so bulky that they’re often installed under-sink. These are not an option for faucet water filters, but available to you should you decide that the filtration best meets your household needs.

• Carbon filters still remove a handful of noteworthy contaminants (pesticides, disinfection byproducts, and—depending on the model—possibly lead, as well as protozoan cysts like giardia and cryptosporidium) from your drinking and cooking water, but at a much more affordable cost and in more convenient models. And, ultimately, mounting a carbon filter to your faucet for $20 to $50 makes your drinking water far safer than the tap water that currently flows.

Always check a unit’s package or online information to make sure the contaminants you’re most concerned about won’t make it through the system you end up investing in. Regardless of which microscopic materials they’re best at keeping out of your glass, a vast majority of faucet-mounted filters considerably improve the taste of your H2O.

Ease of setup. A faucet-mount attachment generally offers a quick installation. Unscrew the aerator, swap in an adapter provided with the faucet-mount water filter (models often include multiple sizes to find one that best fits your faucet), then snap the body of faucet-mount filter into place. Manufacturer instructions will also cover how to check that the filter inside the model is good to go. In most cases, it’s only a matter of minutes to get the filter fully functional. Once installed, many faucet water filters offer the option to toggle between filtered and unfiltered water.

Note: While some custom faucets and pull-out models may not allow for a perfect installation, faucet water filters are made to fit most standard kitchen sinks. When in doubt, check with the filter unit’s manufacturer before you buy.


The Best Bets

When it comes to reputable filters, most carbon-based point-of-use attachments will protect your water (and you!) from a great number of unwelcome ingredients. We’ve scouted the market for you for which models have been reviewed as the best faucet water filter in the business by experts and consumers alike—as well as where you can get your own.


Best Faucet Water Filter - Brita On-Tap FF-100 Faucet Filter System

Photo: brita.com

Brita On-Tap FF-100, $48
The no-tools-required assembly of the popular Brita FF-100 faucet filter make it a favorite among Home Depot shoppers, not to mention the fact that it’s 40 percent more space-efficient than competitors on the market. While it’s highly effective at removing lead and chlorine, in particular, the faucet water filter greatly improves water’s taste as well. And since a filter does no good without regular replacement, its handy green light indicates when the carbon filter needs replacing—a process that’s as simple as just one click. Available at Home Depot.


Best Faucet Water Filter - PUR Advanced Faucet Water Filter FM-3700B

Photo: amazon.com

PUR FM-3700B, $25
Reducing or entirely eliminating lead, mercury, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and more than 60 other particulates, the PUR FM-3700B has garnered glowing reviews from more than 2,000 consumers for its sleek design, one-click installation, 360-degree swivel, and general durability. Adept at improving water’s taste as well as quality, its only real drawback is the fact that it won’t work with pull-out or hand-held faucets. It comes with a two-year warranty. Available on Amazon.


Best Faucet Water Filter - Culligan FM-15A Advanced Faucet Filter Kit

Photo: walmart.com

Culligan FM-15A, $27
After weighing t his models pros and cons thoroughly, the team at ConsumerSearch declared the Culligan FM-15A faucet-mount filtration unit a top-of-the-line model. While it lost points for aesthetics and low flow (both common issues cited with faucet-mounted filters), the unit’s durability, cost, ease of installation, and simplicity of use earned it high marks—as did the fact that it vastly improved the way water tasted. In a nutshell, the ConsumerSearch editors conclude, “Bells and whistles take a backseat to filtering performance.” Unfortunately, this unit doesn’t fit all faucets, so buyers would be wise to check with Culligan’s customer service about compatibility first. Available on Walmart.com.

How To: Make Homemade Glass Cleaner

Get sparkling clear windows, mirrors, and more with this savvy penny-pinching recipe.

Homemade Glass Cleaner

Photo: istockphoto.com

We’ve all seen the bottles of glass cleaner vying for our dollars on supermarket shelves. But there’s an economical alternative to both the bright blue stuff mom brought home that generally relies on ammonia and new-fangled “green” versions that promise a planet-friendly way to banish grease, grime, and dirt. It will take you just minutes to prepare this totally non-toxic homemade glass cleaner with ingredients you no doubt already have on hand. You’ll find it a lot cheaper than all the commercial versions and every bit as safe for people, pets, and the environment as fancy natural brands. So whip it up, and get gleaming!

- White vinegar
- Water
- Spray bottle
- Essential oil(s)
- Microfiber cloth
- Newspaper (optional)

Pour 2 cups of water into a spray bottle. Add 1/4 cup of white vinegar. That’s really all you really need to clean any glass surface, as well as tile, stainless steel, chrome, and more. Since white vinegar contains 5 percent acetic acid, it has antimicrobial properties and is considered an effective general disinfectant.

Vinegar has a fairly pungent odor, so to make the solution more pleasant-smelling add 10 to 15 drops of your favorite essential oil(s). Lemon, lavender, rosemary, mint, and orange all have a fresh, clean scent, but you may wish to mix a few to create a signature blend.

Homemade Glass Cleaner

Photo: istockphoto.com

Screw the top onto the spray bottle and shake to mix thoroughly. Feel free to make a double, triple, or even quadruple batch to keep in a large jug.

Your homemade glass cleaner is now ready to use!

• To give windows a streak-free shine, first wipe off surface dust, then spray the cleaner directly onto the pane and wipe off with balled-up newspaper. Skip paper towels, which tend to leave lint and smudges.

• When it comes to mirrors, avoid spraying your homemade glass cleaner directly onto the surface. You’ve probably seen older mirrors that have a brownish-black bloom around the edges, a result of glass cleaner seeping behind the mirror and eroding the silver backing. Once that damage is done, it can’t be reversed, so spray the cleaner onto a piece of newspaper or a microfiber cloth, and then wipe the mirror clean.

• To clean and disinfect various types of metal as well as tile, Formica, laminate, and a host of other materials, rely on the one-two punch of your homemade glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth. Spray the surface directly, and then as you wipe, the tiny fibers in the cloth will attach themselves to not merely dirt but particles as small as bacteria.

• Spray away on countertops, appliances, floors, and more with these exceptions: Do not use glass cleaner on natural stone like granite or marble, which could be damaged by the vinegar’s acid. Also be wary with wood—vinegar could mar the finish. And if you’ve got an egg spill, reach for soap and water. Acidity can make the egg coagulate, and harder to clean up.


Cleaning Tips for a Spotless Home

All of the Essential Cleaning Advice from BobVila.com
There’s no way around it: Keeping the house clean demands your time, your energy, and even some of your money. Fortunately, this arsenal of cleaning tips can help you finish the housekeeping more quickly—and with fewer commercially sold products.

How To: Forget About Your Gutters for Good

Cleaning gutters is a seasonal hassle that protects against other, much worse headaches later on. But what if this year—and plenty more years to come—you could skip the task altogether? Read on to learn how you can retire this tiresome task forever.

How to Forget About Gutters - No Clogs

Photo: leafguard.com

As the days grow shorter and the heat of summer eases into autumn, it’s tempting to just kick back, relax, and enjoy this season of invigorating weather, game-day tailgating, and must-see television. Experienced homeowners, however, know all too well that the shift indoors doesn’t signal an end to outdoor maintenance. Fall is the time to winterize the lawn, replace weatherstripping, and make necessary house repairs before temperatures really take a dive. But topping the list of must-do tasks: the unpleasant duty of cleaning out your home’s gutters before precipitation starts to freeze.

Gutters and downspouts perform the crucial function of channeling rainwater away from the house, preventing it from collecting at the base and seeping down between the soil and foundation. Particularly in areas that are high in clay soil, over-saturation at the foundation can cause the soil to swell and exert lateral pressure on the foundation walls, creating structural problems and increasing the risk of leaks. To keep this from happening, water must be able to flow freely through the gutters. Unfortunately, left unattended for just a few months, typical gutters can become clogged with windblown seeds, leaves, twigs, and other debris that can obstruct drainage, cause rainwater to overflow, and prevent the system from doing its job.

Even if you’re lucky enough to get through autumn without clogged gutters and their attendant foundation problems, stopped-up gutters in winter can bring even worse consequences. Moisture and standing water trapped by debris can freeze and expand, breaking the gutter and pulling it loose from its mounting brackets—and leaving you with an expensive repair bill. And as spring arrives and the debris decomposes, windblown tree seeds that settled in the gutters can sprout, growing into unsightly saplings that weigh down an already stressed gutter system. Within a very short time, the extra burden can damage the gutter. The sad fact is, if your home has traditional gutters, you can’t skip even one seasonal cleaning. The traditionally high-maintenance drainage system demands attention every spring and every fall, and possibly even more frequently if your backyard boasts an above-average number of trees.

Photo: leafguard.com

Regular gutter cleanup often comes down to two options: DIY versus professional. Handy homeowners who choose to tackle the chore themselves save money, but the labor is tedious and often unsafe. To minimize risk, gutter cleaning should be a two-person job, with one person on the ladder cleaning the gutter, and another down below holding the ladder steady and handing up tools as needed for scraping out or disposing of debris. To reduce the risk of falls, it’s imperative that the person tasked with the climb never stand on the ladder’s top rung or stretch past his or her natural reach. Ultimately, the safer route is to call in the pros. A reputable gutter cleaning company relieves you of the risk and responsibility and, equipped with the right tools and experience, can speed through the work quickly and effectively. But in the long term, spending a few hundred dollars on a professional service two or more times each year can really add up.

Fortunately, homeowners aren’t limited to those two options. There’s a third way, a design solution that can eliminate the need for cleaning gutters altogether, no matter the season. The innovative LeafGuard Brand Gutters combine a hood and gutter into a single, uninterrupted fixture that does all the dirty work. The unique roll-formed design directs runoff from the roof into the gutter trough while simultaneously keeping leaves and other airborne organic matter out. This ingenious arrangement doesn’t allow anything into the gutter that would need to be manually cleaned, making maintenance a thing of the past.

The rest of the system is built to work just as hard: The gutter trough and downspouts are substantial enough to handle even the heaviest rains, up to 32 inches per hour. Plus, built from a continuous sheet of aluminum, LeafGuard is immune to those leaks that commonly develop where parts join together in traditional gutters.

And, because they’re professionally extruded on-site from heavy-gauge aluminum prior to installation, you can be confident that the custom gutters will flawlessly fit your house. No guessing or piecing gutter sections together. No sagging or breaking. And LeafGuard gutters look as good as they perform, offering 12 scratch-resistant colors to choose from—including classic white, tan, gray, and even Musket Brown—so homeowners can find a style that truly complements their house’s design.

Go ahead! Rake up the leaves on your lawn, caulk that drafty window, and change your furnace filters. But this fall, make a new plan. Instead of scaling a rickety ladder to clean your gutters, simply climb into your hammock for one last nap. When you choose LeafGuard, your gutters will flow freely, protected from clogs without your having to lift a single finger, and you’ll be able to cross gutter maintenance off your to-do list—forever.

Attractive Leafguard Gutters Match Any Home Design

Photo: leafguard.com

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

How To: Apply the Dry Brush Technique

Spruce up your plain wooden furniture with this beautiful, barely there paint finish.

How to Apply the Dry Brush Technique

Photo: istockphoto.com

Are you looking for an easy way to add years and visual interest to your basic wooden furniture? Grabbing a paintbrush and some paint—but not too much paint—may be just the ticket! A trendy painting method known as the dry brush technique carries just enough color from the can to the surface in order to create a shabby-chic finish on otherwise drab dressers, tables, and desks. The whimsical texture of uneven streaks is best achieved by using a partially loaded, practically-dry brush on painted or bare wood—a painting faux pas anywhere else. So, scrap everything you know about applying an even coat, and read on to learn how you can give your furniture a vintage makeover with dry brushing.

- Painter’s tape
- Sandpaper (150-grit or finer)
- Clean cloth
- Latex paint (one or two shades with a flat finish)
- 2 stiff-bristle paintbrushes
- Paper plate
- Paint stirrer
- Paper towel
- Clear water-based polyurethane sealant spray

Protect hinges, knobs, and other hardware from paint by detaching them from the furniture. Use painter’s tape to cover any areas of the piece you don’t want to paint.

You can apply the dry brush technique to either unvarnished or painted wood furniture. Surface preparation will vary slightly depending on whether the piece has been painted or not.

How to Apply the Dry Brush Technique

Photo: istockphoto.com

• If you’re applying the dry brush technique to an unvarnished piece, start by lightly sanding the wood with a 150-grit or finer sandpaper so that the surface is rough enough for the paint to adhere. Then, use a damp cloth to wipe away the sanding dust, along with any dirt and debris.

• If you opt to paint an unvarnished piece before dry brushing, sand it and apply the base coat of paint. You can choose a flat latex paint in any hue for the base coat, but we recommend selecting a darker shade that will contrast with the lighter shade you will use for the dry brush layer. Moving in the direction of the grain, brush paint over the surfaces and joints of the piece, and then allow the base coat to dry overnight.

With your surface prepped, you’re ready to paint the dry brush layer. Choose a flat latex paint in a white or light shade that complements the base coat. Then, use either of the following methods to dispense just enough paint for application to help ensure you do not load too much onto your brush at once:

• Pour a small amount of paint onto a paper plate. (Dry brushing should require only a few ounces.)

• Remove the lid of the paint can and lay it flat with the paint side up. Dip a paint stirrer into the open paint can, draw it out, and drizzle the excess paint directly onto the lid.

Then, lightly dip the tip of the brush into the paper plate or paint can lid until you see the color on the brush head. Make sure the bristles still appear separate instead of clumped together. For optimal results, the brush should be as dry as possible. Blot the brush on a cloth or paper towel to remove the excess paint while retaining a hint of color.

Place the brush near the top left or right corner of the piece and work your way downward, brushing on a single coat of paint with light pressure and short, fast strokes. You may choose to use multidirectional strokes for a more irregular finish or brush only in the direction of the grain for more uniform streaks.

When the piece is covered, examine it for any paint clumps. (If dried, these will both disrupt your intended design and likely chip!) Remove these with a damp cloth and then reapply paint to the affected area. Let dry overnight.

Spray two coats of a clear water-based polyurethane over the piece to preserve the dry brush effect without diminishing its color. Let the polyurethane dry per the manufacturer’s instructions. When you’re in the clear, replace the hardware to put the finishing touch on your flawless dry brushed piece!

How to Apply the Dry Brush Technique

Photo: istockphoto.com

Bob Vila Radio: Nailing Your Remodel with a Contractor

There are plenty of home remodeling horror stories, but working with a contractor doesn't have to be a nightmare. Follow our tips to get the results you want!

Already found a contractor for your next project? You might be happy with your hire, but planning ahead is the best way to make sure you’re happy with their work—and that includes discussing what you want and and getting everything down on paper.


Photo: istockphoto.com

Listen to BOB VILA ON WORKING WITH CONTRACTORS or read on below:

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.

If you need to make an adjustment, write up a change order that details the modifications, plus any added cost for labor and materials. Minimize miscommunication and mistakes by meeting with your builder regularly to make sure the project stays on budget—and on schedule.

Keep a dated log book as the renovation unfolds, including pictures and notes of who said or did what. It’s a good insurance policy if you run into a problem down the line, and you’ll have some great before and after shots to share with family and friends.

Finally, take the time to make sure your builder didn’t cut any corners, and only pay for work that you’re satisfied with. Never pay for an unfinished job, since it kills any incentive for the contractor to return and fix the problem.

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!

Solved! What to Do About Cloudy Water

It's easy to take clean water for granted until your tap turns cloudy. Here, what this means for the safety of your drinking water—and how you can clear up the problem!


Photo: istockphoto.com

Q. When I fill a glass of water from my faucet, it looks cloudy. What’s with all the the murkiness?  More importantly, is it safe to drink?

A. Your tap water is probably fine to drink, especially if it’s provided by your city or town. But since there’s always a small risk of contamination, it’s a good idea to stock up on a few gallons from the store while you take a few steps to track down the cause of your cloudy water.

Clear the air. When air gets into water supply lines, the pressure of the water forces the air into tiny bubbles and disperses them, making the water appear milky right out of the faucet. To see if air is the issue, fill a glass and set it on the counter. If the cloudiness disappears in a few minutes, tiny air bubbles probably are the culprit—and your tap water is safe to drink.


Photo: aliexpress.com

Try a sediment filter. Unlike air bubbles, organic particles won’t clear up after a couple minutes. The tiny specks of stone, rock, and soil are present in all tap water at low concentrations, but higher levels can make your water murky. If your water is from a municipal system, installing an inexpensive sediment filter on your faucet will probably solve your cloudy water problem. The filters use activated carbon cartridges to trap particles that improve the purity and taste of your water.

Go back to the source. If your water comes from a private well, the cloudy water could have a number of different causes. Unlike municipal systems, private well water isn’t treated for contaminants. While the problem might just be air introduced to the lines from the pump or pressure tank, it could also be harmful residue, chemicals, or contaminants inside the well. To find out what you’re dealing with, take a sample to your local county extension office. They’ll send it to a lab to determine the type and concentration of any harmful substances, and offer treatment options.

Follow the recommendations. Depending on the results that come back from the local county extension office, you may be able to clear up the issue with a sediment filter. If the cloudy water is caused by more serious contaminants, though, installing a reverse osmosis (RO) unit is probably the next step. By filtering water through a series of membranes, these systems catch up to 99 percent of contaminants, including chemicals like pesticides and chlorine. Once installed under the sink, the unit dispenses clean water right from the tap. Unfortunately, peace of mind doesn’t come cheap: Residential models start at $300 and go up from there.

Test for gas. It’s less likely, but not impossible, that methane is the culprit. The non-toxic gas is most likely to show up in water from small, rural systems or a well close to an oil or gas line. To find out, fill an empty gallon jug halfway with tap water and set it aside for an hour to allow the gas to rise. When you open the lid, light a match at the top. Because methane is flammable, you’ll see the flame flare up if it’s in your water. The only way to remove methane from your water system is to have a plumber install an aerator on the water line leading into your home. This add-on allows the gas to escape safely into the atmosphere, and you’ll see clearer water from your tap.

The Dos and Don’ts of Bleaching Wood

Follow these best and worst practices of working with bleach to bring new, lighter life to old wood furniture.

Bleaching Wood - 11 Do's and Don'ts

Photo: istockphoto.com

When debating whether to stain or paint an old piece of wood furniture, consider this third, often overlooked alternative: bleaching wood. This finish can help you mirror Scandinavian design, which often features “blond” wood to bring a lighter look to your space. Plus, if your piece is blotchy or discolored, bleaching wood is a great way to prep it for a new stain. While bleaching isn’t difficult to DIY, it does put you in direct contact with some caustic stuff. For safe, effective results, keep these top tips in mind.

DO Know Your Bleaches

The types of bleach available at your grocery store have varying degrees of effect on wood furniture.

• Common laundry bleach or chlorine will effectively remove stain or dye color from wood, but will not affect the wood’s natural color.
• Peroxide-based “two-part” A/B bleaches refer to sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) and hydrogen peroxide. Combined, they cause a chemical reaction that creates bleach that will blanch the stain color and can also alter the color of the wood itself.
• Oxalic acid will remove water and rust stains, plus teak stain, and can be used to lighten the graying effect of weather-exposed wood. But note: Some restorers consider oxalic acid highly toxic, since the crystal form it typically comes in can be inhaled and cause lung bleeding. Many recommend using the A/B bleach for safer practices and greater overall bleaching power.


DON’T Pour Bleach into a Metal Vessel

Bleach can damage metal; glass or ceramic bowls are the best choices to contain bleach as you work it over wood.


Bleaching Wood - 11 Do's and Don'ts

Photo: istockphoto.com

DO Clean Your Wood

Wipe it down with water or mineral spirits on a clean, soft rag, then go over every surface with a dry cloth. Wait a day or two for it to dry thoroughly before bleaching.


DON’T Expect All Wood to React the Same

The best woods for bleaching include oak, beach, ash, and gum. Varieties like poplar and pine are already so light that removing further natural wood color might render them bland and lifeless. Others, like cedar, redwood, rosewood, and cherry don’t take bleach well.


DO Work in a Ventilated Open Space

As these bleaching agents are highly caustic, you have to take adequate steps to protect yourself. Start with the space: It should be well ventilated by open windows and operational fans, and, ideally, include a work surface that is concrete (the acidic aspect of bleach can damage many other materials). Always wear rubber gloves and eye goggles when bleaching wood—and, if using oxalic acid, also don a dust mask. Long sleeves and full-length pants will also help you minimize exposed skin.


DON’T Get Sloppy!

Apply bleach carefully and evenly with a clean, soft rag or paintbrush, in smooth, seamless coats. It’s difficult to correct uneven bleaching, so be mindful and wipe off any excess immediately with a dry rag.


DO Neutralize Wood Between Treatments

To get your desired shade, you may go from chlorine to a peroxide-based two-part bleach. Before moving from one to another, soak a clean rag in a 50-50 white vinegar and water solution. Apply with clean rags, then wipe again with plain water. Let dry thoroughly overnight before the next bleach process.


DON’T Pre-Mix Two-Part Peroxide-Based A/B Bleach

As soon as the agents mingle, the bleaching power is activated and begins to dissipate—meaning you’d have to work really fast. It is a fairly pricey product, so consider mixing smaller working batches of about one cup at time to ensure it stays active throughout the application.


DO Neutralize Your Finished Piece

Upon the last dose of bleach, let your project dry for at least four hours. Then, working quickly, wipe it down with a rag soaked in a 50-50 water and white vinegar solution. Next, wipe it dry with a clean rag, and finally wipe it down again with clean water, drying well with a clean, dry, soft cloth. Let dry completely for two days before applying a stain or other treatment. Neglecting to neutralize after your final application may leave lingering bleach to chemically react with whatever finishing stain or varnish you apply next.


DON’T Forget to Sand

Once you’ve bleached, neutralized, and dried the wood, you’ll find the grain has become coarse. Sand it with a 120-grit sandpaper then finish it with a 180- or 220-grit paper for a smooth finish.


DO Experiment with Bleach

Consider using bleach as a first step towards a final product, especially since bare bleached wood is susceptible to everything from scratches to water damage. The neutral palette of a freshly bleached wood can be the starting point of all kinds of funky wood finish treatments, like “bone” or “pearl.” “Blond mahogany,” a popular finish in the ’40s and ’50s that’s enjoying a bit of a comeback, is achieved by bleaching wood with a two-part A/B bleach, followed by a light sanding and a mustard-colored pigment stain. Whatever finish you choose will protect your piece and make it pop with new life.


Bleaching Wood - 11 Do's and Don'ts

Photo: istockphoto.com

What Do Homeowners Like Best About Radiant Heat?

Listen up! We've got six solid reasons real-life homeowners are happy—and you could be, too—about upgrading to a radiant heat system before winter arrives.

Energy Savings With Radiant Heat

Photo: istockphoto.com

As the mercury continues to drop, heralding the arrival of the colder months, Mother Nature prods homeowners to think ahead. Winter is coming, and the weather’s only going to get worse. It’s time to turn your attention to the best ways to keep the inside of your house toasty warm. There are numerous options to consider, including traditional HVAC, radiators, and baseboard units as well as an army of space heaters and, less commonly, radiant heating. While each comes with its own set of pros and cons, radiant-heating systems also come with a surprisingly long track record that dates all the way back to ancient Rome. But it’s the technology’s modern advantages that are really getting people talking and making radiant heat ever more popular here in the United States. Keep reading for six important reasons that homeowners who installed a radiant heat system from industry leader Warmboard have remained warm and fuzzy about the decision—even on the coldest nights of the season.

Overall Savings
“Our winter weather can drop to 20 degrees below zero, and, in our previous home, fuel heating with propane cost us $6,000 to $7,000 a year. [With radiant heat], this past winter it cost us only a thousand.”

With traditional forced-air heating systems, warm air sneaks out through leaky ductwork on its journey from the furnace to your living space. Plus, any cold air let in through an open window or poor weather stripping will quickly replace warm air, adding to the total heat loss—all of which forces your boiler to work harder. Radiant heat, by contrast, is designed to warm your space and the things in it from the ground up—not simply the air—through panels installed beneath your flooring. No ductwork, no heat loss. Compared with forced-air systems, radiant heat operates at least 25 percent more efficiently to get heat right where you need it most, significantly lowering your energy bill month after month.


Radiant Heat Provides Even Comfort

Photo: warmboard.com

Even Comfort
“When you walk through our main floor, there are no hot or cold spots or obvious sources of heat—just a nice comfortable warm feeling.”

No registers or space heaters to tie yourself to here! When you install radiant heat at home, hydronic tubes spread boiler-heated water throughout panels beneath the flooring so that every square foot warms evenly. In years past, these panels were typically made of concrete, a poor conductor of heat, but today’s technology has evolved and the market has expanded to include aluminum-based panels, which are up to 232 times more conductive. For the astute homeowners who choose radiant heating, that means more heat, more quickly, for less energy (and less money).


Heat Rooms With High Ceilings With Radiant Heat

Photo: istockphoto.com

Heat Where You Need It
“We built a log home with cathedral ceilings and have always felt like the lower the heat to the floor, the better. With radiant heating, it can be less than 30 degrees outside and my living room stays comfortable at 70 to 71 degrees.”

In homes with high ceilings, standard heating options tend to fall short. Because hot air rises, the gusts of warmth generated by a forced-air heating system naturally travel toward the ceiling, prompting homeowners to crank up the thermostat just to feel any heat on the main level. Radiant heat, however, doesn’t get carried away. Its thermal radiation warms what it encounters first—the floor, furniture, and people standing or sitting in the living space—keeping even a vast, open space cozy.


Better Design Selection With Radiant Heat

Photo: warmboard.com

More Design Options
“The home has a variety of flooring types—tile, hardwood, and some carpet—so the flexibility in flooring that comes with choosing radiant heat is definitely a benefit.”

As the system runs beneath the surface and out of sight, there’s virtually no need to compromise your home’s design for your heating system. Radiant heat lets you arrange your furniture the way you want, without worrying about blocking a register or having to sacrifice square footage to a bulky, immobile radiator. Moreover, a high-efficiency radiant hydronic system allows flexibility in the types of flooring you can install over it. Panels manufactured by Warmboard, for example, are so conductive that they can generate ideal room temperatures while warming the water that runs through them to temperatures 30 degrees less than the competition—safe enough to sit below thick wool carpets, ornate tile and marble, and even patterned hardwood!


Radiant Heat Is Easier On Allergies

Photo: istockphoto.com

Fewer Allergy Flare-Ups
“The room’s a comfortable temperature, without feeling stuffy. And it doesn’t blow cat hair around the room!”

Forced air blowing through ductwork cycles allergens—and worse, cold-causing germs—through your home. As well, breathing dried-out, stale air can irritate nasal passages and lungs. Give your humidifier a rest! Ear, nose, and throat specialists and allergy doctors alike recommend radiant heat over most other systems because it won’t stir up trouble.


Quieter Evenings With Radiant Heat

Photo: istockphoto.com

Quiet Operation
“There’s no noise, no air blowing around, yet as soon as you walk inside you’re warm.”

Functioning completely out of sight, the hydronic tubes beneath your floors operate also out of earshot. Radiant-heating systems silently and stealthily distribute the constant, uniform comfort your household desires. After winters of noisy stop-and-start blasts of air interrupting conversations, and creaking radiators disrupting sleep, this whole-room heat is as soothing to the ears as it is warming to the body.


This content has been brought to you by Warmboard. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.

3 Fixes for a Stuck Key

Leaving your keys at home isn't the only way to get locked out. If you—and your key—get stuck, try these three fixes to get inside without having to hire a locksmith.


Photo: istockphoto.com

It’s been one of those days. You caught every red light on your way home from work, your laundry wasn’t ready at the dry cleaners, and now—when you finally get home and are dying to sink into your sofa—you can’t get your key out of the front door‘s lock. While frustrating, it’s usually not that difficult to remove a key that’s stuck, so long as nothing is broken inside the lock. The culprit could be just a loose part of the lock assembly, a a sharp burr or ridge on a new key, or a bend in an old one. Forcing a key can cause it to break off in the lock, so take a deep breath and give one of these easy fixes a try.




Photo: istockphoto.com

The keyhole plug in a pin tumbler lock (found in deadbolts and key-in-knob locks) is just one part of a larger locking cylinder. What’s visible to you, the face of the plug, is the small circle surrounding the keyway—and your stuck key. Now, if this plug is loose, it can move slightly within the cylinder and prevent the pin tumblers from aligning, which makes it difficult to unlock the door or remove the key. Push your key in as far as it will go and turn it so that the keyway slot is in the exact position it was in when you inserted the key; this is the correct position for the pin tumblers to align in the cylinder. With your other hand, use the tip of your finger to push firmly on the face of the plug next to the key. The light pressure will prevent the plug from shifting as you gently twist and pull the key out.




Photo: amazon.co.uk

If stabilizing the cylinder on your house’s lock doesn’t work, it might not be a loose plug causing the problem. New keys and imperfect copies are notorious for hanging on tumbler pins. Spray lubricant like WD-40 makes a great assistant when attempting to retrieve a key stuck in a lock, and most cans come with a tiny straw nozzle for getting into spaces as tight as a keyhole. (If you don’t keeps some handy in your car’s trunk, a quick run to the store might be in order.) Hold the straw right above your stuck key, aiming it into the hole. Now, wiggle the key (up and down, not side to side) to work it out of the lock. Once it’s out, use a fine file to smooth away any barbs or sharp points on the key teeth to prevent future sticking, or ask the key maker to file them down for you.




Photo: istockphoto.com

Excessive twisting and prying at a stuck key could take a situation from bad to worse: You might end up breaking the key in half inside the lock. Should this happen, you do have a couple of DIY options still available to you before hiring professional assistance. First, simply slick the keyway with a squirt of spray graphite or lubricant, then attempt to grab any visible end of the key using a pair of needle-nose pliers. If you don’t have enough metal extending from the keyway to grip, run to the store to pick up an under-$10 tool made just for the job: a broken key extractor kit. (That errand may still be quicker than waiting around for a locksmith!) Select the size of specialty tool from the kit best fit for your problem lock, and slide the slim implement along the recessed groove of the key as far as it will go. Once in place, turn it so that its hook can grab the key’s tip, then pull it back toward you to try dislodging the remaining chunk of key. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!

Of course, if you’re still stuck after trying all of these fixes, rest assured you have given it your best shot—this job is truly one for the professionals. You’ll need to call a locksmith to either retrieve the key or replace the lock altogether. Then, going forward, save yourself the sticky situation! Aim to keep a spare handy to switch into your key ring if your primary one begins to bend with wear—a warped key is more likely to stick down the road than a straight key. Also, give your locks a quick squirt of lubricant every few months to dissolve any gunk and keep the locking mechanisms moving freely. With this minimal effort, you may never have to wrestle with a stuck key again.