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Why Isn’t the Dryer Drying?

Don't let a lengthy dry time get you down: Check out and tend to these five problem zones to remedy what might be slowing down your appliance, and your schedule.

Dryer Not Drying

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Are you stumped by the fact that your dryer seems to take forever these days? If your clothes dryer needs more time to dry a load now than when you first purchased it, don’t jump to replace the home appliance just yet. There are several common reasons these machines become poky. First, take a peek at these five possible problem areas that could be messing with your dryer’s efficiency.

1. Check the lint filter.
The filter is the first line of defense against fabric lint, dust, and hair. Sure, you’ve heard this before, but you really do need to empty the dryer’s lint filter after every load. Some types of clothing—socks, especially—shed more than others. But no matter the load, getting into the habit of wiping the filter out after every wash and dry will put you ahead of the game.

Problematic Dryer

Photo: shutterstock.com

2. Inspect where the dryer vent exits the house.
When the dryer’s running, there should be a steady, unhindered stream of warm air passing through the vent exit. If you have mesh screening stretched across it, you’d do well to remove the mesh, which can catch lint and obstruct airflow. Instead, install a proper louvered door that opens only when the dryer’s running. You can purchase one at your local home center.

3. Clean the inner reaches of the vent.
If the lint filter and the exit of the vent are clear, you probably need to clean the inner reaches of the vent. This cleaning job isn’t that big a chore, especially if you use one of the widely available kits made for this express purpose. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends wiping the innards out at least once per year.

4. If possible, shorten the exit.
Keep in mind that the exit vent on your dryer should be as straight and as short as possible. If the air exiting the dryer has to be pushed too far or make its way around kinks or sags in the hose, drying times can significantly lengthen. That’s not only a nuisance, but it’s also a waste of energy (and money). If you can, consider moving your dryer to a position that allows for a shorter hose.

5. Tape all joints in the dryer vent.
Duct tape can and will melt when exposed to heat. And while screws and rivets usually make good fasteners, they’re sure to snag lint if they’re holding together joints in dryer vents—avoid using them.

An important word of caution: If you’re using one of those exit hoses that looks like a Slinky covered with vinyl, replace it. Now. Choose a foil-type hose or, even better, an aluminum flexible duct. A ridged, Slinky-like tube can more easily trap lint, and a buildup can lead to overheating. Since vynil is flammable, you could have a lot more to worry about than poky dryer.

While problems with exit vents aren’t the only factors that can cause your dryer to take forever, they’re by far the most common. Scope out these issues before you ring the repair folks, and you might just save yourself the price of an expensive service call.


A Contractor’s Tips for Open-and-Shut Door Installation

In an interview with Bob Vila, contractor, author, and old house expert Scott Sidler explains his approach to choosing and installing doors in the South, where he lives and works around a changeable climate.

Front Door Installation

Photo: masonite.com

Real estate agents call it curb appeal. It’s how a house looks to visitors as they arrive by car. Curb appeal was, is, and will be important to homeowners, whether or not they’re planning to sell. And while factors ranging from landscaping to paint color influence curb appeal, there’s no more immediate facade facelift than a new front door. Thanks to the advent of pre-hung doors, installation has only gotten easier. But according to contractor, author, and old house expert Scott Sidler, owner of Austin Home Restorations, the job still comes with some complexities. Here, Scott shares what to keep in mind.

Front Door Installation - Curb Appeal

Photo: masonite.com

Most entry doors that you can pick up at The Home Depot—they’re pre-hung, right? What is a pre-hung door, anyway?

Scott: A pre-hung door comes with the jamb, the hinges, and the door itself. It’s a fully functional door; it’s just not installed. If it were not pre-hung, you would have to cut out hinge mortises and fit that door into an existing jamb. But with a pre-hung, you just order the doors you need, you set it in the rough opening—the framing between the studs, with the header above it. Then the door gets leveled, plumbed, shimmed, and fastened into place, and finally the trim goes over. Unless it’s a custom situation, pre-hung doors are used almost exclusively. It’s been a big step forward, I think. Everything is already assembled, and you just install it into the building.

If pre-hung doors have made entry door installation so much more forgiving, what’s the most difficult part now?

Scott: When you’re installing a door, you’re working with three planes: The door needs to be plumb, it needs to be level, and it needs to be square. It’s easy to miss some of the alignment issues. If you shim it a little too much on one side, you may put the jamb out of square, and as a consequence, the door may not close properly. But in new construction—if your framer did a good job, and you’ve got a well-framed opening—it’s fairly easy, so long as you take your measurements properly. With remodeling, it’s another world. In an older house that may have settled a bit, you need to make adjustments to account for any sagging. If the level, plumb, and square are not perfect, the door isn’t going to perform as it should. It’s not going to stay open when it’s open. It’s not going to to stay closed when it’s closed.

Front Door Installation - Interior View

Photo: masonite.com

You live and work in the South. Are there any regional considerations you take into account when installing a door?

Scott: If we’re installing a pre-hung—or even if we’re building a jamb on-site—I like there to be plenty of space in the jamb. That’s why I use larger shims. They allow me to make sure there’s extra space in there, and that’s important because we get so much sun. Winters here, the temperature ranges from the 30s to 50s, so the wood contracts quite a bit. And in the summer, when it’s 95 degrees and 100% humidity, and it’s raining, that wood is going to swell. You want to make sure that there’s a little extra gap around the door that you can fill with weatherstripping, which can take that large expansion and contraction we get here. I think that’s fairly common in a lot of the country, but with wood doors here, the effect is extreme. You don’t have those issues with fiberglass or steel doors.

Do you think that’s a reason other contractors should think about shying away from wood doors in the South?

Scott: In new construction down here, and also in standard remodels, it sure feels like most of the exterior doors are fiberglass or steel, except on the high end, where the clients want something really special. In the South, fiberglass and steel tend to hold up better than wood. We also run across rotten jamb bottoms. The legs of the jamb start to rot out, because no matter what material the door is, you’ve likely still got a wooden jamb. With all the rain we get, that wood is going to rot out eventually. That’s why some jambs today have PVC bottoms. Just that bottom foot and a half or so being PVC… it makes a huge difference.

Front Door Installation - Lites

Photo: masonite.com

A new door ought to suit the style of the house. How do you go about choosing the right door for a project you’re working on?

Scott: It really depends on what the client wants. A lot of our clients say, “I want something that’s true to the style of the house,” what was there originally. So we can do a little research and see if we can find out. But usually we choose based on the home’s architectural style. Colonial-style doors are going to be the standard four- or six-panel doors. Mission-style doors are typically composed of thick, vertical boards tied together under an arched top, with a peek hole and wrought iron hardware. It’s about staying true to the architectural style of the house, whether this is an 1800 Queen Anne Victorian or a newer house in the local vernacular. Just try and stay true to that, so it doesn’t look terribly anachronistic and way out of place. Choose for the scale and style of the building.

Editor’s note: If you need help selecting a door, don’t hesitate to check out the Masonite Max configurator offered jointly by The Home Depot and Masonite. Easy and actually quite fun to use, the Masonite Max tool guides you through the process of designing and purchasing the perfect door for your project. Based in Tampa, Florida, Masonite has continually operated since its founding in 1925. Today, the company manufactures steel, wood, and fiberglass doors in an array of styles to suit any preference. Plus, at The Home Depot, Masonite fiberglass and steel doors carry a limited lifetime warranty!

Front Door Installation - Back

Photo: masonite.com

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


Bob Vila Radio: 2 Quick Fixes for a Slow Kitchen Drain

The kitchen sink drain may be slow, but these clever tips can help you repair it, and fast.

Chances are that, somewhere along the line, you’ve had to deal with a clog in your kitchen drain. Even if you make a point of not pouring grease down the drain, it can still build up over time and create a mess.

How to Unclog a Kitchen Sink

Photo: shutterstock.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON HOW TO UNLCOG A KITCHEN SINK or read the text below:

Before going nuclear with that toxic chemical drain cleaner, why not try a one or two eco-friendly solutions?

First, focus on the plumbing under the sink—specifically, the P-trap. Use a hair dryer to heat the drain pipe at the point where it forms an obvious curve. Heating the pipe may help to melt any grease that’s accumulated there. Next, flush the pipe with hot water.

The sink is already backed up? Use a cooking pot to bail out the water, then pour a cup of baking soda into the drain, followed by a cup of vinegar. Let that concoction bubble for a half hour or so, then flush out the pipes with hot water.

In the future, to prevent grease from piling up again, dump a quarter cup of baking soda in the drain every couple of weeks. The bubbles will not only help keep your drain clear, but they’ll neutralize any odors the drain might otherwise emit.

Bob Vila Radio is a daily radio spot carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Bob Vila Radio: Why Is the Smoke Alarm Chirping?

Is the sound of a chirping smoke alarm steadily driving you crazy? Find out what you can do to restore quiet—and your sanity.

Why do you do when there’s a smoke alarm chirping in your home, seemingly without provocation? How can you keep that smoke alarm from robbing you of peace and quiet?

Smoke Alarm Chirping

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Listen to BOB VILA ON CHIRPING SMOKE ALARMS, or read the text below:

If the smoke alarm chirps at even intervals—say, every minute or so—it’s probably the device’s way of telling you that it needs a new battery. That’s true whether the detector runs on battery power all the time, or if it’s hard-wired and the battery’s only there as a back-up in case of a power outage. Simply open up the case and replace the battery; that should be the end of it.

While you’re changing smoke alarm batteries, it’s a good idea to use a can of compressed air to blow away any accumulated spider webs or dust. That sort of debris can cause irregular chirping that a new battery isn’t going to make go away. Also, bear in mind that alarms don’t live forever. Most need replacement every 10 years or so. The cost of a few new alarms is well worth the protection they’ll provide you and your family!

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


The First Material in This Man’s Furniture Is Passion

For Jermain Todd, there's more to creating a striking piece of custom furniture than knowing the basics of woodworking. Read and watch about the creativity that goes into each of his pieces.

Jermain Todd of Mwanzi

Photo: mwanzi.com

Meet Jermain Todd, owner and craftsman of the St. Louis-based Mwanzi Co. From the sounds of it, he’s certainly one of the busiest makers we know. He creates green and sustainable cabinetry for Greenhaus Cabinets® and the custom furniture brand FeRRUM™. On top of that, he fashions completely custom interior furnishings for residential and commercial clients using local, reclaimed, and repurposed materials. We spoke with Jermain about his work and his process. Here’s what he had to say.

Dining Room Tables in Restaurant - Mwanzi

Photo: mwanzi.com

I started my business when…
I started my business in 2005, but it was not until 2009 that I was able to have my very own wood shop. That period of time was very difficult because I was trying to figure out how to run a business while running it, learning as I went—one obstacle at a time. I didn’t have a lot of money and didn’t have anybody that I knew who could drop $10K in my bank account, so it was a slow, painful crawl to that moment in 2009.

The reason I started doing what I do is…
I quickly realized that I got more emotional satisfaction—and ultimately a greater sense of control over my business—when I sold things that I made, right here, in my studio.

Colorful dining room table - Mwanzi

mwanzi.com

The thing I love most about working with wood is…
Just how beautiful wood looks to me. I think wood looks so sexy. I’m a wood geek. Many times I just stare at a board and admire all the features that were created so organically, so naturally, aware that no two boards are alike—anywhere on planet and at any time in history. And the amount of history they’ve witnessed blows me away. Sometimes I walk under trees and wonder about all the people, things, and events that this tree has had happen underneath its branches.

My first job was…
My first paid job was as a paper boy for a local newspaper at the age of 13.

Reclaimed wood chair - mwanzi

mwanzi.com

My main sources of inspiration are…
Hot and quiet showers each morning. That’s when the ideas for many of the things I will create that day develop.

The most challenging thing about my work is…
Managing my time and prioritizing. In order for me to meet my many deadlines, I have to decide what’s most important for me to deal with on an hourly basis each day. And when you make something custom from scratch, so many things can go wrong that you may not have encountered before—you need the time to deal with it.

Reclaimed Wood Bench - Mwanzi

mwanzi.com

My favorite part of the process is…
The moment with you can see the piece take just enough shape that you can now envision the completed piece form in your mind. Makes me smile every time!

What makes my works eco-friendly is…
The raw materials and finishes that I use. I only use wood that was harvested from trees that grew in my state—but mostly my city, or FSC-certified wood, or reclaimed, or repurposed wood. I also only use recycled steel and only use low-VOC topcoat finishes.

Colorful DIY Stools - Mwanzi

mwanzi.com

Other materials I would like to master are…
Aluminum. I want to start making/welding furniture out of aluminum.

My all-time favorite tool is…
My Festool Kapex compound miter saw.

Multi-stain wood desk - Mwanzi

Photo: mwanzi.com

My biggest DIY success is…
Whatever project I’ve just completed.

To find out more about Jermain’s work, visit Mwanzi.com and take a look at his feature in Once Films’ critically acclaimed Spotlight Series.


Make One Minor Change to Get Major Curb Appeal

A new door gives your facade a facelift, while improving security and energy efficiency. Plus, recent data suggests the replacement all but pays for itself upon resale. So what are you waiting for?

Photo: masonite.com

When Remodeling magazine last published its annual Cost vs. Value Report, many were surprised to learn that, of all the many different home improvements one might undertake, front door replacement offers the greatest return on investment. Upon resale, homeowners recoup a whopping 97 percent of the project cost. We already knew what a difference replacing the entry door could make for a home’s curb appeal. Now we know that the upgrade virtually pays for itself.

As the first and last thing a houseguest sees on his visit—and as a familiar, inevitable part of the homeowner’s daily life—entry doors play a pivotal role in design. Therefore, for a job of such modest proportions, front door replacement delivers outsized benefits. Besides the immediate boost to curb appeal, a new door can also bring enhanced security and even superior energy efficiency, assuming the previous installation, like many old doors, had become drafty over the years.

There are a dizzying array of doors on the market today. To narrow the options, anyone wading into the ocean of options can do well by focusing their search on warranty-backed doors from long-established manufacturers. Masonite fulfills both criteria. In operation since 1925, the Tampa, Florida-based company offers steel, wood, and fiberglass doors in styles to suit any preference or spec. Best of all, some Masonite doors are guaranteed by warranties for up to 25 years. In fact, Masonite steel and fiberglass doors feature a limited lifetime warranty when purchased at The Home Depot, making the retail chain your best bet for value.

Photo: masonite.com

Choosing a Masonite door can begin at The Home Depot, or it can begin online with Masonite Max. Offered jointly by The Home Depot and Masonite, the easy- and fun-to-use Web tool guides you through designing an entry door that perfectly matches both your practical needs and your aesthetic tastes.

When you’re finished, Masonite Max provides the name and model number of your chosen product, making your purchase from The Home Depot fast and hassle-free. And iff desired, you can even use Masonite Max to schedule an in-store appointment with a Home Depot customer service agent. He or she not only handles your checkout, but can also answer questions about working with Masonite doors.

If you’re a contractor, then, perhaps better than anyone, you know the old adage is true: Time is money. What you may not know is that in addition to carrying the full suite of Masonite entry doors, The Home Depot offers many appealing conveniences and services especially for its professional customers.

For starters, there’s the Pro App, which gives you up-to-the-minute info on what’s in and out of stock at your local store—definitely a time-saver. The Pro App also gives you electronic receipts, which you can quickly and easily forward to clients. That, too, saves you a step and frees up your time for other things.

In addition, purchases of Masonite doors—or any other tools or materials—can be charged to a Revolving Charge Account, which makes bookkeeping as easy as it possibly can be. Once you’re set up, the account allows you to carry a balance, make low monthly payments, and enjoy itemized billing.

Commercial Credit Accounts are yet another convenience for contractors at The Home Depot. These help small business owners by enabling them to issue cards to employees, track expenditures online, and set up PO numbers. You can go back to focusing on being a contractor, not an accountant!

For high-quality doors in almost every imaginable style and material, with unparalleled support for those in the building trades, Masonite and The Home Depot are the doorway to value and satisfaction.

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


Bob Vila Radio: Make Plywood More Portable

Plywood may be cheap, but it sure isn't easy—to carry, that is. If you're working solo, these two tricks can help you get a handle.

Though plywood is a versatile and affordable material, ideal or at least serviceable for hundreds of uses, it’s not the most convenient thing to heft from one place to another.

How to Carry Plywood

Photo: shutterstock.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON CARRYING PLYWOOD, or read the text below:

Why is it so cumbersome? Mainly it’s because plywood typically comes in four-by-eight-foot sheets. Depending on the thickness, a sheet might weigh anywhere from 25 to 85 pounds. Bottom line: Unless you have really long arms, plywood is hard to carry. Fortunately, there are tricks that can help you get a handle.

First, position the plywood with the long edge down. Tie about 20 feet of rope into a loop and slip each end of the loop around the two bottom corners of the plywood. Reach over the edge of the plywood, grab the middle part of the loop, and lift. That’s a good way to get you and your load from point A to point B.

Another trick is to lift the plywood slightly with one hand and, with the other, hook a claw hammer under the plywood about midway along the edge. The hammer extends your reach and, again, you’ve got yourself an instant handle!

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


5 Things to Do with… Matchboxes

Even with no matches left, a matchbox has at least one use left. Check out these five creative ideas for making these mementos actually useful again.

Before antismoking campaigns and the advent of disposable lighters, matchboxes and matchbooks were very common. They were everywhere. Today, matchboxes are, most of all, mementos—of that earlier era, maybe, or of a memorable dining experience. Rarely do they do anything more than sit idly within a box of keepsakes. But with the help of a few basic household supplies, you can make those matchboxes useful again. Scroll down now for five clever repurposing ideas!

 

1. STAY IN FOCUS

Matchbox Crafts - Pinhole Camera

Photo: matchboxpinhole.com

Believe it or not, you can make a pinhole camera out of a matchbox, and it’s relatively simple. This type of camera lacks a lens, instead capturing images quite naturally through a tiny—you guessed it—pinhole. To make your own, follow instruction at Matchbox Pinhole. (Yes, this technique has its very own Web site!)

 

2. SEW ON THE GO

Matchbox Crafts - Sewing Kit

Photo: aplacetolaymythread.etsy.com

Just the right size for travel, a matchbox can house everything you need for an emergency sewing kit. Seriously, you’d be surprised by how many sewing staples can fit inside something so small! For fixing wardrobe malfunctions on the go, or as a gift for a globe-trotting friend, these kits are handy and downright adorable.

 

3. TAKE NOTE

Matchbox Crafts - Notepads

Photo: flickr.com

Super simple to craft, these little notepads are 99 percent creativity, 1 percent matchbook. Once you’ve removed the matches themselves, collect about 15 squares of thin paper, cutting them to fit. Staple the paper stack into the slot where the matches were, and you’ve got a mini pad for jotting down impromptu notes-to-self.

 

4. MAKE IT IN A FLASH

Matchbox Crafts - Flashlight

Photo: instructables.com

Even after the last match has been lit, the empty matchbook can muster a glow—as a DIY flashlight. First, pierce holes in the matchbook for two tiny LED lights you can buy at a home center. Next, fit the LED wires through the holes, connecting them to the 3-volt battery tucked inside. Instructables has the step-by-step.

 

5. WRAP IT UP

Matchbox Crafts - Gift Boxes

Photo: wikihow.com

For gifts of jewelry or folded currency, wrapped matchboxes are the perfect packaging. The key is to cut the wrapping paper slightly wider than the box, so the paper flaps can be glued down flat. Once you get the hang of it, why not wrap up an array of matchboxes to hang as decorations? Visit WikiHow for the tutorial.


The Little-Known Benefits of Pipe Insulation

Properly insulating your plumbing pipes has benefits beyond keeping the pipes from freezing. Read on to find out how else pipe insulation can improve your home's efficiency and safety.

Photo: shutterstock.com

If you know anything at all about pipe insulation, you know that it goes a long way toward preventing frozen pipes. That’s true: Pipe insulation keeps the water in your plumbing system from turning to ice and expanding, in turn bursting the pipes and causing extensive (and expensive) damage. But pipe insulation also performs several far less dramatic roles in the home. These not only help the homeowner save money on utility bills, but also make everyday life a little easier.

Minimizing Heat Gain and Loss
Among the unsung benefits of pipe insulation, its ability to minimize heat gain and loss may be the most important. As water travels along the plumbing lines in a home without pipe insulation, hot water tends to lose heat and cold water tends to gain heat. Introduce pipe insulation, and you greatly diminish these otherwise inevitable inefficiencies. So in the case of a hot-water pipe, it may not sound like a big deal for the plumbing run not to lose heat, but the benefits are very real: You get lower monthly energy bills, and you don’t need to wait as long for the hot water to reach the fixtures in your kitchen or bathrooms.

Controlling Condensation
When the surfaces of plumbing pipes are cooler than the surrounding air, insulation helps control the condensation that, if left unchecked, would slowly corrode the pipes and their fittings, eventually leading to a massive failure. Though condensation may seem like a remote concern, it’s not at all uncommon, particularly when cold-water lines come into contact with warm, humid air. Special vapor barrier-wrapped pipe insulation prevents warm air from reaching the pipes.

One other fringe benefit of pipe insulation: It not only protects pipes, it protects people too—from injuries that can be caused by contact with very hot or very cold piping.

Photo: supplyhouse.com

Selecting Your Insulation
There are several types of pipe insulation, each made of a different material and capable of insulating to a different degree. Some are more suitable for hot-water applications, while others incorporate the vapor barrier necessary for controlling condensation along a cold-water line. The main options include:

Conventional foam insulation: This features a slit on its side that makes it easy to fit over existing pipes. Once it’s in place, it’s a good idea to tape the slits shut so as to enhance the product’s insulating capability.

Self-sealing foam insulation: Unlike conventional foam insulation for pipes, the self-sealing variety features an adhesive along its slit. Remove the tape, press the adhesive strips together, and you’re done.

Spray foam insulation: Typically installed by professionals equipped with pressurized containers, spray foam pipe insulation excels where there’s little space between the water pipes and exterior walls.

Fiberglass pipe covers: This type of hinged, paper-coated rigid fiberglass insulation is most often used where pipe temperatures are unusually high, because fiberglass tends to resist heat quite well.

Dealing with Asbestos
Even today, some older homes still have pipe insulation that contains asbestos. Particularly if it’s disturbed and its fine fibers become airborne, asbestos-laden pipe insulation can present a serious health hazard. Asbestos insulation is not always easy to identify, says Dan O’Brian, a technical specialist with SupplyHouse.com, an online retailer of plumbing, heating, and HVAC products. “Asbestos pipe insulation has a distinct corrugated look,” he says. “And if you are suspicious you might have asbestos in your pipes or anywhere else in your home, make sure you consult a professional for removal.”

Cost vs. Benefit
Is pipe insulation ever a bad idea? “The only case I can think of where pipe insulation would be a bad idea,” O’Brian says, “would be on radiant heating or cooling loops, where insulation would actively work against the design of the system.” So in all but a couple of circumstances, installing pipe insulation offers energy savings and peace of mind—but does the benefit outweigh the cost? That might depend on whether or not you hire a contractor. Doing the job yourself—it’s usually not hard to tackle—tips the balance sheet in your favor, while depending on where you live, it may or may not be worth it to hire help.

Know the Law!
In many freeze-prone regions of the country, pipe insulation is not only a good idea, it’s mandated by the municipal building codes. If you have an older house and are planning to upgrade your plumbing, be sure to check the local specifications to find out what’s required—and what’s not.

 

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


Before & After: An 80s Living Room Rockets Forward

Stuck with limited lighting and excessive pastel left over from the previous owners, these Canadian homeowners rolled up their sleeves to DIY a more modern living room. Step inside to see the dramatic makeover.

Living Room Makeover

Photo: theuncommonlaw.ca

Since 2011, Becki Peckham and Chris Nicholas have been hard at work remodeling their home in eastern Canada, all the while blogging their experience at The Uncommon Law. When they began work, the house had a long way to go before it would reflect the couple’s modern, unconventional design sensibilities. The living room, in particular, shows what Becki and Chris can do when they flex their creative muscles—and their actual muscles, since they did almost everything themselves. Today, the living room channels the couple’s shared love of photography and film, from the moody lighting to the vintage camera display. ”We even made backlit light boxes, which feature actual X-rays of an old 35mm camera and Super 8 camera,” Becki says. Overall, Becki thinks the living room makeover, represents “sort of a fusion of both of our professions, photography and radiology.” Scroll down to see the dramatic difference that DIY dedication can make!

Living Room Makeover - Room Complete

Photo: theuncommonlaw.ca

What was the space like before you got started?
It was very ’80s. When we first saw it, the previous owner had furniture there—and the layout wasn’t ideal. The room is quite large, and the furniture was all pushed against the walls, leaving a large, empty space in the center. There were no ceiling lights, and the trim and wall color were pretty builder-basic.

Sounds like a pretty blank slate. What was your end goal for the redesign?
We wanted to create a moody/loungy media room that was both modern and stylish. We had actually found an ad in a magazine for the company Minotti and fell in love with the style: a dark room which contained a light gray couch and dark wood/walnut accents. That’s where the initial design inspiration came from.

Living Room Makeover - Window Treatments and Sectional

Photo: theuncommonlaw.ca

What was the biggest challenge? Did you find yourself having to make any compromises along the way?
We definitely had a few challenges with this space. Figuring out how to drop the ceiling and create a reveal to hide LED mood lighting took a bit of planning. Then having the plastering done only to find a leak was very trying.

But the slat wall was probably the most challenging, because of all the work it took hand-sanding, pretreating, staining and clear-coating the wood. There were over 640 linear feet of wooden 1x2s that required manual preparation.

As for compromises, Chris and I originally wanted a propane fireplace, but it was really out of our budget. We ended up settling on an ethanol fireplace; it had a similar feel but was much more affordable.

Living Room Makeover - Gas Fireplace

Photo: theuncommonlaw.ca

You did a lot with the room: built a slat wall, installed heavy-duty floating shelves, mounted an ethanol fireplace, even lowered the ceiling. Tell us a little bit about the thought process behind these choices.
We wanted different parts of the room to have different functionality. Using a sectional and adding the floating shelf/desk on the back wall helped with this. The fireplace wall with bench underneath acts as its own little area as well.

The media wall started out as a simple feature wall that we were going to paint a different color. This evolved to wallpaper, then wall tiles, then finally to the idea of a full-blown wooden slat treatment. Our ideas always seem to snowball until we realize we’re knee-deep into a project that’s 50 times the work of the original idea!

The ceiling was stucco and we were going to just drywall over it, but Chris had the idea of recessing LEDs around the edge of the ceiling in a reveal. We scraped the stucco from around the perimeter of the room, strapped out the old ceiling, installed the new drywall so it stopped about 1.5 inches from the wall, and added J-trim for a nice clean edge when we plastered.

Which piece of the room are you most proud of, and why?
I think we are both most proud of the slat wall. We love the way it looks, especially at night, and we get a lot of compliments on it. We also have seen a few people making their own, so the fact that we’ve inspired others enough for them to take on such a hellish task is flattering. If you consider the adjacent staircase part of the living room, then the DIY frameless glass rails are also something we’re pretty proud of, if only because so many people told us it couldn’t be done.

Living Room Makeover - Slat Wall

Photo: theuncommonlaw.ca

Without a doubt, a fresh coat really helped set a tone for the rest of your room. Any painting tips that you swear by?
Paint can make all the difference in a room. The plasterer we use (when we’re too lazy to do it ourselves) taught us a few tricks that have changed the way we paint—like back rolling. After initially rolling on about three roller widths of paint, go back and re-roll over the section you just painted, only rolling top to bottom. It gives a perfect, uniform finish. Also, quickly give the wall a light sanding between coats of paint to knock down any rough spots on the wall.

As for paint choice itself, we are huge fans of matte paint. Maybe not the best choice for families with kids’ hands touching the walls all the time, but the matte finish gives the walls a flat, creamy look, which we love. It also hides any imperfections in the plastering.

Looking at it all now, how has this makeover changed the way the space is used? What needs did it meet for you and Chris?
This is our day-to-day room. We hang out here, watch movies here, and sometimes eat meals or work here. It’s really a multipurpose space. We didn’t want to have a room that wouldn’t get used much, so we made sure to load it up with things that would draw us to the space. Having the built-in shelf on the back wall double as a desk, for example, gives Chris a place to do his studies or a place for us to sit and write the blog.

Living Room Makeover - Wall Hangings and Shelving

Photo: theuncommonlaw.ca