Welcome to Bob Vila

DIY Lite: This Stunning Room Divider Looks Better than Real Walls

Create cozy nooks and separate spaces out of an open floor plan when you assemble this striking (and surprisingly easy) room divider. Plywood panels have never looked so good!

DIY Room Divider - Splitting Up the Floor Plan

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

No matter whether you live in a large house with open-concept floor plan or a small condo wherein your living room occasionally doubles as a guest bedroom, there comes a time when you need to delineate your spaces for their various functions. The easiest way to implement a little extra privacy? Build a room divider. This particular 6-foot-tall paravent design successfully partitions a space when you want it, then folds for easy storage when you’re readying your space for a larger gathering—all only using a stack of humble plywood and 1×2 lumber.


DIY Room Divider - Supplies

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

- 6mm plywood
- Circular saw (optional)
- Handsaw
- Palm sander
- Sandpaper (120 grit)
- Wood stain (2 colors)
- Brush
- 8-foot-long 1×2 lumber (17)
- Hammer
- 2-inch nails (156)
- Wood glue
- Varnish
- 2-inch hinge with screws (6)
- Drill

DIY Room Divider - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

This DIY room divider is a simple grid build assembled from 1×2 lumber. Its conversation-starting geometric design—thankfully, in a harder-than-it-looks sort of way—comes from the numerous eye-catching and privacy-creating plywood triangles that fill the grid. That’s where we’ll start!

Trace 27 10-inch squares on your 6mm plywood board, and cut them with a circular saw. Once you have all of your squares, cut each across the middle from corner to corner so that you’re left with 54 right-angled triangles.

If you don’t own any power tools fit for the task, you may be able to rent a circular saw from your local hardware store, or even ask them for a few starting cuts when you purchase the plywood board. If the store cuts the board into 10-inch strips, you only need to cut the strips every 10 inches and then in half diagonally using a handsaw.


DIY Room Divider - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Sand all sides of the triangles with a 120-grit paper, especially the cut edges, and wipe away all dust using a microfiber cloth. Now they’re ready to stain. (We suggest choosing two complementary colors for visual variety; half of ours were coated with Oak and the other half in Early American.) Cover both sides…

Let them dry.


DIY Room Divider - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Meanwhile, you can start building the divider’s frame from your lumber. Start by making your cuts on the 1×2s: You’ll need two 73-inch pieces, seven 32-inch pieces, and 12 10-inch pieces for panel (of which you’ll make three total).

For the first panel, lay two 73-inch posts vertically and perpendicular to each other on a flat surface—these will become the vertical posts. To connect them, you will place the seven 32-inch cuts horizontally. Begin at the top so that the first 32-inch piece is aligned with the ends of the two posts, then leave a 10-inch gap between each of the next pieces of lumber.

Note: With all of these pieces, make sure that the narrow, half-inch edges lay are the ones resting on the floor. Then you can proceed to assembling the panel, one vertical post at a time.


DIY Room Divider - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Remove the 32-inch horizontal pieces one at a time, apply wood glue to both ends, and then replace it between the posts.

As the glue dries, hammer two 2-inch nails through one vertical post and into each horizontal piece; repeat the nailing along the second adjoining vertical post.


DIY Room Divider - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Now that the basic framework of a panel is complete, let’s add the smaller vertical divisions within each row.

Grab your 12 10-inch cuts of 1×2. Place two vertically between the top of the panel and the horizontal bar beneath it; these should be equidistant from the posts and each other (leaving a 10-inch gap to fit the triangle), keep their half-inch sides flat on the work surface, and fit snugly.

Once you see how they fit, remove both to coat each end in wood glue and replace. Hammer two 2-inch nails through the horizontal post into each end of the 10-inch dividers.

You’ve finished what we’ll call Row 1; now repeat in rows 3 and 5. Tip: Alternating the rows will help you in gluing and nailing them to the horizontal lumbers.


DIY Room Divider - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Now fill in rows 2, 4, and 6 with two 10-inch dividers apiece, spaced 10 inches apart—here, though, only affix them with glue. As best you can, try to align all of the vertical pieces to give the impression of complete and sturdy vertical posts.

Once the glue is dry, sand the structure to remove any clumps and glue stains.


DIY Room Divider - Step 7

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Finally, fill the gaps with your stained (and now dried) triangles. Leaving the structure flat on the floor, grab nine triangles from each wood stain (18 total) and arrange them in the panel of one grid until you are happy with the design. There’s no right or wrong way to do this—we varied the part of the square the triangle filled on ours so that it looked more artistic than entirely uniform.

Once you are satisfied, start at the upper left corner of a panel and work your way down to stick each in place. Line the 10-inch edges of each triangle with wood glue, and fit it back snugly into the square opening. To help it dry centered within the square frame, first place scrap wood or bottles caps behind (rather, underneath) the triangles to prop them up.


DIY Room Divider - Step 8

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Congratulations, you’ve finished a panel! To complete the DIY room divider, you’ll need at least three total, so repeat Steps 3 through 7 to build two more.

Once the three panels are assembled, coat them in a protective coat of clear varnish.


DIY Room Divider - Step 9

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Last, but not least, connect the three panels using hinges. First, lay two panels next to one another and place three hinges down the middle: one near the top (Row 1 of triangles), one in the middle (Row 3 of triangles), and one near to the bottom (Row 5 of triangles). Be sure the panels’ feet align with each other before you screw it in place.

Once attached, flip the two panels face-down and place the third next to them. (It won’t matter which side is the front or the back on this DIY room divider because you’ve stained each side of every triangle—not to mention, each side will been seen when it’s set up to divide a space!) Affix three more hinges as you had the first set. When finished, the three panels will open in a “Z” shape that can expand nearly 8 feet long.


DIY Room Divider - Made from Plywood and Lumber

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

DIY Room Divider - Wall Art When Not in Use

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Ama is a DIY addict and the creative mind behind Ohoh Blog. She likes home decor, lighting, and furniture projects that may involve painting, sewing, drilling…no matter the technique! Whatever she has on hand is inspiration to create, and fodder for her serious addiction to upcycling.


DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from BobVila.com
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on BobVila.com. Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build or make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.

How To: Make Your Own Oven Cleaner

If you’ve put off the task of banishing your cooker’s baked-on grease, grime, and crud because commercial products are unpleasantly harsh, try this all-natural homemade formula.

Homemade Oven Cleaner

Photo: istockphoto.com

It’s common to ignore oven spills and splatters until you can’t avoid seeing—or smelling—them on the walls, racks, and window glass. Yet you needn’t resort to strong chemical solvents to get your oven sparkling again. This totally non-toxic, inexpensive formula is a snap to mix up and it really works. All it takes is a bit of pre-treating and proper application techniques. You’ll be back to baking, braising, and roasting in no time.

- Glass bowl
- Baking soda
- Water
- Essential oil(s)
- Mixing spoon
- Spray bottle
- White vinegar
- Metal spatula
- Old newspapers
- Clean microfiber cloth
- Sponge
- Dish rag

In a glass bowl, combine two cups baking soda with three-quarters cup water. For a fresh but not overpowering fragrance, add eight to 16 drops of your favorite essential oil. Lemon, by itself or mixed with lavender, is particularly nice for the oven. Just be sure to steer clear of metal or plastic bowls, which could react badly with essential oils. Mix with a spoon until a thick but spreadable paste the consistency of slightly gritty cake icing forms.

Make sure that the oven is off and completely cool before you bring in your homemade oven cleaner. Then pre-treat the individual components to loosen built-up grime and make them easier to wipe clean.

Homemade Oven Cleaner

Photo: istockphoto.com

• Remove the racks and lay them as flat as possible in an empty sink. Sprinkle with enough baking soda to form a layer, approximately one-eighth inch thick, on the rack, then spritz with vinegar from a spray bottle. When the baking soda stops foaming, fill the sink with hot water to submerge the racks overnight.

• Using a metal spatula, gently scrape food residue from the sides and ash from the floor of the oven chamber. Then, taking care to avoid the heating elements (usually located on the roof and floor of the oven chamber), spread the homemade oven cleaner over all visible interior surfaces, including the back wall. Let the oven absorb the baking soda paste for six to eight hours.

• After the paste has had its chance to work, open the door flat and spread the remaining homemade oven cleaner evenly over the surface of the window glass. Give it only 15 minutes of dwell time.

To protect your kitchen floor from liquids used in these next steps, spread newspapers all around the oven. Then, tackle the window glass first. Wipe it down with a damp microfiber cloth to banish grime. To remove any residual baking soda paste, rinse the glass with water and wipe dry.

Using a damp sponge, wipe the surfaces of the oven chamber. Start with the sides, then move to the back of the chamber, wiping these surfaces from the top down to allow ash chunks to fall to the floor of the chamber. Then, taking care to avoid the upper heating element, wipe the roof of the chamber from back to front. Lastly, tackle the floor of the chamber using back to front motions. Rinse the sponge as needed with clean water and repeat until no baking soda remains.

Drain the sink and scrub the oven racks with a dishrag to remove debris. Rinse and dry the racks before replacing them. Discard the soiled newspaper—and break out your favorite recipe!

Solved! What to Do About Condensation on Windows

Sure, a little water on the inside of your window seems harmless—unless it's actually a sign of bad ventilation, mold, or mildew. Do you want to find the real reason for the fog? Read on for a few sanity-saving tips.


Photo: istockphoto.com

Q: My windows consistently gather condensation on the inside. I wipe them down, but the moisture keeps coming back. How big a problem is this, and what can I do about it?

A: The short answer? Moisture buildup isn’t a huge issue on its own. But left untreated, it can lead to more serious problems like mold, mildew, and water damage. Tracking down the root cause of window condensation can be tricky, but in general, condensation occurs when warm, moist indoor air collides with a cooler surface. Because glass is one of the coldest materials in your home, excess water vapor condenses there first, causing that all-too-familiar fog effect. If the inside of your window simply refuses to dry up, we can help you track down the source—step by step.

Take a closer look. If you live in an old house with equally old windows, take note of where this window condensation appears. For double- or triple-pane windows, moisture between the glass is usually caused by a faulty seal. If that’s the case, consider yourself lucky: You can correct the problem by replacing the insulated glass panel, and it’s a relatively inexpensive fix.


Photoo: istockphoto.com

Weatherize your windows. Whether or not you found a bad seal, preventing condensation on windows starts with good insulation. In especially old homes, adding a storm window and weatherstripping accomplishes much of what newer, higher-tech windows do at a fraction of the price. Even better, you’ll have warmer nights and lower energy bills.

Those with brand-new windows or an abode built in the last decade have a little more troubleshooting to do. That’s because modern homes are more buttoned-up than ever before, and they come with energy-efficient doors and windows that greatly reduce heat loss. But if you don’t crack yours open once in a while over the winter, you could be trapping all that warm, moist air inside your house, thereby creating or exacerbating steamy problems. To get all that moisture under control, try some of the following strategies.

Start with easy-to-spot sources of humidity. Plants release moisture into the air as they grow, so move them off your windowsill during the cold season. And, if you use a humidifier at home, consider turning it off in the winter, or running it less frequently than you have in the past; it may be that the air in your home isn’t so dry that this appliance needs to run constantly. Invest in a hygrometer to keep close tabs on the humidity level.

Have faith in fans. Since the bathroom and kitchen are humidity hot spots, using an exhaust fan to send some of that excess moisture outside should help dry out indoor air. Most bathrooms have an exhaust fan, and the vent on your range hood can work the same magic in your kitchen. Just be sure to turn the fans on, whether you’re showering or cooking up a storm!

Check for ventilation issues. Just like water won’t collect on an empty glass, condensation won’t form on windows in a house that can’t hold humid air. Start your detective work in the laundry room by confirming that your dryer’s vent hose runs to the outside of your home. If it does (and the hose and duct are leak-free), your next stop should be your fireplace: Inspect the wall around your hearth for beading water. An unused, sealed fireplace limits air circulation, creating the perfect opportunity for mold and mildew to move in. If you notice a musty smell or discolored spots on your wall, your home may already be playing host to fungi.

Hire a pro. Hey, it’s nothing to be ashamed of! If you’ve winterized your windows, ruled out the likely causes listed here, and checked for ventilation problems, hiring a home inspector (or a mold and mildew specialist) is your best bet. They’re trained to look for other hidden sources of moisture, like rainwater seeping into your foundation or crawl space. Moving quickly and working with a specialist will prevent further damage to your home, so it can be a smart investment.

All You Need to Know About Heat Pump Water Heaters

Don't wait for your water heater to give out, leaving you shivering in the shower. Instead, do your homework and learn about an energy-efficient, cost-effective option that might work for you.

Heat Pump Water Heaters

Photo: ge.com

Homeowners rarely think about their water heater or its vital contribution to the convenience of modern living. Likewise, relatively few think about hot water’s surprisingly high price tag—$400 to $600 per year for an average family, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR program. How could an everyday home essential cost so much? There’s a simple explanation: conventional water heaters are notoriously inefficient, accounting for about 20 percent of total household energy consumption (and 20 percent of each utility bill). The good news is that in recent years, a flood of innovative, high-efficiency water heaters have come onto the market. Unfortunately, too many homeowners fail to capitalize on this technology, opting instead for the default solution—an energy-guzzling conventional model. To transition smoothly to a high-efficiency unit, experts recommend beginning to plan for a new water heater well before you’re faced with an emergency situation. Only then can you survey all of the options and decide which type of water heater would be best for you. There are pros and cons to each competing water heater technology, of course, but heat pump water heaters may be the most intriguing. Continue reading to find out why.



Heat Pump Water Heaters - Unit Operation

Photo: energystar.gov

Conventional water heaters use energy—usually either gas or electricity—to generate heat. Heat pump water heaters (HPWHs) operate in an entirely different way. They, too, use energy, but not to generate heat, rather to move it from one place to another—from the air surrounding the appliance to the water held in the unit’s storage tank. It may sound like magic, but the reality is that refrigerators work in pretty much the same way. While a refrigerator expels hot air from inside its storage compartment, HPWHs accomplish the reverse, pulling heat in from the surrounding air. It’s a complex yet highly efficient process in which the heat pump successively condenses and evaporates a special refrigerant fluid, capturing heat along the way. There’s only one drawback: HPWHs take a relatively long time to heat a volume of water to the preset temperature. In order to avoid falling behind on the demand, particularly at peak times, most HPWHs are equipped to provide traditional electric-resistance water-heating as well. However, when properly installed under the right conditions, a HPWH rarely needs to revert from its primary, high-efficiency mode to its less efficient backup mode. But, because they’re capable of both, HPWHs are sometimes called “hybrid” models.



Heat Pump Water Heaters - In Closet

Photo: ge.com

The popularity of HPWHs stem not from the nuances of their underlying technology, but from their remarkable efficiency—and more specifically, how inexpensive they are to operate. In fact, of the many water-heating technologies available today, HPWHs offer the lowest running costs of all, saving the homeowner every month for as long as the appliance lasts (an estimated 13 years). Those incremental savings really add up over time. According to the EPA, an ENERGY STAR certified HPWH can save the average family as much as $3,500 over the full duration of its useful lifespan. As an added benefit, ENERGY STAR HPWHs also help save the planet. EPA calculates that if an ENERGY STAR HPWH were installed in place of every electric water heater in the U.S., it would prevent approximately 140 billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions—the same as taking more than 13 million vehicles off the road. While savings are achieved across households, a number of factors influence precisely how efficient a HPWH would be in your home. We’ll discuss these variables in the next section.



Heat Pump Water Heaters - Collage 2

Photo: energystar.gov

Before purchasing a HPWH, it’s vital to confirm that your home can provide the appliance with what it needs to operate with greatest efficiency—a sufficient supply of warm air. While it’s possible to install other water-heating technologies in areas as small as a closet, HPWHs usually need at least 750 or 1,000 square feet. Any location big enough must also be stable in temperature (ideally never going below 40 degrees or above 90 degrees). Not every home contains an available space that satisfies both requirements. Plus, if the only suitable area for the HPWH happens to fall within a part of the home that you pay to heat, there’s a tricky tradeoff. After all, if your HVAC system must work harder (and consume more energy) to counteract the cooling effect of HPWHs on their immediate surroundings, the money-saving benefits of the high-efficiency water heater may be diminished, at least during colder months. Given the number of variables at play, it’s wise to consult with a contractor. Generally speaking, homeowners in cold climates are typically successful installing HPWHs in unconditioned areas with exposure to the heat of a furnace, boiler, or washer and dryer. In warm climates, garage installations are most common.


Some homeowners don’t even consider HPWHs because the technology requires a relatively large up-front investment. The purchase price of a HPWH typically runs three or four times higher than a conventional model. To fairly judge the cost-effectiveness of a water heater, however, you must consider the cost of running it as well as the cost of the equipment itself. By virtue of their unparalleled efficiency, HPWHs often cover their extra cost within a few years, and from then on any savings go right into your pocket. Another important factor to weigh in your decision: There are a number of rebates available to help mitigate some of the purchase price. For instance, if you install an ENERGY STAR HPWH unit in 2016, you qualify for a $300 federal tax credit. The utility, energy service provider, or municipal government in your area may offer additional incentives. Visit the ENERGY STAR Rebate Finder for a comprehensive list. Don’t delay. If you do your research now, as soon as your existing water heater approaches the end of its 10- to 15-year lifespan, you’ll be ready to act promptly to replace it, if not with a heat pump water heater, then with any unit boasting the ENERGY STAR label.

Heat Pump Water Heaters - In Garage

Photo: ge.com

This article has been brought to you by ENERGY STAR. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.

Beyond Security: 3 More Reasons to Install a New Floodlight

Despite being an essential for basic nighttime safety and home security, outdoor lighting upgrades are often passed over for other easy exterior updates that directly affect a home's curb appeal quotient. After living with a new and improved floodlight for a week, this homeowner discovered three surprising reasons to prioritize this simple switch.

Installing a Floodlight

Photo: Glenda Taylor

Where I live out in the country, the nights can be very dark—no city lights down the street, and nothing more than the stars (as long as it isn’t cloudy) to cast a dim light. But early sunsets this time of year don’t dictate when I arrive home, so I still find myself stumbling and feeling my way around the corner of the garage in the black of night so that I can find the winding sidewalk that leads to my back door. It’s an all-too-familiar scene for many homeowners, arriving home well past sunset to a darkened house and shadowy yard.

Even when I knew I’d be getting home after dark, I could never justify leaving the porch light on all day. There’s no sense in wasting all that energy and shortening bulb life! That meant that my covered patio’s light only really got use when I was spending the evening outdoors, and didn’t really offer much in the way of safety. I needed to upgrade to a motion-activated light, but not any old model. I was holding out for one with LED technology for high illumination at reduced operating costs to provide visibility from the sidewalk, up the porch steps, and to my keypad door lock. Enter the new Eaton Revolve 270° LED Floodlight.

After less than 20 minutes of “out with the old, in with the new,” I can never go back. Besides crossing all of the checkboxes I had, my new light went above and beyond with three pleasant surprises.


1. Illumination coverage can be adjustable.

Traditional floodlights illuminate in a circular pattern, creating a strong spotlight effect in the center but fading away at the edges. The Eaton Revolve LED Floodlight, however, features three individual optics that can be manually rotated 360-degrees to cast three separate beams of light exactly where you need them most. That meant I could point one optic toward my back door, aim another down the sidewalk that connects the patio and garage, and direct the third toward a corner of the patio where I’ll soon install the steps and walk that lead to my small garden house. No more shadows, no more tripping—just clearly lit pathways whenever activated by movement within 50 feet of the light fixture!


2. Unnoticeable, even attractive, floodlights do exist.

In the past, when I’ve searched for a floodlight, the last thing I’d worry about was a good-looking design. As far as I knew, the market was full of a lot of the same: obvious, industrial-looking lights. The Revolve LED floodlight, however, managed to merge form and function. Its low-profile housing tucks up under my covered porch just so that, unless you’re looking for it, you’ll pass right underneath without ever knowing it’s there during daylight hours. Even if you do catch a glimpse, you’ll see that its housing is sleek, fashionable, and thankfully without the large, unsightly reflectors that come standard on traditional models.


Installing a Floodlight - Process Shot

Photo: Glenda Taylor

3. Replacing my old light was a snap.

Replacing any old light fixture can be intimidating—sometimes enough so to delay an upgrade—but the Revolve LED simplifies the process. Instead of holding a light in one hand while you attempt to connect old wires directly to the light itself, you have two hands free throughout the most technical aspects of the job.

Once I removed my old light, which was brimming with dead insects, I quickly connected the home’s electrical wiring to an adapter cable using wire nuts that would easily snap to the light’s wiring. Then, threaded through the center of the light’s mounting plate (which I secured to the soffit’s structure with screws), all I had to do was hook the cords together and tuck the extra length neatly into the junction box. Voila! The light was wired.

Already an easy installation, the cherry on top was the that the floodlight’s screws came pre-inserted. When you’re teetering on a ladder, balancing a light, and trying to run screws into the mounting bracket, this little convenience is a godsend. All I had to do was align the screws on the light fixture with the raised holes on the mounting bracket, and I could tighten them with a Phillip’s head screwdriver in one go.

One word of advice for installation: The Revolve LED floodlight is not a wimpy light. The die cast aluminum fixture weighs nearly 5 lbs, so make sure the light box in your soffit or ceiling is firmly attached to a joist or to structural blocking wherever you choose to install it. The soffit material, itself, won’t be enough to support this light.


Installing a Floodlight - Eaton Revolve

Photo: Glenda Taylor

Though only up and running for few days so far, I’m already pleased my new directional floodlight. Experimenting with the motion detector’s sensitivity settings helped me find the “sweet spot” that recognizes a visitor walking along the sidewalk but won’t activate whenever a moth flutters by. Plus, I’ve customized the light duration for just the amount of time it takes for me to get to the door, unlock it, and enter. Perhaps the only thing missing from my outdoor lighting now is a matching floodlight in the soffit out above the center stall of my three-car garage! After my experience with this first one, I won’t be hesitating to make an installation like this again.


This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Eaton. The opinions and text are all mine.

The Dos and Don’ts of Clearing a Clogged Sink

Unclogging your kitchen or bathroom sink doesn’t have to be a job for the professionals. Before you try breaking up the blockage yourself, consider these best practices to prevent damaging your pipelines.

Unclogging a Sink - The Do's and Don'ts

Photo: istockphoto.com

Most homeowners never think about maintaining their sinks—at least, not until it starts to drain agonizingly slow and the basin fills with dirty standing water. Unfortunately, kitchen and bathroom sinks are bound to be partially or fully obstructed at some point. A majority of back-ups originate from the trap, which is the U-shaped pipe located underneath the fixture. Although the trap is necessary to stop sewer gases from leaking into your home, the curved form of the pipe may cause quite the headache. If water isn’t flowing freely at your home, don’t call the plumber just yet. Most drain blocks are easy to fix without professional help. Follow this guide to save time and avoid costly mistakes when unclogging a sink.

DO Flush a Slow-Draining Kitchen Sink with Hot Water

Food residue can leave a buildup of grease in drainage pipes, especially if the drain is connected to your garbage disposal. If you suspect your slow-draining kitchen sink’s plumbing is lined with greasy sludge, pour about a tablespoon of dish soap and a large pot of boiling water into the drain. The hot water should cause the grease to break up and dissolve enough to unclog the sink. In the future, take care not to dispose of oil or food scraps in the garbage disposal or down the sink drain.


DON’T Add Water to a Completely Blocked Drain

Stop that faucet! If the standing water in your sink isn’t draining at all, the worst thing you can do is add more water to the basin. The additional water pressure won’t actually flush out the blockage, and you’ll have to bail it out before attempting a more effective de-clogging method.


DO Think Twice Before Using Caustic Chemicals

Many homeowners reach for a chemical drain cleaner upon discovering a clogged sink, but these caustic solutions can soften PVC pipes and even damage older metal pipes. And then there’s the personal harm it can cause: Stray chemical splashes can burn your skin and eyes. If you want to put a commercial drain cleaner to work, consider purchasing a biodegradable one, which utilizes enzymes to eat away at clogs. These biodegradable options don’t work quite as quickly as chemical cleaners, but they’re safer and will protect your pipes.


DON’T Ignore the Stopper/Strainer

Stoppers and strainers are common trouble spots in bathroom sinks, since hair can easily wrap around the strainer and trap soap scum. To loosen this sort of clog, bend a sturdy wire to form a hook at one end. Remove the stopper if needed by twisting it counterclockwise, pulling it upward, or using a screwdriver to unfasten it. Then insert the wire into your sink drain, twist, and pull the blockage out.


Clearing a Sink Clog - Do's and Don'ts

Photo: istockphoto.com

DO Try a Plunger on Light Clogs

If the clog is in the drainpipe, you might be able to loosen it with a standard cup plunger.  Some clogs simply need an extra “push” to get moving! Make sure the sink contains a few inches of water, and block the overflow drain with a wet rag so that water doesn’t leak out. Then place the rubber suction directly over the sink drain and firmly plunge up and down.

Warning: Only attempt unclogging a sink like this if you haven’t already poured chemical cleaner into the sink. Otherwise, as mentioned, the hazardous material can quickly splash onto your skin while you use the tool.


DON’T Plunge with Excessive Force

Should moderate plumbing fail to remove your sink’s clog, don’t force the matter. And in that same vein, refrain from using a drain bladder; also known as a blow bag, this garden hose attachment inserts directly into the drain and uses water pressure to clear it. Unlike bathtub and shower drain traps, which are permanently connected, sink drain traps connect with twist-off couplings. Excessive pressure can damage the drain line connection, resulting in leaks or a ruined trap.


DO Snake the Drain

A plumber’s drain snake, or auger, features a long coiled cable with a hook or sharp cutter on the end. You can purchase a manual auger at your local hardware store for about $30. To use one, remove the sink strainer and insert the tip of the augur down the pipe and twist the hand crank, which releases the wire cable. Keep feeding more of the snake into the drain until you feel resistance—this signals that you have reached the clog. Rotate the auger to break up the blockage.


DON’T Jam the Auger Deeper into the Drain

If your auger hits a blockage, don’t forcefully pound at the clog. This motion can damage your trap connectors or pipes. Obstructions that can’t be cleared with an auger should be handled using a different method.


Clearing a Clogged Sink - Do's and Don'ts

Photo: istockphoto.com


DO Remove the Trap to Clear Stubborn Clogs

The majority of sink clogs occur in the curved drain trap beneath the sink—the pipe is usually shaped like a P, S, or J. Removing the trap may be the easiest way to loosen the jam. Bail excess water from the sink, and then place a bucket under the drainpipes (since the trap holds water and will release it when undone). Twist the connectors loose and remove the trap. From here, you can clear away a clog by gloved hand. If you discover that the clog lies further down the drainpipe, stick in your auger and get to work.


DON’T Hesitate to Call Your Plumber

If the methods listed here don’t fix the problem, you could be facing a clog elsewhere in your home drainage system. This may require the help of a professional plumber, who could use a powered auger or other device on the main line. Incorrectly working with unfamiliar tools could cause damage to the drain lines, so it’s best to call for backup whenever you’re uncertain.

So, You Want to… Insulate a Garage Door

This project will keep your workshop comfy this winter—and all year round.

How to Insulate a Garage Door

Photo: istockphoto.com

As the weather cools, it’s the perfect time to gird your garage against the colder temperatures on the way, especially if you’ve got your home workshop in there. Metal garage doors block strong winds but do little to maintain a comfortable temperature. But if you’re not ready to plunk down upwards of a thousand dollars for a new, pre-insulated model, consider gearing up the garage door you’ve got. We’ve assembled all the info you need to understand how to insulate a garage door successfully, plus tips to help you get maximum benefit out of the project.

What Can I Expect from Insulating My Garage Door?
Adding insulation to the door’s interior channels can help keep your garage an average of 10 to 12 degrees warmer in winter and as much as 20 degrees cooler in summer. Insulation also reduces noise transfer, so not only will you avoid hearing street traffic when in your workshop, you’ll spare your neighbors the sounds of your son’s rock band practice.

Benefits of a Garage Door Insulating Kit
The simplest way to insulate a garage door is with a kit containing either vinyl- or foil-faced batts or foil-faced rigid foam boards. Kits start around $50, and as they increase in price often offer a more complete set of supplies—adhesive, tape, a utility knife, gloves, and perhaps even a dust mask—than just the insulating materials. The prime benefit of a kit, however, is its specially designed retainer pins. Made of lightweight plastic or metal, the pins have plates attached that adhere to the back of the garage door channels to help anchor rigid foam or batts in place. This stabilizes the insulation, so it won’t fall on your car when the door is open. If you opt against a kit, you can use other methods to hold the insulation in place.

Purchase the Right Rigid Foam Insulation
Skipping the kit? Most DIY-ers opt for foil-faced rigid foam board panels that you measure and cut with a sharp utility knife or table saw to fit the channels inside your garage door.

How to Insulate a Garage Door

Photo: istockphoto.com

• The main types of foam board are expanded polystyrene (EPS), extruded polystyrene (XPS), and polyisocyanurate (called “polyiso” or simply “iso”). Any of these are acceptable for garage door insulation as long as they are foil-faced and fire-rated. Do not use non-faced foam board, which is flammable and will produce dangerous fumes if it burns; in fact, using it might very well violate your local building codes.

• Choose foam board slightly thinner than the thickness of you door’s interior channel enclosures. For example, a standard garage door channel is about 1-¾ inches deep, so you would want to cut pieces from a 1-½-inch thick foam board.

• Although they can vary, most garage door channels have “lips” that hold the boards in the channels, but rigid foam boards can still rattle around a bit if they don’t fit snugly. A bit of foam-safe adhesive, applied to the back of the garage door channel before inserting a board, will help hold it in place. You can use expanding foam to seal gaps around the sides if necessary, but a little goes a long way. Check the label of any adhesive and expanding foam spray to ensure compatibility with the foam board you’re using—some adhesive will melt foam board.

Working with Batt Insulation
While standard batt insulation is readily available—you might even have an extra roll laying around—and it’s often slightly cheaper than foam board, it’s probably not the best choice for garage door insulation if you’re not using a kit. The thinnest standard batt, at 3-½ inches thick, is too thick for most garage door channels, and compressing the batts greatly reduces their ability to insulate a garage door. If you’re set on batt insulation, find thinner, 1-½-inch thick foil-faced batting—the kind used for wrapping HVAC ducts at plumbing supply stores or order it online (do-it-yourself centers don’t often carry it). To hold the batts in place, you’ll also need to use the correct adhesive and tape recommended by the batting manufacturer.

Maximizing Your Insulation Project
To make the most of your garage door insulation project, replace the rubber sweep on the bottom of the door. Also install weather stripping around the sides of the garage door to prevent icy drafts from blowing in. And while insulating the doors is a great first step, you’ll enjoy more heat-retention if the rest of your garage is insulated as well—heat can still escape through a non-insulated roof or sidewalls. But whatever steps you take before Old Man Winter comes calling will keep you toastier inside your workshop. But we warn you: You’ll have no excuses not get things done in there!

3 Hidden Benefits of New Windows

If you still need a bit of convincing to get moving on that long-delayed window replacement project, here are yet three more compelling reasons to get rid of those old, leaky, tired-looking windows.


Photo: istockphoto.com

Technology has redefined virtually every aspect of contemporary life, and home construction and remodeling are no exception. Today, thanks to breakthroughs in design and manufacturing, once-simple building components now boast a stunning level of sophistication. Windows offer a prime example. In the past, the typical window consisted of a wood frame and single-pane glass. But in 2016, the best windows are packed full of cutting-edge features that serve the home and its occupants better than ever before. Still, “many homeowners don’t realize how much has changed,” according to Jim Eldredge, a product manager with Sears Home Services. Certainly, window replacement remains a popular improvement, but homeowners tend to pursue the project for the same reasons that motivated previous generations—that is, enhanced energy efficiency and improved aesthetics. “These are the expected benefits of installing new windows, and they are worthy goals,” Eldredge says. But when it comes to the current crop of windows, he adds, “there are plenty of additional incentives that go overlooked.” For details on three lesser-known advantages associated with new windows, keep reading now!



Photo: istockphoto.com

To stand the test of time—to look and perform their best over a span of decades—windows require care. How much? That depends on the frame. Older windows often need a lot of attention, not least because their wood frames should be refinished every three to five years to ward off rot and mold. Tired of all the hassle, many homeowners insist on replacement windows that demand little in the way of ongoing maintenance. Aluminum windows are popular for precisely that reason. Aluminum, however, is highly conductive and, as a result, doesn’t insulate very well. According to Eldredge, only vinyl offers the “best of both worlds”—the insulating capacity of wood and the easy-care virtues of aluminum. In fact, the Weatherbeater vinyl windows installed by Sears Home Services rarely need more than mere cleaning. Of course, cleaning a window can be a pain, as you well know if you’ve ever climbed a ladder to reach the glazing on an upper story. The good news? Quality modern windows, the Weatherbeater line included, feature tilt-in sashes, which provide easy access to the exterior glass, making cleaning a breeze and freeing up time for “the things you actually want to do,” Eldredge concludes.



Photo: istockphoto.com

Once upon a time, if you were to put your hand to a window on a cold day, the glass would feel as icy as the temperature outdoors. “You wouldn’t have the same experience today,” Eldredge says. With double- or even triple-paned construction, windows are able to deliver a degree of thermal performance increasingly on par with that of exterior walls. That said, some windows insulate better than others. Weatherbeater windows from Sears Home Services stand out in particular because the cavities between their panes are filled with argon, a denser-than-air gas that insulates even further. Such innovations help to eliminate drafts and minimize energy loss, enabling homeowners to enjoy more efficient, less expensive heating and cooling. Interestingly, though, many of the same features that benefit household efficiency also usher in a secondary benefit—they attenuate sound. Indeed, a window that blocks out uncomfortably cold or hot air also works to block out sound. Though homeowners rarely expect window replacement to result in a quieter, more serene indoor environment, “that’s often the first thing that the homeowner notices once the new windows go in,” Eldredge says.



Photo: istockphoto.com

Savvy homeowners know that window replacement—a major improvement project—typically calls for a correspondingly major investment of money. Hesitant over the high price? Don’t forget that you’re not the only one painfully aware of the costs involved—house hunters are too. In fact, it’s common for prospective buyers to walk away from homes whose windows would require replacement sooner rather than later. It’s unlikely that you’d make immediate plans to move after replacing your windows, but when it’s time to sell, “the preference for up-to-date windows can work to your advantage,” Eldredge remarks, and could result in a faster or more lucrative sale. In addition, bear in mind that while new windows may not be cheap, their purchase and installation isn’t a sunk cost. On the contrary, the upgrade adds considerable value—in fact, owners typically recoup more than half of what they put into the project, according to Eldredge. It’s true that not every home improvement offers a favorable return on investment, but window replacement does—especially when you take into account the fact that, as Eldredge notes, “high-performance windows help you to save each and every month on climate control,” in many cases the single greatest ongoing expense of homeownership.


If the scale of window replacement doesn’t intimidate you, and if the price tag doesn’t put you off, then it’s likely that the biggest source of stress you’ll encounter as you embark on this major project will be trying to find and hire professionals you trust. We’ve all heard plenty of horror stories about amateurs and crooks who either do a poor job or agree to do the work but never actually show up. As windows are critical to the integrity of any home, and because their performance depends on proper installation, it’s only prudent to do your due diligence and hire as responsibly as possible. Don’t know where to begin? You can start by scheduling a free in-home consultation with Sears Home Services. Operating nationwide, with a long history of helping homeowners achieve their dreams of more beautiful, better-functioning homes, Sears can guide you through the entire process, from the selection of new windows to their on-time, on-budget installation. Providing peace of mind all the while is the fact that with Sears in your corner, you benefit from the company’s hallmark Satisfaction Guarantee—an assurance that, even once your new windows are in place, Sears remains committed to the long-term success of your project. Contact Sears Home Services today!

Photo: istockphoto.com

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

How To: Choose a Baseboard Heater

Replacing or supplementing standard forced-air heating with a silent, energy-efficient baseboard system could be a relief to both your allergies and your wallet. Read on to determine if this upgrade is right for you.

Baseboard Heating - Cadet Electric Baseboard Heater from SupplyHouse.com

Photo: supplyhouse.com

In this day and age, with our access to new, energy-efficient technologies, home heating shouldn’t have to cost an arm and a leg or disrupt the peace and quiet of a cozy home. For many homeowners, the ideal package—heat that is quiet, affordable, and low maintenance—may be best achieved by the installation of baseboard heaters. Modern baseboard heaters can offer a convenient and cost-effective supplement, even alternative, to the forced-air heating systems used in the majority of homes in America. Baseboard options include systems that are suitable for whole-home heating as well as those used only to supply or supplement heat in stubbornly cold rooms. The best choice for any particular installation depends on the heating needs and the design of the house. Keep reading to learn how to navigate the many baseboard heating options on the market today—electric, hydronic, electric-hydronic hybrids, and portable units—in order to choose the best fit for your home.

Baseboard heaters supply heat via either a hydronic, fluid-based system or an electric system, both of which provide several key advantages over traditional forced-air heating. Topping the list of pros is the fact that, involving neither blowers nor ducts, baseboard units operate in virtual silence. Plus, whereas forced-air systems often collect and distribute airborne particles like dust and other allergens, baseboard heating does nothing to detract from indoor air quality.

“Another positive from not having ductwork comes in the form of a baseboard system’s unobtrusive footprint,” says Daniel O’Brian, a technical expert at online retailer SupplyHouse.com. The system’s design allows you to fit components along the base of the walls instead of having to run ductwork throughout the home, making installation easier, minimizing maintenance, and allowing a little more control over placement. The absence of the extensive remodeling required to accommodate ductwork makes baseboard heat particularly appropriate (and easy!) for older, architecturally sensitive homes.

With so many types of baseboard heating available on the market, your decision will primarily come down to power source, with secondary consideration given to the amount of space you’re trying to heat.

Electric baseboards use a direct electrical connection to produce heat. Typically hardwired into the circuitry of the home with either a 120-volt or 240-volt supply, this type of baseboard heater doesn’t require a furnace, boiler, or any other additional equipment. Operationally, electric baseboards depend on convection: The unit pulls cooler air in through a vent. A series of metal fins connected to a heating element warm the air, which then rises back into the room. Though effective—and often quite easy to install—such units are rarely cheap to run, owing to the high price of electricity in many regions across of the country. For that reason, electric baseboards from leading brands like QMark and Cadet are best reserved not for whole-home use, but for supplemental heat in rooms underserved by the primary heating system.

Baseboard Heating - SlantFin Hydronic Baseboard Heater from SupplyHouse.com

Photo: supplyhouse.com

Hydronic baseboard heaters use a slightly more complex system, in which a boiler heats water (or, in areas prone to power loss and lower temperatures, a combination of propylene glycol antifreeze and water) and pumps it to the baseboard units, which emit heat into the room. Traditionally, these systems operate at 180° Fahrenheit to achieve a comfortable level of warmth in the home, but fuel-efficient boilers that can achieve the same level of heating while working at lower temperatures are gaining popularity. Because the fluid in the pipes of a hydronic system retains heat better than the metal fins of an electric baseboard, hydronic systems are more energy efficient, which makes premium brands such as Slant/Fin and Runtal more attractive for whole-house heating.

Electric-hydronic hybrid units, as their name suggests, merge several of the more desirable features of both varieties. These operate with the simplicity and self-contained ease of an electric unit, but rely on a liquid to retain heat more efficiently. Plus, because they are isolated systems, they are not connected to a boiler and are often available as either fixed, installed units or portable ones that can be easily moved from room to room when additional heat is needed. “Portable baseboard heaters are like the window AC units of heating systems,” O’Brian says. “They just plug in and go.”

While both electric and hydronic systems heat effectively, each type has its clear forte: Electric baseboards serve better as smaller-space heating sources or for supplemental heat in a larger room, while hydronic baseboards are more fuel-efficient, depending on electricity costs in the area. Selecting a baseboard heater of the right type, size, and heating capacity depends on the square footage and heating requirements of the space in question. Other factors to consider are the location of the room, the type and amount of insulation, and the typical number of people using the room. To help narrow your search, SupplyHouse.com created a calculator that estimates the target heating capacity for any unit, expressed in British thermal units (BTUs), based on your location’s climate and space’s square footage.

Once you’ve found a model that will satisfy your heating needs, you’ll need to figure out how to install it. Most one-room, portable baseboard heating installations are simple enough for a handy homeowner to tackle. With hardwired or whole-house systems, however, you may want to call in a contractor for at least part of the job. “Boiler hookup and electrical wiring are best performed by licensed professionals,” notes O’Brian, but homeowners can certainly attach the baseboard covers, which maximize and direct airflow, protect family members from the hot pipes, and shield the heating elements; covers may be included with the system or sold separately. Those from Baseboarders require no tools to install and can be used to refresh the look of older, ugly hydronic baseboard heaters—an uncomplicated finishing touch for an already easy and energy-efficient home upgrade.


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

So, You Want to… Build a Ramp

Find out what you need to know to offer easy access to folks using a wheelchair or mobility scooter.

How to Build a Wheelchair Ramp - Out of Concrete

Photo: istockphoto.com

Opening your heart and home to a mobility-challenged loved one is a beautiful thing. And one way to make it easier on everyone is with a wheelchair ramp that leads straight to your door. But before you DIY or hire a builder to construct one, learn the basics on rules, safety, and materials so that comings and goings will be as smooth as possible.

Check in with both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and local authorities as your first step. You’ll probably need to obtain a permit to install a ramp from your local building authority. It may also be necessary for you to comply with ADA standards. Not all states or communities enforce ADA standards for residential ramps, but following its guidelines will ensure that your ramp is wheelchair user safe. While the ADA states that ramps must be a minimum of 36 inches wide, check local building codes, too, because some states enforce wider ramp widths. Also note that any ramp that rises more than 6 inches in height must also have 36-inch high handrails on both sides for safety.

The ADA requires a ramp rise, in height, not more than 1 inch per every 12 inches of run, written as a 1:12 slope. For example, if you need a ramp to reach a 30-inch high porch, you’ll need a minimum of 30 lineal feet for the ramp.

How to Build a Wheelchair Ramp

Photo: istockphoto.com

Those lacking adequate lineal space can design a ramp with turns or switchbacks. But at every turn, the ADA requires a minimum 60-inch-by-60-inch level landing as a wheelchair rest. The ADA also requires a minimum 60-inch-by-60-inch landing at the bottom and at the top of the ramp. A ramp cannot begin to slope right outside the door; a level landing on the porch is necessary.

No ramp should rise above 30 inches without a level landing. For example, if your porch is 48 inches high, you’ll need 48 feet of lineal ramp and a 60-inch-by-60-inch landing somewhere along the ramp before it rises 30 inches. On a straight ramp, this could be accomplished by building a landing off to one side; on a switchback ramp, the landing could be at the turn. If you aren’t mandated to follow ADA rules, this particular guideline is less important for a person with a power chair, yet for someone operating a wheelchair by hand, a resting spot is essential.

Wood is most commonly used in residential ramp construction, but it’s not your only option.

• Wood: With basic carpentry knowledge you can DIY a wood ramp. You’ll sink support posts of approximately 30 inches into the ground and secure them with concrete. Treated wood is popular for wheelchair ramps, but composite planking for the floor may reduce warping. All wood surfaces should be sealed, and it’s wise to put non-skid strips on the floor planks to avoid slippery-when-wet conditions. You can also put indoor/outdoor carpet on the ramp floor. For extra durability, consider installing metal handrails; wood handrails have a tendency to splinter after a few seasons.

• Concrete: Framing and pouring concrete is a technical undertaking, and wet concrete isn’t forgiving of mistakes, so concrete ramps are best constructed by a pro. Concrete ramps require footings and stem walls, and are typically filled with compacted sand before they are poured. Reasons to go with concrete include permanence and durability; you can even embed heat strips to prevent ice buildup in winter. Concrete is also a good choice for a ramp rise of only a few inches. If pedestrians will be using a low-rise ramp, go with a gentler, 1:18 slope, which makes walking more comfortable.

• Earth-berm: For aesthetic appeal, an earth-berm ramp can be worked into your landscape to look like meandering path that slowly rises to the porch. But this type of ramp requires compacting a lot of soil to build the berm (the ramp itself should be poured concrete). And while you can lay berm soil against masonry, such as a concrete or brick porch, soil should not come into contact with wood due to the risk of rot and termite infestation.

Premade ramps: For a quick fix—or if you have difficulty obtaining a permit to build a wood or concrete ramp—a premade wheelchair ramp could be a smart solution. Premade ramps are typically removable, so they’re considered “private property” rather than “real estate,” and therefore not subject to building codes. Generally fabricated from aluminum or galvanized metal and designed to fit over existing steps, they start at a few hundred dollars for bare-bones models but could run into the thousands for higher quality and custom designs.

How to Build a Wheelchair Ramp - Out of Wood

Photo: istockphoto.com