Welcome to Bob Vila


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


Bob Vila Radio: Fixing a Broken Window Pane

At one time or another, most homeowners must deal with a broken window pane. Save the cost of a contractor and make the repair yourself—here's how.

Has a pint-sized baseball player in your neighborhood recently hit a home run through your bedroom window? Here are some tips for fixing it.

How to Replace a Window Pane

Photo: shutterstock.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON REPLACING A WINDOW PANE or read the text below:

Once are wearing gloves and goggles, remove the broken shards by pulling them toward you. That way, if a shard breaks, the splinters are sent safely away from you.

Next, scrape and sand the notch of the sash where the new pane is going to go. Then run a bead of caulk around the notch, not only to provide a cushion for the glass, but also to help make the window weather-tight.

For help in positioning the pane of glass, fold a short length of duct tape in the middle, forming a tab. Now stick the tape onto the glass. That’ll function as a temporary handle.

Once you have the new pane in place, open your glazing compound, remove a lump with your putty knife, and roll it on a flat surface until it looks like a length of rope. Set it next to the edge of the glass and use your fingers to smooth it out.

Once you add a few more lengths of glazing compound around the window, you’ll be done… except for a little sanding and a coat or two of paint!

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.


The Pros and Cons of Softwood Flooring

If you're in the market for a wood floor in a low-traffic room, don't ignore the rustic charm and extremely low cost of softwoods like pine.

Softwood Flooring - Kitchen Installation

Photo: kaplanthompson.com

Trees are classified as either hardwood or softwood according to the structure of their seeds. And while almost all hardwoods are, in fact, hard, softwoods are not really soft; they’re simply more susceptible to dents and dings. Impervious to such incidental damage, durable hardwoods have become virtually synonymous with wood flooring. And it’s undeniable that for high-traffic rooms, particularly in homes with children or pets, hardwood makes the superior floor choice. But due to their low cost and rustic look, there are certain situations in which softwoods—pine, spruce, and fir, for example—might be used effectively as flooring.

Take Your Pick
While the many varieties of hardwoods spoil homeowners with choice, softwoods encompass a category unto themselves. Pine is probably the softwood most frequently used in flooring, but it’s not the only one. Fir, cypress, cedar, spruce, and hemlock are other commonly available softwoods, and you will find additional options that are unique to your geographical region. Best of all, no matter which softwood you choose, it’s bound to cost less than any hardwood. For example, you can typically get pine for half the cost of oak, perhaps the most ubiquitous hardwood flooring material. And many cases, pine costs even less than vinyl flooring!

Besides affordability, another reason to like softwoods is that they’re more environmentally friendly than slower-growing hardwoods. Because many types of softwood grow quite quickly, they lend themselves to sustainable farming and harvesting. Like bamboo, softwoods can be considered a renewable resource.

Softwood Flooring - Hallway Installation

Photo: frankshirleyarchitects.com

The Cons
There are degrees of resiliency among softwoods, but it can be generally stated that in comparison with hardwoods, softwoods are more vulnerable to dents, dings, and scratches. In a kitchen where canned goods might fall from a countertop, or in a living room where the floor might be subject to a guest’s high heels, softwoods would inevitably—and sooner rather than later—begin to show wear.

That said, the durability of a floor depends not only the species of wood from which it’s made, but also on its finish. If you stain a softwood floor and then seal it properly with a few applications of polyurethane, chances are it’s going to stand up fairly well. In a room with only a modest amount of activity—a finished attic, for example—softwood flooring could be expected to last for many years.

Some folks don’t even see dents and dings as imperfections, but rather as valuable contributions to the character of a floor. Such homeowners might even purposely distress or antique a new floor, wanting it to look older than it really is. Those whose style preferences run to the rough and rugged may very well find pine more desirable than a highly resilient hardwood like hickory.

Know Your Knots
If you walk into the flooring section of your local home center, you might not actually find any softwood floors for sale. Except for certain types of pine, softwoods are rarely marketed as flooring products.

For the best deals, inquire at a nearby sawmill or lumberyard. Know that for any softwood species, there are different grades of quality. Grades 1 and 2 are most suitable for flooring, though you can save even more money by choosing a lower-grade wood, if you can live with, and love, the knottier material. If you want to conceal the nails that secure the floor, purchase boards with tongue-and-groove edges.

Finishing
Whereas hardwood floors often come prefinished, softwood hardly ever does. That can be a good thing, though, since it affords you the opportunity to finish the wood exactly as you’d like.

There are lots of options when it comes to finishing, including stains, varnish, and tung oil. Or, if you like the natural look, you can always leave the wood unfinished—after all, that’s how people did it for hundreds of years. To avoid problems with moisture, however, it’s recommended that you apply multiple coats of polyurethane, lightly sanding between each coat. After all, even though you’re paying considerably less for a softwood floor, you’re not going to save any money if you need to replace it right away!


Genius! Hamster Wheel Desk

You've heard of standing desks, but what about walking desks? Maybe this one-of-a-kind DIY desk is the piece that any office worker needs to lose that extra 5 pounds—all while answering email and meeting deadlines.

DIY Desk - Hamster wheel

There are DIY desks, and then there are D-I-Y desks. We learned that when we came across this so-called “hamster wheel standing desk” co-created by Autodesk’s Pier 9 Artist-in-Residence Robb Godshaw and Instructables developer Will Doenlen. It certainly looks like it’s fun to use—but why did they do it? We asked the makers to share.

As Will put it, “Standing desks are becoming more and more common in companies across the United States, but why stop there? We know that standing is better than sitting, but why not go the extra mile and make a desk you can walk on to keep active?”

But building the walk-able desk wasn’t a cake walk. “Cutting large curves from wood is difficult to do precisely,” said Robb. “Luckily, our employer has a world-class work shop on San Francisco’s Pier 9 that has advanced computer controlled cutting tools that made it quite trivial.”

In fact, Autodesk’s Pier 9 sounds like the place to be for the pro DIYer. According to Robb, “The facilities and tools here are only trumped by the incredible community of brilliant and generous makers of every kind” who “come together to make incredible things everyday.” We’re glad their creative ingenuity cooked up a project as cool as this one.

The desk looks truly amazing—but we had to ask. Does anyone actually get any mileage out of it? Will says yes, but admits that sometimes he’ll “switch to using a normal desk to rest when I get tired of walking.”

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- (4) Sheets of ¾” Plywood
- (4) Skateboard wheels
- (2) Pipes
- 240 wood screws
- Pint of glue
- Waterjet cutter (or jigsaw)
- Table saw
- Chop saw
- Clamps

STEP 1

design - hamster wheel desk

First, design your wheel. Things that are made to fit people are subject to lots of careful consideration. Ergonomics and safety are very important to any furniture project.

We considered adding in brakes but decided against it in order to really force the productivity out of the desk user. In the end, we decided on a wheel 80″ in diameter that would be supported by a 24″ wide base that contained a set of four skateboard wheels on which the wheel would rest. This design allows fluid rotation without requiring an axle for the wheel.

We already had a standing desk that fit through the wheel, so it was just a matter of avoiding interference and leaving enough room for a human.

The wheel was designed using Autodesk Inventor over the course of a few hours. See the files here.

STEP 2

We used a waterjet cutter to cut the arcs from four sheets of plywood, but this project could certainly be completed with ordinary power tools.

The arc pieces are the hardest to make, as their precision is key to smooth operation of the wheel. A carefully measured string used as a compass could be used to draw the arcs on a piece of plywood, which could be cut with a jigsaw. A hand router with a template and a trim-bit would make duplication fairly straight forward.

However, we both work at Instructables HQ at Autodesk’s Pier 9, and have access to a large OMAX waterjet cutter. It’s a computer-controlled machine that uses a high pressure waterjet to cut through any material, as long as it is less than 6″ thick. Wood, any metal, glass, stone—any material into any shape. You might think it crazy to cut wood with water, but it saved us many hours and saved a lot of wood because we could nest the parts within 1/8″ of each other. Plus, the precision made for smooth rolling and perfect registration of the stacked pieces upon assembly.

STEP 3

Hamster standing desk - cutting

We used a table saw and chop saw to cut out the remaining slats of wood used to span the two rings of the wheel. There are 60-something slats in total. We used plywood because we had it on hand. 1″x6″ pine would work great and look better, but cost more.

STEP 4

Hamster Standing Desk - Rings

Lay out the rings. The wheel consists of two wheel rings with some 60-odd plywood slats between the rims.

STEP 5

Hamster Standing Desk - glue up

We then glued the layers of each ring together, staggering the two layers by 60° to maximize overlap and stability. Initial clamping was done with ¼”-20 cap screws and T-nuts, followed by about 20 clamps. Glue was wiggled out liberally, spread with a piece of paper, then clamped to kingdom come.

Pro tip: A sign of a good glue-up is squeeze-out, a small amount of glue emerging along the glue seam indicating complete dispersion of glue.

STEP 6

Hamster wheel standing desk - base

The base consists of two large, hot-dog shaped pieces of wood, each of which holds two skateboard wheels. The two plates are held together with 5/16″ threaded rods inside steel pipes to pull the plywood sides together. The length of the pipe is key, and had to be changed a few times. Too short and the wheel won’t spin, and too long and it wiggles too much.

The skateboard wheels were attached to the base using 5/16 cap screws with two fender washers and two locknuts. As shown in the image, the first locknut should be super-tight, and the second a bit loose to avoid damage to the wheel.

STEP 7

Hamster wheel standing desk - test

Once the base was assembled, we tested out the action of the rings on the base to ensure they spun freely and didn’t hit the pipes or catch on jagged edges.

STEP 8

hamster wheel standing desk - attaching

Satisfied that the rings could spin on the base, we then screwed the slats onto the wheel. This part was tricky—we had to redo it several times since we found the distance between the two rings of the wheel would creep upwards or downwards as we attached more and more slats. The solution was to screw in a couple of pioneer slats at strategic 90° intervals along the rings in order to maintain a fixed distance between the rings as we attached the slats.

It took five of us working together for several hours. We went through approximately 250 screws total, or about every screw we could find in the wood shop.

Did you like this project? Then check out some of Robb’s other work, like this set of steel clamps in the shape of the alphabet, or find even more pictures of this one right here.


Bob Vila Radio: A Trick for Splinter-less Cuts in Plywood

You don't need fine cabinetmaking tools to get clean cuts in plywood. You just need a little know-how.

If you’re planning to cut plywood, here are a few points to keep in mind. Cutting plywood usually creates a splintered edge on one side of the sheet. That’s no big deal if your project requires only one side of the sheet to be splinter-free.

How to Cut Plywood

Photo: shutterstock.com

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

Which side will the splinters be on? That depends on the type of saw you’re using to make the cut. Generally speaking, radial arm saws and table saws produce splinters on the top side of the sheet, while saber saws and circular saws splinter the wood on the bottom. If your choice of tools is a muscle-powered hand saw, expect splinters on the top.

But what if you need both sides of the sheet to be free of splinters? Your best bet is to use the sharpest, stiffest knife you can find to make deep scores—on both sides of the wood—along the lines of the intended cuts. One caution: You’ll need to measure carefully to ensure your score lines end up in exactly the same place on both sides of the sheet. As always with power tools, make sure you don protective glasses and gloves before you start your cuts.

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.


Weekend Projects: 5 Easy DIY Candle Holders

What comes first, the candle or the holder? We bet that if you weren't already planning on it, these easy projects might very well inspire you to light a few candles this wintry weekend.

In any given year, there are probably only a handful of occasions that merit hauling out the formal candlesticks from their place within the dining room sideboard. For the quiet evenings and casual get-togethers that fill the rest of the calendar, candle holders ensure, not only that the wick and wax burn safely, but also that your votives, pillars, and tealights look beautiful, lit or unlit. As decorative accents, candle holders are among the many little details that help make a house a home. And while we love how they provide that finishing touch, we also love that DIY candle holders are so easy to make. Here are five favorite designs.

 

1. GO AU NATUREL

DIY Candle Holders - Birch

Photo: oleanderandpalm.com

As part of a natural tablescape or set inside a nonworking fireplace, birch-carved DIY candle holders bring the beauty of nature indoors. To make your own, simply flatten the ends on a cut-to-size log, and with a 1-1/2″ bit, drill a hole to accommodate a small, shallow candle. For instructions, visit Oleander and Palm.

 

2. MAKE CONCRETE PLANS

DIY Candle Holder - Concrete

Photo: homemade-modern.com

After you’ve completed your concrete countertop or concrete walkway, use any extra material to create modern, minimalist DIY candle holders. Though intimidating to the uninitiated, basic concrete projects like this one are just-add-water affairs. See how easy it can be; watch the video on Homemade Modern.

 

3. BREAK THE MOLD

DIY Candle Holder - Clay

Photo: gatheringbeauty.com

From Gathering Beauty, here are DIY candle holders made from a completely unexpected material: air-hardening clay. Mold the clay with your fingers, using a knife to facet the gem-like edges. Set a tea light into the top, and then as the last step, sit back and wait for your creation to dry—that’s right, no kiln needed!

 

4. PLUMBING PIPES

DIY Candle Holder - Plumbing Pipes

Photo: endlessacresfarmtiques.com

Kelly at Endless Acres Farmtiques set out to make DIY candle holders using only pipe fittings from the local hardware store. The result couldn’t be more dissimilar from traditional, fancypants candlesticks. Besides combining the pieces into your own creative assembly, all you need to do is spray-paint the metal.

 

5. ON A ROLL

DIY Candle Holder - Rolled Paper

Photo: instructables.com

Magazines, catalogs, brochures and leaflets get a second life when folded into cylinders and glued side by side. Together, they form a column that can support even a bulky, heavier-than-usual candle. Be careful, though: You should never leave a candle unattended, particularly not one resting on a paper holder!


4 Things to Do with an Unwanted Gift Card

Hanging on to any unwanted gift cards? Here's what to do when you've received a little extra spending money—for the stores where you're least likely to shop.

What to Do with Unwanted Gift Cards

Photo: amazon.com

If Santa brought you a gift card you’re not eager to redeem right away, studies suggest you may never do so. According to CEB TowerGroup, about $750 million in gift cards went unredeemed in 2014. What a waste! Rather than let yours expire, read on to learn four productive things you can do with a gift card you don’t want.

 

1. SELL IT

What to Do with Unwanted Gift Cards - Sell a Gift Card

Photo: shutterstock.com

Did you know that you can sell an unwanted gift card? Many websites buy them unused, or even partially used. Granted, you’re not going to get full face value for the card, but it’s not uncommon to recoup up to 93 percent. Visit Gift Card Granny to find out which of the many sites will pay the most for the card you were given.

 

2. TRADE IT

What to Do with Unwanted Gift Cards - Swap a Gift Card

Photo: shutterstock.com

With a site like GiftCardSwapping.com, you mail in your unwanted card along with a form indicating which gift cards you’d prefer. The site takes of the rest, matching you with another person who wants your card and who has traded in a card of his own, one that you’d want. It may take some time for the perfect match to be made, but the weeks after Christmas are arguably the best time of year for a successful trade, simply because there are so many of gift cards floating around.

 

3. REGIFT IT

What to Do with Unwanted Gift Cards - Regift a Gift Card

Photo: shutterstock.com

Why not re-gift the card on the birthday of a friend or family member you know would appreciate it more? Before setting the card aside, though, be sure to record the name of the person who gave you the card. After all, you wouldn’t want to lose track of things and end up giving the card back to person who’d given it to you!

 

4. DONATE IT

What to Do with Unwanted Gift Cards - Donate a Gift Card

Photo: shutterstock.com

If the season of giving has an end date, it’s not until, oh, say, Valentine’s Day. So there’s still ample time to donate your gift card to someone in need. Your Sam’s Club gift card would be welcome at a food bank, while a certificate to a clothing shop would be well suited to a local shelter. Reach out directly to the charity of your choice, or leave the homework to a civically minded program like Gift Card Giver, which pairs unused or partially used gift cards with nonprofit organizations.


Bob Vila Radio: Locating a Leak in the Roof

Before you can repair a roof leak, you first need to locate the problem. That sort of detective work is rarely a cinch, but these tips can help you crack the case more quickly.

The toughest part of fixing a roof leak is often to figure out where the water is getting in. It’s not uncommon for water to enter the roof at one spot before traveling, by dint of gravity, to the spot where you finally notice it as a stain on the drywall, for example, or as a saturated panel of fiberglass insulation.

How to Find a Leak in the Roof

Photo: shutterstock.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON LOCATING ROOF LEAKS, or read the text below:

The best way to spot a leak is to head up to the attic on a rainy day. Bring along a flashlight with a good, strong beam and use it to look for areas of wetness. Since water reflects light, so you should be able to find the spot pretty quickly. Once you’ve found it, remember to mark it so that you can find it again a day or two later.

When you have a clear day, make your way up to the roof. Meanwhile, ask a helper indoors to tap on the spot you marked in the attic. Working together, the two of you should be able to locate the shingles directly above the wet area. Communicating via speakerphone here may be prove faster than taking turns tapping.

If you don’t see signs of entry directly above the mark made in the attic, try looking a little further up the roof. Also, check to see if any of the “usual suspects” in roof leaks are located near to where you’re looking. These include dormer valleys, chimney flashing, and the gaskets surrounding pipes and wiring.

When it comes to making the repair, a little roofing cement can go a long way!

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 Right Way to Buy Paint

With a little planning, accurate measurements, and careful calculations, you can ensure that your next paint project doesn't leave your basement littered with a slew of half-full paint cans.

How Much Paint Do I Need?

Photo: shutterstock.com

Once you’ve conquered the often Herculean challenge of choosing a paint color, you must then figure out how much paint to buy. It’s a tricky calculation with a number of variables, ranging from your painting technique to the composition and condition of your walls. Buy too much paint, and you’ve not only wasted $30, but you’ve also got to store the surplus somewhere on your already crowded shelves. Buy too little, and on the day you finally work up the energy to paint, you’re delayed by needing to make a second trip to the local home center. Neither outcome is desirable, but fortunately you can avoid both with proper planning.

The major paint manufacturers each provide an online calculator aimed at helping consumers decide how much paint they need. For a ballpark figure, visit:

• Benjamin Moore

Sherwin-Williams

Behr

As handy as they are, online calculators sacrifice precision for convenience. Though more tedious, handling the calculations yourself enables you to purchase exactly the right amount of paint—no more, no less. The math isn’t difficult to do, and all you really need, besides a pencil and sheet of paper, is a tape measure.

THE SCOPE OF THE PROJECT
You first need to determine which surfaces you want to paint. Think it through: Are you going to paint the ceiling? What about the baseboards? Once you know exactly which surfaces you’re going to paint, figuring out the amount of paint to buy is a simple matter of calculating the square footage of those surfaces. You’ll also need to account for the fact that a satisfactory paint job usually requires at least two coats, particularly if you’re painting a lighter color over a darker one.

How Much Paint Do I Need? - Measuring Tape

Photo: shutterstock.com

MEASURING SOLID WALLS
Doors and windows tend to complicate things; solid walls are the easiest surfaces to deal with in terms of paint project planning. For each solid wall, simply multiply the width by the height to get the total surface area. For example, a solid wall that measures 12 feet by 10 feet would have an area of 120 square feet. If a second solid wall totals 100 square feet, the two solid walls together would be 220 square feet. Be sure to omit the trim—baseboards, crown molding, and so on—from your measurements.

MEASURING AROUND WINDOWS
To calculate the square footage to be painted on a windowed wall, first measure the wall to find its total area, then subtract the area of each window—just the window frame and the glass; leave out any molding. So for a 12-by-10-foot wall with one 4-by-6-foot window, you’d subtract 24 (the area of the window) from 120 (the total area of the wall), which would leave you with 96 square feet to be painted (120 – 24 = 96).

MEASURING AROUND DOORS
Follow a similar procedure to determine the surface to be painted on any wall with a doorway. First, measure the length and width of the wall and multiply those two measurements together to get the wall’s square footage. Next, calculate the area of the door panel only; for now, ignore the case molding. So for purposes of explanation, if a 12-by-10-foot wall has one door that measures 3 feet wide by 6 feet tall (or 18 square feet), then you’d subtract 18 from 120, leaving 102 square feet to be painted (120 – 18 = 102).

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Once you’ve measured every wall and subtracted the area of any windows and doors, you know the total wall surface area to be painted. Let’s say that, according to your calculations, you need enough paint to cover 500 square feet. How many gallons do you need to buy to get the job done?

Manufacturers typically say that one gallon of paint covers 250 to 400 square feet. That’s a pretty wide range, largely due to the fact that different surfaces take paint differently. If you are painting a smooth surface, chances are you can stretch a gallon to cover 400 square feet. If the surface is rough, textured, or previously unpainted—or if you’re making a dramatic color change—that gallon may cover only 250 square feet.

Let’s assume that, based on the condition of the walls in your home, a gallon can cover 325 square feet. You’ve determined that there’s 500 square feet of wall surface to cover. Those walls will require two coats, so you’ll ultimately be covering 1,000 square feet. At 325 square feet per gallon, you’ll need a little over 3 gallons (1,000 ÷ 325 = 3.08 gallons, to be precise).

In general, it’s rarely a mistake to round up and purchase slightly more paint than the math indicates you’ll need. Not only may your surfaces drink up a little more paint than you anticipated, but any extra paint will also be helpful for future touch-ups. But as rounding up to 4 gallons from 3.08 may leave you with more leftover paint than you really want, in this instance I’d suggest buying 3 gallons and 1 quart.

ALLOWING FOR CEILINGS AND TRIM
If you’re painting the ceiling, chances are you’re planning to use a color other than the one you’ve chosen for the walls. If that’s the case, simply measure the length and width of the ceiling, and multiply the two measurements together to find the square footage. If the ceiling encompasses an area of, say, 100 square feet, you know that you need enough paint in the second color to cover at least that area.

As it happens, a quart of paint typically covers about 100 square feet, so if you’re planning on just one coat, you may be able to get away with that smaller container size. But if you’re doing two coats, you’re going to need at least two quarts. The store salesperson is likely to remind you that two quarts usually cost the same as one gallon, so you might as well spring for the larger size, particularly if you’re planning to use the ceiling color elsewhere in your home.

The same advice applies to trim—assuming that you are going to paint it something other than the color you’ve chosen for the walls, measure trim separately from the rest of the room. Once you know how much surface area the trim covers, calculate how much paint you will need in order to give the trim two coats.


Bob Vila Thumbs Up: The Plywood Competition Starts Today

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

Bob Vila Thumbs Up Plywood

Bob Vila Thumbs Up - Plywood Cut

When it comes to choosing wood for your next DIY project, plywood might not be at the top of your list. But maybe it should be. Although plywood is not considered the most elegant of materials, its versatility makes it an easy choice for this month’s Bob Vila Thumbs Up competitors, all of whom have transformed and elevated this humble material in fascinating ways.

SEE ALL PROJECTS HERE

By using completely different methods, finishes, and power tools, these bloggers have showcased the diverse design opportunities that plywood offers—and they all get points for creativity. But only one can win this month’s prize—a $250 gift card from True Value.

SEE ALL PROJECTS HERE

So cast your vote today and every day in January to help your favorite blogger win the prize and be the first Bob Vila Thumbs Up winner of 2015. After all, it’s your vote that determines the outcome of this competition.

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

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