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- 3 Things to Look For in Replacement Windows
3 Things to Look For in Replacement Windows
If window replacement is in your future, it's time to read up on the latest in available features and materials.
Of all the components that go into residential construction, windows stand out as one of the few that heavily influence both the look of the home and its performance. But while windows are visible indoors and out, playing roles in interior design as well as outward curb appeal, people rarely install new windows for aesthetic reasons alone. Typically, says Jim Eldredge, a product manager with Sears Home Services, window-shopping homeowners are driven by practical concerns that include energy efficiency, maintenance, and security. If for any reason you’re now in the planning stages of a window replacement project, “your timing couldn’t be better,” Eldredge adds, noting that in recent years, window design and manufacturing have advanced by leaps and bounds. Today, the best windows boast an unprecedented degree of sophistication and offer a host of compelling new features. Some are minor—nice to have but nonessential. According to Eldredge, however, there are at least three features that are “worth it to insist on.” Read on to learn which are the most pivotal, and why.
“A good window is a poor wall”—that old saying goes back to the days when wood-framed, single-paned windows couldn’t compete with the thermal resistance of an insulated exterior wall. “That’s changing,” says Eldredge. There’s still no such thing as a perfect window, but many now boast best-ever efficiency. If you’re pursuing window replacement in an effort to conserve energy and control utility costs, Eldredge recommends “focusing only on windows with Energy Star certification,” like the Weatherbeater line installed by Sears Home Services. Weatherbeater windows are double-paned for added insulation, and argon, a denser-than-air gas injected in between the panes insulates even further. Another secret to the efficiency of modern windows: the use of a transparent, micro-thin layer of metal oxide, known as low-e coating. In the summer, low-e works to limit solar heat gain, while in winter, it prevents heat from escaping. Year-round, low-e protects rugs, upholstered furniture, and artwork from fading under the effects of ultraviolet sunlight. “It’s like sunscreen for your house,” Eldredge concludes.
If they’re going to look great and perform well over the long term, windows require care. How much? That “depends a lot on the material composition of the frame,” Eldredge says. Wood, though beautiful, demands the most attention. Aluminum stands up comparatively well to the rigors of year-round exposure, but it falls short in other ways. For example, as it’s an extraordinarily effective conductor of heat, aluminum usually makes for a poor insulator. Vinyl manages to combine the best of both worlds—the look of wood and the durability of aluminum. It’s perhaps no surprise that, as Eldredge points out, “vinyl windows are increasingly the go-to choice.” A popular option from Sears Home Services, Weatherbeater vinyl windows require little more than occasional cleaning. Of course, nobody likes cleaning windows, but some—Weatherbeater included—facilitate the dreaded chore with tilt-in sashes that provide easy access to the exterior glass. Once you eliminate what was always the trickiest part of doing it the old-fashioned way, “window-cleaning gets a whole lot easier,” Eldredge says.
SAFETY & SECURITY
You may live in an area where break-ins are rare, but it’s comforting to know your home can defend against would-be intruders, if necessary. “The trouble is that not every homeowner feels that way,” Eldredge says. Perhaps as a consequence, many customers who decide on window replacement do so for a simple reason—”they want to feel safer,” Eldredge says. In assessing the safety and security features of any given replacement window, “start with the hardware, including the locking mechanism,” Eldredge says, “but don’t ignore the glass.” Some types of glass are tougher than others. Upon impact, a traditional window shatters all too easily, leaving a gaping hole. But thanks to an interlayer of polyvinyl butyral (PVB), security glass boasts enhanced strength. You may need to ask for it; security glass typically doesn’t come standard. For example, among the window offerings from Sears Home Services, only the Weatherbeater Max line includes security glass. But while it may not be the right choice for everyone, there’s good reason to consider it if you’re concerned about crime or windblown debris in a storm.
Many pursue window replacement only once, if at all, in their tenure as homeowner. Unfamiliar territory for most, window replacement tends to provoke no small amount of anxiety. It’s a significant undertaking, both in terms of scope and consequences, and there are significant costs involved—not least because for all but the most ambitious do-it-yourselfers, the project entails hiring a pro. You can start by soliciting estimates from reputable contractors in your area—it’s never too early. Or, to explore your options further, you can go online now to schedule a free in-home consultation with Sears Home Services. Operating nationally, with a decades-long track record of success, Sears matches you with an expert coordinator, ready to walk you through the entire process, from the earliest stage of selecting a window to the final installation. Best of all, unlike local outfits, Sears provides a Satisfaction Guarantee. When you’re dealing with a component of your home as critical as its windows, it means a lot to work with a trusted brand. As Eldredge puts it, “There’s nothing like peace of mind.”
This article has been brought to you by Sears Home Services. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.
- Doors & Windows >
- Buyer’s Guide: Wireless Doorbells
Buyer’s Guide: Wireless Doorbells
Are you ready to upgrade your wired doorbell to an easy-to-install, portable option? Follow this shopping guide to find the best new chimes for your home.
Among the many advantages of high-tech home accessories is their ability to let us untangle ourselves from old-fashioned wired systems, granting us new-found flexibility and convenience, and simplifying our lives by leaps and bounds. Case in point: wireless doorbells. Unlike older models, these battery-powered units take mere minutes to install, repair, or even pack up when we move to a new house, making them an easy (and better yet, often inexpensive) upgrade worthy of homeowners’ attention. Today’s wireless doorbells come packaged with a host of modern conveniences, including enhanced home security and the ability to interact with guests from afar. When zeroing in on the best wireless doorbell for your abode, look for these must-have features—and then consider three top-rated models that combine all sorts of bells and whistles.
Choose the chime. Testing out the sounds that various doorbells make is perhaps the most fun and important part of the selection process. You’ll want a sound (or, in the case of most wireless doorbells, a collection of sounds) that won’t drive you batty every time a neighbor, mailman, or guest rings the bell. Fortunately, while traditional wire-reliant doorbells are typically limited to a single sound, a wireless system can offer dozens or even hundreds of options, including music and holiday themes, and even the ability to play files you’ve uploaded from your personal sound library, such as your own voice or a favorite song that isn’t already on the menu.
Materials matter. Generally speaking, budget doorbells are typically constructed of plastic and come in a variety of neutral colors to blend with your design, while luxury transmitters tend to be sleeker in design, with covers made from ceramic, metal, glass, wood, or plastic. And if your taste—or your home’s exterior or entry—changes over time, rest assured that the affordability and simple installation of a wireless doorbell make it an easy feature to update.
Be ever flexible. One of the biggest perks of a wireless doorbell is the portability of its parts. Without wires to root it, homeowners can take the entire system with them in a move, or pull the transmitter from its position to inspect and repair. Or, while the transmitter itself remains just outside your door, its indoor receivers can move throughout the home as needed—whether to avoid waking a sleeping child on the second floor, or to carry with you to the farther reaches of the house.
Likewise, while the sound of a traditional wired doorbell may be hard to hear in all corners of a large home, its wireless counterpart offers the flexibility of placing additional receivers in various locations around the house so you never miss a ring. Even larger homes may benefit from the slightly pricier long-range wireless doorbell, which increases the operating distance between transmitter and receiver from the standard 200 or 300 feet to nearly 3,000 feet.
Note: The only type of residence in which a wireless system might not work is one with walls made of stone, a solid material that’s likely to disrupt transmission. If that describes your situation, your home may be better suited for a wired bell.
Opt for the bells and whistles. After you’ve determined the basic functions that you need in a doorbell, there are still a plethora of perks offered by higher-end models that are worth consideration: flashing alerts for hearing-impaired homeowners, back-porch-friendly weatherproof receivers, and even built-in cameras to help you turn away unwanted guests remotely—handy to have if added security is top of mind. Any of these additions could take a doorbell out of the under-$100 range but could also—depending on your priorities—be well worth the extra expense.
After thoroughly comparing wireless doorbell reviews from consumers and publishers alike, we’ve rounded up three of the most highly rated models available today to help you find one that fits your home’s needs and your family’s budget. Check out the best wireless doorbells for busy households below.
SadoTech Model C Wireless Doorbell ($20)
Looking for an easy choice that guarantees customer satisfaction? Take a cue from the 4,900 Amazon customers who left 5-star reviews for this affordable wireless model from SadoTech. Its budget-friendly price point and 500-foot range have made it a crowd favorite. The library of 50 chime options, a weatherproof transmitter, and choice of nine different colors—from neutrals to rainbow brights—are all cherries on top. Available on Amazon.
Honeywell Décor Series Wireless Door Chime ($66)
This mid-priced model is both affordable and attractive, with a wood and satin nickel receiver that mounts either horizontally or vertically to make a handsome addition to any entryway. There’s more to this model than merely good looks, thanks to a handful of benefits that make it stand out from its simpler contemporaries. For starters, it connects with up to six other Honeywell devices, including motion detectors and window/door contacts, for added security, features a respectable 450-foot transmitter range, and provides six chime options, all of which make this system a very strong contender in the under-$100 category. Available at HomeDepot.com.
Skybell HD Wi-Fi Video Doorbell ($200)
Earning top marks from the discerning review team at The Sweet Home, the Skybell wireless doorbell offers a much more visual experience than the standard ring. When a guest presses the buzzer, homeowners are alerted by a chime throughout the home as well as a notification, including a high-definition video feed, on the corresponding mobile app. See, hear, and even speak with the person on the other end before you get to the door! The system also includes motion detection and package delivery alerts, as well as the ability to record suspicious activity outside your door. Available from Skybell.com.
- Kitchen >
- So, You Want to… Install a Range Hood
So, You Want to… Install a Range Hood
The range hood is responsible for capturing food odors and grease that fly around during meal prep. If you're in the market for a new hood, here's some info on selection and installation to help you make sure that your new appliance will be up for the job.
Whether integrated underneath the cabinets or suspended as a focal point over a kitchen island, the range hood is the unsung hero in the kitchen, rarely appreciated for the crucial role it performs by eliminating the airborne grease, smells, and heat produced during meal prep. If you’re getting ready to upgrade old appliances like dishwashers and refrigerators as part of a kitchen renovation, don’t forget the range hood—it deserves consideration too. You may have a general idea of what you’d like in a new range hood, but you’ll probably still be overwhelmed by the wide spectrum of prices and options available today. Selecting and installing a range hood involves more than just picking out a style that complements your existing range. To find a model that fits your kitchen space and cooking style, keep the following particulars in mind.
DUCTLESS VS. DUCTED
Range hoods use fans to draw up grease and steam, along with food odors and excess heat, but not all hoods perform the task equally well. The difference between average and effective largely depends on the type of ventilation available: ductless or ducted.
• Ductless models do not vent to the outside of your house. The fan on a ductless range hood draws in air and circulates it through a charcoal filter, which traps grease and some odors, but it’s usually not as effective as an exterior-vented model. The less expensive of the two styles, ductless range hoods can cost as little as $50, and go up from there to several hundred dollars.
• Ducted range hoods are more effective than their ductless counterparts, and they, too, have a wide price range. Ducted range hoods draw in cooking air, then whisk it outside your home via a wall vent or upward through the ceiling joists and roof. More affordable options start under $100, but homeowners who want a high-efficiency or designer ducted hood could pay well over $1,000.
The option for ductless or ducted also applies to the popular and space-efficient microwave-hood combinations. Homeowners shopping for a new combination unit often (mistakenly) focus primarily on the features offered by the microwave. But it’s also important to weigh a unit’s ventilation capabilities to make sure you’re selecting one that’s sufficiently effective and efficient for your needs.
FAN MOTOR PLACEMENT FOR PEACE AND QUIET
Some range hoods sound like airplanes getting ready to take off, while others are virtually silent—it largely depends on the location of the fan motor. Read the packaging carefully, or research online before purchasing, to determine where the unit’s blower is located.
When the blower is built right into the hood, you can clearly hear it when it’s running. The stronger the fan, typically, the louder the noise, although some higher-end models are designed to minimize sound.
If you want a quieter stovetop-cooking experience, look for a range hood that comes with a remote blower. You’ll still turn on the fan the same way, via a switch on the hood, but the fan will be farther away from your range—often either midway in a duct or on the top of the roof, thereby buffering the noise. A remote blower is just one of many bells and whistles that will add to the cost of a range hood. But if your kitchen is open to the living or dining area, or if guests always seem to congregate in your kitchen, the desire to cook and converse without having to yell over a fan may be worth the extra dollars.
If you’re a handy do-it-yourselfer, it’s relatively simple to switch out an existing range hood with a newer model. Moving a range hood’s location during a kitchen renovation or installing one for the first time, however, will require some accommodations.
Size: The standard width of a range hood is 30 inches (matching the width of a standard range), although wider wall-mounted and suspended island models are also available for custom kitchen designs.
Placement: For microwave-hood combinations, the bottom of the cabinet above the range should be at least 30 inches above the cooking surface to leave room for the installation. Fortunately, many contractors install this cabinet configuration in new homes for just that reason. The 30-inch distance is also the preferred upper-cabinet height for a range hood without a microwave, although individual models may have different requirements; once you’ve picked a keeper, read and follow the manufacturer’s recommended height specifications.
Power supply: If you’ve chosen a combination model, you must have an electrical outlet in the cabinet above the unit in order to power the fan motor and microwave. While it’s not required by building code, many new-home contractors will go ahead and install that designated outlet on a separate 15 or 20 amp circuit with enough juice to run a microwave. If you’re installing a hood for the first time and there’s no nearby outlet, an electrician must install one near the location before you can proceed. The specs on your unit will indicate its power needs. Not all simple range hoods draw enough power to necessitate a designated outlet, but microwave-hood combinations should have their own circuit.
Assembly. Both single hoods and microwave-hood combination units come with templates that mark exactly where to predrill or cut holes for screws, a power supply, and vent. The template will also show you where to attach the bracket that supports a hood combo on an exterior wall. If you are installing an outside-venting range hood, but you’re not mounting it on an exterior wall, the model you select should have the option of upward venting, as you’ll have to run the ducting through the ceiling.
Once you’ve installed your range hood, keep your investment fully functioning for its expected lifespan by giving it regular attention and using degreasing cleaners. Because range hood fans draw up grease and steam, prevent a sticky buildup from forming by spraying the underside of the hood with kitchen cleaner and wiping it down as frequently as you would any other surface in your cooking space.
If you cook a lot, it’s also a good idea to wash the exhaust fan filter at least once a month—otherwise, its holes may become so clogged with grease that it will no longer work effectively. Simply slide or pop out the stainless steel filter, place it in the sink, and scrub it using hot water, baking soda, and a degreasing dish soap. Some filters (check the manufacturer’s instructions) can be put directly into the dishwasher for even easier cleaning.
- How To's & Quick Tips >
- 5 Ways to Weather Wood
5 Ways to Weather Wood
With any of these 5 easy DIY methods, you can weather new wood and add years of rustic charm in a weekend—or less!
Many homeowners strive for the lived-in look—the shabby chic, modern farmhouse, or vintage eclectic vibe touted by interior designers and home publications alike. But if you’re building your own furniture to keep to a tight budget or purchasing a collection all at once because it’s simply more convenient, how you do make the wood look like it has lived through decades of sunshine, spills, use, and abuse despite being just a week old? There are actually a number of ways to age your furnishings fast, but bear this in mind before you get started: Different wood gets different results, even when subjected to the same process. And that process, whatever it is, is never an exact science. Use a light hand to see what results you get with your wood, then repeat the process if you want more oomph. Here, we outline a few physical and chemical methods for aging wood, whether a new 2×4 lumber structure or a store-bought piece of furniture, but you’ll still want to improvise a little until your results match your vision.
1. Fake Wear and Tear
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Safety glasses
- Paper bag
- Nails or screws
- Wire brush or steel wool
- Awl or 1/16-inch drill bit
Imperfect texture makes wood look authentically old. Fake years of use overnight by trying some of the following methods:
• Bang the wood up with blunt objects like hammers and crowbars, paying particular attention to any perfect edges.
• Strap on safety glasses and sling a bag of nails or screws against the boards to create a random pocking texture.
• Drag a coarse wire brush or some steel wool up and down in the direction of the grain to leave striations.
• Tap an awl or 1/16-inch drill bit with a hammer into the wood to mimic the look of insect damage from worms and termites.
No need to do all of the aforementioned activities, though. Use whatever tools you have on hand to wear down your new wood, and finish by sanding the entire piece to temper the weathered look. After you’ve achieved the desired texture, you can continue with any of the following methods to alter the wood’s color.
2. Go Gray
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Fine steel wool
- Distilled white vinegar
- Mason jar
Achieving a gray ashen look (similar to driftwood) is as easy as applying a DIY wood stain made from #0000-grade steel wool (no soap added) soaked in white vinegar. Grab a large mason jar, tear up one steel wool pad and stick it in the jar, then fill with 1½ cups white vinegar and screw on the lid. The rusting wool will change the tint of the vinegar, which you’ll then brush onto your wood. The darkness and color of the stain will vary depending how much steel wool you use (more means more surface reaction) and how long it’s left to sit in the vinegar.
For a weathered gray look, soak the steel wool anywhere from 30 minutes to two days. You’ll get a very subtle gray after 30 minutes to an hour of wait time; for even grayer shades, wait two or three hours. Silvery gray comes after two days of soaking. Consider using the lighter tints on blond woods and going with a darker gray when trying to fade red and brown woods. When the solution is ready, remove the steel wool and dip a paintbrush into the vinegar. Apply to your wood as you would any store-bought paint or stain. Wet wood always looks very different when dry, so let your treatments dry completely before deciding to add another layer.
3. Mix Up a Richer Wood Stain
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Fine steel wool
- Distilled white vinegar
- Mason jar
- Rubber gloves
For rich, warm weathered tones, use the instructions above for producing a gray stain (#0000-grade steel wool soaked in a mason jar of white distilled vinegar), but this time let your mixture sit for anywhere from two days to a month, or longer, to achieve a deep, rustic brown. The steel wool may even completely dissolve! If it’s still in there, use tongs or rubber gloves to remove it. Test out the stain on your wood by painting a small area on the back or underside of your project—or even better, on a scrap piece of the same lumber—to see the resulting color. Let it dry. If it’s too dark, simply dilute the solution with some water.
When you’re happy with the color, grab your paintbrush and apply the solution following the grain. Brush it on lightly, though, and use a dry rag to wipe up excess as you work, just in case it’s still darker than expected. Let the wood dry completely before you decide whether or not to add another layer.
4. Weather with Paint
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Paint (three or four colors)
- Orbital sander
- Wood stain
First, hand-sand and bang down any perfect edges with a hammer to give the piece a rustic vibe. Then, using a mostly dry brush, paint thin, inconsistent coats in three or four colors that suit your color scheme. (We recommend that one of the colors be white for better contrast.) The key here is to apply each color sparingly—one on top of the other—with some of the wood still peeking through. Don’t bother drying between applications; the color-blending will help make the weathered effect appear more authentic. Let your wood dry overnight.
The next day, bust out the orbital sander and work the machine over the wood. Again, inconsistency and imperfection is actually perfect. Rustic is the goal! Wipe off the dust from your sanding, apply a thin coat of the stain of your choice, and let it dry, and you’ll have a piece that will look like it was constructed from wood reclaimed from an old painted barn.
5. Bleach with a Sun Bath
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Baking soda
- Plastic container
- Drop cloth
- White vinegar (optional)
- Spray bottle (optional)
- Hard-bristle brush
Here’s a crazy idea: Use the elements to weather your wood. One sunny afternoon outdoors could add years to your furniture’s appearance. Note that this method works only with tannic woods, such as redwood, cedar, pine, mahogany, and red oak, so check what type of wood your piece is made of before you begin. While you’re at it, make sure the wood is untreated so that the star ingredient—baking soda—can react with the natural agents; if it’s already treated, you’ll need to strip it and sand it down.
Find a sunny patch of yard. Set up sawhorses if you’re weathering just a board or two of wood; use drop cloths if you’ll be working on a piece of furniture. Mix equal parts water and baking soda in any available plastic container, enough to apply it thickly over your wood. Cover the wood with thick coats of the baking soda paste using a standard paintbrush, then leave the wood in the sun to dry for at least six hours. If you want to either intensify the reaction or speed it up, spray the wood with white vinegar soon after applying the baking soda and water mixture.
After the wood has spent a day in the sun, brush away the dried baking soda with a hard-bristle brush, following the grain of the wood. Rinse with water or a dampened rag, and then dry the wood with a clean cloth. You should see a grayish tint in the wood now. Want more impact? Repeat the process. Afterward you’re done, your piece will be ready for any standard wood stain.
Remember: Nothing is permanent. If you’re not crazy about your end results, rest assured that they’re only surface deep! You can always paint it or strip it and try again, thanks to the forgiving nature of this beloved building material.
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.
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 just make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.
- How To's & Quick Tips >
- How To: Age Metal
How To: Age Metal
Give your decorative metals, be they silver, copper, or cast iron, a delightfully distressed makeover with these easy DIY techniques.
Today, many homeowners strive to achieve a lived-in vibe with their interior design choices. Who wants furniture that looks like it just came out of a catalog? Or a pallet project that trumpets the fact that it was made just last weekend? Those same DIYers who go to great lengths to distress wood so their furnishings radiate vintage appeal also don’t want brand-new metal accents that stick out like a sore thumb. The solution? Age the metal to conceal the recent genesis of your furniture while creating a striking decorative finish. Unlike such materials as glass or tile, metal may even look better with a little antique patina than it does in its unblemished state—so much so that you might want to age all your metal accents. Fortunately for DIYers, the prospect of aging metal yourself doesn’t have to give you gray hairs. Read on to learn how to take the shine away from silver, copper, and cast iron with a minimum of steps and materials.
Method #1: When Sulfur Met Silver
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Dish soap
- Plastic gloves
- Large pot
- Eggs (one or two)
- Plastic freezer bag
- Paper towel (optional)
- Soft cloth
NOTE: This technique works best on sterling silver of 92.5% purity or lower.
Before aging silver, hand-wash it with soap and cold water to remove surface oils. Put on a clean pair of gloves before handling the washed silver to prevent the oil on your fingers from transferring to the piece.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, toss in one egg (or two, for larger silver pieces), and cook until the egg is hard boiled. Remove the egg from the pot and crack it open, separating the yolk from the white.
Place the silver into a freezer bag with the crumbled yolk of the hard-boiled egg, but don’t let the yolk touch the silver. (If they touch, you may end up with spotting in your new patina.) For larger pieces of silver, you may need to use a paper towel to separate the metal from the yolk. Seal the bag, and let it sit for six to eight hours. The silver will soon begin the aging process, thanks to the sulfur in the eggs.
It’s time to unleash the power of science! Open the bag outdoors so the sulfur fumes don’t invade your home. Remove and clean the aged silver with soap and water, gently buffing the high points with a clean cloth to reveal a rich patina.
Method #2: Photo-Finish Copper
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Steel wool
- Shallow plastic tray
- Rapid fixer (found in camera stores)
- Vinegar (optional)
- Salt (optional)
- Soft-bristle brush
- Copper sealant spray
Clean the copper with soap and water to remove surface residue, then scrub it with steel wool.
Fill a shallow plastic tray with a solution of two tablespoons water and a tablespoon rapid fixer—a fluid used for photographic processing. If you prefer copper with a blue-green complexion, swap the rapid fixer for a solution of equal parts vinegar and salt.
Put on gloves, and submerge the clean copper in the solution for up to 10 minutes. You can also use a brush to coat the surface of the copper.
Remove the copper from the bowl and let it air-dry completely to reveal either a dark patina or a timeworn turquoise tint, depending on the ingredients you selected in Step 2.
Rinse the copper in cool water. Allow the piece to dry fully before coating it with a fast-drying copper sealant spray, which will maintain its beauty for years to come.
Method #3: Make an Impression on Cast Iron
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Sandpaper (optional)
- Dust mask (optional)
- Soft cloth
- Antiquing solution
- Cast iron paint
- Clear varnish
Lay any decorative piece of cast iron flat on a sturdy surface. Using the claw end of a hammer, ding random locations on the cast iron until you have achieved a rugged, uneven pattern. If you prefer a less rough-hewn patina, run a piece of fine-grit sandpaper across the cast iron to create more subtle blemishes. Don’t forget to wear a dust mask when using sandpaper so you don’t inhale any fine metal shavings.
Wipe off any metal dust from the cast iron with a soft cloth.
To complete the look of a realistically rustic cast-iron surface, apply store-bought antiquing finish or a few coats of cast iron–friendly paint, followed by clear varnish.
- How To's & Quick Tips >
- How To: Use a Speed Square
How To: Use a Speed Square
This nifty measuring miracle will guide you through all sorts of DIY carpentry projects. Learn the basics here!
Planning a carpentry project? Quick, grab a speed square! Also known as a rafter square or triangle square, this simple tool, invented by Albert Swanson, has been making woodworkers’ lives easier since 1925, thanks to its versatility and affordability. More than 80 years later, you can still use this multitasking wonder as a scribing tool, a protractor, a miter square, a try square, or even a saw guide. It makes easy work of everything from building stairs and cabinets to measuring roof pitches to making picture frames and birdhouses.
Before we get started, here are a few pieces of terminology you’ll need to know:
• The lip—also known as a fence—runs along one of the 90-degree sides of the speed square and allows you to brace the tool against the board or surface you’re working with. Often it will have at least one ruler on it; the more, the better.
• The pivot is a point at one end of the lip about which you can rotate the speed square to find angles. (It’s often marked right on the tool; if not, the 0-degree mark should be at the opposite end of the lipped ruler from the pivot.)
• The hypotenuse is the longest side of the speed square. Here, you’ll see markings from 0 to 90 degrees.
Once you get the hang of the speed square, you’ll find few tools quite as handy. Below, learn how to use a speed square to its fullest potential!
Line Scribing with a Speed Square
When you’re constructing cabinetry, building sheds, or working on other projects that necessitate lots of long, straight cuts, line scribing makes your job easier by letting you quickly mark exactly where to saw. When I was a kid, my dad made cut lines on plywood so fast with his speed square that I’d be boggle-eyed impressed.
Not every speed square has the markings and notches needed for scribing. Look for one or two rows of notches, each a quarter inch apart, in the open middle of the speed square. Fit your pencil’s tip into the desired notch (if, for example, you’re looking to cut two inches from a plywood board, you’d choose the notch at the two-inch mark), then drag both your square and pencil along the edge of the board. In seconds, you’ll have marked a straight line completely parallel to the edge and as long as you need, potentially as long as the board itself.
The square can be flipped over to be butted on any side of the board, allowing for perpendicular scribing so long as that line is within the width of your square. For lines further into the center of the board, brace the square’s lip against the board so that the tool can act as a firm perpendicular edge to butt a ruler or yardstick up against.
Finding Angles with a Speed Square
Whether you want to make a nice pitched roof on your kids’ treehouse or you need a utility ramp for your shed entrance, getting the right angle on every side is tricky work that can be simplified with your speed square. First, brace the speed square lip against the side of the board you’re working with. The other arm of the right angle will point away from you. Look at the degree marks along the hypotenuse, and you’ll see that this arm marks a 90-degree angle. Holding the pivot point in place, swing the speed square lip away from the board. Find your desired angle along the hypotenuse—for instance, if you want to mark a 30-degree angle, perfectly align the 30-degree tick mark with the edge of your board—then hold the square firmly in place, and draw your 30-degree line along the edge of the speed square that is opposite the angle readings and also perpendicular to the tool’s lip. Always use this edge to mark angles; use the hypotenuse for marking only 45-degree cuts. (See the next section on using the tool as a miter square to learn how to do this.)
Using the Speed Square as a Miter Square
Cutting crown moldings in your front room or a frame for your gallery wall becomes a breeze with a speed square! Simply brace the lipped side of the speed square against the edge of your board, pencil a line up the hypotenuse of the speed square, and—voilà! You have a perfect 45-degree angle for easy corners. Need one in the opposite direction? Just flip the speed square and use the back side of the tool. Invest in a larger speed square, and you could even use it for longer cuts.
Using a Speed Square as a Try Square
The 90-degree right angle leading out from the pivot and the lip makes quickly and accurately finding right angles a no-brainer. This is especially helpful when you’re faced with repetitive cuts in projects like deck-building. Simply brace the lip against the edge of your board, run your pencil straight up the right angle, and there’s your 90-degree line for cutting!
Using the Speed Square as a Saw Guide
When you’re looking to save time on sawing the endless boards needed for that new deck, a quality metal speed square can be a real asset as a saw guide. By skipping pencil lines and setting the tool directly on the board you’re cutting, you both eliminate steps and offer a sturdy edge for straighter, faster cuts. Pro safety tip: Brace the square’s lip on the side of the lumber that’s away from you so that as you hold the square in place, you’re practically pulling the braced square and lumber toward you. Then, when you’re running your circular saw against the square’s edge and pushing the saw away from you, you’ll have better control of the lumber. The opposing forces cancel each other out, making the board more stable.
Look for a strong, large speed square with as many features as possible—maybe even a built-in level—and you’ll never start another DIY job without it.
- Roofing & Siding >
- Solved! What to Do About a Leaky Roof
Solved! What to Do About a Leaky Roof
When it's raining inside your house, there's never time to spare. You may not always be able to fix a leaky roof yourself, but you can take steps to mitigate the damage—and the cost of repair.
Q: Help! I woke up after last night’s storm to find a discoloration on the kitchen ceiling and a puddle underneath. What do I do about this new leak?
A: There’s nothing quite like an indoor puddle to put a damper on your rise-and-shine routine, is there? The first thing to do is mitigate any moisture damage. That can get complicated, since a leaky roof doesn’t always appear as a puddle on the floor (or at least not immediately). Occasionally, the only sign of a leak is a subtle discolored patch on your ceiling or wall, caused by water pooling behind it. When you’re lucky enough to spot it early on, intervene as soon as possible using the following steps.
Secure the scene. If water’s just dripping onto the floor, consider yourself lucky and move a bucket to catch the falling drops. (While you’re at it, save your sanity by propping up some scrap wood inside the container to mute the annoying drip-drip-drip sound.) If you’re dealing with more than mere drips, move as much as possible out of the water’s path and use thick plastic sheeting to cover items that are too heavy to relocate.
Drain the water. Get up on a ladder or sturdy chair and puncture the water-damaged patch with a screwdriver. You may think that you’re making things worse by punching a hole, but if you skip this step more moisture will seep in. In fact, the weight of the water could even cause your ceiling to sag or collapse, adding one more repair to your growing list. Ultimately, patching up a small, 1/2-inch drainage hole is a lot easier and cheaper than dealing with structural damage.
Start sleuthing. So, where’s the source of that pesky leak? Water travels down trusses or flashing until it finds a weak point, so the spot where the water’s entering the room isn’t necessarily underneath—or even near—the portion of the roof you’ll have to fix. If you have attic access, start by heading up there during daylight hours. Turn off the lights and look up to see if there’s any small opening that lets sunshine stream through—an obvious source for your leaky roof.
Fight water with water. Can’t spot any signs of damage from the attic? Then your next step is the water-test method: Have someone stand outside on the roof and, using a lengthy hose, shower the roof in small sections until water starts dripping into the room again, giving you a second chance to pinpoint the source.
Phone a professional. Sometimes, finding the source of a leak is more complicated than simply spotting a hole in your attic’s ceiling. From failing flashing to clogged gutters to crumbling shingles, the list of potential causes is very long. If you’ve conducted a thorough inspection and you’re still not certain what’s causing your roof to leak, it’s time to call in a pro to both locate the problem and recommend a fix. The actual repair will depend on many factors, including roof pitch and type of shingle.
Meanwhile, lay out a tarp. If you’ve found the roof leak but can’t get a same-day repair, you’ll have to take temporary measures to protect your roof and home from snow, rain, and more water damage. If the roof is dry enough for you to climb safely, try covering the affected area with heavy plastic sheeting or a tarp (at least six millimeters thick) and some 2×4′s. Start at least four feet out from the problem area and slowly roll the plastic over it, past the the ridge of the roof, and four feet down the opposite side to cover the leaky portion completely. Place one 2×4 at the “top” of the tarp (on the opposite side of the roof) and one at the bottom (below the leaky spot) to weigh the tarp down. Fold the tarp back over each plank and fasten it to the wood with a staple gun. The bottom 2×4 should rest on an eave or against a fascia board. Lay a third 2×4 on the top board, which you’ve already wrapped in plastic sheeting, and secure it to the wrapped board with nails to help anchor the covering. Place more 2×4′s along the perimeter of the plastic if you’re worried about wind.
While you’re working outside, remember: Proceed carefully and—unless you want to compound the problem with a few more leaks—do not puncture your roof by nailing or screwing boards directly to it.
- Contests & Give-Aways >
- Enter Bob Vila’s 3rd Annual Fall Flooring Give-Away Today!
Enter Bob Vila’s 3rd Annual Fall Flooring Give-Away Today!
Enter for your chance to win a $5000 flooring makeover from Lumber Liquidators!
Fall is the season of change. Leaves turn color, the temperature drops, and we slowly start retreating indoors for winter. This autumn, bring the spirit of change inside of your home by installing new hardwood flooring. We’ve partnered with Lumber Liquidators to give one lucky reader a $5,000 flooring makeover. Enter the 3rd Annual Fall Flooring Give-Away today for the chance to transform your house from the ground up!
Today and every day this month (starting at 12:00 p.m. EST on August 31, 2016 through 11:59 a.m. EST September 30, 2016), enter for the chance to win a $5,000 gift card for Lumber Liquidators flooring. See Official Rules below.
The winner of this month’s giveaway will receive $5,000 of premium hardwood flooring, courtesy of Lumber Liquidators. Now a household name, the company was founded in 1993 by building contractor, Tom Sullivan. Since then, it has become the premier retailer for flooring, offering low prices on a wide variety of flooring types, including solid and engineered hardwood, bamboo, cork, and resilient vinyl flooring.
- Since Lumber Liquidators is the largest manufacturer of flooring in North America, they have an extensive selection of unfinished and prefinished hardwood flooring—you’ll find everything you need in one place.
- The durable engineered hardwood and resilient vinyl options at Lumber Liquidators can dodge the harmful effects of changing temperatures, humidity, and routine wear and tear.
- Customize your look with a variety of finishes, and don’t forget their clickable flooring options with easy assembly!
Enter Bob Vila’s Fall Flooring Give-Away today and everyday to increase your odds of winning a $5,000 flooring makeover from Lumber Liquidators.
To learn more about Lumber Liquidators and their variety of flooring options, click here.
Bob Vila’s “3rd Annual $5,000 Fall Flooring Give-Away” is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Contest Period for Prize runs from 12:00 p.m. (EST) Wednesday, August 31st, 2016 through 11:59 a.m. (EST) Friday September 30th, 2016. One entry per household per day on BobVila.com. Alternative means of entry for Drawing is available by faxing your name and address to 508-437-8486 during the applicable Entry Period. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. By entering, all entrants agree to the Official Rules.
- How To's & Quick Tips >
- How To: Find Property Lines
How To: Find Property Lines
Before you start building or planting toward the margins of your property, head off disputes with the folks next door by first figuring out where your space begins and ends.
Good fences may make good neighbors, but accidentally erecting one on a neighbor’s property can lead to hard feelings, or even a lawsuit. Whether you want to build an addition, figure out who’s responsible for tree removal, or plant a border hedge, you need to know where your yard legally ends and the next guy’s begins. Here, we’ve put together the most common methods for figuring this out. Some are simple and inexpensive, adequate for satisfying your curiosity. Others demand skills and will cost a few bucks, but may be necessary for certain construction projects. Read on to learn how to walk the line—and ensure that your house and landscaping stay on your side of it.
Check Sidewalks and Streetlights
Examine the lines that are cut in the sidewalk in front of your house. Often, the contractor who poured the sidewalk started and stopped on the property lines, so those cut lines may coincide with the edges of your property. As well, the appearance of the concrete on your side of the property may be slightly different from that on your neighbor’s side. Streetlights, too, are often placed on property lines. While these visual clues are good indications of property lines, if you intend to build or install something on your land, you’ll need additional verification.
Visit the Local Zoning Department
The zoning department is the municipal office that records plats: the maps, drawn to scale, that show land division. Unless your home was built more than a hundred years ago, you can probably obtain a copy of your block and lot plat for a minimal fee. This will give you the exact dimensions of your lot—in other words, the property you legally own—in relationship to other lots on your block.
Retrace the Surveyor’s Steps
When the surveyors were laying out the original plat, they determined a starting point for all the lots on your block. You can retrace the original surveyor’s steps by locating the starting point, which will be labeled on the plat as either the “common point” or the “point of beginning” (POB). It is often the center point of a side street. The original surveyor’s measurements will all be listed on the plat. With a long measuring tape, follow the plat as you would a treasure map, measuring your physical property as you go. Your measurements should correspond with the ones on the plat.
Locate a Hidden Survey Pin
Survey pins are thin iron bars, two to three feet long and sometimes capped with plastic, which the original survey crew inserted on the property lines. If you have access to a metal detector, move the device over the ground along the sidewalk to the curb to locate the survey pin. Pins may be buried just under the surface, or up to a foot below. A few days before you dig, however, you must call 811, the free, federally designated number that will route you to your local utility company. Ask the utility company to come out and mark any buried lines so you don’t unintentionally hit one. There’s no charge for this service, but if you damage a buried utility line, you could end up having to pay to repair it.
Beware of Moved Survey Pins
Survey pins are not foolproof markers. Over the years, previous owners, utility workers, or even a tree-removal company may have dug up a survey pin and reinserted it nearby, or just tossed it aside. Your actual property line, however, does not change just because someone messed with the survey pin. For example, if you locate survey pins 60 feet apart on opposite sides of your property but the plat says your lot is 50 feet wide, one of those pins may have been moved, and your property is still just 50 feet across.
Dig Out Your Deed for Additional Info
In older neighborhoods, property owners may have purchased or sold off portions of their yards. Locating a survey pin won’t give you this information, but the most recent legal description recorded on your deed will list any such changes. If you don’t have a copy of your deed filed with your homeowner records, get one at the register of deeds office, often located within your county courthouse.
Consider the Metes and Bounds Survey
If your deed features a metes and bounds survey—a survey that describes the exact distances and directions from one established point on your property line to the next—you’ll have all the information you need to locate your property lines. Unfortunately, this type of legal description is notoriously difficult to comprehend unless you’re a surveyor.
The metes and bounds survey cites a starting point, located at one of corners of your property. From there, the survey will give you detailed directions and distances to help you locate the rest of the corners and boundary lines of your property. It’s similar to a connect-the-dots game, except you do it on foot, not on paper. You’ll need a long measuring tape as well as a good-quality directional compass so you can move systematically from point to point.
But egad! You’ll find that a metes and bounds survey reads like a Shakespearean play. A typical survey may tell you to “commence” from the point of beginning (POB), “running thence westerly 100 feet, thence southerly at an interior angle of 55 degrees to a point,” and so on until it brings you back to the original starting point.
Bring in a Professional Surveyor
Before you drive yourself too crazy with the metes and bounds survey, know that the only legally binding method to determine exact property lines—essential, for example, if you intend to build an addition to your house—is to have a professional survey. Local building codes will determine how close to your property line you can legally build. A professional survey could cost from a few hundred to more than a thousand dollars, depending on the size of your property and the complexity of the survey. Costly, perhaps, but adding to your dream house while keeping in your neighbors’ good graces is priceless.
- Lawn & Garden >
- DIY Lite: Build a Backyard Hammock Stand from Scratch
DIY Lite: Build a Backyard Hammock Stand from Scratch
Build this outdoor hammock stand in an afternoon—just in time to take a nice long nap in the sun!
Wish that you had a relaxing moment in a camping hammock in your own backyard, but have nowhere to hang it? Rather than wait years for two trees to grow large enough to anchor it, solve this problem before the end of summer by building a DIY hammock stand. Made from a few planks of lumber, this hammock stand is lightweight enough to pull toward any shady corner—even follow the shade throughout the afternoon—yet sturdy enough so that any grown adult can enjoy nap time once again.
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- 2×4 lumber (7 8-foot-long pieces)
- Set square
- Power saw or handsaw
- Wood clamps
- Power drill
- 6-inch hex bolts with nuts (12)
- Washers (24)
- Wood glue
- 3-½-inch screws (6)
- 4-inch metal brackets (4)
- 2-inch screws (24)
- Wood stain (preferably for exterior use)
- Varnish (optional)
- Hitch rings with plate (2)
- 3/8″ spring link (2)
The first thing to do is cut all the lumber to the dimensions needed for the project. To make what we’ll continue to refer to as the “base” of the DIY hammock stand, you will need two 8-foot-long 2×4s.
Lay them so that the 3-½-inch sides (remember, a 2×4 isn’t exactly 2 inches by 4 inches) rest flat on the floor. Then, use a set square to help you make mirroring 30-degree angle cuts at each end of the boards. You’ll pencil lines from the top left and top right corners of each plank at a 30-degree angle in toward the center, then cut. Sand down your lumber, paying particular attention to the sawn ends.
Note: You’ll make several cuts at 30- and 60-degree angles during this project. If you don’t own a fancy power saw, you can use a set square and a hand saw instead.
Next, cut two 2×4s in half to make four “lateral posts,” each with one flat and one angled end. To make these cuts without any wood scraps, measure and mark the exact center of each length of lumber—at 4 feet in, and then 1-3/4 inches down. Lay your set square over the center dot so that you can draw a line at a 30-degree angle directly through your mark. Draw a line at a 30-degree angle, and cut. Sand down your cut pieces.
Now, you’ll create “slant timbers” to connect the base and lateral posts for extra support (see the diagram in Step 4). Take one of the couple remaining 2×4s, measure to find its center (again: at 4 feet in, and then 1-3/4 inches down). Draw a line at a 60-degree angle through the center, and cut following the line. You’ll have two pieces of wood of the same length, each with one end at 60-degree angle.
Cut the straight end of each piece at a 60-degree angle, too, but one that is a mirror image. Sand down all of the pieces.
Cut four 15-inch pieces from another of the remaining 2×4s. Leave two pieces with 90-degree cuts on either end; you’ll use those to join the top part of the lateral posts. The other two should each have one end flat and the other cut at a 30-degree angle (so that the cuts mirror each other); those two will strengthen where the base meets the lateral posts. Sand them completely.
On a flat surface, start laying out the planks according to the diagram above to build the DIY hammock stand:
• Start with the one base lumber (its longer side should face up) and a lateral post on each side, touching but not overlapping.
• Then lay a slant timber diagonally to connect the lateral post and base; where the slant timber’s end overlaps the base should be about 20 inches in from the base’s end.
• Finally, position the four 15-inch cuts: two (without angles) on top of the lateral posts and two (with angles) overlapping where the base and the lateral post meet.
Now, start to actually assemble the structure with bolts, beginning at one end. (You’ll see we started on the right side.)
Hold the pieces of the in-progress hammock stand with clamps as you and drill pilot holes through both layers of both wood. You’ll want to drill as straight as possible to easily pass the bolts through afterward. Drill two holes through the top of the stacked 15-inch pieces and lateral posts, one hole through each end of the slant timbers, and two holes through each of the 15-inch cuts joining the base and the lateral post.
Repeat on the other side, so that you end up with 12 holes total.
Now, lay out your remaining cuts—the second base wood and the two unused lateral posts—as you did in Step 4, just without any 15-inch pieces.
As the drill bit is not long enough to drill through three layers of 2×4s to join both sides of the DIY hammock stand, you need to precisely mark the holes you’ve just completed onto your remaining materials. Lay the already bored base and slant timbers over top of them, and use your drill to mark the holes’ locations. Remove the wood you’ve already drilled in Step 5, and complete the holes where you’ve marked. Again, remember to drill as straight as possible.
Thread a 6-inch hex bolt with washer through each hole in the first half of the structure that you created in Steps 4 and 5, assembling any overlapping layers as previously explained. Apply a little wood glue between each piece of lumber.
Finish by laying the second base and the two lateral post on top. Cap each bolt with a washer and a nut, in that order, then tighten.
Wait until the glue dries before flipping the structure vertically. Then, add two feet to steady the DIY hammock stand. You’ll cut your last 2×4 in half to make them.
At the center of one of the 4-foot-long pieces, cut a notch into the 3-1⁄2-inch-wide side of the 2×4 that measures 1-inch deep and 4-1⁄2 inches wide (about as wide as your hammock stand measures after assembly) using a wood chisel and hammer.
Repeat to make a second foot for the opposite end of your hammock stand, then sand both pieces.
On the first foot, line the notch with wood glue, then turn 2×4 so that its 3-1⁄2-inch side remains flat to the ground and slide it up to fit the notch snugly around the bottom of the hammock stand. Drill pilot holes for three 3-1⁄2-inch screws. Then, affix metal brackets (using four 2-inch screws apiece) to connect the foot to the lateral post on each side of the stand.
Repeat with the second foot.
Almost done! This is what your DIY hammock stand should look like at this point.
Apply a coat of exterior wood stain in the color of your choice to protect the wood from the moisture it’ll encounter outdoors, working the stain in the direction of the grain with your brush. If you choose an oil-based stain, use a natural-bristle brush; for latex stains, use a synthetic-bristle brush. Then, leave the wood to dry for the amount of time suggested on the stain’s package (likely 24 hours).
If you don’t have a specially formulated exterior wood stain to help weatherproof your backyard project, you can choose any standard wood stain followed by at least two coats of varnish instead.
Finally, to hang the hammock, fasten a hitch ring with four 2-inch screws into the top of each end (over where the lateral posts sandwich a 15-inch-long plank). Then use a 3/8″ spring link—one that specifies a working load limit of at least a couple hundred pounds—at either end to hook the hammock to the hitch ring. Last, but not least, climb on in and enjoy the view from your new DIY hammock stand.
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.
All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from BobVila.com
With fair weather having arrived finally, it’s time to turn your home improvement efforts to the backyard and your deck, porch, or patio—the parts of the home built specifically to enjoy the extra hours of sunlight. Guided by these practical pointers and inspiring ideas, you can introduce beauty, comfort, and utility to your backyard and outdoor living areas, making them as inviting and enjoyable as your home interiors.