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Is Varnish or Polyurethane the Right Finish for You?

Learn the pros and cons of polyurethane and varnish—and which of these popular finishes can best preserve your next woodwork of art.

Varnish vs Polyurethane - What Wood Finish to Choose

Photo: fotosearch.com

A coat of durable wood finish on your hardwood floors, fine furniture, and outdoor decking can mean the difference between a long, lustrous lifespan and one cut short by the passage of time and exposure to the elements. Given the unattractive consequences of poorly protected wood surfaces and the annoyance of frequent refinishing, it’s smart to do your homework first to ensure that you’re doing your best to preserve these valuable features. Polyurethane and traditional varnish are two popular finishes that cure into durable protective coats when applied. But although they’re often referred to interchangeably, each one has distinct uses and offers varying levels of protection from environmental elements. Up your woodworking IQ and learn which product is best suited for your next project, so you’ll be able to attain the perfect protection from start to finish.

Varnish vs Polyurethane - Water-Based Polyurethane

Photo: fotosearch.com

Polyurethane

Polyurethane is like a liquid plastic, often either a pure synthetic plastic or a blend with resin. There’s an option for everyone: DIYers have the choice of a water- or oil-based resin (and one in between) as well as sheens from flat to satin to glossy. Despite its sometimes milky appearance in the can, polyurethane goes on clear and—in just one or two coats—cures into a scratch- and abrasion-proof hard plastic that is versatile enough for most indoor projects.

The Best Uses
With so many options, how can you pick the right polyurethane for the job? The choice of sheen, from glossy to something more flat, comes down to personal preference, but there are certainly common usages where one is preferable to another. Review these guidelines before making your final selection at the home improvement store.

• Completely clear when dry, water-based polyurethane is ideal for indoor use, on pieces like nightstands, desks, photo frames, and coat racks that already have a stunning natural hue and simply need a revitalizing finish. Perhaps its biggest selling points, however, are that it’s lower in toxicity than its counterparts and requires only soap and water for cleanup.
• Often used to finish hardwood floors, the newer water-based oil-modified polyurethane lends a more robust level of protection than traditional water-based poly. However, any water-based polyurethane is more susceptible to cracking from heat and UV damage, so intricate wood carvings or surfaces that will be exposed to the outdoors may be better protected by an oil-based product.
• Finally, more heat-tolerant but also higher in toxicity, oil-based polyurethane goes on with a subtle amber tint that can beautifully enhance the underlying wooden tones of kitchen tables, bar tops, and cutting surfaces.

The Application
The process of applying polyurethane varies depending on the product’s base.

• Fast-drying water-based polyurethane and its newer water-based oil-modified cousin can be applied with a fine-bristle brush, foam roller, spray, or rag. If applying over an oil-based stain, rough up the stain with a little bit of steel wool so the new coat of polyurethane will adhere better. Also, keep in mind that the more watery the polyurethane, the thinner it is—and the more coats it will require.
Oil-based polyurethane uses similar methods: a natural-bristle brush, a spray can for larger projects, or a rag for an elegant, hand-rubbed finish. While any polyurethane application requires an open window and good ventilation, because this particular category of finish is higher in VOCs, when you’re applying it indoors you should use a respirator and ensure that the surrounding area remain well-ventilated throughout the lengthier drying time.

 

Varnish vs Polyurethane - Varnish

Photo: fotoserach.com

Varnish

You may have heard varnish used as a generic term for any finish, but traditional varnish describes an older form of finish that contains alkyd resin, oil, and solvents. When applied to wooden surfaces indoors or out, varnish cures into a thin and glossy film with a faint yellow or amber tint, similar to the finish achieved with oil-based polyurethane.

The Best Uses
The high solid content and water resistance of varnish make it particularly apt for use on water-exposed outdoor decks, deck chairs, and boats. Its low toxicity, however, means that it’s equally safe to use near the entryway on exterior doors and trim. A variant of varnish known as spar or marine varnish offers both UV protection and flexibility, which makes it a favorite among DIY woodworkers, who can confidently apply it to soft woods like pine that bend under extreme conditions.

The Application
Despite its ability to serve as a wood sunblock, it’s not all sunny when it comes to varnish. If varnish is not applied correctly or dried completely, it can peel, crack, or form bubbles that leave wood more susceptible to environmental damage. For optimal results, apply varnish in several layers using a natural-bristle brush. Then, allow this traditionally slow-drying finish to sit for at least six hours under fair weather conditions to give your wood surfaces a photo finish!


DIY Kids: A Handmade Table with Hidden Toy Storage

Keep your family's toys and games contained in a storage table that looks nothing like your standard toy chest. This stylish design blends in so well with your living room or library decor that no one will be the wiser.

DIY Toy Chest - Toy Storage in a Table

Photo: bobvila.com

The holidays always bring a fresh influx of toys, games, and craft sets into the home. Come January, we struggle with where to put it all! On top of all that, we recently converted our playroom into a family office for both homework and household business. We needed a spot to store all those new playthings, something that would work in this repurposed space—a toy box that wouldn’t look out of place in a study. So we built a super-simple toy storage chest out of a galvanized tin tub, a prefabricated tabletop, and short furniture legs. Not only does this piece store toys and games, but it also doubles (even triples and quadruples!) as a coffee table, laptop perch, and footrest. To make your own sneaky toy storage, follow the simple instructions below.

 

DIY Toy Chest - Reveal Hidden Storage

Photo: bobvila.com

 

SKILL LEVEL: EASY
The construction of this project relies on a couple of basic, prefabricated supplies and is very easy. The only power tool you need is a drill!

 

DIY Toy Chest - Supplies

Photo: bobvila.com

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- Prefabricated 24” table round
- Palm sander (optional)
- Sandpaper
- Gel stain
- Rags
- Foam brushes (2 to 4)
- Rubber or latex gloves
- Polyurethane
- Pencil
- Hot-glue gun
- 17-gallon galvanized tin tub
- 5 1/2 feet of rope (at least 3/4 inch thick)
- 4″ to 6″ table legs (4)
- Drill with metal bit
- Fender washers (8)
- Nuts (4)
- Adjustable or box wrench

 

STEP 1
To even out any nicks on your prefabricated tabletop and ensure the best final finish, give it several rounds of sanding. Start with a coarse, 80-grit sandpaper, then switch to a 150-grit sheet, and finish with a fine, 220-grit. (You can use a palm sander to quickly cover the large surface area, or stick with sheets here.) Also sand down any wooden furniture legs you plan to attach.

Thoroughly wipe down the wood with a damp cloth to remove all residual dust and allow it to dry.

 

STEP 2

DIY Toy Chest - Step 2

Photo: bobvila.com

Next up: Staining the wood. If you’re not already working in a well-ventilated space, move to one and put on protective gloves. (To help keep the rubber or latex gloves on the kids’ little wrists, you may want to wrap tape or rubber bands over  them.)

We stained our tabletop with a gel stain, which is much thicker than its liquid counterparts and therefore more forgiving when applied by beginner DIYers. Stir the gel stain very well before you start; when ready, it should have the consistency of very thick gravy. Then spread the stain with your foam brushes, working in the direction of the wood grain.

 

STEP 3

DIY Toy Chest - Step 3

Photo: bobvila.com

Allow the stain to sit for as long as the manufacturer recommends, and then wipe off the excess stain with clean rags. For a deeper, more even color, apply two or more coats. (Just make sure to allow the stain to dry completely between applications.)

After you’ve finished staining, apply polyurethane to seal and protect the finish. Either an aerosol spray or brush-on polyurethane works well. Let the wood dry completely before moving on with the rest of the project.

 

STEP 4

DIY Toy Chest - Step 4

Photo: bobvila.com

To keep the tabletop securely on the tub, you’ll want to attach a lip. We solved this by creating a seal out of thick rope! Determine exactly where to glue yours by turning the tub top-down onto the underside of the wood top and tracing its outline with a pencil.

 

STEP 5

DIY Toy Chest - Step 5

Photo: bobvila.com

Next, hot-glue the rope about 3/4 to 1 inch inside of that pencil line, along the entire circle. That ring will sit inside the tub once you replace the top, keeping the wooden round from sliding about.

If you don’t get the rope far enough inside the tub, the top will not sit flush. Immediately after gluing the rope, check that it fits. Should you need to adjust it, you can pull the rope off, scrape away the hot glue, and go at it again. (Fortunately, it is the underside, so no one will ever notice your initial mistakes if you need to redo it!)

 

STEP 6

DIY Toy Chest - Step 6

Photo: bobvila.com

You could be finished right now…or you could attach some legs to make your table a little taller. If you’re up for the latter, turn your tub upside down and use a straightedge to draw a pencil line directly across the center of the tub bottom, marking the diameter. Make a second line through the center at a 90-degree angle to the first line. Then, mark about 1 1/2 to 2 inches from the edge at each end of those pencil lines to guide the placement of your four table legs.

 

STEP 7

DIY Toy Chest - Step 7

Photo: bobvila.com

Drill a hole at each mark and attach the legs by placing a washer on either side of the tin and tightening a nut on top (inside the tub) with a wrench.

The metal of a galvanized tin tub is quite thin and has some natural flex to it. If you put legs on your table, there will be a little play and sway in it. It’s not a concern for storage of items like stuffed animals, blankets, and board games, but the table shouldn’t be used as a spare seat. If you need your table to be more stable, opt for bun feet, which are shorter, or skip the legs altogether.

 

STEP 8

DIY Toy Chest - Step 8

Photo: bobvila.com

Replace the lid, and your table is complete! Even though it’s used to store toys, it looks rather grown-up. No casual bystander would ever know it’s stuffed with plush animals, kids’ games, and the like—which makes it perfect for hiding scattered toys minutes before you get a surprise visit from a neighbor. In fact, building this will make your kids so proud, they might even be excited to put their own toys away after a day of play.

 

DIY Toy Chest - Finished Project

Photo: bobvila.com


How To: Paint Baseboards

Are your dingy, scuffed, or chipped baseboards getting you down? Perk them right up with a fresh coat of paint. Here's how.

How to Paint Baseboards

Photo: fotosearch.com

Of all the many types of molding installed to put the finishing touch on a room, there’s none more common than baseboard. Whether simply or elaborately profiled, baseboards perform two important roles in a room: They create a pleasing visual transition between the walls and floor, and they conceal the often imperfect perimeters of a flooring installation (hardwood boards with uneven edges, for example, or vinyl sheeting that curls up at the end). Although baseboard molding is an essential component of a truly polished look, most people don’t give it a second thought—that is, until the baseboard gets scuffed, or the paint starts to chip or look tired. Fortunately, renewal requires only a fresh paint job, a project that virtually anyone can do, although there are a handful of important considerations to bear in mind. Read on for the step-by-step details.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Semi-gloss paint
- 2-inch angled paintbrush
- Drop cloth (or plastic sheeting)
- Spackle
- Medium-grit sandpaper
- Microfiber cloth
- Painter’s tape
- Paint guard (or large drywall taping knife)

How to Paint Baseboards - Detail View

Photo: fotosearch.com

STEP 1
Painting a baseboard is a fine illustration of the rule that preparation makes the difference between a subpar job and a satisfying, professional-quality finish. After you’ve protected the floor by laying down a drop cloth or taping down a layer of plastic sheeting, it’s best to begin by inspecting the baseboard molding for any nicks or dings. If you find any, patch those areas with spackle and allow the spackling compound to dry. Next, sand the baseboards, including the areas you repaired, using medium-grit sandpaper. Finally, vacuum the baseboards before wiping them down with a damp cloth. Before proceeding, be sure to wait long enough for the baseboards to dry completely.

STEP 2
Adhere strips of painter’s tape along two seams—where the baseboard molding meets the wall, and where it meets the floor. Do your best to eliminate any space between the painter’s tape and the chosen floor protection, be it a drop cloth or plastic sheet. Now, stir the paint before dipping in your small (approximately two-inch) angled paintbrush. Cover the bristles about two-thirds of the way, then tap or dab the brush against the inside lip of the paint can to clear the excess away, not only from the sides of the brush, but from the tips of its bristles as well. Repeat each time you load the brush in order to ensure the tidy and precise application of paint.

STEP 3
Leading with the short edge of the angled brush, start to apply paint to the baseboards. Work slowly, in one-foot sections, and whenever possible use long strokes in a single direction—don’t brush back and forth over the same area. Are you dealing with an intricate trim profile? Pay special attention to the contours, taking pains to push paint into the recessed portions of the molding. To achieve crisp lines along the edges, you can use a specialty paint guard (or, alternatively, a wide drywall taping knife), which you can hold where the molding meets the wall or floor to prevent any wayward strokes from landing beyond the baseboard itself.

Plan on doing two coats, possibly three. For the smoothest possible finish, sand between coats and clean up any dust or debris created during the sanding process. Also remember that if paint ends up any place you didn’t intend it to go, the wise course is to address the error immediately. Simply wipe up any drips or smudges with a damp cloth before the paint has the opportunity to dry.

In the end, like so many other do-it-yourself home improvement projects, painting baseboards isn’t a complex undertaking. It requires neither great skill nor years of experience, only patience, persistence, and the willingness to stay on task.


How To: Seal Grout

Make it easier to keep your bathroom sparkling by following these simple steps to seal your grout.

How to Seal Grout - Backsplash Tile

Photo: fotosearch.com

Even if you keep your bathroom tiles clean, dirty grout lines can really detract from the look of your tiled floors and walls. Because cement-based grout, whether sanded or not, is porous by nature, substances like oil, grease, and water tend to seep inside and cause ugly discoloration. The best way to prevent this is to seal your new grout and repeat as needed—every year or so for wall and floor tiles that don’t get much moisture, and more often for grout in the shower or on the bathroom backsplash. Adhere to the following instructions, though, and you’ll create a reliable barrier against unsightly stains and a dingy appearance. You may never have to scrub those grout lines again!

 

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- Toothbrush
- Dish soap
- Vinegar
- Sealer
- Sponge or small brush (optional)
- Cloth

How to Seal Grout - Clean Grout with a Toothbrush

Photo: fotosearch.com

STEP 1
Before applying a sealer, be sure to clean your grout thoroughly and repair any cracks or crumbles in the grout lines. Otherwise, you’ll seal in dirt and damaged seams. Scrub away as much of the grime as possible using a toothbrush dipped in soapy water. (Switch to a 50-50 vinegar and warm water solution if you’re trying to eradicate stains.) Tackle one grout line at a time. When you’re finished cleaning the grout, allow the area to dry for 45 minutes before sealing.

STEP 2
Next, choose your sealer based on the type of tile you have and its location. No one sealer is best suited for all situations. As you’ll see when you get to your home improvement store, the variety of products available allows for a certain level of customization. Labels specify which sealers work best with marble, stone, and ceramic tiles, as well as how much moisture the sealer can tolerate, be it high moisture in the shower or low moisture along a kitchen backsplash. Depending on your tile and its location, you can narrow down the choices to two main categories: penetrating sealers and membrane-forming sealers.

• Penetrating sealers use a water or mineral spirit base that lets the formula’s tiny particles of latex or silicone penetrate the granular structure of the grout. As the porous grout absorbs the sealer, the particles of latex and silicone fill in all the gaps, keeping moisture out. These sealers are the best choice for use in especially damp areas, such as bathrooms and, in particular, showers.

• Membrane-forming sealers create a coating on the surface of the grout that resists water permeation. (These sealers work well in the kitchen but should not be used in the bathroom; membrane-forming sealers won’t allow water that’s trapped underneath the tile to evaporate, which, in a swampy shower, could lead to mildew.) These sealers also often feature pigments, so you can change the grout color. While membrane-forming sealers are good for unglazed tile like stone, they won’t adhere to glazed tiles, such as most ceramics.

How to Seal Grout - Shower Tile

Photo: fotosearch.com

STEP 3
Choose the applicator tool that’s right for you. Although aerosol spray-on sealers are commonly used for reasons of convenience, there are a few cases in which they may not be the best choice for your project:

• If you have very thin grout lines and unsealed tiles, a sponge allows you to seal larger sections of your bathroom (walls or floors) easily by wiping over both surfaces at once.

• For glazed tiles where sealer won’t adhere, you’ll need to seal only the grout lines using an applicator brush or specialty applicator bottle with a rolling wheel on top.

Whichever tool you choose, read the manufacturer’s directions before you begin.

STEP 4
Apply sealer in small areas at a time, working left to right. By working methodically, your grout lines will look more consistent and your sealer will provide better protection—no spots will be overlooked! Keep a dry cloth close by to wipe off the excess sealer. Whether you’re sponging over a large area or using an applicator to avoid drips on glazed tile, you’ll want to remove sealer from the tile before it starts to dry (within five to seven minutes of application) so that you’re not left with a foggy film that’s nearly impossible to remove.

STEP 5
Once you’re done with the first coat, let it dry for an hour before applying a second. (Generally speaking, it takes one to three coats of sealer to achieve adequate protection.)

After the second coat dries, test the surface with a few drops of water. The liquid should bead up into droplets; if not, apply a third coat to ensure quality results.

STEP 6
Let your tiled space dry completely before using. Some sealers need only 24 hours to cure, while others can take up to 48 hours; check the manufacturer’s directions to be certain. While it may be inconvenient to keep a room off-limits for a day or two, remind yourself how convenient it will be the next time you clean your grout. A good sealer means less time scrubbing, so this is one chore that will make your routine bathroom cleaning a breeze.


Genius! Turn a Toothbrush into a Power Sander

Want to put a new spin on your old electric toothbrush? Transform yours into a pint-size power sander that can tackle small projects at home and in your workshop—for just $5!

diy-mini-power-sander

Photo: youtube.com via kipkay

Power sanders are incredibly useful—and incredibly expensive. The smallest versions, called detail sanders, allow you to maneuver in tight corners like a pro. With a light touch, you can use these tiny power tools to sand away scratches in old furniture, perfect painted trim, smooth rough edges in wood—and even deep-clean grout! In an effort to get all the function without the hefty price tag, YouTube guru and professional tinkerer kipkay built a simpler sander from an electric toothbrush for just $5.

He first hacked off the bristles with a small pair of scissors, then cut a piece of plastic from an old DVD case to cover the empty patch on the toothbrush head. (This scrap plastic creates a smooth base for attaching the sandpaper.) After coating the top of the toothbrush in superglue, kipkay pressed the piece of plastic in place for a few minutes to create a strong bond. Finally, he added a cut-to-fit circle of adhesive-backed sandpaper to the top of the toothbrush, and prepared his to-do list of around-the-house jobs.

Just like a detail sander, the oscillating head of the electric toothbrush wears down surfaces in small circles, or “orbits,” so you’ll need to move it back and forth for an even, smooth finish. Inspired to take your old toothbrush for a spin? Check out the settings before you get started—most have more than one, so test all the options before diving into your next big DIY.

FOR MORE: Kipkay on YouTube 

diy-mini-power-sander-2

Photo: youtube.com via kipkay


Weekend Projects: 5 Doable Designs for a DIY Firewood Rack

If you have an abundance of spare firewood but no place to stash it properly, look no further than these easy and affordable log racks that you can make in a weekend.

There’s nothing more comforting on a cold winter’s night than curling up in front of a crackling fire. But it takes fuel to keep those home fires burning, so you need to make sure you have logs on hand. The trouble is, when you have more wood than you can burn—and nowhere to store it—the excess is often scrapped or improperly left on the wet ground, where it can rot from exposure to heat, water, and pests. Fortunately, there are a number of DIY storage solutions that can shelter your firewood from the elements. We’ve handpicked five that will keep your stash safe and sound—sleeping like logs, you might say.

 

DOWN TO THE WIRE

DIY Firewood Rack - Made with Wire

Photo: blog.thenest.com

This midcentury-inspired firewood holder from The Nest brings modern sophistication to old-world fireside traditions. Cleverly constructed from two tomato cages that have been clipped to size and welded together with epoxy, this holder gets a chic touch with a few coats of high-gloss black spray paint. After all the elements have dried, connect the circles together with a strip of leather cord, and finish by placing the log rack atop wooden blocks for greater style and stability.

 

CAST IN CONCRETE

DIY Firewood Rack - Concrete

Photo: diypete.com

Invigorate your hearth and home with an industrial-vibe log holder that’s modern and utilitarian, and won’t tempt pesky termites. To re-create this sleek, minimalist design from DIY Pete, first construct a concrete form by cutting a melamine sheet into pieces to be assembled into an inner and outer box. Connect the two boxes together to make the form, and then fill it with Quikrete mix. Once the concrete has cured, remove the form and sand down the concrete, and affix both a wooden top and four feet for a rustic finishing touch.

 

GET ROLLING

DIY Firewood Rack - Rolling Cart

Photo: thewoodgraincottage.com

This crafty rolling firewood rack not only makes the process of loading and retrieving wood super simple, it also lends some style to your hearth or backyard. To build something similar to this piece that was created by the blogger at The Wood Grain Cottage, cut redwood into planks, then secure them together with a nail gun to form the frame. Next, cut the sides of the cart from smaller wooden planks and connect them to the base. Attach slats from old pieces of wood or fence pickets, add casters, and finish with a few coats of paint to give your firewood a fun and functional home.

 

GRATE MINDS

DIY Firewood Rack - Grate

Photo: bowerpowerblog.com

If frequent backyard gatherings have you at a loss for not only where to stash extra wood, but also where to keep your spare grill grate, then this solution from Bower Power Blog has everything you need. To form the frame, saw 2×4 boards of pressure-treated lumber into planks for the top, base, and upright supports. Then, assemble the rack and stain as desired. Lay the grill grate over the top, giving you a place to store this unwieldy extra as well as a one-of-a-kind landing spot for outdoor odds and ends.

 

WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY

DIY Firewood Rack - Window Well

Photo: lowes.com

Let your logs hibernate all winter long in this sheltering firewood nook from Lowe’s, fashioned from metal window wells and pressure-treated wooden boards. Start by constructing and assembling the shelf and base from cut wood. Then, attach the flanges of each window well to the sides of the shelf. Finally, drive in screws with washers to fasten the shelf to the base. With bricks or pavers placed underneath, this roomy storage unit will stand at the ready whenever you need to add fuel to the fire!


Bob Vila Radio: For a Warmer Winter, Run Your Ceiling Fans in Reverse

Ceiling fans are synonymous with summer, but they can also be a blessing during the winter. Continue reading to find out why.

Everyone knows that ceiling fans provide low-cost cooling in summer. But did you know you can also use ceiling fans to distribute heat throughout your home during the cold months?

ceiling-fan

Photo: Zillow Digs

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Listen to BOB VILA ON CEILING FANS or read the text below:

Warm air rises, so if you run your ceiling fans clockwise, at slow speed, they gently nudge hot air up toward the ceiling, and then toward the walls, and finally down to the chilly areas below.

To reverse the direction in which your ceiling fan rotates, simply flip the switch on the motor housing. Remember to always run the fan on low speed in winter, as the goal is to recirculate air, not to create a draft.

To save energy, turn off the ceiling fans in any rooms you’re not occupying—except if it’s an area near your thermostat. Here, a running fan helps the thermostats more accurately gauge the indoor temperature.

Lastly, note that if you have an open stairway, a ceiling fan there can work to transfer warm air from the stuffy second floor back down to the chilly ground level.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!


3 Fixes for Tangled Christmas Lights

Removing and storing string lights can be a messy business. Now that it's time to box up all that twinkling holiday decor, try one of these three string light organizing solutions that will protect your sanity and make sure next season shines just as brightly.

How to Store Christmas Lights

Photo: fotosearch.com

The most wonderful time of the year has drawn to a close, which means it’s time to take down the tree and pack up the stockings. While some decorations are simple to put away, others can be a downright pain to remove and organize. The number one culprit in tricky holiday cleanup? Christmas lights. No matter how careful you are, it seems they always end up in a jumbled mess—which can be frustrating not only for end-of-season work, but for next year’s festivities as well. Make this pesky process a breeze with one of these three solutions for keeping your string lights untangled and under control.

 

CARDBOARD CUTOUTS

How to: Store Christmas Lights - Wrap Around Cardboard

Photo: bobvila.com

This clever solution requires nothing more than a rectangular piece of sturdy cardboard left over from one of the Christmas packages you found nestled beneath the tree. Start by cutting the cardboard into an anvil shape—this will help prevent the loops from sliding off—then wind the cords around the thinner, middle section. When you’re finished, tuck the plug loosely beneath one of the strands to keep the lights in place. The best part of this easy (and free!) trick is that next year’s installation will be so much easier: You can quickly confirm that no bulbs are broken and then simply unravel the lights straight from the cardboard onto the tree.

 

TWIST AND TIE

How to Store Christmas Lights - Bundle Using Chair Legs

Photo: bobvila.com

Unmanageable lights don’t stand a chance against this simple storage idea. The unlikely helper in your living or dining room? A spare seat! Start by flipping a stool or chair upside down. Then, wrap the lights in a figure-eight pattern around two of the legs until you have about 12 inches of cord remaining. Circle the remaining cord around the center of the figure eight, and tie a loose knot to prevent the lights from unraveling. Store the bundles in your closet or in a bin of holiday decorations until it’s time to deck the halls next year.

 

HANGER HELP

How to Store Christmas Lights - Wrap Around a Hanger

Photo: bobvila.com

For this nifty trick, look no further than your number one closet essential: a clothes hanger. (One with a bit of extra bulk is best, although skimpier plastic ones can do in a pinch.) Loop the lights around the hanger, working from one end to the other, until you reach the last few inches of the strand. Loosely tie the leftover cord around the hook of the hanger.

For extra-streamlined storage, color-coordinate your set’s bulbs with hangers of the same shade—white lights with white hangers, red or multicolored lights on red hangers, and so on—then hang in the closet using your repurposed organizer’s hook. If closet space is tight, consider attaching an S-hook to the middle of the hanger’s base and suspending another light-wrapped bundle from it. Tuck the hangers alongside your favorite Christmas sweater so lights remain organized and easy to access next year.


DIY Lite: The Easy One-Piece Coat Rack Anyone Can Build

Building a coat rack has never been easier! Just follow this simple DIY tutorial to make your own stylish entryway essential—all from a single piece of lumber.

DIY Coat Rack - Easy Wooden Coat Rack

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

In with the chill, out with the coats—and hats, scarves, mittens…you name it. With so much winter gear and so little space in the typical coat closet, the entryway sometimes needs to do a little more than simply welcome you and your guests indoors. Enter this easy and elegantly minimalist coat rack. Crafted from just one slab of wood, this unique design leans against any empty wall, adding both character and hooks. Who knew that plain old lumber could be a statement piece?

 

DIY Coat Rack - Supplies

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- Lumber
- Ruler
- Set square with a 45-degree angle
- Pencil
- Handsaw
- Wood chisel
- Hammer
- Sandpaper
- Palm sander
- Linseed oil or varnish
- 2 screw eyes
- 2 square bend screw hooks
- Drill

 

STEP 1

DIY Coat Rack - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Start with an 8-foot-long piece of 2×8 lumber, and cut it down to 7 feet. When you lean this plank against the wall, the height should reach approximately the top of your door frame.

In this creative design, coats will hang from notches cut into either side of the lumber. Begin by marking the notches: On one side, measure 12 inches from the top edge and make a mark. Starting at this point, use a set square to trace a 2-inch line at a 45-degree angle. Go down 2 inches from the first mark and draw a second 2-inch line, parallel to the first. Connect them to form a diamond-like notch.

 

STEP 2

DIY Coat Rack - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Measure 5 inches down the side of the board from the bottom of the first notch, make a mark, and then repeat the steps above to trace a second diamond-shaped notch.

Continue this process until you have four angled notches with 5 inches of space between each, on both sides of the board.

 

STEP 3

DIY Coat Rack - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Use a handsaw to make two cuts on one of the notches, following your pencil marks. Work slowly and carefully.

 

STEP 4

DIY Coat Rack - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Now, use the wood chisel to punch out the wood cut. Place the tool along the uncut line, and hit the top of the chisel with a hammer. Tip: Once you cleanly nick the cutting line, you can hit the chisel harder to take off the wood piece completely. After you finish the first “hook,” cut out the remaining seven using the same process.

 

STEP 5

DIY Coat Rack - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

You certainly don’t want to damage your coats or accessories whenever you hang them up, so prevent future snags by first removing rough patches with a good sanding. You can use a palm sander for the sides of the lumber and a wood file to finish the inner edges of the notches.

 

STEP 6

DIY Coat Rack - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Give your coat rack an attractive finish with either stain or varnish, following the instructions on the product’s packaging. Here, we chose to apply linseed oil—a colorless, rejuvenating wood finish—to give the piece a natural, Scandinavian look.

 

STEP 7

DIY Coat Rack - Step 7

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

To secure this leaning coat rack—and put to bed any worries of its slipping whenever you try to hang a coat—you can use the nearly invisible magic of wall hooks and screws. To do so, attach two screw eyes on the back of your plank, about 10 inches from the top.

 

STEP 8

DIY Coat Rack - Step 8

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

The last step is to screw a few hooks to the wall. Place the top part of the board against the wall, and make two pencil marks precisely where the screw eyes sit—this is where you need to insert your square bend screw hooks. Make sure each hook points upward, then place the open loops of the screw eyes over the hooks. And that’s it! You have just turned a boring length of lumber into a modern coat rack.

 

DIY Coat Rack - Finished Coat Rack

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

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


Walk This Way: Expert Advice on 3 Top Options in Flooring

Flooring goes a long way toward defining the look of a room. But compared to a simple matter of taste like choosing a paint color, deciding on a floor material involves a host of sometimes puzzling practical considerations. Here, get the low-down on three top options from an expert with Sears Home Services.

Laminate vs. Vinyl vs. Tile Flooring

Photo: fotosearch.com

Floors are the unsung heroes of our homes, at once establishing the look of a space even while taking a beating under a daily barrage of footsteps. In return, to look its best and last a long time, your flooring demands attention—not necessarily an intensive regimen of care, but regular cleaning at the very least and perhaps the occasional repair. Without proper maintenance, according to Joe Maykut, a manager with Sears Home Services, “It’s only a matter of time before the floor fails you.” But, he continues, “that may be a blessing in disguise.” If you’re dissatisfied with either the look or performance of any floor in your home, embrace replacement flooring as an opportunity for transformation. After all, “a new floor makes a dramatic impact,” Makyut says. “It not only changes the look of a room, but also how it feels.” Of course, the end result depends on the type of flooring you choose. While many people love the look of traditional hardwood or stone, savvy homeowners keep returning to a hardworking trio of beautiful, budget-friendly materials: laminate, vinyl, and tile. Which is right for you? Like so many other questions in home improvement, the answer depends. For instance, in the kitchen or bathroom, “there are a host of special considerations,” Maykut says. Meanwhile, in the den or the bedroom, “comfort alone may be your top priority,” Maykut concludes. For help making your selection, read on to learn the pros and cons of each popular option.

 

LAMINATE

Laminate vs. Vinyl vs. Tile Flooring - Laminate Option

Photo: fotosearch.com

Laminate flooring has come a long way since its introduction 20 years ago. The planks are still composed of multiple thin layers—and the material remains modestly priced—but otherwise, “it’s a whole new ball game,” says Joe Maykut of Sears Home Services. Whereas early laminate floors were designed to emulate hardwood, recent years have witnessed an explosion of new colors, patterns, and textures. To be sure, “you can still find plenty of laminates that look like real wood,” Maykut says. “And the manufacturing process has improved to the point where, unless you’re inspecting the floor up close, you can’t tell the difference.” But in addition to convincing wood-look designs, it’s now possible to get laminate floors that mimic marble, slate, travertine and many other luxurious, high-priced materials. That said, it’s important to note that looks aren’t the only point of appeal for laminate flooring. As eye-catching as it may be, laminate also tends to be exceptionally comfortable underfoot, not least because it typically installs over a soft, cushiony layer of foam. The downside: “Water and laminate floors don’t mix,” Maykut says. Therefore, it’s not recommended for any space with exposure to moisture and humidity. “That rules out bathrooms and kitchens, and any basement with a history of moisture issues.” For living and dining areas, however, laminate makes an ideal choice and, being resistant to scuffs and scratches, “it works particularly well in homes with children, pets, or both.”

 

VINYL

Laminate vs. Vinyl vs. Tile Flooring - Vinyl Option

Photo: fotosearch.com

A low price: That used to be the one and only selling point for vinyl flooring. But in the decades since it first became popular, vinyl has undergone “a tremendous renaissance,” according to Maykut of Sears Home Services. Separate and apart from affordability, there are now several reasons to choose it. For one thing, cumbersome sheet vinyl flooring products are no longer the norm. These days, planks and tiles are more popular, in part because “these new shapes and sizes lend themselves more easily to repair,” Maykut explains. “If a sharp object gouges a section of the floor, you can simply replace the affected planks or tiles, without having to start over.” In addition, vinyl continues to earn praise for being easy to clean and low maintenance, and for standing up well to many of the everyday stresses that compromise other materials. Adding to its durability is the fact that, impervious to water, vinyl can be used in any room. Of course, if you have plans to move, you may want to think twice before putting a vinyl floor into a highly visible space like the living room. “Buyers often expect to see vinyl in certain rooms and not others,” Maykut says. In the bathroom, kitchen, and assorted utility spaces, however, it can be a cost-effective, hassle-free floor. Best of all, it’s now available in a surprisingly sophisticated range of designs, the best of which benefit from advanced embossing techniques that make modern vinyl look much more expensive that it really is.

 

TILE

Photo: fotosearch.com

“Tile has a timeless appeal, like hardwood,” says Makyut of Sears. That being the case—since a broad swath of homebuyers tend to look favorably upon it—tile very often “boosts home resale value,” Maykut adds. Unlike top-dollar hardwood, however, “tile often comes with a lower price tag.” Fortunately, paying less doesn’t force you to make design sacrifices. For proof, look no further than Sears Home Services, which offers and routinely installs a stunning variety of tile in all different colors and styles. Still, exciting though the options may be, Maykut urges caution: “You may be tempted to pick a bold and unique look that reflects your personality,” he says, but the wise course is to “buy not for you, but for the person you’ll eventually sell your house to.” To resist the current trends that may not stand the test of time, concentrate on neutral colors and classic patterns. Also, remember that for tile to retain its value, the installation requires regular maintenance. Tile itself may be “more or less effortless” to clean, but if you’ve ever lived with the material before, you know that grout can be a challenge to keep pristine. Further hallmarks of tile: “It’s rigid and most of the time, cold to the touch,” Maykut points out. That’s largely why, in many parts of the country, tile seldom appears beyond the bounds of the kitchen or bath. It usually works best, Maykut concludes, in those parts of the home where “its longevity, durability, and water-resistance are tested over and over, every single day.”

 

Still uncertain as to which type of floor most closely matches your style preferences and lifestyle needs? Seek out a local contractor to discuss the various possibilities, or go online to book a free in-home consultation with Sears Home Services. A nationwide company with a decades-long history, Sears matches you with expert coordinators to guide you through the replacement flooring process from beginning to end—from selecting a material all the way to getting it installed on time, on budget, and to your satisfaction. In fact, Sears backs up its work with a Satisfaction Guarantee, demonstrating that just as you are, Sears stands committed to the success of your project.

 

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