Category: Doors & Windows

Tubular Skylights: Natural Daylight Where You Least Expect It

While windows provide natural light to many of the rooms in your house, there are still others shuttered in darkness. With the advent of tubular skylight technology, you can now easily add daylighting to just about any area of your home.

solatube light-diffusers-natural-lighting

Photo: Solatube International

Every room benefits from natural daylight.  The living room becomes more inviting and comfortable, the kitchen more suitable for cooking, dining and entertaining, the family room infinitely more enjoyable, and the bedroom and bath—light-filled sanctuaries and retreats.  But what about the interior rooms and areas of your home that don’t have the benefit of even a single window: hallways, laundry rooms, stairwells, bathrooms and closets?  The fact is, up until recently there was very little you could do short of flipping a light switch. Today, there are tubular skylights to bring natural light to just about any area of the house.

Solatube Daylighting

Illustration: Solatube International

Tubular skylights, also known as solar tubes, light tunnels, daylighting systems, are affordable, high-performance lighting solutions that bring daylight into interior spaces where traditional skylights and windows simply can’t be installed.  Using a rooftop dome to capture the sun’s rays, a highly reflective tube transfers the light indoors where it is dispersed through a ceiling mounted diffuser.

Unlike traditional skylights that need direct line of sight, tubular devices can be configured easily to avoid attic obstructions and deliver the light where it is needed—in some cases, as much as up to 40 feet with products from Solatube Interational, Inc. Since the tube itself is compact and, depending on manufacturer, available in rigid, adjustable and flexible designs, it is also more affordable and less labor-intensive to install. That means areas lacking natural daylight today can be flooded with light tomorrow—actually within a couple of hours for Solatube Daylighting Systems.  And, since natural light reduces the dependency on electric, installing a tubular skylight also results in energy savings.

So, where can you benefit from more natural light?

In addition to never being quite large enough, closets are intentionally made without windows, making the hunt for the right shirt, pants, shoes and belt more challenging.  Even with electric lighting, the true colors can be visually altered, making your navies look black and maroons look burgundy. The Solatube Daylighting System produces perfect color rendition so you can see with more clarity and accuracy.


Photo: Solatube International

While laundry rooms are no longer relegated to the basement or mudroom, they are still often tucked into small, windowless areas of the home—from the kitchen pantry to the upstairs hall closet. Dim conditions not only make it difficult to perform necessary laundry tasks, but make the job that much more undesirable.  Bright, natural light from a tubular skylight will not only make sorting, folding, treating stains, and pairing random socks easier, it will make the room feel less cramped.

Despite being well-traveled passages, hallways are notorious for being dimly lit. If you have a narrow hallway with no natural light, you probably find yourself flipping on your electric lights frequently—even during the day. With a well-placed Solatube Daylighting System, bright, natural light can be delivered easily to hallway interiors. And, since the device is designed with a patented, light-capturing rooftop dome that redirects low-angle sunlight and rejects overpowering midday summer sun, you can also be assured of consistent natural illumination throughout the day.

Stairwells that lack adequate lighting can be dark and dangerous. Tripping on a step or missing a handhold on the railing can lead to serious falls. Depending on its location and design, you could also be missing an opportunity to highlight one of the most interesting architectural features in your home. A tubular skylight can flood the space with natural daylight, dramatically improving visibility and appearance.



Photo: Solatube International

If you have an interior bathroom with no access to windows, you already know the issues it presents—and the dependency on electricity it requires.  In the bath, tubular skylights not only provide a smart daylighting solution, they can be outfitted with a variety of flat-, recessed-, and decorative-mount ceiling fixtures, as well as warming and softening lenses, ventilation, dimmers and occupancy sensors.

Of course, tubular skylights, like traditional skylights, do share one problem. When night falls or clouds pass overhead, the light disappears or fades. Solatube International, a leading manufacturer and innovator of daylighting products, offers an inventive solution with their Smart LED technology. When there’s plenty of sunlight, the tube delivers natural light. Too much light, an optional motorized baffle dims the output. At night, energy-efficient LEDs automatically turn on. The result, a seamless—and energy efficient—blending of natural and LED light throughout the day and night.


This post is sponsored on behalf of Solatube International.  Its facts and opinions are those of


What Would Bob Do? Unsticking a Double-Hung Window

When a double-hung window just won't open, the most likely culprit is a bad paint job—but there are other possible perps. Here's how to get the window unstuck and figure out who done it.

How to Open a Stuck Window


My wife and I recently moved into a rental house, and we cannot seem to open the double-hung windows in the bedroom. That was just fine with us during the winter, but now that it’s warm out, we really want to let in some fresh air! Suggestions?

We’ve all been there: Try as you might to open the window, the sash refuses to budge. Almost invariably, sloppy painting is to blame. Double-hung windows are fairly complicated contraptions, and each part has its own name (even some professionals have a hard time keeping all the proper terms straight). Technically, a window ceases to operate correctly when paint enters and dries in the space between the sash—the movable part of the window—and the jamb stops and parting stops—elements that direct the sash’s up-and-down path. Fortunately, you don’t really need a vocabulary lesson to open a stuck window. All you need is a blade.


Run your utility knife along all the joints that surround the sash. And don’t forget to address the rear side of the top edge (you may need to climb up on a step stool in order to see what you’re doing up there). Now put the knife down and give the window a try. It should open—if not easily, then with a bit of fussing. Once you’ve got it open to the breeze, use the stub of a candle to lubricate the channel along which the sash travels. The wax doesn’t leave a mess and should make it much easier to operate the window in the future.

If doing the above makes no difference, I recommend removing both the upper and lower sashes. They need more attention than you can safely administer while they’re in place. Furthermore, the issue may be something more serious than mislaid paint. To be certain, though, you’ll want to get a good look at the thing.

Removing the sashes involves a handful of steps. Start by taking out the screws in the interior stops. Next, carefully pry the stop molding free from the lower sash. Proceed to pull out the parting strips—and sometimes that’s easier said than done. If the strips have been painted and are stuck, reach again for the utility knife. Score the joints that surround the strips, then pull—hard if you must, but carefully. Once those parting strips are out of the way, both sashes (the upper one first) should come out rather easily.

Closely inspect the sashes. If they are damp and the wood appears to have swelled, then paint isn’t your problem. The most likely explanation is that missing or poorly installed flashing on your house’s exterior is allowing water to soak the window frame when it rains. Flashing repair typically involves limited removal of house siding. The best thing is to get a professional’s opinion before deciding what to do next.

What if your inspection of the sashes doesn’t reveal any water damage? My suggestion is to scrape the window and sand it down, more or less, to bare wood. Add a coat of primer and then a fresh coat of paint, being careful not to leave any areas of buildup. Let the paint dry and then reassemble the window.

When doors become stuck, high humidity is often the cause. Although that’s rarely the case with double-hung windows, it’s not out of the question. So if you live in a very damp home, consider running a dehumidifier in the room that has the stuck window. By the same token, if it’s a bathroom window that’s giving you trouble, run the exhaust fan during and after your showers. Similarly, a stubborn sash in the kitchen may be aggravated by stovetop cooking; run the exhaust fan during meal preparation and see if that helps.

Bob Vila Radio: Pivot Doors

Pivot doors offer a dramatic passage that blurs the line between indoors and out.

With the season of outdoor living upon us, homeowners may be looking for new solutions to patio or backyard access. The old standby—sliding-glass doors—provide lots of sunlight, but only half of the doorway’s width is usable entry space. French doors are an elegant solution but can take up a lot of floor space when they are both open.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON PIVOT DOORS or read the text below:

Pivot Doors


A unique and high-style alternative for wide openings is the pivot door. A pivot door is not hinged at right or left; it rotates on pins in the floor and ceiling like a swinging door, only the pin is not up against the door casing.

Pivot doors can swing from the center or from a point off center, and they allow clean elegant sight lines that are truly beautiful when they open onto a garden, pool, or other outdoor space.

Pivot doors can be made to fit anything from a single, wide doorway to an entire wall, with the latter having the dramatic effect of combining indoor and outdoor spaces into one. The pivot style distributes a door’s weight, allowing you to install a single door in a wide space where a traditional door would be too heavy to hang from a hinge.

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

Tubular Skylights 101

While bringing natural light to interior spaces of a home was originally limited to costly, difficult-to-install, and problem-riddled traditional skylights, today's tubular devices are lighting up interiors with smart and sophisticated style.

Solatube Daylighting

Solatube International Tubular Daylighting

Bringing natural light into a home is a relatively easy prospect, provided the room is adjacent to at least one exterior wall. Windows and glass doors have been flooding interiors with light for centuries. But when an interior room is in need of daylight, the options become far more limiting—namely skylights. Since the 1980s, tubular skylights (a.k.a. solar tubes, light tunnels, daylighting devices) have been gaining popularity as an easy way to bring natural light into just about any room of the house. More compact, less expensive, and easier to install than their traditional counterparts, they are lighting up today’s homes in a much smarter and more efficient way than ever before.

What are tubular skylights?
Tubular skylights, like the name suggests, are tube-shaped devices that, through a rooftop lens and reflective-lined tube, capture sunlight and deliver it to the interior space of a home or office. Consisting of three main components—a dome, a tube, and a diffuser—they are more compact than standard rooftop skylights and, as a result, more affordable and less labor-intensive to install. With designs that feature rigid, adjustable, and flexible tubing, they can also be configured for spaces where a conventional skylight is not feasible.

Illustration: Solatube International

How do tubular skylights work? 
A tubular skylight uses a rooftop dome to capture the sun’s rays. The light is then transferred indoors through a highly reflective tube-shaped duct. A diffuser mounted in the ceiling disperses the natural light to the room below. Unlike traditional skylights that need direct line of sight, tubular devices can be configured easily to avoid attic obstructions and deliver the light where it is needed—in some cases, as much as up to 40 feet for Solatube products. Installed in hallways, laundry rooms, bathrooms, and walk-in closets, tubular daylighting devices not only help lighten interiors, but save on electric costs.

Of course, tubular skylights, like traditional skylights, do share one problem. When night falls or clouds pass overhead, the light disappears or fades. Solatube International, a leading manufacturer and innovator of daylighting products, offers an inventive solution with their Smart LED technology. Winner of the 2013 LightFair
International Innovation Award, it combines daylighting with LED lighting. When there’s plenty of sunlight, the tube delivers natural light. Too much light, an optional motorized baffle dims the output. At night, energy-efficient LEDs automatically turn on. The result—a seamless blending of natural and LED light throughout the day and night.

Photo: Solatube International

What to look for when shopping for a tubular skylight?
Though the parts may appear similar from system to system, not all tubular skylights are created equal. Technology makes a big difference in lighting performance.  You’ll want a product that delivers the full spectrum of light, so that you get the brightest and whitest natural light possible. Look for a device that is suitable for your roof style and manufactured with built-in, leak-preventing flashing. Also, choose one that offers adaptability in terms of tubing configuration and carries the Energy Star label, guaranteeing thermal performance and efficiency.

Solatube Daylighting is designed with a patented light-capturing dome that redirects low-angle sunlight and rejects overpowering midday summer sun to deliver a consistent natural illumination throughout the day. The Spectralight® Infinity Tubing promotes maximum sunlight transfer with pure color rendition. And, the products can be outfitted with a variety of flat-, recessed-, and decorative-mount ceiling fixtures, along with warming and softening lenses, ventilation, dimmers, and occupancy sensors.

To learn more about tubular skylights, watch:


This post has been brought to you by Solatube International. Its facts and opinions are those of

How To: Paint a Door

A freshly painted door not only brightens up a room, it can also make a hallway look cleaner and more inviting. To get the best results the next time you're painting a door, check out this quick tutorial.

How to Paint a Door


Considering the low cost of the project and the relative ease with which it can be completed, painting a door is a terrific way to add a punch of personality to any interior. Painting a door involves virtually no risk: If you decide to paint the door orange, let’s say, and you end up hating how it looks, no problem: You can always revert to the original color or experiment with a different one. That said, painting a door is different from painting other surfaces. It requires more planning, a slightly modified approach, and a few supplies you might not have anticipated. Follow the steps below, however, and you ought to encounter few difficulties.

- Interior paint
- Sandpaper
- Tack cloth
- Mineral spirits
- Painter’s tape
- Paintbrush
- Roller (with paint tray)

If you’ve painted before, you’re most likely familiar with the idea that proper surface preparation means the difference between a smooth, lasting, beautiful finish and a sloppy-looking job. Satisfying, professional-level results begin with sanding, which goes a long way toward ensuring that the paint readily sticks to the door. Use 120-grit sandpaper and either manually, or by means of a hand-held power sander, sand the surface of the door in the direction of the wood grain. Once finished, wipe down the door with a lint-free tack cloth dampened with mineral spirits. Doing so removes the dust and oils that can interfere with paint adhesion.

How to Paint a Door - Green


Of course, the presence of hardware—that is, hinges and knobs and perhaps a locking mechanism—spells the crucial difference between a door panel and a wall of plaster or gypsum board. Avoid getting any paint on the door hardware, not only for aesthetic reasons, but also because you might disturb the hardware’s functioning. The safest course is to remove the knob and lock—or to completely remove the door from the hinges—before you start painting in earnest. For those looking to avoid that sort of hassle, a decent compromise would be to protect the metal parts of the door with strategically positioned painter’s tape.

Paint the frame of the door (also known as the casing) first—assuming you want to—so that any errant brush strokes land on the door panel that you’re going to paint anyway. If you do choose to paint the frame, use a one- or two-inch brush and let the coat dry completely before you proceed any further. That way, you won’t have to tread carefully later on, fearing that your next movement might result in an unsightly smudge.

Are you painting a door with inset panels? If so, paint those before the rest of the door. As you did with the door casing, use a one- or two-inch brush for this round of detail work. Your goal is to get these more-demanding aspects of the job out of the way, so you can then speedily finish with a roller.

A roller not only enables you to work faster, but it also delivers a smoother finish. As you go, remember to blend in any brush marks created in earlier steps. To avoid leaving fingerprints, it’s smart to paint one side of the door, let it dry completely, and then go on to paint the edge of the door and the opposite side.

A word to the wise: While the paint is drying, minimize imperfections by keeping pets and children away from the door. Replace any hardware you’ve removed only after the paint is fully dry. Finally, step back and marvel at what a difference a painted door can make!

How To: Clean Window Screens

Do your window screens look dingy? Is dirt from your screens blowing into your house and making your windows filthy? Sounds like it's time to clean those screens! Don't worry—you'll have them dirt-free and sparkling in no time.

How to Clean Window Screens


Window screens really take a beating. They’re constantly exposed to the sun, wind, rain and snow, and pollen and insects, not to mention all the dust that comes at them from inside the house. That’s why it’s so important to clean window screens as part of your spring maintenance routine. Here’s how to do it not only quickly, but effectively as well.

- Tarp or drop cloth
- Garden hose
- Ammonia
- Bucket
- Rubber gloves
- Scrubbing brush
- Towel

How to Clean Window Screens - Detail


The first thing to do is remove all screens from their positions in the windows. Lay the screens on a large tarp or drop cloth. It’s best to do this outdoors, because the process involves water and can get messy. If possible, wait for a day with good weather so that once you’ve finished, the screens can dry out in the sunshine.

With the garden hose nozzle on its lowest pressure setting, rinse all the window screens as thoroughly as possible, removing any loose dirt, dust, and visible debris.

In a large bucket, mix a cleaning solution of three parts warm water and one part household ammonia. Don a pair of rubber gloves, dip your scrubbing brush into the solution, and start scrubbing in small circles, from top to bottom. Remember to rinse the brush regularly in clean water as you go along.

Having scrubbed each screen to a sufficient degree, reach for the hose one more time and give the screens a final rinse. Now inspect each screen closely: Are there any spots that you missed? If so, spot-clean those areas to remove any lingering traces of grime. Finally, shake excess water off each screen, wipe down all the screens with a towel, and lean them against the house or garage until completely dry.

Of course, the more often you clean your window screens, the easier it will be to keep them looking pristine. For the most satisfying results, build this quick and easy effort into your annual spring cleaning routine.

Bob Vila Radio: Restoring Old Windows

If you love the double-hung windows in your old house, consider restoring—and replacing—rather than replacing them.

If your home has old-style double-hung windows with heavy sash weights on pulleys, you probably know that they’re not very energy efficient and they can be a pain to repair when those sash cords break. Most homeowners opt for replacement windows and tear out the old ones completely. But what if your old windows have amazing leaded or stained glass or some other feature worth saving? That might be a reason to opt for restoring, not replacing, your windows.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON RESTORING OLD WINDOWS or read the text below:

Restored Windows


Restoring old windows is not an easy job, and it can be pricey. The old sashes must be removed, along with the sash weights, and the hollow channels that held the weights and pulleys need to be filled in.  Those channels are one of the main reasons old windows are so drafty — all that hollow space allows a lot of cold to infiltrate. Old windows can operate on new spring-loaded balances once the weight channels have been filled in. The sashes need to be retrofitted to work with these balances, with new grooves routed into the frames to accommodate them. It’s an ambitious project best reserved for unique or historic windows, or for windows with glass you just can’t bear to part with. But done well, restored windows can truly enhance the beauty of your old home.

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

Weatherstripping 101

Sealing drafts is one of the best—and smartest—ways to reduce your home's energy costs in winter and summer alike. While the concept is easy to understand, there's plenty to know about the various types of weatherstripping products and how they are best used.

Weatherstripping 101


Weatherstripping is a time-honored method of minimizing window and door drafts. In the winter, weatherstripping prevents heated air from escaping the home and bars the entry of cold from the outdoors. In the summer, weatherstripping performs the identical role, except at that time of year, the air inside tends to be cool (in a house with air conditioning, at least), and the air outside tends not to be. Most homeowners have heard of weatherstripping and are comfortable with the concept, but some are intimidated by the highfalutin name, because it may conjure up images of a complex system or an elaborate installation process. The reality, however, is not at all scary. Weatherstripping refers to a group of straightforward, easy-to-install products that do nothing more than seal gaps in house components that swing, slide, or lift. Here is a rundown of the most popular weatherstripping products.


Weatherstripping - Tapes


Weatherstripping tapes are popular and inexpensive. Made of compressible, flexible material, these work well to fill irregular gaps. Most foam tapes and felt strips can be cut to size with scissors, and because they’re self-adhesive, they are very easy to install. Be sure, however, that you are applying the product to a clean surface.

Best uses: doorstops, casement window stops, double-hung window rails



Weatherstripping - V Strips


V-strips are made of vinyl or thin, flexible lengths of metal. The former option costs less and is easier to put in because one side of the vinyl self-adheres; metal V-strips are nailed into place. In either case, installation involves removing the window sashes to access the channels along which they slide.

Best uses: meeting rails, double-hung window jambs, window stops



Weatherstripping - Gaskets


Tubular in shape and rubber-like in composition, gasket-style weatherstripping installs along the bottom of exterior doors by means of nails or screws. (Door sweeps are more common for this application.) A gasket might also be employed to seal between an overhead garage door and the concrete floor slab.

Best uses: exterior doors, garage doors



Weatherstripping - Door Sweeps


Door sweeps, which are made of vinyl or rubber, or of bristles with a backing, attach via screws to the bottom of an exterior door. They are commonly available at hardware stores and home improvement centers; some door sweeps go on the outside, while others are meant for the inside. Consult the manufacturer’s instructions.

Best uses: exterior doors


Every home is different, of course. Each has its own quirks and idiosyncrasies—and particularly in older constructions, a host of air leaks that defy general, one-size-fits-all classification. Still, the following are perhaps the most common places where homeowners use weatherstripping to improve air sealing:

• Exterior doors (including French doors and sliding patio doors)
• Attic hatchways
• Doors to nonconditioned spaces (for example, from the house to the garage)
• Garage doors
• Windows (casement, sliding, awning, and double-hung)

First, seal any gaps around doors or hatchways that connect to the attic—this is where air pressure and air leakage are greatest. Next, check exterior doors; if you see daylight around a closed door, install weatherstripping. By the same token, if your windows rattle in the wind, that’s a pretty sure sign that they too would benefit from weatherstripping. On a cold day, it’s easy to judge these things: If the area feels chilly to the touch, weatherstripping is (at least part of) the answer.

How To: Install a Prehung Door

Prehung doors can make your life much easier, but you still need to know a few essentials in order to get the job done right.

How to Install a Prehung Door - Detail


Doors come in countless different sizes and styles—from modern, flush interior doors with standard dimensions to massive, traditionally designed entryways. By comparison, there are dramatically fewer installation methods; in fact, there are only two. A door is either prehung in its own jamb, or it’s not. Installing a prehung door is considerably less complicated, but that doesn’t mean there’s no sweat involved. The following tips can help you avoid common setbacks.

- 6-foot level
- Wooden shims
- 2-1/2-inch finish nails
- Hammer and nails (or nail gun)

It’s no problem to stray somewhat from the steps outlined here, but remember that no matter the techniques used, the goals always stay the same: Get the door jamb level and plumb; keep it flush with the drywall surrounding it; and maintain a uniform 1/8-inch reveal (the space between the door and the jamb).

When you set out to install a prehung door, begin by measuring the rough opening into which you are placing it. The opening should be one or two inches larger than the door itself. That wiggle room enables you to shim the door, bringing it to the level-and-plumb position critical to proper functioning.

How to Install a Prehung Door - Bob Vila


Set the door into the rough opening. Has flooring not yet been installed  beyond the threshold? In that case, shim beneath the door jamb to account for the height that will be added once the floor’s installed.

Next, make sure the hinge side of the door is plumb, meaning perfectly vertical. Having checked that the door is still centered within the opening, stabilize it by adding shims to both sides, near the top. Check the alignment using a level. If the door’s plumb, hold the hinge side so that it’s flush with the adjacent drywall, then nail into the jamb at the point behind which you added shims. Go on to place shims in a few more positions along the hinge side; check level once more; then nail through the jamb wherever you shimmed.

Close the door and confirm that its top portion is level. Don’t waste time reaching for a measuring tool, though, if you notice the reveal isn’t uniform between the door and the jamb. That’s a sure sign things are amiss. Make adjustments by shimming the latch side of the door. Shim less when there’s too little reveal; shim more when there’s too much of one. Continue tinkering until the reveal along the top is uniform.

On the latch side of the door, bring the jamb flush to the adjacent drywall. The reveal ought to be 1/8-inch here; if it’s not, then adjust the shimming you have added already near the top of the door on this latch side. Once finished, nail through the jamb where you have shimmed. Now place additional shims six inches from the bottom of the door, as well as above and below where the strike plate will go. So long as the reveal remains uniform, proceed to nail the jamb at each position where you have added shims.

To finish, go ahead and put a few more nails through the shims you nailed previously. Your pre-hung door is now level and plumb, with a uniform reveal!

Quick Tip: Door Hanging

Door hanging can be exacting. Fortunately, these handy pointers make the task a little easier to handle.

Here’s some tips for easier door hanging. For this type of door, measure five inches from the top of the door to the first hinge, ten inches from the bottom for the second, and place the third hinge centered between the two. Plough out the mortises with a wood chisel or a router. Align your jamb to the door edge, leaving a three-sixteenths-inch clearance at the top for the swing. Plumb and level the jamb and use a longer screw in each of the hinges to reach the jack stud.

For more on doors, consider:

Quick Tip: Hanging Double Doors
Toss Your Keys: 9 High-Tech Door Locks
Know Your Door Styles: 10 Popular Designs