Category: Doors & Windows

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

How To: Install Vinyl Windows

With only basic tools and limited experience, you can install vinyl windows yourself, saving the cost of hiring a contractor for the job.

It can be easy to install vinyl windows. First, make sure the window frame is plumb and level. Wrap the window frame with insulation, or pack the insulation into the void between the frame and the window. Center the window in the opening, making certain the reveal is uniform on all sides. Use shim singles to secure it in place and check for level once again. Finally, drive two quarter-inch stainless steel screws into all four corners. There you have it.

For more on windows, consider:

Replacement Windows 101
Installing a Vinyl Window (VIDEO)
Know Your Window Styles: 10 Popular Designs

How To: Shim a Door

Did you know you can use cedar wood shingles to shim a door? You can. Here's how it's done.

When installing a new door, use shim shingles as extra support between the jack studs and the door jamb. Use two cedar shingles, one vertically and one horizontally, adjusting until they fit snugly. Use three sets of shims on each side—one on top, one on the bottom, and one in the middle. Use three screws to fasten the door jambs to the frame.

For more on doors, consider:

Hanging Double Doors
Know Your Door Styles: 10 Popular Designs
Shimming, Centering, and Hanging a Door (VIDEO)

How To: Install a Pre-Hung Door

To install a pre-hung door, you need some basic tools, a commitment to precision, and most importantly, a good deal of patience.

Here’s a tip on how to install a pre-hung door. First, lift the door into place, then be sure it’s plumb. Always use your level on the hinge side. Nail through the casing and remove the factory clips, so you can test the swing of the door. Then shim the door with scrap shingles along the hinge side and secure the jamb. Now you’re ready to put your finish moldings in place.

For more on doors, consider:

10 New Uses for Old Doors
How To: Install a New Door
Know Your Door Styles: 10 Popular Designs