Category: Flooring & Stairs

How To: Build a Winding Staircase

By means of an ingenious shortcut, it may be easier than you think to build a winding staircase.

If space is a consideration in your remodeling project, you might want to consider building a winding staircase. You can build this simple version yourself. Think of it as a stack of wooden boxes with a portion removed for each successive step. Build each box step in advance and stack them on top of each other. Secure each level with panel adhesive and nails, then finish off with a straight run to reach the next floor. Remember to check with your local building inspector.

For more on stairs, consider:

How To: Paint a Staircase
Building Winding Stairs (VIDEO)
A “Step by Step” Solution: Pre-Cut Treads and Risers

Quick Tip: Laying a Basement Subfloor

Using a method like this one, you can easily install a basement subfloor in the course of renovating unfinished cellar space.

Here’s how to get a warm, dry basement floor over a concrete slab when converting your basement into living space. Lay four-millimeter polyurethane sheeting across the entire floor, overlapping the sheets by about a foot. Then lay pressure-treated two-by-fours on the flat around the perimeter. Lay more two-by-fours, 16 inches on center, securing them to the basement floor with concrete nails. Fill in with one-inch rigid insulation and cover with three-quarter-inch plywood. Now you’re ready to finish off the basement floor with the flooring of your choice.

For more on flooring, consider:

Basement Flooring 101
Installing a Subfloor (VIDEO)
Enhanced Plywood and Subfloor Products

How To: Drill Through Tile

Many small projects in the bathroom require you to drill through tile, and while it's tricky to do so, these tips can help you create a clean hole.

Here’s how to avoid cracking a tile surface when you need to drill a hole. Mark your point, then gently score the tile with a nail set to break through the glaze. Be sure to use a carbide driill bit to cut through the tile more easily, and be careful when backing out. If you’re not drilling into a stud, use a plastic shield for a secure grip on the wall.

For more on tile, consider:

Tiling Tools
How To: Install Tile
5 Reasons to Love Subway Tile

Quick Tip: Repairing Floorboards

Did you know there's a power tool that in addition to other valuable uses, makes quick work of repairing hardwood floors?

Here’s a way to save time and energy when repairing floorboards. Instead of drilling and chiseling damaged floorboards, use a plunge router. First, use a magnetic nail finder to be sure there are no nails in the way. Set scribe lines across the damaged pieces, then run the router across the boards for a quick, clean cut.

For more on flooring, consider:

Wood Flooring 101
Wood Floor Repair (VIDEO)
How To: Refinish Hardwood Floors

Quick Tip: Sawdust Grout

In service of various projects with wood flooring, sawdust grout can be useful in either installation or repair work.

It can be easy to patch cracks in an old wood floor or grout a new wood block floor. Here’s how. First, make a mixture of two part sawdust with one part fast-drying, oil-based sealer. Squeegee the mixture into the cracks of your floor. Wipe off any excess with a steel wool pad, so the floor is clean and smooth. Let it dry overnight and then apply the finish coat of your choice.

For more on flooring, consider:

Fixing Squeaky Floors (VIDEO)
Old Wood Flooring: Replace or Refinish?
Selecting Engineered vs. Solid Wood Flooring

How To: Install a Wood Block Floor

If you've ever worked with ceramic tile, you would find it easy to install a wood block floor, achieving a look seldom seen in homes today.

For a very unusual floor finish, you might want to try wood blocks. Lay out your floor the way you would any ceramic tile floor. But here are four things that are unique to wood block floors. You need to use an oil-based mastic to avoid warping. Lay each tile individually. (They don’t come in sheets.) And grout with a mixture of two parts sawdust and one part fast-drying oil-based sealer. Let it set overnight and then apply an oil-based sealer or polyurethane for a beautiful finish.

For more on flooring, consider:

Wood Flooring 101
Trending Now: Cork Flooring
Walking on Glass: The Beauty and Practicality of Glass Block Flooring

Bob Vila Radio: Exterior Handrails

If you have any stairs leading up to your home, you'll want an exterior handrail—and not just for safety.

Unless your home is at exactly ground level, you probably have a step or two up to your door. High ranches and colonials often have four, five, or even more front steps up to the entryway. And all of these steps, no matter how simple or grand they are, pose a hazard to anyone going up or down. A handrail can be a real help, and it doesn’t have to be an eyesore.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON EXTERIOR HANDRAILS or read the text below:

Exterior Handrails


Handrails can be made of wood, wrought iron, metal tubing or almost anything, depending on what style you prefer. They can be freestanding or attached to a porch or wall, and some can look more like works of art than anything else. An ornate scroll on a side wall, for example, can be a beautiful yet functional addition to your steps, and can prevent a nasty fall if you lose your balance.

Building codes usually dictate how many steps you can have before a railing is required, and some homeowners plan entryways around that in order to avoid installing a railing. But even a single step can be dangerous at night, in icy conditions, or at any time for children and the elderly. So even if codes don’t require a handrail, consider adding one for extra safety.

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.

How To: Replace Damaged Tile

Without disturbing the surrounding wall or floor installation, you can easily replace one or a few tiles that have chipped, cracked, or broken.

Here’s a way to replace damaged ceramic tile. Remove the grout with a grout saw. Crack the tile with a hammer and cold chisel. Remove adhesive with an old chisel or putty knife. Apply latex tile adhesive to the new tiles and press firmly into place. Force grout into the joints, removing the excess, and avoid contact for 24 hours.

For more on tile, consider:

How To: Grout Tile
5 Reasons to Love Subway Tile
Installing Porcelain Mosaic Tile (VIDEO)

Quick Tip: Reclaimed Wood Floors

Salvaged hardwood flooring offers an environmentally sustainable option for homeowners seeking a distinctive look that's rich in history.

Reclaimed wood floors give new life to old timbers. Made from lumber recycled from demolished buildings, heart pine, oak, and other woods are re-sawn into premium-grade flooring. Variable widths maximize the yield from the wood and can be used to create a variety of patterns. Wide boards show off the grain and give a historic look to a new floor.

For more on salvaged wood, consider:

Say Yes to Salvaged Wood
The Beauty of Reclaimed Lumber
11 Ways to Use Salvaged Wood in Your Home

How To: Install Laminate Flooring

With the right tools and some basic skills, you can install laminate flooring this weekend.

How to Install Laminate Flooring


Laminate flooring enables homeowners to get the look of wood for less, and it’s easy to install. In fact, tongue-and-groove or snap-and-click joinery makes the installation of laminate flooring ideal for the average do-it-yourselfer. If you’re at least moderately handy, own some basic tools, and are able to follow directions, then you can install a new floor this weekend.

Tools and Materials:
- Tape measure
- Level
- Hand saw/coping saw
- Hammer
- Tapping block
- Pull bar
- Spacers
- Foam underlayment
- Laminate flooring

Step 1: Getting ready 
Before you tear out the old flooring, make sure you have on hand the necessary tools and materials for the project, because once you begin, a trip or two to the home center will only cause stress and delays. As you measure the room to determine its square footage, plan on purchasing 10% more than strictly necessary in order to account for boards that will be cut for end fittings.

Step 2: Acclimate the new flooring
Floors shrink and expand as temperatures and humidity levels change, so at least one week prior to installation, you’ll need to begin acclimating your flooring to the conditions of your space. Lay flat or stack the boards in the room where you plan to install them. Don’t forget to remove any plastic packaging; doing so promotes air circulation, which aids in the acclimation process.

Step 3: Prepare your subfloor
Remove and store base moldings before doing anything else. Then, working from the edge of one wall, carefully start lifting up the old flooring. As you go, remove nails and staples (or tack strips, if you are pulling up carpeting). Clean up debris and inspect the surface of the subfloor for areas in need of repair. Installing over concrete? Make sure it’s completely cured and moisture-free.

Step 4: Lay the underlayment
Some laminate flooring is sold with pre-attached foam underlayment (also known as a vapor barrier). Otherwise, underlayment sold separately may be installed one strip at a time, starting with the longest wall. Follow the manufacturer’s directions on forming butt edges and sealing seams.

Step 5: Trim the door jambs
Once the underlayment is down, there’s one additional preliminary step to undertake: trimming the door jambs. To accomplish this, lay down one plank so that its edge runs along the side the jamb. Mark the board and using a hand saw, cut parallel to the floor, creating a cut-out that allows the board to fit neatly under the jamb for a clean, professional look.

Step 6: Install the flooring
Install planks parallel to the longest wall. Remember, the first plank is the most important—position it so that its groove faces the wall and is flush to a corner of the room. To allow for natural expansion and contraction, place half-inch spacers between the board and the wall at intervals of 12 inches. Once that’s done, proceed one plank at a time, matching tongues to grooves and gently tapping for a snug fit. (Avoid damaging board edges with your hammer or mallet by using a rag or tapping block to soften the impact.) For a lasting, attractive installation, be sure to stagger the end joints of adjacent boards.

Step 7: Finish up
Your last plank can be somewhat of a pain. It may be necessary to trim the board, or at least the tongue, to ensure that it’s flush. Complete the job by putting in thresholds anyplace there is a door, or wherever your laminate meets another flooring material. Last, take out the spacers you put in, then re-install your base molding. Now sit back and admire.


Author’s Note: Perry Miller has been a freelance writer since graduating from Missouri State University with a degree in journalism. Having worked on dozens of home renovations, Perry has completed projects from shower installation to garage rebuilds and asbestos removal. Read more at