Category: How To’s & Quick Tips


So, You Want to… Build a Ramp

Find out what you need to know to offer easy access to folks using a wheelchair or mobility scooter.

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How to Build a Wheelchair Ramp - Out of Concrete

Photo: istockphoto.com

Opening your heart and home to a mobility-challenged loved one is a beautiful thing. And one way to make it easier on everyone is with a wheelchair ramp that leads straight to your door. But before you DIY or hire a builder to construct one, learn the basics on rules, safety, and materials so that comings and goings will be as smooth as possible.

RULES AND SAFETY GUIDELINES
Check in with both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and local authorities as your first step. You’ll probably need to obtain a permit to install a ramp from your local building authority. It may also be necessary for you to comply with ADA standards. Not all states or communities enforce ADA standards for residential ramps, but following its guidelines will ensure that your ramp is wheelchair user safe. While the ADA states that ramps must be a minimum of 36 inches wide, check local building codes, too, because some states enforce wider ramp widths. Also note that any ramp that rises more than 6 inches in height must also have 36-inch high handrails on both sides for safety.

SPACE AND LANDING REQUIREMENTS
The ADA requires a ramp rise, in height, not more than 1 inch per every 12 inches of run, written as a 1:12 slope. For example, if you need a ramp to reach a 30-inch high porch, you’ll need a minimum of 30 lineal feet for the ramp.

How to Build a Wheelchair Ramp

Photo: istockphoto.com

Those lacking adequate lineal space can design a ramp with turns or switchbacks. But at every turn, the ADA requires a minimum 60-inch-by-60-inch level landing as a wheelchair rest. The ADA also requires a minimum 60-inch-by-60-inch landing at the bottom and at the top of the ramp. A ramp cannot begin to slope right outside the door; a level landing on the porch is necessary.

No ramp should rise above 30 inches without a level landing. For example, if your porch is 48 inches high, you’ll need 48 feet of lineal ramp and a 60-inch-by-60-inch landing somewhere along the ramp before it rises 30 inches. On a straight ramp, this could be accomplished by building a landing off to one side; on a switchback ramp, the landing could be at the turn. If you aren’t mandated to follow ADA rules, this particular guideline is less important for a person with a power chair, yet for someone operating a wheelchair by hand, a resting spot is essential.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT RAMP MATERIALS
Wood is most commonly used in residential ramp construction, but it’s not your only option.

• Wood: With basic carpentry knowledge you can DIY a wood ramp. You’ll sink support posts of approximately 30 inches into the ground and secure them with concrete. Treated wood is popular for wheelchair ramps, but composite planking for the floor may reduce warping. All wood surfaces should be sealed, and it’s wise to put non-skid strips on the floor planks to avoid slippery-when-wet conditions. You can also put indoor/outdoor carpet on the ramp floor. For extra durability, consider installing metal handrails; wood handrails have a tendency to splinter after a few seasons.

• Concrete: Framing and pouring concrete is a technical undertaking, and wet concrete isn’t forgiving of mistakes, so concrete ramps are best constructed by a pro. Concrete ramps require footings and stem walls, and are typically filled with compacted sand before they are poured. Reasons to go with concrete include permanence and durability; you can even embed heat strips to prevent ice buildup in winter. Concrete is also a good choice for a ramp rise of only a few inches. If pedestrians will be using a low-rise ramp, go with a gentler, 1:18 slope, which makes walking more comfortable.

• Earth-berm: For aesthetic appeal, an earth-berm ramp can be worked into your landscape to look like meandering path that slowly rises to the porch. But this type of ramp requires compacting a lot of soil to build the berm (the ramp itself should be poured concrete). And while you can lay berm soil against masonry, such as a concrete or brick porch, soil should not come into contact with wood due to the risk of rot and termite infestation.

Premade ramps: For a quick fix—or if you have difficulty obtaining a permit to build a wood or concrete ramp—a premade wheelchair ramp could be a smart solution. Premade ramps are typically removable, so they’re considered “private property” rather than “real estate,” and therefore not subject to building codes. Generally fabricated from aluminum or galvanized metal and designed to fit over existing steps, they start at a few hundred dollars for bare-bones models but could run into the thousands for higher quality and custom designs.

How to Build a Wheelchair Ramp - Out of Wood

Photo: istockphoto.com


The Essential Guide to Fall Home Improvement

For no-hassle home improvement this fall, entrust one company with all your repair, replacement, and remodeling needs.

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Photo: istockphoto.com

While you were on summer vacation, your home was hard at work battling the elements. After enduring intense heat or seasonal thunderstorms, your home deserves a little TLC to get it ready for the colder months ahead. With fall on the way, now is the time to inspect windows and HVAC systems for signs of distress, and repair or replace them for improved operation and aesthetic appeal. While you’re at it, perhaps it’s a good idea to freshen up the bathroom as well, in preparation for the hordes of overnight guests the holidays bring. With expert recommendations from Sears Home Services, you can make short work of these traditionally time-consuming tasks and add an extra dose of comfort to your home.

WINDOWS

Don’t wait for frost to set in before you winterize your windows. Structurally compromised windows invite cold air in and let warm air escape, forcing your HVAC system to work extra hard to keep your home at a comfortable temperature. Put a stop to winter drafts by inspecting and replacing inefficient or outdated windows to ensure comfortable indoor temperatures and lower energy bills all winter long.

Cold resistance and energy efficiency: If your living room feels like a freezer, your windows may be to blame. Drafts can enter your home through cracks in window casings, jambs, or windowsills, so it’s important to check these areas, and seal cracks and any rotted spots. Yet, as important as it is to winterize your existing windows, sometimes the best course is to replace them. Inefficient, outmoded single-pane windows let in more cold air than their modern counterparts. “Put your hand to an old window, and it’s cold to the touch,” says Dave Lincoln of Sears Home Services. If your single-pane windows are keeping your house cold and your energy bills high, it may be time to make the switch to new double-paned windows. One option is the Sears Weatherbeater window, a double-paned model with a layer of argon gas in between the plates of glass. That important feature gives you an extra buffer against the cold, and can help produce warmer indoor temperatures, better energy efficiency, and lower energy bills. “New windows keep the cold out and warm in—the way it should be,” says Lincoln.

- Sound reduction: Do you wish you could live in a quieter neighborhood free from the sounds of traffic or noisy neighbors? You may be able to get your wish without having to change your address if you’re willing to change your windows. “Time and time again I work with clients who report that after replacing old windows, their living spaces seem quieter and more peaceful—like it’s the same house, but in a new location,” says Lincoln. Double-paned windows, such as Sears Weatherbeater windows, put another layer between you and the sounds on the street while they insulate your home from the cold, meaning you’ll reap double the benefits from a single installation.

Home Air Filter Replacement

Photo: istockphoto.com

HVAC

As you brace yourself for freezing temperatures, take some time to inspect your HVAC system. It’s better to discover any weak spots in your cold-weather defense now than have to deal with a broken furnace, heat pump, or boiler in the middle of winter.

- Furnaces: If your home is heated by a furnace, the most effective winter prep task involves replacing your furnace filters with high-efficiency versions to keep dust, germs, and other particulate matter out of your indoor air. Know that “high-efficiency filters must be cleaned or replaced more often, about every three months,” according to David Kenyon, an HVAC specialist with Sears Home Services. After swapping the filters, continue your preseason furnace checkup by inspecting the internal components to ensure proper functioning. If you don’t have much experience working with HVAC systems, you’ll benefit from making a quick call to a pro, who can do the inspection for a small fee. On the other hand, if you suspect that your old or underperforming furnace won’t last the season, consider replacing it now rather than later. The experts at Sears Home Services can provide you with a free consultation to review your home heating options.

- Heat pumps: When it’s doing its job right, a heat pump is the unsung hero of ductless heating and cooling systems, drawing thermal energy from the cold outdoors and turning it into warm, comfortable indoor heat. But when the heat pump experiences problems, such as cycling on and off, making loud noises, or failing to heat or cool, it certainly makes its presence felt. Take precautions by having your heat pump inspected and, if necessary, repaired or replaced by trained HVAC experts like those at Sears Home Services.

- Boilers: Many homeowners rely on a boiler for heat, sometimes using the appliance to both heat water and warm the house. Although boilers are highly energy efficient and have relatively few mechanical components, they are still prone to the occasional failure. When your boiler doesn’t fire up, doesn’t heat water effectively, or begins to leak, your heat could cut out just when you need it most. For that reason, it’s a good idea to get your boiler inspected early in the season. Trained technicians, like those from Sears Home Services, can diagnose problems, repair boilers made by any of the major brands, or, if necessary, install a brand-new boiler.

BATHROOM REMODEL

According to the old real estate adage, kitchens sell houses, but surely the bathroom is almost as important to a home’s value. When done well, a bathroom renovation can increase your home’s resale price while adding a touch of modern convenience to your everyday life. Renovations come in all sizes, both large-scale and small. Even if you can’t commit to a full bathroom remodel today, keep in mind that you can start by replacing just one outdated fixture at a time.

-Toilets: Most often, toilet trouble can be resolved with a simple fix, swapping out the handle, for instance, or replacing the flapper. In other cases, your time and money may be better spent replacing the fixture. You may want to opt for replacing rather than repairing a toilet if it has a crack in the porcelain, clogs frequently, has poor water efficiency, or suffers from some other costly problem. These functional faults, however, aren’t the only reasons to invest in a new toilet. Even if you’re simply tired of looking at cosmetic imperfections like chips, scratches, or stains, it may be time to replace a decades-old toilet. To help you navigate your bathroom remodel, consider calling on the experts at Sears Home Services, who can advise you on selecting a new, efficient, ergonomically friendly toilet that fits your style and budget.

- Showers: Nothing ages your bathroom like a stained bathtub or discolored grout and tile in the shower. Putting in a new tub and tile gives you a fresh look and a new chance to banish mold and mildew from the bath. To take your project one step further, consider replacing the existing flooring in your bathroom. New tile floors can “boost home resale value,” according to Joe Maykut of Sears Home Services. Even if you’re not planning on selling your home anytime soon, you can still benefit from a modest makeover. Tiny changes like swapping a lime-covered shower head for an easy-clean model can make a big difference to your daily quality of life. Whatever the scope of your bathroom renovation, you can look to Sears Home Services for a range of showers, tubs, and accessories as well as the trained professionals who can install them.

- Cabinets: Whether your bathroom cabinets are part of the sink vanity, installed over the toilet, or mounted on another wall, they may benefit from a quick spruce-up. Particularly if the cabinets are intact but in need of a new finish, you’ll get a “tremendous bang for the buck” by refacing them, says Maykut. On the other hand, if the cabinets are structurally deficient, “refacing them would be beside the point,” Maykut advises. In that situation, cabinet replacement may be a worthier investment. If you’re not sure which approach is best for your bath, call the experts at Sears Home Services to schedule a free in-home consultation.

Photo: istockphoto.com

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


How To: Clean a Shag Rug

High pile is back in style! So keep yours fresh with these simple steps.

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How to Clean a Shag Rug

Photo: istockphoto.com

Shag rugs are enjoying a resurgence, thanks to their groovy textured looks and comfy feel underfoot. The potential bummer? Those long tendrils catch dirt and dust particles quickly. Whether made of wool or synthetic fibers, a shag rug requires more frequent, conscientious cleaning. A rule of thumb is to double the care you’d give traditional rugs, both for vacuuming and deep cleaning. But since calling a pro can be pricey, try the four-step process here and you’ll find that owning a shag needn’t be a drag!

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Plain white vinegar
- Water
- White microfiber cloth
- Mop or broom
- Vacuum cleaner
- Vacuum cleaner upholstery attachment
- Dry carpet shampoo (optional)

How to Clean a Shag Rug

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 1
Ideally, you’ll use this method to treat a spill before it has a chance to set in, but even if it’s dry before you get to it, there’s still hope. Combine equal parts plain white vinegar and room-temperature water, and pour directly onto the affected area. For a small stain caused by a few tablespoons of spilled liquid or food, start with ½ cup of each ingredient to form the mixture, making more if necessary.

Work the solution into the stain with a white microfiber cloth—better than a rag because it won’t stain or leave lint behind—using some elbow grease to release it from the fibers. Once you’ve eliminated the stain entirely, hang the clean shag rug in a well-ventilated area to dry completely.

STEP 2
Take the dry rug outside where you can shake it vigorously to release loose dirt and dust.

Next, if the shag rug is smaller than 3 or 4 feet wide, fold it in half, face-down, over a clean porch railing or the back of a chair and use a mop or broom handle (not its business end) to whack the rug from the back side to release stubborn dirt particles. Put enough muscle into it to shake spare dirt loose, but mind your aim and be careful not to damage the railing or chair in the process.

STEP 3
Cleaning professionals advise against vacuuming a shag rug, as suction could break the long fibers. However, it’s highly effective to turn the rug face down and vacuum its back side, keeping the pile safe while further removing deep-down dirt. This will also redistribute the tendrils from behind to fluff them up again. For an extra-deep clean, use an upholstery attachment, which offers stronger suction in a concentrated area.

STEP 4
If things are still looking dingy and you’re willing to take a risk, consider cleaning with dry carpet shampoo. Shake or spray a small amount onto the least-visible area of the shag rug, making sure to use a product safe for its content (some shampoos are better for wool while others suit synthetics) and following package instructions to the letter.

Carefully vacuum over the shampooed portion only; a handheld vacuum is ideal because it gives you complete control. If any pile breaks off, stop and take the shag rug to a carpet cleaning pro. If all is well, though, proceed with caution and repeat the process until your rug is as shagadelic as ever.


How To: Descale a Kettle

Say goodbye to those stubborn limescale deposits in your teakettle with a low-cost DIY solution.

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How to Descale a Kettle

Photo: istockphoto.com

As temperatures chill, who can resist a piping-hot cup of tea? But beware! If you fall into the tea habit, over time you’ll discover that the interior of your kettle will gradually become coated in limescale. These white calcium deposits form on the inside of kettles, both electric and stovetop varieties, when hot water evaporates and leaves solid minerals behind. The results are both unsightly and unsavory. Plus, if neglected too long, limescale can shorten the life of your kettle. While you can certainly use commercial products to descale your kettle, everyday acids are equally effective—and often more affordable.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Cloth
- Soft sponge
- Dish soap
- White vinegar
- Lemon or lime (optional)

STEP 1
Safety comes first. Before descaling, make sure to first unplug an electric kettle or turn off the heating element under a stovetop model. When the kettle is cool to the touch, discard any remaining liquid, remove the lid, and rinse the interior under cold water.

STEP 2
In order to remove exterior grime or grease, gently wipe the sides and base of the kettle using a soft sponge saturated with water and dish soap. Because copper and stainless steel kettles tend to scratch easily, use only nonabrasive sponges or cloths to remove caked-on residue. Avoid wire brushes or scouring pads that can damage or discolor the kettle. Dry the kettle with a soft cloth.

When you’re dealing with an electric kettle, exercise caution to avoid exposing the electrical components or the socket to water. Never immerse an electric kettle in water. If your electric kettle is equipped with a built-in water filter, don’t forget to clean grime from the filter itself. Remove the filter according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and then rinse it under hot water. Gently wipe the filter with a soft cloth before drying and pressing it back into place.

How to Descale a Kettle

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 3
Fill the kettle halfway with a solution of equal parts cold water and white vinegar, a natural descaling agent. As an alternative, citric acid can also break down limescale; just fill the kettle with the juice of one fresh lemon or lime topped with enough cold water to reach the halfway point of the kettle.

Turn on the stove under the kettle, or plug in your electric kettle, and bring the solution to a boil. Once the water is boiling, turn off the heat, be it a burner or the electric power. (If your electric kettle has an automatic switch-off feature, let it turn off on its own.) Allow the vinegar-water (or citrus) solution to sit in the kettle for 30 minutes to an hour.

TIP: While either diluted vinegar or lemon is gentle enough for most kettles, you should reference the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid exposing your kettle to liquids that could cause damage. If you’re unsure how your kettle will react to an acid, test a drop of the solution on an inconspicuous area before proceeding with the full soak.

STEP 4
With the decalcifying stage complete, you can now pour out the vinegar-water (or citrus) solution. When the kettle’s empty, remove the lid and rinse the interior under cold water. Any lingering limescale can be wiped away with a clean, damp cloth. Because the acetic acid in vinegar is powerful enough to dissolve limescale, vigorous scrubbing is neither needed nor recommended.

STEP 5
Though you may have successfully descaled a kettle, that mean it is ready to boil water for your next beverage. Prevent any vinegary aftertaste from seeping into future cups of tea, fill the kettle halfway with cold water. Turn on the stove or plug in the electric kettle, and boil the water in the kettle to deodorize it. When the odor is gone, discard the water and air-dry the kettle before its next use.

Repeat this routine to descale the kettle once every month or so, depending on how often you use your kettle, and you’ll keep contaminants at bay while your beverages remain fresh and flavorful.


How To: Remove Rust from Cast Iron

Whether it’s a favorite frying pan, piece of patio furniture, or even a radiator, you can bring it back from a state of oxidation with these techniques.

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How to Remove Rust from Cast Iron

Photo: istockphoto.com

Cast iron is so strong and durable, it can serve for a lifetime and beyond. Yet rugged as the material is, it only takes a little neglect to send it from stately black to reddish and wrecked-looking. Rust damage can arise from storing in a damp environment, failing to maintain good seasoning on cookware, or being lax about protective anti-rust painting on furniture. Thankfully, most of this is reversible surface damage, if you put in some time and elbow grease. So to make that skillet or garden bench heirloom-worthy, employ these trusty rust-busting moves.

REMOVING RUST FROM CAST IRON COOKWARE

If your skillet is even a little rusty, quit cooking in it ASAP. Once you get it back in shape, you’ll season it anew and be good to go.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- White vinegar
- Steel wool scouring pads
- Liquid dish soap
- Clean cloth
- Cooking oil
- Paper towel

STEP 1
Check the skillet for pits or craters. If lightly pitted, it might be fine with some extra seasoning, but deep pitting means your skillet is likely beyond repair.

STEP 2
If the skillet has a thick layer of rust and very little visible black iron, soak the pan in a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and water in a plugged sink. Let it sit for at least an hour but no more than 8, since as soon as the rust lifts away, that vinegar will start on the metal itself.

STEP 3
Rinse the skillet with water and then scour it with a small amount of dish soap and fine steel wool. Work up a sudsy scrub and keep at it until you’re down to raw cast iron. Rinse under warm water and dry thoroughly.

STEP 4
To re-season, pour a tablespoon of vegetable or other cooking oil in the pan and use a paper towel to rub it in to the entire skillet, including the sides, handle, and bottom. Place it in a 350-degree oven for 1 hour. Allow it to cool completely before use.

 

How to Remove Rust from Cast Iron

Photo: istockphoto.com

To keep your cast iron cookware happy:

• Never put it in the dishwasher or use soap. Instead, simply wipe it clean under hot water after use.
• After cleaning, dry the pan thoroughly with a clean cloth or by popping it in a warm oven for a few minutes.
• Wipe with oil after drying to maintain a good non-stick seasoning.
• Always put paper towel between the pan and anything you stack it on, or in it, to protect seasoning and prevent rust.
• Keep any lids ajar so moisture isn’t sealed in, as closed lids can trigger oxidation.

 

REMOVING RUST FROM CAST IRON FURNITURE AND RADIATORS

Unless you’re experienced using a sandblaster, call a pro for larger areas of heavy rust. But for typical rusting, roll up your sleeves and try these tips.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Clean rags
- White vinegar
- Sanding paper (medium grit)
- Steel wool brush
- Work gloves
- Mask (optional)
- Paintbrush
- Rust-proof metal paint

STEP 1
For small, pesky spots, soak a clean rag in white vinegar. Wipe and rub the spot until you see bare iron.

STEP 2
For tougher spots, sand them with medium-grit sandpaper or a steel wool brush. Pull on a pair of work gloves and mask (especially if removing paint in the process) so that you don’t inhale the dust. Wipe with vinegar-soaked rag occasionally as you work, to see if bare iron is visible.

STEP 3
Use a water-dampened rag to wipe the surface clean and to stop the vinegar from further corroding the surface. Dry well with a clean cloth.

STEP 4
For larger sections of heavier rust, sand using circular motions. Avoid working in any one spot too long so you won’t leave obvious sanding patterns in the metal. Continue as directed in the previous steps, being sure to rinse with water and dry completely.

STEP 5
Apply a coat of rust-proof metal paint. Oil, alkyd, acrylics—check with your paint supplier or product label to ensure it will bond to cast iron and protect it from surface rust. (Keep paint handy for touch-ups, like spot treating any scratches or chips that may crop up.)

How to Remove Rust from Cast Iron

Photo: istockphoto.com


3 Fixes for Dried Glue

Spilled glue can create quite the sticky situation. But you're not stuck without options: Try any of these simple, smart solutions, and you can rid nearly any household surface of glue residue quickly.

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How to Remove Glue

Photo: istockphoto.com

Glue is an essential product for home repair mavens, DIY enthusiasts, and recreational crafters alike. But when the sticky stuff results in a sticky situation spilled over an unwanted surface, cleaning up the residue can be a tedious task. We’ve already covered the steps to take when battling superglue stains; here, three more fixes that easily remove dried school glues, craft glues, and other common adhesives from everyday household surfaces.

REMOVING GLUE… from Glass

How to Remove Glue

Photo: istockphoto.com

Whether you’re dealing with melted painter’s tape on a window or stubborn sticker residue on a jar, scraping glue from glass be frustrating without an assist from some sort of adhesive solvent. You can always recruit the help of household staples like nail polish remover and white vinegar, but the lubricating ingredients in WD-40 make it the most effective product for the job.

Before using WD-40, ensure that your space is well ventilated. Spray the product onto the glue, let it soak the residue for a few minutes, then remove the glue by wiping with a clean cloth. Repeat these steps, if needed. Once the surface is clean, spritz it with your everyday glass cleaner for a spot-free finish.

 

REMOVING GLUE… from Wood

How to Remove Glue

Photo: istockphoto.com

Whether your toddler went sticker crazy on your dining room table or you can’t get rid of lingering stickiness from the price tag on your wooden furniture, one unexpected hero can save the day: your hair dryer. Switch the appliance on at its lowest setting, and direct the heat over the dried-on glue for about 15 seconds. Just keep the nozzle 2 to 3 inches away from the sticker, or else you risk overheating the wood and damaging its finish. Then, using a plastic scraper, slowly peel off the sticker or its residue from one edge as you continue heating the area. Extra-sticky glue may require more heat before peeling. Lightly clean the wooden surface after removing the glue.

But stickers aren’t the only problems that plague your easily damaged wooden tabletops—you may also be stuck with remnants from DIY repairs and school projects alike after forgetting to cover your work surface with newspapers and the like. When you’re dealing with a thick layer or drip of glue, try carefully sanding the residue or scraping its surface to remove excess before moving on to the following methods:

• Heat: Some dried glues may loosen from treatment by a hair dryer and plastic scraper, as described above.

• Pretreat: Other glue stains may respond better if you apply petroleum jelly overnight, which saturates the adhesive just enough to ease it off with a plastic scraper the next day.

• Try a remover: Commercial glue removers like Goo Gone, or household products like vinegar, may also work. Both, however, have the potential to damage wood finishes. If you decide to try a commercial glue remover, be sure to read its label first and, before using, test the product in an inconspicuous area according to the manufacturer’s suggestions.

 

PRISTINE PLASTIC

How to Remove Glue

Photo: istockphoto.com

When planning to remove a blob of unwanted glue from plastic, proceed with extreme caution. Often, you don’t want the color of the plastic to fade or disappear due to treatment. Even more importantly, however, you don’t want to use a chemical solution that will melt the plastic or emit dangerous fumes. You can breathe easy during cleanup with one of these two all-natural aids: white vinegar or cooking oil.

First, grab a plastic scraper and attempt to lightly chafe the glue. You may find that, thanks to the wonders of chemistry, the glue didn’t bond properly to the plastic in the first place. If the sticky remnants won’t budge after a light scraping, saturate the spot with either vinegar or oil. (Before you commit, test the solution in an inconspicuous area to see if it damages the colors or the plastic surface and, if you don’t see a negative reaction, proceed with the pantry item of choice.) Dab the vinegar or oil to the glue, and let it sit for a few minutes to loosen its dried-on residue. Rub it with a clean, dry cloth until you see the glue coming off, and then wash the plastic item as you normally would.


How To: Splice Wires

Whether you're swapping in a new light fixture or adding an outlet in the garage, you'll probably need to reconnect wires, connect a new wire to an old one, or extend a few wires. In other words, you'll need to do some splicing. Learn how to perform this basic, essential electrical fix safely and efficiently.

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How to Splice Wires

Photo: istockphoto.com

If your around-the-house to-do list includes an ambitious DIY electrical project—be it installing a light fixture, replacing a switch, or extending electrical wires to add another outlet in the garage—you’ll need to know the fundamental skill of splicing wires. Learning how to splice wires correctly will not only ensure that your electrical repairs and upgrades function properly, but, equally important, keep you and your property safe.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Voltmeter
- Electrician’s or linesman’s pliers
- Junction box
- Romex wire connector
- Needle-nose pliers
- Screwdriver
- Wall anchors
- Wood screws
- Grounding screw
- Utility knife
- Wire strippers
- Wire caps or nuts
- Junction box cover (if sold separately)

STEP 1
The following instructions assume that you’re splicing together two Romex wires of the same type. (In this example, we’re connecting a 12/2 NMC with ground to the same type and size of wire.) Romex is a brand name of wire preferred by many electricians that is commonly used in residential applications. The markings stamped on the outer insulation, “12/2 NMC with ground,” indicate the size and type of wire—in other words, a 12-gauge wire with two inner insulated conductors (a black “common” and white “neutral”) as well as a non-insulated grounding wire. NMC is an acronym for nonmetallic cable, the type of wire that is most common in residential applications.

Other types of Romex wire used in residential construction are:

• 12/3—12-gauge wire with three inner insulated conductors and ground, commonly used for switches and light fixtures
• 10/2—10-gauge wire with two inner insulated conductors and ground, commonly used for water heaters
• 10/3—10-gauge wire with three inner insulated conductors and ground, commonly used for electric clothes dryers
• 6/3—6-gauge wire with three inner insulated conductors and ground, commonly used for electric ranges and ovens

It most be noted that while it is possible to splice different types of Romex wire—12/2 to 12/3, for instance—you should never splice together wires of a different gauge. Wire gauge is determined by the amount of amperage it’s expected to carry. For example, a 12-gauge wire is capable of handling approximately 20 amperes, while a 10-gauge wire is capable of handling 30 amperes. Overloading a wire with more than its intended amperage could cause it to overheat, melt, and possibly catch fire.

STEP 2
Before beginning any work, turn off the circuit breaker supplying electricity to the wire that you want to splice. Use extreme caution when working with electricity, as it can cause serious injury or even death when not handled properly. Verify that the power is indeed off using a voltmeter, a device that measures the electrical current in wires—you can pick one up at most home improvement centers. If you still aren’t certain that the power is off, turn off the main circuit breaker for the entire house.

Additional precautions you should take before beginning your project:

• Find a partner. Never work on electrical wiring alone. You want someone around in the event that an unfortunate circumstance occurs.
• Switch your shoes. Wear rubber-soled shoes to insulate your body.
• Make sure the space is dry. Never work on electrical wiring in wet or damp conditions.

STEP 3
Use the electrician’s or linesman’s pliers to remove two of the knockouts on the new junction box, which will house and protect the spliced wires and contain any sparks that could cause a fire if something should go wrong. The knockouts are pressed into the box in predetermined locations during manufacture for easy removal. Most junction boxes are universal and include knockouts of various sizes to accommodate different applications and a range of wire gauges. This setup lets you choose the locations on the box where you want to install the wire connectors and wire during installation.

How to Splice Wires

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 4
Insert a wire connector, commonly referred to as a Romex connector, in each knockout hole in the junction box. Be sure to purchase a connector that fits the knockout holes you’re using on the junction box and is suited for the diameter of wire you are splicing. Secure the connector to the junction box using its threaded locknut and tightening with needle-nose pliers and/or a screwdriver. The connectors act as protective guides that also secure the wires to the junction box. Without them, the wires could be damaged by the sharp edges of the knockout holes.

STEP 5
Install the junction box appropriately—many types attach directly to the wall stud or surface with mounting screws or anchors—and in an area within range of the existing wire.

STEP 6
Thread the end of each 12/2 Romex wire—the existing wire and the wire you’re splicing to it—through one of the Romex wire connectors attached to the box. Tighten the screws on the sides of the wire connector designed to hold it in place, using the appropriate style of screwdriver.

STEP 7
Thread a grounding screw through the threaded hole on the back of the junction box. The grounding screw grounds the junction box—returns excess electrical current safely to the ground—in the event of a short circuit.

STEP 8
Strip approximately six inches of the outer plastic sheathing from the end of the wires you’re splicing together. A utility knife is ideal for slicing and cutting away the outer insulation. Remove the protective paper wrapping surrounding the insulated wires and ground wire.

 

How to Splice Wires

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 9
Wrap one of the bare copper ground wires once around the grounding screw that’s attached to the junction box; you should leave about six inches of exposed wire hanging past the screw. Tighten the ground screw using the screwdriver to secure the ground wire to the box.

Now, twist the second ground wire tightly together with the attached ground wire using the electrician’s pliers, and secure the joint with a twist-on wire cap/nut. Fold the joined wires neatly into the back of the junction box.

STEP 10
Using a pair of wire strippers, remove approximately 1/2 inch of insulation from the ends of both 12/2 cables, from both the black and white wires. Wire strippers are a convenient tool for this task, as they’re designed to strip a wide range of wire sizes and they’re available at most home improvement centers. Similar to a pair of pliers, the tool incorporates sharp edges and predetermined cutting points that allow you to remove the protective insulation from each wire without damaging the wire itself.

STEP 11
Using the electrician’s pliers, twist together the stripped ends of the corresponding wires from each strand of 12/2 Romex, white wire to white, and black to black. Twist them until they are tightly joined, and secure each joint with a threaded wire cap/nut. Fold both sets of wires neatly into the junction box.

STEP 12
Align the protective cover with the mounting screws on the junction box, and tighten firmly using a screwdriver.

Knowing how to splice your own electrical wires can save you time and money on numerous electrical and lighting projects around the house. If, however, you’re apprehensive about working with electricity or lack basic electrical knowledge, do not hesitate to hire a licensed electrician for your project. While hiring an electrician can easily set you back at least $50 per hour, it’s a small price to pay to protect your family and your property from the severe consequences of poorly performed electrical work.

How to Splice Wires

Photo: istockphoto.com


Genius! The Secret to This Modern Bed Is Hiding on Your Shelf

For furniture that fuses elegance with economy, start with a few everyday supplies and tools—and end with this crafty cot!

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diy-bed-frame-2

Photo: homemade-modern.com

When it’s time to settle into a new home or apartment, most people face a tough trade-off: Buying all of the furniture you need calls for a big investment but saves time, while building it yourself takes more hours (and practice) but cuts the total cost. Who better to solve this classic decor dilemma than Jessie Uyeda of HomeMade Modern? On a mission to furnish her whole home on a budget, the former lumberjack devised a DIY compromise for her video channel‘s master class in minimalism—and discovered how to build a bed frame with a single sheet of plywood and shelf brackets from Ikea. The best part? Even beginners can tackle this project, all for only $75!

Uyeda’s bracket bed can be built with the same thrifty trio of tools (and essentially the same materials) used to make and hang a set of wall shelves: a cordless drill, a circular saw, and a random-orbit sander. To save some time and effort, Uyeda enlisted free help from her local Home Depot to cut a twin bed-sized portion from one 4-foot by 8-foot plywood sheet to fit in the car. Then, armed with clamps and a circular saw, she cut the excess length into three equal pieces at home—two for the lengthwise support strips, and a third sawed into two more pieces to brace the remaining ends. To keep the bed’s ultra-slim 3/4-inch base from buckling or sagging under the weight, she secured all four strips with wood glue and reinforced the bond with heavy-duty screws.

Despite Uyeda’s humble materials, her approach to assembling them is nothing short of genius. After gluing the supports to the main platform, each corner of the bed’s base is effortlessly elevated by a pair of screw-on shelf supports that feature just enough of a flat bottom edge to act as sturdy feet. Two last brackets shore up the raised headboard to create a stunning and sound bed frame in just four hours.

It’s hard to top Uyeda’s sublime sleeper in affordability, ease of construction, or ingenuity. Its flexible design can even be modified to fit any mattress! But topping the DIY platform bed with a mattress, a plush pillow, and lightweight linens will make it bedroom-ready—and you won’t lose any sleep over your budget.

FOR MORE: HomeMade Modern

diy-bed-frame-1

Photo: homemade-modern.com

 

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How To: Cut Copper Pipe

Prep for your piping project—be it plumbing or something a little craftier—by first learning how to slice your star material.

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How To Cut Copper Pipe

Photo: istockphoto.com

Beyond its well-earned prominence in the plumbing department, copper piping is having its moment in the DIY world as an “it” accent. With its rich color, sheen, and potential for patina, this metal brings character to any project and looks great in everything from table legs to lighting fixtures. No matter how you intend to use this trendy material, manipulating copper pipe starts with knowing how to cut it—and it’s dead simple! As with most jobs around the home, how hard you’ll have to work will depend on your choice of tools.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Pipe cutter
- Pipe slice
- Hacksaw
- Round file
- Ketchup
- Paper towels
- Microfiber cloth

How To Cut Copper Pipe Using a Pipe Cutter

Photo: istockphoto.com

Using a Pipe Cutter

Cutting copper pipe with a tool built expressly for that purpose—a pipe cutter—is an easy, exact, and complication-free process. One caveat, however: This tool is recommended primarily for pipes of larger diameters. For small-diameter copper pipe, which can be soft and pinchable, stick to the pipe slice method described later.

To proceed using a pipe cutter, position your copper pipe in the pipe cutter and tighten the blade just enough so it is snug—any tighter and you may bend the pipe. Once it’s snug, give your pipe a couple of turns within the tool’s grasp. Pull out the pipe to inspect it, and you should see a groove cut around its circumference. Slide the pipe through the pipe cutter so the groove aligns with the blade, and tighten it once more until it’s just snug. Twist until your pipe is cut.

When you’re done, use the pipe cutter’s built-in burr removal tool to shave any burrs or raised lips left on the inside of the pipe, as those would inhibit smooth water passage. No burr remover on your pipe cutter? A round file worked around the interior of the pipe will do the trick.

Using an Autocut Pipe Slice

Though you have to purchase a pipe slice tailored to the diameter of your pipe (even multiple slices, if you plan to cut pipes of different dimensions), this is ultimately the best tool to use when you’re working with thinner copper diameters of ¼ inch or so. A pipe slice will get the job done without pinching or complications, even more easily than the pipe cutter! The pipe slice’s blade is spring-loaded; slip it around your pipe, and it automatically determines how much to tighten for a clean cut so all you’ll need to concentrate on is twisting the pipe within its grip. Once the pipe has been cut through, use a round file to remove any burrs left behind.

Using a Hacksaw

Attempt this method only if you’re working on a non-plumbing project—or are trapped in your home and cannot pick up another tool from the store. Though a hacksaw will cut through the copper pipe, it’s difficult to hold the pipe firmly enough to get a clean cut with a hacksaw, no matter how strong you are.

In plumbing, if the pipe is affixed to other plumbing when you’re sawing, the excess movement can result in future joint failure. If you’re not working on plumbing, a little movement is not so much of a problem, but it’s undeniably grunt work. Brace the pipe securely and saw it as you would anything else. Before putting a hand-sawn pipe in a plumbing fixture, use a round file to smooth the pipe interior.

Finishing Touches

Depending on the type of project you’re working on, you’ll want to follow the cutting with a crucial next step.

• For plumbing projects, you must always end with the removal of burrs or any raised edges inside the pipe. If not removed, those burrs could cause water flowing through the pipes to swish, creating loud noises as water travels through the pipes. As well, rough interior edges could lead to pipe pitting and corrosion that could one day turn into pinhole leaks. Take the time to sand down the rough edges now, however, and your pipes will function smoothly for years to come.

• Although much less important for most plumbing jobs, copper tubing destined to brighten a DIY home accent may need a cleaning after cuts have been made. If you forgot to don gloves before beginning your copper project, you’ll probably find that your fingerprints stained the metal surface. Fortunately, the fix is simple: Put a coat of ketchup (yes, really!) or Heinz A1 Steak Sauce over the pipe, leave it for a minute, and wipe it off with a dry cloth or paper towel. The condiment’s acidic quality will take the tarnish right off. Buff with a clean microfiber cloth, then rinse, dry, and admire your shiny new copper accent.


5 Ways to Weather Wood

With any of these 5 easy DIY methods, you can weather new wood and add years of rustic charm in a weekend—or less!

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How to Weather Wood - 5 Ways

Photo: istockphoto.com

Many homeowners strive for the lived-in look—the shabby chic, modern farmhouse, or vintage eclectic vibe touted by interior designers and home publications alike. But if you’re building your own furniture to keep to a tight budget or purchasing a collection all at once because it’s simply more convenient, how you do make the wood look like it has lived through decades of sunshine, spills, use, and abuse despite being just a week old? There are actually a number of ways to age your furnishings fast, but bear this in mind before you get started: Different wood gets different results, even when subjected to the same process. And that process, whatever it is, is never an exact science. Use a light hand to see what results you get with your wood, then repeat the process if you want more oomph. Here, we outline a few physical and chemical methods for aging wood, whether a new 2×4 lumber structure or a store-bought piece of furniture, but you’ll still want to improvise a little until your results match your vision.

 

How to Weather Wood - Using Hammers and Nails

Photo: istockphoto.com

1. Fake Wear and Tear
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Hammer
- Crowbar
- Safety glasses
- Paper bag
- Nails or screws
- Wire brush or steel wool
- Awl or 1/16-inch drill bit
- Sandpaper

Imperfect texture makes wood look authentically old. Fake years of use overnight by trying some of the following methods:

• Bang the wood up with blunt objects like hammers and crowbars, paying particular attention to any perfect edges.
• Strap on safety glasses and sling a bag of nails or screws against the boards to create a random pocking texture.
• Drag a coarse wire brush or some steel wool up and down in the direction of the grain to leave striations.
• Tap an awl or 1/16-inch drill bit with a hammer into the wood to mimic the look of insect damage from worms and termites.

No need to do all of the aforementioned activities, though. Use whatever tools you have on hand to wear down your new wood, and finish by sanding the entire piece to temper the weathered look. After you’ve achieved the desired texture, you can continue with any of the following methods to alter the wood’s color.

 

How to Weather Wood - With a DIY Stain Made from Steel Wool

Photo: istockphoto.com

2. Go Gray
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Fine steel wool
- Distilled white vinegar
- Mason jar
- Paintbrush

Achieving a gray ashen look (similar to driftwood) is as easy as applying a DIY wood stain made from #0000-grade steel wool (no soap added) soaked in white vinegar. Grab a large mason jar, tear up one steel wool pad and stick it in the jar, then fill with 1½ cups white vinegar and screw on the lid. The rusting wool will change the tint of the vinegar, which you’ll then brush onto your wood. The darkness and color of the stain will vary depending how much steel wool you use (more means more surface reaction) and how long it’s left to sit in the vinegar.

For a weathered gray look, soak the steel wool anywhere from 30 minutes to two days. You’ll get a very subtle gray after 30 minutes to an hour of wait time; for even grayer shades, wait two or three hours. Silvery gray comes after two days of soaking. Consider using the lighter tints on blond woods and going with a darker gray when trying to fade red and brown woods. When the solution is ready, remove the steel wool and dip a paintbrush into the vinegar. Apply to your wood as you would any store-bought paint or stain. Wet wood always looks very different when dry, so let your treatments dry completely before deciding to add another layer.

 

How to Weather Wood - 5 Ways

Photo: istockphoto.com

3. Mix Up a Richer Wood Stain
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Fine steel wool
- Distilled white vinegar
- Mason jar
- Tongs
- Rubber gloves
- Paintbrush
- Rag

For rich, warm weathered tones, use the instructions above for producing a gray stain (#0000-grade steel wool soaked in a mason jar of white distilled vinegar), but this time let your mixture sit for anywhere from two days to a month, or longer, to achieve a deep, rustic brown. The steel wool may even completely dissolve! If it’s still in there, use tongs or rubber gloves to remove it. Test out the stain on your wood by painting a small area on the back or underside of your project—or even better, on a scrap piece of the same lumber—to see the resulting color. Let it dry. If it’s too dark, simply dilute the solution with some water.

When you’re happy with the color, grab your paintbrush and apply the solution following the grain. Brush it on lightly, though, and use a dry rag to wipe up excess as you work, just in case it’s still darker than expected. Let the wood dry completely before you decide whether or not to add another layer.

 

How to Weather Wood - With Paint

Photo: istockphoto.com

4. Weather with Paint
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Sandpaper
- Hammer
- Paint (three or four colors)
- Paintbrushes
- Orbital sander
- Wood stain
- Cloth

First, hand-sand and bang down any perfect edges with a hammer to give the piece a rustic vibe. Then, using a mostly dry brush, paint thin, inconsistent coats in three or four colors that suit your color scheme. (We recommend that one of the colors be white for better contrast.) The key here is to apply each color sparingly—one on top of the other—with some of the wood still peeking through. Don’t bother drying between applications; the color-blending will help make the weathered effect appear more authentic. Let your wood dry overnight.

The next day, bust out the orbital sander and work the machine over the wood. Again, inconsistency and imperfection is actually perfect. Rustic is the goal! Wipe off the dust from your sanding, apply a thin coat of the stain of your choice, and let it dry, and you’ll have a piece that will look like it was constructed from wood reclaimed from an old painted barn.

 

How to Weather Wood - With Sunlight and Baking Soda

Photo: istockphoto.com

5. Bleach with a Sun Bath
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Baking soda
- Water
- Plastic container
- Sawhorse
- Drop cloth
- Paintbrush
- White vinegar (optional)
- Spray bottle (optional)
- Hard-bristle brush
- Rags

Here’s a crazy idea: Use the elements to weather your wood. One sunny afternoon outdoors could add years to your furniture’s appearance. Note that this method works only with tannic woods, such as redwood, cedar, pine, mahogany, and red oak, so check what type of wood your piece is made of before you begin. While you’re at it, make sure the wood is untreated so that the star ingredient—baking soda—can react with the natural agents; if it’s already treated, you’ll need to strip it and sand it down.

Find a sunny patch of yard. Set up sawhorses if you’re weathering just a board or two of wood; use drop cloths if you’ll be working on a piece of furniture. Mix equal parts water and baking soda in any available plastic container, enough to apply it thickly over your wood. Cover the wood with thick coats of the baking soda paste using a standard paintbrush, then leave the wood in the sun to dry for at least six hours. If you want to either intensify the reaction or speed it up, spray the wood with white vinegar soon after applying the baking soda and water mixture.

After the wood has spent a day in the sun, brush away the dried baking soda with a hard-bristle brush, following the grain of the wood. Rinse with water or a dampened rag, and then dry the wood with a clean cloth. You should see a grayish tint in the wood now. Want more impact? Repeat the process. Afterward you’re done, your piece will be ready for any standard wood stain.

 

Remember: Nothing is permanent. If you’re not crazy about your end results, rest assured that they’re only surface deep! You can always paint it or strip it and try again, thanks to the forgiving nature of this beloved building material.

 

DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from BobVila.com
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on BobVila.com. Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build or make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.

DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from BobVila.com
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on BobVila.com. Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build, or just make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.