Category: How To’s & Quick Tips


How To: Remove Hard Water Stains

Say goodbye to ugly water spots on your kitchen faucets and stains in your toilet bowls! You can clear up these gritty hard water deposits in five easy steps.

How To Clean Hard Water Stains

Photo: shutterstock.com

Are there always white spots on your bathroom fixtures? Does a cloudy film coat the carafe of your coffeemaker? If so, yours probably belongs to the 85 percent of households with hard water. The discoloration you see is the buildup of minerals left behind by evaporated water. Unchecked, hard water deposits can go a long way toward gunking up some of the most commonly used components in your home. Fortunately, it’s easy to remove hard water stains on any sink, tub, or toilet.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Plastic gloves
- White vinegar (or acidic household cleaner)
- Spray bottle
- Toothbrush, toilet brush, or scouring brush
- Sponge
- Soft, dry cloth

STEP 1
Pull on a pair of gloves and reach for an acidic household cleaner, such as metal-and-rust remover. Or, if you prefer, make your own formula by combining equal parts vinegar and water. Add the mixture to a spray bottle, then get to work. If it’s a store-bought cleaner, be sure to consult the instructions printed on the label. If you’ve gone the homemade route, simply spritz the vinegar over the entire water-stained surface. Let it sit for a brief period of time before you continue.

Cleaning Toilet Hard Water Stains

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 2
Scrub, scrub, scrub the area with an old toothbrush (or a toilet bowl brush, if that’s what you’re cleaning). The brush bristles provide just enough abrasive power to wear away the acid-loosened mineral deposits.

STEP 3
Continue spraying on additional cleanser, following up by scrubbing, until even the most stubborn hard water stains are gone. If it’s tough going, try this: Pour the vinegar-and-water solution into a small bowl, then add enough baking soda to create a paste. Dip your brush in the paste, then try scrubbing again. This time, the stain ought to give way. The more often you clean, the less stubborn the stains become.

STEP 5
Having removed the last of the mineral deposits, rinse the area with a dripping wet sponge. Finish by wiping the area dry with a soft cloth. Be sure to dry the area completely, or else the spots may reappear!

Preventing Hard Water Stains
Here are two tricks to prevent hard water stains from making your cleaning regimen a tedious chore:

Wipe away water as soon as you are done using a faucet. Hard water cannot leave a staining deposit if you get rid of it quickly. Keep a cloth near each of the faucets in your house and wipe up excess water.

At least once per day, wipe down or lightly mist vulnerable areas with a natural cleaner. Doing so may not completely prevent hard water stains, but it’ll make the job easier when you clean in earnest later on.


5 Things to Do with… Leftover Tile

If you were left with extra tiles in the wake of a remodel, don't miss our favorite ways to reuse all those spare squares.

Whenever you’re assembling materials for a tiling project, it’s recommended that you purchase a little extra—about 10% more than strictly necessary for the job. That’s why, at the conclusion of a remodel, even fastidious do-it-yourselfers may end up with lots of leftovers. Rather than relegate the surplus to a corner of your basement or garage, why not put the tile to work in your next DIY project? Scroll down to see five creative ways of repurposing tile in and around your home.

 

1. CREATE COASTERS

Reuse Tile - Coasters

Photo: instructables.com

You may be a diligent steward of your furniture, with a pledged commitment to the use of coasters. Still, your home’s wood surfaces won’t be safe from damage until every household member follows your lead. To make responsibility more fun, encourage the family to photo-personalize a set of tile coasters. Here’s how.

 

2. CUSTOMIZE YOUR KITCHEN

Reuse Tile - Backsplash

Photo: shutterstock.com

Here’s a high-impact way to dress up a rental kitchen. Whereas a backsplash normally installs directly to the wall, you can, as a non-permanent solution, adhere your choice of tiles to a panel of medium-density fiberboard. Wall-mount the panel, not the tile, and when it’s time to move out, simple remove your handiwork.

 

3. BUILD A BIRDHOUSE

Reuse Tile - Birdhouse

Photo: instructables.com

Welcome birds to your backyard with an all-season feeder. Though porcelain or ceramic tiles could be used theoretically, the example here boasts a quartet of linoleum tiles. Having been decoratively painted, the tiles were set into the metal frame of a salvaged lantern. For the step-by-step details, visit Instructables.

 

4. ADDRESS YOUR VISITORS

Reuse Tile - House Number

Photo: instructables.com

When announcing your home to visitors, ensure the street number remains legible even after nightfall. Glow-in-the-dark paint provides an easy way to do so. In this project, the tiles are held securely, but are not fixed in place, by two rabbeted boards. Move the rightmost tile, and you find a clever cut-out for a spare key!

 

5. MAKE A MOSAIC

Reuse Tile - Mosaic

Photo: shutterstock.com

Looking to blow off a little steam? Haul out your leftover tiles! After donning safety goggles, go ahead and hammer the tiles into pieces of irregular size and shape. Now you’ve got plenty of material with which to design mosaics for tabletops, counters, or garden path stepping stones—get instructions for the latter right here.


Genius! DIY Portable Fire Pit

A streamlined, modern fire pit makes your outdoor living area look like a million bucks, and it costs only $25 to make.

DIY Portable Fire Pit

Photo: theartofdoingstuff.com

Karen loves fires—summer bonfires, barbecues, and winter evenings spent ’round the living room hearth. Even so, she’d hesitated to add a fire pit to her backyard patio. But when she saw a portable fire pit her sister had made, Karen realized that during the so-called “shoulder” months—March, for example, or September—a small, portable fire feature would not be an eye-catching decorative addition to her outdoor living space, but would also afford a few extra weeks of patio season.

On her blog, The Art of Doing Stuff, Karen provides a step-by-step tutorial for building a DIY portable fire pit that looks about $300 more expensive than it actually costs to assemble—$25. The patinated metal base of the fire pit actually started out as planter. Karen got hers on sale at a garden center. Meanwhile, the glass components are repurposed from a quartet of cheap picture frames that were lying around her house, as if it waiting patiently for a second chance in life.

DIY Portable Fire Pit - Process Shot

Photo: theartofdoingstuff.com

With clear marine silicone (available at hardware stores and home centers), Karen adhered the glass panels both to each other and to the planter base. Then, having measured the space within the chamber, she cut a piece of metal mesh that would fit perfectly inside. Before placing in the mesh, though, Karen added her secret ingredient, gel fuel. Sold in small, low-cost canisters, gel fuel burns cleanly, and though it produces no smoke, its flames look convincingly like those of a genuine wood fire. The mesh layer separates the pebbles from the gel, while concealing the canister even from those standing right next to the fire pit. To ignite the gel, simply inch the pebbles aside and administer a flame by means of a long kitchen match—or take a cue from Karen, who likes to use a spaghetti strand!

If you enjoy splitting wood, hauling logs, and disposing of ashes—tasks often entailed by a traditional fire pit—this isn’t the DIY for you. But if you love the minimal maintenance requirements of Karen’s version, her ingenious tabletop version, clean-lined and modern, may be the perfect addition to your deck, porch, or patio.

FOR MORE: The Art of Doing Stuff

DIY Portable Fire Pit - Close Up View

Photo: theartofdoingstuff.com


DIY Concrete Wall Planters

If you want a modern-looking planter, concrete is a DIYer's best friend. But this tutorial takes it to the next level by mounting your plants on the wall.

DIY Concrete Modular Wall Planter

These concrete modular wall planters made by Ananda at A Piece of Rainbow are the perfect geometric accent for the modern home. And with a little know-how and a dose of patience, you can recreate them on your own. Simply follow the instructions below and you’ll have the beginnings of your own living wall to hang in your bedroom, bathroom, or anywhere else you please.

MATERIALS & TOOLS

- Pourable concrete mix, such as Quikrete 3000lb (used here)
- Cardboard or thick card stock for making the molds
- Template for the molds, formatted for 8.5″x11″ – download template
- Plastic containers
- Plastic bags
- Box cutter or scissors
- Glue and tape
- Gloves
- Dust mask

STEP 1

DIY Concrete Planters - cardboard

Print and cut out the template, trace onto cardboard, and cut out the inner and outer molds. The template for the outer mold on page 2 is larger than 8.5″x11″, so rotate it when you trace to complete the shape. Score, fold and tape each mold with scotch tape or masking tape. Fold 3/8″ wide strips of cardboard into triangular shapes and glue them to the inside bottom of the outer molds. These will function as drain holes and openings for hanging later.

STEP 2

DIY Concrete Modular Planter - Pour

Screen those really big chunks of aggregates out of the Quikrete 3000lb mix- a plastic nursery pot works great, and leave some small aggregates for strength. Mix the concrete following the proportions recommended on the bag, using the screened concrete as if it is the original mix. Wear dust mask and gloves when working with concrete.

Pour the mix into the outer mold till it’s level with the triangular pieces, then place the inner mold inside, making sure it is centered. Pour the walls using a popsicle stick to help pushing the mixture down.

STEP 3

DIY Concrete Planter - dry

Let the planters stay in the molds and cure for at least 3 days by misting them daily and wrapping them in plastic bags. This is a very important step to ensure that the concrete hardens as much as possible so they don’t chip or break. The more moisture you can keep in the plastic bag the better.

After day 3, take the planters out of the molds. Since concrete is very alkaline and that can be a set back for plant growth, soak them in a tub of water for a day and let dry. I decided to paint the edges with gold acrylic paint for an added sense of mystery.

STEP 4

DIY Concrete Modular Planter - Plant

Now we are ready to plant. Succulents are great because they are easy to care for. Give the plants a couple of weeks to form roots that hold the soil in, and now we can hang or stack these planters to create our own mini vertical gardens! To create a pattern on the wall, use the template to mark where the 3 openings on the bottom of each planter are, and use 1 or 2 nails/screws for each planter depending on the pattern you want to create.

DIY concrete modular planters - finished

Thanks, Ananda! For even more amazing tutorials, visit A Piece of Rainbow.


DIY Concrete Planters

If new and stylish planters aren't in your budget this spring, save your money for soil, plants... and patio pavers! That's almost everything you'll need to recreate these flower boxes.

DIY Concrete Planters

Large planters for your deck or patio can be very pricey, so it makes sense to build your own. If you like the look of concrete but would rather not mix and pour your own, patio pavers make a genius shortcut. That’s what Angela from Life in Velvet discovered. With the right tools and materials, you can create patio paver planters that will bind and stay together. Find the how to below.

MATERIALS

- (5) 16X16 patio pavers {per large planter}
- (5) 12X12 Patio Pavers {per small planter}
- Gorilla Glue
- Clamps
- Patio paint

STEP 1

Lay out four patio pavers to form a square, with edges overlapping. The fifth paver is used as a base.

STEP 2

DIY Concrete Planters - gorilla glue

Apply Gorilla Glue to the edges of the pavers, then clamp together until dry.

Note: The only thing to be afraid of with Gorilla Glue is that it expands about 3x, so use thin lines of glue between pavers, and use small dots to adhere the sides to the base to allow for drainage.

STEP 3

DIY Concrete Planters - paint

Once dry, use remove the clamps and apply patio paint of your choice.

STEP 4

DIY Concrete Planters - add soil

Add soil and plants! We have a very small back yard, so I’m using each of these as a mini raised garden. I planted a variety of shrubs and flowers in shades of purple, pink and red to keep everything interesting and cohesive.

DIY Concrete Planters - finished

Thanks, Angela! For more DIY ideas, check out Life in Velvet.


DIY Pallet Planter

As long as it's not chemical-treated, a pallet can make a great planter for a few seasons—and this project makes us want to drop everything and grow strawberries today.

DIY Strawberry Pallet Planter

When Tanya, from Lovely Greens looked to Pinterest for some spring inspiration, she came across lots of ideas for strawberry pallet planters. That’s when she decided to create her own take on the pallet planter using a heat-treated (not chemical-treated) pallet. Read on to discover how you can make your own, too.

MATERIALS

- Pallet
- Jigsaw or hand saw
- Power drill
- Screws (1.5″ and 3″ lengths)
- Chisel and mallet
- Paint (optional)

STEP 1

DIY Pallet Planter - cut

Cut the pallet into three equal pieces. The easiest way to do this is to lay the pallet so that the long planks are in parallel with your own position. If your pallet has nine planks, like mine did, then count over three planks and then saw the wood between the third and fourth planks. Saw right in the middle, to keep things easy and to ensure that all of your proportions remain correct. Remember that you’ll have to saw in the exact places on both the front and back of the pallet.

STEP 2

DIY Pallet Planter - trim

Trim and remove excess wood pieces. You’ll have three pieces of pallet now, all of the same height and width. Two of the pallets will be formed from the top and bottom and will have chunky blocks securely fixed to them between one of three planks on the front side and the single one left on on the other. You’ll want to trim off the excess wood jutting up from each one of these wooden blocks.

STEP 3

DIY Pallet Planter - build

Fix the two end pieces to the middle part of the pallet. Screw in from the other side of the middle (bottom) piece. The two end pieces will be the sides of your planter and the middle piece is the bottom. Though the image shows the structure right way up, it’s actually easier to flip it over in order to fix the bottom piece to the sides. You’ll want to screw or nail the bottom piece into the wooden blocks still attached to the side pieces.

STEP 4

You should have three to four of these pieces that were removed from the centre piece of the pallet. Separate them into individual blocks and planks. This is easier said than done if you don’t have the right tools. Since pallet wood that has been heat treated can be brittle if you try to pull the plank off with the tongs of a hammer. If you have a heavy duty chisel then I recommend that you use it to separate the block and the plank and sever the nails in two. If you’re planning on doing any more pallet projects you could really save yourself a lot of tears and invest in one along with an iron mallet down at your local hardware store. If any of your pieces have bits of nails sticking out then try to hammer them flat.

STEP 5

DIY Pallet Planter - feet

Now assemble the rest of your planter box, including adding the feet. Attaching the wooden blocks as feet can be a bit tricky and in the end I drove very long screws in sideways to attach them to the bottom of the planter. Putting feet on the piece will help with drainage and slow down the process of the bottom rotting. I think they also make the planter look nicer.

STEP 6

Turn your planter right way up and have a look at it. Does it feel sturdy? Are the feet wobbly? Are there extra bits of wood sticking up that you could trim back? Once you feel the planter is complete then either plant it up as is or use a non-toxic outdoor wood paint to paint the exterior. Being wood, this piece will eventually rot down but some TLC now can help extend its life.

STEP 7

Grow Strawberries - pallet planter

Soil and compost will erode through any unprotected opening in the sides or bottom of the planter. Putting down your choice of barrier materials will help keep that soil where it’s supposed to be. I chose to line the bottom of my planter with scraps of wire then a layer of gardening fabric that will let water out but keep matter in. Since I placed my planter against a hedge I also chose to roll the black material up the back since I won’t be planting any strawberries on that side. On top of the fabric and running up the sides I used straw as an organic erosion barrier.

The easiest way to plant your strawberries is to work your way up from the bottom. A layer of compost, mixed with manure and slow-release organic fertilizer went in first. Then I placed the plants in the bottom slots along with straw. Another layer of my compost mixture and then I repeated the process for the next set of slots. You’ll also notice that I’ve spaced my plants out far more than you’ll see in most other pallet planter tutorials. If you want strawberries to produce well, it’s recommended that you place the plants at least 14″ apart. I’ve also made sure that each plant will be able to grow and spread out without smothering any plants underneath.

DIY pallet planter - finished strawberries

Thanks, Tanya! Check out Lovely Greens to watch her step-by-step video of this project—and to find even more great DIY projects.


DIY Wine Cork Planters

When life gives you wine corks, make really, really tiny planters. Well, that's not the saying but it's certainly a fun idea.

DIY Wine Cork Magnet Planters

By her own admission, Linda from It All Started With Paint isn’t what you’d call a green thumb. But tiny low-maintenance succulents were calling her name and that’s where the idea for these unlikely thumb-sized planters came from. Read on to learn how to create your own easy-to-make planters!

MATERIALS

- Wine corks
- Magnets
- Glue gun
- Succulents
- Soil
- Steak knife

STEP 1

DIY Wine Cork Planter - corks

Drink some wine and save the corks.

STEP 2

DIY Wine Cork Planter - materials

Gather your supplies. You’ll need wine corks, a glue gun, magnets, a steak knife, and plants. I used hardy—and hard to kill—succulents since I’ve got a bit of a plant-killing reputation.

STEP 3

DIY Wine Cork Planter - core

Using a steak knife, core out centers of the corks. Start by putting tip in center of cork and turning knife in a circular motion. Just make sure you don’t go all the way through; stop about ¾ of the way down.

STEP 4

DIY Wine Cork Planter - magnet

Use glue gun to affix magnets. Note: Once plants are planted, the cork will be much heavier. Depending on the strength of your magnet, you made need to affix more than one to handle the added weight.

STEP 5

DIY Wine Cork Planter - soil

Add soil.

STEP 6

DIY Wine Cork Planter - succulents

Add plants. Use a ¼ teaspoon measure spoon to add dirt and pack down. Drizzle with water.

Simple as that! Thanks, Linda. For more DIY ideas or to visit her Etsy shop, visit It All Started With Paint.


DIY Hypertufa Planters

These easy-to-make planters come together with a only handful of ingredients and a few weeks to cure.

DIY Planters - hypertufa

What’s even better than making your own concrete planter? How about trying your hand at a hypertufa planter? If you’ve never heard of hypertufa, it’s a manmade rock that’s great for growing plants. When we saw these DIY hypertufa planters by Alissa at 33 Shades of Green, we had to include her in our newest Bob Vila Thumbs Up competition. Read on to see how she did it.

MATERIALS

- Containers (I used plastic and cardboard containers)
- Peat moss
- Perlite
- Portland cement
- Mold release spray (or cooking spray)
- Container for concrete mix

STEP 1

DIY planters - plastic containers

Gather your supplies. The perlite, portland cement, and peat moss are all readily available at a home improvement store. Make sure that you use real portland cement and not a quick-set material. Also, you want to use peat moss that is finely ground and not in large pieces.

In order to make your mold you will need to nest two containers together. Both should have sides that are straight or taper out and make sure that there is a gap of at least 3/4-inch between them.

STEP 2

DIY Planter - Mixing Hypertufa

Mix together equal parts perlite, peat moss and portland cement in a large container. The amount you use of each does not matter as long as they are equal parts. I used 2 quarts of each. A wheelbarrow would be great to use for mixing, but I don’t have one so I used an old rubbermaid container.

Make sure you wear gloves! Slowly begin to add water and mix until mixture is the consistency of cottage cheese.

STEP 3

DIY hypertufa planter - making

Coat containers with mold release spray. Pour mixture into the outer mold until it is an inch thick. Add the inner container and start adding mixture around all the sides. You can fill the inner mold with sand or water to steady it. Pack mixture in tightly.

STEP 4

Cover the containers with plastic. After 24 hours remove the inner mold. Replace plastic. After 36 hours remove outer mold.

STEP 5

DIY Planters - hypertufa cured

After removing molds, you can drill holes using a masonry bit in the bottom of the container for drainage. Also, use a planer file or sand paper to smooth out any rough edges. Recover containers with plastic and let sit for several weeks in order to finish curing.

DIY hypertufa planter - finished

Thanks for sharing, Alissa! For even more DIY tutorials, be sure to check out 33 Shades of Green.


5 Things to Do with… Drop Cloths

Drop cloths deserve more than to be spilled and walked upon. Contrary to their self-effacing reputation, these affordable, neutral, and sturdy canvas sheets lend themselves to a number of eye-catching DIYs.

With any number of do-it-yourself projects, be it wall painting or window replacement, a prudent first step is to spread drop cloths over the flooring and furniture. What you may not have considered: These sturdy sheets of canvas can do so much more than protect against damage. With creativity and some elbow grease, you can take drop cloths out of their supporting role and recast them as a star of your decor. Scroll down for five favorite ways to repurpose drop cloths!

 

1. TOMORROW WE DYE

Uses for Drop Cloths - Place Mat

Photo: lovelyindeed.com

Though you may never have heard of shibori, a Japanese dyeing technique, you’re going to love its results. For anyone wanting to experiment with the process, drop cloths are ideal, since the canvas material doesn’t cost much. Visit Lovely Indeed for a step-by-step guide to making the indigo-inflected placemats above.

 

2. PULL THE RUG OUT

Uses for Drop Cloths - Area Rug

Photo: welivedhappilyeverafter.com

At the midpoint of a home renovation, paint-covered drop cloths are a common sight. This time, however, the look was deliberate. To create a small area rug, Hannah at We Lived Happily Ever After folded a drop cloth in half and stitched up the edges before decorating the floorcovering with a chevron pattern.

 

3. CURTAIN CALL

Uses for Drop Cloths - Curtains

Photo: diyshowoff.com

From DIY Show Off, here’s a wonderful way to make your own inexpensive yet sophisticated window treatments. All you need to complete the project are a few drop cloths and a Sharpie. Simply adorn cut-to-size fabric with quotes from a favorite work of literature, then use clips to hang the sheets from your curtain rod.

 

4. HEAD OF THE CLASS

Uses for Drop Cloths - Headboard

Photo: nashvillepug.blogspot.com

Using your staple gun and a rubber mallet, add together a basic set of materials, including fiberboard and drop cloth, and then finish things off with sold-by-the-yard nailhead trim. Yup, that’s how astoundingly easy it can be to build your own elegant headboard. For step-by-step instructions, head over to Nashville Pug.

 

5. DROP AWAY

Uses for Drop Cloths - Hammock

Photo: mymagicmom.com

The epitome of summer relaxation, hammocks are a must for any outdoor space. While elaborate store-bought options can be a tad expensive, making your own minimalist version with clothesline, dowels, and drop cloth won’t cost you any more than $20. Interested? Check out My Magic Mom for more information now!


Weekend Projects: 5 Quick DIY Fire Starters

Create a cozy blaze in your fireplace, quickly, with a DIY fire starter made with nothing more than items you already have in the house.

If you love your fireplace and spending time in front of a cheery, crackling flame, you’re no doubt familiar with products like fatwood. These treated wood pieces facilitate burning, helping to get the show on the road more quickly. Fatwood isn’t cheap, though, and you may not always have the stuff readily at hand. So the next time you’re in a pinch, or if you want to cut costs, you can make a DIY fire starter using only common household items. Here are five ways to go about it.

 

1. LEVERAGE LINT

DIY Fire Starter - Lint and Cardboard

Photo: shutterstock.com

The easiest DIY fire starter involves two things that are ubiquitous in homes across America: dryer lint and a cardboard toilet paper (or paper towel) roll. Every time you clear the lint trap in your dryer, set the fuzzy fibers aside until you have enough to stuff a cardboard roll end to end. For best results, use two or three lint-stuffed rolls to start your next fire. Note: For the lint to burn correctly, it must not be packed too tightly. Be sure to leave enough room for air to circulate through.

 

2. PREPARE PINECONES

DIY Fire Starter - Pine Cones

Photo: shutterstock.com

Here’s a way to use some of those pine cones that have been littering your yard. After gathering a basket full of cones, tie a six- or eight-inch length of yarn to each one. Use the yarn to dip each cone individually into a quantity of melted wax (which you can create with the simple method described further on). Dip enough times for the cones to develop multiple waxen layers. Finally, move the cones to a sheet of newspaper and allow sufficient time for the wax to cool and harden.

 

3. CAPITALIZE ON COTTON

DIY Fire Starter - Cotton Balls

Photo: shutterstock.com

Handy for a slew of household needs, cotton balls are a staple in many medicine cabinets and linen closets. Cotton balls are also highly flammable, especially when soaked in petroleum jelly. To make this DIY fire starter, simply roll a bunch of cotton balls in Vaseline until they are saturated. Once done, store the balls in a zip-lock plastic bag until you need them. Three or four should do the trick. If you don’t have any cotton balls, you can even try using Vaseline-covered cotton swabs.

 

4. CUT UP A CARTON 

DIY Fire Starter - Egg Carton

Photo: shutterstock.com

This method enables you to create, all at once, a series of compact DIY fire starters that are easy to store at home or take with you on a camping trip. Start with an empty egg carton. Next, collect enough candle nubs and broken crayons to fill a tin can. Place the can in a pot of water on the stove, providing enough heat for the wax to simmer and melt. Meanwhile, fill each compartment in the egg carton with a combustible material, be it dryer lint, sawdust, or shredded paper. Then finish by carefully pouring melted wax over each compartment. When the wax cools and dries, break apart the compartments, and you’ll have a dozen fire starters.

 

5. DEPEND ON DUCT TAPE

DIY Fire Starter - Duct Tape

Photo: shutterstock.com

Believe it or not, duct tape is flammable and particularly potent when crumpled into a loose ball. To really get things going, wrap duct tape around a crumple sheet of newspaper. With a generous dollop of hand sanitizer (with alcohol), these makeshift DIY fire starters are an easy, cheap, and effective means of starting a blaze.