Category: How To’s & Quick Tips


Bob Vila Radio: Measure Twice, Cut Once

Accurate measurement is fundamental to any successful DIY project. Remember to choose the right tools, mark precise points, and keep perspective on just how accurate is accurate enough.

You’ve heard the old saying, “Measure twice, cut once.” When it comes to do-it-yourself projects, there couldn’t be a better motto. Here are some tips for sizing up jobs around the house…

Measure Twice Cut Once

Photo: shutterstock.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON ACCURATE MEASUREMENT or read the text below:

Don’t use a 25-foot tape to measure for a 6-inch cut. Better to use a smaller tape that’s easier to manipulate.

To transfer your measurements to the surface of the material you’re cutting, first press on the edge of the tape and roll it until the edge makes contact with the material. Then put the point of your pencil at the measurement and flick it up and to the right, then up and to the left. That’ll give you a mark that’s very visible yet small enough at the point to maintain accuracy.

Also, keep a clear perspective on how accurate your measurements really need to be. For example, if you’re cutting drywall, a quarter-inch gap isn’t gonna make a big difference. You can always cover it with tape and mud. It’s the same with trim you’re planning to paint. A little caulk goes a long way. For clear-finish woodwork, though, you’ll need to be more precise.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 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.


Do You Need a Dehumidifier?

Read on to learn how a dehumidifier can help prevent excess moisture in the air from turning into a mold and mildew problem—and how you can select the best possible unit for your space.

How to Choose a Dehumidifier

Photo: thehomedepot.com

Air quality can suffer in myriad ways. Excess humidity ranks among the least desirable effects. Left unchecked, moisture buildup can lead to a number of problems within the home, including but not limited to musty odors, warped wood, peeling paint and mold. If at any point during the year a homeowner becomes concerned about the high humidity level inside, what can he do to alter the status quo? One word: dehumidifier.

Dehumidifiers range in size from portable, one-room units to whole-house solutions that tie into the home’s HVAC system. Though variations exist both in product design and quality, most dehumidifiers work the same way. You configured the preferred humidity level, and when humidistat registers a level in excess of your preference, the dehumidifier clicks on. Driven by a fan, moist air moves through the appliance, where it passes over a cold metal coil. At that point, the moisture condenses into water, which gets stored internally or drained away. The filtered air then passes over a warm coil before returning to the home’s conditioned space.

How to Choose a Dehumidifier - Isolated

Photo: thehomedepot.com

If you suspect but aren’t certain whether your home has been experience moisture issues, research the problem by purchasing and monitoring a humidity gauge, also known as a hygrometer. If on the other hand you know that your home needs a dehumidifier, consider these factors in making your selection:

• Determine the scope of the problem. Is the whole house overly humid, or is the issue confined to one area (e.g., the basement)? The scope of the problem directly determines the nature of the solution. Larger whole-house dehumidifiers tie into the HVAC system and include a drainpipe that empties directly into a slop sink, sump pump, or to the outdoors. These types of dehumidifiers aren’t cheap and typically involve professional installation. Portable dehumidifiers, meanwhile, are much less expensive and much more consumer-friendly. They plug right into the wall and operate via built-in interfaces that are easy to understand and configure. Some portable dehumidifiers are equipped with hoses that can drain or pump out collected water automatically; others feature a bucket that must be emptied out on a regular basis.

• Calculate the area’s square footage. Even dehumidifiers of the same basic design can differ in capacity. Select one that can hold ten pints of water for a 500-square-foot space; add four pints of capacity for every additional 500 square feet. So if you wish to dehumidify a 1,000-square-foot basement, you’d need a unit with a 14-pint capacity. For a very damp space, choose a dehumidifier that holds 12 pints of water for a 500-square-foot space, adding five pints for every additional 500 square feet.

• Don’t forget about energy efficiency. Energy Star-certified dehumidifiers use about 15 percent less energy than conventional units. In the long run, that means a savings of approximately $175 over the life of the dehumidifier, not to mention avoiding roughly 2,800 pounds’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions.

Dehumidifiers can provide a continuous flow of fresh, dry air in the home, resulting in an energy-efficient solution that improves indoor air quality and keeps mold growth at bay all season long.


5 Things to Do with… Stair Spindles

Even after they've been banished from the banister, stair spindles can still play an important supporting role. If you have a few left over from a renovation, see how you can reuse them in five surprising repurposing projects.

On your last trip to the architectural salvage yard, you doubtless saw scores of antique sinks, windows, and at every turn, balusters. Most often made of wood, these spindles once supported the handrail along a staircase. When that staircase came down, the spindles—with their slim profiles sporting decorative notches and curves—were freed to be used elsewhere in and around the home. Scroll down to see five creative ways DIYers are reusing balusters.

 

1. SLEEP WELL

Baluster DIY Projects - Nightstand

Photo: etsy.com

The long and slender shape of stair spindles makes them preternaturally fit for use as supports for small tables. With four spare spindles—or even three—plus your choice of tabletop, you can, quickly and pretty easily, put together an elevated surface that would function perfectly as a nightstand or end table.

 

2. TAKE A SEAT

Baluster DIY Projects - Bench

Photo: My Repurposed Life

This charming little bench from My Repurposed Life illustrates how you can upcycle two leftover materials at once. A quartet of balusters, combined with a couple of shutters, creates a bench destined to sit pretty on the porch. To complete the look, give both the shutters and spindles the same distressed finish.

 

3. LIGHT A FIRE

Baluster DIY Projects - Candelabra

Photo: hipcycle.com

Hipcycle shows how well spindles lend themselves to reuse in a candelabra. It’s a simple process, perfect for beginning woodworkers. First, cut each spindle to a different height. Next, use a drill with a hole-cutting bit to form the candle-holding slot in each baluster. Finish by attaching the spindles to a wood base.

 

4. RACK IT UP

Stair Spindle Magazine Rack

Photo: etsy.com

A bevy of balusters may be used to create a magazine rack or a similar storage piece, assuming you can handle yourself in the woodworking shop. In something like the piece pictured, spindles would form not only the furniture legs, but also the vertical members corralling the reading material kept within.

 

5. FOR THE BIRDS

Stair Spindle Birdhouses

Photo: RoboMargo.com

Balusters can help you build a birdhouse that oozes with cottage character. Whether the baluster itself serves as the birdhouse (left) or spindles add on as ornamentation for a larger assembly (right), it’s obvious that for an imaginative maker like Robo Margo, spindles are a stairway to new DIY heights!


Genius! DIY Pencil Dish Rack

What would you do with 30 pencil stubs and an extra cutting board? This DIYer made something truly unique.

DIY Dish Rack

Photo: project-re.blogspot.com

When designer Samuel Bernier found himself with an excess of pencil stubs (don’t ask!), he was determined not to discard them, but to put them to use in something entirely new. Voila—his DIY dish rack. Genius.

So does Samuel actually use the clever dish rack he designed and built. Short answer: yes. “I used it for a year while I was in Canada,” he says. But he had to part with his creation after a transatlantic move to Paris. “My parents now have it,” adds Samuel.

We asked him how the pencils hold up to the moisture that a dish rack naturally invites. “Pretty good actually, since they are painted,” he says. “The cutting board absorbs the water a little bit more, but it dries fast.”

But where does he get his inspiration? “Most of the time, it just happens,” he says. “I either have something to repair or something I just need, and since I’m a maker… I make those things the way I like.”

Check out his DIY dish rack tutorial!

MATERIALS
- Wood cutting board
- Pencils (more than 30)
- Hand saw or band saw
- Safety mask
- 1/4 wood drill

STEP 1

DIY Dish Rack - Materials

Photo: project-re.blogspot.com

You will need to start drawing a lot or find somebody who does. Any wooden pencil with an eraser at the end will do the job. If you are the type of person who chews the tip their pencils… this project might not be for you.

STEP 2

DIY Dish Rack - Cutting

Photo: project-re.blogspot.com

Cut all the pencil tips to the same length. If you cut them too long, your plates wont fit and if you cut them too short be careful with your fingers. I suggest a length of six centimeters.  You can use manual saw or band saw and put a mask to prevent inhaling pencil and graphite dust.

STEP 3
Once you have enough pencils (more than 30), find a good support. I used a wooden cutting board because it is cheap, easy to drill and looks good.

STEP 4

DIY Dish Rack - Printing Holes

Photo: project-re.blogspot.com

I printed a drilling template to make sure  every hole was equally distant. I used a size 1/4 wood drill for 1.5 cm deep holes. Depending on the thickness of your plates, the distance between each hole should be between 3 cm and 6 cm.

STEP 5

DIY Dish Rack - Adding Pencils

Photo: project-re.blogspot.com

Depending on the pens you used, you might have to adjust the holes. You should be able to insert the pencils in the board manually. One little truck is to use a sharpener to cut the edge of the pencil tips. This will make the insertion way easier.

Samuel is no stranger to the art of upcycling. If you like this project, check out his hack of an IKEA Frosta stool or his website for even more great projects!


5 Things to Do with… Aluminum Foil

It's a pantry staple whose value we take for granted in the kitchen, but did you there are many more ways that aluminum foil can help you tackle household challenges?

Cooks know the value of aluminum foil, particularly around the holidays, when it plays a role in everything from roasting vegetables to storing leftovers. For something so unabashedly simple, aluminum foil has a surprising number of uses—not only in the kitchen, but in other rooms as well (and even outdoors). Scroll down to see five ways this versatile pantry staple can help you take on the household challenges faced not only this time of year, but in all seasons.

 

1. SCRUB POTS

Uses for Aluminum Foil - Scrub Pots

Photo: shutterstock.com

Cooking is fun; cleaning isn’t. If your meal preparation has left a pot, pan, or casserole dish with a layer of stubborn gunk along its bottom, try this time- and sanity-saving trick: Crumple a sheet of aluminum foil into a crunchy ball, then use it as you would a piece of steel wool. The final step? Do a happy dance.

 

2. PROTECT TREES

Uses for Aluminum Foil - Protect Trees

Photo: shutterstock.com

Many tree species, fruit trees most of all, are subject to a particular nuisance: mice, rabbits, and other creatures eating the tree trunks’ lower bark. If unchecked, those hungry garden pests can seriously compromise a tree’s overall health. Put an end to the problem by wrapping the trunk with a double layer of aluminum foil.

 

3. MAKE A FUNNEL

Uses for Aluminum Foil - Funnel

Photo: shutterstock.com

There aren’t many times when I think, “Gosh, I wish I had a funnel!” But on those rare occasions when I realize that what I’m doing would be so much easier with a funnel, I chastise myself for not owning one. Then I remember that you can always make your own, quickly and easily, using a sheet of aluminum foil.

 

4. CLEAN IRON

Photo: shutterstock.com

Your clothing iron doesn’t need to be cleaned with the consistency of, say, the bathroom sink. But there are times when starchy buildup can actually subvert the appliance’s proper operation. When that happens, run the hot iron over a piece of aluminum foil. The starch transfers to the foil, and the iron comes out clean.

 

5. POLISH SILVER

Uses for Aluminum Foil - Tarnish

Photo: shutterstock.com

To polish silver using items you have on hand, follow these steps. First, line a pan with aluminum foil. Next, add one tablespoon of baking soda and one tablespoon of salt. Slowly pour in a half-cup of vinegar, then add one cup of boiling water. Finally, put your tarnished silver into the mixture, letting it sit for just 30 seconds. Pull the silver out with tongs (remember, it’s hot), buff it to a shine using a soft cloth, and suddenly—presto, you’re ready for dinner!


How To: Clean a Mattress

The sweat, dust, and allergens lurking in your mattress are enough to give anyone nightmares—but don't lose sleep over it yet! Follow these five steps for a seasonal cleaning that will help you get a good night's rest.

How to Clean a Mattress

Photo: shutterstock.com

Wash and dry your sheets and pillowcases once a week—that’s all it takes to sleep in clean comfort, right? Wrong. You’re forgetting the mattress! Plenty of hair, sweat, dead skin, dandruff, dust, dirt and even food particles can accumulate in the mattress’s crevices. For allergy sufferers in particular, a mattress in grubby condition can make for unpleasant nights. Rest easy again by giving your mattress a proper cleaning at least once per season. Here’s how to go about it.

STEP 1
Remove all bedding so that the mattress sits alone on the box spring or bed frame, then vacuum the mattress all over, using the appliance attachments to help you do a thorough job. Pay close attention to the crevice around the seam that runs along the mattress’s perimeter. Here, you’re likely to find the greatest amount of gross buildup. For the record, any vacuum can probably do the trick, but experts do recommend HEPA-rated cleaners, as they can draw out even the tiniest particles.

STEP 2
Now’s the moment to spot-clean any stains you encounter.

How to Clean a Mattress - Sheets

Photo: shutterstock.com

• For stains left behind by vegetable oils, grease, food spills, and chocolate, use a paste made from baking soda, salt, and water. Cover the stain with the mixture, then let it set for half an hour. Next, brush away the dried paste and wipe down the area with cool water. Finally, dry the moist spot with either a hair dryer or a fan.

• Hydrogen peroxide works well to remove stains created by crayons, beverages, blood, or urine. Dilute the chemical by mixing it with an equal quantity of water, then dab the stained area with the solution. Next, brush the area gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Let it dry for five minutes, then dab again with the solution.

STEP 3
Sprinkle baking soda on the mattress to deodorize any lingering smells. Let it sit for an hour or so, then vacuum up the powder.

STEP 4
Does your mattress need to be flipped? Many today (e.g., pillow-top models) are designed to to be one-sided. If yours is two-sided and you haven’t recently flipped it, do so now. Besides helping your mattress wear more evenly, flipping prevents too much dirt from building up on any one side. Once you’ve flipped the mattress, repeat Step 3, sprinkling baking soda on the side that’s now on top.

STEP 5 (optional)
If the weather is warm and sunny, give the mattress a sunbath: Take it outside in order to capitalize on the sun’s natural germicidal effects. But don’t just set the mattress on the porch; prop it up on a pair of clothing racks or by any more expedient means,  being sure that your chosen supports are clean. Before replacing the mattress pad, sheets, and bedcovers, wait for the mattress to cool down a bit. Never air-out the mattress on a humid day, as the moisture could later lead to the growth of mold.


4 Creative New Ways to Reuse Wood Pallets

Just when you think wooden pallets couldn't be any handier, a new book illustrates 35 new projects for the classic DIY supply. Here, we have a sneak peek that's sure to inspire.

Wood Pallet Ideas

DIY Wood Pallet Projects: 35 Rustic Modern Upcycling Ideas to Personalize Your Space by Karah Bunde

Shipping pallets are easy to come by, often at no cost. And they’re easily broken down into separate, simple wood boards, the rough-hewn look of which many people love. Affordable and aesthetically pleasing? It’s not often that the world comes across a material that satisfies both criteria. So for the past several years, do-it-yourselfers have expressed their enthusiasm by unleashing a veritable torrent of wood pallet ideas, each more inventive than the last. We loved seeing what clever things clever people came up with, but from benches to daybeds, it starting to seem like we’d seen it all. As it turns out, we couldn’t have been more wrong. With her new book DIY Wood Pallet Projects ($19.99, F+W Media, Inc), Karah Bunde, the mind behind The Space Between, we’ve learned that when when it comes to wood pallet ideas, there are virtually no boundaries. Here, we take a look at four favorite projects from the book. For more, buy the book right here.

 

1. RAISE YOUR GLASS

Wood Pallet Ideas - Wine Rack

Photo: DIY Wood Pallet Projects: 35 Rustic Modern Upcycling Ideas to Personalize Your Space by Karah Bunde

Check out this simple DIY wine rack outfitted with storage for stem glassware. It’s the perfect conversation piece for any comfortably eclectic outdoor living area. Don’t drink wine? No worries—the same design would make for a rustic-chic magazine rack to be hung in a living space or a cookbook holder in the kitchen.

 

2. GO OFF-THE-WALL

Wood Pallet Ideas - Wall Treatment

Photo: DIY Wood Pallet Projects: 35 Rustic Modern Upcycling Ideas to Personalize Your Space by Karah Bunde

If you’re partial to nautical-inspired home decor, you know that rope makes a wonderfully easy and versatile addition to furniture and miscellaneous parts of the house, such as the stairwell. In the stunning wall treatment picture here, rope appears between the rows of white-painted, pallet-board paneling. Wow!

 

3. STEP IT UP

Wood Pallet Ideas - Shoe Rack

Photo: DIY Wood Pallet Projects: 35 Rustic Modern Upcycling Ideas to Personalize Your Space by Karah Bunde

It’s an age-old question: What do you do with the space at the bottom of the closet? Here’s a simply genius organization solution: Build a shoe rack out of a shipping pallet. All it takes is six slats. The result is a stackable shelving system that can be easily customized to meet the demands of about any shoe collation.

 

4. ADMIRE THE VIEW

Wood Pallet Ideas - Shutters

Photo: DIY Wood Pallet Projects: 35 Rustic Modern Upcycling Ideas to Personalize Your Space by Karah Bunde

A simple set of shutters is an easy way to add a little curb appeal to the front of your home. Depending on the size of your windows, you might actually be able to use pallet slats, but this project uses new 1×4s to show that with a little sanding and staining they can end up having the same look as a pallet slat.

 

Excerpted from DIY Wood Pallet Projects: 35 Rustic Modern Upcycling Ideas to Personalize Your Space. Copyright © 2014 by Karah Bunde and published by F+W Media, Inc. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved. Photos courtesy of Karah Bunde.


3 Easy Ways You Can Add Privacy to Glass

Itching for a home update? Here's an easy one: Frost window or glass door for a luxe look and more privacy. There's more than one way to go about it, so choose your favorite approach.

How to Frost Glass

Photo: shutterstock.com

More than a mere decorative finish, frosted glass also offers a practical benefit: Without blocking the passage of light, it adds privacy to windows or doors that would otherwise be transparent. While professionals frost glass through sandblasting, a do-it-yourself can achieve the same effect with one of three basic methods.

How to Frost Glass - Shower Doors

Photo: nyshower.com

1. Spray It
Believe it or not, you can frost glass with a special type of spray paint (Rust-Oleum manufactures a popular version). Applying the finish is easy. After cleaning the glass throughly and taping off the window or door frame, apply a thin coat and let it dry. Apply additional coats, if you wish for great opacity. And if you get tired of the look, it’s no problem: The finish can be removed with a glass scraper. Being that the spray paint comes at a low cost, it’s worth a shot if you want to frost glass in your home.

2. Cover It
You can also frost glass by means of a window film. It’s actually non-adhesive and works via static cling. That means it’s forgiving: If you don’t get the application precisely right on the first try, you can start over pretty easily. First, thoroughly wash the surface to be frosted, using glass cleaner and a lint-free cloth. Next, combine water with a couple drops of dish detergent in a spray bottle. Then proceed to lightly spritz the glass before applying the window film. As you go, remove air bubbles with a squeegee.

3. Etch It
A permanently frosted effect may be achieved through the use of a glass-etching cream. Such products are available online and in local craft stores. If you choose to go this route, take care in applying the cream and closely follow the instructions printed on the package. Basically, the process involves masking off sensitive areas and using a bristled brush to scrub in the cream. After letting the product sit for a period of time, you’ll rinse it off with warm water and then suddenly—and somewhat magically—there will be etched glass where there was formerly a traditional clear pane.


Genius! DIY Apple Cider Press

What's cooler than having an apple tree in your backyard? Building your own DIY apple press, naturally.

DIY Apple Cider Press

Few things say autumn more than fresh apple cider. So what if you could make your own from your backyard. That’s what Instructables user Mike Craghead and his friend John Saveliff set out to accomplish. And the execution of this DIY project is absolutely genius! Want to make your own? Read on to learn from Mike and John, and get the tutorial.

This isn’t necessarily a beginner’s project. Mike stays humble about his own DIY prowess admitting, “I have a basic understanding of avoiding the pointy end of saws and drills and whatnot… but there is absolutely no way I could have managed the rest without John’s tools and expertise.” John adds that for anyone considering attempting a DIY apple cider press, “Intermediate woodworking skills and access to a drill press, table saw, router table or lathe, and screw gun is highly recommended.”

Because skills or not, this project can present challenges to any DIYer. As Mike says, “The main challenge for me was that this somewhat ambitious project was the first time I’d fiddled with hardwood. I’ve done a great deal of backyard tinkering, reclaiming wood for garden projects, but none of my saw blades or drill bits were very well-suited for oak. This increased both the difficulty and the use of expletives.” John, who according to Mike did all the work requiring real skill and tools, says the hardest part for him was, “bending and holding the barrel hoops in a circle while trying to attach the remaining staves with only two hands.”

When Mike’s cider press is not pressing cider, he stores it under a backyard awning. “My garage is a terrifying no-man’s land so it won’t fit in there just yet, but that’s always been the plan… I’m still in search of the best way to cover it up against all elements, whether or not I manage to eventually squeeze it into the garage.”

As for clean-up, Mike says hosing down the press just after use, works well, “followed by a damp cloth.” He adds, “We also sanitize with a very diluted iodine solution before use. The whole thing comes apart pretty easily, and once it’s hosed off I hang all the parts out to dry. We don’t use anything too powerful because we’re not fond of drinking chemicals. I’ve read that oak has some natural cootie-preventing properties, too.”

MATERIALS

- red and white oak wood
- stainless steel nails (square drive screws for driver, 1″ x ½” size for frame and hopper)
- giant screw from bench vice
- carriage bolts
- aluminum stripping
- jointer
- drill

STEP 1

DIY Apple Cider Press - plans

To create a design for our apple cider press, we “cherry-picked” our favorite features from the various versions out there, and there are endless ways to remix the various components: A bottle jack can be substituted for the big screw, for instance. There are approximately four gazillion ways to build one of these so I’ll leave it up to you to figure yours out, and will spare you the exact measurements.

STEP 2

We ran all the wood through John’s jointer, which is really fun if you’ve never done it with hardwood: a grungy-looking chunk of wood goes in on one end, and a beautiful piece of artwork comes out the other end, the grain suddenly visible on an almost perfectly smooth surface.

STEP 3

I drilled good pilot holes, soaped each screw… and still stripped the hell out of quite a few of them. So when you look at the parts I made, please do not look very closely.

STEP 4

John’s grinder wheel was one of the first things we were able to really play with as the frame was coming together. The hopper is removable, both for cleaning and so it can all be packed up smaller when the season is over. A small clamp provides a little insurance so the act of grinding doesn’t pull the hopper off of the frame.

STEP 5

DIY Apple Cider Press - Apples

Once the apple cider press is built, it’s time to grind your fruit. But first, sanitize by spraying all the surfaces with a diluted iodine solution and let that dry.

To maximize juice yield, we let the apples sit for a week or so. A mix of sweet and tart apples usually tastes best, but I’ve never met a batch I didn’t like. The apples are cut in halves or quarters (otherwise they’d just roll around in the hopper!). We toss any brown gross bits in the compost, but minor blemishes on the fruit are no big deal.

A 5-gallon bucket sits under the hopper to catch the ground apples, held in place by a little wooden arm that swings out into position. Then we fill up the hopper and start grinding!

STEP 6

DIY Apple Cider Press - pomace

The bucket will collect the ground apples, or pomace. When it’s about 2/3 full, stop grinding. Place the pomace in a plastic bucket lined with netting and tie into a bundle. Place the bundle into the barrel or “pressing tub,” then place a disc made of cutting board material on top. Repeat until you have stacked four bundles of pomace.

STEP 7

DIY Apple Cider Press - pressing

The barrel, drain, and tray all slide under the screw, and a small sacrificial bit of oak protects the pressing board from direct contact with the screw. Place a bucket with netting below the spout.

Spin the screw until it hits the board and slows down, then crank it a few more turns until the whole structure gives a little groan. Depending on how juicy the batch is, the cider starts pouring out immediately, and the first couple of gallons happens right away. When the juice slows, turn the handle another half turn, and continue that for at least 15 minutes.

DIY Apple Cider Press - ducks

Thanks, Mike and John! Check out their Instructables for the full tutorial! Or find even more inventive DIYs on Mike’s Instructables page—including lots of ideas for pumpkins.


How To: Apply Polyurethane Sealer

It's important to top off your home's wood flooring and furniture with a few coats of polyurethane for both protection and an appealing shine. Follow these five steps for a smooth—and simple—application.

How to Apply Polyurethane Sealer

Photo: shutterstock.com

More than a mere shine, polyurethane sealer protects and preserves the finish you’ve chosen for your furniture or flooring. To apply polyurethane in such a way that it actually performs its intended role, precision is key. If you’re going to cut corners, then you may as well skip the sealer. It’s an optional coating, after all.

Perhaps the first thing to know is that there are two types of polyurethane: oil-based and water-based. Both work equally well, but oil-based polyurethane imparts an amber glow that many people find pleasing. The downside? It takes longer to dry and smells quite strongly. Water-based polyurethane, meanwhile, goes on clear, dries faster, and has almost no odor. It usually costs about twice as much as the other option, though, and some say it’s not as tough.

High-Quality Bristle Brush

Photo: shutterstock.com

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Polyurethane
- High-quality bristle brush
- Sandpaper (100- to 220-grit)
- Razor blade
- Polishing compound
- Tack cloth
- Mineral spirits (optional)

STEP 1
Polyurethane is going to accentuate the surface inconsistencies, so before applying the coating, take pains to properly sand the surface you are sealing. After, remove all dust and debris with tack cloth.

STEP 2
Stir, don’t shake, the can of polyurethane. Shaking creates air bubbles, which in turn leave bumps on the surface. While stirring, if you notice that the polyurethane has an overly thick consistency, thin it out with mineral spirits.

STEP 3
Using a bristle brush, apply the first coat of polyurethane in long, broad strokes. Keep the application thin, so it goes on evenly and neither pools nor drips. Coat the entire surface. Once finished, wait for the polyurethane to dry. Allow 24 hours for oil-based polyurethane and 4 to 6 hours for a water-based product.

STEP 4
Having allowed sufficient dry time, test to see if first coat is dry. Do so by lightly sanding an inconspicuous area. If the polyurethane remains wet, stop sanding and wait another hour or so. Once you’re certain the surface is dry, remove any dust or debris that may have stuck to the surface during the drying process. If sanding doesn’t cut it, you can use a razor to remove imperfections that wouldn’t otherwise budge. When working with the razor, be careful not to scuff the wood.

STEP 5
Apply the second coat just as you did the first, with long, careful strokes. Spread the polyurethane evenly over the surface and let it dry completely.

STEP 6
Once the second coat has dried, sand or shave off any imperfections as you did in step 4. With many oil-based polyurethanes, two coats will be enough. If you’re happy with how the job looks, wait a few days, then finish by polishing the surface with a polishing compound. If it seems necessary to apply a third coat of sealer, simply follow the process you’re familiar with by now. Note that you should never need to apply more than three coats of oil-based polyurethane. Sometimes water-based poly requires more than a few (up to a dozen) coats. Thankfully, it dries quickly enough for this not to become a weeks-long saga!