Category: How To’s & Quick Tips

How To: Remove Rust

There are several ways to remove rust. Here, we give you a step-by-step tutorial on three common methods, so you can choose the one that best suits your project needs and skill set.

How to Remove Rust


Learning how to remove rust isn’t rocket science, and in homeowners’ ongoing fight to maintain outdoor tools and patio furniture, rust removal is an essential skill. There are at least three ways to get the job done; choose the method you like best from the options detailed below. Bear in mind that no matter the technique used, any effort to remove rust begins the same way: by using pliers, screwdrivers, or wrenches—and, if necessary, lubricant—to remove all fasteners (for example, screws).

- Wire brush
- Paintbrush
- Rust converter

How to Remove Rust - Wrench


Available in liquid or spray form at most home improvement centers, rust converters work wonders on iron or steel. Handling the product is a cinch. First, use a wire brush to scrape off any rust dust or flaking paint on the item you wish to clean. Next, apply the rust converter with a paintbrush (if you’ve chosen the liquid) or directly (if you’ve opted for the spray). What happens next is a miracle of chemistry: The rust transforms into a black substance, one that prevents further corrosion and can be painted over to achieve a finish that seems brand-new.

- Sandpaper or steel wool
- Electric drill with wire wheel

If you want to remove rust from an object marred not only by rust but also a great deal of flaking paint, there’s really no substitute for good old-fashioned elbow grease. Sanding the surface of the object with sandpaper or steel wool (or even a scouring pad) usually does the trick, so long as the rust is light. Just remember to scrape first with a coarse-grit paper, making sure you remove all pockmarks before finishing with a finer grit to smooth out grooves. For heavier rust buildup, try an electric drill outfitted with a wire brush. Alternatively, if you have access to one, use a grinder, but do this carefully. Keep the grinding wheel, stripping disc, or flap disc moving on the object at all times, or you’ll risk causing damage worse than rust!

- Goggles
- Rubber gloves
- Paintbrush
- Putty knife
- Rags
- Chemical removers

Take tremendous care when using commercially sold chemical rust removers; these powerful solutions contain either hydrochloric or phosphoric acid. Do this type of work only in well-ventilated spaces, and be sure to wear protective eyewear, rubber gloves, and full-coverage clothing.

Want to remove rust from a small object? You can fully immerse it in the rust remover, letting it soak one to three hours for light rust, overnight for heavy rust. If you are removing rust from a larger, more unwieldy object, consider using a remover in gel form. Once applied, different products take different amounts of time to be effective, so read the manufacturer’s directions closely. In cases where a significant amount of rust has built up over time, be prepared to apply several courses of the chemical before seeing the desired results.

5 Things to Do with… Washi Tape

Colorful, playful, versatile, and extremely fun to work with, washi tape can transform almost anything. Experience the joy of washi for yourself by trying one of these quick and entertaining projects.

Washi tape: It’s a little like masking tape, but it’s a lot more fun than masking tape could ever be. Readily available in craft stores for about $3 per spool, washi tape comes in countless colors and patterns, and in widths ranging from mere millimeters to several inches. The sheer variety inspires do-it-yourselfers to use the versatile adhesive in ever more inventive ways. Scroll down now to see five of our favorite washi tape projects gathered from around the wild-for-washi Web!



Washi Tape Projects - Mantel


As easy as washi tape projects are to complete, they are even easier to undo. So if you’re hosting a party, don’t be hesitant to decorate permanent elements of the home with washi tape befitting the occasion. A red, white, and blue design on the fireplace mantel, for instance, can add fun and festivity on Independence Day.



Washi Tape Projects - Drink Umbrellas


Enliven any libation with a cocktail umbrella whimsically adorned in pretty-patterned or pastel-colored washi tape. Party supply stores sell the basic white umbrellas you need to get started. Simply apply the tape outwards from the center of each umbrella. There’s no need to be super neat; it’s really the thought that counts.



Washi Tape Projects - Outlet Cover


In a world where there’s washi tape, why settle for a plain, white plastic outlet cover? It’s just so easy to transform these ubiquitous, utilitarian objects into charming, eye-catching home accents. To decorate yours, cover the entire plate in washi tape, then cut out the necessary holes with your trusty utility knife.



Washi Tape Projects - Phone


One of the many reasons we love washi tape projects is that they enable you to personalize virtually anything—and that includes your smartphone. Rather than apply the tape directly to your phone, insert a piece of cut-to-size card stock between. You’ll never again mistake a friend’s phone for your own, that’s for sure!



Washi Tape Projects - Eggs


With weeks left before Easter this year, you may be looking for creative ways to celebrate the holiday that do not involve colorful hand- or clothes-staining dyes. The mess-free answer might be washi tape, which you can cut into thin strips, mini shapes, or pint-size polka dots and then use to decorate room-temperature eggs.

How To: Install an Exposed Aggregate Concrete Finish

While they look rather expensive, exposed aggregate concrete walkways and driveways can be had for a relatively low cost by homeowners willing and able to perform the installation.

Here’s a way to create a decorative textured finish for a cement surface. Once your cement is poured and flowed out, evenly cast granite chips across the wet surface. Gently bury the stone into the concrete with a bull float. Let this set for four to five hours, then rinse with a light mist of water. Finally, brush the surface lightly with a soft broom; this will expose the granite to give the installation a look of stone.

For more on cement, consider:

Should You Consider a Concrete House?
Concrete and Cement: A Case of Mistaken Identities
Cement Your Place in DIY History with These 9 Easy Concrete Projects

How To: Make a Picture Frame

Whether you want something unique and creative or just need to use up some scrap wood, making your own picture frame can be easy and rewarding.

picture frames

What is art? Critics and philosophers are free to debate the question endlessly, but we think it’s pretty simple: If there’s a frame around it, then it’s art! Less simple—but not so complex that you shouldn’t give it a try—is building your own picture frame. Beginning woodworkers love this project, and for many others it can be a great money-saver. Within only a weekend, provided you have access to a few basic tools, you can make a picture frame to keep for the rest of your life.

- Table saw
- Miter saw
- Router (optional)
- Wood
- Measuring tape
- Wood glue
- Hammer and brad nails
- Sandpaper
- Paint, stain, or linseed oil

The following steps apply in a general way no matter what type of wood you want to use (or happen to have on hand), or what size you would like the picture frame to be. But for the sake of simplicity in this tutorial, we’ll assume that you intend to build an 11″ x 14″ picture frame from a 1″ x 4″ maple board that measures 4 feet long.

Setting the table saw at 1-1/2″ (from the blade to the fence), rip the wood board into two 4-foot-long pieces. These must be exactly the same width, so pass the wider of the two through the table saw a second time. (Of course, if you’d wanted the frame wider or narrower, you would have set the table saw accordingly.)

With a router, cut a 1/2″ x 1/2″ rabbet—that is, a rectilinear groove—along one of the long sides of each of the two pieces. The picture is going to lie against the rabbet, so if you expect to frame an item (or to use a mat) of considerable thickness, accommodate it by creating a more generous rabbet.

Use a miter saw to cut one end of both boards at a 45-degree angle, being careful to make sure that the rabbet runs along what is to become the inside of the frame. In other words, once you have finished cutting an angle into each board, the rabbeted edges should be opposite the longer (and pointier) side.

Measure the longer side of the picture you are going to frame; add 1/16″ to that measurement. Then choose one of the two boards and transfer that total measurement to its rabbeted side, marking the distance. Here, cut a 45-degree angle, this time in the direction opposite to the initial angled cut. Next, place the second board over the one into which you’ve just now cut a second angle. Mark the second board, then cut it so that you have a pair of identical pieces. On the two leftover pieces, repeat the process of measuring, marking, and cutting, this time using as a guide the shorter side of the picture to be framed. Make sure you’re keeping the rabbeted side to the inside of the frame.

Assemble the four pieces into a rectangular shape, remembering always to position the rabbet groove to the inside. Dab wood glue onto each joint, then fasten the pieces together by means of brad nails. Two nails close to each outside corner ought to do the trick. Wipe away any excess glue immediately. Let dry overnight.

Sand the picture frame, then wipe away any sawdust with a damp cloth. Once you have allowed enough time for the wood to dry completely, it’s safe to apply your choice of finish. (If you’re building with attractive lumber, I recommend finishing with linseed oil.) Having finished the piece, flip it over so the back (rabbeted) side is facing up. Fit a piece of cut-to-size glass into the frame, then lay the picture face down on the glass and place a backing over it. You have several options for securing everything in place, including glazing points or brads.

Congratulations, you’ve created a masterpiece: You might even decide to leave the picture out entirely, because the frame itself is such a work of art!

5 Things to Do with… Colanders

The colander is so much more than the unsung hero of pasta night—it's positively dripping with DIY potential. Here are five inventive ways you can use a colander in the next creative project you cook up.

I love my colanders. Vintage-inspired, colorful, and enamel-coated, they work not only as strainers, but also as decorative fruit bowls or centerpieces for the breakfast table. When one colander in my set met with a tragic end in the dishwasher, it was just too hard to say goodbye. So I went looking for creative ways to repurpose colanders. Scroll down to see five favorites from among the countless clever uses for colanders that I came across. Who knew that colanders could be so versatile and so stylish?



Repurpose Colanders - Baskets


With their legs removed, colanders become offbeat yet handy storage baskets, perfect for holding miscellaneous kitchen items such as dish soap and sponges. Hang one or a series of colanders either from the ceiling or the underside of a wall-mounted shelf or cabinet. Anything you choose to keep in it remains within easy arm’s reach.



Repurpose Colanders - Planter


In this ingenious assembly, a colander-turned-planter attaches to a wire clothes hanger, which in turn connects with a chain that reaches down from the ceiling. Given colanders’ original purpose, they provide plenty of soil drainage, and that’s something a quality planting container must have, as any gardener knows.



Repurpose Colanders - Wind Chime


Malinda Dickens creates wind chimes from everyday stuff and sells them through her online store. Take a page out of her book if you’re hunting for an eye-catching, ear-tickling way to repurpose not only a colander, but any other kitchen tools you no longer use—whisks, eggbeaters, cookie cutters, or silverware.



Repurpose Colanders - Light


Here’s a project for the ambitious do-it-yourselfer: Turn a beat-up old colander into a shade for the pendant light in your country kitchen. When light streams through the holes in the colander, it produces quirky, amusing, conversation-starting effects on the walls. Alternatively, try out the same idea on a table lamp.



Repurpose Colanders - Tiered Stand


By means of a strong adhesive, combine a white-painted wooden spindle with a pair of dinged-up colanders to create a tiered stand like this one from Knick of Time Interiors. Use this beauty for storage in the laundry room or pantry, or simply bask in its decorative appeal by placing it as a centerpiece on a farmhouse table.

Bob Vila Radio: Planning After President’s Day

Now's the time of year to switch gears and start thinking about spring home maintenance. Follow these guidelines, so you can hit the ground running once the chill of winter fades.

I know it’s still winter here in the Northeast, but I start thinking about spring the minute Presidents’ Day weekend is over. Now’s the time to start planning springtime projects.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON PLANNING AFTER PRESIDENT’S DAY or read the text below:

Winter Home Checklist


First, review your checklist—checking your home for winter damage, feeding and seeding your lawn, and doing all the other routine tasks that mark the end of winter. Check your calendar to make sure you have weekends set aside for that next month. This is also a good time for making appointments for any fence or sprinkler repairs or painting projects that require contractors. They’ll start booking up soon, so reserve their time now.

Think about your garden and what you’d like to grow this year. Some plants can get started from seeds now, so if you have space indoors to set up seed trays, this is the time to do that. If you’re thinking about making changes to your landscaping, map out a schedule for pulling out the old and putting in the new.

Finally, make a priority list of home improvement projects you’d like to get done this year. Be realistic about your budget and the scheduling—don’t bite off more than you can chew in one year. Write out a timeline for DIY tasks and start getting bids on larger projects. Spring is just around the corner!

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.

Weekend Projects: Make a Shower Curtain 5 Ways

Still can't find the right shower curtain to match your bathroom decor? Why not make it yourself? You'll get the perfect curtain, save money, and derive a great sense of accomplishment. Here's how.

Shower liners are a humdrum necessity. They perform the simple but important role of keeping water in the shower stall (and off the bathroom floor). The outer shower curtain, on the other hand, is purely decorative. And much like a well-chosen rug in a living space, the right shower curtain can be the finishing touch you need to bring together your bathroom decor. If you’ve shopped around but haven’t fallen for any available options, consider going the do-it-yourself route. There are at least a couple of good reasons to do so. First, when you make a shower curtain yourself, the price is always right. Second, you can tailor the design exactly to your needs. Of the many different ways to make a shower curtain, we’ve collected our five favorite approaches right here; scroll down now to check them all out!



How to Make a Shower Curtain - Stencil


With a stencil, it’s easy to transform a plain white shower curtain into something one-of-a-kind. Make your own stencil from cardboard or buy one ready-made. Transfer the stencil onto your shower curtain using either paint or a waterproof marker. Alternatively, iron appliqués onto the curtain by means of bonding tape.



How to Make a Shower Curtain - Color Block


If you’re handy with a sewing needle, make a shower curtain like this one to bring a lively stroke of color into an otherwise neutral bathroom. Few materials are needed to complete the project. Besides three different panels of linen fabric, the only requisites are measuring tape, basic sewing supplies, and a grommet kit.



How to Make a Shower Curtain - Blanket Style


This video tutorial shows you how to make a shower curtain from a soft and stylish throw blanket. Grommets are the only addition: After mapping out the placement of the grommets, simply hammer each into place; there’s no cutting necessary. The result? We think it’s homey and gorgeous, and quite unlike anything sold in stores.



How to Make a Shower Curtain - Window Panel


Believe it or not, you can make a shower curtain from virtually any panel-style curtain originally designed for windows. Of course, some window treatments translate better than others into the bathroom. It’s a question not only of style, but also of installation. Get all the details in this tutorial from SAS Interiors.



How to Make a Shower Curtain - Ribbon


Ribbon can refashion a plain shower curtain into an accent that coordinates perfectly with the style and color palette of your bathroom. Select an appropriate color of ribbon in the width and texture you prefer, then apply it in a geometric pattern or in a less orderly, more artistic way. Possibilities are infinite and entirely subject to your creative judgment.

5 Things to Do with… Fireplace Ashes

Next time you sweep out your fireplace, don't just dump those ashes! You can use them in the garden and around—and even inside—the house.

Cozying up to a roaring fire is a winter evening pastime that no one would reject. Disposing of fireplace ashes? Well, that’s a chore that many would prefer to do without. But the fact is, there are many productive uses for wood ash. Rather than emptying your ash can into the garbage, put those heaps of soot to work for you. Here’s how.



Uses for Wood Ash - Deicing


Did you know that wood ash gives traction to icy or snow-covered walkways? That’s welcome information, particularly for gardeners, who know too well how commercial de-icing products damage lawns and plantings. Also, if the car gets stuck, sprinkling ash in front of and behind tires can help them get a grip.



Uses for Wood Ash - Clean Silver


Many store-bought silver polishes are toxic; wood ash offers an all-natural alternative, free of cost. Mix one cup of the stuff with a small amount of water. A thick paste should form. Spread that evenly over your silverware and let it sit for a few minutes. Then wipe off the paste with a clean cloth and buff your silver to a shine.



Uses for Wood Ash - Amend Soil

Photo: shutterstock

Because it contains about 25 percent calcium carbonate, wood ash works well as a liming agent for acidic soil. Steer clear of applying it near certain acid-loving plants like rhododendrons, but generally, if the pH reading of your soil is 5.5 or less, ash can provide a benefit when dug about six inches down into the soil.



Uses for Wood Ash - Clean Fireplace Doors


This may seem counterintuitive, but wood ash—being abrasive and alkaline—actually cleans sooty fireplace doors quite effectively. What you do is dampen some old newspapers, dip them into ashes, then vigorously scrub the glass. Employ the same technique with any windows in your home that show a buildup of limescale.



Uses for Wood Ash - Repel Slugs


Are slugs and snails a nuisance in your garden? If so, try sprinkling wood ash around the plants most frequently affected. Acting as a desiccant, the ash dries up these slimy garden pests. Be careful, though: Ash can do the same thing to your plants if you don’t take care to place it a safe distance from stems and roots.

Bob Vila Radio: Removing Plaster

Removing plaster can be a messy job. These pointers can help you keep the dust and debris neatly contained.

It’s tough to think of a dirtier job than tearing down old plaster. The dust gets everywhere!

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Listen to BOB VILA ON REMOVING PLASTER or read the text below:

Removing Plaster


You certainly don’t want it in your lungs, so the first step in removing plaster is to get yourself a respirator mask—not one of those paper masks, but a good-quality mask with a filter. Wear eye protection—real safety goggles that provide wraparound coverage—and thick work gloves.

Next, you’ll want to seal off your work space as best you can from the rest of your home. Nothing is 100% effective in keeping the dust contained, but thick plastic sheeting taped along every inch, over every exit from the room, will at least reduce the spread of the dust. Protect the floor with kraft paper first, then place a drop cloth or tarp over that.

Remove the plaster using a flat bar, putting the larger chunks into heavy-duty contractor bags. If you’re using a container service, you can skip the bagging and put the debris into trash cans to be hauled out to the curb (and emptied into the container).

Once the plaster is down, pry off the old lath with a hammer and bundle it up for disposal. Watch out for nails! And here’s one more tip: Don’t take up the floor protection right away; dust will continue to settle for days.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.

5 Things to Do with… Wooden Dowels

The humble, practical dowel takes center stage in 5 projects that celebrate the versatility of this wooden workshop staple.

Though they’re nothing more than long, cylindrical pegs, wooden dowels can be used to make furniture and home accents of surprising complexity and disarming beauty. Sold at any hardware store—in widths from 1/4 inch to 2-1/2 inches and lengths from 12 inches to 72 inches—these staples are dirt cheap, considering how valuable they can be in all types of DIY projects. So buy a bundle, then get to work this weekend. Pursue your own idea or adapt a design from one of the five highlighted dowel projects below!



Uses for Dowels - Coat Rack


We love the approach Danish furniture makers We Do Wood took with their coat rack, pictured here. With nothing more than some boards and a set of dowels, you can make something similar: Drill a series of holes into a reclaimed wood board, then slot pegs into some of the holes. This flexible storage solution is clearly influenced by—but a lot more attractive than—pegboard.



Uses for Dowels - Wreath


Here’s a way to craft a wreath that will last much longer than evergreen boughs. Cut dowels of varying diameters into 2-inch-long pieces. Glue them together in a circle. Stain or paint the assembly, or leave it unfinished for a more natural look. No matter what finish you end up choosing, the wreath is sure to look most welcoming.



Uses for Dowels - Wine Rack


To make a wine rack like this one, you need only a salvaged wood board and a handful of dowels. First, drill holes in the board to accept the dowels, making sure that their spacing leaves room for wine bottles of different sizes. Then mount the unit or stand it up with an A-frame support structure of scrap wood and twine.



Uses for Dowels - Dish Storage


Install pegboard on the bottom of a deep kitchen drawer, then fit dowels into its perforations. Now you can stack bowls and plates in the drawer, and the dowels will keep your dishware securely in place. When and if your storage needs change, you can easily modify the arrangement to host a different set of items.



Uses for Dowels - Camp Chair


The advantage of a camp chair is that once folded up, it can go anywhere with you. And for no more than $25, you can use a few hardwood dowels to make a stool that looks better than any design you could buy in a typical store. Join the dowels with simple hardware, and make the seat with leather or heavy canvas. Wow!