Category: Kitchen

Quick Tip: Hanging Kitchen Cabinets

Follow these steps for best results when you hang kitchen cabinets as part of a remodeling project.

Here are some things to think about when you want to hang kitchen cabinets. Start by hanging your upper cabinets so that the lower cabinets won’t be in the way. Snap a level chalk line along the wall to align the base cabinets. Then establish a plumb line to make sure the top and bottom cabinets line up. Use shim shingles to help you level the base cabinets, then use drywall screws to secure your cabinets to the wall studs.

For more on kitchen cabinets, consider:

Kitchen Cabinets 101
Cabinet Door Styles: What’s Yours?
The Basics of Kitchen Cabinet Installation

How To: Clean Oven Racks

Over time, oven racks become covered with grease, grime, and baked-on food. Here are some (relatively) painless ways to get them clean and shiny again.

How to Clean Oven Racks


Ugh, is there anything worse than a dirty oven? If you use the appliance at all, chances are that baked-on grease, sticky grime, and burnt bits are going to accumulate—maybe not today or tomorrow, but someday. While many homeowners are lucky enough to enjoy a self-cleaning oven, that convenience comes with a consequence. Over time, the self-cleaning functionality ends up damaging the racks. To prolong their life, it’s recommended that, when possible, you clean oven racks the old-fashioned way. Fortunately, by using any of the following methods, you can get the job done quickly and with a minimum of hassle.

Bathtub Bliss

• Fill the tub with very hot water, just enough to cover the racks. Add up to 1/2 cup of dishwashing soap (or up to 3/4 cup laundry detergent). Let sit overnight.

• Alternatively, sprinkle baking soda over the racks, then douse them with vinegar. Once the foaming stops, submerge the racks in hot water and let sit overnight.

• In the morning, scrub the racks with an old dish towel to remove grease and grime, and use an old toothbrush to dislodge any baked-on grime. For really stubborn bits, add salt to the toothbrush to make the scrubbing more abrasive. Afterwards, rinse the racks thoroughly before returning them to the oven.

How to Clean Oven Racks - Detail


Trash Bag Treasure

• Place oven racks into an unused trash bag. Add 1/2 quart of ammonia. Seal the bag and let sit overnight.

• Open the bag in the morning; be wary of ammonia fumes. Rinse the racks thoroughly and replace.

Commercial Cleansers

• Because many cleansers produce toxic fumes, if you plan on using a commercial cleanser, clean oven racks outside.

• Cover a work surface with sheet plastic or newspaper. Lay down the oven racks in a single layer.

• Put on rubber gloves, then spray oven cleaner generously onto the racks. Let sit for about 10 minutes.

• Scrub the racks either with a rag or an old toothbrush. Rinse thoroughly with a garden hose before replacing.

It’s a dirty job, but if in your household, you are the person responsible for the task of cleaning oven racks, take heart: It requires only a few common household items, several hours of soaking, and a little bit of elbow grease to get the job done.

How To: Make a Mosaic Countertop

For an out-of-the-ordinary effect to catch the eye in your kitchen, consider installing a mosaic tile countertop.

Here’s a unique way to use ceramic tile for a very unusual countertop. Just break up the tiles into random pieces, use thin-set mortar and create the pattern of your choice. Let the tiles set overnight, and then use ceramic-grade grout with an additive to prevent wide joints from cracking. Let set for ten minutes and wipe with a dry synthetic pad (a wet pad would wash the joints out).

For more on kitchen countertops, consider:

How To: Work with Mosaic Tile
Bob Vila’s Guide to Kitchen Countertops
One-of-a-Kind Countertops: 6 Ways to Make Yours Unique

Quick Tip: Butcher Block

Beloved by many homeowners, hardwearing butcher block kitchen countertops enable you to prepare food without cutting boards.

A butcher block table can help make your kitchen much more efficient. Built to take a beating, butcher block doubles as a functional chopping surface as well as an eating or serving table. Butcher block is often made of hard maple—a dense, strong wood that doesn’t add flavor to what you’re chopping on it. It’s cut across the grain, so it’ll wear evenly without warping. Just keep it clean and oil it occasionally.

For more on kitchen countertops, consider:

Kitchen Countertops 101
12 Wow-Worthy Woods for Kitchen Countertops
Counter Intelligence: Choosing the Right Kitchen Countertop

Bob Vila Radio: Second Refrigerators

You might be surprised at how much energy it takes to keep a second refrigerator running in the garage or basement.

One out of four American homes has a second refrigerator in it, according to the Department of Energy—that’s 30 million extra refrigerators. That second fridge is often an old one that was supposedly replaced by an efficient new model but is still running in the basement or garage.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON SECOND REFRIGERATORS or read the text below:

Second Refrigerators


That’s bad news, because a refrigerator is the single biggest consumer of electricity in most homes. Having two of them adds substantially to your energy use, and your costs. Plus, any efficiency gains you achieved by buying a new Energy Star appliance are going right down the drain if you keep the old one plugged in.

If you really need extra cold storage, consider buying a small new one with an Energy Star rating instead of keeping the old full-sized one. And if you kept the old one, so you could take advantage of buying in bulk, consider this: The Department of Energy estimates that it costs up to $750 a year to run your old energy hog, which is probably a lot more than you’re saving by buying those family packs. Need another reason to unplug? Those 30 million  extra refrigerators are using 25 million megawatt hours of power a year. That’s a lot of electricity we could save just by pulling the plug.

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

How To: Install Base Cabinets

Careful measurement, adequate shimming, and secure fastening are key to a high-quality, professional-looking cabinet installation.

How to Install Base Cabinets


One fundamental rule applies to the installation of just about anything: If you get the first piece right, the others fall into position. Misplace the first piece, however, and you’re likely to experience a series of headaches as you work towards completing the job. This is as true for hanging wallpaper as it is for laying brick. And it’s a lesson that deserves special attention from DIYers trying to install base cabinets in the kitchen.

Related: 5 Creative Alternatives to Kitchen Cabinetry

Start off by identifying the highest point on the floor over which you plan to install the base cabinets. Do so by drawing or snapping a level line along the adjacent wall, then measure down to the floor in several places. The spot where you measure the shortest distance is where the floor is highest. Later in the process, you are going to shim cabinets up to this height because that’s easier than subtracting height from a cabinet.

Draw a level line on the wall at a height of 34 1/2 inches; this height assumes that it’s a finished floor and that you want a standard 36-inch-high countertop. Next, mark vertical lines to the floor to denote the locations of the different cabinet units. Meanwhile, find and mark the studs along the cabinet wall; even after the base cabinets are in place, you must still be able to see the marks, so make them plainly visible.

Now you’re ready to install the first cabinet, typically a corner unit. Add shims beneath the cabinet so that its top edge hits the initial horizontal line that you drew. In situations where the wall is not plumb, it may be necessary to shim behind the base cabinets as well. Shim also between the cabinet and the wall at stud locations. Use 2 1/2-inch screws to anchor the cabinets (through the shims) into the studs.

Having installed the initial cabinet, move on to the next one. Shim as necessary, and to ensure a flush fit between this unit and its neighbor, join the two with a clamp before screwing the pair together. Proceed to install the other base cabinets along the wall in this way.

How to Install Base Cabinets - Detail


Further Considerations

• Repair any damage to the walls before installing the base cabinets against them. Likewise, complete all plumbing and electrical work in the kitchen prior to cabinet installation.

• At the rear of the cabinets, mark the location of plumbing pipes and electrical boxes, then bore holes or make appropriate-size cutouts so the units fit snugly against the wall.

• It’s usually wise to install kitchen flooring before the base cabinets. For one thing, working in this sequence means you don’t have to modify the floor material to achieve a seamless look.

• When inserting a filler strip between a cabinet and a wall, you can expect to have to do some fitting, because walls are not always plumb. Measure the gap at both the top and the bottom, adding 1/16 inch to each measurement. Use a plane or sander to trim the filler piece to the correct size, slightly beveling its angled edge so that the finished surface is wider than the unfinished surface.

• Putting in peninsula or island cabinets? First install two 2 x 2 cleats on the floor. Distance the cleats so that cabinets can slip over them, then finish by securing the cabinets to the cleats.

Bob Vila’s Guide to Kitchen Appliance Care

Your kitchen appliances work hard for you—they wash, chill, grind, freeze, heat, broil and bake—so do your part keep them in good working order.

Appliance Care


Your kitchen contains more appliances than any other room in the house. When the units are in good condition, there’s not a single meal that can’t be mixed, baked, fried, frozen, or disposed of. But keeping your appliances humming along requires know-how—and some care and maintenance. Familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of these crucial kitchen helpers to keep them in ideal working condition throughout their lifespans.



Garbage Disposals

Ovens and Cooktops

Range Hoods


Dishwashers are not only a great modern convenience, but it also turns out that they can use less water than it takes to wash dishes by hand. To get this eco-benefit, however, you need to run your dishwasher only when it’s full and make sure to maintain it properly. Here are the basics of routine dishwasher maintenance (for unit-specific repairs, consult your owner’s manual):

  • Check hoses for loose connections, clogs, or leaks, and replace if needed.
  • Remove buildup inside the spinning arms using a slender tool, such as needle-nose pliers or a toothpick.
  • Regularly wipe the gasket (the rubber or plastic seal around the door), edges, and underside of the door to ensure a clean seal.
  • Inspect the inside bottom of the washer, where wastewater exits the appliance. If you suspect there is buildup inside the drain, consult your manual to disassemble the cover and clean inside the drain.

The average lifespan of a fridge is 10 to 15 years, but that number can vary widely depending on how well the appliance is taken care of. If you must buy a new fridge, it’s important to consider the depth, door swing, style (for example, French door, bottom freezer, or top freezer), and special features that you might want, in addition to aesthetic choices like color. Follow these tips to promote the longevity of this valuable appliance:

  • Clean the interior shelves and shell of your refrigerator every few months.
  • Regularly remove debris from the drain hole and drip tray of your fridge; check the owner’s manual for instructions.
  • Once or twice a year, unplug the fridge, pull it away from the wall, and clean the coils with a vacuum cleaner.
  • Check the gaskets (door seals) regularly, wipe them down, and give them the “dollar bill test”: Close the door on a dollar bill; if you can easily remove it, the seal isn’t tight enough. If this is the case, call a professional to repair the gasket.

Installing a garbage disposal is not so difficult for a moderately skilled DIYer, and you can expect that the average disposal will last 10 to 12 years. Ensure a long life by running the garbage disposal frequently and heeding these tips:

  • Run water during use and for at least 20 seconds after you finish. Cold water causes grease and oils to solidify so they can be chopped up before reaching the trap.
  • Items like chicken bones and coffee grounds will dull the blades quickly and shorten the lifespan of your appliance, so take care not to put any hard materials (or corrosive chemicals) down the disposal. For a more complete list of the dos and don’ts, consult these guidelines and your owner’s manual.

Ovens come in a variety of options, such as gas or electric, conventional or convection, freestanding or built-in, as do cooktops—think gas, electric, or induction; smoothtop or coils. Because of this variation, always consult your owner’s manual before attempting any maintenance or repairs, and always unplug the unit or cut off power at the service panel.

  • If your oven is a standard, non-self-cleaning model, you’ll need to ventilate well, protect your skin and eyes, and spend some quality time with a scrub brush and a heavy-duty oven cleaner.
  • If your oven is a self-cleaning model, you just need to run it through the cleaning cycle and wipe up the resulting ash with a damp cloth. Manufacturers often recommend removing the racks first to keep them from discoloring; consult your manual. Do not clean a self-cleaning oven the old-fashioned way.

Range hoods prevent smells, smoke, heat, and grease from floating around the kitchen. There are several types available, each one with its own benefits and drawbacks.

  • Vented hoods are ducted to the outside to completely remove smells, smoke, and heat from the room. The length of your exhaust duct will affect your choice of hood. If your hood will be mounted to an exterior wall, your duct can be short; if it will be mounted to an interior wall, the duct will probably be longer and you’ll need a more powerful hood. Vent hoods use aluminum filters to trap grease, which need to be washed (in a dishwasher or by hand) once a month, on average.
  • Non-vented hoods (also known as ductless or recirculating hoods) pull air through a charcoal filter before pumping it back into the kitchen. It’s important to change these filters every few months.
  • Hoods come in a variety of installation styles, including undercabinet, chimney, pro, island, downdraft, and power packs (inserts). Conduct thorough research before deciding which style is the right fit for your kitchen.

Bob Vila’s Guide to Kitchen Countertops

The countertop you choose has a big impact on your kitchen's appearance and functionality. Let our handy guide help you pick the right countertop material for your needs.

Kitchen Countertop Materials - Corian


Kitchen makeovers are among the most popular of home improvements. They can be costly—a mid-range minor kitchen remodel that includes new countertops, appliances, cabinet fronts, and hardware runs close to $20,000, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2011-2012 Cost vs. Value Report. But the expense has a payoff—upon resale, kitchen renovations can reap a return on investment upwards of 50 percent.

With so much at stake, it’s important to choose materials wisely. This is particularly true of the countertop, one of the most prominent features in any kitchen. There are a dizzying array of materials to consider; each material has its own features and benefits, as well as drawbacks and maintenance requirements. Use our kitchen countertop guide to help you find the material that best suits your home’s needs—and gets you one step further down the road to a successful renovation.


Solid Surface








Stainless Steel


SOLID SURFACE countertops are designed to withstand years of wear. They resist stains, moisture, sunlight, and heat, and come in a full range of colors to complement any kitchen design.

  • Solid surface countertops can be made with an integrated sink.
  • Fine scratches or stains can be buffed out of solid surface countertops with a mild abrasive.
  • Although a plastic-like patina may develop on the surface over time, this can easily be removed by a professional.

MARBLE appeals to serious cooks because it is durable and scorch resistant.

  • Naturally porous, the material is susceptible to etching. Chemical corrosion can be buffed out with marble polish. Oil stains can be removed with ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, or mineral spirits, and food stains can be lifted with a water-based paste of baking soda and dish soap.

GRANITE offers natural beauty and near diamond-hard durability, making it an ideal material for countertops.

  • It resists heat, scratches, and stains—and most granites require no sealing.
  • Because it is nonporous, granite also protects against mold and mildew.
  • To find out if your granite is adequately sealed, splash some water on the surface. If the water is still beaded up 10 or 15 minutes later, your granite is properly sealed. If the water has absorbed, head to the hardware store; sealing is quick and inexpensive.
Kitchen Countertop Materials - Butcher Block

Photo: / Grothouse Lumber Company

HARDWOODS like maple, mahogany, and cherry, as well as current popular choices like madrone, add warmth to any kitchen and can be refinished numerous times, aging beautifully.

  • For long-lasting butcher block wood countertops, apply mineral oil monthly. Non-butcher block wood countertops do best with marine oil, which keeps the stain from fading.
  • Marks and burns can be sanded out of wood, and stains are easily removable with lemon juice or hydrogen peroxide.

SOAPSTONE is extremely durable and impervious to virtually all chemicals.

  • Because it is nonporous and does not react to chemicals or temperature variations, it is resistant to staining and scorching, and does not require sealing.
  • It can be left to age naturally or sealed for a darker, richer look.
  • Nicks and scratches are common, adding to the countertop’s rugged patina. Slight discoloration from contact with oil can be rubbed out with mineral oil.

QUARTZ SURFACING countertops are made of crushed natural quartz blended with color pigments and plastic resins.

  • The nonporous material offers hygienic antibacterial benefits and does not need to be sealed.
  • Quartz countertops are heat, stain, and scratch resistant.
  • If stains do occur, a paste of hydrogen peroxide and flour, applied and left to sit for 24 hours, will lift a spot right out.

CONCRETE is a favorite of those who want an industrial look. It is extremely versatile and can take on many different colors, shadings, patterns, and sheens.

  • Concrete countertops can be poured in place or fabricated off-site and installed later. Dedicated DIYers can construct their own fairly easily, as well.
  • Concrete countertops should be specially sealed to avoid staining. Applying tung oil a few times a year can keep them stain resistant, and wax can be applied for a glossier look.

TILE is favored for its durability and affordability. It comes in various colors, sizes, and textures, and can be made of porcelain, ceramic, or stone.

  • Tiling is an attainable DIY project—just be sure to seal the grout used between the tiles to ward off bacteria.

STAINLESS STEEL countertops are particularly well suited to the areas around cooktops and ranges where hot pots and pans are placed, or center islands where food prep and serving are the main focus.

  • Scratches are inevitable with a stainless steel surface, but they can be buffed out with an abrasive pad.
  • Prevent rusting by keeping cast iron pans away from the counter. Any rust stains that do occur may be eliminated with a paste of lemon juice and baking soda.

LAMINATE provides a budget-friendly countertop with a retro look.

  • The material is fairly durable but not heat resistant.
  • Installation is relatively quick, which helps to keep costs down.
  • A simple paste of baking soda and water left on a laminate surface for three to five minutes will remove most stains, while difficult stains may be fought using household bleach rubbed in gently with a cotton ball.

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before a Kitchen Renovation

Before beginning the project, ask yourself some basic questions in order to make sure you end up with the kitchen of your dreams.


Can it be that updating your kitchen changes life for the better? For Sabine Schoenberg, there’s no doubt about it. “Kitchens are nurturing spaces for the body and soul,” says Schoenberg, founder of and author of Kitchen Magic: Secrets to Successful Kitchens. “Even small improvements in your kitchen can have a profound impact on your quality of life.”

Before any work can begin, however, Schoenberg advises that you ask yourself a series of questions. The exercise can help you pinpoint and (just as important) articulate the goals of your project. “Don’t rush through this fun discovery phase,” she says. “Enjoy the opportunity to think through what’s important to you and your family to create your perfect kitchen.”



Kitchen Remodeling Design Tips - Inspiration


In your most fond memories of the kitchen where you grew up, which features of the room usually stand out? It might be the paint color on the walls, the material of the countertop, a particular type of table, or the presence of a sunny window. Should fresh inspiration fail, let those recollections guide your choices.



Kitchen Remodeling Design Tips - Banquette


What’s the main reason you’re remodeling the kitchen? Don’t lose sight of your primary motivation, be it more light, more storage, or a more efficient workflow. Taking the time now to develop a firm grasp of your priorities will help you make some tough decisions at later stages of the process.



Kitchen Remodeling Design Tips - Style


When you envision your dream kitchen, what are its design characteristics? Is it ultramodern or quaintly country? Does stainless steel or natural wood appear on the finishes? Browse shelter magazines and websites, identifying the commonalities that exist between those images you find most appealing.



Kitchen Remodeling Design Tips - One Thing


What is the one feature you wouldn’t be able to forgive yourself for not including in your kitchen renovation? Whether it’s a splurge item—a commercial oven, for instance—or simply cookbook storage space, adjust the budget of your project so that once completed, your new kitchen perfectly fits your ongoing lifestyle.



Kitchen Remodeling Design Tips - Future


Close your eyes and imagine yourself in the finished space. Do you feel happy because the sun is streaming in, organized because there is a place for everything (and everything is in its place), or social because you can entertain guests while cooking? Be sure to discuss your vision with your architect or contractor.

Bob Vila Radio: Reface or Replace?

Before ripping out your existing cabinets, think about keeping the frames intact and refacing the cabinet and drawer fronts.

Are your kitchen cabinets dated and worn? Or maybe they’re just too dark for your taste. New cabinets can be a costly proposition, so you may first want to consider refacing.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON REFACING CABINETS or read the text below:

Refacing Cabinets


When you reface cabinets, you replace the cabinet and drawer fronts but keep the frames (the overall cabinet structure). You then typically refinish the cabinet’s front and end pieces to match the new faces.

Refacing is quicker and less disruptive than replacing, and it’s significantly less expensive. But mind you, nothing is truly cheap: You may be surprised at the quotes you get, so shop around.

Particularly if color is your only beef with the current cabinets, a cheaper, easier, and DIY-friendly option may be to simply refinish the existing cabinetry yourself. But beware: Doing it yourself can be a messy, time-consuming project.

Refacing isn’t always the right choice. If you hate your cabinets’ layout or functionality, you may find yourself going through the expense of refacing only to rip it all out in a few years. And if your cabinets are poorly constructed or in any way compromised, don’t reface. Why throw good money after bad?

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.