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Video: 5 Ways a Shed Can Improve Your Outdoor Living

One of the best ways to encourage more time outdoors is to actually set up shop—or, rather, shed—in the yard.

Are you familiar with the phrase, “If you build it, they will come”? It applies not only to baseball fields in Kevin Costner movies but sheds as well. As in, if you construct a shed in the backyard, soon the whole family will find reasons to spend more time outdoors! See how a new shed can help you incorporate summer trends into your backyard and naturally become the center of outdoor living.

For more about sheds, consider:

7 Types of Homeowners Who Can Benefit from a Backyard Shed

The Dos and Don’ts of Building a Shed

Your Shed, Your Way: 5 Surprising Ways to Customize Your Backyard Building

This content has been brought to you by LP® Building Products. Its facts and opinions are those of

5 Great Options for Laundry Room Flooring (and 3 to Skip)

Use this guide to zero in on the best—and worst—flooring options for your laundry room.

5 Best Options for Laundry Room Flooring


Replacing torn, worn, or outmoded flooring is a surefire way to lend a fresh look to your laundry room. But this particular space has traditionally been challenging to outfit since it’s vulnerable to damage from so many sources: stains from spilled or splattered bleach, warping or mold growth from appliance leaks, and dents from swapping out one or both of the heavy appliances. And, if your laundry room is located in the mudroom, your flooring faces additional threats like sopping umbrellas and mud tracked in from the outdoors.

To withstand all of this wear-and-tear, your new laundry room flooring should tick the following boxes at a minimum:

Moisture-resistant—to minimize water and humidity absorption and keep floors from swelling, warping, and molding

• Stain-resistant—to prevent everyday spills and splatters from permanently setting in

• Impact-resistant—to fend off scratches and dents from foot traffic or appliances moves

• Easy to clean—to keep upkeep low

• Long-lasting—to allow your floor to stay put longer without replacement

• Affordable—to keep you within budget

• Aesthetically pleasing—ideally offering a range of styles to fit in with the design scheme

Ahead, we assess the pros and cons of five popular options for laundry room flooring and rule out three that aren’t worth the cost or trouble.

RELATED: 20 Instant Updates for a Laundry Room You Can Love

5 Best Options for Laundry Room Flooring


TYPE OF FLOORING: Luxury vinyl tile

Pros: Mimics high-end materials for less; installs over existing flooring
Cons: Costs more than most vinyl; appears flawed when installing over a sub-par substrate

Luxury vinyl tile (LVT) consists of multiple fused layers of material—most commonly a vinyl backing, a vinyl core, a printed design that can imitate more luxury materials, and a clear top “wear” layer. The outer-facing protective layer gives the flooring the waterproof and scratch-, stain-, and dent-resistance needed to withstand the high volume of moisture, humidity, and foot traffic in the laundry room and/or mudrooms. With only dry sweeping, wet mopping with soapy water, and the occasional finishing with acrylic sealer, the laundry room flooring will last for 10 to 30 years or longer. (There’s no grout, so there’s no need for grout cleaning.)

As you might guess from the name, LVT is more expensive than sheet vinyl; it ranges from $2 to $7 per square foot in materials, according to cost guides on ImproveNet, a home improvement planning website. But, some consumers will say it’s worth the extra money: LVT is thicker and thus quieter, more insulating, and softer. It’s also a step up in the looks department as the printed layer can be made to look like higher-end materials, namely hardwood or stone. You can install the tiles directly over existing flooring, and their small size—usually 12 inches by 12 inches—makes them easier to replace than sheet vinyl. Just watch out for irregularities or unevenness in the substrate, which may show through the flooring and cause gaps or lifts around edges.

5 Best Options for Laundry Room Flooring



Pros: Cheapest vinyl option; affords lots of looks
Cons: Larger sheets are harder to install and replace; doesn’t offer as much impact resistance

The most budget-friendly vinyl option, at $0.50 to $3.50 per square foot, according to ImproveNet, sheet vinyl can appear as a solid color or a printed design. This type of flooring is glued down to the laundry room subfloor in large, 6′- to 13′-wide sections, which makes for fewer seams than LVT flooring but also a more difficult do-it-yourself installation. Also, when damaged, entire sheets must be replaced at a time.

Like LVT, sheet vinyl is waterproof and stain- and scratch-resistant, and, as a grout-free floor type, it needs only dry sweeping or wet mopping. However, it’s thinner than LVT, and therefore offers less insulation against the cold and sound and is more prone to denting or tearing from fallen objects or appliance moves. It lasts only five to 20 years or more.

5 Best Options for Laundry Room Flooring


TYPE OF FLOORING: Ceramic tile

Pros: Cheapest entry price; DIY-friendly installation and replacement
Cons: Grout grunge adds to cleaning effort; slippery

Anywhere from $0.85 to $2.50 per square foot, according to ImproveNet, ceramic tile boasts the best starting price of any laundry room flooring. You can find it sold glazed or unglazed, individual blocks of varying shapes and sizes or in pre-laid mosaic tile sheets that forgo the need for individual tile setting. And these clay-based tiles can be further customized through the use of tinted grout between tiles. But you’ll need to scrub that grout clean with an abrasive agent like baking soda, as well as regularly dry sweep and wet mop the tile to keep it clean.

RELATED: Porcelain or Ceramic: Which Tile Type is Right for You?

Otherwise, glazed ceramic tile offers strong moisture, chemical, and stain resistance over its 10- to 20-year lifespan, even when faced with standing water (a real possibility in combo laundry-and-mudrooms). Unglazed tile first needs to be sealed with a penetrating tile sealer to provide these protections. All ceramic tile is slipperier, colder, and noisier than other laundry room flooring options, so know that the whirring of the washer or dryer is more likely to reverberate on this type of flooring. Choosing certain heated and/or textured ceramic tile can create more warmth and traction underfoot.

5 Best Options for Laundry Room Flooring



Pros: Lasts the longest; leads to higher home resale value (which can offset high costs)
Cons: Costs the most; large and weighty tiles deter DIY installation and replacement

You can’t beat the durability of natural stone tiles made of slate, marble, travertine, limestone, or similar materials—not when they offer between 20 years to a lifetime of protection from moisture, stains, and dents! You’ll pay a high price for the luxurious looks and virtual indestructibility, anywhere from $5 to $10 per square foot, according to ImproveNet, but this cost can partially be offset by the higher resale value of homes with stone surfaces.

In addition to dry sweeping and wet mopping the stone tile with a stone-specific or other pH-neutral cleaner, or soapy water, you’ll need to de-grunge grout with an abrasive agent like baking soda and water, as well as seal the tile with a stone sealer to prevent floor marks. You can find more

Like ceramic tile, stone laundry room flooring will feel cold and slippery, but you can avert this by installing heated and textured stone. Keep in mind that the heavy weight and large size of the tiles—anywhere from 12×12 to 18×18 inches—coupled with the potential need for two layers of subflooring makes it difficult for most homeowners to install or replace themselves. The price of professional installation and any repairs should be factored into the estimated cost of this flooring.

5 Best Options for Laundry Room Flooring


TYPE OF FLOORING: Laminate flooring

Pros: Resists fading; provides better moisture resistance when seams are glued
Cons: Generally more vulnerable to moisture; sounds hollow

Laminate flooring, available for $1 to $5 per square foot, according to ImproveNet, consists of easy-to-install interlocking planks made of backer paper, a wood-based core, a printed paper layer, and a wear layer. The printed layer can be made to look like natural materials such as wood or stone, simple solids, or complex patterns. The wear layer effectively preserves the floor color when exposed to sunlight and protects the flooring from scratches, dents, and scuffs.

But its core being a wood product, the flooring produces a hollow sound when walked over that can annoy the sound-sensitive. (You may be inclined to layer with rugs.) More importantly, laminate flooring can swell or warp with heavy water exposure, which makes it a less ideal option when your laundry appliances are located in a mudroom. This also means you also shouldn’t wet mop it—only vacuum, sweep, and wipe up spills as they occur, and dry mop it with a light spray of water.

RELATED: Hardwood or Laminate: Which Is the Right Flooring for You?

If you want your laminate floor to live up to its potential lifespan of 10 to 30 years, consider applying a bead of water-resistant PVA (polyvinyl acetate) glue to the tongue (i.e. flat edge) of planks before interlocking them; it will act as a barrier to moisture. Similarly, identify and repair laundry room leaks early, and avoid air-drying dripping garments in a laundry room where this type of flooring is installed.

Forget These 3 Types of Flooring 

While LVT, sheet vinyl, ceramic tile, stone, and laminate all have the makings to be attractive and durable laundry room flooring, there are still some options that fall short. Beware of the pitfalls of the following three picks.

5 Best Options for Laundry Room Flooring


Carpet, though relatively low in cost ($0.25 to $10 per square foot, according to ImproveNet) and warm and cushy underfoot, is the worst candidate for laundry rooms. Its nap readily catches laundry lint and dust as well as absorbs water from appliance leaks, overflows, and detergent or other chemical splashes. The longer the pile, the slower the carpet takes to dry and the more likely it is that mold, stains, and musty smells will take root in your carpet. You may even find yourself forced to replace it before its 10-year lifespan is up.

RELATED: 7 Secrets to Keep Your Carpet Looking New

 Hardwood, available for $2 to $20 per square foot, according to ImproveNet, is certainly worthwhile in other interiors where it can be expected to last 20 years or longer. But its natural warmth, radiance, and durability are all diminished in the laundry room. Moisture can warp and/or rot it, while high foot traffic, replacement of appliances, and spills can lead to splinters, gouges, or stains. You can certainly patch gouges with wood filler and seal the hardwood to improve its moisture resistance, but these tasks have to be repeated on a regular basis, which may not be worthwhile in a non-public space like the laundry room.

 Bamboo flooring, made from bamboo poles or stems, can be two to three times harder than certain hardwoods like pine and offer similar lifespan (20 years and up) for the lower price of $2 to $10 per square foot, according to ImproveNet. Still, the sustainable flooring material can be prone to scratches or dents from pets, foot traffic, or appliances; if your planks have been tinted brown through a carbonization process, they may have been made even softer and more vulnerable to such impacts. In addition, high humidity, spills, leaks, or minor flooding can cause the floor to swell, warp, or rot, while overly dry conditions can shrink and crack the floor.

All You Need to Know About Tile Countertops

Here’s your required reading on this creatively limitless countertop material.

All You Need to Know About Tile Countertops


Unlike natural stone, laminate, or solid surface (made of mineral dust and resins), tile offers endless creative possibilities for your kitchen countertop—from simple square patterns to elaborate mosaics. Tile is also both do-it-yourself- and budget-friendly yet, as with any countertop material, has its own set of drawbacks. Keep reading for the 411 so you can make an informed decision for your kitchen remodel.


While tile countertops have been around since the late 1800s, when the manufacture of ceramic tile began in earnest, they didn’t catch on until after World War II, when kitchens began to evolve in size and function. Tile countertops reached the peak of their popularity in the 1970s and 1980s, only to wane in favor of solid surface composite materials and the increased availability of natural stone slabs.

Today’s tile offerings include fired tiles, such as ceramic or porcelain, and tiles cut from larger stones, such as slate, travertine, and granite. There are also striking glass tiles on the market. And while tile is seen everywhere now—on floors, shower walls, even roofs—on kitchen countertops it serves not only as a design element but also as a surface for food preparation.

RELATED: 16 New Reasons to Love Subway Tile


Depending on your needs and lifestyle, tile just might be the ideal countertop material for you.


• Tile countertops can be installed by an enthusiastic DIYer who has some experience with tile-setting; slab countertops should always be professionally installed.

• Tile is heat resistant, which makes it a good choice next to a stove or oven. You can set hot pans right on the tile surface without fear of damage.

• Homeowners have an endless array of custom design options, based on a wide selection of colors, sizes, shapes, and the types of tile that are available.


• While installing a tile countertop is not difficult, a novice DIYer can end up with a less-than-perfect surface. (See DIY Installation Tips, below.)

• Tile can chip if something heavy is accidentally dropped on the surface.

• Coffee, wine, and other spilled liquids can stain grout lines if the grout isn’t sealed regularly. (See Maintenance Matters, below.)


Tile can be a bargain, running on average between $2 and $3 per square foot for ceramic and porcelain tile. Stone tile, such as granite, slate, or marble runs $4 to $7 per square foot, while glass tile can cost up to $30 per square foot due to a multistep manufacturing process that often involves handcrafting by glass artisans.

RELATED: 7 Countertop Materials You Can Actually Afford

The savings are even greater if tiles are DIY-installed. Professional installation will boost the price of ceramic tile countertops to $18 to $35 per square foot, $45 to $75 per square foot for natural stone tile, and up to $100 per square foot for glass. This is still less expensive than professionally installed slab countertops, which run between $100 and $185 for soapstone, $75 and $200 for granite, $80 and $155 for engineered quartz, and $85 and $125 for concrete countertops.

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The ability to create simple or elaborate motifs is one of tile’s big draws. Nowadays, more popular designs involve incorporating smaller tiles in rows between larger ones and extending the same tile design from the countertop to the backsplash for a continuous look. Different types of tiles can be used to achieve custom, one-of-a-kind designs.

RELATED: Looks Like Luxury: Imitate Any Material with…Tile

• Ceramic and porcelain tiles come in a wide range of sizes and colors, from one-inch octagons to 12-inch squares, and an array of shapes and sizes in between. Rounded edge tiles are also available for creating a smooth, contoured countertop edge.

• Glass tile also comes in a large variety of colors and styles and brings a translucent gem-like quality that’s truly stunning. But glass tile is fragile and most prone to chipping, one reason it is more commonly used as a backsplash than a countertop.

• Stone tiles, such as travertine, slate, and granite, add a natural touch to the kitchen or bathroom. Most stone tiles are available in squares or rectangles from four to 12 inches in size.

How to Install Tile Countertops Yourself



You can save major money by installing tile countertops yourself, but if you’ve never worked with the material before, try to observe the process in person before you tackle your own project. Alternately, a YouTube search will pull up a number of tile-installation videos that can be very helpful. While every job is different, based on your counter configuration and the type of tile you choose, the following tips will help you get started on the right foot.

How to Install Tile Countertops Yourself


Use the right substrate. Don’t lay tile over a plywood base. Grout (and some types of tile) absorb moisture, which will seep down and dampen the plywood, eventually causing it to delaminate and swell, which can lead to tiles heaving and popping. Use only tile backer board as a substrate to prevent this problem.

Use a commercial tile wet saw. A good tile saw can make the difference between smooth, clean cuts or the chipped edges that can occur when you manually score and snap the tiles. Glass tile especially has a tendency to chip or scratch if not cut precisely, and a highly visible countertop is no place for poorly cut tiles. You can rent a tile wet saw for between $45 and $60 per day from a construction rental store.

Make a dry layout on your counter. A dry layout means positioning every piece of tile before you actually start installing with adhesive. Think of it as an essential trial run.

Use plastic tile spacers to achieve uniform joints between the tiles. Tile spacers are inexpensive and available in sizes between 1/16-inch and 1/4-inch so you can create a professional look no matter what your design.

Arrange the cut ends of the tiles against the back of the countertop. Tiles come with smooth factory edges but after you cut one, the edge will be sharp. Position whole tiles, whenever possible, at the front and center of the countertop, and reserve cut tiles for the back edge. The backsplash will cover the cut edge.

Only use the adhesive recommended by the tile manufacturer. Porcelain, for example, requires the use of porcelain adhesive, while thinset adhesive can be used for ceramic and natural stone tiles. Always read and follow the adhesive requirements of the manufactures.

Use the correct trowel to spread adhesive. The tile manufacturer will specify a specific size of notched trowel. The notches let you spread a uniform base, which will ensure that the surface of your tiles is flat and even. Be particularly careful about even spreading of adhesive when laying translucent glass tiles—any irregularities will show right through.

Use the right grout. When installing ceramic, porcelain, or stone tiles, use sanded grout for joints that are 1/8-inch wide, or wider. Use unsanded grout for joints narrower than 1/8-inch wide. For glass tiles, use only grout that’s recommended by the manufacturer. Also, it takes at least 24 hours for tile to set, so be sure it has dried completely before grouting the joints.

How to Clean Tile Countertops



Tile countertops are relatively easy to maintain, but they do require a minimum of care and upkeep to retain their good looks.

• Wipe down the countertop after meal preparation with a damp sponge or washcloth. Use an all-purpose kitchen cleaning spray when necessary to remove stubborn grease or grime.

• Avoid using acid-based cleaners such as vinegar or commercial cleaners that contain mineral acids. These can damage the surface of stone tiles and may remove the sheen from porcelain, glass, or ceramic.

• Use a small brush (an old toothbrush works well) to scrub away food deposits on grout lines.

• Seal grout lines at least once a year with an interior grout sealer that is compatible with the type of tile on your countertops. Pigmented sealers can stain natural stone tiles.

• Stone tiles are porous and should be sealed once or twice a year to protect them from staining.

• Wipe up spills promptly. Because grout—and some types of tile, such as stone—are porous, they can absorb liquid and remain damp, increasing the risk of mold or mildew growth.

The Perfect DIY Plant Stand for Any Empty Corner

Windowsill gardens are so last season. Build any of these handmade plant stand designs, and you'll show off both your green thumb and your craftsmanship.

How to Make a DIY Plant Stand

Photo: Ohoh Deco for Bob Vila

‘Tis the season to celebrate your green thumb! If you enjoy afternoons tending colorful blooms, then you understand how limiting it can be to find indoor spots to display your floral favorites. Oftentimes they end up stashed in an unseen area or hiding on a windowsill behind a cafe curtain. But this weekend you can make all of that change with a simple-to-build DIY plant stand that puts your gardening goods front and center.

More than simply elevate your greenery to eye level, our triangular design also solves the problem of awkward, underutilized corners. Slip this DIY plant stand into an empty nook to furnish it fast. If it’s a sunny spot, you can set plants on top; in a darker corner, it offers the perfect ledge to stand a vase with fresh pickings—your choice! Follow the instructions below to get started.

Everything You Need to DIY a Plant Stand

Photo: Ohoh Deco for Bob Vila

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
 1×2 lumber or trim (8 feet)
 Hand saw
22mm plywood
Set square
60grit and 120grit sandpaper
1½inch metal corner brace (6)
Spray paint
 ½inch screws
Cordless drill/driver
 Wood glue

Easy Plans for a DIY Plant Stand

Photo: Ohoh Deco for Bob Vila

Saw the 1×2 wood into three 31″-long pieces to the make the legs. Be careful to make your cuts straight so that the cut edges at each end make flat feet for a sturdy plant stand.

Easy Plans for a DIY Plant Stand

Photo: Ohoh Deco for Bob Vila

Next, draw and cut two triangular shapes on the 22mm plywood to make the shelves.

Use a ruler and a set square to draw the first equilateral triangle with 14-inch sides on your board. Then, at each corner, plan where you’ll cut off the tip—here, you’ll fix a leg to the shelf. To do so, measure and mark 2 inches from the corner on each adjoining side, then draw a line connecting both points. Repeat on the other two corners. Then cut along all lines using the jigsaw.

Draw and cut another identical trimmed triangle to make the lower shelf.

Easy Plans for a DIY Plant Stand

Photo: Ohoh Deco for Bob Vila

With all pieces cut, sand them with two types of sandpaper—first with a 60-grit paper, then with a 120-grit paper to give the wood a smooth finish.

Remove the sawdust with a damp cloth.

Easy Plans for a DIY Plant Stand

Photo: Ohoh Deco for Bob Vila

Paint or stain the triangular shelves whatever color you like; we chose a dark gray to contrast with the natural tones of the wooden legs.

Pro Tip: If you choose to paint, it’s smart to go with something with a sheen. Semi-gloss paint, for example, will withstand excess moisture from an overflowing pot better than most matte options. Regardless, though, we’ll put a coat of varnish at the end to protect the finished product.

For a better result, we suggest applying two coats.

Easy Plans for a DIY Plant Stand

Photo: Ohoh Deco for Bob Vila

Your finished DIY plant stand will look more professional if the metal corner braces supporting each level don’t stand out. To better integrate them into the structure, spraypaint them in the same color as the shelves. Here, to go with our dark shelves, we applied two coats of black paint (don’t forget to wait the recommended amount of time between coats) and switched the regular screws for black ones.

Easy Plans for a DIY Plant Stand

Photo: Ohoh Deco for Bob Vila

Prep the legs to assemble the DIY plant stand. Put them side by side on a flat surface, and measure and mark 8 inches from the bottom on each. Next, make a second mark 20 inches above the first one (28 inches from the bottom) on each leg.

Now, double check your measurements. Verify that the marks are at the exact same height on every leg to be sure that you build a level plant stand. Then, fasten two 1-½-inch corner braces on each leg with ½-inch screws, aligning them just below the mark.

Easy Plans for a DIY Plant Stand

Photo: Ohoh Deco for Bob Vila

Stand the three legs with the corner braces facing inward. Then, assemble your DIY plant stand by placing a triangular shelf at each level on top of a set of braces.

Screw through the corner braces and into the bottom of a corner of a shelf. For more strength, you can add a little glue between the shelves’ corner edges and the legs before doing so.

Easy Plans for a DIY Plant Stand

Photo: Ohoh Deco for Bob Vila

If you want your DIY plant stand to last, top with one or two coats of varnish. (Be sure to follow the can’s instructions for dry time between coats and after the final coat.) It will protect it from dust and eventual water droplets.

And with that, you’re ready to display your favorite plants! Unless, of course, you want to make those great rope baskets, too—the tutorial can be found here.

Ama is a DIY addict and the creative mind behind Ohoh Deco. She likes home decor, lighting, and furniture projects that may involve painting, sewing, drilling… no matter the technique! Whatever she has on hand is the inspiration to create and fodder for her serious addiction to upcycling.

Easy Plans for a DIY Plant Stand

Photo: Ohoh Deco for Bob Vila

Easy Plans for a DIY Plant Stand

Photo: Ohoh Deco for Bob Vila

Still searching for inspiration? Start with these next five easy designs for a DIY plant stand. With any of these, you can devote an entryway or corner to your potted plants. Each build takes only a weekend but will bring delight week after week!


DIY Plant Stand - Mid-Century Modern Style


For throwback style that you can make in a day, try this midcentury modern-inspired stand from A Beautiful Mess. It’s seriously simple to assemble: First, find or cut a wood round sized 4 to 5 inches larger in diameter than the base of the pot you’re looking to support. Stain, seal, and screw on a few tapered furniture legs picked up from any home improvement store, and your perch is ready to welcome its plant.


DIY Plant Stand - Outdoor Potted Plants


One foolproof way to bolster curb appeal in any home—whether it’s soon to be on the market or simply preparing to greet guests—is to highlight cheerful hues. And nothing brightens like fresh flowers! Take a cue from the blogger at Shanty 2 Chic and introduce colorful buds on either side of your entrance with two 30-inch-tall stands constructed from the already-popular landscaping materials, cedar fence rail posts.


DIY Plant Stand - Marble and Copper


While a single slice of marble as a kitchen countertop or bathroom vanity can cost a pretty penny, securing a single square of porcelain floor tile for a luxe-looking living room DIY leans much more wallet-friendly. Here, the crafters at Foxtail and Moss affixed this opulent material to three legs of copper pipe and caps to create an industrial-chic stand.


DIY Plant Stand - Hanging Design


Not restricted to available floor space, this natural beauty from Brepurposed fits just about anywhere throughout the home! Simply affix a curved bracket meant for hanging flowering baskets to any wall; this time, instead of stringing up a standard woven planter, thread a couple of suede strips through the holes in a raw wood slice and hang the project to serve as your in-air plant stand.


DIY Plant Stand - Corner Stand


We all have those awkward, empty corners. Fortunately, a skinny DIY plant stand design from the Crafty Sisters can fill blank spaces with a fresh crop of foliage. And while ornamental around the edges, its simple construction consists of only medium-density fiberboard, chair molding, and planks of 2×2 and 1×2 lumber. Just remember that where you place the project after completion will determine which plants thrive; shade-loving plants will do fine along interior walls, while sun-loving sprouts should sit closer to the windows.

How To: Tighten a Toilet Seat

Follow this guide to control a case of the wobbles.

How to Tighten a Toilet Seat


From the pressure of people sitting to the constant opening and closing of the lid and/or seat, your toilets probably get more traffic than any other seat in the house. So it’s understandable that the seat could loosen and wiggle a bit from side to side. The bolts that attach the seat to the commode, located just behind where you sit, are causing the problem. This is no mere annoyance but a potentially unsafe situation, should the lid separate from one of its bolts while someone’s using it, causing injury. Fortunately, the fix is bound to be an easy DIY job—whether you simply need to adjust the bolts or replace them entirely. Read on for two ways to go about how to tighten a toilet seat.


TOOLS AND MATERIALS Available on Amazon
Flathead screwdriver
Toilet seat hinge washers (optional)
Ratchet wrench
Adjustable wrench (optional)

Locate the two bolts that attach the seat to the commode. If there are small plastic cases covering the bolts, use your fingers to pop them open the same way you might access a shampoo cap; many modern toilet seat bolt covers are manufactured with this feature. If not, use a flat head screwdriver to gently pry them loose and expose the bolts.

Use the screwdriver to tighten the toilet seat bolts, which are now exposed, screwing clockwise until they resist. Be sure to stop when each bolt stops turning; you don’t want to strip or break them altogether. Alternatively, consider adding a toilet seat hinge washer (less than $1 apiece) to each bolt. These washers were designed for the specific purpose of keeping a toilet seat in place. If you choose to do so, proceed to the next step.

To install the seat hinge, unscrew the bolts entirely using a counterclockwise motion with your screwdriver. Slip the washers into place where the bolt will meet the commode before reinserting the bolts and screwing them back.

If bolts fail to tighten, try holding the nut at the base of the bolt in place with a pair of pliers in one hand while turning the bolt clockwise with the screwdriver in the other hand. Once again, take care not to go too far and damage the bolt or strip it; once it stops turning, you’re done.

How to Tighten a Toilet Seat



TOOLS AND MATERIALS Available on Amazon
– Miniature hacksaw
– Toilet seat replacement kit
– Replacement nuts and bolts with rubber washers (optional)

If the bolts are frozen in place and just won’t budge, cut them off with a miniature hacksaw. Place the saw blade just beneath the bolt’s head and saw slowly until you’ve gone all the way through the metal.

After sawing through the bolt, the severed piece may be hot to the touch, so use caution when removing it. Repeat the process on the other bolt, then clear away any debris on both sides. Remove each nut by spinning it counterclockwise, then pull the bolts out and discard them.

If you need to replace hinges as well as the bolts, it’s best to buy a toilet seat replacement kit for less than $10 at your local hardware store. This includes nuts, bolts, and hinges with screws. Otherwise, you only need replacement nuts and bolts with rubber washers.

Then, with old or new hinges securely in place, screw the bolts in one at a time by holding each nut at the base, dropping the bolt into the center of the nut, and using your screwdriver to secure each bolt in a clockwise motion. This should do the trick to tighten the toilet seat. Test the seat to make sure it doesn’t move side to side, and you should be sitting pretty!

Solved! Dealing with a Carpeted Bathroom

Learn the hard truth about having the softest flooring in the bathroom.

Dealing with Carpet in a Bathroom


Q: We recently moved into a home with wall-to-wall carpeting in the bathroom. We’d like to replace it, but that really isn’t in our budget now, so we’re wondering how to cope. What should we do?

A: Homeowners and building contractors have long debated the pros and cons of carpet in the bath. It’s true that hard flooring such as ceramic or porcelain tile, natural stone, or vinyl is far better suited to humid environments. But fluffy flooring in the bath does have some advantages. Read on for a breakdown of the most common complaints associated with bathroom carpet as well as its benefits to figure out the fate of your floor.

Dealing with Carpet in a Bathroom


Carpet is a magnet for moisture and its by-products. Between steamy vapor from the shower and water dripping off your body, bathroom carpet is bound to get wet—and soak up the moisture like a sponge. This gives mildew and mold an opportunity to grow and spread. Some varieties of mold that commonly grow in carpeting, such as Cladosporium or Trichoderma, can lead to illness or aggravate allergies and/or respiratory conditions such as asthma. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control recommend avoiding carpet in the bathroom. Even if mold doesn’t negatively impact your health, it can eventually rot the subfloor, requiring complete floor replacement.

RELATED: 8 Ways to Mildew-Proof Your Bathroom

Carpet is a nightmare if you have a leak or flood. Wet patches on the floor are bad enough in non-carpeted bathrooms, because they may indicate a plumbing leak or a flooded appliance. But with plush flooring, it can be harder to identify and repair the culprit and, if soaked with contaminated water or wet for more than around 48 hours, the entire carpet must be pulled up and discarded.

Stains are difficult to eliminate. An errant splash or spill of bleach-based cleaner, liquid makeup, or candle wax can be simply wiped up or mopped off stone, tile, or vinyl. But spills on carpet commonly become set-in stains. In addition, one-size-fits-all solutions rarely work when spot treating carpet. Rather, you’ll need to take a different approach to treating each type of carpet stain—for example, enlisting rubbing alcohol to remove nail polish or a clothes iron to lift candle wax drippings. Note: Synthetic carpet varieties, such as polyester, are more resistant to stains and fading from sun exposure than those made of natural fibers like wool.

It feels good underfoot. Some folks like their bathroom carpet because it’s soft and warm. Carpet offers a cushion underfoot that makes for comfy walking, especially when barefoot. Also, trapped air between carpet fibers acts as insulation against the cold, which makes coming out of a steamy shower onto the bathroom floor less jarring than stepping onto a cold tile or stone floor. There’s a safety element, too: Even when slightly wet, carpet offers traction underfoot. Wet, slick tile or stone can lead to nasty slip and fall accidents.

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Dealing with Carpet in a Bathroom


Its weaknesses can be mitigated with proper maintenance. While not ideal in the long run, carpet in a bathroom should be something you can live was as you save for a replacement. This is especially true if it’s a shorter pile, which is less absorbent and faster drying than plusher carpeting. You can also control the problems associated with bathroom carpet with the following tips:

• Upgrade to the best bathroom fan and run it while showers or tubs are in use to keep water vapor in the air from settling onto the carpet.

• Lay mats over carpet by the tub, sink, and toilet to protect it from moisture and prevent mold growth.

• Use a sponge or wet vacuum to pick up pools of liquids on tub or sink surfaces that can otherwise spill onto the carpet.

• Identify and repair bathroom leaks when you first suspect them.

Dry-vacuum the carpet weekly to eliminate dust and light debris from the fibers.

• Blot, don’t rub, carpet spills with a water-dampened paper towel as soon as they occur. If staining occurs, treat according to the specific stain type.

• Every year or two, shampoo carpets with a hot water extractor (not a steam cleaner, which can worsen stains and damage carpet fibers) to eliminate stubborn stains and grime. If cleaning a natural-fiber carpet, use cold rather than hot water in the extractor as hot water can shrink and damage the fibers.

What’s the Difference? Wood vs. Vinyl Fence

Learn all about two popular materials—each with various benefits and drawbacks—so you can install the ideal fence for your property.

Wood vs Vinyl Fence: Which to Choose for Your Yard


The iconic white picket fence symbolic of the American dream? It was surely made of wood. Yet wood fences also come in warm colors and design options that go far beyond the classic picket. Add in organic texture and the unique grain of each board and you can see why so many folks love a wood fence.

Vinyl, however, is giving wood some stiff competition these days. This super-durable material often referred to as PVC, short for polyvinyl chloride, was introduced as fencing in the 1980s, but those early versions looked plastic-y and cheap. Improved composition has led to PVC fences that look more natural and are stronger and tougher than ever.

The type of fence you choose will depend on your budget, aesthetic taste, and how much maintenance you’re willing to put in, among other factors. Read on to understand five notable differences in this material showdown—wood vs. vinyl—and you’re sure to pick the perfect fence material for your home.

Vinyl costs more up front, but maintaining wood makes it pricier over time. Wood fencing typically costs about $12 per linear foot uninstalled, but a wood fence is bound to require maintenance, such as replacing boards as they warp or rot. Vinyl, which runs in the ballpark of $17 per linear foot, is virtually maintenance-free. Vinyl will also typically outlast wood fences, which are susceptible to weather, rot, insects, and other debilitating factors. It won’t warp or fade, and should essentially look the same and hold up as well as the day it’s installed, as long as it’s cleaned as needed.

RELATED: The Dos and Don’ts of Setting a Fence Post

Wood—depending on your choice of species and finish—may need to be cleaned, treated, sealed, stained and re-stained as weather and sunlight take their toll. For example, pressure treated wood, which undergoes a preservative process to help it withstand decay, can warp as soon as one month after installation. Overall, some installers estimate wood fences will need
to be fully replaced after 10 to 20 years.

Wood vs Vinyl Fence: Which to Choose for Your Yard


Wood still looks more natural than vinyl. You can’t beat wood for organic warmth and traditional feel. It’s available in a seemingly endless number of options and design styles, from a privacy fence with a decorative scalloped top to a French Gothic-style picket fence. And when it comes to finishes, wood can be left in its natural state with simply a protective sealant, or stained or painted in virtually any hue you like. Among the most popular wood choices for fencing, cedar has a rich reddish color, tight grain, and minimal knots, while somewhat pricier redwood and teak have a highly desirable luster.

The appearance of vinyl has improved over the last decade, and now you’ll find options with faux-wood grain and even find faux-stone looks. These finishes have upped the aesthetic ante somewhat but no one is going to be fooled and mistake vinyl for wood!

Wood vs Vinyl Fence: Which to Choose for Your Yard


Wood can be refinished. Vinyl cannot be painted or stained, so once you choose a color and style for your vinyl fence, that’s what it will look like for its life. If you continue to love it, great; if you change your mind, you’ll have to start anew. One of the wonderful things about a wood fence is that it can be painted and stained to suit your taste as time goes on.

RELATED: Fence Styles: 10 Popular Designs to Consider

Vinyl fences are easier to keep clean. A periodic rinse with the garden hose is pretty much all it takes to banish dirt from a vinyl fence. A pressure washer makes even easier work of the job, so buying one might be a worthwhile investment if you’ll be installing a lot of vinyl fencing. Wood fences will likely need a power washing, and possibly the use of detergents, on a more frequent basis as their porous nature makes them susceptible to mold and mildew. Keep color in mind, too: White shows dirt more, so if you really want white, vinyl may be your best bet.

Repairing vinyl is trickier than wood. Though vinyl is very durable, when damaged or broken—by extreme weather, for instance, or accidental impact during a backyard football game—it can be a pain to repair. Small holes or cracks can be fixed with a DIY vinyl fence repair kit from the home center; major damage may require calling in a pro. And because many vinyl fences are sold as large panels—up to eight feet squares—that are designed to look like individual pieces of wood joined together, you may have to replace the whole panel instead of just a few planks of wood. In this case, it also may be hard to track down your fence style if it has been discontinued. Wood may warp, rot, or weaken over time, but if it breaks it’s relatively simple to retrofit a piece to match. Follow this guide for the three basic steps to repairing a wooden fence.

Buyer’s Guide: Paint Sprayers

With little time to spare and a painting project to tackle, choose a paint sprayer with the right pump, tip, and features to get the job done fast.



If you’re looking for a way to speed up a paint job, look no further than your choice of an applicator. Indeed, there’s one clear winner: the paint sprayer. It’s estimated that a paint sprayer can apply a coating four times faster than rolling and a whopping 10 times faster than brushing. More than just time saved, though, paint sprayers also promise a more uniform finish (i.e. zero brush strokes) and easy application in tight areas.

But with a price range as wide as $70 to $400, it’s no wonder that you wouldn’t pick one of these machines up for any old one-off paint job when a new roller kit would set you back less than $15.

RELATED: 7 Top Tools for No-Mess Painting

To get the best bang for your buck, you need to weigh your options carefully; for that, we’ve got you covered. Ahead, we’ve outlined key considerations for selecting the best paint sprayer—the precise combinations of a pump, gun, tip, and hose—for you and your projects and even rounded up three top-rated models worth checking out.

Professional vs DIY-Friendly Sprayers

Heavy-duty professional sprayers are often used for whole-house interiors. These paint guns use high-pressure air from a compressor to atomize the paint or stain and provide a fine finish.

Consumer products, or “airless” sprayers, are electric- or gas-powered products that mechanically pump paint or stain into a sprayer. Fluid is pushed through the tip, causing it to atomize and become a spray. Spray tips vary and are chosen based on the type of fluid used, the surface to be sprayed, and the power of the spray gun.

RELATED: 10 Unexpected Uses for Spray Paint

Selecting the Right Power for Your Paint Sprayer

If speed is your priority, consider horsepower. “The larger the horsepower, the more gallons per minute and the faster the project gets done,” says Steve Mahacek, e-marketing/PR manager for Wagner Spray Tech Corp. But don’t get more power than you can reasonably handle.

The type of coatings you intend to use also plays a role in selecting a sprayer’s power. Sprayers are rated for the pressure they produce and the tip size they can support. Units with more pounds per square inch, gallons per minute, and horsepower will also have the option for a bigger tip that’s needed to spray thicker coatings. A paint gun that does not have enough force to handle a larger tip may have problems with clogging.

Project size also determines how much power you need. A large project requires a broader spray pattern and more pressure behind it. A smaller project may only need a self-contained handheld unit.

Paint Sprayer Tips and Patterns

When comparing paint sprayers, you’ll often see that manufacturers advertise tip size and number of spray patterns to distinguish one model from another.

• A sprayer’s tip size can refer just to the size of the opening, as in a .015 tip. It might also indicate the fan size in inches, along with the tip opening, such as a 515 tip. In this example, the spray pattern will cover 5 inches and the tip opening is .015.

As with power, the coating to be sprayed also guides the tip size. Coatings can be thinner (like stains) or thicker (like exterior latex paint). Stains require smaller tip sizes and less pressure, but paints and heavier coatings need larger tip sizes and more pressure. Consider the jobs you will be tackling, and pay attention to the manufacturer specifications for any given sprayer’s maximum recommended tip size—if you’re working on painting a home exterior, for example, you’ll need to find a sprayer with a considerably larger maximum than if you only plan to paint furniture. Most paint sprayers will expressly address what coatings they handle, but for reference, the typical exterior latex sprayers may come with a .015 tip and accommodate a 0.17 tip.

• The spray pattern is the shape in which the fine particles of paint or stain come out. Typically, you’ll see sprayers featuring three patterns: round, horizontal, and vertical. Though the latter are merely different directions for the same fan of spray, having both available means that you can switch from spraying a 6″-wide fan across a surface to a fan of the same width moving up-and-down without turning the entire gun; instead, you merely twist a knob on the nozzle.

• Each tip size comes in various spray-pattern widths. After deciding on the tip size needed for the paint, choose the pattern width required for the job. Widths can vary from about six to 14 inches wide. Smaller surfaces, like fence rails, use a smaller pattern width. Ceilings, walls, and larger surfaces use a larger pattern width. It’s common to find a spray pattern

Tips wear out, and when they do, the flow rate increases but the fan width decreases, which means more paint is spraying over less surface. Tips also come standard or reversible. A reversible tip can be unclogged easily by turning it around and blowing out the blockage.

RELATED: The Dos and Don’ts of Spray Painting

Costs and Other Concerns

How to Choose the Best Paint Sprayer


Depending on the size of sprayer you require and the quality of the machine, a  paint sprayer can cost you anywhere from $70 to $400. (Those built for ongoing use make up the higher end of that spectrum, starting around $225.) For a project that can be done in one day, renting may be a wise workaround; this typically runs between $70 and $100 a day. Not only is it cost-efficient if you don’t have multiple paint jobs on the horizon, but rental units tend to be higher-production machines and won’t require long-term storage space after the project.

Sprayers require respect. Always read and follow the manufacturer’s safety, setup, and operating instructions. Use a respirator mask and proper eye protection when spraying, and never spray at a person, animal, or window.

Cover or mask off anything in the vicinity of your project, including windows and trim, because vaporized paint gets into everything. If spraying outside, cover plants and avoid painting on windy days.

RELATED: The 8 Painting Mistakes Almost Everyone Makes

Tips for Picking the Best Paint Sprayer

• Sprayers with 25 feet or more of flexible hose or a long extension cord are best for jobs that require distance, like painting a fence. An extension cord makes cleanup even easier at the end of the job.

• If you need to carry your paint supply a long distance, consider a unit with wheels or a backpack.

• Determine your paint capacity and how often you’ll need to refill. You might opt for a larger hopper or a unit that draws straight from the can.

• Think about cleanup and whether you want a unit that comes apart for easy cleaning. Smooth interior surfaces and units that draw from the can make cleaning easier, too.

• Consider an adjustable pressure control with high, low, cleaning, or roller settings to help extend the life of your spray tips. A model that comes with a pressure roller attachment can also take over on projects where spraying isn’t possible (it, too, applies paint up to four times faster than a traditional roller and with less mess!).

• Note whether or not the sprayer takes tip extensions—a handy feature when painting high ceilings, foyers, and hard-to-reach spaces.

• Make sure replacement parts are available.

• Check that there are digital how-to manuals, online resources, or support lines for your product.

Start Here: 3 Top Picks for Paint Sprayers

To speed up your trip down the paint sprayer aisle, we’ve hand-picked some of the top-rated paint sprayers on the market based on the above criteria, rankings by third-party product testing sites, and product ratings from do-it-yourselfers like you. Check out three of the best paint sprayers today.

Best Paint Sprayer from Wagner


BEST AIR-DRIVEN SPRAYER: Wagner 0518080 Control Spray Max HVLP Sprayer ($109.04)
Boasting a 20-foot-tall flexible hose, this 11.2-pound, 110-Volt air-driven electric sprayer unleashes a high volume of air at a low pressure to make light work of interior and exterior painting projects. The sprayer’s 1.5-quart capacity hopper and two-stage turbine let you spray a large volume of finishes as viscous as latex paint or as thin as wood stain. And, with a simple twist of the ears of the air cap, you can spray all of these finishes in a vertical, horizontal, or round spray pattern. There’s no need to worry about cleaning too much errant paint after the job is done since the sprayer’s variable air pressure control, ranging from 1.50 to 2.63 psi, reduces the risk of overspray. Try the unit rated 4.1 out of 5 stars by Amazon customers yourself on any task from priming and painting cabinets to staining decks; it comes with a one-year warranty. Available on Amazon.

Best Paint Sprayer from Graco


BEST AIRLESS SPRAYER: Graco Magnum 262805 X7 Cart Airless Paint Sprayer ($389)
Got some larger tasks on your to-do list? A Tool Nerds’ top pick among airless sprayers, this heavy-duty, 36-pound spray unit features adjustable pressure, a stainless steel piston pump, and a flexible suction tube that let you spray paint at your preferred rate of flow directly from a one- or five-gallon paint can without first thinning it. The built-in wheeled cart on the unit allows you to lug paint cans to spaces indoors and out, near or far, while the 25-foot flexible hose allows you to lend a fresh coat even to traditionally hard-to-reach surfaces like tall fencing or the siding on a multi-story house. Then, when it comes time to clean up, simply connect the sprayer to a garden hose! Yet another reason Amazon customers gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars is its capacity for high workloads: The sprayer, sold with a one-year warranty, is rated for use for up to 125 gallons of paint annually. Available on Amazon; similar models from Graco are available for rental at Home Depot.

Best Paint Sprayer from HomeRight


BEST BUDGET PAINT SPRAYER: HomeRight Finish Max C800766 ($65.96)
Amazon’s best-selling paint sprayer—a 3.9-star-rated, 3.3-pound air-driven, electric sprayer with a two-year warranty—punches well above competitors in its weight class. The HomeRight paint sprayer boasts a 400-watt potential that’s ideal for painting small to medium interior pieces ranging from furniture and cabinetry to dressers without the need for a compressor. The adjustable air cap unleashes a high volume of air at low pressure to allow more paint to reach these surfaces, while the twist-and-click adjustable nozzle allows you to spray on a smooth, factory-like finish using a vertical, horizontal, or round spray pattern. Once you’ve achieved a look you love, clean-up is as easy as filling the spacious, 27-ounce hopper with water and spraying it until the water runs clear. Available on Amazon.

Additional reporting by Manasa Reddigari.

All of the Expert Painting Advice from
Of all the options available to remodelers, paint provides the quickest, easiest, and most affordable way to achieve a transformation, inside or out. Ready to look at your home in a new way? Click now for the color ideas to make your project beautiful.

Solved! How to Find the Correct Upper Cabinet Height

Learn how high to mount upper cabinets in any interior for easy access—no tip-toes or step-stools required!

Finding the Right Upper Cabinet Height


Q: We’re remodeling our kitchen and need to install upper cabinets that are low enough to comfortably reach the shelves but high enough so that the countertop doesn’t feel cramped. What’s the perfect upper cabinet height? And from where do I measure it?

A: The ideal height at which to install upper cabinets depends on a combination of factors—the height of base cabinets, for starters, as well as countertop thickness, backsplash height, and whether or not there’s a range to consider. And then how you measure this height will vary based on whether you’re installing the cabinets before or after the installation of the base cabinets and countertop. Regardless, the ideal upper cabinet height will allow a household member of average height to reach those shelves from a standing position without straining the arms or back or even climbing on a step-stool. Read on to determine how high up the wall to mount cabinets in the kitchen, laundry room, or basement bar—and the tips to do so like a pro.

The ideal upper cabinet height is 54 inches above the floor. That is, the bottom edge of the upper cabinets should sit 54 inches off the ground. This magic number combines the 34-½-inch height of a standard base cabinet (those that sit on the ground), a standard countertop above it with a thickness of 1-½ inches, and a standard 18-inch backsplash (or, in lieu of a backsplash, empty wall space) between the top of the base cabinet countertop and the bottom of the upper cabinet. If your base cabinet height, countertop thickness, or backsplash/wall clearance height will differ from the standard heights above, you’ll need to adjust the upper cabinet mounting height so that it represents the sum of these three heights. Measuring the upper cabinet height from the ground is recommended when the base cabinet and its countertop haven’t been installed yet because you intend to install them after the upper cabinets or because you never plan to install base cabinets in the room (e.g. in a laundry room that doesn’t need them.)

Finding the Right Upper Cabinet Height


In other words, hang upper cabinets 18 inches above the top of the countertop. If you installed your base cabinets and countertop prior previously, you can use the top of the countertop as a reference. The height between the top of the countertop and the bottom of the upper cabinet should be 18 inches, the height of a standard backsplash.

RELATED: 13 Renovation Lessons You Don’t Want to Learn the Hard Way

Lower the height to 48 inches from the ground to accommodate those with limited mobility. If anyone in your household uses a wheelchair or has a physical condition that prevents him or her from reaching cabinets at the recommended height, adjust the upper cabinet mounting height so that the bottom of the cabinets sits 48 inches off the ground or 14 inches from the top of the countertop. These figures factor in an ADA-compliant base cabinet height of 32-½ inches, a 1-½-inch-thick countertop, and a shorter 14-inch backsplash. This adjusted upper cabinet height also benefits children and adults of smaller-than-average stature who may not otherwise be able to reach upper cabinets at the 54-inch mounting height.

Increase the height to 66 or 72 inches from the ground for cabinets above a range. Since many cabinets are combustible, there should be sufficient clearance between the bottom of the cabinets and the range to reduce the risk of fire. That exact distance depends on the type of kitchen appliance:

• 30 inches between an electric range and the bottom of upper cabinets

• 36 inches between a gas range and the bottom of the upper cabinets

Factoring in these clearances (and, again, the standard base cabinet height and countertop thickness of 34-½ inches and 1-½ inches, respectively), the base of upper cabinets should sit 66 inches from the ground if you have an electric range or 72 inches from the ground if you have a gas range—regardless of whether or not you have a range hood installed.

Factor in the height of ceilings and trim when determining cabinet size and position. Cabinets are sold in standard heights of 30, 36, or 42 inches. With an upper cabinet mounting height of 54 inches, the top of the upper cabinets would sit at 84 or 90 inches off the ground for the shortest of standard cabinets. A 42-inch cabinet would touch the top of an 8-foot (96-inch) ceiling or might not fit at all if you have soffits, crown molding, or other ceiling trim installed. To avoid having to recalculate the upper cabinet height and cramping your countertop workspace unnecessarily, consider adjusting the size of cabinets going in.

• 30-inch cabinets are usually recommended for rooms with 8-foot ceilings with either no trim or trim up to 12 inches in height,

• 36-inch cabinets are recommended for rooms with 8-foot ceilings with no trim or trim up to 6 inches in height, and

• 42-inch cabinets are preferable in rooms with 9-foot ceilings with no trim or trim up to 12 inches in height.

Finding the Right Upper Cabinet Height


Measure, mark, and hang! Once you determine the ideal upper cabinet height for your needs, use a measuring tape to measure this distance from either the ground or the top of the countertop, then pencil-in a horizontal line at that height on the wall. (Check with a level before moving on.) Use a stud finder to find the wall studs along this line, then temporarily mount a ledger board to these studs with screws. The board—which should be installed just below the pencil line so that the bottom of the cabinet sits level at it—will support the bulk of the cabinetry weight during installation. After you lift each cabinet onto the ledger board, you can use your free hand to mount it at the stud locations with screws. When you’re finished installing all cabinets, attach the cabinet doors and hardware and remove the ledger board for the big reveal.

All You Need to Know About Loamy Soil

Choosing and maintaining the best type of gardening soil—loamy soil—can give your plants an edge. Understand its importance in the scheme of your garden, then follow these tips to make it yourself and maintain it.

How to Get Loamy Soil in Your Garden


While you may be concerned with watering or fertilizing during the growing season, are you giving your soil consideration? Loam—a particularly desirable combination of different soil components—is a top achiever in garden plots, capable of producing bumper crops and beautiful blooms.

Still, it’s not a set-and-forget solution that comes into play only at the start of the growing season. Most gardeners struggle with some type of soil issue—often an overabundance of clay or sand—and it’s an ongoing process to achieve and maintain a loamy soil. If you’re looking to improve the soil in your garden or flowerbeds, keep reading. We’ll dive into the importance of loamy soil and how you can get it in your garden by amending your soil.

RELATED: 10 Secret Ingredients to Make Your Garden Grow

How to Get Loamy Soil in Your Garden



Types of soil are classified by the amount of sand, clay, and silt they contain. The composition of these different sized particles determines how well the soil will absorb and retain water. Each component brings something to mix, and loamy soil contains a mixture of all three.

Sand particles are the largest of the three. While sand does not retain water, its large particles help to create spaces in the soil that permit air to circulate and bring vital oxygen to plant roots (also known as “aeration”).

Clay particles are very fine, so they tend to pack tightly together, which leaves little room for aeration or drainage. Clay, however, is naturally nutrient-rich.

Silt has medium-size particles—larger than those found in clay, but smaller than sand. This component is the most fertile of all three.


By blending all three soil components, loamy soil has the ability to retain enough moisture (as well as an abundance of nutrients) to keep plants healthy but also allow the excess to drain away. That balance is key to preventing standing water conditions, which can smother a plant’s roots. Indeed, loamy soil offers the best of all worlds, and its composition is agriculturally defined as being:

Less than 52 percent sand

Between 7 and 27 percent clay

Between 28 and 50 percent silt

Yes, it’s not an exact ratio. Since the percentages of the three main components can vary and still qualify the soil as loam, a gardener’s rule of thumb when trying to create the perfect loam is to strive for equal parts of sand and silt and half as much clay.


Achieving loamy soil can be a bit of a guessing game—you need to know what type of soil you currently have in order to know what you’re missing. One way to determine soil content is to collect a soil sample from your garden and take it to your County Extension Office (a branch of the USDA), for testing.

All You Need to Know About Loamy Soil


Many gardeners, however, learn to estimate the content of their soil by feel. To get an idea of your soil type, pick up a handful of slightly damp soil and squeeze it tightly in your fist to form a ball; then, open your hand and observe the results.

Sandy soil will not hold a ball shape—it feels coarse to the touch, and it will sift through your fingers as you open your hand.

Clay soil will form a firm ball that will retain its shape after you open your hand. If you set the ball aside and let it dry, it will become rock-hard and difficult to break.

Silty soil will form a loose, slightly slimy ball that will flatten somewhat as you open your hand. If left to dry, the ball will become compact but it will break down into a powdery substance if crumbled between your fingers.

Loamy soil forms a soft ball that will crumble if you press it with your finger. When dry, the ball will break apart easily.

A third method for determining the content of your soil is to fill a lidded glass jar halfway to the top with soil and then pour in water until the jar is three-quarters full. Put on the lid and shake the jar vigorously to thoroughly blend the mixture, and then set it aside. After six to 10 hours, check the jar—the soil and water will have separated and settled into layers. Sand (the heaviest) will be at the bottom, silt will be in the middle, and clay will be on top. If the sand and silt layers are relatively equal and the clay layer is about half their thickness, congratulations—you have loamy soil!

RELATED: 9 Clever Landscaping Hacks for Your Best-Ever Yard

Not as loamy as you’d like? If signs point imbalanced proportions of silt, clay, and sand, you can take steps to bring the soil into a more beneficial balance.

How to Get Loamy Soil in Your Garden



While it might seem as though you should be able to balance the components by adding sand to heavy clay soil or clay to sandy soil, it doesn’t work that way. Instead of achieving loam, you’ll end up with something akin to cement, which is very hard to dig and plant.

No matter what imbalance your soil currently has, the key to achieving a fertile loamy soil is to amend it with organic matter. This includes garden compost; peat moss; composted horse, goat, chicken, or cow manure; dried leaves or grass clippings; or shredded tree bark.

Creating optimal loam is an ongoing process—you’ll need to amend your soil annually because growing plants use up nutrients and water that runs off can also take nutrients with it. If your soil is heavy in clay or sand, you won’t fix it the first year—but you will improve it. It can take three to six years to obtain optimal loamy soil.

RELATED: 8 Smart Ways to Put Your Garden on Autopilot

Implement one or more of the following methods to get your soil in top shape, and keep it that way:

• Apply a two-inch layer of organic matter to the surface of your garden in late fall, after harvest is over and the plants have died. Wet the growing plot thoroughly until the organic matter is saturated, and then leave it in place to overwinter. In spring, work the soil well by turning it with a shovel or tilling it with a rototiller to a depth of six to eight inches. Repeat the process yearly.

• Plant a cover crop solely for the benefit of enriching the soil in the fall. Typical cover crops include annual ryegrass, alfalfa, sweet clover, and buckwheat; call your County Extension agent if you’re unsure which will grow well in your area. When the cover crop sprouts and reaches a height of three to six inches, till it under and then leave the growing plot undisturbed to overwinter. In spring, turn or till the soil to a depth of six to eight inches in preparation for planting.

Mulch around plants during the summer growing season with a commercial mulch such as shredded hardwood bark, dry grass clippings, or dry leaves. Adding two to three inches of mulch will help keep the soil cool and moist during a hot summer and protect your plant’s roots while it’s decomposing. After harvest, turn or till the soil to work the now-decomposed mulch deeper into the soil.

• After annual flowers and vegetable plants die in the fall, pull them from the ground and lay them on top of the soil, wetting them down thoroughly. They will break down and decompose over the winter and can be worked into the soil in spring.