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7 Things to Know Before Tinting Home Windows

Get the clear-cut facts on this window treatment before tinting your home windows.

All You Need to Know About Tinted Home Windows

Photo: istockphoto.com

At war with home windows that are energy-inefficient, weak, or dated? Tinting home windows from the inside with an aftermarket window film is one of the easiest and most economical ways to boost the energy efficiency, safety, even curb appeal of your home without replacing the windows themselves.

While most residential window films are lightweight, self-adhesive polyester coverings made of Polyethylene terephthalate (the same polymer used to make plastic water bottles), not all window films are equal or worthy of your investment. Keep reading to learn about the different options—as well as the benefits and pitfalls of tinted home windows—so you can decide whether this window treatment is right for you and how to install it with the best results.

1. Different types of window film provide different benefits.

There are three main types of window film, each of which is installed on home windows for a different reason:

All You Need to Know About Tinted Home Windows

Photo: homedepot.com via Gila

Solar: This option is recommended if improving energy efficiency is your main reason for tinting home windows. Thicker than decorative film but thinner than security film, solar films absorb or reflect (most products do a combination of both) up to 99 percent of UV rays from the sun. This regulates indoor temperature (so rooms stay cool in summer and warm in winter), reduces glare, prevents the fading of interior furnishings, and, ultimately, increases indoor comfort and energy savings. The film is usually sold in neutral tones ranging from silver to copper.

Security: If staving off storm damage or deterring burglars is your biggest concern, install security film, the thickest of all types of film. Most security films (usually clear or silver) don’t absorb or reflect much heat. In the event of a storm or a home intrusion that results that damages the window, they do prevent the window from shattering completely by restricting the damage to a large crack, in effect allowing your window to hold out longer.

Decorative: As the thinnest of all types of window film, decorative window film absorbs or reflects minimal heat; its primary purpose is to beautify or add privacy to a room. It’s sold as a clear or bold colored film in a variety of etched patterns (such as stripes), stained glass motifs, or opaque frosted designs that keep out peering eyes.

2. Not all types of window film are compatible with all types of window glass.

As noted in the section above, different types of window film absorb varying degrees of heat, which some windows are equipped to handle and others…not so much. Most security and decorative films block minimal heat and therefore don’t place much thermal stress on the windows. Unless your manufacturer discourages it, you can usually apply them to all three common types of window glass—annealed (basic flat glass), heat-treated (annealed glass that has been exposed to high temperatures), and insulating (consists of two layers of glass with an intervening layer of air or gas)—with minimal risk of damage to the window glass.

However, the International Window Film Association recommends avoiding solar film in the following situations because the film’s higher rate of heat absorption can increase the thermal stress so much on these types of window glass that they crack:

• Clear annealed glass thicker than ⅜-inch or that has a heat absorption rate of more than 50 percent

Tinted annealed glass over ¼-thick

Insulated glass that is over 10 years old or has had seal failures

When in doubt, check the manufacturer’s literature for your windows to identify a compatible window film.

All You Need to Know About Tinted Home Windows

Photo: istockphoto.com

3. Installing window film could void your window warranty.

Many homeowners report window damage to their manufacturer only to find that they invalidated their window manufacturer’s warranty by applying a window film to the glass panes. Indeed, many window manufacturers will not cover defects caused by modifying windows with aftermarket window film because of the potential for certain types of window film to cause damage to certain types of window glass. Take heed: You should never begin tinting home windows without first confirming whether or not your window manufacturer’s warranty supports the application of window film.

4. Windows without energy-efficient coatings benefit the most from tinting.

Older windows without low-emissivity (low-E) coatings (a thin layer of metal oxide on the glass) that block out heat stand to gain the most from the energy savings afforded by tinting. Newer windows with low-E coatings already provide homes with a measure of energy efficiency, so your indoor comfort and energy savings may not significantly increase by applying window film to these windows.

RELATED: The 6 Best Reasons to Install New Windows

5. Tinted home windows are economical.

It will run you only $2 to $4 per square foot to buy an aftermarket window film from a home improvement center and install it yourself on your home windows, and $5 to $8 per square foot for a professional installation, according to cost guides on ImproveNet, a home improvement planning website. That would amount to as little as $27 to $54 for a do-it-yourself tint job of a single window pane measuring 3’8” by 3’8”! By these calculations, window film is generally cheaper than other popular window treatments that block the sun; solar screens (fabric shades that absorb and/or reflect heat) go for an average of $40 to $280 per window for DIY installs, and cellular shades (fabric coverings that trap heat in honeycomb-shaped cells) will typically run you $45 to $220 per window for similar DIY setups.

All You Need to Know About Tinted Home Windows

Photo: istockphoto.com

6. It’s easy to install yourself.

All You Need to Know About Tinted Home Windows

Photo: istockphoto.com

Installing window film yourself is a task any homeowner do. Before tinting home windows, wipe them down using a lint-free soft cloth wet with a solution of one teaspoon no-tears baby shampoo and one gallon of bottled water. Then, cut an aftermarket window film with a utility knife so that it’s ½-inch longer and wider than the window pane you’re planning to tint. Finally, remove the adhesive backing from the film and gradually adhering it to the window pane from the top down. As you adhere the film, lightly mist the surface of the film with the leftover baby shampoo solution and glide a plastic squeegee or credit card in one direction across the surface to remove any trapped air bubbles in the film. Let the film cure according to the manufacturer’s instructions—which usually takes anywhere from four to eight days.

RELATED: 20 Insanely Easy 60-Minute Home Improvements

The potential pitfalls of DIY window tinting—such as dirt or streaks of cleaner appearing beneath the film, scratches on the film from cuts made, or bubbles and wrinkles—are all reasons why some homeowners opt for a professional installation to ensure a more polished, pristine finish. But a meticulous DIY window film installation can yield similarly high-quality results.

7. Renter-friendly options exist.

Solar, safety, and decorative window film are sold in three options for permanence:

Temporary varieties that can be repositioned or removed easily and cleanly (great for renters)

Semi-permanent varieties that are removable with some residue likely left behind on the window from the film adhesive

Permanent varieties that are not designed to be removed

Decorative film is more often sold as a temporary tinting solution, which makes it an option for renters or commitment-phobic homeowners, whereas solar and security film more often tend to be semi-permanent or permanent tinting options, which make them more suitable for homeowners.

Enter Bob Vila’s $1,500 Generator Giveaway with Briggs & Stratton® TODAY!

Enter to win a Q6500 QuietPower™ Series Inverter Generator from Briggs & Stratton.

Briggs & Stratton Giveaway

Photo: briggsandstratton.com

Are you prepared for an emergency? From hurricanes to winter storms, countless natural disasters surge through the country each year, potentially leaving your family without working electricity. Power outages are never fun (especially if they last days or weeks), but homeowners can take steps to alleviate the hardships. That’s why we partnered with Briggs & Stratton to give away a Q6500 QuietPower™ Series Inverter Generator this summer.

Today and everyday this month (starting at 12:00 p.m. EST on August 16, 2018, through 11:59 a.m. EST on September 15, 2018), enter Bob Vila’s $1,500 Generator Giveaway with Briggs & Stratton. You could win a Q6500 QuietPower™ Series Inverter Generator, which is valued at $1499.


When compared with other standard generators on the market, the Q6500 QuietPower™ Series Inverter Generator is 60 percent quieter*, 30 percent lighter** and 45 percent more compact**. The generator has a runtime of 14 hours***, and its 306cc integrated engine delivers 6500 starting watts (enough power for your essential appliances and electronics). The Q6500 is easy to store, simple to maneuver and quiet to run.

Enter Bob Vila’s $1,500 Generator Giveaway with Briggs & Stratton daily to increase your chances of winning. To learn more about the company, click here.

“Bob Vila’s $1,500 Generator Giveaway with Briggs & Stratton” is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia who are age 18 or older. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Contest Period for Prize runs from 12:00 p.m. (EST) Thursday, August 16, 2018, through 11:59 a.m. (EST) Saturday, September 15, 2018. One entry per household per day on BobVila.com. Alternative means of entry for Drawing is available by faxing your name and address to 508-437-8486 during the applicable Entry Period. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. See Official Rules.

*As tested per ISO2744 sound power standard when compared to standard generator 30607
**Versus a standard generator 30607
***At 25-percent load

The Dos and Don’ts of Gluing PVC Pipe

Speed and accuracy count when gluing PVC pipe, so avoid mishaps with this guide to creating an airtight connection with fast-acting cement.

Top Tips for Gluing PVC Pipe

Photo: istockphoto.com

Pipe made of polyvinyl chloride, commonly called PVC, is used in a variety of residential applications, from plumbing systems to a host of cool craft projects (such as DIY racks, organizers, and even furniture). Joining a pipe to a pipe fitting requires specially formulated primer and cement—no ordinary adhesive but a chemical solvent that melts the surface of the PVC and then quickly re-hardens to fuse the pieces of together. The result is an airtight, leak-proof bond similar to what you get with welding metal.

The process involves applying primer to the outside of the pipe and the inside of the fitting, which cleans and preps the PVC. After about 10 seconds, you next apply cement to the same areas, then insert the pipe snugly into the fitting and allow the cement to set.

RELATED: 5 Plumbing Repairs Every Homeowner Should Know

Simple as that sounds, gluing PVC pipe is easy to mess up, and if you make a mistake, there’s no going back—you’ll have to cut out the pipe and start over. So heed this list of dos and don’ts to ensure success on your PVC projects.

DON’T use the wrong type of cement.

There are different kinds of cements (and primers) on the market formulated for various types of plastic piping. Read labels carefully and be sure to select cement made specifically for PVC. Be aware that one type of pipe cement you may see on the shelf is designed for CPVC (chlorinated polyvinyl chloride) pipe, which is similar in name but not an acceptable substitute.

Top Tips for Gluing PVC Pipe

Photo: istockphoto.com

DO a dry fit.

Before gluing PVC pipe, lay out all the pieces of pipe and make sure that when they’re connected, they fit together nicely and are cut to the correct length that you need. Then mark and number the connections if necessary so you don’t glue the wrong ones together.

DON’T neglect safety warnings.

PVC primer and cement are messy to work with, and manufacturers recommend avoiding eye and skin contact. Before getting started, break out the safety goggles (ideally with side shields) and protective gloves. You may want to lay a tarp or towel over your work surface to minimize difficult cleanup in the event of drips. PVC pipe cement is a chemical solvent which can off-put harmful toxins, so be sure to work in a well-ventilated area.

Top Tips for Gluing PVC Pipe

Photo: istockphoto.com

DON’T leave jagged edges.

After you cut the PVC pipe, be sure to smooth any burrs off the edges of the cut surface with coarse sandpaper or a utility knife. Left attached, burrs can both catch debris flowing through the pipes, causing clogs, or compromise the effectiveness of the seal.

DO work fast.

After you apply the primer, you only have about 10 seconds before you need to apply the cement. After that, you will immediately insert the pipe into the fitting. Proceed quickly when gluing PVC pipe; if the cement begins drying before you’re ready, reapply it.

Top Tips for Gluing PVC Pipe

Photo: istockphoto.com

DO twist for a secure fit.

Twist the pipe a quarter of the way around as you push it into the fitting. This will allow the glue to spread, offering a tighter fit. Hold the pipe and fitting together firmly for at least 30 seconds; any less and the pipe could pop back out.

DO allow enough cure time.

After holding the pipe in place for 30 seconds, give it at least 20 minutes before handling it further so the cement can set properly. Refer to the product’s instructions for how long the glue needs to cure before you can use it for your project, usually within 24 hours.

How To: Fix Cracked Glass

Repair a cracked window, glass tabletop, or even a mirror with this easy step-by-step guide.

How to Fix a Crack in Glass

Photo: istockphoto.com

A pebble from the lawnmower tossed against a window. A drink set down too heavily on your glass-topped coffee table. A favorite vase tipped over by your curious cat. These and near-endless other scenarios can lead to a crack in glass. Sadly, glass that has broken into pieces or has cracks larger than an inch, as well as double-paned glass with a hole through both panes, is pretty much beyond repair. The good news is you can often fix a small crack in glass yourself with little more than a steady hand and a few basic supplies. You’ll need to fix a crack in glass right away, however, as small ones can grow into larger breaks if exposed to moisture, temperature swings, dirt, or rough treatment.

Note that the following guide on how to repair a crack in glass will do the job for single-pane-glass household items such as tabletops, shower doors, vases, and single-pane windows—as well as double-pane windows with a crack in only one of the panes. It’s not intended for repairing a cracked car windshield, which requires a syringe to inject resin into the crack and a plunger to maintain the vacuum between the windshield’s layers of glass.

Also keep in mind that while you can fix a cracked mirror with this technique, the reflection is bound to show the repair a bit more than on regular glass—you’ll get best results with a minor crack on the sides of a mirror, out of the direct line of vision.

How to Fix a Crack in Glass

Photo: istockphoto.com

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
 Liquid dishwashing soap
 Clean rags
 Twopart epoxy
 Paper plate or piece of cardboard
 Putty knife
 Razor blade
 Glass cleaner

Clean the glass around the crack with a drop or two of dishwashing soap on a damp cloth. Wash away any dust, oil, or fingerprints, and then wipe the spot with a clean damp cloth to remove the soap residue. Let the glass dry completely.

In a well-ventilated area, prepare a two-part epoxy on a piece of cardboard or a disposable plate. These adhesives (which can found in many craft stores, home improvement centers, or on Amazon.com) have a separate resin and hardener that are mixed together at the time of use.

RELATED: The Right Glue for Every Repair Job

How to Fix a Crack in Glass

Photo: amazon.com via Gorilla Glue

While the mixture is often a 50/50 blend of the resin and the hardener, follow the directions on your specific product. Use a toothpick to mix the epoxy for at least 20 seconds. Once the epoxy is mixed, be ready to use it immediately, as it will quickly thicken and harden. Generally, you’ll have five to ten minutes of working time before the epoxy is too thick to easily seep into the crack.

Press the epoxy over and into the crack with a putty knife. Work the adhesive back and forth across the crack, gently pressing it into the damaged area. Let the epoxy cure for at least five minutes.

Scrape away excess epoxy with a razor blade, and then wipe the area with a clean rag moistened with acetone to further remove epoxy that’s raised above the crack. Let the repaired glass cure for 24 hours.

RELATED: 21 Brilliant Hacks for Everyday Home Repairs

Polish the glass with a clean rag and glass cleaner, and enjoy your repaired item.

All You Need to Know About Insulating Paint

Are paints that purport to help regulate the temperature inside your home all they’re cracked up to be? Learn the facts here!

Demystifying Insulating Paint: All You Need to Know

Photo: istockphoto.com

What if you could simply roll a layer of paint onto your walls and increase the thermal insulating property (R-value) of your home? What if a can of paint could makeover a room on a budget and help keep its indoor temperatures cool? That’s what insulated paint manufacturers claim their products can do. The ability to reduce your energy footprint (and your heating and cooling bills) with a coat is a fascinating prospect—but the jury is still out on how effective insulating paint actually is. Read on to learn how insulating paint developed, how it purports to work, and if it’s worth a try for your next project.

RELATED: 13 Simple Ways to Cut Your Home Cooling Costs

What Is Insulating Paint?

Demystifying Insulating Paint: All You Need to Know

Photo: insuladd.com

The notion of a paint to reduce heat transfer first arose at NASA in the hope of protecting the space shuttle from the extreme heat generated by reentry into the atmosphere. NASA scientists developed an additive that contained tiny glass spheres called “microspheres,” epoxy particles, and heat-resistant chemicals. The mixture was sprayed on the shuttle at the same time it was painted to form a protective coating.

NASA later partnered with a company called Tech Traders and, expanding on the original insulating technology, to develop an insulating powdered paint additive, known as Insuladd, which contains microscopic ceramic spheres said to form a “radiant heat barrier” when mixed with regular interior or exterior house paint. Today, Tech Traders owns and sells Insuladd.

Other manufacturers have since begun producing their own brands of insulating paint that contain either ceramic or glass microspheres—either as an additive or as a premixed paint product—both of which are marketed to homeowners for interior and exterior use. In addition to Insuladd, brands include Hy-Tech and Therma-Guard. Manufacturers advertise insulated paint as being able to reduce the transfer of both hot and cold temperatures.

Does It Work?

While insulating paint purports to work as a result of the microspheres forming a thin, heat-resistant bond, it relies on relatively new science and, to-date, independent large-scale testing is lacking. There has been a handful of small tests, including one conducted by Cold Climate Housing Research Center, which concluded that in cold climates, the insulating paint tested would not “be effective in reducing energy costs for residential homes.” The Florida Solar Energy Center conducted tests on both standard and insulating paints and concluded that insulating paint had “no significant advantage over ordinary paints.” The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cracked down on at least one company for misrepresenting its paint as being equal to seven inches of fiberglass insulation. As of yet, no R-value has been determined for insulating paint.

On the flip side, EnergyIdeas Clearinghouse, a non-profit publication, in conjunction with Washington State University and the Northwest Energy Alliance, reported that Insuladd paint reduced heat gain by “approximately 20 percent when fully exposed to the sun.” That means the paint could conceivably produce an energy benefit if painted on the exterior side of a house that faced the hot summer sun. The report also stated that when painted on interior walls, however, “reductions in heat loss and gain are negligible.”

Demystifying Insulating Paint: All You Need to Know

Photo: istockphoto.com

When the goal is to reduce the amount of heat transfer produced by the sun, virtually any white or light colored paint will perform better than a dark paint on exterior house walls because light-color paint reflects heat away rather than absorbing it. But more importantly, so far there is no paint that will take the place of good insulating practices. Most local building codes require a specific amount of insulation, measured in R-values, for walls and ceilings. Your best bet is to follow a well-designed plan for keeping energy costs down, which includes installing standard insulation materials, such as fiberglass batts or blown-in cellulose filaments, in addition to installing energy-efficient windows and doors.

How Is It Available to Consumers?

Homeowners can choose from two types of insulating paint:

Premixed paint: Some manufacturers produce cans of insulating paint for both interior and exterior use. These paints are applied like any house paint, with a brush and roller. The only caveat is to choose a type of paint that is suitable for the environment and the surface you’re painting. For example, if you want to paint an outside wall, make sure to purchase an exterior paint.

Paint additives: Insulating powders, which also contain microspheres, can be stirred into regular house paint. Additives are preferable if you wish to use a specific brand of paint—just stir them right in by hand with a paint stick or a drill fitted with a mixer paddle. The additive blends in easily in a few minutes, and the paint is ready to use as soon as it’s smooth and no lumps remain. Read the warranty that comes with your paint, however, which may be voided by using an additive.

How Much Does It Cost?

A premixed gallon of insulating paint sells for around $40 to $55 dollars. Standard house paint runs $25 to $75 per gallon, depending on quality. A one-pound package of insulating additive runs $18 to $22 and will treat a single gallon of paint. A standard gallon of paint covers approximately 250 square feet and insulating paint manufacturers recommend applying two coats of paint for the maximum effect.

Demystifying Insulating Paint: All You Need to Know

Photo: istockphoto.com

How Is It Best Applied?

Though insulating paint might not live up to some of the manufacturer’s claims, it can be used on virtually any surface that would take standard paint. In addition to residential interior and exterior walls, a light colored insulating paint that reflects solar rays may be of benefit on work or storage sheds, playhouses, exterior propane tanks, and any other paintable surfaces that you’d like to keep a little cooler. While insulating paint is applied in the same manner as any other standard paint, with a brush or roller, the following tips will help you achieve the best results.

• The surface to be painted must be clean and dry.

• If you’re painting over a previously painted surface, scrape any peeling paint and sand the surface smooth before applying the new paint.

• Apply insulating paint when the temperature is between 55 degrees Fahrenheit and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

• If you’re spraying insulating paint, remove the cartridge filter from your spray gun to keep it from clogging before painting. Although the microspheres are tiny, they can still clog a filter.

How Should an Insulated Paint Surface Be Maintained?

Maintaining an insulated paint surface is similar to caring for any painted surface. The tips below will ensure that the paint on your walls or other objects will last as long as possible.

• Wash interior painted surfaces with a mild mixture of warm water and a non-abrasive all-purpose cleaner, such as Pin-Sol (available from Amazon). Use a sponge dipped in the solution to wipe away dirt and grime, and then dry the surface with a clean cloth.

• Spray down exterior walls with a garden hose and a hand sprayer to remove the dust and dirt that can accumulate over time.

• Avoid using a power washer on exterior painted walls because the high pressure may remove the paint and could damage some types of siding.

Solved! How to Prevent Doors from Slamming

Discover why doors slam on their own (it’s nothing spooky!) and how to stop the loud annoyance via several simple methods.

How to Stop a Door from Slamming

Photo: istockphoto.com

Q: A door in my home tends to slam shut—even occasionally when no one is using it! What causes this and how can I prevent the door from slamming? I’m afraid the door might close on my cat’s tail or child’s fingers.

A: The sudden slam of a door is startling, but it quickly becomes annoying if it’s a frequent occurrence. Luckily, it’s generally a fairly simple problem to figure out and fix. The obvious reason for a slamming door is an inadvertently heavy-handed household member who exerts more force than necessary to close it. But when a gentle touch leads to a loud noise, or the door slams when no one’s near it, there’s probably one of two culprits afoot.

When a window in the room or elsewhere in the house is open, pressure changes could be to blame. As air moves from an area of higher pressure (inside your home) to an area of lower pressure (outside your home), the change can cause enough air movement to slam the door.

But a door opening or closing on it may indicate that it’s out of plumb—in other words, not perfectly vertical. Such unevenness can create a swing due to the door’s weight (especially if it’s a heavy, solid-core door) or an air current in the house.

RELATED: 7 House Sounds You Never Want to Ignore

If an overzealous family member is behind your open-and-shut case, remind him or her to handle the door gently. If not, consider the strategies below to get out of this slamming situation.

Slide in a doorstop. If you like to keep the windows open but hate the slams of interior doors, simply wedge a doorstop underneath the offending door. It’s a low-tech, logical solution that you can play up, using a decorative doorstop that adds a little zing to the room.

How to Stop a Door from Slamming

Photo: istockphoto.com

Check the hinges. Worn or improperly installed door hinges can lead to a slight imbalance, which in turn can lead a door to slam on its own. Open your door to a 90-degree angle and then set a level against the latch to see if the door is out of plumb. Tightening the hinge screws might correct the problem, but if the hinges themselves are worn, you’ll need to replace them.

You needn’t remove the door if you replace the hinges one at a time. Start with the top hinge, unscrewing it from the door and then from the doorframe. Screw the new hinge onto the doorframe, using your level to check the alignment of the hinge until it’s completely vertical. Now screw the other side of the hinge to the door, again tightening until the hinge is plumb. Repeat the process on the middle and then the bottom hinges, each time checking the edge of the door for alignment. When everything is plumb, the door slamming should cease.

Try a few felt pads. If slamming continues after adjusting the hinges, or the issue is caused by air pressure or cross breezes, try some of the self-stick felt pads normally used to keep décor from scratching furniture. Just stick a few small felt pads along the edge of the doorframe: Position a pad at the top and bottom of the frame, along with two more pads at the top and bottom of the strike plate. The pads provide just enough soft cushioning to slow down the door as it closes, preventing a slam.

How to Stop a Door from Slamming

Photo: istockphoto.com

Shush with weather stripping. Felt pads might not do the trick on a heavier door, so try foam weather stripping to provide a soft, secure seal and muffle sounds. Wash away any dust or grime from the inside edge of the doorframe, cut a length of weather stripping (like this Frost King rubber foam tape, available on Amazon) to fit the full length of the doorframe, and then press it into place.

Put in a pneumatic closer. If you find that your screen door slamming rattles you every time someone goes in or out, consider installing a pneumatic door closer to take on the task of closing the door. These air-powered devices attach between the doorframe and the door edge and use an air-filled piston to slowly swing the door closed. Most are adjustable, so you can slow the door’s swing down enough to prevent a slam.

8 Things to Know When Pulling Weeds

Banish weeds the right way—and keep them from coming back—with these tips, tools, and techniques.

8 Top Tips for Pulling Weeds

Photo: istockphoto.com

Ask any group of gardeners to cite their least favorite task is and you’re bound to hear a chorus of “Weeding!” Rampant weeds steal water and valuable nutrients from the soil that beneficial plants could be receiving, and their less-than-lovely heads detract from lawn and garden design.

RELATED: The Invincible Yard: 17 Ideas for Lazy Landscaping

In your quest to keep your landscape weed-free, it’s easy to make some overzealous mistakes. Before you begin pulling weeds, read on for the right way to vanquish green invaders and reduce their future growth. Your bountiful vegetable harvest and big beautiful flowers will thank you!

1. Don’t wait to weed.

If you let weeds tower over your tomatoes, you’ll have a tough time getting them out. When weeds are small, their roots are weaker, making it easier to pull them out. Commit to doing a quick walk-through of your garden every other day; it will take only a few minutes to pull up any young weeds that show up.

Bonus tip: Pull weeds soon after watering your plants or a rain shower; when the soil is moist, the whole weed is more likely to come out by the roots. It’s perfectly fine to put pulled weeds in your compost bin, where the naturally hot temperature will destroy any seeds.

8 Top Tips for Pulling Weeds

Photo: istockphoto.com

2. Grab by the base.

Gardeners who weed manually may be tempted to reach down and snatch a handful give it a sharp tug. Unfortunately, that often causes the weed to snap in two, leaving the bottom half and the roots still in the ground. Instead, take your time and grab each weed individually at its base and then pull slowly and steadily to ease the roots from the soil.

RELATED: 10 Gardening Mistakes That Are Killing Your Plants

8 Top Tips for Pulling Weeds

Photo: istockphoto.com

3. Ply the proper tools.

Many gardeners find that a few tools make weeding speedier. Choose well-made implements with a solid handle that feels comfortable in your grasp and a head or blade made of tough forged steel. Also, select tools that suit your weeding method, either kneeling or standing.

Kneeling tools: These have relatively short handles, from about six to 12 inches long. Rake-type tools with finger-like prongs (such as the Gardener’s Claw Rake, available on Amazon) work well for scraping up surface weeds with minimal root systems, such as henbit. A hook neck tool (such as the CobraHead Weeder, available on Amazon) can be positioned behind the base of a weed and used to dig in and scoop out the intruder. To remove weeds between beneficial plants, try an angled hand hoe like the Nejiri Gama Hoe (also available on Amazon), which features a sharp point for getting into tight spots. Hand shovels can be used to dig out large weed roots.

Standing tools: For removing many weeds at once, it’s hard to beat the tried-and-true long-handled hoe, but today’s manufacturers have done just that! A hoe with a sharpened blade, such as the ProHoe Rogue Garden Hoe (available on Amazon), can sever roots beneath the soil surface with a single chop. Grip-and-pull weeders like Fiskars’ Deluxe Stand-up Weeder (available on Amazon) promise to save time and labor when removing weeds with deep root systems, such as dandelions. Sharp prongs are driven deep into the soil by pressing a foot pedal, and then the prongs grip the roots securely and pull them right out.

8 Top Tips for Pulling Weeds

Photo: amazon.com via Roundup

4. Understand herbicides.

Need a break from the strenuous work of pulling weeds? Controlling these unwanted crops with foliar herbicides (toxic substances absorbed through a plant’s leaves) is physically easier than either pulling or hoeing. Just be sure to consider the pros and cons of these weed killers before you go this route.


+ Spraying a foliar herbicide such as Roundup (available on Amazon) effectively kills individual weeds or large areas that are awash with weeds.

+ Foliar herbicides work fast, killing weeds sometimes within a day—and usually no longer than a week—of application.

+ There’s no need to remove weeds individually and no strain on your back from bending over and pulling weeds for long periods of time. After the weeds turn brown and die, rake them into a pile and dispose of them.


The wind could blow herbicidal spray onto beneficial plants, inadvertently harming or killing them.

Exposure to chemical herbicides may result in skin irritation while inhaling the spray can result in a sore throat and other respiratory woes. Care should always be taken not to come into contact with the spray.

Weeds that are chemically killed should not be placed in the compost bin. Traces of herbicides can survive the composting process and may result in stunting vegetation if later used in garden soil.

Chemical herbicides may interfere with the environment and studies indicate that the chemicals can affect earthworms and offset soil nutrients, leading to the leaching of chemicals into streams and underground aquifers. Consider a non-toxic herbicide, such as A.D.I.O.S Eco-Friendly Weed Control (available on Amazon), which will allow you to avoid the contamination problems associated with toxic herbicides.

5. Avoid pulling weeds with an ounce of prevention.

You don’t have to kill or pull weeds if they don’t grow in the first place, so consider a pre-emergent to keep weed seeds from germinating. Sprinkle a granular pre-emergent herbicide such as Preen’s Organic Vegetable Garden Weed Preventer (available on Amazon) on the soil and then water. The granules will dissolve and permeate the soil, creating a barrier around the weed seeds. A single application will last up to 12 weeks, after which the product can be reapplied.

Note that once a pre-emergent is in the soil, beneficial seeds won’t sprout either. For best results, wait until beneficial plants are four to eight inches tall before using a pre-emergent product (as directed on the package)—it won’t kill plants that are already growing.

6. Cut it out.

8 Top Tips for Pulling Weeds

Photo: istockphoto.com

Some stubborn weeds, such as Canadian thistle, not only send deep roots that are extremely hard to pull, but also feature prickly stems and foliage that will pierce anything less than heavy leather gloves. When dealing with these tough customers, reach for a sharp pair of nippers, such as TABOR TOOLS Bypass Pruning Shears (available on Amazon) for small to medium size weeds or long-handled shears, such as Fiskars 28” Bypass Loppers (available on Amazon) for cutting down those large Canadian thistles. The roots will still remain in the soil, but in most cases, if you remove the entire growing part of the plant, it can no longer receive the sunshine it needs to survive.

7. Know when to turn up the heat!

If you find yourself with a large swath of weeds that don’t respond to other methods, consider burning them out. A weed burner, such as the Red Dragon Weed Torch Kit (available on Amazon), connects to a standard propane tank to deliver a flame directly to the weeds, scorching and killing them. A weed burner works well on invaders growing beneath fences or encroaching near raised garden beds. Be sure weeds are green, not brown and dry. You want to scorch them, not start a fire. Check with local authorities before using a weed torch as some communities may restrict or ban their use.

Hot water can also kill weeds. Carefully pour a pitcher of just-boiled water directly on weeds or use a steam weeder, such as the DynaSteam Weeder (available at Amazon), to simplify the process—and reduce the risk of dripping scalding water on your feet.

RELATED: 7 Weirdly Effective Ways to Weed

You can also use heat to kill weeds between gardening seasons. After harvest, cover a planting bed with dark landscape plastic (hold it in place rocks or bricks) and leave it on over the winter. Sun hitting the plastic it will raise the soil temperature beneath to destroy weed seeds.

8 Top Tips for Pulling Weeds

Photo: istockphoto.com

8. Grow a no-till garden.

Every fall and again every spring, home gardeners can be found turning their garden soil to helps break up heavy clay, distribute organic matter, and deliver oxygen to the soil. Tilling in this way, however, also brings dormant weed seeds to the surface where they quickly sprout. An alternative to the turning the soil several times annually—and reduce weed growth—is a no-till garden.

RELATED: 10 Times You Can Get Nature to Do Your Yard Work for You

You will till, but only once—when you start the garden to loosen the soil. Then, you’ll cover the soil with four to six inches of organic mulch (dried leaves, grass clippings, or hardwood chips). The mulch helps keep the soil beneath moist and also prevents weed seeds from sprouting by keeping light from reaching the surface. When you want to plant seeds or transplant seedlings, just push the mulch aside in that spot.

For a vegetable garden, this might mean creating long V-shaped rows in the mulch with bare soil only visible inside the “V.” Crops grow in the narrow rows, and after harvest, remove the spent plants and cover the area again with mulch. Once you’ve established a no-till garden, add a few inches of mulch every year (the old mulch will biodegrade and settle) and push the soil aside as described each time you plant.

5 Common Yard-Care Challenges, Solved

Keep your yard looking great without sacrificing your entire summer by enlisting a fleet of battery-powered tools and pro gardening techniques.

This post has been brought to you by Husqvarna. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.

Solving the Biggest Yard Care Challenges

Photo: istockphoto.com

Beautiful yards and lush landscapes don’t happen by chance. They require frequent hands-on attention to keep the grass at an optimal height, the hedges neatly trimmed, and the lawn from overtaking the sidewalks and flower beds. Don’t let the time commitment discourage you—having a beautiful yard isn’t an impossible goal. Armed with the right tools and techniques, you can have the best-looking yard on the block.

Keep on reading if you long for the perfect yard but still want free time to do the things you love. We’ll show you how to tackle five of the most common yard-care challenges and tell you about some tools that can ensure success.

CHALLENGE: Keeping tools and fuels from cluttering the garage

SOLUTION: Streamline your landscaping tool collection

To maintain a well-manicured yard, homeowners tend to amass a collection of tools and fuels, each one tailored for a specific task. Over time, that chainsaw, string trimmer, and other powered yard tools pile up in the garage, along with the containers of gas and oil needed to operate them.

Strategic selection, however, can minimize clutter, especially if you build your tool collection around a couple of powerful batteries and a single charging station. For starters, you’ll be able to forget about cans of engine oils and gasoline, which can be fire hazards in the garage. Invest instead in a rechargeable battery (or two, so that you always have one fully charged) that can be shared by a number of different power tools. Another plus: Battery-powered yard tools are typically light enough to organize with vertical storage—say, hung from a garage pegboard—leaving more of your garage floor free. With the room you have left over, you might just be able to build that little workbench you’ve been wanting.

The best part: These advantages come without a sacrifice in power. For example, you can power any of Husqvarna’s Battery Series Landscaping Tools (chainsaws, hedge trimmers, string trimmers, pole saws, and leaf blowers) with the same 40-volt lithium-ion, high-performance battery. The battery will power any of the tools in the series for as long as a tank of gas would run a fuel-powered model, and it can recharge in less than an hour. If you have all-day landscaping projects, invest in a Husqvarna battery backpack, which will power your tools up to 10 times longer than an ordinary battery charge.

Solving the Biggest Yard Care Challenges

Photo: husqvarna.com

CHALLENGE: Tackling yard tasks safely

SOLUTION: Become aware of hidden hazards and learn to operate power tools properly

It shouldn’t happen, but it does: Every year homeowners end up in local emergency rooms as the result of accidents that happened while performing routine yard-care and landscaping tasks. While some safety practices are common sense, others are less obvious. Here are just a few tips to keep in mind when you’re using power tools for yard maintenance.

Dress appropriately. Wear long sleeves, long pants, shoes (not sandals), safety glasses, and gloves to protect yourself from flying rocks and debris when operating power tools. You should always wear hearing protection when using outdoor power equipment.

Take precautions. Using a brand-new tool without reading the manufacturer’s operating instructions is a seriously bad habit that you should break ASAP. Take the time to read through the safety instructions—even just 10 minutes could help prevent an injury.

Pace yourself. Mowing with a push mower, trimming branches, string trimming, and digging can be physically demanding. Take frequent breaks and stay hydrated.

Keep children and pets indoors when you’re operating powered lawn and landscaping tools.

Maintain your tools. Look over your hand and power tools regularly, and have damaged tools repaired before using them. Register your power tools when you purchase them to ensure that you’ll be notified of any recalls.

Solving the Biggest Yard Care Challenges

Photo: husqvarna.com

CHALLENGE: The tedious task of mowing

SOLUTION: Automate it!

The single most time-consuming yard-care task is mowing, and it must be done frequently if you want a healthy lawn. Warm-season grasses should be kept approximately 1/2 to 1 inch tall, while cool-season grasses do best when they’re mowed to a height of approximately 1-1/2 to 2 inches. Moreover, grass remains the healthiest when only a small portion of the leaf blade is removed at a time. That means a lot of mowing, maybe even more than once a week during the peak growing season, just to keep your lawn at its optimal height. Fortunately, you can say goodbye to the vicious cycle of mowing if you let Husqvarna’s Automower® do it for you.

As the name implies, this cutting-edge robotic mower automates the job; just set it (on your iOS or Android smartphone) and forget it. The most work you’ll have to do is the installation, and you can either do the installation yourself or hire your local Husqvarna dealer to complete the installation. After establishing the mowing boundaries and positioning the mower’s docking station (where the mower returns to recharge between uses), just hand over the reins to the Automower, programming it to follow any schedule you choose. It will mow, rain or shine. Wet grass is not an issue, nor are slopes of up to 44 percent, thanks to the mower’s large driving wheels.

Homeowners can choose from a number of different models, based on the size of their yard, and GPS-assisted navigation is available on some models. Don’t spend your summer mowing! Let Automower keep your lawn trimmed to perfection while you laze in the shade.

Solving the Biggest Yard Care Challenges

Photo: istockphoto.com

CHALLENGE: Maintaining a uniform lawn

SOLUTION: Follow healthy lawn-care practices

Of all the elements in your landscaping, it’s the lawn that makes the difference between a nice yard and a fantastic one. But achieving a perfect emerald green carpet of grass is a big challenge for many homeowners. Sure, you could hire a landscaping company to maintain your lawn, but that can get pricey, especially considering that you can do it yourself. If you establish a basic lawn-care plan, you can grow a lush stand of grass that will rival any yard in your neighborhood. The following tips will help you get started:

Aerate your lawn in the spring. Over time, dried leaves and grass clippings settle at soil level and can form a barrier that prevents nutrients from getting to the roots of the grass. An aerator (available to rent from your local rental or home store) pierces the lawn, loosens the soil, and allows water and fertilizers to reach the roots.

Remove no more than a third of the height of the grass when mowing. Removing more than this can shock the grass, weakening it and making it more susceptible to disease. This may mean you’ll have to mow more frequently during the growing season.

Keep your mower blades sharp. Dull mower blades tear off the top of the grass rather than cutting it sharply. Tearing can damage the grass, causing some of it to yellow and die.

Fertilize in spring and every six to eight weeks thereafter. Use an all-purpose lawn fertilizer that contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Your lawn needs food all summer long.

Water wisely. Most lawns do best when they receive 1 to 2-1/2 inches of water per week. The best practice is to water deeply only once or twice each week, allowing the water to seep deep into the ground, which encourages healthy root growth.

Solving the Biggest Yard Care Challenges

Photo: istockphoto.com

CHALLENGE: Finding time to get it all done

SOLUTION: Switch to battery-powered tools and schedule your lawn-care tasks accordingly

“There just aren’t enough hours in the day” is a sentiment most homeowners can relate to. If you have limited time and prefer to take care of your yard work bright and early, though, you run the risk of being a horrible neighbor. Be considerate and try doing the quieter tasks, such as weeding the flower bed or applying fertilizer, when others are still sleeping. Then, when the neighborhood begins to wake up—it’s best to wait until after 9 a.m., especially on a weekend—feel free to knock out the rest of the yard care, including mowing, string trimming, and reshaping unruly hedges.

For the happiest neighbors of all, use battery-powered tools rather than fuel-powered. Husqvarna’s fleet of battery-powered tools can handle tasks as effectively as fuel-powered tools with considerably less noise. That’s right: These electric chainsaws, grass and weed trimmers, lightweight pole saws, and hedge trimmers operate on a much quieter level. And when you’re done, cleanup is a snap with Husqvarna’s battery-powered leaf blower! Whatever time of day you’re working, it’s still a good idea to use quiet, battery-powered tools to minimize disruption.

See how homeowners have tackled their own biggest challenges with Husqvarna tools. Husqvarna, in conjunction with The Family Handyman, is hosting the Yard Wars Ultimate Challenge to showcase three dull-to-dramatic landscaping makeovers. Vote for your favorite transformation, and you’ll be entered for a chance to win an Automower 450X with an installation kit. See the Official Rules for details.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Husqvarna. The opinions and text are all mine.


Solved! What to Do When You Find Ticks in the House

Whether you find ticks in the house or out back, use this game plan to reduce your health risk and prevent an infestation on your property.

Solved: What to Do When You Find Ticks in the House

Photo: istockphoto.com

Q: Just yesterday I spotted a tick on my bathroom floor and last week I found one on my clothing. Is it possible that I have a tick infestation in my house? Or, maybe in my yard? I know tick bites are related to Lyme disease, so I’m eager to find the best way to keep them out.

A: One tick in the house is one too many. While it’s unlikely that you have a tick infestation inside your home, there’s a good chance that you’ve got some living nearby outdoors. Of the 90 species of ticks that exist in the United States, only a handful carry diseases; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides online maps that show the geographical distribution of the different disease-carrying ticks, so you can see which ticks are a health threat in your area. Because these pests can carry Lyme disease—a tick-borne disorder that has seen a recent surge in the Northwest—among other diseases, it’s always a good idea to protect your family and your pets when you know that ticks are in the vicinity.

RELATED: 10 Bugs That Are Living in Your House—and How to Get Them Out!

To find out what to do when you find a tick—inside or out—keep reading. We’ll let you know how to reduce your risk of exposure and how to treat your house and yard to ensure that ticks won’t set up shop.

Solved: What to Do When You Find Ticks in the House

Photo: istockphoto.com

If you do find ticks in the house, don’t bother stepping on them. A tick’s body is very hard and—despite your best efforts—it could survive. A better option is to pick it up with a piece of toilet paper and flush it down the commode. This is also the best way to dispose of ticks that are crawling on your body. If you find one biting you, however, use a pair of tweezers to grab it and pull it off, then flush it.

Tick infestations are rare indoors, though it never hurts to take precautions. Ticks thrive in moist and humid conditions where the humidity is 90 percent or higher, and most cannot survive in a climate-controlled house for more than a few days. Indoors, they simply desiccate (dry out) and die. In fact, the University of Rhode Island’s Tick Encounter Resource Center (TERC) reports the results of a study where immature deer ticks that were exposed to indoor humidity levels of 75 percent died in about eight hours. While a tick might live a couple of days in a hamper with moist clothing, it won’t be long enough to reproduce.

In rustic vacation cabins, storage sheds, or doghouses, however, it’s a different story. These structures—because they are not air-conditioned (which removes humidity from the air)—could potentially offer the right environment for ticks to breed. Fortunately, ticks are fairly easy to kill. You can use a non-toxic pesticide that’s safe for indoor use, such as Wondercide Flea and Tick Spray (available from Amazon). Spray liberally along baseboards and moldings, under cabinets, in corners, and on windowsills to kill all ticks.

A completely natural alternative treatment is to sprinkle diatomaceous earth (DE) in the above areas and even on carpets and pet bedding. Diatomaceous earth isn’t earth at all but rather the finely ground exoskeletons of fossilized sea organisms. When ticks come into contact with DE powder, it acts as a desiccant (drying agent) to dehydrate the ticks. Make sure to buy food-grade DE (yes, people may actually consume it). You can fill a talcum powder container with DE and sprinkle it on floors and in sheds and doghouses. You can also sprinkle it on carpeting and then use a broom to brush it in so it’s not noticeable—it’ll kill any ticks that might be crawling at the bottom of the carpet pile. Fear not, DE is harmless to animals and people.

RELATED: Keep Ticks at Bay with 9 Smart Landscaping Tips

By implementing outdoor tick-prevention, you’ll reduce the risk of ticks in the house carried in on clothing or a pet’s fur coat. Some spots in your landscape are more likely than others to play host to an infestation of ticks. By knowing where they’re most likely to live, you can treat your yard and reduce your risk. Keep an eye on the following for a family of ticks:

• Overgrown shrubs

• Woodpiles

• Stacked stone walls

• Storage sheds

• Doghouses

• Leaf piles

• Tall grasses

…and try these tick-prevention tips in the outdoor areas:

Trim overgrown shrubs to allow light and air to circulate beneath their boughs; this will reduce the dampness of the ground beneath.

• Restack wood piles in a dry spot, such as on top of used wood crates to allow air to circulate beneath.

Solved: What to Do When You Find Ticks in the House

Photo: amazon.com via Thermacell

• Treat stacked stone walls by inserting tick-killing tubes such as Thermacell Tick Control Tubes (available from Amazon) into the gaps between the stones. The tubes contain permethrin, which kills ticks on contact. For safe use, follow manufacturer directions to the letter.

• Place tick tubes in the corners of storage sheds, too, or sprinkle diatomaceous earth on the floor and in corners. You can also scatter DE along the outside perimeter of the shed, but water destroys the powder’s effectiveness. If it rains, you’ll have to reapply DE.

• Remove leaf piles after raking.

Mow frequently to keep lawn grasses low, which will reduce moisture at ground level. Curtailing tall grasses (as well as treating woodpiles and other high-risk tick spots) cuts back places that are attractive to ticks as well as to your furry friends. This is especially important because, if you have pets that go outside and come back in, there’s a good chance they’re the ones bringing ticks into the house. Ticks sense when a warm body is in the vicinity, and they head straight for it; once burrowed beneath your pet’s fur, ticks can be hard to spot.

Solved: What to Do When You Find Ticks in the House

Photo: istockphoto.com

Tick bites can transfer diseases to your animals, so it’s a good idea to protect them from ticks if you let them go outside. A variety of tick-repellant shampoos are available for dogs, but don’t use them on cats that can be sensitive to the ingredients, unless directed to do so by your vet.

RELATED: Pet-Proof Your Yard with 5 Tips from a Pro Trainer

Topical tick repellants and medications that are taken orally are also available to treat your pets, so check in with the veterinarian for the most effective options. Even with treatment, though, which will protect your pet from bites, ticks can still hitch a ride indoors on thick fur and then crawl off on the carpeting. If your pets continue to bring ticks into the house, it’s a good idea to treat the house using treatments to speed up the elimination of ticks, such as sprinkling DE around.

Apply a tick repellent to yourself before heading outside to reduce the risk of bringing ticks back on your clothing. Not all insect repellents will keep ticks away; some are effective only for repelling mosquitos. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers an interactive site where you can get recommendations for repellants based on the insect you’d like to repel and how long you’ll be outdoors. One such repellent that protects against ticks and smells good while doing it is Avon’s Skin So Soft Bug Guard (available on Amazon). A word of caution: If you have a newborn in the house, be aware that the EPA warns against using insect repellents on infants younger than 2 months old.

All You Need to Know About Butler’s Pantries

Get to know the supplemental storage space of old that's making a comeback—and how it could benefit your home's layout.

All You Need to Know About Butler's Pantries

Photo: Zillow home in Newcastle, WA

There are some old-house features we sorely miss in today’s construction—transom windows, vestibules, and sleeping porches, to name a few. One such old standby that we’re lucky enough to see making a comeback is the butler’s pantry. Indeed, both new home buyers and remodelers are placing this hallmark of Victorian England and Colonial America on their “wish lists” for modern floor plans—and with increased interest in at-home entertaining, it’s easy to see why.

RELATED: 15 Old-House Features We Were Wrong to Abandon

Traditionally, a butler’s pantry was the narrow room adjacent to the main kitchen used to store serving pieces, delicate china, crystal, and most especially, silver, which was often kept under lock and key. The very name comes from the fact that, in Europe, a butler often slept in the pantry to guard these valuable possessions! Starting with the Victorian era, most English and many European homes were built with both a butler’s pantry and a traditional food storage pantry, also known as a larder. A third type of room, the scullery, typically included a sink and was used for both washing up and preparing messy foods.

Colonial Americans adopted the use of multiple pantries, although, in parts of the country where space was at a premium, these pantries often were rather small and may have only consisted of wooden cupboards dedicated to different functions. Many Victorian, Colonial, and other historical homes still in use today maintain a dedicated space for a butler’s pantry and a food storage pantry, although some of these have actually been converted to use as laundry rooms. Most modern and contemporary homes built in the past decades eliminated this handy space, however, in favor of great rooms, open floor plans, mud rooms, and other similar locales.

All You Need to Know About Butler's Pantries

Photo: Zillow home in Harbour Beach, FL

All You Need to Know About Butler's Pantries

Photo: istockphoto.com

The Modern Butler’s Pantry

If the space hasn’t been repurposed for a task altogether unrelated to dining and entertaining, the butler’s pantry has still had a shift in priorities. These days, since most of today’s homeowners don’t have butlers to keep track of silver and serving ware, the butler’s pantry serves as more a refuge than a vault. Its countertop surfaces make it an appropriate “staging area” for serving meals—providing a place to plate meals or even rest dishes between courses. For many homeowners, the butler’s pantry even doubles as an extra food preparation area, to keep most or all of the mess out of sight.

RELATED: 8 Things You Never See on the Dining Table Anymore

Undeniably, one of the biggest selling points for this auxiliary storage space is how much it can contain. Homeowners with an abundance of kitchen appliances—more than what can be used every day, but none so infrequently that they can be weeded out—can relocate the extras to these off-the-kitchen cabinets. Similarly, cabinets and shelves can become dedicated storage for bottles and glasses, turning it into a home bar.

All You Need to Know About Butler's Pantries

Photo: Zillow home in Seattle, WA

The Benefits of Butler Pantries

The resurgence in butler’s pantries can be attributed to several factors, at the top of which are the rise of home entertaining and the concurrent move towards more open floor plans and great rooms. These simultaneous trends often force busy cooks to do their work in full view of the guests—and not everyone wants themselves or their food prep to be on display.

Enter the butler’s pantry, which can serve as a valuable buffer zone between the kitchen and dining areas. Generally hidden by a door, it offers just enough privacy for hosts to keep the food prep mess out of sight without detracting from the spaciousness of an open kitchen. Moreover, it offers invaluable storage for households who can’t cram dried goods, cookware, and serving ware in the existing kitchen’s cabinets or open shelving.

All You Need to Know About Butler's Pantries

Photo: Zillow home in Newport Coast, CA

Adding and Designing Your Own Butler’s Pantry

A butler’s pantry can be located in any space adjacent to the kitchen, although it is typically situated somewhere between the kitchen and dining room. Even small areas such as an under-used closet, mud room, breakfast nook, transitional hallway, or corner space often can be repurposed into a butler’s pantry. If your nook isn’t already closed off by a door, clever remodelers use pocket doors or bi-fold doors to create a hidden alcove for a butler’s pantry without eating up as much working floorspace as a standard door would when it swings open.

Whether you are remodeling an existing kitchen to accommodate a butler’s pantry or incorporating the design into new home construction, consider the following essentials:

All You Need to Know About Butler's Pantries

Photo: istockphoto.com

Cupboards and drawers. The traditional use of a butler’s pantry was for storage, and who can pass up more of that? Make your modern version help accommodate those specialty items that you don’t use on a daily basis, including—but not limited to—fine silverware, serving utensils, china, linens, and candles.

Countertops and shelving. If you’re looking to use your butler’s pantry as a staging area for the meal, you want to make sure to have adequate counter and shelving space to accommodate the dishes before transferring them to the dining room. Using open or adjustable shelving will provide greater versatility and help you maximize your space.

Power outlets. In addition to serving ware, the butler’s pantry is a great home for seldom-used small appliances that would otherwise clutter up your streamlined kitchen. Having adequate numbers of power outlets ensures that these devices are ready to use when you need them.

Cold storage. A mini fridge, wine chiller, or even a small cooler can help keep plates chilled and perishables cold while you prepare the meal.

Hot storage. Similarly, a hot plate, cooktop, or warming tray can keep your food warm as other meal items are finalized or courses are eaten.

Adequate lighting. A combination of bright ceiling lights and focused task lighting will ensure that you can see well enough, whether plating the meal or polishing silver once a year.

If you have a larger space, some optional features you might want to consider include a fully-plumbed sink and/or dishwasher; wet bar; microwave; auxiliary fridge; freezer; cooktop; warming oven; wine chiller; and even some form of seating.

All You Need to Know About Butler's Pantries

Photo: Zillow home in Atlanta, GA

Putting a Price on a Butler’s Pantry

Understandably, costs can vary widely depending on how much renovation is required, what amenities you include, and the type of materials you select. Whether you plan to outfit a small or large space for this role, keep this in mind: The butler’s pantry is designed to be a private space, not a public one. Of course, design to your heart’s content, but homeowners minding a budget may be able to save some money on construction by using more basic materials than you would typically use in a kitchen. Substituting a high-quality laminate for granite countertops, for instance, or IKEA cabinets instead of something more custom can lower the total bill. Just be sure to choose durable materials, because this is a space that should be useful and functional.

RELATED: 7 Ways to Skimp on a Kitchen Renovation

Beyond just the materials, you will likely need to include cost estimates for construction labor and other expenses into the project’s budget. Running new plumbing or electricity, for example, will require getting bids from and hiring a professional contractor. Fortunately, since so many of the features in a butler’s pantry are a la carte, you can incorporate as few or as many of the bells and whistles as you like. Weigh how much you’d value that secondary sink, dishwasher, or wine cooler; then, if you deem it important enough to keep in the plans, price it out in your budget as well and see if you need to trim elsewhere.

With these guidelines in mind, you can add a practical, efficient and desirable butler’s pantry, even in existing homes.  Just don’t expect it to come complete with an English gent named “Jeeves”—for that, you’re on your own!