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5 Things to Know About Lath and Plaster Walls

Understand the appeal and potential problems of this old-school construction technique.

5 Things to Know About Lath and Plaster

Photo: istockphoto.com

From the 1700s all the way through the 1940s, lath and plaster was the interior wall construction method of choice. Builders nailed thin, closely spaced strips of wood (lath) to wall studs and then smoothed multiple coatings of plaster over the lath to form flat wall surfaces.

When drywall panels came on the scene in the 1950s, they soon replaced lath and plaster as a quicker, easier install option. Lath and plaster construction is definitely an old school technique, but when compared to drywall, it has a few surprising benefits. If your existing home has lath and plaster walls—or if you’d like to incorporate new plaster walls in a remodeling project—keep reading to learn more about this old construction method that’s gaining new fans.

RELATED: What’s the Difference? Drywall vs. Plaster

1. Dense lath and plaster provides some insulation, fire resistance, soundproofing, and more.

Powered lime, sand, and fibers (often horsehair) were the traditional ingredients used in the creation of lath and plaster walls. A typical lath and plaster wall required a minimum of three coats of plaster, resulting in a dense, rock-hard coating nearly one inch thick. When combined with the lath framework beneath, the lath and plaster together were about one and one-quarter inch thick. This offered some distinct benefits:

  • Lath and plaster walls provided a measure of insulation, helping homes stay warmer in winter and cooler in summer.
  • Due to its density, the thick layer of plaster dampened the transfer of noise from one room to the next. Older homes are often much quieter than new homes with interior walls made from drywall.
  • Plaster is more fire resistant than drywall.
  • While plaster walls are smooth and flat, they contain slight surface trowel marks, adding a desirable Old World feel to the character of a home.
  • Lath and plaster is more contour-friendly than rigid drywall panels. This makes it easier to create custom curves and arches in walls and ceilings.

2. However, lath and plaster has its downsides.

For all its ambience, character, and positive acoustical traits, there are good reasons why lath and plaster fell out of vogue.

  • Over time, most houses naturally settle; when they do, plaster, which is hard and brittle, can often crack. If the settling is substantial, chunks of plaster are likely to fall off the lath framework.
  • It’s difficult to retrofit lath and plaster walls with new wiring without cutting into the walls. That’s because the bottoms of stud spaces are often filled with a few inches of fallen plaster, which block the space and prohibit an electrician from “fishing” new wiring through the walls.
  • Older homes with lath and plaster walls rarely contain adequate insulation in their stud spaces. Starting in the 1970s, blown-in fiber insulation was added to many lath and plaster homes, but plaster obstructions and wood blocks within the stud spaces didn’t allow for even distribution, so entire portions of walls didn’t receive any insulation.
  • When moisture from leaks saturates the wood laths, it increases the risk of chunks of plaster releasing and falling from the wall.


Repairing Lath and Plaster in Your Home

Photo: istockphoto.com

3. Most houses built before 1940 have lath and plaster walls that need regular inspections and repairs.

If you live in a house built before 1940 and the walls haven’t been updated, they are most likely plaster. As long as they’re in decent condition (not falling away from the lath in chunks), you may opt to leave them as they are. For many, plaster walls are a big part of an older home’s historical charm, and they’re well worth keeping intact. If this is the case, the best way to ensure the walls remain in good shape is to regularly inspect them and have cracks repaired as soon as they’re noticed.

Repairs can be as simple as filling small cracks by skimming over them with new plaster. Sometimes, repairs are more involved—removing loose sections of plaster and filling in the spot using a standard Three-Step Plaster Method. While skimming over small cracks is DIY-friendly, re-plastering entire sections is a job for a professional plasterer.

4. Updating lath and plaster walls to drywall can be done by covering or replacing them altogether.

If your plaster walls have seen better days, you may be eager to upgrade to drywall panels. This is usually done as part of a larger remodeling project and often includes the addition of new wiring and insulation (if necessary to meet code). Updating to drywall is typically done in one of two ways:

  • You can cover the old plaster by installing drywall panels on top. This is the simplest and least messy way to go, but not necessarily the most efficient. Small runs are cut through the original plaster at the bottoms of the walls in order to install new wiring, and then drywall panels are installed over the plaster. The only way to add insulation is to drill holes in the exterior siding and blow in fiber or cellulose insulation. As discussed above, this tends to leave voids in the stud spaces.
  • The best—but messiest—way to update to drywall is to completely demolish the old walls, tearing out the plaster and lath all the way down to the studs, and then updating the wiring and insulation before installing new drywall panels.


Installing Lath and Plaster in Your Home

Photo: istockphoto.com

5. Building with lath and plaster in a modern home is doable but pricey.

Today, you can have the beauty of plaster walls without the problems that come with older homes. It’s a pricey proposition, however: Be prepared to pay as much as $15 or more per square foot to have plaster professionally installed. Compare that to the cost of professionally installed drywall, which averages $2 to $4 per square foot.

  • Like their earlier counterparts, modern plaster walls are created by smoothing plaster over lath (usually metal lath designed to hold plaster). A minimum of three coatings is still necessary to achieve a smooth, flat surface.
  • You won’t find horsehair in today’s plaster (unless you’re doing historical restoration). Contemporary plaster products contain a mixture of clay, lime, acrylic components, and optional dyes to create an attractive surface that can be left as is or painted.
  • Installing lath and plaster isn’t a DIY project. Unskilled attempts to construct plaster walls often end up looking lumpy and amateurish.

How To: Paint a Bathtub

Renew your loo by putting a fresh, clean coat on your worn-out old tub.

How to Paint a Bath Tub - White Clawfoot Tub

Photo: fotosearch.com

The focal point of a full bath is often its tub, which ought to be pristine and gleaming. If yours is pitted, chipped, or scratched—or sporting an old-fashioned color that no longer suits your style—you can spare yourself the bother and expense of ripping it out and replacing it. Options include putting in an acrylic liner for upwards of $300, or learning how to paint a bathtub with a special epoxy.

Wait, can you paint a bathtub?

You can refresh your ceramic, porcelain, or fiberglass tub’s color and still achieve a high-gloss finish using a specialty kit labeled for tubs and tiles, often available at home centers for about $25. (See this top-rated Rust-Oleum refinishing kit on Amazon, which has been reviewed by more than 2,000 DIY-minded consumers.) Unlike your standard interior paint options, which will crack and peel at the amount of heat and moisture tubs are exposed to daily, epoxy boasts great adhesion and long-lasting durability once cured. A one-quart kit should be enough to cover the bathtub, but pick up two if you also plan to paint the surrounding tile.

Reglazing the bathtub with epoxy can be a bit tricky depending on whether you choose a one-part (pre-mixed) or two-part (ready-to-mix) kit. But with the following steps, patience, and care, you’ll get a porcelain-like finish that will last three to five years.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Caulk removal tool
Bleach
Comet abrasive cleanser
Sponge
Acetone
Epoxy putty
Tub repair product
400grit wet/dry sandpaper
600grit wet/dry sandpaper
Clean towels
Painters’ tape
Tub epoxy refinishing kit
Paint buckets with covers (2)
Paint stirrers
Paint brushes
Paint rollers
Bathroom caulk
Caulking gun (optional)

Steps for Painting a Bathtub

How to Paint a Bathtub - Painting Tools in the Bathroom

Photo: fotosearch.com

1. Remove old caulk and the tub’s hardware.

Ready the tub: Start by removing the old caulk. (Note: If you don’t have a specific caulk removal tool, a spackling knife or 5-in-1 painter’s tool can sub in here.) Then carefully remove the drain hardware and any fixtures in the bathtub itself, using the correct tools and procedures for your situation.

2. Ventilate the bathroom and clean the tub thoroughly with diluted bleach, scrub cleansers, and acetone.

Open the windows and run the bathroom exhaust fan before you begin to clean up any grime, soap scum, and mildew. First, wash the bathtub with 10 percent bleach in water solution. Rinse well, and follow with an abrasive bathroom cleanser like Comet or Soft Scrub. After thoroughly rinsing, wipe a solvent such as acetone (paint thinner would work here, too) over the entire surface to remove any remaining grease or cleanser residue.

3. Repair any imperfections along the tub.

Fill any scratches, chips, or gouges with epoxy putty or tub repair product for a like-new surface. Let dry completely and then sand these areas smooth. Next, sand the entire bathtub using wet/dry sandpaper: Do one pass with 400-grit paper and a second with the finer 600-grit. This will rough up the gloss so that paint easily adheres.

Rinse the bathtub thoroughly with water and wipe it dry with clean towels or rags. Allow the tub to air dry fully, as it must be free of moisture prior to painting.

4. Mask surrounding tile and any remaining fixtures.

When prepping for paint, use painter’s tape to protect the tile at tub level and any fixtures around the bathtub that you could not remove in Step 1.

5. If you purchased two-part epoxy, mix it now.

Make sure your room is well ventilated and don your respirator or mask (epoxy paint is really stinky stuff). Then, prep the paint included in the tub refinishing kit according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Many kits use a two-part epoxy paint that you’ll need to combine prior to application. If that’s the case, pour each part into one bucket to mix thoroughly, for at least two minutes. The mixing phase is crucial, so don’t play fast and loose with the directions! Then transfer half of that mixture into the second container to save for the second coat and cover tightly to prevent it from drying out.

6. Paint the tub in two thin coats, leaving adequate time between them for the paint to dry.

If you know how to paint other surfaces like tile or drywall, you have some idea of how to paint a bathtub. Start at the top in one corner and working your way across and down to the other side. Apply in a thin, even coat, being careful to smooth out any drips as you go with your roller or brush. Epoxy paint has a self-leveling property, so don’t be concerned if you see some bubbles or brush marks—these should disappear as it sets.

Allow the first coat to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and apply the second coat in the same way you did the first.

7. Wait at least three days before running water in the newly painted tub.

Epoxy takes time to fully cure, so heed the manufacturer’s instructions on drying time. Don’t use the tub until the paint has fully cured—even if it feels dry to the touch, which might be as soon as an hour. Once cured, remove the tape, re-caulk the tub, and re-install the fixtures and drain hardware.



Going forward, maintain the bathtub as you would any porcelain surface, with your choice of cleanser. But right now, run yourself a nice, warm bath—you deserve it!


Official Rules: Bob Vila’s $3,000+ Refresh Your Guest Room Giveaway with kathy ireland® Worldwide and YourHome1Source.com

Bob Vila’s $3,000+ Refresh Your Guest Room Giveaway with kathy ireland® Worldwide and YourHome1Source.com (the “Sweepstakes”) is sponsored by Vila Media, LLC, Post Office Box 835, West Barnstable, MA 02668 (“Sponsor”). The Sweepstakes consists of one (1) random drawing and one (1) prize awarded per random drawing.

The Sweepstakes and entry period begins at 12:00 p.m. EST on February 22, 2018, and runs through 11:59 a.m. EST on March 21, 2019 (the “Sweepstakes Period”). NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. MAKING A PURCHASE DOES NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. ODDS OF WINNING WILL DEPEND ON THE TOTAL NUMBER OF ENTRIES RECEIVED. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. AFFIDAVIT OF ELIGIBILITY AND RELEASE OF LIABILITY FORM MAY BE REQUIRED.

Open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 50 contiguous states and the District of Columbia who are age 18 or older. Void in all other geographic locations. Employees of Sponsor and its respective parents, affiliates, subsidiaries, and advertising and promotion agencies and any other entity involved in the development or administration of this Sweepstakes, and their immediate family members or household members are not eligible to participate in or win the Sweepstakes. Sponsor reserves the right to disqualify any person who fails to meet the eligibility requirements or any person it determines, in its sole discretion, to be sufficiently connected with the Sweepstakes such that such person’s participation could create the appearance of impropriety. Entries generated by script, macro or other automated means are void, and Sponsor expressly reserves the right to disqualify any entries that it believes in good faith are generated by an automated program or via scripts. Entries that are determined, in the sole discretion of the Sponsor to constitute advertisements, commercial messages, or “spam” will be disqualified and deleted. Void where prohibited by law. All applicable federal, state and local laws apply. No purchase is necessary to participate in the Sweepstakes.

You may enter any given Drawing one (1) time per household per day by visiting the BOB VILA website at http://www.bobvila.com and submitting your name and email address using the online “Bob Vila’s $3,000+ Refresh Your Guest Room Giveaway with kathy ireland® Worldwide and YourHome1Source.com” submission form. Each entry submitted in response to a Drawing and in accordance with the Official Rules will constitute an official entry. Duplicate entries submitted through either method within one day will be deemed void. If you do not have internet access, alternative means of entry for each Drawing is available by faxing your name, address and phone number to the Sponsor at 508-437-8486 during the Sweepstakes Period. One (1) alternate entry per household per day. Any additional entries submitted via fax within one day will be deemed void. Entries received after the end of the Sweepstakes Period will be deemed void. Normal time, toll, connection and usage rates, if any, charged by your Internet service provider will apply. All entries become the property of the Sponsor. By entering any Drawing during the Sweepstakes, you will be agreeing that any information collected in connection with the Sweepstakes may be used by Sponsor in accordance with Vila Media, LLC’s Privacy Policy, a current copy of which can be found here. By participating, all entrants agree to abide by these Official Rules.

At the end of the Sweepstakes Period, employees or representatives of Sponsor will hold one (1) Drawing in which one (1) potential winner (“Winner”) shall be selected from all eligible entries to receive the prize. A limit of one (1) prize and one (1) Winner for each Drawing. A winning entry will be chosen at random. The number of eligible entries received during the Sweepstakes Period determines the odds of winning for the Drawings. The Sweepstakes will be conducted under the supervision of the Sponsor. If the Winner is determined to be ineligible, forfeits or does not claim the prize, the prize will be re-awarded, in Sponsor’s sole discretion based on a subsequent drawing from the pool of eligible entries. Other restrictions may apply. Decisions of the Sponsor are final and binding with respect to all matters related to the Sweepstakes. All prizes (or in the event of a lost, misdirected, or otherwise unavailable prize, a prize of equivalent value) will be awarded. In no event shall the Sponsor be obligated to award more prizes than the number of prizes stated in these Official Rules. Winners shall be responsible and liable for all federal, state and local taxes on the value of their prize. Must be 18 or older to win.

To receive a complete list of winners or a copy of the Official Rules, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Prize Fulfillment, Vila Media, LLC, PO Box 835 West Barnstable, MA 02668. Specify winner’s list or rules on your request. The Winner will be notified by email, or in the case of alternate entry, by phone; Sponsor reserves the right to determine the method of notification. The Winner must claim their respective prize within twenty-four (24) hours after the date of notification of their prize. A Winner’s failure to respond to the prize notification within the specified twenty-four (24) hours will be considered such Winner’s forfeiture of the prize and an alternate Winner may be selected from the pool of eligible entries. If an entrant is found to be ineligible, an alternate Winner may also be selected from the pool of eligible entries. Sponsor reserves the right to ship prizes directly to the mailing address (as applicable) provided by Winners during their entry to the Drawings. Prizes will be shipped via regular ground mail up to four (4) weeks after the official Winner is declared for each drawing.

The prize for the Drawing held shall be from kathy ireland® Worldwide and YourHome1Source.com. One (1) winner will receive a prize package consisting of Malta Rug (MSRP $1,299); Ironworks set (MSRP $954.99); Half Moon Chair (MSRP $399); Full/Queen Comforter (MSRP $259.99); Jumbo Bed Pillow (MSRP $129.99); Matress Pad (MSRP $69.99); White Sheet Set (MSRP $99); Stately Floor Lamp (MSRP $160); Stately Table Lamp ($120); City Scape kathy ireland® Home Artwork (MSRP $336.18). No transfer, substitution or cash redemption will be awarded in lieu of Prize. Limit one prize package per entrant. Prizes shall be delivered within 30 days after the winner is verified. An entrant or winner may be disqualified from the Sweepstakes, and his or her entry may be deleted, if he or she fails to comply with each provision of these Official Rules, as determined in the sole discretion of the Sponsor. Participation in the Sweepstakes is at entrant’s own risk. The total approximate retail value of all prizes to be awarded in this Sweepstakes is $3,000. Income and all other federal, state and local taxes (if any) are the sole responsibility of each Winner.

Sponsor shall not be liable for (1) failed, returned or misdirected notifications based on inaccurate information provided by the winner on the Drawings entry forms, (2) entries and responses to winner notifications which are lost, late, incomplete, illegible, unintelligible, postage-due, misdirected, damaged or otherwise not received by the intended recipient in whole or in part or for computer or technical error of any kind, (3) any electronic miscommunications or failures, technical hardware or software failures of any kind, lost or unavailable network connections, or failed incomplete, garbled or delayed computer transmissions which may limit an entrant’s ability to participate in part or wholly in the Sweepstakes, (4) any technical malfunctions of the telephone network, computer on-line system, computer equipment, software, program malfunctions or other failures, delayed computer transactions or network connections that are human, mechanical or technical in nature, or any combination thereof, including any injury or damage to entrant’s or any other person’s computer related to or resulting from downloading any part of this Sweepstakes or (5) any warranty of fitness or merchantability of any prize or the function or operation thereof, which shall be the sole responsibility of the manufacturer of the prize. Sponsor does not make any, and hereby disclaims any and all, representations or warranties of any kind regarding any prize. Unless prohibited by applicable law, your entry constitutes your permission to use your name, photograph, likeness, voice, address (city and state) and testimonials in all media, in perpetuity, in any manner Sponsor deems appropriate for publicity purposes without any further compensation to such entrant.

By entering or accepting a prize in the Sweepstakes, the Winner agrees to be bound by these Official Rules and to conform to all federal, state and local laws and regulations. When applicable, the Winner may be required to execute and return to Sponsor within three (3) business days an Affidavit of Eligibility, a Liability and Publicity Release and relevant tax form W-9s to be eligible for the prize or an alternate winner may be selected. Winner may be required to furnish proof of identity, address and birth date in order to receive a prize. By entering, an entrant agrees to indemnify, release and hold harmless Sponsor, and each of their respective parents, subsidiaries and affiliated entities, directors, officers, employees, attorneys, agents, licensees and representatives (collectively, the “Released Parties”) from any damage, injury, death, loss, claim, action, demand, or other liability (collectively, “Claims”) that may arise from their acceptance, possession and/or use of any prize (or any part thereof) or their participation in the Sweepstakes, or from any misuse or malfunction of any prize awarded (or any part thereof), regardless of whether such Claims, or knowledge of the facts constituting such Claims, exist at the time of entry or arise at any time thereafter. Released Parties are not responsible or liable to any entrant or to any Winner or any person claiming through such Winner for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action, regulation, order or request by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action, regulations, order or request proves to be invalid), equipment failure, threatened terrorist acts, terrorist acts, air raid, blackout, act of public enemy, earthquake, war (declared or undeclared), fire, flood, epidemic, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal) labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond the Released Parties’ sole control.

The Released Parties are not responsible for: (1) any incorrect or inaccurate information, whether caused by entrants, printing, electronic or human errors or by any of the equipment or programming associated with or utilized in the Sweepstakes; (2) viruses or technical failures of any kind, including, but not limited to malfunctions, interruptions, or disconnections in phone lines or network hardware or software; failed, incorrect, incomplete, inaccurate, garbled or delayed electronic communications or entry information, any error, omission, interruption, deletion, defect, delay in operation or transmission, failures or technical malfunction of any computer online systems, servers, providers, computer equipment, software, email, players or browsers, whether on account of technical problems, traffic congestion on the Internet or at any website, or on account of any combination of the foregoing; (3) the unavailability or inaccessibility of any transmissions or telephone or Internet service; (4) unauthorized human intervention in any part of the entry process or the Sweepstakes; (5) technical or human error which may occur in the administration of the Sweepstakes or the processing of entries; (6) any injury or damage to persons or property which may be caused, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, from entrant’s participation in the Sweepstakes or receipt or use or misuse of any prize; or (7) late, lost, misdirected, illegible, incomplete or mutilated entries or for theft, destruction or unauthorized access to, or alteration of entries. These indemnification and release provisions shall survive expiration of the Sweepstakes.

Persons found tampering with, abusing, or otherwise disrupting any aspect of this Sweepstakes, or otherwise attempting to defraud Sponsor, as solely determined by Sponsor, will be disqualified and their entries will be deleted. If disqualified, Sponsor reserves the right to terminate the entrant’s eligibility to further participate in this Sweepstakes and future promotions and sweepstakes of Sponsor or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates. Any attempt by an entrant or any other individual to undermine the legitimate operation of this Sweepstakes may be a violation of criminal and civil laws. Should such an attempt be made, sponsor reserves the right to seek damages from any such person to the fullest extent permitted by law.

This Sweepstakes is strictly for promotional and entertainment purposes and may not be used in connection with any form of gambling. In the event this Sweepstakes is challenged by any legal or regulatory authority, Sponsor reserves the right to terminate the Sweepstakes, or to disqualify entrants residing in the affected geographic areas. In such event, the Sponsor shall have no liability to any entrants who are disqualified due to such an action. Sponsor reserves the right to modify these Official Rules in any way or at any time. Sponsor reserves the right, in their sole discretion, to cancel or suspend this Sweepstakes should viruses, bugs or other causes beyond their control corrupt the administration, security or proper play of the Sweepstakes. In the event any portion of this Sweepstakes is compromised by any non-authorized human intervention, actions of entrants, or other causes beyond the control of Sponsor which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, corrupt or impair the integrity, administration, security, or operation of this Sweepstakes, Sponsor reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to suspend, modify, abbreviate or terminate the Sweepstakes without further obligation. If Sponsor elects to abbreviate the Sweepstakes, Winner(s) will be determined from all eligible entries received for Drawing(s) prior to the action or compromise giving rise to the suspension or termination of this Sweepstakes. In the event of cancellation, abbreviation or suspension, Sponsor shall promptly post a notice on the Sweepstakes entry page to such effect.

This Sweepstakes shall be governed by New York law. By participating in this Sweepstakes entrants agree that New York courts shall have jurisdiction over any dispute or litigation arising from or relating to this Sweepstakes and that venue shall be only in New York City, New York. The failure to exercise or enforce any right or provision of these Official Rules shall not constitute a waiver of such right or provision. If any part of these Official Rules is held by a court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid or unenforceable, that part will be enforced to the maximum extent permitted by law, and the remainder of these Official Rules will remain fully in force.


3 Types of Hammers Every DIYer Should Know (and When to Use Them)

Get to know the key differences between the claw, ball peen, and club hammer styles so that you can choose the right hand tool for every project.

3 Types of Hammers Every DIYer Should Know

Photo: istockphoto.com

Head to the home improvement store, and you’ll find a dozen or more different hammer designs manufactured by the usual suspects in the tool industry—so many that shopping for this toolbox basic can be daunting. Look more closely, and you’ll see that the aisle boils down to three particular types of hammers in a wider range of sizes:

  1. the claw hammer,
  2. the ball peen hammer, and
  3. the club hammer.
3 Types of Hammers Every DIYer Should Know

Photo: istockphoto.com

Every household needs at least one hammer on hand for everyday repairs and installations, whether that’s tacking a picture onto the wall or re-nailing a floorboard or piece of molding. For most DIYers and homeowners doing the odd job around the house, that’s a claw hammer weighing between 16 and 20 ounces. Ahead, we’ll look further into why a claw hammer is the most common hammer to stock as well as what each type of hammer is designed to do best.

RELATED: Buyer’s Guide: Hammers

Shopping Tip: All types of hammers come in a series of sizes, ranging from eight to 42 ounces. The weight referred to is that of the hammer’s head rather than the tool overall. Lighter weights are fine for simple household tasks, but a heavier weight would be needed for framing and other larger projects. Hammers that weigh considerably more than the average 20-ounce tool—we’re talking 32 ounces or more—are made for professional construction workers.



Types of Hammers: The Claw Hammer

Photo: istockphoto.com

1. Claw hammers are commonly used for woodworking and household repairs.

For most of us, this is the design we reach for when we need a ham­mer. The claw hammer’s steel head is dual-function: The face drives nails and the two-pronged claw pulls nails out of wood. The handle is made of fiberglass, wood (commonly a tough, springy hickory wood), or steel. Choose a fiberglass or steel option, and it will also have rubber, plastic, or vinyl handle for comfort and shock absorption.

Claw hammers can be purchased in many sizes. Small tack hammers may weigh only a few ounces. Large framing hammers (designed for driving large nails) will have heads weighing up to 28 ounces and handles reaching 18 inches in length. A moderate-sized hammer with 16-ounce head and 16″-long handle will perform a wide variety of tasks, though framing work typically requires the added power of a heavier 20-ounce hammer. (I’d suggest you leave the really big ones to those who frame buildings for a living; in the hands of the occasional user, they are unwieldy and a liability for most jobs around the house.)

The exact shape of the claw varies from one hammer to another:

  • Smaller hammers usually have claws with sharper curves.
  • Larger hammers often have a flattened claw, and sometimes are referred to as wrecking or rip hammers because the claw can be used to pry apart wooden elements in demolition work.

When selecting a hammer, consider the face, too.

  • A patterned face (also called a mill face) will help prevent glancing blows, because the serrations grip the head of the nail. This is especially handy when doing work that involves forceful hammering, like framing and toe-nailing.
  • A smooth, slightly convex (belled) face is preferable for finish work. In claw hammers, flat faces are usually an indication of second-rate goods.

Pulling a nail puts tremendous wrenching stresses on a hammer. If you favor a wood-handled hammer (and many of us do), use it sparingly for pulling nails. Keep a pair of nail pullers or a wrecking bar handy in your tool bag for pulling all nails larger than eight pennies (two-and-a-half-inch-long nails).



Types of Hammers: The Ball Peen Hammer

Photo: istockphoto.com

2. Ball peen hammers are designed for metalwork.

Sometimes called an engineer’s hammer, the ball peen hammer is used for many metalwork tasks. Rather than having a claw, the ball peen hammer has a flat striking surface on one face and a rounded one on the other. The steel ball peen head is hardened and is less likely than a claw hammer’s to chip, making it better suited to drive punches and cold chisels, set rivets, and shape metal. Unlike claw hammers, which come with a variety of handles, these are usually made of hickory.

Common head weights for ball peen hammers are four, eight, 12, and up to 32 ounces. When driving a cold chisel or punch, a ball peen hammer with enough weight to drive the tool is required. On the other hand, though this may seem contradictory at first, when shaping metal it is important to use a hammer that doesn’t weigh too much. A hammer that is too large will scar or distort the material (especially brass), while a smaller one will tend to shape it more efficiently.

The ball peen hammer is not essential for the woodworker’s toolbox. But when it comes to driving cold chisels, the claw hammer isn’t the right tool, so having a ball peen hammer or a club hammer (see below) is a good idea. The ball peen can also be used for driving heavy nails and other tasks where its weight and hardness is an asset.



Types of Hammers: The Club Hammer

Photo: istockphoto.com

3. Club Hammers are essentially small sledgehammers for driving chisels or stakes.

Most club hammers have two identical faces and a short handle (typically 10 inches long). Both faces can be used, though the primary reason for the second face is that the ham­mer would be awkward to use if the head were not evenly balanced.  Wooden handles are typically made of hickory, though fiberglass-handled club hammers are available.

The club hammer is light enough that it can be managed comfortably with one hand. A club hammer with a two-and-a-half-pound head is a useful size, though three- and five-pound models are also common.

Like its bigger brethren, the sledgehammers, the club hammer is used to drive stakes or cold chisels and to demolish masonry. They are sometimes called hand-drilling hammers because they are often used to drive masonry drills.

In using this tool, let the weight of the club hammer’s head do as much of the work as possible. For light blows, the weight alone will provide sufficient force; merely allow the head to drop on the object being hammered. For more force, swing the tool as you would other hammers, again with a firm but not rigid grip. This is especially important when using the club hammer for demolition, as the shock of striking a masonry wall, for example, will carry through to your arm if you hold the hammer too tightly, putting you at risk of wrist, elbow, or even shoulder soreness.

Always wear safety goggles when putting the club hammer to use: Stone, masonry, or other bits of debris can easily become airborne and present a grave danger to your eyes.


Solved! The Best Paint for Front Doors

Here’s what to consider when painting your entryway’s biggest attraction.

The Best Paint for Front Door Refreshes, Solved!

Photo: istockphoto.com

Q: I want to repaint my front door to cover up some old water stains. What is the best paint for front doors?

A: A fresh coat of paint can hide minor imperfections on your front door, defend it against harsh outdoor elements, and boost curb appeal in a big way. But to get these entryway assets, you can’t slap on any old paint. The best paint for a front door will have a blend of qualities that maintain its integrity and looks in the face of stormy weather and scorching sun. You’ll want to consider paint durability, sheen, color, and suitability for your door material. Ahead, everything you need to know about picking the right paint and primer for your front door.

RELATED: How To: Paint Your Front Door



The Best Paint for Front Door Refreshes, Solved!

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First, look for paint (or paint-and-primer product) that is labeled “exterior” or “interior/exterior.”

Front doors need to withstand temperature fluctuations, rain, hail, snow, and dirt, and only paints labeled “exterior” (formulated only for exterior use) or “interior/exterior” are up to the task. These thicker paints contain more resins and pigments and more resilient additives than interior-only paints, which makes them resistant to staining, chipping, fading, and peeling. (By contrast, interior paints can only tolerate light wear-and-tear.)

Both dedicated exterior paint (used in addition to a separate primer, covered below) and exterior primer-and-paint-in-one products will do the job. Today’s primer-and-paint combination formulas often cost half as much as separate primer and paint and provide equally good coverage in some scenarios. The choice of separate paint and primer versus primer-and-paint should come down to the condition of your door.

The Best Paint for Front Door Refreshes, Solved!

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A primer-and-paint is sufficient if any of the following scenarios apply:

  • You’re painting a bare front door for the first time.
  • You’re repainting a previously painted door in the same paint color.
  • You’re switching from a lighter to a darker paint color.

A separate paint and primer are needed to improve paint adhesion if any the following apply:

  • You’re painting over a stained wood door.
  • You’re switching from a darker to a lighter paint color.
  • The existing paint coat is peeling or flaking.
  • You want to cover an old oil-based paint coat with a water-based paint coat.

Always use a coordinating exterior primer if one isn’t built into your paint.

If a separate paint and primer are needed, be sure that the primer is labeled for exterior or interior/exterior use, too.

Either a water-based primer (Zinsser Bulls Eye Primer, $22.47 for one gallon at Home Depot) or an oil-based exterior primer (e.g., KILZ Exterior Primer, $22.98 for one gallon at Home Depot) should suffice.

But if you’re painting over an existing oil-based paint coat with water-based paint coat, you must use bonding primer (e.g., KILZ Adhesion Bonding Primer, $41.67 for one gallon at Home Depot), a special primer formulated to stick to glossy surfaces like that of an oil-based paint coat.

The color of the primer should also be close to that of the paint, e.g., a light gray primer for a lilac door. You can also ensure a perfect color match by buying a white primer and having it custom-tinted at the paint store to match your chosen door paint color.

Let door material dictate your choice of paint base, oil or water.

Exterior paints come in oil- and water-based varieties. Each confers different advantages on different surfaces, so choose the base best for your type of door:

  • For a door made of pine, white fir, or another wood species that doesn’t bleed (i.e, gives off tinted compounds in wood called tannins), go with a water-based exterior paint (such as BEHR Premium Plus Ultra Exterior Paint and Primer, $42.98 for one gallon at Home Depot). Water-based paint emits less smelly odors (because of lower solvent content), dries faster, and results in less color fading.
  • For cedar, cypress, or other wood that bleeds, choose an oil-based exterior paint (e.g., Rustoleum Protective Enamel, $16.92 for two quarts at Home Depot). Oil-based paint is less susceptible to tannin bleed-through (tannins can seep into water-based paint and show as unsightly yellowish-brown splotches in the final result).
  • For metal doors—such as a steel storm door—work with oil-based paint to stave off the formation of rust.
  • For fiberglass doors, apply a water-based paint, as its thinner and less sticky composition goes onto the slick surface of fiberglass more easily than thicker, stickier oil-based paints.

Go for a semi-gloss finish, which is as durable as it is attractive.

Exterior paints are sold in flat/matte, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and gloss sheens, in order of the lowest to the highest luster. Semi-gloss is ideal for front doors, as it’s more wear- and stain-resistant than flatter sheens. It’s also more reflective, which means it easily wipes clean, highlights carvings or other architectural flourishes on the door, and provides an attractive pop of shine in the entryway. Yet semi-gloss will mask imperfections better than a gloss sheen, which can draw attention to divots, errant paintbrush strokes, and other minor door flaws.

RELATED: Welcome Home: 11 Fresh Ways to Spruce Up Your Front Door

Prioritize fade resistance.

If you don’t have a storm door, awning, or a shade tree in the entryway to protect your front door from continuous sunlight exposure, the onslaught of UV rays can eventually fade its paint color. Exterior paints labeled “fade-resistant” or “UV-resistant” are formulated with colorfast pigments and a higher volume of binders than ordinary paints that allow them to retain a crisp color despite prolonged exposure to intense sunlight.



The Best Paint for Front Door Refreshes, Solved!

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Select low-LRV paint colors, which tend to be more muted, to preserve the color and the door itself.

The most important consideration to make when selecting a door paint color is its light reflectance value (LRV), a value on a scale of 0 to 100 that indicates how much light reflects from the paint color when dry. The higher the LRV, the more light the color reflects, and the less likely the paint finish is to fade with sun exposure. The LRV will be listed on the paint manufacturer’s website or on the paint chip, a card showing the range of colors available for a particular paint brand. Look for an LRV of at least 55 to ensure that your painted door reflects a fair amount of sunlight and retains its color. In general, lighter, more muted shades, such as beige or mint green, have a higher LRV, whereas darker, richer colors, such as cherry red or navy blue, have a lower LRV.

Black paint, which often has an LRV of 0, depending on the brand, reflects virtually no light, which means it will absorb most of the light that hits it and fade quickly. In fact, certain door manufacturers will even void your warranty if you apply black paint over it because the high heat absorption can warp it. But, if your warranty will allow it and your front door is shaded, you might still find the color’s positive impact on home resale value worth the risk. In 2018, the real estate database Zillow found that homes with black or charcoal gray front doors sold for $6,271 more than expected in its 2018 Paint Color Analysis of sold homes around the country.

Beyond LRV, choose a color that complements the color of the door trim and the siding of your home. For example, a light taupe door would pair well with white trim and brown siding.



The Best Paint for Front Door Refreshes, Solved!

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Pick rot-resistant paint if you see a lot of rain or snow.

Traditional exterior paints are certainly more rot-resistant than interior paints, but they can still form a fair amount of mildew or mold with enough exposure to water or humidity. So look for a paint specifically labeled “mildew-resistant” or “mold-resistant,” especially if you live in an area that receives a lot of rain or snow. These paints are formulated with antimicrobial chemicals that prevent mildew and mold from setting into your paint job for a certain period of years indicated on the paint container.


6 Things to Know Before Switching to a Smart Thermostat

Gain extra control over your indoor comfort level and enjoy year-round savings when you switch to a smarter thermostat. Here is all you need to know about the upgrade.

6 Things to Know Before Switching to a Smart Thermostat

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In a era where convenience is king, it’s no wonder that smart thermostats have been integrated into so many homes. These gadgets enable homeowners to control their HVAC systems remotely via a smartphone or, of course, locally via a user-friendly screen. Heck, some of them even adjust temperatures automatically based on occupancy or learned preferences. Plus, they provide more information than ever before as they track and analyze heating and cooling habits and record energy usage.

The latest smart thermostats have even more features than their older counterparts, so there’s more to consider when setting one up. For instance, installation involves extra power requirements and establishing wireless communication with other smart devices. So, before you select and attempt to install a new smart thermostat, get to know the technology better with industry insight from Daniel O’Brian, the technical expert for the online HVAC and plumbing retailer SupplyHouse.com.

1. Installing a smart thermostat is a first step toward saving money on heating and cooling.

While smart thermostats are undeniably convenient, O’Brian tells us that one of their biggest benefits is their ability to conserve energy. “Smart thermostats can save money on energy costs in two ways: the ability to monitor and control temperature remotely and the function (on select models) to learn user behavior and adjust settings accordingly,” O’Brian says. Each of these capabilities helps ensure that your HVAC system won’t be running unnecessarily when no one is around to appreciate the comfort. In fact, when installed and used correctly, a smart thermostat can save as much as 25 percent on utility bills.

6 Things to Know Before Switching to a Smart Thermostat

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2. Smart thermostats offer a variety of advanced climate controls.

When describing gadgets, the word “smart” often refers to their ability to connect to other WiFi-powered devices, but these products are also often smartly designed, tailored for seamless, intuitive operation. Some smart thermostats sense when a room is occupied, then tweak the temperature to suit. Others know when you’re on your way home from work—using a GPS-based feature called “geofencing”—and adjust the temperature so your house is comfortable upon your arrival. And then there’s the 3rd Generation Nest Learning Thermostat Pro (available from SupplyHouse), which combines room sensors with your smartphone’s location and your input temperature preferences in the first week to begin automatically adjusting the temperature in your home. You won’t have to make any other adjustments, unless, of course, you need to change the schedule for vacations.

6 Things to Know Before Switching to a Smart Thermostat

Photo: supplyhouse.com

3. A Wi-Fi connection is required.

“Homeowners will always need a Wi-Fi network to take advantage of all of the benefits of a smart thermostat,” O’Brian says. “Only Wi-Fi can enable connections to smartphones and other smart-home devices.” For example, in order to access any of the benefits of the built-in Amazon Alexa Voice Service on the Ecobee4 Voice-Enabled Smart Thermostat (available from SupplyHouse)—including “skills” like setting the temperature, starting a music playlist, or adding an item to a shopping list—you have to have a Wi-Fi network in your house.

4. A mobile app is necessary for smartphone control.

Home installation isn’t the only part of the process; a new smart thermostat requires installation on a smartphone, tablet, or laptop as well. Every smart thermostat pairs with a free-to-download mobile app from the same manufacturer that provides remote access. For example, the Honeywell T6 Pro Smart Wi-Fi 3H/2C Thermostat (available from SupplyHouse) works by downloading the Lyric app from Google Play (for Android devices) or from Apple iTunes (for iOS devices).

But if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions, installing and connecting an app to a mobile device is usually painless, provided your mobile device has a compatible operating system. “The ability to control smart thermostats through a mobile app is perhaps their best feature,” O’Brian says. “The app can be used to keep an eye on a vacation home, or to simply turn up the heat or A/C on the way home from work.”

5. Consider your existing smart-home system when searching for the right model.

Today’s smart thermostats not only do a great job automating and monitoring temperature settings, but they also tend to be more integrated with the home. Most boast compatibility with one of the big names in smart-home voice assistants—Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Microsoft Cortana, Samsung SmartThings, Logitech Harmony, or Wink. When shopping for the right thermostat, make sure the one you choose is compatible with your existing smart-home system. If you don’t yet have a smart-home system, do some research and make sure the thermostat you buy is compatible with your preferred system so you’ll be good to go if you do add one in the future. Fortunately, many smart-home thermostats will connect to a variety of systems rather than just one. For example, Honeywell’s Lyric Round Smart Wi-Fi Thermostat (available from SupplyHouse) integrates with Samsung SmartThings, Apple HomeKit, and other systems.



6 Things to Know Before Switching to a Smart Thermostat

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6. Unless you know a lot about wiring, have an electrician install your smart thermostat.

Unlike older thermostats, smart thermostats often require a C-wire, “which provides 24 volts of electricity to power features such as lighted touch screens and Wi-Fi communication,” O’Brian explains. Many newer homes have a C-wire, but some older ones don’t. In those cases, homeowners should hire a professional electrician to install one or, if that’s not an option, select a smart thermostat that offers an alternative method of powering the unit. For example, Johnson Controls’ GLAS Smart Thermostat (available from SupplyHouse) can be connected via a C-wire, but it also comes with a C-wire adapter that can be installed near the HVAC unit’s control board.



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


Buyer’s Guide: Painter’s Tape

Get clean, crisp results on your next paint project by using the painter’s tape best suited to your surfaces.

The Best Painter's Tape, According to DIYers

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For a pro-quality paint job, you’ve got to focus on the areas you don’t want to receive paint as well as the ones you do—and that’s where painter’s tape comes in. A special kind of masking tape designed for easy removal, painter’s tape is placed where surfaces meet—such as walls and molding, or around a ceiling medallion or light fixture—to ensure sharp, even edges when you peel it off. Painter’s tape lets you work with confidence, leaving you with fewer painting mistakes to correct.

Painter’s tape is slightly thicker than ordinary masking tape, so as not to tear and leave remnants on surfaces. High-quality versions are also embedded with sponge-like polymers to absorb moisture, thereby preventing bleeding onto unpainted areas. It’s also available in different widths and levels of adhesion, tailored to various uses. To choose what’s best for your project, consider the main factors detailed below, then read on to see our top five picks for painter’s tape.

  1. BEST MULTIPURPOSE TAPE: ScotchBlue Original Painter’s Tape, Multi-Use, 1.88 inch X 60 yard
  2. BEST FOR HARD-TO-STICK SURFACES: ScotchBlue 2097-36EC Exterior Surfaces Painter’s Tape, 1.41 inch X 45 yard
  3. BEST FOR DELICATE SURFACES: Frogtape Delicate Surface Painter’s Tape, with PaintBlock, 1.41 inch X 60 yard
  4. BEST FOR WOOD AND DETAIL WORK: ProMask Blue Painter’s Tape with Bloc It 0.94 inch X 60 yard
  5. BEST BUDGET DEAL: Double Bond 14 Day Clean Release Painter’s Tape 1.88 inch X 60 yard

 

The Best Painter's Tape, According to DIYers

Photo: istockphoto.com

The Key Considerations for the Best Painter’s Tape

Job Duration. How long your project will take to complete and cure may affect the type of painter’s tape you use. Check the packaging to determine how long adhesive backing will stay fresh and lift off easily without damaging the surface or splintering into pieces. Because of their stronger adhesives, waterproof and exterior tapes should be removed within seven days to prevent surface damage. A medium-adhesive, multipurpose tape should remove easily up to 14 days after it’s applied, even if exposed to direct sunlight. For delicate surfaces and detail jobs, low-adhesive painter’s tape can last up to 60 days, depending on the brand and degree of sun, heat, and humidity exposure. Label info will give you duration estimates, as well as any environmental factors that may impact tape effectiveness.

Adhesion Level. Painter’s tape has different degrees of stickiness and may be safely left in place for different periods of time. The guidelines below will help you choose the right adhesion strength.

  • Low: A low-adhesion tape is best for delicate surfaces (and may be labeled as such), including faux finishes, wallpaper, and decorative or patterned paint jobs. These tapes can remain in place for a week to two months, depending on brand.
  • Medium: A medium-adhesive, multipurpose tape suits most common indoor surfaces, such as drywall and plaster. It’s also a good choice for easily scratched surfaces, including painted and unpainted wood, metal, glass, and stone. These tapes can typically stay in place for up to two weeks.
  • Heavy-duty: A heavy-duty adhesive (sometimes labeled “for exteriors”) is best for outdoor work, as well as for securing heavy drop cloths and protecting such stick-resistant surfaces as concrete, brick, stucco, and lacquered paints. Weather-resistant tapes should be removed within seven days.
  • Special purpose: If your room has laminate or wood floors (unfinished, or coated in polyurethane or lacquer), protect the floors with rosin paper and tape specially designed for these materials.

Tape Width. To tape off windows, trim, and molding when painting walls, the ideal widths for the job are 1.41 and 1.88 inches. These popular widths create a perfect edge without covering too much of the surface you want to paint—or too little of the trim you want to protect. For corner areas and detail/pattern work, a slightly narrower width of 0.94 inches is preferred, because it fits more easily into tight spaces. When using a smaller brush for detail work, a narrower tape is also more versatile, as it covers less surface area, making it easier to create stripes and other geometric patterns. Extra-wide painter’s tape (from two to three inches) is useful for taping floors and ceilings. A wider tape will catch more accidental splatters, as well as protect floors and ceilings from contact with the brush or roller.

Color. Painter’s tape comes in a variety of shades, but the colors are largely arbitrary and don’t signify qualities of the tape. The one exception is blue painter’s tape, popular for indoor and outdoor uses because it is UV resistant—important if your paint job will be exposed to sunlight. Ultra-violet rays can melt some adhesives to melt, making the tape more difficult to remove. Follow instructions for use and this won’t happen with blue painter’s tape.

The Best Painter’s Tapes

We selected painter’s tape in a range of widths and adhesion levels based on quality, price, and customer satisfaction.



The Best Painter's Tape: Scotch Blue Multipurpose

Photo: amazon.com

1. BEST MULTIPURPOSE TAPE: ScotchBlue Original Painter’s Tape, Multi-Use, 1.88 inch X 60 yard (two-pack for $11.99)

This painter’s tape has been on the market for more than 30 years—and it’s still the gold standard, rating 4.5 stars on Amazon (73 percent give it a full five stars) and 723 customer reviews. UV-resistant, medium-adhesion ScotchBlue promises clean removal after 14 days, with no surface damage. While it comes in a range of widths, from 0.7 to 2.82 inches, the 1.88 inch is ideal for a range of surfaces, both flat and curved, including wood, glass, and painted or textured walls and ceilings.

Available on Amazon.



The Best Painter's Tape: Scotch Blue Exterior

Photo: amazon.com

2. BEST FOR HARD-TO-STICK SURFACES: ScotchBlue 2097-36EC Exterior Surfaces Painter’s Tape, 1.41 inch X 45 yard ($6.84)

For exterior and stick-resistant surfaces like brick, stucco, and concrete, trust the heavy-duty adhesive power of ScotchBlue’s Exterior Surfaces Painter’s Tape. It has a waterproof backing and can withstand sun, wind, and rain, earning it four stars from Amazon customers, who use it for a variety of purposes, including automotive repairs and indoor paint jobs. Its 1.41-inch width is highly versatile, but there’s a 1.88-inch version, too, if you need extra wiggle room. Be sure to remove within seven days for clean results, and never use it on delicate surfaces, as the added adhesive power will lift decorative finishes and wallpaper.

Available on Amazon.



The Best Painter's Tape: Frogtape for Delicate Surfaces

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3. BEST FOR DELICATE SURFACES: Frogtape Delicate Surface Painter’s Tape, with PaintBlock, 1.41 inch X 60 yard (four-pack for $36.99)

To tape wallpaper, finished wood, and fresh paint (as long as it’s dry to the touch), rely on Frogtape Delicate Surface. This low-adhesive tape is embedded with absorbent polymers that react with latex paints, forming a gel barrier that stops paint from bleeding. The tape can stay in place for up to 60 days and is best for interior use. The 1.41-inch width is highly versatile, especially for trim, windows, and detail work. Amazon customers give it a solid four stars, and expert testers at Consumer Reports were also impressed: Compared to its leading competitors, Frogtape Delicate Surface Painter’s Tape was the easiest to remove and created crisp, beautiful lines.

Available on Amazon.



The Best Painter's Tape: ProMask Blue with Bloc It

Photo: amazon.com

4. BEST FOR WOOD AND DETAIL WORK: ProMask Blue Painter’s Tape with Bloc It 0.94 inch X 60 yard ($4.12)

Using proprietary technology, ProMask Painter’s Tape has specially designed edges that prevent paint bleeding and seepage, especially when applied to wooden, lacquered, and laminated surfaces. This nicely priced tape is UV resistant but should be removed within 14 days for best results. Its slightly narrower width (0.94 inches) makes it ideal for corner and detail painting. Amazon customers award it 4.1 stars, and it also received the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval in 2010.

Available at Amazon.



The Best Painter's Tape: Double Bond

Photo: amazon.com

5. BEST BUDGET DEAL: Double Bond 14 Day Clean Release Painter’s Tape 1.88 inch X 60 yard (four-pack for $20.99)

Good value plus good quality equals a great painter’s tape—and Double Bond Painter’s Tape delivers both, netting a 4.8-star Amazon rating. Some customers quibbled that it’s thinner than 3M ScotchBlue (our Best Multipurpose pick) and may tear slightly on removal but were happy with finished results overall. It comes in a range of widths, from 0.71 to 1.88 inches, and you can buy in bulk for real savings. Designed for both interior and exterior paint jobs, Double Bond is UV resistant and can handle temperatures ranging from 40 to 130 degrees. If you’re not 100 percent happy with the results, the company promises a full refund.

Available on Amazon.


Buyer’s Guide: Space Heaters

Understand which features matter most so that you can find the space heater that works best to warm up your home.

Best Space Heater

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Ever-rising utility costs can make it difficult to heat an entire house during the coldest months of the year. To keep occupied areas comfortable—say, the home office from 9 to 5 or the living room during a movie marathon—while the rest of the house remains heated just enough, many homeowners turn to space heaters as a means of conserving energy.

Those in the market for a replacement or addition are in for a pleasant surprise. Today’s models offer basic heating features at more affordable prices than in years past, and newer bells and whistles including upgraded safety features abound. Ahead, learn how to navigate all of the options in the market—and why we consider the following six space heaters as best in their class:

  1. BEST FOR QUICK HEAT: Fannel Ceramic Space Heater with Adjustable Thermostat
  2. BEST FOR TABLETOP USE: NEXGADGET Mini Space Heater
  3. BEST FOR HOMES WITHOUT SMALL CHILDREN: Aigostar Pangpang Oil-Filled Radiator Space Heater
  4. BEST FOR BATHROOMS: OPOLAR Ceramic Bathroom Space Heater
  5. BEST FOR LOOKS: Lasko Designer Series Space Heater
  6. BEST ON-THE-GO SPACE HEATER: Rxment Instaheater Miniature Wall Space Heater

Key Considerations for Choosing the Best Space Heater

Consider safety first. Space heaters are a leading cause of house fires in winter, so it’s smart to stock one that boasts additional safety features that reduce the risk of burns and fires. Manufacturers have introduced automatic shut-offs that kick in when a unit overheats or gets inadvertently knocked over, and exterior cases keep a unit cool to the touch while the heater runs. Some models even come equipped with motion sensors that detect and turn the heater off when a pet or child comes too close. For extra peace of mind in your purchase, look for the letters “NTRL” on the space heater packaging; these indicate that the model has been tested for safety by the Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory.

Note: Before heading out to buy a space heater, call your homeowner’s insurance agent. Some insurance policies will not cover damages from a fire caused by a space heater.

Know your heating needs. A common consumer complaint about any space heater is that the unit does not warm the room adequately. Assessing your needs—as well as a room’s limitations—will help ensure you find the best space heater to meet your needs.

As a general rule of thumb, select a space heater that will produce 10 watts of power for every square foot of floor space. For instance, to heat a 10-foot by 12-foot room, you’d need to purchase a 1200-watt space heater. A very large room may require more than one space heater to maintain a comfortable temperature throughout.

Other factors that affect a space heater’s efficiency include ceiling height, the insulating factor of the exterior walls, the number of windows, and the available outlets. While high-wattage heaters offer more heat than lower-wattage models, they’re limited to the capacity of the electrical outlets they plug into. Since a home’s standard 110-volt electrical outlet can only provide 1,500 watts of power, that’s what the wattage would cap at for any machine plugged into it.

Find the right type. 

  • Fan space heaters are among the least expensive models on the market, ranging in price from $25 to $80, but the design—one that heats the air around an electric coil or wire elements and disperses the heat with a fan—does not offer the same efficiency as other space heater types. Plus, the fan motor can be quite noisy. They’re best saved for rooms without drafts and for when you need to heat up a small space quickly.
  • Convection space heaters warm air over ceramic plates or disks and allow it to flow naturally back into the room. Some models do include fans for quicker heating, and, like plain fan heaters, they work best in rooms without drafts. Convection heaters come in compact or tower models, often with exterior cases that are cooler to the touch. Prices range from $30 to $80, depending on wattage and added features.
  • Infrared space heaters are among the quietest options for the home, starting at $60 per unit. They generate heat quickly, not by heating the air in the room but by radiating heat to the objects in front of them. Because this type of heater heats you—not the air—it’s a good choice for use in drafty rooms. Just aim it at your chair and enjoy.
  • Oil-filled space heaters take a while to heat up but, when they do, radiate continuous warm heat. These units are particularly well suited for larger rooms where they’re left on for long periods. Due to the weight of the oil and steel casing, many of these heavy heaters utilize wheels for easy relocation. Prices start around $65 for small units and run into the hundreds for larger models.
  • Micathermic space heaters combine convection and radiant heating processes. Designed as a panel to stand or hang on a wall as you would a picture, they create a welcoming ambiance for all of the senses by mimicking the look of a real fire and radiating heat. Some models include fans for greater efficiency and remote controls for extra convenience. These advanced heaters range in price from $300 to over $1,000 for designer models.

The Best Space Heaters

After comparing space heater reviews from consumers, we’ve rounded up six of the most highly rated models available today to help you find one that fits your home’s needs and your wallet’s budget. No matter where you need a little extra heat, one of the following six space heaters is sure to fit the bill.

The Best Space Heaters: Fannel

Photo: amazon.com

BEST FOR QUICK HEAT: Fannel Ceramic Space Heater with Adjustable Thermostat

You won’t have to shout to be heard over the Fannel Ceramic Space Heater while it’s running. Amazon buyers award the Fannel a resounding 4.8 stars for its quiet operation and its ability to quickly heat rooms up to 150 sq. ft. It comes with an adjustable thermostat, an over-heat shutoff, and a tip-over shutoff as well. At less than 15 inches high, and weighing just over 2 lbs., the Fannel heater is small on size but big on heat output. It comes with an easy-carry handle for moving from room to room as needed.

Available from Amazon.

The Best Space Heaters: NEXGADGET

Photo: amazon.com

BEST FOR TABLETOP USE: NEXGADGET Mini Space Heater

When you need a little extra heat on a bedside table, a countertop, or a desk (or under it), you won’t go wrong with the NEXGADGET Mini Space Heater. Happy Amazon buyers claim the NEXTGADGET is “small but mighty” and award it 4.4 stars for its ability to warm small spaces (4 to 7 feet away from the heater) without taking up a lot of room. Its tiny size—less than 7 inches high and 5 inches wide—makes it perfect for setting on a tabletop. It comes with a turbofan to warm you up quickly, and a fan-only option for use on hot days. It features both over-heating and tip-over protection, and the fan’s housing remains cool to the touch even when the space heater is running.

Available from Amazon.

The Best Space Heaters: Aigostar

Photo: amazon.com

BEST FOR HOMES WITHOUT SMALL CHILDREN: Aigostar Pangpang Oil-Filled Radiator Space Heater

When you need continuous heat in rooms up to 160 sq. ft., look no further than the Aigostar Pangpang Oil-Filled Radiator Space Heater. This large wheeled radiant heater (26 inches high by 15 inches wide and weighing nearly 20lbs.) is designed to heat an entire room without making a sound. It comes with a programmable timer, three heat settings, and a tip-over shutoff. The heater oil comes in a permanently sealed unit to prevent leaks. Because the Aigostar is a true radiator, it becomes very hot to the touch, so it isn’t appropriate for homes with toddlers. Amazon buyers love the comforting warmth of the 4.7-star space heater: It takes 20 minutes to heat up, but once it’s warm, it continues to radiate warmth throughout the room.

Available from Amazon.

The Best Space Heaters: OPOLAR

Photo: amazon.com

BEST FOR BATHROOMS: OPOLAR Ceramic Bathroom Space Heater

Most space heaters are not recommended for use in steamy bathrooms due to the risk of condensation forming on the heater and causing it to short out or malfunction, but you don’t have to worry about that with the OPOLAR Ceramic Bathroom Space Heater. It features the waterproof housing and circuit protection plug that are necessary for functioning in the bathroom so that you can step out of a shower without feeling immediately chilled. (Like all electrical appliances, however, do not set the heater in standing water.) This 4.1-star space heater features both over-heat and tip-over shutoff protection, an adjustable thermostat, and a handle for easy carrying. The OPOLAR weighs in at just over 4 lbs. and is less than 14 inches high and 9 inches wide. It also features 80-degree oscillation for even heat distribution.

Available from Amazon.

The Best Space Heaters: Lasko

Photo: amazon.com

BEST FOR LOOKS: Lasko Designer Series Space Heater

The Lasko Designer Series Space Heater comes in an attractive soft tan color, features a smooth contoured shape, and rests on an ornate base, making it look more like a work of art than a space heater. Visitors to your home won’t even know it’s a space heater! It’s not just for looks, however; it effectively heats rooms up to 150 sq. ft. Switch between its adjustable heat settings via the remote—even program it in advance to turn on and off when desired—and the Lasko fan oscillates smoothly from side to side for uniform heat distribution. Amazon buyers award the fan a hearty 4.4 stars for looks, quiet operation, and unobtrusive heating.

Available from Amazon.

The Best Space Heaters: Rxment

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BEST ON-THE-GO SPACE HEATER: Rxment Instaheater Miniature Wall Space Heater

Need a little extra heat when you’re on the go? If so, the Rxment Instaheater Miniature Wall Space Heater is just the ticket. This minuscule space heater (measuring just 5.6 by 5.5 by 4.5 inches and weighing in at just over 1 lb.) plugs directly into the wall to offer soothing warmth no matter where you are. Carry it from room to room as you go about your activities, or take it to and from work. As long as an outlet is nearby, you’ll have instant heat in a 3 to 6 ft. space in front of the space heater. Amazon buyers love the handy little Rxment heater, giving it an enthusiastic 4.4 stars for on-the-spot warmth, portability, and convenience. It comes with an adjustable thermostat, a digital display, and an easy On/Off switch.

Available from Amazon.


Solved! How to Coordinate the Best Kitchen Lighting Design

Switch out a dark kitchen for a bright and welcoming one with these illuminating ideas.

3 Key Elements to Kitchen Lighting Design

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Q: My kitchen doesn’t get much natural light. What kitchen lighting design would you recommend?

A: A well-lit kitchen is a must given the room’s many uses as a social space and transit zone, food prep and cooking hub, and display area for decor. But beyond improving the overall visibility of the space, proper lighting makes it quicker and easier to stow or retrieve items in cabinets high or low, allows you to slice and dice with greater safety and precision, and can even make a space-starved kitchen look and feel larger.

While many homeowners cite a lack of natural light as the culprit behind their dim kitchen, artificial lighting of the wrong type or in the wrong location can add to the problem. When revamping lighting design, it’s smart to consider everything from function and fixture to the type of light bulbs you use. Ahead, solutions to common kitchen lighting challenges to ensure optimal illumination for all your needs.

RELATED: 25 Illuminating Lighting Ideas for a Beautiful Kitchen

Base your kitchen lighting design on three layers of lighting.

Your kitchen should ideally feature fixtures that fall in the following categories:

  1. Ambient lighting is soft overhead light that illuminates the floor and walls so you can easily enter, exit, and navigate the kitchen.
  2. Task lighting is brighter to illuminate countertops, islands, sinks, and other work areas for increased precision during food prep, cooking, and cleaning.
  3. Accent lighting, in between ambient and task lighting in brightness, highlights architectural features or decor in the kitchen, such as a coffered ceiling or a collection of fine china.

A layered approach incorporating all three types brings the right level of lighting for the various uses of a kitchen. It also helps minimize shadows, which often result from the exclusive use of overhead lighting, and glare, which can stem from only using bright task lighting.



How to Improve Your Kitchen Lighting Design

Photo: istockphoto.com

Buy light fixtures suited for each layer.

Look for the best fixtures in each of the three lighting categories:

  • Ambient light fixtures in the kitchen include recessed lights mounted inside shallow openings in the ceiling, flush-mount or semi-flush-mount fixtures that affix to the ceiling with a small or large gap between the fixture and ceiling, respectively, and chandeliers or lanterns that hang from the ceiling by a chain.
  • Task light fixtures include pendant lights that hang from the ceiling and multi-bulb LED strips or LED tape that mounts or sticks on or inside your kitchen cabinets, pantry, or drawers. Under-cabinet lighting is ideal for illuminating countertops
  • Accent light fixtures include cove lights that are built into the ceiling and puck lights—round, low-profile lights that mount on or inside cabinets.


How to Improve Your Kitchen Lighting Design

Photo: istockphoto.com

Position fixtures based on function and type.

Ambient light fixtures should direct light evenly across the kitchen floor, so position them as follows:

  • When installing a single semi-flush-mount or flush-mount fixture, chandelier, or lantern, position it directly above the island, or at the center of the ceiling if you don’t have an island.
  • When installing recessed lights, leave a distance between the lights equaling half the height of the ceiling (e.g., space lights five feet apart in a kitchen with a 10-foot ceiling). To avoid casting shadows on countertops, try to position recessed lights above countertops so they are set a few inches back from the front edge of the countertops.

Task lighting should cast light down onto a work surface, so position them as follows:

  • Pendant lights are ideally placed directly above sinks, standalone chopping stations, dining tables, and other hubs of activity. But you also want to avoid placing them directly above appliances with their own built-in lighting, such as stove ranges or refrigerators. To minimize glare while you work, mount so that the pendant is no closer than two-and-a-half feet from the surface it’s lighting.
  • LED strips or tape should be placed on the underside of upper cabinets to cast a spotlight on food and drinks on countertops. Placing them inside drawers, behind cabinet or pantry doors, or on the underside of base cabinets can also afford easier storage and retrieval of utensils, food, pots and pans, or cleaning supplies kept inside. Mount these lights one to three inches from the front of the cabinet to reduce glare.

Accent lighting should highlight the details or decor you want to show off, so position them as follows:

  • Install cove lights in the ledges of a ceiling to play up decorative ceiling tiles.
  • Place puck lights on the underside of upper cabinets to showcase vases or other countertop decor, or on the roof of a cabinet shelf, one to two inches from the back of the shelf, to elegantly backlight tea sets and other showpieces.


20 Tips to Improve Your Kitchen Lighting Design

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Use light housings to diffuse light over glossy kitchen surfaces.

Certain LED light fixtures, such as LED strips, cast a beam of light onto a surface that is brightest and most concentrated at the center of the beam and less bright on the edges. This is suitable to countertops made of butcher block, stone, or another material with a flat or matte finish. But with marble, granite, or similarly glossy materials, the center of the beam can produce a distracting glare even when placed a few feet away from it. To avoid this, place LED light strips inside light housings (available from brands like Litever on Amazon), which are aluminum channels with frosted covers that help diffuse bright light and minimize glare on shiny kitchen surfaces.

RELATED: 8 Common Lighting Mistakes Almost Everyone Makes

Choose bulbs that emit ideal color temperature.

Incandescent, LED, and compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs for the kitchen come in one of three color temperatures that describe the color characteristics of the light the bulb emits. There’s Soft White (2700K to 3000 Kelvins (K)), Cool White/Bright White (3500K to 4100K), and Daylight (5000K to 6500K). The higher the bulb temperature, the cooler (i.e., bluer) the light it emits; the lower the temperature, the warmer (i.e., more amber) the light. Choose the color temperature best suited for the function of the fixture:

  • Ambient and task light fixtures: Opt for bulbs with a color temperature of 3500K to 4100K to ensure that floors and work surfaces are lit with a neutral, true white light.
  • Accent light fixtures: Choose a temperature of 2700K to 3000K to backlight showpieces with warmer light, or a temperature of 3500K to 4100K to cast sharper white light on muted architectural details or decor you want to play up.


How to Improve Your Kitchen Lighting Design

Photo: istockphoto.com

Incorporate natural light sources.

Remodeling your kitchen to include a natural ambient light source such as a skylight or one or more windows can lend extra warmth to the room and fill any gaps in the light coverage of your artificial light fixtures. Even in a packed kitchen, there will often be vacant spots where you can install a window, including:

  • A small window set in the middle of a backsplash.
  • Tall and narrow windows placed in a gap on the wall between upper cabinets.
  • Clerestory windows, which are short and wide windows that sit above the eye level, usually located along the top of a wall.
  • Porthole windows, which are small, round windows placed high on a wall.
  • Adding a pane of glass to a door.

Buyer’s Guide: Caulking Guns

Seal gaps between surfaces smoothly and seamlessly with the right caulking gun for your particular projects.

The Best Caulking Guns for Home Repairs

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All caulking guns have a single purpose: deliver a continuous bead of caulk in order to seal joints between two surfaces, such as gaps between window frames and jambs. The majority of the caulking guns used today are manual, meaning you squeeze a hand trigger to dispense the sealant. Powered caulking guns—the new kids on the block—are growing in popularity because all you need do is guide the tip of the gun to create a smooth, continuous bead of caulk.

The ideal caulking gun for you will depend on the type of sealant you’re applying and the scope of your project. Read on to learn how to make the right decision and find out why we selected the following six caulking guns as best in their class:

  1. BEST BUDGET CHOICE FOR LIGHT USE: Newborn 188 Super Ratchet Rod Cradle Caulking Gun
  2. BEST FOR OCCASIONAL USE: Newborn Drip-Free Smooth Hex Rod Caulking Gun
  3. BEST FOR CAULKING AROUND CORNERS: Newborn 250 Smooth Rod Revolving Frame Caulking Gun
  4. BEST FOR THICK SEALANT: PC Products Steel Dispensing Caulking Gun
  5. BEST SAUSAGE GUN: Newborn Round Rod Sausage Gun
  6. BEST POWERED GUN FOR EXTENDED OR PRECISION USE: Chicago Pneumatic Air Caulking Gun

While the sight of dozens of options on display at home improvement stores (or online) may seem daunting, if you follow these tips to understand the basics of how these tools work, you’ll easily choose the best caulking gun for the job.



Choosing The Best Caulking Guns for Home Repairs

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KEY CONSIDERATIONS WHEN CHOOSING A CAULKING GUN

Check out the rod. Squeezing the hand trigger on a manual caulking gun forces a rod into the back of the tube of caulk, which in turn pushes the caulk out of the tube’s tip. There are two main types of gun rod that vary slightly in performance.

  • Ratchet rod: Caulking guns with ratchet rods (serrated rods that “catch” with each hand squeeze) are inexpensive and suitable for light projects. The biggest problem with ratchet rods is that the sealant keeps oozing out until you twist the end of the rod and pull it back to release pressure. This can make a mess and lead to wasted sealant.
  • Smooth rod: When you’re done applying caulk with a smooth rod caulking gun—often advertised as “dripless”—you need only depress a thumb lever to release pressure on the sealant.

Get the right thrust ratio. Look for the thrust ratio on the caulking gun’s package or in its the online description. Thrust ratio relates to the amount of force generated each time you squeeze the hand trigger. The higher the ratio, the more force exerted with each squeeze. This is important because different types of sealant are more or less viscid (thick). With thicker sealants, more thrust ratio is required to dispense the sealant. Thrust ratios run from 3:1 to 28:1. Guns with lower ratios are suitable for dispensing thin types of caulk, such as water-based, latex caulk, while higher thrust ratios are needed for dispensing more viscous types of caulk, such as epoxy sealants.

Look for a revolving frame to caulk around corners. Stopping and starting when running a bead of caulk can lead to unsightly lumps and bulges. It’s especially challenging to run a continuous bead around a corner because you must change hand position and the angle of the gun. With a revolving frame, however, as you round a corner, simply rotate the frame (instead of the whole gun) to caulk without interruption.

Save product with a sausage gun. It sounds like a breakfast tool, but a sausage gun is actually designed to hold collapsible foil cylinders of sealant, called “sausages.” These caulking guns, which operate in much the same manner as others (manual or powered), let you squeeze every last bit of sealant from the sausage, so there’s very little waste.

Consider a powered caulking gun. Repeatedly squeezing a trigger can lead to hand and wrist fatigue, which is why powered caulking guns are becoming more popular. When they first hit the market a few years ago, powered caulking guns were reserved for commercial and industrial projects. Today, DIYers are discovering the benefit of letting the gun dispense the sealant so they can focus on creating a smooth bead. With no hand trigger, thrust ratio does not apply. Instead, you’ll regulate dispensing pressure via a light squeeze on the finger trigger.

  • Electric: Like other electric tools, an electric caulking gun comes with a cord and requires access to an electrical outlet. Light pressure on a finger trigger allows you to dispense just the right amount of sealant.
  • Battery Powered: This bad boy has removable batteries and a charger, so you can run a bead of caulk in locations where electricity isn’t available, typically running two to three hours per charge. If you have a lot of caulking to do, consider investing in an extra battery so you won’t run out of juice before you’re done.
  • Pneumatic: Air-powered caulking guns are among the most popular powered options for home workshops because there’s no battery to charge and they interchange with other air-power tools, but you will need an air compressor. In addition to the gun’s finger trigger, dispensing pressure can be regulated by adjusting the pressure on your air compressor.

Our Top Six Picks

Best Caulking Gun: Newborn 188 Super Ratchet Rod

Photo: amazon.com

1. BEST BUDGET CHOICE FOR LIGHT USE: Newborn 188 Super Ratchet Rod Cradle Caulking Gun ($7.42)

There’s no need to invest in an expensive gun for occasional small caulking projects, such as sealing a gap between the tub and the wall. The nicely priced Newborn 188 Super Ratchet Rod Cradle Caulking Gun has traditional ratchet rod technology, and with a 6:1 thrust ratio it’s best for dispensing low viscosity sealant, such as painter’s latex caulk. It comes with a built-in pin for puncturing the seal on the caulk tube and a built-in cutter to nip off the tip of the tube. Amazon buyers give The Newborn 188 caulking gun 4.4 stars for price, soundness, and dependability.

Available from Amazon.



Best Caulking Gun: Newborn Drip-Free Smooth Hex Rod

Photo: amazon.com

2. BEST FOR OCCASIONAL USE: Newborn Drip-Free Smooth Hex Rod Caulking Gun ($8.55)

The smooth rod on the Newborn Drip-Free Smooth Hex Rod Caulking Gun automatically retracts after you release the comfort-grip hand trigger to prevent excess caulk from oozing out. It features a 10:1 thrust ratio and will easily dispense light to light-medium viscosity caulk,
making it well suited for latex and silicone. Amazon buyers love the gun’s smooth-pull hand trigger and dripless technology, awarding it a hearty 4.4 stars. It comes with a built-in seal puncturing tool, a cutting tool, and a handy hook for hanging the gun on a ladder rung.

Available from Amazon.



Best Caulking Gun: Newborn 250 Smooth Rod

Photo: amazon.com

3. BEST FOR CAULKING AROUND CORNERS: Newborn 250 Smooth Rod Revolving Frame Caulking Gun ($23.84)

With its revolving frame, the Newborn 250 Smooth Rod Revolving Frame Caulking Gun makes caulking around corners a snap. No need to start and stop—simply rotate the barrel and the angled tip of the tube rotates to the correct position to continue running a bead. The Newborn 250 is built to last, with a zinc alloy handle to reduce corrosion, and it features a hefty 18:1 thrust ratio to easily dispense medium viscosity caulk, including butyl and acrylic. It comes with a thumb release for dripless operation. Amazon buyers give the Newborn 250 4.5 stars for quality construction and ease of caulking around corners and in tight spots.

Available from Amazon.



Best Caulking Gun: PC Products

Photo: amazon.com

4. BEST FOR THICK SEALANT: PC Products Steel Dispensing Caulking Gun ($24.19)

With a high thrust ratio of 26:1, the PC Products Steel Caulking Gun is a workhorse that smoothly and easily dispenses thick sealants. The gun can be used with any type of caulk or sealant, but its main purpose is to dispense high viscosity sealants, such as concrete epoxy. It features a smooth rod and a thumb release to prevent oozing and waste. At 4.7 stars, the PC Products Caulking Gun has one of the highest ratings on Amazon, in addition to some of the happiest customers, who rave about its quality steel construction and stellar performance. If you need just one caulking gun to use for multiple types of caulk—look no further.

Available from Amazon.



Best Caulking Gun: Newborn Round Rod Sausage Gun

Photo: amazon.com

5. BEST SAUSAGE GUN: Newborn Round Rod Sausage Gun ($48.04)

An investment bound to pay off in time, the Newborn Round Rod Sausage Gun features an 18:1 thrust ratio to easily handle both light and medium viscosity sealants. It comes with three cones (dispensing tips), a ring cap (to hold the cones in place), and an easy release thumb plate. Plus, you can use it with standard caulk tubes as well as sausages. Amazon buyers award the Newborn sausage gun with 4.6 stars for durable construction, ease of use, and precision caulking application, claiming it works just as well as even pricier sausage guns.

Available from Amazon.



Best Caulking Gun: Chicago Pneumatic Air

Photo: amazon.com

6. BEST POWERED GUN FOR EXTENDED OR PRECISION USE: Chicago Pneumatic Air Caulking Gun ($45.99)

Whether sealing every window in your house or constructing a full set of cabinets in your workshop, with a large caulking project, you’ll appreciate effortless caulking with the Chicago Pneumatic Air Caulking Gun. Amazon buyers give this powered caulking gun an enthusiastic 4.5-star endorsement, calling it a “cramp saver.” For ease of use, versatility, and ability to adapt to light or heavy viscosity caulk without a glitch, the Chicago Pneumatic Air Gun is a keeper.

Available from Amazon.