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- Walls & Ceilings >
- Genius! How to Disguise an Ugly Thermostat
Genius! How to Disguise an Ugly Thermostat
Try one DIYer's simple, state-of-the-art solution to hide the eyesore of thermostats and other bulky wall-mounted consoles.
Megan Pflug‘s gallery wall was a near masterpiece except for one niggling imperfection. A glaring white programmable thermostat, previously installed smack dab in the middle of the wall, stood out like a sore thumb against the rich peacock blue backdrop. Though the drab device cramped the hallway’s aesthetics, ripping out the indispensable indoor unit wasn’t an option. The professional interior designer needed a more practical—and more artful—alternative for hiding a thermostat while retaining access to its utility.
A lover of fine art, the one-woman business owner found the solution for her decorative dilemma at a nearby antique store: a vintage oil painting framed by a wooden stretcher. The canvas stretcher was deep enough that it could completely cover the slim box of a thermostat while blending with the collection of wall hangings already in place. Enlisting a screwdriver and a few short screws, she secured one side of a large hinge to the stretcher bar behind the right edge of the painting; the second half screwed into a set of wall anchors in the drywall to the right of the thermostat to keep the hefty artwork hanging in place. Mounted on a hinge rather than a standard nail or photo hook, she could now conveniently swing the loose edge of the painting out or in rather than remove the canvas completely in order to gain access to the thermostat—or hide it—at a moment’s notice.
Dealing with eyesores of your own? Megan’s high-art yet low-effort cover-up is versatile enough to hide either nail holes or technological intrusions on the wall, whether that be an errant fuse box, security system console, or an ancient thermostat that dates the otherwise modern design of your home but isn’t ready for a replacement. Hang other eye-catching paintings or portraits alongside the picturesque thermostat cover, and no one will be any the wiser.
FOR MORE: One Kings Lane
- Interior Design >
- All You Need to Know About Light Bulb Types
All You Need to Know About Light Bulb Types
The last time you went off in search of a replacement light bulb, were you left paralyzed by the proliferation of new types of bulbs in the lighting aisle? Here, we clear away the confusion with this helpful breakdown of the different varieties on the market and their best uses.
It’s not your imagination: The light bulb section in your local hardware store has grown. Bulbs of every type, color, and shape line the shelves in a wide—and confusing—array of options, making it hard to find the right bulb for your needs. But once you understand bulb basics, choosing the right replacement bulb for your lamp or fixture can be a snap. We’ve put together what you need to know about the many different types of light bulbs on the market these days so the next time you’re face with a burned-out bulb, you’ll be prepared.
LIGHT BULB LINGO
Before you head out in search of a new bulb, get a grasp on terminology manufacturers use to measure the input and output of certain types of light bulbs.
Watts indicate the amount of energy the bulb will use. Bulbs with lower wattage will use less electricity, and can therefore help keep the electricity bill down. Here, the age-old mantra holds true: Less is more.
Lumens indicate the amount of light the bulb will emit. The number of lumens to look for depends on the room you’re lighting, as some spaces (like the bathroom) could use a brighter bulb, and others (say, the bedroom) benefit from softer light. To calculate the optimal number of lumens, multiply the room’s square footage by these rule-of-thumb figures:
• 7.5 lumens per square foot in hallways
• 15 lumens per square foot in the bedroom
• 35 lumens per square foot in dining rooms, kitchens, and offices
• 75 lumens per square foot in bathrooms
Typically, a standard 100-watt incandescent bulb emits approximately 1600 lumens. Newer types of light bulbs, however, require less power and emit just as much light.
BULB TYPE: INCANDESCENT
Standard incandescent bulbs—known for being energy hogs—have experienced an energy-efficiency upgrade that began, for bulbs sold in California, in 2011 and became nationwide in 2012 as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Common household light bulbs, which traditionally used between 40 and 100 watts before 2011, now use at least 27 percent less energy than they did back in the day while still producing comparable lumens. That means that you’re less likely to find 100-watt bulbs on shelves today, which stopped being manufactured in 2012, and are more likely to be greeted with options of 30, 40, and 50 watts. Incandescent bulbs do not contain mercury, and they last an average of one year before needing to be replaced.
Best For: Use with dimmable light fixtures, vanity lighting (because incandescent light flatters skin), and low-voltage lighting. Try the candelabra-base GE 60-Watt Bulb in your dimmable dining room chandelier ($5.97 for a 4-pack at Home Depot), or buy the Philips 7-Watt C7 Replacement Bulb for your toddler’s night-light ($3.97 for a 4-pack at Home Depot).
BULB TYPE: FLUORESCENT
Fluorescent tube bulbs have been around for years. You’re no doubt well acquainted with the long, cylindrical glass tubes you see in overhead lights in department stores, but you can also find circular and U-shaped fluorescent tubes to fit specialty fixtures. This particular type of light bulb uses less energy than incandescent bulbs, but it contains mercury vapor and a phosphor coating that converts UV light to visible light when turned on. Because these bulbs contain mercury, many communities have regulations for their disposal.
Best For: Bright lighting needs in your workshop. We like the Philips T12 40-Watt Daylight Deluxe Linear Fluorescent Tube ($9.97 for a 2-pack at Home Depot); while it draws only 40 watts, it produces 2,325 lumens of bright light.
BULB TYPE: COMPACT FLUORESCENT
Compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs—easily identified by their hallmark curlicue design—use a fraction of the wattage incandescent bulbs use. While good for reading and project work, the light they emit is relatively harsh and undesirable in vanity lighting, where they can add 10 years to your appearance. Like fluorescent tubes, CFLs contain mercury, so broken bulbs should be disposed of according to the EPA’s suggestions for cleanup. Note: Most CFLs don’t work with dimmer switches and aren’t particularly well suited for light fixtures you switch on and off frequently, as this habit can shorten their useful life.
Best For: Overhead lights, lamps, and task lights. A smart choice for replacing the bulb in your reading lamp is the EcoSmart Soft White Spiral CFL ($5.97 for a 4-pack at Home Depot); equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent bulb, it emits 900 lumens of light. In places where you need more illumination, such as for task lighting in the kitchen, try the Philips Daylight Deluxe T2 Twister CFL ($12.95 for a 4-pack at Home Depot), which offers the same amount of light as a 100-watt incandescent bulb.
BULB TYPE: LED
Light emitting diode (LED) bulbs are currently the most energy efficient of all types of light bulbs. Though they were costly when they first hit the market, prices have dropped significantly since then. With lifespans that exceed those of most other bulbs and options that encompass a variety of colors as well as white, these bulbs offer the best bang for your buck. Early LED bulbs offered only directional lighting, but with recent advances, manufacturers are now offering LED bulbs that emit whole-room diffused lighting.
Best For: Just about anywhere you previously used incandescent bulbs. To replace the bulbs in your overhead lights, wall sconces, or table lamps, try Philips Daylight A19 LED Bulbs ($8.97 for a 4-pack at Home Depot) or the Philips Soft-White B11 Candelabra Bulb ($6.97 for a 3-pack at Home Depot).
BULB TYPE: HALOGEN AND XENON
Halogen bulbs use 25 to 80 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs, but still use more than CFLs and LEDs. The white light they emit brings out vibrant tones in furnishings and decor. Halogen bulbs come the closest to natural daylight, but as they get extremely hot, be sure not to use them in any lamp or fixture that small children can reach. A variation on halogen, xenon bulbs cast the same clear white light yet remain cooler to the touch than standard halogen bulbs, making xenon safer for use in table lamps.
Best For: Exterior floodlights, hanging pendant lights, and accent lighting. If you’re looking for an energy-efficient outdoor bulb, try Philips EcoVantage Halogen PAR38 Dimmable Floodlight ($9.97 per bulb at Home Depot). With 1,750 lumens, it will light up walkways and provide a measure of security. Are you in need of a replacement bulb for your bi-pin socket track lighting? Feit Electric’s Xenon 20-Watt Halogen G8 Bulb ($7.95 for a 2-pack at Home Depot) fits the G8-shaped bi-pin base sockets found in popular track, display, and task lights.
BULB TYPE: WI-FI CAPABLE
Strictly in the realm of “specialty bulbs,” Wi-Fi-capable bulbs fit ordinary lamps and fixtures but give you the ability to either program the bulbs to turn on at preset times, or control them remotely from your smartphone or tablet. Read the fine print before you buy one that doesn’t work with your mobile device; some bulbs are strictly Apple- or Android-compatible.
Best For: Remote operation of overhead lights or lamps that you typically set to stay on before you leave for vacation. If you own an iPhone or iPod, check out the Philips Soft White A19 Hue Connected Home LED ($14.97 per bulb at Home Depot), which connects to your home’s Wi-Fi signal so you can operate the light remotely via an app. Alternatively, the Flux Wi-Fi Smart LED Light Bulb ($35 per bulb on Amazon) is a bit pricier but promises more control over brightness and color; for both Apple and Android products.
- Lawn & Garden >
- The Dos and Don’ts of Poinsettia Care
The Dos and Don’ts of Poinsettia Care
If you want to enjoy festive blooms all season—and even beyond—pay attention to these best (and worst) practices.
During the holidays, nothing rivals the floral festivity of the season’s favorite plant: the always colorful poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima). Whether you prefer the traditional red variety or favor hybridized pastel pinks and yellows, you’ll want to provide the best poinsettia care in order to enjoy the plant’s showstopping blooms as long as possible. Simply abide by these six best practices—and avoid the six biggest mistakes—when tending to this ornamental houseplant.
DO Purchase the Healthiest Plant You Can Find
When shopping for a poinsettia, choose a stocky plant with dense foliage that’s deep green in color, and pass on plants with yellowing or dropped leaves. The colorful flowers, called bracts, should be firm with little or no pollen visible in the center.
DON’T Forget to Protect the Plant in the Car
Some stores sell poinsettias in cellophane cones that will protect the plant from wind damage, but if it’s bitterly cold outside, the bracts and leaves could still suffer. Ask for a larger bag to put over the top of your plant to protect it on the trip to the car and into your home.
DO Position Your Poinsettia in a Well-Lit Location
A southern window is ideal. Poinsettias benefit from plenty of direct daytime light to keep them from getting leggy. If a sunny window isn’t available, choose as bright a spot as possible.
DON’T Let the Leaves Touch a Freezing Windowpane
Poinsettias are tropical plants typically grown in greenhouses, so despite their popularity in winter, they despise the cold. Any leaves that press against an icy window after you position the plant in your home will perish, and the chill could even affect the health of the poinsettia as a whole. Prevent an untimely demise by setting your poinsettia safely on a table in front of a window rather than on a windowsill.
DO Make Sure Your Plant Gets Adequate Darkness
In order for those red or white flowers to last more than a month, poinsettias require more than 12 hours of darkness during their peak bloom period. If you’ve placed the plant in a room that you keep lit all evening, just move it to a darker room, closet, or shadowy corner when the sun sets, then put it back in the window the next morning.
DON’T Put Your Poinsettia in a Drafty Spot
The tender leaves and bracts wilt in windy conditions, so keep your plant away from open windows, forced-air registers, and fans.
DO Water Your Plant
Poinsettias should be watered whenever the soil surface feels dry to the touch. The best way to water the plant is to move it, pot and all, to the sink and soak it thoroughly. Let it drain until no more water runs out—this will take about an hour—and then place it back in its spot.
DON’T Let Your Poinsettia Stand in Water
Sure, soaking your poinsettia’s soil is the best way to quench its thirst, but be sure to pull off the shiny foil wrapper that came tucked around the pot before you water it. Though pretty, this wrapping prevents the water from draining out, leaving the poinsettia’s soil saturated and roots soggy. Waterlogged roots stress the plant and can lead to leaf-dropping—or worse, a short life.
DO Prune Your Poinsettia If You Plan to Reflower It Next Year
Follow the poinsettia care tips outlined so far, and you may find that your houseplant survives from winter into spring—or even longer. If you plan on keeping it around, prune the stems back to six inches when the plant begins to get leggy, and continue to place it in a sunny spot that’s about 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Continue to water just as you did before, and feed your poinsettia regularly every two weeks after they’ve stopped blooming with a standard houseplant fertilizer. New shoots will eventually develop at the buds below the cuts. In late spring, when overnight temps outdoors are above 50 degrees, prune new shoots back to four inches and sink your poinsettia—pot and all—into a protected spot in your flower bed and let it stay there until early fall when overnight temps dip back into the 40s. While year-round poinsettia care takes commitment on your part, you’ll be rewarded with an even-larger floral wonder the following holiday season.
DON’T Leave a Large Poinsettia in a Tiny Pot
As a poinsettia grows over the summer, its roots grow as well, and they can get cramped in a small pot. So, when you bring your poinsettia indoors after its spring and summer sojourn in the flower bed, be sure to transfer it into a larger planter. Repotting keeps the plant from becoming root-bound. Choose a new pot about two inches wider and an inch or two deeper than your current pot to give your poinsettia’s roots room to spread out during the coming fall growing season and help stimulate foliage growth and bloom production.
DO Keep Pets Away from Poinsettia
One thing pretty much everyone knows about poinsettia care is the importance of keeping poinsettias out of the reach of furry members of the family. While scare stories link the plants to pet poisoning, the milky sap of the poinsettia actually contains low-toxicity chemicals that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and itchiness if a pet eats a large amount. Even though the risk is pretty low, don’t chance it. Keep your plant away from Fluffy or Fido.
DON’T Hesitate to Call Your Vet If Your Animal Eats It (Just in Case)
The pesticides used at garden centers and nurseries could cause reactions if your pet ingests poinsettia leaves, especially if you have a very young animal. If you’re concerned about persistent or severe symptoms, call your vet or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435. A consultation fee may apply.
- Kitchen >
- The Easy and Affordable Way to Upgrade Your Kitchen Cabinets
The Easy and Affordable Way to Upgrade Your Kitchen Cabinets
Your kitchen cabinets may be just fine for your everyday needs, but don't you think they could use a little pick-me-up? Maybe it's time to give them a simple upgrade with some new hardware!
Hang on a second: Before you decide to take on the hassle and expense of a full-fledged kitchen renovation, consider a painless, low-cost alternative—installing new cabinet hardware. Typically, homeowners treat cabinet knobs and pulls as inconsequential—as “an afterthought,” according to Jim Eldredge, a product manager with Sears Home Services. But on the contrary, he notes that in the kitchen, “small details can make a surprisingly big impact on the overall room design.” That said, replacement hardware isn’t magic; it can’t make damaged, timeworn cabinetry look new again. But so long as your cabinet boxes, doors, and drawer fronts remain in decent condition, you may be amazed by the extent to which the right choice of hardware can revitalize your kitchen. But “don’t focus on aesthetics alone,” Eldredge cautions. For the project to be an unqualified success, he says, new hardware must do more than merely look good. Because hardware gets handled over and over, multiple times a day, every day, there are some key practical considerations to keep in mind. To learn how to choose cabinet hardware that will work for your kitchen both aesthetically and functionally, keep reading below.
Simply walk down the hardware aisle of your local home center, and it won’t take long to realize that, as Eldredge puts it, “Homeowners are spoiled for choice” when it comes to kitchen hardware. This glut of options makes it challenging to choose just one of the the many styles and finishes. To make the selection process more manageable, Eldredge recommends narrowing the field incrementally, one stage at a time. First, he says, “decide which type of hardware to install.” Typically, homeowners select knobs for cabinet doors and pulls for drawers. Really, “it’s just a matter of comfort and convenience,” Eldredge says. There are certainly exceptions—kitchens that have only knobs or only pulls—but conventional wisdom holds that for ease of use, knobs pair best with doors and pulls pair best with drawers. Once you have settled the question of which type or types of hardware you prefer, you can move on to picking a style. To do so, Eldredge recommends taking cues from your cabinets. In a sleek, modern kitchen with crisp, clean lines, “people tend to go with streamlined, angular hardware,” he says. In kitchens with more traditional or ornate cabinetry, however, “You’re more likely to see hardware with finer details and curves.”
The next stage—selecting a finish—calls for a similar calculation, but this time based on the aesthetics of other design components of your kitchen. For instance, many experts recommend matching the finish of the cabinet hardware to the finish of the lighting and plumbing fixtures in the room. Others argue that it’s best for the hardware to match the appliances. Still other remodeling pros maintain that, above all, the hardware must complement (not necessarily match) the color of the paint or stain on the cabinetry. For light-colored or white-painted cabinetry, Eldredge says, “black and stainless steel are among the most popular.” For darker cabinets, on the other hand, it’s wise to “think about oil-rubbed bronze or brushed nickel,” he says. Ultimately, Eldredge admits, “guidelines are only guidelines; they can get you only so far.” That’s where the advice and guidance of a well-informed professional can really pay off. One advantage of working with a nationwide household name like Sears Home Services is that, unlike many a local contractor, the company doesn’t just send you to the showroom to make all the decisions yourself. Rather, as Eldredge points out, Sears “brings the showroom to you.” That way, you don’t have to guess how a certain hardware style or finish would look in your kitchen. “You can evaluate for yourself,” Eldredge says.
“How the hardware looks—that’s only half the equation,” Eldredge explains. After all, even if you’re not an accomplished amateur chef, “chances are good that you interact with your cabinet hardware morning and night, every single day,” Eldredge says. Under the circumstances, it’s only prudent to make sure you like the way a particular knob or pull feels in your hand as much as you like the way it looks to your eye. To that end, Eldredge says, “I always tell people to test hardware before installing it throughout the kitchen.” If the hardware pinches your fingers, or if its sharp edges seem likely to cause discomfort down the line, don’t settle. Keep looking. You’re probably not going to be satisfied with your choice if you can’t handle the hardware naturally, without a second thought. By the same token, take time to ensure that the size and shape of your chosen hardware suits the heft of your cabinetry. Whereas standard-size knobs usually suffice for doors of average dimensions, more substantial doors and most drawers open more easily with hardware large enough to accommodate several fingers. Generally speaking, “The larger the hardware, and the farther it projects outward beyond the face of the door or drawer, the easier it is to use,” according to Eldredge.
Finally, don’t lose sight of the larger context for a cabinet hardware upgrade. Kitchens are heavily trafficked and subject to frequent, hard use, so they inevitably collect grease, grit, and grime. It’s a not a question of if, but when. Complicating matters further is that, while it’s easy to spot crumbs and spills on countertops and other surfaces, it’s often not quite so easy when it comes to cabinet hardware. The point is that when you’re shopping for knobs and pulls, Eldredge says, “You’ve got to factor everyday care into your decision-making.” As much as you may love the look of elaborate, intricately designed hardware, it’s worth asking yourself if the aesthetic impact of those special details will be worth the extra effort required to keep the hardware clean. If, like so many other homeowners, you’re intent on keeping your kitchen as easy to care for as possible, the wise course is to opt for simple, unadorned hardware that will look great with nothing more than a wipe down. In other words, as Eldredge puts it, “Don’t set yourself up for years of frustration.” Before committing to a hardware style, material, or finish, “Go out of your way to make certain that you fully understand the maintenance involved,” Eldredge concludes.
Because homeowners—and their kitchens—differ wildly, they weigh different considerations when they select new cabinet hardware. Whatever the path, though, the process ultimately ends in one way—installation. If you’re planning to put in hardware of the same type and size as your existing knobs and pulls, then it’s an easy swap. You may even be able to handle it yourself, if the sheer number of doors and drawers in the average kitchen doesn’t give you pause. If, however, you intend to install hardware that, as a result of its style or size, requires drilling new screw holes, then either the challenge of making precise measurements or the need to use power tools may motivate you to leave the work in the hands of capable professionals. Sears Home Services sets itself apart from local contractors for many reasons, but especially because Sears coordinators guide you through every step of the process, from hardware selection all the way through to completed installation. Indeed, when you’re working with any professional, you have the right to expect the job to get done on time and on budget. But with Sears Home Services, you can expect all that and more—namely, a Satisfaction Guarantee that demonstrates a commitment to the success of your project.
This article has been brought to you by Sears Home Services. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.
- Kitchen >
- How To: Build a Kitchen Island
How To: Build a Kitchen Island
Maximize any kitchen space—cramped or capacious—by building a custom kitchen island to fit all of your needs.
Sometimes, the kitchen is too small to prep a multi-course meal for friends or family. If only you had 12 square inches more counter space to chop vegetables, or an extra shelf to move the unused toaster out of the way… Sound familiar? Then this tutorial is for you! Without breaking your budget, you can create a kitchen island that goes above and beyond your wildest culinary workspace and storage dreams. Just follow these plans for how to build a kitchen island with room to do it all—chop, mix, shelve, store, and more. Ours measures 57 inches long, 21 inches deep, and a standard 35-½ inches high, but, of course, you can alter these dimensions as you see fit to better address your kitchen’s needs.
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- 10-foot-long 2×2 lumber (5)
- Hand saw
- Palm sander
- Sandpaper (80- and 120-grit)
- Wood glue
- 3-inch screws (4+80)
- 2-inch metal corner brace (20)
- 6mm plywood (2 4-by-8-foot sheets)
- Wood clamps
- 8-foot-long 1×2 lumber (5)
- Acrylic paint
- 10-foot-long 2×8 lumber (2)
- 4-inch mending plates (9)
- 1-inch screws (36)
- Varnish or mineral oil
- ½-inch nails (18)
- Scrap wood
- Metal drawer pulls (4)
Cut your 2×2 lumber into the following lengths to make up the structure of the DIY kitchen island:
• Four 33-inch pieces for the legs
• Two 57-inch pieces for the countertop support
• Four 54-inch pieces for framework for the top and bottom shelf
• Six 18-inch pieces for shelf and countertop support
Sand all edges of your cuts, and assemble one side of the kitchen island by arranging a 57-inch 2×2 with two 33-inch legs to make a U-shape as pictured. Glue the two legs to the bottom of what will be the countertop support, then pre-drill holes for and fasten with two screws through the top at each end.
Place two 54-inch shelf supports between the island’s legs (the first 12 inches from the bottom of the island’s top, and the second 10 inches beneath that). Affix with a dab of wood glue on both ends of the 54-inch shelf supports, and reinforce with a 2-inch metal corner brace beneath each end.
Repeat Steps 1 and 2 to make a second identical structure.
Join the two identical halves using the six 18-inch pieces. To accomplish this, place half of the frame on the floor and affix three 18-inch lengths to each leg using wood glue. Note: Each 18-inch 2×2 should align with the horizontal 2×2s already connected (the shelf and countertop supports). Screw corner braces beneath each connection for extra support.
Lay the second half of the DIY kitchen island’s frame (without the attached 18-inch cuts) flat on the floor. To prepare to connect both halves, you’ll want to screw three metal corner braces to each leg, one at each level. Scoot each corner brace to the edge of the leg so that it’s perpendicular but perfectly aligned with the corner brace already in place supporting either a shelf or countertop, then screw each into the wood.
Lay the two halves in front of each other, corner braces and 18-inch supports facing in and feet facing up. Apply wood glue to the exposed ends of the 18-inch supports, press them to the opposing kitchen island legs, and screw the second half of each corner brace into the wood supports. Stand your DIY kitchen island upright.
Cut a rectangle of 57 inches by 21 inches from the 6mm plywood sheet in order to make the lowest shelf. At each corner, cut out a small notch the same dimensions as the legs (1-½ inch square). Sand the plywood, especially the cut edges.
Apply wood glue to the tops of the lowest level of 2×2s and fit the plywood piece through the open top of your DIY kitchen island into place onto the adhesive. Press the wood pieces together with clamps until the glue dries.
Make the second shelf using 1×2 lumber cut into 22 21-inch lengths. Lay them out over the structure’s middle-tier supports, leaving a ¾-inch gap between each, and glue down the 1×2s at each end.
Sand all parts of the kitchen island, first using 80-grit sandpaper on a palm sander, then again with 120-grit for a smooth finish.
Wipe down all the dust with a clean rag before you move on to apply two coats of acrylic paint. We chose a charcoal color, but you could stain and varnish it instead, if you prefer.
While the paint (or stain) dries, you can build the countertop using the 2×8 lumber. Cut the 10-foot planks into three 5-foot-long pieces to make a countertop that is a little longer and wider than the base of your DIY kitchen island. Carefully align the pieces side by side so that no one extends past the others, then apply wood glue along the 1-½-inch side of each where they meet. As the glue dries, screw three 4-inch mending plates along each seam on the back.
Sand the completed countertop down, and protect it with a coat of varnish or mineral oil. Once the varnish is dry, lay the countertop on your kitchen island; it should hang ¾ of an inch off the front and back and 1-½ inches off the left and right sides. Center it as best you can, then glue and clamp the countertop onto the structure while the adhesive dries.
STEP 13 (optional)
Sure, you can purchase storage boxes or crates from your nearest home goods store or craft center—or you can build a set to perfectly fit the allotted space on the lower shelf for less money than you’d spend otherwise. We made four boxes of 13 inches wide, 8-½ inches tall, and 18 inches deep with a quarter-sheet of plywood.
For each box, you’ll need to cut five rectangles in the plywood sheet:
• One 12-½ inches by 18 inches for the box bottom
• Two 8-½ inches by 13 inches for the box front and back
• Two 8-½ inches by 17-½ inches for the box sides
To assemble the box, apply wood glue along the edges of the box bottom (the 12-½-by-18-inch rectangle). Lay it flat and on the ground and press the front and back panels (the 8-½-by-13-inch rectangles) in place, then apply glue to the exposed edges of the front and back panels—except for the tops!—and slide the sides (the remaining 8-½-by-17-½-inch rectangles) into place. Essentially, all sides should wrap the bottom of the box, and the front and back should cover the edges of the sides. Reinforce the construction with ½-inch nails; hammer three along each side of the front and back.
Repeat to make four boxes total.
STEP 14 (optional)
Once the wood glue has dried, add a metal drawer pull for easy opening and closing of each new “drawer” on your DIY kitchen island. As we used only 6mm plywood to build these, you may have to glue an extra piece of scrap wood on the inside directly behind where you want to add the pull so that there’s enough thickness to drill screws into for the drawer pull. Measure to find the center near the top of the box’s front, place your drawer pull 2 or 3 inches from the top; when happy with the position, mark and drill holes. Screw this drawer pull into place, and repeat on the remaining three boxes.
Once you’ve shelved these boxes to the lower shelf as drawers, and ready to enjoy your new DIY kitchen island.
Ama is a DIY addict and the creative mind behind Ohoh Blog. She likes home decor, lighting, and furniture projects that may involve painting, sewing, drilling…no matter the technique! Whatever she has on hand is inspiration to create, and fodder for her serious addiction to upcycling.
- How To's & Quick Tips >
- DIY Lite: Make a Stunning Serving Tray from Scrap Wood
DIY Lite: Make a Stunning Serving Tray from Scrap Wood
Wow guests by serving up snacks or drinks on a platter that's truly one-of-a-kind.
End of the year celebrations are just around the corner, and—no matter whether your plans include hosting an intimate dinner or throwing a giant party—an extra serving tray can always come in handy. After all, how else might you corral coffee fixings or carry appetizers out to your guests? But festive events deserve a little extra flair. Follow this illustrated tutorial to craft a DIY serving tray that’s uniquely styled with a geometric pattern and a trio of wood stains. And don’t feel the need to stash this platter away after guests leave; simply transfer the wooden tray to your coffee table or kitchen counter as a catch-all year-round.
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- 6mm plywood (20 x 20 inches minimum)
- Graphic compass
- Ruler or protractor
- 1-½-inch x ¼-inch wood lath (24 feet)
- Scrap wood
- Wood stain (3 shades)
- Wood glue
- Wood clamps (optional)
- Palm sander
- 60-grit sandpaper
- 100-grit sandpaper
- Transparent acrylic varnish
Draw a hexagon on the plywood the size you wish to make your DIY serving tray; ours has a diameter of 18 inches. The easiest way to do so is to start by tracing a circle with a 9-inch radius in the center of your 20-inch-square plywood piece.
If you don’t have a drafting compass or yours isn’t capable of drawing a diameter of up to 18 inches, you can achieve the same end with a rope, pencil, pushpin, and ruler or protractor. Knot the rope around the pencil end closest to the lead tip (right where your fingers might hold it), measure out 9 inches of rope (the length of your radius), and fasten the other end of rope to the center of your plywood using a pushpin to fasten. Now, verify that the distance between the pushpin and the pencil tip is exactly 9 inches, as that’s what you’ll be cutting the wood lath to fit in the next steps. If so, proceed to draw the circle by holding the pencil vertically.
Continue with the pushpin method to find the corners of the hexagon. Remove the pin from the center of your circle and place it anywhere along the circle’s circumference; mark that position (Corner 1) in pencil. Now, trace along the circumference of the circle until the 9 inches of rope extends taut; mark this spot (Corner 2) in pencil, too. Move the pushpin to the mark you just drew, and repeat to find the next corner.
Continuing this process all the way around the circle should give you six corners. After you’ve marked the last, confirm that the distance between Corner 6 and Corner 1 is also be 9 inches long.
Use a ruler or protractor to connect the dots; the six lines will reveal your hexagon. Then, divide the shape into three identical parts by tracing a line from every other corner to the center of the circle where you first placed the pushpin.
Cut the wood lath into 15 equal pieces that will completely cover the tray, five in each third. To fit the DIY serving tray’s hexagonal shape, it’s important to achieve the right length and angle for each piece. The easiest way to do so is to place the first lath along one of the dividing lines and slide it until the lath enters into the neighboring third. Use the lines drawn on your plywood to mark the angles needed to cut each end of wood lath.
Rest one lath on a piece or two of scrap wood and cut along your penciled lines using a jigsaw. Before you cut 14 more to match, fit the piece into the drawn hexagon to check if the dimensions are accurate. If so, use this first cut as a model to measure and cut 14 additional pieces.
Set the lath pieces aside, and use the jigsaw to cut the hexagon shape out of the plywood next.
Sand all the pieces—plywood and lath, front and back—to remove splinters.
Stain the lath cuts in different shades to emphasize the pattern built into your DIY serving tray. We used Early American and Oak stains for six pieces each, and we left three pieces with their natural tone. Looking for more color? Use paint instead!
Arrange multicolor lath cuts onto the plywood hexagon, and glue them in place. If you have them, you can set up wood clamps to hold the pieces together while the glue dries.
After the recommended amount of dry time passes, give a light sanding to the edges of the DIY serving tray to remove any dried adhesive peeking through the cracks.
The last thing you have to make are the edges to your DIY serving tray. Cut six pieces of lath, each 9 inches long and with 30-degree angles in at both ends. Adhere each edge to a side of the tray with wood glue. Then, once all the glue has dried, lightly sand the finished project down. All that’s left to do now is to wipe away the dust with a clean cloth, and then spray on a coat of varnish to protect your rustic serving tray from all of the use it will get down the road.
Ama is a DIY addict and the creative mind behind Ohoh Blog. She likes home decor, lighting, and furniture projects that may involve painting, sewing, drilling…no matter the technique! Whatever she has on hand is inspiration to create, and fodder for her serious addiction to upcycling.
- How To's & Quick Tips >
- How To: Remove Drywall Anchors
How To: Remove Drywall Anchors
Don’t get hung up on unwanted fasteners—take them out or camouflage them with the easy methods here.
Drywall anchors certainly come in handy when you want to safely hang something heavy on a hollow wall or a spot without studs. Drill a hole to insert an anchor, and its firm grip to the drywall enables you to put in a screw for shelves, a large mirror, or a piece of artwork. It’s all good—until you decide to take out drywall anchors to paint the room or relocate that enormous family portrait. Fortunately, it’s relatively simple to remove drywall anchors. The first move is to remove any screws to access the anchor, and then proceed with a method best suited to the particular type of fastener. Threaded plastic, cone-shaped, or expanding anchors can often be easily pulled out, while T-nut head varieties may need to be pushed through the wall or removed with a cutting wheel. This guide covers the top techniques for how to remove drywall anchors—even a savvy (sneaky!) alternative to removal—plus the best way to patch things up afterwards. So, anchors away…or not!
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Needle-nose pliers
- Drill with 1-inch cutting wheel
- Utility knife
- Clean, dry rags
- Drywall putty
- Drywall spatula
- Medium-grit sandpaper
METHOD 1: PULL IT OUT
Grab the collar or head of the drywall anchor firmly with needle-nose pliers. With a gentle back-and-forth rocking motion, wiggle the anchor free. If it won’t give and remains secure, stop, or you risk excessive damage to the wall. Move on to Method 2.
METHOD 2: BACK IT OUT
Choose a screwdriver that will fit snuggly into the mouth of the anchor and tap it into place with a hammer. Turn the screwdriver counter-clockwise to back the drywall anchor out. If it won’t budge, or turns but doesn’t back out, proceed to Method 3 (if you have a cutting wheel) or consider Method 4 to sink the anchor into the wall.
METHOD 3: CUT AND HAMMER IT
Don protective goggles and attach a 1-inch cutting wheel to a drill. Cut the top off the drywall anchor. Then tap a wide nail against the anchor mouth with a hammer until the drywall anchor falls back behind the wall. Score the drywall around the anchor head with the cutting wheel or, if you don’t have a drill with a cutting wheel, a utility knife. Then place a screwdriver with a head wider than the anchor’s mouth, but not wider than the drywall anchor itself, and firmly tap the screwdriver until the anchor falls out behind the back of the wall.
METHOD 4: RECESS IT
Perhaps the simplest way to deal with multiple unwanted drywall anchors, or those in drywall that’s brittle or water damaged, is to recess rather than remove them altogether. Score the drywall around the anchor head with a utility knife. Position a screwdriver wider than the anchor mouth over the anchor head, and squarely but lightly tap the screwdriver with a hammer until you sink the drywall anchor partway into the drywall. Once the anchor is recessed, patch.
THE PATCHING PROCESS
After you’ve mastered how to remove drywall anchors or recessed the smattering of fasteners out of sight, patch the remaining hole with drywall compound.
Tap a hammer lightly around the edges of the hole until the edges are flat, flush with the wall. Wipe the wall free of drywall dust with a dry rag.
Apply enough drywall compound to fill the hole with a putty spatula. Do an “X” motion over the repair spot with the spatula to get the putty flush with the wall while removing excess. Let dry overnight.
Sand the dried putty with medium-grit sandpaper. Wipe dust off with a dry cloth and touch up the paint.
- Major Systems >
- Solved! What to Do When There’s No Hot Water
Solved! What to Do When There’s No Hot Water
No hot water for your shower, washing machine, or dishwasher? Follow these troubleshooting tips to restore the heat as quickly as possible.
Q: Even though my shower was perfectly toasty when I hopped in, it quickly chilled until there was no hot water left at all—even an hour later. What gives?
A: Assuming that no one else has been hogging the hot water all day, the problem probably lies within your water heater. First, confirm that your water heater is the appropriate size for your daily household needs. These units range in size from about 30 to 80 gallons, with the smaller end of the spectrum ideal for the modest needs of a single-person, half-house setup and the larger end suited for families with multiple children. Assuming the water heater is big enough for your family’s needs, how you proceed in troubleshooting your hot water problem will depend on the type of water heater you have, gas versus electric. For either type, consider the following tricks:
Bump up the thermostat. Ideal operating temperatures for a hot water heater are between 122 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. A system running below this range risks not only a hot water deficit but also the potential for growth of Legionella bacteria, which are responsible for a severe form of pneumonia known as Legionnaires’ disease. If the water heater isn’t already set in the ideal range, adjust it. In 30 to 40 minutes, you can expect hot water to return, and within two hours the unit should reach a temperature that will prevent the growth of pathogens.
Check the forecast. A sudden cold snap in your area can impact the effectiveness of your gas- or electric-powered water heater, even causing it to conk out. This most often occurs overnight, when the heater sits unused and temperatures plunge. If your recent weather aligns with this scenario and your boiler is still running, try turning the hot water heater up to its max in order to kick it back into gear. After a half hour, turn on a kitchen or bathroom faucet to see if the water warms up after running for a few minutes. If it does heat up, return the hot water heater settings back to normal operating temperature, or even raise it a few degrees higher than usual until the cold snap ends.
If yours is a gas-powered water heater…
Relight the pilot light. If your gas water heater’s pilot light has been snuffed out by a downdraft in a vent pipe on a stormy day or the breeze through an open window, see if you can relight it with ease following the instructions permanently affixed to the side of your unit. In some instances—such as when a water heater‘s pilot light sits in an enclosed burner chamber—you may need to call in a plumber. If, however, you smell gas while you’re sniffing out the problem, hightail it out of the house and call the gas company!
Fix a faulty thermocouple. If you can successfully light the pilot light but the flame doesn’t stay on after you release the control knob, the thermocouple—a safety device that shuts off gas flow if it senses that the pilot light is out—may be at fault. The tip of this copper tube should be in the flame of the pilot light; if it’s out of line, it could need adjusting or replacing. Fortunately, a thermocouple costs only about $20 to replace and can be a DIY repair.
Rekindle a blue flame. Is your water not so much frigid as it is lukewarm? Does your pilot light burn yellow rather than the standard blue? These are symptoms of a gas-to-air ratio problem. First, be aware that a yellow flame could mean that the boiler is releasing carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless, and toxic gas. Check for drafts or open windows that might be causing the pilot light to burn inefficiently, and remedy the breezy situation. If this doesn’t return the pilot to a crisp, blue flame, call a technician to check out the unit. In the meantime, pay attention to any signs of carbon monoxide poisoning (dizziness, faintness, or nausea), and if necessary leave the house immediately to seek medical assistance.
Inspect the gas line. If after turning the valve on you neither see a pilot light nor smell gas, the problem may lie with the fuel source. Check whether the gas valve is open or closed, and eyeball the gas line for any kinks that might be causing a roadblock. If you’ve adjusted the gas flow and nothing has improved, call the gas company to ensure that there’s service in your area and that your account isn’t in arrears. If the gas company assures you that you should have gas, yet turning the valve on still doesn’t produce gas (you’ll smell it if it’s there), then it’s probably time to contact a plumber or other professional.
If your water heater runs on electricity…
Restart your water heater. A current can go awry as a result of a power surge from an electrical storm. Try turning your electric unit off for a couple of minutes and then switch it back on. If after a half hour there’s still no hot water, you’ll need to move on to another solution. Proceed cautiously: Before you attempt to repair or even inspect the water heater, make sure the unit is off. These appliances draw enough power that an accidental electrocution could be fatal, so work carefully or call in a pro.
Reset the circuit breaker. If tripped, the water heater’s dedicated breaker may not appear to be “off” but could still be just a little out of whack—not quite in line with the other “on” breakers. Flip it off, wait for 20 seconds, then flip it back on. A breaker that doesn’t hold the “on” position may have failed from age or overwork. If that’s the case, call on a professional for replacement.
Call in the professionals. Concern over safety coupled with the technical nature of a water heater repair mean that it’s best to leave the work to the professionals. If your unit is not on its own breaker—or the breaker needs replacing—call a qualified electrician. Or, if your tank leaks onto the ground or inside the heater’s compartments, bring in professionals to service your water heater before it damages the heating elements or stops thermostat function.
Bear in mind that most hot water heaters are rated for only a 10-year life span. If yours is approaching a decade of use, its elements, thermostat, or other components may soon fail and need replacement. It may be smarter to replace your water heater altogether and capitalize on the improved energy efficiency that a newer unit would offer. Energy savings alone could make this a great time to invest in a new system.
- Storage >
- Bob Vila Radio: Winterizing Wooden Furniture
Bob Vila Radio: Winterizing Wooden Furniture
Wondering why your furniture and floors lose their luster in winter? All that dry indoor air can cause cracks, splits, and gaps in wood. Luckily, all you need is a little know-how to guard against damage.
When your heating system is cranking, dry indoor air can do a number on your wood furniture and, for that matter, any other wood that’s in your home. While indoor humidity levels range from 30 to 60 percent during the rest of the year, in the coldest months it can plummet into the teens.
Listen to BOB VILA ON PROTECTING FURNITURE FROM DRY AIR or read on below:
When that happens, the dry air takes moisture from anything it can, and that can lead to major problems: splits and cracks in furniture, woodwork, and walls; gaps in hardwood floors and cabinets; and doors that no longer fit properly.
To guard against that kind of damage, buy a high-quality furniture oil that penetrates the surface. Check the label, and avoid polishes that contain silicone—they won’t protect your furniture, and may cause build up, hiding the natural beauty of the wood.
- Kitchen >
- How To: Clean Marble Countertops
How To: Clean Marble Countertops
Keep that natural stone looking its best with proper protection and care.
Natural stone, with its rich colorations and wonderful feel, is Mother Nature’s gift to our homes. But this beautiful, popular kitchen and bathroom countertop option is pricey—and for all its durability, it’s got a delicate side. That’s why it’s crucial to protect your investment by caring for marble correctly. This guide will take you through how to clean marble countertops, address stains, and seal the surfaces regularly, but first face a stone cold fact: Marble, composed mainly of calcium carbonate, is sensitive to acidic solutions. This means any acid, whether a splash of lemon juice, a damp margarita glass, or an acidic cleaner such as vinegar, can eat away at the surface, creating dull spots known as etches. Some folks consider etches part of a countertop’s character, while others opt to grind down the top layer and re-polish the surface when enough etches accumulate. So strive to keep your countertops an acid-free zone, and now read on to become a master in marble protection and maintenance.
General cleaning is so simple—another reason for marble’s popularity. Just be sure to avoid products containing acid, including lemon juice and vinegar. Though you can buy non-abrasive stone cleaner specifically tailored to marble, still read labels carefully to avoid damaging your surface. Alternatively, you can save money and use a mild, non-abrasive, pH neutral (non-acidic) soap mixed with water, which is all you really need to clean marble countertops.
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Marble stone cleaner
- Warm water
- Gentle dish soap
- Spray bottle
- Dish cloth
- Soft, absorbent towel
If not using marble cleaner, mix a squirt of gentle, non-abrasive dish soap with warm water in a spray bottle and spray the counter generously. Scrub gently and wipe soapy solution off with a clean wet cloth. Repeat process until all soapy residue is gone.
Rub the countertop dry, and buff with a soft absorbent towel.
Banishing stains from marble can be trickier than a routine cleaning. The key is correctly identifying the origin of the stain and then applying the appropriate chemical or poultice (a paste-like cleaning agent). Think of the materials listed below as your stain-fighting arsenal. Note, too, that the sooner you address a stain, the better your chance of getting rid of it.
Caution: Never mix cleaning agents or chemicals, as the result can be toxic, even lethal. Before cleaning, always test the cleaning agent on an inconspicuous location to determine its suitability and make certain it does not damage the surface. Wear appropriate clothing such as gloves and protective eyewear, and work in a well-ventilated area.
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Soft liquid cleanser
- Mineral spirits
- 12 percent hydrogen peroxide solution
- 20 percent hydrogen peroxide solution
- Lacquer thinner
- 0000-steel wool pads
- Razor blade
- Protective eyewear
- Pre-mixed commercial poultice
An oil based stain like grease, cooking oil, milk, or makeup will darken the stone and must be dealt with chemically. Clean gently with one of the following: soft, liquid cleanser with bleach, ammonia, mineral spirits, or acetone.
Address coffee, tea, wine, fruit, tobacco, paper, and most other food stains (which generally have a pinkish-brown appearance) with a 12 percent hydrogen peroxide solution and a few drops of ammonia. Wipe over the stain with a clean cloth. Rinse with a wet cloth and dry with a chamois.
Combat mildew stains with a solution of three parts household bleach with one part water and a dash of dishwashing detergent in a spray bottle. Mist the surface thoroughly and repeat application until the stain disappears. Rinse with clean clear water and dry.
To remove ink stains from dark colored stone, dip a cotton swab in acetone and apply directly to the surface. For lighter colored stone, use a 20 percent hydrogen peroxide solution. Keep a soft cloth or sponge dampened with water handy to wipe away the cleaning agent promptly after the stain has been removed. Treating large volume ink stains or those that have set in requires a poultice.
Step 1: Place between 1/4 cup and 1/2 cup of flour in a shallow bowl. For dark-colored stone, use acetone or, for light stone, 20 percent hydrogen peroxide, adding it to the flour one teaspoon at a time to form a paste.
Step 2: Apply the flour poultice to the area with plastic spatula or spoon. Cover with plastic wrap and press firmly. Poke holes in the plastic wrap with a toothpick or fork. Allow the poultice to dry for up to 24 hours.
Step 3: Remove and discard the plastic wrap and allow the poultice to continue drying. Once completely dry, remove and discard. If any ink mark remains, repeat the process.
Step 4: When the stain is gone to your satisfaction, apply a small amount of neutral pH soap, such as Dove, to a clean, soft sponge dampened with water. Clean the area where the stain was and remove soap residue with a clean dampened sponge.
Remove a small drip with lacquer thinner dabbed on with a clean cloth or scrape it off carefully with a razor blade. A larger paint stain will require a commercial paint stripper that could cause etching and may require re-polishing after removal. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for use of these products, and flush the area thoroughly with clean water. Be sure to ventilate the area and wear rubber gloves and eye protection.
WATER SPOTS AND RINGS
Buff out water spots with a dry, 0000-rated steel wool pad. That same pad may do the trick for smaller scratches and nicks. Larger problems may require re-polishing. In future, use coasters and trivets on counters.
Metal stains caused by iron or rust range from orange to brown in color, while copper or bronze stains will be green or muddy brown—all are stubborn, deep-seated rust especially. Tackle with a poultice:
Step 1: Mix premixed commercial poultices (available at stone maintenance supply companies) with water to the consistency of a thick peanut butter.
Step 2: Slather it on the stain in a thickness between ¼ and ½ inch. Use a wood or plastic spatula to spread the paste evenly.
Step 3: Cover with plastic wrap and secure sides all around with painter’s tape. Allow it to dwell for 24 to 48 hours.
Step 4: Remove the plastic and and allow the poultice to dry and “pull” the stain from the stone.
Step 5: Once the poultice is dry to the touch, remove with the wood or plastic scraper. Rinse the area with distilled water and buff with a soft cloth.
Because marble is porous, a sealant is recommended as a barrier that can possibly keep a spill from becoming a stain. Experts suggest re-sealing every three to six months, but quality sealing products, available from any home improvement retailer, are simple to apply.
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Mild dish soap
- Single-edged razor blade
- Plastic scraper
- Clean cloths
- Impregnating or penetrating sealer for marble countertops
Clear everything off the counters so the entire surface is accessible. Clean the surface with mild dish soap. Dry with a clean cloth.
Remove any built-up residue from cleansers, cooking grease, or other substances might remain with a plastic scraper or (carefully!) a single-edged razor blade. To use a blade, hold it at an angle and lightly pass it over the marble.
Use acetone, if necessary, to strip off old sealer and remove residues from such products as window cleaners. Apply with a clean cloth and rinse with wet cloth, then dry with a chamois—do not let the counter air dry.
Read and follow all directions on the sealant’s packaging. In most cases, application is a matter of pouring the sealer directly onto the surface and spreading it evenly with a clean white cloth. Leave it to soak for the time specified in your products directions, usually around three to four minutes.
Sprinkle additional amounts of sealer over the treated areas. This will allow you to easily collect and gather excess sealer during cleanup. Use a clean dry cloth to remove any sealer that has not soaked in.
Apply a second coat of sealer only if your product’s specific directions indicate it is necessary. Otherwise, one coat will be enough.