Bob Vila - 3/454 - The Dean of Home Renovation & Repair Advice

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Enter Bob Vila’s $4,000 Smart Storage Giveaway with IKEA TODAY!

Enter today and every day this month for your chance to win a $1,000 gift card to IKEA!


Over the holidays, you’ve likely accumulated many new goodies—but, unfortunately, your humble abode hasn’t gained any storage space. Homeowners everywhere are seeking to organize their belongings affordably and efficiently. That’s why we partnered with IKEA to give away four $1000 gift cards, allowing winners to organize their living space in 2018 for a better everyday life at home! !

Bob Vila’s $4,000 Smart Storage Giveaway with IKEA is live starting today, December 31, 2017, at 12:00 p.m. EST through January 31, 2018, at 11:59 a.m. EST. You could win one of four $1,000 gift cards to IKEA!


IKEA Contest


Founded in 1943, IKEA is the world’s largest home furnishings retailer. The Swedish company is known for its ready-to-assemble pieces, which combine functionality with Swedish design. Visit one of 47 IKEA U.S. stores for beautiful and affordable furniture, kitchen tools, lighting solutions, decor pieces, bedding, and more. You can also visit their website at

Are you looking to declutter and organize your home? Enter Bob Vila’s $4,000 Smart Storage Giveaway with IKEA daily to increase your chances of winning. Four lucky winners will receive a $1,000 gift card to IKEA. You can put the winnings toward one of the many storage solutions available at IKEA, such as their customizable PAX wardrobe systems, which allow homeowners to create their dream closet.

To learn more about IKEA, click here.

“Bob Vila’s $4,000 Smart Storage Giveaway with IKEA” is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia who are age 18 or older. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Contest Period for Prize runs from 12:00 p.m. (EST) Sunday, December 31, 2017, through 11:59 a.m. (EST) Wednesday, January 31, 2018. One entry per household per day on Alternative means of entry for Drawing is available by faxing your name and address to 508-437-8486 during the applicable Entry Period. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. See Official Rules.

How To: Clean Granite Countertops

To maintain its glossy shine, granite should be cleaned regularly—and carefully. Here's how.

How to Clean Granite Countertops


In many people’s minds, granite means strength and resilience. But if you want to know how to clean granite countertops successfully, the watchword is caution. The stone can actually be damaged by many of the products and techniques that are perfectly safe to use on other kitchen surfaces. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out how to clean granite countertops properly; the job just requires a bit of extra care and attention. Follow the steps outlined here, and you’re bound to be satisfied with the result of your efforts.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Mild dish soap
 Microfiber cloths (3)
Soft sponge
Baking soda (optional)
Hydrogen peroxide (optional)
Bowl (optional)
Spoon (optional)
Plastic wrap (optional)

How to Clean Granite Countertops

Photo: via James Bowe

STEP 1: Squirt dish soap into a soft sponge.

For regular cleaning, your best bet is nothing more sophisticated than mild dish soap that’s been diluted with water. (Although there is a homemade granite cleaner you can make with a base of rubbing alcohol.) Wet a sponge with water from the tap and squirt dish soap into its center. Bear in mind, however, that because granite scratches easily, the solution ought to be applied with a soft sponge, or even a microfiber cloth—that is, not with an abrasive scrubber.

STEP 2: Wring out excess water.

Massage the sponge or cloth until you see suds, then wring it out so as not to compromise the highly absorbent stone (it can become discolored beneath standing water).

STEP 3: Wipe the counters.

Gently wipe across the entire countertop in small, circular motions. Dried-on food splatter might require a little more elbow grease, but stick to this non-abrasive method unless you have a stain. (Dealing with a stain? That’s a different story; see the next section for how to clean granite countertops that have been stained by standing water or oil.)

STEP 4: Dry granite countertops completely.

Dry off the countertop, not only to protect the granite from water damage but also to eliminate streaks and leave the surface with an eye-catching, irresistible shine.


Don’t panic! Most of the time, stained granite countertops can be cleaned with household items so common that you probably already have them in your pantry. No matter the source of the stain, start with baking soda. If you wish to clean a water stain, mix the baking soda with a small amount of hydrogen peroxide in a bowl. For an oil-based stain, mix the baking soda with water. In either case, the mixture should generate a thick paste. Generously spoon and spread that over the stain, then cover the area with plastic wrap, taping down its edges. Leave the homemade stain remover overnight (or even for a couple of days), before rinsing and wiping down the granite.


Most installations of granite are protected by a layer of sealant. If you’ve repeatedly tried and failed to remove stains from your counters, chances are that the sealant has ceased to function as it should. In situations where the sealant is to blame, stained granite becomes difficult or impossible to clean, at least for the average do-it-yourselfer. Your best bet is to hire a professional to completely clean and then properly reseal the stone, thereby preventing future problems.

If you’ve been lucky enough to avoid stains so far but want to know the extent of your countertop’s protection, test whether or not it’s sealed. Spoon out just a few drops of water onto the surface, and keep your hydrogen peroxide and baking soda at the ready. Give it a few minutes. You want to see the water bead up atop the protective seal; that means it’s strong. But, if the water penetrates the granite, address the stain quickly with the baking soda and hydrogen peroxide paste described above (under “Stain Removal”) and schedule a time to reseal the slab.


Keep these cleaners far away!

• Household acids including vinegar, lemon, lime, and citrus

• Ammonia or ammonia-based cleaners like Windex

• Bleach

• Steel wool

• Scrubby sponges

They’re bad news for the gloss of your granite as well as the protection—over time, they will etch, dull, and even weaken the surface sealant.


Cleaning Tips for a Spotless Home

All of the Essential Cleaning Advice from
There’s no way around it: Keeping the house clean demands your time, your energy, and even some of your money. Fortunately, this arsenal of cleaning tips can help you finish the housekeeping more quickly—and with fewer commercially sold products.

All You Need to Know About Shaker Style

Understand this ever-popular “keep it simple” design philosophy to achieve the look for your own interiors.

The Timeless Look of Shaker Style Homes

Photo: via Steven C. Price

Once in great a while, a style comes along that captures such a wide audience that its popularity is, well, unshakable—and clean, minimalist Shaker style is a prime example. Today, 150 years after the Shakers (a branch of Quakerism) settled in the United States, their contributions to construction and furniture design still enjoy widespread appeal. If you’re interested in this basic yet beautiful look, read on to learn how it evolved and how you can bring it into your home.


During the mid-1800s, Shaker communities dotted the New England landscape. Their commitment to leading simple lives led to the development of the Shaker style, which features unadorned lines, unrivaled craftsmanship, and an assurance of quality.

In the midst of a quickly changing 19th Century, when mass production began to replace handcrafted quality, the Shakers remained firmly committed to superior workmanship. Their devout beliefs that simplicity, order, and neatness surpassed ornateness served as the foundation for their no-frills designs. Buildings, cabinetry, and furniture were intended to fulfill a need, rather than serve as décor.


Shaker residences, called “dwelling houses,” borrowed their rectangular box design from federalist and Greek Revival architecture, but removed all traces of ornamentation—no columns, no wraparound porches, and no fancy millwork. Every element of Shaker construction was functional. Shutters, when used, were built on the insides of dwellings, and were operable, to block out harsh sunrays or frigid winter drafts as necessary.

Shaker dwellings housed many residents and so were often quite large, reaching three and four stories in height and topped with simple gable roof lines. Everything the Shakers built was utilitarian and often balanced in design from one side to the other—for example, the two large fireplaces at opposite ends of the dwellings. Interiors were divided into two nearly identical halves, each served by a separate staircase, because Shaker brothers lived on one side and Shaker sisters on the other.

Many Shaker dwellings were framed from wood timbers, and featured shiplap siding, while others were constructed of brick and limestone. Meeting houses were the largest structures in the communities, and in some Shaker villages, they were built in a circular design, featuring high interior ceilings, and painted all in white, outside and inside, to symbolize the purity of their faith.


Shaker Style Chairs Hung on the Walls

Photo: via Richard Taylor


Shaker Style Ladder Back Chair


The most enduring contribution the Shakers made to the world of design is utilitarian furniture with plain lines. Simple ladder-back chairs, no-frills tables with square legs, solid wood cabinets, and well-built wardrobes were constructed using strong joinery techniques. Their use of complicated dovetail joints and wooden peg assembly took extra time but set a high standard for quality construction.

Remaining pieces of original Shaker furniture (for the most part in private collections and museums) are in exceptional condition, due to the superior craftsmanship that went into their construction. The traditional ladder-back chair was first popularized by the Shakers and then adapted by furniture makers all over the world.

The simple cabinet door style introduced by the Shakers is still a favorite today among those wanting an unpretentious vibe. Modern cabinet makers continue to follow the Shaker principle of five-piece construction—one piece for the flat door panel and four additional boards that form a frame on the face of the door. This method of Shaker style construction prevented warping and gave the doors superior strength.


In their mission to create utopian communities that replicated heaven on earth, the Shakers incorporated light into virtually everything they designed. With no decorations in their rooms, a single large window could create a halo-type effect as it radiated light to the rest of the room. Daylight was their light of choice, and they came up with some resourceful ways of using it.

Rooms and hallways in the interiors of large dwelling houses, depended on “borrowed light.” By installing windows in interior walls between rooms, such as a dividing wall between two bedrooms, the Shakers cleverly directed illumination from well-lit rooms to dimmer ones within the dwelling. Skylights directed extra light downward over wooden staircases, which eliminated the need for candles and lamps during daylight hours.

Wood floors, furniture, and staircases were varnished to protect them from humidity and temperature fluctuations, but the Shakers did not use wood stain to enrich the natural color of the wood. The tone of the wood in the dwellings was dependent on the type of wood available in their region. Strong hardwoods, including oak, pine, maple, apple, pear cherry, walnut, and hickory were commonly used for both furniture making and to construct interior wood elements such as staircases.

The Shakers used white paint to protect the exterior of their buildings, while interior walls were finished in hand-applied and smoothed plaster, which offered a satiny-white hue. Shaker rules allowed a minimal splash of color, often solid blue, for chair pads. Multicolor fabrics and patterns were avoided. While most Shaker walls were white with natural wood trim, some of the earliest Shaker dwellings incorporated painted yellow trim and doors.


Shaker Style in the Kitchen

Photo: via


Because it offers a sense of serenity in a hectic world, Shaker style remains a timeless favorite. Building a new house along Shaker architectural lines isn’t feasible for most, but by incorporating Shaker elements in your home, you can achieve a similar sense of minimalism and modesty.

Paint walls and ceilings soft white. The Shakers used white extensively to create a sense of purity and luminosity within their dwellings, stores, and meeting houses.

Think “monotone” when selecting decor. In a Shaker dwelling, the only colors—besides the white of the walls and the wood tones of the floors and furniture—were the natural tans of cotton and linen cloth used to make bedspreads and cushions, and the occasional colored seat cover. If you choose to add a splash of color, make it a muted one in a solid design: Sage green throw pillows, a natural wicker basket to stow reading materials, or a braided country blue throw rug will add a bit of color without detracting from the Shaker style.

Install picture rail and chair rail on walls. Chair rail, a narrow trim board that runs horizontally along walls, about 28” above the floor, offers visual appeal while protecting walls from the bumps of chairs being scooted backward. Picture rail, another narrow horizontal trim board, can be installed at eye level or slightly above. While picture rail is often used today to hang artwork, for the Shakers, it was purely functional; pegs were attached to the rail to hold coats and hats.

Timeless Shaker Style in the Modern-Day Kitchen

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Oklahoma, OK

Add Shaker-style furniture. When it comes to Shaker style furniture, less is more and plain rules over fancy. An eat-in kitchen is a perfect spot for a modest square or rectangular solid wood table, complete with ladder-back wood chairs. Invest in a plain wood rocking chair for an added touch. Shakers were permitted one rocker per room. Choose natural wood dressers, nightstands, and wardrobes that feature flat-front doors and drawers.

Take pictures off the walls and clear away clutter. Artwork was shunned, so true Shaker style walls should be free from pictures. Store family photos in photo albums. For an authentic bit of wall décor, hang an old-fashioned bonnet or a natural-bristle flat broom (the Shakers invented the flat broom) from a peg on the back of a door or on a picture rail. Keep only the items you use on a daily basis on countertops, and stow your toaster and coffee maker out of sight.

Replace curtains with operable interior shutters. Real wood shutters (unpainted) provide privacy when closed, let daylight stream in when open, and add an authentic touch of Shaker design to your room.

Update kitchen cabinets with new faces and iron hardware. Even if you can’t afford an entire kitchen remodel, you can replace existing doors and drawer fronts with new Shaker-style doors and fronts. Choose simple black iron hinges and pulls to complete the Shaker look. Opt for plain white or linen-colored hand towels.

Video: Stop Making These Mistakes in the Laundry Room

Have you been sabotaging your own laundry routine? Pay attention to these mistakes that could be making the job harder than it has to be, and ruining your clothes in the process.

If you’ve ever shrunk your favorite sweater by drying it on the highest setting, or turned your white socks pink by dropping them into the washer with a colorful load of clothes, you already know that laundry day can be fraught with difficulties. Luckily, the science of washing clothes is quite simple. If you avoid making a few common mistakes, you’ll extend the life of your linens and clothes and get them cleaner than ever. It’s really that easy. Check out our video to find out how to improve your washing routine.

For more cleaning tips, consider:

12 Smart Dish Washing Hacks No One Ever Taught You

7 Tips for Quick and Easy Cleanup After Dinner

15 Brilliant Hacks for a Cleaner Home in 2018

5 Little-Known Advantages of Linoleum Flooring

First patented in the mid-1800s, this durable flooring can still be found in kitchens, bathrooms, mudrooms, and foyers more than a century later. Find out what makes linoleum so desirable.

Linoleum Flooring in the Mudroom


Think linoleum and vinyl flooring are one and the same? Think again. While many people mistakenly call vinyl tile ‘linoleum’, the two couldn’t be more different. Unlike vinyl tile—a floor covering developed in the 1930s from chips of a synthetic resin called polyvinyl chloride (PVC)—linoleum boasts a more-natural makeup that has been in production even longer. Patented in the 1860s, it’s made with renewable materials including linseed oil (also called linoxyn), tree resins, recycled wood flour, cork dust, and mineral pigments, all of which mounted on a jute or canvas backing. To understand how this material remains a viable flooring option in homes for centuries, get to know linoleum flooring’s history and best features.

A Brief History of An Original Eco-Friendly Building Material

The first commercial linoleum was manufactured by the American Linoleum Manufacturing Company of Staten Island, NY, a company formed by English inventor Frederick Walton and partner Joseph Wild in 1872. The resilient and water-resistant material didn’t take long to gain favor with American homeowners. In fact, it became one of the most popular flooring choices used in American homes throughout the late 19th and early 20th century, installed everywhere from high-traffic areas like hallways to moisture-prone zones like kitchens and bathrooms. (Its water-resistant properties even appealed outside of the home! Indeed, a special heavy-gauge linoleum known as “battleship linoleum” was commissioned by the U.S. Navy to be used on interior warship decking.)

Despite its affordable price point, linoleum was considered a luxurious material for many years—it was actually used in the Grand Ballroom, the dining room, and other areas of the Titanic! But gradually cheaper vinyl flooring overtook linoleum in the 1940s. While vinyl is more economical and easy to maintain, it’s simply a printed design with a protective layer on top. Once that protective layer wears down or is damaged, the flooring must be replaced. The benefits associated with linoleum flooring, on the other hand, ran deeper. Here are five key reasons homeowners choose linoleum.


Linoleum Flooring



Durability: Most manufacturers back linoleum flooring with warranties of 25 years or more, but proper care and maintenance can extend the product’s lifespan up to 40 years—more than double the expected lifespan of vinyl flooring. Some of the product’s longevity is due to its inherent colorfast construction: The color and pattern are throughout the entire width of the material, not just printed on the surface (as it is in tile). Just make sure that you’re outfit homes with linoleum flooring that includes a protective coating added by manufacturers to prevent the surface from darkening or taking on a yellow tinge (a process called “ambering”), especially when exposed to direct sunlight—it’s not necessarily included with every linoleum flooring option. This protective top layer reinforces the material’s resilience against dirt and scuffs, but linoleum is not altogether impervious. Still avoid damage like dents and tears by sharp objects, including high heels, metal furniture legs, and dropped knives.

Why Choose Linoleum Flooring in the Kitchen


Water resistance: Beyond rigidity that holds up under the normal wear and tear of foot traffic, linoleum features a basic water resistance that you won’t find in flooring options like wood. This advantage makes it an intelligent choice for spaces that welcome wet shoes and snow-covered boots from the outdoors as well as those that see splashes, like kitchens or bathrooms. Linoleum floors should never be immersed in water, however, because excessive moisture can cause the edges, corners, or seams to curl. Floods, burst pipes, and even high humidity can do damage. For a more waterproof option, research comparable vinyl tile options instead.

Easy maintenance: Linoleum is one of the easiest flooring materials to clean and maintain. While its protective top layer wards off dirt and scuffs, you’ll still need to clean it regularly with mild, non-ammonia-based cleansers. A quick sweep or vacuum periodically will remove the abrasive dirt particles that could scratch up linoleum over time, as would an occasional damp mopping with warm water. Stains can be easily removed with a rag and mild detergent. Since the color in linoleum runs all the way through the material, if it does get stained or scratched, you can buff out the damage and refinish your floor. Linoleum that is not factory-coated to protect against ambering will also need to be cleaned and waxed every two or three years to prevent yellowing and also to protect the surface from scratches and water damage.

Eco-friendliness: The name linoleum reflects the product’s all-natural roots, coming from the Latin words “linum,” meaning flax or linen, and “oleum,” meaning oil. Linoleum is also easily recycled and biodegradable. Thanks to its wood components, after 25 to 40 years you can toss the material out guilt-free—take the used linoleum to an energy-recycling incineration plant or, if the discard pile is small enough, even compost it for your garden as you might do with mulch or wood chips. And its all-natural composition ensures that it does not emit any harmful VOC (volatile organic compounds) emissions, to boot!

Myriad options: Today’s linoleum comes in an enormous variety of colors, styles, and patterns, including designs that mimic the look of wood, stone, or marble. Linoleum’s appearance isn’t the only decision to be made, though; it’s available in a number of options for installation and overall looks, too.

Sheet linoleum flooring offers the largest variety of colors and patterns and comes in jumbo-sized rolls that are suitable for covering large, open areas.

Tile linoleum flooring is similar to ceramic, porcelain, and stone tiles but much less expensive.

Click-and-lock linoleum is designed to be used as part of a floating floor system and comes in tiles or planks. Sheet and tile linoleum is typically glued in place, while click-and-lock flooring snaps into place on a floor frame and therefore does not require any additional adhesive.


Linoleum Flooring in the Kitchen

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Montclair, NJ

To DIY, or Not to DIY?

Updating the kitchen floors with linoleum can be a do-it-yourself project, particularly if you’ve gone the route of tiles, which often come in a “snap-together” configuration designed to be installed as part of a floating floor system. For sheet linoleum, however, you might be better off calling in a professional flooring contractor—this variety of linoleum flooring is much stiffer than sheet vinyl and can be difficult to measure, cut, and fit accurately. If you’re hiring out, be sure to budget for labor when planning your remodel. The cost for installation typically ranges from $716 to $2,068, with the national average at $1,378, according to Home Advisor’s True Cost Guide.

Installing a new floor is a series of steps beyond simply making sure you know how pieces click. Since prep is key to end results you’ll love to live with, take these considerations into account prior to installation regardless of whether you take the DIY path or call in a pro:

• Make sure the underlying floor is level.

• Remove any old flooring material, staples, tack strips, nails, or debris.

• Have a properly-installed subfloor.

• Maintain a gap of at least 3/8-inch between the subfloor and the top of the baseboards to allow for natural expansion and contraction of the linoleum floor.


Linoleum Flooring Pros and Cons


Cost Comparisons

Linoleum is an extremely cost-effective flooring option, especially when compared to hard surface flooring such as hardwood, ceramic, or stone. Average prices for linoleum typically run in the neighborhood of $2.50 to $3.50 per square foot—that’s slightly more than vinyl flooring, which can start as low as $.50 per square foot and go as high as $5 or even $8 per square foot for the newer, luxury vinyl alternatives. Meanwhile, hardwood may cost you between $5 and $15 per square foot, ceramic tiles between $5 and $15, and stone tiles between $7 and $20 per square foot, according to Home Advisor’s Flooring Costs Overview.

If linoleum flooring’s pros outweigh its cons for you, start researching your options with the one company now selling the majority of the linoleum for residential use here in the U.S.: Forbo Marmoleum. (Armstrong Marmorette had been recently discontinued, and now recommends comparable vinyl products for those flooring options no longer in production.) Its linoleum comes in sheets or tile form, in a wide variety of colors that can look just as great in a Craftsman-style home as a super modern one. Kitchen, bathrooms, entryways, and mudrooms could all benefit from the easy-care, quality material.

How To: Defrost a Windshield

Get your windshield crystal clear and primed for your next wintertime drive with these proven defrosting techniques.

How To Defrost a Windshield


If you’ve ever parked your car outside during an onslaught of sleet or a frigid winter’s night, you’re familiar with the frustration of waking up to a windshield riddled with frost or under a thin sheet of ice. Your solution might be to let the engine run with the defroster on and wait for the problem to melt away—a prospect that wastes precious time and gas. Or you might opt to manually scrape the windshield, an effort-intensive chore outside in the cold. Fortunately, there are a few better, faster ways to attack the problem and get you safely back on the road. Below, we outline three foolproof techniques for how to defrost a windshield—as well as how to prevent further freezing episodes.

How To Defrost a Windshield


DEFROST A WINDSHIELD… with Lukewarm Water


MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Onegallon bucket
Plain water
Gloves (optional)

Fill a gallon-size bucket three-quarters of the way with lukewarm water. (Never use hot water; the temperature difference between it and the frozen windshield will cause the glass to expand, and in some cases, crack.) Tote the bucket to your car and gradually pour the water over the frozen windshield, starting from the top left or right corner and working horizontally across the glass. As the warm water trickles down, it will immediately thaw the ice in its path, turning it into an opaque slush. Remove this by either running your windshield wipers or wiping down the windshield with a gloved hand. Use any remaining warm water to thaw iced-over car windows—just be sure the windows are fully closed first!


How to Defrost a Windshield


DEFROST A WINDSHIELD… with Rubbing Alcohol


MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
– 12-ounce plastic spray bottle
– Rubbing alcohol
Plain water
– Gloves or a credit card

That alcohol you rely on to clean minor scrapes makes an effective deicer because it has a much lower freezing point than water (minus 128 degrees Fahrenheit). When applied to an icy windshield, the alcohol itself doesn’t freeze; instead, its heat is transferred to the ice, increasing its temperature and melting it.

To de-ice, fill a dry, 12-ounce spray bottle with four ounces of room-temperature water and eight ounces of rubbing alcohol, then replace the spray head and invert the bottle a few times to mix. Spray over your windshield to completely coat the glass, then let the solution dwell for one minute, allowing the alcohol to seep into and soften the ice. Wipe frost away with a gloved hand, or scrape with a plastic credit card. When your windshield is clean and clear, store the spray bottle in the glove box or trunk so you can tackle future freeze-ups away from home. Rubbing alcohol’s ultra-low freezing point means there’s virtually no risk of your deicer freezing on you.


How to Defrost a Windshield


DEFROST A WINDSHIELD…with Homemade Heat Packs


MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
– Old socks or mittens (2)
– Uncooked rice

Prefer to de-ice your windshield from the warm and toasty confines of your car? Fill two old socks or mittens with uncooked rice, then zap the rice-filled socks in the microwave for 30 seconds. While sitting in your car, grab one sock in each hand and gently glide them over the entire interior surface of the windshield glass, taking care not to position the heated sock over any one spot for more than 10 seconds (this can increase the risk of the glass cracking). The heat from the rice will transfer to the glass and start to melt the windshield ice. When the frost has melted or sufficiently softened, run your windshield wipers to clear off the slush.


How to Keep a Windshield from Frosting Up

There are a few ways outsmart ice and frost so they won’t build up on your windshield before your next drive:

• Whenever possible during the cold season, park in a garage with all of your car windows closed.

• If you don’t have indoor parking, cover your car with a tarp or place a beach towel or a few rubber mats over the windshield, using your wipers as clips to secure the cover in place. The will act as a shield, accumulating frost and ice while the glass below remains clean and clear.

• Place an old stocking or knee-high sock over each of your windshield wiper blades to keep dew and snow from reaching them; this will keep the blades from freezing in place on the glass.

Replacing Your Water Heater? Don’t Overlook This One Key Factor

If you're in the market for a new water heater, installation will be easier if you stick to a water heater that vents the same way as your old one. But there are considerations beyond ease of installation. Read on to learn more.

Water Heater Venting - Faucet Closeup


When a home’s plumbing system is operating problem-free, homeowners rarely give any thought to the water heater. It’s a much different story when this vital appliance malfunctions, interfering with all those essential daily activities that require a ready supply of hot water. When that happens—being forced to take cold showers or clean dinner dishes by hand—you’re probably going to find yourself thinking about the water heater quite a bit!

If your water heater seems like it’s on its last legs, or if it’s stopped working altogether, there’s every temptation to install a replacement as soon as possible. Rushing this decision would be a mistake, though. First of all, there are many different types of water heaters, and they boast a wide range of energy-efficiency profiles. How much you’ll wind up paying to heat water on an ongoing basis depends to a great extent on the type of water heater you choose.

There’s also another, subtler reason to take your time: “Choosing a replacement water heater wisely often means avoiding unnecessary installation costs,” according to Daniel O’Brian, a technical specialist with If your current water heater requires venting, and most do, then it’s usually cheapest to go with a replacement unit that vents the same way. Otherwise, you’ll probably end up paying more than strictly necessary for installation.

That’s not to say there’s never any justification for switching to a water heater that vents differently than the old unit. As O’Brian points out, “A replacement that saves you a lot on your energy bills may be well worth the added installation cost.” In assessing your water heater options, it’s wise to consider the question of ventilation, but when it finally comes time to make a purchase, O’Brian says, “Be sure to weigh both the upfront and ongoing costs.”

Water Heater Venting Types


Does every water heater need ventilation? No—but as much as water heater technology has changed in recent years, combustion water heaters remain the most common. That is, the average water heater still burns fuel—be it natural gas, oil, or propane—and that fuel burning releases byproducts like carbon monoxide. Without proper ventilation of the noxious gases created by combustion, modern water heating would be a dangerous proposition.

If you’re shopping for a solar- or electric-powered water heater, or if you live in a warm climate and plan on locating your water heater outdoors, then you don’t have to think about ventilation. Virtually all other installations, however, require some sort of exterior venting, but not every venting system functions the same way, and as a result, installation requirements can vary widely.

Atmospheric venting refers to a system in which exhaust from the water heater naturally rises out of the appliance’s combustion chamber, then travels up through a standard, chimney-style flue that terminates on the roof. Unlike some other types of ventilation, the atmospheric variety doesn’t call for the inclusion of a motorized fan, but it does require an exhaust pipe that stretches all the way from the water heater to the roof without interruption.

Direct venting and power venting systems offer greater flexibility, because neither requires a direct line to the roof. Instead, both systems typically expel exhaust through a pipe that runs outside through an exterior wall. The difference is that a power vent water heater pulls in combustion air from the space around the appliance, then uses a fan to propel the exhaust through the vent. A direct vent system pulls in air from outside and then vents the exhaust through a horizontal pipe. This difference in operation means that you can install a direct vent system almost anywhere, but a power vented water heater must be placed in a room with adequate airflow.

“Choosing between powered and non-powered venting can often come down to simply how the house is laid out and where there is room for the venting,” notes O’Brian of Supply House.

Water Heating Venting - Direct vs. Power


O’Brian recommends consulting with a contractor even if you plan to upgrade to a water heater that vents no differently than your old unit. It may seem like a straightforward swap, but when you’re dealing with potentially lethal gases, O’Brian cautions, “It’s very bad to have even minor leaks.” In other words, take no chances. Do your research, choose an efficient unit with a capacity that meets your family’s needs, then leave all the rest to your installer. offers water heaters and accessories from top manufacturers—Takagi, Bradford White, A.O. Smith, and others—across a broad selection that spans all common fuel types, sizes, and ventilation options. Need help selecting the most suitable water heater for your needs and budget? Remember: The team is always on hand to help. Visit the website or call 1-888-757-4774 to speak with customer service today!

Water Heater Venting - Atmospheric Example


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How To: Clean a Waffle Maker

Rid your waffle maker of the remnants of breakfasts past with this handy cleaning tutorial.

How to Clean a Waffle Maker


Few small appliances provide as much tasty fun as the waffle maker. So how come this cool kitchen tool gets little play? Because it can be a bummer to clean! Both the interior baking plates and the exterior are bound to accumulate food debris and grease, which should be removed after every use, lest they emit nasty odors or even burn your next batch. Unless your waffle maker advises otherwise, ordinary dish soap shouldn’t be used to clean the baking plates since it can gradually strip their non-stick coating over time. But with the right supplies and techniques, you can easily banish leftover batter and crud—how you approach the job will depend on whether your unit has removable or non-removable baking plates. Consult the manual if you’re not sure, then read on to learn how to clean the appliance in a jiffy and let it take its rightfully popular place in your breakfast repertoire.

How to Clean a Waffle Maker




MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Plastic or rubber spatula
Plain water
Soft sponge or softbristle brush
Drying rack

Lift the lid of the waffle maker and use a plastic or rubber spatula to remove any waffles from the baking plates. Never use metallic utensils, which can scrape the non-stick coating present on many models.

If your waffle maker features a temperature control dial, turn it to the off or 0 position. Then unplug the machine and let it cool completely for at least 30 minutes.

Clear the kitchen sink of dishes and then insert the stopper into the drain. Fill the sink halfway with warm tap water.

Remove each cooled baking plate by pressing down on the corresponding plate release button located on the side of the unit’s exterior. For example, on a two-plate unit, press the plate release button on the left-hand side to remove the leftmost plate. When the plate pops up from its housing at the base of the unit, use both hands to lift and remove it and immediately immerse it in the sink. Repeat this process for each plate. Let plates dwell in the water for 10 minutes to loosen grease and caked-on batter.

After donning gloves, lift one plate from the water bath and use your other hand to gently wipe clean the grooves and edges of the plate using small horizontal strokes of a soft sponge or a soft-bristle brush. (Do not use scouring pads or other abrasive cleaning supplies that could erode the non-stick coating.) Once the side of the plate with the grooves is clean, flip the plate to the other side and gently wipe it down. Rinse the top and bottom of the plate under warm running water to wash away any remaining crumbs, then air-dry on a drying rack. Repeat this process to clean and dry each baking plate, then remove your gloves.

Note: Some waffle maker models contain baking plates that are rugged enough to be cleaned in the dishwasher without incurring damage. Always check the manual for instructions on safe cleaning techniques. If in doubt, avoid dishwashing the baking plates to prevent denting or otherwise damaging the plates.

Position each clean and dry baking plate in its requisite slot in the plate housing at the base of the waffle maker, then push the plate down with both hands until you hear it snap into place in the slot. Close the lid of the waffle maker and clean the outside of the unit using the procedure “How to Clean a Waffle Maker’s Exterior,” below.

How to Clean a Waffle Maker




MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Plastic or rubber spatula
Plain water
– Paper towels
– Cloth hand towels (2)

Lift the lid of the waffle maker and use a plastic or rubber spatula to remove any waffles. If the unit has a temperature control dial, turn it to the off or 0 position. Then, unplug the waffle maker from the power source and let it cool completely for at least 30 minutes.

Using a clean, dry paper towel or cloth hand towel, make a pass over the grooves and edges of each baking plate located at the base of the unit to absorb grease and slough off trapped batter debris.

If any residue remains, wet the entire towel with warm water, wring it out until damp but not dripping, then lay the damp towel directly on top of the baking plates and close the lid for three to five minutes. The heat from the towel will loosen stubborn residue.

Lift the lid of the waffle maker and use the damp cloth to make a second pass over the grooves and edges of each plate, wiping away any lingering residue.

Take another clean paper or cloth towel, wet it with warm water, wring it out, and make a final pass over the grooves and edges of each baking plate in the unit to wipe it clean. Leave the lid of the waffle maker open for at least 10 minutes so that the plates can dry completely.

How to Clean a Waffle Maker





MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
– Paper towels
– Cloth hand towels (2)
– Plain water

With the interior plates clean and the unit cool, unplugged, and set to off/0, use a clean, damp paper or cloth towel to wipe down the waffle maker’s lid, handle, and base. Steer clear of electrical components such as the cord port and the cord itself when wiping the base of the unit. Never immerse the unit in water; it can seep into the base and corrode the metal heating elements on the underside of the baking plates.

Make a second pass over the lid, handle, and base of the unit with a fresh towel to dry the unit.

To store the waffle maker, close the lid, wrap the power cord around the power cord bracket (usually located at the base of the lid), then sit the unit upright on a flat, clean, dry surface where kids or pets can’t reach the cord end and pull it down—the shelves of a high cabinet are ideal.

Solved! The Best Paint to Use on Wood

Prime your next painting project for success with our recommendations for the best paint to use on wooden surfaces throughout the home.

Best Paint to Use on Wood, Solved!


Q: A few wooden surfaces in my home interior could use painting. What’s the best type of paint to use on wood—water- or oil-based? And what’s the best sheen?

A: Wood is adaptable enough to receive either water- or oil-based paint, as long as you coat it with primer beforehand. But the myriad types of paint and sheen within these two categories can present you with a dizzying array of options at the paint store. Ultimately, the best type of paint and sheen to use depends on the wooden surface you’re painting. So, read on to learn which of the most common types of paints and sheens on the market are best suited for your wood painting project.

Get to know paint options and their sheens. Water-based paint is sold at paint stores and home centers in traditional latex ($15 to $40 per gallon), milk ($15 to $25 per quart), or chalk varieties ($15 to $35 per quart), while oil-based paints are either alkyd-based (made with synthetic resins called alkyds; $20 to $50 per gallon) or plant-oil-based (made with linseed or other plant oils; $30 to $50 per quart). Traditional latex, alkyd-based, and plant-oil-based paint also come in a number of sheens—flat (matte), eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and high gloss, in order of lowest to highest luster. You can expect to pay one to two dollars more per gallon for every step up on the sheen spectrum. Milk and chalk paint, which you can buy or DIY with good results, are naturally matte, so commercial cans of these paints don’t usually indicate a sheen.

Best Paint for Wood Floors


Pick a stain-blocking primer for your wood, no matter the project. Whether you’re painting unfinished or painted wood, it’s essential to prime it before painting since tinted organic compounds in wood called tannins will otherwise bleed into any water-based paint applied on top—especially when painting over dark, tannin-rich woods like knotty pine. Primer creates a barrier between wood and paint that prevents this tannin bleed-through. While oil-based paint is less susceptible to tannin bleed-through, primer (which runs $16 to $25 per gallon) is still recommended under all paints to ensure an even foundation that will help you achieve a more uniform paint finish. So, choose one that matches the type of paint you’re using: stain-blocking latex primer for latex paint and stain-blocking oil-based primer for oil-based paints. How knotty your wood is may guide you in deciding which types of primer and paint you use, as oil-based primers (like the paints) do a better job penetrating and sealing the wood and block tannins more effectively than water-based primers.

Use traditional latex paint on seldom-used furnishings. This water-based paint is a top choice for infrequently-used furnishings (e.g. entryway tables or stair spindles) since it can be tinted to match any color you desire for the furniture and dries faster than oil-based paint. (For reference, latex paint coats normally dry to the touch in one to four hours as opposed to eight hours or more for oil-based paint coats.) Latex paints today are also cheaper, lower in volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and less likely to show pesky brush marks seen on alkyd-based oil paint coats. Within latex paints, those with a flat to satin sheen reflect less light than glossier sheens, meaning that completely smooth coat masks furniture flaws (knicks and scratches to be painted over) more effectively. They’re also the most inexpensive sheen options for furniture you don’t handle often.

Use chalk or milk paint for distressed furnishings. These decorative water-based paints are known for their elegant shabby-chic look and matte sheen, making them an attractive option for furnishings that would benefit from a distressed look. Milk paint cracks, flakes, and distresses easily, which gives it a more pronounced weathered look that’s ideal for focal point pieces like wooden hutches or headboards. Chalk paint less easily distresses on its own, giving you more control over the distressed effect and usually resulting in a softer, more subdued aged effect that’s perfect for items that complete a room such as end tables or wooden coat racks.

Best Paint for Wood Furniture


Consider alkyd-based oil paint on everyday furnishings. It dries into a rigid layer over wood and continues to harden on the wood surface over time, making wooden chairs, dining tables, and other frequently-used furnishings less susceptible to scuff marks or dents than the soft, more flexible surface of a water-based paint coat. Alkyd-based paint dries faster than plant-oil-based paint (some plant-oil-based paints take up to three days to dry)—meaning the furniture you use most won’t be out of commission drying for as long as it would be with a plant-oil-based paint. Opt for semi-gloss or high-gloss sheen; these are the smoothest to the touch and the easiest to wipe clean. These sheens also hold up better to harsh cleaners and scrubbers, which may tarnish a lower luster paint coat.

Select alkyd-based oil paint for kitchen and bathroom cabinets. These cabinets are exposed to considerable moisture from water or cooking fumes, which are absorbed over time to a greater degree by the average water-based paint, and can spur the growth of mildew or mold on the cabinet surface. Oil-based paint is water- and rot-repellent. Use an alkyd-based paint instead of a plant-oil-based paint on moisture-exposed cabinets since it’s less likely to turn yellow over time—a downside of plant-oil-based paint. Semi-gloss or high-gloss paint sheens are your best bets; their non-porous, smoother finish is easier to clean, and moisture beads on these surfaces rather than being absorbed, so the paint coat doesn’t weather or fade with time. The exception is shelves in the cabinet interior; if you opt to paint these, you want a flat to satin sheen because they’re better at withstanding the weight of dishes.

Cover cabinets in dry areas of the home with traditional latex paint. It’s the most inexpensive and fastest-drying option for cabinets that live in spaces where moisture isn’t a concern—say, in a home office or entertainment room. A flat to satin sheen is best for cabinet shelves, especially those that carry electronics or other heavy objects, but choose a semi-gloss to high-gloss sheen for the cabinet exterior to make lighter work of cleaning it.

Use alkyd-based oil paint on standard trim. Interior trim—whether baseboards, door casings, or window or ceiling trim—accumulates a fair amount of scuff marks and dents or dings over time. The rigid quality of an oil-based paint coat defends against these flaws more effectively than a softer and less durable water-based paint coat. Trim being a noticeable feature in the home interior (particularly when set against white walls), you’ll want to choose an alkyd paint over a plant-oil-based paint to avoid the risk of yellowing. As with cabinets, choosing paint in a semi-gloss or high-gloss sheen makes the job of cleaning dingy trim easier.

Use traditional latex paint on ornate trim. Decorative trim—for example, a crown molding with scrollwork (spiral-shaped pattern)—often contains grooves that oil-based paint has trouble reaching into and coating since it’s thicker and more viscous than water-based paint. The lower viscosity of water-based paint makes for a thinner paint that more readily reaches grooves and recesses in trim, getting you more uniform paint coverage. A flat to satin sheen is the most inexpensive option for ornate trim in low-traffic areas you don’t need to clean often.

For floors, use alkyd-based oil paint. It can handle daily abuse from boot heels, sopping shoes and umbrellas, and furniture relocations without becoming water-damaged or dented. (The softer, more flexible surface of a water-based paint coat doesn’t hold up as well on painted wood floors in high-traffic zones.) While plant-oil-based paint also offers these benefits, it’s too cost prohibitive for most homeowners to apply to the large surface area of a floor. Choose a semi-gloss or high-gloss paint finish; the surface area of a floor is more labor-intensive to mop up if you’re working with a coarser flat to satin sheen.

Pick plant-oil-based paint on small knickknacks. It’s gone out of favor for more affordable and readily available alkyd-based oil paints, but this type of paint is still used to augment the natural patina of small wooden objects—think wooden jewelry boxes, photo frames, and other surfaces where its steeper price isn’t cost-prohibitive. Since plant-oil-based paint dries into a slightly softer and suppler surface than alkyd-based oil paints, the wood surface can expand and contract with temperature changes with little risk of the paint coat turning brittle and cracking. Moreover, since the paints are usually comprised only of plant oil, oil drying agents, and natural pigments, they emit little to no VOCs into your household. A semi-gloss to high-gloss sheen reflects more light so makes small objects stand out better than a lower luster sheen would allow.


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All You Need to Know About Parquet Flooring

Get the 411 on this handsome hardwood flooring option that’s currently enjoying a renaissance.

Parquet Flooring 101


When it comes to elaborate flooring, parquet reigns supreme. Constructed from small pieces of hardwood fitted together in geometric patterns, parquet flooring adds a dramatic design element to any room. In the United States, parquet reached its popularity peak in the 1960s, and then, as with many boom trends, demand slowed.

Recently, however, parquet flooring has shown signs of a comeback, due in part to new manufacturing techniques that offer consumers a wider range of wood species and motifs. So keep reading to learn about the parquet pros and cons, prices, installation, and maintenance to decide if this bold statement underfoot is right for you.


Parquet Flooring 101 - Its History, Pros and Cons, and Possibilities


Parquet comes from the French term “parquetry,” meaning “small compartment.” It originated in France in the 17th Century, where artisans created elaborate designs by cutting and fitting small geometric pieces of wood together, one at a time, and then gluing them to the floor. Because of the skill and time required, parquet floors were initially the province of wealthy households and public buildings. A few of the earliest specimens still exist—such as the Galerie d’Hercule at the Hôtel Lambert, Paris—and are considered works of art in their own right.


While artisans can still piece together a custom parquet floor, the vast majority of modern parquet flooring comes in square tiles, featuring strips of hardwood bonded to a mesh or thin plywood base.

Custom parquet is rarely found in residential homes today because it still requires individually cutting wood pieces and assembling them in puzzle-like fashion to form mosaics, mandalas, and other intricate designs. The few companies that specialize in custom parquet charge $20 to $45 per square foot or more, depending on the level of complexity.

Parquet flooring tiles are the product of choice for homes today—and they’re do-it-yourself-friendly. An assortment of hardwoods, including oak, chestnut, ash, and walnut are popular in these tiles, and you can also find some exotic wood species and bamboo. Parquet flooring tiles sell by the carton, in 9-inch, 12-inch, and 18-inch squares. When installed by a homeowner, parquet flooring runs $3 to $5 per square foot. Professional installation of parquet tiles will raise the cost to around $7 to $10 per square foot.


Before investing the time and money in parquet flooring, carefully consider the positive and negative aspects of this feature floor.


• Variety, with dozens of complex patterns available.

• The warm appeal of real wood.

• Tile installation is DIY-friendly, with no nailing required.


• Can be a challenge to refinish (see below).

• Should not be installed below grade (in basements) due to common moisture issues.

• Not suitable for high humidity areas, either, including bathrooms and laundry rooms.


Many contractors and flooring professionals are adept at installing parquet tiles, but whether you choose to go with a pro or tackle the job yourself, the following pointers will give you an idea of what’s involved. Keep in mind that manufacturer specifications vary, so always follow the instructions enclosed in the carton of parquet flooring tiles.

Parquet Flooring 101 - Its History, Pros and Cons, and Possibilities


Prep for installation. Parquet flooring should be installed on a stable substrate, such as a sturdy subfloor. The substrate should be dry and level. Remove baseboards prior to installation.

Let it acclimate. Parquet is real wood and needs to acclimate to the room where it will be laid to reduce the risk of gaps developing later between the strips. The standard acclimation time for hardwood is two weeks. Simply set the cartons in the room; no need to take the tiles out. The wood strips may move imperceptibly during this time as they adjust to temperature and humidity.

Figure your layout carefully. Parquet tile designs repeat with every subsequent tile, and if the rows are not perfectly straight, or not aligned precisely with the walls, the end result will be amateurish. Not all rooms are perfectly square, and you’ll need to take that into consideration when creating a layout. Tiles come with detailed instructions on how to develop a floor layout. Follow these directions to the letter for professional looking results.

Use the recommended materials and tools. The recommended tools and materials are designed to give you the best results, so don’t just wing it with what’s at hand. Not only can the type of adhesive vary depending on the brand of tile, the manufacturer will often recommend a trowel with specific size notches.

Cut with a jigsaw, not a circular saw. While it’s standard practice to cut other types of wood flooring with a circular saw, parquet often comes with small wires embedded in the wood strips. These wires can get tangled in the spinning blade of a circular saw, creating a hazard, ruining the tile, and potentially damaging the saw. The up-and-down motion of a jigsaw cuts right through the wood and wire without problems.


Protect your investment with the right care and your parquet floors will look beautiful for years.

• For daily care, dry mop the floor with a microfiber or wool dust mop to remove dust and lightweight crumbs.

• Wipe up wet spills promptly with absorbent paper towels. Use a damp washcloth or sponge on sticky stains.

• Vacuum once a week, or as needed, using a brush attachment.

• Use a cleaning product designed for wood floors, once a month, or as needed, to maintain a bright, lustrous look.

• Avoid wood furniture dusting products, which can make parquet floors dangerously slippery.

• Do not use a steam mop. The heat and moisture can damage the finish and even swell the wood grain.

• Do not apply floor wax or polishing products intended for vinyl or ceramic tile floors—they could damage the finish.

• Put rugs in high traffic areas to protect your floor’s finish.

• Use stick-on silicone or felt protectors under furniture legs to prevent scratches.


Parquet Flooring 101



With care, your parquet floor should maintain its luster for 10 to 15 years, or longer. Over time, however, even the most well-kept wood floor can start to look a little dull, especially in high-traffic areas. When the surface coat wears thin, refinishing is an option, but it should probably be done by a wood flooring professional.

Refinishing a parquet floor can be difficult because removing the old finish involves sanding, and wood should always be sanded with the direction of its grain to prevent cross-grain marks. Because a parquet floor features pieces of wood grain running in different directions, removing the old finish without damaging the surface of the wood beneath requires painstaking care.