Bob Vila - 4/443 - The Dean of Home Renovation & Repair Advice

Welcome to Bob Vila


Solved! What to Do When Your Refrigerator Stops Cooling

No need to toss—or eat—all of the chilled food before it goes bad. Any of these easy solutions can get your hardworking kitchen appliance running again.

Refrigerator Not Cooling? 7 DIY Fixes

Photo: istockphoto.com

Q: A can of soda that I just pulled out of my fridge is barely cool. I’ve also recently noticed that my milk isn’t as cold as it used to be. Why is my refrigerator not cooling these drinks properly? Do I have to call a repairman, or is there something I can do?

A: While some refrigerator cooling problems do require professional assistance, don’t call the repairman just yet. You might be able to fix the situation yourself. It’s certainly worth a shot, since the average professional service call can run $150 or more. Depending on what’s causing your fridge not to keep perishable foods cold enough, the following procedures might help.

Make sure your fridge is getting power. This might sound too simple to be the answer, but a power cord that has worked loose in its outlet or a flipped breaker will shut the entire fridge down. Open the door. If the light comes on, the fridge still has power and you can move on to the next possible problem-solution set. If the light doesn’t come on, make sure the power cord is plugged in firmly and check again. Still no light? Check your main electrical panel for a flipped breaker and switch it back on if necessary.

Check the refrigerator’s thermostat. New refrigerators usually come preset at a mid-range temperature, between 35 and 37 degrees Fahrenheit because that’s the optimal temperature range for a fridge in order to keep perishable foods safe. Thermostat dials inside the fridge can get bumped by cartons of milk or other items, though, which can change the set temperature. Even exterior digital thermostats can also be inadvertently changed by little fingers or if someone leans against the control panel, unknowingly changing the temperature. Many digital panels come with the ability to lock the settings for just that reason. Reset the temperature to the safe zone if necessary.

Refrigerator Not Cooling? 7 DIY Fixes

Photo: istockphoto.com

Test the seals on your fridge doors. Even if the rest of your refrigerator is working fine, if the magnetic seals on the doors—also called “door gaskets”—are defective, cool air from inside the fridge could be escaping. Door gaskets can get brittle over time, which reduces their ability to form a tight seal. Test the seal by putting a dollar bill halfway in the door and then close the door. If you feel resistance when you pull it out, the seal is still working, but if the bill slips out easily, you’ll need to replace the door gaskets. Replacing the gaskets is an easy enough project for eager do-it-yourselfers. Door gaskets range in price from around $45 dollars to $75, or more, depending on the brand and model of fridge. Check your owner’s manual to determine the correct replacement gaskets. Detailed DIY replacement instructions can be found in your owner’s manual or in the replacement gasket package.

Determine whether the refrigerator is level. A relatively new fridge on which the door seals are still supple can still leak air and fail the dollar bill test above when it’s out of level. If a refrigerator is lower on one side than the other, its heavy doors don’t always seal tightly. Set a carpenter’s level on top of the fridge and, if the bubble is not in the center of the glass tube, adjust the front legs of the fridge until it is. Most refrigerator legs can be adjusted with either a hex wrench or adjustable pliers—consult your owner’s manual for detailed instructions on how to level.

Clean the condenser coils. Your fridge comes with condenser coils that are filled with refrigerant. Over time, the coils—which are not in a sealed unit—can become caked with dust, hair, or pet fur, which reduces their ability to keep the air in the fridge cold. Fortunately, cleaning refrigerator coils is a relatively simple process, requiring only a coil condenser brush (about $10 at hardware stores) and a vacuum to suck up the loosened dust. If you find a lot of dust buildup on the coils, plan to clean them once or twice a year to keep your fridge cooling properly.

Check to make sure nothing’s blocking the air vents. Cold air circulates back and forth through vents that run between the refrigerator’s freezer compartment and the refrigerator compartment. If something blocks the airflow, it can result in inconsistent temperatures in the refrigerated compartment. Depending on the brand and model of your fridge, the vents could be located along the inside back wall or along a side wall. Check your owner’s manual if you have trouble locating them.

• Items crammed tightly against a vent can block airflow. A good rule of thumb is to keep plenty of food products in your fridge, which will help it maintain a cool temperature, but don’t pack it so tightly that air cannot circulate easily from shelf to shelf.

• Frost buildup in the freezer can also block a vent, reducing or preventing cold air from reaching the refrigerator compartment. If the freezer compartment is heavily frosted, unplug the fridge and open the freezer door to allow the frost to melt. Once it melts, plug the fridge back in and it should cool better. It can take an entire day for a heavily frosted freezer to defrost, so plan to store your perishable food items in a neighbor’s fridge, if possible.

If all else fails, call a repairman. At this point, the cause of the problem may be a defective mechanical component. While replacing some components on a refrigerator are not too difficult, pinpointing the exact cause of the problem can be tricky and requires the use of electrical testing equipment. The compressor, the compressor fan, or the defrost thermostat may have to be replaced, which should be undertaken by a licensed professional. If your fridge is still under warranty, attempting to replace components yourself may void its warranty.


Buyer’s Guide: Leaf Vacuums

To rid your yard of autumn leaves without picking up a rake, take a stroll through this guide to find the right machine for you.

Best Leaf Vacuum for Yards and Gardens

Photo: istockphoto.com

While turning leaves are lovely, once they start to drop, the task of clearing walkways and readying your yard for winter begins. So now’s a good time to consider adding a leaf vacuum to your gardening gear. Unlike familiar leaf blowers, which disperse organic debris, leaf vacuums suck fallen foliage through a tube and into a bag attached to the end for manual disposal. These devices, ranging anywhere from $50 to several hundred dollars, are handy for tidying up small yards as well as banishing leaf buildup beneath hedges and flowerbeds. Check out some important shopping considerations here—as well as three top-rated picks—to choose the best leaf vacuum that best suits your property and purposes.

Best Leaf Vacuum for Yards and Gardens

Photo: istockphoto.com

Pick a power source.
Like lawnmowers, leaf vacuums are available in gas- and electric-powered versions; plus, there are also rechargeable battery models on the market. Gas may offer greater power and the ability to cover lots of ground in one go, but these models can run loud, emit fumes, and require you to maintain the right gas to oil ratio. While electric leaf vacuums are quieter and easier to maintain, they’re best suited to modest-sized outdoor spaces, require plugging into an electrical outlet, and often require an extension cord to allow enough room to roam. Rechargeable leaf vacuums are compact enough to be easily stored, but they cover the least amount of ground and must be recharged between uses.

Consider suction speed and power.
Check a leaf vacuum’s product descriptions for two numbers: the MPH and the CFM. MPH stands for miles per hour—in this case referring to the how quickly air is suctioned into the unit and through the tube. Most run between 110 and 180 MPH, although some may reach extremes of 250 MPH or so.

Somewhat more important than airspeed, however, is CFM, or cubic feet per minute. This tells how much air moves through the vacuum in the span of 60 seconds, indicating how powerful the unit is. While MPH gives you an idea of how quickly leaves can go through the tube, CFM tells you how much can go through at once. CFM rankings for leaf vacuums range from around 150 to 600. A less expensive unit with a CFM under 200 may be all you need to clean up an apartment balcony or a small yard, but, for larger areas, you may wish to invest in a higher-CFM unit.

Factor in the extras.
Some leaf vacuums offer bells and whistles beyond simple suction. In fact, most vacuums these days are actually leaf blowers with a vacuum function, which gives you the choice of, say, simply clearing a walkway with a blower or completely removing leaves from your patio area with a vacuum. Vacuums are best suited for smaller outdoor spaces, like those surrounding apartments and duplexes. Some models also offer a mulching option, great for repurposing those leaves into healthy plant beds.

Best Bets

After thoroughly comparing leaf vacuum reviews from consumers and publishers alike, we’ve rounded up three of the most highly rated models available today to help you find one that fits your yard and garden’s needs and your family’s budget. Check out the best leaf vacuum options below!

Best Leaf Vacuum for Yards and Gardens - Toro 51619 Ultra Blower/Vac

Photo: amazon.com

Toro 51619 Ultra Blower/Vac ($70)
This Toro unit topped the 2017 list of best leaf blowers and vacuums compiled by expert product reviewers at The Spruce. It offers a cool combo of speed (250 MPH) and power (410 CFM) for its budget-friendly price. Packing a triple punch with vacuuming, blowing, and mulching capabilities, it’s a multi-purpose electric model noted for its durability and ease of use. Available on Amazon.

 

Best Leaf Vacuum for Yards and Gardens - Husqvarna 125BVX Gas Blower With Vacuum

Photo: istockphoto.com

Husqvarna 125BVX Handheld Gas Leaf Blower with Vacuum Kit ($199)
This multi-purpose, gas-powered blower/vacuum earned more than 400 4-star reviews from satisfied Lowe’s customers. The high-powered (170 MPH, 470 CFM) model covers larger areas more quickly than many corded and battery-powered counterparts, and as one fan puts it, “It has outstanding power and the vacuum portion is amazing.” A mulching function is also available while the unit is in vacuum mode. Available at Lowe’s.

 

Best Leaf Vacuum for Yards and Gardens - Greenworks 24322 Cordless Blower/Vac

Photo: amazon.com

Greenworks 24322 Cordless Blower/Vac ($177)
The Greenworks 24322 is a convenient device thanks to an easily rechargeable battery that happens to be compatible with all Greenworks tools. Clocking in at 185 MPH with 340 CFM, what it lacks in power it makes up for with its modest size and extremely light weight—under 6 pounds. Ideal for patios and porches, this apartment-friendly tool earns praise for ease of use and reliable performance. Available on Amazon.


Video: How to Remove Rust—Naturally

Say goodbye to rust with these simple yet genius green cleaning hacks.

SHARES

Rust can strike at any time—or at least whenever metal is exposed to damp conditions. Left untreated, those corrosive orange spots can spell doom for your metal tools, pots, pans, and other accents around the home. Remove surface rust from affected metal objects (and rescue them from certain ruin) with the natural cleaning tricks found in this video. You’ll see how easy it is to remove rust using supplies you might already have in the pantry.

For more cleaning advice, consider:

12 Inventions That Do All Your Chores
9 Top Tips for a Bathroom That Cleans Itself
9 Things You’re Cleaning Way Too Often


Video: How to Paint Wood Furniture

Give your wood furniture a face lift with a fast, easy, and affordable DIY paint job. Here's how!

SHARES

The time comes when we could all use a little change—in our decor. The fastest way to alter the look of a room is to swap out the furniture, but that’s not an economical option for the average homeowner. If you’re refreshing your space on a budget, your best bet is to shop your home, rearranging things you already own or giving outdated accents a fresh new look. That old dark-stained dresser? Or that blah-blonde wood bookcase? No problem. Simply take a brush, paint, sandpaper, and the tips from this video and you can reinvent your furniture and, as a result, your whole living space.

For more painting advice, consider:

10 Unusual Tricks for Your Easiest-Ever Paint Job

9 Ways to Crank Up Curb Appeal with Nothing But Paint

10 Things You Should Never Paint


DIY Lite: A Beginner-Friendly Build for a Rustic Wooden Lantern

Love the farmhouse look? Create a lantern-inspired light for any indoor tabletop using little more than a set of dowels, scrap wood, and a lamp kit.

How to Make a Lantern from Wood

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Wooden lanterns placed throughout the home—on the window sill, fireplace hearth, dining table, or the steps up to the front doors—are an easy way to create a cozy, even rustic feel. While you might typically find them filled with candles, those twinkling lights are not always practical (easy to snuff out) or safe (one wrong move away from a house fire) for use hours at a time. That’s why we set out to make this modern version, which won’t involve striking a match or frequently replacing batteries on flameless candles! Keep reading for how to make a lantern-style table lamp that requires only a flip of a switch to shine.

 

All You Need to Make Your Own Lantern

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Scrap wood
Ruler
Cordless drill
¾inch square wooden dowels (16 feet)
2inch wooden trim
Hand saw
Wood glue
Wood clamps (4)
Masking tape
Wooden ring
Lamp kit with cable, socket, plug, and switch
Allpurpose glue
LED light bulb

 

How to Make a Lantern from Wood

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 1
Cut two square shapes from your wood plank: one should have 7-½-inch sides (the base) and the other should have 5-½-inch sides (the lid).

Next, cut the square ¾-inch dowels to size. You will need four 10″-long pieces to make the corners of the wooden lantern, and 24 6″-long pieces to make the horizontal slats. Do your best to make straight cuts so that you can easily glue the pieces together.

Sand all wooden pieces.

 

How to Make a Lantern from Wood

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 2
Take the 7-½-inch square base, and use the ruler to find and mark its center. Drill a hole wide enough to pass the wire cable.

 

How to Make a Lantern from Wood

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 3
Cut the 2″-wide wood trim into four 9″-long pieces. Then you’ll make 45-degree cuts so that the corners fit together to frame the base. Each piece should now have a 5-inch edge and a 9-inch edge.

Take one piece of trim and cut a ½-inch notch out of its middle to leave for threading an electrical wire.

Apply wood glue to the top of each piece of trim, along the shorter edges. Press them firmly around the 7-½-inch square, and flip it over so that the trim is the very bottom of the wooden lantern. Use four wood clamps to hold the pieces together until the glue dries.

 

How to Make a Lantern from Wood

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 4
To build the wooden lantern’s sides, lay four 10″-long square dowels vertically on a flat surface.

Between the first two, space six 6″-long dowels perpendicularly and equidistant from one another. (We also rotated our dowels so that sharp edge of the four middle ones are facing out.) Once you’re happy with the spacing, lift the top dowel out to apply wood glue to each end and replace. Use masking tape to hold the pieces together until the glue dries, and proceed down the first lantern panel.

Repeat using the second two 10″-long dowels to make an opposite panel. Wait the full drying time suggested for your brand of wood glue.

 

How to Make a Lantern from Wood

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 5
Once the two rectangular sides of your wooden lantern are done drying, you can start assembling them to create a box.

Stand and glue the remaining dowels along the edges of the first panel, six per edge, and try to keep them aligned with the dowels in the panel.

Next, apply wood glue to the exposed dowel ends and lay the second lantern panel on top of them. Wrap the masking tape around each of the freshly glued joints again to hold the wooden lantern steady while it dries.

 

How to Make a Lantern from Wood

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 6
Take the smaller, 5-½-inch square of wood and add a trim frame in the same way you did for the base—this time you’re making a lid.

Cut the remaining trim into four 7″-long pieces, and make 45-degree cuts at each end. Apply wood glue to the bottom of each cut, along the shorter edge, and place them to frame the top of the square. Use your four wood clamps to hold.

Next, take the wood ring and glue it so that it stands upright in the direct center of the lid. It’s easiest if you flatten one edge of the ring with light sanding so that it can adhere to the lid better.

 

How to Make a Lantern from Wood

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 7
Pull out your lamp kit. Thread the wire through the notch you left in the base, beneath the 7-½-inch square, and through the drilled hole. Attach the light bulb socket to the wire as instructed in the kit and affix the bottom of the socket to the base will all-purpose glue.

Wait the recommended dry time.

 

How to Make a Lantern from Wood

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 8
Glue the open-ended box made from lantern sides to the base, and weigh it down with a book so that it adheres well.

Finish however you’d like! You can opt to paint it white, stain it dark, or simply coat with a clear varnish to follow the Scandinavian trend. Once your finish has dried completely, screw in an LED light bulb—which can last for 50,000 hours—and place the lid on top to close the wooden lantern. Since you made the bottom of the lid to be 5-½ inches square, it should fit snugly between the 6″-wide opening without any glue.

 

How to Make a Lantern from Wood

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

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.

 

DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from BobVila.com
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on BobVila.com. Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build or make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.


How To: Remove Ink from Leather

Has your leather couch, purse, or car seat been tarnished by an unsightly ink stain? Reverse the damage with one of these four easy DIY solutions.

How to Remove Ink from Leather

Photo: istockphoto.com

Leather goods are investment pieces that require delicate care, which is why it’s frustrating when they get stained with pervasive, tough-to-treat ink splatters. Whether a pen burst in your handbag or a felt-tip marker leaked on your car seat, you need to act quickly when ink hits leather to prevent lasting discoloration. Fortunately, any of these four DIY methods for how to remove ink from leather use only household products you likely already have on hand, saving you a trip to the store.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Water
Mild liquid soap
White rags
Qtips
Rubbing alcohol
Isopropyl alcoholbased hairspray
Liquid cuticle remover
Leather conditioner

Before You Begin
We recommend using the following remedies only on finished leather, which has a protective coating that blocks the ink from being completely absorbed. Naked or unfinished leather, on the other hand, will deeply soak up the ink, necessitating professional help to eliminate stains. To determine whether your leather is finished or unfinished, drop a little water on an inconspicuous area. If the water rolls off, then your leather is finished; if the water is soaked up, your leather is unfinished.

Also note that several variables affect how leather will react to different cleaning agents, from the type of dye your leather is treated with to how regularly the leather has been conditioned with a protective substance. Before you start to remove ink from leather, it’s critical to test each cleaning method on an inconspicuous spot of the to make sure it will not cause lasting damage to your couch, handbag, car seat, wallet, or jacket.

How to Remove Ink from Leather

Photo: istockphoto.com

Remove Ink from Leather with… Liquid Soap
As a first step, try eliminating the ink from leather with a mild liquid soap. Apply a few drops of soap to a white rag (colored rags can transfer dye to the leather) and blot the ink stain with it. Never use harsh solvent-based cleaning products and avoid scrubbing the spot, which may spread the damage further.

Remove Ink from Leather with… Rubbing Alcohol
If blotting with a soapy rag proves ineffective, try using isopropyl alcohol (also known as rubbing alcohol) instead. Dip a Q-tip or white cloth in the isopropyl alcohol and gently dab the stain, taking care not to spread the ink around. Isopropyl alcohol is a powerful cleaning agent, so keep a light hand. Follow up with a leather conditioner—which you can find at most big-box and home improvement stores or make yourself—to put some moisture back into the affected area.

Remove Ink from Leather with… Hairspray
This popular hair styling product can work wonders on ink stains. Apply a small amount of alcohol-based hairspray to a Q-tip or white rag, wait a few seconds, and carefully blot the stain away. Always test the hairspray on an unconscious part of leather before use; ingredients vary between brands, and some types may leave behind an unsightly stain. Follow this method with leather conditioner if you notice the leather surface looks dry or cracked.

Remove Ink from Leather with… Cuticle Remover
You can also remove ink stains from leather with paint-on cuticle remover, which is typically found in the beauty section of most drugstores. Choose a cuticle remover has a non-oil based formula, and apply a thick layer over the stain. Let it soak in for up to 24 hours before dabbing away with a white rag to reveal ink-free leather.

 

If you’ve banished all remnants of ink from leather and it still appears dingy, restore its luster with these tips for care and maintenance:

 

Cleaning Tips for a Spotless Home

All of the Essential Cleaning Advice from BobVila.com
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.


Video: How to Clean Leather Furniture

Regular cleaning keeps this luxury looking as good as the day you brought it home.

SHARES

Considered both classic and refined, leather furniture has amassed a fan following thanks to its rich color and soft, luxurious texture. Those who splurge on leather couches or club chairs know they’ll boost the comfort and visual appeal of a great room or den. But these furnishings also require a bit of maintenance to keep them looking their best. To get the basics on leather furniture care, watch the video or read our how-to tutorial for extended instructions.

For more cleaning advice, consider:

9 Products You’ll Love—Even If You Hate Cleaning
12 Tricks to Speed You Through Your Least Favorite Chore
The Top 10 Grimiest Spots in Your Home, According to Science


Solved! The Perfect Closet Rod Height

Are you tired of your cluttered closet? Improve your storage capabilities by learning perfect height for mounting a closet rod.

The Perfect Closet Rod Height – Solved!

Photo: istockphoto.com

Q: I need to organize my closet of chaos with a closet rod, but I don’t know how high to mount the rod for easy access that doesn’t require me to strain my back or use a step stool. What’s the perfect closet rod height?

A: The ideal closet rod height really depends on how you plan on organizing this key storage space. While you might opt for a single-rod system that has only one tier of hanging space and lay shoe racks across the floor, you could eke out more hanging room by installing a double-rod system with one upper and one lower rod mounted in parallel. No matter the system you choose, finding the proper height at which to install closet rods allows adults of average build to access clothing from a standing position—no back strains or step stools necessary.

For a single-rod system, mount the rod 66 inches above the floor. This closet rod height enables long coats, skirts, pants, dresses, and suits to hang mid-air without folding or brushing against the closet floor. Ultimately, your garments will remain clean, wrinkle-free, and in less frequent need of ironing.

Adjust the standard closet rod height if installing a double-rod closet system. For the average person whose wardrobe contains few lengthy garments, single-rod systems leave lots of unused square footage in the closet. Double-rod systems put this extra space to use with an additional rod mounted a few feet below the top rod. If installing a double-rod closet system, mount the top rod 81-¾ inches above the floor and the lower rod 40-½ inches above the floor. This arrangement allow you to easily hang everyday shirts, blouses, blazers, shorts, and folded pants on the lower bar, while reserving the top rod for less frequently-worn long coats and skirts. If installing a double-rod closet system for a small child, mount the lower rod 30 inches above the floor to put outfits within reach of little ones.

The Perfect Closet Rod Height – Solved!

Photo: istockphoto.com

Leave wiggle room between closet rods and shelves. Say a shelf built into your closet obstructs the optimal rod placement position. If this is the case, mount the closet rod below the shelf, achieving a distance of at least two inches from the bottom of the shelf to the top of the rod. Without this clearance, the space between the shelf and rod will be too tight to maneuver hangers.

Opt for a closet rod depth of at least 12 inches. Closet rod height isn’t the only aspect to consider for perfect placement. You also need to adhere to a precise closet rod depth, which is how far the rod is situated from the rear wall of the closet. If you don’t leave sufficient space between the rod and the rear wall, one side of all garments will wrinkle from being bunched up against it. You can avoid this clothing disaster by mounting the rod at least 12 inches from the rear wall of the closet. Keep in mind that the average closet has a depth of 24 inches.

Mark the closet rod measurements before mounting to ensure perfect placement. First, position your tape measure horizontally, and measure 12 inches from the rear wall. This marks the ideal depth of the closet rod. Next, you’ll want measure 66 inches from the ground upward, which marks the ideal closet rod height. The intersection of these two measurements (12-inch depth and 66-inch height) indicates where you should install the rod.

Use the bottom of the rod as a guide when measuring height. Plan to align the bottom of the closet rod with the 66-inch marking when mounting the rod—this means there should be a full 66 inches between the rod and the floor once you’ve installed it.

Drill walls and mount hardware. When you’ve found and marked the optimal closet rod height, drill holes into the marked locations on the sidewalls (first ensuring the walls have studs in order to best support the full weight of your wardrobe). Then insert a heavy-duty wall anchor or other mounting hardware into each of the holes, and secure your rod holder to the anchors. Be sure to use a level to check your work. Once you’ve mounted the closet rod onto its holder, you’re well on your way to completing a total closet organization.


5 Questions to Ask Before Starting a Bathroom Renovation

Is it time for a bathroom update? Read on for five questions you should ask yourself first to make the smartest remodeling decisions.

5 Questions to Ask Before Starting a Bathroom Renovation

Photo: istockphoto.com

While updating a bathroom ranks at the top of many a homeowner’s wish list, complete renovations can be pricey—to the tune of $18,000 or more, depending on the bathroom size and choice of fixtures.

“The bathroom may be the smallest room in the house, but remodeling can be as expensive as remodeling a kitchen,” says Joe Maykut, Product Manager for Sears Home Services. “Consumers can go over budget if they’re not careful.”

To get the most for your remodeling dollar, analyze your needs and wants first to make informed decisions. These five key questions can help homeowners ward off renovation regret—or, worse, do-overs. Want to get it right the first time around? Keep reading to find out what you should consider before leaping into your bathroom project.

What’s the best flooring for my bathroom?
Above all else, take safety into account when selecting a new floor for your bathroom. Sometimes, safety means ignoring the inspirational images shared in high-end home magazines, which often showcase impractical marble floors. “Stepping out of a tub with wet feet onto a polished marble floor is a recipe for disaster,” Maykut says.

His suggestion? Slip-resistant ceramic tile. Look for ones that showcase a coefficient of friction (COF) rating right on the box, which indicates that the tile is safer to walk on when it’s wet than other types of tile. Homeowners often don’t factor traction differences between tiles into their renovation plans, but support from Sears Home Services means that this important detail will never be overlooked. In a bathroom design process with Sears, their knowledgeable professionals help narrow down design choices to the most appropriate possibilities.

And, if you’re thinking about carpeting your bathroom, don’t. “Carpet is completely unsuitable for the bathroom,” Maykut says. “It soaks up water, develops bad odors, and increases the risk of mold and mildew growth.”

Likewise, real wood and laminate flooring are unsuitable for the bathroom because they can eventually warp or delaminate from exposure to water.

“If consumers don’t want ceramic tile, they still have plenty of designs to choose from in vinyl flooring,” Maykut offers. Today’s vinyl flooring has come a long way, and it can closely mimic the look of real wood, brick, slate, or stone, but it’s much more affordable.

How to Sneak More Storage into a Bathroom Renovation

Photo: istockphoto.com

How can I create enough storage?
Most bathrooms have less square footage than other rooms in the house, yet they have to store plenty of essentials, from shampoo to toilet cleaner, and from mouthwash to guest towels. While there may not be enough space in a bathroom to accommodate a full linen closet, you can increase storage by thinking creatively. Opt for an enclosed vanity instead of a pedestal sink to provide under-sink storage for less-than-pretty cleaners and scrub brushes. Plan to install plenty of towel bars or hooks, and use stackable bins in cabinets. An upper cabinet above the toilet is also a great way to put unused space to work.

Before you build in a bunch of storage solutions, think about what to put where—and prioritize making everyday-use items like bathing products accessible where you need them most.

Maykut suggests choosing showers that are outfitted with little niches “to keep from having to put shampoo and conditioner bottles in a caddy on the shower floor, where they’re hard to reach and pose a tripping hazard.” The same goes for bathtubs: A wide, flat rim around the tub that can securely hold body wash, soap, or washcloths will go a long way toward creating a better bathing experience.

Do I need a shower or just a tub?
“If a homeowner has the luxury of having more than one bathroom in the house, it’s a good idea to install a walk-in shower in at least one of them,” Maykut advises. Already have a shower elsewhere in the house? Then just a tub is probably fine in the current renovation. Otherwise, you should include a walk-in shower, if only as an investment in the future.

“Accidents can happen that make it challenging getting in and out of a tub.” With either age or reduced mobility, stepping in and out over the wall of a slick, wet tub becomes a safety issue; shower stalls provide less opportunity to slip and fall and can offer space for a bench, if necessary.

How important is ventilation?
Bathrooms are notoriously humid. Just as long, hot showers leave mirrors steamed up, that same moisture also coats the walls and woodwork—even if you don’t see it. The damp environment can become a breeding ground for mold and mildew, unless you take measures to dry out the space.

Most local building codes require a ventilation fan in any bathroom without a window that opens to the outside, but Maykut recommends installing a ventilation fan, period: “No one wants to get out of the shower and open the window when it’s freezing outside.”

A good fan effectively removes steam from the bathroom and vents it outside of the house. Better yet, today’s bathroom vent fans work much more quietly than their predecessors, scarcely making more than a faint hum. Whether you opt for a plain vent fan, fan/light combo, or a model with a built-in heater (perfect for warming the bathroom during chilly winter months), consider this installation a must-do.

 

5 Questions to Ask Before Redesigning Your Bathroom

Photo: istockphoto.com

What should I look for in new bathroom fixtures?
Homeowners have a wealth of options to choose from when redesigning the bathroom, including fixtures that offer a combination of great design, comfort, and high efficiency. However, fixture costs add up quickly, with fancy amenities like heated toilet seats and high-end showers equipped with multiple shower heads.

Putting the biggest emphasis on efficient features can help you recoup costs in your monthly utility bills while also benefiting the planet.

“Everyone in the country should be concerned about conserving water—not wasting it,” Maykut says. He suggests installing WaterSense-labeled toilets that use less than two gallons of water per flush. Additionally, high-efficiency shower heads can also provide “the feel of having 100 gallons of water spraying on you while it’s really much less, and you’ll never notice the difference.”

Next, consider comfort. Comfort-height toilets are the new kids on the block, and for many consumers they’re a welcome change from standard toilets with low 15-inch-high rims. The higher, 17-inch to 19-inch-high rims make getting on and off the toilet more comfortable for most adults, especially the elderly and the disabled.

Even after narrowing your search to fixtures with features that meet your biggest needs, you won’t feel limited on style. Sears Home Services makes it easy for homeowners to plan an entire renovation from the comfort of their own home.

“It’s like bringing a bathroom showroom right to your door,” Maykut says. Once the design and fixtures are selected, Sears Home Services handles everything from ordering fixtures to scheduling reputable contractors. “It’s the best way to guarantee that customers get a bathroom they’ll be happy with for a long time,” he says.

 

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






Are We Finally Ready for Radiant Heat?

It's not new, but it might as well be. Today, radiant floor heating delivers on its long-held promise of better, more affordable comfort—right when we needed it most.

Radiant Floor Heat Systems

Photo: istockphoto.com

It’s a good time for the building and remodeling industry! Just check out the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data, which shows that in the last year alone, single-family home starts are up over 10 percent. At the same time, the Residential Remodeling Index has risen for 21 consecutive quarters, so those who already own homes continue to remodel at record rates. OK—what’s happening here? Experts explain that the activity stems at least in part from the millennial generation entering the market for the first time. That’s a big shift that’s reflected in the numbers, but also in professionals’ views of what clients want. Whereas square footage used to spur sales and motivate major renovations, more and more Americans now value technology—not for its own sake, but as a means of increasing the quality of daily life while bringing down fixed monthly costs.

Cutting-edge thermal windows, Energy Star-rated kitchen appliances, solar roof panels—these were all niche products years ago, but they’re all mainstream today, with technology-minded consumers driving demand. So, while builders and remodelers are doing brisk business these days, they’re also building and remodeling differently than before—except in the case of HVAC. The same heating and cooling technology that dominated 50 years ago somehow still dominates, despite its intrinsic flaws and despite the broader, shifting market landscape. Change may be on the horizon, though. That’s not because there’s a new climate-control system on the scene, but rather because manufacturers have finally perfected a system that’s been around for a long time—radiant floor heating. It had always been promising, but only now does it deliver its promise of better, more affordable comfort.

 

EVEN, STEADY

Radiant Floor Heat Systems - Total Comfort

Photo: warmboard.com

What’s the appeal of radiant heat for new construction and retrofit applications? Simple. The technology delivers “everywhere” warmth. With a radiant system, the temperature you set is the temperature you get—period. Of course, that’s the goal of any climate-control system, but few succeed. Take the example of forced air. It’s the most common heating system in America, but one of the least consistent. For instance, when you’re positioned directly next to the vent in a given room, you experience one temperature, but as you move away, the temperature fluctuates. The result: Your comfort level often depends on your location in the home. It depends, too, on where in its cyclical operation the system happens to be. Forced-air systems loudly start and stop over and over again, inevitably leading to “roller coaster” temperature swings.

In contrast, radiant floor heating ensures an even temperature in every part of every room. To understand why, you need to understand how these systems are set up. Whereas forced air depends on the furnace and blower to distribute warm air throughout the home (via ductwork), radiant heat starts with a boiler. From the boiler, heated water travels through tubes set into conductive panels installed beneath every inch of flooring. Heat transfers from the water to the panels, from the panels to the floor, and from the floor to the living space. This design allows radiant heat to provide comfort across the full square footage, at a level that you can really feel. Even better: The comfort never dissipates, because unlike forced air, radiant systems don’t run intermittently. Plus, the technology elegantly sidesteps a chronic problem faced by forced air—the fact that warm air always rises.

 

EFFICIENCY

Radiant Floor Heat Systems - Most Efficiency

Photo: warmboard.com

You might expect to pay much more to run a heating system that delivers not hit-and-miss climate control, but total, encompassing warmth. But that’s not the case. The average radiant heating system operates at least 25 percent more efficiently than forced air, giving homeowners the best of both worlds—comfort and savings. Though many factors enter into the equation, there’s one big reason why radiant costs less to run than forced air—unlike forced air, radiant floor heating configurations don’t involve any ducts. What’s wrong with ducts? A lot, actually. As a result of leakage at the seams where two sections meet—as well as heat loss stemming from lack of insulation—ducts have earned a notorious reputation for compromising HVAC efficiency. Radiant heat suffers from no such efficiency drawbacks, simply because the technology requires no ductwork whatsoever.

But before you jump on bandwagon, know that even within the specific radiant heat category, different products offer very different levels of energy savings. Perhaps least efficient are those that rely on gypsum concrete. There’s more than one problem with gypsum. One is that on account of its sheer mass, gypsum lacks responsiveness—meaning, in a home with a gypsum system, it takes a frustratingly long time for changes in the thermostat setting to be felt. An even bigger problem with gypsum is its low conductivity. Aluminum conducts heat 232 times more effectively than gypsum! That’s why low-mass, high-conductivity aluminum panels typically respond faster and perform more efficiently, saving homeowners up to an additional 10 or 20 percent on heating costs. The reason? Aluminum panels can achieve the target room temperature using comparatively cooler water that’s significantly cheaper for the boiler to produce. Note: Only Warmboard offers such extra-high-efficiency systems.

 

Beyond delivering perhaps the finest possible heating experience, and in addition to its bottom line-boosting energy efficiency, radiant floor heating also offers a range of quality-of-life benefits. Homeowners love, for instance, that the technology runs silently—a relief if you’re accustomed to the concentration-stealing, conversation-interrupting roar of forced air. Another point of appeal: Whereas traditional HVAC systems often create dry, dusty conditions, radiant heating takes nothing away from indoor air quality, creating a healthier home environment. Finally, there’s the fact that as you much as you feel a radiant system at work, you never see it. There are no vents, no radiators, no baseboards—nothing to subvert the visual appeal of the rooms you work hard to decorate and make beautiful. Under the circumstances, is the surging popularity of radiant heat surprising? Not at all.

 

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