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Buyer’s Guide: Garage Heaters

Working in the garage can be a mighty cold experience at some times of the year—but it's nothing a little heat can't fix. Learn about the types of heaters on the market and find out which models may be the best bets.

Best Garage Heater

Photo: istockphoto.com

If you’re an avid DIYer, you know how miserable it can be to work on a project, or even perform routine car maintenance, when the midwinter temperatures leave your fingers frozen. Fortunately, you can banish the shivers—and warm your workshop to toasty temps at which paint and glues bond effectively—with a top-notch garage heater. Before you commit to a particular model, read on for the basics about these appliances and to find out which units consumers think are the best garage heaters on the market.

Know your type. As with any indoor heating system, not all garage heaters control the temperatures in the same way. There are three primary types of heaters you’ll find on the market: forced air, convection, and radiant.

• Forced-air garage heaters vary in size, fuel type, and price, but all operate in the same manner, by cycling blasts of hot air into the space. The gas-powered variety (which ties into your home’s gas line) tends to be cost-effective to operate, because natural gas and propane are often more affordable than the electricity required to produce the same heat. Gas-powered units, however, cost more up front than electric units, and local codes require installation by a licensed professional.

• Convection garage heaters (including water- and oil-filled radiators) rely on an enclosed flame or heating element to warm air within the unit, which then rises naturally without help of a fan. Though these units rate among the most affordable garage and shop heaters on the market, they can take a while to warm your garage to a tolerable temperature. Many are portable, but some—such as baseboard convection heaters—should be mounted.

• Radiant garage heaters feature highly polished reflectors that direct infrared heat outward for spot heating, or, in the case of large overhead units, heating an entire garage. Because radiant heaters offer steady warmth without blowing air, they are well suited to DIYers, particularly those who enjoy finishing wood. Radiant heat will not stir up the unwanted dust particles that can mar a woodworking project’s finish coat. Powered by natural gas, propane, or electricity, these units are available either mounted or portable, and in a range of sizes.

To move or not to move. Look over your garage and determine what you value more: freed-up counter and/or floor space or the ability to move between a few workstations. Knowing this should help you decide whether to look for a stationary or portable garage heater.

• Mounted garage heaters most often attach to the ceiling, but you can also find options that fasten to the wall. Here again, you can pick from a wide variety of energy options, sizes, and prices (ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars). Nearly all models feature adjustable thermostats, built-in safety features, and remote control options. The downside to mounted heaters is that they typically cost more than their portable counterparts because they’re closer to commercial quality. If you’re a dedicated DIYer, though, you’ll appreciate the benefit of not having cords lying around and not running the risk of tripping over a heater on the floor.

Best Garage Heater
Photo: istockphoto.com

No matter the type of heating or fuel used, portable heaters focus warmth where you need it the most. Like space heaters on steroids, forced-air options feature large horizontal tubes that house the heating element and a powerful fan that delivers blasts of hot air. Multifuel forced-air heaters work fast to produce heat, but their powerful fans will stir up sawdust and may make you uncomfortably warm if directed at you. Moreover, some models can produce fumes and water vapor, which make ventilation necessary. Portable electric-powered units typically cost less but can be somewhat less powerful than their multifuel counterparts. Alternatively, portable units can also distribute warmth through radiant heat and convection. Radiant heaters warm objects directly in front of them—think of sitting near a campfire—so you can start feeling toasty in a jiffy if one is pointed in your direction. Convection heaters are better for heating entire rooms because they warm the air, which then circulates naturally, but they won’t offer the intense heating effect of a forced-air or radiant heater.

Pick your power. Consumers have a wide range of energy options to choose from when shopping for a garage heater. While they’re most commonly fueled by electricity, propane, or natural gas, you can also find heaters that run on diesel and kerosene. Because electric garage heaters pull a lot of power, these usually require a designated electrical circuit on its own breaker. (An electrician can tell you if your existing garage wiring is adequate to run an electric heater or if a new circuit should be installed.) If you already have natural gas service to your home, you might want to consider installing a natural gas-powered heater. Propane-powered heaters can be installed on your home’s propane line, or you can purchase individual tanks of propane to fuel smaller heaters.

Consider capacity. At the end of the day, the best garage heater for your space will be the one that produces enough heat for you to comfortably work on your projects without breaking your budget. Heat output is measured in British thermal units (BTUs), but you won’t have to compute complex BTU formulas to figure out what size heater you’ll need. Most heaters now advertise the maximum area, in square feet, that they can adequately heat. That number is based on a garage with 8-foot ceilings. If your garage has a higher ceiling, take that into consideration and pick a size up. Other considerations that can affect the warmth factor in your garage are whether its walls and doors are insulated and whether outside drafts can easily enter the garage. Even a high-capacity heater cannot prevent icy drafts from blowing in around an ill-fitting garage door.

 

HOT STUFF

After comparing garage heater 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 home’s needs and your wallet’s budget. Select the best garage heater for your space from the picks below.

 

Best Garage Heater

Photo: amazon.com

Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy 4,000-9,000-BTU Indoor-Safe Portable Radiant Heater ($85)
Gadget Review‘s number-one pick for a portable garage heater, Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy 4,000-9,000-BTU Indoor-Safe Portable Radiant Heater, also receives an enviable 4.6 stars from Amazon buyers. For weekend workshop warriors who don’t need a lot of heat—and perhaps don’t have a lot of extra room—this Mr. Heater Buddy model is efficient and affordable. It runs on small propane bottles, available from DIY and camping-supply stores, and can heat up to 225 square feet. Safety features include tip-over shutoff and low-oxygen shutoff. It also boasts a push-button igniter, two heat settings, and a porcelain-coated radiant heating surface for even heat distribution. While it won’t warm a large garage when outdoor temps dive below zero, it’s a solid option for smaller spaces. Available on Amazon; $85.

 

Best Garage Heater

Photo: homedepot.com

Fahrenheat 5,000-Watt Electric Heater ($261)
According to Popular Mechanics, midrange electric garage heaters are a good choice for homeowners who experience mild winters or need only occasional heating. Home Depot customers agree and award an enthusiastic five stars to the compact Fahrenheat 5000-Watt Electric Heater. At just 13 inches high and 14 inches wide, this small-but-mighty surface-mounted powerhouse will fit in even the most cramped garage and can heat up to 500 square feet. It comes with a built-in thermostat and a thermal safety cutoff. The unit does not, however, come with a power cord—it must be direct-wired to a dedicated 240-volt outlet with a 30-amp breaker. If you’re not familiar with wiring concepts, or if local codes in your neck of the woods do not permit homeowners to run wiring, professional installation is necessary. Available from Home Depot; $261 .

 

Best Garage Heater

Photo: homedepot.com


Modine 150,000-BTU Natural Gas Garage Ceiling Heater ($1,139)
For serious DIY enthusiasts with three-car or larger garages or workshops, the Modine 150,000-BTU Natural Gas Heater earns top honors from Home Depot buyers. This professional-installation-only model runs on natural gas—the most affordable and energy-efficient solution for larger heating needs, according to New York State Electric and Gas Corporation’s website. The unit comes with power exhaust vents and an automatic safety shutoff in case of overheating. The Modine 150,000-BTU model can be converted from propane to natural gas via an LP conversion kit, which is available for around $20 at plumbing supply stores. If you have a large garage space to heat, talk to your HVAC professional to see if this Modine unit is right for your needs. Available from Home Depot; $1,139.40.


The Single Best Way to Fire-Proof Your Home

Fire sprinkler systems are still rare in single-family houses, but once you find out how effective they are at saving both property and lives, you may wonder why.

Photo: istockphoto.com

Did you know that in the United States fires kill more people than all non-fire natural disasters combined? Perhaps even more alarming, the vast majority of fire deaths occur in the home. Every day seven people die in a house fire. Though we’d all like to think we’re safe from harm under our own roofs, statistics show that there’s a house fire every 86 seconds. Preparation and care are the only safeguards against this ever-present risk. Faced with this potential for loss of life, or at least catastrophic property damage, some homeowners opt to install a residential fire sprinkler system. In fact, the building codes in some states actually require such protection for homes. But even in states where sprinkler systems aren’t mandated, many homeowners embrace them anyway. Why? It’s pretty simple. As Daniel O’Brian, a technical specialist with SupplyHouse.com, puts it, “When it comes to the safety of your family and the protection of your greatest investment, it’s so much better to be safe than sorry.”

Of course, in the typical home, smoke detectors already offer a measure of protection. But O’Brian points out that while “absolutely necessary,” smoke detectors provide only an alert. A sprinkler system takes fire protection a critical step further by working to control, suppress, and eliminate a house fire almost as soon as it starts. “That’s a meaningful difference,” O’Brian says. Studies have shown that while smoke detectors cut your risk of dying in a fire by half, a sprinkler system virtually eliminates the risk altogether, giving residents a 97 percent chance of surviving a fire in the home. The key factor? According to O’Brian, it’s that fire sprinklers activate “more or less immediately,” well before emergency services could be expected to arrive on the scene. In other words, while smoke detectors “only give you a window of opportunity to escape the building,” O’Brian says, a fire sprinkler system acts “like your own personal fire department.” In terms of effectiveness, he concludes, “there’s no comparing the two.”

Photo: istockphoto.com

Despite everything, fire sprinkler systems remain relatively rare in residential settings. In part, that may be due to a widespread misunderstanding of how they operate. As O’Brian notes, “Almost everyone has seen a movie or a TV show where all the sprinkler heads in the house go off at the same time, because someone in the kitchen burned a piece of toast.” Indeed, there’s a perception that fire sprinkler systems are finicky and oversensitive, often doing more harm than good. But, according to O’Brian, the reality is that fire sprinkler systems are less complicated and “more sophisticated than they usually get credit for.” For example, rather than turn on in unison, each sprinkler head in a given system functions independently. In fact, most of the time, “the sprinkler system only ever goes off in the one room where the fire started,” O’Brian says. So, before a fire gets the chance to grow bigger and spread to other rooms, the sprinkler system suppresses it—without soaking areas unaffected by the incident and without causing extensive, unnecessary water damage along the way.

Among the fire sprinkler systems typically installed in homes, there are two main types, distinguished primarily by their plumbing configurations:

Integrated systems tie into the household plumbing that carries potable water to the cooking, bathing, and laundry fixtures of the home. Generally speaking, it’s most cost-effective to install integrated sprinkler systems in new constructions.

Stand-alone systems rely on a dedicated storage tank and pump, separate and apart from the regular household plumbing. Because of the additional components they involve, stand-alone sprinkler setups usually rank as the more expensive of the two system types.

For either type of system, homeowners may choose from a broad range of sprinkler heads. While some feature the familiar metal-spoke design frequently seen in commercial buildings, others recess into the ceiling and include a cover plate that makes the unit less noticeable and more appropriate for private homes. That said, although different sprinkler heads sport different designs, “they all pretty much work the same way,” O’Brian says. A typical fire sprinkler head contains a glass ampule filled with temperature-sensitive liquid. Behind the ampule, pipes keep water under constant pressure, ready and waiting. If a fire breaks out and the liquid inside the ampule reaches a designated threshold temperature, the glass ampule shatters, allowing the sprinkler head to release water into the room. Not every sprinkler head employs the same spray pattern and flow rate, though. The right choice for a given room often depends on its layout and square footage. For help navigating the many options, consider consulting your local plumbing and heating contractor or the experts at SupplyHouse.com.

When it comes to planning and executing the installation of a fire sprinkler system, O’Brian says, “You’re going to need to hire help. This isn’t a DIY situation.” Of course, involving professionals in the project makes the proposition more expensive. But at least in the case of new homes, the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition estimates a modest total, somewhere between 1 and 2 percent of the total cost of construction. For retrofit applications, however, budgets run the gamut, because there are so many variables from home to home and market to market. Suffice it to say that while it’s certainly possible to outfit an existing home with a brand-new sprinkler system, it’s more difficult and, by extension, more expensive. Bear in mind, however, that such systems often qualify homeowners for discounted rates on insurance. While the average insurer offers 7 percent savings, some premiums go down by 15 percent or more. In the end, though, it’s not about dollars and cents. Instead, it’s about the safety of your family and the protection of your home, and as O’Brian concludes, “You really can’t put a price tag on that!”

Photo: supplyhouse.com

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


How To: Paint Stainless Steel

Try a fresh coat of color to salvage those pieces you’d rather not replace.

SHARES
How to Paint Stainless Steel Lockers

Photo: istockphoto.com

Stainless steel is strong, durable, and easy-care, but aesthetically its high-tech, industrial vibe can leave you cold after a while. Luckily, you can bring warmth, color, and texture to everything from shelving and tables to cabinets and countertops—you can even redo that teakettle in a snazzy new shade—using oil-based paint. Once you clean, prep, and prime surfaces properly, choose an application technique for how to paint stainless steel—brush, roller, or sprayer—based on the results you hope to achieve. The best news? The more beat-up your stainless, the better it will take paint!

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Drop cloths and/or plastic sheeting (if spraying)
- Painter’s tape
- Goggles (if using an orbital sander or spray paint machine)
- Wire brush or steel wool
- Orbital sander (optional)
- Clean rags
- Water-based degreaser
- Ammonia-based degreaser (optional)
- Specialized stainless steel cleaner (optional)
- Sponge
- Bucket
- Metal primer (rated for stainless steel)
- High quality oil paint
- Paintbrush, roller, or spraying machine (available for rent at about $80 a day)
- Paint respirator (if spraying)
- Wax appropriate for metal work, or marine varnish
- Buffing cloth

STEP 1
Protect floors and (if using a sprayer) walls and nearby furniture with drop cloths and/or plastic sheeting. Remove drawer pulls, hinges, or other hardware from the piece as necessary. Tape off any areas you want to remain free of paint.

STEP 2
Unlike porous surfaces such as wood, metal must be abraded for paint to bond. If your stainless steel is already scuffed up thanks to years of use, simply scour it manually all over with a wire brush or steel wool to obtain necessary roughness. Newer, sleeker stainless steel will need a thorough going-over with an orbital hand sander (you can rent one from a home improvement store for about $16 a day). Don protective goggles and apply just enough pressure to keep the sander in contact with the surface. You’ll want to tackle every inch, but for best results, pause periodically to wipe away dust with a clean cloth.

STEP 3
Clean the surface to further promote paint adherence. A water-based degreaser should banish fingerprints, oil, grease, wax, soap, soil, and lotions; more stubborn stuff, like baked-on cooking grease, may require an ammonia-based degreaser or specialized steel cleaner. If so, use the product in a well-ventilated area and follow manufacturer’s directions for application and dwell time. Let dry thoroughly.

STEP 4
Apply a high quality primer rated for stainless steel that’s compatible with your choice of paint. Unless your finished product will be in a very dark color, white primer is your best bet. Apply with a brush, roller, or sprayer and allow to dry per manufacturer’s directions.

How to Paint Stainless Steel

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 5
Decide on the effect you want for the finished piece. A brush lends a ridged, textured look that you can accentuate further by daubing or swiping with a rag or sponge. Use a roller for large surfaces and to gain a somewhat textured look. Apply with a sprayer for smooth results.

When using a sprayer:

• Protect the surrounding area with drop cloths and/or plastic sheeting. If painting a small item, place it inside a box to contain splatter.
• Wear eye protection and a paint respirator, and work in a ventilated area.
• Hold the nozzle 12 to 18 inches away from the project.
• Spray with a wide mist in one direction only so that the grain of the paint will look consistent.

Whatever technique you choose, apply two to three coats of paint to the stainless steel, allowing sufficient dry time in between.

STEP 6
When the final coat is completely dry, finish with wax (car wax works fine!) or marine varnish. If you want to give it a natural sheen, apply a thin coat of wax to the entire surface with a sponge, letting it dry until it gains a hazy look; buff with a clean, dry cloth. For a “clear coat” look, opt for marine varnish.

 

All of the Expert Painting Advice from BobVila.com
Of all the options available to remodelers, paint provides the quickest, easiest, and most affordable way to achieve a transformation, inside or out. Ready to look at your home in a new way? Click now for the color ideas to make your project beautiful.


The Dos and Don’ts of Poinsettia Care

If you want to enjoy festive blooms all season—and even beyond—pay attention to these best (and worst) practices.

Poinsettia Care - Do's and Don'ts

Photo: istockphoto.com

During the holidays, nothing rivals the floral festivity of the season’s favorite plant: the always colorful poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima). Whether you prefer the traditional red variety or favor hybridized pastel pinks and yellows, you’ll want to provide the best poinsettia care in order to enjoy the plant’s showstopping blooms as long as possible. Simply abide by these six best practices—and avoid the six biggest mistakes—when tending to this ornamental houseplant.

DO Purchase the Healthiest Plant You Can Find

When shopping for a poinsettia, choose a stocky plant with dense foliage that’s deep green in color, and pass on plants with yellowing or dropped leaves. The colorful flowers, called bracts, should be firm with little or no pollen visible in the center.

 

DON’T Forget to Protect the Plant in the Car

Some stores sell poinsettias in cellophane cones that will protect the plant from wind damage, but if it’s bitterly cold outside, the bracts and leaves could still suffer. Ask for a larger bag to put over the top of your plant to protect it on the trip to the car and into your home.

 

DO Position Your Poinsettia in a Well-Lit Location

A southern window is ideal. Poinsettias benefit from plenty of direct daytime light to keep them from getting leggy. If a sunny window isn’t available, choose as bright a spot as possible.

 

DON’T Let the Leaves Touch a Freezing Windowpane

Poinsettias are tropical plants typically grown in greenhouses, so despite their popularity in winter, they despise the cold. Any leaves that press against an icy window after you position the plant in your home will perish, and the chill could even affect the health of the poinsettia as a whole. Prevent an untimely demise by setting your poinsettia safely on a table in front of a window rather than on a windowsill.

 

DO Make Sure Your Plant Gets Adequate Darkness

In order for those red or white flowers to last more than a month, poinsettias require more than 12 hours of darkness during their peak bloom period. If you’ve placed the plant in a room that you keep lit all evening, just move it to a darker room, closet, or shadowy corner when the sun sets, then put it back in the window the next morning.

 

Poinsettia Care - Do's and Don'ts

Photo: istockphoto.com

DON’T Put Your Poinsettia in a Drafty Spot

The tender leaves and bracts wilt in windy conditions, so keep your plant away from open windows, forced-air registers, and fans.

 

DO Water Your Plant

Poinsettias should be watered whenever the soil surface feels dry to the touch. The best way to water the plant is to move it, pot and all, to the sink and soak it thoroughly. Let it drain until no more water runs out—this will take about an hour—and then place it back in its spot.

 

DON’T Let Your Poinsettia Stand in Water

Sure, soaking your poinsettia’s soil is the best way to quench its thirst, but be sure to pull off the shiny foil wrapper that came tucked around the pot before you water it. Though pretty, this wrapping prevents the water from draining out, leaving the poinsettia’s soil saturated and roots soggy. Waterlogged roots stress the plant and can lead to leaf-dropping—or worse, a short life.

 

DO Prune Your Poinsettia If You Plan to Reflower It Next Year

Follow the poinsettia care tips outlined so far, and you may find that your houseplant survives from winter into spring—or even longer. If you plan on keeping it around, prune the stems back to six inches when the plant begins to get leggy, and continue to place it in a sunny spot that’s about 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Continue to water just as you did before, and feed your poinsettia regularly every two weeks after they’ve stopped blooming with a standard houseplant fertilizer. New shoots will eventually develop at the buds below the cuts. In late spring, when overnight temps outdoors are above 50 degrees, prune new shoots back to four inches and sink your poinsettia—pot and all—into a protected spot in your flower bed and let it stay there until early fall when overnight temps dip back into the 40s. While year-round poinsettia care takes commitment on your part, you’ll be rewarded with an even-larger floral wonder the following holiday season.

 

DON’T Leave a Large Poinsettia in a Tiny Pot

As a poinsettia grows over the summer, its roots grow as well, and they can get cramped in a small pot. So, when you bring your poinsettia indoors after its spring and summer sojourn in the flower bed, be sure to transfer it into a larger planter. Repotting keeps the plant from becoming root-bound. Choose a new pot about two inches wider and an inch or two deeper than your current pot to give your poinsettia’s roots room to spread out during the coming fall growing season and help stimulate foliage growth and bloom production.

 

DO Keep Pets Away from Poinsettia

One thing pretty much everyone knows about poinsettia care is the importance of keeping poinsettias out of the reach of furry members of the family. While scare stories link the plants to pet poisoning, the milky sap of the poinsettia actually contains low-toxicity chemicals that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and itchiness if a pet eats a large amount. Even though the risk is pretty low, don’t chance it. Keep your plant away from Fluffy or Fido.

 

DON’T Hesitate to Call Your Vet If Your Animal Eats It (Just in Case)

The pesticides used at garden centers and nurseries could cause reactions if your pet ingests poinsettia leaves, especially if you have a very young animal. If you’re concerned about persistent or severe symptoms, call your vet or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435. A consultation fee may apply.

 

Poinsettia Care - Do's and Don'ts

Photo: istockphoto.com


Solved! What to Do When Your Garbage Disposal Stops Working

Sometimes a faulty garbage disposal only needs a nudge to get back up and running. Before you call in the pros, try these five troubleshooting tips.

Garbage Disposal Not Working

Photo: istockphoto.com

Q. After dinner, I rinsed off the dishes in the sink like I always do, and then I flipped on the garbage disposal switch to grind the food scraps. Nothing happened. Should I start shopping for a new disposal? Or, is there a way to fix the one?

A. Garbage disposal not working? Well, while there’s a slim chance that you might have to replace your disposal, it’s unlikely. Odds are that the problem is something you can fix, often in just a few minutes. Proceed with the following DIY troubleshooting tips to get your garbage disposal back up and running.

Garbage Disposal Not Working - Beware What You Run Through It

Photo: istockphoto.com

Start with a power check. Whenever an appliance like a garbage disposal is not working, the first thing to do is to check is whether it’s still plugged in. While this step might sound overly simplistic, think about the under-sink area in your home: If you store cleaners or a wastebasket under your sink, the garbage disposal plug can easily get knocked loose or pushed out of the outlet. Plug it in, and you’re back in business!

Or, the fix could be as simple as pressing the reset button. If the disposal cord is securely plugged in, try the reset button next. You can typically find it on the side or the bottom of the under-sink part of the garbage disposal, depending on the model. You may even have to feel around the back of the unit to locate it. When you find it, press it once—firmly—and release. Overloading the garbage disposal with food scraps can cause it to overheat and trip the reset button.

If you hear a hum coming from the disposal, something could be jamming the grinding plates. Make sure the switch is off and unplug the garbage disposal from the outlet before you attempt to remove the jam. After you’re sure there is zero power to the unit, reach into the garbage disposal and feel around for a small object that could be jamming the plates—forks, spoons, rings, and other small non-food items are common culprits. Most blockages can be removed by hand, but all is not lost if you can’t wiggle it free on your first try. On the bottom of the garbage disposal, in the very center, is a small depression that receives a ¼-inch hex-head wrench or a ¼-inch hex-head key. Fit the key or wrench in the depression and twist it back and forth firmly to rotate the grinding plates and free the stuck item.

Too many appliances might be drawing power from the electrical circuit. In newer homes, local building codes typically require the electrician to run a single circuit for the garbage disposal and the dishwasher to share. In homes where additional outlets are on the same circuit, however, running the garbage disposal while something else is operating—such as a toaster or countertop griddle—could cause the breaker to trip. Before you locate the tripped breaker in your home’s main electrical panel to flip it back on, test how many other outlets in the kitchen still have power. Plug something small, like a desk lamp, into any other outlets available in the kitchen; if additional outlets have no power, it’s likely that too many outlets are on the same circuit. A simple workaround is to run the disposal only when no other appliance is going, but a more permanent fix would require an electrician to run one or more additional circuits in order to prevent overloading the one that powers the garbage disposal.

If the garbage disposal still won’t work after exhausting all your options, it might be time to consider a replacement. While the above steps will fix most garbage disposals, they won’t fix blown motors or factory defects. Contact the manufacturer if the disposal is relatively new to find out if a replacement could be covered by warranty.

Treat your garbage disposal with care to ensure a long useful life. So that you don’t run into a garbage disposal malfunction in the future, remember this: It works wonders grinding up soft bits of food that remain in the sink after meal preparation, but it’s not designed to chew through chunks of fibrous food scraps, like raw celery, carrots, or cabbage. Put the bulk of your food scraps in the trashcan, or better yet—if they’re non-meat scraps—the compost pile. Always run the garbage disposal with plenty of cold water and allow the unit to run a few seconds after the food grinding is complete to clear away residual bits of food that can cause odors.

 

Garbage Disposal Not Working - How to Know When It's Time to Replace

Photo: istockphoto.com


How To: Build a Faux Fireplace

Just the addition of a faux fireplace—no flame required—can make a space cozier.

How to Build a Faux Fireplace

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Somehow, even if it’s not operational, a fireplace is still imbues coziness in winter and architectural charm year-round. If you live in an apartment or modern abode, you may not have a wood-burning or electric fireplace to warm up by, but you’re not out of luck altogether. Follow these instructions to construct an ornate mantle for a faux fireplace to reinforce the holiday cheer—and provide just the spot to hang your stockings.

 

What You Need to Build a Faux Fireplace

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- 8-foot-long 1×10 lumber (2)
- 8-foot-long 2×2 lumber (2)
- Measuring tape
- Jigsaw
- Wood glue
- Drill
- 2-inch screws (34)
- Wood clamps
- 8-foot-long 1×4 lumber (2)
- 6″-deep wooden shelf brackets (2)
- Round plastic container
- 1⁄2″-wide wood molding (1)
- 2″-wide wood molding (2)
- 2-1⁄2″-wide wood molding (1)
- Miter box
- Hand saw
- Wooden closet rod holder
- Brush
- Wood stain
- Varnish
- Corner brace plates (2)

 

How to Build a Faux Fireplace - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 1
Start by building the fireplace structure with one 1×10 plank and the 2×2s. From them, you’ll need to cut the following:

- One 43-inch piece 1×10
- Two 26-inch 1×10s
- Four 35-1⁄2-inch 2×2s

The 1×10 planks will make up the front surface of your faux fireplace, while the 2×2s connect to the back to add depth to the structure.

Sand all of the edges on your fresh cuts. Lay the 43-inch plank on the floor and beneath it, at each end, place the 26-inch plank pieces perpendicularly to form a U-shape. Apply wood glue to the edges where the planks meet. Then, lay the 2×2s along the structure vertically so that they span top to bottom of the “U”, one along each edge of the vertical 1×10 planks. Pre-drill holes and use five 2-inch screws to fasten each of these 35-1⁄2-inch pieces to the wood boards. This side with the 2×2s will be the back of your faux fireplace.

 

How to Build a Faux Fireplace - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 2
Flip the wood structure to so that its front is now facing up. Now’s the time to add some ornamentation to your fireplace cut from the 1×4 plank. The first cut, 43 inches long, will be glued horizontally, aligned with the top edge of the fireplace. Next, cut two 27-inch pieces. Sand the edges to remove splinters before proceeding. Use a ruler to center these on each side of 1×10 side (they should have 3-1/4 inches of space on either side), and glue them down so that the tops abut the top 1×4. You can use clamps here to press pieces firmly together while the wood glue cures.

Then, add volume at the base of the chimney by giving it feet that slightly extend. Cut two 5-inch pieces from the remaining 1×10 plank and two 9-1⁄2-inch pieces from the 1×4 lumber. Stack one 9-1⁄2-inch-by-3-1⁄2-inch piece atop a 9-1⁄2-inch-by-5-inch piece so that their longer sides align, then glue. Repeat with the remaining cuts. Place a stack to the bottom of each side of the faux fireplace, at the open ends of the 27-inch pieces. Align the mantle’s feet so that no wood extends past the base of the faux fireplace—it needs to be a flat surface in order to stand up later on—then glue and clamp each down.

 

How to Build a Faux Fireplace - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 3
To support the board that will be the top mantle of your faux fireplace, fasten a 6″-deep wooden shelf bracket onto each side of the fireplace with glue and screws. We centered ours at the very top of the vertical 1×4s.

Note: It’s important to choose brackets that don’t extend out more than 6 inches, otherwise you will not be able to adequately cover them with the mantle in a later step.

 

How to Build a Faux Fireplace - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 4
Cut a 48-inch length of 1×10 for the top. To compliment the curves in the shelf brackets, we gave our mantle top a nicer edge by rounding two corners of the board. Place any round container (like a recycled plastic butter container) at the top left corner and trace its circumference in pencil, and use a jigsaw to cut along the quadrant of the circle closest to the corner. Erase the remaining three-quarters of the circle, and repeat at the top right corner.

 

How to Build a Faux Fireplace - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 5
Rounded corners facing forward, center the mantle over the top of the faux fireplace with 2-1⁄2 inches overhang on either side. Glue it to the top of the structure, and hold it with clamps while the glue dries.

 

How to Build a Faux Fireplace - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 6
Sand the near-finished fireplace with either paper or a palm sander. Start with 100-grit paper, and repeat with 150-grit.

 

How to Build a Faux Fireplace - Step 7

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 7
Inject even more personality into your project with some wood molding along the fireplace opening and atop the 1×4s.

For the fireplace opening, cut three pieces of 1⁄2″-wide molding: two 27-1⁄2-inch lengths and a 25-inch length. Using a miter box, cut the tops of the 27-1⁄2-inch pieces to have mirroring 45-degree cuts; proceed to cut the ends of the 25-inch piece at 45-degree angles, each pointing away from the other. The 25-inch length should now fit with the 27-1⁄2-inch lengths to make a three-sided frame.

For the sides, the exact length of 2″-wide molding needed to cover the 1×4s ultimately depends on the size of your chosen shelf brackets. Measure the vertical 1×4s’ exposed surface—from the bottom of the shelf brackets to the top of the mantle feet—and cut four identical pieces that length. Glue two side-by-side on each.

As a finishing touch, we glued a 30-inch length of 2-1⁄2″-wide molding beneath the horizontal 1×4 and a wooden closet rod support in the very center. Hold each wooden piece with a clamp while the glue dries.

 

How to Build a Faux Fireplace - Step 8

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 8
Once all of the glue holding the molding has dried, you can give an extra sanding to remove any leftover glue. Wipe away the dust with a wet cloth so that you stain your fireplace in a hue of your choice. (Two coats promises the best color.) After you’ve waited the stain’s recommended dry time, top with a coat of varnish to protect the wood.

 

How to Build a Faux Fireplace - Step 9

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 9
Now that your faux fireplace is built, move it into the living room. It doesn’t need to find a permanent home on any one wall, but it is best to fasten it so that it won’t topple when you place objects on its mantle. Lean the fireplace wherever you intend to place it, and slide a metal corner brace around one edge just beneath the mantle top, where they’ll be barely visible. Lift the fireplace and screw half of the brace into the wall. Lean the fireplace one more time against the wall so that you can find where to affix the second metal corner brace. Once both are in the wall, simply screw the exposed ends into the sides of the fireplace.

All that’s left is to fill your new faux fireplace with candles or string lights to mimic the cozy glow of lit kindling.

 

How to Build a Faux Fireplace

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.


Too Hot Upstairs, Too Cold Downstairs? Here’s What to Do

Do you dream of even, all-encompassing warmth throughout your house? If so, maybe it's time to turn to a highly efficient system that can keep your family toasty warm all winter long, no matter where in the house they happen to be.

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Photo: warmboard.com

It’s the 21st century! It shouldn’t be such a struggle for owners to heat their homes evenly enough to enjoy total comfort and efficiently enough to achieve low energy costs. But still, even today, those hot and cool spots that are the hallmark of inconsistent home climate control continue to plague us. Sometimes it’s an issue of insulation. Other times the blame goes to improper window installation. But in the case of many multi-story homes, winter discomfort often stems directly from the hit-or-miss operation of an increasingly outmoded HVAC technology. Forced air—the dominant heating technology since the postwar period—certainly comes with some redeeming qualities. But in single-zone applications, its normal operation inevitably leads to an unwanted result. During system operation, while the ground floor of the home remains stubbornly chilly, the upper-level rooms become unpleasantly warm. Additionally, for homes with vaulted ceilings, much of that heat is wasted. Making matters worse, in the course of its ultimately futile attempt to normalize temperatures, forced air devours energy and drives up the utility bill. The good news? Thanks to staggering advances in technology, forced air isn’t the only option anymore.

FORCED-AIR HVAC
To understand why forced air often fails to create uniform conditions, you first need to know how the system works. It all starts with the thermostat. As soon as the thermostat registers that the temperature has fallen below a certain threshold point, the system kicks on, blowing furnace-heated air through supply ducts and into the living spaces. Once the target temperature has been reached, the heat turns off. Here’s the trouble: Not only does comfort depend largely on proximity to the nearest air vent, but there’s also the pesky fact that heated air rises—at least until it hits a barrier, such as attic insulation. As the heat heads upward, temperatures in the home stratify. Soon, the thermostat senses a lower temperature downstairs, which triggers the forced-air system to snap back on. In this way, the cycle repeats over and over, never resolving the fundamental problem of uneven heating. Plus, further exacerbating homeowner discomfort, the forced-air system’s constant on-off cycling leads to dramatic temperature swings. Taken together, the shortcomings of the technology ensure that when there is comfort, it comes only to certain areas and only temporarily.

You’d think that climate control so frustratingly inconsistent would at least be economical. But perhaps no other HVAC system has done more to reinforce the perception that heating the home and saving energy dollars are mutually exclusive propositions. Why does it cost a small fortune to run a forced-air system from one winter month to the next? To a large extent, forced-air heating tends to consume more energy than strictly necessary because heat loss undermines its efficiency. Of course, heat loss isn’t uncommon. In fact, it’s present in all homes, no matter their heating setup. The distinction is that in homes with forced air, heat loss occurs within the HVAC system itself—in the ductwork, most of all. Though vital to the operation of any conventional forced-air system, ducts have earned a reputation for being leaky. Even if the air leakage occurs only at the joints where two sections of ducting connect, it can be enough to compromise overall efficiency by 25 percent or more. To make up for the heat loss, the furnace must work harder and consume more energy. Essentially, homeowners must pay extra to correct a fundamental flaw of the system.

Photo: warmboard.com

THE RADIANT ALTERNATIVE
Like so many other technologies, HVAC has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years. Today, homeowners enjoy an array of options designed to deliver where conventional forced air falls short. At the top of the “most intriguing” list? Radiant heating. There’s a popular misconception that “heated floors” are nothing more than a frivolous luxury for high-end bathrooms. But while it’s true that some radiant heating products are designed to be merely supplemental, others offer a viable means of heating the whole house. Even better: With its unconventional, innovative approach, radiant technology actually manages to solve the uneven-heating issue that has frustrated homeowners for decades. How exactly? Because radiant-heat panels are installed beneath the floor, they deliver warmth silently and evenly across virtually every square inch of space, ensuring encompassing, “everywhere” comfort, no matter where you travel in your home. There are no uncomfortable temperature swings, and the in-floor technology concentrates heat not in the air above you—not near the ceiling or in the upstairs rooms—but at the level where you need it the most and can most readily feel it.

Whereas circulating air delivers the heat in a forced-air system, it’s water that does the job in a hydronic radiant setup. From the boiler, the water gets pumped through a network of tubes set into special panels under the floor. The water transfers heat to the panels, which then radiate heat to the floor and on to the people and furniture in the space. Along the way, in contrast to forced air, a radiant system undergoes minimal heat loss. For that reason, even as it creates much more comfortable conditions, radiant heat consumes much less energy. In fact, it’s at least 25 percent more efficient! That said, materials matter when it comes to the efficiency of a given radiant system. Take the Warmboard system, for instance. Its panels are made not with the more standard gypsum concrete, but with aluminum—a material that conducts heat 232 times better. That enables the Warmboard system to operate using substantially less energy than others. So, while you can save with any radiant-heating system, certain systems can save you even more, thanks to their ingenious design.

 

Although it’s already widespread in Europe and Asia, radiant heating hasn’t yet taken off in the United States. But that’s been changing, as homeowners learn about the technology’s many advantages. In addition to sidestepping the all-too-common issue of stratification—too little heat downstairs, too much upstairs—radiant heating also offers a range of other performance benefits. For example, while traditional heating systems very often make a racket, radiant heating runs all but silently. In addition, radiant heat helps maintain healthy indoor air quality, because the technology operates without dust- and germ-spreading ductwork. Of course, installing or upgrading an HVAC system usually entails a number of important considerations, many quite sophisticated and complex. But in the end, the appeal of radiant heating couldn’t be simpler. The technology delivers a qualitatively different climate-control experience—even, all-encompassing, “everywhere” warmth—while consuming less energy and eating up fewer energy dollars.

Photo: warmboard.com

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


The Right Stuff: 3 Types of Safety Gear You Need for DIY

Check out the strides made in personal protective equipment, and gear up right before you start your next big project.

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Photo: Honeywell

Few do-it-yourselfers would consider remodeling a room, building an addition, or addressing a plumbing or electrical issue without the right tools. Yet, unlike pros who are required to wear safety gear, too many DIYers risk serious injury by tackling projects without appropriate eyewear, footwear, and hearing protection—a bad habit that needs to change. And thanks to comfortable, streamlined, and tough new products from Honeywell, a leading manufacturer of quality personal protective equipment, weekend work warriors now have every reason to put safety first. Read these three considerations before your next home improvement endeavor, so you can get smart, and gear up right!

 

Honeywell Oliver 45 Series Protective Footwear

Photo: Honeywell

Put Your Best Foot Forward
Have some demo on your to-do list? Hauling lumber, bricks, or other light construction soon? Perhaps you’ll reach new heights in roofing. Step one for any of these jobs is lacing up a top-notch pair of work boots. Foot injuries from construction sites run the gamut from punctures, burns, and lacerations to sprains, breaks, even the loss of a toe or two.

With Oliver Safety Footwear by Honeywell 45 Series, you won’t sacrifice comfort for safety. An innovative composite toe makes the boots 40 percent lighter than their steel toe counterparts while still offering optimal high-impact protection. Throw in flexible underfoot support that absorbs shocks and impacts, a heat-resistant outer sole that withstands temperatures up to 266 degrees Fahrenheit, and a fully lined padded collar and tongue, and you’ve got a boot that’ll thwart foot, leg, and lower back fatigue as well. Plus, like any good tool, the Oliver 45 Series—made of water-resistant leather with a rugged sole—is built to last. You’ll run out of projects before you’ll need another pair!

 

Honeywell Uvex Hypershock Protective Eyewear

Photo: Honeywell

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
With all the debris that goes flying, it’s no surprise that construction has the highest incidence of eye injury than any other industry. But electrical work (due largely to its overhead nature) and plumbing also present their share of eye hazards. Even heavy-duty garden chores, like taking down tree limbs, put your vision at risk. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, nearly 90 percent of all eye injuries could be avoided with safety eyewear, yet only 35 percent of people consistently protect their eyes while doing home repairs or projects. The reinvention of once clunky protective gear aims to change all of that.

Now, the Uvex by Honeywell line of sport-inspired eyewear offers excellent performance, superior comfort, and sleek, bold style. Its Acadia model boasts a ¾ frame design and sculpted padded temples for high-impact protection, plus a soft, ribbed ergonomic nosepiece to keep the pair from slipping. Or, pick the full-frame Hypershock, with padded temples and a molded nosepiece for a secure, comfortable fit. You can even choose frame color and lens tint, and opt for Uvextreme Plus® anti-fog lens coating. With either selection, safety has never looked so good!

 

Photo: Honeywell

Take This Sound Advice
Carpentry is cacophonous, as a quick check of decibel levels makes clear. A router and circular saw both clock in at 110 dBs, while a nail gun pops at a whopping 120 dBs—not much quieter than a roaring jet engine (140 dBs). And, it doesn’t take a lot of exposure to too-loud tools to harm your hearing.

Today’s hearing protection has come a long way not just in noise reduction ratings, but also in comfort, style, and even built-in entertainment. Take for example the Honeywell SYNC Digital AM/FM Radio, a sleek, smart electronic headset that combines hearing protection with high-fidelity sound. SYNC Radio lets you digitally tune in up to 10 of your favorite AM/FM stations, or use the AUX input jack to connect your MP3 player, mobile phone, or other personal listening device. With DJ-inspired earcups and sound quality that’s on par with professional headphones, you’ll have more than enough motivation to get the job done. Hey, you may just whistle while you work!

Photo: Honeywell

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


How To: Paint PVC Pipe

Why settle for off-the-shelf shades? Now you can spray a coat of longwearing color on this easy-to-use material for all sorts of DIY projects.

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How to Paint PVC Pipe

Photo: istockphoto.com

Tough and durable yet easy to cut, polyvinyl chloride piping (PVC)—originally developed for plumbing—is ideal for use in a variety of do-it-yourself projects, from wall-mounted organizers and funky herb planters to wine racks and even lighting fixtures. While the piping comes in a spectrum of brights these days, you’ll still want to learn how to paint PVC if you’ve got a more sophisticated palette in mind. Except there’s one hitch: Due to a molecular makeup that prevents most liquids from bonding to its surface, paint on PVC has always been likely to flake, bubble, or rub right off. Fortunately, recently developed spray paints that chemically bond with all kinds of plastics make it possible for determined DIYers to paint PVC pipe. Just keep in mind that while some plastic-rated paints purport to be no preparation required, we advise that you follow the prep steps here for the best possible results.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- PVC pipe
- 220-grit sandpaper (several sheets)
- Acetone (not nail polish remover)
- Rubber gloves (not latex, as acetone degrades latex)
- Clean rags
- Drop cloths, old newspaper, or plastic sheeting for painting
- Plastic-rated spray paint, such as consumer favorite Krylon Fusion

STEP 1
Plan to paint PVC on a low-humidity day, ideally between 50 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Choose a well-ventilated yet wind-free area to work in, such as a garage with doors and windows open for airflow. Note that acetone is extremely flammable, so it should be used and stored away from heat sources. Do not smoke while working with acetone, and wash up well after use.

STEP 2
Lightly scour the PVC pipe’s exterior by hand with 220-grit sandpaper. Skip the electric sander, which can wear down the pipe too much, too fast. Sand in all directions to avoid straight-line striations that can create an undesirable grooved surface. Be gentle, so you won’t weaken the pipe, yet thorough to avoid an uneven surface. Have plenty of sandpaper on hand, because the waxes in PVC pipe will come off on the paper, causing it to lose roughness.

How to Paint PVC Pipe

Photo: wikihow.com

STEP 3
Don rubber gloves, dampen a clean rag with acetone, and then wipe the surface of the PVC pipe. Allow to dry for 20 to 30 minutes. The acetone will remove all sanding dust while swelling the surface of the PVC to make it more porous for painting.

STEP 4
Lay drop cloths, plastic sheeting, or old newspapers over the floors or walls that could be subject to splatter or overspray, then arrange pipe for spraying. If painting long pieces, protect a wall, ladder, or chair from spray and prop the pipes against it. Or consider standing long pieces on a sturdy dowel for support so you can access all sides at once. Short pieces of PVC may be able to stand without additional support, making it simpler to get an all-over coat of paint.

STEP 5
Shake your plastic-rated spray paint thoroughly for 15 to 20 seconds. In a side-to-side sweeping motion, spray-paint the pipe, starting from the top and working your way down to the bottom. Paint PVC in thin, consistent layers, overlapping the paint as you move down the pipe, to avoid any drips.

STEP 6
Allow paint to dry per manufacturer’s instructions 20 to 30 minutes, before applying a second coat. If you had to lay the piping down to paint, wait until the first side is dry and then turn it over to access the other side. Avoid overlapping spray on areas you’ve already painted to achieve a nice, even coat. As in all spray-painting jobs, you’ll need to apply several coats in thin layers until the “true color” is reached.

STEP 7
Allow paint to air-dry and cure for at least 24 hours before using it in your project. For projects that could scrape or nick the pipe’s new coat of paint in the process, consider waiting a full week. If you’re uncertain, check the paint can for specific manufacturer-recommended drying times. Once your project is complete, keep painted pipes clean by wiping gently with a water-dampened rag.


The Essential Guide to Winter Home Improvement

Give your home the gift of comfort, performance, and beauty this winter by calling in the experts at Sears Home Services for all your seasonal repair and replacement needs.

Photo: istockphoto.com

When the cold weather kicks in, many homeowners find themselves snowed under by a host of holiday to-dos. Whether you’re preparing to feed and entertain guests, or simply buttoning up the house for a cozy winter, you’ll want to make sure your home is up to the challenge. Get your home ready to greet this busy—and chilly—time of year by inspecting your heating system for signs of weakness and prepping your kitchen for the heavy use (and abuse) of the holiday season. Now is the time to repair faulty HVAC units, or replace them with high-performing models that keep your home warm and comfortable. Then, head to the kitchen to take stock of your cabinetry and work surfaces. Are your countertops looking the worse for wear? Will your cabinets hold up to the storm of guests coming through your kitchen this season? If you find that your HQ could use a little TLC, turn to these insights from the experts at Sears Home Services. With their help, you should be able to zip your way through any holiday home improvements, so you can get back to family, food, and fun.

HVAC

Neglecting a faulty or inefficient HVAC unit can send it into overdrive, or worse, leave you without heat on the coldest day of the year. Inspect your heating unit now for the sights, sounds, and smells of trouble, and repair or replace underperforming units to make sure your family stays warm all season.

- Furnace upkeep: Although “a surprising number of homeowners rarely even go near the furnace,” says David Kenyon, a product manager with Sears Home Services, that’s exactly what it takes to identify early signs of exterior damage or underlying performance issues. Now is the right time to get a closer look. First, check for cracks or corrosion on the unit, then listen for sounds of squealing, screeching, or frequent cycling on and off. While you’re at it, “pay attention to how the furnace room smells,” as a musty aroma that lasts more than a few days can indicate trouble. If you see, hear, or smell anything out of the ordinary, call in a professional to repair or replace the unit. Even if you don’t detect any obvious trouble, keep in mind that an older furnace may operate inefficiently. “The typical unit lasts about 15 or 20 years,” says Kenyon, with older units being less energy- and cost-efficient. While “repair may be able to deliver an efficiency boost,” Kenyon advises that the higher operating costs involved with an older unit could be reason enough to install a newer, more-efficient model. New furnaces deliver better performance and energy efficiency, so you’ll be able to maintain warm indoor temperatures while consuming less energy.

- Radiant heating: Do you feel a noticeable difference in temperature as you walk from room to room? Uneven heating, “the hallmark of single-speed blower furnaces,” according to Kenyon, can be remedied by replacing outdated heating technology. As far as replacement HVAC systems go, a radiant heating system is an interesting choice, one that can heat your home more uniformly, reducing those frequent trips to adjust the thermostat. Unlike forced-air systems that blow warm air into a room only to have that heat rise above your head, radiant floor heating emanates heat from the ground up, warming you from toe to top. There’s much to be said for the comfort and energy efficiency that today’s advanced electric or radiant floor systems offer. Let the experts at Sears Home Services walk you through the basics of installing radiant heating, or other HVAC options, by scheduling a free in-home consultation.

Photo: istockphoto.com

COUNTERTOPS

Whether your kitchen can withstand the frenzy of holiday meal prep will depend largely on the condition of your countertops. Soft or porous materials can take a real beating over the holidays, suffering from scuffs, stains, burn marks, and other unsightly accidents. Upgrading your countertops, either as part of a full kitchen renovation or as a stand-alone project, can enhance the elegance of your kitchen while providing you with a resilient work surface that will continue to perform for years to come.

- Materials: Replacing outdated countertops with modern surfaces gives you the opportunity to improve both the utility and aesthetics of your kitchen. This is why in choosing a countertop, “homeowners often look for a material that provides the best of both worlds—that is, something that looks great and performs even better,” says Joe Maykut of Sears Home Services. Whether you opt for warm hardwoods, sleek solid-surface countertops, or modern cultured or natural stone countertops like quartz or granite, Maykut recommends consulting professionals. Experts at Sears Home Services “bring the showroom to your home,” giving you the advantage of “seeing the products in the setting where they would be installed.”

- Durability: The beauty of newly installed countertops can quickly fade if the surfaces aren’t built to last. That’s why it’s so important to factor durability into your choice of countertop material. Opt for kitchen surfaces that can withstand the daily stress of kitchen prep with minimal wear and tear. Quartz and granite, which Maykut predicts will continue to dominate kitchen design trends beyond 2016, are both easy on the eyes and hard to damage. Their rugged composition, resistant to heat, scratches, and stains, makes them well suited for hardworking kitchens.

Cleaning and disinfecting: Regularly maintaining your countertops is the best way to prolong their life and protect your investment. In the kitchen, where “maintenance really matters,” according to Kenyon, you want countertops with minimal care requirements. Cleaning sealed granite and quartz, for example, is often as simple as wiping down the surface with a soapy sponge. These nonporous materials also have better-than-average resistance to food-borne bacteria, so they’ll keep your kitchen more hygienic throughout the holiday rush. Renovation experts at Sears Home Services can help you choose the low-maintenance materials you need to build the no-fuss kitchen of your dreams.

CABINETS

Your cabinets are the face of your kitchen. If cosmetic imperfections or dated designs are turning your kitchen into an eyesore, consider refinishing or replacing your cabinet doors. This relatively simple upgrade will roll back the years and restore a youthful facade without the investment of time and money that a full cabinet replacement requires.

- Materials: For homeowners whose cabinets are in good shape structurally, refreshing only the cabinet doors while keeping the frames intact can “save a small fortune on labor and material costs,” says Maykut. Your options for updating cabinet doors “depend on what material the cabinets are made of.” Wood cabinet doors, for example, can be easily refinished with a new coat of stain or paint. But Maykut acknowledges that “traditional refinishing isn’t always possible,” in which case homeowners may want to add a veneer to the doors. If the existing style or condition of the cabinet doors is less than optimal, replacing them with all-wood, wood veneer, or laminate doors can restore a like-new appearance to the kitchen. To ensure a professional and cohesive look, consult with the experts at Sears Home Services on cabinet material selection.

- Door styles/hardware: After you’ve selected a material for your cabinetry, choose door styles and hardware that complement the overall ambience you hope to establish in your kitchen. Shaker-style doors with traditional nickel knobs, for example, accentuate the natural undertones of all-wood cabinetry, making them a perfect choice for rustic kitchens. On the other hand, flat-panel doors with stainless steel bar pulls deliver a more modern aesthetic. Homeowners can even play with color on cabinet doors to highlight subtle details in the hardware, or color-match their cabinetry with other amenities in the kitchen. Maykut notes, however, that “many choose to contrast light-colored cabinetry with darker countertops, flooring, and accents” to achieve a balanced—and still beautiful—look.

Photo: istockphoto.com

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