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- All You Need to Know About Shiplap
All You Need to Know About Shiplap
Shiplap can add rustic charm to any blank wall. Learn more about the trendy wooden planks and how you can install them in your own home.
Shiplap has been popping up everywhere lately. The rough-sawn wooden planks arranged as horizontal panels can take any wall from drab to dramatic. Homeowners love the rustic texture of shiplap as well as the ease of installation and budget-friendliness of the project. What’s more, shiplap works with any existing style of decor—from cozy cottage to beach bungalow. If you’re interested in installing shiplap in your home, consider the following tips and tricks.
WHAT IS SHIPLAP?
Shiplap paneling takes its name from the horizontal planks once used to construct boats. Thanks to the grooves cut into the top and bottom of the boards, builders could fit shiplap panels tightly together to keep out the water. In fact, shiplap boards were so effective that builders began adapting the material for use as exterior sheathing on homes to block cold winds. Until the advent of plywood, shiplap boards were commonly used to construct the sheathing between a home’s structural framing and its exterior siding.
Nowadays, people often find shiplap sheathing underneath the siding of historic homes during exterior renovation projects. The wooden planks, which are highly coveted as reclaimed construction materials, can be carefully salvaged and brought indoors for use as decorative wall coverings. Homeowners looking for an affordable alternative to traditional shiplap may choose to mimic the look by installing long boards ripped from sheets of plywood, leaving slight spaces (the standard gap is 1/8 inch) between each panel.
When used indoors, shiplap shifts from functional to purely aesthetic. The wood panels add visual character and texture to otherwise blank walls in a home, and have the ability to adapt to any decorative scheme, depending on how the homeowner chooses to incorporate the material. For example, crisp white shiplap paired with natural wood flooring and neutral accents creates a fresh Cape Cod look. Similarly, a shiplap wall accented with a ruffled slipcovered sofa, soft pillows in muted floral shades, and painted wicker end tables can evoke a romantic feeling. Alternatively, homeowners can achieve Scandinavian style by pairing natural wood panels with equally simple furnishings. No matter your home’s style, installing shiplap paneling on one or more walls will enhance your decor.
For more adventurous designers, shiplap can go beyond standard wall coverings. Consider installing it as wainscoting, or use it to cover the backs of built-in cubbies or bookcases. Shiplap can also frame a designated picture-hanging area above a fireplace.
INSTALLING YOUR OWN
While you don’t need to be a professional carpenter to install shiplap paneling at home, you should be familiar with basic woodworking skills like measuring, sawing, and nailing. The most common (and affordable) way to re-create a shiplap look from scratch is to use plywood. Look for ¾-inch AC plywood (which is pre-sanded on one side) and avoid the cheapest variety of plywood (which is rough on both sides and has a tendency to chip). A 4×8 sheet sells for around $30—that’s just under $1 per square foot of a wall.
You’ll need a saw to cut the ends of the boards to fit your space, and you’ll also need a power sander and nail gun. Other necessary materials include a level, a chalk line, spacers, spackle, and paint to finish the look in a neutral of your choice. Once you’ve equipped yourself with the required tools and materials, installation will follow these seven stages.
• Cutting the Boards: Before installing the plywood boards, you’ll need to “rip” them (cut them parallel to the grain) to the correct width, either using a table saw to do it yourself, or by seeking the help of employees at the hardware store where you purchased the wood. Any width of board can be ripped from a sheet of plywood, but 5-7/8 inches is a safe starting point for shiplap panels. This cut will give you exactly eight 8-foot-long boards from every sheet of plywood (because the saw eats ⅛ inch with every cut).
• Sanding the Boards: The surface of AC plywood is smooth, but the edges require sanding since they’ll be rough from the ripping process. For the best results, sand sufficiently to create a slight bevel on the edge of the boards. This is called “sanding a chamfer.”
• Painting the Boards: Apply a first coat of paint before placing the boards on your wall, because the gaps between the installed boards will be too narrow to fit even a detail paintbrush once the boards have been attached to the wall.
• Prepping the Wall: Remove everything from the wall, including outlet covers, pictures, and any baseboard at the bottom of the wall. If you’re installing the shiplap boards around a door, take off the door casing and reinstall it after the shiplap is in place. Next, create a visual guide for nailing the boards into the wall studs, which will offer the best support for the weight of the wood panels. To do so, locate the center of each wall stud with a stud finder and pop a vertical chalk line at every stud, from the bottom of the wall to the top.
• Attaching the First Board: Attach the bottom board to the wall with two 2-inch nails in every wall stud. The entire design depends on the first board’s being perfectly level; if the panel is even a few centimeters off, the entire wall will appear slanted. Rely on a level to install the boards carefully and accurately.
• Spacing the Boards: Enlist spacers to create uniform gaps (typically 1/8 inch) between each board. You can use any type of spacer you’d like, such as the edge of a carpenter’s square or tile spacers. Make sure that you position each board using the same spacer so the boards appear evenly spaced.
• Attaching the Other Boards: Attach the rest of the boards to the wall with two 2-inch nails in every wall stud, aligned vertically and evenly spaced. Don’t skip studs. For a more rustic look, you can hand-nail with 8d nails, which will leave visible nailheads. Use finish nails for a smooth look.
• Finishing the Look: If you used finish nails, fill the nail holes with spackle. Let them dry and then sand the surface lightly with 400-grit sandpaper before brushing a final coat of paint on the surface of the boards. Since you have already painted the edges, you shouldn’t have to paint them again—touching up the surface should be sufficient. Let the paint dry, then proceed to fill the newly shiplap-covered walls with framed artwork, mirrors, and other decorative accents—whatever you’d like!
- How To's & Quick Tips >
- How To: Use Muriatic Acid
How To: Use Muriatic Acid
Don’t play around with this strong stuff! Learn what it’s good for—and the right way to use it.
Muriatic acid, a less-pure variant of hydrochloric acid, is available in high concentrations for use in a host of home restoration and maintenance projects. While this powerful chemical agent runs cheap—about $10 a gallon at home centers and hardware stores—it’s still very caustic stuff, capable of corroding everything from some plastics and metals to clothing and skin. In fact, working with it poses numerous health risks: Momentary skin exposure can cause severe burns, inhaling its fumes can burn lung and nose lining, and contact can also cause irreversible eye damage or blindness. Homeowners should never reach for muriatic acid lightly. Instead, consider it a “last resort” when less toxic products fail to do the trick in cleaning, prepping, deoxidizing, or removing mold from masonry, concrete, metal, and swimming pools. Before you begin any project with this multipurpose substance, read on, first for guidance in using it safely, and then for its range of practical applications around the house.
Must-Practice Safety Measures with Muriatic Acid
Due to all of the damage this chemical could cause in one wrong move, extreme caution is mandatory when using, storing, and disposing of muriatic acid. Adhere to the following best practices before beginning any project that involves the acid:
• Wear full-face protection, a respirator, thick, full-coverage clothing, and acid-resistant protective gloves when working with muriatic acid.
• Muriatic acid must be diluted in water. Though degree of dilution will vary depending on the job, the general formula is one-part muriatic acid to 10 parts water.
• When making a dilution, slowly and carefully pour the acid into the water. Never add water to acid, as an exothermic reaction will occur, propelling the acid out of the container and onto you.
• Never pour muriatic acid into an empty vessel. Fill the container with the right amount of water before adding the acid.
• Never mix muriatic acid with other acids.
• Only mix muriatic acid in a glass or acid-resistant plastic container (find a list here).
• Always store muriatic acid in the container it came in.
• Keep a supply of baking soda or garden lime nearby in case you need to quickly neutralize muriatic acid. While sprinkling these substances full-strength will work, the best plan is to mix ½ cup of baking soda and a quart of water in a sealed spray bottle and keep it nearby.
• Work with a hose or large container of water nearby to wash skin in case of accidental splashing.
• If using muriatic acid on large surface areas, it will need to be applied with a plastic sprayer. The plastic is bound to deteriorate quickly, so you’ll likely need more than one to complete the job.
• Contact your local recycling center for instructions on safe disposal of muriatic acid in your area.
An Effective Last Resort
Practice all the safety precautions above, and you should be able to use muriatic acid with great success. Here are six projects where you might find it indispensable:
Neutralizing alkalinity in masonry. Masonry alkalinity can discolor or burn off paint finishes. Washing brick, concrete, or stone with muriatic acid can neutralize alkalinity, allowing paint finishes to last for years. Brush or spray on a 1:10 diluted mix of acid in water onto the surface, allow to sit for up to 10 minutes, but no longer, then spray it with a solution of 1 cup ammonia in a gallon of water to neutralize the acid. Allow the surface to dry completely before applying paint or other treatments.
Removing efflorescence and prepping masonry for paint. Efflorescence refers to the white crystalline blooming that can occur on masonry surfaces, including brick and concrete. Often a sign that masonry contains too much moisture, efflorescence may indicate that a sealant is needed to contain moisture issues. Prior to applying sealant, however, efflorescence must be removed. Likewise, if you want to paint masonry, the surface needs to be “etched.” You can remove efflorescence and etch a masonry surface in one shot: Apply a 1:10 dilution of muriatic acid to water, let sit for a few minutes until you see the efflorescence lifting, then brush with a stiff nylon brush to remove residue. Spray down the surface afterwards with a 1:16 ammonia-water neutralizing solution.
Basement makeover. Fight mold and mildew in your basement while restoring surface appearance with muriatic acid. Just be sure to ventilate the basement as much as possible, and wear a respirator. Apply a 1:9 acid-to-water dilution, scrub visible mold patches on hard surfaces like concrete, bricks, and on some glazed tiles and grout, with a stiff nylon brush, and rinse thoroughly by hosing down with water. Use a wet vac to suck up excess water. Air the basement out for a few hours after this task is completed.
Busting rust. The use of muriatic acid to remove rust on metal is a contentious topic, as the substance can potentially lead to more rapid oxidization in the future. So the cautious DIYer should only use it only on stainless steel (and never cast iron) that will be painted after rust removal. Brush the acid on at a 1:10 acid/water dilution and scrub with a nylon brush. Immediately after removing rust, neutralize the acid with a baking soda-water paste (1:1). Apply paste generously so it thoroughly coats acid-washed and let sit for 10 minutes and then rinse with water, dry, and prep for paint. (Find more specific how-to info here.)
Swimming pool maintenance. Muriatic acid can get your swimming pool’s surface looking like new again. Spray a 1:16 acid-to-water diluted solution on the drained surface of the pool, let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes. For stubborn stains, scrub with a nylon brush. Rinse thoroughly with plain water.
Swimming pool pH balance. If the pool’s pH level is too high, muriatic acid can bring balance to the water. Purchase “swimming pool acid” for this maintenance task. Though nothing more than muriatic acid—and the same price—it will have thorough instructions and formulas for use in your particular pool. You’ll added it in, re-test the pH levels after a few hours and once it’s back in range, you’ll be ready for that dip!
- Interior Design >
- All You Need to Know About Quartz Countertops
All You Need to Know About Quartz Countertops
Wondering whether this fashionable material is perfect for your kitchen or bathroom project? Get all of your research done right here.
Beautiful, durable, easy-care quartz is among the most popular countertop materials available—but it is pricey. If you’re considering quartz for your kitchen or bathroom, first get the 411 on this trendy topper before you buy. This complete countertop primer will set you up all of the necessary information on selecting and caring for quartz countertops, so you can make a smart decision and enjoy your work surface for years to come.
What Is a Quartz Countertop?
A visit to a kitchen showroom nowadays will show you a dazzling array of quartz countertop designs and patterns that remarkably mimic real marble and other natural stone. But quartz has come a long way! First appearing in Italy in the 1960s, these countertops were developed—by combining ground quartz particles with resins into a slab—as an alternative to stone that wouldn’t easily crack or break. While the resins added just enough flexibility to do the trick, early quartz countertops were a dull-looking cream and tan. Cutting-edge improvements in solid-surface technology have elevated quartz from functional to fabulous. With an abundance of finish choices and endless combinations of color and edge styles, you’ll likely find something stunning that suits your home.
Not only will you appreciate the look of quartz, you’ll find it remarkably easy to maintain—unlike marble and natural stone, which require a special sealant and can be finicky to care for. Quartz contains 90 to 94 percent ground quartz and 6 to 10 percent polymer resins and pigments, combined to produce a granite-hard slab that can duplicate the look of mesmerizing marble swirls or earthy natural stone, without the maintenance. Quartz also resists scratching and cracking to a greater degree than many natural countertops, ranking a “7” in hardness on the Moh’s scale (developed in 1822 by Friedrich Moh to rate mineral hardness). Marble, in comparison, ranks only a “3.”
A note to homeowners in the market to remodel: When exploring countertop options, make sure not to confuse quartz with quartzite. Quartz is engineered with pigments and resins, while quartzite is actually sandstone that, through natural metamorphosis, was exposed to intense heat, which caused it to solidify. Mined from large stone quarries and cut into solid slabs, quartzite is also available for countertops—but, unlike quartz, it must be sealed before use and again once or twice a year thereafter.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Quartz?
Thanks to its non-porous nature, quartz is mold-, stain-, and mildew-resistant, making it a breeze to keep not merely clean but also germ- and bacteria-free. Quartz also resists heat damage—up to a point. Manufacturers market quartz as able to withstand temperatures up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (one reason it works well as fireplace surrounds). But “thermal shock” can result from placing a hot pan straight from the oven or stovetop onto a cold quartz countertop, which can lead to cracking or discoloring. And while quartz does resist staining because liquids can’t penetrate its surface, it’s not 100 percent stain-proof. Messes should be cleaned up quickly to best preserve quartz countertops’ original color.
The biggest downside to quartz, however, is cost. While a preformed or laminate countertop will set you back a few hundred dollars, quartz countertops cost between $70 to $100 per sq. ft., installed, comparable to the price of natural stone countertops. For a mid-size kitchen, you can easily spend a few thousand dollars for quartz.
If you’re planning a backyard kitchen, steer clear of quartz altogether. It’s not suitable for outdoor installation, as the sun’s UV rays can break down the resin binders and degrade the countertop, leading to fading and eventual warping.
How Do I Choose the Best Look?
With such a vast selection, making up your mind can be a challenge! So bring home a few quartz samples from a kitchen showroom before settling on a specific color or design. Under your own lighting, and against the backdrop of your cabinets and walls, you’ll be better able to choose a pattern and design that complements your kitchen décor. It helps to have a good idea of what you want your finished kitchen to look like before you buy. You can browse through design books at any kitchen center, or get ideas from show homes and home-design magazines and websites. As you plan, keep these points in mind:
Seams: If your counter is longer than 120 inches, or if it involves a complex configuration, quartz may have to be fabricated in more than one section, which means you’ll have one or more seams. Seams are typically less visible on dark-toned quartz but can be quite noticeable on light-toned or multicolor countertops, such as those with obvious veining or marbling patterns.
Thickness: Countertop thickness ranges from ½ inch to 1-¼ inch, depending on style, brand, and size. If you’re ordering a large countertop or want an elaborate edge design, the fabricator may suggest a thicker slab. If your heart is set on a thin countertop but your kitchen is large, expect to have one or more seams. Thickness also depends on custom features, such as integrated drain boards and elaborate edge profiles.
Design Details: Custom designs in a wide array of colors are available, from neutral grays, off-whites, and subtle tans to bold blues, bright yellows, and striking solid blacks. In addition to shade, you can choose from quartz made from small particles for a smooth appearance, or from larger grains for a flecked look. The surface can be sleek and glossy or feature a flecked, pebbled, embossed, or even suede appearance.
Edge Ideas: Custom edge profiles in complex designs bring distinction to your cook space but add to the final cost. You can opt for a bold square countertop edge, a chiseled raw-edge look, or select a softer, rounded bullnose corner. A reverse waterfall edge resembles the shape of crown molding and adds a touch of traditional elegance, while contemporary edges, including slanted, mitered, or undercut create the illusion of a thinner slab. Ogee (S-shape) is a popular edge design that fits just about any decor.
Bathroom Buys: Selecting a quartz countertop for a bathroom is slightly different from buying one for your kitchen. Bathroom vanities come in standard sizes, so you can purchase pre-made vanity countertops. Many come with pre-molded sinks or pre-cut holes to accommodate drop-in sinks. Bathroom vanity quartz countertops range from $400 to $1,000 depending on length, and installation for them is more DIY-friendly.
What Should I Expect with Installation?
Professional installation is highly recommended for quartz countertops in kitchens, due to the custom nature of cabinet configuration and the weight of the slabs, which often require multiple workers just to lift. To protect your investment, installers should be certified to mount the specific brand of quartz you purchase. Many quartz countertops come with 15-year or even lifetime warranties, but often only when installed by certified professionals. Once you’ve settled on a countertop style and color, here’s what to expect for installation:
Phase One: A representative from the manufacturer will come to your home and measure your cabinets to create a template for the countertop. It takes an average of two weeks for the countertop to be made.
Phase Two: The new countertop installs directly on the base cabinets with adhesive—no underlayment is required. The installers will precisely fit any seams as necessary, filling them with epoxy resin that matches the countertop. It takes from a few hours to a full day to install a typical quartz countertop.
Phase Three: You or your plumber can now proceed with installing under-sink plumbing.
How Do I Keep Quartz Looking Great?
Beyond the actual appearance, the beauty of quartz is that required care for your new countertop is relatively easy, but there are still a few crucial do’s and don’ts to mind.
• Do wipe up spills promptly with paper towels or a damp cloth. While quartz is non-porous, liquids like wine and coffee can stain the surface if allowed to dry.
• Don’t use abrasive cleaners or scrubbers on your countertop. Scouring powders and steel-pads can scratch and dull the surface.
• Do use an all-purpose spray kitchen cleaner or mild commercial household cleaner for daily cleaning needs.
• Don’t use, or spill, acidic or high-alkaline products on your countertop. Quartz tolerates cleaners in the mid-pH range, but products that fall on either end of the pH scale can dull its luster. Avoid spills from drain cleaners, oven cleaners, acetone (fingernail polish remover), paint remover, solvents, bleach, dishwasher rinse agents, and any products that contain trichlorethane or methylene chloride. Take a better safe than sorry approach: If you don’t know for sure that a product is appropriate for quartz, don’t use it.
• Do use a non-scratch nylon pad or sponge to safely scrub away sticky food residue.
• Don’t use a metal knife to remove hardened food items, such as stuck-on candy-making spills. Instead, use a plastic putty knife to gently scrape them away.
• Do use spray glass cleaner after wiping your countertop clean, and buff the surface dry with a clean towel for a streak-free shine. Opt for a mild, oil-based cleaner (like Goo Gone) to remove tough ink or dye stains, and then rinse with plain water.
• Don’t use your quartz countertop to chop and dice foods. Use a separate cutting board to prevent knife marks on the countertop.
• Do tackle tough cleaning chores, such as splattered grease, by spraying your countertop with a kitchen degreasing cleaner and leaving it on for 5 to 10 minutes before wiping away with a clean damp cloth.
• Don’t set hot pans directly on the countertop to avoid discoloration and cracking. Keep plenty of trivets handy and use them faithfully.
- Bathroom >
- DIY Lite: An Easy Hiding Spot for Bathroom Cleaning Supplies
DIY Lite: An Easy Hiding Spot for Bathroom Cleaning Supplies
What bathroom couldn't benefit from a little extra storage, especially for the unsightly stash of cleaning supplies? Build this sleek cabinet, and you'll never have to stare at a toilet brush again.
When you’ve already filled your bathroom’s medicine cabinet and limited under-sink space with extra toiletries, a surplus of shampoo bottles, medicines, and makeup, you probably don’t want to squeeze a cleaner or toilet brush in the crowded space, too. Rather than leaving them out and uncovered next to the toilet, create a designated storage station that hides the ugly essentials and brings your bathroom one step closer to serene. We’ve got you—and your bathroom cleaning supplies—covered, both figuratively and literally, with this easy-to-build, cabinet-like DIY bathroom storage unit.
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- 1×8 lumber (10 feet)
- Palm sander
- Wood glue
- 1-½-inch nails (24)
- 12mm plywood
- 1-¼-inch wooden dowel
- 1-½-inch screws (4)
- 1-½-inch × ¼-inch wood lath (8 feet)
- Wood stain
- Wooden curtain ring
- Small hinges with screws (2)
Let’s first make the necessary cuts for building the structure of the cabinet. Cut the lumber into five pieces: two 16-inch pieces to make the top and the bottom, and four 19-inch pieces to make the sides and the inner division. Then, slice the four 4-inch pieces from the wooden dowel to make the cabinet’s legs.
Using these dimensions, your finished DIY bathroom storage cabinet will stand 25 inches tall, 16 inches wide, and 8 inches deep. Measure out where you want to place the cabinet now so that you can adapt those dimensions as necessary to fit your own space.
Lay the 16-inch bottom piece in front of you, squeeze a line of wood glue at each short end, then stand and press two 19-inch side boards in the glue. Be careful to align the sides with the outermost edges of the bottom and the top boards in order to build a perfect box.
Hammer four 1-½-inch nails through each end of the bottom piece to secure the sides. Then, glue and nail the top board in place.
Measure 5 inches inside the left side of the box, and mark this both on the bottom and top boards. Apply a little wood glue to the short edges of the third 19-inch piece you’ve cut—a soon-to-be cabinet divider—and slide this board into place where you’ve marked it to go. Hammer in four more 1-½-inch nails both through the top and the bottom to hold the divider in place. The 5-inch space to the left of the divider will provide the perfect storage space for stacking toilet paper rolls.
Since this DIY bathroom storage will stand next to the toilet, adding legs (those 4-inch dowel cuts) will make it easy to clean underneath it in the future. Flip the cabinet so that the bottom faces you, and measure 1-½ inches in from each corner; mark where you’ll place the leg.
Drill four small pilot holes, one at each mark, as well as holes into the center of each dowel piece.
Drill a 1-½-inch screw through the floor of the cabinet and into a dowel at each corner to affix the legs.
Add a little glue to the drilled end of a dowel piece, then twist it onto the bathroom storage unit. Repeat for each leg.
Make the back of the cabinet using strips of wood lath to create good ventilation on a cabinet that will likely store store lightly damp toilet brushes and cleaning products. Cut three pieces of 1-½-inch × ¼-inch wood lath to be 19 inches each. Line the top and bottom ends of each with wood glue, and place them through the open cabinet at the back; the top and bottom should fit snugly with the wood structure you’ve made so far. Wait for the glue to dry before moving the unit.
Now, it’s time to build the door from 12mm plywood: Draw and cut out with a jigsaw a rectangle of 19 by 21 inches.
Sand the storage unit and the door with a 100-grit paper, with extra attention given to the cut edges.
Stain or paint the cabinet’s frame and door with colors that complement your bathroom’s design. We used a combination of the two on the new DIY bathroom storage: an Early American stain on the structure itself and a contrasting white paint (a satin or semi-gloss paint is best for use on walls and fixtures in the bathroom, since it is often easier to clean) for the door. Since this finished piece will move to a high-moisture zone, it’s important to wait for the piece to dry completely and then finish with a coat of varnish over any wood stain as an extra layer of protection.
Think about where you are going to place your cabinet and, as a result, which way the door will need to swing. For easy opening, add a handle to the door. You can choose a more traditional drawer knob, but we repurposed a wooden curtain ring for the job.
Drill a hole into the corner of the door opposite of where you’ll attach hinges. Take about 10 inches of rope, fold it in half, pass the folded end through the center of the ring, and pull the loose ends through the small loop that you’ve created until tightened; the ring should now have two ends of rope hanging loosely from it. Pass these through your door’s drilled hole and knot on the other side to securely attach it. You can cut any extra length just after the knot.
Door pull in place, you’re ready to attach it to the storage unit. Lay two hinges on the side of the open-face storage cabinet that is opposite where you’ll have the door pull (we mounted the the door pull in the upper left of the cabinet, so our hinges are located on the right side). Each hinge should be placed 1 to 2 inches from the top or bottom, with one plate screwed into the edge of the 19-inch side and the other screwed into the back of the door.
Thanks to your brand new bathroom cabinet, organizing your cleaning supplies and toilet paper rolls will soon be an open and shut case!
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.
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's & Quick Tips >
- Solved! How Long a Water Heater Actually Lasts
Solved! How Long a Water Heater Actually Lasts
Avoid an unpleasant, unexpected dose of cold water by keeping tabs on your hot water heater's age and condition so you'll know when to replace it. Among the benefits of the timely installation of a new water heater, you'll probably enjoy lower energy bills—as well as uninterrupted access to hot showers.
Q. We just bought a house, and the previous owners told us that the water heater is about six years old. Does that mean we’ll have to replace it soon? How long does a water heater last?
A. As long as it’s still heating water sufficiently, without leaks or strange noises, you might still get a few more years of service from it. A water heater’s useful life varies, depending on the type of water heater, the quality of the unit, and how well it’s been maintained.
A traditional tank-type water heater lasts an average of eight to 12 years. Inside the tank, an anode rod protects the interior lining by attracting all corrosive particles to itself through a process called electrolysis. When the rod has corroded to such an extent that it can no longer do its job, those particles settle at the bottom of the water tank, where they eventually destroy the lining. Once corrosion starts inside the tank, the water heater has entered into its final stage of life.
A tankless water heater can last up to 20 years, sometimes even longer. Also called “on-demand” water heaters, these appliances do not work continuously to maintain a supply of hot water—and, as a result, they last longer than their tank-style counterparts. Eventually, though, tankless water heaters (which do not use anode rods) will also suffer from corrosion and require replacement.
Your existing water heater’s serial number holds the clue to its age. Even if you can’t track down the documentation for your current appliance, you can examine the serial number, which consists of a letter followed by a series of numerals, located on the upper portion of the water heater to determine when it was manufactured. Typically, the letter stands for the month—“A” for January, “B” for February, and so on, through “L” for December—and the next two numbers indicate the year it was made. A serial number that leads with “A10,” for example, was manufactured in January 2010. This rule of thumb applies to most hot water heater manufacturers, but you can confirm this on the company’s website if you have any doubts.
As you enter the second half of your water heater’s life, watch for the signs of an aging appliance. Should you notice any of the following, start shopping for a replacement before you get caught by surprise.
• A banging or rumbling noise often occurs near the end of a heater’s lifespan. While manufacturers recommend annual flushing of a tank-style water heater—and it’s a requirement for keeping a warranty in effect—few people actually follow that suggestion, so calcium buildup from hard water collects in the bottom of the tank. The sediment builds, hardens, and eventually forms a thick crust that can cause the water heater to creak and bang when in use.
• Tinted hot water, either red or dirty yellow, coming from any faucet could mean rust. It’s important to determine whether the discoloration also appears when the cold water is running; if not, your problem probably originates inside the water heater rather than within rusting galvanized piping.
• A drop in water temperature: If water doesn’t heat up as much as it used to or for as long, the water heater may be nearing the end of its service life.
• Water pooling around the base of a water heater tank also suggests bad news. First, check to make sure the leak isn’t coming from a fitting or valve that just needs to be tightened or replaced; call in a professional to check out the problem and perform any necessary maintenance. If you find the leak comes from the tank itself, it may be cracked or corroded internally.
Water quality and location can affect a water heater’s life. Hard water wreaks havoc on a water heater and can reduce its service life by two or more years. Likewise, water heaters located in garages or crawl spaces, where the temperature drops significantly, have to work harder to heat the water, and they tend to wear out more quickly than units installed in a temperature-controlled house. If either of those elements factor into your setup, start looking for end-of-life warning signs earlier than the manufacturer recommends.
Call the manufacturer if the water heater is still under warranty. While the above issues can signal the end of an aging water heater’s life, if your unit is only a few years old, the problem could be repairable. It may be worth calling the manufacturer or a plumber to check the appliance out before you invest in a new model.
Start thinking about replacing your water heater two years before the end of its predicted lifespan. When a tank-style water heater approaches eight to 10 years of age, or a tankless water heater approaches 15 to 18 years of age, it’s time to start thinking about replacing it—not only to avoid the annoyance of breakage and the inconvenience of having no hot water, but also to minimize energy consumption. After several years of use, either type of water heater is subject to mineral deposits and sediment buildup that can cause it to require more power to heat water, reducing the appliance’s overall efficiency. Install a replacement, though, and the combination of a decade’s worth of technological advances and the new model’s clean interior mean that your utility bill is sure to drop in the months to follow.
- Doors & Windows >
- Genius! This Door DIY Doubles as an Indoor Gate
Genius! This Door DIY Doubles as an Indoor Gate
Conveniently control the traffic in any room of your house with this two-piece Dutch door.
Homeowners with furry friends know that you only have to take your eye off the pets for a minute before they wander off and/or get into trouble. That was precisely Chris Kauffman’s fear when feeding her two rambunctious dogs, who would roughhouse and compete over kibble if served meals together. The Canadian DIYer initially used a pop-up baby gate to separate the canines during feedings, but quickly found that the gate blocked all traffic into the laundry room—not just the dogs—and wasn’t easy to set up or take down. In the market for a more convenient solution, she pooled her woodworking chops and $30 worth of supplies to DIY a Dutch door that could swing closed and latch to barricade her pooches at meal time.
Not only does a Dutch door offer an elegant and efficient solution here, but the DIY project’s ease and affordability deserve a round of applause: They stem from the crafty homeowner’s decision to convert the existing swinging door. With her circular saw, the professional carpenter cut the 8-foot ebony door through its middle into a traditional Dutch door; a scrap pine board ledge fastened atop the bottom half visually separates the two pieces as well as covers the hollow-core door’s visible cavity left from sawing. Finally, she added smart hardware choices to the conversion. Instead of splurging on a new door knob, she ingeniously relocated the existing knob from the top to the bottom half of the DIY Dutch door. Two new additions: a simple sliding latch that attaches the two doors together, whenever necessary, and a wall-mounted magnetic door stop to prevent the top door from swinging when it’s left open.
Kauffman’s low-cost laundry room door makeover saved her from shelling out hundreds of dollars on a built-in doggy gate, but the project can do much more than prevent canine catastrophes. It’s equally practical as a baby gate, a window looking out on your kids in the next room, or an entry point for natural light flooding in from a neighboring room. Plus, in addition to its functional purposes, this dynamic DIY Dutch door provides a visually unique decor element, transforming any threshold into an impressive grand entrance. Talk about a project that literally opens doors!
FOR MORE: Chris Kauffman of Just Beachy
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.
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- How To: Get Mold Out of Carpet
How To: Get Mold Out of Carpet
Take the right approach to getting rid of this unhealthy, unsightly organism—for good.
Untreated dampness on carpet—whether caused by a persistent leak, overzealously watered plants, or a not-quite-housetrained puppy—can create mold growth in a matter of days. And mold, which can appear as green, gray, or white patches on carpet and add a strong musty odor to a room, can lead to chronic allergies, asthma, even bronchitis. While you may be able to mitigate smaller spots of mold yourself, sections greater than 5 feet in width require treatment by professionals, because it’s likely the mold has invaded the underlay or flooring, which is much harder to remove. In cases both small and large, it’s critical to act fast; mold is a living, growing organism, and spores spread rapidly. Keep in mind that you must determine how to get mold out of carpet as well as address its root cause—groundwater seepage or other external factors must be resolved at the same time.
There are various means for how to get mold out of carpet, some more effective than others. Natural anti-fungal remedies, such as vinegar and tea tree oil, are known to “inhibit,” not kill, mold. Bleach can banish mold, but it can also discolor carpet. So an anti-fungal spray designed to kill mold, available in retail stores and home centers, maybe be your best bet.
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Rubber gloves
- Eye protection
- Stiff bristle brush
- Trash bag
- Anti-fungal spray that is safe for carpets
- Disposable rags
Ventilate the space by opening windows or, if possible to remove the rug, take it outside to treat it. While not all molds are a health hazard, it’s best to proceed cautiously by donning a facemask, eye protection, and rubber gloves before you get to work.
If you cannot remove or lift the carpet, proceed by treating the visible surface mold. If its is possible to lift the carpet, do so until you reach the the area with mold and examine the backing. Backing with substantial mold growth of more than a few feet in width should not be merely cleaned—you’ll need to replace the carpet. If that’s a price you’re not prepared to pay, you can opt to cut off the mold-covered area with a 12-inch border past the damage and insert new carpet, instead of replacing the entire room. Be sure to remove and replace the portion of underlay or carpet pad as well to thwart mold’s return.
Scrub the surface of the carpet with a dry, stiff bristle brush to remove the visible mold spores. Brush these into a dustpan and discard it in a trash bag. (Vacuuming is not recommended, as spores on your vacuum can be spread to other areas in your home.) If you can brush-scrub the back of the rug as well, do so.
Thoroughly saturate the moldy area, and at least 6 inches around it, with anti-fungal spray that specifies it’s safe for carpets (it should also boast a “mold barrier” or mold-prevention). If able to lift or remove the carpet, spray both the front and the back. Also spray the area of the floor the moldy portion was in contact with. Let the anti-fungal spray sit for an hour.
Blot the anti-fungal spray with a dry, clean, disposable rag to soak up excess. Do not rinse the area with water or any other treatment. The anti-fungal agent will continue to work until it has fully dried. Resist using a fan to accelerate drying; that can blow mold spores elsewhere and create new problems. Instead, close your windows, turn the heat up in the room, and use a dehumidifier to let the carpet dry naturally for at least 24 hours. Don’t walk on the area or allow pets to interfere with it while it’s drying as the mold is still “alive” and can potentially be spread.
Clean the bristle brush and dustpan of any mold spores by scrubbing with hot soapy water, then spraying with anti-fungal treatment and allowing to dry completely. Dispose of the rag and the rubber gloves.
Once the carpet has dried thoroughly, re-apply the anti-fungal treatment as in Step 4, then follow with Steps 5 and 6, using a clean, fresh, disposable rag to blot. Discard the rag after blotting.
Allow the dehumidifiers to run for a few more days to remove mold spores from the air too.
After the carpeting has dried fully, you should be mold-free. Don’t take this for granted, though. Continue checking the spot every day or so for a few weeks to ensure that mold growth hasn’t returned. It can be a slow recurrence, especially if you were unable to remove or lift the carpet, so give it a month before you completely rest easy.
Mold Prevention Tips
• Don’t set potted plants directly onto carpet, not even with a water tray underneath. Use only glazed pots, not terracotta, on carpeting and use a moisture barrier, such as a rubber tray or mat.
• Never pile firewood onto carpet; always have a moisture barrier between the wood and carpet.
• If your pet has relieved itself in an area more than once, speak to your local pet store about deterrent sprays that can make the spot less appealing for Fido or Chairman Meow.
• With humid areas or a humid home, invest in quality dehumidifiers to keep moisture at a constant minimum. This will protect hardwood flooring and artwork as well as carpeting.
- Tools & Workshop >
- How To: Drill Into Concrete
How To: Drill Into Concrete
Bore a hole through masonry or concrete in a minute or less when you use this special tool and the correct technique.
While concrete’s cool, industrial aesthetic is a go-to design touch in modern homes, its density and strength are what have long made it an attractive building material. That durability can be quite the obstacle, however, for homeowners trying to mount an art installation on a concrete feature wall, drill a hole to set a fence post at the end of the driveway, or sink a hole through the back corner of a concrete countertop. Such activities run the very real risk of damaging a drill bit or accidentally marring the concrete surface in an overzealous, poorly executed attempt at how to drill into concrete.
You can, in fact, drill a hole in a concrete interior feature wall armed with nothing more than your trusty rotary drill and a masonry bit—so long as you take care to not burn out the motor of the drill or demolish the bits. Older concrete, however, is often much more dense than some of the cosmetic concrete used in modern finishes, so boring through a 50-year-old concrete wall in your foundation with your old-school rotary drill just won’t cut it. When you’re working with older concrete—or if you’re planning to drill multiple holes about two to four inches deep and up to ¾ inch wide—it’s best to upgrade to an electric hammer drill.
Specially designed for drilling into masonry or rock using a rapid hammer action, these drills and their carbide-tipped masonry bits are widely available at tool rental shops. A quality hammer drill (also known as a rotary hammer) can bore a two-inch-deep, ¼-inch-wide hole in less than a minute, which is much faster than a rotary drill and thus justifies its roughly $40 afternoon rental cost. When renting or buying a hammer drill, look for one with good power, ideally more than one speed setting, a stop function, and an auxiliary handle for your spare hand for enhanced comfort, control, and safety.
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Hammer drill
- Masking tape (optional)
- Tungsten carbide masonry bits
- Large masonry nail (at least 3 inches)
- Canned compressed air
Mark the desired position of the holes in pencil on the concrete surface, and double-check their locations before you proceed. Also, during this planning and prep work, consider the drilling depth necessary for each hole. If your drill’s features include a stop bar, set it to the exact depth you want by following the drill manufacturer’s specifications. No stop bar feature? Instead, wrap a piece of masking tape around the drill bit to show you where to stop.
Don your goggles, then insert the appropriate tungsten carbide masonry drill bit for your desired hole size into the hammer drill. Next, get into position to drill by planting your feet firmly on the ground, shoulder-width apart. Hold your drill securely with both hands: Grip it in one hand like a handgun, and, if there’s no auxiliary handle for your spare hand, use that hand to brace the back of the drill.
It’s critical to control the drill so it doesn’t run away once you begin work. When you lean in to bore the hole, the drill bit should be perfectly perpendicular to the concrete. Be prepared for some recoil from the drill’s hammer action.
Make a guide hole first. Many hammer drills offer only two speeds, so turn your drill on at the slower speed for best control when making the guide hole. If your drill has only one speed, then work in short, controlled bursts of a few seconds each until you’ve established a hole. The guide hole needs to be just 1/8 to ¼ inch deep.
When you start with a guide hole at least 1/8 inch deep, your drill will be easier to control, but all the same continue to operate the drill with a steady, light-but-firm touch so you’re never forcing it in. If you’re feeling confident, turn the speed to full, keeping a firm grip on the tool with both hands, and drill into the concrete until the hole is complete.
Beware: Concrete can have air pockets and pebbles or stones that can make resistance unpredictable, with the result that it can be disturbingly easy to lose control of the tool for a moment.
If you hit obstructions, never force the drill farther into the concrete. This can damage the bits or drill, or cause you to lose control of the drill and mess up your hole, damage the concrete surface, or worse.
Whenever you reach any too-tough-to-crack spots that impede progress, set the drill down and grab the masonry nail and hammer. Put the tip of the masonry nail at the problem spot and give it a few taps—not hard whacks—with the hammer to break up the obstruction. When you’re done, resume drilling the concrete at a slow speed until you’re sure you’ve passed the rough patch.
Periodically pull the drill out to brush away concrete dust. Considering you can bore a two-inch hole in under a minute using a hammer drill, pausing every 15 to 20 seconds should suffice.
Once you have drilled your hole to the necessary depth, blow all of the concrete dust out of the hole with a can of compressed air then vacuum up whatever has fallen to the ground. You should still be wearing your goggles throughout this process in order to protect against any concrete dust and shards that might fly in your face and scratch your eyes.
Repeat this procedure for any other holes you need. Once through, a pass with a vacuum will make cleanup a breeze.
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- Buyer’s Guide: Standing Desks
Buyer’s Guide: Standing Desks
Don’t just sit there! Learn everything you need to know about these workplace wonders that may help you stay healthy on the job.
Sitting at a desk all day had long been associated with “secretary’s spread,” but doctors at the Mayo Clinic point out more serious health risks associated with spending long hours in a chair, including increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol levels, even cardiovascular disease. If you’re like most people, you can’t very well become a professional hiker, so the most sensible way to get off your derriere may be with a standing desk. Though not new—Leonardo da Vinci and Benjamin Franklin were said to be proponents—today’s best standing desk options have come a long way. So if you’re considering purchasing one for your home office (or appealing to your office manager to supply one at work), read on to learn what to look for and check out some top-rated picks.
The Right Desk for You
Just as endless sitting can be detrimental to your health, standing for long periods can be hard on your legs, lower back, and feet. The solution, say experts, is to frequently alternate between standing and sitting—which is why there are several types of standing desks available.
• A stand-only desk is handy if you also have a separate traditional desk nearby, but if you work at a PC, it can be bothersome to move your monitor and keyboard every time you want to switch positions. Stand-only desks are best suited to busy offices with multiple workstations where employees freely move from one area to another without interrupting productivity. This line of desks start around $200 for the bare bones and run as high as $1,000 for hardwood models.
• A sit-stand desk is adjustable, either manually or by motor. Budget-friendly manual models adjust upward and downward by turning a crank or by loosening a knob and then pulling or pushing the desk surface to the desired position. Powered models often come with presets so you needn’t fuss to suit your height every time you change. Convenient adjustment comes at a cost: Manually adjusted sit-stand desks range from about $200 to $800, depending on size and manufacturer, while motorized versions start at around $600 and run upwards of $4,000 for executive models that incorporate even more bells and whistles (read: Wi-Fi and artificial intelligence).
• A sit-stand conversion desk is used in combination with an existing desk. They’re extremely popular because they let you keep your existing desk, with all your pens, paperclips, and other office supplies at your fingertips, with the added benefit of an adjustable desk surface. Conversion desks may be motorized or manual, and range from $200 to more than $1,000, based on brand and power options.
WHAT GETS A STANDING OVATION
These top models have got reviewers—everyone from the experts who tested selections out on a quest to find the best standing desk to the consumers who put them to task every day—up out of their seats.
Ergo Desktop’s Kangaroo Pro Junior ($424)
In the sit-stand conversion desk category, the Kangaroo Pro Junior comes highly recommended by Forbes. After years of testing various models in their own workspace, Forbes chose the Kangaroo Pro Junior for employees who like their existing desks but want versatility. The Kangaroo Pro Junior is a non-attached unit that rests securely on the desk surface but can be lowered or even set aside when necessary. It comes with a work surface and a separate monitor mount that adjust independently for a custom fit. The main work surface is 24 inches wide and 18 inches deep, big enough to comfortably hold a laptop or keyboard. You can manually elevate the work surface, via lifting, up to 15 inches above your existing desk surface. Amazon buyers give the Kangaroo Pro Junior an enthusiastic 4 out of 5 stars for portability, stability, and quick manual surface adjustment. Available from Amazon.
LUXOR Standup-CF48-DW Desk ($335)
For sturdiness, spacious design, durability, and ease of adjustment, the Jerusalem Post made the LUXOR 48” Crank Adjustable Stand-Up Desk its top pick. The non-slip desk surface measures 29.5 inches deep and 47.2 inches wide, giving the user ample room for a laptop, widescreen monitor (or dual monitors), keyboard and other desktop essentials. The working surface adjusts from 29 inches to 42 inches in height and its generous size and smart design make it perfect for the highly motivated to pair with a treadmill or stationary bike. With 3-inch rolling casters, it can easily be relocated without scratching floors; once in place, locking brakes keep it from moving. Amazon buyers give the LUXOR Standup desk 4.6 stars; one buyer notes that the desk can be lowered, via manual crank, from standing to sitting in less than 30 seconds, making it a snap to adjust. Available from Amazon.
Stir Kinetic M1 Sit-To- Stand Desk ($2,990)
Macworld calls the motorized, tech-savvy Stir Kinetic “the smartest desk $2,990 can buy.” Its embedded touch screen allows finger-swipe control as the desk quickly and smoothly adjusts from sitting to standing height. At 33 inches deep, 66 inches wide, and adjusting up to 36 inches in surface height, it also boasts an ergonomically curved desk front with gently sloping sides for ultimate standing comfort. There’s a cable slot and four AC power outlets to accommodate a laptop, monitor, peripherals, even a plug-in a desk lamp. Amazon buyers give the Stir Kinetic a full 5 stars for sleek design and cutting-edge technology. The desk is Wi-Fi- capable, offers cloud storage, and features an integrated fitness app designed to sense your presence and coax you into healthier work habits. You can program it to gradually increase your standing time and to adapt to your personal habits. Available from Amazon.