Doors & Windows - Bob Vila

Category: Doors & Windows


How To: Clean Mini Blinds

Are your mini blinds covered in the grit and grime? You can restore them to spotless condition in no time with this easy cleaning routine.

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How to Clean Mini Blinds

Photo: istockphoto.com

Available in a wide array of materials from vinyl to wood, mini blinds make an attractive feature in any interior. But the popular window treatments also act as a magnet for dust, dirt, mold, and mildew caused by everyday activities and moisture exposure. In direct sunlight, these particles can harden into stubborn grime that stains and discolors your blinds while aggravating allergies. Adding to the dismay of busy homeowners, the narrow slats of mini blinds make them more tedious to clean than Venetian blinds. Thankfully, the following cleaning ritual saves time and effort while keeping your mini blinds beautiful and blemish-free year-round. Here’s how to clean mini blinds with a few common household essentials.

ROUTINE CLEANING

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Feather or microfiber duster
– Clean cloth
– Sock
– Vacuum cleaner
– Compressed air sprayer (optional)
– Hair dryer (optional)

Whether you have vinyl, metal, wood, or fabric mini blinds, you can banish light dirt and debris accumulations by dusting the blinds on a weekly to monthly basis. The key to reaching those narrow slats is fully extending the blinds, then turning the slats closed until the convex side of the slats face you. Using a feather or microfiber duster, soft cloth, or clean sock, gently sweep in the direction of the slats, making contact with each one. Turn the blinds ninety degrees and sweep the sides of the slats. Then, turn the blinds another ninety degrees and sweep the convex side of the slats.

To combat heavier dust accumulations, enlist a vacuum cleaner with a small brush attachment to draw out the debris from your mini blinds. Adjust the vacuum suction to a low setting, and then vacuum the blinds from side to side in the direction of the slats. In lieu of a vacuum cleaner, you can also use a compressed air sprayer or a hair dryer set to the cool setting to blast away any loose particles.

When stubborn grit and grime take root in your mini blinds, a deeper clean addressing the specific type of material is necessary. Following these more thorough instructions for how to clean mini blinds on a semi-annual to annual basis will help lengthen the lifespan of your window treatments.

 

How to Clean Mini Blinds

Photo: istockphoto.com

DEEP CLEANING: METAL AND VINYL BLINDS

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Inflatable yard pool (optional)
– Liquid dish soap
– Soft mop
– Sponge
– Non-abrasive brush
– Degreaser
– Hose with spray nozzle (optional)
– Towel (optional)

STEP 1
After lifting the entire mini blind from the mounting hardware, rest it in an empty bathtub, shower, or inflatable yard pool, depending on the size of the blind.

Note: Lead dust can form over time on the surface of older vinyl mini blinds that contain lead. If you’re unsure if the blinds contain lead, use a lead testing kit before cleaning. Safely dispose of any blinds that contain lead.

STEP 2
Fill the tub or other vessel of choice with water, and add enough liquid dish soap to create suds when swishing the water. Let the blinds soak in the solution for five minutes to loosen up grit and grime.

STEP 3
Gently but firmly glide a soft mop, sponge, or non-abrasive brush saturated in the dish soap solution, wiping the top and bottom of each slat from side to side. Spread the blinds to work the solution between the narrow slats.

For particularly dirty mini blinds, like those in the kitchen that have been exposed to cooking fumes, skip the soap and instead apply a degreaser (like 409 or Simple Green) directly to the slats. Let the blinds soak in the degreaser for a few minutes before wiping them down.

STEP 4
Rinse the blinds thoroughly with a shower attachment or the spray nozzle of a garden hose. Do this quickly after washing, so the suds don’t leave dried spots on the blinds.

STEP 5
Once the blinds are clean, hang them on a shower rod to air dry, or towel dry them. Then re-mount the blinds in the window frame, keeping the slats partially open to encourage the slats to dry completely.

 

How to Clean Mini Blinds

Photo: istockphoto.com

DEEP CLEANING: WOOD BLINDS

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Furniture polish
– Soft cloth
– Clean sock

STEP 1
Wood can warp or discolor with prolonged exposed to water, so your go-to weapon for combating grime on wood mini blinds should be a high-quality furniture polish. Spray a small amount of furniture polish onto a soft cloth or clean sock.

STEP 2
With the blinds fully extended, use a circular motion to gently rub the furniture polish into both sides of each wood slats. Dry the blinds completely with a clean cloth.

STEP 3
If stubborn spots remain, or if you don’t have furniture polish on hand, go over the slats with a clean cloth or sock dipped in water. Immediately remove the excess water with a soft cloth before it settles into the slats.

 

How to Clean Mini Blinds

Photo: istockphoto.com

DEEP CLEANING: FABRIC BLINDS

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Vacuum cleaner
– Clean cloth
– Liquid soap

STEP 1
Use a vacuum cleaner to get rid of dust and debris on fabric mini blinds. If you notice any stains on the blinds, you can remove them with a simple spot treatment. Dampen a clean cloth with warm water mixed with enough mild liquid soap to create suds.

STEP 2
Blot the offending spot, taking care not to rub the fabric, as this can worsen the stain. The discoloration should diminish in appearance as the fabric dries.

STEP 3
Still seeing spots or stains on your fabric mini blinds? Take the blinds to a professional dry cleaner to get them looking like new again.

 

Cleaning Tips for a Spotless Home

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


So, You Want to… Install Blinds

Get the lowdown on these popular window treatments, from styles and materials to must-know measurement and install info.

How to Install Blinds Throughout the House

Photo: istockphoto.com

To filter the light that enters your home and control your level of privacy, you can’t go wrong with blinds. These easy-to-adjust slatted window treatments can be pulled out of the way for an unhindered view or closed completely to ensconce you. Since blinds are available in a host of sizes, materials, and price points, we’ve got the scoop on how to determine the best choice for your home—and how to install blinds in any window.

Select the Right Style

Blinds are made from “hard” materials, such as vinyl or wood, as opposed to shades, which are constructed from fabric. Horizontal blinds feature individual slats, while vertical blinds have “vanes,” the term for slats that hang vertically. Horizontal or vertical blinds can be a stand-alone window treatment or paired with curtains for a softer effect.

 

How to Install Blinds in the Kitchen

Photo: istockphoto.com

Horizontal blinds work well on small, narrow windows to add visual appeal while controlling light and privacy. They’re less desirable on expansive windows where the wider span can cause blinds to sag in the middle. Horizontal blinds feature individual slats that overlap when the blind is fully closed. By twisting a wand that controls a series of connected cords, you can adjust the slats to let in as much or as little light as you choose. Horizontal blinds can also be raised or lowered as desired.

“Mini” blind slats are approximately ½ inches wide, while retro-style slats can be up to 3 inches wide. You can go as wide as you like, even with blinds installed inside the window frame as long as the slats fit without protruding past the frame. Basic horizontal blinds can cost as little as $15 for small windows, but you could pay $200 or more for custom blinds or those for large windows, depending on material choice and quality.

 

How to Install Blinds in the Office

Photo: istockphoto.com

Vertical blinds, which feature a top track from which individual vanes hang, won’t sag, so they’re great for sliding glass patio doors and wide windows. Many vertical blinds can be slid aside using a wand; the wand can also be twisted to rotate the individual vanes, adjusting light flow. Some vertical blinds operate by pull cords located on one side. Like horizontal blinds, vertical versions come in a wide range of material choices and prices, from around $50 for no-frills models to more than $400 for custom orders and higher-quality materials.

Safety Note: Long pull cords pose a known risk of strangulation to pets and small children. Many blind manufacturers have voluntarily done away with them, but some pull-cord models remain on the market. For anyone with toddlers at home, the best choice is cordless blinds that feature an alternative operation method, such as a push-button lift mechanism in the bottom rail.

 

How to Install Blinds in the Bedroom

Photo: istockphoto.com

Make Sense of Materials

Blinds are available in a host of materials to suit your taste, needs, and pocketbook.

Vinyl is a top seller because it’s inexpensive and easy to clean, and you can choose from a variety of colors and sizes. Vinyl blinds are the most economical, ranging from $15 for light-gauge vinyl for a small window to more than $100 for larger sizes or heavier-gauge vinyl.

Wood blinds add a warm, natural look to a room and come in many popular finishes, including oak, walnut, cherry and mahogany to match your trim or furniture. Prices range from $35 to more than $200, depending on window size and wood type.

Faux wood blinds, made from PVC or a composite material, closely mimic the real thing, but they resist humidity better than wood, making them a smart choice for steamy bathrooms. Prices range from $15 to $100+.

Sleek aluminum blinds give windows a contemporary look. Expect to pay between $20 to $100+, depending on size.

Specialty blinds offer optional material features, such as fabric-wrapped slats or increased light-blocking ability. Prices start at $20 but vary widely, up to $400 or more for fabric-covered custom slats or vanes to match curtains or upholstery.

How to Install Blinds

Photo: istockphoto.com

Measure Precisely

Precise measuring is crucial if your blinds are to operate smoothly and effectively block light. You’ll not only measure the width and length of the window or door frame, you’ll need to “round down” or add as directed below for proper fit and function.

Before you begin reading your model’s specialized set of instructions on how to install blinds, decide if you want inside-mount blinds that install within the window frame or outside-mount, which attach to the wall. If you prefer the look of inside-mount blinds, your window frame’s depth must be able to accommodate them. Measure the depth of your inside window frame and check the blinds’ minimum depth requirement (listed on the product specifications) to ensure fit.

If you’re ordering custom blinds, the company will cut them to your specs; DIY stores will also cut blinds to fit your window’s measurements.

Inside-Mount Blinds:

• First, measure the inside width of the window frame at three different spots—the top, the bottom, and in the middle. It’s important to measure all three areas because window framing can be out-of-square, even if you can’t see it with the naked eye. Record the shortest measurement to ensure that you won’t end up with a blind that’s too wide to fit in the tightest spot of the window frame.

• Next, measure the height of the inside window frame in the same manner, from top to bottom on the left, then on the right, and again in the center. This time, record the longest measurement to make sure that the bottom rail on your new blind will be long enough to reach the windowsill even if there is a discrepancy in the window framing.

• Now, round both measurements down to the nearest 1/8” increment. For example, if the width measurement is 18-15/16, round it down to 18-7/8”. Likewise, if you came up with a length of 30-3/16”, round it down to 30-1/8”. Rounding down the width measurements allows for a small space on both sides of the installed blind—just enough to pull it up without rubbing the window frame, while still offering maximum privacy and light control. The precise length measurement will ensure that the bottom rail will rest a hair above the windowsill, without laying on the sill itself, when lowered to its lowest position.

Outside-Mount Window Blinds:

• Measure the width of the window at the top, from outside edge to outside edge, and then add 3 inches.

• Measure the length of the window in the center and add another 3 inches. The extra inches are necessary to ensure sufficient light blockage and privacy around the edges of the blind.

Outside-Mount Vertical Door Blinds:

• Measure from the top of the door frame to the floor. Add 3.5 inches to allow sufficient room to install the track 4 inches above the top of the door frame, while keeping the bottom of the vanes ½ inches above the floor, so they won’t drag when you slide the blinds. Many vertical blinds require 4 inches above the door frame to accommodate the track.

• Measure the width of the door from outside edge to outside edge and add 4 inches. The extra width will block unwanted light from the sides of the blinds.

How to Install Blinds

Photo: istockphoto.com

Learn Installation Basics

The blinds you buy will come complete with all hardware you need including brackets and screws, but a drill and a Phillips head drill bit are generally required for installation. The standard process for how to install blinds is to attach the brackets that will hold the blind, either inside the window frame (for inside-mount blinds) or on the wall on either side of the window (for outside-mount blinds). Especially wide blinds often come with an additional center support bracket to keep the middle of the blind from sagging. Once brackets are in place, fit the upper rail of the blind into the brackets (for horizontal blinds) or hang the vanes on the upper track (for vertical blinds). Both horizontal and vertical blinds often come with a finished front piece that snaps in place over the top rail to cover the brackets and give the blind a finished look. Keep in mind that installation varies by type and brand, so follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

Keep Your Blinds Clean

Blinds do collect dust, so care for them regularly to keep them looking new.

• Swipe all blinds periodically with a microfiber duster or a blind-dusting tool designed with “fingers” that fits between individual slats.

• For occasional deeper cleaning of vinyl, composite, or PVC blinds, lift them from their brackets and take them outdoors. Spray with all-purpose household cleaner and wipe the slats with a damp cloth. Rinse with a fine spray from your garden hose and allow to dry completely before re-hanging.

• For wood blinds, lightly mist with furniture polish and wipe each slat or vane clean with a soft dusting cloth.

• Vacuum fabric-covered blinds with the brush attachment to banish dust, but leave spot-removal and deep cleaning to a professional cleaner.

 

DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

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


All You Need to Know About Transom Windows

Light lovers rejoice! These ages-old above-the-door architectural elements are back in a big way.

Transom Windows Offering Additional Light

Photo: flickr.com via Peter Stevens

Few architectural structures and details survive centuries of passing trends and technological advances in the way that transom windows have. This style of window, which rests on the horizontal beam above a doorframe, first appeared in 14th Century Europe, when residents realized that an opening over an entry would be high enough to foil prying eyes while allowing a glimpse of sky and a bit of fresh air. The earliest incarnations were simply holes, sometimes covered with translucent animal skin or shutters that could be opened for ventilation. Style and functionality improved with the development of leaded glass, and then sheet glass, as well as hinges and iron bars to make operating the windows easier. Though transom windows fell out of fashion in the 1970s and 1980s, homeowners now are rediscovering how they can add a distinctive touch to a space—not to mention a little more natural light.

Interior Transom Windows

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Brentwood, TN

Today’s Transom Window Offerings
For the most part, modern transom windows (also called transom lights) are decorative, meant to complement a home’s architectural style, but some still offer a ventilation option. They range in height from a few inches to a couple of feet, while width typically spans that of the door and any additional sidelights. While many are rectangular in shape, arched transom windows, known as fanlights, are popular for exterior entryways and to dress up pass-through doorways in interior walls.

If you live in a newer home and are looking to add this charming architectural detail, you can purchase stock transom windows to fit standard door widths or special-order them to fit custom sizes. Exterior transom windows often sell as part of an entire door system, which makes them simpler to install, and, because they’re manufactured as a single sealed unit, they offer increased weather protection. Insect and weather concerns make operable exterior models less popular nowadays, but if you’re set on one, consider a motorized window you’ll open and close via a wall-mounted control panel. Some high-end units come with moisture sensors that automatically close the window if it begins to rain.

Interior models recreate a nostalgic look while increasing the feeling of openness between rooms, an effect that makes a space seem larger. Interior transom windows come with both non-operable and operable options.

Transom windows start at under $100 for non-operable vinyl, wood, or aluminum frames, and go up in price for operable or intricately designed models. Some manufacturers offer cladding over a wood frame, which increases the cost of exterior transom windows but adds vital weatherproofing; these are often higher quality and can run in the hundreds of dollars. For new home construction, it’s not uncommon to pay well in the thousands for a combo that includes a door, sidelights, and transom window all in a single sealed unit.

 

Transom Windows Above Front Doors

Photo: istockphoto.com

Structural Considerations
While installation will vary—based on door and ceiling height, whether the wall is interior or exterior, and whether it bears weight—the standard process to add a transom window is to remove the drywall and/or exterior cladding above the door, and then remove a section of wall studs in order to reframe that section to accommodate the addition. Once the window is set, new drywall is installed on that section. If it’s an exterior wall, the exterior cladding will then be replaced. The final step is the installation of window trim.

It’s crucial to ensure that a transom window will fit your home structurally. High ceilings are better suited to them than standard eight-foot ceilings, although some narrow window models may fit over doorways in standard interior partition (non-load bearing) walls. When shopping for a transom window, read the installation specs carefully to determine the rough-in framing space required for that specific model. If you’re unfamiliar with standard house-framing practices, ask a reputable builder, inspector, or engineer for help choosing a transom window for an existing wall. This is especially true for load-bearing walls, which may require opening up the entire wall section in order to change the framing and add additional structural support.

 

Transom Windows in the Living Room

Photo: Zillow Digs house in Henrico, VA

Suit Your Style
Once you establish that a transom window will make sound structural sense, the fun lies in choosing your design. The transom window renaissance has led to a bevy of sophisticated leaded glass patterns and stained glass motifs. Muntins—straight or curved bars between adjacent panes of glass—offer additional appeal. Arts and Crafts-style transom windows feature diamond patterns, while Tudor style transoms offer a series of “X”s that create diamonds and triangles. Other traditional patterns can be as simple as a single glass pane or a row of squares, or as elaborate as Federal-style transom windows with sweeping curves and arches. If installing a transom window over an existing door, select a style that incorporates some of your door’s architectural design elements.


So, You Want to… Rekey a Lock

Thinking about changing out the locks to improve your home's security? Start here for a better grasp on when—and how—to rekey rather than replace them altogether.

How to Rekey a Lock

Photo: istockphoto.com

Key rings can get crowded (and heavy!) fast, when you consider all that you load up on them: keys for your car, front door, side door, back door, mailbox, maybe even your mother-in-law’s, and a handful of miniature rewards cards sized and punched to conveniently hang. Carrying that whole lot will cause your pockets to jingle with each step and you to waste precious minutes every day fumbling for the correct copy to the door or locker you are interested in opening. Fortunately, rekeying a few of your locks offers an easy, affordable, and even DIY solution can lighten your load. Understand when, why, and how to rekey a lock with this handy guide.

What it Means to Rekey a Lock

A pin and tumbler lock—the kind of lock found on locking doorknobs and deadbolts—contains a steel cutaway that holds a cylindrical plug and a number of springs and pins that allow a specific key shape to turn in the lock. In order for a key to turn the locking mechanism, the configuration of the pins must match the depth of the unique grooves on that key.

When you want the lock to open with a different existing key—say, so you no longer want to use separate keys to enter the front, back, and side doors—the lock must be disassembled and the pins, which are of various heights, removed and replaced by new pins that match the cuts and grooves in the new key.

How to Rekey a Lock to Match Your Current Key

Photo: istockphoto.com

Reasons to Rekey a Lock

As mentioned, rekeying makes most sense for homeowners who prefer to have a single key that opens all of their door locks to the home or apartment. This process can lighten a full key ring to a few essentials, taking up less space in your pocket or bag as well as less time spent searching for the right one.

However, rekeying a lock can also improve a building’s security measures. After a new home construction—during which a number of people might have copies of door keys, including contractors, subcontractors, and inspectors—new homeowners may want to make sure they have the only keys to their home before they take possession. Likewise, it’s also a common practice for landlords and property managers to have door locks rekeyed every time a new resident moves in. Whether you’re moving into a previously owned home or have simply misplaced a set of spare keys, rekeying is an alternative to replacing the lock altogether that provides the peace of mind that comes with knowing no one else has a key to your home.

When to Replace a Lock Versus Rekeying

Both replacing and rekeying a lock effectively change out a lock to limit access, but there are some cases in which you have to go through the motions of both processes.

• If you’ve lost the key that opens your existing lock(s), you won’t be able to disassemble the lock for rekeying. First replace the lock.

• Rekeying won’t fix a worn or damaged lock. You’ll probably have to replace the lock with a cracked or warped locking mechanism soon, anyway, so consider doing so first. Then, if your goal was to change the locks so that you have the only key, you’re set; you only need to rekey if you want multiple locks to share one key.

• When rekeying multiple locks to fit a single key, all locks must first have been made by the same manufacturer. For example, if your front door lock is a Schlage, the other locks you want rekeyed to match must also be made by Schlage. You cannot rekey a Kwikset or Sargeant lock to open with the same key as a Schlage lock, because different brands of locks have different size keyholes that only accept their own keys. If you’re dealing with multiple lock brands, you’ll need to decide on one and replace the others to match this brand before rekeying.

 

How to Rekey a Lock with a Kit

Photo: flickr.com via taubinphoto

Options for Rekeying a Traditional Lock

Call a locksmith. This is the most expensive option. A locksmith will usually charge a set rate for a service call (often between $40 and $100) and then charge you an additional fee (potentially $10 to $30) for every lock you want rekeyed.

Take the lock (locking knob or deadbolt) to the locksmith, local lumberyard, or hardware store. You’ll have to remove the lock from the door for this option and bring the key that currently opens the lock, but eliminating the house call makes this an inexpensive option. Expect to pay around $5 per lock.

Purchase a rekey kit, made specifically for your brand of lock, and rekey it yourself. If you cannot find a local store that will rekey a lock inexpensively, you can purchase the necessary tools to rekey the lock. Purchase a rekey kit—for a single lock or up to five locks of the same brand—that matches the brand of lock you want to rekey. A rekey kit for a single lock typically costs between $12 and $25 dollars, depending on the brand and type of lock. Hardware stores carry rekeying kits for some of the most common lock brands, but they can also be ordered from lock manufacturers and large online retailers, like Amazon. It contains everything you need to rekey the lock: tiny picks and tweezers, a key gauge (which is used to determine the depth of the cutouts on your new key), an assortment of pins and springs, to replace the existing ones in the lock, and any other tools you’ll need to dissemble and reassemble the lock.

Rekeying Smart-type Locks

Some people—including apartment managers, owners of large office buildings, even regular Airbnb hosts—find it necessary to rekey locks frequently. To address this need, many lock manufacturers have introduced locks with smart-type rekeying technology that enables a manager to rekey the lock in less than a minute and without any disassembly. Instead, the lock’s design uses a special master key to facilitate the quick and easy rekeying, with the smart rekeying process varying from manufacturer to manufacturer. If you’re someone who would benefit from frequent rekeying, exploring today’s options could simplify your life and still tighten security at home.


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.

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Genius! DIY Dutch Door

Photo: chriskauffman.blogspot.com

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

Genius! DIY Dutch Door

Photo: chriskauffman.blogspot.com

DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

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


How To: Insulate Windows

Before the mercury really plunges, get your windows ready for winter by eliminating drafts and maximizing heat retention with this guide to window insulation.

How to Insulate Windows

Photo: istockphoto.com

Though in wintertime a window seat affords postcard-perfect views of snow-covered tree branches, it’s not necessarily the most comfortable perch on a cold day. During the chilly season, so much heat can escape through the panes of glass as well as through any cracks or gaps around the window frame that you’ll want to wrap up in a blanket, or at least put on a sweater, before you risk sitting so close to a window. The Energy Information Administration reports that the average home loses as much as a third of its energy as a result of poor window insulation. Luckily, there are several ways to mitigate this loss. Follow these best practices for how to insulate windows, and you can secure a warmer winter with just one weekend of work.

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
– Putty knife
– Clean rag
– No-drip caulking gun
– Exterior-grade caulking (preferably with 100 percent silicone sealant)
– Claw hammer
– Paper towels
– Household cleaner
– Tape measure
– Weatherstripping
– Scissors
– Utility knife
– Insulating window film
– Heavy curtains

Related

Insulate Window Exteriors

Decades of exposure to the elements can wear away one of your main defenses against heat loss: exterior caulking. Once this begins to crumble, cracks can start to form around the window frame. If you feel drafts coming from your closed windows, take swift action to replace the exterior caulking along the window frames before the weather takes a turn for the worse.

How to Insulate Windows by Re-caulking the Exterior

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 1
Check the weather before you begin the process. For successful application of caulking, you’ll want clear skies for 24 hours—no snow or rain—and, ideally, temperatures above 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

STEP 2
Use a strong putty knife to scrape window edges clean of the old caulking and peeling paint. Then, wipe the surface clean of any remnants with a damp rag. Let the surface dry for a few hours so the new caulking will readily adhere. It’s best to start the project early in the day to allow enough dry time. You could also leave it to dry overnight, but depending on the outside temperature, you could be in for a cold, cold night after having scraped off the old caulking.

STEP 3
Load your no-drip caulking gun with a cartridge of exterior-grade silicone caulking and hold it at a 45-degree angle in order to get deep into the cracks around the window frame. Apply a solid, continuous bead of caulking between the frame and the siding, all the way around the window. Any caulk that oozes out of the crack should be pushed in gently with a putty knife. Allow this to cure overnight to provide the best protection from wind and moisture.

 

Insulate Window Interiors

The sash—the part of the window that moves to open and close—is the spot most people zero in on when they’re trying to improve window insulation. While insulating here is important, don’t neglect the glass itself or ignore other draft-curbing solutions. Take a three-pronged approach to insulating the inside of your windows by employing weatherstripping, window film, and energy-smart window treatments.

How to Insulate Windows with Weatherstripping

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 1
If your weatherstripping is worn or crumbling, it’s time to remove and replace it. Adhesive-backed stripping can simply be pulled up by hand. If the weatherstripping is attached with nails or screws, however, you must first remove the fasteners with a claw hammer or drill before you can lift it away. Once you’ve pulled the weatherstripping off, wipe down the window sash with a damp rag or paper towels and household cleaner. Allow it to dry thoroughly.

STEP 2
When you’re selecting replacement weatherstripping, closely consider the pros and cons of each material. As with many building materials, you get what you pay for in terms of lifespan. Felt, for example, is a common pick for its low price, but it can fail within only a few years. Adhesive-backed foam and tubular gasket stripping, on the other hand, are both cost-effective compression seals that work reliably and provide three to five years of protection from the cold.

Measure your sash carefully, then cut the weatherstripping of your choice to length. Start as close as you can to the end of one side of the sash, peel off any adhesive backing, then carefully press the weatherstripping into place on the sash, making your way carefully to the other end.

STEP 3
With the new weatherstripping in place, you’ll want to double up your efforts with an insulating window film. In addition to retaining up to 55 percent of your home’s heat in winter, this type of window covering will reflect heat and block UV rays from passing through uncovered windows—lowering indoor temperatures in summer and saving energy costs year-round. Before you proceed, check to see if your windows are still under warranty; the addition of window film may void the contract. If you’re in the clear, select the best quality insulating window film you can find for the job. Cheap versions can make the outdoors seem darker and even somewhat blurry. While that’s not a big issue for windows in some rooms, for more prominent windows, you may want to invest in higher-quality film that causes little to no loss of clarity and light.

Note: Cheaper methods that produce a similar insulating effect involve heat-and-shrink film or even bubble wrap, but these are often less attractive options that hamper or prevent the use of the windows, or hinder visibility. These inexpensive fixes, however, can be effective, easy-to-apply, and energy-efficient solutions for basement or attic windows.

Whatever method you choose, installation instructions vary from product to product. In general, start by washing the windowpanes so that no dust or lint gets trapped during application, then precisely follow the manufacturer’s directions to affix the film.

STEP 4
For one last defense against heat loss and drafts, hang thick, full-length curtains. For best insulating effects, make sure that your curtain rod is installed above and extends past each window on either side so the curtains fully cover the window frame. If it’s not appropriately installed, make adjustments to the rod’s position to maximize heat retention. While other window treatments like blinds or sheers offer some protection from drafts, a set of heavy curtains that you draw shut after dusk can cut heat loss by up to 17 percent.

 

Whether you ultimately decide to complete just one or all of these steps, you’ll still reap benefits. The more solutions you employ, however, the greater heat retention and energy savings you’ll see, and potentially not just in winter, but all year-round.


3 Fixes for a Stuck Key

Leaving your keys at home isn't the only way to get locked out. If you—and your key—get stuck, try these three fixes to get inside without having to hire a locksmith.

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stuck-key

Photo: istockphoto.com

It’s been one of those days. You caught every red light on your way home from work, your laundry wasn’t ready at the dry cleaners, and now—when you finally get home and are dying to sink into your sofa—you can’t get your key out of the front door‘s lock. While frustrating, it’s usually not that difficult to remove a key that’s stuck, so long as nothing is broken inside the lock. The culprit could be just a loose part of the lock assembly, a a sharp burr or ridge on a new key, or a bend in an old one. Forcing a key can cause it to break off in the lock, so take a deep breath and give one of these easy fixes a try.

 

1. PUSH THE PLUG

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Photo: istockphoto.com

The keyhole plug in a pin tumbler lock (found in deadbolts and key-in-knob locks) is just one part of a larger locking cylinder. What’s visible to you, the face of the plug, is the small circle surrounding the keyway—and your stuck key. Now, if this plug is loose, it can move slightly within the cylinder and prevent the pin tumblers from aligning, which makes it difficult to unlock the door or remove the key. Push your key in as far as it will go and turn it so that the keyway slot is in the exact position it was in when you inserted the key; this is the correct position for the pin tumblers to align in the cylinder. With your other hand, use the tip of your finger to push firmly on the face of the plug next to the key. The light pressure will prevent the plug from shifting as you gently twist and pull the key out.

 

2. LUBRICATE THE LOCK

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Photo: amazon.co.uk

If stabilizing the cylinder on your house’s lock doesn’t work, it might not be a loose plug causing the problem. New keys and imperfect copies are notorious for hanging on tumbler pins. Spray lubricant like WD-40 makes a great assistant when attempting to retrieve a key stuck in a lock, and most cans come with a tiny straw nozzle for getting into spaces as tight as a keyhole. (If you don’t keeps some handy in your car’s trunk, a quick run to the store might be in order.) Hold the straw right above your stuck key, aiming it into the hole. Now, wiggle the key (up and down, not side to side) to work it out of the lock. Once it’s out, use a fine file to smooth away any barbs or sharp points on the key teeth to prevent future sticking, or ask the key maker to file them down for you.

 

3. TURN UP THE HEAT

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Photo: istockphoto.com

Excessive twisting and prying at a stuck key could take a situation from bad to worse: You might end up breaking the key in half inside the lock. Should this happen, you do have a couple of DIY options still available to you before hiring professional assistance. First, simply slick the keyway with a squirt of spray graphite or lubricant, then attempt to grab any visible end of the key using a pair of needle-nose pliers. If you don’t have enough metal extending from the keyway to grip, run to the store to pick up an under-$10 tool made just for the job: a broken key extractor kit. (That errand may still be quicker than waiting around for a locksmith!) Select the size of specialty tool from the kit best fit for your problem lock, and slide the slim implement along the recessed groove of the key as far as it will go. Once in place, turn it so that its hook can grab the key’s tip, then pull it back toward you to try dislodging the remaining chunk of key. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!

Of course, if you’re still stuck after trying all of these fixes, rest assured you have given it your best shot—this job is truly one for the professionals. You’ll need to call a locksmith to either retrieve the key or replace the lock altogether. Then, going forward, save yourself the sticky situation! Aim to keep a spare handy to switch into your key ring if your primary one begins to bend with wear—a warped key is more likely to stick down the road than a straight key. Also, give your locks a quick squirt of lubricant every few months to dissolve any gunk and keep the locking mechanisms moving freely. With this minimal effort, you may never have to wrestle with a stuck key again.


Solved! What to Do About Condensation on Windows

Sure, a little water on the inside of your window seems harmless—unless it's actually a sign of bad ventilation, mold, or mildew. Do you want to find the real reason for the fog? Read on for a few sanity-saving tips.

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Photo: istockphoto.com

Q: My windows consistently gather condensation on the inside. I wipe them down, but the moisture keeps coming back. How big a problem is this, and what can I do about it?

A: The short answer? Moisture buildup isn’t a huge issue on its own. But left untreated, it can lead to more serious problems like mold, mildew, and water damage. Tracking down the root cause of window condensation can be tricky, but in general, condensation occurs when warm, moist indoor air collides with a cooler surface. Because glass is one of the coldest materials in your home, excess water vapor condenses there first, causing that all-too-familiar fog effect. If the inside of your window simply refuses to dry up, we can help you track down the source—step by step.

Take a closer look. If you live in an old house with equally old windows, take note of where this window condensation appears. For double- or triple-pane windows, moisture between the glass is usually caused by a faulty seal. If that’s the case, consider yourself lucky: You can correct the problem by replacing the insulated glass panel, and it’s a relatively inexpensive fix.

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Photoo: istockphoto.com

Weatherize your windows. Whether or not you found a bad seal, preventing condensation on windows starts with good insulation. In especially old homes, adding a storm window and weatherstripping accomplishes much of what newer, higher-tech windows do at a fraction of the price. Even better, you’ll have warmer nights and lower energy bills.

Those with brand-new windows or an abode built in the last decade have a little more troubleshooting to do. That’s because modern homes are more buttoned-up than ever before, and they come with energy-efficient doors and windows that greatly reduce heat loss. But if you don’t crack yours open once in a while over the winter, you could be trapping all that warm, moist air inside your house, thereby creating or exacerbating steamy problems. To get all that moisture under control, try some of the following strategies.

Start with easy-to-spot sources of humidity. Plants release moisture into the air as they grow, so move them off your windowsill during the cold season. And, if you use a humidifier at home, consider turning it off in the winter, or running it less frequently than you have in the past; it may be that the air in your home isn’t so dry that this appliance needs to run constantly. Invest in a hygrometer to keep close tabs on the humidity level.

Have faith in fans. Since the bathroom and kitchen are humidity hot spots, using an exhaust fan to send some of that excess moisture outside should help dry out indoor air. Most bathrooms have an exhaust fan, and the vent on your range hood can work the same magic in your kitchen. Just be sure to turn the fans on, whether you’re showering or cooking up a storm!

Check for ventilation issues. Just like water won’t collect on an empty glass, condensation won’t form on windows in a house that can’t hold humid air. Start your detective work in the laundry room by confirming that your dryer’s vent hose runs to the outside of your home. If it does (and the hose and duct are leak-free), your next stop should be your fireplace: Inspect the wall around your hearth for beading water. An unused, sealed fireplace limits air circulation, creating the perfect opportunity for mold and mildew to move in. If you notice a musty smell or discolored spots on your wall, your home may already be playing host to fungi.

Hire a pro. Hey, it’s nothing to be ashamed of! If you’ve winterized your windows, ruled out the likely causes listed here, and checked for ventilation problems, hiring a home inspector (or a mold and mildew specialist) is your best bet. They’re trained to look for other hidden sources of moisture, like rainwater seeping into your foundation or crawl space. Moving quickly and working with a specialist will prevent further damage to your home, so it can be a smart investment.


3 Hidden Benefits of New Windows

If you still need a bit of convincing to get moving on that long-delayed window replacement project, here are yet three more compelling reasons to get rid of those old, leaky, tired-looking windows.

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Photo: istockphoto.com

Technology has redefined virtually every aspect of contemporary life, and home construction and remodeling are no exception. Today, thanks to breakthroughs in design and manufacturing, once-simple building components now boast a stunning level of sophistication. Windows offer a prime example. In the past, the typical window consisted of a wood frame and single-pane glass. But in 2016, the best windows are packed full of cutting-edge features that serve the home and its occupants better than ever before. Still, “many homeowners don’t realize how much has changed,” according to Jim Eldredge, a product manager with Sears Home Services. Certainly, window replacement remains a popular improvement, but homeowners tend to pursue the project for the same reasons that motivated previous generations—that is, enhanced energy efficiency and improved aesthetics. “These are the expected benefits of installing new windows, and they are worthy goals,” Eldredge says. But when it comes to the current crop of windows, he adds, “there are plenty of additional incentives that go overlooked.” For details on three lesser-known advantages associated with new windows, keep reading now!

 

1. EASY MAINTENANCE

Photo: istockphoto.com

To stand the test of time—to look and perform their best over a span of decades—windows require care. How much? That depends on the frame. Older windows often need a lot of attention, not least because their wood frames should be refinished every three to five years to ward off rot and mold. Tired of all the hassle, many homeowners insist on replacement windows that demand little in the way of ongoing maintenance. Aluminum windows are popular for precisely that reason. Aluminum, however, is highly conductive and, as a result, doesn’t insulate very well. According to Eldredge, only vinyl offers the “best of both worlds”—the insulating capacity of wood and the easy-care virtues of aluminum. In fact, the Weatherbeater vinyl windows installed by Sears Home Services rarely need more than mere cleaning. Of course, cleaning a window can be a pain, as you well know if you’ve ever climbed a ladder to reach the glazing on an upper story. The good news? Quality modern windows, the Weatherbeater line included, feature tilt-in sashes, which provide easy access to the exterior glass, making cleaning a breeze and freeing up time for “the things you actually want to do,” Eldredge concludes.

 

2. SOUND ATTENUATION

Photo: istockphoto.com

Once upon a time, if you were to put your hand to a window on a cold day, the glass would feel as icy as the temperature outdoors. “You wouldn’t have the same experience today,” Eldredge says. With double- or even triple-paned construction, windows are able to deliver a degree of thermal performance increasingly on par with that of exterior walls. That said, some windows insulate better than others. Weatherbeater windows from Sears Home Services stand out in particular because the cavities between their panes are filled with argon, a denser-than-air gas that insulates even further. Such innovations help to eliminate drafts and minimize energy loss, enabling homeowners to enjoy more efficient, less expensive heating and cooling. Interestingly, though, many of the same features that benefit household efficiency also usher in a secondary benefit—they attenuate sound. Indeed, a window that blocks out uncomfortably cold or hot air also works to block out sound. Though homeowners rarely expect window replacement to result in a quieter, more serene indoor environment, “that’s often the first thing that the homeowner notices once the new windows go in,” Eldredge says.

 

3. ADDED HOME VALUE

Photo: istockphoto.com

Savvy homeowners know that window replacement—a major improvement project—typically calls for a correspondingly major investment of money. Hesitant over the high price? Don’t forget that you’re not the only one painfully aware of the costs involved—house hunters are too. In fact, it’s common for prospective buyers to walk away from homes whose windows would require replacement sooner rather than later. It’s unlikely that you’d make immediate plans to move after replacing your windows, but when it’s time to sell, “the preference for up-to-date windows can work to your advantage,” Eldredge remarks, and could result in a faster or more lucrative sale. In addition, bear in mind that while new windows may not be cheap, their purchase and installation isn’t a sunk cost. On the contrary, the upgrade adds considerable value—in fact, owners typically recoup more than half of what they put into the project, according to Eldredge. It’s true that not every home improvement offers a favorable return on investment, but window replacement does—especially when you take into account the fact that, as Eldredge notes, “high-performance windows help you to save each and every month on climate control,” in many cases the single greatest ongoing expense of homeownership.

 

If the scale of window replacement doesn’t intimidate you, and if the price tag doesn’t put you off, then it’s likely that the biggest source of stress you’ll encounter as you embark on this major project will be trying to find and hire professionals you trust. We’ve all heard plenty of horror stories about amateurs and crooks who either do a poor job or agree to do the work but never actually show up. As windows are critical to the integrity of any home, and because their performance depends on proper installation, it’s only prudent to do your due diligence and hire as responsibly as possible. Don’t know where to begin? You can start by scheduling a free in-home consultation with Sears Home Services. Operating nationwide, with a long history of helping homeowners achieve their dreams of more beautiful, better-functioning homes, Sears can guide you through the entire process, from the selection of new windows to their on-time, on-budget installation. Providing peace of mind all the while is the fact that with Sears in your corner, you benefit from the company’s hallmark Satisfaction Guarantee—an assurance that, even once your new windows are in place, Sears remains committed to the long-term success of your project. Contact Sears Home Services today!

Photo: istockphoto.com

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


Bob Vila Radio: The Key to Choosing a New Front Door

Sure, good looks are important. But when it's time to pick out a new door, smart shoppers look at what's on the inside first. Read on to compare three popular options—and find out which door will help you save on your next energy bill.

When shopping for a new front door, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind. First, your choice should complement the style and color of your home. More importantly, make sure it’s built to last! Ideally, the door should be weather-resistant and sturdy enough to withstand would-be intruders.
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Photo: istockphoto.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON CHOOSING A NEW FRONT DOOR or read below:

Many traditional homes feature wooden doors, and with good reason—it’s a style with classic curb appeal. But because the material is porous, cracks and gouges in the finish can let moisture in and cause warping. The other downside is maintenance: to keep that like-new look, you’ll be sanding, ­staining or repainting yours every few years for as long as you own the house.

In comparison, steel doors are cheaper, stronger, and do a better job of insulating than wood. Today’s options are even available with glass inserts and faux-wood finishes. If heavy metals aren’t your thing, there is another option—fiberglass, a dent-resistant material that won’t rot or rust. Of the three, fiberglass doors provide the best insulation, which will help trim your energy bills.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!