Doors & Windows - Bob Vila

Category: Doors & Windows

5 Reasons to Replace Your Window Treatments ASAP

As it turns out, there's never been a better time to upgrade your home with brand-new blinds, shades, or drapes.

5 Reasons to Update Window Treatments in Summer


Everyone loves summer for its long, relaxing days and the prospect of endless fun. But if you’re torn between lazing around on a lawn chair and taking on a home decorating project, know this: There’s no better time to swap out old window treatments than right now. The reasons might surprise you, so read on to find out why and benefit from helpful shopping tips courtesy of Blindsgalore, a leading supplier of custom-made window coverings. If you act quickly, you can save money, stay cool, and still wind up with window designs that really wow!

Old window treatments are glaringly obvious in the bright light of summer.
In darker, colder months, it’s easy to overlook shabby shades, busted blinds, or other worse-for-wear window treatments, but not during the long, sunny days of summer! In the bright sunshine of those extended daylight hours, you’re bound to notice faded, yellowed, or discolored materials; bent or warped slats; and frayed fabric or cords. If you see these defects, so will your summertime houseguests. Replacing tired window treatments can polish the look of an entire room. As an added benefit, with your home’s interior all spruced up, you won’t feel compelled to quickly shoo friends and family away from the air conditioning or out onto the patio.

Keeping energy costs down is crucial.
When the heat is on, quality window treatments help reduce your cooling bills by reining in the amount of heat transfer through the glass panes. (Window treatments also help ensure a warmer home in winter by preventing heat from escaping.) At Blindsgalore, you’ll find the ideal option for all your windows, no matter their size or shape. Consider energy-efficient cellular shades, which help maintain comfortable temperatures thanks to their unique honeycomb shape that traps air between the pane and the room. Or perhaps your best bet will be sun-blocking solar shades that prevent damaging UV rays and distracting glare from entering without obscuring the view of the outdoors.

Installing Simple Fit Pop-In Shades from Blindsgalore


You’ll get big impact for less effort.
Summertime and the living is supposed to be easy, so no one wants to stress or sweat over complicated projects. Fortunately, replacing window treatments can be super simple, thanks to the installation guides, step-by-step instructional videos, and customer service pros on call at Blindsgalore. DIY novices, take note: The company’s Simplefit Pop-in Shades make the job even easier, with a no-tools-required installation. The effortless push, peel, pop, and lock process means you’ll have great-looking, hardworking shades installed in a matter of seconds.

Privacy is more important than ever.
Long days and balmy nights mean lots of time spent outdoors, and that can translate into more people peeking into your home. While those people may simply be curious neighbors enjoying a leisurely stroll, crime statistics show that the highest percentage of burglaries occur during the summer, so the last thing you want is to put your valuables on view to possible intruders. While Blindsgalore offers a large selection of opaque privacy blinds that prevent view-through, even when backlit, less sophisticated treatments can also offer adequate privacy. Whatever you choose, rest assured that you’ll be able to keep your home the sanctuary it was meant to be and feel safer this summer.

You’ll find unbeatable prices.
You probably already know about summer steals on garden equipment, school supplies, and bathing suits, but you may be surprised to learn that this season is also the best time to save money on window treatments. For example, Blindsgalore’s blowout Fourth of July sale is one of their biggest sales of the year, offering incredible savings up to 50 percent! So buy now, install simply, and enjoy the beauty and function of new window treatments this summer and beyond.


This content has been brought to you by Blindsgalore. Its facts and opinions are those of

All You Need to Know About Doorway Casing

As few as three pieces of trim can greatly improve a room's style and sense of architecture. Before you set out to dress up any interior door or doorway, get the lowdown on buying and installing the decorative casing.

All You Need to Know About Door Casing


The trim around a door frame—also known as doorway casing—is installed first and foremost to conceal unsightly construction gaps left between the frame and the drywall. But while it minimizes seams in your home’s construction, the clean visual border around the door can also enhance the architectural beauty of any home. Whether you want to install new doorway molding or update your existing one, start with this guide to doorway casing.

Detailed Doorways

In new construction, one the most common types of doorway casing consists of three separate pieces: two long pieces for the sides of the door and one shorter piece (called “head casing”) for the top of the door. You’ll notice that the casing boards slope slightly, typically thicker on one edge than the other. The thinner edge will be installed toward the inside of the door frame to reduce bulk in the doorway, while the thicker outside edge matches the depth of the base trim to create a cohesive threshold.

When setting out to design doorway casing, homeowners will find a wide variety of options, from simple trim with a completely flat surface to more elaborate (and often wider) options with intricate moldings and protrusions. Two major considerations when finding a favorite style are joint choice and sizing.

• Many builders install doorway casings with mitered joints, which allow matching trim pieces to connect at equal angles in the top corners. Others—especially those designing for homes with high ceilings—opt for styles butted joints, which are characterized by a wide head casing that rests on the flat tops of the two side casing boards. This butted style of casing lends itself to custom above-door designs wherein the head casing is often decorative and detailed. Whether you choose mitered or butted casing, you can choose to dress up the three main pieces of trim by integrating two decorative blocks (called rosettes) in the top corners.

• Doorway casing trim comes in several different widths. While 2-¼”-wide trim is the most common, you can often find widths up to 3-½ inches at a home store. Anything wider must typically be custom ordered. The standard 2-¼-inch width works well in most newer constructions where doors are located near the edges of the room and carpenters won’t have enough room to install anything wider.


All You Need to Know About Doorway Casing


Popular Picks for Materials

What you use to build doorway casing is just as important to your style (and your budget) as the joint design and trim width. For homeowners and homebuilders, the choice comes down to these types of casing.

• Paint-grade wood casing, perhaps the most popular molding option, consists of bare wood that homeowners can paint. Sometimes the wood even comes primed—one less step when it comes time to install! The material runs anywhere from $1 per lineal foot (LFT) to $2.50 per LFT, depending on the width and design of the casing. Paint-grade wood casing labeled as “finger jointed” means that smaller pieces of wood were joined together to make a longer casing length. Painting the casing will effectively hide the joints, but staining will not. If you intend to apply wood stain, keep reading for another more appropriate option.

• Hardwood casing is more expensive than paint-grade casing, but it’s the best option for areas with exposure to moisture (it will not warp) or wherever you plan to stain all molding. The hardwood won’t streak when exposed to stain or include any joints that visibly disrupt the design. Simple oak casing starts around $1 per LFT but can run as much as $6 per LFT, especially if you opt for a wider design with ornate details. Expect to spend even more for exotic hardwood casing, which must often be custom ordered.

• Multi-density fiberboard (MDF) casing, formed from sawdust and resin, is a durable material that looks similar to paint-grade wood casing. Here, too, most varieties are primed to ease the painting process. You can pick up a simple MDF casing for under $1 per LFT, but costs run upwards of $3 per LFT for intricate designs or stainable varieties, which feature a thin wood veneer on the surface that can be stained to match other trim work. Keep in mind that MDF swells when exposed to water, so consider avoiding the material in moisture-prone areas (such as the bathroom).


All You Need to Know About Door Casings


Installing Door Casing

Looking to save some money on labor to invest more in the materials themselves? Lucky for you, any homeowner can install standard door casing with some simple instructions. The DIY carpentry task takes about 15 minutes per each side of the door, once you become familiar with the tools and technique.

– Power miter saw
– 18-gauge finish nailer
– 1” and 2” finish nails
– Carpenter’s wood glue
– Pencil

If you’re installing casing around one or two doors, consider renting an 18-gauge finish nailer and a power miter saw from a construction rental store (for a combined cost of about $60 per day). But if you plan to complete more extensive trim work, or if you’re an active handyman, you may opt to purchase the items instead. A decent consumer-grade power miter saw costs between $150 to $200, while a finish nailer costs an additional $100 to $150.

Before installing any type of casing, you’ll need to determine where, exactly, to place it along the doorframe. Measure and draw a line about ¼-inch from the inner part of the door frame; the line should be the same distance from the frame on the sides and the top of the door. This “reveal line” will serve as a guide for installing the inside edge of the casing. The quarter-inch of extra space is necessary to give the door hinges room to operate.

Cutting and installing the casing will vary depending on your finished design.

All You Need to Know About Door Casings


• If you’re working with mitered casing, simply hold the head casing piece in place, then make a small pencil mark on it where the top reveal line crosses the side reveal lines. Using a miter saw, cut a 45-degree angle at the site of the marking. Install the head casing to the wall with an 18-gauge finish nailer, making sure the longer edge is on top. Use 1”-long finish nails to attach the inside portion to the door frame, and 2”-long finish nails to attach the thicker outside edge to the structural framing that lies beneath the wallboard.

Now measure the side casing pieces against the installed head casing. Hold the pieces of side trim in place, and make a pencil mark where the inside corner of the head casing meets the inside of the side casing board. With your miter saw, cut a 45-degree angle that will fit flush with the angle of the head casing. Attach the edges of the side and head pieces together with carpenter’s wood glue, and nail the side pieces in place (with the same technique you used to nail the head casing). Wipe off excess glue with a damp cloth when finished.

• When installing butted casing, there’s no need to cut angles into the pieces. Simply position the head casing so it’s level with the reveal line on the top of the door frame, then secure with nails. Make straight cuts to the tops of the side casing boards so they fit snugly underneath the head casing, and secure those with nails as well.

• If installing decorative corner blocks (or rosettes), attach them to the wall first with the nail gun. Then cut the head casing and side casing to fit snugly between the blocks, and secure them to the wall with the nails.

Homeowners can create more elaborate door frames by adding multiple pieces of trim above the original casing board. The general rule of thumb with built-up head casing is to add progressively wider trim as you go upward on the wall. Virtually any trim can be layered to create the look you want; consider using chair rail, bed molding, or concave cove molding. Professional finish carpenters often use crown molding at the very top of a built-up head casing for a uniquely ornate look.


DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

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

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.

How to Clean Mini Blinds


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.


– 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



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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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



– Furniture polish
– Soft cloth
– Clean sock

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.

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.

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



– Vacuum cleaner
– Clean cloth
– Liquid soap

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.

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.

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.

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Bob Vila Radio: Conquering Window Condensation

Drops of water on the inside of a window may seem like a minor nuisance. But if you don't take steps to address the issue, runaway condensation gradually becomes a real problem. Here's what to do.

You may notice condensation on the inside of your windows and figure it’s nothing worry to about. Believe it or not, though, condensation can lead to mold, mildew, and water damage. What’s going on?

Condensation on Inside of Window


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Condensation appears on the inside of windows when moist indoor air comes into contact with a cold window surface. That being the case, it’s an issue faced by homeowners in homes new and old, across the country. Fortunately, there are a few tried-and-true methods homeowners use to keep condensation under control.

First off, if your house still has the original single-pane windows, installing storm windows and/or weatherstripping goes a long way to prevent condensation from ever forming. If you have double- or triple-pane windows, a faulty seal between panes may be to blame.

Something else to be aware of: Plants release moisture as they’re growing, so if you’ve got a collection of potted houseplants near the affected window, try relocating them. By the same token, be sure to turn on the bathroom fan every time you take a shower and to run the range hood exhaust fan whenever you cook on the stove.

Finally, double-check that the vent on your clothes dryer remains securely in place. If the connection has come loose, the appliance may be filling your home with warm, moist air, instead of expelling it outdoors.

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!

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: 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


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


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


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: 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.

Genius! DIY 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

Genius! DIY Dutch Door


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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


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.

– 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


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


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.

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.

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


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.

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.

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.

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.



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.





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.





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.





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.