Doors & Windows - 3/12 - Bob Vila

Category: Doors & Windows

3 Fixes for Dusty Blinds

We've all been guilty from time to time of letting a little too much dust settle on our window coverings. Clear off the grit and grime with one of these three solutions for cleaning your blinds.

Best Way to Clean Blinds

Photo: via Alan Levine

Blinds often go ignored during our day-to-day cleaning routines. But when we don’t give them proper care or cleaning, these popular window coverings harbor dust and grime, rendering them at best unappealing and—at worst—our home’s biggest dirty little secret. Don’t wait until you see clouds of dust appear whenever you adjust your blinds; instead, try one of these tune-up tips that can restore blinds to their spotless glory.



Best Way to Clean Blinds - Vacuum


To give your wood or faux-wood blinds a good scrub, fill a bucket with warm water and a little dishwashing soap. Next, grab a microfiber cloth—always best for dust-busting—or, in a pinch, a clean sock. Lightly dip the cloth in the sudsy water (or slip the sock over your hand and dip), then wipe off each slat. For actual wood blinds, you’ll want to use only a small amount of plain water or furniture polish applied directly to the cloth or sock. Do not saturate the wood, as this can damage the coating. Dry either material—wood or faux wood—with a clean, dry cloth to finish.

Keep your blinds cleaner between washes with this trick that will add just a few minutes to your routine: First, break out your vacuum and its dust-brush attachment (the one with the bristles). Next, close your blinds, set your vacuum on its lowest setting, and run it lightly over the slats. Tilt the blinds in the opposite direction, and repeat the process on that side.



Best Way to Clean Blinds - Hair Dryer


Owners of fabric blinds don’t need to provide much in the way of deep cleaning, as fabric blinds don’t show dirt as obviously as wood or vinyl blinds do. If you notice a small stain, simply blot it with a cloth that’s been dampened with soapy water, and allow the material to dry. If that doesn’t work, the blinds may need to be dry-cleaned.

For a quick weekly fix, look to a common beauty appliance: your hair dryer. Set the styler to the cool setting, and blast each slat to effectively remove dust from hard-to-reach spots. Don’t forget to run a vacuum over the floor when you’re finished to ensure that you’re getting rid of the dust for good.



Best Way to Clean Blinds - Wipe Down


There are a variety of ways to clean vinyl blinds, but if yours are intensely plagued by stains, dust, or grease—especially if they hang in the kitchen—you might want to try giving them a bath. Fill the tub with warm, soapy water, and let the blinds soak in the solution for a few minutes. Next, go over each each slat with a sponge. Rinse with water to remove any lingering residue, and hang them from the shower rod to dry.

For in-between cleanings, try this no-water-needed solution: Quickly run a dry rubber sponge over the slats to pick up loose dust particles—that’s it! Keep a clothespin nearby so that when you have to step away, you can clamp the pin on the last slat you worked on so you don’t forget where you left off. Once your blinds are spick-and-span, tilt them open to let your dust-free surfaces gleam in the sunlight.

How To: DIY a Space-Saving Sliding Door

Adding a sliding door between rooms can be easier than you think! Follow this photo tutorial for how to build yours from scratch and you'll have a little more privacy—and a little more style—in just a weekend.

DIY Sliding Door - Mount a Sliding Door for Privacy

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

When you have a doorway but not enough room for a door to swing open, oftentimes the frame goes without any sort of covering—or, worse, a temporary curtain divider that hangs there for a not-so-temporary amount of time. Fortunately, homeowners hoping for a little more privacy or a way to hide a closet’s contents have a better workaround that still involves a curtain rod: mounting a slim sliding door. This sort of installation easily distinguishes living areas while also providing a modern, even industrial, touch. Check out this problem-solving tutorial—adaptable to all doorway sizes—that will leave you with the separated spaces that you crave.


DIY Sliding Door - Supplies

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

– 2×2 lumber, 8 feet long (4)
– Measuring tape
– Pencil
– Hand saw
– Metal corner braces (18)
– 1-1⁄2-inch screws
– 2-inch rubber rigid casters (2)
– 5mm plywood board (2)
– Drill
– Jigsaw
– Wood glue
– Handles (2)
– Palm sander
– Paintbrush
– Wood stain
– Wood varnish
– Hitch rings (2)
– Wall-mounted curtain rod



DIY Sliding Door - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

You first need to build the door frame using 2×2 lumber. Dimensions for your build will largely be dependent on the size of your doorway, so that the sliding door is big enough to cover the entryway and then some. We added 2 inches to the width and the height of the doorway dimensions to determine what size to make our door.

Cut the 2×2 wooden pieces into the bones that will make up your frame: two vertical posts that are 2 inches taller than the doorway’s height and five horizontal crosspieces, each 1 inch shorter than the width of the doorway. (When you add the 1-1⁄2-inch thickness of a vertical post on each side, you’ll find that the frame is indeed 2 inches wider than your doorway.)

Lay the pieces out as pictured above, placing one crosspiece at the top, another 1 1⁄2 inches from the bottom, and the other three spaced so that they are equidistant (likely about 20 inches apart).



DIY Sliding Door - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Assemble all the wooden pieces together using 1-1⁄4-inch metal corner braces. Screw a brace in each corner of the frame—four in each rectangle and two more at the very bottom—in order to make your structure extra sturdy.

Double-check the measurements on the bottom crosspiece before screwing it in place: It must be 1-1⁄2 inches from the bottom of either vertical post so that you can fix the casters inside the frame and later hide them behind the plywood board.



DIY Sliding Door - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Screw the 2-inch rubber casters on the bottom crosspiece, one just inside the corner brace on each side.



DIY Sliding Door - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

You must strengthen the framework right where the door pull will go, because this side will get a lot of tugging to open and shut your wheeled door. Measure the distance between the 2nd and 3rd crosspieces from the bottom, and cut this length from your remaining 2×2 lumber.

Position this freshly cut vertical piece in the second rectangle from the bottom, where you just measured, leaving enough room from the outer edge to fit the metal door pull. Screw through the horizontal pieces to hold it in place, and then your framework is complete!



DIY Sliding Door - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Cut your two sheets of plywood (usually available in 4 feet wide by 8 feet long) into the exact dimensions of the wood frame, which will also be the dimensions of your door. One will cover the front of the frame, and the other the back. Most big-box hardware stores will make the cuts for you right at the time of purchase!

Place one board on the wooden frame and mark the pull’s location with a pencil.



DIY Sliding Door - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Use a drill and a jigsaw to cut out a hole to fit the recessed door pull. Then line up your two plywood boards, trace the hole, and cut out a hole on the second board for the other door pull.



DIY Sliding Door - Step 7

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Next, glue one of the plywood boards onto the frame. Cover each 2×2 with wood glue, hover the plywood over it to see that the side with the door pull’s hole lines up with the side of frame that is reinforced, then lower and clamp. Leave the clamps in place for as long as the glue specifies that it needs to cure.

After the glue dries completely, turn the door over and do the same for the other side.



DIY Sliding Door - Step 8

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Remove the clamps once all of the glue has dried and check if the plywood boards are well adhered with the wood frame. You should see that the casters are now completely embedded in the door, partially covered by the plywood board.



DIY Sliding Door - Step 9

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Take a palm-sander to completely smooth the door, especially the edges.



DIY Sliding Door - Step 10

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Time to give the door it’s finished look! We’ve stained ours with a dark chocolate shade, but you can choose any stain color (or, alternatively, paint!) to complement your space’s scheme. After the stain dries, follow with a coat of varnish.



DIY Sliding Door - Step 11

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Fit the door pull into the spaced carved for it, adhering with wood glue.



DIY Sliding Door - Step 12

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Screw the hitch rings on the top of the door, one an inch from each end.



DIY Sliding Door - Step 13

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Finally, stand your door and prepare to slide it into position. You’ll want to ask a partner for help holding the door while you put it on its “track”—also known as a wall-mounted curtain rod. Here, our curtain rod spans wall to wall. But if that’s not the case with your kit, pick up a couple of curtain rod brackets to fix it to the one wall with the doorway.

First, slide the curtain rod through the door’s rings, then push the door toward the wall so that its close enough for the curtain rod to mount but with enough room for the door to wheel back and forth. The door should be standing straight (not leaning), with full weight resting on the casters rather than pulling on the rod—that’s only there to guide the door. Now, check that the rod is perfectly horizontal and mark where it meets the wall. (This is where a partner comes in handy!) Screw the rod to the wall, and this project is an open-and-shut case.

DIY Sliding Door - Behind Closed Doors

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Ama is a DIY addict and the creative mind behind Ohoh Blog. She likes home decor, lighting, and furniture projects that may involve painting, sewing, drilling…no matter the technique! Whatever she has on hand is inspiration to create, and fodder for her serious addiction to upcycling.

Bob Vila Radio: Quick Fixes for Drafty Windows

Besides creating discomfort, drafty windows also drive up your heating bills. For a temporary solution, there are several quick and easy, DIY-friendly options at your disposal. Read on to learn more.

Here’s a cold-weather tidbit: Did you know that in many old homes, as much as a quarter of the heat generated by the fireplace, furnace, or heat pump leaks out through the windows?

Fixing Drafty Windows



Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to BOB VILA ON QUICK FIXES FOR WINTER WINDOWS or read the text below:

If you have noticeable, uncomfortable drafts, you can always consult with a contractor to reglaze the windows or even replace them. In the meantime, however, there are a few temporary do-it-yourself measures that can help you get through the cold season.

First off, for a cracked window pane, seal the opening with clear nail polish or weather-seal tape. Leaky sash? Put V-seal weatherstripping along the sides of the frame or, if you don’t mind not being able to open the window, apply a bead of removable rope caulk around the full perimeter of the sash.

It’s not the most attractive solution, but plenty of homeowners counter drafty windows with plastic film window insulation, readily available at home centers and hardware stores. The film goes on with double-sided tape and then, by shrink-sealing the layer with a hair dryer, you create an insulating buffer of air.

Finally, if you’re dealing with an extremely compromised window, consider blocking it off completely. Here, use a piece of foam board glued to a sheet of cut-to-size drywall. Tape the foam side against the glass and, when the seasons change and the weather improves, remove the panel to welcome the spring sun.

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!

Genius! A Sunnier Alternative to Window Blinds

Leaving windows uncovered lets in the most rays, but it won’t keep your nosy neighbors from seeing exactly what you’re up to. With an hour and a few dollars, you can add privacy to any room—without limiting natural light or blocking a great view!

DIY Window Film - Temporary Window Treatments


In old homes, it’s the details that draw us in. While the intricate trim and sculpted ceiling medallions certainly create character, some of these popular design details—particularly French doors and tall windows—may leave you longing for a little more privacy. That’s what happened to Annabel Vita, an adventurous DIYer from across the pond whose rental features a majestic double-hung window directly at the foot of her bed. Since traditional curtains would have limited the natural light that flooded the room every morning, Annabel needed another solution to her privacy problem. On a mission, she stumbled upon an easy, inexpensive, and temporary way to make her own window film.

Sheer fabric works magic as the base for this custom fix. Annabel created a frosted glass effect with lace—opaque enough to keep neighbors from seeing inside, but transparent enough to keep her sunny view. Using a piece of paper, she crafted a simple template that matched the dimensions of her window panes. Then, she laid the lace over the template and cut out eight squares, one for each lower window pane.

A removable fabric glue from just cornstarch and water would adhere the lace panels to the window without damaging the glass and losing her security deposit. Concoction in hand, Annabel brushed a thin coat to the first pane. After carefully aligning the lace edges with the glass, she then pressed the fabric in place and painted on a thick second coat. In an hour, the cornstarch mix had dried, leaving Annabel with a perfect fix for her old window—good for as long as she wanted to stay in her charming little apartment.

This DIY film isn’t just for windows that face into your neighbor’s home. It also obstructs a clear view through interior French doors, masks your cupboard’s content when affixed to glass cabinet doors, and doubles up well behind sheer drapes as an extra layer of texture. Well-suited for homeowners and renters alike, this translucent fix proves there’s no need to sacrifice your privacy for a little extra sunshine. You can have it all!

FOR MORE: AnnabelVita 

DIY Window Film - How to Apply


Bob Vila Radio: The Clear Benefits of Insulated Windows

Of the many reasons to replace older windows, there may be none more persuasive than the simple reality that today's options provide better, more efficient performance. Keep reading to learn more about how insulated windows benefit not only your comfort, but your wallet as well.

In an insulated window, the panes are comprised of multiple layers, each separated by an inert gas. Not only do they make your home more comfortable, especially in winter, but because they allow less heat to escape, insulated windows can save you considerable sums on your month-to-month energy bills.


Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to BOB VILA ON THERMAL-INSULATED WINDOWS or read the text below:

Important to note is that insulated windows enhance your comfort in more than one way. To be sure, their tight, multi-pane construction reduces or eliminates drafts. But if you’re near a window and feel a chill, the effect isn’t always due to air leakage. After all, our bodies naturally radiate heat outward to any cold surface. With thermal insulated windows, the inside panes are comparatively warm, so we don’t lose nearly as much heat as we normally would to cold, single-pane glazing.

Another benefit of insulated windows: When warm, moist indoor air comes into contact with a cold window pane, condensation results. Indeed, many homeowners spend the winter with a view-obscuring layer of moisture over all or most of their inside window panes. Sound familiar? If you’re sick of it, thermal windows may be for you. Assuming a standard of quality, such components easily last a decade or more and if necessary, you can replace a single pane, not the whole window.

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!

What to Do When Your Doorbell Stops Working

Don't miss another important delivery or cherished guest! Troubleshoot these common problems to get your doorbell back to working condition.

Doorbell Not Working - Front Entrance


Ding, dong! Your guests have arrived for dinner and drinks. But if your doorbell stops working, you could leave your invitees out in the cold—extremely frustrating for both you and your guests. And if it’s not expected visitors, it’s a delivery service. A malfunctioning doorbell could make you miss FedEx or leave you with valuable packages just sitting there, outside your front door for anyone to grab.

Doorbells are often taken for granted, because these durable units can last 10 years, 15 years, or more without ever experiencing a glitch. But an outdoor location means that these electrical devices are exposed to all of the elements: broiling sunlight, rain, snow, sleet, and wind, to name a few. Any one or combination of these natural forces can cause a functional decline or outright failure. Before you call in a contractor and replace your entire doorbell system—a pricey proposition—take a few minutes to troubleshoot some of the most common problems.

Doorbell Not Working


Potential Problem #1: The Button

Sometimes, a physical blockage—like a clog from airborne dirt or spider nests—can prevent the doorbell button from operating. Press the button vigorously to see if it moves; if it’s stuck, clean well with a clean cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol or spray with some WD-40 to remove any debris. Should your button move freely, go a step further to try to confirm or rule out this potential source of the problem. Press the button again, this time listening for a low buzz. No buzz is no good; replace the button as soon as possible.

A helpful hint: Take the old button with you to the store, so that you can purchase a replacement that is the same size as the original—that way, you won’t have to replace the button panel.

Potential Problem #2: The Chime Box

If the pressing of the button isn’t the root of the problem, the malfunction might come from within the unit the unit that produces the sound or melody: the chime box inside the house. To determine if the box is damaged, first remove it from its mounting bracket on the wall. Take off the decorative cover, locate the two wires going to the unit, and attach the leads of a volt meter to each wire. Then have a handy assistant press the doorbell button: If the volt meter registers a signal, it means that the chime box is receiving electricity but is not working by sounding off. If no signal registers on the volt meter, it means there is a problem with the wiring to the box or the transformer (see below).

A chime box is filled with electronic circuitry, so repairing one typically requires a skilled technician. Often, the quicker, easier, and more cost-effective plan is to purchase a new chime box altogether. The options on the market today are seemingly endless, with sounds ranging from simple tones to recognizable tunes. Once you have found your replacement, simply hook up the two wires (which you have already disconnected from the original to test) and mount the new chime box on the wall—in some cases, you may need to replace the mounting brackets as well.


Potential Problem #3: The Transformer

For most of these cases, you can troubleshoot a doorbell without shutting off the main power, because doorbells operate on very low voltage. The one exception is when you need to test the transformer, which is generally located in or near the chime box. Cut the power before you begin, then conduct a visual inspection to look for any loose connections or wires that are completely disconnected. The wires may be marked “F” for front, “R” for rear, and “T” for transformer. If no wires are loose, you should check the transformer using a volt meter: Connect the leads of the volt meter to the two terminals on the transformer. A properly functioning transformer will show a meter reading that matches the secondary voltage as marked on it. If the meter reading is higher, it indicates that the transformer is faulty and needs replacement. A low reading, however, might just need a second test. Try changing the voltage range on the volt meter; if the readings still don’t match, replace the transformer. You might want to call in a pro for this type of repair.


Potential Problem #4: Faulty Wiring

Sometimes the wiring between the doorbell button and the chime box may be the problem. It may have been exposed to water; damaged by rodents; or simply become bent, twisted, or frayed. Start by checking the two wires connected to the button—if they are frayed or loose, splice in a new section of wire and reattach to the button. Do the same with the wires that are attached to the chime box. If the problem is damaged insulation on the wires, you can repair them with a little electrical tape.

To test the wiring between the chime box and the doorbell, disconnect the wires from the chime and hook them up to your volt meter. Have a friend or family member press the button while you check the meter for a signal. If nothing registers, you may need to run new wires—again, this might be a job for a professional.

Consider going wireless if you don’t feel comfortable replacing the wiring and would rather not call in a contractor. A number of wireless systems exist on the market today, growing in number and popularity since their advent in the ’90s. Utilizing radio waves rather than physical wiring to connect the button to the chime box, these battery-powered systems are extremely to install and replace.

How Do Innovative Skylights Lead to Lower Bills?

Solatube's ingenious Daylighting Systems bring natural light into even the hardest-to-reach rooms, helping homeowners cut down on lighting costs while enhancing their interior spaces.


There’s been a lot of talk about light bulbs over the past few years. In 2012, after the new federal light bulb standards started to take effect, we all began to encounter a range of new options in the aisles of local home centers and hardware stores. Certainly, when compared with traditional incandescent bulbs, the latest CFLs and LEDs are substantially more efficient. But when it comes to operating costs, even the most advanced light bulb cannot compete with an age-old natural resource—sunlight. Budget-minded homeowners are realizing that in order to keep their lighting costs to an absolute minimum, there’s no better strategy than to forgo electric light altogether, at least during the day. With beautiful, abundant, and totally free sunshine pouring down on the roof every day, making the most of this light is only a matter of letting it inside.

Skylights have long offered an efficient way of pulling in sunlight, but installing a skylight used to be a major undertaking with a steep price tag. In the case of traditional skylights, installation remains cost-prohibitive for many homeowners, as the intensive work typically requires some not-so-minor structural modifications. As well, traditional skylights have always been limited in at least one key respect: They illuminate only those spaces situated directly below the roof. To brighten rooms located elsewhere in the house, homeowners have needed to continue using (and paying for) electric light. Fortunately, for those seeking to capitalize on sunlight as a way of lowering household energy bills, there’s a newer, next-generation option that’s both more affordable and more versatile—tubular daylighting devices from innovative manufacturers like Solatube International, Inc.


Whereas traditional skylights are basically windows on the roof, the Solatube Daylighting System works in a very different way. First, its leak-proof, impact-resistant, and self-cleaning optical dome harvests sunlight on the roof (even when the rays arrive at an angle, as they do in winter). Next, the sunlight travels down into the home through highly reflective tubing that not only extends to distances up to 40 feet, but also pivots easily around would-be obstructions like rafters and joists. In this way, thanks to their unique design, Solatube systems can deliver sunlight virtually anywhere in the home, even to first-floor bathrooms, hallways, and closets. Best of all, installation takes hours, not days, because the system requires neither changes to the house framing nor repairs to the ceiling or walls indoors.

Up until fairly recently, most people viewed skylights as luxuries—attractive and desirable, perhaps, but luxuries all the same. With the rise of Solatube and other makers of similar products, plenty of homeowners now see the practical, money-saving potential of daylighting. You probably don’t think twice about turning on a table lamp, wall sconce, or ceiling-mounted fixture, but the fact is that lighting your home has a considerable, often overlooked effect on your family finances. Last year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated that lighting accounts for approximately 14 percent of residential electricity consumption. With the one-time installation of a Solatube Daylighting System, you can cut out the cost of electrical lighting during every sunny hour of every single day. The savings add up!

Another important factor to consider: With Solatube, you’re not saving money on lighting only to lose money on heating and cooling your home. For years, traditional skylights were plagued by flaws that allowed heat gain in summer and heat loss in winter. Solatube sidesteps those issues with products that have been designed and manufactured for optimal thermal performance. Indeed, select Solatube systems are rated by Energy Star for their ability to deliver daylight without upsetting the temperature of the home. Compared with a fixture that generates an equivalent amount of light, a Solatube device actually generates less heat. So, on top of saving you money on lighting, this one solution can also save you money on air conditioning throughout the summer months.

A host of customization options and add-ons are available across the Solatube line of products. For instance, there’s an optional Daylight Dimmer that enables you to control the brightness of the incoming sunlight. You can also choose from a variety of warming and softening Effect Lenses to modulate the color temperature of the light so that it suits your personal preferences or matches up with your interior design goals. It’s also well worth mentioning that if you’re hesitant to clutter your ceiling with multiple fixtures, Solatube makes it easy to streamline. The optional Light Kit embeds an incandescent or CFL bulb within the light-channeling tube, giving you a multifunctional fixture that responds to your around-the-clock lighting needs.


If you’re really serious about cutting your lighting costs, check out the Solatube Smart LED. Compared with a traditional light source, the Smart LED offers up to 94 percent greater efficiency: During the day, when the device operates in daylighting mode, you’re spending $0. When light levels recede—at night or in the presence of cloud cover—the system automatically switches over to LED, a technology that runs on dramatically less energy than incandescent bulbs. Combine free sunlight with high-efficiency, low-cost LED lighting, and you’re paying next to nothing for the illumination supplied by a one-of-a-kind hybrid solution. Want your Smart LED to save you even more? Go for the optional occupancy sensor. Depending on whether or not the sensor detects someone in the room, it activates or deactivates the integrated LED bulbs accordingly. That way, you never waste electricity. You pay only for the LED lighting you actually need and use. The occupancy sensor option doesn’t just mean savings, though—it also means the convenience of never having to remember to hit the light switch on your way out!

In the end, there are many ways to slim down your household energy bills. But of all the improvements you might make in the name of efficiency, only Solatube stands to leave your home looking brighter, feeling airier, and seeming more cheerful. You’re saving money and making your home more beautiful. It’s a win-win.


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

Discover How This Innovative Skylight Even Shines at Night

Wholly unlike the skylights to which you're accustomed, a new option on the block provides home lighting no matter the weather, any time of day.


It doesn’t take 20/20 vision to see the vast difference between artificial light and bright, beautiful, mood-lifting natural illumination. Through the decades, homeowners have understood the distinction and its importance, often adding skylights to let the sun shine in. To be sure, some of the early skylights suffered performance problems, but advances in manufacturing have not only corrected past imperfections but opened up a range of new possibilities for the future.

Today, with its revolutionary approach to the category, Solatube International, Inc. ranks as a foremost industry leader. Whereas conventional skylights are essentially windows on the roof, Solatube offers something new, different, and, in the eyes of many, much better than what came before. We might be used to thinking of a skylight as illuminating only the space directly beneath it, but Solatube tubular daylighting devices (TDDs) are capable of delivering natural light to virtually any room, even on the ground floor of a multi-story home. What makes it all possible is a unique and groundbreaking design that relies on three principal components: a daylight-capturing dome, a highly reflective light-channeling tube, and a customizable in-room lens that finally delivers and diffuses the light. Running from the roof to the darkest, most tucked-away corner of your home, Solatube leverages cutting-edge optics to introduce daylight wherever you want it.

Compact and cost-effective, Solatube stands out for many compelling reasons. But here’s what might be most impressive: The company has actually figured out how to make skylights functional at night! Meet the Solatube Smart LED System, a one-of-a-kind hybrid lighting solution that’s always operable, sun or no sun.


For its Smart LED System, Solatube combines its daylighting technology with the latest in LEDs to provide an unparalleled home lighting solution. At its heart is a control center whose SunSense Technology continually monitors the amount of light coming in from the roof. If and when the light level drops—at sunset, for example, or during periods of heavy cloud cover—the SunSense Technology immediately activates the integrated LED bulbs. The homeowner might not even notice the transition from daylight to LED, and in certain instances, both types of lighting might work in concert. That’s how, unlike any other skylight before, Solatube Smart LED Systems always provides lighting, sun or no sun. It’s a revolutionary concept, and the implications are far-reaching. Remodelers once had to install extra lighting fixtures to account for the reality that, at night, the skylight would become non-operative—in effect, a big black rectangle. Now, rather than settle for an unsightly, Swiss cheese-like ceiling, you can achieve an uncluttered, streamlined look with single fixtures that provide both daytime and nighttime illumination.



Each Solatube Smart LED System features a quartet of 3000K LED bulbs. To be clear: These are not the sort of bulbs you’re going to replace on a regular basis. LEDs are the longest lasting of any bulb type, often remaining viable for up to 20 years. That’s three times longer than compact fluorescents, eight times longer than halogens, and 25 times longer than incandescents! Indeed, a lot has changed since Thomas Edison and the advent of the familiar incandescent light bulb. Technology has advanced by leaps and bounds, and in the realm of lighting, LED reflects the very best of today.

Inferior skylights let rooms become too hot in summer, too cold in winter. You could either live in discomfort or pay extra for your heating and cooling appliances to counteract the effect by working overtime. Neither option sounds very appealing, right? With the Smart LED System, you don’t need to worry about the skylight causing physical or financial discomfort. The system boasts the coveted ENERGY STAR rating for its ability to keep heat gain and heat loss to a bare minimum. Here, skylight installation doesn’t mean upsetting home temperature, and isn’t that the way it should be?

The Smart LED System actually saves money: Compared to a traditional light source, it’s 94% more efficient! That’s because sunlight obviously doesn’t cost anything, so when it’s daytime and sunny, you’re spending $0. Then at night, when the system switches over to LED, you benefit from the fact that, compared to incandescent bulbs, the newer technology requires dramatically less energy to run. Combine free sunlight with low-cost LED lighting, and you get serious savings on home lighting.

Achieve additional savings by choosing a Smart LED System with the optional occupancy sensor. The Solatube sensor detects whether there’s someone in the room, and it activates or deactivates the LED bulbs accordingly. That way, you can ensure that if a family member forgets to turn off the light, you don’t end up paying for the mistake at the end of the month. With the occupancy sensor option, you never need to think about hitting the light switch again, while enjoying maximum energy savings.

Even a modestly sized conventional skylight can take days to install. In the hands of Solatube Premier Dealers, the Smart LED System takes just a couple of hours. Depending on your skills and experience, you might even be able to handle the installation yourself. That’s because the system requires no structural changes; the components fit between and around rafters and joists, making for a fast and easy project. Any place overhead light fixtures currently exist, Smart LEDs are particularly painless to install. That’s because here, there’s no need to run new wiring. What powered the previous fixture would simply be hooked up to power the new Solutube device. In this way—be it in a hallway, laundry room, or small bathroom—the Smart LED System allows homeowners to introduce clear, dazzling daylight into spaces formerly lit only by dim artificial light. Best of all, homeowners can do so in a non-intrusive way that requires minimal effort and virtually no modification to the home. Try saying something like that about a conventional skylight!

Homeowners love skylights for transforming dark, dreary interiors into bright, airy spaces. By virtue of its unique design, the Solatube Smart LED System goes where others cannot, introducing sunlight to virtually any room in the home. And unlike other skylights, past and present, this one doesn’t go dark when the sun goes down!



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

How To: Choose a Skylight

There's never been a better time to be in the market for a skylight. Today's models are markedly more reliable than previous generations, while the familiar designs have been joined by new and exciting options.

How to Choose a Skylight


Picture the average lightbulb. Now picture sunlight streaming into a room in your home. There’s no comparison, right? By opening interior space to the outdoors and the sun, skylights usher in unparalleled brightness and vibrancy. Yet, even as they transform the character of formerly dark, gloomy interior spaces, skylights also deliver a practical, bottom-line benefit. Sunlight is free, after all, so that means adding a skylight means subtracting from your month-to-month electricity bill. Whereas older skylights earned a reputation for unpredictable performance, mainly due to moisture problems, the technology has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years. In fact, today’s homeowner can choose among skylight options that weren’t readily available, or didn’t even exist, only a few decades ago.

If you’ve shopped for a skylight before, you know that historically, there have been two main types of skylights—fixed and vented. Either installs flush to the roof deck or on a curb raised slightly above it. True to its name, a fixed skylight is non-operable and intended only for the purpose of providing extra illumination. Meanwhile, a vented skylight can be opened, either manually or via remote, depending on the unit. Of course, remote-operable vented skylights cost considerably more than their manual cousins. And, by virtue of involving a greater number of more sophisticated parts, electric skylights are comparatively more vulnerable to problems. Still, vented skylights offer, beyond the aesthetic and perhaps emotional benefits of natural light, an additional way to admit fresh air into the home.

How to Choose a Skylight - Tubular Skylight Illustration


Essentially, conventional skylights are windows on the roof. A newer option—tubular daylighting devices (TDDs) from Solatube International, Inc.—are a compact, efficient, and cost-effective alternative. Also sometimes known as tubular skylights, TDDs depart from the basic functionality of a window, and their innovative design clearly demonstrates that departure. On the roof, a weatherproof dome captures daylight, then channels it into your living spaces through highly reflective metal tubing. Where the light tube terminates, a special lens takes over to diffuse the harvested sunlight, evenly spreading it through the room in a pure white glow. Solatube Daylighting Devices even allow for customization: You can add ventilation, a daylight dimmer, or a lightbulb add-on kit to create a multifunctional system.

Once upon a time, skylights were nothing more than a single pane of glass held within a metal frame. Today, glazing runs the gamut from single- or multi-paned glass to advanced plastics, with or without insulation and coatings to control such variables as heat and UV radiation. In a traditional installation, glass would afford a more crystal-clear view to the outdoors. Plastic, though less expensive, boasts a few key advantages. For one, it’s more durable. Plus, whereas glass skylights are typically flat and rectangular, plastic can take virtually any shape, lending itself to any number of placements on the roof. More importantly, domed skylights—only possible with plastic—outperform glass, not only by shedding leaves and snow, but also by receiving sunlight even when it comes in at an angle.

How to Choose a Skylight - TDD Installation


In its 30-year history, Solatube International has focused on a domed skylight alternative that, through its patented technology and leading-edge optics, corrects many flaws of earlier approaches to skylights. First of all, Solatube domes are leak-proof, impact-resistant, and self-cleaning, so you can enjoy trouble-free maintenance. You can also plainly see the Solatube International difference: Its light-capturing dome and reflector work together to achieve unsurpassed year-round performance. On the one hand, Solatube systems redirect low-angle sunlight so that even on winter days, your skylight functions satisfactorily. On the other, Solatube systems reject overpowering sunlight, so you don’t get too much of a good thing. Inside, you can even tweak the strength and color of the daylight entering your home through the Solatube “effect” lenses.

To choose the right skylight, you must account for the structure of your roof. Take a peek into your attic to assess the framing. How far apart are the rafters? Partly for the sake of convenience, conventional skylights come in sizes that fit snugly between the rafters of roofs with standard 16- or 24-inch framing. It’s not impossible to install a larger skylight—so long as yours isn’t a truss roof—but doing so goes beyond the abilities of the average do-it-yourselfer. Rafters must be cut, doubled up, and headed off—in other words, it’s no easy weekend project!

Even a modestly sized conventional skylight can take days to install. Solatube Daylighting Systems take just a couple of hours. Depending on your skills and experience, you might even be able to handle the installation on your own. That’s because Solatube devices require no changes to be made on the framing, and there are no major ceiling or wall repairs required on inside. Rather than contend with rafters and joists, Solatube devices cleverly fit between such components, with their patented fastening system, adjustable-length tubes, and angle adapters all making for a fast and painless remodeling project.

So easily routed, Solatube TDDs can illuminate those spaces you never thought daylight would reach. Because the light-channeling tube in the Solatube system extends up to 30 feet, the room you would like to brighten doesn’t have to sit directly beneath the roof. The tube component of the system can travel through attic, utility, and wall spaces to deliver natural light virtually wherever you want it, even the ground floor or basements in a multi-story home.

How to Choose a Skylight - In Room


Skylight prices vary widely, depending on the options you choose. Homeowners are wise to consider, not only the upfront product and installation costs, but also the ongoing impact the skylight may exert on heating and cooling energy bills. Though insulated skylights have become the norm, there remains a risk of efficiency losses offsetting the practical and aesthetic benefits introduced by the skylight. In winter, because hot air rises, inferior skylights lose more heat than a window. In summer, skylights admit more heat than a window, again by virtue of their placement on the roof. In either case, your HVAC would have to work overtime to counteract the skylight and maintain a comfortable temperature. Therefore, it pays to insist on a product with Energy Star certification. Energy Star-approved skylights, such as the daylighting systems offered by Solatube International, exceed the defined minimum energy performance requirement for climates around the country.

How to Choose a Skylight - Before After


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

Bob Vila Radio: Replace a Worn-Out Window Screen

A staple gun, some scrap wood, and a utility knife—that's all you really need to replace the worn-out screen on a wood-frame window. Here's how it's done.

Replacing a screen on a wooden window frame? It’s a straightforward job. To get it done right, and with a minimum of hassle, here are some guidelines to help you along.

Wood Window Frame Screen Replacement


Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

First, lay the screen flat on a work surface. With hammer and chisel, gently remove the molding around the edge of the screen. Meanwhile, cut a piece replacement screening material that’s a few inches larger than what you need. Lay the new screen over the frame and staple the top end, making sure the weave runs square to the frame.

Next, pull the screen a little beyond the bottom of the frame, then staple it across a pre-cut scrap of one-by-two. Stretch the screen taut by tilting the scrap wood against the frame while firmly pulling downward. Once satisfied with how tightly the screen fits over the frame, go ahead and staple the bottom to secure the mesh in place.

Proceed to staple the screen along both sides of the frame. Once finished, go back and, using a utility knife, trim away all excess material—that is, the extra mesh that sticks out beyond the staples. Finally, replace your trim.

When replacing a window screen, bear in mind that although aluminum mesh tends to last the longest, fiberglass works best in areas with salty air.

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.