Doors & Windows - 3/13 - Bob Vila

Category: Doors & Windows

So, You Want to… Install a Screen Door

Here’s everything you need to know about selecting, installing, and maintaining this summertime essential.

How to Install a Screen Door


Breezes in, bugs out—functionally speaking, the screen door hasn’t changed much in the past hundred years or so. Different types, however, and their varying price points have emerged in more recent times. If you’re in the market for one to separate your indoor and outdoor spaces, read this before you shop. You’ll find all the guidance needed for selecting and installing a screen door that’s ideal for your house and budget.

Screen Doors vs. Storm Doors
Screen doors are different from storm doors, though the terms are often erroneously used interchangeably. Storm doors, as the name implies, are designed as barriers against inclement weather. Though their frames are rugged (made of steel, vinyl, or aluminum), they may have a screen along with a sliding glass panel to let air pass through at your discretion. Standard screen doors, however, aren’t intended for heavy duty. If you’re looking for protection against the elements, opt for a specialized storm door.

How to Install a Screen Door


Types of Screen Doors
Three varieties of screen doors exist to supplement the myriad of home entrances.

• Perhaps the most familiar style, one known to go hand-in-hand with a picturesque front porch, the traditional type fits in the outer portion of an exterior doorjamb and opens outwards. Purely functional, bare-bones models are suited to side or backyard entries, yet you can certainly find a stylish one to complement a front door. These traditional screen doors come in standard sizes and are typically made of wood, although aluminum and vinyl versions are available.

• Some homeowners prefer a retractable screen for a front door. Based on the principle of pull-down window blinds, the retractable screen is stored in a spring-loaded casing, positioned either at the side or at the top of the doorframe. You pull it across or down when you want to leave a door open to get a breeze and block bugs. It’s appealing for a front entrance, since it’s all but invisible and won’t interfere with curb appeal.

• Finally, there are slider screen doors that install on the exterior track of a sliding patio door. While some patio doors do come with sliding screens, you can find add-on options for an existing sliding door.

Pick Your Price
You can find a traditional screen door made of unfinished pine for around $30, while low-end vinyl and aluminum models start at around $50. If you’re looking for stainable hardwood or an ornate design, the cost could go as high as $200.

Retractable screens start at around $30 but these cheaper models don’t offer sidetracks, leading you to potentially deal with gaps at the edges. High-end models, running $500 or more, have a variety of bells and whistles, including secure tracks, motorized remote-control operation, and double-door protection for French doors.

Sliding screen panels for patio doors start around $40 and come in standard sizes, but not all sliding doors accept generic screens. Check with the manufacturer of your patio door to determine if you need to order a custom screen, which could run upwards of $100.

Make Sure to Measure
Screen doors come in standard sizes. For a traditional screen door, measure the door you’ll be pairing it with and purchase a screen door in a matching size. If you have an off-size door, consider purchasing the next size larger wooden model and cutting it to fit. Most, but not all, retractable screens require measuring the inside of the doorjamb. Read manufacturer’s measuring instructions (usually posted on the outside of the box) to be sure. For a sliding patio door, measure the door panel that slides and purchase a corresponding screen panel.

Screen Door Installation
Because models vary so, installing a screen door entirely depends on the variety you’ve chosen for your home. Many homeowners are drawn to the traditional screen door for its simplicity, as it requires little more than attaching the hinges and pull-handle with the screws that come included. You’ll need a drill with a bit slightly smaller than the screws, a screwdriver bit, a tape measure, and a pencil for marking where to drill pilot holes. Install the hinges at the same level as the upper and lower door hinges, or about eight inches from the top and also from the bottom. Similarly, the handle should be placed at the same height as the exterior doorknob. Use shims, as needed, under the hinges to center the screen door in the jamb. (It’s standard to leave a 1/8-inch gap around the sides and the top, and a 3/8-inch gap, or larger, at the bottom.)

Most traditional screen doors are universal, meaning you can install them to open on the either the right or the left, depending on your preference. The spring that holds the door closed installs midway on the door, typically behind the push bar, on hooks, so you can remove it when you want to open the door all the way.

Retractable screen installation differs by type and brand, so follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Typically, you’ll use the same tools needed for traditional screen door installation, but if you’re attaching a bottom track to a concrete or brick porch, you’ll also need a masonry bit and concrete screws. Some higher-end retractable screens do require professional installation.

Last but not least, installing a screen door that slides is all about track placement: Position the door in the exterior track and lift it up to hook the rollers in the upper track runner. When it’s in the right spot, it should slide smoothly.

How to Install a Screen Door


Seal and Secure
Most wooden screen doors come painted, but often the top and bottom edges are raw wood. Sealing the raw edges with exterior paint that matches the door before installation will prevent premature weathering. If you purchase an unfinished door, paint the whole thing with quality exterior paint, or stain it and brush or spray on a coat of spar varnish to keep it looking new. Vinyl and aluminum screen doors require no additional weatherproofing.

If the bottom of the screen door has a large gap, consider installing a door sweep. Available at most any hardware store, this add-on attaches to the bottom of the door to keep out dust and crawly bugs.

After installation, enjoy the easy, breezy nature of your new screen door—and don’t let it hit you on your way out!


Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from
With fair weather having arrived finally, it’s time to turn your home improvement efforts to the backyard and your deck, porch, or patio—the parts of the home built specifically to enjoy the extra hours of sunlight. Guided by these practical pointers and inspiring ideas, you can introduce beauty, comfort, and utility to your backyard and outdoor living areas, making them as inviting and enjoyable as your home interiors.

3 Reasons to Love Sliding Glass Doors

Brighten up your interior spaces and gain convenient, expansive access to the outdoors with the addition of a sliding glass door.

Adding a Sliding Door


With each passing year, it seems like homeowners spend more and more time outside on the deck, porch, or patio, entertaining friends and family or simply relaxing with a book. Indeed, according to Jim Eldredge, a product manager with Sears Home Services, “It seems like outdoor living has never been more popular.” Even so, Eldredge continues, “There are many ways in which homeowners today aren’t so different from previous generations.” As in the past, most still want to live in a bright, airy environment and enjoy generous views. These similarities between homeowners of today and yesteryear help to explain the renewed popularity of sliding glass doors. Perhaps no other upgrade does so much to satisfy both the current popularity of outdoor living and our timeless desire to feel a connection with nature. Sliding glass doors not only provide physical access out to the yard, but they also invite in the light, air, sights, and sounds of the great outdoors, eroding the boundary between a home and its surroundings. “You get the best of both worlds,” Eldredge remarks. Without sacrificing any of the comfort and convenience you enjoy indoors, you gain a redefined, dramatically closer relationship between interior and exterior space. Continue reading to learn more about the compelling factors that motivate so many to open up their homes with a new sliding glass door.



Adding a Sliding Door - Light Concept


In a typical sliding door, glass comprises most of the surface area, allowing the panel to admit a profusion of natural light. For that reason, Eldredge says, sliding doors hold great appeal for a wide range of homeowners. After all, “Not many of us want to live in the dark.” Beyond delivering the practical advantages of daylight, sliding glass doors can also have an impact on the perception of a space. More light, combined with better sight lines, often makes a room with a sliding glass door feel larger than it really is. Despite the many benefits of a sliding glass door, however, Eldredge cautions that there can also be cons. Much depends on the model of door you choose. Before purchasing, be sure to check the thermal performance of any door on your radar, he advises. Doors from Sears Home Services, for example, come with a special metal oxide coating that successfully limits heat transmission. Known as a low-E coating, the transparent, micro-thin layer reflects heat away in summer while trapping it indoors during the winter. Low-E coatings can also minimize the fading and bleaching effects of UV rays. “It’s like sunscreen for your house,” Eldredge says, and for a budget-minded homeowner seeking to cut monthly cooling and heating costs, “it’s a key technology you may not be able to afford to do without.”



Adding a Sliding Door - Ventilation Concept


In the past, a sliding glass panel probably held a single pane of glass, but today multiple panes are the norm. To underline the point, Eldredge explains that sliding glass doors installed by Sears Home Services typically boast dual panes, affording a level of insulation similar to that of an exterior wall, at least when the doors are closed. On days when the weather permits, meanwhile, sliding glass doors open up to provide a breath of fresh air, literally. “Homeowners love that,” Eldredge explains. “There’s still nothing like exposure to the breezes and natural conditions outdoors.” But nature can be a foe as well as a friend, taking a toll on a sliding glass door. Which is why Eldredge urges homeowners to take maintenance into account as they evaluate sliding glass doors. “Unless you have time and energy you can devote to its care, stick with a door that doesn’ t need a lot of attention.” Wood-frame doors are notoriously finicky, requiring at the very least periodic painting or staining. Aluminum “offers easy care at low cost,” but it doesn’t insulate very well. Sears Home Services installs only vinyl-frame doors because, according to Eldredge, vinyl combines “the low-maintenace virtues of aluminum with the insulating capacity of wood.” As it demands only occasional cleaning and resists many of the challenges that threaten other door materials, “vinyl may be your best bet,” Eldredge concludes.



Adding a Sliding Door - Security Glass


You’re cooking dinner in the kitchen and planning to eat outside in the yard with your family. It’s a delicious proposition, but it can be a recipe for frustration if you need to travel a long, circuitous route, serving platters in hand, from the kitchen to the table. Many homeowners decide to install a sliding glass door simply because the upgrade provides direct and accommodating access to the outdoor living area. It’s not only a matter of convenience, though. “Physical distance between living areas indoors and out only reinforces the perception of the two as separate and apart,” Eldredge explains. A sliding glass door can erase that distinction, encouraging the homeowner to view the deck, porch, or patio as a natural, accessible extension of the home’s square footage. Remember, however, that while a sliding door gives a family a new way in and out of the home, it does the same for would-be intruders. As well, because their panels are composed largely of glass, sliding doors can be a liability in severe storms that generate wind-borne debris. To address security concerns, storm vulnerabilities, or both, Eldredge suggests that some homeowners may want to specify the use of security glass. Sears Home Services “routinely installs patio doors with security glass enhanced by an interlayer of polyvinyl butyral,” Eldredge says, referring to a resin that lends additional strength. It “may not be for everyone,” Eldredge notes, but under certain circumstances, it’s “a must.”


While pretty much anyone can understand the tremendous appeal of a sliding glass door and its ability to create lighter, brighter interiors that are better connected to their surroundings, not just anyone has the skills required to install one. This is an undertaking where you really need to know what you’re doing. Even for the most ambitious do-it-yourselfer, installing a sliding glass door can be complicated, labor-intensive, and time-consuming. For most homeowners, therefore, the first step in putting in a sliding glass door typically involves finding and hiring a qualified contractor. You can look for one in your area or get going right away by scheduling a free in-home consultation with Sears Home Services. A nationwide company that’s also a household name, Sears offers a proven, decades-long track record and a demonstrated commitment to quality results. Plus, for your peace of mind, the company always backs up its work with a Satisfaction Guarantee—an assurance that from the earliest stages of the process all the way to final installation and beyond, Sears remains committed to your success. “A home upgrade shouldn’t be a home headache,” Eldredge says. Fortunately, with Sears in your corner, you’ll need to concentrate on nothing more than the benefits of a brand-new sliding glass door. Everything else? “Just leave all of that to us,” Eldredge says.

Adding a Sliding Door - Backyard Patio Area


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

Weekend Projects: 5 Designs for a DIY Door

Transforming a basic set of door plans into a grand entrance—be it to the house or to the closet—takes less effort than you might imagine. Come right in and check out these inspiring do-it-yourself constructions.

At its core, a door’s construction is mostly the same; learn to build one, and you can fashion as many as your home has doorways. The small details like color, texture, and hardware distinguish the designs: These can take a door design from suburban to rustic, traditional to modern, or subtle to bold. Whether you’re hoping to build a grand entrance to your home or covering a more private space like a bedroom closet, these five inventive ideas for how to build a door will open the metaphorical door to all of the possibilities for your next weekend project.


How to Build a Door - Screen Door from The DIY Dreamer


A screen door outside a front or back entrance is a must, especially in temperate climates where homes truly benefit from a passing breeze. Stuck without one for her own abode, The DIY Dreamer Christine and her crafty team of helpers measured, sketched out, cut, and assembled 1×6 and 1×8 lumber into a simple frame design to fit the front door. Molding hides where they secured the screen for a professional touch, and a cheerful coat of pistachio green sets the door apart from all the rest on her block.


How to Build a Door - Dutch Door from Just Beachy


If you share your home with children or pets, you likely know the value of a baby gate: It can be a lifesaver when you need need to keep an eye (or an ear) on your favorite small creatures from another space. A set of Dutch doors offers builds this function right into your door frame for an even more elegant solution. Rather than replace the existing door altogether, blogger Chris Kauffman of Just Beachy discovered how to work with what you’ve got. By cutting her door in two, lowering the doorknob to the bottom swinging portion, and installing a sliding latch to unify the pieces, overhauling her old door cost only $30 and the extra attention to detail.


How to Build a Door - Sliding Door from

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Particularly perfect for homes where space is a commodity, sliding doors (also known as barn doors) create additional space for you to by freeing up the 90-degree “pie piece” that otherwise has to be kept clear in order for a hinged door to swing open. Fearless DIYer Ama of Ohoh Blog constructed this dark chocolate-colored door with sanded 8-foot lumber and door pulls, then hung it with hitch rings from a wall-mounted curtain rod. The rubber casters fastened to its bottom provides just the mobility to pull open or shut.


How to Build a Door - "Salvaged" Closet Door by Jenna Sue Design Co.


To punch up a cookie-cutter interior door with more color, texture, and personality, consider adding some character by reworking its facade. Here, Jenna Sue Design starts sprucing up what she calls the “cheap-o hollow core synthetic wood deal” that covers her coat closet using a cemented-on sheet of faux wood veneer. The depth created with vertical and horizontal plywood panels, a blend of stains, and a good sanding take the door the extra mile to a convincingly worn and weathered look. The resulting charm complements neutral farmhouse decor and the rest of the entryway’s shabby chic aesthetic.


How to Build a Door - Barn Door by Beneath My Heart


Fed up with uninspired folding doors? That’s just the feeling that prompted this transformation from Traci of Beneath My Heart, whose ranch-turned-polished farmhouse was anything but average. She tore the closet’s eyesores from their track to switch to the swinging variety. Sheets of bead board, two pairs of gate hinges, and door pulls spray painted black to match make a starting set of plain-Jane hollow core doors simply unrecognizable.


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: Remove and Replace a Doorknob

Hidden screws may make this task seem mysterious. The right tools—and this guide—turn it into a simple matter.

How to Remove a Doorknob - With Hidden Screws


We think of a doorknob as ubiquitous and mundane, yet a closer inspection can sometimes prove puzzling, leaving you to wonder, Where are the screws that hold it in place? They’re there, all right, if not outright visible then hidden beneath the cosmetic collar known as the “rose.” Removing and replacing the knob requires you to reach these screws without damaging the door.

But before you can tackle the easy-enough-to-DIY chore, first understand the types of doorknobs on the market: Most modern, standard-issue doorknobs are sold as a lockset, complete with all necessary hardware—knob, rose, spindle, latch (also called a striker), and latch plate. Some of these knobs have recessed hex-head screws, reachable with a compatible Allen wrench. Others have a thin hole through which you insert a firm wire (a straightened-out paper clip is perfect) to press on a spring-activated pin called a detent; this releases the knob from the spindle or shaft that connects both knobs through the latch assembly. On still other knobs, the detent access hole is actually a slot; use a thin, flat-head screwdriver to reach the detent with this type. Determining which category your existing knob falls into will dictate the best way to remove and replace it for a more updated style.

How to Remove a Doorknob - Pieces and Parts


MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Allen wrench
Paper clip or firm wire
Small flathead screwdriver
Phillips screwdriver
New lockset

How to Remove a Doorknob


Know your knob. Examine the lock side of the doorknob, looking for a tiny slot or hole; these are the detent access holes. Don’t see it? Check instead for a recessed screw that you’ll loosen with an Allen wrench of the appropriate size.

Now, to how you go about releasing the knob depends on how it’s fastened.
• If you find a slot, insert the flat-head screwdriver and push the detent to release the knob.
• If you find a small hole, use a straightened paperclip or other firm wire to spring it.
• If dealing with a recessed hex-head screw, turn it counterclockwise with an Allen wrench until the knob is free.

Remove the rose. In some cases, the rose must be removed separately in order to expose the screws that hold the backing plate to the door. If that’s the case, locate the thin slot in the seam between the plate and door, insert the tip of a flat-head screwdriver, and pop off the rose.

Then, unscrew the works. Use a Phillips screwdriver to remove the screws that run from one backing plate to its opposite through the bore hole. These screws hold the entire knob and latch assembly together. Remove the old knobs, backing plates, latch, and spindle.

Replace the latch plate, the piece of metal attached to the door jamb through which the latch passes when the door is completely closed (also called a strike plate). Even if it looks fine, you’ll need to remove and replace it, using a Phillips screwdriver, to ensure compatibility with the new knob hardware.

Install the new latch, ensuring that the curved side of the striker faces the same way the original one did so the door latches properly.

Set the new knob in place, starting from the outside, or locking side, of the door. (The rose might be part of the knob assembly, or it might need to be installed separately, before the knob itself.) Repeat on the inside knob. Position the spindle and mounting screws through the latch assembly from the outside and into the base of the opposite knob. Tighten all screws using a Phillips head screwdriver. Slide the knob on the end of the spindle and turn it until the detent clicks into alignment with the access slot or hole. Tighten recessed screws with the Allen wrench if necessary.

Knock, knock! Who’s there? Your brand new doorknob, looking great and functioning smoothly.

3 Clear Reasons to Add a Bay Window

To capture views, sunshine, and refreshing breezes, there may be no more attractive option than a bay window. Take a few minutes to learn more about the benefits of this distinctive style.



When bay windows first rose to prominence in America, back during the Victorian era, they were relatively common but not ubiquitous. Now, more than a century later, they are truly everywhere, having become a much-beloved feature of homes throughout the United States. Comprising three individual windows—one parallel to the exterior wall, with flanking windows that angle off to the sides—the design truly stands out, not only for its beauty but also for its practical advantage of affording an exposure on three sides. That one key factor enables bay windows to deliver all the benefits of a regular casement or double-hung, only “to a much greater degree,” says Jim Eldredge, a product manager with Sears Home Services. As he notes, “it’s easy to understand their tremendous popularity.” Bay windows “give homeowners exactly what homeowners want”—that is, light, bright, and airy living spaces. Indeed, perhaps more than any other type of window, a bay window can alter your experience of an interior, both improving how the space looks and transforming how it feels. To make your home seem bigger than it really is while forging a strong visual connection with the outdoors, there may be no better choice than this long-standing favorite.


Thanks to their three-part design, bay windows maximize natural light as the sun charts its course in the sky. “The same can’t be said for a casement or a double-hung,” says Eldredge. After all, single-exposure windows admit peak sunshine at only one time of day. Bay windows, on the other hand, remain brighter for longer, thanks to their three-side exposure. Still, as desirable as natural light may be, there’s a point at which it becomes a liability. For instance, there’s solar heat gain, in which the beating sun slowly but considerably warms the home, requiring the HVAC system to consume more energy to maintain a comfortable temperature. Fortunately, quality replacement windows now come well equipped to combat the heat-gain phenomenon. Take, for instance, the Energy Star-rated WeatherBeater brand, exclusive to Sears Home Services. Double-paned, with insulating argon gas injected between the panes, WeatherBeater windows help to minimize solar heat gain and, in the winter, heat loss. In fact, the WeatherBeater line offers insulation that’s more akin to that of a wall than a traditional single-pane window. Just as they do in any other building product category, homeowners today have a wide selection of windows to choose from. Particularly given the potential that bay windows pose for increasing energy costs, “it’s critical to choose wisely,” Eldredge says.

A typical bay window features a fixed panel in the center with operable windows on either side. When both side windows are open, the arrangement allows for refreshing cross ventilation. By channeling breezes into the home and sending warmer, dustier air outdoors, cross ventilation helps to create a comfortable, healthy indoor environment. For the strategy to be successful over the long term, however, Eldredge points out that the bay window must be built to last. To that end, he advises homeowners to look for models that “deliver first-rate performance without requiring much in return.” Aluminum-frame bay windows, Eldredge continues, “offer easy care at low cost,” but there’s a catch: As it’s highly conductive, aluminum does not insulate as well as other materials. Wood, meanwhile, needs to be refinished, whether painted or stained, every three to five years. “Only vinyl offers the best of both worlds,” Eldredge says. The Sears Home Services WeatherBeater line, for instance, demands nothing more than occasional cleaning, a task made easy by the windows’ tilt-in sashes, which allow hassle-free access to the exterior glass. Because they resist many of the challenges that compromise other types of windows, vinyl may be your best bet, according to Eldredge, if you want to benefit from a bay window but don’t want to devote time and energy to its maintenance.

The shimmering glass and classic silhouettes of a bay window certainly enhance a home’s exterior. Yet it’s inside the home where they make their greatest impact. Thanks to their generous sight lines and panoramic views, bay windows establish a strong visual connection to the outdoors. Indeed, whereas other types of windows feel more like dividing lines between the home and nature, bay windows help erode any distinction between the two. So, while their projecting design literally adds volume to a room, bay windows also lend an illusion of openness and expansive space. That, more than anything else, says Dave Lincon, a product manager with Sears Home Services, “makes any home with a bay window seem bigger than it really is.” Of course, Lincon notes, “There’s only so much of the outside world you want intruding into your kitchen or living room.” For that reason, he recommends selecting a bay window with noise-dampening properties. Customers who choose WeatherBeater windows often appreciate that they get insulation against sound as well as thermal insulation. Lincon adds that many homeowners, pleased with their newly hushed interiors, say that “they feel as if they are living in the same house, but in an entirely new location.”

Intrigued? Before you leap into an ambitious DIY project, bear in mind that while this project may be within the reach of a skilled, experienced subset of homeowners, for everyone else, it’s a job best left to the experts. Whichever route you choose, though, you may at the very least need guidance. To discuss the project with a trained pro, seek out a contractor in your area or go online now to schedule a free in-home consultation with Sears Home Services. A generations-old company with a national reputation, Sears can help smooth what might otherwise be a complex, intimidating process. Plus, unlike most local outfits, Sears Home Services backs up its work with a Satisfaction Guarantee. This provides not only peace of mind, but assurance that, from the earliest planning stages to final installation—even after the workers have completed the job, packed up their tools, and left—Sears remains committed to the lasting success of your project.


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

How To: Remove Paint from Trim and Molding

Use this handy guide—and an even handier tool—to restore the clean lines of wood trim that has been gunked up by layers of paint jobs from decades past.


Walls framed by baseboards and crown molding exude unmistakable character and polish, most notably in historical homes adorned by ornate crown moldings, built-in bookcases, and pocket doors. Decades of paint, however, can detract from the craftsmanship of these beautiful elements, blur their clean lines, and obscure the wood’s natural beauty. Whether you’re trying to restore antique wainscoting, window casings, or a once-beautiful built-in bookcase, the most crucial—and, unfortunately, also the toughest—part will probably be stripping the old paint from the sections of decorative trim before applying stain or a fresh coat of paint. Don’t get discouraged. While removing layers of paint from intricate trim is labor-intensive, the right tools and techniques (and a little patience) can return even the most elaborate moldings and custom woodwork to their former good looks.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
 Protective goggles
 Respirator mask
 Solventresistant gloves
Drop cloth
 Chemical paint stripper
 Naturalbristle paintbrush
 HYDE QuickRelease Contour Scraper
 80grit foam sanding block or sandpaper
 120grit foam sanding block or sandpaper
 Rotary tool with sanding bit (optional)
 Wood bleach (optional)
 Soft rags
Tack cloth

First, pull on your protective gear—old clothing, goggles, a respirator mask, and solvent-resistant gloves—and then start prepping your work area.

Drape a chemical-resistant tarp or drop cloth over the floor as well as over any large furnishings that can’t be moved or built-ins that aren’t part of the job. While a few of the newer paint strippers on the market are low-VOC, which means that they contain fewer volatile organic compounds, many emit toxic fumes, so adequate ventilation is essential. Open a window and use fans to create a cross breeze, and if your stripping project is on the larger side, consider erecting barriers to reroute foot traffic around the project area—especially if you’re living in the house while you’re working on it. The upside to stripping paint from trim is that you can do a little bit here and there, as time permits. You won’t have to set aside an entire weekend and work from dawn to dark, but you should still steer your household members away from the work zone in the meantime.

Next, apply paint stripper to the trim or molding with a natural-bristle paintbrush. (Plastic bristles can melt when dipped in stripper.)

The trick to dissolving old paint successfully is to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter. Not all strippers work the same way. Some aggressive strippers soften paint in as little as 30 minutes, while others require hours of wait time and repeated applications. Some are runny, and some have a gel consistency. Make sure, no matter what type of stripper you’re using, to apply it carefully to all the creases and tiny nooks found in detailed trim, working it in with the tips of the bristles.

Brush on only as much stripper as you have the time to scrape after the paint loosens. If the stripper dries before you scrape it away, you’ll have to reapply it.

How to Remove Paint from Trim and Molding - Quick-Release Contour Scraper


Once the solvent has set for its required amount of time, scrape away softened paint with the HYDE Quick-Release Contour Scraper. This single handy tool replaces a dozen separate scraping devices thanks to its six swappable stainless steel blades—each featuring two distinctly different scraping tips—that will fit virtually every size curve and contour you will encounter on wood trim. And with the tool’s quick-release feature, it’s a cinch to switch blades. Once you have affixed the appropriate blade for the section of trim you’re working on, begin scraping the softened paint, keeping one hard-and-fast rule in mind: Pull, don’t push! By pulling the blade at an approximately 45-degree angle, you will safely remove loosened paint without digging chunks out of the wood.

If the trim has multiple layers of old paint, as is common in many historical homes, you may have to repeat stripper application and scraping until you reach bare wood.

Sand the trim with 80-grit sandpaper or, better yet, an 80-grit foam sanding block, which more easily fits itself to the curves and creases found in trim work. Always sand in the direction of the wood grain to avoid leaving cross-sanding marks. When the wood is no longer rough and the dried bits of residual paint have been rubbed off, switch to 120-grit for extra smoothness.

For intricate wood rosettes or detailed trim ornaments that you can’t adequately sand with sandpaper or a foam sanding block, you can try using a handheld rotary tool fitted with a pointed sanding bit. Proceed with great caution, though, as one slip can gouge the wood. Make sure the lighting is good, use extremely light pressure, and take frequent breaks until the job is complete.

STEP 5 (optional)
In some cases, the old paint may leave behind a tinge of color on the wood grain. If you plan to apply a smooth layer or two of fresh paint, this seeped-in color won’t affect your project. But, if you’re going to stain the wood, you will first need to bleach it. Wood bleaching removes color stains, but it also lightens the natural wood grain. If you’re refinishing a walnut staircase, for example, plan on applying a quality walnut stain afterward to restore the wood’s natural tones.

Choose a wood bleach formulated to remove pigment-based color, rather than household bleach, which irritates skin and mucous membranes and removes only dye-based color. Take the same safety precautions with the wood bleach that you took when applying the stripper, and follow the manufacturer’s application instructions closely. Most wood bleach products come in liquid form, which is then wiped on with a clean rag and left to dry. As bleaching wood raises its grain, lightly sand the color-free trim again until it’s smooth enough to wipe a tack cloth over the surface without snagging. Make sure the wood is thoroughly dry before applying stain or other coating.


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

How To: Plane a Door

Talk about an exit strategy! Here’s an open-and-shut case for fixing a common problem yourself.

How to Plane a Door


It’s easy to take doors for granted. Until they start sticking or binding, that is—or you install a new floor and suddenly have a clearance problem. The ideal gap between a door and its frame is about 1/8 inch on all sides, so once you’ve determined that the door isn’t overly snug due to loose hinges (which can be tightened for an easy fix), you may need to shave, or plane, excess wood from the raised side to get it working smoothly again. Your go-to tool? A plain old hand planer. Its sharp, angled blade shaves thin strips of wood as you push it over the surface, and while electric planers or belt sanders can be used for planing, the simpler device gives you maximum control.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Cardboard or paper
Ruler or straightedge
Carpenter’s compass
Screwdriver or drill
Sawhorses (optional)
Hand planer

How to Plane a Door - How to Plane Wood


Open and close the door a few times (if it’s not blocked at the bottom) to see where it’s rubbing the jamb. Run a thin piece of cardboard or paper between the jamb and door to identify a starting and ending point for the raised area; mark these points with a pencil on the side—not the edge—of the door. If it helps you see the planing zone better, use a ruler and pencil to draw a line between the points. This might be a short length, or the entire edge might need a shave. In the latter case, use a carpenter’s compass: Set the pencil tip and compass point about 1/8 inch apart and run the point down the jamb to draw a straight line down the vertical edge of the door. Do this on both sides of the door so the full-length cut will be symmetrical. If you’re trimming from the bottom to accommodate flooring, measure 1/8 inch up from the floor’s surface.

If the door is only slightly out of square and just a small raised section needs to be removed, you should be able to avoid removing it from the frame. Immobilize it with a doorstop and plane it in place (see Step 3). But for maximum control and to plane longer portions, take the door off its hinges with a screwdriver or drill.

Turn the door so that the edge requiring adjustment is facing you. Hold it in place between your legs and plane the high spots from above. For a full-length trim, remove the hinges from the back and take wood from the back or hinged edge of the door—this will allow you to avoid detaching latch hardware. If you need to remove up to an inch at the top or bottom of the door, lay it flat across two sawhorses—for this work, skip the hand planer and start with a circular saw, then finish with a sander.

On vertical edges, shave following the wood grain; on horizontals, work toward the center from each outside edge. Apply steady but light pressure on the planer so you don’t gouge the wood or shave off more than necessary. Unlike a bad haircut, trimmed wood won’t grow back!

Tip: If you find you must remove more than 1/8 inch, consider using an electric planer or belt sander, but remember that what you gain in speed you sacrifice in control. Proceed carefully with power tools to avoid creating visible dips or gouges.

After planing the intended amount, rehang the door and give it a swing. If it’s still sticking, remove it and shave a little more. Once it opens and closes perfectly, remove it to sand, prime, and paint the planed surfaces. Reinstall any hardware you might have removed before rehanging the door for good.

So, You Want to… Install a Pocket Door

Homeowners who want more space and the convenience of a flexible layout love the pocket door. If you're considering installing one, first read our handy planning guide to see whether this retractable door is right for you.

Installing Pocket Doors - Sliding Doors for Separating Small Spaces

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Atlanta, GA

What’s true about fashion is true also about doors: If you wait long enough, the old styles come back in vogue. Pocket doors were ubiquitous in Victorian homes, where they were often used to separate large indoor spaces like living rooms and dining rooms. After fading from the architectural scene for a century or so, the pocket door has resurfaced, finding new fans for its space-saving functions and retro forms. Before you start ripping out walls and installing a pocket door of your own, however, make sure you understand its mechanics to decide whether it’s the best choice for your home.

The Many Pros to Pocket Doors
Rather than swinging open and shut, the pocket door slides into a hidden wall compartment to allow entry and exit. This style is perfect for rooms where you don’t have clearance for a swinging door or you just want to make the best use of space. After all, replacing a swinging door with a pocket door recovers at least 10 square feet of floor space behind the door and frees up real estate on the walls for fixtures or artwork. Moreover, as a pocket door simply withdraws into the wall, it’s even more utilitarian than its trendy cousin, the sliding barn door.

Pocket doors also work well where homeowners want a flexible partition. If a door rarely needs to be closed, or if you’re trying to isolate a smaller room—say, the laundry room, office, or pantry—from a larger open-plan area, pocket doors pull out when you need them and disappear when you don’t. Some designs can be adapted to modern uses. A Dutch pocket door, for example, extends only half the height of a standard 80-inch-tall door and pulls out from one side or both, making it a great alternative to those unsightly or rickety safety gates that protect pets or children.

The Pocket Door’s Drawbacks
Unfortunately, pocket doors don’t work everywhere. Before moving ahead with the project, consider these potential complications: locking limitations, door frame stability, and wall space requirements.

Pocket doors don’t seal a room as tightly as a traditional swinging door, and the typical locking mechanism is flimsier than a tubular latch or deadbolt. (If the occupants of your home can learn that a closed door speaks for itself, you might skip the locks altogether and shop for something more creative. Some people use cabinet pulls or even antlers to make an otherwise pedestrian piece of hardware stand out.)

Should the flimsier seal not be problematic for your household, move on to examine the wall in which you intend to fit the door. Its frame isn’t as strong as the studs it will replace, so installing a pocket door might be inappropriate—or even prohibited—in a load-bearing wall. Consider the work and expense involved, and consult building codes before beginning demolition. Another deal breaker: If the walls abutting the entryway are too short, or cluttered with electrical or plumbing fixtures or built-in shelves or cabinets, there will be nowhere for the pocket door to slide.

Installing Pocket Doors - Closet Door


How to Know If You Have the Space
A pocket door requires a “sleeve” inside the wall of the door frame in which it retracts. For a traditional 32-inch-wide interior door, you’ll need at least 66 inches of linear wall space: 32 inches for the door and the rest for the housing. (Note: It’s OK if this sleeve intersects with another wall, but you might need special hardware to reinforce that juncture if a supportive stud needs to be removed.) The wall should also be thicker than four inches, as the standard door thickness is about two inches.

Another measurement to take during the planning phase is that of the doorway itself. Generally, when it’s open, a pocket door disappears completely and remains accessible via a recessed pull on the leading edge. If, however, you’d rather install handles on the sides of the door, it won’t retract all the way but it will be a little easier to open and close. Ask yourself: Is the doorway wide enough to sacrifice a few inches for that more convenient door pull, or do I need the full width of the walkway because it’s a high-traffic area? Weigh the pros and cons to having it jut out some—remember, the couple of inches your door eats into your walkway may give you wiggle room by requiring less than the standard 66 inches of linear wall space to house it when retracted.

Next, you’ll have to assess what else shares the wall space where the pocket door cage will go and how difficult these fixtures would be to move. The wall is a poor candidate for a pocket door if:
Pipes or electrical wires run through it. Rerouting pipes and wires is beyond the skill set of the average do-it-yourselfer and adds to the installation cost. As well, because of the depth of the electrical box in which it’s housed, you won’t have room for a standard switch or outlet.
You want to hang a heavy frame on a nail that penetrates far into ½- to ¾-inch drywall. This will impede the door’s movement and gouge the door.
You need to install an assist bar or fixture that requires deep anchors. The pocket door cage includes split studs that can support a towel bar or toilet-paper holder but won’t meet the standards for a weight-bearing fixture. If the pocket door frame uses steel studs rather than wood, you’ll have to attach the wallboard to the bottom plate below the pocket door compartment, which further limits the use of wall space.

Installing Pocket Doors - French Doors

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Atlanta, GA

What to Expect at Installation
If all the stars align, you’re ready to introduce your home to this old-fashioned feature. Here’s what to expect with this project.

Assuming you’re not fortunate enough to be installing a pocket door in a home that’s under construction, expect to remove the drywall on both sides of the wall where the pocket door will go. You’ll remove the studs as well to make way for a new door header and pocket door framework. If your home was built before 1978 and it’s likely that the existing walls were finished with lead-based paints, you need to follow protocol to dispose of the materials you’re ripping out.

Do yourself a favor and buy a pocket door installation kit or prefabricated frame—it simplifies the project by orders of magnitude. Kits come with all the hardware, including the track system from which the door hangs; premade units are just what they sound like, with all the parts where they belong. Both include detailed instructions that minimize mistakes. The prefabricated frames fit standard door sizes, but a competent do-it-yourselfer can customize.

Most pocket doors hang from recessed tracks, with the top of the door attached to a trolley system and glides that keep the door centered as it moves. But some are mounted from the ground—or from the ground and ceiling—if the door is heavier and wider than normal. A ground-mounted system can present a tripping hazard and limit accessibility, but you can find recessed tracks that eliminate this problem. Expect to spend more for this setup.

After installing a pocket door’s frame, you’ll hang the door and adjust it so it’s plumb. Remove the door temporarily to paint it and install any recessed hardware, then remount it before hanging new drywall on both sides from the frame’s split studs and nailing baseboard or other molding to the base plate. The last step is to finish the jambs.

Once you start using your new pocket door, you’ll wonder why home builders ever abandoned such an ingenious, multipurpose device. With ability to free up floor space and perform its own disappearing act, this home addition is downright magical.

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

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
2×2 lumber, 8 feet long (4)
Measuring tape
Hand saw
Metal corner braces (18)
11⁄2inch screws
2inch rubber rigid casters (2)
5mm plywood board (2)
Wood glue
Handles (2)
Palm sander
Wood stain
Wood varnish
Hitch rings (2)
Wallmounted 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.