Doors & Windows - 3/13 - Bob Vila

Category: Doors & Windows

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.

– Protective goggles
– Respirator mask
– Solvent-resistant gloves
– Drop cloth
– Chemical paint stripper
– Natural-bristle paintbrush
– HYDE Quick-Release Contour Scraper
– 80-grit foam sanding block or sandpaper
– 120-grit 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.

– Cardboard or paper
– Ruler or straightedge
– Pencil
– Carpenter’s compass
– Doorstop
– 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

– 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



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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.


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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.

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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.


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