Flooring & Stairs - 3/13 - Bob Vila

Category: Flooring & Stairs

How To: Stretch Carpet

If your wall-to-wall begins to bunch, wrinkle, or otherwise come up short, try this strategy to restore its looks, comfort, and safety.

How to Stretch Carpet - Carpeted Living Room

Photo: dreamstime.com

Even the nicest wall-to-wall carpeting can start to buckle, ripple, or wrinkle over time when it loosens and lifts from the initial adhesive. Sometimes the carpet unfastens due to humidity, other times from improper installation. Whatever the cause, consider re-stretching your initial investment before you take a nasty fall due to the tripping hazard. Making carpeting taut again isn’t an especially difficult task for the daring do-it-yourselfer. In fact, this project’s most challenging aspect for the average homeowner is that it requires access to two professional tools: a power stretcher and knee kicker.

While the former looks like a mop with sharp teeth, it does the bulk of the work when either installing carpet or stretching out any wrinkles over spaces of 10 feet by 10 feet or more. All set up, the power stretcher’s head of teeth hooks through the pile and into the carpet’s backing on one side of the bumps and the base remains positioned on the other. Then, with a press of the handle, the power stretcher extends, pushing the two ends farther apart and stretching the carpet. A knee kicker possesses similar stretching talents on a smaller scale—perfect for dewrinkling in tight corners and spaces within three feet from the wall. Fortunately for the average homeowner who only looking to fix up a single room, both tools (which together retail upwards of $400) are typically available to rent by the hour or day from your local home improvement store, bringing this ambitious DIY project back to within reach.

How to Stretch Carpet - With a Power Carpet Stretcher

Photo: homedepot.com

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Power stretcher
Knee kicker (optional)
Work gloves
Flathead screwdriver
Pry bar (optional)
Carpet knife or utility knife

How to Stretch Carpet

Photo: dreamstime.com

Remove all furniture from the room. Don’t fret over fixed obstacles, such as built-in cabinets—you can work around them. Then, run a vacuum over the entire carpet; hoovering the excess dirt before you start will limit the amount of dust that shakes free while stretching the carpet.

Pull on your work gloves, and free the corner of your carpet from the baseboard tack strip by gently tugging with a pair of pliers. (Work carefully so that you don’t fray the pile fibers too much during the process.) Once you’ve undone enough of the edge for you to grab the carpet, set down your pliers and tug the carpet by hand away from the wall. Work your way along the wall for three sides of the room, leaving one side in place to anchor the carpet.

Beneath the carpet, the pad should lie short of (and not overlap) the tack strip and remain firmly secured to the subfloor. Using the pliers and a flat-head screwdriver, remove any tacks or staples that might secure the carpet to the padding—or a pry bar if they’re stubborn. Again, pull gently so you don’t tear carpet fibers. Leave tack strips in place unless rotten or moldy; otherwise, rip them out using a pry bar angled underneath the setting nails and replace them.

Brace the power stretcher’s base against a short length of 2×4 in front of the wall where the carpet remains attached. (When the power stretcher’s base pushes as its head stretches, the wood will protect your wall and trim.) Lay the machine, tooth-side down, perpendicular to the ripple or ripples. Increase the length of the stretcher’s shaft using extension poles until the head is about 6 inches from the opposite wall. Then, adjust the length of the teeth on the machine’s head via a knob or dial in order to sink them through the pile and into the carpet backing.

Press down on the machine’s lever of a handle to extend the head (teeth still gripping the carpeting) as the stretching begins. If it takes herculean effort to push the lever, you’re overstretching the carpet and could damage it. If it’s too easy, you’re not stretching the carpet enough to remove the ridges; adjust the teeth to let go of the carpeting, then lift the head and handle and start over using the appropriate force.

Continue to press the lever until you see the wrinkles disappear. Your carpeting should reach the wall, perhaps even a little further. Press its backing into the tack strip until it holds, and then release the power stretcher’s handle.

STEP 5 (optional)
Depending on how long the ripple is, you may need to reposition the power carpet stretcher a couple feet to the right or left of where you started. Repeat Steps 3 and 4.

How to Stretch Carpet - with a Knee Kicker

Photo: dreamstime.com

STEP 6 (optional)
If you’re working in a small area or a corner where the power stretcher is too large to use, employ the knee kicker (pictured at right) to finish the job. Press the teeth of this old-school tool into the carpet 6 inches from the wall, and adjust their lengths so that they hook through the pile and into the backing. Then, place your leg just above the kneecap into its padded base, and kick forward. More or harder kicks will push the head forward and effectively stretch the carpet. When you’ve worked out any lumps in your carpet, immediately fasten the section of carpeting to the tack strip.

Before you move to the adjoining walls to reattach carpet to the subfloor, use a curved carpet knife or sharp utility knife to trim any amount of carpeting material that extends past the floor. Roll the surplus carpet back toward you and cut a straight line on the backing right about where the wall meets the floor. Be sure to leave enough material to abut or tuck under the baseboard—better to have more length than cut the carpeting too short to reach the wall. A yardstick or straightedge placed atop the carpet can help keep the carpet aligned with the baseboard as you slice.

Finally, carefully press the carpeting into the tack strips on both adjoining walls.

Now you’ve got flat, smooth, safe wall-to-wall to welcome you home again. Enjoy!

How To: Remove Linoleum

If you're ready to remove your old linoleum flooring, let these instructions guide you through the process and pave the way for a new look.

How to Remove Linoleum

Photo: armstrong.com

Linoleum is a classic and resilient material, often found in high-traffic spaces like kitchens, bathrooms, and hallways. But, because the bond between linoleum and its adhesive actually strengthens over time, you’ll need a few special techniques and a good measure of patience when you’re ready to rip out an outdated style. If you’re considering how to remove linoleum flooring, follow these next steps.

A few things to take note of before you begin: While the terms are often used interchangeably—even by salespeople—linoleum and vinyl flooring are not the same thing, and they do not behave the same way during removal. Make sure to confirm that you have actual linoleum before beginning this process. Also, linoleum installed prior to 1980 likely contains asbestos in its backing paper and is hazardous to remove. Have a sample tested before you begin, and hire a qualified asbestos removal contractor to do the job if any is found.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Utility knife
– Utility scraper, floor scraper, or oscillating multitool with scraper attachment
Wallpaper steamer
Isopropyl alcohol or paint thinner (optional)

How to Remove Linoleum - Utility Knife

Photo: screwpoptool.com

Working in small sections, score the flooring into strips about 6 to 12 inches wide. If your linoleum features a tile pattern, you can use the outlines of the tiles as general guides to show where to score. Proceed carefully as you learn how to remove linoleum, and don’t cut all the way through the material—you don’t want to damage the floor underneath, particularly if it’s hardwood.

To fully remove linoleum, you’ll need to tackle both of its layers: The top is a layer of flooring material, which should come off fairly easily, and the bottom is a paper backing with adhesive, which may present more of a challenge. Remove the top layer of linoleum first; you’ll go back later to pull up any remaining paper backing or adhesive. Start by working your scraper or the edge of your oscillating multitool underneath one of your score marks. Then, push forward to bring up the top of the linoleum. Keep working in small sections until you have removed the entire first layer.

To remove any remaining backing, apply heat to the floor in small sections using a wallpaper steamer (a heat gun or even a hair dryer set on high work in a pinch). Soften a small section with your chosen heat source, and scrape up the adhesive, working at a 45-degree angle and being careful not to gouge the subfloor as you work. Move section by section until all the backing and adhesive has been removed.

If you come across particularly stubborn spots, apply some isopropyl alcohol or paint thinner to the area and allow the solvent to sit according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Proceed to scrape away the remainder of the adhesive, again working a 45-degree angle.

You can, in some instances, skip this process altogether and lay a new material directly on top of your current linoleum. But be aware that this shortcut will raise the floor by at least one-eighth of an inch. If you do move forward with removal, remember that the process is a marathon, not a sprint. Again, with patience and the right tools, you can rid your rooms of linoleum and lay the groundwork for a brand-new floor—and a whole new look.

Hardwood or Laminate: Which Is the Right Flooring for You?

Discover whether hardwood or wood-look flooring is the better pick for your place with this side-by-side comparison of laminate and hardwood.

Laminate vs Hardwood - Flooring Samples

Photo: fotosearch.com

Whatever your home’s style may be, flooring is quite literally its foundation—and often the first design element visitors notice when they step inside. Luckily for homeowners getting ready to install new flooring, today’s choices are vast. Two flooring options are particularly popular these days, appreciated for both their warm appearance and value-boosting powers: laminate wood and the real McCoy, hardwood. Though they may look similar, each one has its pros and cons. Learn more about these two types of flooring to determine which is best for your home and lifestyle before you make this significant, long-term investment.

Laminate vs Hardwood - Laminate Flooring from Home Depot

Photo: homedepot.com


Laminate floors are engineered to approximate the look of natural materials—wood as well as stone. The essential technology dates back to the 1920s, with the development of compressed wood and lamination industries, although early household laminates were used primarily as countertops. Laminate flooring was introduced in the 1970s and took off thanks to its durability and affordable price point. Versatile and long-lasting, laminate remains a popular flooring option that continues to improve in quality, appearance, and variety.

Pros and Cons of Laminate
Wood-look laminate flooring boasts UV protection and is resistant to scratches and dents, making it perfect for placement in high-traffic and sun-drenched areas. Today’s laminates can hold their own against their pricier hardwood counterparts. In fact, their appearance has come so far in recent years that it can be hard to distinguish some laminates from their natural inspiration.

That said, cost is easily the biggest selling point of laminate flooring—it typically runs half the price of hardwood. Before you spring for the best-priced laminate you can find, however, bear in mind that lower-quality—usually cheaper—laminate often looks less realistic. So, as you’re weighing your options, remember the old adage: You get what you pay for.

Laminates do offer a bonus for handy homeowners: While some hardwood floors are being tailored for the DIY market, laminate, which is considered simpler to install, has long been viewed as the go-to DIY option. Once the underlayment and/or vapor barrier has been installed, laminate can be popped into place with (depending on the product) tongue-and-groove or snap-and-lock edges, making it a fairly straightforward weekend project.

Laminate Upkeep and Maintenance
Laminate is generally simple to maintain, but it’s important to know what not to do. Avoid all detergent-based cleaners, which leave a dull film behind when they dry. Likewise, waxes and abrasives can build up residue and compromise the smoothness of the surface. Instead, in tandem with regular sweeping and vacuuming, use a store-bought laminate cleaner. Position mats at exterior entrances to catch incoming dirt, and always clean up spills quickly to help extend your laminate’s lifespan.


Laminate vs Hardwood - Hardwood Flooring

Photo: fotosearch.com


Hardwood floors have been bringing natural beauty to interior spaces for centuries. Available in nearly endless textures, colors, and finishes, this flooring option offers an organic ambience absent in many of today’s manufactured materials. Purists swear by its warmth and refinement, and its mere presence can have a positive effect on a home’s resale price.

Pros and Cons of Hardwood
Beloved by interior designers, historians, nature lovers, and anyone who appreciates fine craftsmanship, hardwood flooring imbues a space with an enduring quality, thanks to its long history in home building.

Homeowners who swear by hardwood’s character refuse to settle for anything less, particularly when they’re remodeling an older home. But the same organic attributes that lend warmth and character to hardwood can be a turnoff for some—specifically, the way that long-term wear and tear ages wood. Unlike laminate, hardwood reacts to intense sunlight and is sensitive to high-heeled shoes, pets, kids, and furniture, all of which can dent and scrape the wood. Over time, this translates into a rustic appearance that some admire while others view as shabby or tired.

Hardwood also holds appeal for remodelers who are interested in environmental sustainability. In recent decades, the use of reclaimed wood has spiked in popularity, allowing rescued construction materials to be transformed into new structures with a built-in sense of history. As well, the ecologically conscious have the option of purchasing new lumber that has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), ensuring that the wood has been harvested in an environmentally responsible manner.

Hardwood Upkeep and Maintenance
Keeping hardwood floors from aging faster than the rest of the house requires a little TLC, including regular sweeping and using both an all-purpose, no-wax wood cleaner and a restoring agent appropriate for the floor’s finish. A wax finish can be revived with additional wax, for example, but it’s inadvisable to use wax on varnished or polyurethane-finished wood. Before using any restoring agent, make sure it’s made specifically for your flooring type.

Considering hardwood’s sensitivity to sunlight, scratches, dirt, and debris, it’s wise to take extra precautions beyond a regular wipe down. Start by setting out mats and runners near exterior doors to keep dirt and moisture from being tracked onto the floor. Apply protective pads to furniture legs, keep pets’ claws trimmed, and avoid wearing high heels to prevent denting and scratching.

How To: Clean a Wool Rug

Wool rugs are a great investment that can last a lifetime—if you maintain them correctly. Learn how to give your cozy floor coverings a surface cleaning to keep them beautiful and durable for years to come.

How to Clean a Wool Rug - vacuum

Photo: fotosearch.com

Wool rugs in a home appeal to several senses: Their vibrant colors and patterns improve the look of any space, while their soft fibers offer comfort and warmth beneath bare feet. The most appealing characteristic of wool rugs may be, however, their durability—providing they are properly cleaned and cared for. While it’s probably wisest to leave the deep cleaning to the pros, you can remove a lot of harmful grit and grime with a gentle surface scrub about once a year. Ensure that your favorite floor coverings last a lifetime with these tips for washing and maintaining a wool rug.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Rug beater
Woolite or professional rug cleaner
Two buckets
Cold water
Two large sponges
Clean bath towels

How to Clean a Wool Rug

Photo: westelm.com

Wool fibers have overlaps and grooves that can trap a lot of dirt—pounds of it, in fact. The best first step for getting your rugs truly clean is as old-school as they come: On a nice day, venture outside, hang your rug over a clothesline or deck railing, and whack away with a broom or commercial rug beater (around $20 to $25) until all the dirt comes loose. You might be amazed at how much grime flies free, plus it’s great for relieving tension!

Next, take the rug back inside and vacuum the front and back, doing at least three passes on each side to catch any remaining particles that weren’t removed by the beating. Regular vacuuming is crucial for removing dirty buildup from your wool rugs, so don’t forget to perform this classic household chore in between deep cleanings as well.

Pour a capful of Woolite or the recommended amount of a professional rug cleaner into a bucket of cold water. Fill another bucket with plain cold water. Before starting work, test a small patch of the rug for colorfastness by applying a little of the cleaning solution to it. If the colors don’t bleed, continue.

Starting at one corner, gently sponge your cleaning solution onto a 2’x2′ section of the rug, working in the direction of the nap. You want to lightly dampen the rug—do not soak it or allow it to get too wet; the same wool fibers that enable rugs to hold a lot of dirt also let them hold a lot of water. A wet wool rug will be extremely heavy to handle and will take too long to dry, which can cause it to discolor.

After applying your cleaner with a sponge, place a second, clean sponge into the bucket of plain water, and dab the section to rinse, again taking care not to soak the rug. Follow up by blotting the area with dry, absorbent bath towels—you will probably need a lot of them. When you’re finished with the first area, continue working across the rug in small sections until you’ve cleaned the entire rug.

Allow your rug to dry thoroughly before walking on it again. If you’re drying it indoors, open the windows and run a fan in the room to speed up the process. Alternatively, take the rug outside and hang it back on the clothesline to dry in the sun.


As with anything, prevention beats cure. Take care to keep rugs from getting dirty and stained in the first place by considering a no shoes/no food policy around your treasured floor coverings. With regular maintenance, your fine wool rugs will look great for years—they may even become family heirlooms that will be passed down through generations of family members—if they observe your good cleaning habits, of course.


If you have a messy accident and need to spot clean a stain, keep these general dos and don’ts in mind:

• DON’T try to rub the spot or spill. That will only grind the stain into the rug and cause the fibers to mat together or fuzz.

• DO immediately scoop up the solids, and then blot the liquid gently with paper towels, changing them as they become saturated.

• DON’T use alkaline detergents like laundry soap, because the buffers that are added to these solutions to keep their pH stable may cause colors in wool rugs to bleed.

• DO test a small, less-conspicuous area first, to ensure colorfastness.

How To: Clean Linoleum Floors

Ensure that your durable linoleum flooring looks and wears well for decades to come with this complete guide to proper cleaning and maintenance.

How to Clean Linoleum Floors - Kitchen Flooring

Photo: armstrong.com

Linoleum has been a practical flooring option for more than 100 years. While it fell out of fashion in the late 1940s, when cheaper vinyl flooring entered the market, linoleum has made a resurgence in recent years—no surprise, considering its long list of desirable qualities. This environmentally friendly, nonallergenic, and  highly durable material is gentler to walk and stand on than hard ceramic tile. Plus, linoleum is also naturally antibacterial, making it resistant to mold and mildew. Properly cleaned and cared for, linoleum can easily last 30 to 40 years in a high-traffic area of the home. Whether you have linoleum floors or plan to install it, follow these steps for maintenance, and you’ll be able to enjoy your flooring for years—or even decades—to come.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Dust mop
Softbristle scrub brush
Nylon brush
Baking soda
Baby oil
Linoleum floor polish

How to Clean Linoleum Floors - Linoleum tile project from A Beautiful Mess

Photo: Sarah Rhodes and Josh Rhodes via abeautifulmess.com


Maintaining linoleum is similar to maintaining a wood floor. Although it is durable, linoleum is, like wood, susceptible to damage from excessive moisture and alkalinity. So, use only small amounts of lukewarm or cool water, and do not use ammonia-based cleaners.

It’s a good idea to dust mop daily to keep linoleum floors free of dirt, and to give them a good general cleaning once a week. To do so, first sweep the floor or vacuum thoroughly using your vacuum’s hard floor attachment. Once you’ve removed loose dirt and debris, fill a bucket with lukewarm or cool water, and use a product that’s been designed for linoleum floors, being sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Do not soak the floor, but rather work over it in four- to six-foot sections with a lightly damp mop. Dump out the water, and refill the bucket with clean, cool water, then rinse the floor completely with a lightly damp mop. (Detergents left on the floor will leave a sticky residue and become a magnet for more dirt.) Dry the floor completely with old towels. For a deeper cleaning, follow the same technique but use a soft-bristle scrub brush.



To avoid stains, spot clean spills as soon as possible, rinsing the area with cool water and drying it completely with a towel before allowing any foot traffic. If you do end up with stains, because the pigments in linoleum go all the way through the material, you’ll want to buff them out with a nylon brush. Wash and polish the area afterward to bring back its shine. (Obstinate stains may require repair.) Remove black scuff marks by scrubbing them away with a paste of baking soda and water, then rinsing and drying thoroughly. For tougher scuffs, rub a small amount of baby oil or WD-40 onto the stain to lift it, then thoroughly rinse and dry.



Linoleum manufacturers recommend polishing floors to protect them and keep them looking great. When the polish on your floor has dulled due to traffic and wear, first vacuum and wash the floor as you would for a general cleaning, but take special care to rinse it thoroughly. After the floor has thoroughly dried, add one or two coats of linoleum floor polish according to the manufacturer’s instructions. It’s extremely important to allow the polish to dry completely between coats. Take care not to move the applicator over any one area of the floor more than once or twice as this can cause streaking, which will require stripping before repolishing.


Regular Care

Conscientious care is a small price to pay for great-looking floors. With proper maintenance, your linoleum will serve you well for many, many years.

• Be sure to place doormats outside and rugs inside entrances. Dirt and grit are a linoleum floor’s biggest enemy. They will scratch and dull the finish, allowing grime to collect.
• Always use colorfast felt pads on the bottom of furniture legs to prevent stains and scratches.
• Put protection under plants to avoid water damage, and move plants periodically. Linoleum requires exposure to light in order to keep it from yellowing.

• Never put a latex- or rubber-backed rug on a linoleum floor; it will cause a stain. Use only colorfast rugs with natural backings.
• Don’t let water stand on the floor—it will damage your linoleum.
• Do not strip floors more than once a year.
• Never use ammonia-based cleaners, as they will strip the polish from the floor and damage it.

All You Need to Know About Paper Bag Flooring

If you're willing to roll up your sleeves for an epic week-long DIY, you could bag the floor of your dreams (quite literally) for cheap. Here, find out if it's worth the work—and how to get started.

Paper Bag Flooring - How to Refinish Your Floors with Brown Paper Bags

Photo: fotosearch.com

Is your old flooring carpeted in style— or in dirt, grime, and other relics of time? Modernize it by ripping out any fraying, outdated carpet pile and replacing it with humble craft paper! This fascinating flooring project has swept the blogging world off of its feet with its rich color and marble-textured results—and its cheap, cheap price tag of only $100 materials to outfit a single space and then some. But be warned: Without proper planning and execution, your paper bag floor experiment can stray far from expectation. There’s no cutting corners on this week-long, hands-on project. From planning and prep to finishing touches, here’s the full scoop on how to achieve lustrous, long-lasting paper bag flooring.

Paper Bag Flooring - Finished Floor by Lovely Crafty Home

Photo: lovelycraftyhome.com


The key to success with a paper bag floor is to start with the right subfloor. Brown craft paper adheres best to—and lasts longest on—a plywood subfloor. (Homeowners with cement or vinyl floors may want to reconsider.) While good for dressing up most areas of the home, you may be better off skipping this sort of finish in areas with excess moisture like the bathroom, at least for your first flooring project.

Before making waves in your repurposing project, practice your paper application technique. A test run can save the time (and the headache) of later discovering faulty paper adhesion, uneven staining, or foggy polyurethane. Using scrap wood, your paper bag supply, stain, and polyurethane, run through the flooring technique described in the next section.

Once you feel mentally prepared, get your floor physically prepared by removing any existing carpet, pad, and staples to get to the surface beneath. Sand out the entire subfloor to remove aberrations, hammer in any protruding nails, and fill and sand holes. (It’s a good idea to vacuum up the leftover dust from this prep work before you bring in your adhesive.)



After the floor is prepped, tear and crumple 6- to 8-inch paper wads from a roll of brown craft paper (the material used in brown paper lunch bags). Avoid overly small pieces that can create a chintzy, pebbled appearance rather than an elegant, faux-marble look.

Pull on a pair of gloves and prepare a batch of glue mixture: three parts water to one part white school glue in a bucket. Dip a paintbrush into the glue mixture, and brush it over a small area of the floor at a time. Then grab five paper wads to work with at a time, dipping each into the glue mixture and squeezing out the excess. As when you paint a floor, start in the corner opposite and across the way from your exit to avoid papering yourself into a corner.

Flatten and adhere each paper wad to the floor, overlapping the pieces a few inches for an organic look. Use your paintbrush to smooth wrinkles. Repeat this process until the floor is covered in paper, and dry the floor overnight. The next day, you can repair any raised edges using a paintbrush and the glue mixture.



A glued-down paper bag floor looks much like you’d imagine—like lunch bags torn and scattered across the floor. The real faux-marbling magic happens when you bring in a rich color and glossy finish. Before you unleash the fumes from your cans of stain and polyurethane, best to open any windows in the space for a little extra ventilation.

First, fill a paint tray with the oil-based stain of your choice to get to work. Tackle the edge nearest the trim and baseboard first, “cutting in” using a chip brush. To stain the rest of the floor without streaks, set aside the brush for a lambswool floor applicator pad. Best are those attached to a mop block at the end of a universal extension pole. Dip the pad into the stain, blot out the excess, and apply the stain in large, sweeping strokes. Then let the stain dry completely at a moderate temperature for at least 48 hours.

After drying the stain, you’ll seal with several coats of a water-based, floor-grade polyurethane. Pour the product into a paint tray and affix foam floor applicator pad (better for water-based finishes) to your extension pole. Dip the foam pad into the polyurethane, blot out the excess, and apply it with similar motions. After drying, apply as many additional coats as recommended by your brand of polyurethane. To give your paper bag floor a show-room ready look, sand the surface after the first and before the last coat.


Paper Bag Flooring - Finished Floor by Domestic Imperfection

Photo: domesticimperfection.com


Hardy paper bag flooring holds up fairly well to normal amounts of foot traffic. Adventurous DIYers like Rachael of The Lovely Crafty Home and Ashley of Domestic Imperfection both share impressive success, proving that this flooring feat lasts anywhere from a few to several years if proper application and maintenance are followed. Dirt can fade and degrade it, making regular cleaning vital.

• Vacuum or mop your floor at least once a week. homemade cleaner like a 50-50 solution of vinegar and water will banish grime.

• Safeguard the floor from dings by affixing felt feet onto the legs of all your furniture. Alternatively, experiment with laying down rugs or mats strategically to protect your  floors from scratches.

By protecting your new floor from everyday wear and tear, you can extend its lifespan and enjoy it for years to come!

How To: Make Your Own Carpet Cleaner

Whether caused by foot traffic or just long-term wear and tear, dingy carpet can really bring down the appearance of an entire room. Get your carpeted spaces looking as good as new by using this homemade solution to get rid of stains and lingering dirt.

Homemade Carpet Cleaner

Photo: fotosearch.com

The more you entertain, the more likely it is that you’ll have to deal with stains. A spilled glass of wine, a smudge of dirt—it’s frustrating to see stubborn stains on an otherwise clean carpet. But stains aren’t the only problem. You also need to worry about the effects of long-term wear and tear. Over time, it’s inevitable that carpeting will start to lose its brand-new sheen. Before you spend big bucks on a heavy-duty over-the-counter rug shampoo, try whipping up your own homemade carpet cleaner and giving dingy areas (and errant stains) a good scrub. We’ve got the perfect recipe—all you need to do is set aside a weekend to concentrate on getting your carpeting truly clean.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
2 tablespoons liquid detergent
1/4 cup allpurpose cleaner (for example, Formula 409)
1 scoop OxiClean
1 teaspoon Downy fabric softener (optional)
1 gallon hot water
Protective gloves
Large bowl
Onegallon pot
Carpet cleaning machine

Homemade Carpet Cleaner - Clean Carpet Pile

Photo: fotosearch.com


Pour 1 gallon of water into the pot and set it to boil on the stove. While you’re waiting for the water to boil, put on your rubber gloves and combine the liquid detergent, all-purpose cleaner, OxiClean, and fabric softener (if you opt to use it) in a large bowl.


Wait a few minutes until the cleaning products have dissolved. (The OxiClean is typically in powder form, which means you may need to stir the mixture a bit.) Next, slowly add in the gallon of hot water. Be sure to pour it gently so you don’t create too many bubbles, which can lead to air pockets inside the homemade carpet cleaner.


Next, pull out your carpet cleaning machine. (There are many models on the market, but if you’re not interested in investing in one, check with your local home improvement store to see if they rent out machines.) Transfer the homemade carpet cleaner to your appliance, following the instructions for the appliance. Keep in mind that the cleaning solution you’ve made already contains a fair amount of water, so you can use it at full strength in the machine.


Before you start putting your homemade carpet cleaner to work just anywhere, test it out on a less visible portion of the flooring to make sure two things: that the machine cleans properly, and that neither the solution nor the machine damages the carpeting. Remember, carpets are made of different materials; you don’t want to worsen the stain or harm your carpet. Wait at least 24 hours for the test spot to dry to see the results.


After you’ve checked the efficacy of the machine, run it over your entire carpet with the machine, paying special attention to stains and areas that look particularly dingy. Be careful not to use too much homemade carpet cleaner, because soapy residue can harm the carpet and too much moisture can lead to mildew. Just as you did with the test spot, wait at least 24 hours for your carpeting to dry, and then you’re done!

How To: Stain Hardwood Floors

You can rejuvenate your tired, worn hardwood floors with a beautiful new finish, provided you have the right tools, sufficient elbow grease, time, patience, and a healthy attention to detail.

How to Stain Hardwood Floors

Photo: fotosearch.com

Hardwood flooring offers rich, warm, timeless beauty, and can even favorably affect the resale value of your home. Without question, wood costs more than other types of flooring, but many homeowners view the material as a wise long-term investment. Why? Because when a hardwood floor starts to show wear and tear, you can refinish it and in so doing, revitalize its look and performance. Make no mistake, however: Sanding, staining, and sealing a wood floor takes time and effort. It’s a demanding project, even for a veteran home handyman. That said, you can save a considerable sum by doing it yourself, sometimes more than half of what it would cost to hire a pro. If you’re ready and willing to take on the task, keep reading for the details on how to stain your own hardwood floors.

The weekend-long process follows these steps:

  1. Empty the room.
  2. Use a random orbital sander to sand the floor three times, using a lighter-grit abrasive with each pass.
  3. Remove dust with a heavy-duty shop vac followed by rags dampened with mineral spirits.
  4. Apply stain to the hardwood floor in one 2-foot section at a time using a lambswool applicator.
  5. Top the finish with a protective and glossy coat of polyurethane sealer.


MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Shop vac
Tack cloth
Random orbital sander
Protective eyewear and dust mask or respirator
60, 80, and 100 or 120grit sandpaper
Palm sander (or detail sander)
Lambswool stain applicator
Twoinch paintbrushes
Polyurethane sealer
Highdensity foam roller
320grit sandpaper with sanding pole (optional)
Protective gear

Before doing anything else, get the room ready. Relocate all furniture, and if the room has baseboards use a pry bar to remove the quarter-round shoe moldings that mark the transition between the baseboard and the floor. (Note: Label each piece of shoe molding with its location to ensure easy reinstallation later.) Because floor sanding creates a great deal of dust, don’t forget to cover the doorways with plastic sheeting or a set of old sheets, preventing dust from traveling beyond the work area. You may also want to cover any light fixtures or HVAC vents. In short, if there’s something you don’t want filmed by a layer of dust, now is the time to protect it.

Sanding may be the single most critical step in the process; it largely determines the quality of the end result. If you don’t sand the floor carefully and deliberately, that’s going to show once the stain dries. Adding even more stress to the task: For any room larger than a closet, you’ll need a similarly large sanding tool to get the job done—namely, a waist-height random orbital sander. The good news is that random orbital sanders are readily available for rent at your local home center. They’re also generally user-friendly and pose little risk of damaging the floor, so long as you read and adhere to the operating instructions provided with the unit.

Be prepared to sand the floor three times, using a lighter-grit abrasive with each pass. First, set up the sander with 60-grit sandpaper and, after donning protective eyewear and a dust mask, start moving the sander over the floor. The preferred technique isn’t so different from the one you’d use when mowing the lawn: Sand the floor in rows, overlapping your runs by approximately half the width of the sander. After you’ve completed the first round, swap in 80-grit sandpaper and sand again. Remember to keep the sander level, and never stop the sanding disks when they are in contact with the floor. Finally, switch to 100- or 120-grit abrasive and sand one more time. In any area where the random orbital sander is too large to reach, use a palm sander or a detail sander to achieve the desired level of smoothness.

How to Stain Hardwood Floors - Process Shot

Photo: fotosearch.com

At this point, your job is simple but painstaking: Thoroughly vacuum up the enormous quantity of dust created during the sanding stage of the project. Don’t use your regular household vacuum, though—it’s probably not up to the task. Opt instead for a heavy-duty shop vac, fitted with a brush attachment and, ideally, a new filter. Even after vacuuming every inch of the space, there’s still more to do. Using either tack cloths or rags dampened with mineral spirits, wipe down the floor until it’s clean and clear of dust and debris. Doing so may take more sweat than you anticipated, but for a quality stain finish, it’s an important and sadly unavoidable effort.

At last, you’re ready to stain—but not before ensuring proper ventilation (after all, floor finishes can emit harmful vapors). Once you’ve ensured a safe work environment, stop a moment and strategize. You need to make sure that when the floor has been freshly stained, you’ll be able to leave it without stepping all over your work. It’s usually wise to begin in one of the corners opposite the door and then work your way toward the exit. Once you’ve mapped out your path, get started. Using a lambswool applicator, apply the stain to the floor, aiming for even distribution over one two-foot section at a time. Wipe away the excess with a rag before moving on to the next section. Try not to let the “wet edge” dry. Rather, start the applicator a couple of feet away from the edge, then maneuver it to meet the previously coated section. In the corners, or where the floor meets the baseboards, a two-inch paintbrush may prove handier than the applicator. Finished? Let the stain dry, then assess whether you’d like the finish to be darker. If so, apply a second coat in the same way that you did the first.

When the stain is completely dry, it’s time for the last step—protecting the finish with polyurethane sealer. Using a high-density foam roller (and, if necessary, a two-inch brush for some parts of the room), apply a thin, even coat across the entire floor surface. Wipe up any excess, then let the coat dry to a glassy finish. If the type of sealer you’re using does not require sanding between coats, you can proceed directly to the second application of polyurethane. Otherwise, sand the floor with fine, 320-grit abrasive to ensure that the second coat properly adheres. Don’t be tempted to use the brawny random orbital sander to sand at this late stage; here, finesse is the name of the game. Instead, sand either by hand or with a sanding pole. After cleaning up the inevitable dust with your shop vac and tack cloths, apply the second, final coat of sealer, then let it dry. You typically must wait 24 hours before being able to walk safely on the floor again, and as long as 72 hours before replacing furniture in the room. The drying period is a little annoying, but for a beautiful new finish and a dramatically transformed room, the wait’s worth it.

Quick Tip: The Best Way to Remove Gum from Carpet

If you’re stuck on how to remove gunky gum from the carpet, chew on this fast, easy, and non-damaging fix!

How to  Remove Gum from Carpet - Stick of Gum

Photo: fotosearch.com

Even if you’re not a gum chewer, you can still fall victim to the sticky substance if a wad on the concrete sneaks its way onto the soles of your shoes. The gunky guest then follows you home, where it takes up permanent residence in your carpet. While you may be tempted to forcibly remove the clingy carpet dweller by pulling it by hand, this approach can cause collateral damage to the delicate fibers of your carpet. To prevent a sticky situation for getting even stickier, give lodged-in gum wads the cold shoulder—with ice cubes!

How to  Remove Gum from Carpet - With Ice Cubes

Photo: fotosearch.com

This is why it pays to always stock ice: Gather ice cubes from the freezer, then press a single cube directly into the offending gum wad. Now, the ice won’t in and of itself remove gum from the carpet. But when left on the gum for at least one minute, it will freeze and harden it—making it a cinch for you to lift it in one piece. Gently pick at and pull the stiffened gum from the carpet using your fingers, a spatula, or a butter knife. Start lifting along the edges and move toward the center of the wad, taking care not to remove the carpet fibers along with the gum! Master this technique, and you can even apply it to upholstery messes and gummed up clothes in future.

At this point, most of the gum should be out of sight and out of mind, but if stubborn residue remains, root it out with a few drops of a rub featuring Methyl salicylate (like the pain-relieving cream, Bengay). Lastly, scrub away any discoloration or carpet stains left in the gum’s wake with a mild carpet cleaning detergent. Rinse the area with warm water to send your gummy ordeal packing!

How to Remove Gum from Carpet - And Clothes

Photo: instructables.com via jessyratfink

Walk This Way: Expert Advice on 3 Top Options in Flooring

Flooring goes a long way toward defining the look of a room. But compared to a simple matter of taste like choosing a paint color, deciding on a floor material involves a host of sometimes puzzling practical considerations. Here, get the low-down on three top options from an expert with Sears Home Services.

Laminate vs. Vinyl vs. Tile Flooring

Photo: fotosearch.com

Floors are the unsung heroes of our homes, at once establishing the look of a space even while taking a beating under a daily barrage of footsteps. In return, to look its best and last a long time, your flooring demands attention—not necessarily an intensive regimen of care, but regular cleaning at the very least and perhaps the occasional repair. Without proper maintenance, according to Joe Maykut, a manager with Sears Home Services, “It’s only a matter of time before the floor fails you.” But, he continues, “that may be a blessing in disguise.” If you’re dissatisfied with either the look or performance of any floor in your home, embrace replacement flooring as an opportunity for transformation. After all, “a new floor makes a dramatic impact,” Makyut says. “It not only changes the look of a room, but also how it feels.” Of course, the end result depends on the type of flooring you choose. While many people love the look of traditional hardwood or stone, savvy homeowners keep returning to a hardworking trio of beautiful, budget-friendly materials: laminate, vinyl, and tile. Which is right for you? Like so many other questions in home improvement, the answer depends. For instance, in the kitchen or bathroom, “there are a host of special considerations,” Maykut says. Meanwhile, in the den or the bedroom, “comfort alone may be your top priority,” Maykut concludes. For help making your selection, read on to learn the pros and cons of each popular option.



Laminate vs. Vinyl vs. Tile Flooring - Laminate Option

Photo: fotosearch.com

Laminate flooring has come a long way since its introduction 20 years ago. The planks are still composed of multiple thin layers—and the material remains modestly priced—but otherwise, “it’s a whole new ball game,” says Joe Maykut of Sears Home Services. Whereas early laminate floors were designed to emulate hardwood, recent years have witnessed an explosion of new colors, patterns, and textures. To be sure, “you can still find plenty of laminates that look like real wood,” Maykut says. “And the manufacturing process has improved to the point where, unless you’re inspecting the floor up close, you can’t tell the difference.” But in addition to convincing wood-look designs, it’s now possible to get laminate floors that mimic marble, slate, travertine and many other luxurious, high-priced materials. That said, it’s important to note that looks aren’t the only point of appeal for laminate flooring. As eye-catching as it may be, laminate also tends to be exceptionally comfortable underfoot, not least because it typically installs over a soft, cushiony layer of foam. The downside: “Water and laminate floors don’t mix,” Maykut says. Therefore, it’s not recommended for any space with exposure to moisture and humidity. “That rules out bathrooms and kitchens, and any basement with a history of moisture issues.” For living and dining areas, however, laminate makes an ideal choice and, being resistant to scuffs and scratches, “it works particularly well in homes with children, pets, or both.”



Laminate vs. Vinyl vs. Tile Flooring - Vinyl Option

Photo: fotosearch.com

A low price: That used to be the one and only selling point for vinyl flooring. But in the decades since it first became popular, vinyl has undergone “a tremendous renaissance,” according to Maykut of Sears Home Services. Separate and apart from affordability, there are now several reasons to choose it. For one thing, cumbersome sheet vinyl flooring products are no longer the norm. These days, planks and tiles are more popular, in part because “these new shapes and sizes lend themselves more easily to repair,” Maykut explains. “If a sharp object gouges a section of the floor, you can simply replace the affected planks or tiles, without having to start over.” In addition, vinyl continues to earn praise for being easy to clean and low maintenance, and for standing up well to many of the everyday stresses that compromise other materials. Adding to its durability is the fact that, impervious to water, vinyl can be used in any room. Of course, if you have plans to move, you may want to think twice before putting a vinyl floor into a highly visible space like the living room. “Buyers often expect to see vinyl in certain rooms and not others,” Maykut says. In the bathroom, kitchen, and assorted utility spaces, however, it can be a cost-effective, hassle-free floor. Best of all, it’s now available in a surprisingly sophisticated range of designs, the best of which benefit from advanced embossing techniques that make modern vinyl look much more expensive that it really is.



Photo: fotosearch.com

“Tile has a timeless appeal, like hardwood,” says Makyut of Sears. That being the case—since a broad swath of homebuyers tend to look favorably upon it—tile very often “boosts home resale value,” Maykut adds. Unlike top-dollar hardwood, however, “tile often comes with a lower price tag.” Fortunately, paying less doesn’t force you to make design sacrifices. For proof, look no further than Sears Home Services, which offers and routinely installs a stunning variety of tile in all different colors and styles. Still, exciting though the options may be, Maykut urges caution: “You may be tempted to pick a bold and unique look that reflects your personality,” he says, but the wise course is to “buy not for you, but for the person you’ll eventually sell your house to.” To resist the current trends that may not stand the test of time, concentrate on neutral colors and classic patterns. Also, remember that for tile to retain its value, the installation requires regular maintenance. Tile itself may be “more or less effortless” to clean, but if you’ve ever lived with the material before, you know that grout can be a challenge to keep pristine. Further hallmarks of tile: “It’s rigid and most of the time, cold to the touch,” Maykut points out. That’s largely why, in many parts of the country, tile seldom appears beyond the bounds of the kitchen or bath. It usually works best, Maykut concludes, in those parts of the home where “its longevity, durability, and water-resistance are tested over and over, every single day.”


Still uncertain as to which type of floor most closely matches your style preferences and lifestyle needs? Seek out a local contractor to discuss the various possibilities, or go online to book a free in-home consultation with Sears Home Services. A nationwide company with a decades-long history, Sears matches you with expert coordinators to guide you through the replacement flooring process from beginning to end—from selecting a material all the way to getting it installed on time, on budget, and to your satisfaction. In fact, Sears backs up its work with a Satisfaction Guarantee, demonstrating that just as you are, Sears stands committed to the success of your project.


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