How To’s & Quick Tips - 2/66 - Bob Vila

Category: How To’s & Quick Tips


How To: Glaze Kitchen Cabinets

If your kitchen cabinets are in need of a refresh, pick glaze over paint or stain alone this time to try out a trendy vintage-inspired finish.

How to Glaze Kitchen Cabinets

Photo: Zillow Digs Home in Purchase, NY

An outdated kitchen puts a damper on daily meal prep and entertaining, but a full-on kitchen renovation is rarely in the cards. Instead of spending thousands of dollars, though, homeowners can transform the space with a simple DIY project: glazing their cabinets. Glaze is a semi-clear coating that’s often applied on top of kitchen cabinets—preferably ones that have been freshly painted or stained—to enhance architectural details like corners and molding with subtle shading. With a wide array of colors to choose from, most homeowners opt for either dark glaze on stained cabinets or white glaze on lighter-colored cabinets for a subdued rustic vibes. Dark glaze on light cabinets skews even more dramatic and antique by using extra shadows to accentuate surface details. Perhaps the best part of working with glaze is that there’s no regret. Start with subtle and work until you’re satisfied, or wipe away with paint thinner and begin again. Why delay? Learn how to glaze kitchen cabinets with these steps and achieve a trendy vintage vibe this weekend.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Screwdriver
– Drop cloth
– Painter’s tape
– Degreasing cleanser
– Sponge
– Bucket
– Deglosser
– 220-grit sandpaper
– Paint stirrer
– Cardboard
– Oil-based paint or stain (optional)
– Water-based glaze or oil-based glaze
– Latex paint
– Rags
– Natural bristle paintbrush
– Foam brush
– Paint thinner (optional)

STEP 1
Remove all cabinet doors and drawers by unscrewing the hinges, then empty the contents completely. Take off all hardware, knobs, and handles to protect them from paint splatter. Cover the surrounding areas—the floor, backsplash, and countertops—with drop cloths and painter’s tape.

STEP 2
Clean your kitchen cabinets with a degreasing cleanser to remove any residue left behind from meal prep. Then apply a deglosser (which is basically liquid sandpaper) with a rag to ensure all dirt is removed. If you’re planning to paint or stain the cabinets, sand them with a 220-grit sandpaper to smooth the surface for an even application of paint.

How to Glaze Kitchen Cabinets

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Gainesville, VA

STEP 3 (optional)
Some homeowners may want to paint or stain their kitchen cabinets before glazing, in order to achieve their desired base coat for the glaze. If that’s the case, refer to our guides on painting kitchen cabinets and staining kitchen cabinets before picking up the glaze. Always opt for an oil-based paint (since it’s more durable than latex varieties), and keep your desired look in mind when choosing the color. For example, if you like the look of a light-colored glazed finish, opt for an oil-based paint in a cream-white color. Once painted or stained, allow the cabinet doors, drawers, and cabinets to dry for at least 24 hours before moving on.

STEP 4
Glaze comes in two different formulas: oil-based and water-based. In general, oil-based glazes work better for stained cabinets and water-based glazes are ideal for painted cabinets. Keep in mind that oil-based glazes have a slower dry time, making them easier to work with.

For the easiest application, choose pre-mixed glaze (which you can find at home stores in a variety of shades) and prepare it by simply mixing once more with a paint stirrer upon opening. Of course, you can achieve a more custom shade of glaze, you can make your own by combining a store-bought glazing product with latex paint. The exact measurements will depend on the glaze manufacturer’s instructions and your personal shade preference, but four parts glaze to one part paint is a safe starting point. Blend the two components together with a paint stirrer, test on a wood scrap or cardboard, and then adjust it to your liking.

 

How to Glaze Kitchen Cabinets

Photo: Zillow Digs Home in Huntsville, AL

STEP 5
Dip a rag, natural bristle paintbrush, or foam brush into the glaze. Then, using a circular or straight motion, liberally apply a layer of glaze over one of the cabinets. Once applied, the glaze should look messy and darker than your desired outcome.

STEP 6
Using circular wiping motion, quickly wipe the cabinet with a clean rag to eliminate the excess glaze. When wiping, you’ll notice that the glaze sticks to the cabinet’s corners and surface details, making them appear darker and contributing to the vintage look. Keep thinning the glaze with the rag until you’re satisfied with the finished look.

If you’re unhappy with the outcome, use paint thinner to wipe off all the glaze with a clean rag, and then start the process anew. Remember that the glaze dries very quickly, and it appears darker when it stays on the cabinet for longer. Glazing in small sections—one cabinet at a time—gives you more leeway to correct any mistakes before the glaze dries.

STEP 7
Once you’re satisfied with the look of the cabinet, continue glazing the rest of the cupboards and drawers. Make sure to apply glaze in all crevices and corners, as well as the tops and sides of all doors and drawers. Apply a layer of glaze on the cupboard framing as well.

To achieve a more dramatic finish, apply an extra layer of glaze on any grooves or carved inset moldings along the drawers, doors, or cupboard framing. Wipe off the glaze as usual, but keep it a little darker than the rest of the surface. The accentuated grooves provide a unique contrast to the lighter cabinet faces.

 

How to Glaze Kitchen Cabinets

Photo: Zillow Digs Home in Ellicott City, MD

STEP 8
Allow the glaze to dry according to manufacturer’s instructions. Most manufacturers suggest a minimum dry time of 24 hours, but climate and humidity will affect the drying rate. Homeowners don’t need to apply sealant to freshly glazed cabinets, but a coat of urethane, varnish, or lacquer finish—either high-gloss or matte—can prevent damage and make the glaze last longer. Apply the topcoat with a brush and let it dry completely.

STEP 9
Using a rag, remove any errant spots of paint or glaze with hot water or a paint thinner. Remember not to wipe the freshly-glazed cabinets, and let them dry thoroughly before replacing the hardware. Voila! You’ve just completed a DIY kitchen transformation at the fraction of the cost of renovation!

 

How to Glaze Kitchen Cabinets

Photo: Zillow Digs Home in Norman, OK


How To: Soundproof a Wall

No more noise pollution! Enjoy the sounds of silence with these easy techniques.

How to Soundproof a Wall

Photo: istockphoto.com

Whether your teen has rock star dreams or your 8-year-old has started tap-dancing, you’ll find that a little soundproofing can go a long way toward keeping the peace—and quiet—at home. Soundproofing is most effective when done during construction, but there are several ways to put a damper on ambient and active noise after the fact. In terms of décor, cumulative use of rugs, textiles, and cloth wall panels can all help reduce the din. To minimize more serious noise, consider the two strategies for how to soundproof a wall outlined here.

Method #1: How to Soundproof a Wall with Mass-Loaded Vinyl

Mass-loaded vinyl (MLV) is a sound-dampening product used everywhere from nightclubs to recording studios to hockey rinks. It comes on a roll and is available online for around $2 per square foot, depending on weight, length, and width. The thicker the better for blocking noise and ending echoes, but thickness, ranging from 1/16 inch to ¼ inch, may not be listed in product specifications. If not, you’ll see a weight instead. Half-pound MLV weighs one-half pound per square foot of coverage, and is 1/16-inch thick; one-pound MLV is a pound per square foot of coverage and is 1/8-inch thick; two-pound MLV is ¼-inch thick.

While MLV can be hung directly on a wall, it performs best when sandwiched between sheets of drywall. Doing so also allows you aesthetic options, since the usually black, shiny MLV isn’t the most decoratively appealing surface! And keep in mind that MLV is heavy and awkward to work with—hanging it is a two-person job, so enlist a helper.

 

How to Soundproof a Wall

Photo: amazon.com

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Measuring tape
– Mass-loaded vinyl
– Heavy-duty scissors or utility knife
– Stepladder
– Drywall nails
– Hammer

STEP 1
Prior to ordering MLV, carefully measure the walls you want to soundproof. Leaving gaps in MLV will drastically compromise its effectiveness, so you’ll want to buy enough for complete coverage from wall to wall and floor to ceiling. When calculating your needs, note that MLV tends to be sold on rolls of 2-foot or 4-foot widths.

STEP 2
Measure a length of MLV that will reach floor to ceiling and then cut out a sheet with the scissors or utility knife. Cutting on top of scrap wood would be wise to protect your floor or work surface.

STEP 3
Position the stepladder and put the MLV against the wall starting at either end, working to the other corner. To install it, snug it up against the ceiling, with your helper holding it in place. Using drywall nails and a hammer, attach the MLV to the upper portion of the wall at 12-inch intervals. Then attach the bottom portion at 12-inch intervals, and finally at 12- to 24-inch intervals down the sides of the sheet.

STEP 4
Repeat Steps 2 and 3 as required until the entire wall is covered. Be sure to butt the MLV right up against the preceding sheet so there are no gaps. Feel free to overlap it for a potentially greater sound barrier, but you’ll have bumps and ridges if you do so.

STEP 5
Install a layer of drywall on top the MLV to make the soundproofing twice as effective and give you a surface for paint or other wall covering décor (go here for a how-to). Or read on for a quick solution to hiding the glossy black vinyl with curtains—a no-commitment décor project that will also enhance soundproofing.

 

Method #2: How to Soundproof a Wall with Curtains

Not for windows only, curtains can create drama on the walls of any room while offering considerable soundproofing benefits. They’re relatively inexpensive and as easy to remove as they are to install. While there are curtains specifically marketed as sound dampening or “acoustic,” blackout and thermal curtains, primarily sold to keep light out and warmth in, also offer noise reduction. Don’t let the term “blackout” fool you: These curtains come in many colors and styles—it’s the inner liner that provides the blackout/thermal effect. Even heavy fabrics like velvet provide some soundproofing.

Keep in mind that when you double the weight of the fabric, you up to triple its sound-reduction ability. Yet more important than weight is curtain construction: Pleated curtains can be three times as effective against noise as those that hang straight because the pleats not only double fabric thickness in many parts, but also act like a baffle, confounding a sound wave’s reflection and stopping it in the fabric folds.

Remember, sound dampening is the goal, so a floor-to-ceiling curtain that covers the entire wall will have the most impact. You can purchase curtains in multiple panels to fill the wall. If feeling adventurous, mix colors and patterns for a funky feature wall!

 

How to Soundproof a Wall

Photo: istockphoto.com

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Measuring tape
– Heavy curtains, preferably ceiling-to-floor length
– Bathroom scale
– Hanging system (rods, wires, or other systems rated for your curtain weight)
– Screwdriver or drill
– Screws
– Stud finder (optional)
– Weight-rated wall anchors (optional)
– Iron or steamer

STEP 1
Measure the wall prior to purchasing curtains. When shopping, check package info for the curtains’ weight; you’ll need this to choose rods or another hanging system sturdy enough to hold them. If you’re set on curtains that don’t include the weight on the packaging, weigh them on your bathroom scale at home. Tip: Keep them in the package so they’ll sit easily on the scale.

STEP 2
Purchase a hanging system weight-rated for the curtains (packaging or website marketing should tell you the weight load they can handle). If they weigh 40 pounds and the wall to be covered is 12 feet long, you’ll need a rod or hanging system that can handle roughly 3.5 pounds per foot, so keep that weight rating in mind when making your choice.

STEP 3
Before mounting the hanging system, ensure enough space above it for the top of the curtains to move freely without bunching against the ceiling—a half-inch or inch should do. Locate wall studs with a stud finder, or use proper weight-rated wall anchors, before boring into the wall with screws. Affix the rod or hanging system to the walls as recommended by the manufacturer. Check out these helpful articles to guide you through stud-finding and curtain-hanging in detail:

Three Ways to Find a Wall Stud (Without Fancy Equipment)
How To: Install Curtain Rods

STEP 4
Iron or steam curtains to remove creases and wrinkles from the packaging. Check the labels to see what temperature the manufacturers suggest and iron accordingly.

STEP 5
Hang the curtains on the rod or wire system and then “bunch” them together in equal amounts across the entire wall for a consistent look. Keep in mind that pleated, bunched fabric will absorb more sound than flat, so ample curtains are a plus.


Solved! What to Do About Water Hammer

Hear a loud banging in your pipes? The culprit is likely water hammer. Here's how to stop the racket and save your pipes along the way.

Water Hammer

Photo: istockphoto.com

Q: When the water reaches the fill level in my washing machine and the agitation cycle starts, I always hear a loud series of bangs in the pipes behind the wall. What’s causing this? Will it harm the pipes?

A: The banging racket you’re hearing is called “water hammer,” a form of hydraulic shock that occurs when the shut-off valve on a high-pressure water line suddenly closes. As your washing machine fills, water rushes quickly through the pipes in your home until—when the drum reaches capacity—the washer valve abruptly closes. With nowhere to go, the fast-moving water supply slams against the side of the pipe with an intense surge of pressure, causing the pipes to jerk and thud against wall framing or other pipes. As a result, you hear a loud series of bangs and maybe even feel the pressure shaking the house.

More than just produce an annoying clamor, water hammer can actually damage the pipe connections and joints, resulting in leaks and costly repairs. Or worse, the noise may also indicate a larger problem like excessive pressure in your water supply lines or loose piping. Fortunately, homeowners can usually eliminate water hammer inexpensively without the help of a professional. Just follow the steps below to conduct your own investigation into the matter.

Troubleshoot your air chamber. This vertical pipe located near the water valve helps alleviate water hammer by acting as a cushion. The air chamber absorbs the shock of the water once the valve closes, preventing the water from loudly slamming against the side of the pipes. Many homes have air chambers installed within their walls, but sometimes the air chamber can stop working properly if it becomes waterlogged. To fix the issue, homeowners need to drain their plumbing system: Shut off the main water valve, open the highest faucet in your home, and drain water from the lowest faucet (usually in the basement or first floor). The air chamber will fill back up with air instead of water, hopefully solving the water hammer problem. If your home doesn’t have an air chamber, consider having one installed by a professional.

How to Fix Water Hammer

Photo: amazon.com

As an alternative, install water hammer arrestors to eliminate the banging. Water hammer arrestors feature air-filled cylinders that absorb the jolt of a sudden water pressure increase when a valve shuts off. Most water hammer arrestors available today are easy to install, and they feature screw-type connectors that attach between a water-supply line and a shut-off valve. Make sure to install two: one on the hot water supply line and one on the cold water supply line. If you’re not familiar with basic plumbing connections, however, don’t hesitate to call a plumber to install the arrestors.

Adjust the water pressure reduction valve. Sometimes, excessive water pressure in your pipes causes water hammer and so emptying the air chamber of water or installing a water arrestor offers only temporary help. To regulate the pressure, homeowners should adjust their pressure-reducing valve. These valves exist in most homes nowadays, often located at the entrance point of a home’s main water supply. Depending on the manufacturer, some valves have a handle for adjustment, while others require a wrench or screwdriver. Use the proper technique to adjust your valve to a setting below 50 PSI (pounds per square inch), which is a sufficient setting for most homes. As a bonus, reducing the water pressure in your home saves energy, promotes water conservation, and potentially prolongs the life of your automatic appliances (including pricier investments like washing machines, toilets, and dishwashers).

Reduce excessive water pressure at the meter. If your home doesn’t have a pressure-reducing valve, consider asking the municipality that controls the water system in your community to check your home’s water pressure. Municipal water systems often maintain the water in their lines at pressures around 200 PSI, but residential water lines aren’t designed to safely accommodate that much pressure. The municipality will usually check your water pressure for free, and they can reduce it if necessary.

Stabilize loose water-supply lines to prevent banging. During home construction, the plumber uses U-shaped pipe straps to fasten water-supply lines to wooden joists or studs with screws. If the straps aren’t tight enough—or if a few straps are missing—the pipes can knock around and create noise. To stop the banging, tighten loose pipe straps with a screwdriver, or install additional pipe straps for added stability. Most pipe straps are molded from thin metal or plastic, but you can also find padded pipe straps that offer additional vibration reduction. Keep in mind that homeowners should never use galvanized or steel straps on copper pipes, since the combination of materials causes electrolysis and plumbing leaks.

Cushion water-supply lines with pipe insulation. Pipe insulation, available in foam tubes, is designed to fit around water supply lines to keep them from freezing. But they also work great for cushioning loose, banging pipes. The foam tubes come pre-slit from end to end, so all you need to do is run your finger down the slit to open the tube, then fit it over the water supply line. Foam pipe insulation sells in six-foot lengths and ranges from around $3 up to $8 per tube, depending on density.


Genius! An All-Wood, Zero-Electricity Phone Speaker

Paying a high price for home audio? Using the power of science and a few everyday materials, you can transform your phone’s built-in speaker into a quality sound system.

DIY Phone Speaker

Photo: makeit-loveit.com

Whether you’re hosting a party or relaxing at home, nothing sets an upbeat mood faster than loud, catchy music. Most people already have a punchy playlist in their pocket, so all that’s missing is a cell-phone-compatible speaker to amplify the tunes. Before shelling out big bucks on a commercial speaker, though, check out the DIY design for a lightweight, all-wood audio system shared by Ashley of Make It Love It. She transformed ordinary lumber, wooden dowel, and wood glue into a supersonic sound solution that consumes zero electricity.

Little more than a 24-inch piece wood plank, the DIY phone speaker functions because of the precise cuts and puzzle-piecing that went into its interior. Front and back of this project mirror one another, except for the roughly 3″-wide cut-out in one (the front) that will hold the base of your phone. Meanwhile, the middle consists only of dowels cut, arranged, and glued between the two panels in a way that channels the sound from an opening precisely aligned with the phone speaker to the cut-out speakers (each 2-1/8 inches in diameter). The result? Crisp, clear audio that fills the whole room when you drop your phone into the cradle—all without consuming additional battery or watt of electricity. Now that’s music to any homeowner’s ears!

The benefits of Ashley’s all-wood DIY phone speaker don’t stop with its smart science, low cost, or even its creative adoption of sustainable materials. Since the speaker requires no cords or power, you can transport it from the living room or kitchen to your bedroom—even outdoors. This handy speaker allows you to continuously stream your favorite songs without dropping a single beat.

FOR MORE: Make It Love It

DIY Phone Speaker

Photo: makeit-loveit.com

 

DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

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


How To: Clean Upholstery

Get off the couch and give it the spruce up it calls for with this problem-solution guide.

How to Clean Upholstery

Photo: istockphoto.com

Just like the fabric in clothing, upholstery gets assaulted daily by skin oils, hair, dust, food crumbs, and spills. If your chairs and sofas are starting to look worse for the wear, save yourself hundreds of dollars and don’t call in a pro—not yet, anyway. Banishing dirt, stains, even discoloration yourself can cost mere pennies. But before you dive into this guide on how to clean upholstery, first learn what you’re dealing with by checking the label on the bottom of the piece or under a cushion to see what type of cleaner is recommended. The label should have a code: W = Water Based, S = Solvent Based, WS = Water or Solvent. X = Professional Cleaning Required. Then use the cleaning tips and techniques here (making sure to test on an inconspicuous area first). If you do a general upholstery upkeep as part of your routine home maintenance, your furniture will look great longer.

How to Clean Upholstery of Dirt

Photo: istockphoto.com

How to Clean Dirt from Upholstery

Give the piece a thorough vacuuming using the upholstery attachment. Start at the top, and work your way down, using short, left-to-right strokes. Working in the same direction is important, especially for fabrics that have a nap, like corduroy, chenille, or suede. Switch to the crevice attachment to better clean seams and folds, as well as around buttons and tufting. Or, employ a can of compressed air (just as when cleaning your computer keyboard) to dislodge dirt and dust from nooks and crannies.

For fabrics with a W or WS code, mix a few drops of liquid dish detergent in a bucket of lukewarm water. Gently brush over the entire piece with a soft bristled brush, making it lightly and evenly damp with the soap solution. Be careful not to soak any areas, as excess moisture can cause some fabrics to discolor. Follow up by wiping the entire piece with a clean, damp cloth. Allow the piece to air dry completely before sitting on it. Don’t try to speed things up with a hair dryer, as the heat could cause fabrics to shrink or pucker, but feel free to turn on fans to amp up the air circulation in the room. Clean one side of any cushions and allow to dry completely overnight before cleaning the other side.

For fabrics with an S code, use only solvent-based cleaners such as a dry cleaning solvent; water based cleaners can damage these fabrics. Dry cleaning solvent can be purchased online (type “upholstery safe dry cleaning solvent” into a search engine), or you may find it in home dry cleaning kits like DRYEL, available at a grocery store or at big box discount stores. Make sure your work area is well ventilated. Apply dry cleaning solvent to a clean towel and gently brush over generally dirty areas of upholstery. You can work solvent into heavily soiled areas with a clean, soft-bristled brush. Allow the piece to dry completely before sitting on it again.

How to Clean Upholstery Stains

Photo: istockphoto.com

How to Clean Stains from Upholstery

The quicker you attend to a spill (of wine, sauce, greasy food), the less likely it will stain, so as soon as your able, blot—don’t rub!—immediately with a clean, white cloth. To treat whatever mark remains, or go after spills that have set into stains, try a spot cleaner or dry cleaning solvent approved for your type of upholstery. If your fabric is water safe, wet and wring out a clean cloth or sponge and dip it into a mixture of water and a little liquid dish soap. Then gently blot the stain. Follow-up by blotting with a clean cloth or sponge that has been dipped in clean water, and wrung out. Repeat as necessary, and then blot the spot dry with a clean cloth or white paper towels. If the spot does not come out after two or three applications, it’s time to call a professional.

How to Clean Upholstery

Photo: istockphoto.com

How to Clean Discoloration from Upholstery

“Browning” can occur when natural fabrics get overly wet or dry too slowly. To counteract, use a neutral pH-based, fast-drying upholstery shampoo. Thoroughly vacuum the furniture first. Then, mix the cleaning product in a bucket of water according to the manufacturer’s instructions. (Tip: Use a hand-held egg beater or electric mixer to whip it up into a foam.) When there’s very little water left in the bottom of the bucket, the shampoo is ready to apply. Fold a clean, white, absorbent towel, dip it into the foam, and wring all of the moisture out. Wipe the entire piece of fabric in overlapping strokes, either vertically or horizontally—just make sure to stay in one direction. Apply more foam to the towel as needed. Allow the foam to sit for at least five but no more than 10 minutes.

Remove the foam with a clean towel that’s been moistened in clean water and wrung dry. Rinse and wring the towel out as needed. Dry the piece quickly by opening the windows and moving the air in the room with fans. Do not use a hair dryer or anything that would apply heat to the area. The fabric, overall, needs to dry at the same rate.

General Tips for Cleaning Upholstery

• With any of these techniques, be sure to test an inconspicuous area first (like under a cushion, or on the back side of the skirt) to make sure colors won’t bleed or fade.

• Be sure to avoid getting water or cleaning agents on the wood or metal portions of your furniture, as this could rust, corrode, or cause discoloration.

• These techniques should be used on natural or synthetic woven fabrics. Find out about cleaning leather here.

• If your fabric has an X code, call a professional to clean your upholstery. These services are generally provided in your home, a professional cleaner should be able to give you a general estimate based on the size of furniture and type of fabric that you have.


How To: Snake a Toilet

Follow this guide to unclog the commode safely and quickly so you can go on to more fun projects!

How To Snake A Toilet

Photo: istockphoto.com

Let’s face it: Dealing with a clogged toilet is about as much fun—but, unfortunately, just as necessary—as a root canal. So if you’ve tried a plunger, a hot-water flush, or even a homemade baking soda solution and things still aren’t flowing like they should, it’s probably time summon the snake (also known as a plumber’s auger). That doesn’t necessarily mean calling a pro, however. You can rent a snake specifically made for the task at hand from your local hardware store for about $10 to $15 per day (far more affordable than even the most reasonable $50-an-hour plumber’s fee). This highly effective tool features a long metal cable with a coiled hook at the tip, perfect for dredging unwanted material from your commode. Simply follow the steps here to learn how to snake a toilet and simply flush the problem away.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Rubber gloves
– Plumber’s toilet auger (“snake”)
– Toilet plunger
– Wide-mouthed bucket or container for wastewater
– Household bleach or vinegar

STEP 1
Call your favorite hardware store to find out if it rents augers suitable for toilets. Check one out for the day and familiarize yourself with its mechanics before use. The snake, housed within a thin rubber hose, has an angled handle that also acts as a crank on one end; the other end goes into the toilet bowl. (An electric auger would attach to your power drill, but manual augers are usually successful for this job and cost far less to rent.)

STEP 2
Put on your rubber gloves and place a large, empty bucket or waterproof container next to the toilet. Position the business end of the auger’s cable into the toilet bowl and aim it toward the drain in the back. Crank the handle clockwise to release and extend the cable down into the drain; keep turning the crank until it stops—you’ve reached the clog.

STEP 3
Pull back slightly on the snake. If you feel resistance, it likely means you’ve hooked the source, so turn the crank in the opposite direction to bring the unwanted material back to the surface. Remove it from the bowl and dispose of it in the bucket. Repeat as necessary to make sure you’ve freed the clog entirely. Then retract the auger by cranking the handle counter-clockwise and place the wet end in the bucket.

How To Snake A Toilet

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 4
If you’re unable to pull out the clog out entirely, attempt to break it up enough so that it will flush down. Crank the cable as far as it will go, jiggle it lightly, retract, and repeat several times. Once you’re able to move it farther and more freely than you were when you started, you’ve breached the clog. Now, remove the auger and stick the business end in the bucket.

STEP 5
To avoid the possibility of overflow when you flush, remove the tank lid and manually stop the flapper from releasing too much water into the bowl. It’s a two-handed procedure: With your less-dominant hand, flush the toilet as usual and close the flapper—the 2- or 3-inch rubber disc attached to a chain inside your tank—with your dominant hand to prevent the bowl from filling up too high. Once you’re sure the clog is gone, flush again while leaving the flapper alone.

STEP 6
To clean up, dump any waste collected in the bucket back into the toilet in small amounts and flush to make sure it all goes down without causing a new clog. Then, thoroughly clean the bucket and the auger with very hot water and bleach or vinegar before returning it to the store.

Avoiding Future Clogs

You may be able to save yourself the trouble of a repeat performance by being careful about what you put in the commode. The safest approach is to flush toilet paper only. Sanitary products, paper towels, dental floss, and hair should never be flushed. If you have particularly old or sensitive pipes, consider switching to a lighter ply brand of toilet paper to help keep things moving along.


Solved! Yes, You Can Tile Over Tile

Does your tile need an update? Learn how you save time and effort in this DIY job—so long as you follow these rules of thumb for installation.

Can You Tile Over Tile

Photo: istockphoto.com

Q: I want to re-tile my floor, but I’d rather not go through the hassle of ripping up the existing flooring first. Can you tile over tile in order to save time?

A: The short answer is, most likely, yes. If your tiles are in relatively good condition—evenly placed, without cracks, and not appearing to retain any moisture—then you can probably leave them underneath your new layer of tile when going about installing a new floor or even a backsplash.

Assess the existing tile. Before you begin tiling over tile, conduct a thorough assessment of the base layer to pinpoint any surface irregularities, which can cause foundational problems down the road. Mildew and deep discoloration in the grout often signal an absorption issue–meaning that trapped water has damaged the grout and could thus rot the new tile from below.  An absorption issue will fester and worsen when the tiles are covered up. Likewise, if the original tiles were not properly installed, the new overlaying tiles won’t lie flat or line up. If you do discover either of these issues, it’s better to start from scratch than to tile over the existing floor.

Prepare the surface for installation. Tiling over an uneven surface will give you less-than-stellar results, so level out any globs of dried grout with a sander and secure loose tiles with fresh tile adhesive before beginning the project. Then, lay out your new tiles and cut them to fit around the walls and fixtures, as necessary. Once all pieces of tile are cut to size, move them out of the way so that you can scrub down your base layer with a degreasing soap. Let the surface dry completely before you start taping off the edges of the project area with painter’s tape and laying out plastic sheets to protect surrounding surfaces.

Can You Tile Over Tile

Photo: istockphoto.com

Lay the groundwork for the new tile in stages. Generally speaking, thin-set adhesive (also known as thin-set mortar) is great for setting tiles in areas subject to moisture, like bathrooms, while mastic adhesive is best for drier spaces, like kitchens. Scoop the adhesive of choice from its bucket with a trowel and apply a thin layer to a section of tiles only a few feet wide, for starters. Don’t attempt to cover a full floor or backsplash at once; since curing times may vary, you’ll want to set each tile before the bonding agent is too dry to do its job. Score the surface adhesive with the toothed edge of your trowel by drawing straight lines along the wet surface, as these grooves aid in the drying and adhesion process.

Position the tile as you go. Set each tile atop the adhesive you’ve scored and firmly press it into place. Once these are in place, you can rotate through spreading adhesive, scoring, and laying tile until you’ve completely covered the space.

Tip: To save even more time, apply your adhesive directly to the back of your new tiles rather than prepping the area with thin-set adhesive. This method, though, should be saved for situations where the original tile is in perfect condition and you’re really only looking for a temporary fix until you can attempt a more in-depth renovation project—placement this way won’t set the tiles so securely that they last for generations without needing repair. Take a cue from the blogger at Renov8or, who chose to lay crisp white subway tile over an old layer of beige squares in the kitchen simply by applying silicone adhesive to the back of each individual tile, and placing them over the old tile with spacers in between to save space for even grout lines. While silicone isn’t a recommended adhesive for tiles that will encounter lots of water (a shower wall, for example), this simple fix could cut your project time in half on areas where heavy splashing won’t be a concern in the long run.

Finally, seal off your work. No matter what kind of adhesive you’ve used beneath the new layer of tiles, you’ll need to apply grout in the grooves between them. This step protects the entire surface from moisture creeping into the seams between each tile and leading to water damage or out-of-sight mildew growth. For the sake of speed, use premixed grout from the hardware store, and apply it quickly in a single round. Or you can choose to mix the grout yourself; just be sure to use an application tube with an opening small enough to fit the troughs you’re filling.

So, in short, you can tile over tile as long as you’re working on a fairly sound surface. The surface of the existing tile should be uncompromised by mold or mildew, completely level (including grout), and without any warping or strangely-placed tiles that might otherwise interfere with a smooth new layer. Also, keep in mind that it’s best not to lay heavy new tile over existing tile floors unless the foundation beneath both is concrete. Otherwise, the excess weight can cause structural issues. Now go forth and enjoy your new, easy-to-install tile surface!


How To: Remove Black Mold

Don't let an infestation of black mold damage your home and health. With a few natural ingredients, you can eliminate the harmful substance without the help of a professional.

How to Remove Black Mold

Photo: istockphoto.com

As a naturally occurring and pervasive substance in our world, mold exists in a variety of different forms—many of which are non-toxic and mainly affect those with allergies and asthma. Black mold, specifically, though, is a more serious offender. Exposure to the toxic variety of Stachybotrys chartarum can cause respiratory issues ranging from mild to severe. It, like most kinds of mold, grows at an alarming rate in the right conditions—namely in places with prolonged exposure to moisture and humidity, such as basements, bathrooms, under-sink cabinets, or recently flooded areas. For this reason, homeowners should take action at first sign of it, and learn how to remove black mold before it transforms from a benign player to an invasive species.

Because black mold can form in the walls before spreading to drywall or other surfaces, chances are that homeowners may smell its musty, mildew odor before seeing it. When you do start your inspection, look for its characteristic slimy texture, dark green-black (sometimes gray) color, and spotty appearance.

If someone in your home has recently experienced an unshakable increase in respiratory symptoms (sniffling, sneezing, forgetfulness, congestion, and so on) and you suspect a recent mold infestation, you may be facing a more serious mold strain. Under such conditions, hire a licensed mold inspector to examine your house and advise on the best way to mitigate it based on its pervasiveness. You should also hire a mold-removal specialist if the black mold has moved into your walls, in order to stop the problem before it spreads further. Otherwise, a mold problem confined to accessible, hard surfaces—such as bathroom walls, basement floors, or wood trim—can be tackled with the right gear and some persistence. Here’s how to remove black mold from your home.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Flashlight (optional)
– Tea tree oil
– Grapefruit seed extract
– Spray bottle
– Disposable coveralls
– Rubber gloves
– Airtight safety goggles
– Face mask or respirator
– Nylon scrubbing brush
– Old rags
– Paper towels (optional)
– Plastic garbage bag

STEP 1
First, locate the source of mold in your home. Black mold can be identified by its often-slimy texture, dark-greenish/black (sometimes gray) color, and growth that appears as spots or patches that spread over time. Common sources of black mold include corners, covered areas under sinks or cupboards, baseboards, under cardboard boxes in the basement, and anywhere else with high levels of moisture. Pay attention to your nose, and follow musty scent of black mold to locate the source. A flashlight will help you inspect nooks, crannies, and dark corners.

STEP 2
Once you’ve spotted the offending growth, whip up a mold-fighting solution. While plenty of agents can fight mold (Borax, vinegar, bleach, and ammonia, to name a few), tea tree oil and grapefruit seed extract are often considered the most effective products to disinfect and deodorize the problem area. Moreover, they’re completely non-toxic. You can purchase tea tree oil online and in health stores; just ensure that its from melaleuca alternifolia (an Australian tree) and that its active ingredients include 30 percent terpinen 4-ol and no more than 10 to 15 percent cineole. Grapefruit seed extract may be slightly less effective but easier to find, also available from these sorts of retailers.

How to Remove Black Mold

Photo: istockphoto.co

For every one cup of water the spray bottle holds, add a teaspoon of either tea tree oil or grapefruit seed extract. Both oils have a long shelf life, so as long as the spray bottle can be turned to an “off” position for air-tightness, the solution will last for at least a year.

STEP 3
Before removing any black mold, gear up: Don disposable coveralls, rubber gloves, airtight safety goggles, and a face mask/respirator. This protective gear will reduce the risk of health issues that may result from exposure to the substance, including respiratory infections, allergic reactions, joint inflammation, and rashes. Because a single black mold spore hitting your eye can even induce blindness, you don’t want to cut any corners.

STEP 4
Thoroughly shake the spray bottle of mold-mitigating solution, then spray the affected area so it’s well-saturated. (Continue to shake the bottle repeatedly during this process in order to ensure the solution stays well mixed.) Allow the liquid to sit on the mold for 5 to 10 minutes so the antibacterial properties have time to work through the grime. Never scrape dried mold, or else the toxic spores could spread into air and cause negative health effects.

STEP 5
Take a nylon bristle brush and scrub the surface area to lift and unsettle the dampened mold. Move the brush in careful strong strokes so you aren’t splashing the mold on the surrounding areas—even dead mold spores can be an allergenic health issue. After scrubbing thoroughly with the brush, wipe the area clean with old rags or paper towels.

STEP 6
If the mold proves difficult to remove, repeat Steps 4 and 5. A light stain may remain after you’re through, but as long as you’ve cleaned the surface thoroughly, the mold should be properly killed.

STEP 7
Do not rinse the area with water, since the tea tree oil and grapefruit seed extracts are mold-fighting agents that help prevent mold’s return. Instead, shake the bottle of solution, give the mold-infested area a final light spray, and then allow it to air-dry.

STEP 8
Dispose of the coveralls and paper towel in a plastic bag, which you should tightly seal before taking out with the trash. Wash soiled rags and the nylon scrubber in hot water, or throw them away with the coveralls and paper towel as an extra precaution.

Remember, mold is naturally occurring. It may return. To tackle a few random spots of a fresh resurgence, it’s not necessary to don coveralls. Instead, grab a mask, goggles, gloves, and the leftover mold-killing solution, then proceed from Step 3 onward. Armed with this information on how to remove black mold, you’ll stay on top of the household menace in the future.

 

Cleaning Tips for a Spotless Home

All of the Essential Cleaning Advice from BobVila.com
There’s no way around it: Keeping the house clean demands your time, your energy, and even some of your money. Fortunately, this arsenal of cleaning tips can help you finish the housekeeping more quickly—and with fewer commercially sold products.


How To: Pour Concrete

Want professional results for your patio or driveway project? Take this crash course!

How to Pour Concrete

Photo: istockphoto.com

Pouring concrete yourself may save you money and build your skills, but without proper equipment and attention to detail, the results can look far from professional. Concrete—generally a combo of cement, sand, gravel, and water—is tricky to mix and manipulate. Moreover, it’s fairly quick drying constitution tends to make any mess-ups permanent. Fortunately, whether you plan to make patio slabs or driveways, working in small areas divided by concrete forms following this guide on how to pour concrete makes this daunting material more manageable.

Before you begin, expect to use just more than seven bags of concrete for every cubic-meter of concrete in your project. And keep in mind that while concrete can be poured nearly year-round, except in freezing conditions, you’d be wise to put off doing it in very hot weather. At temps above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, concrete can “flash set,” and while preparing the mix at a higher water-to-mix ratio can prevent this, it can also weaken the concrete, making it more likely to crack or a flake over time. For an ideal pour, work in temperatures around 60 degrees Fahrenheit or in early morning hours to outsmart summertime heat.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Measuring tape
– Square-point shovel
– Level
– Gravel for subbase
– Hand tamper
– 1×4 boards
– Nails
– Hammer
– Concrete mix
– Filtered water (optional)
– Long 1×4 or other board to use as a screed
– Groover
– Wood float
– Magnesium float
– Finishing broom
– Plastic mixing tub, concrete mixer, or wheelbarrow
– Gallon measuring pail
– Work gloves
– Safety glasses
– Concrete sealer

STEP 1
Measure and prepare the area where you plan to pour concrete. If this involves digging up earth to prepare a subbase, first ensure there are no gas lines or buried cables below the surface. Contact power, gas, or city authorities if your home’s blueprints don’t show where buried lines and cables are located. Remove all sticks, twigs, odd-sized stones, and other obstructions that could cause air pockets or an uneven concrete surface. Then use a 48- to 72-inch-long level to ensure the ground is perfectly flat. If not, do some grading by moving soil around with the shovel and test with the level again.

STEP 2
Compact the subgrade—the earth or soil that will lie beneath a subbase layer of gravel—by compressing with a hand tamper. This flat-bottomed plate with a broom-length upright handle allows you to apply weight by pressing down or standing atop it. Work the hand tamper evenly over the entire area to create a firm subgrade, which will prevent the concrete from cracking down the line.

STEP 3
Put a 4- to 8-inch layer of subbase gravel or stones over the compacted subgrade. Open-grade stones are cheaper and allow more water drainage, but finer-grade stone or gravel compacts better and can sometimes ensure a more stable end product. Use the hand tamper to compact the gravel over the subbase.

How to Pout Concrete

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 4
Build a form around the perimeter of the subbase out of 1×4 boards and nails, into which you’ll directly pour concrete mix. Use the level to ensure the form is of even height, which will help ensure level concrete in the finishing stages. If you’ll be using this concrete project for heavy load-bearing, like a driveway or a base for a work shed, it might be wise to use rebar or wire mesh to help reinforce it.

STEP 5
Don your goggles and gloves to prepare for mixing the concrete. You can rent a concrete mixer for about $85 a day, but a wheelbarrow, shovel, and elbow grease will suffice. If you have hard water in your region, mix with filtered water to avoid the whitish look of efflorescence blooming on the concrete. (For detailed info on mixing concrete, including how much you’ll need and proper consistency, go here.) Keep a five-gallon bucket of water or garden hose nearby to use for cleaning tools and the mixing vessel in order to prevent concrete from setting.

STEP 6
Tilt your wheelbarrow of mixed concrete into the form to pour the contents. If you’ve enlisted friends to help, get all hands on deck and scrape the concrete into the form as quickly as possible. Be sure to pour enough concrete to fill up to the top of the form boards, which will make finishing the concrete easier. Rinse the wheelbarrow as soon as it’s empty to keep residue from hardening.

STEP 7
Quickly “screed” the poured concrete before it begins to set with a clean, long plank of wood, like a 1×4 or 2×4. Ideally, rest the narrow side of the screed board over the top of the form boards on either side of the perimeter, with the screed board in contact with the concrete surface. Now jig it back and forth slightly as you hand-drag it from one end of the concrete project to the other to smooth and level out the concrete. Repeat this step as needed till you achieve a smooth surface.

STEP 8
For a truly professional job, use both a wood or bull float and magnesium float to further smooth the concrete. First, apply the larger flat-bottomed wood or bull float to the concrete. When pushing the wood float away from you, keep the far side slightly elevated, and when bringing the float back toward you, the side facing you should be slightly elevated—this will help avoid drag marks. Use the magnesium hand float next, with sweeping semi-circular motions for the final finish.

STEP 9
Groove the concrete every four to six feet in width. This will let it expand and contract with temperature changes, preventing surface cracks. “Groovers” can be long-handled tools for working while standing and reaching, or hand tools for crouching close-up work. Both work the same way, cutting a groove through the depth of the concrete. A long-handled groover will make it easier to cross a wider project with a straighter line.

STEP 10
For an edge against slippage in wet conditions, “brush” the concrete by dragging a broom over the surface. Allow concrete to set just enough so that brushing won’t cause clumps. (How long to wait will depend on the temperature and humidity you’re working in.) If clumping occurs, smooth the section again with the magnesium float and give it a little more time. Once the concrete’s no longer clumping on the broom, do light dragging patterns across the entire area. Be careful that the brushed pattern’s grooves aren’t so deep that water can pool in them, as this can cause surface flaking over time. Once the whole surface is grooved, you’ll have created safe non-slip traction.

STEP 11
Now seal the concrete with a concrete sealer recommended by your local home center. Once you’ve applied the sealant, take measures to protect the concrete by roping it off, so it can safely cure for the industry-recommended 28 days. Feel free to walk on concrete after three days, as that won’t create scuff marks or gouges, but it’s recommended not to drive or park on concrete for at least seven days. For heavy equipment (like a concrete truck, for example), it’s best to wait the full 28 days.

To keep concrete looking great for decades, periodically wash it down with soapy water and rinse. Re-sealing every five years will further protect it.

 

How to Pour Concrete

Photo: istockphoto.com

Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

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


How To: Mix Grout

To ensure a great-looking, long-lasting tile job, get this all-important mortar blended just right.

How to Mix Grout

Photo: istockphoto.com

Grout—the putty-like filler between tiles that keeps them sealed, solid, and set in place—tends to be an afterthought. But homeowners have reason to prioritize this DIY job: When this filler is not clean, smooth, and uniform, it detracts from the overall look of your finished tile project. Fortunately, the key to good grout lines is simply knowing how to mix grout correctly, so that it spreads on with ease and produces even lines between tiles for a perfect finishing touch.

Before mixing grout, you’ve got some decisions to make in the selection and prep processes.

• First, choose between sanded or un-sanded grout. If the joints between the tiles are under ⅛”-thick, un-sanded grout is will be easier to use and give better adhesion in those narrow spaces. For thicker joints of ⅛- to ½”-thick, go with sanded grout for best bonding and less shrinkage.

• Some tiling pros favor grout with a polymer additive, claiming it helps grout dry to an even harder final product and resist staining. For bathrooms, consider grout that includes a fungicide to help resist mold growth.

• A bonus tip from the pros: Avoid mixing grout with well water or hard water, minerals from which can cause efflorescence, an unattractive white residue, as moisture seeps into the grout. If you’ve got a well or hard water in your area, use distilled to mixing.

• Finally, resist the temptation to use a corded drill with a paddle attachment to mix grout. Automated mixing can introduce too many air bubbles, weakening the grout and potentially causing discoloration.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– 2-gallon bucket
– Grout-mixing knife or small trowel
– Grout mix
– Water (ideally distilled or soft water)
– Drywall sponge or a 6”-plus kitchen sponge

STEP 1
Pour about a quarter or half of the grouting powder into the bucket—you’ll want extra available in case you get the water-to-powder ratio wrong in the mixing phase. Refer to the manufacturer’s mixing directions for how much water to add, using a fraction less water than recommended; you can always add more later. Look at preparing grout as similar to making cake batter, in that recipe amounts can change depending on humidity.

How to Mix Grout

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 2
Turn the bucket onto about a 45-degree angle so it’s easier to see the contents and mix thoroughly. Add water (remember, less is more—cautiously up the water content as needed) and stir with the grout-mixing knife or small trowel. Continue mixing until all the powder is blended, making sure to remove all lumps.

STEP 3
Check the grout’s consistency. Ideally, it should resemble creamy peanut butter—not that oily all-natural peanut butter, but the super-emulsified commercial kind a knife can stand up in. Some tiling pros describe the perfect consistency as being akin to soft bread dough, where you can grab a handful and it maintains its shape, and, if squeezed slightly, shouldn’t leak water.

If grout is too slack or liquid-y, or has a cake icing consistency, add some more powder and mix well. Left too thin, it’ll shrink too much after it’s applied and crack. Good grout will need a little elbow grease to push into the tiles.

If grout is too dry and clumpy, moisten the sponge with water and squeeze just a dribble of water into the grout mix. Do this in gradual additions until achieving the right peanut-butter texture.

STEP 4
Allow the grout to “slake,” the term for letting it rest for five to 10 minutes so that the chemicals can bond. During slaking, moisture fully permeates all the powder; without proper slaking, grout will be weaker and more prone to cracking and chipping. Don’t worry—and don’t add water—if the grout seems a bit thicker after a maximum of 10 minutes.

STEP 5
Mix your batch of grout thoroughly one more time, and get busy applying it to complete your DIY tile job.