Category: How To’s & Quick Tips


How To: Use Chalk Paint

Turn forgettable furniture and ho-hum surfaces into showstopping home accents with this versatile and low-maintenance paint finish.

How to Use Chalk Paint

Photo: istockphoto.com

Putting a new face on tired-looking home accents can be as simple as brushing on a few coats of paint. But if you want to achieve a unique antique-style finish, think outside the conventional can of latex paint and opt for chalk paint instead. A water-based decorative paint developed and made popular by Annie Sloan, chalk paint is a nondamaging blend of calcium carbonate, talc, and pigments that delivers a whimsical matte white finish with chalk-white undertones. It has become the veneer of choice for DIYers looking to revive their outdated wooden furnishings, although it’s also suitable for use on masonry, drywall, metal, glass, and fabric. Here’s how to use chalk paint—along with a list of basic painting tools and some useful information about techniques—to produce an appealing distressed finish on nearly any surface.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Old newspaper or brown builder’s paper
- Sandpaper (fine and medium grits) (optional)
- Clear shellac (optional)
- Cloth pad (optional)
- Soft cloth
- Bowl of soapy water
- Painter’s tape
- Chalk paint
- Natural-bristle paintbrush, foam roller, or spray gun
- Paint pan (optional)
- Clear or tinted chalk paint wax
- Soft wax brush

STEP 1
If possible, work on your paint project indoors—chalk paint adheres best at room temperature. Protect the floor of your work space from paint splatter by laying out newspaper or brown paper underneath the item you’re painting. Detach any removable elements from the piece, including chair cushions, shelves, drawers, hinges, knobs, and other hardware.

STEP 2
You can generally skip sanding and priming before applying chalk paint, even when working with varnished wood pieces, because the paint can adhere to most surfaces. Even so, some furniture finishes warrant special treatment before painting:

Paint-covered, rust-covered, or high-gloss surfaces like laminates could use a light sanding with 150-grit or finer sandpaper in order to remove obstacles to adhesion.

• Untreated wood should have a coat of clear shellac applied with a cloth pad before painting; cure it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This coat prevents tannins in the wood from bleeding into the paint and altering the color.

Using a soft cloth saturated in soapy water, wipe down the entire surface of the piece to lift dirt, debris, oil, and sanding dust. Give the surface a once-over with a clean, damp cloth, then let it dry fully. Cover any areas you don’t want to paint with painter’s tape.

How to Use Chalk Paint

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 3
Purchase enough chalk paint in your favorite shade to cover the piece you’re working on. (Typically, a liter of chalk paint can cover 140 square feet—roughly the surface area of a small dresser.) Before opening the paint can, turn it upside down to loosen the contents, then shake it vigorously to ensure that the chalk paint is well mixed.

STEP 4
Depending on the size of the object you’re painting, you can opt to use a brush, roller, or spray gun to apply chalk paint. How you apply the paint will depend on your applicator of choice:

To use chalk paint with a brush: For a smooth, uniform finish, choose a natural-bristle brush with long, flexible bristles. Dip the brush into the can, and tap the handle against the lid of the can to remove excess paint. Then, apply the paint in unidirectional strokes to one section of the piece at a time until the entire surface is covered.

• To use chalk paint with a roller: Pour the chalk paint into a paint pan, then load it onto a high-density foam roller (depending on the size of the furniture, a four-inch mini roller may be the best option). Scrape off the excess paint on the grid of the pan. Roll a thin layer of paint in a long, unidirectional stroke, then pull it back and make one more stroke in the original direction. Repeat this process until the entire surface is coated.

• To use chalk paint with a spray gun: Chalk paint is a naturally thick medium that may not flow readily from all spray guns. You can get around this by watering down the chalk paint (adding approximately two tablespoons of water for every cup of paint) before loading it into the gun. Or, you can opt to load the paint as is and operate the gun at maximum pressure, preferably with a spray tip measuring at least 1.8 millimeters to enable the fluid to flow. To avoid risking damage to your spray gun, test this method on a small, inconspicuous part of the piece before tackling larger areas.

Allow the first coat to dry completely according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

STEP 5
A single coat of chalk paint is sufficient for many applications. If, however, you need to cover any visual imperfections, or if you want to create a two-tone decorative finish in which the bottom layer of paint shows through around the distressed edges, you can opt to apply a second coat in the same color or a lighter shade.

STEP 6
Now, examine the finish. If you want a more polished matte look, keep it as is; otherwise, to achieve a subtly worn patina—a finish that chalk paint is famous for—distress the painted surface with medium-grit sandpaper, focusing on the edges or details you want to accentuate.

STEP 7
When you’re happy with the finish, seal the paint with one or more coats of clear or tinted wax, gently massaging the wax into the painted surface with a soft wax brush. As a rule of thumb, use a 500-milliliter tin of wax for every three to four liters of paint. Although wax can dry in less than a half hour, it’s best to let it sit overnight. Total curing of the wax can take up to three weeks, although the furniture is ready to use as soon as the wax is dry.

STEP 8
Finally, reinstall any hardware you removed from the piece, and let your chalk-painted accent shine!

 

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3 Ways to Waterproof Wood

That natural beauty demands protection! Choose the products and techniques that work best with your wood.

How to Waterproof Wood

Photo: istockphoto.com

Some of most delightful furniture, cabinetry, and trim work are crafted from wood, the world’s oldest and best-loved building material. Without protection, however, most wood will suffer from exposure to moisture and high humidity, resulting in swelling, warping, or even rotting. Fortunately, you can easily avail yourself of products that protect wood while enhancing its natural beauty. When choosing the best method for how to waterproof wood, keep in mind that not all waterproofing products are the same—some are better suited for interior or exterior items, while others are geared towards dark- or light-grained wood. Here, we’ve outlined the three surefire ways to preserve your wood for years to come.

How to Waterproof Wood

Photo: istockphoto.com

CREATE A WARM HAND-RUBBED OIL FINISH
Linseed oil, derived from the seeds of the flax plant, and Tung oil, extracted from the Chinese Tung tree, are the basis for nearly all hand-rubbed (a.k.a. wiping) oil finishes. Employed for centuries, these oils beautify and protect such dark-grained woods as walnut and mahogany, and they’re still in use today—with a few improvements. Blending the oils with other ingredients hastens drying times and eliminates stickiness. You can purchase pre-blended Tung and linseed products, or mix your own for a custom finish.

A standard hand-rubbed oil blend consists of one-part oil (either Tung or boiled linseed), one-part mineral spirits, and one-part polyurethane varnish. Stir thoroughly before applying with a natural bristle paintbrush to dark-grained wood that’s been sanded and cleaned. (If looking for how to waterproof wood that is lighter in color, such as pine or ash, skip this method in favor of one of the next two; hand-rubbed oils have a tendency to yellow over time.) Let the oil soak into the surface, and reapply to any spots that look dry. Then wipe off the residual oil, rubbing well with clean dry rags to remove all excess. Allow the wood to dry completely; this can take anywhere from a few hours to overnight, depending on the degree of oil in the mixture. Finally, sand lightly with fine-grit sandpaper. Repeat the process with as many additional coats as required to obtain your desired finish.

As you become familiar with oil-rubbed blends, feel free to experiment with the formula. For a thicker product, reduce the amount of mineral spirits. If you’d like more working time before the finish dries, reduce the amount of varnish. Add more varnish for a glossier finish and quicker drying time. You can create a multitude of custom blends!

Note: Oily rags used to rub away excess oil can spontaneously combust—yup, even without being near flame, because as the oil dries it generates heat. Take precautions by keeping a bucket of water handy while working; as a rag becomes oil-saturated, drop it in the bucket while and continue with a clean rag. Later, hang rags out to dry separately. When completely dry, you can throw them away without risk, but rags should not be reused.

 

How to Waterproof Wood

Photo: istockphoto.com

USE SEALANTS FOR BEST PROTECTION
Polyurethane, varnish, and lacquer are tried-and-true sealants with excellent waterproofing properties. They’re either brushed or sprayed onto clean, sanded wood and allowed to dry completely, then the piece is lightly re-sanded and recoated. For best results, apply in a “room temperature” environment and never shake or briskly stir sealants before application—that can cause air bubbles that would remain on the surface, even after the sealant dries. Though relatively quick drying (some in as little as 15 minutes), these sealants often contain chemical solvents so ventilation is necessary during application. Read on for the pros and cons of these popular sealants.

• Polyurethane sealants, which contain various amounts of solvents in addition to acrylic and polyurethane resins, let you choose your favorite finish effect, from a high gloss shine to a gentle soft sheen. Plus, today’s polyurethane won’t yellow, so it’s a good choice for light-toned woods. Oil-based polyurethane offers the greatest durability, but brush cleanup requires mineral spirits or turpentine. With water-based polyurethane, cleanup is a snap with soap and water.

• Varnish, a combination of resin, solvent, and drying oil, gives a hard-shell finish that resists scratches without yellowing. To waterproof wood that will be placed outdoors, choose marine varnish, which contains UV absorbers to resist sun damage. For interior use on end tables and coffee tables, spar varnish is a good choice to resist pesky cup rings. Clean brushes with turpentine or mineral spirits.

• Lacquer, a mixture of dissolved tree resin or synthetic resin in alcohol, is the sealant of choice for indoor hardwood furniture. While it can develop a yellowish tinge over time that’s considered unattractive on lighter woods, on deep-toned wood lacquer brings out a rich, warm finish that’s uniquely scratch resistant. It’s available in a variety of sheen choices, and can be thinned with lacquer thinner. For optimum results, apply lacquer in multiple light coats. Note: Lacquer emits off strong fumes, so ventilation is absolutely essential; work outdoors or open windows and use fans.

 

How to Waterproof Wood

Photo: istockphoto.com

WORK FAST WITH STAIN-SEALANT COMBOS
When time is of the essence or you’re protecting a large project, such as a wood deck, go for a stain-sealant combo. These multitasking products add color while providing water resistance in a single step. Stain-sealant products contain color pigments with the addition of binders, which can be oil-, water- or alkyd-based. Depending on the concentration of pigment in the product, the final result can be transparent, opaque, or in-between. If applying a stain-sealer to exterior wood, you’ll want to reapply every year or two to keep the wood protected.

With the exception of alkyd-based products, stain-sealants don’t build up on the wood surface; instead, they soak in and any excess evaporates. Alkyd-based stain-sealants leave a light surface coating on the wood, making them better suited for interior wood items, such as indoor exposed beams or rustic furniture, that won’t require future applications. Outdoors, alkyd-based stain-sealers have a tendency to peel if the wood isn’t perfectly clean and dry when applied.


How To: Paint PVC Pipe

Why settle for off-the-shelf shades? Now you can spray a coat of longwearing color on this easy-to-use material for all sorts of DIY projects.

SHARES
How to Paint PVC Pipe

Photo: istockphoto.com

Tough and durable yet easy to cut, polyvinyl chloride piping (PVC)—originally developed for plumbing—is ideal for use in a variety of do-it-yourself projects, from wall-mounted organizers and funky herb planters to wine racks and even lighting fixtures. While the piping comes in a spectrum of brights these days, you’ll still want to learn how to paint PVC if you’ve got a more sophisticated palette in mind. Except there’s one hitch: Due to a molecular makeup that prevents most liquids from bonding to its surface, paint on PVC has always been likely to flake, bubble, or rub right off. Fortunately, recently developed spray paints that chemically bond with all kinds of plastics make it possible for determined DIYers to paint PVC pipe. Just keep in mind that while some plastic-rated paints purport to be no preparation required, we advise that you follow the prep steps here for the best possible results.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- PVC pipe
- 220-grit sandpaper (several sheets)
- Acetone (not nail polish remover)
- Rubber gloves (not latex, as acetone degrades latex)
- Clean rags
- Drop cloths, old newspaper, or plastic sheeting for painting
- Plastic-rated spray paint, such as consumer favorite Krylon Fusion

STEP 1
Plan to paint PVC on a low-humidity day, ideally between 50 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Choose a well-ventilated yet wind-free area to work in, such as a garage with doors and windows open for airflow. Note that acetone is extremely flammable, so it should be used and stored away from heat sources. Do not smoke while working with acetone, and wash up well after use.

STEP 2
Lightly scour the PVC pipe’s exterior by hand with 220-grit sandpaper. Skip the electric sander, which can wear down the pipe too much, too fast. Sand in all directions to avoid straight-line striations that can create an undesirable grooved surface. Be gentle, so you won’t weaken the pipe, yet thorough to avoid an uneven surface. Have plenty of sandpaper on hand, because the waxes in PVC pipe will come off on the paper, causing it to lose roughness.

How to Paint PVC Pipe

Photo: wikihow.com

STEP 3
Don rubber gloves, dampen a clean rag with acetone, and then wipe the surface of the PVC pipe. Allow to dry for 20 to 30 minutes. The acetone will remove all sanding dust while swelling the surface of the PVC to make it more porous for painting.

STEP 4
Lay drop cloths, plastic sheeting, or old newspapers over the floors or walls that could be subject to splatter or overspray, then arrange pipe for spraying. If painting long pieces, protect a wall, ladder, or chair from spray and prop the pipes against it. Or consider standing long pieces on a sturdy dowel for support so you can access all sides at once. Short pieces of PVC may be able to stand without additional support, making it simpler to get an all-over coat of paint.

STEP 5
Shake your plastic-rated spray paint thoroughly for 15 to 20 seconds. In a side-to-side sweeping motion, spray-paint the pipe, starting from the top and working your way down to the bottom. Paint PVC in thin, consistent layers, overlapping the paint as you move down the pipe, to avoid any drips.

STEP 6
Allow paint to dry per manufacturer’s instructions 20 to 30 minutes, before applying a second coat. If you had to lay the piping down to paint, wait until the first side is dry and then turn it over to access the other side. Avoid overlapping spray on areas you’ve already painted to achieve a nice, even coat. As in all spray-painting jobs, you’ll need to apply several coats in thin layers until the “true color” is reached.

STEP 7
Allow paint to air-dry and cure for at least 24 hours before using it in your project. For projects that could scrape or nick the pipe’s new coat of paint in the process, consider waiting a full week. If you’re uncertain, check the paint can for specific manufacturer-recommended drying times. Once your project is complete, keep painted pipes clean by wiping gently with a water-dampened rag.


How To: Sharpen Drill Bits

Follow this guide to go from dull to on point using a workbench basic, no fancy gadgets required.

How to Sharpen Drill Bits

Photo: istockphoto.com

Do-it-yourselfers live by the rule of “the right tool for the job,” but just as important is maintaining those tools so that they can do their jobs. Case in point: Keeping twist drill bits sharp. When bits get dull, your natural inclination is to push the drill harder, which inevitably causes bits to break and could even result in personal injury. Though there are gadgets specifically designed to put a precision point on drill bits, the bench grinder in your workroom may be all you really need. Pointed drill bits make safe, easy work of many projects, so—while it takes a bit of practice to hone them like a pro—there’s no better time to learn how to sharpen drill bits than before your next task.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Dull drill bits
- Bench grinder
- Safety goggles
- Work gloves (optional)
- Container of ice cold water
- Scrap wood

Note: Some find that wearing work gloves impairs the ability to get a safe grip on a drill bit. Because it’s crucial to have a firm hold on the bit while grinding, gloves are listed as optional. Safety goggles, however, are a must.

STEP 1
Examine your dull bits. Your goal is to remove only enough metal to get a sharpened edge. Many bench grinders have two grinding wheels, one coarse one and one fine. If the bits are really ravaged, start with the coarse wheel, and switch to the finer one later in the process; if your bits don’t look too bad, begin with the finer grinding wheel.

STEP 2
Don your goggles and turn on the bench grinder. Get a firm grip on your drill bit and hold the cutting edge precisely parallel to the front of the grinding wheel. Slowly, carefully, move the bit until it contacts the wheel. Do not turn or rotate it; simply keep it straight and held at the original factory angle of 60 degrees.

How to Sharpen Drill Bits

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 3
Hold the bit at this angle against the wheel for no more than four to five seconds. Remember: Your objective is to simply grind the dull surface away, not wear down the bit. Focus on grinding the heel of the bit, where the tip meets the twisted shaft—not the edge—to achieve the ideal angle. If the angle isn’t steep enough, the drill bit won’t bore smoothly.

STEP 4
Pause after four to five seconds of grinding and dip the drill bit into the ice water to cool the metal. Failure to do so will cause the drill bit will become too hot to hold and even wear down the metal faster, shortening the effective life of the bit. Once the bit is cool to the touch, inspect it to see if it’s honed to a good point on the side you just worked.

STEP 5
When satisfied with the point on the first side, turn the drill bit 180 degrees and use the same grind-and-cool process for the opposite side of the tip. Aim for that 60-degree angle, and an angle and point that’s the same width on both sides of the drill bit, to enable the tool to bore straight holes. To help ensure equal sharpening, some people opt to sharpen a little on each side, holding the drill bit in their dominant hand and flipping it 180-degrees after every few seconds of grinding.

STEP 6
Once the drill tip meets in a finely honed point, and both edges are sharp and the same width, give the bit a test run. Hold the tip perpendicular against a piece of scrap wood and twist the bit by hand. Even with this light pressure, a well-sharpened drill bit should create the beginnings of a hole. If not, re-examine your tip and return to the grinding wheel. Again, strive for that ideal 60-degree slope on the point, with equal widths on either side. Don’t be disheartened if you return to the wheel several times—that’s part of the learning curve.

STEP 7
Once you’re confident in the sharpness of the bit, insert it in your drill, grab that scrap wood, and begin drilling. It should “bite” the wood right away with minimal pressure and, when you extract the drill bit from the wood, it should fling wood chips as it emerges.

 

How to Sharpen Drill Bits

Photo: istockphoto.com

Top Tips for Keeping Drill Bits Sharp

Once you’ve successfully mastered how to sharpen drill bits, maintain a cutting edge with these three best practices.

• For every inch or so that you drill, pull out the bit and blow off any flakes or chips of wood. Otherwise, these chips will get packed into the flutes of the bit, becoming very hot. The hotter a drill bit gets, the faster it dulls, requiring more frequent sharpening.

• Make the stop-and-cool technique a habit, especially when drilling hardwood. Simply keep a container of cold water nearby and dip the drill for a several seconds between every few inches of drilling.

• Keep two complete sets of drill bits. Some pros rely on a like-new set of drill bits only to start a hole, and then—to keep that better set sharper for longer—switch to their older, sharpened bits to finish the task once the drill hole has been established.


DIY Lite: Make a Stunning Serving Tray from Scrap Wood

Wow guests by serving up snacks or drinks on a platter that's truly one-of-a-kind.

DIY Serving Tray

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

End of the year celebrations are just around the corner, and—no matter whether your plans include hosting an intimate dinner or throwing a giant party—an extra serving tray can always come in handy. After all, how else might you corral coffee fixings or carry appetizers out to your guests? But festive events deserve a little extra flair. Follow this illustrated tutorial to craft a DIY serving tray that’s uniquely styled with a geometric pattern and a trio of wood stains. And don’t feel the need to stash this platter away after guests leave; simply transfer the wooden tray to your coffee table or kitchen counter as a catch-all year-round.

 

DIY Serving Tray - Supplies

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- 6mm plywood (20 x 20 inches minimum)
- Graphic compass
- Rope
- Ruler or protractor
- Pencil
- Pushpin
- 1-½-inch x ¼-inch wood lath (24 feet)
- Scrap wood
- Jigsaw
- Wood stain (3 shades)
- Paintbrush
- Wood glue
- Wood clamps (optional)
- Palm sander
- 60-grit sandpaper
- 100-grit sandpaper
- Transparent acrylic varnish

 

DIY Serving Tray - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 1
Draw a hexagon on the plywood the size you wish to make your DIY serving tray; ours has a diameter of 18 inches. The easiest way to do so is to start by tracing a circle with a 9-inch radius in the center of your 20-inch-square plywood piece.

If you don’t have a drafting compass or yours isn’t capable of drawing a diameter of up to 18 inches, you can achieve the same end with a rope, pencil, pushpin, and ruler or protractor. Knot the rope around the pencil end closest to the lead tip (right where your fingers might hold it), measure out 9 inches of rope (the length of your radius), and fasten the other end of rope to the center of your plywood using a pushpin to fasten. Now, verify that the distance between the pushpin and the pencil tip is exactly 9 inches, as that’s what you’ll be cutting the wood lath to fit in the next steps. If so, proceed to draw the circle by holding the pencil vertically.

 

DIY Serving Tray - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 2
Continue with the pushpin method to find the corners of the hexagon. Remove the pin from the center of your circle and place it anywhere along the circle’s circumference; mark that position (Corner 1) in pencil. Now, trace along the circumference of the circle until the 9 inches of rope extends taut; mark this spot (Corner 2) in pencil, too. Move the pushpin to the mark you just drew, and repeat to find the next corner.

Continuing this process all the way around the circle should give you six corners. After you’ve marked the last, confirm that the distance between Corner 6 and Corner 1 is also be 9 inches long.

 

DIY Serving Tray - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 3
Use a ruler or protractor to connect the dots; the six lines will reveal your hexagon. Then, divide the shape into three identical parts by tracing a line from every other corner to the center of the circle where you first placed the pushpin.

 

DIY Serving Tray - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 4
Cut the wood lath into 15 equal pieces that will completely cover the tray, five in each third. To fit the DIY serving tray’s hexagonal shape, it’s important to achieve the right length and angle for each piece. The easiest way to do so is to place the first lath along one of the dividing lines and slide it until the lath enters into the neighboring third. Use the lines drawn on your plywood to mark the angles needed to cut each end of wood lath.

 

DIY Serving Tray - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 5
Rest one lath on a piece or two of scrap wood and cut along your penciled lines using a jigsaw. Before you cut 14 more to match, fit the piece into the drawn hexagon to check if the dimensions are accurate. If so, use this first cut as a model to measure and cut 14 additional pieces.

 

DIY Serving Tray - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 6
Set the lath pieces aside, and use the jigsaw to cut the hexagon shape out of the plywood next.

 

DIY Serving Tray - Step 7

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 7
Sand all the pieces—plywood and lath, front and back—to remove splinters.

 

DIY Serving Tray - Step 8

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 8
Stain the lath cuts in different shades to emphasize the pattern built into your DIY serving tray. We used Early American and Oak stains for six pieces each, and we left three pieces with their natural tone. Looking for more color? Use paint instead!

 

DIY Serving Tray - Step 9

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 9
Arrange multicolor lath cuts onto the plywood hexagon, and glue them in place. If you have them, you can set up wood clamps to hold the pieces together while the glue dries.

After the recommended amount of dry time passes, give a light sanding to the edges of the DIY serving tray to remove any dried adhesive peeking through the cracks.

 

DIY Serving Tray - Step 10

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 10
The last thing you have to make are the edges to your DIY serving tray. Cut six pieces of lath, each 9 inches long and with 30-degree angles in at both ends. Adhere each edge to a side of the tray with wood glue. Then, once all the glue has dried, lightly sand the finished project down. All that’s left to do now is to wipe away the dust with a clean cloth, and then spray on a coat of varnish to protect your rustic serving tray from all of the use it will get down the road.

 

DIY Serving Tray - Completed Project

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

How to Make a DIY Serving Tray

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

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


How To: Remove Drywall Anchors

Don’t get hung up on unwanted fasteners—take them out or camouflage them with the easy methods here.

How to Remove Drywall Anchors

Photo: istockphoto.com

Drywall anchors certainly come in handy when you want to safely hang something heavy on a hollow wall or a spot without studs. Drill a hole to insert an anchor, and its firm grip to the drywall enables you to put in a screw for shelves, a large mirror, or a piece of artwork. It’s all good—until you decide to take out drywall anchors to paint the room or relocate that enormous family portrait. Fortunately, it’s relatively simple to remove drywall anchors. The first move is to remove any screws to access the anchor, and then proceed with a method best suited to the particular type of fastener. Threaded plastic, cone-shaped, or expanding anchors can often be easily pulled out, while T-nut head varieties may need to be pushed through the wall or removed with a cutting wheel. This guide covers the top techniques for how to remove drywall anchors—even a savvy (sneaky!) alternative to removal—plus the best way to patch things up afterwards. So, anchors away…or not!

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Needle-nose pliers
- Screwdriver
- Hammer
- Goggles
- Drill with 1-inch cutting wheel
- Nail
- Utility knife
- Clean, dry rags
- Drywall putty
- Drywall spatula
- Medium-grit sandpaper

METHOD 1: PULL IT OUT

Grab the collar or head of the drywall anchor firmly with needle-nose pliers. With a gentle back-and-forth rocking motion, wiggle the anchor free. If it won’t give and remains secure, stop, or you risk excessive damage to the wall. Move on to Method 2.

How to Remove Drywall Anchors

Photo: istockphoto.com

METHOD 2: BACK IT OUT

Choose a screwdriver that will fit snuggly into the mouth of the anchor and tap it into place with a hammer. Turn the screwdriver counter-clockwise to back the drywall anchor out. If it won’t budge, or turns but doesn’t back out, proceed to Method 3 (if you have a cutting wheel) or consider Method 4 to sink the anchor into the wall.

METHOD 3: CUT AND HAMMER IT

Don protective goggles and attach a 1-inch cutting wheel to a drill. Cut the top off the drywall anchor. Then tap a wide nail against the anchor mouth with a hammer until the drywall anchor falls back behind the wall. Score the drywall around the anchor head with the cutting wheel or, if you don’t have a drill with a cutting wheel, a utility knife. Then place a screwdriver with a head wider than the anchor’s mouth, but not wider than the drywall anchor itself, and firmly tap the screwdriver until the anchor falls out behind the back of the wall.

METHOD 4: RECESS IT

Perhaps the simplest way to deal with multiple unwanted drywall anchors, or those in drywall that’s brittle or water damaged, is to recess rather than remove them altogether. Score the drywall around the anchor head with a utility knife. Position a screwdriver wider than the anchor mouth over the anchor head, and squarely but lightly tap the screwdriver with a hammer until you sink the drywall anchor partway into the drywall. Once the anchor is recessed, patch.

 

THE PATCHING PROCESS

After you’ve mastered how to remove drywall anchors or recessed the smattering of fasteners out of sight, patch the remaining hole with drywall compound.

STEP 1
Tap a hammer lightly around the edges of the hole until the edges are flat, flush with the wall. Wipe the wall free of drywall dust with a dry rag.

STEP 2
Apply enough drywall compound to fill the hole with a putty spatula. Do an “X” motion over the repair spot with the spatula to get the putty flush with the wall while removing excess. Let dry overnight.

STEP 3
Sand the dried putty with medium-grit sandpaper. Wipe dust off with a dry cloth and touch up the paint.


How To: Clean Window Tracks

Don't let a dirty, dusty frame detract from your view. Clear the grime from your window tracks quickly with this helpful how-to.

How to Clean Window Tracks

Photo: istockphoto.com

Dirty window tracks can spoil even the sunniest views. Whether you leave your windows open or closed, the tracks inevitably become a catchall for dust, insect corpses, mildew, and even mold. Regular upkeep is a necessity, but, unfortunately, window tracks can be awkward to clean with your typical arsenal of tools. But have no fear! Follow this guide for how to clean window tracks properly with supplies you likely have on hand.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Garden hose
- Rag
- Mini dust-busting vacuum
- Vacuum with narrow nozzle attachment (optional)
- Baking soda
- Spray bottle
- White vinegar
- Rubber gloves
- Toothbrush
- Paper towel
- Butter knife

Note: If you haven’t already, clean your windows before addressing the tracks, or else you risk more filth trickling into the window tracks as you wash the glass.

STEP 1
Open your window as wide as it can go. This can be done with or without your window screen in place, but we recommend removing the screen and setting it aside. (As long as you’ve got the screen out, it’s a good idea to clean it. Simply tap off the dust, give it a hard spray with your garden hose, and dry it with a clean rag.)

STEP 2
Grab a dust-busting mini vacuum (or a regular-size vacuum with a narrow nozzle attachment), and suck up all the loose debris and dead insects from the window tracks. A brush attachment is optional, but not necessarily recommended for this part—while it will effectively loosen caked-on dirt, it will also get the brush quite dirty in the process.

How to Clean Window Tracks

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 3
Generously sprinkle an even dusting of baking soda into the window tracks. Try to avoid creating lumps or piles of the powder.

STEP 4
Mix a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar in a spray bottle. Spritz generously into the window tracks until the baking soda is uniformly saturated. A chemical reaction between the baking soda and vinegar will cause the powder to foam and fizz. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

STEP 5
As the baking soda fizzes, spray the vertical window tracks along the sides of your window with more of the vinegar-water mix. Put on rubber gloves, and scrub from the top of the vertical track down to the bottom with an old toothbrush. Make sure to get into the corners of the window tracks.

STEP 6
Now, turn your attention back to the bottom of your open window. Brush from one end of the track to the other, scrubbing the corners and grooves thoroughly to effectively clean window tracks.

STEP 7
Press a piece of paper towel into the top of the vertical track. In a steady and continuous motion, wipe all the gunk toward the bottom of the track. Take a fresh piece of paper towel, and repeat the process on the bottom track, wiping from one end toward the center. If either track still appears dirty, spray with more of the vinegar-water solution, and wipe again with more paper towel.

STEP 8
Wrap the blade of a butter knife in a clean, dry rag, and work it into all the corners and nooks of your window tracks. When the rag starts collecting dirt, adjust it to expose a clean piece.

STEP 9
If needed, do a final light spray with the vinegar solution, then wipe with a clean rag. Tidy up your materials, pop the butter knife into the dishwasher, and enjoy your cleaner-than-ever window tracks!


Is It Wise to DIY? A New Survey Says, Not Always

Before you jump into your next home remodeling project, make sure you know what you're getting into.

Photo: istockphoto.com

We Americans are a can-do crowd, particularly when it comes to maintaining and improving our homes. Need proof? Look no further than a recent survey sponsored by Esurance. The results firmly support the notion that more often than not, regardless of prior experience or skill level, homeowners don’t think twice about undertaking a wide range of projects on their own, without a contractor. What’s more, some of these homeowners think quite highly of their abilities. In fact, 45 percent claim that they’re better able to care for their homes than even a contractor would be.

Where do these homeowners get their confidence? Does it spring from the glut of home remodeling programs on television, or is it simply human nature to believe in oneself? We can’t know for sure, but one thing’s certain: Take a trip to any home improvement center on a Saturday morning, and it’s plain to see that we have become a nation of hammer-swinging do-it-yourselfers. Yet, although 67 percent of those surveyed have handled a major home project on their own, 52 percent readily admit that they’ve had to hire a professional to fix or finish a DIY that went awry.

As it turns out, there’s a disconnect between homeowners’ perceptions of their DIY skills and the reality. And this disconnect affects not only the occasional DIY project, but also basic household maintenance. Just think: While a full 88 percent of survey respondents claim to know how to keep up their homes, a startling number admit to neglecting key tasks. For example, 74 percent say they have no plans for maintaining the foundation, even though experts recommend yearly inspections. Similarly, 54 percent say they have no maintenance plan for major systems like heating and cooling, despite the fact that, as any technician would tell you, hardworking HVAC equipment needs TLC to perform its best and stand the test of time.

Photo: istockphoto.com

Make no mistake: Overconfidence can have serious consequences for your bottom line. Witness the fact that 22 percent of all homeowners surveyed—and a whopping 54 percent of millennial homeowners—report having filed an insurance claim in the wake of a “DIY fail.” Complicating the situation is that, just as homeowners often misjudge their competence, many also fail to understand certain basics of insurance coverage. When asked whether such things as sewer backups and termite damage would be covered by a standard policy, 99 percent were wrong on at least one count.

Simply put, there are downsides to DIY. When something goes awry, it can result in costly mistakes. When you bring in a contractor halfway through a project, particularly if there’s damage to undo, you can expect to spend more than if you’d simply hired a pro to handle everything from the get-go. The best course? At the outset of any project, before you dive in headfirst, take the time to assess whether you’re truly up for the task at hand. Do your due diligence—learn all you can about every step of the process—then ask yourself the following questions:

Photo: istockphoto.com

• How much will it cost to purchase what you need to get the job done? Especially if you don’t envision yourself using the necessary supplies more than once, there’s a good chance that, counter to intuition, you would save money by hiring a pro who has access to all the tools of the trade.

• Is a permit required for the project you’re planning? If so, it also probably requires municipal inspection. If that’s the case, doing it yourself means running the risk of failing the inspection and then having to purchase more materials—and invest more time and energy—to redo the job right.

• Would the quality of the finished result impact the resale value of your home? While it’s one thing to do a slapdash job of painting the guest bedroom, it’s another to install roof shingles or exterior siding incorrectly. Before committing, be sure you fully understand what may be at stake.

• Are there any dangers inherent to doing it yourself? Many homeowners opt not to clean their own gutters, not because it’s complicated, but because the work entails getting up on a shaky extension ladder to reach the gutters. The lesson here: Don’t tempt fate if you don’t have to.

As the saying goes, “You can never have too much of a good thing.” Despite the wisdom of those words, it’s indeed possible to have too much self-confidence—a failing that can cloud judgment and drive a homeowner to undertake projects far beyond his abilities. So, go ahead and learn new skills and expand your reservoir of knowledge, but don’t lose sight of your strengths and weaknesses. We all have our limits; the trick is to embrace yours, not only for peace of mind, but also to protect your biggest investment, your home. DIY? Well, it’s one way, but it’s not the only way.

Photo: istockphoto.com

This article has been brought to you by Esurance. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


How To: Clean a Fireplace

Before you snuggle up in front of the hearth, be sure to banish ashes, stains, and creosote build-up.

How to Clean a Fireplace

Photo: istockphoto.com

Curling up in front of a fire is a thoroughly delightful aspect of fall and winter. But fires can be a messy business, and neglecting a fireplace leads to dark stains not just in the wood burner but also around the hearth and mantel. Aesthetics aside, cleaning the fireplace is a matter of safety: The National Fire Protection Association recommends both your chimney and fireplace be inspected for soundness and cleaned annually, as build-up of creosote (an oily wood-tar by-product found on chimney walls) can cause fires to flare out of control. Here’s how to clean a fireplace and sidestep potential fire hazards all season long.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Drop cloths or plastic sheeting
- Knee pads
- Towel
- Rubber gloves
- Old clothes
- Dust mask or respirator
- Nylon bristled scrub brushes (2)
- Scrubber (optional)
- Hand broom and dustpan
- Liquid dish detergent
- Rags
- Vacuum with nozzle attachment
- Trisodium phosphate (TSP)
- Household bleach
- Spray bottles (2)
- Bucket
- Disposable rags
- Paper towels
- White vinegar

STEP 1
Wait at least 12 hours after your last fire before attempting to clean a fireplace in order to give it a chance to cool down fully. Clear a working space and cover the area around the fireplace and nearby furniture with drop cloths or plastic sheeting (not newspaper—the ink can transfer onto carpets or upholstery). Don’t skimp on protection, as this promises to be a sooty project. Wear old clothes, which are sure to get stained, and rubber gloves. Don a dust mask to avoid inhaling potentially carcinogenic dust. If you don’t have kneepads, work on a thick folded towel to avoid painful pressure.

STEP 2
Remove all the ashes and dust from the fireplace, using a small shovel or hand broom to collect it on a dustpan. Dispose of the mess in a heavy paper bag or garbage can. Sweep dust and ashes off the andirons or grate, then take them outside to clean.

STEP 3
To remove soot from the grate/andirons, apply a few teaspoons of dish detergent to a water-dampened scrubbing brush, wet the grate/andiron with water, scrub until sudsy, and rinse well. Dry the grate/andiron off with the clean rag, and leave it aside until you clean the fireplace.

How to Clean a Fireplace

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 4
Using a dry bristle brush or hand broom, start at the top of each wall and sweep down to remove ashes and creosote. Repeat as many times as necessary. Sweep out the ashes and debris, and place them in the paper bag or dust bin. For good measure, you may wish to vacuum the area for any remaining dust.

STEP 5
Mix 3 tablespoons of TSP (a neutralized combination of phosphoric acid using sodium hydroxides), ½ cup of bleach, and a quart of hot (not boiling) water in a bucket. Fill a spray bottle with this cleaning solution and generously spray fireplace walls and floors. Let it sit for five minutes, then spray again for scouring.

STEP 6
To scour the fireplace, dunk the bristle brush in the remaining solution and scrub the walls, starting at the top and working down. Occasionally spray with cleaning solution, both as a rinse and cleaning aid. Use the old rags to wipe after scrubbing, and spray and repeat scrubbing process if required. Scrub the fireplace floor, sopping up the extra cleaning agent with rags.

STEP 7
If your fireplace has glass doors, mix a 50-50 white vinegar and water solution in a fresh spray bottle (you’ll need about a cup). Spray glass doors and some folded paper towels with the vinegar solution, then sprinkle some ashes onto the toweling to act as a light, natural abrasive. Gently scour the doors, and repeat the process with fresh paper towels.

STEP 8
If you have a brick fireplace front or facing that’s more than 50 years old, vacuum the area to pick up soot and dust. Do not scour it, as that could cause old brick to crumble.

For all other facings, mix ¼ cup liquid dish detergent and a gallon of water in a fresh bucket. Put clean, fresh water in a spray bottle and spray down the facing. For wood and brick, the water spray will prevent the cleaner from soaking in too deeply, too fast. For marble and tile, spraying will serve as a presoak.

STEP 9
Dip your brush in the bucket of detergent water and lightly scrub the facing surface. Accept that some stubborn stains will remain; overzealous scrubbing can do more harm than good. Spray the facing front with plain water and wipe dry with clean, dry rags, or paper towels.

STEP 10
Replace the grate or andirons. Clean your brush and broom with liquid dish detergent and water. Starting from the perimeter, gather your drop cloth or plastic sheeting up in a ball and throw it out.

STEP 11
Before you toss the ashes, consider spreading them over your garden: Ashes (not creosote) are a great source of calcium, potassium, and other nutrients for plants that like low-acidity, high-pH soil. And if you have issues with slugs, snails, or other soft-bodied pests, lay ashes around plant bases as a deterrent. Store ashes in a dry, air-tight container and you’ll have them on hand to replace after rainfalls, which will wash away the ash salt that repels invaders.

 

How to Clean a Fireplace

Photo: istockphoto.com


How To: Remove Scratches from Stainless Steel

Get those brushed metal surfaces back in shape with the right materials and these tips.

How to Remove Scratches from Stainless Steel

Photo: istockphoto.com

From sinks to appliances, counters to cabinet hardware, stainless steel remains a popular kitchen trend, favored for its sleek look and durability. Yet, sturdy as it is, stainless can acquire unsightly scratches in the course of everyday activity. Fortunately, it’s totally possible to minimize these signs of wear and tear, even successfully remove scratches from stainless steel altogether.

Look close and you’ll see that stainless steel has brush marks on the surface—this is called the grain, a result of the manufacturing process. Whichever scratch removal method or product you use, it’s essential to rub only in the direction of the grain; go the wrong way, you’ll worsen the problem. Also, do not apply the techniques described here on stainless that has a protective clear coat or synthetic surface applied, or you’ll do more damage. With those caveats in mind, collect your materials and start restoring your stainless steel. It may not come out looking brand spanking new, but it will certainly revive the appearance of your kitchen and keep it that way for years to come.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Stainless steel scratch removal compound
- Water
- Microfiber cloths
- Stainless steel scratch removal kit

FINE SCRATCHES

How to Remove Scratches from Stainless Steel

Photo: istockphoto.com

Use a non-abrasive compound such as Bar Keeper’s Friend, Revere Stainless Steel and Copper Cleaner, or even whitening toothpaste.

STEP 1
If you’re using a powdered stainless steel scratch removal compound, add enough water—a few drops at a time—to it to create a paste roughly the consistency of toothpaste. If your compound of choice is cream-based, proceed to the next step.

STEP 2
Apply a small amount of the scratch remover compound to a microfiber cloth and then very gently rub it back and forth over the scratch, working in the direction of the metal’s grain. Continue until the scratch buffs out.

STEP 3
Gently wipe the surface with a fresh, barely damp microfiber cloth to remove any compound residue. Dry with another fresh microfiber cloth. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 if needed to completely remove scratches from stainless steel surfaces.

 

DEEPER SCRATCHES

For larger imperfections that cannot do not respond to the compound, use a stainless steel scratch removal kit such as Scratch-B-Gone or Siege 63001 Stainless Steel Sink and Cookware Scratch Remover. Scratch remover kits generally contain a polishing compound and a set of abrasive pads. You’ll work from the coarsest grit to the finest to remove scratches from the stainless steel and restore the surface. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions specific to your kit.

STEP 1
Read through the manufacturer’s instructions completely. Identify the direction of the grain in your stainless steel.

STEP 2
Starting with the appropriate grit pad recommended for the specific scratch you aim to banish, rub the scratch with the grain, in one direction only—going back and forth with an abrasive could cause unattractive circular marks. Use only as much pressure as is needed to remove the scratch; don’t be overzealous or go deeper than necessary.

STEP 3
Move to a smoother grit pad, if recommended by the manufacturer, and continue the buffing process, adding water, or any compounds included in the kit, as called for.

STEP 4
Wipe the surface down with a microfiber cloth to finish the process, buffing the steel to a clean shine.

To keep your metal surfaces looking so new that you never have to ponder how to remove scratches from stainless steel again, avoid using abrasive substances or steel wool for regular cleaning and maintenance. Protect your stainless steel sink with a rubber dish mat when washing heavy pots or cast iron. Just be sure to remove the mat when finished washing up so that water won’t remain trapped underneath, where it can cause discoloration.

 

How to Remove Scratches from Stainless Steel

Photo: istockphoto.com