How To’s & Quick Tips - 3/67 - Bob Vila

Category: How To’s & Quick Tips

How To: Sharpen a Pocket Knife

Don't let a dull blade get you down—or injured! Sharpening your favorite pocket tool will ensure safer, more efficient use the next time you need it.

How to Sharpen a Pocket Knife


The handiest people advocate keeping a pocket knife within reach (if not actually in a pocket) at all times. Its foldable blades and tiny size render it useful in countless situations—whittling walking sticks, opening stubborn packaging, and cutting through twine, to name a few. With all that use, however, the blades on a pocket knife will dull, making them less efficient and ultimately more dangerous. A dull knife requires more force to work, which could cause the tool to slip and cut the user, whereas a sharp knife eases into a cut with minimal effort and maximum control. Rather than wait for an injury to happen, it’s better to be more proactive and learn how to sharpen a pocket knife.

To sharpen a pocket knife, you’ll need to acquire a few materials. While knife aficionados debate whether to sharpen the tool with a whetstone, diamond-crusted stone, ceramic stone, or a Japanese water stone, we recommend that beginners opt for a whetstone. This particular sharpening stone is easy to use and readily available at most home stores and online retailers (for under $20, even!). You’ll also want to invest in a sharpening guide, another ballpark $20 purchase which attaches to the knife and props it at a consistent angle so that you can make it through your first attempt at how to sharpen a pocket knife scathe-free.

– Rubber non-slip mat
– Clean rag
– Sharpening stone
– Baby, mineral, or canola oil
– Sharpening guide
– Piece of paper
– Paper towel

Sit down at a table so that you can hold the knife steady at a consistent angle throughout the sharpening process. Place a non-slip mat on the work surface, and cover it with a clean rag to protect it from oil stains from the materials you’ll use in the next steps. Then put the whetstone on top of the rag within easy reach. If the blade is extremely dull, ensure that you’ve got the rough grit side of the stone facing up; use the fine side of the stone for blades that need minor sharpening.

Completely cover the surface of the whetstone with mineral, baby, or canola oil. The oil keeps the stone’s pores from clogging with loosened metal debris during the sharpening process, and it also prevents friction from heating up the knife blade. A hot blade can warp and become impossible to sharpen and potentially difficult to open and close the pocket knife properly.

Attach the sharpening guide to the top of the knife blade, which will give you a fixed angle for sharpening. Each pocket knife must be slanted exactly at its bevel angle (the angle at which the blade slants) for sharpening, so make sure to buy a sharpening guide designed for that specific angle, which you can discern from the packaging. Most knife manufacturers will list the bevel angles for individual products on their website, but you can consult a professional knife sharpening service for help if needed. The bevel angle of most pocket knife falls somewhere between 10 and 20 degrees.

With practice, you won’t always need to use a sharpening guide—even so, you should still determine the pocket knife’s bevel angle. When sharpening, you’ll have to hold the knife in a position that keeps that bevel absolutely flat at the manufacturer-recommended angle.

How to Sharpen a Pocket Knife


Hold the handle of the knife in your dominant hand at the correct bevel angle, and use one or two fingers on your free hand to gently but firmly press the blade into the stone as you guide the knife across it—as if you’re slicing a fine layer off the top of the stone. Your personal preference determines whether you draw the knife toward you or away from you along the stone to sharpen it. Either way, your knife should follow a sweeping arc across the whetstone from the corner closest to you and opposite your dominant hand across the block to the far corner; so, if you’re holding your pocket knife in your right hand, you’ll move from the near left corner to the far right and back again. This angled movement ensures that the blade’s tip through its heel (the base of the knife) come into contact with the stone. Repeat five to 10 times.

Flip the knife over, and repeat Step 4 to sharpen the reverse side of the blade. Continue to maintain the correct bevel angle throughout the sharpening process.

Determine if the pocket knife has been sufficiently sharpened. Hold up any piece of paper, position the pocket knife at a 30-degree angle to it, and slice into an edge. Does the blade go in easily and create a clean cut? If so, congratulations! You’ve successfully sharpened the pocket knife.

If the blade doesn’t slice through the paper with ease, repeat Steps 4 and 5, giving the knife another five strokes across the whetstone per side. Increase the number of strokes until you’re satisfied with the blade’s sharpness, always completing an equal number on each side of the knife.

Once the knife is sharpened, wipe it with the clean rag to remove all oil residue. Then use paper towels to pat the stone dry before you storing it.

Sharpen the blade of your pocket knife after every few uses. To determine if a sharpening is needed, check the dullness of the blade using the paper test described in Step 6. With proper care, your knife will remain functional for decades to come!

Wood Filler: Your Secret Weapon for Fast and Easy Furniture Fix-Ups

Learn how an easy-to-use, stainable wood filler let this satisfied homeowner sidestep a time-consuming refinishing job and still end up with a beautiful, professional-looking end result.

Photo: JNoonan

In the above photo, you’re seeing what used to be a playroom for my two daughters. For years, the space contained the chaos of their picture books, art supplies, and plastic toys. But once the kids entered elementary school—and once their afternoons became dominated by endless extracurricular activities—the playroom grew quieter and quieter. Gradually, it became clear to me that the girls needed not a no-holds-barred play area, but a quiet place to concentrate and do homework. That’s when I struck upon the idea of a family office, one that would be functional both for my kids and for my husband and me.

To anchor the office, I envisioned a desk large enough to fit two (pint-size or full-grown) people comfortably. A thrift-store junkie, I didn’t even consider buying something brand new. Instead, I set off on a tour of the local secondhand stores, thinking that if I didn’t strike upon a beautiful vintage piece of the right size, then at the very least I’d be able to snag a temporary solution. In the end, though, I managed to get lucky. On my first day out hunting, for $10 apiece, I purchased a trio of Art Deco vanity cabinets, and for a couple of bucks more, an oversize laminate board to serve as a durable work surface.

Photo: JNoonan

I happen to love the Art Deco style, but the cabinets had no doubt seen better days. Most of the damage came in the form of minor, barely noticeable scratches and dings, but there were also a number of deep gouges that anyone could spot from a mile away. No problem, I thought. Eliminating those eyesores would be as simple as refinishing the cabinetry. But simple though it may be, refinishing takes time and effort, and months passed before I faced up to the fact that overhauling the cabinets would never reach the top of my to-do list. In other words, it was time for me to pursue a speedier, more pragmatic fix.

In the past, in situations roughly similar to my cabinet conundrum, I had used wood filler with tremendous success to conceal flaws in both interior and exterior wood. Of course, if the cabinets had not been structurally sound, it would have been necessary to mount a more ambitious fix. But under the circumstances, with the cabinets having suffered only superficial damage, I felt confident that wood filler would do the trick. If I was concerned about anything, it was the challenge of blending the patched areas with the existing cabinet finish. After all, you can’t stain wood filler—or so I thought.

Photo: JNoonan

At Lowe’s, I was delighted to discover the first and only wood filler on the market that you can stain—Elmer’s ProBond Wood Filler. Although wood filler typically comes in an array of colors, you would normally have no choice but to settle for one that didn’t quite match the existing finish of the wood you were patching. Any areas that you repaired would stand out as obviously having been repaired. In other words, you would have to accept an imperfect result. Stainable wood filler, meanwhile, enables you to conceal your repair work with any stain you like—whichever offers the closest color match.

Besides its ability to accept stain, Elmer’s ProBond Wood Filler also appeals to do-it-yourselfers because it’s easy to work with. In fact, you can use virtually any tool to apply the compound to damaged wood. For my project, I opted to use a putty knife, but I could have relied on a paint stirrer or a cotton ball or even my index finger. After a bit of preparation—removing dust and debris from the damaged areas and sanding down the rough edges—I proceeded to the main event: Working the wood filler into chips and gouges until each sat flush with its surroundings. All told, it took me half an hour.

Photo: JNoonan

Note that with other wood fillers, you need to take care to account for shrinkage—that is, you must overfill your repairs in order to counteract any contraction that takes place once the compound has dried. With Elmer’s ProBond Wood Filler, however, you can ignore shrinkage altogether, and thanks to its unique formulation, you can expect that the compound will never crack. Yet another reason to like the Elmer’s product: It dries quite quickly. In my case, because I was repairing relatively shallow gouges, the filler dried in only 15 minutes, giving me the chance to proceed directly to the next step—sanding each patch until smooth.

Finally, to complete the job and erase evidence of the repair, I set about staining each patch of wood filler. In the garage, where I like to hoard paint and stain cans, I had scrounged around and found a stain pen whose color looked almost identical to the walnut cabinet finish. But rather than go full speed ahead, I first tested the stain on the least conspicuous, most out-of-the-way wood filler patch. Once I was sure that the color match would be as good as it had initially seemed to be, I went about staining the remaining patches. It took more than one coat, but eventually, any sign of my repair work had all but disappeared.

Photo: JNoonan

True, I’d initially planned to refinish the wood, but with the desk looking as good as it does now, I see no reason to go any further. That said, considering the project in retrospect, I’d say the quality of the outcome wasn’t even the best part—it was the “no muss, no fuss” process. If I’d gone the refinishing route, I would have needed to empty the cabinets, haul them out to the garage—you get the picture. It would have been an ordeal. But Elmer’s ProBond Wood Filler enabled me to get right to it, working on the pieces just where they stood, and finishing the project in a fraction of the time it would have taken to refinish.

Having purchased an eight-ounce container of the product, I now have plenty of it left over, and I’m glad. Wood filler comes in handy, not only for furniture fix-ups, but also for a wide variety of repairs, both around the house and in the yard. Scarred flooring, rotted fence boards, nail-hole-ridden wall trim—common issues like these can lead to time-consuming, energy-sapping, and wallet-emptying repairs. Or they can be dealt with quickly, easily, and affordably with nothing more than Elmer’s ProBond Wood Filler. If you’ve never experimented with this stuff before, get excited: It could very well become your go-to home repair favorite.

Photo: JNoonan

This article has been brought to you by Elmer’s Products. Its facts and opinions are those of

How To: Cut Concrete

With a diamond blade and proper safety precautions, you can cut through concrete for your sidewalk, countertop, patio, or DIY project.

How to Cut Concrete


Whether you want to create a countertop or expand your sidewalk, cutting concrete yourself may not be as daunting as you imagine. Slicing through slabs thicker than six inches is best left to a pro, but anything less than six inches—a depth that would include most concrete walls, patios, and sidewalks—can be cut by a DIYer with the right equipment and proper know-how. Any handy homeowner looking to cut concrete needs one crucial tool: a diamond blade. While abrasive blades can cut concrete, they wear out quickly, potentially needing to be replaced multiple times in the course of one project. Abrasive blades may lead you to “force” the saw, a dangerous move that could result in losing control of the saw and suffering a potentially life-threatening cut.  Don’t take the risk; instead, invest between $30 and $55 for a diamond blade.

On the subject of safety, take note: All of the protective gear listed below is necessary. A filtration mask will keep you from breathing in concrete dust that can damage lung tissue, potentially causing lung cancer and silicosis. Kneepads and shin guards, on the other hand, will protect your legs from injury. The ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protected extension cord will not only protect you from power surges, shocks, and overloads, but the waterproof exterior is designed to withstand dangers posed by rain and any other contact with water. Manufacturers recommend plugging it into the power source and then, if needed, plugging in an indoor/outdoor extension cord from there. (Though GFCI cords as long as regular extension cords can be triple the price, they’re worth it for anyone who routinely works outdoors.)

Finally, if you’re doing a large project requiring more than seven feet of cutting, consider renting a “walk-behind” wet-cutting saw instead of using a diamond blade. Although it can be a pricey rental (around $100 a day, plus wear of blade, for a cutting depth of nearly seven inches) and heavy to work with, a wet-cutting saw will ensure the straightest and deepest of cuts, with far less work overall—no chiseling, no hammering, and no need for repeated shallow cuts. You pay for the machine and the extent of blade wear, measured in 1/1000ths of an inch and charge accordingly.

These instructions on how to cut concrete focus on smaller projects, which are completed with a diamond blade.

– For concrete slabs under 4 inches: Circular saw (15 amps minimum) with at least 7” blade
– For concrete slabs 4 to 5 inches thick: Hand-held cut-off saw with 14” blade
– Dry-cutting diamond blade (sized to saw)
– Wet-cutting diamond blade
– Drop cloths
– Duct tape
– Chalk or chalk line
– Heavy long-sleeved shirt and pants
– Shin guards
– Knee pads
– Steel-toed boots
– Eye protection
– Ear protection
– Full face shield
– High-filtration dust mask
– Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter–protected extension cord
– Garden hose
– 1”-deep scrap wood the length of your cut
– Broom
– Dustpan
– Wet-dry vacuum
– Sledgehammer
– Prybar
– Claw hammer (optional)
– Mason chisel (optional)

Choose the type of blade you prefer to work with for the job: dry-cutting diamond or wet-cutting diamond. The former works with a circular saw or handheld cut-off saw, although you will want to wet the concrete to minimize the dust that flies while you cut. Wet-cutting blades, on the other hand, require water on the blade constantly—which can be achieved with most tools but works most easily when you rent and use the proper “walk-behind” concrete-cutting saw. By renting this job-specific saw, you’ll also get a greater cutting depth than using a circular or handheld cut-off saw. A 7” circular saw, for instance, can only cut to 2-¼ inches deep, meaning you’ll need to sledgehammer the rest of the concrete away; a 14” wet-cutting blade attached to a concrete-cutting saw, on the other hand, gets you to 4-5/8 inches of clean cut.

Prepare the workspace to keep concrete dust from entering your home. If working in a basement or garage, tape drop cloths to any doors; if outside, ensure that all nearby windows are closed. If close to any air intakes, tape a drop cloth or plastic sheet over them.

Mark the places you want to cut on the concrete slab either using chalk line (good for long, straight edges) or chalk. Apply the line as thick as possible. You’ll ideally run a trickle of water over the concrete as you cut in order to keep airborne dust at a minimum, and you don’t want the line to disappear.

Take every personal safety precaution necessary: Don your heavy clothes, shin guards, knee pads, and steel-toed boots, plus protection for your eyes, ears, and face. Always wear a properly fitting filtration mask. If using an electric saw as opposed to a gas-powered saw, plug the GFCI-protected extension cord into the power source to eliminate power surges, shocks, and overloads, as well as any dangers that come with using a power tool near water.

How to Cut Concrete


If possible, position a garden hose to distribute a trickle of water directly over where you will make the cut. When working on a flat, horizontal project like a patio slab, extend the hose to the work area and turn the water on to a trickle, in order to keep the surface damp. Hold the hose in place so that the steady stream flows over your chalked line.

If working on a vertical job, like cutting into a concrete retaining wall, then water can be trickier to employ. Ask a friend to spray water on the slab of concrete as you work, or nix this step altogether. Without water, you’ll just have a bit more dust and need to run the saw in the open air between cuts to let it cool off.

Starting at one end of the cut area, whichever side is easiest for you, put a “guide board” (any 1”-deep scrap wood as long as the cut line) along the outside of the chalk line.

While the saw is still completely off, set its blade depth using the depth lever or knob (refer to the owner’s manual for instructions) so it cuts a maximum of a half-inch deep. This will keep you in better control of the saw as you work with shallow cuts. Proceeding with a series of shallow cuts is safer—offering more control and a chance for your blade to cool off—than going all-in at once, unless you’re pushing a big walk-behind saw that can handle the depth.

Power up the saw at the lowest revolutions per minute (RPM) setting, and begin your first cut along the guide board. Maintain a constant, firm, two-handed grip on whichever saw you’re using, and slowly move the saw forward tightly against the guide board. Always let the saw do the work; simply guide its direction, but don’t push it down into the concrete. You only need a quarter-inch cut at this point, but if the saw bites in a bit deeper, that’s fine too. This first guided cut will ensure you keep your cuts straight during the rest of the project.

Cut for 30 to 45 seconds.

Remove the saw from the concrete and let it spin freely; this provides an opportunity for the saw blade to spit out any dust clogging it up and cool down. Alternate cutting for 30 to 45 seconds and cooling for the same amount of time until you finish the project.

After you’ve made the guided cut, remove the guide board. Go back into the ¼”- to ½”-deep cut and continue doing intermittent cuts that are no longer than 30 to 45 seconds of running the saw. Nice, shallow, straight lines will soon add up to a 2”-deep cut in the concrete.

Dust will collect during the cutting process, despite your efforts to keep the concrete wet. Take breaks to clear it out. Sweep it up or enlist a wet-dry vacuum to suck it all up.

To proceed with deeper cutting, shut the saw off and increase the blade depth by ½-inch increments with the depth lever or knob. Resume cutting when you’ve set the new width following the technique outlined in Steps 7 and 8.

Once you have cut as deep as you can using the maximum blade depth on your saw, you’re ready to switch to a sledgehammer. A walk-behind wet saw may have finished cutting through the concrete completely; if this is the case, you can skip ahead to Step 14.

Clean up the work area of dust (using either a broom and dustpan or a wet-vac), and put away the saw and power cord. Then, with protective gear still on, hammer away at the cut concrete. Start near the cut line, but not on it, working outside of the cut area. Staying one to two inches away from all cut lines, swing the sledgehammer with enough force to break the concrete. As you split the concrete, use a prybar to dig chunks out and remove them.

Once you’ve knocked away most of the concrete around the cut line you’ve made—and perhaps cut through the concrete altogether—you can go back and carefully tap away the excess concrete for a cleaner line. If you’ll be pouring new concrete to replace a weathered, crumbling, cracked driveway or patio slab, however, leave the edge jagged and jutting out by an inch or two, as it’ll give the new concrete something to bond with.

To achieve a cleaner edge beneath the saw-cut line, you’ll need a claw hammer and mason chisel. Starting at the bottom of the clean cut line at one end of the project, position the chisel blade flush against the concrete, tap the top of the chisel firmly with the hammer so that concrete crumbles away bit by bit until you’ve cleaned up the rough edges to your liking.

Move whatever crumbled concrete remains to the yard as fill, sell or give to someone else to use as fill, or haul it to a landfill for proper disposal.


How to Cut Concrete


How To: Dispose of Gasoline

Once gas ages, it loses some of the combustibility to fire up an engine, but its flammability makes it a pain when it comes time to dispose of it. Get the lowdown on how to get rid of your extra supply safely.

How to Dispose of Gasoline


From powering vehicles and generators to garden tools, gasoline makes our world go around. Leaving unused remnants of the fuel stored too long in your garage or sitting in a riding lawnmower all winter, however, risks it degrading or becoming contaminated during that time. At this point, you need to deal with it through legal disposal or reuse after dilution. Improperly and illegally disposed of gasoline—that which is poured onto land, into storm drains, or down toilets—can incur fines, damage landscape, kill animals, contaminate water sources, and even pose a serious fire risk. Read on to learn about how to dispose of gasoline safely and responsibly.

– Glass containers
– Jerry can
– Fuel additives like octane boosters or injector cleaners (optional)
– Funnel
– Government-certified gasoline container
– Cooler or bin
– Cat litter (optional)
– Broom and dustpan (optional)
– Baking soda (optional)
– Liquid dish soap (optional)

STEP 1: Inspect whether the gasoline is old or contaminated.

To see if gas is old or contaminated, pour some in a glass container. In another container, pour some fresh gasoline for comparison.

If the questionable gas is darker or smells more “sour” than the fresh gas, it has likely aged to the point of losing efficacy. The addition of ethanol, which is a preservative, has made today’s gasoline more shelf-stable than fuel of years past. Still, gasoline that sits more than a couple months in storage (and an unknown length of time in the gas station’s tank before that) degrades and loses combustibility, which can ultimately inhibit its ability to fire your engine. While old gasoline won’t hurt an engine, it’ll just make it run inefficiently or fail to fire at all. You can certainly dispose of old gas, but you can also reuse it by diluting it with fresh gas (see Step 2).

However, if the leftover gasoline shows particles of rust, dirt, or discoloration, it may be contaminated. Do not reuse this fuel. Instead, skip to Step 3 to dispose of it, since those particles can clog fuel lines and carburetors.

How to Dispose of Gasoline


STEP 2: Use up old gasoline.

On its own, old gas has lost some of the potency that would have enabled it to fire an engine, but it’s often safe to use up by diluting with newer gas in the tank of an outdoor power tool or vehicle. Follow the right proportions, and the old gas will lower an entire gas tank’s combustion ability by so little that it’s less of a concern.

• If there’s only a half tank or less of old gasoline in your lawn mower, filling the rest up with fresh gasoline might dilute it enough to get the engine firing. You’ll burn through it pretty quickly as you work in your yard. You may choose to top it up with more fresh gas midway through use to get a little more oomph from the fuel.

• For larger quantities of gas, you can dilute it in your car or truck’s gas tank. First, check your vehicle owner’s manual or look online for its tank capacity, which ranges from 9 gallons to 16 gallons. For a small tank of 9 or 10 gallons that reads at least ¾ full, according to the fuel gauge, add a half-gallon of old gas to the tank. Use a proper “jerry can” (a gas jug with pouring spout) to slowly pour the old gas into the tank. Eyeball the gas level as you fill it, and stop when the tank is filled to just below the tank mouth’s safety flap. (That metal flap gets pushed into the tank mouth when you insert the gas nozzle; it’s designed to prevent gas from spilling into the area between the tank mouth and the gas cap, so you don’t get rude surprises when you take the cap off.) Similarly, you can add ¾ of a gallon of old gas to nearly full 12-gallon tanks, or a full gallon to 16-gallon tanks.

When adding old gas to fresh gas in a vehicle, you may also ask employees at your local automotive supplies shop whether using fuel additives would allow you to increase the ratio of old to new gas in your tank so that you could use the supply up more quickly—and, if so, which additives they recommend. Octane boosters, injector cleaners, and other products can prove useful for using old gasoline, depending on the engine in question and the kind of fuel you’ve got, which these professionals can assess.

Of course, you can choose to dispose of old gasoline. In fact, it’s wise if the fuel is an especially dark color, such as rust-brown or “milk chocolate” compared to fresh gas, so that you don’t risk gumming up your engine with deposits or impurities.

STEP 3: Research the nearest disposal center for old or contaminated gasoline.

Start with these four leads for where to take the gasoline in your area, and be sure to note when the center is open for visits. (Some are only open once a week or on certain weekends.)

• Search online for “hazardous waste disposal center” in your county, city, or state.

• Call your county or city waste management agency and ask where gasoline goes.

• Check with your local fire department. Given the flammability of gasoline, they frequently can suggest how to handle the gasoline and where it should go.

• Ask your auto repair shop if they would take the gasoline off your hands. Many will not, as it can be an expense to them to deal with it on your behalf, but it’s worth the question if you’ve already got a great relationship with an auto repair shop.

STEP 4: Transfer gasoline to a government-certified container.

Using a funnel, carefully transfer the old or contaminated gasoline from its existing container into one that is government-certified specifically to hold gasoline, like a jerry can or plastic gas jug. Many fire codes require each container store less than five gallons each. (You can pick up either at home and automotive centers or gas stations.)

Pour slowly to avoid splashing, static, or spillage, and fill no more than 95 percent of the way to leave room for the fumes. Keep your face as far away from the spout as possible to minimize the amount you inhale. Immediately after you’ve finished pouring, tightly seal the container with its lid to prevent spills or leaks.

Place the container upright in a second receptacle, such as a rubber cooler or bin, in case it should topple over as you’re driving and suffer a leak. Then wash your hands thoroughly, in case any has splashed on you.

STEP 5: Deal with any gasoline spills.

If any stains have gotten on your clothing, change your clothes and address the stained set. First, you’ll want to blot the excess off with a white cloth. Cover the affected area with baking soda to absorb whatever your cloth cannot; let it sit for a few minutes, then brush it clean. Finally, rub liquid dish soap into the stain to treat it five minutes before laundering the clothing by itself in the hottest water its fabric can take. Line dry only until you’re sure all traces of gasoline have completely been removed; otherwise, lingering gasoline can cause combustion in the dryer when exposed to heat.

If you spilled gasoline on the driveway, soak up as much of the fuel as possible with an absorbent product, such as kitty litter. It may take a few hours to absorb the spill, then sweep up the litter to dispose of with your liquid gasoline. You can address any stain that remains with our driveway cleaning tips.

STEP 6: Transport gasoline.

Drive carefully, and never, ever smoke in the vehicle while transporting gas. Fumes could be lingering or gas could have splashed on you, and it takes very little gasoline to be combustible with open flames in a small space.

Once you reach the disposal center, you should be able to empty your gasoline into their storage vessel and take the empty 5-gallon jug home for the next time you have to dispose of gasoline responsibly.


How to Dispose of Gasoline


Safety Tips When Dealing with Gasoline

Gasoline is highly toxic and flammable, so take precaution when transferring and disposing of the substance. Follow this advice and more from the US Government’s Medline Plus.

• It’s dangerous to inhale in large quantities, so work outdoors if you can. If you can’t, get to fresh air quickly if you notice it burning in your lungs.

• If you accidentally swallow gasoline, drink milk immediately and call the Poison Helpline at 1-800-222-1222.

• If you get gasoline on your skin or in your eyes, flush it out with lots of cool water for at least 15 minutes. See a medical professional if it continues to burn or affect you after the 15 minutes has lapsed.

So, You Want to… Install a Doorbell

Ding-dong! Who’s there? All the info you need on buying and setting up the best bell for your entry.

How to Install a Doorbell


Ever since we’ve had doors, we’ve been re-inventing ways to be alerted to a visitor’s arrival. Hefty iron knockers gave way to tinkling bells that chimed at the turn of the handle, and today, technological advances have made doorbells more versatile than ever. Whether you’re updating your entry and want to replace an old doorbell with a more inviting model or you’re looking to upgrade to something “smart,” we’ll guide you on how to choose as well as how to install a doorbell that’s right for your home.

There are three doorbell options available today: hard-wired, wireless, and Wi-Fi-capable (which link to your home’s router, in either wired or wireless versions).

How To Install a Wired Doorbell

Three components are involved in a standard hard-wired doorbell—the button, the chimes, and the transformer—which you can purchase separately or together in a kit. Wired doorbells run anywhere from $20 to more than $200 for decorative chime units and smart technology features. Hard-wired doorbells are generally installed during the construction of a home when an electrician can easily run wires into the unfinished walls. If your home was never wired for a doorbell, installation can be costly because new wires must be “fished” through the walls, a labor-intensive process.

How to Install a Doorbell


Installation tips: The bell’s transformer reduces a home’s standard 120 volts to less than 24 volts in order to accommodate the low-voltage wires that connect to both the button unit and the chime box. Because you’re dealing with low voltage, installation can be relatively DIY friendly.

• A wired doorbell is linked to your existing electrical, so you’ll first have to shut off the power to the bell at the breaker box.

• If the transformer (generally located in your home’s utility room or attic) must be replaced, higher voltage will be involved. Unless you’re knowledgeable in home wiring techniques, it’s best to call a licensed electrician to replace it.

• If using the existing transformer, you may be able to easily replace the chimes and button yourself. Remove the existing components and attach the low-voltage wires to the new bell and chime n box per the manufacturer’s instructions. Switch the breaker back on and the bell is good to go.

How to Install a Wireless Doorbell

Going wireless is often the best option if your home doesn’t have existing doorbell wiring; it’s also a good choice if you like the idea of a portable chime box you can put in any room. Chime units often plug into standard indoor outlets, and some wireless doorbells come with multiple chime boxes that you can place in different rooms. When shopping, check the packaging to determine maximum wireless signal distance, usually between 700 and 1,200 feet, to ensure that the chime box will sound if you set it in a back room. Inexpensive units start at $15 (your basic door button and plug-in chime box) and can cost more than $200 for smart units.

Installation tips: This is super simple, though removing an old doorbell can take some expertise.

• First, attach the plate that holds the button unit to the front door casing or siding with screws.

• Then snap the button unit into place. Many wireless doorbell button units are snap-in/snap-out to simplify battery-replacement.

• After installing the button unit, plug the chime box receiver into an inside power outlet and you’re ready to receive.

• If replacing a wired doorbell with a wireless unit, you can leave the old one in place if you wish.

• To remove it, however, first shut off the breaker. Then, after removing the old button unit, you’ll see two leftover low-voltage wires. You can simply wrap the bare wire ends with electrical tape and tuck them back into the wall, or twist plastic wire nuts over each of the wires. But if you want the old transformer removed, it’s best to engage an electrician to safely terminate wires.

How to Install a Smart Doorbell

A Wi-Fi-capable doorbell connects to your home’s wireless router and allows you to monitor visitors from your smartphone or PC. Smart doorbells can be either wired (meaning you’ll need existing doorbell wiring to hook them up) or battery operated to be completely wireless. Options include cameras with or without night vision, intercom capabilities, and motion sensors that send an alert to your smartphone when someone approaches your door. Smart doorbells start around $150 and can cost more than $300 depending on the extras you select.

Setup tips: Get this one done and you’ll be able to monitor your doorbell from anywhere.

• Install the button unit for either a wired or wireless doorbell.

• Sync the button unit to your home’s Wi-Fi router and to your smartphone. This process will vary, depending on the manufacturer, and will likely require downloading and installing an app on your phone that will allow you to monitor the doorbell features remotely.

DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

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

All You Need to Know About Driveway Cleaning

Say goodbye to driveway stains and hello to curb appeal! We've got solutions for every unsightly mess that will ever mar your property's front entrance.

Driveway Cleaning Tips for Better Curb Appeal


Nothing is quite as aggravating as discovering that the delivery guy’s van leaked oil on your driveway, or that the dried leaves you didn’t sweep up last fall created stubborn brown stains that won’t rinse away. But your home’s curb appeal doesn’t have to suffer a setback. With the right supplies and a little elbow grease, you’ll soon have your driveway looking good again. Whatever the stain or discoloration on your driveway, we’ve got the best driveway cleaning techniques to solve it.

Driveway Cleaning Tips to Remove Oil Spots


Auto-related Oil and Solvent Spills

Motor oil, brake fluid, and gasoline spills are more visible on concrete than asphalt (asphalt’s black coloring hides the stain some), but it’s still imperative to promptly clean them off both types of driveways to prevent serious stains. What’s more, auto-related oils and solvents can interact with asphalt’s petroleum base so that it deteriorates and softens.

On either type of driveway, first soak up as much of the fresh spill as possible with an absorbent product, such as kitty litter. Give it a few hours to absorb the excess spill, then scoop up the litter and sweep the area. To remove the rest of the spill, use one of the following driveway cleaning techniques for your specific hardscape material.

• Asphalt follow-up: After absorbing the excess spill, spray a biodegradable oven cleaning product on the affected area (make sure it specifies “biodegradable,” so that you do not splash or rinse away any caustic chemicals into your lawn) and let it sit for up to 30 minutes before rinsing away with your garden hose. Just as oven cleaner dissolves tough grease in your oven, it will break down the remaining oil or solvent, allowing you to safely rinse it away.

• Concrete follow-up: Unlike asphalt, concrete’s slightly porous surface allows spills to seep into its tiny holes. The best way to remove the remaining product from concrete is to dissolve it and then draw it out. Mix enough of a powered moisture-absorbant product (we recommend corn starch for small spills or diatomaceous earth, which can be found in large bags from swimming pool–supply stores, for larger spills) into the liquid TSP to create a thick paste. Spread it over the affected area, be it a fresh spill or an old stain. Work it into the concrete surface with a stiff-bristle nylon brush. Spread an additional thin layer of the paste on top and let it dry completely. The TSP will break down the oil or solvent components and the absorbing product will bind them. The paste could take anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours, depending on outdoor temperature and humidity. Use a putty knife to scrape away the dried paste and then rinse with a hose or a power washer. Old stains may require more than one application to remove.


Dirty Driveways

After a winter of snow and slushy roads, it’s nearly impossible to keep automobile tires from tracking dirt and mud on your driveway where it hardens like a rock as it dries. If you have a power washer, this is a good time to take it out; if you don’t, you can clean away the dirt and mud with a stiff-bristle push broom and a garden hose. This driveway cleaning technique works equally well for both dirty asphalt and concrete driveways. First, sweep away loose dirt and bits, then dampen caked-on mud and let the water soak in a few minutes before scrubbing the loosened mud with the push broom to break it up. Depending on how much you have to remove, this could take a while. The trick is to use plenty of water.

Driveway Cleaning Tips for Removing Leaf Stains


Decomposing Organic Matter

If you neglect to rake up the mess of organic matter that has spilled onto your concrete driveway, piles of mulch, fallen leaves, and pine needles can leave harmless yet unattractive brown stains behind. (These only appear on concrete, since darker asphalt can mask the color.) As they decompose, they release tannin, a colorful byproduct of the natural decaying process. While the color will eventually fade from concrete, you can help hurry the process along with a little bit of driveway cleaning.

Sweep the concrete surface, then spray the stained area with a garden hose to rinse away dirt. In a large plastic bucket, mix ½ cup of liquid dish detergent into 3 gallons of hot water. (Or, for the best results on tannin stains, use a powdered laundry detergent that’s advertised as being good at removing food stains.) Slowly pour the solution onto the tannin stains and work the liquid into the concrete using a stiff-bristle nylon brush. Rinse with the garden hose and, while the concrete is still wet, sprinkle powdered laundry detergent over the stains and scrub again. Leave the detergent on for a few minutes then rinse away. Repeat if necessary.

Paint Problems

Paint splatters left behind from a furniture project you brought outdoors a nuisance on both concrete and asphalt.

• If dealing with a latex-based paint spill, you can often remove it by wetting the splatter with water, sprinkling on household scouring powder, scrubbing it with a stiff-bristle nylon brush. Rinse with a garden hose.

Oil- and acrylic-based paint splatters are tougher to remove. If you have an asphalt driveway, the best solution may be to coat the driveway (or just the paint-splattered area) with an asphalt sealer, which will renew its black surface and cover splatters. That’s because the solvent that removes oil-based paint can actually damage asphalt, making it only suitable for concrete driveways. Removing paint from concrete is similar to removing it from an old piece of furniture you’re refinishing—strip it off! Pour or brush a paint-stripping solution on the splatters, and work it into the concrete with a stiff, natural-bristle brush. Leave it on for the time specified by the manufacturer and then rinse it away. (Since you’ll be rinsing the paint stripper away, it’s a good idea to use a product that’s safe for the environment. Low-VOC strippers, such as Citristrip or SmartStrip, are good choices for the job.)

Rust Stains

While not an issue on black asphalt driveways, rust is an eyesore on concrete—and happens as quickly as overnight. Just leaving a paint can out on the driveway during a rainstorm can result in a dark rusty circle by morning. Fortunately, muriatic acid will remove rust stains without much trouble, but this harsh acid (available at most hardware stores) requires extra safety precautions when using it. Wear long rubber gloves and protective eyewear, and follow the motto you learned in high school science class: “Do how you otter (ought to), add acid to water.”

By slowly pouring ¼ cup acid into a bucket already filled with 2 cups of cold water, you’ll minimize the risk of splashes. If any solution does splash onto your skin, rinse it off promptly to avoid irritation. Then, carefully pour the mix onto the rust stain and gently scrub the surface of the concrete with a stiff-bristle nylon brush. Allow the driveway cleaning solution to remain on for a few minutes before rinsing away with a garden hose. Heavy rust stains may require two or more treatments.


These cleaning techniques should rid your driveway of any stains and spills. If, however, you come across a stubborn patch of oil, try using Coca-Cola to help get rid of it! Check out our video below to learn more.


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.

– 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)

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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


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


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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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


– 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

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.

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.

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

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.

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


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


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


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



DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

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