Kitchen - 2/21 - Bob Vila

Category: Kitchen


How To: Build a Kitchen Island

Maximize any kitchen space—cramped or capacious—by building a custom kitchen island to fit all of your needs.

How to Build a Kitchen Island

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Sometimes, the kitchen is too small to prep a multi-course meal for friends or family. If only you had 12 square inches more counter space to chop vegetables, or an extra shelf to move the unused toaster out of the way… Sound familiar? Then this tutorial is for you! Without breaking your budget, you can create a kitchen island that goes above and beyond your wildest culinary workspace and storage dreams. Just follow these plans for how to build a kitchen island with room to do it all—chop, mix, shelve, store, and more. Ours measures 57 inches long, 21 inches deep, and a standard 35-½ inches high, but, of course, you can alter these dimensions as you see fit to better address your kitchen’s needs.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Supplies

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– 10-foot-long 2×2 lumber (5)
– Ruler
– Hand saw
– Palm sander
– Sandpaper (80- and 120-grit)
– Wood glue
– Drill
– 3-inch screws (4+80)
– 2-inch metal corner brace (20)
– 6mm plywood (2 4-by-8-foot sheets)
– Wood clamps
– 8-foot-long 1×2 lumber (5)
– Acrylic paint
– Brush
– 10-foot-long 2×8 lumber (2)
– 4-inch mending plates (9)
– 1-inch screws (36)
– Varnish or mineral oil
– ½-inch nails (18)
– Hammer
– Scrap wood
– Metal drawer pulls (4)

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 1
Cut your 2×2 lumber into the following lengths to make up the structure of the DIY kitchen island:

• Four 33-inch pieces for the legs
• Two 57-inch pieces for the countertop support
• Four 54-inch pieces for framework for the top and bottom shelf
• Six 18-inch pieces for shelf and countertop support

Sand all edges of your cuts, and assemble one side of the kitchen island by arranging a 57-inch 2×2 with two 33-inch legs to make a U-shape as pictured. Glue the two legs to the bottom of what will be the countertop support, then pre-drill holes for and fasten with two screws through the top at each end.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 2
Place two 54-inch shelf supports between the island’s legs (the first 12 inches from the bottom of the island’s top, and the second 10 inches beneath that). Affix with a dab of wood glue on both ends of the 54-inch shelf supports, and reinforce with a 2-inch metal corner brace beneath each end.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 3
Repeat Steps 1 and 2 to make a second identical structure.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 4
Join the two identical halves using the six 18-inch pieces. To accomplish this, place half of the frame on the floor and affix three 18-inch lengths to each leg using wood glue. Note: Each 18-inch 2×2 should align with the horizontal 2×2s already connected (the shelf and countertop supports). Screw corner braces beneath each connection for extra support.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 5
Lay the second half of the DIY kitchen island’s frame (without the attached 18-inch cuts) flat on the floor. To prepare to connect both halves, you’ll want to screw three metal corner braces to each leg, one at each level. Scoot each corner brace to the edge of the leg so that it’s perpendicular but perfectly aligned with the corner brace already in place supporting either a shelf or countertop, then screw each into the wood.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 6
Lay the two halves in front of each other, corner braces and 18-inch supports facing in and feet facing up. Apply wood glue to the exposed ends of the 18-inch supports, press them to the opposing kitchen island legs, and screw the second half of each corner brace into the wood supports. Stand your DIY kitchen island upright.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Step 7

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 7
Cut a rectangle of 57 inches by 21 inches from the 6mm plywood sheet in order to make the lowest shelf. At each corner, cut out a small notch the same dimensions as the legs (1-½ inch square). Sand the plywood, especially the cut edges.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Step 8

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 8
Apply wood glue to the tops of the lowest level of 2×2s and fit the plywood piece through the open top of your DIY kitchen island into place onto the adhesive. Press the wood pieces together with clamps until the glue dries.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Step 9

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 9
Make the second shelf using 1×2 lumber cut into 22 21-inch lengths. Lay them out over the structure’s middle-tier supports, leaving a ¾-inch gap between each, and glue down the 1×2s at each end.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Step 10

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 10
Sand all parts of the kitchen island, first using 80-grit sandpaper on a palm sander, then again with 120-grit for a smooth finish.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Step 11

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 11
Wipe down all the dust with a clean rag before you move on to apply two coats of acrylic paint. We chose a charcoal color, but you could stain and varnish it instead, if you prefer.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Step 12

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 12
While the paint (or stain) dries, you can build the countertop using the 2×8 lumber. Cut the 10-foot planks into three 5-foot-long pieces to make a countertop that is a little longer and wider than the base of your DIY kitchen island. Carefully align the pieces side by side so that no one extends past the others, then apply wood glue along the 1-½-inch side of each where they meet. As the glue dries, screw three 4-inch mending plates along each seam on the back.

Sand the completed countertop down, and protect it with a coat of varnish or mineral oil. Once the varnish is dry, lay the countertop on your kitchen island; it should hang ¾ of an inch off the front and back and 1-½ inches off the left and right sides. Center it as best you can, then glue and clamp the countertop onto the structure while the adhesive dries.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Step 13

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 13 (optional)
Sure, you can purchase storage boxes or crates from your nearest home goods store or craft center—or you can build a set to perfectly fit the allotted space on the lower shelf for less money than you’d spend otherwise. We made four boxes of 13 inches wide, 8-½ inches tall, and 18 inches deep with a quarter-sheet of plywood.

For each box, you’ll need to cut five rectangles in the plywood sheet:
• One 12-½ inches by 18 inches for the box bottom
• Two 8-½ inches by 13 inches for the box front and back
• Two 8-½ inches by 17-½ inches for the box sides

To assemble the box, apply wood glue along the edges of the box bottom (the 12-½-by-18-inch rectangle). Lay it flat and on the ground and press the front and back panels (the 8-½-by-13-inch rectangles) in place, then apply glue to the exposed edges of the front and back panels—except for the tops!—and slide the sides (the remaining 8-½-by-17-½-inch rectangles) into place. Essentially, all sides should wrap the bottom of the box, and the front and back should cover the edges of the sides. Reinforce the construction with ½-inch nails; hammer three along each side of the front and back.

Repeat to make four boxes total.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Step 14

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 14 (optional)
Once the wood glue has dried, add a metal drawer pull for easy opening and closing of each new “drawer” on your DIY kitchen island. As we used only 6mm plywood to build these, you may have to glue an extra piece of scrap wood on the inside directly behind where you want to add the pull so that there’s enough thickness to drill screws into for the drawer pull. Measure to find the center near the top of the box’s front, place your drawer pull 2 or 3 inches from the top; when happy with the position, mark and drill holes. Screw this drawer pull into place, and repeat on the remaining three boxes.

Once you’ve shelved these boxes to the lower shelf as drawers, and ready to enjoy your new DIY kitchen island.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island with Storage

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Completed Project

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

How to Build a Kitchen Island

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: Clean Marble Countertops

Keep that natural stone looking its best with proper protection and care.

How to Clean Marble Countertops

Photo: istockphoto.com

Natural stone, with its rich colorations and wonderful feel, is Mother Nature’s gift to our homes. But this beautiful, popular kitchen and bathroom countertop option is pricey—and for all its durability, it’s got a delicate side. That’s why it’s crucial to protect your investment by caring for marble correctly. This guide will take you through how to clean marble countertops, address stains, and seal the surfaces regularly, but first face a stone cold fact: Marble, composed mainly of calcium carbonate, is sensitive to acidic solutions. This means any acid, whether a splash of lemon juice, a damp margarita glass, or an acidic cleaner such as vinegar, can eat away at the surface, creating dull spots known as etches. Some folks consider etches part of a countertop’s character, while others opt to grind down the top layer and re-polish the surface when enough etches accumulate. So strive to keep your countertops an acid-free zone, and now read on to become a master in marble protection and maintenance.

How to Clean Marble Countertops

Photo: istockphoto.com

CLEANING

General cleaning is so simple—another reason for marble’s popularity. Just be sure to avoid products containing acid, including lemon juice and vinegar. Though you can buy non-abrasive stone cleaner specifically tailored to marble, still read labels carefully to avoid damaging your surface. Alternatively, you can save money and use a mild, non-abrasive, pH neutral (non-acidic) soap mixed with water, which is all you really need to clean marble countertops.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Marble stone cleaner
– Warm water
– Gentle dish soap
– Spray bottle
– Dish cloth
– Soft, absorbent towel

STEP 1
If not using marble cleaner, mix a squirt of gentle, non-abrasive dish soap with warm water in a spray bottle and spray the counter generously. Scrub gently and wipe soapy solution off with a clean wet cloth. Repeat process until all soapy residue is gone.

STEP 2
Rub the countertop dry, and buff with a soft absorbent towel.

 

How to Clean Marble Countertops

Photo: istockphoto.com

STAIN REMOVAL

Banishing stains from marble can be trickier than a routine cleaning. The key is correctly identifying the origin of the stain and then applying the appropriate chemical or poultice (a paste-like cleaning agent). Think of the materials listed below as your stain-fighting arsenal. Note, too, that the sooner you address a stain, the better your chance of getting rid of it.

Caution: Never mix cleaning agents or chemicals, as the result can be toxic, even lethal. Before cleaning, always test the cleaning agent on an inconspicuous location to determine its suitability and make certain it does not damage the surface. Wear appropriate clothing such as gloves and protective eyewear, and work in a well-ventilated area.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Soft liquid cleanser
– Mineral spirits
– Acetone
– Ammonia
– 12 percent hydrogen peroxide solution
– 20 percent hydrogen peroxide solution
– Bleach
– Lacquer thinner
– 0000-steel wool pads
– Razor blade
– Sponge
– Gloves
– Protective eyewear
– Flour
– Pre-mixed commercial poultice

OIL-BASED STAINS
An oil based stain like grease, cooking oil, milk, or makeup will darken the stone and must be dealt with chemically. Clean gently with one of the following: soft, liquid cleanser with bleach, ammonia, mineral spirits, or acetone.

ORGANIC STAINS
Address coffee, tea, wine, fruit, tobacco, paper, and most other food stains (which generally have a pinkish-brown appearance) with a 12 percent hydrogen peroxide solution and a few drops of ammonia. Wipe over the stain with a clean cloth. Rinse with a wet cloth and dry with a chamois.

BIOLOGICAL STAINS
Combat mildew stains with a solution of three parts household bleach with one part water and a dash of dishwashing detergent in a spray bottle. Mist the surface thoroughly and repeat application until the stain disappears. Rinse with clean clear water and dry.

INK STAINS
To remove ink stains from dark colored stone, dip a cotton swab in acetone and apply directly to the surface. For lighter colored stone, use a 20 percent hydrogen peroxide solution. Keep a soft cloth or sponge dampened with water handy to wipe away the cleaning agent promptly after the stain has been removed. Treating large volume ink stains or those that have set in requires a poultice.

Step 1: Place between 1/4 cup and 1/2 cup of flour in a shallow bowl. For dark-colored stone, use acetone or, for light stone, 20 percent hydrogen peroxide, adding it to the flour one teaspoon at a time to form a paste.

Step 2: Apply the flour poultice to the area with plastic spatula or spoon. Cover with plastic wrap and press firmly. Poke holes in the plastic wrap with a toothpick or fork. Allow the poultice to dry for up to 24 hours.

Step 3: Remove and discard the plastic wrap and allow the poultice to continue drying. Once completely dry, remove and discard. If any ink mark remains, repeat the process.

Step 4: When the stain is gone to your satisfaction, apply a small amount of neutral pH soap, such as Dove, to a clean, soft sponge dampened with water. Clean the area where the stain was and remove soap residue with a clean dampened sponge.

PAINT
Remove a small drip with lacquer thinner dabbed on with a clean cloth or scrape it off carefully with a razor blade. A larger paint stain will require a commercial paint stripper that could cause etching and may require re-polishing after removal. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for use of these products, and flush the area thoroughly with clean water. Be sure to ventilate the area and wear rubber gloves and eye protection.

WATER SPOTS AND RINGS
Buff out water spots with a dry, 0000-rated steel wool pad. That same pad may do the trick for smaller scratches and nicks. Larger problems may require re-polishing. In future, use coasters and trivets on counters.

METAL
Metal stains caused by iron or rust range from orange to brown in color, while copper or bronze stains will be green or muddy brown—all are stubborn, deep-seated rust especially. Tackle with a poultice:

Step 1: Mix premixed commercial poultices (available at stone maintenance supply companies) with water to the consistency of a thick peanut butter.

Step 2: Slather it on the stain in a thickness between ¼ and ½ inch. Use a wood or plastic spatula to spread the paste evenly.

Step 3: Cover with plastic wrap and secure sides all around with painter’s tape. Allow it to dwell for 24 to 48 hours.

Step 4: Remove the plastic and and allow the poultice to dry and “pull” the stain from the stone.

Step 5: Once the poultice is dry to the touch, remove with the wood or plastic scraper. Rinse the area with distilled water and buff with a soft cloth.

 

How to Clean Marble Countertops

Photo: istockphoto.com

SEALING 

Because marble is porous, a sealant is recommended as a barrier that can possibly keep a spill from becoming a stain. Experts suggest re-sealing every three to six months, but quality sealing products, available from any home improvement retailer, are simple to apply.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Mild dish soap
– Single-edged razor blade
– Plastic scraper
– Chamois
– Clean cloths
– Acetone
– Impregnating or penetrating sealer for marble countertops

STEP 1
Clear everything off the counters so the entire surface is accessible. Clean the surface with mild dish soap. Dry with a clean cloth.

STEP 2
Remove any built-up residue from cleansers, cooking grease, or other substances might remain with a plastic scraper or (carefully!) a single-edged razor blade. To use a blade, hold it at an angle and lightly pass it over the marble.

STEP 3
Use acetone, if necessary, to strip off old sealer and remove residues from such products as window cleaners. Apply with a clean cloth and rinse with wet cloth, then dry with a chamois—do not let the counter air dry.

STEP 4
Read and follow all directions on the sealant’s packaging. In most cases, application is a matter of pouring the sealer directly onto the surface and spreading it evenly with a clean white cloth. Leave it to soak for the time specified in your products directions, usually around three to four minutes.

STEP 5
Sprinkle additional amounts of sealer over the treated areas. This will allow you to easily collect and gather excess sealer during cleanup. Use a clean dry cloth to remove any sealer that has not soaked in.

STEP 6
Apply a second coat of sealer only if your product’s specific directions indicate it is necessary. Otherwise, one coat will be enough.


5 Easy Ideas for Better Kitchen Ventilation

Reduce toxic emissions, stale smells, and stuffy air in your cook space with a combination of these techniques.

How to Improve Kitchen Ventilation

Photo: istockphoto.com

We commonly think of the kitchen as a comfy, cozy zone and “the heart of the house,” but according to a recent Department of Energy-funded study, cooking with a gas stove as little as once a week regularly emitted levels of pollutants that would be illegal outdoors. And gas isn’t the only concern: Electric stovetops and even toasters create nitrogen dioxide, a toxic by-product of combustion. No wonder experts say improving kitchen airflow should be a “public health priority.” Fortunately, proper range hood use and other simple measures can see toxicity levels drop by more than half. So breath easy and employ these techniques to bring better kitchen ventilation—and, more generally, healthier air—into your home.

Improve Kitchen Ventilation by Maintaining Your Range Hood

Photo: istockphoto.com

1. Use Range Hoods Properly

To mitigate odors and improve air circulation, plus trap particulates from burned food and greasy cooking, turn on the range fan at the start of cooking—not midway through or afterwards. Improving kitchen ventilation also requires homeowners be conscientious about the maintenance that keeps a range hood functioning efficiently, including changing the filter regularly. How often depends on how much and how heavily you cook, but a minimum of once annually is recommended. And if you notice excessive grease build-up, punctures, warping, or corrosion on the filter, clean or replace it immediately. Metal mesh and baffle filters can be removed and cleaned with dish soap and a wire brush; other filters are disposable.

 

Improve Kitchen Ventilation By Using a Splatter Screen

Photo: istockphoto.com

2. Control Grease with a Splatter Screen

Minimizing grease in the kitchen can reduce airborne, breathable particles and keep cooking smells at bay—and it all starts with a splatter screen that has a carbon lining to absorb odors. This inexpensive problem-solver is available at kitchen and cooking supply stores everywhere and won’t take up valuable space in smaller kitchens. While many are dishwasher safe, all it takes is a sponge and hot soapy water to hand-wash this wise air quality tool.

 

Improve Kitchen Ventilation By Using Fans Strategically

Photo: istockphoto.com

3. Operate Fans Effectively

Fans are musts for kitchen ventilation if your space lacks a range hood. A wide range of window fans are available—some with three fans in a single unit and the option of reversible airflow, too—but a basic box fan can do the trick. Fit a sturdy, square-edged fan into a kitchen window, closing the window to sit snugly against the top of the fan and blocking any additional gap with a bundled towel or other “stop-gap” solution. Be sure to position blade direction so that the fan will blow fresh air into the room while sucking stagnant, smelly air out. If you don’t have a kitchen window, open windows in nearby rooms and bring a fan into the kitchen, positioning it in your doorway, facing out, to suck air from the kitchen. Consider an oscillating fan with an ionizer feature to aid air purification: The oscillation moves the air better, and the ionizer filter traps allergens.

 

Improve Kitchen Ventilation with an Air Purifier

Photo: istockphoto.com

4. Invest in an Air Purifier

Range hoods aren’t regulated, and some only filter as little as 15 percent of particulates. Air purifiers, however, are government-rated, and hospital-quality HEPA-filtered models clean over 99.7 percent of particulates above 0.3 microns in size. If you’re cooking with gas, or suffer from asthma or other cardiovascular ailments, look for an “MCS” HEPA filter to remove “multiple chemical sensitivities” and station it in your cook space in order to improve kitchen ventilation. To ensure that the unit you buy can handle the volume of air in your space, figure out the room’s square footage (multiply length by width) and then check manufacturer’s specifications.

 

Improve Kitchen Ventilation by Opening Windows

Photo: istockphoto.com

5. Open Windows

Of course, opening windows adds fresh air to a house, but it’s how you do it that will most impact airflow—and, during meal prep, improve kitchen ventilation. Ideally, keep interior doors open, and then open a combination of windows and/or exterior doors to create a draft. This way, you ensure the air doesn’t just enter your house, but moves through it to push stagnant, polluted air out.

Ultimately, fresh or filtered air is the best way battle bad airflow in any kitchen, so avoid the temptation of simply spraying “air fresheners” to mask odors—these products actually raise pollutant levels without addressing the underlying cause.


Buyer’s Guide: Faucet Water Filters

Hundreds of pollutants can contaminate your tap water, but one inexpensive kitchen addition will ensure that yours is clean for drinking and cooking: a faucet-mount water filter. Here, how to choose one fit for your needs—and your sink.

Best Faucet Water Filter

Photo: istockphoto.com

More than four out of every 10 Americans use a home water treatment unit of some sort, according to the Water Quality Association and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—and for good reason. Clean drinking water is an essential building block of general health. With hundreds of pollutants in most drinking water, including lead and arsenic, finding and installing the right filter is one of the most important things you can do to your home to ensure wellness in your household.

While available in a variety of types—carafes, faucet attachments, under-sink mounts, and countertop varieties—the water filtration system that proves most versatile and easy-to-install is one that mounts to any standard kitchen faucet and filters right as the water flows. (By contrast, an under-sink model requires a direct hookup to your plumbing system, and a carafe has to be refilled almost constantly, occasionally making you wait for cool water to filter through the full pitcher before you pour a glass.) So if ease and convenience is up your alley, look no further than this variety. As you select one to fit your kitchen sink, consider the following key variables as well as the best faucet water filter options to date.

Find the right filter for your needs. Water contaminants vary by community, and knowledge is power. Start by researching what’s affecting your own water supply through the National Drinking Water Database created by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Once you have an idea of the contaminants you’re exposed to daily, you’ll be better able to determine your needs.

When it comes to the mechanism that makes water filters work, there are two types: reverse osmosis and carbon.

• Reverse osmosis is considered to be the Cadillac of water filtration—superior at removing contaminants (including those too small for other filters to catch, like arsenic and perchlorate) but pricier and so bulky that they’re often installed under-sink. These are not an option for faucet water filters, but available to you should you decide that the filtration best meets your household needs.

• Carbon filters still remove a handful of noteworthy contaminants (pesticides, disinfection byproducts, and—depending on the model—possibly lead, as well as protozoan cysts like giardia and cryptosporidium) from your drinking and cooking water, but at a much more affordable cost and in more convenient models. And, ultimately, mounting a carbon filter to your faucet for $20 to $50 makes your drinking water far safer than the tap water that currently flows.

Always check a unit’s package or online information to make sure the contaminants you’re most concerned about won’t make it through the system you end up investing in. Regardless of which microscopic materials they’re best at keeping out of your glass, a vast majority of faucet-mounted filters considerably improve the taste of your H2O.

Ease of setup. A faucet-mount attachment generally offers a quick installation. Unscrew the aerator, swap in an adapter provided with the faucet-mount water filter (models often include multiple sizes to find one that best fits your faucet), then snap the body of faucet-mount filter into place. Manufacturer instructions will also cover how to check that the filter inside the model is good to go. In most cases, it’s only a matter of minutes to get the filter fully functional. Once installed, many faucet water filters offer the option to toggle between filtered and unfiltered water.

Note: While some custom faucets and pull-out models may not allow for a perfect installation, faucet water filters are made to fit most standard kitchen sinks. When in doubt, check with the filter unit’s manufacturer before you buy.

 

The Best Bets

When it comes to reputable filters, most carbon-based point-of-use attachments will protect your water (and you!) from a great number of unwelcome ingredients. We’ve scouted the market for you for which models have been reviewed as the best faucet water filter in the business by experts and consumers alike—as well as where you can get your own.

 

Best Faucet Water Filter - Brita On-Tap FF-100 Faucet Filter System

Photo: brita.com

Brita On-Tap FF-100, $48
The no-tools-required assembly of the popular Brita FF-100 faucet filter make it a favorite among Home Depot shoppers, not to mention the fact that it’s 40 percent more space-efficient than competitors on the market. While it’s highly effective at removing lead and chlorine, in particular, the faucet water filter greatly improves water’s taste as well. And since a filter does no good without regular replacement, its handy green light indicates when the carbon filter needs replacing—a process that’s as simple as just one click. Available at Home Depot.

 

Best Faucet Water Filter - PUR Advanced Faucet Water Filter FM-3700B

Photo: amazon.com

PUR FM-3700B, $25
Reducing or entirely eliminating lead, mercury, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and more than 60 other particulates, the PUR FM-3700B has garnered glowing reviews from more than 2,000 consumers for its sleek design, one-click installation, 360-degree swivel, and general durability. Adept at improving water’s taste as well as quality, its only real drawback is the fact that it won’t work with pull-out or hand-held faucets. It comes with a two-year warranty. Available on Amazon.

 

Best Faucet Water Filter - Culligan FM-15A Advanced Faucet Filter Kit

Photo: walmart.com

Culligan FM-15A, $27
After weighing t his models pros and cons thoroughly, the team at ConsumerSearch declared the Culligan FM-15A faucet-mount filtration unit a top-of-the-line model. While it lost points for aesthetics and low flow (both common issues cited with faucet-mounted filters), the unit’s durability, cost, ease of installation, and simplicity of use earned it high marks—as did the fact that it vastly improved the way water tasted. In a nutshell, the ConsumerSearch editors conclude, “Bells and whistles take a backseat to filtering performance.” Unfortunately, this unit doesn’t fit all faucets, so buyers would be wise to check with Culligan’s customer service about compatibility first. Available on Walmart.com.


Genius! Give Your Appliances a Stainless Steel Makeover

Every homeowner with a remodeled kitchen knows that new appliances can take a big bite out of the budget. If you're looking for a wallet-friendly way to get the stainless steel look without the stainless steel price, we've got you covered.

steel-paper

Photo: julieblanner.com

Stainless steel automatically free from dirt and grime, but it’s durability and beauty sure make it popular. It’s now the first choice for almost every kitchen appliance, from the humble microwave to the full-size fridge. Unfortunately, the popularity of this artful alloy is matched by a steep price tag—and, if you make the upgrade, the hassle of labor of disconnecting an old appliance and installing a newer model. These setbacks didn’t stop Julie Blanner from creating the kitchen of her dreams. With a cheap roll of stainless steel contact paper and her trademark precision, the resourceful DIYer transformed an out-of-place black dishwasher into a stunning faux stainless steel appliance that both complemented her white cabinetry and saved her hundreds of dollars that she’d planned to spend on something new.

Blanner’s solution is perfect for the fully functional appliance that it feels a waste to part with simply for aesthetic reasons. Although application wasn’t altogether painless, it was certainly easier than a hookup on a new dishwasher. Blanner cut a single sheet of the stainless steel paper about 3 inches larger in length and width than the door to her small dishwasher. Lining up the corner of steel paper with the top edge of the appliance, she simultaneously peeled away the backing and pressed the paper down with a credit card. The makeshift applicator made smoothing out bubbles a snap, leaving behind the pristine polish of a new stainless steel appliance.

Looking to recreate the luxe look at home? Having a type-A personality helps, but all you really need is plenty of patience, time, and a teammate you trust. While Blanner applied the faux finish, her project partner held the steel paper taut to prevent creases. And don’t worry about messing it up: Even if you have an “oops” moment,  you can always peel the contact paper back, reposition it, and get back to business.

FOR MORE: Julie Blanner


DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

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


So, You Want to… Install a Range Hood

The range hood is responsible for capturing food odors and grease that fly around during meal prep. If you're in the market for a new hood, here's some info on selection and installation to help you make sure that your new appliance will be up for the job.

Range Hood Installation - Under-Cabinet Hood

Photo: istockphoto.com

Whether integrated underneath the cabinets or suspended as a focal point over a kitchen island, the range hood is the unsung hero in the kitchen, rarely appreciated for the crucial role it performs by eliminating the airborne grease, smells, and heat produced during meal prep. If you’re getting ready to upgrade old appliances like dishwashers and refrigerators as part of a kitchen renovation, don’t forget the range hood—it deserves consideration too. You may have a general idea of what you’d like in a new range hood, but you’ll probably still be overwhelmed by the wide spectrum of prices and options available today. Selecting and installing a range hood involves more than just picking out a style that complements your existing range. To find a model that fits your kitchen space and cooking style, keep the following particulars in mind.

Range Hood Installation

Photo: istockphoto.com

DUCTLESS VS. DUCTED
Range hoods use fans to draw up grease and steam, along with food odors and excess heat, but not all hoods perform the task equally well. The difference between average and effective largely depends on the type of ventilation available: ductless or ducted.

• Ductless models do not vent to the outside of your house. The fan on a ductless range hood draws in air and circulates it through a charcoal filter, which traps grease and some odors, but it’s usually not as effective as an exterior-vented model. The less expensive of the two styles, ductless range hoods can cost as little as $50, and go up from there to several hundred dollars.

• Ducted range hoods are more effective than their ductless counterparts, and they, too, have a wide price range. Ducted range hoods draw in cooking air, then whisk it outside your home via a wall vent or upward through the ceiling joists and roof. More affordable options start under $100, but homeowners who want a high-efficiency or designer ducted hood could pay well over $1,000.

The option for ductless or ducted also applies to the popular and space-efficient microwave-hood combinations. Homeowners shopping for a new combination unit often (mistakenly) focus primarily on the features offered by the microwave. But it’s also important to weigh a unit’s ventilation capabilities to make sure you’re selecting one that’s sufficiently effective and efficient for your needs.

FAN MOTOR PLACEMENT FOR PEACE AND QUIET
Some range hoods sound like airplanes getting ready to take off, while others are virtually silent—it largely depends on the location of the fan motor. Read the packaging carefully, or research online before purchasing, to determine where the unit’s blower is located.

When the blower is built right into the hood, you can clearly hear it when it’s running. The stronger the fan, typically, the louder the noise, although some higher-end models are designed to minimize sound.

If you want a quieter stovetop-cooking experience, look for a range hood that comes with a remote blower. You’ll still turn on the fan the same way, via a switch on the hood, but the fan will be farther away from your range—often either midway in a duct or on the top of the roof, thereby buffering the noise. A remote blower is just one of many bells and whistles that will add to the cost of a range hood. But if your kitchen is open to the living or dining area, or if guests always seem to congregate in your kitchen, the desire to cook and converse without having to yell over a fan may be worth the extra dollars.

 

Range Hood Installation - Microwave-Hood Combination

Photo: istockphoto.com

INSTALLATION CONSIDERATIONS
If you’re a handy do-it-yourselfer, it’s relatively simple to switch out an existing range hood with a newer model. Moving a range hood’s location during a kitchen renovation or installing one for the first time, however, will require some accommodations.

Size: The standard width of a range hood is 30 inches (matching the width of a standard range), although wider wall-mounted and suspended island models are also available for custom kitchen designs.

Placement: For microwave-hood combinations, the bottom of the cabinet above the range should be at least 30 inches above the cooking surface to leave room for the installation. Fortunately, many contractors install this cabinet configuration in new homes for just that reason. The 30-inch distance is also the preferred upper-cabinet height for a range hood without a microwave, although individual models may have different requirements; once you’ve picked a keeper, read and follow the manufacturer’s recommended height specifications.

Power supply: If you’ve chosen a combination model, you must have an electrical outlet in the cabinet above the unit in order to power the fan motor and microwave. While it’s not required by building code, many new-home contractors will go ahead and install that designated outlet on a separate 15 or 20 amp circuit with enough juice to run a microwave. If you’re installing a hood for the first time and there’s no nearby outlet, an electrician must install one near the location before you can proceed. The specs on your unit will indicate its power needs. Not all simple range hoods draw enough power to necessitate a designated outlet, but microwave-hood combinations should have their own circuit.

Assembly. Both single hoods and microwave-hood combination units come with templates that mark exactly where to predrill or cut holes for screws, a power supply, and vent. The template will also show you where to attach the bracket that supports a hood combo on an exterior wall. If you are installing an outside-venting range hood, but you’re not mounting it on an exterior wall, the model you select should have the option of upward venting, as you’ll have to run the ducting through the ceiling.

 

Range Hood Installation - Wall-Mounted Range Hood

Photo: istockphoto.com

MAINTENANCE MATTERS
Once you’ve installed your range hood, keep your investment fully functioning for its expected lifespan by giving it regular attention and using degreasing cleaners. Because range hood fans draw up grease and steam, prevent a sticky buildup from forming by spraying the underside of the hood with kitchen cleaner and wiping it down as frequently as you would any other surface in your cooking space.

If you cook a lot, it’s also a good idea to wash the exhaust fan filter at least once a month—otherwise, its holes may become so clogged with grease that it will no longer work effectively. Simply slide or pop out the stainless steel filter, place it in the sink, and scrub it using hot water, baking soda, and a degreasing dish soap. Some filters (check the manufacturer’s instructions) can be put directly into the dishwasher for even easier cleaning.


New Engineered Countertops Fuse Beauty and Brawn for a No-Compromise Kitchen

Who says you can’t have it both ways? DuPont’s latest collections of Corian and Zodiaq countertops combine form and function to achieve crave-worthy kitchens.

No Compromise Counters - Zodiaq Concrete Carrara

Photo: dupont.com

In most families, the kitchen is the heart of home life. It’s a space for so much more than meal prep—its countertops host casual family breakfasts, pinch-hit as desks for homework, and proffer refreshments when guests come over. These varied uses call for surfaces that can withstand food stains, scratches from sliding dishes, and dents from metal cookware—while still providing that touch of style that enlivens a kitchen’s decor. While many conventional countertop materials sacrifice form for function, or vice versa, Corian® solid surface and Zodiaq® quartz countertops from DuPont boast everlasting durability and striking visual appeal so homeowners can show off their design and culinary chops. Find out how the inspired colors of new countertop collections from Corian and Zodiaq can help you achieve high-performance and high-art counters even in a high-traffic kitchen.

No Compromise Counters - Zodiaq Provence

Photo: dupont.com

Alluring Durability
More than just pretty surfaces, countertops fashioned from Corian solid surface or Zodiaq quartz are also rugged and robust. Both materials feature a nonporous, nontoxic, and heat-resistant composite that repels food and liquid stains, mold, mildew, and bacteria—all unwelcome in the cook space. Thanks to the natural minerals and acrylic polymer of Corian solid surface, and the smooth but tough luster of Zodiaq pure quartz, these countertops need only a regular once-over with a cloth and nonabrasive cleaner to stay spotless.

Fortunately for the busy homeowner, the dynamic duo of countertops is as easy to maintain as it is to clean. Engineered with quartz crystals, Zodiaq countertops are scratch resistant, providing home chefs with peace of mind as they race through food prep multiple times a day. Corian’s collections smartly utilize matte finishes in the lighter colors, and for bolder surfaces, DeepColor technology offers greater depth of color and pattern—all of which diminish any superficial blemishes to a barely-there status while intensifying the vibrant hue of the countertops. Beyond that, “minor scratches can be easily buffed out, creating a constant ‘brand-new’ appearance,” says Katie Congress, North American Marketing Manager for Corian and Zodiaq. The result: Hardworking surfaces that look good for years to come.

Eye-Catching and On-Trend Color Schemes
The newest collections of Corian and Zodiaq countertop designs and colors are a response to a growing trend in residential kitchen design: inspiration from nature. With the new White, Blue, Earth Tone, and Gray collections, homeowners can get the best of both worlds—the raw beauty of natural materials without any of the fussy maintenance that granite and other stone kitchen surfaces demand.

“There has been an increased desire for the look of natural stone,” Congress says, “so the new colors of both Corian and Zodiaq include aesthetics that mimic the natural stone look.” New styles, such as Provence and Concrete Carrara from Zodiaq as well as Sand Storm from Corian, even go so far as to imitate the speckles, flecks, and swirls of favorite from-the-earth materials.

Similarly, color schemes pulled from foliage, forest trails, and majestic mountain passes are gaining traction, appearing in sprawling statement surfaces throughout the kitchen and bathroom. This natural inspiration is evident in earthy collections like Corian Deep Terrain and Zodiaq Evergreen. Even the Gray collection has gotten into the act, with new warm, cool, light, and dark takes on the go-to neutral that has become so popular in the last few years, according to Congress.

Along with their shared nod to nature, the 16 unique new Corian and Zodiaq hues are also unified by their broad appeal to homeowners of all design sensibilities, from traditional to contemporary. “Crisp whites offer that both timeless and modern look, while blues, softened yellows and golds, and greens inspire joy in people,” Congress says. “New darker gray tones convey a touch of prestige and authority, elevating any interior.”

Turning the spotlight onto the kitchen, any number of the private collection colors look striking on an island or countertop. Congress notes that Zodiaq Concrete Carrara, Onyx Carrara, and Blue Carrara all showcase natural stone-like movement that makes a stunning contrast to the backgrounds. And for homeowners who wind up with two favorites, there really is no need to settle on a single choice: “Material combinations are very popular right now, and solid surface and quartz make a great combination,” she explains. “Try a Zodiaq island with a Corian counter, or a Zodiaq counter with a Corian backsplash.”

For even more possibilities, download the Design Horizons Trend Guide, and reach out to a DuPont representative to discuss how Corian and Zodiaq can elevate your kitchen countertops to dazzling new heights.

No Compromise Counters - Corian Deep Titanium

Photo: dupont.com

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


Genius! The Free Kitchen Hack for Every Squeeze Bottle

Nothing ruins a barbecue faster than warm, watered-down ketchup or mustard dribbling all over your food. Stop struggling with half-empty squeeze bottles with the fix you already have in your fridge!

SHARES
Food Hack - DIY Condiment Caddy

Photo: youtube.com via Alton Brown

Alton Brown, the Food Network chef behind Good Eats, is a man who loves his mustard. He’s penned more than a dozen recipes that feature the all-American condiment, including his signature homemade mustard, a pork chop brine, and a honey salad dressing. But even a professional like Brown knows the struggle of getting sauce out of a half-empty squeeze bottle. It’s a dance everyone is familiar with: Hot dog in hand, with a heart full of hope, you give the bottle a few shakes and a firm squeeze—only to watch a slow stream of condiment water dribble over your food. Yuck!

Food Hack - DIY Condiment Caddy from Alton Brown

Photo: youtube.com via Alton Brown

With his hot dog getting cold, Brown looked in his fridge for a fix to prevent spoiling any future sandwiches. Inside he found an egg carton, and a simple, satisfying epiphany! After picking out the last few eggs, he cut off the lid of the container. Then, he put the bottom half of the carton inside the door, where it fit perfectly in the top shelf. With gravity on his side, he turned the bottles upside-down in the fridge—this time corralled in the once egg-holding grooves that also happen to perfectly fit the cap ends. That one simple flip (steadied with the help of an inventive caddy) makes sure that condensation is no longer the first thing that comes out the next time you squeeze your favorite cookout condiments.

Sure, this may be a first-world problem. But wrestling with a bottle of mustard, ketchup, or mayo while the rest of the family is partying on the patio is a bummer at any gathering. Lucky for us, Brown has shared a solution that’s as good in the refrigerator as it is on a picnic table outdoors. So why not cut up this quick fix—and cut out the hassle—so you can get back to the barbecue?

FOR MORE: Alton Brown on YouTube


Solved! What to Do When Your Freezer Isn’t Freezing

Don’t lose your cool, even if your freezer has. Try these troubleshooting tips instead.

Freezer Not Freezing

Photo: istockphoto.com

Q: I’ve noticed that my freezer isn’t working as well as it used to. Is there any possibility of a quick fix instead of a big repair bill?

A: The good news is, there’s a high probability that your issue can be both quickly diagnosed and easily fixed. Because a typical refrigerator/freezer lasts 10 to 15 years before needing replacement, first consider your freezer’s age. If your appliance is well within that time frame and you’ve taken good care of it in general, you’re likely dealing with something simple, such as obstructed airflow, frost buildup, damaged gaskets, or dusty coils.

Freezer Not Freezing - Freezer

Photo: istockphoto.com

Clear the shelves. First, check to make sure you’re allowing enough air to circulate throughout your freezer. This may sound elementary, but a freezer that’s packed to the gills might be causing an airflow blockage, particularly if the evaporator fan is covered by a tub of ice cream or bag of vegetables. Rearranging or removing a few items may be all that’s needed to cool things down again.

Break the ice. If your freezer isn’t overflowing and you have a manual-defrost model, take note of the amount of frost on the interior walls—the buildup could be affecting your unit’s efficiency. If you notice a great deal of those telltale ice crystals, or if it’s been more than a year since you last defrosted the freezer, a simple defrosting will probably do the trick, letting your vents and coils breathe again and continue to do their jobs. If you have an auto-defrost unit, thick layers of ice could be a solid indication that a part or two may need to be replaced by a professional in the near future.

Check the seals. Another quick diagnostic involves checking your freezer’s gaskets (door seals) using the “dollar bill test.” Open the door, place a dollar bill flat against the seal, and close the door again. If you can easily pull out the cash, your seals are too loose. If, however, pulling the bill out requires a good deal of effort, the seals are probably fine. Be sure to test several sections of the gasket for good measure, and before you test them, wipe down any spills or debris that could be preventing them from locking together correctly.

Clean the coils. Last but not least, dirty coils may be the culprit. If you’ve cleared out, defrosted, and seal-tested your freezer and all seems well, try pulling the unit away from the wall and vacuuming the coils with the crevice or brush attachment. As dirty coils can restrict airflow, a quick cleaning may be just the ticket to chill things out again.

If none of these tips bring your ice cubes and frozen snacks back to their rock-solid consistency, it’s possible you have a larger issue on your hands and a repair call might be in order. Most likely, though, a bit of maintenance can return your unit to its optimal condition.


All You Need to Know About Stainless Steel Countertops

If you’re a serious cook, you should seriously consider all the possibilities stainless steel countertops have to offer in a hardworking kitchen.

Stainless Steel Counters - Modern Kitchen

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Southampton, NY

Fancy yourself an at-home chef with serious skills? Then you may be interested in upgrading your cooking space to one that embodies your enthusiasm. The quickest way to bring a professional vibe to your home’s meal prep zone is by incorporating a restaurant-kitchen hallmark: stainless steel countertops. Once primarily found in restaurants and commercial kitchens, this material has gained recent popularity with residential homeowners who have similar (albeit on a smaller-scale) needs: a durable, stain-resistant, and heat-tolerant worktop—with a contemporary flair to boot.

Stainless Steel Counters - Matching Stainless Steel Appliances

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Seattle, WA

The sleek, modern appearance of stainless steel complements both traditional and modern kitchens. While some worry that a metal worktop may look too austere, certain areas of customization can soften the appearance.

Edge profiles. The square edge is the most popular style, with other options including a bullnose, beveled, or unwrapped edge.

Finish options. As you’d find when shopping for faucet fixtures, stainless steel countertops come in a variety of alternative finishes: satin, mirror polish, brushed metal, and antique matte. If fingerprints or smudges are a concern, choose a brushed finish for its smooth, soft look which more easily hides evidence of sticky fingers.

Square feet. Avoid imitating a restaurant kitchen too closely by adjusting the amount you choose to install. Consider starting small, mixing it in as a stand-alone island in a kitchen designed with butcherblock or granite countertops—this reflective surface blends in with nearly any aesthetic, much as a stainless steel sink can pick up the color temperature of its surroundings.

 

The Benefits
Stainless steel countertops are a sure sign of a workhorse kitchen. As most chefs will attest, this nearly indestructible material stands up to the toughest treatment. In fact, that’s just the start of the long list of pros:

 These counters cannot burn or rust. Unlike other countertop materials such as wood and stone, food grade stainless steel resists both heat and rust, thanks to a combination of chromium and nickel. That means you can place a hot pot on the surface and, when you lift it later, you’ll find zero scorches. And while you may notice water will leave a temporary ring if left to dry, the metal’s special composition prevents permanent damage.

Additionally, as the name would suggest, they are impervious to stains. Spill a glass of red wine? Wipe it up without worrying about a lingering color! Oils, acids, drinks, and more that might mark up wooden counters won’t set on stainless steel—ideal for the room in the house house that hosts most of the food messes.

Installation is a cinch. No need for a sealing process, as required with granite, butcherblock, or concrete countertops. For this type of counter, a sheet of metal is cut to size and wrapped over a wood frame. To determine the amount of metal you need for a DIY installation, measure the length and width of your cabinets and add a 1-1/2-inches overhang for any exposed edge. (For counters that span wall to wall, you’ll add to the depth; if a kitchen island, add twice that amount to both your width and length so that the perimeter is covered.)

• To top it off, the metal is 100 percent recyclable. Selecting this environmentally friendly ingredient for your kitchen construction keeps your carbon footprint minimal.

 

Stainless Steel Counters - In a Traditional Kitchen

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Atlanta, GA

The Drawbacks
While there’s no denying the positive qualities of stainless steel, you may want to take a seat at the kitchen table for the bad news: Contact with your metal cookware and cutlery can get dicey. First, there’s the noise—the clashing and clanging—that happens when cooking equipment makes contact with the metal surface. But an even larger reason to get in the habit of setting down those pots and pans gently would be to decrease the likelihood of scratches on the new surface. Lower-gauge stainless steel has a propensity to dent and scratch, so if you’re looking to turn your kitchen into a restaurant-worthy cookspace, it’s best to purchase the strongest, thickest material you can afford. Even then, stainless steel countertops will “age” over time as objects slide, rub, and drop on the surface.

 

Shopping for Stainless Steel
These high-performing stainless steel countertops go for between $50 and $150 a square foot—right in the same ballpark as marble. Price varies depending on the gauge, which ranges from 14 to 20. Rule of thumb: The lower the gauge, the thicker the steel and the more expensive the product. When planning your installation, you’ll want to invest in the highest gauge within budget, as a thicker countertop means less chance for dents.

 

Easy, Breezy Maintenance
While a nylon sponge and warm, sudsy water are often all it takes to clean this stain-resistant worktop, messy meal prep might require a light scrub: Sprinkle baking soda across the surface, wipe vinegar over top in the direction of the grain, rinse, and dry thoroughly. Then, restore maximum shine by working just a few drops of mineral or olive oil across the surface and buffing it out with a dry a cloth. It’s that easy! Just remember to avoid harsh abrasives—like the scrubbing side of a sponge—which could do more harm than good and leave scratches behind.

Unfortunately, deep scratches and dents are near impossible to remove without professional restoration. Surface scratches, however, can be carefully “rubbed out” using a mild abrasive pad. Working a 180-grit pad in the same direction as the existing grain will help blend the existing scratch mark by removing micro amounts of material. While not all scratches will completely disappear, this scouring action will, at the very least, dull their appearance. Whatever remains can be considered a badge of honor in your hardworking kitchen.

Stainless Steel Counters - In a Colorful Kitchen

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Evanston, IL