House Project Tips

Your dream house is our dream

Latest Posts

Preparing Room and Walls for Wallpaper

7dac21e7e6a9c329de69d80d19205b05Before beginning the job of wallpapering, it’s critically important to prepare both the room and the walls. Wallpapering can be a messy job, so it’s important to prepare and protect the room beforehand. In addition, because wallpapering requires precise work and a steady pace, you will want to have all the necessary tools and supplies ready. The walls must be flat, smooth, and able to accept wallpaper to ensure a successful result.

Preparing the Room

Start by taking all lightweight objects and furniture out of the room. Drape drop cloths over anything remaining and then lay drop cloths on the floor. To catch water that drips down the walls, lay towels over the baseboards. Do not use newspapers as protection anywhere because the ink can transfer onto other surfaces if they get wet.

Next, take down everything that is on the walls, including rods for window coverings. It helps to remove all electrical face plates and lighting fixtures, but don’t do this without first turning off the power to those circuits and/or protecting against the possibility of touching live wires.

If you have painted any

Dishwasher Washes Poorly

ATAG_Dishwasher_-_VA6511TT_Lifestyle_rsIf your dishwasher leaves spots, film, or white residue on dishes, try these simple DIY tips.
If a dishwasher washes poorly, a common cause is improper loading—dishes that block or impede the spray arms or prevent the soap dispenser from opening. On the other hand, if your dishwasher has chronic problems with good washing, the problem may not be your dishwasher. A good first step is to vary the amount of dishwasher detergent you’re using and try switching brands.

Other possibilities: Your home’s water pressure may be too low, your water may be too hard, or the water temperature may not be hot enough.

For other dishwasher repairs, see How to Repair Dishwasher Problems.

Dishwasher Doesn’t Clean Dishes

Problems with getting dishes clean usually have to do with the water pressure, the hardness of the water, or the ability of the spray arms to spin and spray.


Water Pressure Is Too Low

In order for your dishwasher to fill to the appropriate level, water pressure should be from 20 to 120 pounds per square inch. If you suspect that your water pressure may be low, turn

All About Wall to Wall Carpeting

a4779148d9bbdeb252149c940008e8f2Many Benefits

When you decide to install wall-to-wall, you can count on it having a big impact on the look of the space. But carpet can also affect how a room feels—and not just to your feet. As a natural insulator, wall-to-wall carpeting prevents warm (and cool) air from escaping and absorbs sound. And, unlike hard flooring, it can also inhibit slips and cushion falls, important considerations if you live with roughhousing kids or an aging parent.

Wall-to-wall carpeting, which first came on the scene in the 1930s, now accounts for half of all the flooring sold in America. The majority of carpet is made here too—how many things can you say that about these days?—mainly in Dalton, Georgia, where the industry began. Most is tufted, but some carpet is woven on looms for a tighter, more durable construction.

Unlike hardwood and stone, carpeting can be laid over damaged or uneven surfaces, a concrete slab, and many types of existing flooring, so you may save money on prep work. And once it’s in, you’ll find it a cinch to care for, thanks to advances in fibers and stain-resistant treatments. Not to

How to Repair a Ceiling Fan

If your ceiling fan doesn’t work, you can save time and money by repairing it yourself.

A ceiling fan can stop working properly for a variety of reasons, discussed here and on successive pages of this article. On this page, we show you how to deal with a fan that doesn’t work at all because it isn’t receiving electrical power.

If you fan hums, see How to Fix a Fan that Hums. If it wobbles, see How to Fix a Fan That Wobbles. If it hums but it doesn’t spin, see How to Fix a Fan’s Broken Flywheel.

Be sure to turn off the fan’s circuit breaker before disassembling the fan!

Note: For information on kitchen and bathroom ventilation fans, please see How to Repair a Bathroom or Kitchen Fan Yourself.

Ceiling Fan Is Dead

When a ceiling fan doesn’t work at all, be sure it is receiving electrical power from its switch and from the circuit breaker or fuse box.

First check the circuit breaker or fuse, then the switch. Here’s how to check the switch that controls the fan:

1Turn off the power to the fan circuit. Remove the switch’s cover plate and unscrew the screws that mount the switch to the electrical box.

How to Build a Closet

Need more closet space? If you have adequate floor space and some basic carpentry skills, you can build a closet in a bedroom, guest room, den, or hallway that will look like it has been there all along.

The first step is to build a closet frame and fasten it to the surrounding walls. Next, you will trim the door opening and install the door(s) of your choice. Finally, you will hang the closet rods or customize the interior with rods, shelving, drawers, and any other accessories you desire. For information on outfitting a closet with an organizer, please see How to Install a Closet Organization System.

Planning to Build Closet Walls

Plan to build a closet frame from 2 by 4s, allowing an inside depth of at least 27 inches. You can construct the frame in one of two ways: Build the walls flat on the floor and then raise them up into position, or build them in place.

It is much easier to nail the framing members together on the floor if the room has a large, clear area to accommodate this. But, using this method, you will have to make a slight modification in the height of the closet walls because

How to Fix a Dehumidifier

Expert advice on how to repair a dehumidifier that doesn’t work, does a poor job of dehumidifying, or has other problems.

If your dehumidifier doesn’t work right, a simple cleaning of the condenser and moisture-collecting (evaporator) coils may be all that’s necessary to fix it. This article discusses common dehumidifier problems with helpful tips on how to solve them. Please see the list of typical dehumidifier problems top right.

If your dehumidifier shows no signs of life whatsoever:

1Check the power. Be sure it is plugged into a working outlet and is turned on.

2Unplug the dehumidifier unit and check the power cord. If necessary, replace the cord.

3Remove the cover panel and look for ice. If you see any ice blocking parts, let the ice melt and do not use the unit until the room temperature exceeds 65 degrees Fahrenheit (most dehumidifiers are not designed for use in colder spaces and may freeze up). Many people find that by unplugging the unit and waiting about 30 days into the season the problem is solved.

4Remove and test the overflow cutoff switch. You can do this with a volt-ohm meter. Clip the leads to the terminals on the switch. Depress the bar

How to Install a Central Vacuum System

Planning is the key to a successful central vacuum installation—both planning the layout and planning the process. To install a central vacuum you begin by locating and installing the power unit in the basement, garage, or another out-of-the-way place. Then you install inlet valves, strategically located throughout the home in wall-mounted (or sometimes floor) receptacles. Last, you run plastic piping from the inlet valves to the power unit. This tubing, which runs through the walls and floors, carries dirt to a collection bin mounted in the power unit. (For more about how a central vacuum system works, see How a Central Vacuum System Works.)

Though central vacuum systems are easiest to install in new construction where it’s easy to install the tubing, they can be retrofitted into most existing houses with a relative ease. Just how easily depends on your house or, more specifically, on access to a basement, crawlspace, or attic for routing the tubing. If access is good and you are handy with tools, you may be able to handle installation yourself.

Following is advice for both new and existing construction.

Planning a Central Vacuum System

How to design the most efficient and effective layout plan for your house’s new central vacuum

How to Build a Kit Gazebo

Building a gazebo with your own hands is a challenging project, requiring the ability to install a wooden floor, construct walls, lay roofing—not to mention the carpentry skills needed for decorative detailing. Add to this that many gazebos have geometric shapes that include compound angles and difficult joinery and you have probably entered territory beyond the skills of even accomplished do-it-yourselfers.

Today, however, many quality manufacturers produce gazebo kits that already have most of the cutting and joinery done, with the pieces marked to correspond to the instructions for assembly. Some kits even come partially assembled. This not only makes the job of building a gazebo from the ground up infinitely easier but it also makes it a lot less expensive. All you do is pour a simple foundation and follow the assembly directions.

If building a kit gazebo yourself is beyond your abilities, please see our affiliate partner, HomeAdvisor, to receive free bids from local pre-screened gazebo construction pros.

Selecting a Kit Gazebo

When deciding on a kit, look for a model that uses screws for all connections, which results in the finished product having a high level of integrity. Also ask about a company’s shipping policy as shipping costs can tack on

How to Repair Cabinets

Cabinets are the core of kitchens and bathroom, essential to both the form and function of these rooms. They provide critical storage and are the major contributors to style and beauty. They’re also among the most expensive and permanent fixtures and, because of this, perform their duties for many years.

Wear and tear is only natural. Doors sag, drawers stick, surfaces get dinged, and finishes wear. This article will show you how to deal with these problems and keep your cabinets operating smoothly and looking beautiful.

Repairing Cabinet Surfaces

Small chips and nicks in wood cabinets can be filled with plastic wood filler, sold in colors to match most wood stains. If the damage is to an area that’s prominently visible, it may be difficult to do a “seamless” repair. Test blending and color matching in an unseen area before attempting a repair where visible.

When touching-up a chipped or scraped cabinet, the trick is to match the color. If you use the manufacturer’s original paint or stain colors, which you may be able to discover from a local distributor or cabinet retailer, be aware that the finish may have faded over time.

You may have to paint an entire surface, starting and ending

Patio Roof or Gazebo Foundations

Patio roofs and gazebos are typically supported by a foundation—either a concrete slab (in some cases, an existing patio) or a series of footings and piers. The foundation distributes the structure’s weight and anchors it against settling, erosion, and wind lift. The foundation also isolates the posts or walls from contact with the ground, mitigating the chance of decay from moisture and insects.

Typically, a foundation’s footing must extend into solid ground. In cold-climate areas, it must extend below the frost line so that it is not disturbed by frost heave.

Foundation requirements are set by local codes; a steel-reinforced concrete footing that extends 6 inches below the frost line, as shown in the article on how to pour a concrete slab, is typical for patio roofs and gazebos with built-up floors.

In some situations, the floor of a gazebo needs to be designed so that it does a better job of hugging the ground than a conventional footing-and-pier foundation does. For these situations, you can opt for one of the methods shown below.

The footing supports a poured-in-place or pre-cast concrete pier, which in turn supports a post. The placement of footings and piers is dependent upon the post locations, which in turn

Clothes Dryer Stops and Starts

Electric Dryer Stops and Starts

Michael: I have a Whirlpool electric dryer that will run for a while, shut itself off, and—after a while—start again on its own then run a bit and shut off again. The dryer’s heating element works and the motor runs smoothly, But it even goes off and on when it’s empty. I’m wondering if the dryer’s thermostat would cause this to happen.

Don V: Sounds like your dryer’s thermal overload switch may be kicking out because the dryer is getting too hot—something that often happens if it isn’t venting properly.

Try disconnecting the vent hose from the back of the machine and then running the dryer with nothing inside for a few minutes—if it continues to run fine, the problem is likely to be that the hose is clogged with lint or is kinked or being blocked in some other way. If it doesn’t run fine, the dryer probably has a defective thermal overload switch.

You get to it from the back of the dryer. Check out this guy’s awesome video—you can skip ahead to about 6:15 unless you want to watch the whole thing, which is really good: Clothes Dryer Repair Video.

He makes it look really easy!

How to Buy Repair and Install a Wood Floor

Enjoy the warmth and beauty of a new wood floor! This expert guide shows you how to buy and install a wood floor, and keep it looking great!

Whether you’re thinking about installing new wood floors or you just want to know how to care for the ones you already have, you’ve come to the right place. This section of HomeTips will help you assess the various types of wood flooring on the market, offer you step-by-step guidance on how to install a wood floor, and teach you how to repair and care for your wood floors so they offer lasting durability and practicality.

and walnut to the bright, contemporary look of maple and birch, no other flooring material quite comes close to achieving the natural warmth of wood. That quality is, no doubt, what makes wood floors a clear frontrunner for homeowners when it comes to choosing between wood and other popular flooring options.

You’ll find that there are many different species of wood used for flooring, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. You’ll also discover a wide variety of applications for nearly every room of the house.

Wood Flooring Buying Guide

Before purchasing wood flooring, you will want to educate yourself

How to Install a Garbage Disposal

Though replacing an existing garbage disposal with a new one is a relatively easy task, installing a disposal where there wasn’t one before requires both plumbing and electrical skills. Starting from scratch is something you should tackle only if you are an experienced do-it-yourselfer. Otherwise, hire an appliance installation pro. If you need help, you can get a referral from this free site: Call a pre-qualified local pro.

Electrical Requirements

When replacing an existing garbage disposal, you can just use the necessary electrical power and switch. A garbage disposal must plug-in to a 120-volt GFCI (ground-fault circuit interruptor) outlet under the sink for power. If an outlet like this isn’t available under your sink, you’ll have to have an electrician install one. Be aware that most types of disposals require a switch adjacent to the sink to control the outlet—the electrician should wire for this, too. Note: Batch-feed disposers don’t require a switch because they start when you insert and turn a special drain plug.

Instead of wiring a conventional electrical switch, a good option is to buy an “air switch” for about $50. You can plug the disposal into this simple little device and then plug the

How to Find and Fix a Roof Leak

Expert advice on how to find, troubleshoot and fix a roof leak, including what to do in a roof leak emergency.

The source of most roof leaks is hard to find because it originates away from where the leak shows up. In order to find the source of a leak, follow a roofer’s advice and “think like water.”
Water typically comes in through worn, broken, or missing shingles; where nails have worked loose; or through corroded or poorly sealed roof flashing around vents, skylights, or chimneys or along the intersections of roof planes.

Once water passes the roofing, it flows along the sheathing, roof rafters, or topside of ceilings until it finds a place to drip down—inevitably onto your favorite piece of furniture.

Look for a roof leak during the day. Go into the attic with a bright flashlight; step only on secure framing members and never on the insulation or topside of the ceiling below—neither of these will support you! Start above the place where the drip has occurred and work your way uproof, looking for wetness along the framing members.

If the weather has been dry for a while,

Pouring a Concrete Slab

A concrete slab may be cast at the same time as footings or after the footings have set up. The slab’s overall dimensions are determined by the size of your new structure.

plumbing or electrical conduit that will run under or through it. After casting the slab, do not allow the surface to dry too quickly or it may crack.

Spray it with a light mist of water, cover it with plastic sheeting, and allow it to cure for three days (longer in cold weather). Begin by marking the slab’s placement on the ground with powdered chalk, or stretch mason’s lines between batterboards to determine the perimeter of the foundation.

A rectangular slab should have corners at precise 90-degree angles. To ensure the corners are square, lay out a triangle with sides 3 feet, 4 feet, and 5 feet long.

Excavate a flat-bottomed hole for a 4-inch-thick slab; in areas where frost or drainage may be a problem, the slab should be poured over a 4- to 6-inch gravel bed, so dig deep enough to accommodate this.

Build temporary forms from scrap lumber nailed securely to stakes. Make sure the top edges of the forms are level to expedite finishing the concrete later. Pour the

How to Use a Power Paint Sprayer

Though the debate continues over whether a spray-painted finish is as durable as one that has been painted or rolled on, there is no disputing that using a power sprayer is a real time saver.

Sprayers are a particular convenience for surfaces that would be difficult to paint otherwise, such as shingle siding, latticework, and other surfaces that are textured or have multiple planes.

When you use a paint sprayer, you must meticulously protect surrounding surfaces with plastic and dropcloths. And do not even consider using a sprayer outdoors if it is even a little breezy. Also follow these tips:

* To achieve a uniform spray with the least amount of pressure, practice on a large disposable surface, making adjustments until the setting is right.

* Spray the surface straight on in overlapping strips with

the gun about a foot away. Move the sprayer smoothly, about 3 inches per second. When you get to the end of a strip, release the trigger and then engage it again as you reverse direction, taking care not to swing your arm. A steady hand and a consistent pace will produce an even coat.

* Do not take longer than 15-minute breaks or the paint in the sprayer will begin

Trade Secrets for Hiring the Right Plumber

A home’s plumbing system consists of a complex system of pipes and fixtures that—hopefully—work together to provide clean water, safe disposal of wastes, and more. Because a plumbing system involves home and public safety, its design is strictly regulated by building codes, and plumbers are regulated, licensed, and credentialed to ensure proper workmanship.

This doesn’t mean you can’t do you own plumbing. In fact, here at HomeTips, you’ll find step-by-step instruction for many DIY plumbing jobs. But know-how, plumbing skills, and the proper tools are critical to a plumbing project’s success. If you don’t have the right tools for the job or the time, fortitude, and experience to correctly do the job yourself, hire a plumber.

But don’t hire just any plumber—hire the right plumber—a plumber who will do the job safely, correctly, and relatively affordably so the project doesn’t become an expensive disaster. Once you find The Right plumber, keep his number handy—it will be worth it’s weight in gold the next time you encounter an urgent plumbing problem in your home.

When hiring a plumber, your job is to find the right one and oversee the quality of workmanship.

Here’s what you should know:

What Makes a Good Plumber?

A good plumber needs to

Get Stylish Rugs at Budget Prices

Rugs for the Right Price

Buying the right rug can rejuvenate a room, but this simple upgrade can get expensive fast. The good news? For every pricey style and material on the market, there’s a great less-expensive option. So before you decide to splurge on that hand-knotted oriental or that plush wool wall-to-wall, see how we’ve compared a high-end “Spend” to an affordable “Save” in several popular floor-covering styles.

The Spend:
Antique Oriental Rug

About $11,000

High-quality Indian imports are a luxurious centerpiece for a room. However, with prices often soaring into the thousands, traditional hand-made rugs can put a strain on lesser decorating budgets. Think of it as an investment, though. Orientals retain their value if well cared for (and often increase in value), and are meant to be heirloom pieces. That can make a rug like this 7½-by-11½-foot antique Agra rug from ABC Carpet worth the splurge.

The Save:
Machine-Made Oriental-Style Rug

About $450

A machine-made nylon rug is a more affordable alternative to a pricey Persian, and its durability can stand up to serious foot traffic without a lot of maintenance. With a similar color scheme

Water Softeners Buying Guide

expert, unbiased water softeners report will help you choose the right size water softener, understand salt-free and dual-tank softeners, and more.

Hard water is simply water that is rich in minerals such as calcium, magnesium carbonate, and manganese. If you find that soap and shampoo don’t lather well, dishes are spotted, the bathtub has a ring, laundry is dingy, and the coffee maker has scale deposits, your home probably has a hard water problem.

Though these minerals are natural and not typically hazardous to health, they can create deposits in your plumbing, water heater, and other water-using appliances, and make washing dishes, clothing, skin, and hair more challenging.

Hard water is a familiar reality for millions of Americans. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, 85 percent of American homes have problems with hard water.

Solving Hard Water Problems

Hard water comes from aquifers and other underground sources that collect dissolved minerals from rock—particularly calcium, magnesium carbonate, and manganese. These minerals give water undesirable characteristics that collectively are dubbed “hardness.” The severity of hardness is measured by grains (of mineral) per gallon (GPG) or, in some cases, by parts per million of mineral

6 Ways to Make a Bland Staircase Grand

Without the backdrop of her double-wide, red-carpeted, carved mahogany staircase, Scarlett O’Hara’s entrances and exits would not have seemed nearly so dramatic. Likewise, if George Bailey’s wonderful life didn’t include a daily struggle with a loose newel cap, he wouldn’t have been quite the everyman. Even the Brady Bunch couldn’t have exuded such early-’70s grooviness lined up along anything but an ultra-mod set of treads.

As the focal point of a house’s interior architecture, a staircase is the primary mood-setter, a place where a homeowner can announce his or her individual style, whether it’s the whispered elegance of Early American details or the bold strokes of Victorian excess. The quickest and easiest way to make a design statement is by tweaking the decorative elements—the handrail or banister, the vertical support balusters, and the anchoring newel post at the base, all together called the balustrade—that give a stair its identity.

Here are some stair designs, from the simple to the ornate, and some of the classic American house styles where each is at home. Note how they affect the space around them, and use them as a guide for transforming your own interior. Because while any staircase can carry you to the next