Blog Posts by This Old House Magazine

  • The Holiday-Ready House

    The fire's blazing, the hors d'oeuvres tasty, the tree a-twinkle...but if your guests slip on a wet floor or shiver through dinner, no one will remember those lovely details. Use our cheat sheet to help make your home comfortable for everybody, from your baby niece to Great Uncle Harry.

    See ALL of our easy tips for a holiday-ready house


    • Replace blown-out bulbs in exterior lights.
    • Scatter sand or kitty litter on slippery steps.
    • Knock away icicles hanging above the front door-no skewering your guests!

    RELATED: Snow & Ice Removal Tips


    • Add a dimmer switch to the hallway fixture (soft light = instant mood-setter).
    • Roll out a runner to absorb slush and snow.
    • Fix squeaky hardwood floors by sweeping graphite powder into the cracks.

    RELATED: The Quick Front-Entry Fixup

    Living Room

    • Ratchet down the thermostat by 3 degrees F-guests hate sweating over their holiday cocktails.
    • Keep area rugs

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  • 6 Deadly Holiday Disasters and How to Avoid Them

    The holidays are traditionally a time to kick back at home with the family and put depressing thoughts-like death, for example-aside in exchange for fuzzier feelings of comfort and joy. Unfortunately, the Grim Reaper is not one to take a holiday, even if it's Christmas, Hanukkah, or New Year's Eve. His handiwork often manifests itself in some of our favorite holiday home traditions, too, from living room Christmas trees, which catch fire and kill about 15 of us each year, to backyard sledding, which sends more than 33,000 of us to the hospital annually.

    To make sure Death doesn't nab a seat at your holiday table this year, we took a look at the different ways he tries to sideline this most wonderful time of the year. The hope is that you'll avoid his sinister plans so that you can savor the comforts and joys of many holidays to come.

    See ALL 13 Ways the Holidays Can Kill You

    1. Christmas Tree Fires

    You'd think by now we'd have this whole Christmas tree safety thing down. But

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  • 5 Christmas Light Displays You Can See from Outer Space

    Tackling that tangle of lights may be intimidating to some, but here are 5 over-the-top holiday displays that are sure to amaze. And, leave you wondering how these spirited homeowners are going to manage their energy bills this season!

    Dominic Luberto's home in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, (shown above) causes quite a stir; especially among neighbors who don't care for the bright lights. Luberto's lights aren't without fans, though. Local news stations have covered and photographed the place for special holiday coverage. The yard featured everything from traditional snowmen to Winnie-the-Pooh figurines. -Tabitha Sukhai, Annie Hauser, and Victoria Reitano,

    MORE: World's Wildest Holiday House Displays

    Lights for a Cause

    Out of all the over-the-top homes on our list, this one just might take the cake. With lights so plentiful you can't even see the house under it, this home in Ontario donates money from visitors to SickKids, a children's hospital in Toronto.

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  • Top 3 Ways the Holidays Can Kill You...Or Try To, Anyway

    We don't mean to be kill-joys during the most joyous time of the year, but the stats don't lie: According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, over 12,500 of you have to leave the company of your loved ones to rush to the emergency room due to holiday-related accidental injuries. Here are some common holiday dangers that are overlooked by distracted holiday revelers more often than you might think. Take a look, know the warning signs, and you'll be the first to know if you, your loved ones, or your pets are victims of a toxic Christmas. --Tabitha Sukhai,

    See ALL 11 Ways the Holidays Can Kill You

    1. Christmas Tree Mold

    If your sniffling and sneezing coincide with the arrival of your freshly cut Christmas tree, you could be reacting to skyrocketing mold spore counts. If you must have a real tree in your home, prevent allergic reactions for guests and loved ones by hosing your tree down, spraying it with a mold-resistant sealant like M-1 Sure Cote, and

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  • The Top 10 Most Magnificent Gingerbread McMansions

    The 4th annual TOH Gingerbread House contest is well under way (hurry, and get baking and building-you can still enter by December 19th)! Here are 10 unbelievable and edible abodes that will inspire you to create the NEXT TOH Gingerbread House Contest Grand Prize-winning masterpiece.

    See ALL of the entries so far and enter the 2012 TOH Gingerbread House Contest

    1. Winter Wonderland Victorian Palace

    "The tools I used were my X-Acto knife to cut out a pattern in foam board and in the gingerbread dough, my Skil saw to cut the platform for the stand, a mouse sander for sanding the plywood stand and the rough edges of gingerbread house, a drill to make holes in the platform to insert lighting, a jigsaw to enlarge holes in platform and to cut baked gingerbread,a Dremel to sand gingerbread edges and refine details. The gingerbread house took 180 hours to prepare and finish. The windows are made with gelatin."

    Stephanie S.
    West Palm Beach, FL

    MORE: Best Holiday Home Lighting Displays

    2. GR

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  • Make Sure Your Home is Safe and Secure During Holiday Travels


    While you'd like to think it could never happen to you, a home is broken into every 14 seconds, according to the FBI. Add expensive stocking-stuffers and spotty holiday travel to this mix, and your home's stock just went up. Luckily, you don't have to be a security mastermind to protect your property during the hectic holiday season. There are plenty of simple, affordable steps you can take. --Natalie Gingerich Mackenzie,

    See ALL of our burglar-busting tips at

    1. Advertise Your Alarm

    Criminals talk big, but when push comes to shove, they won't go near a house that has an alarm, says Dr. Paul Cromwell, a criminology professor at the University of South Florida Polytechnic. You don't even need an active system, just a sign in your yard or a decal in a window-or better, both.

    MORE: Burglar-Proof Your Entry

    2. Showcase Fido

    Most burglars don't want to mess with a dog, whether it's a toy poodle or a 90-pound German shepherd. A threatening BEWARE OF DOG

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  • Winter Pest Control Tips from the Pros

    Furry Invaders
    Not everyone is welcome to gather 'round your warm fire and snack on the fresh-baked gingerbread men. There's no worse time than the holidays to have unwanted house guests scurrying across your dining room floor. Unfortunately, when the weather turns cold in winter, it is prime pest invasion time. To prevent rodents and winged critters from breaking in, start by strengthening your home's vulnerable spots.

    See ALL of our winter pest prevention tips at

    1. Protect Window and Door Frames

    Replace worn weatherstripping. Repair soft spots in wood sills and frames; rats and mice can gnaw at them to gain entry. Screens should fit frames tightly; patch tears right away.

    MORE: Block Chimney to Keep Critters From Coming In

    Tree Limbs
    2. Protect the Roof

    Banish bats by closing up gaps in eaves and flashing joints with aluminum or galvanized steel. Fill holes in soffits and fascia with expanding foam. Trim back trees to reduce access paths for squirrels.

    MORE: Protect Your Siding From

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  • Stovetop Fire Safety Musts for a Truly Happy Thanksgiving

    Thanksgiving is the peak day of the year for kitchen fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Almost three times more fires occur on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year. The holiday season is a bustling time of year in most kitchens. The host is preparing the bird in the oven and maybe frying something on the range. Guests file in, children play, and for minutes the stove goes unattended as the cook takes a call. Unfortunately, this familiar scenario is the perfect recipe for a dangerous kitchen fire. "Most of these fires involve the kitchen stovetop," says Lorraine Carli of the NFPA. "The majority of the cooking fires occur because of unattended cooking." However, residential-kitchen fire safety has come a long way since the days when smoke alarms and fire extinguishers were the only available firefighting tools. With some know-how and the right equipment, your holidays can be safer than ever before. --Sal Vaglica,

    MORE: 17 Gadgets

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  • 5 Entry Upgrades That'll Welcome Your Holiday Guests Before They Even Get Inside

    Make a great first impression with easy exterior enhancements that'll warm up the look of your home and boost curb appeal. --Tabitha Sukhai,

    SHOWN: Create the Craftsman-Style Holiday Entry shown above

    Upgrade Front-Door Hardware

    Making a memorable first impression is tough if your front door has ho-hum hardware. Update your entry with a bold new door handle, escutcheon, kickplate, and knocker. Here's how to Install New Front-Door Hardware

    RELATED: All About Entry Sets

    Rewire a Vintage Entry Lantern

    Hung in a front entry or a cozy corner indoors, these pendant-style fixtures cast a soft ambient light that's both charming and inviting. Just because an old salvage find isn't in working order doesn't mean you should leave it at the yard. With How to Rewire a Vintage Entry Lantern, we'll show you how you can get the glow back in a few easy steps.

    RELATED: How to Install Pathway Lights

    Add a Creative DIY Wreath

    Decorate any

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  • A Few 60-Minute Fixes You Forgot!

    The guests are arriving any day now, but the to-do list is endless. Here are 5 simple repairs you can finish off in less than an hour, before the house starts to fill up. --Tabitha Sukhai,

    Clean a Clogged Burner

    Use a straight pin to remove burnt-on food from the holes. Scrub removable parts with a solution of equal parts warm water and baking soda.

    RELATED: Stovetop Fire Safety

    Tighten Loose Chair Legs

    Add a dab of epoxy to a wobbly leg; hold it in place with a band clamp or belt and let dry completely.

    RELATED: Prevent Floor Scuffs and Scratches From Dining Room Chairs

    Repair a Blister in a Vinyl Floor

    Puncture the blister and fill with adhesive using a glue syringe. Wipe away excess, then weigh down the spot and let dry. If you don't have a syringe handy, an artist's brush or narrow-nosed ketchup bottle will do the trick.

    RELATED: How to Replace a Broken Floor Tile

    Fix a Sticky Sliding Closet Door

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