Blog Posts by This Old House Magazine

  • Our Reader’s Best Curb Appeal Before and Afters

    Painting, pruning, mowing, manicuring: A lot goes into upgrading the exterior of your house, and you seem to have done it all. We asked our readers to submit remodel projects for our fourth annual Reader Remodel Contest, they responded with renovations that showed just how talented and hardworking they all are. Here's a look at your top picks for curb appeal revamps chosen by TOH editors and your fellow readers.

    See all of our top reader curb appeal transformations at!

    After you've browsed these amazing examples of curb appeal, you can see all the entries to our annual Reader Remodel Contest at Your Old House.

    1. BEFORE: Fixing Up a Fire-Damaged Cottage

    Who: Brian and Julie W.
    Where: Oxford, MD.

    The owners of this cottage always dreamed of fixing up an old house, but waited until our three sons were old enough to help out. When they bought this house, many of the clapboards were rotted or ruined as a result of a fire, and overgrown holly trees obscured the facade.

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  • Beautiful Backyard Building Projects You Can Start and Finish Over the Holiday Weekend

    Go outside and get to work on these gorgeous garden structures that you can enjoy all season long. TOH brings you detailed step-by-step instructions, shopping lists, and tool lists to do it all yourself.

    See all 19 Beautiful Backyard Building Projects on THISOLDHOUSE.COM!

    1. Fire Pit
    Outdoor fires are so hot right now. Seriously. Mankind has called the hearth home for the centuries, it's true, but these days people are going ultra-retro and getting their heat from stone-walled pits set into the earth. If you really want to light up right, do it in style. Take a few days to build your very own ring of fire.

    See How to Build a Fire Pit for full step-by-step instructions.

    MORE: Best Yard Before and Afters 2011

    2. Garden Tool Shed

    Your garden tools need a clean, dry, and accessible locale to keep safe from natures elements. A smart option is to build a handsome wood lean-to shed against the house near the patio or garden. If it's made from cedar, a naturally rot-resistant wood, it will

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  • 5 Wackiest Yard and Garden Products

    Everyone knows zombies are hot right now. But would you decorate your flowerbeds with them? Keep reading for this handmade garden sculpture, and more garden accessories that you're probably ashamed to admit you actually want. -Tabitha Sukhai


    Pine Cone Picker-Upper

    Take it easy on your back this summer! With help from the Coneivore, you'll never have to bend over again. As the product page says, "Using your hands is difficult and pine cone barbs hurt!" Enough said.

    About $40; Clean Air Gardening


    Hot Pot

    This wacky hybrid looks like an ordinary flower pot, but unscrew the top and you have a fully-functional charcoal grill. It may seem silly, but just think of all the closet carnivores out there who are masquerading as vegans to impress their friends. There's a larger market for the covert barbecue than you think. Maybe.

    About $125; Lumens

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  • Tips to Nix the 6 Most Unpleasant Household Odors

    Your home has it's surprises, and unfortunately the occasional bad smell is one of them. Here are 6 offenders and tips to get rid of them.

    1. That New Paint Smell

    Hate the smell of fresh latex paint? You can cut down on the odor by mixing a tablespoon of vanilla extract or a drop of lemon extract into every gallon.

    MORE: Cleaning Up Lead, Asbestos, and Other Hazards

    2. Disgusting Disposer

    A stinky garbage disposer probably has build-up of grease and ground food on the underside of the rubber splash baffle that covers the drain opening. Clean with a scrubby sponge and dish detergent. Then run a lemon through it for a fresh scent.

    MORE: 10 Uses for Vinegar

    3. Go Away Gas!

    A closed-up kitchen with gas flowing from an open unlit burner can create a combustible atmosphere in as little as 10 seconds. So if you smell gas-we mean really smell gas-do not turn on the lights or use a telephone, cell phone, flashlight, or computer, all of which could create a spark, blowing the place sky high.

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  • Going on Vacation? Here's How to Prevent Break-Ins and Keep Your Home Safe While You're Gone

    Before you head out for that hard-earned trip to the shore or mountains, take a moment to batten down the hatches at home. Summertime is peak season for house thefts, according to the Burglary Prevention Council, which keeps statistics on where intruders break in. The good news: You don't need an expensive high-tech alarm system. A few well-placed (and well-priced) locks and security devices will do the trick. Here are the top target areas and forced-entry points, and how to secure them.

    See other ways to protect your home from break-ins at THISOLDHOUSE.COM.

    Target #1: Front Door, 34% of Break-Ins
    Most break-ins occur here, so invest in a solid, pick-resistant deadbolt lock (and remember to lock it!). An added step: Keep your outdoor entry light on a timer so it illuminates your house at night.

    Smartkey, $30; Kwikset

    MORE: All About Entry Locksets

    Target #2: First-Floor Windows, 23% of Break-Ins

    You'll need sash locks, of course, but easy-to-reach windows should get double

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  • Is Your Adult Child Moving Back Home?

    Saying goodbye to older children who are fleeing the nest can be hard, but saying hello again a few years later-after you've turned their old room into a home gym and are accustomed to spending 20 uninterrupted minutes in the bathroom-can be even harder. As the economy continues to worsen, many adult children, from twenty-somethings to middle-aged sons and daughters with children and spouses of their own, are returning home. In fact, the AARP recently surveyed more than 1,000 adults over the age of 18 and found 33 percent of respondents ages 18 to 49 live with their parents or in-laws. The most common reason cited for those who were likely to move back home was loss of income, followed by a change in job status.

    If you find yourself welcoming back your son or daughter, you'll have to make sure your home is ready. Even small upgrades can make this transition easier-you may even find yourself enjoying it. See all our tips for prepping your home for a boomerang kid at THISOLDHOUSE.COM

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  • Color Combos That Spice Up a Kitchen

    Two-Toned: If you're looking for a way to give the hub of your home a new look with maximum impact for minimum hassle, consider a double dose of color, as shown in the kitchens we've rounded up here. "Paint allows you to put your personal stamp on cabinetry," says Brian Yahn of Plain & Fancy Custom Cabinetry in Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania, whose clients often request a custom hue-or two. With upper cabinets in one shade and base cabinets in another, island and perimeter cabinets in contrasting colors, or simple pantry units painted to stand out like furniture, "it's not your mother's kitchen," he notes. Case in point: the mix at right. For more on this and other lively pairings, check out the rest these spicy kitchen color pairings on THISOLDHOUSE.COM. -Deborah Baldwin, This Old House magazine

    Shown: Carefully plotted fields of color, including citrus shades of yellow and green, define prep, storage, and lounging spaces-and guarantee an upbeat mood. Cabinets: Plain & Fancy Custom

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  • The Amazing $967 Kitchen Remodel

    With kitchens, simple does not necessarily equal streamlined. For these homeowners, the kitchen that came with their Atlanta condo fell short on both frills and function. Builder-grade cabinets and white laminate counters set a cheerless, monotonous tone in an open space that can be seen from the front door. And washing dishes meant looking at a worn wood cabinet, as the window didn't line up over the sink. Opening the dishwasher blocked the oven door and vice versa. "It was a sad-looking space," says homeowner Eduardo Perez.

    Shown here: The green walls of the adjacent dining room inspired the kitchen's new backsplash.

    See the entire amazing $967 Kitchen Remodel at

    Before. A bland color scheme and an awkward layout made this kitchen boring and inconvenient. So after a year-and with some DIY know-how passed down from his contractor dad-Eduardo spent two weeks removing the oak cabinets, refinishing and reinstalling them, then putting in new counters. The sink and the

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  • Fill Your Yard With Flowers Without Spending a Dime

    WARNING: Reading this post could save you hundreds of dollars. And make you smarter. -Your Friends at This Old House

    Don't let the scientific term vegetative propagation scare you-it just means growing new plants from established specimens rather than seed. It can be an easy and economical means of increasing your plant stock. "Propagation is a wonderful way to make more of your favorite varieties to fill in blank spots in your yard or keep a few backups of a prized plant in case your original dies," says horticulturist Marc Hachadourian, who manages the Nolen Greenhouses at The New York Botanical Garden. Many gardeners also enjoy increasing the number of their favorite specimens to share with friends as gifts.

    Here are some easy techniques that suit beginners-including rooting stem and leaf cuttings, root division, and ground layering-no greenhouse required. You can propagate most plants on a windowsill that gets only indirect light (harsh sunlight will bake tender cuttings).

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  • Clever New Uses for Stuff That's Destined for the Trash Heap

    Breathe new life into stuff that's destined for the trash heap. Keep reading for clever ways to put spent gift cards, yogurt cups, sponges, and more to work in your home. -Tabitha Sukhai

    Cut a Custom Trowel Using a Spent Gift Card. Why dirty a trowel when gluing down a few loose tiles? Instead, snip off one edge of a card with pinking shears to make a zigzag edge, use it to apply the mastic, then toss it. You can also cut the card to fit into just about any space.

    MORE: 10 Uses for Gift Cards

    Move Heavy Furniture Using Carpet Scraps. Slide pieces of carpet pile-side down under-neath the legs of a bureau, bed, or dresser, then push it across the floor-much easier than lifting.

    MORE: 10 Uses for Carpet Scraps

    Make a Tangle-Free Twine Dispenser With a Plastic Planting Pot. Put a ball of twine in a plastic pot, and pull the end through a hole in the bottom to keep it neat when using.

    MORE: 10 Uses for Plastic Plant Pots

    Catch Paint Drips With a Yogurt Container Lid. Cut a hole in a lid

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