Blog Posts by This Old House Magazine

  • 3 Crafty Ways to Save from the Best DIY Bloggers We've Ever Met

    1. Window Seats and Wardrobes
    Window Seat and WardrobesWindow Seat and Wardrobes
    Masterminds: Jennifer Flores, who comes up with designs that her husband, Sean Stanwick, executes for their 1950s home, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. They chronicle the results at ramblingrenovators.blogspot.com.
    Inspiration: "I always wanted a window seat when I was a girl, andI imagined sitting on one with our daughter in her nursery, " says Jennifer. "The room also had no closets, so we needed to add storage."
    How They Did It: Rather than frame out closets alongside the seat, Jennifer and Sean bought two wardrobe units from IKEA. "We like ready-made things that we can customize," says Jennifer. For the seat, which hides an under-window radiator, they used ¾-inch medium-density fiberboard (MDF) and perforated wood panels that allow heat to pass through. A cushion on top turns it into a comfy perch. To make it all look like one big built-in, the couple painted the seat, the wardrobes, and a new ceiling-height shelf in the same creamy white.
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  • 8 Pro Secrets for the Perfect Paint Job

    Pro painting tipsPro painting tipsAsk just about any painting pro, and he'll tell you that his trade has a real image problem. After all, everyone thinks they can paint-just watch how fast the color goes up on those done-in-a-day home-makeover shows. Grab a brush, a roller, and a couple gallons of latex, and you're all set, right?

    Not quite. "The truth is, it is easy to do things poorly," says Rich O'Neill, who chairs a craftsmanship committee within the Painting and Decorating Contractors Association of America. There's no substitute for learning the proper steps, taking time to do the job right, and improving your technique as you go.

    But there are also a few tricks of the trade that homeowners can learn to ease the way. We've assembled a couple dozen of them on the following pages, gleaned from decades' worth of accumulated wisdom from pros working from Seattle to Boston. Put their pointers to work, and you'll notice a difference in your paint job years after the tape and tarps are put away.

    RELATED: Pick

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  • How to Make Your Windows Airtight in 9 Steps

    You may not need to replace all of the windows at your old house. Install weatherstripping to seal the gaps and watch your heating and cooling bills shrink.

    TOH Host Kevin O'Connor shows you how to draftproof old-house windows TOH Host Kevin O'Connor shows you how to draftproof old-house windows
    When Kevin O'Connor, the host of This Old House, renovated his 1894 Queen Anne, he never once considered replacing its original double-hung windows with modern ones.

    "It would kill me to put new windows in this house," he says. For one thing, the handcrafted sash and blown-glass panes would be costly to replace-as much as $1,000 apiece-and substituting anything less would destroy much of the old place's charm.

    Still, he was dismayed by how much air leaked in during the winter, even with outside storm windows in place.

    To fix the problem, he needed a product that was both effective and unobtrusive. "I didn't want anything that would change the way the old windows look," he says. The solution: a simple weatherstripping kit that uses the same types of seal found in modern windows and is practically invisible.

    For

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  • Winter Indoor Air Quality: What You Need to Know Now

    Breathe easierBreathe easierRemember the first time you looked at a drop of drinking water under a microscope in Bio class and saw the millions of tiny organisms it contained? Well, the air in your home is also filled with life. Most of it is harmless. But for people who suffer from asthma and allergies, all of those little bits of dust, dander, pollen, mold and, yes, microscopic life-collectively called allergens-can be a problem. Health issues could be exacerbated in the winter when homes are "sealed up" to keep the cold out and heated air inside.

    Some homeowners undertake extreme measures to deal with air-quality issues in their homes. Many of these efforts are unnecessary and ineffective, says Dr. David Cugell, Bazley Professor of Pulmonary Diseases at Northwestern University Medical School and consultant to the American Lung Association. But there are a number of ways you can improve your home's air quality. The ones we'll show you are easy to do and don't cost much.

    RELATED: 72 Easy Ways to Make

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  • 3 Little Ways to Save Big on Your Heating Bill

    Bundle up!Bundle up!Turn it down, not off
    Set your thermostat to turn back 7 to 10 degrees F for eight hours while you're away each day; doing so can shave 10 percent off your yearly bill. The optimal temperature for energy savings is 68 to 70 degrees F. However, if you have cast-iron radiators or radiant floor heating, don't touch the dial-you'll waste more energy (and, ultimately, money) by changing the temperature than if you left it alone.

    RELATED: How to Install a Programmable Thermostat

    Pad your nest-in the right places
    Beefing up the insulation will help cut heating costs, especially if your house is old and drafty. Focus on the attic first, where heat escapes. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that proper insulation can cut as much as 50 percent off your heating bill.

    RELATED: Read This Before Your Insulate Your Attic

    Work with the weather
    Boost the efficiency of your boiler by installing an outdoor reset control. On a 40-degree day, your boiler could fire to 180

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  • What to Buy in Winter to Score the Biggest Deals

    Save with winter salesSave with winter salesWhen it comes to scoring tools and home goods on the cheap, half the battle is knowing when the serious sales take place. We tapped Daniel Butler of the National Retail Federation for tips on what items you should spend on now to save in the long run.

    RELATED: 21 Ways to Save on Your Remodel

    FURNITURE. New styles of sofas, dining sets, and more debut in February, often at promotional prices. The real deals, though, are the "as is" floor samples that retailers mark down beforehand to make room for fresh stock.

    ELECTRONICS. Stores routinely run Super Bowl TV specials a week or so before the game. Make sure you're buying-not trying-that big screen, because most sets are subject to restocking fees if returned.

    BIG APPLIANCES. During cold-weather months, demand for summer essentials plummets, so look for slashed prices on last season's air conditioners, fans, and outdoor gas grills.

    RELATED: What to Know Before You Go Shopping for Appliances

    LINENS. Expect savings of 20 to

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  • 5 kitchen counter upgrades You Can DIY

    It'll take some doing, but if your confident with your DIY skills you can make a kitchen counter upgrade with solid results. How? With step-by-step help from the pros at This Old House, of course. Here are our top projects to help you along. -Tabitha Sukhai, thisoldhouse.com

    1. Install a Soapstone Countertop

    Soapstone countertopSoapstone countertop
    Too often the price of granite or engineered stone is out of reach of the average renovation budget. Not soapstone. This traditional kitchen topper is easy for a do-it-yourselfer to install, meaning you could save big on the labor, which usually accounts for half the cost. Available to be shipped nationwide from companies such as M. Teixiera Soapstone, where this counter came from, and starting at less than $25 per square foot, soapstone is a great, inexpensive DIY project.
    IlloIllo
    Relative to other stones, soapstone is soft enough that it doesn't require special tools to machine it. You likely already have what you need to cut and shape it: a circular saw, a jigsaw, a drill/driver, a

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  • 6 DIY Coatracks You Can Build to Wrangle Outerwear This Winter

    The default coat-storage "solution" during holiday parties is to throw people's (more-than-likely GROSS) coats on your bed. Do you really want people's potentially disgusting coats sitting where you sleep? Didn't think so. Meantime, if you're in the habit of dumping coats on your couch when you get home, you're clearly unaware of just how dirty the coat you wear on a daily basis can be. Here are TOH's top 6 DIY coatrack plans. In just a few hours, you can create a handsome piece that will keep outerwear at the entry and cut clutter, too. -Tabitha Sukhai, thisoldhouse.com

    1. A traditional (and flexible!) coatrack design that you can modify to suit your storage needs

    DIY Coat RacksDIY Coat Racks
    In half a day you can assemble stock lumber and a newel post to create an elegant place to hang your hat. Here's How to Build a Coatrack, the TOH Step-by-Step

    2. A small-space solution for a tiny entry (and it kind of looks like a sled, doesn't it? Which is cool...because "winter")
    Small-space coat rackSmall-space coat rack
    TOH general contractor Tom Silva made

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  • 7 Gifts for the Gardeners on Your Holiday List

    Every year, around holiday time, This Old House magazine editors handpick the TOH Top 100: Best New Home Products. Here are a few finds that the green thumbs on your list will love!

    1. BrazelBerries Raspberry Shortcake raspberry bush, by Fall Creek Farm & Nursery
    BrazelBerries Raspberry Shortcake raspberry bush, by Fall Creek Farm & NurseryBrazelBerries Raspberry Shortcake raspberry bush, by Fall Creek Farm & Nursery
    No yard is too small for growing this new dwarf variety. It forms a compact, thornless mound no wider than 3 feet yet produces sweet, full-size summer fruit. Plant bushes in big pots on a sunny patio, or as a groundcover in Zones 5 through 9. About $30 each; brazelberries.com

    RELATED: TOH-Buzzfeed Gift Guide> 7 New, Must-Have Tools

    2. The Essential Kit, by RedHed
    The Essential Kit, by RedHedThe Essential Kit, by RedHed
    The heirloom quality of this mix-and-match tool kit caught our eye. The case includes four powder-coated-steel tool heads (two shovels, a rake, and a broom) and five hickory handles with fittings that make switching tasks or handle lengths a snap. About $350; redhedtools.com

    3. 36V Lithium Sweeper/Vacuum, by Black & Decker
    36V Lithium Sweeper/Vacuum, by Black & Decker36V Lithium Sweeper/Vacuum, by Black & Decker
    This cord-free blower

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  • Save Money with Upgrades that Slash Energy Costs

    The This Old House TV crew gave a once drafty and underinsulated New England house a state-of-the-art efficiency makeover. Here are some money-saving upgrade ideas for your old house -From thisoldhouse.com

    Upgrades That Slash Energy CostsUpgrades That Slash Energy Costs
    Sealing The Envelope
    As with any home built before the days of insulation, house wrap, and double-pane windows, there'd be little point in installing high-efficiency HVAC equipment without first buttoning up the leaky exterior shell. TOH TV general contractor Tom Silva applied spray foam insulation, which yields slightly-better-than-code R-43 in the roof and R-21 in the walls. The foam, which requires professional installation, is about two to three times the cost of fiberglass batts but offers two to three times the effectiveness. And because it fills every crack and void, creates a vapor barrier, and won't settle over time, it eliminates drafts, too.

    But a wall is only as airtight as its windows. Fixing the existing ones proved too expensive, so Tom replaced the rattly old

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