Blog Posts by This Old House Magazine

  • 5 Ways Your Backyard Barbecue Can Kill You

    Bet you're getting your grill ready for Memorial Day weekend, right? Cookouts are fun, sure, but like so many other things in life, your grill could be out to get you. From exploding propane tanks to cancer-laden briskets, we've researched the many ways that unassuming Hibachi in your backyard can lead to your untimely demise. Know the risks before you go and you'll be on your way to a safe BBQ party--if not a little paranoid.


    1. Lighter Fluid Reflux
    We know it's fun and all, but never squirt lighter fluid into an already healthy grill fire. The flames can flashback into the container and explode right in your hands.


    2. Food Poisoning
    Wash your hands, buy your meat from a reputable butcher, and make sure you cook it all the way through. That's the best advice we can give you on how not to be among the 87 million Americans who get food poisoning each year. Those poisonings result in around 5,700 deaths,

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  • 5 Skills You Need to Survive Homeownership

    Are you in the market for your first home? It is a HUGE responsibility! Why doesn't that thing come with an owners manual? Well, that's what we're here for-to provide fast fix-it advice when it's time for you to do your homeowning duty. Because at some point, you're going to have to know how to change out a light fixture without zapping yourself! Or stem the flood when the toilet overflows. And you're going to want to do things right. The first time.

    You're going to have questions and lucky for you we've got some answers! Check out these 5 tips and also even more homeowner must-know skills on!


    1. Skill: Know Which Breaker to Turn Off

    When you finally get around to putting in that dimmer switch, you won't want to be stumped by a poorly labeled breaker box. Write directly on the metal next to each switch with a fine indelible marker. Have a friend plug lamps into all the sockets in a room and tell you via cell phone which ones go dark

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  • Is your pro handyman or contractor a con?

    Pro Versus Con: Each spring, along with the forsythia and snow crocuses, comes a more disturbing rite of the season. That's when thousands of homeowners are conned by contractors into paying for improvement projects that never see the light of day-or are so slipshod that they never should. As the mercury rises, so do complaints to consumer-affairs offices and attorneys general nationwide. In Illinois, for example, more than 3,000 cases of home-repair fraud are reported annually; Louisiana fields 500 complaints a month.

    In the belief that the forewarned is the forearmed, we asked consumer advocates, home inspectors, and trusted builders to tell us about the most common come-ons they see and share their advice on how to avoid falling victim to one of these scams. -Jeffrey Rothfeder


    1. The Scam: A Neighborly Deal
    A workman knocks on the door and tells you he's just finished coating a driveway down the street and that he's

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  • Easy First Aid for 3 Common Household Injuries

    Let's face it: we all get a little dinged up as we hammer and saw our way toward finishing that latest project. Nadine Saubers, a registered nurse and author of The Everything First Aid Book, helped us create this cheat sheet of fast fixes for cuts, bumps, and bruises. Keep it handy so you'll know exactly what to do the next time a tool plays target practice with your extremities.


    1. Hammered Thumb First Aid
    Ice the area with a towel-covered ice pack for 10 to 15 minutes two to three times a day to combat swelling. Take a painkiller containing ibuprofen, like Advil or Motrin, as needed. Ibuprofen helps reduce inflammation, unlike acetaminophen, the main ingredient in Tylenol, which is most useful for general aches and pains. For any bruise or internal injury that swells, avoid taking aspirin, which thins blood and can worsen bleeding.


    2. Blister First Aid
    Don't pop the blister, which can slow

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  • Keep an Organic Garden With These Pest-Repellent, Soil-Improving Plants

    Before you turn to harsh chemicals to solve your garden woes, consider planting these flowers and herbs. They make great bedfellows that'll improve your soil, increase propagation, and keep harmful insects at bay. Here are our top 3 clever companions for your garden. --JENNIFER STIMPSON


    Scented Marigold

    Plant with:

    Get these benefits:
    In dense clusters, this flower emits a substance that drives away harmful root-feeding nematodes. Near tomatoes, it can deter whiteflies.



    Plant with:
    Tomatoes and cabbage.

    Get these benefits:
    This quick-growing herb deters ants, fleas, aphids, cabbage moths, even rodents-plus it attracts earthworms, which help condition soil.



    Plant with:
    Roses, alliums, and fruit trees.

    Get these benefits:
    Discourage fleas and moths while

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  • Easy Ways to Allergy-Proof Your Home

    While many of us were eagerly awaiting spring, for the 60 million Americans suffering from allergies, now-with its mold-friendly moisture and pollen-bearing blossoms-is one of the toughest times of the year. Experiencing sneezing, a runny nose, or itchy, watery eyes? Follow these guidelines to minimize your exposure to allergens outdoors and to avoid bringing them home. --Danielle Blundell

    MORE: 13 Essential Home Tips for Allergy-Sufferers

    Garden Smart. Pollen levels peak between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., so save yard work for later in the day. Keep grass cut short, and consider wearing an air-filtering mask, goggles, and gloves while mowing the lawn. Avoid planting high-pollen-producing flowers such as amaranthus, juniper, and peonies, especially near windows or doors.

    MORE: Entry Upgrades to Keep Pollen Out

    Clean Your Gear. Don't hang fresh laundry out to dry, and shake out clothes after they've been worn outside. Shower as soon as possible after spending time outdoors. Pets can bring

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  • How to Protect Your Home From a Zombie Invasion

    If the slew of recent TV shows, movies, and books are any indication, zombies are everywhere these days. So whether they're fast, slow, or riddled with rigor mortis, here's a few ways to keep the undead out of your house. But three tips won't be nearly enough to stop the undead masses, so check out the rest of our zombie-proof strategies at

    1. Install Doors of the Dead

    When dealing with old-school, Night of the Living Dead-type zombies (also known as "Romero zombies," after that 1968 film's director) keep in mind that-since rapid muscle deterioration is par for the postmortem course-these guys have less muscular strength than Keith Richards on a bad day. One of the simplest ways to combat them is to retrofit your house with stainless-steel doors. Affordable and impenetrable, steel doors can be a living-dead dude's worst enemy. Best of all, any dents or dings caused by your heathen invaders can be pulled and puttied with an auto-body repair kit. For added security,

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  • Attract Birds and Butterflies to Your Summer Yard

    Who doesn't enjoy the sight of a brightly colored bird, or a passing butterfly? These natural visitors add appeal to our landscapes, help control pests, and seed and pollinate our gardens. But we're in danger of losing them through our own actions. According to the National Audubon Society, the 20 birds on the Common Birds in Decline list have lost at least half of their populations in just four decades due to residential and industrial development.

    It's not too late to coax fine flying friends into our yards, though. This summer-with skyrocketing fuel prices putting the squeeze on your vacation plans-instead of going to visit nature, why not bring nature to you? Encourage birds and butterflies to come to your place and stay awhile with these easy habitat gardening tips (and check out our guide to building the ultimate butterfly garden at And, don't forget to keep your birdhouses and feeders out in the cold season, when native and migrating birds need your help

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  • 3 Stately Celebrity Homes For Sale

    Not very many of us can afford to live like Hollywood stars. But, for those of you with an extra few million dollars hanging around, it just so happens that Ozzy Osbourne's beautiful European-style villa and Ben Stiller's sprawling 1929 Spanish-style estate are up for grabs. Here, 3 mind-blowing celebrity properties currently listed with real estate search engine extraordinaire Check out all 8 celebrity homes on the market at

    1. Christina Aguilera

    Beverly Hills, CA - The pop icon and vocal triller recently listed this Spanish-style mansion for $13.5 million. The Genie in a Bottle and Beautiful singer's property features a pool with a water slide and grotto spa, an outdoor kitchen, and a custom-built pagoda-inspired outbuilding. See what's inside!

    2. Ozzy Osbourne

    Malibu, CA - You might not expect the Prince of Darkness to live in such a light and bright beachfront property. But the infamous Black Sabbath lead singer actually does own this La Costa Beach

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  • 5 U.S. Cities That Could Disappear Tomorrow

    Recently, news about devastating earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and tsunamis around the world had us wondering: What's the worst that can happen in the United States? Turns out it's pretty bad. We're not talking about a couple of feet of water in your basement or a tree down in the yard. We're talking about your home obliterated. And not just your home, but whole metropolitan areas. As This Old House found out, no matter where you live, you can't escape from the forces of nature. Read on to see how, in just the blink of an eye, entire American cities could be wiped off the face of the Earth. See all 10 cities at

    1. New York, NY

    Think the 2006 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed 250,000 people, was the worst wave that could ever hit mankind? Think again. Off the coast of western Africa sits Cumbre Vieja, a volcano in the Canary Islands that scientists believe is in imminent danger of collapse. The falling rock that results would send a wall of water

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