Blog Posts by This Old House Magazine

  • 6 Clever Ways to Outfit Your Guest Bath On the Cheap

    When it comes to the guest bathroom, overnight visitors don't need over-the-top decor. Keep the basics-towels, tissue, soap, and shampoo-accessible and your visitors won't have to resort to awkward rummaging through your closets and cabinets. Try to keep counters clutter-free so guests have ample space to layout their stuff. And, here are 6 clever products (all under $50) that you're guests are sure to appreciate.

    Shown: Spare your special guests a damp, janky bath mat and opt for this recycled cork one. It provides a nonslip, cushioned surface that is naturally antimicrobial and antifungal. The mat doesn't absorb moisture, so water evaporates quickly leaving the mat fresh and dry for next time. Natural Cork Bath Mat; about $30

    This behind-the-door rack answers the question of where to hang wet towels-so they don't end up on your favorite wood rocker. The handy design mounts easily to the hinges of most doors and features four movable rods for hanging pajamas, swimsuits, and just about

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  • Got the ladder out for holiday decorating? Get a few quick projects done before you put it away again

    If you're decorating for the holidays, and plenty of you are, odds are you've go the ladder out. Here are a few other important things you can get done before you put it away again:
    - Clean your gutters before the first snow; although, it may already be too late for some of you. You might also want to take some time to repair damaged gutters, and/or patch leaks

    -Clear out those forgotten high, over-the-fridge kitchen cabinets. You may have seasonal items or other things you'll be surprised to find in there. You might also consider painting your kitchen cabinets for a fresh look this holiday season

    - Clean chandeliers and lighting fixture covers. If you don't already have a chandelier, here's how to hang one to spruce up your dining room, living room, or foyer

    - Dust your ceiling fan, and reverse blades so they'll circulate heated air this winter

    - Clean out your air vents; they're disgusting

    - Vacuum up cobwebs in high corners

    - Check, clean, and test your smoke detectors and carbon

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  • Christmas Tree 101

    Tips on how to buy the perfect tree, and what to do with it when you get home, from TOH landscape contractor Roger Cook

    Picking the Perfect Tree

    Christmas comes but once a year, and picking out the perfect tree to jolly up the living room is a family ritual full of fun and promise. But with all the different types of trees out there, it's hard to know which one is right for your holiday display. And knowing how to keep it green and fragrant once you deck it out is a talent that eludes many a yuletide reveler. "When a tree goes south," says This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook, "ninety-nine percent of the time it's human error." So before you turn your tannenbaum into the Charlie Brown special, take a few tips from our experts on how to pick one, measure for it, and make sure it lasts through December 25 and maybe into the New Year.

    RELATED: Save Money With a Native Tree

    Measure Twice, Buy Once

    Before you head out to the farm or tree lot, make sure you know

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  • 10 Uses for Old Blue Jeans

    More than 130 years ago, tailor Jacob Davis convinced a Gold Rush merchant named Levi Strauss to help him sell work pants reinforced with copper rivets. Now, jeans cost as much as a used car. So it pays to recycle 'em-like we do.

    RELATED: 5 Creative Reuse Ideas including a ladder-plant shelf, clawfoot tub-feet bookends, and more

    1. Make a nail pouch. Cut away the pant seat but leave it attached to the waistband. Hold the seat to your waist and fasten the waistband in the back. Fill pockets with nails.

    2. Hold Your Pencils. Cut out one back pocket and nail or glue it to the side of your shop cabinet as a pencil holder.

    3. Repair a Rust Spot. Got a hole in the floor of your old beater? Buy a quart of liquid fiberglass, dip a swatch of denim in it, then smooth it over the hole. Once it cures, the fabric will become a rigid patch.

    RELATED: 10 Uses for Carpet Scraps

    4. Bolster insulation. To close small gaps around framing, soak cut-up jeans in a mixture of borax and water. It will dry into

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  • 6 Creative Ideas for DIY Holiday Wreaths

    Holiday wreaths can be as unique as the DIYers who hang them. Even if you're not the craftiest person on the block, you'll be surprised to learn what you can achieve with a wire or foam wreath form (you can pick these up in just about any shape from the Maine Wreath Co.) and a little imagination.

    Too busy to crank out a gorgeous wreath in time to ring in the holidays? Well, you can go ahead and buy most of the handmade beauties featured here, too.

    Shown here: The TOH Antique Tool Wreath

    Dried Herb and Flower Wreath

    This mixed-herb wreath is a fragrant collection of dried plants. The bright red color comes from chiles de arbol, interspersed with bay leaves, Mexican sage, marjoram and more. You can get the look by drying herbs and arranging them on an affordable wreath form, which you maybe able to find in the craft aisle of your local discount store.

    A living wreath of fresh herbs for cooks to pick from as they prepare holiday meals makes a great hostess gift.


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  • 5 Most Common (and Totally Preventable) Holiday Dangers

    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.

    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 allowing it to dry before bringing it indoors.

    Mold spore counts might be

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  • Save some cash (and the planet!) with these guilt-free gift wrapping ideas

    In a perfect world, we'd carefully unwrap gifts and save the paper for reuse next year. But tearing apart wrapping paper is about 98 percent of the fun of unwrapping holiday gifts, isn't it? Still, gift wrap accounts for much of the 25 percent spike in waste during the holiday season. Meanwhile, according to The Use Less Stuff Report, reuse of just two feet of ribbon per family would save enough of the trimming to tie a bow around the entire planet. That's a whole lot of ribbon.

    If the mounds of colorful wrapping paper on your living room floor make you feel a little guilty-wasteful, even-here are a few creative reuse ideas to ease your conscience.

    The repetitive patterns of wallpaper are very similar to that of wrapping paper. Check your garage or closets for wallpaper scraps or samples you may have leftover.

    Create a reusable "Hollywood box" by wrapping a lid and box separately, or cover an old shoebox to put your gift into. Your box will be so pretty that the receiver is sure to

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  • Every Wrapmaster's Dream: Create a Pegboard Gift Wrapping Station

    Admit it: Your stash of gift wrap and ribbon is a jumble in the back of your closet. But if you've got a bookcase with removable shelves, you've got a place to wrangle rolls of paper, tape, and crafts supplies.

    RELATED: Guilt-Free Gift Wrap: Creative Reuse Ideas for Pretty Holiday Packaging

    The How-to:

    1. Screw a frame of 1x strips inside the back of the bookcase (this one kept its partitioned bottom shelf).

    2. Then secure the bookshelf to the wall with deck screws driven through the framing into the wall studs.

    3. Fasten ¼-inch pegboard to the frame with cabinet screws.

    4. Paint the whole unit.

    5. Once it's dry, add hooks and accessories (Aubuchon Hardware has a good selection), and you've created a tidy work area that keeps wrap within reach. __Sal Vaglica, This Old House

    RELATED: Editors' Picks: 23 Great Gift Ideas for Every Budget, Every DIYer

    RELATED: 12 Tools to Cure Wrap Rage: Cutting Implements That'll Rip Through the Most Impenetrable Packaging

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  • 5 Classic DIY Gift Ideas for Kids

    Rocking horses, toy chests and dollhouses are just a few of the classic gifts generations have treasured. Now you can give all the pint-sized DIYers on your list those same classic gifts, and make them yourself with the help of these DIY toy kits. They're perfect for kids of all ages, and will be treasured for years to come. The best part? All these gifts can still make it to your door by Christmas.

    1. Farmhouse Dollhouse

    A Vermont Farmhouse by Real Good Toys is as pretty as the real thing. And if the seven-room home isn't big enough for the serial renovator in your kid, the site also sells additions that add two rooms to either end of the house. Just like the homes old-house lovers hope to own, this farmhouse comes with real wood shingles, wood floors, interior crown molding and a spacious porch.

    About $153;

    2. Toy Chest Kit and Pattern

    has showed you how to make a toy chest with your kids before, but if you don't feel like cutting the wood yourself, optRead More »from 5 Classic DIY Gift Ideas for Kids
  • The Ultimate Gingerbread House-Making Tool Kit

    Not quite sure what to pack your gingerbread toolbox with this year? Believe it or not, the tools aren't that different than the ones you use on your real house. This Old House has compiled a list of the top 6 tools professional and award-winning gingerbread artists use on their creations. You may already have most of them on-hand.

    MORE: Enter the TOH Gingerbread House Contest for YOUR Chance to Win the Grand Prize, Valued at $500

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