Blog Posts by This Old House Magazine

  • 5 tips for getting the best deal on home improvement materials

    Homeowners Augie and Emmeline Harrigan of Milford, CT, were able to re-do their entire kitchen for $6,000. Here are a few of their tips for getting the best deal.

    Eliminate shipping costs: Search regional online classifieds like Craigslist and eBay's new Kijiji site for large items that you can pick up yourself to save on postal charges, says Emmeline. For instance, it can cost as much as $200 to deliver a range bought from an out-of-state seller versus the cost of gas if you buy locally.

    Use coupons and rebates: Clip coupons in the Sunday paper. And sign up for e-mail blasts from stores you frequently shop at, says Augie. "Just be selective, because before you know it, your inbox will be full of newsletters touting sales." Some websites, including FatWallet and, also broadcast discounts via e-mail alerts that you can subscribe to.

    Compare prices: and BizRate chart online retailers' prices so you never pay too much. The sites also provide reference for used

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  • 21 Ways to Save on Your Remodel: Part I

    Busting the budget is everyone's biggest fear when it comes to renovation. And with good reason. Even if you follow the essential advice we've been doling out for years-build in a 20 percent cushion to cover the nasty surprises, get contractor references and check them, banish the words "while you're at it" from your vocabulary-it's hard not to end up shelling out more than you want to, even if you want to pen a check for a million bucks.

    But why scale back a project or forgo that Viking range? No, what you need to do is get your dream at a price you can afford. And not by cheaping out, either. With some strategic thinking about design, materials, and timing, you can cut costs without cutting corners. On the following pages, we'll show you the ways, from the big (knock down the house and start over) to something as small as choosing a wall sconce over a recessed light. But another universal truth about renovations is that every little thing adds up. So save a little here, save a

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  • Skillbuilder: Get rid of icky wall grease on nonwashable wallcoverings

    Most washable wallcoverings can be scrubbed clean with a sponge and nonabrasive cleanser. Try that with a nonwashable wallcovering, and you'll ruin the surface. A little-known secret: Most greasy, grimy stains and spots can be drawn out of nonwashable wallcoverings with a standard electric clothes iron. Place both layers of a regular brown grocery bag right over the stain. Press the paper with a warm iron - no steam - for a minute or two. The paper will absorb the heated grease. If necessary, repeat the process with clean paper until the stain completely lifts out.

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  • You Can Do It: How to craft a custom bookcase alcove

    Create DIY custom storage for books, CDs, collectibles, and other stuff. Here's how to do it.

    (Click image to enlarge)

    For this built-out storage unit, use doubled-up plywood, rather than solid boards, to cut costs, add stability, and prevent long shelves from bowing. The bookcases' sides are equal to 1½-inch-thick planks; make them by gluing and nailing together two ¾-inch plywood sheets. The shelves are 5/4 inch thick, made from ¾-inch and ½-inch plywood. All visible edges are then capped with poplar strips.

    More: Brilliant Built-in Storage Ideas

    To begin, rip sides to the desired depth of the bookcases, cut them to length, and drill for adjustable shelf clips, mapping out the holes with a hardware store jig.

    Cut shelves to the same length and depth, but make the ones between the two bookcases longer for a spacious alcove.

    More: Choosing and Using a Circular Saw

    Finish by raising both bookcases on a 1x4 platform wrapped with a toekick and shoe molding.

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  • A week's worth of TOH "Deals of the Day"

    Colorful-Plant-6-tile-Cermaic-Wall-MuraColorful-Plant-6-tile-Cermaic-Wall-MuraEnhance a kitchen backsplash or create a beautiful tile mural out of these hand-painted ceramic sets. Get the Peacock 6-pc. set for $49.99 or the Colorful Plant 6-pc. set for $50.99

    folding work benchfolding work bench Enhance your garage or workshop with this foldable metal work bench ($28.49). It features SAE and Metric ruler, 0 to 180-degree protractor, four clamps and 24 dog holes.

    1591_93185_mm_0824 Save on on-demand food prep surface space and kitchen storage. This folding tile-top trolley ($99.99; Reg. $129.99) is a space-saving solution that folds flat for storage. The drop-leaf trolley (not shown; $29.99; Reg. $59.99) is also available.

    BONUS: Use promo code BHNEW at checkout and save 20% on your highest priced item (good thru 1/25).

    stacking tablesstacking tables Save 60% on this clever set of 4 stacking tables ($31.99) and use them as a shelving unit, or take them apart to use as end tables. See this, and other clearance deals at

    BONUS: Enter promo code BHNEW at checkout and get 20% off your highest priced item (thru 1/25)

    digital media playerdigital media playerSave

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  • 5 smart DIY 'quickies' to spruce up your space

    Quickie #1:
    Dust your TV with a sheet of fabric softener. Static guard will slow the dust resettling process.

    Quickie #2: Use baking soda to clean your bathroom surfaces. (Not the mirror and windows, of course.)

    More uses for baking soda

    Quickie #3: Choose a pretty paint color for your bedroom ceiling. You've got to look at it, after all, and where is it written that it has to be white?

    Choose paint colors with a color wheel

    Quickie #4: Label your electrical cords, especially if they all meet at one loaded strip. No more unplugging the alarm clock by accident.

    Quickie #5: Swap out switch plates for a fast, affordable detail upgrade.

    Shop for beautiful switchplates at Switch Hits

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  • 3 tips for single women homebuyers

    We suspected as much, but now we have the proof: Single women are the fastest growing segment of the real estate market. In fact, they are buying homes at more than twice the rate of single men, snatching up one out of every five properties sold in the U.S. So we at This Old House decided to conduct an informal poll of both future and current homeowners to identify their biggest concerns about going it alone.

    Close proximity to the workplace and cultural activities are important, but perhaps the major issue for a single woman in the market for a new house has to do with personal safety, as well as the security of her property. Worries about keeping up with home repairs, and fear of being taken advantage of by a crooked contractor or another trade professional, also rank high on her list.

    The following advice should help alleviate the stress of setting up house on your own.

    What tools you'll need: Even with a newer home, drains still get clogged, shelves and drapes still

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  • 3 DIY upgrades to boost the value of your home

    Even if you're not looking to sell, there are a few projects you can take on that will freshen up your abode for the new year, and add interest and value to your home. Here are a few popular ideas, and all the information you need to get the job done.

    1. An affordable and easy way to freshen up any room is to give it new coat of paint. But, don't bother doing it if you're going to be sloppy. Home stagers recommend painting in neutral colors, but if that's too "blah" for you, consider applying decorative painting techniques like the one shown here: The strie technique mimics the look of centuries-old paint altered by dust and sun. It's best used on paneling or other woodwork; in white, it's perfect for creating French country kitchen cabinets. You can get the job done yourself in a weekend. Here's how.

    2. Add architectural interest to rooms with crown molding (in less than a day), ceiling medallions (in just a few hours), and other details. Consider installing wall frames in the

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  • Putting away the holidays: 6 smart ways to store decorations

    Here are 6 products-and some pro organization tips-to help you "put away" your holiday 'til next year.

    Holiday decorating can go from fun to frustrating in no time flat. The only thing more frustrating? Putting it all away. But 'tis the season, and to help you get it done we've gathered a few clever storage solutions, along with pro organizational tips, from Lea Schneider, author of Growing Up Organized and a member of The National Association of Professional Organizers.

    "If you take the time to stow decorations properly after the busy holiday season passes, next year will be easier," Schneider says. Keep reading to see how to store fragile holiday items, and save yourself a few headaches next holiday season, too.

    In a battle between a decorator and a wad of tangled lights, the lights will almost always win. "Use a piece of masking tape and a permanent marker to label each strand. Your note can indicate how long it is or where it was used for easy replacement next year," advises

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  • Announcing the This Old Gingerbread House contest winners...

    It's almost a shame to just call them "gingerbread houses." Dozens of you entered your masterpieces into the 2nd annual This Old Gingerbread House contest. Then, hundreds of readers came back to vote. We're thrilled to announce this year's winners: Grand Prize winner Stephanie S. in West Palm Beach, Florida, created the amazing Victorian palace shown up there. She'll get a $200 gift card from Home Depot.

    The four runners-up rounding out the Top 5 will all receive a Dremel rotary tool. They are Gerhard P. of North Salt Lake, Utah, Denise J. of Coronado, California, Marjorie Ann and Ronald M. of Carmel, Indiana, and Barbara A. of Florham Park, New Jersey.

    Take a look at all of the This Old Gingerbread House contest entries at

    Congratulations to the winners, and happy holidays! Have a safe and merry Christmas.

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