Blog Posts by This Old House Magazine

  • Quick & Easy Upgrades: Spruce Up Your Staircases

    Add Shapely Stair BracketsAdd Shapely Stair Brackets
    Turn the house you have into the home of your dreams one easy upgrade at a time! With a little DIY, you can do a few micro-makeovers to boost architectural interest and character throughout your home. Let's get started with the stairs. (And you can look forward to posts on bath vanities, kitchen sinks, counters, and backsplashes, entryways, and much more-every Monday from This Old House!) -Tabitha Sukhai,

    RELATED: Install a Basic Stair Runner (Carpet)

    How to Add Shapely Stair Brackets
    Securing brackets to stairsSecuring brackets to stairs
    The newel post and balusters get all the attention, while the exposed side of most staircases is largely ignored. But with the addition of decorative stair brackets, a bland stringer can become an elegant eye-catcher. Get the look with just a few hours of DIY. See the full step-by-step instructions here.

    Install Runner Rods
    Install Stair Rods Install Stair Rods
    Before pneumatic carpet nailers, handsome metal rods secured stair runners. See where you can get rods like the ones shown here and see 11 other DIY Projects to

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  • Create an Effective Study and Homework Station, Watch the Good Grades Get Better

    Christine Schneider/Getty ImageChristine Schneider/Getty Image

    A top-notch education starts at home, and a dedicated homework area could help your kids complete their assignments efficiently and successfully-with the least amount of kicking and screaming. Whatever your space or budget limitations may be, any devoted space for study is better than sprawling out on the floor in front of the television. Not convinced? Build it-whether it's a nook in the kitchen or a room all its own-and the good grades will come. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind as you get started. -Tabitha Sukhai,

    SEE ALL: The TOH Guide to Creating the Perfect Study Station

    Focus on Location, Location, Location

    Location, location, locationLocation, location, location
    Consider your kid's age and learning style when deciding where to site a study space. The U.S. Department of Education recommends a quiet, well-lighted place that's fully stocked with the necessary materials and supplies for your child's grade level. Younger kids who need homework help and supervision, for example, might benefit from

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  • 5 Doghouses that May Be Nicer Than Your House

    No, we are not barking up the wrong tree with this story (and, yes, that's just the first of a whole bunch of really bad wordplay you'll find in the next handful of pages). Frankly, we think doghouses are right at home in This Old House. From our point of view, the five canine cribs that follow make perfect sense given the love affair that most Americans-and certainly our readers-have with their pets. But we also think these doggie domiciles are a pretty good way of putting the fine-craftsmanship cornerstone of TOH on display. -Jason Carpenter & Thomas Baker, This Old House magazine
    Georgian-style doghouseGeorgian-style doghouse
    This scaled-down brick Georgian is a masterpiece of fool-the-eye invention, starting with the bricks. The faux masonry is actually individual pieces of 1/4-inch Lauan plywood, covered with a textured terra-cotta paint. See more on this doghouse here.

    Arts and crafts bungalow doghouseArts and crafts bungalow doghouse
    If a cobbler's children have no shoes, then you might expect a doghouse builder's dog to have nothing more than a corner of the workshop floor to

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  • 7 DIY Projects to Do with the Kids Before They Head Back to School

    Welcome to August! Before you know it you'll be sending your little ones back to school. In the meantime, make the most of summer with a few of TOH's Family Projects and teach your kids valuable basic DIY skills-while spending some quality time. As always, supervision and safety are paramount. But This Old House will provide all the know-how you need for a successful project. -Tabitha Sukhai for

    1. Build a Backyard Fort

    Build a fortBuild a fort
    Every kid ought to have a backyard fort! It's the perfect place to let their imaginations run wild. They can create a magical world of knights and dragons or pirates and buried treasure-or just a kid-run kingdom. The design of this fort encourages tons of fun, with a super-cool kid-sized hatch-complete with a peephole to check out visitors-and a flag that kids can design and make themselves. It'll take 3 hours to build, then you can all enjoy the play structure for years to come. Here are the Step-by-Step with Templates and How-To Video

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  • How to Deal with Bees and Other Stinging Insects

    Get the scoop on those winged stingers around your home-and learn how to get them to buzz off! -Keith Pandolfi, This Old House magazine

    HoneybeeHoneybee Honeybees: What They Do

    Docile honeybees are essential pollinators in gardens. They nest in protected areas, like tree cavities, or within attics or walls. If aggravated, they'll sting just once; their barbed stingers rip off, killing them. (Their fatter, fuzzier bumblebee cousins can repeatedly inflict a painful sting.)

    See here how to reduce your risk

    MORE: Dealing with Household Disasters

    Carpenter Bees: What They Do

    Known for their ability to bore perfectly round holes into wood, they're often found Carpenter BeeCarpenter Beein eaves and beneath decks. As females build the nest, males flit about looking menacing, but, surprisingly, they can't sting. And while females can, they rarely do.

    See here how to reduce your risk

    MORE: Easy First Aid for Household Injuries

    Yellow Jackets: What They Do

    These territorial, aggressive predators feed on caterpillars,

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  • How to Stop that Running Toilet and More Easier-Than-You-Think Fixes

    How to Stop That Running ToiletHow to Stop That Running Toilet
    Expert advice for solving seven annoying lavatory problems and other easy repairs to your loo!

    See more of our vital guide to toilets here!
    Installing a ToiletInstalling a Toilet
    1. Replace your old toilet in just one day with step-by-step help from TOH plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey

    2. Say goodbye to that sweaty toilet-a problem in hot, humid summer-by installing a toilet-tank insulator or an antisweat valve

    3. Avoid water damage caused by a leaking toilet by installing a new wax ring to create a watertight seal

    4. Unclog a toilet like a pro in only 5-10 minutes

    5. Quickly replace the tank's worn rubber flapper valve, one of the most annoying plumbing problems, with a pro's foolproof instructions

    rocking toilet fixrocking toilet fix
    6. Steady that rocker! Richard Trethewey outlines the right way to take the wobble out of your throne

    7. Learn to speak toilet by identifying parts and diagnosing problems so you can fix a leaky or runny commode with ease

    See more expert advice on how to fix your toilet at

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  • Thrifty Ways to Create a Beautiful Outdoor Dining Room

    Make an Easy DIY CanopyMake an Easy DIY Canopy
    Make an Easy DIY Canopy. Drape fabric between four poles sunk in the ground for a DIY sunshade. Use tent pins to anchor lines that run from the pole tops to the lawn. Find the products shown here.

    Multitasking Kitchen SetMultitasking Kitchen Set

    Multitasking Kitchen Set. A major upgrade over the picnic blanket-and infinitely more comfortable for long lunches-your familiar table and chairs will seem fresh and new when moved into the light of day. No cost

    RELATED: 39 Budget-Wise Ways to Create Outdoor Rooms

    Vibrant RunnersVibrant Runners

    Vibrant Runners. Use colorful table settings to echo colors from the garden. Here, three runners laid across add more charm than a single one laid lengthwise. Make your trio out of a tablecloth; just cut pieces to size and stitch the edges. Find the products shown here.

    See ALL of our tips for creating al fresco dining at your house in 25 Thrifty Ways to Create Outdoor Dining.



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  • How to Create the Perfect Summer Porch

    Outdoor roomOutdoor room
    By thinking of the spaces outside your house the same way you think about the ones inside, you can transform your property with versatile outdoor living areas that draw family members and friends. The porch shown above demonstrates the idea of furnishing a porch, deck, or patio like a living room. This designer went as far as adding electrical outlets for lamps and recharging his laptop. Streamlined furniture, such as an armless, weatherproof sofa, petite metal chairs, and painted wood tables-all found at yard sales or on eBay-expand the space even further. For more on this space, see Rooms With a View.

    When it comes to outdoor entertaining spaces, striking the right balance between casual and sophisticated can be a challenge. This open-air dining room makes it look easy, blending British Colonial-style furnishings (including a caned daybed bought for only $20 at a flea market) with laid-back, island-inspired touches like rattan lamps and flowing curtains. See How to Create an Out of

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  • Burglar-Proof Your Home Before You Take-Off for Vacation

    Beat break-ins this summer vacationBeat break-ins this summer vacationBefore you head out for that hard-earned trip to the shore or mountains, take a moment to batten down the hatches at home. Turns out 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.

    SEE ALL: Easy, Affordable Ways to Prevent Break-ins

    How to stop break-ins during summer vacationHow to stop break-ins during summer vacation

    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

    Where break-ins happen: Front doorWhere break-ins happen: Front door

    First-Floor Windows: 23% of Break-Ins. You'll need sash locks, of course, but easy-to-reach windows should get double protection. This wireless alarm system sounds off every time a window is opened to scare away would-be intruders. GE Wireless Alarm System kit with 3

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  • 3 Things You Need to Know About Air Conditioning

    AC Know-HowAC Know-HowAh, the sweet relief of a cool, dry house after a hot, sweaty afternoon of yard work. Like any mechanical system, AC needs a little TLC to run smoothly, including many tasks you can tackle on your own. We asked This Old House plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey to share his know-how for central air and window units.

    SEE ALL: Everything You Need to Know About Air Conditioning

    1. You've got to change the filter
    Dirty filters kill your AC's efficiency, so install a new one every month during the cooling season for central and window units (or clean them if you've got the washable type). Look for the filter's minimum efficiency reporting value, or MERV, which ranges from 1 to 12 for home AC units; the higher the number, the better filtration it provides (and the more energy needed to pull air through it, so balance air-quality concerns with energy costs).

    2. It would serve you well to fix air leaks
    Ducts can lose up to 30 percent of airflow through leaks, and window AC units

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