Category Archives: Do It Yourself

When Winter Comes Before You Winterize

The last Jack o’ lanterns are still out and we haven’t even had Thanksgiving yet, but an early, Arctic storm is advancing out of Alaska and mid-winter temperatures could be here before you have a chance to winterize.

Quick Shopping List

You may not have set aside time for a full winterizing before this storm hits, but you can make sure you have some essentials. Stock up on:

Quick Maintenance

When Winter Comes Before You Winterize, gutter

If you don’t have time to do anything else before the cold-snap, make sure your gutters are clean. It’s still autumn, so a buildup of leaves could be in the way, which is a recipe for an ice dam on your roof. You might not have planned to do it this weekend, but it might be worth it to work it into your schedule.

Stay Safe – It’s better to do this from a ladder than from the roof. Practice safe ladder usage.

Clear the Big Stuff – Use a garden spade to remove big clumps of leaves.

Wash it Clean – Follow up with a hose to wash the smaller debris down the downspouts.

Quick Repairs

When Winter Comes Before You Winterize, waterweld

When the cold catches you off guard, unprotected pipes and plumbing in your home are prone to freeze and burst. When they start to thaw, that’s the start of a flood. Since is so early in the season, you may not have your winter plumbing arsenal at hand. For a quick fix, use a cold weld to close up your fractured plumbing. J-B Weld is the go-to option. You can try caulk or that spray-on rubber, and they may hold for a little while, but neither is designed to stand up to the PSI of a pressurized pipe.

When Winter Comes Before You Winterize, waterweld

Prep the Pipe – After you shut off the water, clean the area around the break in the pipe and rough it up with sandpaper.

Apply the Putty – Kneed the WaterWeld putty and work it into the broken pipe. Let it set up for half an hour and you can turn the water back on.

Finish the Repair – After an hour it’s fully cured and you can sand it down and clean it up. Chances are you’re under your house, so you’re not going to need to paint it.

You can leave the repair as is, but especially when the pipe isn’t just cracked, but deformed, it’s best to come back when you have more time and replace the area with a new length of pipe. Even if you don’t, now take the opportunity to properly insulate and winterize your plumbing, because winter is still coming.

The Do’s and Dont’s of Garbage Disposals

Garbage disposals: what a lovely invention. As long as they’re maintained and used properly, they certainly do make things easier in the kitchen. When not used wisely, however, they can become exactly the opposite — meaning you curse the day someone ever decided to invent it. Keep garbage disposals running problem-free and plumbing and draining issues at bay with the proper tips and tricks.

Garbage Disposal Do’s

DO use it regularly: Run the garbage disposal frequently, even if you don’t need to use it much. This will prevent it from rusting up and keep any items from getting stuck.

DO sharpen the blades: You may think grinding hard food items will harm your garbage disposal’s blades, but to some degree it’s actually good for it. Small chicken and fish bones and egg shells are all good for keeping the blades sharp, and will also help scour grease and other debris from the inside walls of the unit.

DO keep in mind that size matters: How you put the food into the garbage disposal and how much you add is important to keeping it running well and not clogging up. Toss any larger food pieces in the garbage or chop them small enough so they will grind well.

DO flush the disposal every time you use it: Whenever the disposal is turned on the water should also be turned on. Continue to run it for 15 seconds (or more) after it’s done grinding and powered up so that it flushes the food down the drain.

A bowl of baking soda, a sponge, and a lemon.

DO clean it: Keep your garbage disposal clean. After each use, run a little dish soap through it and flush with cold water for at least 15 seconds.

Here’s a few more cleaning tips:

  • Once a week add a ¼ cup of baking soda to the disposal and let it sit overnight. In the morning (or a few hours later) pour vinegar into the garbage disposal. It will bubble and clean the inside of the disposal for you.
  • Freeze vinegar in ice cube trays and place the frozen cubes in the disposal while it runs with cold water. This helps to keep the blades sharp.
  • Use 3-4 tablespoons of Borax for smelly garbage disposals. Allow it sit for an hour and then run hot water down the drain to flush the system.
  • Drop in lemon or orange slices to clean and deodorize. Run the water while the disposal chops these up.

Garbage Disposal Don’ts

DON’T use your garbage disposal as a garbage can: Your garbage disposal is for small table scraps, and not for large quantities of food. Adding too much food at once will cause it to clog. To keep this from happening, place small amounts of food in the disposal while the water and grinder are both running, allowing it to clear before adding more food.

DON’T grind large bones: Grinding small bones from fish or chicken will help keep the blades sharp, however, larger bones could break the blades or the unit, so be sure to toss those in the garbage and not down the sink.

DON’T grind the following items, ever!: glass, plastic, metal, cigarette butts, or paper. If one of these falls into the disposal, turn it off at the circuit breaker and retrieve it safely.

DON’T pour any grease in it: No oil, fats, or grease should be poured into your disposal. It will not drain right and will instead accumulate around the blade system and clog your drains.

A pair of elderly hands peeling potatoes with a knife over the sink.

DON’T put certain foods in it: Some foods are best tossed in the trash due to their fibrous material, starchy consistency, or expanding capabilities (with water they’ll expand and clog your pipes). These include celery, corn husks, artichokes, onion skins, rice and pasta, and potato peels. You could grind potato peels a few at a time if you wish — just don’t put more than several down at a time as they’re full of starch and will turn into a paste that will ruin the blades.

DON’T clean with harsh chemicals or coffee: Coffee grounds may sound like a good idea as they will make the unit smell nice and eliminate odors, but they’re also hard to flush out and will back up in the drain and clog it. As for harsh chemicals, using bleach and drain cleaners can damage the pipes. (They also could splash back on you if you run the garbage disposal while they’re in there.)

DON’T use hot water to flush: When you flush your garbage disposal, which should be done every time you use it, do not use hot water. It will cause the grease to liquefy and clog the drain. Instead, follow our “do” list and allow the cold water to run for at least 15 seconds and use other cleaning methods to help get rid of the grease build-up.

DON’T reach into the garbage disposal: Never, ever put your hands into the garbage disposal unless you turn it off at the circuit breaker. Even then, you should have protective gloves on to protect yourself from the blades. Alternatives to using your hand to dislodge something that got stuck inside of it include needle-nose pliers or even a bent coat hanger. Use those, or something similar, to pry out whatever fell in.

A hand with a wrench working on a garbage disposal unit.

DON’T call a plumber: Not at first, anyway. Usually whenever a garbage disposal stops working it’s as simple as resetting it to get it back to working again. So instead of calling a plumber, first try resetting it by reaching beneath the unit and pressing the button. (It’s usually red or black.) If that doesn’t work, check to make sure it’s still plugged in and receiving power. If the power is still flowing in, you can then try hand cranking it. Most units have a hole below it that will allow you to use a wrench to get it going again after you’ve un-jammed it.

There are perhaps more don’ts than there are do’s when it comes to maintaining your garbage disposal and preventing issues. The biggest reason for this is that people use their disposal as a garbage can. Keep in mind that it’s for small food scraps only, and you’ll prevent a lot of problems.

Clever Hacks for the Everyday Plumber

Two months after moving into my current office, I received a text message that no tenant wants to read. It said, “Come in immediately, there is something wrong with your office.” Now, my mind immediately turned to a fire, maybe a robbery or two, but when I got to work the issue was something I never expected. There was water everywhere.

This was my first major introduction into the world of plumbing. The building owners of course called in a team of plumbers who drudged, greased, and toiled over the pipes around my space, and fixed the problem for an inflated price. It made me realize how little I actually knew about plumbing. Upon doing further research independently, I learned that most complexities can be fixed or even prevented with a few simple DIY plumbing tricks. Here are some of the most helpful things I have learned.

No-plunger Approach to Declogging a Toilet

So you’re at a party and you clog the toilet — we have all been there. Seeing as you do not want to interrupt the festivities to ask your host for a plunger, here is a wonderful hack to ensure a quick and stress-free return to the fun.

What you’ll need:

  • Water
  • Large cup/waste paper basket


Step 1- Before beginning any plumbing project, one must always remember to stop any flowing water, which could escalate or worsen a situation. In many cases this means physically bending down to the back of a toilet and turning the water off at the valve, but in the case of a simple plugged toilet, closing the flapper will do. To do this, take off the cover on the back of the tank, and follow the chain down to the bottom of the tank. Remember, this is clean water so do not be afraid to stick your hand in it. This chain is connected to a plug that literally stops water from running from the tank to the toilet bowl. Therefore, one must force this valve closed to stop the flowing water.

Step 2- Find something that can hold water. This can be a cup or even a waste paper basket. Fill it up with hot water (the hotter the better).

Step 3- Pour this water into the clogged toilet. The heat often works quickly to break down the substance clogging the commode, therefore eliminating the problem.

Step 4- If steps 1-3 haven’t worked, try adding soap. Whether hand soap or shampoo, the extra ingredients work to break down the toilet contents, clearing the plug.

Naturally Declog a Sink

A hand sprinkling baking soda in a sink drain.

I can’t tell you how many tutorials I have read that detail declogging a drain using harsh chemicals. With an increased spotlight on pollutants and non-decomposing matter being exposed to the environment through sinks, this DIY plumbing hack is definitely one to know!

What you’ll need:

  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Hot water


Step 1- Did you ever make an exploding volcano in primary school? To declog a drain without chemicals, one must harness that energy to work for us. After pouring very hot water down a drain, sprinkle in ¼ to ½ cup of baking soda.

Step 2- Mix 1 cup of vinegar with another cup of hot water, and pour it down the pipe. This will cause a rather large reaction, which is needed to loosen and then unplug a sink.

Step 3- After about 10 minutes, simply pour room temperature water down the pipe, cleaning the reaction away with no fear of hurting Mother Earth.

How to Get the Kitchen Sink Sprayer Untangled

Do you find yourself jostling the cord to your kitchen sink sprayer before it can be pulled out for use? This simple hack is for you!

What you’ll need:

  • Pipe insulation
  • Duct tape/ plastic ties


Step 1- When you find your kitchen sink sprayer unable to be retracted, it may be that the hose itself is getting caught on the pipes and hoses under the sink. Get some standard foam pipe insulation from a local home goods store, purchased to fit the diameter of the pipes and hoses in question.

Step 2- Using tape, adhere the foam around the pipes that are preventing the hose, when moved, to get trapped in its groves. If you dislike the notion of using duct tape on a DIY project, plastic ties are a wonderful and often more permanent alternative.

Pipe Thread Hack

Spools of plumbers tape and pipe fittings.

Have pipes that leak where they connect? Before calling a plumber, try this simple and cheap trick!

What you’ll need:


Step 1- Turn off the water associated with the pipes in question. This can be done at the main valve to the house or at one more locally located to the workspace.

Step 2- Using a monkey wrench, loosen the pipes at their threads, disconnecting them temporarily. Although the water will be turned off, there is always some left over in the pipes. It is at this stage, therefore, you must ensure a bucket is handy to avoid a huge mess!

Step 3- Place the tape around the threads, running in a clockwise motion. When the pipes are reconnected, the two pieces will have a tighter, firmer grip without needing to be replaced.

6 Ways to Protect Your Plants From Freezing Temps

As we head into the colder months of the year, fragile plant life needs to be protected from the elements. By taking good care of our plants now, we can continue to enjoy beautiful gardens in the warmer months. With a few simple steps, you can ensure that your plants will be protected and safe from the harsh winter weather.

Bring Your Potted Plants Inside

One of the quickest and easiest ways to protect your fragile plants is to bring them indoors. This is particularly simple if you have potted and hanging plants. By storing them in your home or garage, you can ensure that they will flourish in the spring. Be sure to put them in a space that is a minimum of ten degrees Fahrenheit. If possible, place them near a window so that they will also be able to get the sunlight they need to survive. Be especially careful to keep them away from vents that could cause them to become too dry.

Apply Mulch

For the plants that are remaining outdoors, you can create your own insulation by applying a layer of mulch around them. The mulch will protect the root systems by keeping the moisture and heat inside the soil.

Cold winter weather often affects the soil, which in turns damages the roots of your plants. By adding mulch to the soil, you will keep your plants moist and warm. Pine and wheat mulch is a great option and is simple to remove in the spring.

Keep Your Plants Covered

Fragile plants can be protected from the elements by simply laying a tarp or cloth over them. Carefully place the covering over your plants and then spread the fabric so that it is not in contact with any of the branches or leaves. If necessary, use a few old stakes to hold the fabric off of the plant. This type of protection keeps the frost off of the delicate plants. You can remove the cloth during the day to allow air and light to get in.

Use a Cold Frame

You can easily build your own cold frame to protect your plants from the winter months with a few lightweight metal rods. You will need rods that are long enough to be bent into half circles that will cover your plants. Place the bent rods along your garden and push the ends into the soil to keep them secure. Lay clear sheeting over the metal loops to create a protective enclosure for your plants.

Cold frames keep the heat in and the frost out, and are one of the most effective tools for keeping plants protected throughout the winter. Be sure your covering provides your plants with enough ventilation. If necessary, open the covering on warmer days so that the plants won’t be exposed to excess moisture and won’t become overheated.

Provide a Heat Source

If the temperatures in your area are predicted to be exceptionally cold, you can provide some warmth to your plants by using an artificial heat source. Place your heat source inside your cold frame or tarp covering to warm the air and protect your plants. Be sure to use only certified exterior heat sources for this. Holiday lights are a good choice, as are 100 watt bulbs. Anything too hot could damage your plants, so be sure to check the wattage before placing them in your garden. The bulbs should not touch the plants as that could lead to a damaging burn. Make sure the extension cords you might use to power the lights are also safe for the outdoors. Uncover your plants and turn off the heat source during the day to provide enough ventilation. This will also help to prevent a fire from starting on an overheated light bulb.

Keep Your Plants Watered

Prior to cold and freezing nights, apply large amounts of water to the soil around your plants. It may sound puzzling, but wet soil traps heat better than dry soil. The water will also evaporate at a slower rate and warm the air near your plants.

This should only be done when you expect a little frost. Do it before a hard frost or when the soil is frozen as it could damage the root systems of your plants.

Visit Your Local Nursery

Take a visit to your local nursery and speak to a gardening expert about keeping your plants warm through the winter months. Knowing the weather conditions in your area, your nursery expert will be able to give you advice on protecting the plants you have and keeping them safe through harsh weather. He or she will also be able to give you advice on the best plants that are suited to the weather conditions in your area.

Winterizing Yard Tools in 5 Steps

Those same old yard tools you use in the summer, spring, and fall may not hold up during the course of the winter unless you give them a little extra attention and care. Ice, snow, and freezing temperatures will take their toll on your yard tools if you do not store them properly and leave them without regular maintenance. Check out these specialized tips for winterizing your yard tools so that they may last a long time.

Step One – Clean Up

Before putting your tools away for the cold season, clean any debris or residue off or out of them. This should include mechanical tools such as lawn mowers or weed trimmers, in addition to rakes and shovels. Dirt, plants, and debris can rust yard tools or cause these tools to work improperly in the future. Use a wire brush, cotton cloth, or light sandpaper to clean metal tools, depending on how dirty they are. Soak non-electrical tools as needed in water beforehand and rinse them clean if they have debris or a coating that is stubborn and does not want to come off.

Step Two – Sanding and Oiling

Sand away any rust on your tools before you store them for the winter. This should include any gardening tools or yard tools such as rakes or shovels. After sanding the rust away with steel wool or light sandpaper, moisturize these same tools with a coating of oil to keep them from getting too dry in the cold weather and becoming damaged due to cracking or breakage. Vegetable oil, olive oil, or any other cooking oil you may have around the house will preserve any wood on these tools and keep the metal in good condition.

Step Three – Sharpen

Pre-winter is one of the best times to get all of your tools in their absolute best condition. Sharpen any tools with blades, such as saws and tree trimmers. When you bring out the tools for use in the following spring, they will be clean, sharp, and ready to go.

Step Four – Oil and Fuel

Yard machinery that uses oil to run needs to be prepared for winter. First, drain all the oil before storing this machinery for the next few months of the year. Dirty oil left inside the machinery can cause damage to essential seals and important engine parts as it sits through the winter. Oil filters and air filters should be replaced. Any other machinery that has a fuel filter should have it replaced as well to prevent the filter from corroding due to any dirt and debris left behind. Any fuel left in the tool should be drained, or a fuel stabalizer could be added to the tank to keep the fuel good for another few months.

Step Five – Storing Tools

Choose a place that is clean and dry to store tools for the winter. Hooks are a nice idea for some smaller tools or ones with sharp blades. Drawers can keep small tools off the ground and serve as an organizer. If you have tall tools such as rakes, shovels, or weed trimmers, the area will have to be tall enough to hold these tools, as well.

Cover your tools with sharp edges, points, or other areas that could injure you or anyone else reaching for a tool in the future. Use plastic bags, tarps, or heavy-duty cloth to wrap around the parts of tools that could accidentally cause injury to you or others. You may want to wrap heavy-duty cloth around any tools with blades, so that when you’re unpacking tools in the future no injuries are caused if you grab the tool near the blade, point, or other hazardous surfaces. After the course of several months, it is easy to reach for one tool, forgetting about the others nearby.

Store those tools you wish to keep but cannot get clean (free of rust) in a bucket of sand. The sand will prevent moisture from reaching the tools, which means less rusting and a much longer life for your favorite tools.

Prep and Store Your BBQ for Winter

Cleaning the grill is nobody’s favorite task, but a thorough cleaning should be done at least once per year. Just before closing it up for winter is probably the best time as it will deter tiny creatures from making it their luxury apartment.


Before you start anything, disconnect the gas from the grill. (Turning it off is not the same as disconnecting.) If you have a propane tank, take the entire thing off and move it away from the grill.

Remove all the grill parts except the burners. This includes the grate and the flavorizer bars (or the burner protection covers) that are in the shape of an upside-down ‘v’. You will also want to remove the drip tray and lava rock. You can clean lava rock, but it is best to replace them annually as they absorb a lot of grease and are difficult to clean.


Step 1

Now that everything is removed, you can clean inside the hood and main compartment of the grill with soapy water. (Dawn dish soap as it is a great de-greaser and easy on the hands.) Don’t, however, use a pressure washer as this can force grease and soap residue into the burner holes. It will also make a huge mess around your cleaning area. Rinse off the soap well.

Step 2

It is best not to remove the burner unless the manufacturer directions tell you to do so. Instead, use a cotton swap and/or tooth pick to clean the burner holes. Try not to let the gunk go into the holes.

Step 5

Cleaning the grate and flavorizer bars is supposedly the hardest part of cleaning a grill. But fear not — there is an easy way. Get a large heavy-duty trash bag and place the grate and bars into the bag. Add one cup of ammonia, close the bag tightly (a rubber band works great) and let the bag and contents sit overnight. The next day, open the bag carefully in a well-ventilated area, preferably outside. Make sure to keep your head away from the bag when you open it — the fumes released from the bag will burn your nose and eyes. Remove the grate and bars. If the ammonia did its job you should be able to wipe the bars clean easily.

Step 6

Rinse the grate and bars with clean water. Reassemble the grill.

Step 7

Clean the outside of the grill with a soft cloth and a clean bucket of soapy water. If your grill is stainless steel, then polish it with stainless steel cleaner.

Step 8

Once everything is back in its place, light the grill and let it burn for about 15 minutes. This will get off any soap residue and also ensure that the igniter is still working.


If you don’t have room in a garage or shed, the best protection for your grill over the long cold months is a good cover. Measure your grill length, height and width — you will want one that fits perfectly. If it’s too big the wind will blow it away. If its too tight, it won’t go over the grill, or if you force it the finish will be wrecked. Place your covered grill in a wind and snow protected area even when covered.

Tips and Tricks

One of the things I hate about cleaning a grill is removing the drip pan because I usually spill it and it smells atrocious. A fantastic trick for drip trays is to line them with aluminum foil and then add about a cup of kitty litter. The litter absorbs the grease, so there is no liquid to spill. When the litter stops absorbing, simply wrap up the litter in the aluminum foil, toss and replace.

Don’t skimp on a grill brush — always use one made of stainless steel. Brass brushes have a tendency to lose their bristles and can get into your food. If accidentally eaten, the bristles can get lodged in your throat or swallowed and cause serious damage.

Are Low-flow Toilets Worth the Money?

Now, here’s the most important question. Is investing in a low-flow toilet worth it? If you have a big family and can afford the investment, the answer is yes.

Bathrooms are a high-traffic area in any living space, especially if you have many individuals living in your home. The bathroom is used each and every single day. This kind of toilet installation will accommodate the heavy usage by not only your big family, but also your guests.

This investment in your plumbing system will especially show itself in your water bill. With each person using 20.1 gallons of water per day through flushing, you’ll be sure to save a good chunk of change. Keep in mind that showers, dish washing, and laundry will still be taking place. If water can be saved through flushing the toilet, you’ll be well on your way to making a huge dent in your bill.

Low-flow toilets are also worth the money if you live in an area experiencing a drought. It is recommended that home owners look for a low-flow toilet with the WaterSense label, assigned by the EPA. This label indicates that the toilet is 20% more efficient than other products of the same type. This is considered to be a much wiser investment in the long run.

If that doesn’t sway you, let’s look at some statistics from the EPA. If every old, standard toilet was replaced in the country, over 520 billion gallons of water can be saved each year. This would be an amazing change that consumers could do for the environment.

There are a few cases where installing a low-flow toilet may not seem appealing. If you live in an old house and do not experience high traffic, you may wonder if reconstructing the plumbing system is necessary. This entirely depends on your availability of funds and desire to conserve water. However, it is certainly worth considering, even if it seems like a hassle. After all, water is in short supply these days.

DIY Garbage Disposal Refreshers

Garbage disposal units are useful devices that shred food waste into extremely tiny pieces. They are connected to the sink for prime accessibility in the clean-up area. When the food waste is shredded, it is able to pass through a house’s plumbing system safely. This prevents the waste from clogging up the drains and causing blockages. Because so many types of food can go through a garbage disposal, it’s not uncommon for unpleasant odors to form. These odors are usually similar to those that arise in conventional garbage cans. Instead of holding your breath every time you go near the sink, try making these inexpensive DIY garbage disposal refreshers. Simply toss one in and enjoy a fresh lemon scent. The best part? There’s a good chance you already have all of the necessary supplies in your own kitchen.

Step 1 – Gather Your Materials

garbage disposal cleaners

In order to start this project, you must round up the necessary supplies and tools. Because many of the supplies needed are common household items, you may already own a few of them. If not, take note of what you need to purchase so that you are ready for your next trip to the store.

While this project uses lemon essential oil, feel free to use your favorite scented essential oil. Lemon typically works best for the kitchen, but orange, lavender, and peppermint essential oils work just as great.

Step 2 – Pour Baking Soda

adding baking soda

Measure 3/4 cup of baking soda. Add it to the mixing bowl or container. The baking soda will act as the base for your garbage disposal refreshers. Because it is a natural deodorant, the baking soda will help diffuse unpleasant scents and keep your sink area smelling clean and fresh.

Step 3 – Add Dish Washing Liquid

add dish soap

Measure 1/2 teaspoon of dish washing liquid and carefully add it to the baking soda. Aside from adding a pleasant scent, the dish washing liquid will keep the ingredients together.

Step 4 – Add Salt

add salt

Using the same measuring spoon, bring in 1/2 teaspoon of salt. This ingredient is a great natural exfoliant that helps remove debris.

Step 5 – Add Scent

add lemon essential oil

Now it’s time for the essential oil. Add at least 10 drops of scented oil to the bowl. Feel free to add up to 25 drops for a strong-smelling batch of garbage disposal refreshers.

Step 6 – Pour Water

add water

Fill the 3/4 cup about halfway with water. Slowly pour the water into the container, mixing as you go along. Do not pour all of the water into the container just yet.

Step 7 – Mix Well

mix garbage disposal refresher well

Using the metal measuring teaspoon, stir the mixture well. The ingredients should develop a consistency similar to wet sand. If not, continue adding water, a little at a time. Continue mixing well to ensure that there is no dry baking soda leftover.

Step 8 – Scoop Up the Mixture

scoop up garbage disposal refresher mixture

Using your hand, grab a palm-sized scoop of the mixture. For best results, the scoop should be about the same size as a tablespoon.

You can create a larger scoop, if you’d like. The larger the scoop, the larger the garbage disposal refresher. Keep in mind that it must be small enough to fit through the disposal.

Step 9 – Mold Together

mold garbage disposal refresher into shape

Make a fist and press the mixture into a shape. Repeat until it is one cohesive “pod.” If it starts to crumble apart, wet your hands and mold it again.

Step 10 – Continue Shaping

garbage disposal refresher pod

Repeat Step 9 until the garbage disposal refresher is compact and uniform.

Step 11 – Finish Up the Mixture

garbage disposal refreshers

Repeat Steps 8-10 to create the remaining refreshers. Continue until there the is no more mixture left.

Step 12 – Leave to Dry

garbage disposal refreshers

Arrange the garbage disposal refreshers on the metal cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Let them dry overnight. By the next day, they should be tough and completely dry.

Step 13 – Store for Future Use

garbage disposal refresher pod

Keep the refreshers in a sealed glass jar. A mason jar with a screw-top lid works perfectly. Store in a cool, dry place when not in use. When stored properly, your refreshers will last indefinitely.

To use, throw one or two refreshers into the garbage disposal. Turn the garbage disposal on and enjoy the pleasant lemon scents in your kitchen.

Time: 25 minutes || Cost: $3 for 12 pods

How to Install a Dishwasher

Energy-efficient and water-saving dishwashers may have the most up-to-date technology, but thankfully they have the same three basic connections dishwashers have been using for decades: a water supply, a drain line, and an electrical hookup. That means if you’re replacing a dishwasher, you only need to break these connections from the old appliance and reattach them to the new one. (Shut off power at the breaker panel and close the hot-water valve under the sink first, and be sure to unscrew the old unit from the underside of the counter before pulling it out.)

The existing electrical wiring is still good, but both plumbing lines should be replaced. Dishwashers come with drain hoses, but you’ll need to buy a supply pipe—preferably copper tubing, which TOH plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey uses instead of braided steel. “Copper is time-proven,” says Richard. “Inside a braided line is rubber, which can eventually fail. Copper lasts 60 to 80 years—longer than any dishwasher.”

Though traditionally dishwashers get hooked up to the hot-water supply, you can save even more energy by connecting to the cold water because the heating element in the dishwasher uses less power than a water heater. However, check manufacturers’ literature—some companies’ models must be supplied with hot water.

The most difficult part of the installation may be snaking the copper tubing through the cabinet without kinking it. An invaluable tool for this is a tube-bending spring, which fits either inside the pipe or around it and bends it with even pressure. But Richard points out that it’s the easiest of the connections—the drain line—that actually causes the most trouble. It must be installed strapped up high in an upside-down U to prevent sink backflow from going into the dishwasher. Also, if you’re installing a model that sits flush with the front of the cabinets, you may have to drill new, lower holes from the dishwasher bay to the supply valve so the plumbing lines snake along a narrow inset at the back of the unit, allowing you to push it all the way to the wall.

Luckily, the electrical connection is fairly straightforward; just make sure to clamp the wires – be they metal-sheathed BX cable or vinyl-wrapped Romex – to the unit’s junction box. This protects against electrocution should there be any leaks.

How to Make a Shutter-Door Ironing Cabinet

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Old Shutters Adorn Windows and More

Step One // How to Make a Shutter-Door Ironing Cabinet

Old Shutters Adorn Windows and More

vintage shutters at a salvage yard

Photo by Laura Moss

Unlike many new, decorative shutters, which are fixed to the house in the open position, vintage ones were meant to move. They swing on hinges mounted to the window surround and are secured with tiebacks, called “shutter dogs,” when not in use. The operable shutters sold at home centers today work the same way, but you’ll be hard pressed to match the quality and craftsmanship of the old ones. To find these, you’ll have to hit a salvage yard.

Keep in mind that old shutters are also often coated in lead paint. So you should brush on clear polyacrylic to seal the old paint, and commence repurposing.

Shown: Vintage shutters like these can be found for $25 to $75 each.

2 ×

Measure for the Cabinet Frame

Step Two // How to Make a Shutter-Door Ironing Cabinet

Measure for the Cabinet Frame

measuring a vintage shutter for the cabinet frame dimensions

Photo by Laura Moss

Using a tape measure, note the shutter’s length to determine the height of the cabinet’s 1×8 sides. For the cabinet top and bottom, deduct ½ inches from the shutter’s width, as these boards will go between the sides.

3 ×

Mark the Boards and Cut to Length

Step Three // How to Make a Shutter-Door Ironing Cabinet

Mark the Boards and Cut to Length

cutting boards to length with a circular saw

Photo by Laura Moss

Transfer your measurements to the boards. Then, using a rafter square as a guide, cut the boards with a circular saw.

4 ×

Build the Cabinet Frame

Step Four // How to Make a Shutter-Door Ironing Cabinet

Build the Cabinet Frame

fastening the cabinet frame together

Photo by Laura Moss

Fasten the boards together, using bar clamps to steady the top and bottom between the sides. Drill pilot holes for 1½-inch wood screws, and drive in the fasteners.

7 ×

Add the Shutter Door

Step Seven // How to Make a Shutter-Door Ironing Cabinet

Add the Shutter Door

adding the shutter door to the cabinet

Photo by Laura Moss

Hinge the shutter to the cabinet. Drill pilot holes for the hardware’s supplied fasteners, and twist them in with a screwdriver so as not to strip the soft metal. Next, add a cabinet knob to the shutter so that it’s easy to open and close.

8 ×

Install the Ironing Board

Step Eight // How to Make a Shutter-Door Ironing Cabinet

Install the Ironing Board

securing an ironing board to the inside of the cabinet

Photo by Laura Moss

Secure the ironing board and iron rest to the cabinet’s back panel, and the hanging bar to the inside of the shutter door. Use the supplied fasteners for the iron rest and the rack. For the ironing board, upgrade to beefier, ¾-inch No. 10 screws.