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Penny Stain: How to Make

I was excited about trying the vinegar and pennies and followed the directions from your article, but nothing happened. The pennies have been soaking for about 2 weeks now and for the most part the vinegar is still clear. What am i doing wrong? Laura

Our Answer

Fresh lemon juice and salt takes the tarnish off pennies – not vinegar!  Wet the penny with the lemon juice and then rub in salt.  Sea salt or other big crystal works the best!

This was a favorite dinner table trick when traveling with my kids. They love to get those flat pennies when were on vacation and later that day I'd grab the lemon off an ice tea glass and the salt shaker, mix up a paste and polish 'til it was bright and shiny!

As for making a stain from pennies, that's also possible.  Here's a guide with tips to make a variety of natural stains from coffee, tea, walnuts, blackberries - and even penies!

Tom Kraeutler

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Wallpaper: Trendy or Outdated?

I like the look of wallpaper, but I am concerned that it will make my home look dated. Is there a current and stylish way to use wallpaper without making my home look like it's stuck in the 80's?

Our Answer

The short answer is: yes!  Always a favorite for its versatility, variety, and suitability for just about any room, wallpaper has only improved in terms of cost efficiency and application ease. Choose from inexpensive pre-pasted and easy-change varieties, and go for texture and pattern.  But remember that a little goes a long way.  Use wall paper in small doses, for example to line the back of a book shelf or built in wall unit.  Or frame out an area of your wall with trim and wall paper JUST the inside of that frame.  Or use an interesting pattern on just one wall of the room.  Busy patterns can make a room look smaller if the whole space is papered.

Another option is a full-wall mural.  They are back in vogue again, and thanks to digital technologies, photographic vistas are all the more alluring.  Nature scapes are perfect for kid’s rooms and spaces that connect to the outdoors – like a sunroom.

This is certainly a DIY project.  But one way you can make it easier on yourself is by using the right tools.  The Skil Power Cutter is a very versatile tool that can be used again and again for dozens of projects and chores at home.  You can cut through wallpaper, vinyl flooring, vinyl siding, carpet or carpet padding and dozens of other materials for your home improvement projects.  The bonus is it can also be a go-to cutter for all of your household jobs too – it cuts through denim, leather, cardstock, old credit cards – and that frustrating clamshell packaging!  With powerful lithium ion technology, and an auto sharp blade system, Skil’s lightweight power cutter will soon become your favorite tool too.

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Refinishing your Kitchen Cabinets: Solutions to give your kitchen cabinets a low-cost makeover

My kitchen cabinets are looking pretty tired, and I'd like to give them a low-cost face lift. What types of paint, polyurethane, varnish or other finishes should I use, and what are some tips on DIY refinishing?

Our Answer

There are many ways to refinish your kitchen cabinets. First, make sure your kitchen cabinets are eligible for refinishing by examining their construction and material content. Solid wood and laminate kitchen cabinets are both good candidates for refinishing, but anything covered in veneer is not, unless you're willing to apply paint rather than stain.

Whether painting or staining your kitchen cabinets, choose an oil-based finish, which is far more durable and forgiving of everyday kitchen grime than latex finish.

If your kitchen cabinets meet refinishing requirements, here are the project steps you'll need to take:

Working in a well-ventilated area, begin with a thorough cleaning, removing all dirt and grime from kitchen cabinets; allow surfaces to dry.

Apply a paint/finish remover, and scrape away finish with a putty knife, followed by a wire brush. Continue this cycle until a clean wood surface is revealed.

Sand cabinets with fine-grit sandpaper, and remove resulting dust and debris with a tack cloth. You may also consider using a liquid sanding agent, which can be very effective in application of fine woodworking details and other hard-to-sand areas (it also helps with the grime-removal step of refinishing).

Apply the new finish according to the manufacturer's instructions (preceded by the appropriate primer if you're painting the kitchen cabinets), allowing surfaces to dry thoroughly between coats.

When finish applications are complete, apply a protective top coat to shield the kitchen cabinets from moisture, grease and surface oil.

Finally, accessorize your refreshed kitchen cabinets with new knobs and pulls ─ they're the bling that brings personality to a kitchen update! Refinishing your kitchen cabinets will be an easy task with these steps.


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Bathroom Makeover with Wainscoting: Moisture-Resistant Panels Add Style and Interest

We have a very small bathroom that has no character at all. How do we give the room the decorative makeover it needs?

Our Answer

Try an easy bathroom makeover with wainscoting. Bathrooms can be challenging spaces to work in but by adding wainscoting, you can really make the room stand out no matter how big or small the space is. Traditionally, wainscoting is about three feet tall and mounted along the bottom of the wall. The easiest way to add wainscoting is to buy bead board. Bead board gives the illusion of having been made with many different small pieces of lumber, but is in reality a sheet that can be cut to fit any size space.
Glossy white bead board looks great in a bathroom and will stand up to the moisture that space can dole out. AZEK, a manufacturer of cellular PVC trim products, also makes bead board that won't rot and never needs painting. To create a finished edge along the top portion of the bead board, use a decorative trim molding or combine two or more moldings to create a narrow ledge. For the base of the wall, use a baseboard with a quarter-round molding for a finished look.
You can also enhance a bathtub with a combination of urethane window panels and molding. Because urethane does not absorb water, the panels and trim are ideal for upgrading a master bath. A huge selection of urethane moldings is available from Fypon, and the combinations offered create clever variations on a bathroom makeover with wainscoting.

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How to Remove a Mirror Glued to Wall

My mounted bathroom mirror is wedged in and glued to the wall.  It extends more than eight feet across, and it three and a half feet from top to bottom.  I want to remove the mirror and replace it with framed mirrors - but have no idea how to get it off of the wall.  What is the best way to do this?

Our Answer

You're wise to use caution when removing your mirror - especially given its size.  You can use one of two methods.  Both will require repairing your drywall after, but if done properly, should spare you injury or further headaches - and will leave the mirror in one piece in case you want to decorate with it later. 

The first method involves buying a length of cutout wire that's longer than the width of your mirror.  Cutout wire is also called windshield removal wire because it's used by auto body shops to repair windshields.  Apply clear packing tape over the mirror to minimize mess - and risk of injury - if it breaks. Then stretch the wire tight, and slide it between the back of the mirror and the drywall.  With at least two other people holding the mirror in case it falls, wiggle the wire back and forth until the mirror dislodges.

The second method requires a drywall saw.  Push the saw into the wall near the edge of the mirror, and remove the section of drywall the mirror is glued to.  This is the safer of the two methods, so go with this one if you're fully replacing drywall anyway.

Again, don't attempt mirror removal without a few strong hands there to hold the it once it's been released from the wall. Good luck!

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How to Remove Photos Stuck to Glass

I have photos of my childrens' baby pictures that have stuck to the glass of the frame. How can I get the photos out without ruining them?

Our Answer

Wow that is one sticky problem!  The answer really depends on what type of photo you are trying to remove.  Surprisingly, the older the photos, the easier it may be to solve this problem and remove stuck photos from glass.

For more info, we turned to expert Michael Berry, a professional photographer whose work Tom has admired for years.  Michael says that images in older black and white photos may be easier to remove.  The gelatin (coating) or emulsion on the paper surface suspends silver halides on the paper base and creates an image when struck by light and processed in chemistry. 

The silver gelatin is key.  A photo lab may be able to immerse the picture in a wetting agent, such as Kodak's Photo Flo 200 and get the image to separate from the glass. If the photo and glass are soaked in the wetting agent and it is in fact a fiber-based print, the Photo Flo will be able to penetrate the papers' backing, soften the gelatin surface and release it from the glass. If this is done successfully, you can swab the print dry, lay it on a paper towel (less texture is better) face down, place another paper towel on top and then fold a bathroom towel so it covers the print and acts as a weight to keep it from curling.

The downside to the silver gelatin exercise is what caused the print to stick to the glass in the first place. A gelatin print in the wrong environment (damp) and contacting the glass, can act just like a Petri dish. Molds love to make their homes on old photographs improperly stored. That includes framed ones.

If molds are part of what's causing this bond, then they will be deeply embedded into the print surface and cause permanent damage. Now, if the photos are a newer black and white or color print, there's really no way to remove the photo without damaging it. These photographs use a synthetic resin (plastic) as their suspension vehicle for the emulsion. Once the photo sticks to glass, it's pretty well fused for good. A wetting agent won't work here because it can't penetrate the plastic and release the print from the glass. 

As a default, photo labs will use "RC papers" or Resin Coated papers since they were created for use in processing machines. The only chance you may have of saving the stuck photo is to lift one corner and very gently use a single-edged razor and slowly work the print and glass apart. 

Or if you'd rather not chance any of this, remember that you can always buy new glass for the picture frame and make the old glass a permanent part of the photos you are trying to preserve!

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Hanging a Flat Screen TV

Like many people this season we are buy a new flat screen TV and were planning to mount it over our fireplace. I was wondering if there were any special precautions that we need to take because of the fireplace being behind the wall that we are mounting. Is it going to affect or damage the bricks or the functionality of the fireplace if we have to drill into the wall? What would be the best way to do this?

Love your show,

Jenna Ostrowski

Buffalo, NY

Our Answer

Jenna, assuming that this is a traditional brick wall of a real fireplace (as opposed to a fake brick wall on a manufactured fireplace!) there's no reason you can not attach the flat screen TV mounting bracket directly to the brick and have it provide a solid connection. 

The best fastener to use for this is a "Tapcon" concrete screw.  Tapcon screws are designed to grab into brick and concrete and come with a drill bit preciously sized for the screw you need to install.  Just follow the instructions carefully and you should be good to go.  The other option is to use a traditional lead shield and lag bolt combo to attach the mounting bracket.  However, in my experience, the Tapcon will be strong enough.  To be sure, check with the manufacturer of the TV mounting bracket and follow their recommendations before proceeding with the project.

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Can I Paint Over Wallpaper?

Is it possible to texture and paint on top of wallpaper?  It is in the kitchen and bathroom and has been there for 26 years. It only has one of two places at the bottom where is has tried to curl.  If it possible what is the best type of paint to use?

Our Answer

While you certainly can paint over wallpaper, we would not recomend it.  Always best to strip the paper, then prime and paint the wall below - using a good quality flat paint.

If you really don't want to remove the paper, then you can paint but keep in mind that will make it even harder to remove if you decide to do that later.

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How to Create Task Lighting

I'm just moving my jewelry-making design work to our bonus room over the garage. I need ideas for lighting for various work areas. The room has one double window facing west. Existing lighting consists of 4 recessed lights and a ceiling light/fan. There is an un-insulated storage space behind one wall. Concern regarding heat & cold for storing supplies such as polymer clay, acrylic paints, etc. Organizational ideas are also welcome. I hope this challenges you and that answers are highly effective. Thanks so much!

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Bathroom Renovation: Impact on Home Value

I was planning on renovating my master bathroom by replacing the double vanity sink with 2 pedestal sinks and a mirror for each. No cabinets or anything. The back wall would have some type of stone and bamboo flooring. The sink area is outside of where the tub/shower and toilet are. I wanted to know if that would bring my home value up or down. Which is a better investment a vanity cabinet sink or pedestal sink?

Our Answer

Bathroom renovations typically give you one of the highest returns of investments of any home improvement project.  In fact, according to the 2013 Cost vs. Value report, depending on where you live, you can expect to recoup up to 65% of the costs.  Now, whether to use a a vanity vs. a pedestal sink is very personal issue.  One buyer might think the clean look of a pedestal sink is great, and another might wonder where to put all the extra shampoo bought at a big box store.  There isn't a huge difference in either case... and bottom line is a bathroom renovation is ALWAYS a good thing

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What’s the Best Way to Upcycle a Tv Stand?

Hey Guys,

I'd love some clever ideas for upcycling a TV stand!



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Can I Paint Over Wallpaper That’s Already Painted?

I was so excited to discover The Money Pit right after I purchased my first home. Your program has been so helpful and I'm hoping your expertise can help me: I purchased a bank-owned property, and in order to show the house to potential buyers the bank had the entire home interior painted with a white primer.  I'm talking the ENTIRE interior of the home: Door handles, light switches, cabinets, even embedded speakers in the walls were painted right over.  I've been slowly removing the paint from the hardware; but now I've started looking at the walls themselves and I have discovered there are several rooms where there's wallpaper under the paint. It's hard to tell since you can't see through the primer at all. It wasn't until I started sanding some of the rough spots did I even notice it.  Is it alright for me to just paint over the primed walls as they are, or will the wallpaper under the primer eventually cause a problem?

Thank you again for all you do. Your program is invaluable to first-timers like me!


Our Answer

Hey, Tiffany!  Thanks for the kind words about our show. 
We definitely sympathize with your plight.  As you've maybe guessed, the issue with painting over wallpaper is that, at some point in the future, that wallpaper will loosen, bringing your paint job down with it.  However, it sounds like you have a lot of home improvement projects in your immediate future, and are probably just hoping for decent-looking walls so you can start to get settled in and tackle bigger projects.  If that's the case, go ahead and paint over that wallpaper.  It should last for a stretch, but choose your paint quality and make labor decisions knowing this is a short-term fix.  When the time eventually comes to do this job right, you definitely want to use a steamer to strip that wallpaper from the walls. Good luck!

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Wallpaper Glue Removal

What's the best way to remove wallpaper glue from surfaces after taking off old wallpaper?

Our Answer

Proper removal of the wallpaper itself will make this part of the job easier. You can smooth the way by using a rented steamer to saturate and loosen paper or vinyl-based wallcovering, a task made even easier by lightly pre-scoring the surface with a utility knife.  There are many tools made for this purpose, and some will suggest running this tool all over the wall.  Here is the only problem with that: you will have smaller pieces of paper to remove, making the job unnecessarily tedious.  If you score the wall to allow steam to penetrate and loosen the glue under the paper, you might want to score the area in large portions, so the paper pulls of in big sheets as opposed to little scraps.

Working from the top down, steam one small area at a time; from there, you'll be able to pull the wallpaper back and away for easy removal. This step is time consuming but must be done properly.  Once all wallpaper has been removed, use a mixture of distilled white vinegar and water to remove any remaining wallpaper glue. After wall surfaces have completely dried, you'll be clear to apply primer and paint!

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How Long Can I Keep Homemade “Steel Wool & Vinegar” Stain?

I love the stain made by mixing steel wool with vinegar. How long can I keep it? Should I toss it and remix after a certain time - will the strength deepen? Also, I was curious if this stain will weaken the wood. Thank you so much!

Our Answer

When mixing your own stain, keep in mind: Steel wool's color can change as it oxidizes.  For that reason, you can't mix a stain, put it on the shelf for a year, and expect to get matching results when you use it again. 
I suggest mixing only a little more than needed for the project, then throwing it out when you're done.  And don't worry - there's no reason stain would ever weaken wood.

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Drainage Problem Solution Needed for Low Foundation Wall


I am hoping for some advice on a water problem that we have.  Currently during heavy rains water can seep in over the foundation wall top on the front and right side of the house(when facing it).  Our re-grading options are limited because next door apartment building drive way is higher than us.  Even if I attempt to slope away the soil, the wall top will still be below ground.

We just had a bunch of dirt in the front removed and sod installed as low as we could, but front foundation wall top is still below ground.

2.4 of inspection shows this is in attached picture.  Picture 1 is the front and Picture 2 is the side.

I have heard and read that you could create a retaining wall against the exterior of the house using pressure treated wood that would allow me to create a slope and have a barrier between the house and soil/water.  I have also read that you could glue a heavy plastic to do this well.

My plan in mind is to have some type of wood or plastic that would allow me to raise the grade enough for a slope and then use rock/gravel for better drainage.

Your thoughts and ideas would be appreciated.