Home Remodeling

Firework Safety: 9 Tips for Safely Celebrating the Fourth of July at Home

Fireworks, Sparklers

In many areas of the country, some form of consumer fireworks are legal. Learn how to protect yourself and your family if you’re planning your own festival of lights this holiday.

The Fourth of July is a swell summer day, isn’t it? You hang out in the hammock, grill a few burgers, and watch—or maybe light your own—fireworks. It’s great family fun—if you play it safe with those fireworks.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), more fires are reported on Independence Day than any other day of the year, with more than half those fires caused by fireworks. Added to fires are injuries

Many of accidents can be avoided if the proper safety measures are taken. This Fourth of July, if you live in an area where fireworks are legal and feel the need to try them out, protect yourself, your family, and your neighbors with these safety tips.

Have a designated shooter

Make sure the person using the fireworks is a responsible adult. Never mix alcohol with fireworks, says Ralph Apel, president of the National Safety Council. The National Safety Council also suggests the shooter should wear safety glasses because eye and face damage tend to be the most common forms of fireworks-related injury.

Know the fireworks you are using

Carefully read all the safety and warning labels. Do not use fireworks that have been bought illegally, and do not use fireworks that have no warning labels.

Apel says consumers should buy their fireworks only from a licensed dealer. If you’re planning on having a festival of lights in your own backyard, make sure you use only consumer (formerly Class C) fireworks. Leave the display (formerly Class B) fireworks to the professionals.

According to the American Pyrotechnics Association (APA), the legal limit for explosive material in a consumer firework is 50 milligrams, which the APA notes is about the size of half a common aspirin tablet.

Do not use illegal or homemade fireworks

Use fireworks only as they are intended to be used. Do not put multiple fireworks together and light them off as one. Make sure to purchase only legal fireworks kits. It is illegal to make your own fireworks.

Tampering with legal fireworks or building your own is dangerous and can lead to unexpected explosions. Fire Chief and NCFS board member Kyle L. Lenn, of Ralston, Nebraska, says the majority of the accidents he has responded to weren’t caused by fireworks but by illegal explosives that people made and treated like fireworks.

Follow local and state laws and regulations

Make sure you know and understand what types of fireworks—if any—can be used in your area. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), 45 states, including Connecticut, California, Texas, and Pennsylvania, allow certain types of consumer fireworks to be sold and used.

Five states have banned the sale and use of all consumer fireworks: Delaware, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. Be sure to look into federal, state, and local safety standards for igniting fireworks.

The American Pyrotechnics Association provides information on state-by-state fireworks control laws. You might also check with your local fire department to ask about regulations in your area.

Have some form of water ready

Keep a hose and a bucket of water close at hand. Use the hose to put out stray flames or sparks from firecrackers. Hose down any duds, or fireworks that do not ignite when lit, and let them sit for at least 20 minutes before handling to ensure they aren’t delayed starters. After the wait time has elapsed, soak the firework in a bucket of water for an additional 15 to 20 minutes before disposing of it.

Chief Lenn suggests using a hose to wet the ground where the fireworks were lit after your celebration. During the July 4th season, he says, firefighters respond to lots of small grass fires, as well as small fires in trash cans and dumpsters in which fireworks were lit.

When disposing of dud fireworks and firework fragments, make sure they have been thoroughly soaked. Reserve a doubled trash bag for saturated fireworks and keep it out of and away from any residential structures.

Check your local waste management guidelines for proper disposal in your area. Do not place unused fireworks in the garbage. Store them in a cool, dry place away from flammable objects or liquids and out of the reach of children.

Observe precautions when lighting fireworks

Chief Lenn advises that fireworks be placed on level, solid ground. Gravel, dirt, or grass can sometimes be soft or uneven, which may cause rockets to tip over while firing.

If a grassy area is the only place available, lay down a flat, wooden board from which to launch your fireworks. Chief Lenn also advises against the use of matches to light fireworks. Instead, he recommends using a multipurpose lighter.

Make sure your hands and face are not directly over the firework while you’re lighting the fuse. Once it’s lit, join spectators at a safe distance. Never attempt to re-light a firework if it does not ignite the first time.

Be aware of your surroundings

Plan where people will be sitting and the direction in which aerial fireworks will be firing beforehand. When purchasing any type of firework, keep the size of your space in mind and determine required spectator distances beforehand so you don’t bring home something you shouldn’t be lighting. Make sure onlookers are a safe distance away.

Chief Lenn says that proper distancing of crowds from displays depends on how the area you’re using is situated and what you’re lighting. Required spectator distances vary depending on what’s being lit. For example, crowds should stand at least 15 feet away from burning cones and fountains.

Check labels for the required safety distances of each unit. In general, fireworks should be placed far enough away so that if they tip over, their flames won’t reach any spectators.

Also, make sure you are not lighting fireworks near combustible materials, such as newspapers, gasoline, or dried leaves. Never ignite fireworks indoors, and always set them off away from buildings and houses.

Keep children away

Children should not handle fireworks and should be kept under strict adult supervision when viewing them. “Teach your children proper firework spectator safety and supervise them closely,” says Apel.

Fireworks can be fun and entertaining for children—as long as they are kept at a safe distance and understand how powerful fireworks are and how dangerous they can be when used improperly.

Learn what to do in the event of an injury

Before you light fireworks, familiarize yourself with first-aid information and advice from medical professionals, which can be found through online resources. The Mayo Clinic website offers a wealth of information about basic first aid. If you have any questions as to the severity of the injury or the injury appears to need professional medical attention, call 911 or take the injured person to a hospital emergency room right away.

For more information about fireworks safety, visit the National Safety Council’s website. But, given the risks involved with consumer fireworks, you might want to simply be a spectator this Fourth of July.

Kick back, stay safe, and let the professionals handle the thrilling explosions.

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Home Remodeling

How to Install an Automatic Door Closer

An automatic door closer attached to a multi toned wood door.

How does automatic closing with customizable speed and power sound to you? Installing an automatic door closer can check all those boxes while meeting code and keeping you safe.

Garage entry doors, fire doors, and some entrances in residential building complexes are often required to have some sort of automatic closing system to meet code. The idea is that if a car is running in the garage, fumes won’t enter the home. Or, if there is a fire in the room, the door is guaranteed to be shut. While spring-loaded hinges are usually the bare minimum, an automatic door closer is a major upgrade.

With customizable speeds and closing power, this system is worth the upgrade. But, it’s not as easy to install as a spring-loaded hinge. Here is everything you need to know about how to install an automatic door closer.

Tools and Materials for Door Closer Installation

Utility knifePainter’s tapePencilTape measureSpeed square Safety glassesGlovesDrill driverDrill bits#3 Phillips bit or screwdriverHex keysEverything else you need will be included in the door closer kit. Most even come with paper templates you can tape to the door for precise drilling locations without the need for measuring.

How to Install an Automatic Door Closer

Installing an automatic door closer may involve a bit more work than installing a set of hinges, but it’s definitely a DIY-friendly job. The following instructions will help.

Step 1: Identify the door-swing direction

A close up of a door hinge mounted on a mossy green door and frame.
Getty Images/iStockphotoThere are a few different ways to install an automatic door closer, and you want to ensure you’re installing yours correctly. First, you need to identify the swing of the door, which you can do by standing in the door jamb with the door open and your back to the hinges. If the door is on the right, it’s a right-hand-swing door. If the door is on the left, it’s a left-hand-swing door.

With the swing of the door determined, choose which side of the door you’ll be installing the closer assembly on. Generally, you’ll want to hide the closer from the rest of the living space, so you’ll typically mount it on the garage- or room-side of the door.

Step 2: Mark the drilling locations

If your kit contains a template, there may be options for left- and right-hand doors. Find the template the fits the door, cut it out with a utility knife, and tape it to the door according to the directions.

If your kit didn’t come with a template, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to determine where to drill. Be sure to measure from the hinge side of the door. Using your pencil, mark the distance of each set of holes from the hinge. Placing the speed square against the top of the door, mark a vertical line at both pencil marks. Use your tape measure or the rule on the square to mark the height of each of the holes on these vertical pencil lines.

Consult the instructions to determine the drilling location on the door jamb to attach the swingarm.

Tip: Laying out four holes with a tape measure and speed square can be tough to do accurately. If you can mark two holes, you’ll be able to drill the others when the closer is in place for a perfect installation.

Step 3: Drill the holes

Throw on some safety glasses, and if you’re drilling through a metal door, gloves are helpful as well. Using a power drill with a smaller drill bit in place, drill your pilot holes on the marks you just made before stepping up to the appropriate bit (usually 3/16, but check the instructions). Don’t drill all the way through the door; a depth of ¾ inch is typically enough.

Step 4: Install the door closer body

Most door hardware of any type uses #3 Phillips bits, so tighten one into your drill for this step. Using the screws that came in the kit, attach the door closer to the door according to the directions. Be sure to pay attention to the instructions so you’ll know which way is up when you’re installing the door closer.

Step 5: Install the swingarm bracket

With the #3 Phillips bit still in the drill, use the included hardware to attach the swingarm’s bracket to the door jamb. It’s sometimes easier to separate the arm from the closer for this part, as one of the holes can be very difficult to reach with tension on the closer.

Step 6: Attach the swingarm to the closer and adjust it

If you removed the swingarm from the closer, it’s time to reattach and adjust it to close correctly. Check the directions that came in the kit, but this often means loosening the set screw on the arm and adjusting it so that the jamb side of the swingarm is perpendicular to the jamb.

How to Adjust a Door Closer

The door closer will have adjustment screws that allow the user to dial in the speed and pressure at which the door closes. Check your local code for the appropriate speed, but it’s usually supposed to take a door around seven seconds to close and latch. These screws usually take hex keys, but some adjust with a standard screwdriver.

Door Closer Installation is DIY-Friendly

An automatic door closer attached to a multi toned wood door.
iStockOnce you’ve dialed in the speed, install the cover and enjoy the fruits of your labor. You’ll have a door that meets code with much more adjustability than spring-loaded hinges. While each kit is a little different, the installation procedures are almost entirely the same and well within the capabilities of a DIY’er. Just measure, mark, and drill carefully and you’ll have no problem tackling this job on your own.

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Home Remodeling

Ideas for Small Bedrooms

Interior of a Scandinavian style attic bedroom with a monochromatic (white/light gray) color scheme. There are two large skylights on the ceiling that allow for a lot of natural light.

Here are 12 ways to make your space appear larger and more organized.

Not every home comes with large, expansive rooms, particularly an older one. If you feel like the walls are closing in the small rooms of your old house, try a few designer tricks to help your bedroom make a king-sized impression. From organizing your belongings to using the right colors, these ideas will give you that peaceful, easy feeling you need to fall asleep each night.

How to Make a Small Bedroom Look Bigger

Ever think that something is much bigger than it really is? Like the hill you conquered on your last hike? Well, you can encourage your eyes to do the same thing with your bedroom. Designers often use tricks to make a small space open up and feel much larger than it appears.

Use vertical space

Using wall space from floor to ceiling prompts your eyes to travel up rather than around.

Place shelves high, like over doors or along the ceilings, to showcase seldom-used items or collectibles. Hang your artwork higher than usual, too. And rather than blinds or short curtains, choose draperies that stretch from ceiling to floor, making the ceiling appear higher.

Choose colors strategically

A small bedroom with a monochromatic light pink color scheme. White toys lay on the floor and the bed.
Jared KuziaPaint in light colors. A pale, monochromatic color palette makes you feel like the space is wide open. Match your drapery and headboard color to the walls, making them invisible; and save your color for throw pillows, artwork, or rugs.

Capitalize on the lighting

Whether you’re painting the walls in a light or dark color, make sure there’s plenty of light. If the room has minimal natural light, add it artificially. Layer the lighting with a ceiling chandelier, wall sconces, and table or floor lamps. If you need sun-blocking draperies for optimal sleep, layer them over sheers for the waking hours.

Choose transparent furnishings

From wall shelves to nightstands, clear lucite furnishings are virtually unnoticeable and expose more floor space. Also, try replacing wooden doors with frosted glass ones; they allow more light through, making the space appear larger while still protecting your privacy.

dd mirrors

A small modern bedroom with en suite and mirrors on the closet doors.
GAP InteriorsMirrors don’t just reflect the space, making it look bigger—they bounce light around the room giving it a more spacious feel. Try mirrored closet doors, a large dresser mirror, or mirrored tiles on the wall.

Tips for a Organizing Small Bedroom

The idea, “a place for everything and everything in its place” is tough to adhere to when space is at a premium. The first step in effective small bedroom organization is to declutter. How many pairs of jeans does one person need? Do you have clothes with the tags still on? Or maybe, items that should go elsewhere have gotten cozy in that easy chair in the corner. Ferret out those things and then use the following ideas to create that place for everything.

Hide the bed

Yes, you need a bed in the bedroom, but must it be the focal point? After all, it takes up more real estate than any other piece of furniture. So, why not hide it when you’re not sleeping? Consider a Murphy bed, cabinet bed, or daybed to save space in your small bedroom.

Ditch the dresser

Another space hog in the bedroom is the dresser. Conserve floor space with a highboy-style dresser. Or, ditch it altogether and use shelves in your closet and nightstands with drawers. Purchase bins to stow items that don’t need to be pristinely folded or hung up, like socks, underwear and pajamas.

Use the space under the bed

If you have a bed taking up most of the square footage of your room, why not use the space under it to store things like shoes, linens, off-season clothing, or even seasonal decorations. You could purchase a platform bed with drawers or use rolling bins with lids instead. If you don’t mind a high bed, create even more space underneath by elevating it a few inches with bed risers.

Use baskets

Bedroom interior with a rustic bed with blankets in a basket on the floor.
iStockA large basket for extra blanket storage takes up much less space than a cedar chest, and it can be moved around easily. Use a matching smaller basket to hold other items, and yet another for books or magazines.

Hang things on the walls

Wall hooks can hold a lot more than clothes. Hang musical instruments, sporting equipment, scarves, and jewelry for display when not in use. A toy hammock is ideal for stashing stuffed animals in a child’s room or extra pillows and blankets in a teen room. You can even mount a small floating box shelf next to the bed to replace a nightstand.

Get a new headboard

While having no headboard makes a room appear bigger, a headboard with shelves and storage cubbies can replace nightstands, freeing up floor space. Store books on the shelves and add some clip-on lighting or wall sconces for nighttime reading.

Build or buy a jewelry cabinet

Not enough floor space for your jewelry armoire? Save room by hanging a jewelry cabinet with a full-length mirrored door. With plenty of room for necklaces, bracelets, and earrings, you can hang the cabinet on the wall, over the door, or even recess it between the wall studs. Don’t have much jewelry? Use the cabinet for extra toiletries or small incidentals.

Your bedroom is meant to be a place of rest. A retreat where you escape the cares of the world. By eliminating clutter, organizing what’s left, and using a few visual tricks, your new zen space is only a weekend away.

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Home Remodeling

Before and After Bath: Modern Makeover

Summer 2021 Before & After Bath, bathroom overview
Philip Harvey

Annexing adjacent spaces, moving the entry, and upgrading the fixtures and finishes allows a bare-bones en suite bath to become a stylish shared amenity

This article appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of This Old House Magazine. Click here to learn how to subscribe

Summer 2021 Before & After Bath, bathroom overview
Philip HarveyShown: Expanding the footprint and relocating the entry made room for a wide double vanity, a walk-in shower, and a jetted tub. Clean lines and splashes of color give the room a fresh, updated look. Designer: Cillesa Ullman, CID, Cillesa Interior Design & Space Planning; General contractor: Clevenger Construction; Custom cabinetmaker: SKM Construction; Paint (walls): Benjamin Moore’s Whitestone; Quartz countertop, pony wall cap: Bianco Supremo, Teltos; Toilet: Toto; Mirrors: Wayfair; Recessed medicine cabinet: Robern; Window: Milgard; Sconces: Loft, Modern Forms

Summer 2021 Before & After Bath, before
Before: Cramped and dated, the 1970s builder-grade bath was marooned behind a double-width guest-room closet. Its only access was through the bedroom.Few things irk a professional designer like living with a drab, dysfunctional interior. For Cillesa Ullman, one sore spot in her 1960s post-and-beam home in Oakland, CA, was the tiny, no-frills guest-room bath on the lower level. “I could not wait to tear it out­, so I literally did most of the demo myself,” she says. Her plan: Enlarge the space by relocating a laundry room and bedroom closet, and move the doorway so the bath could serve the entire floor, which was renovated to create another bedroom. To add a feeling of luxury to the new bath, Cillesa incorporated heated floors, a spa tub, and sleek new fixtures and cabinetry. She landed on her color inspiration when she came across a penny tile glazed in varying shades of aqua, “like a mermaid’s tail,” she recalls thinking. Using it to cover the tub skirt and line the shower floor, and echoing it on the double vanity, brought the space to life. “It’s both elegant and whimsical,” she says, “and with cool gray walls, it feels calming, too.”

Summer 2021 Before & After Bath, shower, pull-out shelf tower
Philip HarveyShown left: A practical choice in a bath that serves a variety of guests: a height-adjustable shower wand that can move up and down on a vertical bar. White 5-by-15-inch tiles wrap the walls, while aqua penny rounds add traction and color to the floor. Shower door: Ronson Shower Glass & Mirror; Shower mixer, handshower: Ecostat, Hansgrohe; Towel bars: Hopewell, Top Knobs DecorShown right: Pull-out shelf towers on either end of the vanity provide smart vertical storage. The white vanity top and backsplash are made from low-maintenance quartz. Oyster-gray large-format porcelain tiles cover the floor.

Summer 2021 Before & After Bath, tub, shower niche
Philip HarveyShown left: Centered on the far wall, the focal-point tub’s narrow lip makes the wall-mount faucet easy to reach from the front, where penny-round tiles enliven the apron. An acid-etched awning window provides abundant light, airflow, and privacy. Tub: Americh; Tub fixtures: Hansgrohe; Window: MilgardShown right: The shower niche is bordered with a brushed-metal edge profile and accented with blue penny rounds to echo the shower floor and tub apron. The niche shelf and shower bench top are ¾-inch slabs of the same quartz used in a 1½-inch thickness for the vanity top. Shower niche profile strips: Schluter-Systems; Quartz shower bench, niche shelf: Teltos

Summer 2021 Before & After Bath, sink
Philip HarveyShown: Rectangular sinks, streamlined single-handle faucets, and white quartz surfaces add a sleek, contemporary look. Sinks: Verticyl, Kohler; Sink faucets: Metris, Hansgrohe; Quartz countertop: Teltos

Expert Advice

“Try orienting rectangular wall tiles vertically to emphasize the height of a space and give it a visual lift. It’s a twist on tradition that creates a refreshing, modern aesthetic.” —Cillesa Ullman, owner, Cillesa Interior Design & Space Planning

Floor Plans

Summer 2021 Before & After Bath, floor plans
Ian WorpoleRelocating a laundry room and a bedroom closet allowed for an 80-square-foot bath with two sinks, a bathtub, and a shower.

Annexed the laundry and closed up its door to the bedroom to create a hallway entrance.Installed a 72-inch-wide double vanity, adding a partition wall at the end to create an alcove for the toilet.Put in an apron-front tub that spans the exterior wall beneath a new 42-by-32-inch awning-style window.Mounted a 30-inch towel bar on either side of the shower.Built a 36-by-39-inch shower with a bench seat and a toiletry niche where part of a bedroom closet had stood.

Get the Look

Take the plunge into watery blue hues and streamlined design elements like those on these pages.

Summer 2021 Before & After Bath, paint swatch, wall sconce
1. Refreshing blue paint / BENJAMIN MOORE
For a poolside vibe in a hard-wearing, cabinet-friendly finish, try the Advance line of water-based alkyd paint in Santa Clara.
About $60 per gallon; Benjamin Moore

2. Cylindrical sconce / WAC LIGHTING
Clean lines and a soft glow distinguish this dimmable LED wall light with a brushed-nickel finish and an acrylic shade.
Turbo sconce, $70; Lightology

Summer 2021 Before & After Bath, faucet, tiles
3. Sleek single-hole faucet / HANSGROHE
Smooth operation, temperature-sensitive control, and water-saving smarts meet understated style.
Cosmopolitan faucet in chrome, $225; GROHE

4. Porcelain penny tiles / ELITE TILE
Durable penny rounds glazed in varying soft-blue hues look both classic and modern. Their small size makes them a slip-resistant choice for wet-area floors.
$9.49 per square foot; Wayfair

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Home Remodeling

Materials Around Us | Clearstory S2, Ep. 9


clearstory podcast kevin

Kevin O’Connor explores the materials that surround us with Mark Miodownik, Professor of Materials and Society, and author of “Stuff Matters.”

Our lives are shaped by materials. And there’s no better place to see that reflected than in our homes. Glass windows revolutionized the comfort and safety of our houses. Stainless steel modernized our kitchens and even made our food taste more delicious. Host Kevin O’Connor explores the materials that surround us with Mark Miodownik, Professor of Materials and Society, and author of “Stuff Matters.” What are the most influential materials in our homes and will we really be able to change a room’s color with the push of a button?

Subscribe to Clearstory on AppleSpotifyStitcherGoogle, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Home Remodeling

Propane vs. Oil Heat: Which Is Best For Home Heating?



If you have a choice between fuels to heat your home, the answer frequently comes down to money. Which is the cheapest fuel to heat with?

In most of the U.S., the question of what to heat a home with barely needs to be asked. Natural gas is the most common choice in many urban areas since it’s available at the street, and gas furnaces and boilers require little maintenance.

Propane vs. Heating Oil

Most of what you need to do to stay warm is remember to pay the gas bill. Natural gas’s cousin, propane, is the king of fuels in rural areas. Delivered by truck to above- or below-ground storage tanks, propane-fueled appliances are also low-maintenance.

But then, there’s the Northeast. Fuel oil, also known as home heating oil, is also a popular choice. Like diesel fuel, home heating oil is delivered by trucks and pumped into a storage tank usually located in the basement.

In the past, underground oil tanks were standard, but because of the contamination caused by leaky tanks, it isn’t easy to get a mortgage for a house with an underground tank.

Propane or Oil: Which is Cheaper?

If you have a choice between fuels, the answer frequently comes down to money. What is the cheapest fuel to heat with? Comparing costs isn’t straightforward.

Both oil and propane are sold by gallon, while natural gas is sold by the cubic foot.

To make sense of fuel pricing, you need to know two things. First, prices vary regionally, so check with local suppliers to verify local rates. Second, you need a consistent basis for comparison. The easiest one is Btus per unit, which measures the heat from burning the fuels.

*Prices as of October 2020

Natural gas is the clear winner on cost if you have it available. If it’s not available on your street, though, you’ll need to choose between propane and fuel oil.

Other Factors to Consider When Choosing Propane or Oil

It’s harder to get fuel oil to burn than natural gas or propane. Gas flows into the combustion chamber under its own pressure.


Achieving the proper air-fuel mixture to burn very cleanly is accomplished with no moving parts, so very little maintenance is needed. (Most gas burners will work with either natural gas or propane with a change to the pressure regulator and the orifices at the burner.)

Oil, on the other hand, must be pumped to the oil burner, and the burner is relatively sensitive to wear and buildup of soot and carbon. Consequently, oil burners are more expensive initially and require more regular maintenance.


If you’re building a new home, the fuel choice isn’t just about heat, either. Most people with oil heat choose electric stoves and dryers, but you could also install gas for them. You can have a gas stove or a gas clothes dryer, but not oil-fired versions of those appliances.

Water Heaters

Water heaters are another consideration. Gas water heaters are relatively cheap and low maintenance. Oil-fired water heaters cost more but usually produce hot water faster. Whether gas or oil, if you heat with hot water rather than forced air, then the same boiler that heats your home can also heat the domestic hot water, saving the cost of a separate heater.

Fuel Choice and Climate Change

Another consideration is the amount of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere by the fuel you burn. Of the three fuels discussed here, oil is by far the worst, at 161.4 lbs. of CO2 per million Btus produced. Propane is considerably better, creating 139.05 lbs. of CO2 per million Btus. Natural gas is best, at 117 lbs. of CO2 per million Btus.

Based on that and cost, natural gas is the easy choice. Well, not so fast. Gas carries its own environmental consequences. Like oil, it’s a fossil fuel with potential ecological damage from the drilling process. Plus, methane (the largest component of natural gas) is 84 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Methane leaks from well heads, pipelines, and processing are relatively common, and to some degree, offset gas’s lower carbon emission compared to oil.

That doesn’t mean gas isn’t a more environmentally friendly option than oil—it just means the choice is a little more nuanced and something to be considered along with cost and convenience.

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Home Remodeling

Do You Need Permits to Remodel a Bathroom?

Discover if you’ll need a permit for your bathroom remodel based on the work, how you’ll file the permits, and your building codes

When do you need permits to remodel a bathroom?

It’s easy to understand why bathroom remodels are one of the most popular home renovation projects. We demand a lot from our bathrooms! In turn, upgrading to modern and more functional tubs, showers, faucets, and toilets makes daily life better. Building codes, however, dictate how far you can go with changes before requiring a permit. Here, Sweeten answers a common question on homeowners’ minds: Do you need permits to remodel a bathroom?

The short answer is, you usually need permits to remodel a bathroom. When you make changes to plumbing, electrical, or structural components of your home, you need a permit from the Department of Buildings. However, small aesthetic changes, like painting rooms, repairing plaster, or refinishing floors do not require a permit. 

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.

Bathroom remodeling permits for: Minor plumbing projects

You can make minor plumbing changes without a permit for a bathroom remodel. However, requirements vary between cities and counties across the country. For example, according to the New York City Department of Buildings

“Simple repairs or direct replacement of existing faucets or fixtures such as toilets and sinks are considered cosmetic work and do not require a permit. Direct replacement involves work that does not alter or change the fixture’s hot and cold water shutoff valves or fixture trap.”

So for plumbing, leave the valves and trap alone when you replace a faucet and you don’t need a permit. 

Bathroom remodeling permits for: Minor electrical projects

In contrast, minor electrical work in a bathroom remodel usually requires a permit. According to the DOB again:

“An electrical permit is required for most electrical work, including handling of electrical wires that is performed in a residential home or business.” 

If you’re just replacing a light fixture or switch? Your general contractor can walk you through it. 

So, you can do simple repairs and fixture replacement without a permit for plumbing, but not for electrical work. Beyond that, it’s considered remodeling; so you’ll be dealing with permits, professionals, and more complexity. Don’t worry, though, as it’s a clearif slowprocess. The secret is to work with professionals who know what they’re doing.

Building codes by county

In other places in the U.S., you’ll have to research your local requirements for bathroom remodeling permits. You’ll find counties that have not adopted a specific building code but do require a permit and inspection for some types of work, like septic systems, plumbing, and electrical. 

This scenario can be somewhat opaque, so do preliminary research on local building websites before talking with your contractor.

Unfortunately, updates to these regulations don’t happen regularly on their websites, and that holds true for official websites, too. Therefore, you’ll get the latest information from the people who deal with these issues regularly—general contractors

bathroom renovation

Above) A Sweeten general contractor helped Ashleigh and Jonathan navigate their permits on a tight timeline.

Navigating bathroom remodel permits

Filing permits for a bathroom remodel 

For our purposes here, bathroom remodeling involves a new bathtub and/or shower, new toilet, and new sink, which may be freestanding or in cabinetry. It is common for many partial to full renovations to start with simple changes, like a new faucet or new flooring. It then grows when people realize they really dislike that bathroom and they don’t need to live with it any longer. 

With any remodeling project, you should create a plan. That’s where your professional help comes in. For a project with any layout changes, whether they’re plumbing or electrical changes or not, you’ll need to work with a registered architect or a professional engineer. Those pros are referred to as the Registered Design Professional. They will file the permit application as the Applicant of Record with the Department of Buildings and ensure that the project meets requirements. You’ll need patience for this, as it’s common for your permit application to take 2-6 months for approval. It could take longer, depending on the extent of work and the building. Historic buildings add another layer of complexity. 

Working with home associations & condos

Homeowners/condo/building associations may have a policy that requires an alteration agreement for work on your home. Moving forward will require paperwork to be submitted and approved.

Those associations usually have extensive oversight of the building and will review and approve or deny your plans. They may have their own architect or other experts review your plan. They’ll also want to confirm your insurance coverage and make sure you have a licensed contractor.

In addition, you may not be allowed to make major layout changes. Most building designs have “wet” spaces with plumbing “stacked” from floor to floor. For instance, a toilet drain will not be located above your downstairs neighbor’s bedroom. The plumbing system is also vented, and is typically constructed as a system within the entire building. Subsequently, any modifications must work within that system. Again, your architect or contractor should advise on what’s possible. Work with a vetted, licensed expert to avoid headaches (and a lot of back-and-forth.)

Behind-the-scenes in a bathroom remodel

A licensed general contractor will handle the remodeling work in your bathroom. They will have the professional contacts for subcontractors in the plumbing and electrical field. These professionals handle tasks like wiring, laying and grouting tile, and more. 

The extent of work involved varies dramatically depending on the condition and layout of your home compared to what you want to achieve. The easiest changes involve the sink and faucet. Even with some plumbing changes, you’re not looking at tearing up a lot of the room and rebuilding. 

Changing the location of the toilet, bathtub, or shower becomes much more complicated. Supply lines for water run through the walls or the floor/ceiling, but drains have to fit into the floor space and then join the plumbing “stack” in the wall. This is the combination drain and vent system. Changes to these parts can involve a lot of destruction before anything new can be installed. Bidetsan increasingly popular addition in recent yearswill need a drain and supply lines. This type of work is routine for a seasoned plumber but definitely must be done with care.

After the toilet, the other potential tasks seem pretty simple. Replacing an existing bathtub can be hard work, but is typically straightforward if you’re able to reuse the existing drain and supply lines. Changing from a bathtub to a tub/shower or to a walk-in shower becomes slightly more complex, but not substantially. 

Where to start a bathroom remodel

If you want to renovate your bathroom, be sure to find the right general contractor who understands your vision—and can build the type of bathroom you want. During a site visit, they’ll help you discover ideal design features for your space, and will be invaluable in assisting with the permit process. With Sweeten, you can meet and hire the right expert to help build your vision at home, with no fee for our services—ever. Get started by posting your dream bathroom on Sweeten.

Want to see some examples of Sweeten’s bathroom handiwork? See Sweeten’s bathroom renovations.

The post Do You Need Permits to Remodel a Bathroom? appeared first on Sweeten.

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Home Remodeling

Best Educational Toys | Gift Guide 2018


From dollhouses and play kitchens you can assemble together, to STEM/ STEAM toys for kids that spark interest in tech and the trades, here are our top picks for fostering skill and cognitive development DROP A HINT! See something you want? Use the social media buttons below to share on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest and drop a not-so-subtle hint

Melissa & Doug Solid Wood Project Workbench

PHOTO: AMAZONKid-sized workbench includes a functioning vise, tool rack, wooden tools, and hardware. Includes inspirational project ideas. For ages 3 years and up.

About $70; Amazon

Base Coding Kit

PHOTO: AMAZONThis STEM kit teaches kids real coding while they build fun projects! Free software compatible with Windows, Mac, and Chromebook computers are included. Kit contains 12 electronic pieces, carrying case, and reference cards for dozens of different circuits. For ages 9 and up.

About $65; Amazon

Leather Tool Belt

PHOTO: AMAZONA scaled-down model of a “grown-up” belt, with two thick hammer loops for kid or adult-sized hammers. Gift set includes children’s belt and two blue carpenter pencils. For ages 6 and up.

About $30; Amazon

Step2 Deluxe Workshop

PHOTO: AMAZONWorkbench with large work surface includes 50-piece accessory set with drill, drill bits, screws, nuts, saw, hammer, pliers, adjustable wrench, screw driver and 17 “wood” pieces. And, check out the adorable “pegboard” wall storage! For ages 3 and up.

About $120; Amazon

Hearth & Hand with Magnolia Dollhouse

PHOO: TARGETThis classic dollhouse is a functional, durable toy that’s also decorative. Kids and grown ups alike can put their inner home renovator to work by adding your favorite miniature pieces. Build it together and make it your own! For ages 3 and up.

About $130; Target

Jumbo Nuts & Bolts

PHOTO: AMAZONPreschoolers can learn how to match shapes and colors to start developing fine motor skills. Kids twist and connect matching shapes. 40 coordinating nuts and bolts included. For ages 3 and up.

About $15; Amazon

STEM Jr. Wonder Lab

PHOTO: AMAZONA learning center with fun STEM experiments (using common household ingredients). Playful sounds and phrases bring the lab to life as little scientists experiment. 20 lab accessories included, plus removable lab tray for easy clean up. For ages 2 and up.

About $97; Amazon

Bit Coding Robot

PHOTO: AMAZONA pocket-sized, basic bot for building early STEAM skills. Arrives assembled and ready to play with two ways to code. Start coding screen-free with the stroke of a marker, as you draw commands and the robot responds. Advance to coding online with the OzoBlockly programming editor. For ages 6 and up.

About $42; Amazon

Building Toys Tool Kit with “Real” Drill

PHOTO: AMAZONKit includes kid-safe power drilll, colorful panels and screws, and a baseboard for building/ carrying case. For ages 3 and up.

About $19; Amazon

KidKraft White Vintage Kitchen

PHOTO: TARGETThis vintage play kitchen has doors that open and close, knobs that click and turn, and plenty of storage space. The removable sink is easy to clean and the durable design can stand up to the most enthusiastic imaginations. Assemble it together! For ages 3 and up.

About $100; Target

Snap Circuits Jr. Electronics Exploration Kit

PHOTO: AMAZONBuild over 100 different electronics circuit projects with included electronic components. No soldering or tools required. Just snap pieces into place. A best seller! For ages 8 and up.

About $21; Amazon

Tinkering Labs Electric Motors Kit

PHOTO: AMAZONBuild and rebuild endless robotic creations with a single kit. Includes 10 challenge cards, wood, electric motors, and hardware. For ages 8 and up.

About $60; Amazon

Engino Structures Kit

PHOTO: AMAZONBring complex concepts into clear focus for budding engineers and scientists with this award-winning kit. Learn about all types of forces applied in buildings and bridges and how they are designed to provide massive weight support. Kids can build up to 9 working models. For ages 8 and up.

About $25; Amazon

Bloxels Build-Your-Own Video Game

PHOTO: AMAZONThis best-selling kit is a video-game creation platform that allows kids to build with a mix of physical and digital tools. The Bloxels Builder app is free to download to your compatible device. For ages 8 and up.

About $18; Amazon

Klutz LEGO Chain Reactions Craft Kit

PHOTO: AMAZONAn Amazon #1 best seller, this kit allows kids to design and build 10 amazing moving machines. For ages 8 and up.

About $15; Amazon

Crayola Color Chemistry Set

PHOTO: AMAZONThis set blends science, technology, engineering, art, and math together in one lab set, with dozens of experiments developed by Crayola scientists. For ages 7 and up.

About $25; Amazon

Toy Tool Kit

PHOTO: AMAZONWooden case features swing-out storage rails holding a selection of brightly painted wooden tools to include a hammer, saw, mallet, screwdriver, spanners, pliers, ruler and set square plus there’s lots of screws and bolts. For ages 4 and up.

About $30; Amazon

Snowflake Building Block Kit

PHOTO: AMAZONDurable plastic tub containing colorful interconnecting snowflake-shaped plastic blocks that are safe and non-toxic. The blocks are 1.25 inches across. Younger children may need your assistance to connect and disconnect the blocks as you build imaginative freeform shapes. For ages 4 months and up.

About $24; Amazon

Crystal Growing Experiment Kit

PHOTO: AMAZONThis science kit contains all the materials needed to perform seven different crystal growth experiments. A special display case is included to admire the crystals once they are fully grown. For ages 10 and up.

About $14; Amazon

LEGO Robot-building Toy

PHOTO: AMAZONUse included parts to create a robot, dog, or bird. Break down and build again and again. Parts include bright-green eyes, working tracks, rotating body and head, and posable arms with working claw and searchlight. For ages 7 and up.

About $13; Amazon

Light-up Terrarium Kit

PHOTO: AMAZONEverything your youngster needs to get growing! Lid with built-in LED light allows your masterpiece to grow by day, and glow by night. For ages 6 and up.

About $30; Amazon

Hearth & Hand with Magnolia Doll Farmhouse

PHOTO: TARGETAnother Hearth & Hand with Magnolia design, this dollhouse is a farmhouse with a pillared front porch and outdoor seating area, complete with rocking chairs and a table with benches. This two-story dollhouse is over 23-inches high and you’ll enjoy the elegant style of the toy as much as the little ones do. Assemble it together! For ages 3 and up.

About $150; Target


Need other cool ideas for kids? Here are 21 more gifts for future DIYersOr, you can go back to our FULL 2018 Gift Guide>*This post includes affiliate shopping links

What’s on YOUR wish list? Tell us in a comment below

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Home Remodeling

Cat Shelf and Activity Center Shopping Guide

Our most popular Facebook post of the summer was our How to Build a Catio tutorial. Turns out homeowners are all too willing to make home upgrades for their pets. Now you can consider installing a single wall-mounted shelf or full activity center for your feline

Wall-mounted Feeder Shelf

PHOTO: AMAZONThis handsome, handcrafted wooden shelf with built-in bowls is a top seller!

About $70 at Amazon

Deluxe Cat Playplace

PHOTO: AMAZONThis set is available in a range of colors and you can customize to suit your decor, but this beautiful all-black installation almost looks like art.

About $180 at Amazon

3-pack Climbing Shelves

PHOTO: AMAZONThese Oxford cloth shelves can be installed in just 4 easy steps.

About $30.99 for Small shelves (up to 11 lbs.) and about $40.99 for Large shelves (up to 22 lbs.), both at Amazon

Wall-mounted Cat Shelves

PHOTO: AMAZONThis set includes a “cat condo” and hammock. Sisal-covered surfaces are perfect for scratching.

About $60 for the set at Amazon

Cat Mod Lift Hammock

PHOTO: AMAZONA sturdy wood-and-canvas installation that’s sleek-looking, to boot! Available in a range of wood finishes and color combos to match your decor (prices vary).

About $111 in English Chestnut/ Black at Amazon

Lotus Branch and Leaf Cat Shelves

PHOTO: AMAZONThis elegant design is made of a combination of solid wood and bent ply. Available in a range of colors with replaceable “carpeting.”

About $131 for long Lotus Branch in Espresso at Amazon

About $71.26 for short Leaf Shelf in Espresso at Amazon

Cat Mod Garden Center

This full wall installation includes a little bit of everything, including cutouts in wood shelves for planters to fill with cat-friendly greenery!

About $639 at Amazon

*This post includes affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

Have you made a home upgrade for your pet? Tell us about it in the comment section below

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