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Romancing the renovation

February is a fun and interesting month, known for its occasional leap year, presidential birthdays and lots and lots of LOVE! Put a little extra passion into your efforts with these affectionate and affordable home project ideas.

Modernize the Fireplace 

Turn up the heat with alluring improvements around the hearth. Though red brick is appealing to many, a cleaner, modern look can be achieved through a painless tile overlay. After making the proper measurements and cutting the tiles, apply quickset mortar with a notched trowel to both the brick surface and back of the tile. Install tiles, using spacers for applying grout later. Complete vertical side sections first, then tile the top horizontal section. To prevent gravity from pulling these horizontal tiles down, you’ll need to build a temporary hanging wood frame or use a jack and board to support them from underneath. After 24 hours of setting, the tiles are ready for grout. Remove spacers, apply grout, and scrape off excess with a putty knife. Lastly, clear off tiles with a damp sponge no sooner that 20 minutes after grouting.

Set the Mood 

Installing dimmers on light switches is an easy way to elevate the ambiance. The first and most important step is to make sure there is no live current going to the fixture you’re working on. After you visit the fuse box and put the breaker in the off position, unscrew the wall plate around the switch and connect the new wires. For a standard single-pole dimmer (one switch controls one fixture), connect the green ground wire on your dimmer switch to a green or bare copper wire in the wall box by twisting them together and capping them with a wire connector nut. Then connect the dimmer wires to the two house wires within the box, again by twisting and capping each connection. Screw the wall plate back in place, turn the breaker back on, play an old-school jazz record and enjoy the many benefits of low light.

Enhance the Closet 

It’s a scientific fact that people love a big, versatile and well-organized closet. If knocking down a wall to expand the square footage is not an option, you can make some major improvements to the interior with a simple installation or two. Many closets start out with a hanger rack and shelf on top, leaving room for bureaus, drawers or supplemental shelves down below. If the special person in your life has a thing for shoes, a separate shoe organizer won’t cut it. To save space while providing a unique aesthetic, consider building a series of wood towers, each with 10 compartments stacked on top of each other. Common plywood utility panels and a brad nailer are ideal for this project. Each tower will consist of a backing piece (60” H x 8” W x .5” D), two side pieces (60” H x 15” W x .25” D), two reinforcement pieces (60” H x 1” W x 1” D) and 11 dividers (15” L x 8” W x .25” D). Before assembling each tower, sand and stain the panels if they need it. Use a stud finder to locate the wooden studs under the drywall, then mount the backing piece with 4-to-6 equally spaced screws along the center line. Attach the reinforcement pieces to the top of the backing piece along the length of each side, again with 4-to-6 equally spaced screws. Mount the side panels to the side of the backing and reinforcements with the brad nailer, then attach divider pieces at the top, bottom and in between, also with the brad nailer. You may find it easier to construct the towers before mounting them to the wall, but whatever your preference, they’ll surely impress the shoe-obsessed romantics in your life.


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