People don’t often look back on the early 1900’s for advice, but what if we could actually learn something from the Lost Generation? The New York Public Library has digitized 100 “how to do it” cards found in cigarette boxes over 100 years ago, and the tips they give are so practical that millennials reading this might want to take notes.
Back in the day, cigarette cards were popular collectibles included in every pack, and displayed photos of celebrities, advertisements, and more. Gallaher cigarettes, a UK-founded tobacco company that was once the largest in the world, decided to print a series of helpful how-to’s on their cards, which ranged from mundane tasks (boiling potatoes) to unlikely scenarios (stopping a runaway horse). Most of them are insanely clever, though, like how to make a fire extinguisher at home. Who even knew you could do that?
The entire set of life hacks is now part of the NYPL’s George ArentsCollection. Check out some of the cleverest ones we could find below. You never know when you’ll have to clean real lace!
~ I love these and have used a couple! There is the example below and they have “how to’s” for testing butter – best way to slice thin bread – homemade water fountain for animals – clean an oil painting – three useful knots – increase lung power – and more! ~
For the last several decades, LEGO has been a standard toy staple found in pretty much every home that has kids (or nostalgic adults) in it. They were first created by a Danish carpenter named Ole Kirk Christiansen in 1934; since then, over 400 billion of the familiar plastic bricks have been made.
Aaaand I’m pretty sure most of them are in my carpet, judging by how often I step on one.
Rather than risk unleashing the stream of obscenities (and intense pain in the arch of your foot) caused by errant LEGOs lying around, put the loose blocks to good use with one of these cool, practical projects! Hey, I bet your kids would even help; they love doing anything that involves building with their favorite bitty bricks (as long as they don’t have to put them away, because we all know that ain’t happening).
All it takes are some plain magnets and a hot glue gun to turn the toys into fridge magnets.
If you’re not a fan of decorating in primary colors, just spray paint the blocks first. You could also turn minifigures or small LEGO creations, like little planes or lady bugs, into magnets the same way.
This ring project is such a great way to use up all those little LEGO bits — and get them out of the house, too, as the tutorial says they used these as Valentine’s Day classroom gifts! They’d also be fun party favors.
You’ll need some inexpensive ring blanks, and after that the sky’s the limit!
This is like a throwback to the old BFF necklaces of the late ’80s, but without the cheap faux-brass tarnish or the arguments with your bestie over who gets the “Be Fri” half and who gets the crappy “st ends” half.
While such a large project might seem daunting at first, there are really great instructions for putting this table together.
I like the intersecting stripes, but you could really customize this with your own design, a monogram, or just use the random 7,176 multi-color bricks that are probably in your living room carpet right now.
As a treat for your little rodent friends, build a tiny house for that special hamster, gerbil, or rat in your life (at least I’m assuming that rat is in there on purpose and didn’t just sneak into some poor kid’s LEGO dollhouse).
A home renovation isn’t for the faint of heart. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a good contractor who can take care of the heavy lifting. But even that doesn’t mean you won’t be exposed to your fair share of disasters—including some that can be scary, some that can be traumatic, and some that can even be harmful to your health.
You can’t avoid every terrifying possibility, but you can do your very best to minimize the risk. And that starts with knowing what terrors could be lurking behind that ordinary-looking brick wall or innocuous, if hideous, popcorn ceiling. We’ve got your back, friends!
Here are seven frightening and dangerous things to watch out for when you’re renovating or remodeling.
1. Flooding and electrical issues
Smart DIYers call 811—the service line that informs you where underground utility lines can be found—a few days before they dig. The helpful operator on the other end of the line will notify utility companies to send you indications of any water, gas, or electrical lines.
But maybe you forgot. Or maybe you hit a smaller water pipe in your wall, which the water company won’t know about.
“Mistakenly hitting a water pipe can have consequences much more serious than just getting your shirt wet,” says Dan Barr, a property restoration expert with 1-800 Water Damage.
Say you pop out for a bite after drilling a hole in the wall between your laundry and living rooms, not realizing you just punctured a pipe. When you return, everything is flooded. Including a puddle around your drill—that’s still plugged in. Yikes!
If you hit a line and find electric tools or appliances submerged, Barr recommends locating your home’s main electrical panel and turning off the power before you start wading through the water.
“It could be charged and extremely dangerous,” he says.
2. Creepy creatures
True story: My fiancé was unscrewing a can light in the living room of our brand-new house—and a handful of wasps smacked him in the face. Fortunately, they were dead.
But what if they weren’t?
“You can have really dangerous creatures fall or crawl on you,” says Texas designer Pablo Solomon. Dead wasps are just the beginning. Depending on where you live, shuffling around your attic or inching through your crawl space might bring you into contact with brown recluse or black widow spiders, scorpions, centipedes, or snakes.
While there’s no sure-fire way to avoid creepy-crawlies, full-coverage clothing will protect your skin from bites. As for the years of nightmares—you’re on your own.
3. Mold invasion
Skipping steps during a renovation is sure to cause you major problems down the line. And one of the most commonly overlooked aspects of a home renovation is proper ventilation.
“Most bathrooms have so little ventilation that they unintentionally become labs to grow mold and mildew,” says David Schneider, an interior designer in Chesterfield, MO, who focuses on sustainable, green remodeling.
So any time you remodel a kitchen or bathroom, make sure you’re installing enough fans—strong ones—to suck out all the moisture-ridden air. Most experts recommend one 100 cfm (cubic feet per minute) fan per appliance.
Plus, a whirring fan can cover up any unpleasant sounds. This is known as “value added”!
4. Release of asbestos and lead
You’re probably already aware of your home’s lead or asbestos risk. Unless you had a particularly unscrupulous seller, you should’ve signed a lead paint disclosure when buying any home built before 1978. And the second you Googled “popcorn ceiling,” you probably spotted the word “asbestos.”
But still, maybe that’s not top of mind when you’re in a hurry to yank out your ugly old cabinetry or rip up that garish old tile to start fresh—and you end up unleashing unknown amounts of those toxic materials.
“Inhaling or swallowing even small amounts of lead or asbestos is extremely dangerous,” Barr says. “Any time you remove walls or ceilings or do major work on floors, you run the risk of encountering both.”
Wear a mask during small renovation projects to help protect you. For bigger jobs, such as taking down a wall, contact an indoor environmental expert who can take samples. If asbestos or lead are present, plan to hire a professional for demolition.
5. Foundation damage
Have you ever used a drill to mount a pot rack or a flat-screen TV and found that your hands are a bit … wobbly afterward? Your walls feel the same thing—and the jiggling can cause major problems.
Constant shaking and hammering from power tools can create new fissures and other problems inside your walls. You might spot water leaks or even cracked Sheetrock, Solomon says. If possible, peek inside your walls after you drill for any new problems and repair them immediately.
6. Damage to your hearing
Construction is loud. You might think it’s tolerable, since it’s temporary. But if you’re, say, remodeling an entire kitchen, your ears will be under siege day after day for what could be a protracted period—and that could incur long-term damage.
“The noise of saws, hammers, power tools, and other construction machinery can wreck your ears,” says Bryan Pollard, president of Hyperacusis Research, a Hearing Health partner. “Noise damage is cumulative and presents with a delayed reaction. And the longer someone is exposed, the higher the risk.”
So maybe your ears feel fine the next day. But will they be fine a week later? A year later?Or 10 years later? Pollard warns of tinnitus—that annoying ringing in your ears—or hyperacusis, sound sensitivity, and noise-induced pain. Maybe those bulky protective headsets don’t look so dumb after all.
7. Exposure to high-VOC materials
Wearing a face mask can help keep you from inhaling fumes when painting, but their damage lasts long after the color is applied. Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are chemical-emitting gases found in a number of renovation materials, including many paints, carpeting, or upholstering. You know that funny smell your carpet gave off for a few weeks after installation? That’s probably VOCs.
Robert Guthrie saw a unique opportunity and seized it much to the shock of many friends, family, and even his own son.
When Robert noticed a run-down gas station that was nearly 100 years old for sale, he effectively found “treasure” in what most considered was trash. The gas station was a 2,000 square-foot space that was ready to be transformed and renovated into a suitable home. Many labeled Robert as crazy when he told them about his idea, but just wait until you see the end result. It’s stunning!
In the video below, Robert shows a tour of his home. It’s heavily influenced by the space’s previous life, Sinclair Gasoline, so you will notice various relics scattered throughout the home. Robert added a roof deck, installed a hydraulic-lift turned staircase, a jacuzzi, and a full-modern kitchen. While the exterior doesn’t seem like much, the interior is jaw-dropping. It’s a perfect example of how awesome creativity is!
Take special care with ~adjustable~ organizers like this one because they’re prone to dirt falling into their nooks and crannies. Once a week, wipe them out with any all-purpose cleaner you use on the rest of your kitchen surfaces.
Those slots that protect your prize knives are also a prime spot for dust. Once a month, remove the knives and use the crevice tool on your vacuum cleaner to suck out dust. Don’t have one? Blast it with your hairdryer on High or use a long pipe cleaner. Sanitize it by rinsing the block in hot soapy water, then soaking in a solution (1 tbsp. of bleach to 1 gallon of water) for 1 minute. Dry on a towel with slots-side down.
Dust, oil from your skin, and every little piece of lint to ever float through the atmosphere ends up on your electronics’ screens. Make a pass with this little roller every day you use them to see a difference.
Actually crisp toast — not crumbs and debris from toast of yore — by emptying the crumb tray once a week. (Even the cheapest of toasters, like this one, have it.) And give the exterior a good wipe down with a stainless-steel cleaner, too.
You’ll need: A sideboard (Ikea, $449), tinner snips (Amazon, $10.72), Gorilla glue (Amazon, $4.97), a drill (Amazon, $89 for a complete kit), 12 screws, patterning tape (Amazon, $5.15), 10 brass strips (Amazon, $8.49 for a pack of five), four hairpin legs (DIY Furniture Store, $31), and a sharpie.
Get the full instructions from Kristi Murphy here.
As history flows along, we find ways to snuff out conditions that make us miserable. We invented plumbing so we didn’t have to carry water. We invented tractors so we didn’t have to break our backs in the fields. We invented air conditioning so we’re no longer uncomfortable in the summer.
And now, you are alive to see the snuffing out of another source of misery: Wi-Fi dead spots.
For years, we’ve tried to solve this problem with various imperfect solutions like Wi-Fi repeaters/extenders. But they all have downsides, like diminished speed and having to change Wi-Fi network names when you move around the house.
But now, there’s mesh Wi-Fi.
Instead of one Wi-Fi transmitter too weak to fill your entire home with signal, a mesh system uses a set of them, spaced evenly through your house. The result is a single “mesh network,” a roaming network, that blankets the entire house in good, strong signal.
The revolution began a year ago with the introduction of the Eero. After I tested it (my review’s here), I was so exhilarated that I actually bought a set for myself, at the nosebleedy price of $500.
Today, every networking company and its sister now offers a similar system. And man, they are great.
Because a router out in plain sight offers better coverage than one in a closet, they’re all great-looking. Because we’re human beings and not engineers, they all include phone apps that make setup simple. And because many of us have children, most offer either parental controls (to block iffy websites) or a Pause button for specified offspring (so we can have dinner conversation face to face).
Each manufacturer touts its routers’ top speed in megabits per second (“867 mbps/sec!”, for example). But trust me: You’ll get those speeds only on the moon. In the cluttered airwaves of a community, among the walls and furniture obstacles of a home, your top speed will probably be less than half the advertised maximum. Move 30 feet away, and it drops by half again.
In fact, any of these mesh systems can pass along data faster than your Internet provider passes it into the average American home (54 mbps/sec.). If your concern is transferring files between drives within your home, or if you’re paying for much faster Internet, then consider one of the beefier systems here: The Velop, Orbi, or Amplifi HD.
I tested each system by wandering through my house with a laptop running Netspot, an app that builds a “heat map” of Wi-Fi strength. All of them totally blanketed both floors of the house. (I even spot-checked the attic and basement. They had Wi-Fi, too.)
I also did an internet speed test twice per system: in the room closest to the cable modem, and the room farthest from it. Here’s what I discovered.
The modules are small and good-looking; the terrific app gives you insight into every aspect of your system. All the key features are here, like guest networks (for visitors—they can access the internet, but not your computers) and individual, pause-able profiles for your offspring.
If you have an Amazon (AMZN) Echo, you can even control your Eeros by voice: shutting off certain kids’ internet access, turning the Eeros’ status lights on or off, or finding your phone/tablet/laptop in the house according to its closest Eero.
The Eero’s price has not come down in its year on the market, though. At $500 for a set of three, it’s almost goofily overpriced—$200 more than Google (GOOG, GOOGL) Wi-Fi, for example. I’m glad to own it, but it wouldn’t be my first choice today.
Speed tests: 57 megabits/second downloading in the closest room, 47 in the farthest.
Ethernet jacks: Two per unit. (The pod by your cable modem therefore has only one empty jack for a printer, network hard drive, or other gizmos. I bought a cheap five-port switch box to solve that problem.)
Price: Three for $500, 1 for $200.
Google’s Eero-like system costs $300 for the set of three.
It, too, is fast, full-featured, and beautifully designed. (For example, there’s no traditional power brick—only a simple cord with USB-C on the router end and standard two-prong plug on the other.)
The app makes it incredibly simple to set the whole thing up. You use your phone to scan a barcode on the bottom of the first pod; after that, one tap is all it takes to set up each additional pod. The app even tests the placement of each unit and lets you know if you’ve chosen wisely.
Features: You can pause individuals or groups, even remotely. You can control the colorful LED ring around the equator of each unit, although they make fantastic night lights. Voice control is coming soon, Google says. Port forwarding, guest networking, device prioritization (“favor the Roku when I’m watching videos!”): all present.
Feels like a cheap Eero knockoff; minor irritations abound. Do I really have to surrender my phone number just to use my new router? The units are hexagons, but unlike the Eeros, they can’t lie flat, because the power cord sticks out of the back. The setup process goes like this.
The app is strong on parental controls and security; for example, you can set up accounts for each kid in your family and specify what kinds of sites they’re allowed to visit (rated PG, R, etc.). And there’s a full list of management features: Alexa commands (“Alexa, tell Luma to pause Casey’s laptop”), gadget prioritization, port forwarding, and guest networks.
But the Lumas’ power is on the weak side; a set of three left fading signal at the fringes of the house.
Price: $400 for three (choice of white, grey, orange, or black plastic), $150 for one
Netgear’s approach to mesh networking is radical: Only two units to cover an entire big house. Including the front and back yard!
How? First, these are big, honking towers, crammed with antennas and power to drive them. (A ring on the top glows in colors during setup to show its happiness with the current signal strength.)
Second, most routers communicate with your devices on one of two radio bands (2.4 or 5 gigahertz)—but this one uses a third channel exclusively for communications between the two towers. As a result, that channel remains strong enough to drive through ceilings, floors, and walls. Netgear suggests putting one unit right by your cable modem, and the “satellite” tower in the middle of your house, even if that’s upstairs and several rooms away.
It works. (The “Mesh routers” heat map shown near the top of this article is the Orbi’s result.)
By the way, the Orbi also offers MU-MIMO streaming. (That stands for Multi-User Multiple Input, Multiple Output, but it basically means fast—at least when talking to gadgets that also speak MU-MIMO. For example, the Samsung Galaxy S7 and certain other Android phones do; no Apple products do.)
Alas, Netgear’s software engineers aren’t anywhere near as impressive as its hardware designers. The setup instructions are filled with terms like “credentials” and “redirect,” and they make no mention of a smartphone app that could make the process easier. You’re supposed to use a web-browser interface to set up your Orbis.
When I contacted the company, they told me that there is a setup app—they just forgot to mention it! In fact, there are three apps, each governing a different aspect of the Orbis (setting up guest network, parental controls, etc.).
For $490, you get three gorgeous, sculptural white towers, with cables that sneak out of a corner cutout, a physical reset button (instead of a paper-clip hole), and packaging that out-elegances Apple’s. The towers deliver fantastic speed and coverage, thanks in part to a three-band system like Netgear’s for better comms between towers.
The Velop (pronounced VELLup) also offers MU-MIMO streaming, if you’re scoring at home.
All the perks are here: parental controls, guest networking, device prioritization, port forwarding, Alexa commands (“Turn the guest network on,” “What’s my password?”), and so on. The app is, therefore, more dense than on simpler devices, but it’s not hard to navigate.
My one beef: it takes a long time to recognize each new satellite as you hook it up. Minutes.
Price: Three for $480; two for $350, or one for $200.
If you took the concept of mesh routers—multiple transmitters spaced around the home—to its logical conclusion, you’d wind up with Plume. Here, you buy a bunch of super-cheap, tiny routers—the size of night lights, available in black, silver, or bronze—and plug them directly into power outlets, one per room or hallway! (Once you’re about a room away from the nearest Plume, your signal weakens dramatically.)
Setting them up is insanely easy. You don’t even have to introduce them to the network one at a time, as you must the other systems; you can just plug in all six, or all nine, or whatever, and they just work. (If you want to name them, you can: Just hold your phone very close to one of the plugs until it offers its name for changing. Very cool.)
These pods are so cheap because they don’t contain processors, as their rivals do; all the analysis is done online. As a result, the company says that it takes 24 hours of analysis before the plugs begin to deliver their best speeds. Then, in the coming weeks, they shift bandwidth to the pods that need it most, according to your use patterns.
Here’s the problem, though: Economics. If your home is small enough that you can get by with three Plumes ($180) or even six ($330), you’d save money and complexity by buying a modern, standard, regular router. And if your house is big enough that you need a mesh system, you’ll probably need $600 worth of Plumes—and any of the competitors here would cost a lot less than that.
There are no features to speak of, either: No guest network, device prioritization, or parental controls.
Here’s another fresh take on the mesh system. This time, the three modules aren’t identical and interchangeable. There’s a base module and two satellite antennas.
The base is a cube with a color touch screen; tap it to view various network-info screens. (Most of the time, it just shows the time and date.)
The satellites are very cool: the antenna part connects to the power-outlet part with a magnetic ball joint, meaning that you can adjust the antenna’s angle. Note, though, that it can be tough finding spots to plug these things in where they’re not stymied by a floor, a countertop, or a wall. Baseboard outlets are pretty much it—which limits your positioning options (and attracts small children). They’re not exactly fashion accessories, either.
The app is lovely, and gives you access to all kinds of advanced router settings (port forwarding, DHCP settings, etc.)—but doesn’t offer parental controls.
If money were no object, I’d tell you to buy the LinkSys Velop. These babies look great, they’re absurdly fast, the features are all there, and the software has its act together. A set of three is designed to cover 6,000 square feet of house—far more than the Google WiFi (4,500 square feet), Netgear Orbi (4,000), or Eero or Luma (3,000). (Then again, if your pad is more of a palace, you ‘ll want the Amplifi HD, which says it can cover 20,000 square feet!)
But if money is an object—namely, if you object to a $490 price tag—then you can save $200 by getting the Google WiFi trio. The modules are gorgeous and not so ostentatious, and the app offers a smoother setup.
Unfortunately, the three-pack of Google WiFi is currently sold out everywhere. If you can’t wait, you can save almost as much money, and still get unbelievable coverage, with the Amplifi HD ($350) or the Netgear Orbi ($380).
In any case, if your house’s size or construction stymies any single router you’ve tried, treat yourself. Dead spots are the latest scourge of humanity that we’ve now wiped out.