Installing a Programmable Thermostat

Forget the stock market. Few hour-long home-improvement projects will pay year-in, year-out cost-savings dividends like replacing your old thermostat with a new programmable - or "automatic setback" - model. Depending on the severity of the winters where you live, you could realize a savings of up to 35 percent on your yearly energy bills. Who wouldn't want to do that?

Quick tip: when shopping for your new thermostat, check the thermostat package to ensure it is compatible with your home's system.



Turn off the power to your heating and air-conditioning system at the main service panel. Remove the old thermostat cover plate.


Unscrew the thermostat mounting screws, and remove the thermostat body.


Label the low-voltage wires to identify their screw-terminal locations using masking tape. Then disconnect the wires.


Remove the thermostat base by loosening the mounting screws. Tape the wires to the wall to prevent them from slipping into the wall cavity.


Thread the low-voltage wires through the base of the new thermostat. Mount the thermostat base on the wall using the screws included with the thermostat.


Connect the low-voltage wires to the appropriate screw terminals on the thermostat base. Follow the installation diagram in your new thermostat's owner's manual.


Locate the low-voltage transformer that powers the thermostat. The transformer usually is located near the heating/air-conditioning system or inside a furnace access panel. Tighten any loose wire connections, and make sure the wires and sheathing are in good condition.


Install the battery or batteries in the thermostat body, and attach the body to the thermostat base. Restore power, and program the thermostat as desired.




Electrical Projects

Adding a Telephone Extension

Installing a Cable TV Jack

Installing Coaxial TV Cable

Replacing a Doorbell

Troubleshooting Your Thermostat


DIY Projects

Constructing a Built-In Shelving Unit

Want a more finished look for your new shelves? Then consider taking the time to plan and construct a built-in shelf system. Tucked between two windows or between a wall and a window or door, it will take on the look of custom furniture, because you can plan it to fit exactly into your available space.


Freeing a Sticking Door

Doors stick when the hinges sag, when the door frame shifts, or when humidity causes the door and door frame to swell. If the door seems to be sagging within the frame, make sure the hinge screws are tight. Screws that are loose may need to have their screw holes repaired.


Framing a Prehung Interior Door

If you're building a new partition wall that includes an interior door, you'll need to frame the door opening properly. A properly constructed door opening reinforces the wall above and on either side of the door. You can save yourself some potential headaches by purchasing the prehung door unit you plan to install before beginning the framing. That way, you can be sure the opening you build is about 3/4 inch wider than the prehung door unit. This allows enough room to make the necessary adjustments. In moist basements, it's a good idea to use pressure-treated wood for the sole plate.


Fixing Leaky Sink Strainers

The sink strainer assembly connects the sink to the drain line. There's a bead of putty that goes under the lip of the strainer, and it's a very common place for leaks to occur. Your goal is to take the assembly apart, put in fresh putty, and tighten everything back up. Remember: there are quite a few nuts, washers, and gaskets to this assembly. Keep them in their correct order when you reassemble everything. Old washers and gaskets should be replaced – take the old ones with you when you shop for replacements.


Finishing Inside Corners

Inside corners are a natural place for hairline cracks to appear. This can be prevented by first applying a thin layer of wallboard compound, followed immediately by strips of paper or fiberglass wallboard tape pressed into the damp compound. You will want to use fiberglass tape if you use a quick-setting compound and paper wallboard tape if you use a regular premixed wallboard compound.


Finishing Outside Corners

Outside corners often take quite a beating, so it is a good idea to reinforce them with a metal corner bead. This is nailed to the outside corner, then joint compound is applied. Keep in mind that you should allow a day for drying for each coat of joint compound on corner joints. Pick a time to tackle this project when you won't mind having a wall "under construction" for a few days.



Grouting is the process of filling the spaces between the tiles. The filler – grout – comes in powder form in premixed colors. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to mix it. For a strong and colorfast grout, get the right consistency using the least amount of water possible. Mix thoroughly to minimize color variation. Only make as much as you can use before it begins to set. Keep any leftover dry grout for future repairs.


Getting Ready to Paint

As with all painting projects, the key to success is preparation. Your first step is to clean everything thoroughly with a solution of trisodium phosphate (TSP) or a good phosphate-free substitute. This removes dirt and grime that would keep new paint from adhering.


Hanging Borders

Like any wallpapering project, you're most likely to be successful if the surfaces are clean and smooth. If you're installing a wallpaper border over an existing paper, you'll get the best results using a vinyl-to-vinyl adhesive.


Installing Cabinet Drawer Fronts

Drawer fronts come in two types – solid and applied. Solid drawer fronts are an integral part of the drawer. Applied fronts are screwed to the front of a pre-made drawer box. To replace solid fronts, you'll saw off overlapping edges and screw the new front to the face of the old. For applied fronts, unscrew the old fronts to remove them, then attach the new ones.


Installing Cabinet Doors

Installing new cabinet doors isn't difficult, but plan plenty of time so that the doors hang straight, are evenly spaced, and operate smoothly. Attach the hardware to the door first, then hang the door on the cabinet face frame. You can work on the doors in your kitchen, but protect them from scratches by using a soft cloth or clamping them in an upright position. When drilling pilot holes for the hinge screws, take care not to drill all the way through the door!


Installing a Security Lock

Deadbolt locks provide extra security for entry doors. There are two types -- single-cylinder and double-cylinder. Single-cylinder types feature a finger latch that can be opened from the inside. Double-cylinder deadbolts must be opened with a key from either side of the door.


Installing an Entry Door

Nothing spruces up the outside of your home quite like a new entry door. An insulated steel entry door is a good choice because it combines toughness with energy efficiency. Entry doors come in a variety of styles and colors and feature a baked-on enamel finish that is especially durable. As with most doors, you can get a steel entrance door that is pre-hung with hinges, jambs, and brick molding included to simplify installation.


Installing Split-Jamb Interior Doors

Split-jamb, pre-hung interior doors feature jambs that are literally split in half lengthwise. The trim casing is already attached to each edge of the jamb. That means you don't have to fumble around trying to make perfectly matched mitered corners – it's already done for you.


Installing a Cable TV Jack

You've probably seen cable-TV installations where the bare coaxial cable simply enters a room via a crude hole drilled through the floor or a baseboard (maybe you've seen them in your own house!). They're functional but not too decorative. For a more finished and permanent installation, do the job right and install a bona-fide wall jack.


Installing Coaxial TV Cable

It sure would be nice to have cable TV in that spare bedroom you've converted into an office. But before you pay the cable guy for coming to your house and
extending your cable run, see how you can spend an hour doing it yourself. With the money you'll save, it'll be like getting a month or two of free cable!


Installing a Programmable Thermostat

Forget the stock market. Few hour-long home-improvement projects will pay year-in, year-out cost-savings dividends like replacing your old thermostat with a new programmable - or "automatic setback" - model. Depending on the severity of the winters where you live, you could realize a savings of up to 35 percent on your yearly energy bills. Who wouldn't want to do that?


Installing a Ceiling Fan

A ceiling fan will do more than just give your air conditioner a break in the heat of summer - it'll also take a load off your furnace in winter by recirculating heated air that rises to the ceiling.


Installing a Dimmer Switch

A dimmer switch is one of life's little conveniences that, once installed, you wonder how you ever got along without! Any standard single-pole wall switch is a good candidate for replacement with a dimmer switch – as long as there's ample room in its electrical box and the light it's controlling is of the incandescent persuasion.


Installing a Three-Way Switch

Three-way switches can be a little confusing because, unlike a standard switch, they have three screw terminals and do not have ON-OFF markings. Three-way switches are always installed in pairs and are used to control a set of lights from two separate locations.


Installing Specialty Switches

If you thought dimmers were about as fancy as switches could get, think again. There's a whole world of specialty switches out there just waiting to make your life more convenient, and they're every bit as easy to install as an ordinary dimmer.


Installing Cement Backerboard

You may be tempted to rush ahead and get to the fun part - laying the tiles. But resist the urge. Unless you prepare the surface under the tiles properly, you'll end up having to retile a lot sooner than you want.


Installing Landscape Timber Edging

Landscape timbers are an excellent edging for a raised garden bed. While a single course of 4-by or 6-by timbers simply can be set into the ground, there isn't a lot more involved in assembling two courses and securing them to each other. Three courses of timbers stretches the term "edging" and starts to qualify as a retaining wall, which is subject to different procedures and code requirements.


Installing Plastic Edging

Because it's so flexible, plastic edging is the edging of choice for curving beds and borders. It's the most economical of the commercial edgings and the easiest to work with, too. But if you're looking for sharp, crisp corners, look elsewhere. Plastic edging can't handle it. And be sure to anchor the edging securely with stakes to keep it from popping out of the ground.


Installing Metal Edging

Metal edging is best suited to borders that are straight and level. For beds that curve or slope, this edging isn't very accommodating. Not only is the edging difficult to curve gracefully, it is easily ruined by accidental creases and dents. But for beds with crisp, straight edges, metal edging is excellent. Be sure to get good quality edging for best results.


Installing Wood Edging

Wood edging is a natural and practical choice for the borders of most garden beds. You can create a border that isn't obtrusive with 1-by or 2-by dimensional lumber. For a bolder, more rustic look, go with landscape timbers.


Do It Yourself Projects






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