Remodeling Tips and Tricks

Here are some good tips and tricks we've either done or seen recently. If you know of one, e-mail it to us at

If we like it, we'll print it here.  

Instant Trivets Guaranteed to Match your Decor

So we redid your floor with ceramic tile, and you still have a box or two left over. You need to save this tile to replace any that may get broken or chipped in the future. Usually it ends up in a moldy corner of the basement behind the furnace. But you could make good use of it in the meantime by turning it into waterproof trivets to hold your house plants. After all, what matches your existing tile better than .... your existing tile.

A tip of the hard had A tip of the old hardhat to the late cabinet-maker and remodeler Danny Proulx for this terrific idea. We miss you, pal! Tile trivet Glue rubber or cork pads to each corner and one in the middle of a 12" tile to make trivets guaranteed to match your tile floor. There's nothing to it. Go to the home store and buy a card of self-adhesive cabinet door bumpers — you know, those little round rubber thingies that keep your cabinet doors from going "thonk" when they close. Glue one to each corner of the tile, and one in the middle. Instant trivet! Place your house plants on the trivets to display them without any fear that the floor or carpet under the house plant will be damaged by moisture.

There are other uses too. The trivets could be used as a hot pad on your table or as a cutting "board" — although vigorous cutting will dull your knives after a while. With the rubber bumpers attached, it will not slide on your countertop. Speaking of which, if you're one of those people who habitually puts hot pans on the countertop, put them on a tile trivet instead to save your laminate or solid surfacing countertop from damage. How about a decor-matched cheeseboard at your next bridge game?

If you ever need to replace a chipped or broken tile in your floor, just peel off the rubber bumpers and your trivet reverts to its original tile state — good as new.

Using Toe-Kick Space

Toe Kick Heat Register Heat register installed in the toe-kick. Cabinets typically sit about 4" off the floor in American kitchens. The area under the cabinets is the toe-kick space. The toe-kick is that indent under your cabinets where your feet go when you are standing at the cabinet. Without the toe-kick, you could not stand comfortably at the cabinet — so all base cabinets have them. In a modest kitchen with 25' of cabinets, there is about 45 square feet of toe-kick space that could be put to some good use. This is equivalent to having three extra drawer cabinets.

One traditional use for the toe-kick space has been as the location for heat ducts. Otherwise, since all of your walls are covered with cabinets, fixtures or appliances, there is no place for the heat ducts to go.

Pull-out trays built into the toe-kick Pull-out drawers in the toe kick area provide additional storage. In a smaller kitchen where storage is at a premium, this space could be used for pull-out storage trays. A drawer box is built and fastened to the floor, then the cabinets are installed on top of the box. The front of the box is recessed 4" behind the face of the cabinets — creating a toe kick recess. This idea works even better where the European standard 6-7" toe kick is used. The trays can then be deeper.

Special latches are often used called "touch-latches". When the trays are pushed lightly with your toe, they spring out far enough so you can pull them out the rest of the way. To close them, push them back with your foot until the latch is re-engaged. Naturally, since the front of the tray is being kicked around a lot, you would probably want to cover it in a mar-resistant material like a Formica® laminate.

A use for this space in the bathroom is as a parking garage for the bathroom scale that is cluttering the floor. Storage for towels and face cloths is also a possibility. Or how about a pull-out step to help those small fry reach the sink?

Photo: Better Homes and Gardens. Low-voltage lighting under the toe-kick creates a dramatic effect Low-voltage lighting under the toe-kick creates a dramatic effect. Low-voltage lighting installed under the toe-kick provides a dramatic lighting effect and doubles as a night-light. Because the perimeters of the kitchen or bath walkway are outlined in light, it is easy to find your way around at night. Often these are low-voltage rope lights (small halogen lamps installed in a flexible, transparent tube). Rope lights can be purchased in 9" and 18" lengths, and the ropes can be ganged together with special connectors to make tubes of any length controlled by the same low-voltage transformer.

Other uses for this space: A storage niche for a short step-ladder used to reach the upper cabinets; a hideaway for TupperWare® lids; cookie sheet and muffin tin storage; and a place to tuck bed-trays out of the way. How about a tray to hold the cat's bowl? Get it out of the middle of the floor — and you never know; a really smart cat might... Nah!