Tampa Bay Homes Guide

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9 Cool Problem-Solving Home Improvement Products


Fall 2021 What’s New, factory-built bay window
Courtesy Marvin

Check out these cool home upgrades and problem-solving product picks.

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

1. Instant box bay

Fall 2021 What’s New, factory-built bay window
Courtesy MarvinSkycove
This factory-built glass alcove brings the outdoors in as it captures light and views from four sides. At 25 inches deep, the units come in two sizes: 76 inches wide by 67 inches tall or 99 by 83 inches. The steel frame bolts to a properly reinforced and flashed wall opening; no additional support needed. Installation typically takes just half a day. Price upon request; Marvin for retailers

2. Chalk reel

Fall 2021 What’s New, chalk reel
Courtesy Crescent100’ Professional Aluminum Chalk Reel

Upgrades include a 6:1 gear ratio for faster rewinding, a hub lock, a fully retracting hook, and a one-way valve for dust-free refills. $17; Crescent

TOH Pro Tip

“A chalk line’s color indicates its durability. Blue lines last about a week; black lines can remain visible for up to two months outdoors.” —Tom Silva, general contractor

Fall 2021 What’s New, laser level
Courtesy KaproThe Bambino laser level’s flexible legs can wrap around an upright support.

3. Cross laser

842 Prolaser Bambino
Intersecting, self-leveling beams simplify cabinet installation and more. They have an indoor range of up to 50 feet, a fan angle of 100 degrees, and an accuracy of 0.0048 inch per foot. Powered by two AA batteries, the head weighs only 0.4 pound. Available with either red beams or high-visibility green beams. From $55; Kapro

4. Silent backup generator

Fall 2021 What’s New, portable backup generator
Courtesy Goal ZeroYeti 6000x Portable Power Station
This big lithium-ion battery pack supplies enough juice to keep a full-size refrigerator running for nearly five days. And because it produces no fumes (and makes no noise), you can operate it safely indoors. Recharges with an optional solar panel (starting at $500) or a wall outlet when power returns. Weighs 106 pounds, dolly included. $5,000; Goal Zero

5. Nice slicer for thin stock

Fall 2021 What’s New, circular saw
Courtesy WorxThis saw’s carbide teeth withstand the blade-dulling adhesives in plywood.Nitro 20V 4.5” Compact Circular Saw
At only 4.65 pounds, this lightweight is just the thing for cutting plywood and stock up to 1½ inches thick. A 20-volt battery (included) powers the brushless, 6,900-rpm motor, so there’s no cord to deal with. $160; Worx

6. Glue it fast

Fall 2021 What’s New, polyurethane glue
Courtesy DAPRapidFuse Fast Curing Gel
This hybrid glue works quickly—it sets in 30 seconds and cures in 30 minutes—but doesn’t become brittle. It’s 40 percent stronger than polyurethane glues, and doesn’t need moisture to cure; pressure causes it to set. It has an 18-month shelf life, even after being opened. $5 for 0.13 ounce; DAP

7. One ladder, multiple stances

Fall 2021 What’s New, step ladder
Courtesy WernerLeansafe X3 3-in-1 Ladder
This multitasker converts from a 6-foot step ladder to a 6-foot leaning ladder or a 13-foot leaning ladder. It has a 300-pound duty rating in each position. A handy magnetic tool tray keeps items from going airborne. $139; Werner

TOH Pro Tip

“A ladder is leaning at a safe angle if you can stand with your toes against the legs and reach out, arms level, and rest your palms on one rung.” —Kevin O’Connor, host

Fall 2021 What’s New, hatchet
Courtesy Fiskars

8. Kindling-maker

Norden N7 Hatchet
Cut dry firewood down to burnable size, without concerns about a hatchet’s head flying off. This one is made with rust-resistant high-carbon steel and is bonded to a durable hickory handle that won’t come loose. The handle has an easy-to-grip deer-foot shape and overstrike protection in case the hatchet misses its mark. $90; Fiskars

9. Drive faster with less effort

Deck Elite Screws
Thanks to their new thread design, these deck screws go in 40 percent faster than the competition, with 20 percent less torque, and without the need for pilot holes. The head’s star-drive recess fits snugly into the bit, virtually eliminating the chance of stripping. About $38 for 400 2½” screws; GRK Fasteners

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