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Bob Vila’s 5 ‘Must-Do’ Tasks for February


By Bob Vila

While February is the month with the fewest number of days, one of them is of course Valentine’s Day. So show some love to your house this month. Change your furnace filters, restore your tired kitchen cabinets and add some architectural detail to a bland room in need of character. Here are my top 5 “Must Do” Projects for February.

Breathe easier: Change your furnace filter

Now that the heating season is in full swing — even in parts of the country not accustomed to (or prepared for) near-freezing temperatures — be sure to clean or change your furnace filters regularly. Why?

Since most of the air in your house circulates through your HVAC system, furnace filters are a first line of defense against dust and airborne allergens. Basic furnace filters are designed to trap dust, dirt and airborne particulates before they can get into the system and potentially damage the fan or heating coil. More expensive filters perform the same role, plus they can enhance the air quality in your home by trapping bacteria, pollen and mildew and mold spores.

So how do you know when it’s time to change a furnace filter? Here are some general guidelines  although, as always, it is a good idea to check your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations.

Typically you should change a basic (fiberglass or paper) furnace filter every one to two months. And you should change or clean an electrostatic or HEPA filter every two to four months, if …

  • You have one or more furry pets
  • You notice excessive to moderate dust buildup in your house.
  • You live with a smoker
  • Your heating-system fan runs most of the time
  • You open your doors and windows frequently.
  • You notice dust or dirt buildup on your current filter.

You can learn more about the types of filters, here.

Give your kitchen cabinets a face-lift


Your kitchen gets a lot of use, so it doesn’t take long to begin seeing signs of wear and tear on wood cabinets. Before you decide to invest in replacements, consider a more budget-friendly solution: DIY restoration. If the wood stain on your cabinets has worn out, try cleaning with a mix of TSP and water. When dry, sand lightly and use a tack cloth to remove dust. Then apply a polyurethane varnish tinted to whatever tone you find appealing. This varnish-stain combo is likely to do the job in one application. If you are tired of the wood tone all together, give your cabinets a totally new look with a coat (or two) of paint.

Add some architectural charm

If you live in a newly constructed home but long for that “old house” charm, there’s plenty you can do to add character. Crown molding, baseboards, chair rails, wainscoting and recessed panels are all great ways to inject personality. If you have a stairwell, replacing the handrails and newel post with more elegant woodwork is another way. Check local salvage yards, classified ads and online sites, from eBay to Craigslist, to snag impressive vintage pieces on the cheap. Even swapping out builder-grade light switches and outlet plates with nickel- and brass-finished ones, or replacing a modern pendant with a historic reproduction fixture, will make a strong impact.

Save that amaryllis

50ShadesBVIf you were the lucky recipient of an amaryllis this year, don’t think of the plant as a one-bloom wonder. Once it has finished blooming, cut back the flowering stalk and place the pot in a sunny window. Fertilize and watch for the shoots of leaves to grow tall. When the danger of frost has passed, move the plant to a sunny spot outdoors. Water and fertilize through the summer, and when the plant enters dormancy come fall, store it in a dark spot for about eight weeks. Replant it in a bigger pot, place it in a sunny spot, water when dry and watch for a repeat performance timed just right for the holidays.

Forget ’50 Shades of Grey’ — Go green!

While our “50 Shades” may not be as sexy as the blockbuster novel, these green tips for the home promise gratifying results and earth-friendly fulfillment. Begin by planting a tree, recycling something, fixing a leak — many more ways to go green await in 50 Shades of Green.


Bob Vila is the home improvement expert widely known as host of TV’s This Old House, Bob Vila’s Home Again, and Bob Vila. Today, Bob continues his mission to help people upgrade their homes and improve their lives with advice online at His video-rich site offers a full range of fresh, authoritative content – practical tips, inspirational ideas, and more than 1,000 videos from Bob Vila television.


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