File Cabinet Makeover (via, friends! As many of you know, I am in the midst of giving my home office a little refresh. I’m the kind of gal who likes to change up my surroundings fairly often, but I don’t really want to redecorate my WHOLE house every year, of course, so I usually focus on one space that I can switch around to keep things feeling fresh—and currently that space is my home office. I’ve already rearranged the furniture in this area, and I’ve been moving the overall color scheme of this space from pinks and oranges to mostly black and white. But one major feature in the room is my file cabinets, which are bright orange. As a small business owner (and over-saver of documents), I have a LOT in my file cabinets and I like to have access to my files as needed. I love the size and shape of my file cabinets, but the color no longer worked with my space, so I was looking to give them a little makeover.

This project is in collaboration with Ace Hardware. I used Amy Howard Furniture Lacquer to paint my metal filing cabinets, which is a line available at Ace Hardware. And not only do they have a lot of different colors (in fun names!), but the Amy Howard line also has gold leaf—which I was SUPER excited to try out as well! We recently got a new Ace Hardware location in Ozark, Missouri (I live between the towns of Springfield and Ozark), and I visited it a couple times while I was working on this post. I was pleasantly surprised not only that they had a huge display of a ton of the Amy Howard line (that I needed) but the Ace associate that helped me out was super nice too, and if you’ve ever been the DIY gal at the hardware store describing your weird vision for a project and needing advice, helpful people are seriously such a relief. 🙂

Before and afterHere’s a little before and after of my filing cabinets. Before I began my project, I sketched out a few different designs. I thought about doing one all black and one all white. Maybe doing a half and half look on both, or adding small designs. In the end, I decided to do a kind of triangle and brush stroke design that sort of reminds me of a 1980s video game (just a little bit, not too 80s). So I’m going to share with you how I completed my project. But you could totally change up the design and repaint furniture you have that needs a little refresh in all sorts of ways. You do you.

-drop cloth or cardboard to protect areas around the project
–Frog tape
-Amy Howard at Home furniture lacquer and sealer (I’ll share the color names below.)
-Amy Howard gold leaf sheets
-Amy Howard at Home Gilding Size (gold leaf adhesive)
–soft bristle brush or cheesecloth

Prep cabinets for paintingFirst, prepare your furniture to paint. For me this meant covering and taping off areas that I did not want painted. I cleaned the surface of the metal so it was completely free of dust and greasy finger prints (no idea how those got there… um…), and I had two cabinets to paint, so I decided to remove the handles on one and not the other to see which was easier for painting. I found that removing handles or other hardware that you can is best. The furniture lacquer is super easy to use, but like most spray paints, it can get too thick and drip (which will mean you’ll need to sand off once dry), and I found that on the cabinet that I left the handles on, that was much more likely. So I’d recommend taking handles or other features like that off if possible.

Also, you’ll want to work in a well-ventilated space anytime you use spray paints and especially furniture lacquer like I used. This kind of paint is great for furniture, but it’s not something you want to be breathing in a lot of, so work in your garage, outdoors, or whatever well-ventilated space you can.

Amy Howard Furniture LacquerI added two layers of White Perfection (love the name!) to my cabinets and allowed that to dry.

Mask off designThen added my triangle designs to the cabinets with painter’s tape. This is going to create kind of a relief, so any area you tape will be that color by the end of the project (not the reverse).

Paint blackThen I sprayed one layer of Basic Black on the cabinets. I allowed that to dry, and then I added my handles back on before spraying the final coat of black so I could be sure to get those as well.

Once dry, it’s time for the fun part—gold gilding!

Gold leaf bookCut gold leafThe gold gilding comes in a “book” which is made up of gold leaf in between layers of tissue paper, all bound together. This makes it easier to work with as the gold leaf has a tendency to want to stick to your fingers, but not the tissue paper.

Using a brush, add brush stroke designs with the gilding size (gold leaf adhesive). Once partially dry and tacky to the touch, cut the gold leaf book so that the pieces are slightly larger than the brush areas and fold back the tissue to add the gold leaf to each tacky area. You can manipulate the gold leaf to take on any shape you’d like!

Gold leaf progressHere’s what it looked like after I added the gold leaf straight from the book. It kind of looks like the cabinets have gold bandaids all over them. 🙂

Remove excess gold leaf with soft brush or cottonAllow this to completely dry, and then use a soft bristle brush or a soft cotton cloth (I used the Amy Howard 2 in. above and cheesecloth) to gently remove the excess gold leaf.

I sealed my cabinets with one layer of Amy Howard’s Bright Idea clear lacquer after I had completely cleaned the excess gold leaf away. Once dry, my project was ready to go!

How many files a small business owner will haveAnd here’s my giant pile of file folders, ready to go back in my new pretty cabinet. These sat out in my house over the weekend while I completed this project, and it made me all the more grateful that I have pretty file cabinets to hold all these.

Also, I should probably go through everything and clean out any older documents I don’t need anymore. Spring-cleaning goal. 🙂

Best paint for furnitureI love the new look of my filing cabinets—hooray! Thanks for letting me share. xo. 



Make a terrarium desk organizerIt’s back to school time! And while I’m not in school any more, that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy splurging on a few new cute notebooks and desk supplies. When I saw this clear acrylic desk organizer, I just knew I had to have it. Not because I needed another way to organize my ever growing craft supply stash (which I am actually always in need of), but because I knew it could easily be transformed into a cute terrarium for my desk! And look how cute that pop of color and greenery looks in the center of this cute acrylic caddy!

This project is one of those super simple DIYs that really only requires a bit of planting and creative thinking. While I found this acrylic desk organizer at Home Goods, you can easily find something similar on Amazon or in any major retailer.

Make a terrarium desk organizerSupplies:
– acrylic desk organizer
– mini succulent clippings
– succulent/cactus mix potting soil
– colorful aquarium rocks and white stones (optional but adds a fun pop of color)

Step One: Cover all the desk organizer openings (except for the one you are turning into the terrarium) with clear plastic wrap or foil to prevent the dirt from getting in them, then use a spoon to scoop the dirt into the open section.

Make a terrarium desk organizer

Make a terrarium desk organizerStep Two: Use a pen to create little openings in the dirt and add in your succulents. If your office gets no natural sunlight, you can always use faux succulents instead. They have some very realistic looking ones at the craft store.

Step Three: Add in your colored rocks to cover the dirt and surround the succulents and then add in a few gemstones or white rocks as decorative accents.

Make a terrarium desk organizer

Make a terrarium desk organizer

That’s really all there is to it! Be sure to keep the succulents moist but don’t overwater them and they will give your desk the perfect plant lady feel. And that little touch of live greenery will hopefully make those long work days not so bad!

Make a terrarium desk organizer

I know my office now feels so much fresher and full of life with a few plants in it! xoxo.


I am SO excited to share a few new Oui Fresh products with you today!!! We’ve been working on these for quite some time and I’m thrilled not only to have them to use, but to offer to you all. As you know, we are huge fans of dreaming big and setting goals. I have a feeling many of you are this way too. 🙂 We’ve created two new products designed to help you stay organized and on top of those goals.

*Also we’ve got a pretty rad giveaway, so make sure you scroll to the bottom of this post to check that out.

First, we created a weekly meal planner that is based off of our cookbook, Weekday Weekend. There are areas to plan out all your weekly meals, and some space for weekend plans as well. Then the other side has a shopping list area so you can make your grocery list right along with your meal plans. You can cut the shopping list off and take it with you to the store, while keeping that week’s plan on hand (maybe hang it on the refrigerator?) to keep you on track.

This is a super useful weekly meal planner even if you aren’t currently doing the Weekday Weekend challenge, as it can help you plan better so you reduce food waste or end up in that spot where you order take-out again because you don’t have any groceries. I know, I’ve been there! This notepad comes with 52 sheets, one for each day of the year.

Our productivity notepads are all about helping you get stuff done! These two notepads are sold together. There is a daily to-do list notepad with plenty of space to add all your goals and check boxes for when you complete them. You can also use the left column to plan out your day better or keep track of an important call you may have that day. The second notepad is to help you see your week quickly. You can use this to write down big deadlines or meetings you might have that week. I LOVE both these tools because they help you focus on what you need to be doing NOW but also how it relates to the goals you have that week.

Each productivity notepad is super thick with 75 sheets per notepad.

Today we are celebrating the launch of our new notepads by hosting a really awesome giveaway over on the Oui Fresh Instagram account. So go check that out to enter for your chance to win the above items (!!!!!!).


After taking a macrame class at a local interior design shop here in Springfield, I got a little ambitious and decided to put the few things I learned to work on a big scale! Remember that time I learned how to weave and then went crazy and made a 4′ x 6′ rug? Apparently I like a challenge! This project just goes to show that you can make some epic home decor projects with the right instructions and plenty of creative optimism!

This macrame room divider DIY lends itself easily to creating a relaxed bohemian vibe while also working hard to define a space. Not only does it let plenty of light through, it’s another surface to add some plants! Perfect for the studio apartment, shared office space, or gigantic room in need of definition. All it takes is the right kind of rope, a few simple knots, and the kind of patience these big projects sometimes require. Spoiler alert: It’s always worth it.

-1″ x 36″ wooden dowel
–700 ft of 1/4″ 3 strand cotton rope
-three 3″ hook screws
–air plants (optional)

Preparing Your Rope

For this specific project, you’ll want to measure out 24 strands that measure 28′ long each. This will give you a wall hanging that measures roughly 7′ from the top dowel to the bottom dowel and you can add length to it with fringe on the bottom. If you’re wanting to design a shorter piece, it’s always better to still use more rope than you think you’ll need.

Lark’s Head Knot

Shown are two finished lark’s head knots and then the start of a third. You’ll need two strands of rope per knot for a total of 12 knots. Fold two strands in half and place the center of this pair of rope strands over the top of your first wooden dowel. Then wrap them around your dowel and pull the loose ends down through your loop. You’ve probably done this knot before and not even known it. No pun intended.

Continue adding your pairs of rope strands to the dowel until you are finished. Be mindful that you are wrapping over the top of the dowel consistently. If you forget and wrap one under the dowel instead, it will change the look of your pattern. Make sure all of your finished lark’s head knots are spaced equally apart from each other.

Half Knot

We’ll use a half knot further down in the design to add subtle contrast, but it also makes up the first step of the square knot, so I’m showing it first. A half knot requires four strands of rope. The two center ropes stay where they are and the two outer ropes pull away just a bit. Then create a bend in the outer left rope and move it towards and then under the outer right rope as shown.

Then bend the outer right rope under the place where the outer left rope crossed it, behind the two center ropes, and back up through the bend from the outer left rope as shown.

We’ll use this knot on its own in a bit, but this is also the first half of the knot you’ll use for the first section of the divider.

Square Knot

This is comprised of two half knots. Repeat the same pattern you did in the step above, but then pull the outer two rope strands until that second half knot rests snugly against the first half knot. Now you’ve made a square knot! Repeat this process on each of your pairs of rope strands for your first row of knots.

Alternating Square Knot

You can see how the square knots took shape in this photo. You should have 12 square knots in your first row. To create your second row of square knots, you’ll be using two strands from one square knot and two strands from the square knot next to it to create a new square knot that joins them together. You can start from the center of your piece and work your way out on either side (how I prefer to do it) or you can start from one side and move your way across. As you can see, when you get to the edges of your second row, you’ll have an extra pair of rope strands on each side. That’s next.

When you’re adding in your knots, be mindful of the space between each row. You don’t want to start tying things closer and closer together or you’ll end up with a lopsided wall hanging. Sometimes it’s helpful to step back about six feet to check on your composition before continuing on. Trust me, you won’t want to later realize it’s crooked enough to be annoying.

Knots on the Edge

For this design, I’m allowing about 2.5″ of space between all of my knots because I want the room divider to feel light and airy. When I add in my third row of knots, I’ll be back to my original pattern of using all of the strands. The space that your outer rope creates on the absolute left side of your divider and then the right side of your divider should be a little bit longer than twice as long as that. You want it to have enough slack to create a scallop shape. My scallops held their shape in some parts of my divider but got heavy in other parts. I’m assuming it’s tricky to get that just right, but do your best.

For my pattern, I did four alternating rows of square knots and then switched it up and did six alternating rows of half knots. Then I finished up the rest of the divider with 13 alternating rows of square knots again. This kept things feeling consistent enough to make a statement but also added a bit of a subtle design change to keep it from looking like I’d hung a hammock from the ceiling!

To add the bottom dowel to your room divider, you’re going to create more lark’s head knots. You can’t create them the same way you started, so we’re doing it backwards. I’ve started with a few already attached to show you how it’ll look when it’s done.

A: Separate the four strands underneath one of your square knots and set two aside. B: Wrap the other two strands all the way around the dowel until you wrap inside and over the top of the same two strands. C: Wrap them on the other side of the strands and back behind the dowel. D:Continue around the front of the dowel and tuck under the loop you just made. It will leave a fringe down the back side of the dowel. This is just one of the two lark’s knots you’ll make per square knot.

E: Bring the other two strands from that square knot back over and wrap them around the dowel and to the left side. F: Wrap them over the top of themselves. G: Wrap them behind the dowel and all the way back around and under the loop you just created. H: Scoot that knot in close to the first one you made and make sure things are consistently taut. Repeat with each of the other strands in each square knot.

Trim your fringe to the length you need. We have 10-foot ceilings, so even though this room divider is massive, I had to hang it from the screws in my ceiling with another 18″ of rope.

If you don’t need something practical to help divide a room, this would be equally as stunning against a painted wall for plenty of contrast or even used as a simple party backdrop with a floral swag. Either way, this is a great project for anyone wanting to go big with a simple design and introduce a little hygge just in time for fall.

Wanting to learn macrame for the first time? My friend, Elsie Goodwin, over at Reform Fibers teaches simple techniques through her Instagram feed and sells her unique patterns in her shop. 


Thought I’d share this super easy bulletin board project I made for my office recently. My (home) office is one place I just can’t seem to leave alone. Do you have a space in your house like that? For some reason I’m just never quite happy with the layout or the colors, and then I’ll also cycle through wanting lots of wall art and decor. Then one day I decide it’s too much and I become a minimalist for a couple months until the process starts over again. I think part of it is this is the space in my life that is 100% mine—kind of like your bedroom growing up (or your side of the bedroom during those years I shared a room). Of course, Trey has great taste (he married me after all), so I love decorating our house together. It’s not that I don’t feel free in other spaces, it’s more that I don’t feel as free to change all the time in other spaces.

Or maybe I just haven’t found the perfect setup yet. I don’t know. But at the moment, I’m redoing a few things in my home office again. 🙂

I am an avid list maker. I’m sitting at my desk typing this and I literally have SIX to-do lists around me right now. Some are daily, weekly, or monthly; although one has an action item I need to do throughout the year and the dates are the to-dos on that one. Anyway, you probably get the picture, I am a crazy lady when it comes to lists. I’d like to think it’s because I am that cool go-getter we all want to be, but if I’m being honest part of it is that I will totally forget to do things unless I write them down. So I’m a forgetful go-getter. And I’m OK with that.

The last thing you want to do with a to-do list is lose it! So for me, space to hang lists and reminders is really important in my work space. That’s why I decided I needed a larger bulletin board recently and I just wasn’t loving all the standard sizes, so I decided to make something custom for my office. Here’s how I made my own bulletin board in the exact size and shape I wanted.

-foam board
-tape (something strong like duct tape)
–cork roll
-Elmer’s glue
-X-Acto knife
-Command strips

Step One: Cut the foam board so it’s the exact shape and size you want for your bulletin board, and tape together.

Step Two: Make sure the foam board fits in your space how you like. If needed, adjust at this point (use the X-Acto to cut more or add more foam board as needed).

Step Three: Cover one side of the foam board with the cork roll, use glue to adhere it. If you are creating a large bulletin board like me, you’ll likely have some seams and I recommend overlapping the cork slightly so that no white foam board shows through. Allow to completely dry.

Step Four: Use Command Strips to hang your new bulletin board in place. Command strips should be all you need unless you plan to hang a LOT of weight from your bulletin board, but I only use mine to hang papers and pictures. Pretty easy and you can totally customize this to fit any space, plus this project is super inexpensive and a great way to fill some wall space if you like the look (and usefulness) of a bulletin board. 🙂 Happy list making! xo. 


Learn How To Make Your Own Kitchen Garden

10 Kitchen Gardens You Can Rustle Up All By Yourself.

When it comes to using vegetables and herbs in cooking, the fresher they are the tastier and healthier the food. Which is why having your own kitchen garden is a good and convenient option.

There is no denying the fact that the best tasting veggies always come from your own garden. Right from tomatoes and lemons to chillies and herbs, there’s something tasty, healthy, and also therapeutic, about having a kitchen garden. However, if you have the will but don’t quite know the way, namely, how to make kitchen garden, don’t worry. In this article, we are sharing with you, 10 of the best kitchen garden ideas around:

1. The Container Garden

If you’re doing this for the first time, this garden is your best bet. It’s also ideal if space is a constraint. With container gardens, the only real restriction is that the roots of the plants don’t have much space to grow; pick a container that’s deep and wide.

2. In-ground Garden

As the name suggests, this garden can be grown in the ground near home. Not only is it effective, it’s economical too. All you’ll really need to get started are a hand tiller, some seeds, and compost. Get these and get to work on growing your kitchen garden plants.

3. Raised-Bed Garden

If you have a larger space for your garden and are willing to experiment with it a bit, this one’s perfect for you. If your soil isn’t very fertile this is a great alternative to planting directly in-ground.

4.  Window Box Garden

This is, by far, one the most effective yet economically viable ways to have your own kitchen garden. All you really need is a wooden box, some soil and seeds. This garden is best suited to growing herbs.

5. Recycled Bottle Garden

This is a garden that’s good for the environment too. Use recycled wine bottles to grow your plants using a hydroponic system. This way, you don’t ever have to worry about using soil and getting dirty.


6. Tea Tin Herb Garden

Have extra tins or jars at home? Great! You can use them as pots to grow your veggies. Make sure you add drainage holes, and if you can’t, at least put rocks in the bottom.

7. Vertical Garden

Vertical gardens are a great way to utilize space on your wall. Plant the herbs or veggies that are thirstier than the others closer to the bottom; this way water from the others will trickle down to them.

8. Window Sill Planter

Not only are these great design elements to add to your windows, but these planters are made such that they hang outside your windows. This way your plants get plenty of sunlight. What’s more, you can just open your window and reach for the veggies you want.

9. Mini-Kitchen Herb Garden

Buy freshly cut herbs from the grocery store and then store them in glass bottles of water. It’s that simple.

10. Wooden Basket

Another pretty yet effective kitchen garden is the wooden basket. If you’re going to plant a variety of herbs or veggies in this garden, ensure that all of them need similar amounts of sun and water.

Fresh is beautiful! 

10 Unexpected Household Uses for Lemons

10 Unexpected Household Uses for Lemons

Use this miracle fruit for cleaning and so much more with our tips and tricks.

Lemons are not only good for keeping fruit from browning and for flavoring your water or tea. They are also incredibly useful for cleaning your home and making everyday chores much easier. Use our ten ideas to help you keep your home lemony fresh in ways you may not have thought of!

1. Clean Your Garbage Disposal
The often-used garbage disposal can get a little stinky over time, and every now and then needs a good scrub down! You can easily accomplish this task freezing slices of lemon or lemon rinds in an ice cube tray and dropping in a few before turning on the disposal.

2. Spruce up Your Flatware
Lemon juice is great for getting rid of those pesky watermarks or rust on your flatware. Rub lemon juice on your flatware with a paper towel and you’ll be amazed at how shiny and new they’ll look.

3. Clean Copper, Brass and Silver
Create an exfoliating scrub for your brass, copper and silver by cutting a lemon in half and dipping it in salt. Rub the lemon on your metals to get them sparkling once again

(plus they will smell delicious). Rinse with warm water and polish dry.

4. Avoid a Smelly Vacuum
By placing a few drops of lemon oil in your vacuum cleaner bag, your home will smell fresh by the time you’re done cleaning the floors and rugs.

5. Remove Icky Odors from Rolling Pins or Cutting Boards
Over time, your rolling pins and cutting boards can develop a smell after coming in regular contact with foods like garlic and onions. You can easily remove these lingering odors by rubbing them with fresh lemon and then washing.

6. Freshen up Your Hands
After cooking with certain foods, the odor can linger on your hands. Remove the smell by squeezing the juice of half a lemon onto your hand. Then wash your hands with soap and rub your hands together, making sure to wash in between your fingers and under your nails.

7. Revive Hardened Paintbrushes
Place hardened paintbrushes in boiling lemon juice and lower the heat. Let the brushes soak for fifteen minutes and then wash with warm, soapy water. Your brushes will be soft and as good as new!

8. Keep Pests Away While Painting Outdoors
Adding a few drops of lemon juice into your paint while you’re painting outdoors will keep flies and gnats from flocking to it.

9. Get Rid of Outdoor Pests with Lemon Rinds
Place lemon rinds in your garden or yard to discourage squirrels and other pesky critters from digging and destroying your garden.

Tip: Freeze lemon rinds in the winter and save them for next year’s planting season!

Tip: Find more of our tips for preventing outdoor pests here.

10. Freshen the Fridge
After a thorough refrigerator cleanout, you can remove leftover odors by dabbing a cotton ball with lemon juice and leaving it in the fridge for several hours.

Do you have any clever uses for lemons? Share them in the comments section below!

7 Mosquito Repellent Plants for Your Homes

Best Plants to Repel Mosquitos

Discover nature’s answer for avoiding mosquitos this summer.

We can all relate to pesky mosquitos invading even our most memorable summer nights. Swatting at legs and arms, these flying fiends can make it challenging to enjoy the great outdoors. But what if your own garden plants could help protect you from our buggy friends?

After turning to torches, candles and oils to keep mosquitos at bay, now you can reimagine your garden to include plants with natural mosquito-repelling qualities.

Grow an Herb Garden

Growing an herb garden is a fun summer treat, but did you know that several of the fresh herbs you grow on your deck or patio naturally repel mosquitos?

  • Basil: This essential ingredient to delicious Italian recipes isn’t just a great way to garnish your favorite pasta dish. It also proactively repels mosquitos!
  • Mint: Some of us like fresh mint in our tea or to garnish our deserts. Lucky for us, mosquitos find this herb less than refreshing.
  • Lemon thyme : Just rub a few stems between your hands and the lemony scent given off by this plant is troublesome for mosquitos. Planting lemon thyme for this reason alone is surely worth the effort.
  • Rosemary : A quintessential herb and staple in many kitchens, this herb helps provide a safe haven from mosquitos on the attack. The scent alone will have them flying in the other direction.

Tip: Given their needs for various sunlight and water amounts, grow each herb in a separate planter if possible. Then you can scatter them around your yard or patio as you see fit. It will help keep insects at an arm’s length.

To find out more about growing your own herbs this summer, click here.


Herbs alone don’t have to be your only answer to this summer nuisance. These plants are a great way to add a little color to your mosquito-elimination strategy.

  • Marigolds : While visually appealing, marigolds aren’t typically known for their fragrance. Mosquitos dislike this pungent plant as well and will steer clear. When planning your next vegetable garden, be sure to include some marigolds to prevent numerous other pests from destroying your source of fresh veggies for the summer. If you’ve already designed your garden, add in some marigolds to accent your current floral color scheme and deter bugs.
  • Ageratum : This little blue flower secretes a chemical used in many mosquito repellants. And since they’re relatively small, these plants are easy to add to a preexisting flowerbed.
  • Chrysanthemums : Varieties of this timeless plant are countless, and all of them are excellent at keeping mosquitos from feasting on those nearby. They also repel a number of other insects that may be harmful to your garden.

How do you protect your summer fun from mosquitos? Share in the comments below.

5 Effective & Simple Ways To Save Electricity


How to save energy everyday at home? Check these five ideas to change to greener habits.

Turn off the lights. This is the simplest, most common way to save electricity, and it really works. When you leave a room always switch off the lights.
Switch off and unplug unused electronic equipment.

In the kitchen


– Switch off the boiler before going out for long periods of time.
– Don’t fill the kettle if you do not need that much hot water.
– Use gas for cooking.

Is Rotten Wood Hiding in Your Home?

rotten wood

Given enough time and the right conditions, rot can completely destroy wooden building materials.

Occasionally, our houses scream for attention when they need repairs. For instance, it is pretty obvious that you need to spring into action if a water leak begins to gush through your ceiling or if a baseball crashes through your living room window.

However, unlike major water leaks or broken windows, rotting wood can easily escape notice, unless you specifically look for it. And unfortunately, like kudzu or a spot of rust on a car, wood rot can spread far and wide, making it especially dangerous to your home’s wooden building materials.

Because of its tendency to spread, you should repair rotten wood ASAP when you discover it, and make sure you fix it completely. Otherwise, you will only face more serious and extensive repairs down the road. Ultimately, serious enough wood rot can even compromise your home’s structural integrity (look around your home – you see a lot of wood, right?). So, what should homeowners know about rotten wood?

Causes of Rotten Wood

Understanding wood rot is the first step towards fighting it, so take a minute to think about what causes wood to rot. It is actually fairly simple – lingering moisture in wood creates an environment conducive to fungi growth, which in turn causes the wood’s fibers to deteriorate. So, when water contacts an unprotected wood surface for a long enough period of time, the wood begins to rot.

wooden deck

Lingering moisture on unprotected wood allows fungi to grow, eventually causing rot.

Regardless of whether this process begins by rain collecting gently on your window sill or a major leak pouring through your ceiling, wood rot can be astonishingly destructive. Think about the places in your home where moisture could collect – on window sills, near outside doors, or under sinks, for example. These areas are susceptible to wood rot, so keep your eye on them.

Finding Rotten Wood

So, how do you actually go about finding wood rot? You’ll need both your senses of sight and touch for this task, as well as a screwdriver, flashlight, and binoculars. Keep in mind that, although sometimes the rot you are looking for may be easily visible, in plain sight, quite often it will be hidden, for instance behind cracked paint or underneath siding.

One key (and hopefully obvious) principle to bear in mind during your search: wood should not be soft when you press on it.

screwdriver to find rotten wood

Use a screwdriver to probe for rot in your home’s wooden components.

I know – that is probably obvious to most of us. However, to evaluate the health of the wooden components of your home, you do need to give them a good poke and see how they feel. Be on the lookout for any sign of soft, brittle, or crumbly wood. In extreme cases rotten wood may even disintegrate as you touch it.

As you poke around, keep your eyes peeled for discoloration, which is a sign of fungi and rot. Also, if you find a surface with peeling paint that feels damp, you may have just uncovered a water leak behind that spot. Investigate further and fix any leaks you find.

On the subject of damaged paint, check any painted or sealed wooden surfaces on your home’s exterior for cracks in the paint or sealant. Any crack you find, even small ones, can allow water to work its way into the wooden material, resulting in rot.

What if your house’s surface is vinyl or aluminum? Could it still succumb to rotten wood? The answer is yes, since even vinyl or aluminum sided homes likely still have wooden framing, plywood, and trim. Take a look at these wooden components, to the extent possible, and get a sense of their health. Look for damage to the siding, which might let water through, and arm yourself with binoculars and a flashlight to spot wear or discoloration in places you cannot see close up. In areas where you can get close to a wood surface, press it with a screw driver to test its integrity.

You should inspect your home for rotting wood at least annually – or twice per year if you live in a damp climate. Ideally, make this inspection a regular part of your spring and fall maintenance routine.

Specific Areas to Check for Rotting Wood

window frame water damage

Over time, rain can repeatedly soak window frames and sills, causing damage and, eventually, rot.

Here are some particularly vulnerable areas that you should keep a close eye on:

Wooden Window Frames: Water tends to remain on window sills longer than on the rest of the window frame, so the sills are usually the first to suffer from rot. Rain is persistent and can have a powerful cumulative effect. Over time, as rainwater collects on a window sill, it can slowly wear away the paint, allowing water to seep into the wood, and eventually leading to rot. As you inspect your window sills, carefully press the wood to detect any soft, deteriorated areas. Use a screw driver in hard-to-reach places. If the wood punctures easily, replace it ASAP. Finally, inspect the rest of the window frame, as wood rot often spreads up from the sill to the vertical framing pieces and trim.

wooden exterior door

Exterior doors can get damaged over time through normal wear and tear. Add moisture to the mix and rot could eventually result.

Exterior Doors: There is a good chance that your exterior doorways contain a lot of wood, which gets damaged over time from normal wear and tear, making it vulnerable to rainwater. Check all wooden parts of the door and door frame, including the threshold, door jamb, and trim. Make sure there are no soft, spongy areas. The lower sections of the door tend to be prime areas for fungi to form – especially if your home does not have a roof overhang to help protect the entrance from the weather. Poke around with your screw driver to make sure the wood is sound. Inspect the kick plate at the bottom of the door – is there any sign of rot underneath it?

Interior Spaces: Grab your flashlight and pay a down-and-dirty visit to the places in your home where moisture might have a chance to collect. Check the floor areas around your water heater, washer, dishwasher, toilet, tub, and the bottom of your sink cabinets. Unfortunately, this involves some grunt work. Prepare to get down on your hands and knees to peer underneath appliances and clean out those cluttered sink cabinets.

Do a thorough visual inspection with your flashlight, and also run your hand over the wooden surfaces as you look at them. If you come across areas that seem to be consistently moist or find swelling in the floor or sub-floor, you have probably discovered a leak. Investigate further ASAP. Also, check ceilings for any telltale water damage discoloration created by leaks from above.

wood deck

Most decks contain a lot of wood and will require a thorough inspection for rot. Check it from above, from below, and assess the health of the ledger board.

Decks: First, inspect the wooden components that make up your deck and deck stairs for signs of rot – looking from both above (easy!) and below (potentially dirty work!). After that, direct your attention to the piece of wood that attaches your deck to the house. This is called a ledger board, and it is a prime spot for wood rot if it was not connected properly. It should be flashed in aluminum, and when that is not the case, water can get behind it, eventually causing rot. This is a crucial item to check, since rot here can spread to the house’s structure underneath your siding.

Roof: Go out to your yard with binoculars and train them on your roof. Make a close inspection of both the roof itself, as well as the area directly below the roof line, for any wear and tear. This inspection could take a little while. It might feel a bit strange to be standing in the yard or out by the road scanning your roof with binoculars, and you might get a few looks from the neighbors, but take the time to be thorough. Catching a problem early could save you lots of money and hassle.

damaged shingles

On your roof, look for damaged or missing shingles, raised nail heads, cracked seals around chimneys and vent pipes, and discoloration on the fascia below the roof line.

Look for any missing or curled shingles, raised nail heads, cracked seals around chimneys and vent pipes, and also for discoloration on the fascia below your roof line. You may choose to get up on your roof if the pitch is not too steep, which will allow you to feel for any sponginess in the plywood as you walk across it. If you think the roof may be weak, or do not want to take the risk of going up on your roof, have a professional examine it instead. Roofs and ladders can be very tricky to navigate, so if you do go up there, exercise the utmost caution.

Preventing Wood Rot

Now that you know where to look to find rotting wood in your home, here are some tips to prevent it in the first place.

roof gutters

Clean and maintain your gutter system regularly so that water is drawn away from your house.

Maintain your gutters: Well functioning gutters make for a healthy house. Clean your gutters regularly, and keep them in good condition so that rainwater will be drawn away from your house. Water should flow down your spouts, and away from the structure, instead of overflowing out of the gutters and spilling right next to your foundation.

Building materials: Instead of using wood in areas of your house where rot is common, consider using composite building materials with no wood fibers. For example, when replacing windows use vinyl or vinyl clad designs. Similarly, consider aluminum or vinyl siding, which are popular for this reason. Preventative measures like this will help reduce your maintenance costs over time.

covered entryway

Add covered entryways and overhangs to your roof, to protect your windows and doors from precipitation.

Entryways: Next time you re-do your roof, add overhangs and covered entryways if you do not have them already. This added shelter helps to protect your windows and doors from moisture.

Condensation: Keep condensation at bay inside your home. Although it sounds counter-intuitive, an air-tight, well-insulated house can tend to trap moisture indoors. To prevent this, ensure that your bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms are well-ventilated. Proper ventilation is amazingly effective at dissipating humidity through natural airflow (hot, moist air rises and is replaced by fresh air). If necessary, use a dehumidifier to keep persistent moisture problems under control.

Maintain your caulk and paint: Keep any caulking on your home’s exterior in good condition – this is fairly self explanatory, since caulk seals moisture out of your house. Paint is also a vital seal against the elements. In fact, it is often the sole barrier keeping solid wood from rotting, so it is imperative to keep your home wrapped in a good coat of paint.

water leaks rotten wood

Keep your eye out for water leaks in your home. When you find them, fix them immediately, so they don’t turn into larger problems.

Water leaks and basement flooding: Stay alert for water leaks in your home and repair them quickly, regardless of how small they seem. Even a small amount of water can ruin wood, and small leaks often develop into larger problems. Take preventative action, where possible, to prevent or minimize water damage in your home. Use an automatic water shut off valve to turn off your water when a leak occurs. To protect your basement, consider installing a battery backup sump pump or water powered sump pumpto take over for your primary sump pump if your power goes out during a storm, or if the primary pump fails.

To keep your home in good shape, you will need to play the role of detective from time to time, watching for potential problems and investigating those that arise. This is certainly true if you want to avoid rotten wood. Even though rot may not be discernible at first glance, by searching for the right clues, you can spot problems before they become unmanageable.

When you do find rotting wood on your property, get if fixed right away so it does not turn into a larger problem. Finally, take all the preventative measures you can to prevent rot in the first place.