Holiday Gift Guide #7: DIY & Home Improvement

Gift Guide Tools

From home automation, to mini home construction, we have bring you some of our favorite DIY projects, tools, and home improvement products. Read more to find out which products we recommend to make your life easier.

Schlage Connect Deadbolt

The Schlage Connect is a handy electronic lock with a keypad entry on the outside. It’s Z-Wave compatible and connects with a number of different home automation hubs, including the SmartThings hub I use. Via the SmartThings app I am able to see the current status of the lock, and lock or unlock the door. The illuminated keypad has a fingerprint resistant coating and allows entry with a 4 to 8 digit code. You can assign codes to each person in the house, and give a temporary code to neighbors or friends to check on the house when you’re away.

Installation was no more difficult than a standard deadbolt and requires a Phillips and flat screwdriver. Depending on how your current strike plate is installed, you may also need a hammer and chisel to make room for the reinforced strike plate. (AO)

You can pick one up from Amazon for $200.

[Review materials provided by: Schlage]

AutoSense Drill
BLACK+DECKER 20V AutoSense Drill

When I reviewed this AutoSense Drill from BLACK+DECKER, I appreciated the compact size and light weight (perfect for many DIY jobs in restricted spaces), the trigger-activated built in LED light (another DIY plus), the power to fire deck screws into 2-inch pressure treated lumber (automatically keeping them flush with the surface) and long battery life. The AutoSense has clearly impressed more than just me. It’s since won a Popular Science “Best of What’s New Grand Award” and is a 2015 CES “Innovation Award Honoree.” The do-it-yourselfer on your list will love this drill.

Buy it from Amazon. (BM)


Sometimes there are broken widgets or bits and baubles that glue just won’t hold together. That’s where Bondic comes in. It’s a liquid plastic welder that cures quickly and lasts a long time. The process is similar to dental bonding where a liquid material is added and then cured under UV light. Bondic is applied the same way and a base kit comes with a UV LED that cures the Bondic in about four seconds. The final joint can be sanded and painted. Say so long to your super glue!

Buy it here. (DB)

Kwikset Kevo

I reviewed Kwikset’s Kevo Bluetooth-enabled deadbolt earlier this year; I adored it, and the newest iteration makes it even better. It’s the ideal product for a new homeowner or neophyte do-it-yourself-er (like me) interested in connected home products with a low threshold for requisite tools and technical know-how. With its latest 1.2 update, the Kevo adds features like auto-calibration and robust support for Android’s Lollypop OS in addition to its already existing stellar iOS support and Smartkey effortless re-keying system.

[Review materials provided by: Kwikset] (Z.)

Kitsch Bent

If you have any interest at all in restoring, hacking or otherwise modifying classic gaming console or handheld systems, Kitsch Bent is your one-stop shop. Whether your task is back/front-lighting, installing more robust audio outputs for chiptune composition or performance or simply making cosmetic changes to your favorite retro gaming device, they’ve got you covered with quality products, helpful how-tos and solid customer service. It’s the perfect place for established modders and first-timers alike, with an unparalleled selection of exclusive products and trusted third-party brands. (Z.)

Kano Computer

Kano Computer

The Kano Computer (successfully funded through Kickstarter last year) is a Raspberry Pi–based computer that’s easily assembled and gets your kids started on coding. I got a sample to try out, and it’s pretty fun. All you need is a monitor (or a TV with an HDMI port). It includes versions of Snake, Pong, and Minecraft that teach programming tasks—and your kids earn badges and level up. The nice thing about the Kano is that it’s an all-in-one kit for beginners like me; you could save some money if you have more know-how and time. Now if I could just get the keyboard back from my toddler… Visit the Kano website to learn more or to order one. $149.99. (JL)

WeMo LED Starter Kit
WeMo LED Light Bulb Starter Set

Light timers begone! The WeMo LED Lighting system will allow you to program lighting in your house while you’re there or away. Have lights turn on when the sun goes down, or at certain times. Change your mind with a tap of a finger. These will change the way you interact with your home. (JW)

Editors note: The WeMo products are also compatible with some of the Z-Wave hubs, including the SmartThings hub mentioned above (AO)

Buy them at Amazon.

Awesome Tiny Houses
Awesome Tiny Houses

If you or your kids are itching to build your own small dollhouse, you need a set for your stop motion animation videos, or you just like architecture that can be taken apart for easy storage, Awesome Tiny Houses are a great option. Coming in a variety of styles, these houses and accessories allow you to customize your little world. Paint them, add Lego minifigs or other figures, and create a scene. Extremely affordable, you’ll want a few of these to make your own little town.

Buy them at Tabletop Media. (JW)

saffron bulbs
Saffron Bulbs
For the burgeoning smart home enthusiast, the ecologically inclined or simply the more practically minded on your holiday shopping list, Saffron has a trio of techy products that are both energy efficient and just plain cool. Their LED light bulbs contain no mercury, only use about 1/8 as much electricity as traditional bulbs and are designed to look just like regular incandescents. Their Sense Light bulbs combine all this with a built-in sun sensor, making them perfect for exterior lighting, and their Drift Lights include modes that mimic the natural sunset by slowly dimming over 37 minutes.

[Review materials provided by: Saffron] (Z.)

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