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Bob Vila Radio: Fireplaces

While it’s hard to argue with the romance of a crackling fire on a chilly night, your fireplace might be costing you more in energy dollars than you know.

Fireplace

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A fire in an open hearth is only ten percent efficient at best, which means that ninety percent of the heat energy you’ve paid for goes up in smoke. Heated room air is drafted up the chimney, so your main heating system actually works harder to keep the house warm. Glass fireplace doors raise the efficiency somewhat but only to about twenty percent.

A wood stove or a fireplace insert is a good option, but if you’re tired of shoveling ashes and hauling wood, a gas-burning fireplace insert is an efficient option that also saves space. A built-in fan distributes heat into the room and a thermostat allows you to set a target temperature.

One gas fireplace insert can heat a whole small house in all but the coldest weather, which can save you a lot if your main heating system is oil-fired or electric.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.

For more on home heating, consider:

Quick Tip: Make Your Fireplace More Efficient
11 Ways to Winterize Your Home on a Budget
Gas Fireplaces 101


Bob Vila Radio: Electrical Ground Rules

Make sure you’re familiar with the ground rules of home electrical work if you’re considering doing some yourself.

Wall Wiring

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Top 5 Posts of the Week

From an awesome, low-stress kitchen makeover to a DIY duo’s cross-country renovation road trip, we’ve gathered five favorites posts from this week, in case you missed them.

 

1. Dream it, Do it: DIY Kitchen Makeover (Without the Renovation) 

DIY Kitchen Makeover (Without the Renovation)

Photo: cottage4c

We asked one home blogger how she made her dream kitchen a reality without spending a fortune or tearing the house down.

 

2. 11 Sneaky Storage Ideas

Sneaky Storage Solutions

Photo: cantyshanty.com

In the never-ending battle for storage space at home, it’s imagination versus square footage.

 

3. Renovation Road Trip: Here we Go! 

Renovation Road Trip

Photo: Picardy Project

Bob Vila Nation contributors Picardy Project have hit the open road to criss-cross the country, visiting fellow DIY bloggers and lending a helping hand.

 

4. Solar Power Systems 101

Solar Power Systems 101

Photo: solar.calfinder.com

Harnessing the sun’s energy to power homes is a viable and increasingly cost-effective option for homeowners. We break down how it all works.

 

5. 12 Outstanding Kitchen Island Options

Outstanding Kitchen Island Options

Photo: inspirationgreen.com

The best ideas in storage, stove tops, and seating are bound to serve you a little kitchen island inspiration.

For more top content from this week, consider:

13 Easy No-Carve Pumpkins
6 Simple & Easy DIY Closet Door Transformations
11 Ways to Winterize Your Home on a Budget


5 Things to Do with… Straw Bales

Straw bales aren’t just for horses and hayrides anymore! This perennial sign of fall has become decorating and gardening chic.

For about $5 you can pick up a bale of straw at your local hardware store or nursery. That means you can have a lot of fun without threshing your wallet. Once your bale has served its purpose, it can be broken up and strewn to protect your planting beds during winter.

Here are just five fabulous and festive things you can do with a bale of straw.

 

1.  FRONT PORCH DECOR

Straw Bale DIY - Decor

Photo: southernlivingatitsbest.blogspot.com

Talk about curb appeal, the straw bales lining this entryway lead guests into this home in such an inviting way. A sense of warmth and harvest fills the air. Who wouldn’t want to come inside?

 

2. STRAW BALE SEATING

Straw Bale DIY - Seating

Photo: marthastewartweddings.com

Don’t have enough chairs for your next outdoor autumn event? Pick up a few straw bales at your local nursery, and you are in business.

 

3. STRAW BALE PLANTER

Straw Bale DIY - Planter

Photo: fraudulentfarmgirl.com

This garden planter was made by grouping a few straw bales together and filling in the middle with dirt. It’s a beautiful natural look, and as the straw decomposes, it will add great compost to the bed.

 

4. STRAW BALE GARDENING

Straw Bale DIY - Gardening

Photo: pick-a-pepper.com

If you want to take the straw bale planter to the next level, you can actually plant your garden within straw bales. Straw bale gardening is great for those with poor soil or limited space, or even those who have physical limitations that make gardening at ground level a challenge. It’s a low-cost and flexible method for gardening and can be attempted by gardeners at all levels of experience.

 

5. STRAW BALE HOLIDAY DECORATIONS

Straw Bale DIY - Holidays

Photo: theothermeissane.blogpost.com

Once those straw bales have been used for Halloween and Thanksgiving festivities, they can be repurposed for holiday decor. Red tulle turns these bales into a rustic and creative display of presents for everyone to enjoy.

 

For more DIY ideas, consider:

9 Easy-to-Make Garden Luminaries
5 Things to Do… With Apple Crates
How To: Make a Terrarium


Bob Vila Radio: Locating Studs

Whether you’re removing a wall or just hanging bookshelves, you’ve got to know where the studs are before you start.

Finding Wall Stud

Photo: hgtv.com

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App Review: Houzz Interior Design Ideas

Houzz Interior Design Ideas - App Screen Grabs

Houzz Interior Design Ideas

Let’s say you love Asian home design. There are plenty of places you could turn for design inspiration. But Houzz.com and its Apple iOS app Houzz Interior Design Ideas may offer you the most impressive selection of eye candy.

As of this post, the service boasted 758,561 images for you to sample in planning your home decor. You choose a style, a part of a house, or both, and the app shows you pictures that match your search.

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5 Basement Workshop Essentials

You’re probably thinking I’m about to list my all-star tool picks. Nope. My five must-haves for a basement workshop have more to do with comfort, health, and safety. If you want to enjoy spending time in your shop—and protect your investment in tools—I think these items are truly essential.

1. Dust collection

Basement Workshop Essentials

Photo: RainyDay Magazine

The ideal dust collection system would allow you to move freely from band saw to sander. Unfortunately such a system takes up a lot of space and can cost hundreds of dollars. A budget solution is to buy a good shop vac, attaching it by hose to your dust-producing tools. For convenience, buy a vac with a built-in power-activated switch that engages the vacuum automatically once the tool has been switched on. If you already own a shop vac or don’t want to buy the high-end model with a built-in switch, consider an add-on tool-and-vac switch (e.g., the i-Socket Autoswitch from DGC Products). No matter what dust collection system you have, wear a dust mask and provide for adequate ventilation when using dust-producing tools.

AceHardware-Molded-Single-Laundry-Utility-sink

Molded Single Laundry/Utility Sink from Ace Hardware

2. Utility sink

A sink in the basement allows you to handle messy cleanup chores without traipsing dirt and grime into the kitchen. Whether you need to wipe up glue, clean paintbrushes, or wash up for dinner, a utility sink is well worth the investment. Besides, it provides a great place to drain washing machines, high-efficiency furnaces, and the dehumidifier.

3. Dehumidifier
Basements are often damp, especially during the summer months. Warm moisture-laden air seeps into the basement and unloads droplets of water in the form of condensation. Excess moisture promotes mildew, odors, rot and rust. With a good dehumidifier, you can keep the relative humidity of your workshop below 50 percent. Not only will this keep your prized set of chisels from rusting, but it will also keep the rest of your house dryer and mold-free. Choose a dehumidifier with good capacity and fit it out with a condensate pump and drain line, so you don’t have to manually drain the reservoir every few days.

4. Adequate electrical service
Too few receptacles and overloaded breaker-tripping circuits are a nuisance, and sometimes they’re a hazard. Avoid a workshop where the floor is crisscrossed by extension cords and power strips! Have at least two circuits installed in your shop along with plenty of receptacles. Put lights on a separate circuit from your power tools; that way if you do trip a breaker you won’t be left in the dark.

5. Flooring

Rubber-Cal Puzzle-Lock-Interlocking-Beasement-Flooring

Rubber-Cal Puzzle-Lock Interlocking Basement Flooring

Most shop tasks require standing, and no flooring is quite so uncomfortable as concrete. In addition to being hard, concrete is cold and often damp. Modular interlocking floor tiles can be installed on your shop floor quickly and easily without adhesives. They offer cushioning for your legs and a thermal break between your feet and the slab. The tiles also form a vapor barrier. Made of vinyl, polypropylene, or rubber, they are easy to clean and in the event of flooding, they can be removed, cleaned, and reinstalled.

There are many other must-haves for a basement workshop, including good ambient and task lighting, ventilation, and an electric radiant heater–and, oh yeah, tools!

For more on workshops, consider:

The Essential Toolbox
The Ideal Workshop Layout
How To: Stock Your Workshop


6 Pumpkin Festivals Not to Miss

Celebrate fall’s arrival at one of these fun, family-friendly events.

 

1. THE GREAT JACK O’ LANTERN BLAZE
Where: Croton-on-Hudson, NY
When: Through November 11

Pumpkin Festivals - The Great Jack-o-Lantern Blaze

The Great Jack-o-Lantern Blaze in Croton-on-Hudson, NY

Van Cortland Manor is a historic 18th-century riverside estate in the bucolic Hudson River Valley. On select evenings through November 11, visitors are welcome for the Great Jack o’ Lantern Blaze, a breathtaking display of more than 5,000 hand-carved, illuminated jack o’ lanterns. During the event, the Manor’s sloping brick paths and heritage gardens are transformed into a Halloween wonderland, complete with synchronized lighting and suitably creepy sound effects. There’s the Tunnel O’ Pumpkin Love, plus flying ghosts, slithering snakes, a giant spider web, and super-sized dinosaurs, all made of fiery carved gourds. Advance tickets required. For details, visit Historic Hudson Valley.

Pumpkin Festivals - Van Cortlandt Manor

Historic buildings eerily lit are highlights of The Great Jack 'o Lantern Blaze.

 

2. THE 22nd ANNUAL PUMPKIN FESTIVAL
Where: Keene, NH
When: October 20

Pumpkins Festivals - Keene

This year marks the 22nd annual Pumpkin Festival in Keene, NH.

On Saturday, October 20th, make your way to downtown Keene, NH, for the city’s annual celebration of all things pumpkin. The festivities include the Great Pumpkin Mile road race, live music, a giant Ferris wheel on Main Street, a children’s costume parade and pumpkin bowling. The food court offers everything from pulled-pork sandwiches and fried pickles to pumpkin whoopie pies, cheesecake, donuts and even pumpkin ale made by regional breweries. Perhaps the main attraction, however, is the enormous pumpkin tower on the central square, made up of jack o’ lanterns artistically carved by residents and visitors to the festival. Last year, the festival broke its own world record by displaying a whopping 16,186 glowing jack o’ lanterns at the event! To learn more, visit Pumpkin Festival 2012.

Pumpkin Festivals - Town Square in Keene, NH

Keene, NH. Photo: newenglandphotos.blogspot

 

3. Green Bluff Growers’ Harvest Festival
Where: Spokane, WA
When: Through October 28

Pumpkin Festivals - Punkin Chunkin

The 'Punkin 'Chunkin event at the Green Bluff Growers' Harvest Festival in Spokane, WA

Every weekend through October 28, families from eastern Washington State and neighboring Idaho head to the annual Harvest Festival. Situated 15 miles north of Spokane, the event is put on by the Green Bluff Growers, an association of 30 or so small family farms and businesses in the area. If you go, swing by Knapp’s Farm to play in the straw maze, wander the expansive pumpkin patch, and watch the Punkin’ Chunkin’—an amazing contraption that catapults pumpkins hundreds of feet into sky. Later pick pumpkins and apples at one of the many orchards, navigate the corn labyrinth at Siemers Farm, and sample the irresistible cinnamon-dusted pumpkin doughnuts at Harvest House. For more  information, log onto Green Bluff Growers.

Pumpkin Festivals - Green Bluff

Pumplin Patch at Green Bluff. Photo: Flickr / eli

 

4. CIRCLEVILLE PUMPKIN SHOW
Where: Circleville, OH
When: October 17 to 20

Pumpkin Festivals - Prize Pumpkins

Enormous prize pumpkins on display at the Circleville Pumpkin Show, OH

Nicknamed the “Greatest Free Show on Earth”,  the Circleville Pumpkin Show has been going strong since 1903. A celebration of local agriculture, the four-day extravaganza gets underway on October 17 with the giant pumpkin weigh-in—last year’s champion tipped the scales at 1,436.5 pounds!—and the charming Little Miss Pumpkin parade. The jam-packed schedule also includes six more parades with floats and marching bands; bluegrass, gospel, country and classic-rock concerts; a pumpkin-pie eating contest; quilting and wood carving demos; a hog-calling competition; midway rides and games; and much, much more. Feelin’ hungry? Dig into pumpkin-inspired specialties like waffles, chili, pizza, cream puffs, brownies, taffy and elephant ears. And don’t miss the world’s largest pumpkin pie. Six feet in diameter and weighing over 400 pounds, it’s made each year by Lindsey’s Bakery, a local landmark on Main Street. To find out more about the festivities, visit Circleville Pumpkin Show.

Pumpkin Festivals - Lindsey's Bakery Pumpkin Pie

The World's Largest Pumpkin Pie at Lindsey's Bakery in Circleville, OH

 

5. STATESVILLE PUMPKIN FEST
Where: Statesville, NC
When: November 3

Pumpkin Festivals - Pumpkin Smashing Event

Pumpkin smashing event at the Statesville Pumpkin Fest, NC

The first Saturday in November, head 40 miles north of Charlotte to historic downtown Statesville for the 10th annual Pumpkin Festival. The family-centric event features 60-plus vendors selling arts and crafts, a Classic Car Cruise-In (all vehicles predate 1972), 5K race/walk, skateboard competition, and everything from pumpkin bowling to pumpkin painting to pumpkin smashing, where contestants young and old use wooden mallets to pound the orange gourds to mush. For details, visit Statesville Pumpkin Fest.

 

6. THE GREAT PUMPKIN FESTIVAL
Where: Phoenix, AZ
When: October 25 to 28

Pumpkin Festivals - Phoenix

The Great Pumpkin Festival at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, AZ

This kid-friendly event sponsored by the Desert Botanical Garden lets youngsters growing up in the desert experience an old-fashioned fall festival. Catch a ride on the hay wagon leading out to the pumpkin patch (kids 12 and under can pick a free pumpkin), then check out the farm animals at the petting zoo, wander the Amazing Hay Bale Maze, or enjoy live country-western music. Crafts and games are also scheduled. Entrance to the Great Pumpkin Festival is included with paid garden admission. To learn more, log onto The Great Pumpkin Festival.

 

For more on pumpkins and festive Halloween decor, consider:

13 Easy No-Carve DIY Pumpkins
Bob Vila’s First Annual Pumpkin Carving Contest
52 Unexpected and Amazing Ways to Decorate Pumpkins


Bob Vila Radio: Deep Energy Retrofits

The next generations will face fuel costs so high, they’ll make the standard twentieth-century under-insulated stick-built home a dinosaur.

Deep Energy Retrofit

Photo: coldclimatehomes.com

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Renovation Road Trip: First Stop, 86′n It

For the first stop on our renovation road trip, we were asked to help install wood paneling on the wall of a closed-in porch for Nikki and Marc at 86’n It.

As always in DIY, the plans changed a bit before we arrived, then changed a bit more as we got into the weeds. In the end Nikki and Marc decided to go with the original German siding that would match the rest of the home’s exterior.

RenovationRoadTrip-86nit-unfinishedexteriorwall-Photo1

Before

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