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Resurrecting Tara, the Starring House in Gone with the Wind

After several failed attempts through the decades to put Tara, the famous house from Gone with the Wind, into a museum, one man works to rescue the set from its ruin—and invites tourists to view the process.

Tara Gone with the Wine

Photo courtesy of Peter Bonner, commissioned from the collection of the late Herb Bridges

Nearly every Saturday morning, Peter Bonner walks out to the dairy barn behind the Crawford-Talmadge House in Georgia. There, he leads a rotating team of as many as 16 volunteers, all of whom are engaged in putting together the heavy, dusty pieces of a structure that was dismantled long ago. Columns and beams, shutters and wall panels—these are just some of the components that once stood together to form Tara, the mansion seen in Gone with the Wind.

Film buffs may already know that Tara was only ever a facade, never a bona fide home in the sense of having rooms and a roof (or a sweeping front-hall staircase). “The only thing that was real was the brick front porch and four brick columns,” says Bonner. “The rest is all 2-by-4s and plywood veneer.”

Over the decades that’ve elapsed since the 1939 film, many set materials have deteriorated—and not only with age. It turns out that Tara has moved around quite a bit. She sat on a Hollywood lot until the late ’50s, when the facade was purchased and shipped to Georgia. Then there were plans to turn Tara into a tourist attraction. But when those plans fell by the wayside, Betty Talmadge—the former wife of former Georgia governor Herman Talmadge—took possession. What next? Ideas came and went, but nothing stuck. Talmadge finally placed Tara into storage, and she remained in storage until Talmadge died in 2005.

Tara Set Today

Photo courtesy of Peter Bonner

Bonner met Talmdage when, for his book Lost in Yesterday, he spent time researching the truth behind the novel that inspired the movie. Today, he works with the permission of Ms. Talmadge’s descendants to carefully sift through what remains. While the family retains ownership, Bonner has poured hours and hours into Tara. He is, by his own admission, a man whose love of history and storytelling—he owns and operates Peter Bonner’s Historical and Hysterical Tours—both led to and help explain his ongoing commitment to the project.

So what does he plan to do? Bonner says, “My plan is to preserve and restore the original pieces to learn from them while displaying them like the works of art they are. We should maintain them with the original colors and stabilize them for all time.” Support for the project—much of it coming through Facebook—goes a long way toward stoking the fire of his zeal. So too do the weekly volunteers, who share his fascination with the story of the Tara structure.

For now, Bonner funds the project right out of his own pocket, partly by administering tours of the barn to GWTW fans. To purchase the book he’s written about the journey so far, and to see many photos of Tara now and in her heyday, visit his website.


How To: Paint Pressure-Treated Wood

The process of painting pressure-treated wood involves steps you would not take—and considerations you would not make—with regular lumber. Here's what you need to know.

Photo: shutterstock.com

It’s a two-sided coin: What enables pressure-treated wood to last outdoors is precisely what complicates the process of painting it. To produce pressure-treated wood, the milled lumber (typically pine or cedar) is saturated with chemical preservatives. These chemicals minimize the wood’s natural vulnerability to insects and rot, but they also leave the wood rather wet. To paint pressure-treated wood successfully, therefore, you must be prepared to exercise a bit of patience. To paint pressure-treated wood before it’s ready is to waste a day’s effort. For lasting results, follow the instructions below.

First, clean the pressure-treated wood you plan to paint. Use a stiff-bristled brush and soapy water. Once you’ve given due attention to the entire surface, rinse off the wood and allow it to dry thoroughly. Between the chemicals used to treat the lumber and the water used to clean it, the drying time may be as protracted as a few weeks—or even a few months. How do you know when it’s ready? Once the wood feels dry to the touch, sprinkle a bit of water on it. If the water soaks in, then the wood can be painted. If the water beads up, go back to playing the waiting game. Note that for a time-sensitive project, it may be wise to choose pressure-treated wood marked as having been kiln-dried after treatment (KDAT). The timeline for painting KDAT wood is considerably more condensed.

Once you’ve confirmed that the wood has dried out completely, you can begin painting. Start with primer formulated for exteriors, and make sure that the manufacturer lists the coating as suitable for use on pressure-treated wood. Having primed the wood—and having allowed sufficient time for the primer to dry (it should take no more than a day)—move on to applying your top coats. You should expect to do two. Avoid using oil-based paint here; on pressure-treated wood, latex performs much better. Use a paint sprayer if you have one, but if the job entails detail work, opt for a brush (or use both in combination).

It’s worth mentioning that in outdoor applications where the finish will be subject to the elements, paint lasts longer on vertical surfaces like fences than it does on horizontal ones like decks. If you don’t like the idea of repainting every two or three years, consider staining the pressure-treated wood instead. Yet another option is to allow the wood to weather and become gray, and then to coat it with a protective sealant. Of course, sealant must also be reapplied, but many consider the job to be less demanding than repainting, which often entails scraping away parts of the old finish.


Bob Vila Radio: Safer Basement Stairs Prevent Mishaps

This isn't anyone's favorite part of the house, but trips to and from the basement are a day-to-day inevitability. Use these tips to make those journeys as safe as can be.

If you’re aiming to reduce the risk of accidents in your home, one good place to start is your basement stairs. Here are a few ways to make all those trips up and down safer.

Safer Basement Stairs

Photo: shutterstock.com

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First, ensure you have well-placed lighting that fully illuminates the stairs, without casting glare into your eyes.

When deciding on paint, choose contrasting colors for the treads and risers to increase visibility. The higher the contrast in color the better. You can also add a little granulated texture to the treads, installing non-skid glue-down strips at their leading edges.

Check that the screws holding the handrail are tight. And if you have room—and especially if someone in the household has trouble walking—consider adding a second railing on the opposite side of the stairs. Be sure to check local building codes before undertaking the job.

One other option: You can install thin, lighted LEDs under the nose of the stair treads. That way you’ll have the safest, and snazziest, basement stairs on the block.

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. 


Bob Vila Radio: For Brighter Interiors, Clean Your Storm Windows

Storm windows give protection and increased efficiency to older windows, but with their exposure to the elements, they gradually become streaked and foggy. This year, take the time to clean your storm windows, and you may be surprised by the difference it makes.

These days, a lot of folks are feeling the chill in the air and are beginning to button up their homes for the winter. If you have an older home with wood or aluminum storm windows and want to enjoy the crisp light of the season, your fall to-do list should include the task removing and cleaning those storms.

How to Clean Storm Windows

Photo: whatarestormwindows.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON CLEANING STORM WINDOWS or read the text below:

Do the job from inside the house, removing each panel that’s nearest you. If it’s a triple-track storm window, start by lowering the screen nearly to the bottom of its track, pressing inward on the spring-loaded tabs at the bottom of the screen. Then, holding the tabs inward, wiggle the screen a little, pushing up slightly on one side, to pull the screen toward you and out of its track. Repeat the process on the glazed sash, again working with the track nearest you. Be sure to note which windows and screens go where, since you’ll need to replace them as they were after you’ve given them a good cleaning.

If yours are wood storm windows, either fixed or operable, removing the windows for cleaning may be overly laborious or simply not possible, depending on circumstances. Clean these windows from the outside. You’ll be surprised by what a difference it makes!

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.


Meet the Furniture Designer Who Discovered the Beauty of Concrete

Maker Ben Uyeda of Homemade Modern opens up about what inspires his passion for DIY—and shares with us his latest how-to.

Ben Uyeda Homemade Modern

Meet Ben Uyeda, a champion of smart, green, and affordable design. With a pedigree in architecture, he’s also an award-winning designer, lecturer, blogger, and co-founder of ZeroEnergy Design and FreeGreen.com, a company specializing in green house plans. And when he’s not doing all of that, he teaches and inspires folks to build beautifully simple, streamlined furniture at Homemade Modern. It makes you wonder if he’s some sort of home improvement superhero! We interviewed him to find out why he does what he does, the tools he can’t live without, and how his industrious and ingenious family inspires his work. Plus, click through to see a gallery of some of his most incredible DIYs and one insanely easy video tutorial.

The reason I started doing what I do is…
The median household income in the US is about $55k a year. Most people simply can’t afford well-designed furnishings made from real materials, and most designers focus either on doing custom work for the wealthy or lower-quality plastic goods designed for mass production. I love the work that my architecture firm, ZeroEnergy Design, does, but learning that the average house designed by an architect costs almost twice as much as the average sales price of an American home made me want to find a new outlet for sharing affordable design ideas. I love the idea of showing that we can all afford nice things; some of us just have to make them ourselves.

I feel most at home when I am…
Making! I have always associated the concept of home with sense of domestic industry and production done with and for the people you care most about. Whether it’s making dinner or the table on which dinner will be served, I feel home is the place where you make nice things with family for family.

I’d define my design style as…
Modern, industrial, and pragmatic with a dash of whimsy.

Related—Project Showcase: Ben Uyeda’s Modern Furniture 

My first job was…
My brother and I started a cookie business when I was 8 and he was 10. We drew order forms by hand and delivered them door to door. People in the neighborhood could fill out what kind of cookies they wanted and at what time they wanted them delivered. We charged $1 for a dozen cookies and made a killing! Since then, I think I have had every service industry job at some point in my life and quite a few different construction jobs.

My main sources of inspiration are…
Wow, this is hard, I feel like there are so many awesome designers and makers out there, but, if I had to narrow it down, I would group them into categories.

In my professional life, architects like Samuel Mockbee and David Adjaye inspired me to critically consider not just what I am designing but who I am designing for.

Visual inspiration comes from some of the amazing design bloggers and Pinterest curators. In particular Satsuki Shibuya, Jonathan Lo, Victoria Smith, and Myan Duong have provided awesome visual fuel.

Daily inspiration comes from my family. In particular seeing their drive towards self-sufficiency and responsible consumption inspires me. My parents are constantly adding to their suburban homestead—four chickens are the most recent additions. My brother Nathan has an amazing ranch in Argentina and is always building cool things. Most recently he devised a way to use heat from a compost pile to create hot water for his guest house. If you are ever interested in an educational vacation full of animals and sustainable homesteading, book a vacation in one of his guest houses.

My best DIY success is…
The Bucket Stool! I shared this idea about a year ago, and it has been made by thousands of people on five different continents.

Homemade Modern's Concrete Stool

Photo: homemade-modern.com

My favorite material to use is…
Concrete in general, but Quikrete Countertop mix in particular. Concrete is such an amazing and cheap material. What other material is less than $5 for 80 lbs and can be manipulated without power tools?

One tool/material I haven’t mastered (but want to!) is…
A sewing machine! Far too often we segregate tools into disciplines like sewing, woodworking, and blacksmithing while the really cool opportunities are in mixing these pursuits together.

My all-time, go-to tool is…
My Ryobi 18 volt drill. I use it for everything from driving screws and drilling holes to peeling apples, blending smoothies, and mixing pancake batter.

Related—Project Showcase: Ben Uyeda’s Modern Furniture 

A recent project I’ve finished is…
I built an outdoor fire pit out of Quikrete 5000 as a 40th wedding anniversary gift for my mom and dad.

Homemade Modern Concrete Fire Pit

Photo: homemade-modern.com

To me, failure means…
That you have a mess to clean up and more work to do.

Want to DIY like Ben Uyeda? Make your own DIY plywood “Flip Desk” like this one:

To get the latest from Ben’s workshop, follow him on Instagram!


Heat Your Entire House with a New Radiant Heat System

If you're thinking about upgrading your heating system, maybe it's time to weigh the many benefits of radiant heating.

Radiant Heating

Photo: warmboard.com

Despite all the attention radiant heating has received over the last few years, you still might not regard it as a viable alternative to traditional systems, such as hydronic baseboards or forced-air furnaces. Part of the confusion is that radiant heating shares some similarities with floor warming, a stopgap option for small spaces that tend to get chilly. The reality is that radiant heating can heat your whole house, fully replacing your existing system. In fact, if you are contemplating a major renovation project, there are several reasons why you might want to include radiant heating in your plans.

It Heats Evenly
In a room with a radiator, baseboard, or duct register—that is to say, in most rooms in America—it’s warmest right near the heat source and gets cooler the farther away you move. As a result, the room winds up unevenly heated. You might find yourself needing a sweater while you’re sitting on the sofa, and then wanting to shed the extra layer when you’re working at the desk. In contrast, radiant heating installed beneath the floor delivers warmth across virtually every square inch of the space. When exiting one room and entering another, you can expect no change in the temperature. That means you can say goodbye to the discomfort of a stifling hot upstairs and a constantly chilly ground floor.

Radiant Heating - Detail Installation

Photo: warmboard.com

It Operates Silently
Radiators hiss, bang, and clank. Baseboards click—incessantly. And blowers can sound like airplanes taking off. Radiant heating, meanwhile, operates silently. When you remove your radiators, baseboards, or furnace in exchange for radiant heating, you eliminate disturbing noises.

It Eases Allergies
Dust, allergens, germs and other irritants build up in, and then circulate through, forced-air systems, the most common type of heating in the country. Forced-air systems also tend to lower the humidity level, effectively drying out the indoor air. That dryness too can lead to respiratory distress. Radiant heating creates no such problems; in fact, it solves them. Because it lies under the flooring (and sometimes, if you choose, behind walls), radiant heating remains out of sight, neither contributing to nor exacerbating any issues related to indoor air quality. For allergy sufferers and others concerned about sickness or family health, radiant heating is a breath of fresh air.

It Costs Less to Operate
Replacing your existing system with radiant heating may at first blush seem like a prohibitively expensive proposition. Certainly, it’s probably not a wise choice for homeowners who plan to move within a few years. But for others, radiant heating, despite the cost of installation, can translate over the long haul into real savings. From the moment you begin relying on radiant heating, your monthly utility bills are going to go down and stay down.

Why? Because radiant heating requires less energy to keep your house as comfortable as your old system did. For example, in a traditional hydronic heating system, water must be heated to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (or more) in order to put out a comfortable level of heat through a radiator or baseboard. Compare that with the radiant heating offered by Warmboard: To keep a home equally comfortable, Warmboard only needs temperatures between 80 and 108 degrees! This not only saves energy, but it extends the life of your heating appliance.

Plus, because radiant heating, well, radiates up from the floor surface, not from a single source in the room, it doesn’t need to work as hard to reach a target ambient temperature. Energy use declines, and your savings go up; so too does your level of comfort. And really, what price can you put on that?

This post has been brought to you by Warmboard. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Bob Vila Radio: Installing a Laundry Chute

By installing a laundry chute, you can harness the power of gravity to make one of life's dreaded chores much less strenuous.

Tired of lugging laundry down the basement stairs? Maybe you should consider installing a laundry chute. Kits are available at home centers, or you can build the chute yourself.

Installing a Laundry Chute

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To construct the chase—the passage through which you drop clothes to the basement—you have several options for materials: a galvanized heating duct, wood, drywall or melamine. Chutes work best when the chase is larger, say 1 by 2 feet. And make sure any joints are smooth, so clothing articles like socks do not snag on the way down.

Location is key. You’ll need to find a stud bay with unobstructed access to the basement—that is, no electrical wiring, no plumbing. Hallways are often a good bet, especially if their walls run parallel to underlying floor joists.

Use a stud finder to locate two adjacent studs, then cut a small hole in the wall to check for obstructions. If the bay is clear, use a reciprocating saw to cut an opening for the bottom of the chute, downstairs. Once you’ve double-checked that there are no obstructions upstairs, create the hole for the top of the chute.

Upstairs you’ll also need to remove the base plate between the two studs and cut a hole through the plywood flooring to make room for the chute. Assemble the chute, fit it into the bay, then finish up by trimming out the upstairs end of the chute and installing a door.

Before you start the job, be sure to check local building codes.

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.


Before & After: A Fireplace Redo

An outdated stone fireplace got a dramatic architectural makeover, thanks to Jessica Bruno of Four Generations One Roof.

Fireplace Makeover - Before and After

Photo: fourgenerationsoneroof.com

Jessica Bruno is a mom, daughter, and granddaughter—and the creative force behind the popular blog Four Generations One Roof. Along with her multigenerational family, Bruno lives and creates in the home she grew up in. DIY projects are common here, and the house undergoes frequent change. Since its construction in 1968, the 1,800 square-foot Boston-area Tudor has expanded, through multiple additions, to a whopping 6,000 square feet. This past year, one project in particular kept her and her father quite busy: It’s a fireplace makeover set to make the space more enjoyable, while also relieving allergies and boosting resale value. Impressed by her success, we asked Jessica to talk about her inspiration and the biggest challenges face along the way.

Why were you looking to update your stone fireplace?
We have been renovating the house throughout the years, and this fireplace was an eyesore. My mom and I hated the old one. We wanted to create a room that was warm, cozy, and updated. An update would also add value to the home, and that helped push my dad toward joining me.

What was your inspiration going into the fireplace redo?
A picture I found on Pinterest from Better Homes and Gardens of a beautiful fireplace with a gorgeous white surround and fabulous architectural detail. We always wanted a white wood surround, but we originally intended to leave a little stone showing. When we started building, we didn’t like how that was turning out, so we covered it up almost completely. If we still wanted to use the fireplace, we would’ve had to be careful not to locate the wood surround too close to the hearth. But we actually have plans to add a pellet stove insert. Anyone who wants to cover their own fireplace should check local fire codes.

Fireplace Makeover - Stages

Photo: fourgenerationsoneroof.com

In your design, the wood surround closes off the vents to your fireplace. How do you plan to use it in the future?
​I am actually allergic to the burning wood, so we hadn’t used the stove in years. The vents were very ugly, and they didn’t even work—they really served no purpose (must have been the thing to do in the ’70s!—so we covered them up. We plan on adding the pellet insert either this winter or next. That comes as a box to place inside an existing fireplace. A metal, fireproof pipe would run right up the existing chimney. It’s a great idea for homes with old fireplaces that may have a crumbling chimney.

And what led to the decision of installing a pellet stove instead?
Cost. The pellet stove would pay for itself in the first year, as we would save money not paying for oil. But like I said, we haven’t installed the pellet stove in this fireplace just yet… it’s coming. (It’s a large cost up-front, and while we do most everything ourselves, we’d have to hire a professional for this project.) We did, however, install a pellet stove in the family room! They save so much money on heating bills and are such a cleaner way to heat your home.

What advice did you and your dad (your construction partner-in-crime) find to be particularly helpful that you’d share with a reader attempting this?
If you plan on using the stove for real, you need to get a permit or check with your local town hall on the guidelines for installing wood near an open flame. Each town has its own set of rules. ​For us, it didn’t matter; we knew we’d never use it, and when we did, it would be with a pellet stove insert. But generally, the wood can’t be right up against the edge.

Fireplace Makeover - Painted Brass

Photo: fourgenerationsoneroof.com

What was the biggest challenge in this project?
The challenge was not being able to update the screen doors due to budget constraints. Instead, I painted over the old nasty brass with the appropriate paint. It’s resistant to high heat (it’s actually made to go on the inside of grills). Once the pellet stove insert gets added, it will have new doors. But for now, this is a band-aid solution to make it look better.

Is there anything you would have done differently if you did it all again?
Saved up money to add new doors—but that’s an improvement that can come later.

How does the new design change and improve your day-to-day?
​It’s new, modern, and up-to-date. It changes the entire appearance of the room—and we don’t cringe when we go in there! It’s so nice decorating around it now, and it really feels like the focal point in the room. We love to sit in there and just relax, and we honestly can’t wait to install the pellet insert. Looking at the open flame—without sneezing—will be the icing on the cake.

Fireplace Makeover - Mantel Decor

Photo: fourgenerationsoneroof.com


How To: Clean and Maintain Butcher Block

With easy cleaning and conscientious use, the classic butcher block can last a lifetime—or longer. Here's how to clean and maintain the material.

How to Clean Butcher Block

Photo: shutterstock.com

Butcher block counters are a perennial favorite in the kitchen, though many homeowners worry about the care and maintenance the surface potentially demands. It’s true that butcher block probably does require a bit more attention than other countertop materials, but it’s not particularly difficult work, and there’s no beating the payoff. Properly cared for, butcher block can last a lifetime. No other countertop boasts such longevity (or forgives so much). If you have butcher block counters or are contemplating the prospect of installing them, read on for details on how to keep these handy surfaces in tip-top shape.

Daily Cleaning
Just as pots and pans, dishes and kitchen tools must be cleaned after use, so too must be butcher block. Daily cleaning does not take long and requires no special tools or materials, but time is of the essence: Clean butcher block before the wood grain has the chance to absorb stains and become discolored. Food residue may be scraped away with a smooth, flat, and ideally plastic spatula, and the surface should be sponged off with only mild-dishwashing soap. Undiluted vinegar, by the by, works great for cleaning and disinfecting butcher block, and this type of vinegar does not leave behind a strong, pungent odor.

Stain Removal
Soon or later, even those who conscientiously care for their butcher block are going to encounter a stain. Before you reach for the sandpaper, try one of these two easy stain removal methods (note that both are safe for food prep surfaces). First is the kitchen superstar lemon: Even in tough circumstances, it can work wonders in the case of butcher block. Sprinkle a bit of coarse salt onto the stained area, then rub it in with half of a lemon. If the stain does not vanish more or less immediately, return to it a day later and see if either soap or vinegar helps the situation. You might also try baking soda, particularly if you’re dealing with a fresh spill. Blanket the stain in the powder, rub it in and let it sit, then scrub with either soap or vinegar moistening your sponge.

How to Clean Butcher Block - Sanding Counter

Photo: shutterstock.com

Refinishing
The beauty of butcher block is that, if it should ever become irredeemably stained, you can always refinish it. (You might also choose to do so, if the surface sees uneven wear.) First, use a coarse-grit sandpaper to rub out the stain, then switch to a finer git so that you can smooth things out. After sanding, apply food-safe mineral oil or raw linseed oil. Evenly rub the oil into the wood and wipe off any excess. If the wood quickly absorbs all the oil, add another coat. Remember that proper care of butcher block entails oiling the entire surface every six months or so, at minimum.

Conscious Use
In some homes, butcher block counters serve as the main food prep surface. If your kitchen boasts only butcher block counters, be conscious of the fact that inadvertently you may be causing uneven wear. To avoid ending up with a single area that looks worn-out compared to the rest, try to do your chopping on a different part of the countertop each time you prepare a meal.

Also, since wood absorbs moisture quickly, it’s a mistake to leave damp cloths or spills for any prolonged period of time on the wood surface. When not in use, you want the butcher block to remain relatively dry. As you cook, rub down the counters occasionally with a dry cloth in order to minimize moisture. That way, you can help preserve the butcher block for years to come!


Bob Vila Radio: Quieter Leaf Blowers Are Here, Finally

Whereas noisy gas-powered leaf blowers were once the only option, homeowners may now choose from a wider selection of models, many of which boast quiet operation.

This time of year, the intrusive sound of leaf blowers is a constant presence in nearly every neighborhood. But blowers that make less noise—yet still get the job done—are becoming increasingly available.

Leaf Blowers

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Listen to BOB VILA ON LEAF BLOWERS or read the text below:

Although many of the newer gas-powered models are far less noisy than older versions, electrics remain the quietest overall. Cordless electrics with adequate power can be pricey. Plus, depending on the size of your yard, you may need an extra battery or two to get your leaves bagged in a single day.

Some corded electric models can sweep away leaves and loosen debris about as well as gas models. If you have a smaller yard and won’t have to drag around a lot of cord, a corded electric model may be your best choice.

Lower-noise electric options are good news, especially since many municipalities nationwide are enacting rules that either limit or entirely prohibit the use of gas blowers. Before heading to the store, check local ordinances.

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.