Author Archives: Larry Bilotti

Larry Bilotti

About Larry Bilotti

Executive Editor at and avid DIYer. Formerly Executive Editor for Country Living Magazine, Larry spends most weekends updating a 1890s house in The Catskills, New York. Check him out on Google+!

Considering a Wood Deck? It’s Not Just About Good Looks

If you are planning a deck, you'll have many varieties of wood to consider. The key will be finding the one that best suits your aesthetic, design, budget, and region.

Wood for a Deck - Cedar

Multilevel cedar deck. Photo:

There are many wood species that can be used for outdoor decks, but not all offer the same benefits and maintenance requirements, and price and availability vary by region. As Bob Mion, of the California Redwood Association, points out, “In the Southeast you’ll find lots of Southern yellow pine; in the North Central Midwest, Western red cedar; in the California-Oregon-Washington region, redwood predominantly.” You can certainly use redwood for a deck on Cape Cod—if you pay to ship it there.

Now that you know that where you live and how much you can afford to spend will probably be the deciding factors, here are the most common natural-wood choices for deck building:

Cedar resists moisture, rot, and insect infestation, and offers more durability than many other types of wood. This hardiness is due to the fact that cedarwood will actually change its moisture content to closely match the atmosphere. Moisture is what commonly causes wood to warp and crack, especially in colder climates during freeze-thaw cycles. Using cedar may cut down on maintenance issues that can come up over time and will often add years of life to a deck.

Redwood, another premium deck wood, is easy to work with, naturally decay- and insect-resistant, and rugged enough to avoid warping, checking, and splitting. Because of its open-celled structure, redwood contains little to no pitch or resins, and maintains its natural beauty and structural integrity with easy maintenance. While redwood can be left to weather naturally, it absorbs and retains all types of finishes, making it a long-lasting wood deck choice.

Slide Show:  Get Inspired! 12 Sensational Deck Designs

Premium woods like red cedar and redwood offer comparable levels of durability and longevity, lasting an average of 20 years. Both woods are naturally resistant to shrinking and warping. The primary difference between the two woods is color: Redwoods range from light to dark red, while cedar hues run from light brown to salmon pink.

Wood for a Deck - Pine


Douglas fir is not only beautiful but also very strong. It responds well to hand- and power-tool use and, properly treated, is decay-, mold-, and termite-resistant.

Southern yellow pine, when pressure-treated, is durable, strong, and environmentally friendly. It’s worth noting that in 2003, when high toxicity was discovered in pressure-treated wood, new regulations were established. Manufacturers now treat wood with nontoxic chemicals that make these products safer as well as rot- and insect-repellant. Decking experts at The Home Depot state that “pressure-treated lumber provides greater strength and is less expensive than other deck materials. Use it to frame the structure, then choose another material for decking and railings.”

Initially, wood costs significantly less than either vinyl or composite, and if properly constructed and maintained, a wood deck will last for years. And unlike petroleum-based materials, wood is renewable if sustainably harvested.

Wood does, however, require more maintenance than other materials. A couple of times each year, it should be rinsed off, and every three or four years, it should be repainted or finished with a stain. Cedar and redwood decking may be left to weather naturally, but to make it last longer, apply a clear preservative every few years.  For information on how to stain a wood deck, click here.

Bob Vila and the Three Little Pigs—What Gives?

If you're going to build your house out of cotton candy or playing cards, you might want to check in first with someone who knows plenty about home building.

Bob Vila and the Three Little Pigs - Speakaboos

Screen shot courtesy of Speakaboos.

Most people know Bob Vila by sight—either from his early years as host of the long-running PBS series This Old House or his own cable shows, most notably Bob Vila’s Home Again. Many also recognize him by voice, from the now iconic, “Hi, I’m Bob Vila, welcome home again!” greeting that opened every TV show, and the warm, friendly intro that begins each of the daily Bob Vila Radio spots, “Hi, Bob Vila here, ready to help you out with my home improvement tip of the day!” But, regardless of how you know Bob Vila, you know the name is synonymous with home improvement and DIY.

So, when the inventive team at Speakaboos, creators of Web-based and mobile animated read- and sing-along storybooks for kids, reached out to Bob to do a voice-over for one of the characters in “The Three Little Pigs,” they didn’t have to huff…or puff…or blow the house down to get him to say yes. After all, who better to help the pigs in their house-building efforts than the master himself? (It’s possible that Bob’s granddaughter, Shea, may have had a little something to do with his enthusiasm for the project as well!)

Bob Vila and the Three Little Pigs - Builder Pig

The main characters in Speakaboos' "The Three Little Pigs."

Today, we are thrilled to announce that the new interactive story “The Three Little Pigs,” starring Bob Vila as the voice of Peter, the builder pig, is now available on the Speakaboos iPad app. Featuring colorful animated characters, the app is a hilarious new take on the classic tale, in which three pigs, disgruntled with their creaky, leaky, moldy old shack, decide to build new houses. Although some of the building materials—playing cards and cotton candy—are not options any respectable homeowner would go for, these touches make for an amusing and engaging story sure to please the whole family. Listen together as builder Peter constructs his own house out of bricks and shares some sound advice with the group.

The interactive story includes three modes of play for early readers, highlighted text, and story-based interactive dialogue and games. And best of all, you can download the Speakaboos iPad app for free at iTunes.

Bob Vila and the Three Little Pigs - Wolf

The wolf at the door—almost, courtesy of Speakaboos.

VTech Video Doorbell Keeps Simplicity at Your Fingertips

Today's home automation continues to bring convenience to every room of the house. And now—with VTech's innovative new video doorbell—its even extending it beyond the front door.

VTech Video Doorbell Phone


Maintaining your home used to require close attention and diligent care. Thanks to a bevy of home automation products, however, life is now so much different—and easier—for the homeowner, so long as he or she has opted to install the right time and labor-saving equipment.

VTech video doorbell answering system

VTech's IS7121 Two Handset Answering System with Audio/Video Doorbell.

It’s amazing what these gadgets and gizmos are capable of. You can get a thermostat that adjusts itself automatically, according to your family’s daily routine. Or your oven can perfectly cook your roast beef for you, based on weight and what time you want to eat.

In other words, we are living in the future. And if you needed further proof, here it is: The new VTech IS7100 series cordless phone and video doorbell allows you to see who is at the door without having to stop what you were already doing.

The first device of its kind, the VTech IS7100 series combines all the features of a cordless home phone with that of a digital video camera doorbell, so even if you are lounging comfortably on the living room sofa, you can still identify and communicate with your visitors.

If that level of convenience isn’t enough for you, consider these additional reasons to bring the technology of a video doorbell into your home:

1.  Complete Control. When the doorbell rings, a digital picture is sent to the handset. Activate streaming video to see more of your visitor, enable live audio, or do both in order to have a whole conversation without ever needing to unlock the door.

2.  Visitor Log. Curious whether anyone came a-knocking while you were away? Whether you were absent for an hour or several days, VTech’s built-in visitor photo log lets you scroll through photos of all who have graced your entryway. Think of this feature as a caller ID log for your front door.

3.   Color LCD Screen. A 1.8-inch, full-color LCD screen appears on the face of each portable handset. So that means no matter where you are in the house, you can see who is at the door. No more missed deliveries, and you can save time by screening visitors remotely.

4.   Night Vision. V-Tech’s video intercom helps homeowners feel safe and secure. Discreetly monitor entrances throughout the day and “after hours,” too. Automatic night vision makes it possible for you to see who’s at the door, even when it’s too dark to learn much by looking out the window.

5.   Do-It-Yourself Installation. For the DIY weekend warrior, installation is a breeze. The doorbell can be mounted either to the door frame or the door panel, replacing the existing doorbell.  While the battery-operated model is wireless, the AC version calls for some basic hardwiring that even a novice could handle.

Although the most exciting aspect of the VTech IS7100 series is its video doorbell technology, don’t forget that it’s also a phone, offering a range of features that includes voice-announce caller ID, a digital answering system, and push-to-talk communication between household handsets (think walkie-talkies). With the product’s HD-quality sound, you’ll always get the message loud and clear.

Now, sit back, relax, and answer the door!

For more, watch the video below, or visit VTech.

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

Let Your Attic Help Improve Home Comfort Year Round

Attic Ventilation


Looking to cut energy costs and improve home comfort? Focus on your heating and cooling systems. While it is imperative to choose an Energy Star-certified unit properly sized for your home, a variety of factors influence the effectiveness of your system, according to the experts at Lennox. And some of those factors, it turns out, have very little to do with areas of the home that you actually live in.

Your attic is the primary buffer zone between the conditioned air of your home and the roof that shields your dwelling from the elements. If your attic is not properly insulated and ventilated, then your home may be losing heat in the winter and cool air in summer. As a result, your furnace and air conditioning units may be working harder than necessary to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature.

Proper attic insulation is key to ensuring that you pay no more than necessary to run your HVAC equipment. Requirements vary by region, but for most attics, the recommended R-value is up to R-38, or about ten to 14 inches, depending on insulation type.

Insulation alone won’t do the trick. Attic ventilation also plays an important role in optimizing your home’s heating and cooling performance. In winter, a natural flow of outdoor air helps the attic stay cool, reducing the risk of ice dams and related roof damage. In summer, the same ventilation—in some cases aided by an attic fan—helps usher out superheated air, reducing its burden on air conditioning.

Take note: One of the biggest mistakes that homeowners make when installing insulation is blocking the flow of air at the eaves. Not only does this compromise the insulation’s effectiveness in winter, but also, the combination of blocked vents, poor insulation, and an operational attic fan could mean you’re paying to air-condition the attic—something you certainly don’t want to do!

The condition of your crawl space also impacts the overall efficiency of your heating and cooling system. Years ago, it was common practice to insulate the floor above the crawl space and to keep the wall vents open so that any moisture buildup would vent to the outside.

Particularly in climates with humid summers, the reality was that vents actually allowed moisture in, and that moisture would eventually degrade the crawl space’s insulation. Energy experts today advise that crawl spaces be included in a home’s conditioned space. That way, condensation is eliminated, energy loss from air ducts is reduced, and in winter, thanks to drafts being prevented, first-level floors remain warmer.

Looking for more ways to improve home comfort and save energy, check out the video below:


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

For more on HVAC, consider:

Insulation 101
Bob Vila Radio: Mechanical Ventilation
What You Might Not Know About HVAC Filters

Enter to Win Our “April Showers” Give-Away

Everyone knows that a new shower head can be a stylish, water-conserving improvement for any bathroom—but why stop there, when you could win the Delta shower head of your choice plus $2,000 to jump-start your dream bath remodel in Bob Vila’s “April Showers” Give-Away?


Today and every day in April (until 11:59 a.m. EST, May 1, 2013), you can enter to win one of four Delta shower heads (options shown below) in addition to a $2,000 Visa gift card!


Delta Showerheads

Delta's (clockwise from top left) In2ition® Two-in-One Shower, Dryden, Contemporary, and Transitional shower heads, each with H2Okinetic Technology

Each shower head features Delta’s H2Okinetic™ technology—an innovative internal system that controls the speed, movement, and water droplet size to create a custom shower experience like no other. The shower actually sculpts water into a unique wave pattern that provides more coverage, more intensity, and more warmth (since the larger water droplets retain their temperature longer). Best of all, you get the feeling of more water without actually using more water.

So, go ahead: CHOOSE YOUR SHOWER HEAD and seize your opportunity to win $2,000. Remember, you can enter Bob Vila’s “April Showers” Give-Away daily to increase your odds of winning.

To learn more about Delta H20Kinetics, click here.

The “Bob Vila’s Spring Showers from Delta Faucet” sweepstakes is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia; residents of Alaska and Hawaii are not eligible. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Contest Period runs from 12:00 p.m. (EST) Monday, April 1, 2013 through 11:59 a.m. (EST) Wednesday, May 1, 2013. One entry per household per day on Alternative means of entry for Drawing is available by faxing your name and address to 508-437-8486 during the applicable Entry Period. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. In the event that Winner fails to provide Sponsor with a choice of shower head, Winner’s prize package will include the Default Selection. See Official Rules.

10 Show-Stoppers from Las Vegas

Caesars Palace

Caesars Palace. Photo: LABworks360

What could the grandeur of a Roman fountain and an end-of-days bomb shelter possibly have in common? Must be time for the annual NAHB International Builders’ Show, held this year (January 22-24) in Las Vegas, NV. The event, which draws builders, contractors, manufacturers and industry professionals from around the country and the world, is renowned for showcasing the latest in new building products, materials, technology, trends and innovations.

While we were hard-pressed to cover the entire 360,000 square feet of exhibition space, we were able to discover some true show-stoppers. Here are ten of them to whet your appetite.
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ENTER TO WIN This Amana Washer & Dryer!

If you have to do laundry in 2013, wouldn’t you prefer doing it in style and with energy savings in mind?  We thought so.  That’s why we reached out to our friends at Amana® to sponsor Bob Vila’s “2013 Love Your Laundry” Give-Away.

Starting today and every day through the month of January (until 11:59 p.m. EST, Thursday January 31, 2013), you can ENTER TO WIN a new Amana 3.6 cu. ft. High-Efficiency Washer with Stainless Steel Wash Basket, valued at $649 (MSRP), and 7.0 cu. ft. Traditional Dryer with Interior Drum Light, valued at $479 (MSRP).

Amana Laundry Pair NED4700YQ and NTW4750YQ

Amana® 3.6 cu. ft. High Efficiency Washer and 7.0 cu. ft. Traditional Dryer.

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Books for the Love of Home

Experts on all things home aren’t always confined to hammer and nail. Many have picked up another set of tools altogether—pencil and paper. Looking to spread knowledge beyond their own toolboxes, today’s voices of interior design, craft inspiration, and historic homes have made 2012 a banner year for the home improvement book. Just in time for the holidays, we’ve gathered a fresh new trio of favorite stocking stuffers:


The Things That Matter

The Things That Matter by Nate Berkus

Photo: Spiegel & Grau

In designer Nate Berkus‘s recently released The Things That Matter, we are reminded of how one’s personal experiences shape who they are and how they live. Berkus fills the book with intimate stories of his childhood, introduces us to people who influenced him and encouraged him along the way, and opens up about the remarkable experiences that have changed him forever. Readers get a personal glimpse into Berkus’s home as well as 12 others, from a sleek metal-and-glass high-rise in Chicago to a rustic cottage in the Hudson Valley. Each property proves a revealing portrait of its owners lives and of the inspiring choices that shaped them. More…


Young House Love

Young House Love

Photo: A Beautiful Mess

In 2006, armed with a can-do attitude and zero formal training, husband-and-wife duo John and Sherry Petersik embarked on an ambitious home improvement journey. Six years, two whole-house renovations, and one enormously successful blog later, the Petersiks decided to move their crafty ideas from the computer screen to the glossy pages of a beautiful book. Young House Love: 243 Ways to Paint, Craft, Update & Show Your Home Some Love is a fun and upbeat source of inspiration. With instructive images accompanying each easy-to-read project guide, renters and homeowners alike will find themselves seeing new possibilities for every forgotten corner at home. More…


Houses of the Presidents

Houses of the Presidents by Hugh Howard

Photo: Little, Brown

Anyone who has gone through a major remodel knows that estimates are likely to run a tad long. If it brings any comfort, even Presidents have had to endure the same misery: It took Thomas Jefferson 54 years to complete his beloved Monticello! In Houses of the Presidents: Childhood Homes, Family Dwellings, Private Escapes, and Grand Estates, you’ll find a wealth of additional information on the homes (birthplaces, residences, retreats) of the American Presidents—from George Washington’s Mount Vernon to Punachou Circle Apartments in Honolulu, where Barack Obama lived with his grandmother. Author Hugh Howard, co-author of several Bob Vila books, weaves an intimate portrait that combines architectural history with intimate family stories and political lore to shed light on the men who have occupied the nation’s highest office. Color photographs by Roger Straus III bring these homes and furnishings vividly to life. More…


For more holiday gift ideas, consider:

Bob Vila’s 2012 Gift Guide: For the DIY Mom
Bob Vila’s 2012 Gift Guide: For the DIY Dad
Bob Vila’s 2012 Gift Guide: For the Gardener

Did You Know? Bulb Matters

Energy Saving Light Bulb Types


We hear a lot about lighting and energy efficiency, but can the right light bulb really be effective in reducing monthly bills and utility consumption? Yes, it can!

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star site, if every American home replaced just one light bulb with a bulb bearing the Energy Star label, we would save enough energy to light 3 million homes for a year, save roughly $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to those from about 800,000 cars.

For more on lighting, consider:

Light Bulbs: The Shape of Things to Come
Smart New Choices for Outdoor Lighting
How To: Save Money and Electricity

Calling All Nominations for the 2nd Annual Family Handyman-IKEA “Rescue Remodel”

Sponsored Post

In the spirit of the holiday season, do something to give back to your community this December. The Family Handyman, one of the most respected media brands in home improvement, has teamed up with IKEA® for its 2nd Annual Rescue Remodel Contest. From now until December 15, 2012, communities can nominate their local organizations—firehouses, boys and girls clubs, soup kitchens, food pantries, etc.—to win an IKEA kitchen makeover valued at $25,000.

Entries must explain in 500 words or less how the renovation will benefit the local organization and the community, along with what makes the group truly deserving of the makeover. Nominees must be active community organizations and part of a not-for-profit group to qualify. The winning organization will receive a fully customized kitchen—from new cabinets and appliances, to cookware and food storage—from IKEA.

A panel from The Family Handyman will select the five top community organizations from those nominated. The vote will then be open to the public from February 1 until March 30, 2013. A winner will be selected on April 12, 2013, and the completed kitchen unveiled in the magazine’s September’s issue and on its website, as well as on

To find out more, including official rules and how to submit a nomination, visit Rescue Remodel—but you only have until December 15th to nominate your community organization.