Author Archives: Bob Vila

Bob Vila

About Bob Vila

You probably know me from TV, where for nearly 30 years I hosted a variety of shows – This Old House, Bob Vila’s Home Again, Bob Vila, and Restore America with Bob Vila. You can now watch my full TV episodes online. Now it's this website that I am passionate about and the chance to share my projects, discoveries, tips, advice and experiences with all of you.

How To: Paint Tile

If you're unhappy with your ceramic tile, ripping it out isn't your only option. Did you ever consider painting it?

How to Paint Tile - Supplies

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You are itching to redesign your kitchen or bathroom, but the color of your existing tile limits your options. Certainly, one possibility is to remove or replace the tile, but that’s an involved process, not to mention an expensive one. Another option—by comparison, a much easier and cheaper one—would be to paint the tile. Yes, it’s possible to paint ceramic tile! Follow the steps below to paint tile like a pro, and proceed with your kitchen or bathroom redesign, confident that any style is within reach.

Here’s the catch: It’s not a good idea to paint tile in the immediate area of the sink or bathtub/shower, because the moisture may cause the paint to peel. Focus your painting efforts on walls, floors, countertops—indeed, any tiled area that isn’t likely to come into contact with a great deal of water on a frequent basis. Also note that because painting tile requires the use of epoxy and other compounds that contain harmful chemicals, it’s essential to ventilate the room well and to wear proper protective gear.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Sandpaper
- Two-part epoxy
- Bonding primer
- Painter’s tape
- Drop cloth (or plastic sheeting)
- High-gloss or semi-gloss latex paint
- Paint thinner
- Urethane sealer
- Paintbrushes (or rollers)

How to Paint Tile - Supplies Detail

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 1
Before you begin in earnest, thoroughly clean the tile. First, sand it. Next, wash the tile with a store-bought cleaner formulated to kill mold, or with a mixture of one cup bleach and about a gallon of warm water. Allow the tiles to dry completely before you proceed any further in the project.

STEP 2
Examine the tile. In order to look its best once painted, the tile should be free of imperfections. If you encounter any chips or cracks that you would like to repair, do so with a two-part epoxy. Mix the product according to manufacturer’s directions, then apply it carefully to the affected area, being careful to make your repair level with the surrounding tile.

STEP 3
Having successfully readied the tile, move on to coat it with an application of epoxy bonding primer. You can use either a brush or roller, depending on the size of the area you are planning to paint. Resist the temptation to skip the primer; you really need it for the paint to adhere in a lasting way.

STEP 4
Use painter’s tape in combination with a drop cloth or plastic sheeting to protect nearby surfaces from errant paint. Next, with a brush or roller, apply high-gloss or semi-gloss latex paint to the primed tile. If you find the paint isn’t spreading evenly, add a bit of paint thinner to the formulation. Once you’ve finished painting, wait for the tile to dry completely. In some cases, drying can take as long as several days.

STEP 5
Finally, apply two or three thin coats of clear, water-based urethane sealer to the newly painted tile. During the process, let each coat dry before you apply the succeeding one. This, too, isn’t a step to skip, because the sealer can be expected to safeguard the tile against threats like scuffs, scratches, and moisture.


Bob Vila Radio: Reciprocating Saw Safety

It's one of the most handy tools in the do-it-yourselfer's repertoire, but like any power tool (especially ones outfitted with a blade), the reciprocating saw demands special safety considerations.

Reciprocating saws—the ones with a motor and a thin, straight blade that juts back and forth—are one of the most useful tools you can own.

Reciprocating Saw Safety

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Listen to BOB VILA ON RECIPROCATING SAW SAFETY or read the text below:

Reciprocating saws can cut through wood, metal, and all sorts of construction materials. But they can also be dangerous and need to be handled with the utmost care.

One of the main hazards of recip saws is their potential for kickback. That can happen if you make the mistake of pulling the blade out of your cut while the blade’s still moving. The tip of the blade smacks into the material you’re cutting, and the whole saw, including the moving blade, kick back toward you. If you happen to be on a ladder, that’s especially bad news.

You also need to keep in mind that the blade can bind unexpectedly. That’ll cause the blade to stop moving, but not you and the saw. Be sure to keep a tight grip. One final caution: a saw blade can generate a lot of heat, so give it some time to cool down before trying to change it.

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: Flooded Basement Cleanup Tips

Among the litany of ways in which a serious storm can damage your home is the pernicious, hard-to-solve problem of basement flooding. These cleanup tips can help you back to life as you knew it before the rain.

What a huge job it is to clean up a flooded basement! But the job can be a lot less of a headache if you keep some key points in mind.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON CLEANING BASEMENT FLOODS or read the text below:

First, don’t panic. You do need to act quickly, though, to salvage your belongings and also to minimize the growth of unhealthy mold and bacteria. Use a pump or wet vac to suck up as much water as you can.

Next, haul wet items up to an area where they can begin drying. Get a couple of dehumidifiers going, plus as many fans as you can muster. If the flooded area is large, it may be a good idea to call for some heavy-duty commercial fans and dehumidifiers.

Your aim is to get as much dry air moving around as possible. Pull off baseboards and moldings. It’s probably also a good idea to cut a few small holes in sheetrock so air can get to the inside of the walls as well as the outside.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 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: Painting Pressure-Treated Wood

The process of painting pressure-treated wood isn't wildly different from painting other types of lumber. But there are special requirements here—most of all, the job calls for patience.

Thinking of putting some paint on that deck you just built? If you used pressure-treated lumber, you’ll need to approach the job a bit differently than you ordinarily would.

Painting Pressure-Treated Wood

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Listen to BOB VILA ON PAINTING PRESSURE-TREATED WOODor read the text below:

First, put a coat of preservative on the wood. And not just any preservative. Home stores carry preservatives especially formulated for pressure-treated wood.

The next thing you’ll need to apply is a bit of patience. That means waiting about three months before you paint. That’ll give the chemicals in the wood time to dry properly.

Once the wood has finished curing, it’s time to head to the paint store. Choose a paint that’s specially formulated for covering pressure-treated wood. Although you can use either oil- or latex-based, latex is probably the better choice, since it expands and contracts with the wood and is less prone to cracking and peeling.

Avoid the temptation to apply all the paint in one thick coat. You’re better off applying several thinner coats, using a brush and—if practical—a roller with medium-to-long nap. Make sure that between coats, you allow plenty of time for drying.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 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.

How To: Clean a Stovetop

When weeks of hasty dinner prep leave your stovetop in a state, never fear: A combination of common pantry items can restore the shine to your appliance and a sense of order to your kitchen.

How to Clean a Stovetop

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On those busy nights when you’re lucky to have found just 20 minutes to put toward preparing a one-pot meal, cleanup seems like it can wait. Regret only sets in days or a week later, when you’re bent over, scrubbing away splatters of caked-on grease or drippings. No matter your homekeeping style—whether you prefer to do a little bit every day or a giant deep-clean once in a blue moon—these tips can help you clean a stovetop effectively, and without going nuts in the process.

1. Take off removable parts. These include such things as the grates over gas burners or the coils on some, not all, electric stoves. If the control knobs on your appliance come off, remove and deposit them—along with the grates or coils—in a bucket or sink filled with hot, soapy water. If your knobs don’t budge, clean them in place with a soapy sponge. (Though people often praise ammonia for its grease-cutting, its use here runs the risk of erasing the knobs’ markings.) Towel away any soap suds left on the knobs, then dry them off before being sure to double-check that all the knobs are set to the off position—safety first!

How to Clean a Stovetop - Dirty

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2. Address caked-on spills. You can always use a store-bought cleaner that’s been formulated for use on stovetops. But if you’d rather not spend the money—or hesitate to expose yourself to toxic chemicals—you can brew a potent cleaning solution from natural items you likely already have in your pantry. Try this: Mix equal parts water, baking soda, and salt to create a mild abrasive paste. Apply the paste to any splotches on the stovetop, then wait a few minutes. The paste should work to soften even the most stubborn stains. Finish by firmly rubbing the dirty areas with a sponge or a microfiber cloth. Once clean, buff the stovetop dry.

3. Revisit removable parts. In Step 1, you probably left several components to soak in soapy water. Now go back to those, and you should find their grime has loosened up. Scrub each piece with a sponge—or with a stiff-bristled brush—until clean. Rinse off, dry, and replace the parts where they belong on the stove.

Additional Notes
- If you own a gas stove and have noticed that one of the burners no longer performs as it once did, the problem may be a clogged fuel port. With the grates off, take a closer look, using a flashlight if necessary. If you spot a blockage, use a bent paper clip to gently dislodge the offending debris.

Now that your stovetop sparkles, the trick is to maintain its state of cleanliness. The best way to do so is by wiping down the grates/coils and the surface of the appliance after every use. Add stovetop clean-up to your post-dinner routine, if you can. Spending two minutes a day ultimately takes less time than periodic deep-cleaning—and the former definitely involves less hassle and labor than the latter.


What Would Bob Do? Solving a Yard Drainage Crisis

Does your lawn turn into a swampy mess every time it rains hard? If so, pursue one of these yard drainage solutions, not only to allay your aesthetic concerns, but also because standing water can pose serious problems.

Yard Drainage Solutions

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Please help. My yard stays wet when it rains. I live in a subdivision with flat terrain. Is there a solution that does not cost a lot of money?

You have a few options, but none of them are cheap. First, I would invite a full-service landscaping company to examine your property, diagnose the problem, and submit an estimate. Even if you opt not to hire the company, the consultation would help you to understand the cause (and potential consequences) of the problem. Knowing only the basics of your situation, I can offer some general info on yard drainage solutions, but you really should talk to a pro in your area.

Poor yard drainage isn’t only an aesthetic issue. For one thing, standing water seriously jeopardizes the health of your lawn and landscape plantings. Another frustration: When your property is a swamp, you simply cannot enjoy it. Meanwhile, standing water can actually be a health hazard, as it gives rise to mosquitoes and other pests. Not to mention, excess storm water may ultimately find its way into your basement, where it creates a host of other costly-to-fix issues.

Usually, there’s a solution to yard drainage problems. Topography is the key thing to consider. A well-draining property slopes gently and gradually away from the house, descending six inches over the initial ten feet surrounding the foundation (with another foot of slope over the next 100 feet). If that’s not true in your case—if, say, your property actually sits below that of the neighbors’ and the street—re-grading the terrain is the logical step, but it’s not a do-it-yourself job.

After an abnormally heavy rainfall, any yard can be expected to be a bit swampy, but if yours consistently hosts standing water, then you’re right to pursue yard drainage solutions. Each of these are designed to divert excess water from where it poses a problem to an area where it can more freely seep into the soil.

Yard Drainage Solutions - Curtain

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Curtain Drain. This won’t work if your property has a lower elevation than all of the land surrounding it, but if the street or an adjacent woodland are below the grade of your flooded yard, you’re in luck. You can set a perforated pipe into the ground, running from the problem area to the safe zone. The pipe draws in water through its holes and by the power of gravity, carries water away from your home.

Drywell. If there’s nowhere it would make sense to drain the storm water, your best bet might be to install a dry well. Basically, a dry well is a holding tank for excess runoff. The container fills during a storm, then in the hours and days afterward, it drains into the soil beneath and next to the well adjacent. One advantage is that a gravel-filled dry well may be covered over with soil and grass.

Sump Pump. If you’re willing to throw money at the problem, go for a sump pump (like that used to keep a wet basement dry). A sump pump corrals excess runoff and pumps it away. That means it can deposit the water somewhere that’s uphill from your property. The catch? A sump pump isn’t cheap: There are not only installation costs to weigh, but also the ongoing costs of running the machine.

As mentioned, a full-service landscaping company would have a great deal of experience handling situations such as the one you’ve described. But it’s important to note that if you believe municipal engineers are in any way responsible for the issue you’re facing, then your local government may be willing—or legally obligated—to solve it. Talk to your neighbors. If they too are experiencing drainage problems, approach city hall as a group to maximize chances of your voice being heard.


Bob Vila Radio: Give Your Garage Floor a Makeover

Does your garage look a little like a dungeon? Coat the floor with colorful (and highly durable) epoxy paint. Here's how.

Looking to make your garage a little snazzier? Dressing up the concrete floor with colorful epoxy paint may be just the ticket. Besides looking sharp, epoxy resists grease and oil. Plus, it’s easy to clean.

How to Epoxy Garage Floor

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Listen to BOB VILA ON EPOXY PAINT or read the text below:

As with any paint job, preparation is key. First, wait for mild weather. Epoxy doesn’t bond well in extreme temperatures.

Next, remove any existing paint. Use a degreaser to clean up oil stains, then an electric scrubber to clean the whole floor. Wet vac the floor to get up as much water as you can, then sprinkle a mix of muriatic acid and water on the floor and go over it again with the scrubber.

Rinse thoroughly and allow the floor to dry completely.

You’ll need to apply at least two coats of epoxy. Be sure to allow plenty of time between coats. And don’t forget to wear protective gear during the job, as epoxy fumes can be toxic.

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: Emergency Generators

If you've been thinking about purchasing an emergency generator, don't wait until after the lights have gone out. Start your research now.

We used to think of late summer and early fall as the storm season, but with all the unpredictable weather lately, it’s best to be prepared year ’round. For many people, part of being ready for anything is to own a generator.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON EMERGENCY GENERATORS or read the text below:

What type of generator should you choose—portable or stationary? Here are some points to consider…

Most portable generators crank out somewhere between 3,000 and 10,000 watts. That’ll probably be enough to run most of your lights and plug-in appliances, but only the large portables can feed power-eaters like central air or electric ranges. Portables are relatively inexpensive, though, and they’re a good bargain if you just want to power the essentials.

Stationary generators, on the other hand, are permanently installed outside the house and run on propane or natural gas. The largest standby generators put out 15,000 watts or more and can virtually power your whole house. That power doesn’t come cheap, though. Expect to pay $5,000 to $10,000 plus installation.


How To: Clean a Washing Machine

Every now and then, the appliance responsible for cleaning your lucky socks and favorite sweater needs a little TLC. Neutralize odors and maximize efficiency with these easy maintenance musts.

How to Clean a Washing Machine

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When you throw a load of laundry into the washing machine, your clothes emerge stain- and sweat-free, and that’s a wonderful thing. But how often do you actually wash the washer? It may seem counterintuitive, as the appliance deals entirely in detergent and suds, but if left untouched, it could eventually leave your favorite outfit smelling worse than it did in the hamper. Fortunately, using only a few household staples, you can clean a washing machine in a few easy steps.

How to Clean a Washing Machine - White

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1. Remove Dirt and Debris
Like it or not, loose dirt inevitably collects in the washing machine. And if you own a pet, you can be sure that some of its fur—some way, somehow—will find its way into the appliance. So even though your clothes come out clean, contaminants are left behind on the inside of the washer. From week to week, remember to wipe it out so that lingering crud doesn’t land in your next load of laundry. I recommend using a vacuum cleaner. Outfit it with a brush attachment, double-check that the washing machine’s drum has dried completely, then run the vacuum head over all parts of the cylinder. You may be surprise by how much you pick up!

2. Neutralize the Stink
Newer washing machines have a special self-cleaning cycle that helps eliminate odors. But if yours is an older model, you can fight smells by running the empty machine on a hot-water cycle, with liquid chlorine bleach added to the detergent drawer. Afterward, open the door to the drum, so the interior can fully dry out. Repeat this exercise at least once a month to keep your machine smelling its freshest.

If despite your best efforts, a musty odor lingers in the washing machine, mold or mildew may be responsible. Particularly vulnerable are those components of the machine where water collects—the detergent tray, for example, or the rubber seal around the door. The trick here is to spray the problem areas with a solution of vinegar and water. This, too, should be done once a month for best results.

3. Improve the Washer’s Efficiency
On the back of most washers, inlet screens work to filter out particles suspended in the hot and cold water entering the machine. Here, dirt and limescale accumulate over time—occasionally, that buildup can disturb washer operation. If you’ve noticed poor performance, the first thing to check is the inlet screen. After unplugging the washer and turning off its water supply, unhook the hot and cold water lines and remove the filters with careful twist. Soak each in vinegar to remove the limescale. Quickly rinse and reconnect them, then plug the machine back in. You should see immediate improvement.


5 Simple Steps to a Perfect Pantry

Bring neatness to your pantry—a notoriously hard-to-organize space—with these tips and tricks, based both on common sense and experience.

How to Organize a Pantry

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In many households, meals start in the pantry. Whether it’s an oversize cabinet, a converted armoire, or a separate small room, we rely on the pantry to store as many canned goods, paper products, pet supplies, packaged foods, and cleaning solutions as the laws of physics allow. No matter how compact or generously sized, pantries hold more and function better if well kept. But neatness can be difficult to maintain in these notoriously jumbled, chronically overstocked storage areas. Read on for five simple yet effective pantry organization tips, all geared to help you get in and out with a minimum level of frustration along the way.

 

1. MAXIMIZE AVAILABLE SPACE

How to Organize a Pantry - Maximize Space

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Put every square inch to good use. That means packing as many shelves, drawers, or cabinets into the pantry as possible. In an awkward corner or cavity where nothing else would fit, capitalize on exposed sections of the wall, using them to support hooks, pegboards, or magnetized panels. Also, if there’s a door into the pantry, don’t overlook the straightforward, no-frills benefits of a hanging pocket organizer, perfect for loose items like bags of rice or pouches of beans.

 

2. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

How to Organize a Pantry - Configurable

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Successful pantry organization depends in part on the changeability of the space, whether or not it can be modified over time as storage needs shift. Whenever there’s a choice, opt for configurable shelves over fixed-in-place ones. Built-ins are nice, but stand-alone metal units are a fraction of the cost, at least as functional, and most important of all, they’re almost endlessly versatile. Adjustable wood cabinetry exists, but it tends to be one of the costliest options.

 

3. CONSIDER USING CONTAINERS

How to Organize a Pantry - Containers

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It may seem unnecessary—and for some people, it probably is unnecessary—but if you struggle to keep the pantry tidy, I recommend storing dry goods (e.g., flour, sugar, and rice) in transparent, airtight containers. There are many round-shaped options to be found in this product category, but rectangular containers stack much better, affording a more efficient use of space. For miscellaneous small items, use inexpensive baskets or repurposed crates to cut down on clutter.

 

4. GO LABEL CRAZY

How to Organize a Pantry - Labeling

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Many homeowners love open storage, because with no cabinet doors or drawer faces to obstruct the line of sight, you can see what you’ve got at a glance. Particularly in the pantry, where so many different items commingle, the downside of open storage is how visually chaotic it can look. One solution is to store like items in opaque containers, each labeled in keeping with its contents. To make your labels, get creative with washi tape, clothespins, or chalkboard paint.

 

5. ADD STYLE

How to Organize a Pantry

Photo: getmytour.com

The pantry’s role is a functional one, but loving how it looks may motivate you to keep the space more organized day in, day out. Paint the walls a cheery color, or hang wallpaper over visible portions of the wall. Space permitting, install a funky pendant light or chandelier. And if you’re buying baskets and bins to fill the shelves, coordinate them not only with each other, but also with the decorating scheme that exists elsewhere in the kitchen and throughout the rest of your home.