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.

Quick Tip: Cement Board

Waterproof and very strong—though not too strong for a do-it-yourselfer to manage—cement board is most employed as a backing for tiled walls and floors.

If you’re remodeling or adding a bathroom, use cement board as an underlayment. A bit of hardened mortar is sandwiched between two layers of fiberglass sheets. It cuts and trims like sheet rock, but it provides a waterproof layer under wall or floor tile. To attach it, drill a pilot hole first, then use galvanized drywall screws.

For more on building materials, consider:

Deconstructing Engineered Wood
Concrete and Cement: A Case of Mistaken Identities
10 Ways to Use Glass Block in Your Home Design

How To: Remove Rust

There are several ways to remove rust. Here, we give you a step-by-step tutorial on three common methods, so you can choose the one that best suits your project needs and skill set.

How to Remove Rust


Learning how to remove rust isn’t rocket science, and in homeowners’ ongoing fight to maintain outdoor tools and patio furniture, rust removal is an essential skill. There are at least three ways to get the job done; choose the method you like best from the options detailed below. Bear in mind that no matter the technique used, any effort to remove rust begins the same way: by using pliers, screwdrivers, or wrenches—and, if necessary, lubricant—to remove all fasteners (for example, screws).

- Wire brush
- Paintbrush
- Rust converter

How to Remove Rust - Wrench


Available in liquid or spray form at most home improvement centers, rust converters work wonders on iron or steel. Handling the product is a cinch. First, use a wire brush to scrape off any rust dust or flaking paint on the item you wish to clean. Next, apply the rust converter with a paintbrush (if you’ve chosen the liquid) or directly (if you’ve opted for the spray). What happens next is a miracle of chemistry: The rust transforms into a black substance, one that prevents further corrosion and can be painted over to achieve a finish that seems brand-new.

- Sandpaper or steel wool
- Electric drill with wire wheel

If you want to remove rust from an object marred not only by rust but also a great deal of flaking paint, there’s really no substitute for good old-fashioned elbow grease. Sanding the surface of the object with sandpaper or steel wool (or even a scouring pad) usually does the trick, so long as the rust is light. Just remember to scrape first with a coarse-grit paper, making sure you remove all pockmarks before finishing with a finer grit to smooth out grooves. For heavier rust buildup, try an electric drill outfitted with a wire brush. Alternatively, if you have access to one, use a grinder, but do this carefully. Keep the grinding wheel, stripping disc, or flap disc moving on the object at all times, or you’ll risk causing damage worse than rust!

- Goggles
- Rubber gloves
- Paintbrush
- Putty knife
- Rags
- Chemical removers

Take tremendous care when using commercially sold chemical rust removers; these powerful solutions contain either hydrochloric or phosphoric acid. Do this type of work only in well-ventilated spaces, and be sure to wear protective eyewear, rubber gloves, and full-coverage clothing.

Want to remove rust from a small object? You can fully immerse it in the rust remover, letting it soak one to three hours for light rust, overnight for heavy rust. If you are removing rust from a larger, more unwieldy object, consider using a remover in gel form. Once applied, different products take different amounts of time to be effective, so read the manufacturer’s directions closely. In cases where a significant amount of rust has built up over time, be prepared to apply several courses of the chemical before seeing the desired results.

How To: Paint Stripes on a Wall

Depending on the colors and pattern you choose, walls with painted stripes can be playful, formal, or cheerful—but whatever their decorative effect, they're an inexpensive and not-too-difficult way to add character to a room. Here's how.

How to Paint Stripes on a Wall


Painted stripes can be bold or subtle, identical or varied in size, horizontal or vertical. But no matter what design you choose, painted stripes pack a decorative punch that greatly exceeds the low cost of their creation. Although it’s important to approach the project with a detailed plan, it’s about as easy to paint stripes on a wall as it is to complete any other basic painting project in the home. Follow these steps to achieve best results.

- Cloth or sponge
- Water and dishwashing liquid
- Measuring tape
- Paint and paint tray
- Paintbrush and roller
- Ruler (the longer the better)
- Level
- Pencil
- Painter’s tape
- Ladder

Begin by applying painter’s tape to all trim around windows and doors, and along the ceiling and floor. Indeed, protect anything you don’t want to paint. Once you have finished, proceed to clean the walls thoroughly using either a cloth or sponge dampened with water and dabbed with mild dishwashing liquid.

Decide on a width and color (or some combination of colors) for the stripes, and whether they will run up and down or side to side. Next, measure the surface area of the wall or walls to be painted; that should give you some indication of how many stripes of the desired width and orientation you’ll need to fill the space.

You might find it very helpful to draw the wall or walls as closely to scale as possible. Map your tentative design onto the paper, tweaking the width and/or number of stripes as you go until you have struck upon the ideal scheme. Remember that it’s fine for the top and bottom stripes (in a horizontal design) or the left- and rightmost stripes (in a vertical design) to differ in width from the rest of the stripes; skilled professionals often do the same thing.

With a pencil, faintly mark the position on the wall where the top and bottom (for horizontal stripes) or left and right side (for vertical) of each stripe should go. Then use a level and the longest ruler you own to extend those lines over the surface to be painted. As it can be difficult to juggle three tools simultaneously, it’s wise to enlist a helper, if possible.

How to Paint Stripes on a Wall - Taping


Adhere the painter’s tape along the pencil line, obscuring all the areas you plan to leave unpainted or intend to paint at a later stage. Do this carefully, or you’ll end up with jagged edges. Consider using a burnisher or even a credit card to flatten the tape as you place it as firmly as you can on the wall.

For thin stripes, use a paintbrush; for thicker stripes, use a small roller. In either case, it aids accuracy to hold a perfectly straight implement, such as a ruler, to the very edge of the section of tape nearest to where you are painting. Should any paint get on the straightedge, that’s fine—after all, it’s there as a safeguard, but the idea is to coat the wall, not the guide tool. Continue working in sections until you have finished painting stripes on each wall that you set out to decorate.

Allow about an hour of dry time, then apply the second coat. Having done that, wait several hours before carefully removing the tape. The paint should still be slightly wet; that’s actually what you want. If you peel back the tape when it’s completely dry, the paint may come off in flakes, leaving you to start over on Step 1!

How To: Strip Paint from Antique Woodwork

It's no easy feat to strip paint from antique woodwork. The task involves great care, but the stunning result very often makes the effort worthwhile.

If you have an old house, some paint stripping projects require extra care. Antique woodwork can include applied details made of an animal glue compound that will melt if you use a heat gun. Instead, gently apply a chemical stripper and use suction and dental tools to carefully remove layers of old paint.

For more on paint, consider:

Paint Stripping Tools
Quick Tip: Stripping Paint
Bob Vila Radio: Paint Stripping Tips

Quick Tip: Rubber Slate Roofing

Rubber slate roofing offers a durable, budget-friendly alternative to the materials typically found on many old homes.

Rubber slate can be a good choice when re-roofing a Victorian. Made from the same material as car bumpers, rubber slate can last up to 100 years. The slates are flexible, pre-drilled, and calibrated. They can be cut with a knife and installed in any weather conditions. Rubber slate is an ideal product for a steep, complex roof with turrets, valleys, and crickets.

For more on roofing, consider:

Bob Vila’s Guide to Roofing
Installing Rubber Slate Roofing Shingles (VIDEO)
Roofing Roundup: 7 of Today’s Most Popular Choices

Quick Tip: Stormproofing Your Roof

For homeowners in parts of the country prone to hurricanes, it's not merely prudent, but critically important to stormproof the roof.

Loss of the roofing causes the greatest amount of damage from hurricanes. Construction techniques have been developed for securing roofs during high winds. Use metal clips to tie the rafters to the top plate. Improve the attachment of the roof sheathing by spacing nails closer together. Seal the sheathing joints with an adhesive membrane.

For more on storms and disasters, consider:

Storm-Proof Your Garage Doors
Bob Vila Radio: Storm-Ready Roofs
Building a Hurricane-Resistant Home (VIDEO)

How To: Inlay Sheet Vinyl Flooring

For a unique custom look, why not inlay vinyl flooring with a contrasting yet complementary color or pattern?

Here’s how to inlay sheet vinyl flooring for a designer look. Measure your design on the floor with chalk lines. Secure your inlay sheet on top of the base sheet with masking tape. Carefully cut through both layers, using a very sharp utility knife. Remove your base layer, trim the edges, and lay floor adhesive. Set your inlay in place and roll the floor to evenly spread the adhesive. Finish the edges with seam sealer and you’ll have a perfect fit.

For more on flooring, consider:

How To: Clean a Vinyl Floor
Quick and Easy Vinyl Flooring
Vinyl Flooring Installation (VIDEO)

Quick Tip: Framing with Engineered Wood

Professional builders agree that compared with traditional lumber, engineered wood framing proves superior time and again. Here are just a few reasons why.

Framing a house using engineered wood has many advantages. Glue-laminated beams are stronger than their conventional solid, sawn counterparts. Engineered I-joists span greater distances, and their stiffness prevents squeaky floors. Oriented strand board sheathing prevents racking and provides good nailer for siding.

For more on framing, consider:

Rough Construction
Deconstructing Engineered Wood
Engineered Wood Joist System Discussed (VIDEO)

How To: Install an Exposed Aggregate Concrete Finish

While they look rather expensive, exposed aggregate concrete walkways and driveways can be had for a relatively low cost by homeowners willing and able to perform the installation.

Here’s a way to create a decorative textured finish for a cement surface. Once your cement is poured and flowed out, evenly cast granite chips across the wet surface. Gently bury the stone into the concrete with a bull float. Let this set for four to five hours, then rinse with a light mist of water. Finally, brush the surface lightly with a soft broom; this will expose the granite to give the installation a look of stone.

For more on cement, consider:

Should You Consider a Concrete House?
Concrete and Cement: A Case of Mistaken Identities
Cement Your Place in DIY History with These 9 Easy Concrete Projects

Quick Tip: Structural Insulated Panels

Instead of traditional framing lumber, homebuilders nowadays often use structural insulated panels, or SIPs, as the material combines insulating properties and remarkable strength.

Building with structural insulated panels is becoming a popular way to save construction time and energy dollars. Composed of thick, rigid expanded polystyrene foam sandwiched between sheets of oriented strand board, these structural insulated panels replace traditional framing, sheathing, and insulation.

For more on framing, consider:

Bob Vila Radio: Metal Studs
Advanced Framing Techniques
Structural Insulated Panels Discussed (VIDEO)