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: Apply Epoxy Floor Paint

Give your dingy old garage floor a gleaming, long-lasting finish with epoxy paint.

How to Apply Epoxy Floor Paint - TailoredLiving

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You lavish attention on the bedroom and living room, bathroom and kitchen, but what about the unsung hero of many smoothly functioning households, the garage? If you’ve always been underwhelmed by the bland gray of the concrete slab, there’s a great way to give it a literally lustrous new look: epoxy paint. No, regular paint isn’t a terrible idea, particularly if you rarely set foot in the garage. But if yours tends to get busy, either with foot traffic or comings and goings of at least one car, opt for epoxy paint. This stuff is tough and resistant to grease, oil, various chemicals and all manner of scuffs—in other words, the litany of challenges that would ruin a regular paint job. Plus, epoxy paint boasts a distinctive, gleaming appearance. Best of all, it’s easy to apply. Here’s how it’s done.

First things first: Check the weather report. More important than the air temperature, however, is the temperature of the concrete you are painting. Its surface should be at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Assuming conditions are prime, proceed to strip off any old paint that exists on the surface, and remove any oil or grease stains that would compromise the epoxy finish. For those stubborn stains, I recommend using the forceful combination of a degreaser and scrub brush.

Once you’ve gotten the slab pretty clean, wet down the whole floor with a mixture of water and degreaser. Follow up with an electric floor scrubber, continuing until you see a healthy head of suds. That’s a sign that you’ve really gotten somewhere. Now, plug in a wet/dry vac and suck up as much of the moisture as possible. (Don’t empty the vacuum bucket, which now contains degreaser, in your yard. Check the product label and heed its advice for proper disposal.)

How to Apply Epoxy Floor Paint - Flake Detail

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Epoxy adheres best to an etched concrete surface. That being the case, you must take the time to prepare the slab before you can begin applying the coating. Cover the floor with a 10-to-1 mixture of water and muriatic acid, then go over it a second time with the electric scrubber. Caution: Muriatic acid is dangerous. Closely follow the printed instructions, and be sure to wear all suitable protective gear.

Next, hose off the floor thoroughly. Allow the concrete to dry overnight. In the morning, it should have a slightly rough surface, with a consistency similar to that of sandpaper. It’s now ready for paint.

Epoxy comes in several varieties, the most common being solvent-based or water-based. Many commercial outfits choose solvent-based epoxies, because they are especially strong. The downside is that their fumes are highly toxic. Water-based epoxies are almost as good and produce no toxic fumes. So in residential use, it’s really best to stick with the latter. But note that if you opt for a solvent-based epoxy, it’s of paramount importance that you wear a respirator when working with the product.

Whether solvent- or water-based, epoxy paint usually requires the mixing of two components—resin and hardener—prior to painting. Mix thoroughly, using an electric drill chucked with a stirring bit. Once the epoxy is ready, you can finally begin to paint the floor, much in the same way you’d paint other surfaces.

Brush paint around the perimeter, then use a roller to cover the rest of the floor, section by section. In the interest of tidiness, keep a collection of rags handy. Use them to remove any misapplied paint. Epoxy thinner must be used with a solvent-based product; otherwise, water does a fine job. Let the first coat dry for at least a day before applying the second, final coat. You’re very close to finished now.

To dry out completely and cure, epoxy needs to sit undisturbed for as long as a week (confirm this with the printed instructions on the container of your chosen epoxy paint product). Only after the recommended amount of time has elapsed should you haul your stuff back into the garage. Yes, that’s inconvenient. But when you pull in the car, you’ll love how it looks parked—like a model in a showroom!


Bob Vila Radio: How to Relocate a Young Tree

You're having second thoughts about the placement of a sapling. No worries. So long as it's still relatively small, you can move a tree to a new spot on your property. Here's how.

Ever come to the frustrating conclusion that you’ve planted a young tree in exactly the wrong place? Here are some tips on how to move it without losing it.

How to Move a Tree

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Listen to BOB VILA ON RELOCATING A TREE or read the text below:

Prep the new location first. The hole should be about twice the width of the root ball. Depth should be about grade level. As you’re digging out the bottom of the hole, you’ll want to resist the urge to loosen the soil. Loose soil can cause the tree to sink too low over time, and that can lead to rotting.

Next, remove the tree by starting with your shovel about three feet from the trunk. If you have to cut roots, use sharp pruners. When you’ve managed to get the root ball loose, hoist the tree up onto a tarp and drag it to the new location.

Lower the tree into the new hole and gradually add soil and water. Create a wide berm around the tree and add a couple inches of mulch. Then get your hose going. The tree will need plenty of water until it’s settled into the new spot.

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.


Stinky Situations: What to Do If You’ve Been Skunked

An unfortunate encounter with a skunk can mean weeks of a lingering stink. But with the right combination of cleaners, you can neutralize the odor on your body, your clothes, and inside your home before the day's over.

How to Get Rid of Skunk Smell

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The stench of a skunk attack—it’s unmistakable, even when you’re in the passenger seat of a car, with the windows closed, driving through a neighborhood sprayed hours prior. But what do you do when there’s a skunk smell in your own backyard or worse, actually inside your house? Well, for one thing, you’ve got to act fast, ideally within an hour or two of the spray. If neglected, that foul odor could linger for months on household textiles, everything from bed linens to furniture upholstery. It can even wind up on your skin! Fear not: There are effective ways to neutralize the odor. To get rid of skunk smell for good, read on.

How to Get Rid of Skunk Smell - View 2

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Scenario 1: Your Clothing Stinks
Hydrogen peroxide ranks as perhaps your best weapon against the scourge of the skunk. Because it can damage the fibers of your clothing, however, it must be diluted prior to application. Mix one part hydrogen peroxide with six parts water, then soak your clothing in the solution for an hour or two.

If the affected piece is delicate or dry clean only, skip the peroxide, opting instead for a staple of the pantry—vinegar. Though somewhat less effective than the alternative, vinegar works reasonably well to get rid of skunk smell, and it’s much less harsh. If you’re cleaning your clothes in a vinegar bath (one part vinegar, four parts water), leave the garments to soak a little longer, for as long as three hours.

Once the recommended soaking time has elapsed, place your clothing into the washing machine, adding a half-cup of baking soda to your usual cycle. Finally, if you can, let the clothing dry outside. Believe it or not, the sun’s ultraviolet rays work to further break down any odor that still remains.

Scenario 2: Your House Stinks
To get rid of skunk smell indoors, place open containers of vinegar in room corners or adjacent to any affected furniture. The vinegar should work to absorb odors over the course of the next day or two.

For tile or stone countertops, scrub with diluted bleach (following the instructions printed on the bleach container). For wood, use water and ammonia. And for harder-to-wash materials, such as fabric curtains or wall-to-wall carpeting, think about hiring a steam cleaning service (or renting the tool).

Scenario 3: You Stink—or Your Pet Does
If you or your pet has been sprayed, grab the hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and dishwashing detergent. (If you’re outside when sprayed, send a family member indoors to retrieve the supplies.) Mix a quart of three-percent hydrogen peroxide, a quarter- to half-cup of baking soda, and a teaspoon of dishwashing detergent. Dip a rag into the solution, using it to rub yourself down or to wash your pet. Avoid the eyes and any sensitive area. When you’re finished, dump the mixture; it shouldn’t be stored (this potent brew can actually destroy its container).

No matter the game plan, do your best to air out the house by opening windows, using fans, and changing your HVAC filters. Most of all, remember that addressing the skunk smell immediately can save you days of multiple showers and endless household cleanings. This, too, shall pass!


How To: Paint Metal

A fresh coat of paint can do wonders to revitalize and protect your household metals. You'll just need a few tools and as always in DIY painting projects, a focus on prep work.

How to Paint Metal

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A fresh coat of paint can brighten the look and prolong the life of metal surfaces in and around your home. Painting metal is no more or less difficult than painting other surfaces. And, as with other paint jobs, whether you’re painting a vintage desk or an aging fence in the yard, your success will largely depend on how much effort you put into the prep work. Sorry, no shortcuts. But here’s the good news: Follow the steps below, and the paint job can be expected to last and look great for years.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Stiff-bristled wire brush
- Sanding block or fine-grit sandpaper
- Drop cloth
- Clean cotton cloths
- Spray primer
- Spray paint
- Protective gear (safety glasses and dust mask)
- Clear spray lacquer (optional)

STEP 1
Start by inspecting the metal surface you intend to paint. Assuming that it’s portable, move the item to a well-ventilated space where you have prepared a drop cloth-covered work area. Inspect the metal for cracks and peeling or chipped paint. You will probably find no shortage of surface imperfections, but don’t worry—these can be removed by means of a wire brush (if the rust doesn’t budge, consult these instructions). To be on the safe side, wear a dust mask as you work.

How to Paint Metal - Corrugated Detail

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STEP 2
Having removed all rust and old paint—or as much as it was humanly possible to remove—proceed to sanding the metal. Use either a sanding block or a square of fine-grit sandpaper. (Here, too, it’s wise to wear not only a dust mask, but also protective glasses.) After sanding the metal, wipe it down with a moistened cotton cloth, using it to clean all the sanding dust off the surface. Before continuing onto the next step, wait for the metal to dry out completely.

STEP 3
Apply a specially formulated metal primer. If the object you are painting doesn’t have a smooth surface—if it features lots of nooks, crannies, and crevices—opt for spray primer. Otherwise, use a brush or roller to apply traditional primer, choosing one or the other tool based on the surface area. Check the instructions on the product you’ve chosen, but generally speaking, primer needs about 24 hours to dry.

STEP 4
Now it’s finally time for paint. Use a brush or roller, or use a spray paint formulated for application on metal. Apply several light coats, letting the paint dry for a few hours between coats. Once you are happy with the coverage, let the paint dry for about eight hours (or overnight). After that, you’re basically all done!

STEP 5
Last but not least is the optional step of finishing the paint job with a sealer intended for use on materials including metal. Not only does sealer protect the paint, but it also imparts a nice shine.

Now that you know how to paint metal and you’ve witnessed how easy the process can be, you may find yourself studying your home and garden with renewed attention, looking for other things to revitalize with a fresh coat of color. Yes, one successful DIY project inevitably leads to another!


Bob Vila Radio: Wisdom for Window Fans

With energy costs rising as rapidly as summer temperatures, it pays to switch off the air conditioner whenever the weather isn't sweltering. Here's how to get the most bang from the minimal bucks needed to operate window fans.

After spending a warm summer day picnicking or at the beach, who doesn’t love to come home to a comfortably cool home?

Window Fan Tips

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Listen to BOB VILA ON WINDOW FANS or read the text below:

Sure, air conditioning is great. But with electric bills keeping pace with rising temperatures, the costs of keeping cool are a real concern for most of us. Window fans can be a great way to help beat the heat. Here are a few window fan tips for a cooler home on a budget that won’t make you hot under the collar.

Position inward-blowing fans on the shady side of your house, outward-blowing fans on the opposite side. A further note about window fan placement: When possible, it’s best to move air in the direction of the prevailing breeze.

Pursue what’s known as the stack effect. In a multi-story home, that means using window fans to pull air into the bottom floor, while pushing rising warm air out windows on the upper floors. Early in the morning, when the house is at its coolest, close the windows to retain that cool air. When night falls, open the windows again.

One more thing: Don’t forget to pull the fans out of the windows when rain is in the forecast.

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: Fend Off the Power Surge Scourge

A spike in electricity can fry your electronics. Protect your beloved gadgets and gizmos with a surge protector. Here's how to choose one.

These days, we’re increasingly sharing our homes with electronic devices. Many of them are pretty pricey, and that includes computers, home theater setups, and sophisticated AC or heating systems. One characteristic most of those devices share is that they have circuit boards that can be easily damaged by power spikes.

How to Choose a Surge Protector

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Listen to BOB VILA ON SURGE PROTECTORS or read the text below:

The best way to avoid such calamities? Surge protection. Here are some tips on how to choose: Look for protectors that have a “joules rating” of 700 or higher. Joules ratings tell you how much power the protector can absorb before it fails. You’ll also want a protector that has a “clamping voltage rating” of 400 volts or less. Clamping voltage describes how much voltage the unit needs to sense before it begins absorbing energy.

You’ll also want to have a look at the warranty. Many companies reimburse for devices that get fried while plugged into their protectors. Check the fine print. Another option—whole-house surge protectors. Many types are available, and they’re not all that expensive.

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: Planting Ground Cover

For all of its rewards, lawn maintenance can become a loathsome chore. If you're sick and tired of mowing and watering, why not ditch the grass and plant ground covers instead?

If you’ve grown a bit weary of spending your weekends wedded to your lawn mower, perhaps it’s time to replace some of your sod with low-maintenance ground covers.

How to Plant Ground Cover

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Listen to BOB VILA ON GROUND COVERS or read the text below:

Here’s what you’ll need to do: First, use a rototiller or a sod-stripping machine to clear your intended plot of grass and weeds. Next, water the area, then cover it with clear plastic for several weeks. The sun will heat the soil and boost its potential to support the new plants.

Once you’ve removed the plastic, cover the area again, this time with a water-permeable landscaping fabric to discourage weeds. Cut small holes in the fabric, fold back the flaps, and plant your plants.

There are literally hundreds of plant varieties that work well as ground covers. They spread quickly, need little  maintenance, are drought-resistant and lend an elegant touch to your landscaping. As you would with any other landscaping effort, keep the climate in mind when you’re choosing what to plant.

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.


5 Steps to Hiring the Right Roofer

Roofing ranks among the largest and most expensive projects a homeowner can undertake, so take the time to be certain you find a roofing contractor you trust to put a roof over your head.

How to Find a Roofing Contractor

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Whereas other home upgrades are purely elective, roof repairs aren’t a choice; they’re essential. Besides being critically important to personal comfort, structural integrity, and the resale value of your home, roofing ranks among the largest and most expensive projects a homeowner can undertake. The significant costs involved motivate some ambitious do-it-yourselfers to do the work on their own. But for the majority of us, a roofing job means hiring a professional. So if you’re at an early stage of the process, take control by finding a qualified contractor with a solid reputation. Hire well, and you can expect the roofer not only to get the job done on time and on budget, but also to offer valuable insight on the best materials for your house style and the climate where you live. So rather than flip open the yellow pages and settle on the first company listed, follow these steps designed to help you find someone you can trust to put a roof over your head:

How to Find a Roofing Contractor - Shingles

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1. Get a referral
One tried-and-true method of finding a reliable contractor is to query your friends and neighbors. Within the past few years, has anyone in your life had work done on his roof? Make a list of names, reach out to each person, and ask two questions: Was he happy with the job done and would he work with that contractor again? Testimonials provide the most accurate picture of what your experience might be with a given company, and you can count on personal contacts to give you honest feedback. Outside of your circle, you can also get leads from lumber yards and hardware stores.

2. Do your research
If you’ve identified at least three qualified roofers, you can get started investigating each one. Start by verifying the businesses’ contact information. Next, confirm that each one is licensed and insured. Consult your chamber of commerce and the Better Business Bureau to be certain there are no red flags to be aware of. Then finally look for reports on contractor review sites, such as Angie’s List.

3. Meet face-to-face them
Having narrowed the field, invite the prospective contractors to visit your home and scope out the job. You’ll want to discuss roofing materials and the extent of work to be done, but don’t forget to ask about the time and manpower needed for completion. Observe the contractor: He should be enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and professional in demeanor. Certainly, you’re dealing with an authority on materials and methods, but don’t be deterred from participating in the decision-making process! Ask a lot of questions and before he leaves, remember to get a list of references (then remember to check them).

4. Get it in writing
Work shouldn’t begin until you have a signed contract detailing every aspect of the job. Make certain it covers safety procedures and liability, including workers’ compensation. The contract should also specify such things as clean-up methods, payment amounts, and the schedule. Consider requesting a lien waiver to protect against claims that could arise if the roofer fails to pay a vendor for materials.

5. You get what you pay for
The cheapest bid probably isn’t your best bet. Of course, the estimates issued are a factor to consider. But more important is your level of confidence in a given roofer’s ability to do an outstanding job. If you’re impressed by a company that isn’t the cheapest, ask yourself, “How much is peace of mind worth to me?” For many homeowners, it’s worth quite a lot.

Good luck!


How To: Remove Water Stains from Wood

Those white, cloudy rings on your wood furniture don't have to stay there forever. Try one of these methods for removing—or at least minimizing—water stains on wood.

How to Remove Water Stains from Wood - White Ring

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Wood furniture is beautiful, but it’s not impervious to the wear and tear of everyday life. To retain their looks, new and antique wood tables and chairs must be properly maintained. It’s for good reason that your parents sternly insisted that you use coasters: Water and wood are indeed natural enemies.

If the damage has already been done, and you now have to figure how to remove water stains from wood, don’t be discouraged—many have been there before you and successfully eliminated—or at least made significantly less visible—the unsightly marks that moisture can leave in its wake. In fact, for anyone researching the issue, it can be difficult to know where to start, not because there isn’t enough advice available, but because there’s so much. How do you know which of the many repair methods are most reliable? What follows are details on the three approaches that we and others have found to be the most effective. You may need to work through a bit of trial and error before discovering the trick that works in your case. Be patient, and good luck!

Water stains show up as white or light-colored rings or clouds. The light color is a sign that the moisture hasn’t reached the actual wood; rather, it’s trapped within the finish. (It’s when the stain is black or dark-colored that you have a real problem and should either refinish the piece yourself or consult a pro.)

How to Remove Water Stains from Wood - Coaster

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Method 1: Ironing
As with most stains, it helps to act quickly. If the stain has been there for only a few days, try this: Empty your clothes iron of all the water inside, then bring it into the room with the affected piece of furniture. Plug in the iron, then lay a cotton napkin, towel, or T-shirt over the stain. With the iron set on low, apply it briefly to the fabric before lifting the cloth to see if the ring has diminished. Repeat until (we hope) the white stain has disappeared. Alternatively, you can try using a hair dryer to achieve the same effect. Move the dryer back and forth over the area for about 10 minutes until the moisture evaporates.

Method 2: Mayonnaise 
Assuming Method 1 gets no results, it’s worthwhile to experiment with what may at first sound like an odd thing to put on furniture: mayonnaise. Dab a bit onto a rag, then gently apply the mayonnaise directly to the stained area. Let it sit for at least an hour or as long as overnight, reapplying the mayonnaise if the initial coating dries out. If there’s no mayonnaise in your fridge, petroleum jelly may be used as an alternative. Either way, the idea is for the oil in these substances to seep into the finish, displacing the lodged moisture. Note that if you’re seeing some results but wish the remedy packed a little extra punch, consider bringing cigarette ashes into the equation. Many have reported that the penetrating power of oil works best when combined with the abrasiveness of cigarette ashes.

Method 3: Toothpaste
If the above methods have gotten you nowhere, walk to your bathroom, reach into the medicine cabinet, and pull out a tube of toothpaste—but not just any toothpaste. You’ll need the white, non-gel variety. Squeeze some onto a rag, then massage it onto the stain. You shouldn’t need to scrub hard or for very long to see results. To avoid causing any further damage to the furniture in question, it’s best to concentrate your efforts only on the affected portions, because the toothpaste can wear away the finish.

If the water stain isn’t gone completely, then it may at least have lightened enough to be less noticeable. The ace up your sleeve is that, if all else fails, you can always sand the furniture down to bare wood and refinish it. (If you’re dealing with a prized piece, you may want to consult a pro.) To prevent similar damage in the future, heed your parents’ advice and use a coaster!


How To: Get Rid of Moles

All summer long, you've put hard work into maintaining a lush lawn. Don't let it go to waste! If you see signs that moles are wreaking havoc with your lawn, save yourself a migraine by trying these methods to remove the disruptive underground pests from your yard.

How to Get Rid of Moles - Culprit

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There’s no mistaking when a mole or two have invaded your lawn and garden. Though you’re not likely to see one above ground, the hills and ruts a mole leaves in its burrowing wake can spoil, if not devastate, your landscaping. Beyond the eyesore of new mounds sprinkled throughout your lawn, the tunneling can separate roots from soil, killing grass and other vegetation. If you’ve been researching the topic of how to get rid of moles, then you’ve probably come across scores of reports, each touting this or that method as being the best solution to a mole problem. It might be worth trying one or some of those recommendations, but in our experience—and according to most experts—trapping remains the only reliably effective means of stopping these creatures.

First, the bad news: If you were hoping there’d be a way to get rid of moles without getting your hands dirty, it’s time to either modify your expectations or call in a professional. Trapping is not only somewhat labor-intensive, but it’s also going to bring you up close and personal with at least one mole. If you’re squeamish about such things, enlist the help of a neighbor or hire a pro.

How to Get Rid of Moles - Mounds

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If you’re used to dealing with animals—or if the damage caused by the moles has driven to you a point of frustration-induced courage—then you’re ready to get to work. Basically, there are two options: You can try to catch a mole, so to speak, in the act, or you can set out a series of mechanized traps. The former is the more humane approach, because it doesn’t require killing the mole. The latter is more likely to produce results, but the mole may die in the clutches of your trap.

Option 1: More Humane, Less Effective 
Here’s the prevailing wisdom on how to catch a mole and keep it alive. It turns out that things haven’t changed much since Bill Murray portrayed a hapless, mole-crazed groundskeeper in Caddyshack.

First, use the back of a shovel to flatten out and pat down any molehills that you’ve noticed on your lawn or garden. Next, remove yourself to a vantage point elsewhere on the property, somewhere at a distance—and ideally downwind—from the patches of earth you’ve shoveled over. If a mole catches your scent in your air, or if your footsteps send vibrations into the ground, the mole isn’t likely to show itself. Wait patiently and be as still as you can be until you see a disturbance in the soil caused by the mole returning to repair the hill you’ve covered. Carrying two shovels, rush to the disturbed area and plunge the shovels into the ground, one on either side of where you saw the ground move. The mole should now be trapped in the small section of its tunnel between your tools.

Now that you’ve isolated the mole, dig it out from its tunnel, transfer it to a cardboard box, and take it to a field far away from your property. Repeat the process until you’ve relocated all the offending moles.

Option 2: Less Humane, More Effective 
Purchase a mole trap online or at your local home center. Place the spring-loaded snare into a mole’s tunnel, being sure to choose an active tunnel. If you’re not sure of a given tunnel’s status, cover over the nearest molehill. Wait a day or two, and if the molehill has been uncovered, that’s a pretty clear indication of activity. Once you’ve set the mole trap, check it often. Also, remember that catching one mole doesn’t mean the problem’s behind you. You’ll need to set the trap again and again, because additional moles may decide to occupy the initial one’s pre-established tunnels. Indeed, several moles may need to be trapped before the tunnel goes dormant. Finally, know that it may not be legal in your state to set a trap that kills moles. Check with your local authorities.

Until you’re rid of the pesky critters, know that it can be OK and even beneficial to live with your underground neighbors for the time being. Their quick digging actually aerates your yard and circulates nutrients in the soil. Plus, a mole’s diet of  grubs and other insects could get rid of pests that would otherwise eat at the roots of your plants. While you’re cohabiting, just follow a little bit of maintenance to be sure their shallow tunnels don’t completely disrupt the roots of your plants: Press any raised soil back into place with your foot, and water thoroughly so that the roots do not dry out. To discourage moles in the future, cut back on the watering in your lawn-care routine, and maybe even consider choosing a grass that can survive on less water. The drier soil will attract fewer earthworms and thus minimize your chances of tempting a mole to move in and chow down.