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.

Bob Vila Radio: Fast Fixes for Sticky Double-Hung Windows

Do you work up a sweat wrestling with sticking windows? These time-tested tricks can help you get those slashes sliding freely up and down again.

Sure, you love your old wooden double-hung windows. But sometimes—after raising and lowering them—do you feel like you need a visit to the chiropractor? Here are some tips for freeing up those sticking windows.

Sticking Windows

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Listen to BOB VILA ON STICKING WINDOWS, or read text below:

First, if the windows have been painted shut, use a hammer and stiff putty knife (with a blade at least 4″ wide) to work your way between the window sash and the moldings. Holding the putty knife parallel with the glass, gently tap the corner of the blade between the molding and the sash. Once you have the blade partly in, wiggle it around to loosen the paint. Repeat the process around any areas of the sash where it appears there could be binding.

You can also try using a hammer to drive a block of wood into the window tracks, as near to the sash as you can. The wood should be about 1/8″ wider than the tracks. The idea is to spread the tracks just enough to ease the binding. Finally, rub a little candle wax into the tracks. That’ll help keep those sashes sliding!

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: Are There Plants That Repel Mosquitos?

In a word, yes. If you're sick of being bitten while trying to enjoy your background, think about including one or all of these pest-repelling plants into your landscaping.

Modern mosquito repellents generally do a pretty good job of keeping the bugs away, but toxic chemicals often top their lists of ingredients. The good news is that there are plants you can easily grow, and place strategically around your deck and patio, that will deter flying pests.

Plants That Repel Mosquitoes

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Listen to BOB VILA ON PLANTS THAT DETER MOSQUITOES, or read text below:

Citronella, one of the most popular, is very effective and easy to grow. In colder climates, it’s best to use planters, so you can bring Citronella plants inside when the temperature drops. Catnip is another good choice. (Be aware, though, that as it repels mosquitoes, it may attract neighborhood cats!)

Marigolds are an excellent option for border plants. Mosquitoes hate their scent and will avoid entering bordered areas. Finally, why not grow herbs that repel mosquitoes? That list includes basil, garlic, lemongrass, and rosemary. Pick the leaves you need for cooking, and leave the rest to keep the bugs at bay!

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: Help Your Lawn Thrive This Sweltering Summer

Here's how you can help your lawn rise to the challenge of not only surviving the summer, but thriving despite the heat and drought conditions.

Summertime is great for beaches, boating, and barbecues. But it’s not so great for turf grasses. They tend to take a beating in hot, dry weather. Here are some ways you can help your lawn get through the stressful summer months.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON HOT WEATHER LAWN CARE, or read text below:

First, water wisely. Treating your turf to thorough soakings, spaced a couple days apart, is better than light, daily sprinklings. Most lawns do best on at least an inch of water per week (more, if temperatures are really soaring).

Use a rain gauge—or just a short, empty can—to help keep track of  how much you’re watering. Cut your grass often, but not too short. It’s best to raise your mower blade, so you’re trimming your turf at about three inches high. That’ll encourage healthy root growth.

One other tip: Make sure your mower blade is sharp. That way you’ll be cutting the grass cleanly rather than shredding it. Shredding is an extra stress your turf doesn’t need, especially this time of year!

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.


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.