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: Maintain the Metal in Your Yard

While most homeowners regularly tend to their lawns and landscaping, they often give short shrift to the metal elements in their yard—gates, railings, chairs and tables. Follow our tips for keeping these items clean and rust-free with a little TLC.

Photo: brickmoondesign.com

Enter the yard of most homes in America and somewhere among the trees, shrubs, and grass, you’re bound to find metal. Patio furniture, barbecue grills, handrails, fences, and gates—these are only some of the metal features common to the spaces outside our front doors. Thanks to metal’s well-deserved reputation for durability, we don’t often think about the material’s maintenance requirements. But when it comes to preventing rust—the mortal enemy of metal—homeowners must intervene from time to time to ensure that their outdoor metals keep looking and performing their very best. Follow these simple guidelines to help iron, steel, and other metals enjoy the longest life possible.

Coatings Are Not Superficial
Once precipitation and harsh weather have conspired to compromise and chip away at the coating on metal, then it’s only a matter of time before rust makes an appearance. Choosing your metals wisely is the best prevention. You’ll get the greatest longevity from products that have baked-on enamel or powder-coated surfaces. In comparison to less expensive painted or varnished metal, these coated products are far less vulnerable to peeling and flaking. Although they’re more expensive initially, metal items with superior coatings are worth the cost in the long run because they truly last for years.

Photo: hibbshomes.com

Safeguard Your Furniture
Metal outdoor furniture offers particular challenges. To make your furniture last, get in the habit of keeping up these easy routines:

• What a difference cleanliness makes! At least twice each year, give your metal tables and chairs a thorough once-over. A mixture of warm water and liquid detergent ought to do the trick. Apply the solution with a sponge; grab an old toothbrush to scrub any hard-to-reach areas. Use a hose to rinse away all traces of the detergent, then dry the metal with a rag, or on a good day, leave it to air-dry in the sun.

• Take pains to avoid damaging the metal’s coating. A simple action like clinking two metal surfaces together can chip one or both pieces, and dragging a chair or table leg may result in scrapes that leave the furniture vulnerable to rust. Take precautions. Raise the furniture up from the ground when you’re moving it, and at the end of the season, when you’re storing away your furniture, use old towels to prevent the pieces from hitting each other.

• If you live somewhere with monsoon summers, harsh winters, or other types of severe weather, consider bringing your outdoor metal furniture indoors, whether it’s for short-term shelter whenever a violent storm threatens, or for a season-long hibernation when the temperatures drop. No storage space in your basement, crawl space, or shed? A reasonable alternative is to cover the furniture with a breathable fabric for the duration of the foul weather.

Make Fixes Fast
Despite your best efforts, the metal on your property may begin to show signs of wear. Don’t wait for a small problem to get more serious. When you come across a small patch of rust, thoroughly clean the area (as described above), except work fine-grit sandpaper into the procedure. Lightly sand the rust away, then wipe off all residual grit before touching up the surface. Use metal primer first; once it has dried completely, follow up with a paint that’s specially formulated for metal.

Perform a Rescue Operation
More extensive damage demands more time and effort, and may require refinishing the metal. Here, preparation is key. Before you can begin a refinishing project, you’ve got to get down to bare metal—which is easier said than done. Use a wire brush—or to make quicker, easier work of it, use the wire wheel attachment on your power drill—and proceed to scrape away the old coating. Pay special attention to any crevices or scrolls that may be part of the design. Once you’re done scraping, wipe down the metal with a damp cloth (or hose it off), then wait for everything to dry before you apply metal primer and metal paint.


Bob Vila Radio: Lawn Mower Blade Height

The health of your lawn depends on many factors, including the height at which you set your mower blade to cut.

Whatever type of turf you have in your yard, if you want to keep it looking its best, make sure your mower is set to cut at the right height.

Photo: shutterstock.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON MOWER HEIGHT or read the text below:

And what, exactly, is the right height? Well, for starters, try following the ‘rule of one third’. The idea is that you shouldn’t more than one third the length of the grass at any one time.

So, if you have, say, Bermuda grass—which is healthiest when kept a little more than an inch high—cut it back once it starts to edge up toward two inches. For fescue or rye, which do best at two to three inches, you’ll want to set your mower height up a couple of notches.

Raising the height a bit is also a good idea whenever the turf is stressed by heat, drought, bugs or other factors. Keeping your lawn trimmed to the right height not only promotes healthy growth, it also helps keep weeds at bay.

Height adjustment on most mowers is easy. Just check your manual.

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: Patch Drywall

If you're setting out to patch drywall, whether the problem at hand is a few nail holes or a large gash, these simple tips can help you restore a smooth surface ready for paint.

How to Patch Drywall

Photo: shutterstock.com

Sooner or later, most of us need to patch drywall, whether for purely cosmetic reasons—filling nail holes, for example—or for comfort or safety—say, a hole has left wiring exposed. Although accomplishing the latter requires more materials and a greater investment of time, rest assured that a do-it-yourself solution exists, no matter the scale of the repair. Read on for guidelines for patching drywall in small-, medium-, and large-size projects.

SMALL
Tools and materials:
- Sandpaper
- Spackling paste
- Putty knife

The smaller the hole, the easier it is to patch. Start the process by sanding the area smooth. Next, load a bit of spackling paste onto your putty knife and apply the product directly to the hole. Work in enough of the paste so that it leaves a small mound over the hole, then press the flat side of the knife firmly against the mound in order to flatten it. Finally, swipe the blade in a broad motion across the repaired area, leaving the filled-in hole perfectly level with the finished drywall. Allow the spackling sufficient time to dry. Dry times vary, so refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for an accurate estimate. Sand lightly when dry.

MEDIUM
Tools and materials:
- Sandpaper
- Putty knife
- Joint compound
- Drywall mesh tape

If you want to patch a somewhat larger hole—an area with a diameter of one or two inches—the process becomes slightly more complicated, if only because it involves a material you might not have on hand: mesh tape. (You can buy mesh tape either as a roll or as a precut square.) After sanding the area to be patched, completely cover it with mesh. This now becomes the base to which you’ll add joint compound, a product that goes on like spackling paste but achieves a stronger result. As you spread the joint compound, pay special attention to the seams where the mesh tape meets the surrounding drywall. Once you can no longer see the tape, use the putty knife to flatten the mounded joint compound, then scrape the surface in wide, smooth side-to-side movements that create an even finish. Finally, allow the joint compound to dry for about eight hours—consult the manufacturer’s directions—before sanding and repainting the wall.

How to Patch Drywall - Large Hole

Photo: shutterstock.com

LARGE
Tools and materials:
- Drywall panel
- Utility knife
- Drywall saw
- Drywall screws
- Screwdriver
- Drywall mesh tape
- Putty knife
- Joint compound
- Sandpaper

A larger patch involves a commensurately greater commitment of time and effort to complete. In fact, the patching process here is not very different from the one that was used to install your drywall in the first place. Begin by using a drywall saw to cut evenly around the problem area. You should be left with a hole that’s rectangular in shape; use a utility knife to clean up the edges, if necessary. If possible—and to do this, you may need to make the hole larger than seems strictly necessary—make your hole big enough to expose one of the wall studs. Failing that, you’ll need to run a wooden member horizontally between the two closest studs. Why? You’re going to fill the hole in the wall with a piece of new drywall, and that piece needs a surface to which it can be securely attached.

Next, use a drywall saw to cut out a section of the drywall panel you’ve procured either from the surplus in your garage or from the aisles of your local home center. Measure and cut carefully, as the piece must fit perfectly into the rectangle you’ve cut in the wall. Once you’re certain that you’ve got a snug fit, use drywall screws to attach the new drywall to the stud (or horizontal member).

With the drywall patch firmly in place, apply mesh tape over all the seams between the patch and the existing drywall. Then load up your putty knife with joint compound and proceed to cover the mesh completely. (Don’t forget to smooth compound over the drywall screws, too.) Use the blade of the putty knife to flatten out the compound in any spots where it’s mounded, then scrape across the seams in wide strokes, either side-to-side or top-to-bottom, depending on the orientation of the mesh. Allow the compound to dry for about eight hours before you begin the final stage: sanding the patched area and repainting the freshly repaired drywall.


What Would Bob Do? Filling Nail Holes

Before you set out to fill nail holes in a hardwood floor, make sure you're using the right product.

How to Fill Nail Holes

Photo: shutterstock.com

I’ve removed some carpet and want to refinish the hardwood floors below. What should I use to fill the holes left by the carpet tack strip and the staples that held the carpet padding?

Floorboards are rarely face-nailed, at least not in modern installations. So these days, the situation you describe—the condition of a floor after the removal of wall-to-wall carpeting—is one of the only times that a homeowner would encounter hardwood flooring riddled with small holes. What’s the best remedy? That depends on whether or not, as part of the refinishing process, you are planning to sand the floor down to bare wood. If yes, then I suggest using wood filler. But if not, I recommend a similar but different product: wood putty. The former hardens and can be sanded. The latter never dries completely and is not intended for sanding; it’s an after-the-fact fix.

How to Fill Nail Holes - Floor Detail

Photo: shutterstock.com

Wood Filler for Bare Wood
Knead a small amount of stainable latex wood filler before pressing some of the product into each nail hole in turn, using a putty knife or a three-inch trowel. Clean any mislaid filler before it has the chance to harden, but don’t worry if you miss some. There’s no need to be meticulous. After all, you’re going to sand down the entire area. In the case of shallowly applied wood filler, you can begin sanding once the product has dried, somewhere between 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the depth of the repair. For deeper holes, wood filler takes longer to dry, sometimes as long as 8 or 10 hours. Be advised that the filler may shrink as it dries, making a second, supplemental application necessary. Also, filler doesn’t take stain the same way wood does, so a seamless look may be difficult to achieve.

Wood Putty for Finished Floors
Whereas it doesn’t so much matter which type of wood filler you end up using, when you’re working with wood putty it’s crucial to select the most appropriate product. Here, the goal is to identify a shade of putty that matches as closely as possible the color of your flooring. If you can’t find a putty that looks just like your floor finish, consider mixing two or more putty shades together; the blend may get you closer to the mark than any single shade could have. Simply knead the putties together until they become pliable, then press the product into each nail hole. Be careful to use a tool that won’t scratch the sanded floor—a plastic putty knife is ideal. Don’t worry when the putty doesn’t appear to be drying; it’s actually not supposed to dry. Wipe away the excess with a soft cloth and call it a day.

Tempting though it may be, don’t use plaster-like fillers, such as spackling or joint compound, whether you plan to sand the floor or not. These products dry to a brittle finish and are almost certain to loosen due to floor movement.


Bob Vila Radio: Screen Repair Made Simple

Holes in window or door screens are not only unsightly, but they also invite flying insects into your home. Fortunately, it's a simple fix, whether your screens are metal or fiberglass. Read on to learn how it's done.

Ever notice how pesky bugs manage to find their way through even the tiniest holes in your screens?

How to Fix a Window Screen

Photo: shutterstock.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON SCREEN REPAIR or read the text below:

No need to fret. Repairing the little holes is easy, especially if you catch them before they grow into big holes.

For metal screens, make a patch (using the same screening material) that’s about an inch larger than the hole. Next, unravel about a half inch of fringe around the edge of the patch and bend it at a right angle. Place the patch on the hole, push through the fringe wires, then bend them back to secure the patch.

For fiberglass screens, push the fibers of the screen back toward the middle of the hole, then apply a bit of clear nail polish to bond the fibers together.

For larger holes, head to the hardware store and pick up a self-adhesive patch that’s a snap to apply.

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: Grow Potatoes

So filling to eat, so versatile to cook with, and so satisfying to plant, the lowly potato is a rewarding crop for any backyard or container gardener—even a beginner!

How to Grow Potatoes

Photo: shutterstock.com

If you’ve never tasted homegrown potatoes, prepare to be amazed. A hundred days or so after planting—more or less, depending on the variety you choose—you’ll have an abundance of spuds. Of all vegetables, these are among the easiest to grow, making them a good choice for gardening neophytes—but even veterans would do well to observe the following guidelines for success.

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- Seed potatoes
- Hoe
- Garden container (optional)
- General-purpose compost
- Watering can

STEP 1
Though it’s sometimes possible to grow crops from store-bought potatoes, it’s best to purchase chemical- and disease-free seed potatoes. Doing so gives you the power to choose a specific variety, something that’s important because different potatoes have different needs. Whereas some varieties mature in 90 days and can be planted more closely together, others mature in 110 days and should be spaced farther apart. Knowing what variety you’re planting means you can meet its specific requirements. Generally speaking, the best time to plant potatoes is two or three weeks before the final frost, once the soil first becomes workable.

How to Grow Potatoes - Detail Plant

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 2
Potatoes are hardy and are able to adapt to different soil types. If you can, however, it’s wise to add compost to the soil in the fall, several months before you actually put the seed potatoes into the ground. When you’re ready to plant, clear away all weeds and use a hoe to break up the soil surface. Adding a few handfuls of general-purpose compost per square yard at this stage will further improve the nutrient value of your soil.

STEP 3
Plant each seed potato about six or eight inches into the prepared ground. As mentioned previously, the ideal distance between each seed potato depends on the variety of potato. A rule of thumb: Potatoes that take longer to mature often need more growing room. Before planting an individual seed potato, make sure that it has at least two eyes—bulbous protrusions from which roots grow. The eyes should face up. Cover each seed potato with three or four inches of soil, leaving the area slightly below grade.

STEP 4
As hardy as potatoes are, they are quite sensitive to drought, so remember to water on a consistent basis—once a week should suffice. If your region sees an exceptionally sunny period, however, water more frequently. By the same token, if it rains, lay off for a few days; it’s best not to let the soil become soggy.

STEP 5
Before they bloom, when the potato plants are about six or eight inches high, rake or hoe soil against the base of each plant. Known as “hilling,” this process not only supports the plants, helping them to stay upright, but it also cools down the soil in which the roots are growing. Two weeks after your initial hilling, replenish these mounds with another few inches of soil. Then—or in lieu of the second hilling—lay down a loose layer of breathable mulch (for example, leaves or straw) to protect the vines from insects.

STEP 6
The last step—perhaps the most satisfying—is to harvest your crop. For new potatoes, harvest two or three weeks after the plants flower. Harvest all mature potatoes once the plant vines have died back and lost most of their color. Bear in mind that it’s easiest to dig on a dry day, when the soil isn’t moist from watering or recent rains. Depending on the quality of your soil, you can dig with your hands right off the bat, or you may need to use a tool to loosen the ground first. The potatoes will be four to six inches below the surface, ready to be brushed off and stored in a cool, dry, dark place.

Additional Tips
- If in doubt as to when it’s appropriate to harvest, pull up one plant and assess its growth.

- About two weeks before you harvest, cut the leaves off at ground level. That gives the potato skins time to toughen, which makes the vegetables easier to store.

- Because washing potatoes shortens their storage life, don’t rinse a potato under the faucet until you’re actually ready to use it in your cooking.


How To: Use Wood Filler

Use wood filler to repair scratches, chips, gouges and other surface imperfections in the furniture and trim work around your home, effectively and efficiently.

How to Use Wood Filler

Photo: suemartinteam.com

Scarred flooring, rotted window frames, chipped furniture—common problems like these can be time-consuming and expensive to repair. Or they can be dealt with quickly and affordably by homeowners who know how to use wood filler. If you’ve never worked with this stuff before, get excited: It might soon be your favorite item in the toolbox. Simple in concept and easy to apply, wood filler works wonders to remedy surface imperfections in a vast, varied range of household items.

Which type of wood filler should you use? The answer depends largely on the job. As the name suggests, stainable wood fillers are receptive to staining so that once you’ve applied the product, you can stain over it to ensure the repaired section matches the rest of the piece that you’re fixing. Typically, water-based wood fillers may also be stained (or painted), but unlike other products in the same category, these are specially formulated for use indoors. Common applications are molding, paneling, and cabinetry. Heavy-duty solvent-based wood fillers are meant primarily for outdoor use and perform well on exterior siding and trim.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Sandpaper
- Shop vac (or tack cloth)
- Wood filler
- Putty knife
- Polyurethane sealer
- Paint or stain

How to Use Wood Filler - Exterior Detail

Photo: diyadvice.com

Working with wood filler may at first blush strike you as messy and haphazard, but precise results are not only possible, they are in fact rather easy to achieve. It’s important to note, however, that wood filler is intended strictly for superficial issues, such as scratches and gouges. If the damage calls for a proper repair, wood filler is no substitute. That said, there’s no shortage of ways in which to use wood filler to improve the look of both practical and decorative elements that have seen better days.

STEP 1
Start by preparing the surface to which you are going to apply wood filler. For one, that means removing any loose chunks of wood or flaking paint. Next, sand any rough edges in or immediately adjacent to the damaged area you wish to repair. Finally, clear away all lingering dust and debris by means of a shop vac or moistened tack cloth (if you use the latter, wait for the area to dry completely before you proceed).

STEP 2
Now, apply the wood filler using a putty knife. Start at the edge of the damaged area, pressing the wood filler into the depression. Overfill slightly to allow for the fact that the filler shrinks as it dries. Once you have applied as much filler as necessary, smooth over the filled area with a clean part of the putty knife.

STEP 3
Allow as much time as needed for the wood filler to dry. Depending on the depth of the application, that could take anywhere from 15 minutes to eight hours. Once dry, sand the filled area so that its height is flush with the surrounding wood. When you run your hand over both the undamaged and freshly filled parts of the item you are fixing, you should feel only the slightest difference between the two.

STEP 4
Having sanded the area smooth, complete the project by applying your choice of finish. In most cases, the goal will be to make the repair virtually unnoticeable. So if you’ve been working on a baseboard painted white, concealing the fix is simply a matter of painting over the filled area in the same shade.

Stained pieces are trickier to deal with. For the best possible match, it’s recommended that you dab some wood filler onto a piece of scrap wood. Wait for it to dry, then test the stain to see how it looks. Depending on the test results, you may then choose to thin out the stain, use a different color, or (if you got a close enough match) proceed to apply the stain to the item that you’ve now successfully fixed—cheaply, easily, and possibly in less than an hour.


How To: Sharpen a Chain Saw

A chain saw with a dull, poorly maintained chain won't cut cleanly or effectively—and it's a safety hazard to boot. Follow these guidelines to sharpen a chain saw sharp and keep your trusty tool in good working order.

How to Sharpen a Chainsaw

Photo: shutterstock.com

Like any other tool in your arsenal, a chain saw must be properly and consistently maintained in order to perform effectively. Of course, you can hire a professional to sharpen your chain saw, but most do-it-yourselfers can handle the job on their own, saving some money in the process. So if you’ve noticed that your chain saw no longer cuts as easily and cleanly as it once did, read on to learn how to sharpen your chain saw and keep the tool in good working order.

Chain saw maintenance requires a basic understanding of the tool’s component parts. The models owned by average homeowners typically include the following:
- Engine
- Drive mechanism
- Guide bar
- Chain

Lubricate
Different chain saws operate slightly differently and have different maintenance requirements. Study the manual that came with your chain saw to understand the needs of your specific model. That said, it’s almost invariably true that every part of a chain saw either must have or would benefit from lubrication. Besides occasionally inspecting the motor and chain, confirm on a regular basis that there’s a sufficient quantity of oil in the tool’s reservoir. Also check the guide bar, which holds the chain in place. It can become twisted or bent during use. Avoid problems by ensuring the integrity of the guide bar before you start up your chain saw, each and every time. Even while you’re working, it’s wise to occasionally spot-check this crucial part of what is, after all, a powerful and potentially dangerous tool.

How to Sharpen a Chainsaw - Detail Blade

Photo: shutterstock.com

Sharpen the Chain Saw
There are two approaches to sharpening a chain saw. You can handle the task by means of an electric sharpener—and if you fell trees frequently, electric sharpeners are an indispensable convenience—or you can accomplish the same result manually, using a combination of muscle, sweat, and sharpening files. Electric sharpeners are used mainly by tradesmen, so these tips focus on the manual method, which is more accessible to DIYers.

The chain comprises a series of teeth. You are going to need a file that precisely matches up with the size of an individual tooth in the chain. For reference, the most common sizes are 3/16″, 5/32″, and 7/32″.

Once you’ve obtained a file of the correct size, begin work by thoroughly cleaning the chain, removing all oil, dirt, and debris. (Depending on the condition of the chain, mineral spirits may be either essential or excessive.) Look closely at the chain as you’re cleaning it. If any of the teeth are damaged, the chain may be unsafe to use, in which case you should repair it (if possible) or swap in a new chain.

For best results, you need to firmly stabilize the chain saw before attempting to file the chain. Some choose to place the chain saw in a vise, with the clamps holding the guide bar in such a way that the chain can rotate freely. Alternatively, you can enlist a helper to keep the tool steady while you work.

Locate the shortest cutter blade on the chain (the cutters are the ones with flat tops). This is where you should begin sharpening. If all the cutters are the same height, then you can start with any tooth on the chain, but remember to mark—with a pencil, marker, or even nail polish—the first one that you sharpen.

Set the file into the notched section at the head of the cutter. Holding the file at an angle—the same angle at which the notch was initially ground or most recently filed—slide the file across, twisting it somewhat so as to create friction. From that initial cutter, proceed to file every second cutter around the chain. Now reverse the saw and proceed to file each of the teeth that you left alone in the course of your first pass. When you’ve finished, the flat tops of all the cutters should be more or less precisely the same length.

Finally, inspect the depth gauges (these are the curved links between the cutters). Each depth gauge, or raker, should be shorter than the adjacent cutter. If you find a depth gauge whose height exceeds that of the closest cutter, file down the raker so that it sits about 1/10″ below the height of its cutter counterpart.

Now that you know how to sharpen a chain saw, bear in mind that the more frequently you use the tool, the more often it’s going to need maintenance. In fact, if you are using the chain saw for hours on end over the course of a day, you may need to pause at some point in order to restore the chain’s sharpness. Also, be aware that chain saws are likely to show wear in some areas more than others. Pay special attention to the area near the tip of the saw, particularly if you often use it for cutting tree limbs.


How To: Install a Window Air Conditioner

With these simple tips, it's a breeze to install a window air conditioner quickly and securely!

Whereas putting in a central air conditioning system typically requires a professional crew, installing a window air conditioner is a cinch. Even a self-described hopeless amateur ought to have little trouble here. In fact, you’re likely to become somewhat of an expert on the process, being that most homeowners choose to remove window air conditioners at the end of the summer and reinstall the units the following year. Bear in mind, however, that not all window designs are meant to accommodate such a large, unwieldy box. The following instructions apply only if you wish to install a window air conditioner in a sash or double-hung window.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Window air conditioner
- Drill
- Screwdriver
- Insulating foam strips

STEP 1
Window air conditioners are sold in a variety of sizes, and each model has a different cooling capacity, rated in BTUs. Many online calculators exist to help you identify the number of BTUs needed to efficiently cool a room of a given size. BTUs aren’t your only concern, however. You also need to be certain that the unit physically fits in your window. Before you shop, measure the width of the window opening and don’t purchase any air conditioner whose housing wouldn’t leave about two inches of wiggle room on either side.

How to Install a Window Air Conditioner - Exterior

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 2
Once you’ve purchased and unpacked an appropriately sized air conditioner, you’re ready to install it—but first, grab a friend. Two pairs of hands are best for all but the very smallest air conditioners. Before you move on, attach any provided rails, flanges, or accordion-style panels (or wings) according to the manufacturer’s instructions, using the provided screws. Now your first step is an easy one: Open the window! Open it wide enough to accommodate the height of the air conditioner. Next, pick up the unit and rest it on the bottom of the window frame. Have your helper hold the unit in place while you see to the remaining tasks.

STEP 4
Most window air conditioners are designed with two flanges—one that runs along the top of the unit, another along the bottom. These flanges facilitate the installation process and improve the air conditioner’s stability. After positioning the bottom flange so that it abuts the windowsill, proceed to lower the window sash (which you had raised in Step 2) until its bottom rail meets the top flange on the unit. The air conditioner should now be held in place by the top sash, but have your helper keep hold of it lightly until you’ve completed the next step.

STEP 5

Your air conditioner probably came with one or two small angle brackets that must be used to secure the two sashes together, preventing them from slipping apart or from being accidentally opened, either of which occurrences could cause the air conditioner to fall out of the window. Place the angle bracket against the top sash where it meets the top of the bottom sash. Mark where the screws should go, drill pilot holes, and tighten the screws using a screwdriver. Extend the accordion-style panels (which you attached in Step 2) and secure them to the window using the manufacturer-provided screws. At this point, make sure that all screws that came with the unit have been secured according to the instructions.

STEP 6
The last step is to seal the opening between the upper sash and the lower sash, which has been raised to accommodate the unit. Your air conditioner should have come with a foam insulating strip. Cut it to length, then fit it snugly into the gap between the lower sash and the glass panes of the top sash. If your unit didn’t come with an insulating strip, you can—and should—buy one at your local home improvement center and install it.

Additional Tips
- If you choose to remove the air conditioning unit before the winter, remember to store it upright in a dry location.

- If your air conditioner came with L-brackets, be sure to put these in place before lifting the unit into the window.


What Would Bob Do? Leveling a Concrete Floor

There are a number of options for leveling a concrete floor. Read on to learn which approach is best for your needs.

How to Level a Concrete Floor

Photo: shutterstock.com

I’d like some advice on how to level a concrete floor. We plan to finish the basement in my house, and there are going to be a couple of sump pumps, so we no longer need the old drain in the middle of the floor. Thanks!

There is no one way to level a concrete floor. Of all the methods available to do-it-yourselfers, which should you employ? That largely depends on how level you want to make the concrete. And that question, in turn, hinges on a related but different question: What type of flooring do you plan to install in your basement?

If you envision carpeting or another type of floor that forgives minor variations in subfloor grade, such as engineered wood or click-and-lock vinyl, then you can probably opt for the least labor-intensive method. Here, a concrete grinder would do the bulk of the work. (You can rent this tool from your local home center.) You’d use it to grind down the most prominent ridges in the floor. To finish the job, you would then mix up a small batch of concrete and use it to fill in any dips or depressions.

If you want to install tiles that glue down, things get a bit trickier. For a successful installation, the concrete floor beneath the tile needs to be more or less perfectly level and smooth. That’s true for compact tiles and even more critical for larger ones, including the popular 1-by-2-foot size. With small tiles, the maximum differential between the lowest and highest point on the floor is 1/4 inch per 10 feet; with larger tiles, the acceptable differential is a mere 1/8 inch per 10 feet. To achieve such flatness, use a self-leveling compound. These come in powdered form and are mixed with water and a fortifying agent. You end up with a thin liquid that when poured from a bucket flows across the existing uneven concrete. Gravity will bring the liquid to a level, but you can help the process along with a broom or trowel.

When it comes to mixing and applying the self-leveling compound, closely follow the manufacturer’s instructions, because every product differs slightly. Generally speaking, though, no matter what compound you choose, you’ll need to take similar steps to prepare the basement beforehand. For one thing, it’s important to remove any flaking paint or loose adhesive from the floor to ensure that the compound can get a good grip on the concrete. Also, so you don’t need an excessive quantity of compound, it’s not a bad idea to grind down any spots on the floor that are especially high. And of course, if there’s a drain—and you mentioned that there is one—it must be capped and sealed around the seams of its cap. Word to the wise: Wear cleats in case you need to walk across the compound while it’s still wet.

Once the self-leveling compound has set, you can proceed to install your chosen flooring. Alternatively, if you’ve had enough DIY for now, remember that you can eschew a finished floor, opting instead to stain, paint, or polish the compound that now forms the top layer of your concrete basement floor slab.