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Bob Vila’s Guide to Home Security

In your quest to keep your home and family safe, your first line of defense is common sense. Start by making your home more secure and less welcoming to intruders, and then consider the potential benefits of a whole-home security system.

Home Security


It wasn’t so long ago that when an intruder broke into a house, the home security system would sound an alarm and, if monitored, alert the police. Today, advances in video surveillance, motion sensors, wireless technology, and home automation have made it possible not only to make sure your house is locked up tight, but also to let you know who’s coming up the driveway, ringing the front doorbell, walking in the backyard, opening a window, or tampering with the pet door. In many cases, the system can alert you conveniently on your mobile device.

There are many commonsense approaches to home security, as well as a range of options. If you think it’s time to install a security system, be sure to do your research, evaluate your needs, and consider your budget, taking into account both the cost of installation and any required monthly fees. Use this guide to home security as a first step toward making your home and family as safe as possible.

When it comes to home security, the best defense—aside from common sense—is reinforcing existing structures.

  • Change out door locks (consider upgrading to a Grade 1 deadbolt), and check that all windowpanes are secure and locks are properly functioning. Reinforce the less obvious home entry points, such as skylights or pet doors.
  • Prune bushes or shrubs along the home’s exterior to make it more difficult for an intruder to hide while prying open a window.
  • Join (or start) a neighborhood watch group—there’s no substitute for knowing your neighbors and having extra sets of eyes.
  • Exercise common sense. When you’re away, don’t change your answering machine greeting or leave notes on the door for deliveries. If you’re working on a home improvement project, store ladders and tools out of sight.

Proper lighting around a home’s exterior allows for surveillance, defines space, and guides guests safely onto and away from your property. Inside your home, lighting should create the sense that someone is always home.

  • For exterior lighting, photosensors can enhance security, maintaining light levels during the night and shutting off during the day.
  • Motion detectors turn lamps on automatically when motion is detected.
  • Plug-located timers are common and inexpensive. Equipped with a clock that can be programmed with on-off times, they plug directly into a wall socket and offer one or more outlets that can accommodate lamps, stereos, televisions, and other electronics.
  • Socket-located timers fit directly into the medium-base socket of an incandescent lamp. The timer activates when the lamp is turned on and automatically turns off after the designated amount of time elapses.

Related: Landscape Lighting 101

If you’ve decided on a whole-home security system, it’s important to be extremely thorough when incorporating it into your home. The alarm system needs to activate before someone enters your home, not while that someone is walking around inside.

  • Research both wired and wireless systems. Find out what frequency the system will operate on and what else operates at that frequency. Does the system use magnetic contact points, and are there both motion and noise sensors? What are the most common false alarms associated with the system? Make sure the system meets your whole home’s needs.
  • Anticipate potential problems. Perimeter and interior sensors should attach to battery backups. Find out from your home security company what plans they have in place in case your system fails while you’re out of town.
  • Home automation is the newest trend in home security. Find a system with wireless peripherals, including modules for controlling lights and appliances, thermostats, and cameras, and sensors for glass breakage, vibration, motion, and water.
  • Make sure you use all of the protection your home offers, including both the security system and your existing physical structure. Even the most advanced security system will fail if you leave the door unlocked, or if your window air conditioner isn’t attached properly, or if the alarm isn’t even set.

Weekend Projects: 5 Ways to Make Your Own Shoe Rack

Need help making your footwear toe the line? Control the clutter of loafers, clogs, and slippers with one of these easy and effective DIY shoe rack ideas.

It’s October. The time has come to put away the sandals and break out the boots! If only it were easier to organize and store footwear. Unlike T-shirts, sneakers can’t just be folded and dropped neatly into a drawer. But if your loafers, clogs, and slippers currently form a pile of rubble of your closet floor, there are many ways to corral the chaos. These DIY shoe rack ideas are low fuss and low cost, plus they’re highly customizable to meet your specific needs.



DIY Shoe Rack - Molding Display


If you love your high heels, why not show them off? Option one: Take inspiration from Jenna McArthur, who transformed a disassembled picture frame into an array of wall-mounted display racks. Option two: Buy wall moldings from your local home improvement store, cut them to size, paint them and—finally—hang ‘em up.



DIY Shoe Rack - PVC Pipe Cubbies


Normally, PVC pipe hides behind drywall, but here it takes center stage as the basis for another creative DIY shoe rack. According to Cookie Loves Milk, the biggest challenge you may encounter in completing this project is persuading the supply store to cut the pieces. Otherwise, it’s only a matter of glue.



DIY Shoe Rack - Floating


In tight spaces, such as an entryway nook, this DIY shoe rack provides a compact yet effective storage solution for shoes of any type, from lightweight sneakers to bulky galoshes. Check out not martha to see how Megan built hers from plywood and poplar, and then sanded and stained the rack for a finished look.



DIY Shoe Rack - Hanger


Save floor space by storing footwear on the wall, either on the back of your closet or in a bedroom corner. Best for sandals and flat-soled shoes, this DIY shoe rack involves little more than regular wire clothing hangers and string, yarn, or rope. Savannah at OH SO PRETTY the DIARIES shares the easy how-to.



DIY Shoe Rack - Shelf


If your collection of shoes is so large that it poses a problem, Ana White has the answer: a full-blown piece of wood furniture specially designed to hold shoes for all seasons. The unit features differently proportioned compartments to keep your low-top casual sneakers neatly separate from your tall snow boots.

Win a $1,000 Lowe’s Gift Card—THIS WEEK!

Enter every day this week to be eligible to win the second of FOUR $1,000 Lowe's gift cards in Bob Vila's $4,000 Fall Give-Away!

Lowe's Give-AwayTo get a jump on your home improvement projects, you need the right set of tools. This fall, whether you need to get organized with tool storage systems and work benches or want a brand new set of precision screwdrivers and hard-hitting hammers, you’ll need powerful solutions for your toughest projects. Lucky for you, this week and every week in October, you can enter to win $1,000 gift card to Lowe’s during our $4,000 Fall Give-Away— giving you the cutting edge on all your home improvement projects.




Starting today and every day through Wednesday, October 16th (11:59 a.m., ET) you can enter to win the second of four gift cards valued at $1,000 from Lowe’s—one of the largest retailers of home improvement supplies and appliances in North America.

Lowe's Give-Away


Kobalt has professional quality tools at a great value—tough, innovative products designed to get the job done.  And with a Lifetime Hassle Free Guarantee, you’ll have all the confidence and performance you need to complete every project.

Kobalt. The Next Generation of Tough Tools. Found exclusively at Lowe’s.

So why wait another minute to get a head start on your latest project? ENTER TODAY and every day this week (through 11:59 a.m., ET, Wednesday, October 16th) to increase your chances of winning.  And, check back next week, when we offer you a third chance to win a $1,000 Lowe’s Card in Bob Vila’s $4,000 Fall Giveaway!

The “Bob Vila’s $4,000 Fall Give-Away from Lowe’s” is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia; residents of Alaska and Hawaii are not eligible. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Contest Period runs from 12:00 p.m. (EST) Monday, September 30th, 2013 through 11:59 a.m. (EST) Friday, November 1st, 2013. One entry per household per day on Alternative means of entry for Drawing is available by faxing your name and address to 508-437-8486 during the applicable Entry Period. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. See Official Rules.

Bob Vila’s Guide to Kitchen Appliance Care

Your kitchen appliances work hard for you—they wash, chill, grind, freeze, heat, broil and bake—so do your part keep them in good working order.

Appliance Care


Your kitchen contains more appliances than any other room in the house. When the units are in good condition, there’s not a single meal that can’t be mixed, baked, fried, frozen, or disposed of. But keeping your appliances humming along requires know-how—and some care and maintenance. Familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of these crucial kitchen helpers to keep them in ideal working condition throughout their lifespans.



Garbage Disposals

Ovens and Cooktops

Range Hoods


Dishwashers are not only a great modern convenience, but it also turns out that they can use less water than it takes to wash dishes by hand. To get this eco-benefit, however, you need to run your dishwasher only when it’s full and make sure to maintain it properly. Here are the basics of routine dishwasher maintenance (for unit-specific repairs, consult your owner’s manual):

  • Check hoses for loose connections, clogs, or leaks, and replace if needed.
  • Remove buildup inside the spinning arms using a slender tool, such as needle-nose pliers or a toothpick.
  • Regularly wipe the gasket (the rubber or plastic seal around the door), edges, and underside of the door to ensure a clean seal.
  • Inspect the inside bottom of the washer, where wastewater exits the appliance. If you suspect there is buildup inside the drain, consult your manual to disassemble the cover and clean inside the drain.

The average lifespan of a fridge is 10 to 15 years, but that number can vary widely depending on how well the appliance is taken care of. If you must buy a new fridge, it’s important to consider the depth, door swing, style (for example, French door, bottom freezer, or top freezer), and special features that you might want, in addition to aesthetic choices like color. Follow these tips to promote the longevity of this valuable appliance:

  • Clean the interior shelves and shell of your refrigerator every few months.
  • Regularly remove debris from the drain hole and drip tray of your fridge; check the owner’s manual for instructions.
  • Once or twice a year, unplug the fridge, pull it away from the wall, and clean the coils with a vacuum cleaner.
  • Check the gaskets (door seals) regularly, wipe them down, and give them the “dollar bill test”: Close the door on a dollar bill; if you can easily remove it, the seal isn’t tight enough. If this is the case, call a professional to repair the gasket.

Installing a garbage disposal is not so difficult for a moderately skilled DIYer, and you can expect that the average disposal will last 10 to 12 years. Ensure a long life by running the garbage disposal frequently and heeding these tips:

  • Run water during use and for at least 20 seconds after you finish. Cold water causes grease and oils to solidify so they can be chopped up before reaching the trap.
  • Items like chicken bones and coffee grounds will dull the blades quickly and shorten the lifespan of your appliance, so take care not to put any hard materials (or corrosive chemicals) down the disposal. For a more complete list of the dos and don’ts, consult these guidelines and your owner’s manual.

Ovens come in a variety of options, such as gas or electric, conventional or convection, freestanding or built-in, as do cooktops—think gas, electric, or induction; smoothtop or coils. Because of this variation, always consult your owner’s manual before attempting any maintenance or repairs, and always unplug the unit or cut off power at the service panel.

  • If your oven is a standard, non-self-cleaning model, you’ll need to ventilate well, protect your skin and eyes, and spend some quality time with a scrub brush and a heavy-duty oven cleaner.
  • If your oven is a self-cleaning model, you just need to run it through the cleaning cycle and wipe up the resulting ash with a damp cloth. Manufacturers often recommend removing the racks first to keep them from discoloring; consult your manual. Do not clean a self-cleaning oven the old-fashioned way.

Range hoods prevent smells, smoke, heat, and grease from floating around the kitchen. There are several types available, each one with its own benefits and drawbacks.

  • Vented hoods are ducted to the outside to completely remove smells, smoke, and heat from the room. The length of your exhaust duct will affect your choice of hood. If your hood will be mounted to an exterior wall, your duct can be short; if it will be mounted to an interior wall, the duct will probably be longer and you’ll need a more powerful hood. Vent hoods use aluminum filters to trap grease, which need to be washed (in a dishwasher or by hand) once a month, on average.
  • Non-vented hoods (also known as ductless or recirculating hoods) pull air through a charcoal filter before pumping it back into the kitchen. It’s important to change these filters every few months.
  • Hoods come in a variety of installation styles, including undercabinet, chimney, pro, island, downdraft, and power packs (inserts). Conduct thorough research before deciding which style is the right fit for your kitchen.

Weekend Projects: 5 “Strong” Ideas for Home Gyms

Whether your exercise routine involves climbing, lifting weights, or doing yoga, you're most likely to work out if you can do so in the comfort of your own home.

Now that we’re nearing the end of summer, you may be looking for ways to bring your exercise routine indoors. Have you considered a DIY gym? After all, you can’t beat the location (your home) or the month-to-month fee ($0). Take some inspiration from these five variations on a home gym to keep yourself and your family fit and active all winter long.



DIY Gym - Climbing Wall


Everyone knows that rock climbing offers an excellent full-body workout, but you may not have realized that in order to participate, you don’t need access to a sheer cliff. To build a climbing area in your own home, the only prerequisite is a load-bearing wall with studs you can nail into. You can buy everything else you need at a sporting goods store. Impatiently Crafty has a step-by-step tutorial that details the construction process.



DIY Gym - Yoga Room


Put a little “om” into your home and design your own private yoga studio. It’s OK if you can’t sacrifice an entire room to the purpose; any space will do, so long as it’s wide and long enough to accommodate your body lying flat. Mats and pads provide comfort, while a large-scale mirror helps practitioners keep an eye on their form. To fully customize the ambiance, incorporate an audio system or connect the room lighting to a dimmer switch.



DIY Gym - Plyometric Box


Made famous by the Crossfit strength and conditioning program, the plyometric box lends itself to any number of rigorous exercises. Although a new one would cost you well above $100, you can make your own plywood version inexpensively and quickly, assuming you have basic woodworking experience.



DIY Gym - Workout Station


Are late nights at the office stealing time away from your workout? Augment your exercise equipment with a workstation so that you can work and exercise simultaneously. See Lifehacker for how-to’s on making workstations suitable for two commonly used machines: the treadmill and the elliptical.



DIY Gym - Kids


The average jungle gym can be set up indoors, assuming a sufficient amount of space. Designing and building a playset from scratch would be an ambitious undertaking; instead, why not shop from the selection of ready-to-assemble kits available through such sellers as Kids Dream Gym. After all, any readers fortunate enough to have children of their own would agree that adults aren’t the only ones with energy to burn!

ENTER to Win One of Four $1,000 Lowe’s Gift Cards!

Enter every day this week to be eligible to win the first of FOUR $1,000 Lowe's gift cards in Bob Vila's $4,000 Fall Give-Away!

Lowe's Give-AwayThe pursuit of the perfect bathroom is not without its price—which is why we teamed up with our friends at Lowe’s to bring you this month’s $4,000 Fall Give-Away! Each week in October, one lucky winner will receive a $1,000 Lowe’s gift card to help with their fall home improvement projects.  That’s four gift cards and four lucky winners.  So, if you’re dreaming of a bath makeover, it may now be just a click away.




Starting today and every day through Tuesday, October 8th (11:59 a.m., ET) you can enter to win the first of four gift cards valued at $1,000 from Lowe’s—one of the largest retailers of home improvement supplies and appliances in North America.

Lowe's Give-Away

Photo: Lowe's

Whatever your fall DIY project, Lowe’s has the materials, tools, products and expertise to help you get the job done right.  If it’s a bathroom remodel, you’ll find plenty of inspiration and selection in the allen + roth® line, available exclusively at Lowe’s.  Combining great styling with lasting quality, allen + roth® features a full range of vanities, mirrors, and lighting options to help you create the bath of your dreams. And, with a $1,000 Lowe’s gift card, you’ll never stop improving.

So what are you waiting for? It’s never been easier to refresh your bath. Find your inspiration at, then ENTER TODAY and every day this week (through 11:59 a.m., ET, Tuesday, October 8th) to increase your chances of winning.  And, check back next week, when we offer you a second chance to win a $1,000 Lowe’s Card in Bob Vila’s $4000 Fall Giveaway!

For more on Lowe’s full range of products and exclusive offerings, click here.

The “Bob Vila’s $4,000 Fall Give-Away from Lowe’s” is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia; residents of Alaska and Hawaii are not eligible. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Contest Period runs from 12:00 p.m. (EST) Monday, September 30th, 2013 through 11:59 a.m. (EST) Friday, November 1st, 2013. One entry per household per day on Alternative means of entry for Drawing is available by faxing your name and address to 508-437-8486 during the applicable Entry Period. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. See Official Rules.

Bob Vila’s Guide to Kitchen Countertops

The countertop you choose has a big impact on your kitchen's appearance and functionality. Let our handy guide help you pick the right countertop material for your needs.

Kitchen Countertop Materials - Corian


Kitchen makeovers are among the most popular of home improvements. They can be costly—a mid-range minor kitchen remodel that includes new countertops, appliances, cabinet fronts, and hardware runs close to $20,000, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2011-2012 Cost vs. Value Report. But the expense has a payoff—upon resale, kitchen renovations can reap a return on investment upwards of 50 percent.

With so much at stake, it’s important to choose materials wisely. This is particularly true of the countertop, one of the most prominent features in any kitchen. There are a dizzying array of materials to consider; each material has its own features and benefits, as well as drawbacks and maintenance requirements. Use our kitchen countertop guide to help you find the material that best suits your home’s needs—and gets you one step further down the road to a successful renovation.


Solid Surface








Stainless Steel


SOLID SURFACE countertops are designed to withstand years of wear. They resist stains, moisture, sunlight, and heat, and come in a full range of colors to complement any kitchen design.

  • Solid surface countertops can be made with an integrated sink.
  • Fine scratches or stains can be buffed out of solid surface countertops with a mild abrasive.
  • Although a plastic-like patina may develop on the surface over time, this can easily be removed by a professional.

MARBLE appeals to serious cooks because it is durable and scorch resistant.

  • Naturally porous, the material is susceptible to etching. Chemical corrosion can be buffed out with marble polish. Oil stains can be removed with ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, or mineral spirits, and food stains can be lifted with a water-based paste of baking soda and dish soap.

GRANITE offers natural beauty and near diamond-hard durability, making it an ideal material for countertops.

  • It resists heat, scratches, and stains—and most granites require no sealing.
  • Because it is nonporous, granite also protects against mold and mildew.
  • To find out if your granite is adequately sealed, splash some water on the surface. If the water is still beaded up 10 or 15 minutes later, your granite is properly sealed. If the water has absorbed, head to the hardware store; sealing is quick and inexpensive.
Kitchen Countertop Materials - Butcher Block

Photo: / Grothouse Lumber Company

HARDWOODS like maple, mahogany, and cherry, as well as current popular choices like madrone, add warmth to any kitchen and can be refinished numerous times, aging beautifully.

  • For long-lasting butcher block wood countertops, apply mineral oil monthly. Non-butcher block wood countertops do best with marine oil, which keeps the stain from fading.
  • Marks and burns can be sanded out of wood, and stains are easily removable with lemon juice or hydrogen peroxide.

SOAPSTONE is extremely durable and impervious to virtually all chemicals.

  • Because it is nonporous and does not react to chemicals or temperature variations, it is resistant to staining and scorching, and does not require sealing.
  • It can be left to age naturally or sealed for a darker, richer look.
  • Nicks and scratches are common, adding to the countertop’s rugged patina. Slight discoloration from contact with oil can be rubbed out with mineral oil.

QUARTZ SURFACING countertops are made of crushed natural quartz blended with color pigments and plastic resins.

  • The nonporous material offers hygienic antibacterial benefits and does not need to be sealed.
  • Quartz countertops are heat, stain, and scratch resistant.
  • If stains do occur, a paste of hydrogen peroxide and flour, applied and left to sit for 24 hours, will lift a spot right out.

CONCRETE is a favorite of those who want an industrial look. It is extremely versatile and can take on many different colors, shadings, patterns, and sheens.

  • Concrete countertops can be poured in place or fabricated off-site and installed later. Dedicated DIYers can construct their own fairly easily, as well.
  • Concrete countertops should be specially sealed to avoid staining. Applying tung oil a few times a year can keep them stain resistant, and wax can be applied for a glossier look.

TILE is favored for its durability and affordability. It comes in various colors, sizes, and textures, and can be made of porcelain, ceramic, or stone.

  • Tiling is an attainable DIY project—just be sure to seal the grout used between the tiles to ward off bacteria.

STAINLESS STEEL countertops are particularly well suited to the areas around cooktops and ranges where hot pots and pans are placed, or center islands where food prep and serving are the main focus.

  • Scratches are inevitable with a stainless steel surface, but they can be buffed out with an abrasive pad.
  • Prevent rusting by keeping cast iron pans away from the counter. Any rust stains that do occur may be eliminated with a paste of lemon juice and baking soda.

LAMINATE provides a budget-friendly countertop with a retro look.

  • The material is fairly durable but not heat resistant.
  • Installation is relatively quick, which helps to keep costs down.
  • A simple paste of baking soda and water left on a laminate surface for three to five minutes will remove most stains, while difficult stains may be fought using household bleach rubbed in gently with a cotton ball.

Weekend Projects: 5 Fresh Laundry Room Storage Options

Create a less cluttered, more efficient laundry area, so you can easily get this chore done fast.

Whether you have a small closet or a large room devoted to doing the laundry, chances are that you want more storage in your laundry area. While there’s no avoiding this chore, having a more functional and efficient laundry area can at the very least make the task less of a nuisance. These DIY laundry room storage solutions won’t necessarily make you love washing your clothes each week, but they can assist in you completing the job more quickly and with a minimum of headaches along the way.



DIY Laundry Room Storage - Drying Rack


How many times has one of your favorite shirts emerged from the dryer two sizes too small? The surefire way to protect delicate articles of clothing from a similar fate is to let them air-dry. Centsational Girl shows how you can build your own wall-mounted, fold-out, space-saving drying rack in no time.



DIY Laundry Room Storage - Ironing Board


Make the most of every inch with this simply genius DIY laundry room storage trick. If your washer and dryer are front-loading, they can easily support a combination countertop-ironing board. Yes, you can finally say goodbye to that clunky, creaking, stand-alone ironing board that you loathe to unfold.



DIY Laundry Room Storage - Sock Board


Few things are certain in life, but besides death and taxes, you can also count on occasionally losing a sock or two in the wash. Here’s a project that can help ensure a happy ending for incomplete pairs: Build a board to serve as a DIY laundry room storage area for single socks in search of mates.



DIY Laundry Room Storage - Riser


The dead zone above side-by-side washers and dryers is especially frustrating where floor space is limited. Installing cabinets beneath laundry machines is smart for two reasons: Not only do such units add storage space for supplies, but they also eliminate the need to hunch over when loading and unloading.



DIY Laundry Room Storage - Mobile Station


From Hoosier Homemade, this DIY laundry room storage cart can be modified to hold as many baskets (or shelves) as desired. Designate one compartment for each family member, or use the sections to separate whites, colors, and delicates. The best part? Casters make the cart effortlessly easy to move.

Enter NOW to Win a Haiku Ceiling Fan!

Win a $1,000 Haiku ceiling fan by entering the final week of Bob Vila's End of Summer Sweepstakes—TODAY

Summer Sweepstakes

While ceiling fans come in a full array of designs from traditional to contemporary, they are not typically thought of as sleek and sophisticated.  But, there is one exception—the Haiku fan.  And, now you can enter to win your choice of Haiku ceiling fan (from Big Ass Fans) during the fourth and final week of Bob Vila’s End of Summer Sweepstakes.


Starting today and every day through Monday, September 30th (11:59 a.m. EST), you can enter to win a Haiku fan, valued at $1,000, and experience for yourself the ceiling fan that exceeds expectations in looks and performance.

Designed with efficiency and aesthetics in mind, Haiku ceiling fans are smooth, sleek, and designed with advanced technology. The airfoils and central motor housing blend together into a single, seamless form, giving dust nowhere to hide, and allowing the entire fan to be wiped down for a comprehensive clean. And, with the Haiku available in two materials and four finishes, you’re sure to find one that shows-off your style.

Summer Sweepstakes

But there’s more to the Haiku than good looks:

  • A patent-pending sensorless control directly measures the voltage generated in the windings, resulting in smooth operation.
  • Unlike traditional flat ceiling fan blades, Haiku’s patent-pending airfoils and overall aerodynamic profile makes it among the quietest ceiling fans in the world—at all speeds.
  • Let there be light! An LED module’s digital dimmer offers 16 increments of brightness to provide the perfect amount of light for any setting.
  • Compared to the usual three settings offered by competitors, Haiku’s advanced electronics utilize seven speeds, a timer, sleep setting (gradually stepping the speed down), and the exclusive “Whoosh” mode, which mimics the variations in natural breezes.
  • Before being confirmed as the most efficient among ENERGY STAR ceiling fans, Haiku™ had already won the prestigious international LiveEDGE award acknowledging excellence in electronic design for the global environment.
  • In a typical year, Haiku would use about 50 kWh, for a cost of around $5. In fact, Haiku occupies the entire top ten of a list of the most efficient ENERGY STAR rated ceiling fans.

So ENTER DAILY through Monday, September 30th (11:59 a.m. EST) to increase your chances of winning your very own during WEEK 4— the final week—of Bob Vila’s End of Summer Sweepstakes!

For more about the Haiku Fan from Big Ass Fans, click here.

The “Bob Vila’s End of Summer Sweepstakes” is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia; residents of Alaska and Hawaii are not eligible. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Contest Period runs from 12:00 p.m. (EST) Thursday, August 30th, 2013 through 11:59 a.m. (EST) Monday, September 30th, 2013. One entry per household per day on Alternative means of entry for Drawing is available by faxing your name and address to 508-437-8486 during the applicable Entry Period. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. See Official Rules.

Bob Vila’s Guide to Roofing

To help you decide which of today's many roofing materials will work best on your home, take a look at our quick, cut-to-the-chase rundown of the most common options.

Roofing Materials - Slate


Whether you are building a new house or renovating your current home, the roof will be one of the most important choices you make. Aesthetics are important, but so too are your roofing material’s cost, weight, installation requirements, and suitability for your climate. More often than not, if you are remodeling, the existing roof will determine your choice of material. In addition, the condition and geometry of the existing roof may affect the cost. For example, if old roofing needs to be removed or the roof deck needs repair, or if your home has multiple chimneys, intersecting rooflines, skylights, or other elements, you can expect to pay for the additional work required for a quality installation.

As is the case with exterior siding, the style of your house will influence your choice of roofing material. Know, however, that many different types of roofing materials offer similar looks—composite shingles can look like slate, metal roofing can look like wood shakes, and some asphalt shingles can even provide solar benefits. Use this roofing guide to familiarize yourself with the options, then talk with a qualified roofing contractor who can explain the differences between the materials and outline their benefits and costs.


Clay and Concrete






Asphalt shingles have long been the go-to standard in residential roofing, and with their affordability, easy installation, and wide availability, their popularity hardly comes as a surprise. Although they used to be considered plain-Jane, these days asphalt shingles can be made to mimic the look of slate, wood shakes, or even tile.

  • Fiberglass shingles are made of a woven fiberglass base mat covered with a waterproof asphalt coating and topped with ceramic granules that shield the product from harmful UV rays. They are available in a full range of styles and colors to complement any home’s architectural style.
  • Traditional organic mat-based shingles are heavier, thicker, and more costly. They are also more absorbent and can warp over time; the additional asphalt content also makes them less environmentally friendly.
  • Manufacturer warranties generally guarantee a lifespan of 15 to 30 years, depending on factors like climate and roof pitch.

Tile roofs, commonly associated with Southwest-style and Mediterranean-inspired homes, are extremely durable, lasting for centuries in some cases. Whether made of concrete or clay, individual tiles are often molded in barrel shapes for secure, interlocking installation.

  • Clay tiles are more colorfast, durable, and costly than their concrete counterparts.
  • Weight will be an issue, so be sure to ask a structural engineer if your roof framing will support a tile application.
  • While both clay and concrete offer top fire and impact ratings, they are more difficult to install and repair.

Wood roofs are made from cedar, spruce, or treated pine, and are especially appropriate for older homes and those based upon historical styles. There are two types of wood roofing: shingles and shakes. Wood shingles are machine-cut and tapered for a trim, crisp appearance. Wood shakes are hand-split, giving them a more rustic appeal.

  • Wood shingles last about as long as asphalt shingles (about 30 years) but can cost six times more.
  • Shakes and shingles have their own specific installation requirements, making them more difficult to install but relatively easy to repair and replace.
  • Wood shingles and shakes require periodic treatments with preservatives and fungicides in order to keep from drying out, warping, cracking, and being attacked by mildew and fungus.

Slate quarried for roofing is dense, sound rock, and is exceedingly tough and durable. Although it is labor-intensive and costly to install, a natural slate roof will give a building character that can’t be achieved by any other roofing material.

  • Slate roofing is noncombustible and waterproof, and it requires little to no maintenance over the course of its long life.
  • Most slate roofs have an extended lifespan; those from Vermont and Virginia can last more than 50 years.

Metal roofing is generally made of steel, aluminum, or copper, and can be stamped into many shapes and styles. There is no material more capable of protecting a structure from wind, rain, hail, fire, or rot than a durable and energy-efficient metal roof.

  • For decades, metal roofs meant corrugated panels, which looked like they belonged on sheds or barns. Today, metal roofing products are available in a variety of styles—from standing seam to shingles—to suit a wide range of architectural styles.
  • Metal roofs are lightweight, allowing them sometimes to be installed directly over old roofs.
  • They are effective in preventing the spread of fire when hot embers fall on them (for example, from brush and forest fires); some insurance companies will give you a discount if you have a metal roof.

Composite shingles are newcomers in the roofing arena. Made from poly-based products, they are lightweight, fade resistant, fire safe, and generally warrantied for up to 50 years. Some composites are so realistic that they have been approved for use in historic preservation.

  • Several companies have developed composite shingles that successfully mimic everything from slate to wood.
  • Top-tier manufacturers generally boast high fire ratings and impact resistance.
  • Composites can carry a high price tag, and in some regions you may find it difficult to locate a certified installer.

Finding increasing use in both rural and urban areas, green roofs are living systems of soil, compost, and plants. In addition to filtering pollutants and offering added insulation, they absorb storm water instead of allowing it to run off. Their requirements are many, however.

  • A green roof system typically comprises as many as nine layers. These include structural support, a vapor-control barrier, thermal insulation, waterproofing, drainage, a filter membrane, a growing medium, and, finally, the vegetation itself.
  • Whether you are able to install and cultivate a green roof will depend on the slope of your roof, the amount of sunlight the rooftop receives, and the structural support available to hold up a living roof.
  • Depending on where you live, government grants may be available to help you offset the cost of installation, and some cities even offer a tax break.

For more on roof maintenance and repair, consider:

Inspecting your roof
Cleaning gutters
Avoiding ice dams
Repairing a leaky roof
Removing old shingles