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Meet the Brighter Alternative to Traditional Skylights

Traditional skylights are no longer the sole option available to homeowners eager to bring light into dark spaces. Learn the many reason to opt for a tubular daylighting devices instead of traditional skylights.

Photo: Solatube International

There’s nothing quite like natural light to brighten the rooms of a home. For one thing, sunlight’s free, so making good use of it can cut down on electricity costs. For another, exposure to sunlight tends to boost people’s moods, and can even improve health. And when compared to fluorescents and other often unflattering types of lighting, natural light shines in its ability to draw out and intensify colors, enhancing the effect of your decor.

These are among the chief reasons that homeowners have in the past chosen to install skylights, which are, in effect, windows on the roof. But a traditional skylight is no longer the only option. These days, many homeowners are attracted to the significant advantages of a tubular daylighting device (TDD).

Illustration: Solatube International

Not only are TDDs more versatile than traditional skylights, but they also eliminate one of the problems that frequently plague skylights—leaks. Tubular skylights emit light through a small dome, not through a pane of glass, which results in their being far less prone to moisture seepage. Further, because TDDs are installed around structural components like joists and rafters, they can be accommodated without extensive renovation work. That means tubular skylights can often be installed faster—and for less money—than traditional skylights.

TDDs look virtually identical to ordinary lighting fixtures. In fact, a visitor who notices an installed TDD may not even realize that the light he’s seeing isn’t artificial. Solatube International—a global leader in daylighting systems—goes a step further, offering a wide range of decorative fixtures that ensure the company’s TDDs look perfectly at home in any decorating style.

Solatube even offers a Daylight Dimmer that lets you adjust the brightness. Plus, the company has developed a hybrid TDD with integrated LEDs that provides energy-efficient electric light for nighttime use (or when the weather is cloudy). That way, you don’t have to include a separate artificial lighting system in the room—the skylight alone can provide all the lighting you need.

Finally, TDDs may require less maintenance than a traditional skylight. The domes are designed to minimize the chance of leaves or debris building up around or on top of them, and because the domes are self-cleaning, you don’t need to make any dangerous trips to the roof.

Now that you know more about the advantages that TDDs have over traditional daylighting, are you beginning to see the light?

This post is sponsored on behalf of Solatube International. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


The Right Way to Plunge a Toilet

Believe it or not—though it may seem like the most straightforward, uncomplicated of tasks—plunging a toilet requires proper technique. Here's what to do the next time you're dealing with a clog.

How to Plunge a Toilet - Plunger

Photo: shutterstock.com

People go weeks, months, and even years without giving the toilet a second thought. The instant it clogs, however, the toilet becomes the center of attention. While most homeowners are wise enough to keep a plunger somewhere in the house—if not in the bathroom itself, then perhaps in the linen closet or basement—a remarkable proportion don’t actually know how to plunge a toilet. The correct technique is easy to master. Certainly, practice makes perfect, but just about anyone can capably handle the task. Simply follow the steps detailed below.

STEP 1
There’s more than one type of plunger, so make sure you’re using the one that’s best for the task at hand. One type of plunger looks like a basketball cut in half (this is commonly known as the “standard plunger”). The other type features an extended flange. Use this type to plunge a toilet. The flange is there to fit snugly into the drain hole, ensuring a tight seal and resulting in superior suction power.

How to Plunge a Toilet - Toilet

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 2
It can be messy work to plunge a toilet. Minimize cleanup by heaping dirty rags or old towels at the base of the toilet. The fabric here becomes the landing area for any water that splashes out during the process. Another cleanliness-oriented tip: Before plunging a toilet whose bowl is completely filled with water, don gloves and use buckets to bail out half of the fluid.

STEP 3
You can plunge and plunge, working yourself into a frustrated sweat, but if there isn’t a tight seal between the tool and the toilet’s drain hole, you’re not going to be successful in clearing the clog. An easy method of improving plunger suction is to rub petroleum jelly on the rim of the flange—the part that goes into the drain hole. Before you plunge, it’s recommended that you plug any other drains in the bathroom (for example, the sink and shower drains). Doing so isn’t strictly necessary, but it does make the plunger more effective.

STEP 4
When you’re inserting the plunger into the bowl, take pains to be certain the flange has gone into the drain hole. Meanwhile, the rubber lip of the plunger should sit around that drain opening. Hold the tool in a vertical position, so the handle is pointing straight up. Though it may feel more comfortable to hold the plunger at an angle, doing so will compromise the seal between the plunger and the drain.

STEP 5
Now move the plunger forcefully up and down for about 10 or 20 seconds. That’s about as long as it should take for the force of the water and air going back and forth in the drain to clear up the clog.

As mentioned, plunging a toilet can get a little messy, so it’s a bad idea to attempt to plunge after you’ve poured in a drain-clearing chemical. If that chemical finds its way out of the toilet, it can harm your skin or even corrode materials on the toilet or elsewhere in the bathroom.

If after 30 seconds of steady plunging the clog has not cleared, call a plumber—that is, unless you happen to own a few plumber’s tools. What’s most likely needed now is what’s referred to as a snake, a flexible auger that is used to clear clogged pipes. To protect your toilet’s finish, it’s best to use an auger made specifically for toilets. Good luck!


5 Things to Consider When Choosing a New Roof

According to GAF, North America's largest roofing manufacturer, your roof can contribute 40 percent or more to the look of your home. Choose wisely and you'll create something that not only protects your home for the long-term, but immediately enhances its overall beauty and style.

Choosing the Best Roofing Material for Your Home

Photo: GAF Sienna Shingles in Habor Mist

Every homeowner knows that a sound roof is an absolute must to protect your investment. That’s why routine roof maintenance—from cleaning out gutters to checking for missing shingles and leaks in the attic—is so important.

In general, roofs last between 15-20 years depending on the original materials used. So, if yours is approaching that age, it might not be a bad idea to have a professional roofer conduct an evaluation. If the inspection indicates a new roof is in order, you’ll have one of two options: installing the new roof directly over the old, or replacing it entirely.  In either case, you’ll have the opportunity to redefine and reinforce your home.

MATERIAL
While roofing is available in a wide variety of materials including wood, metal, tile and slate, far and away the most popular choice for homeowners is asphalt shingles. Today’s relatively lightweight and flexible shingles are typically made from a fiberglass mat, covered in asphalt and colored with mineral granules.  With manufacturing innovations that include everything from superior-strength Micro Weave™ Core construction to granules that lock in color and provide valuable UV protection against the sun’s damaging rays, you won’t have any trouble finding a good-looking, high-performing asphalt shingle to suit your home and budget.

Choosing the Best Roofing Material for Your Home - Timberline Shingles

Photo: GAF Timberline American Harvest Shingles in Nantucket Morning

STYLE
Although driveways, lawns, siding and front doors get most of the attention when we think about curb appeal, the roof actually contributes mightily to the look of a house.  If you are considering a new roof, look for the shingle that best suits your home’s architectural style. You’ll also want to factor in the surface area, pitch and angle of the roof to determine whether a standard three-tab, dimensional or artisan-crafted shingle will deliver the look you want.

As you’ll discover, it’s no longer about choosing a standard square shape in a few different shades. Asphalt shingle products have evolved into a wide variety of patterns and colors so that your roof can truly elevate the appeal and longevity of your home.

One of the more interesting style choices today is Sienna® because the shingles are cut in a classic, old-world diamond shape. Part of GAF’s Value Collection, they carry a Class A fire-rating and feature unique Diamond Cut™ granules that reflect light, adding more depth to each shingle.

COLOR
Like style, color is also an important consideration when choosing a new roof.  Selecting a coloration that compliments your home’s exterior palette and surroundings will create a harmonious and elegant look. In general, if a large portion of your home’s roof is visible from the street, you might want to keep things subdued, as larger roofs look better in neutral tones. Also, avoid using a heavily patterned roof on a home that has brick or stone facing to keep things from getting too busy.

The palette for the Timberline® American Harvest™ line was designed specifically to complement a home’s exterior color scheme. Created exclusively for GAF by color-industry expert, Patricia Verlodt, the shingles feature subtle blends of contrasting colors that add an unexpected depth and beauty to the roof.

Choosing the Best Roofing Material for Your Home - Grand Sequoia

Photo: GAF Grand Sequoia in Weathered Wood

DURABILITY
You’ll want to make certain that the roof you choose stands up to the elements and provides lasting beauty over the course of its lifetime.  One way to be sure—shop quality and brand.  When you install a GAF Advanced Protection Shingle, you are getting the very best combination of weight and performance that modern technology and testing can deliver.  With over 185 individual tests, GAF is the first manufacturer who can say all its shingles pass the AC438 requirements for long-term durability, wind-driven rain performance, and long-term extreme temperature resistance.

In addition to the shingle’s durability, you’ll want to check the manufacturer’s warranty. GAF offers a Lifetime Limited Warranty (that includes wind damage coverage of up to 130 MPH speeds*) on many of its premium products.  Since the warranty is transferable to the next owner, the roof can become a desirable selling feature to prospective buyers.

PRICE
Without a doubt, asphalt shingles are the most affordable and arguably the least maintenance-intensive option of covering your home’s roof.

Among these types of shingle you’ll pay more for extended lifespans, more robust warranties, and unique patterns and finishes—but not always much more. Case in point: Woodland® Shingles from GAF. Designed to imitate the look of hand-cut European shingles, they cost only pennies-a-day more than standard architectural shingles.

Thanks to web tools, like Virtual Home Remodeler, you can now test out which shingle best suits your house. Simply choose the style of your home—or upload a picture of your actual house—and try out different roofing products to find the one that fits the look you’re trying to achieve.

*Maximum wind coverage requires special installation. See Limited Warranty for complete coverage and restrictions.

This post has been paid for by GAF. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


The Economical, Environmental, and Emotional Benefits of Tubular Skylights

Rooms filled with natural daylight offer many benefits to your health, mood, and pocketbook. Learn how today's tubular skylights are bringing light to almost every room of the house.

Solatube Daylighting Skylights

Photo: Solatube International

There’s no substitute for natural light. In comparison with the artificial variety, it’s better for your health, the environment, and your electric bill. So figuring out how to get more daylight into your home is a worthwhile endeavor, to say the least. For rooms with an exterior wall, the solution is simple—add a window. For interior spaces where windows aren’t an option, tubular skylights are a smart alternative.

Unlike traditional skylights, which require a direct line of sight from the roof to the light-deprived room below, tubular skylights can deliver natural daylight easily to virtually any area of the house. Factor in the economical, environmental, and emotional benefits they offer, and it’s not hard to see why tubular skylights have become a popular choice for a multitude of today’s residential and commercial daylighting applications.

What are tubular skylights?
Tubular skylights, also known as “solar tubes,” “sun pipes,” “light tunnels,” and “tubular daylighting devices,” typically use a rooftop dome to capture the sun’s rays and then transfer the light indoors through a highly reflective tube. The modular design allows them to be customized to whatever length may be required—up to as much as 40 feet in some cases. Because the tube itself is compact and available in adjustable and flexible designs, it can be configured easily to avoid attic obstructions for fast installation. The result is a more versatile skylight that can carry natural light into interior spaces where traditional skylights and windows can’t reach, spaces like closets, bathrooms, and hallways, to name just a few.

Solatube Daylightig Diagram

Photo: Solatube International

Economic Benefits
One obvious cost-saving benefit of installing a tubular skylight is that daylight is free. Once the device is installed, your dependence on electricity is reduced, and so is your utility bill. Tubular daylighting devices, like those from Solatube International, Inc., are also more affordable and less costly to install than traditional skylights. In most cases, they can be installed in a matter of hours, requiring no construction, drywall, or repainting. Solatube Daylighting Devices are designed with a patented light-capturing dome that redirects low-angle sunlight and rejects overpowering midday summer sun. They also minimize heat gain and loss for added savings on heating and cooling.

Environmental Benefits
Skylights harness one of our most coveted natural and sustainable resources—light from the sun. So putting them to work at home not only lessens reliance on electricity, but also reduces energy consumption from power plants. When we consume less, we conserve more natural resources and help limit greenhouse-damaging gas emissions—a win for us and the planet. For added earth-friendly benefits, Solatube’s manufacturing plant recycles its excess production materials, making their products both clean and green.

Solatube Daylighting System

Photo: Solatube International

Emotional Benefits
It’s no secret that natural light, or the lack thereof, affects us on a physiological level. Consider the existence of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a state of depression that can occur when one doesn’t get enough exposure to the sun. Sunlight plays an important role as a mood elevator by triggering the production of serotonin. It is also a key contributor of heart-protecting vitamin D. And it helps regulate circadian rhythms, which contributes to healthier sleep cycles. Sunlight also heightens energy levels and concentration, making you more productive and naturally alert. In short, daylight is a staple of our existence that we rely on for emotional balance.

In addition to the many economical, environmental, and emotional benefits of tubular skylights, Solatube has created an innovative hybrid that combines daylighting with LEDs. When there’s plenty of sunlight, the Smart LED System delivers natural light. At night, energy-efficient LEDs automatically turn on. The result is a seamless blending of natural and LED light throughout the day and night so that you’re never kept in the dark.

 

This article is sponsored on behalf of Solatube International, Inc. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com


Planning Guide: Above-Ground Swimming Pools

An above-ground swimming pool is a great addition to any backyard, but don’t overlook these essentials before taking the plunge!

Above Ground Swimming Pool

manydesign.net

Nothing epitomizes leisure more than a swimming pool. For some it is a symbol of affluence, but for others a pool is simply a fun way to get exercise, relax, cool off, and gather with friends and family. Whatever your motive, putting in an above-ground pool has the appeal of being less expensive and less permanent than installing one of its in-ground counterparts. That doesn’t mean, however, that an above-ground pool requires any less consideration and planning for its location, size, and operation, or its ongoing care and maintenance. If you’re thinking of putting in an above-ground pool, use this guide to help you plan the essentials.

Siting Your Pool
It is vitally important to choose the right location for your pool. The first thing you should do is check your local building codes and see if the pool needs to be a certain distance from property lines, septic tanks, and roads. You will also want to avoid underground cables, pipes, and roots, as well as overhead power lines, trees, and eaves. When choosing a site, consider how much privacy you want, how easy it will be to supervise children, how you will secure the pool from wandering toddlers and pets, and how the pool will look in your preferred location. Also consider nearby trees. Trees provide welcome shade, but they may also keep your pool water cooler than desirable throughout the summer. Because trees drop leaves, blossoms, and other organic material, they can also—depending on how far into the fall you use your pool—be a nuisance that dirties the water and affects its chemical balance.

Above-ground pools come in many different sizes, but the size of your pool will be restricted by the size of your site. Once you determine where the pool will go, then you can think specifically about sizes from a simple 12-foot circle on up to a 41′ x 21′ oval.

Site Prep for Above Ground Pool

Photo: deltapoolsspa.ca

Prepping the Site
The pool needs to be installed on level ground, so if your site is sloped, you will need to dig out the area to make it level. This may take just a shovel, or you may need to get a Bobcat to adequately prepare the site. Whatever the case, the pool should be installed on soil that hasn’t been treated with any petroleum-based chemicals, and it shouldn’t be built directly on grass, concrete, asphalt, tar paper, peat moss, gravel, mulch, or wood. If it helps with leveling, you can sink part of the pool 12 to 18 inches into the soil.

Because you are dealing with lots of moisture, it is also a good idea to treat the area where the pool is going with a non-petroleum-based fungicide. Spending a little extra time prepping the site could save you some major headaches down the road.

Pumps and Filters
To keep the water clean and circulated, you will need a pump and filter for your pool. The size and capacity of these units vary and will need to match the volume of your pool. When in doubt, consider going with a slightly bigger pump than you think you need. It will not only perform better, but also more efficiently.

Hayward Above Ground Diatamaceious Pool Filter

Hayward's EC-50 Diatomaceous Pool Filter. Photo: aboveground-swimming-pools.com

There are three different types of filtration systems available: sand, cartridge, and diatomaceous earth (DE). What’s the best choice? That depends on who you ask and what’s most important to you. A high-end cartridge filter is very efficient and easy to maintain, requiring little more than a periodic hosing to keep clean. Some swear by DE filters because they produce the cleanest water possible. They can be messy to clean, however, and do require periodic backwashing (running the pump in reverse) to operate efficiently. Sand filters are simple and effective, but these also require backwashing and occasional replacement of sand. They are the least efficient of the three. Do your research and talk to fellow pool owners in your area to help you in your decision making.

Water Type
In addition to cleaning the water with a physical filter, it is necessary to treat the water with either chlorine or salt. Chlorine pools are the most common types and require using either disk-like chlorine cakes, or liquid or powdered chlorine to keep the pool clean.

Saltwater systems have been gaining popularity, but they do have drawbacks. Salt is very corrosive, so if your pool has any metal components, you’ll most likely need to replace them after a few years. If you do go with salt, you will need an all-resin pool, which means that it will be made from a very high-quality plastic that will not corrode. It is also necessary to add a salt cell, which creates chlorine from the salt through a process of electrolysis. (That’s right, a saltwater pool still uses chlorine to sanitize and disinfect the water. The chlorine is present in much lower concentrations, however, and is not detectable by smell or taste.)

A salt-filtration system is definitely much better for your skin and hair, because the water is softened and it won’t fade your swimsuit. These systems cost a little more up front but tend to save money down the road because you don’t have to add salt as frequently as you would chlorine. All in all, there’s not a huge difference in cost or maintenance, so don’t let these factors alone sway you. There’s lots of debate about the relative merits of salt systems, so do your research and know what you’re getting into before going this route.

Maintenance
Whether you go with a chlorine- or salt-based system, there will be plenty of maintenance to attend to. You will need to test and adjust the pH and chlorine (or salt) levels a few times a week, and make sure the water level is at its optimal height. Using test strips or a liquid testing system, you’ll want to ensure that the alkalinity falls between 80 and 150 parts per million (ppm), the pH is between 7.4 and 7.8, and the calcium hardness is between 200 and 400 ppm. For chlorine pools, you’ll also need to check its presence in the water and keep it between 1 and 3 ppm. If the chlorine falls below this level, you will need to “shock” the pool, which requires adding a high concentration of chlorine in powdered or liquid form and makes the pool inaccessible for swimming for several hours. Most likely, you will also need to add an algaecide to get rid of the green stuff that wants to grow. And of course, you will need to remove debris with a skimming net, vacuum the pool, and clean the skimmer and pump baskets regularly. Automatic cleaners are available—these patrol the bottom of your pool on their own—but don’t be fooled into thinking that they will eliminate all maintenance.

You’ll also need to close your pool at the end of the season to extend its life and keep your water as clean as possible.

Now that you know what is involved in planning for your above-ground pool, don’t lose sight of the rewards. Take a moment to envision yourself lounging poolside, sipping on an ice-cold beverage, and taking in the sights and sounds of your friends and family enjoying the summer to its fullest. That will surely make all your efforts worthwhile!


Regain Your Footing: Top Tips for Common Wood Floor Repairs

Wood floors are durable and easy to maintain, but they're still subject to accidental gouges, scratches, and heavy wear. Before you call in a refinisher, consider trying some of the easy fixes outlined here.

Brazilian Pecan Flooring

Bellawood's Matte Brazilian Pecan Solid Hardwood Flooring at Lumber Liquidators

Few things can add as much warmth, character, and charm to a room as hardwood floors. From the amber glow of heart pine to the deep dark polish of walnut, hardwood brings a bit of nature into your home and sets an inviting mood from the living room to the kitchen. Generally, hardwood floors are durable and easy to maintain (not to mention better for allergies), but they do get the occasional gouge, scratch, or area of wear. Fortunately, you can usually fix these blemishes quickly and easily yourself with no need for expensive replacement boards.

DOWNLOAD BOB VILA’S WOOD FLOORING GUIDE HERE

Wear Spots
In high-traffic areas, the finish and stain can wear away from your hardwood floors, leaving the wood exposed and creating a visually unattractive patch. In such cases, you’ll want to sand the affected area, extending beyond the damaged section of the floor by about an inch. Try to sand to the edges of boards so that when the repair is done, it will look more natural. Use a fine-grained sandpaper for this job and make sure when you’re done that the floor is as smooth as glass. While you’re still in sanding mode, find a different, less-visible area of the floor—like in a closet or under the bed—and sand away a very small patch of finish and stain. This patch will be the test area you’ll use for a bit of detective work.

If your floor is natural unstained wood, then try a few types of floor urethane on your test patch. Water-based urethane will dry clear, while oil-based formulations will impart a slight golden tinge to the floor. See which matches best. Be sure to get the sheen right, whether it be gloss, semi-gloss, or satin.

Wood Floor Repair

Photo: examiner.com

If you have stain on your floor, try a few different types on the test patch to get the best match. Know that the color you’ll wind up with after you’ve applied urethane over the stain will be most similar to the color you see when the stain is first applied and is still wet.

Now that you’ve nailed down the stain and urethane, make sure the worn part of your floor has been sanded completely smooth. Vacuum up the dust several times before you proceed. Once the area’s scrupulously clean, apply stain (if needed), and then apply multiple coats of urethane according to the manufacturer’s directions, letting each coat dry between applications.

Scratches
Grit on shoes, overly enthusiastic pets, and heavy items that have been dropped or moved can all leave scratches on our precious hardwood floors. If you have light surface scratches on the floors, all that might be required to make them fade is application of a solution such as Lumber Liquidators’ Scratch Away, which cleans and polishes floors while reducing the appearance of scratches. If the scratches are deeper, then you’ll want to follow the instructions above, sanding the floor down to the bottom of the scratch before restaining and/or refinishing.

Gouges
If the damage to your hardwood floor goes beyond a simple scratch and moves into the category of a gouge, then you’ll need some type of filler to repair the nick before sanding, staining, and finishing, because it would simply be impractical to sand to the bottom of the blemish. A blend stick or finishing putty works well on these types of repairs.

Bellawood Hardwood Floor Cleaner

Bellawood Hardwood Floor Cleaner at Lumber Liquidators

For the sticks, you’ll have to mix the different colors together to get the right match to your floor. Then press the material into the gouge and wait for it to dry. Putties are applied the same way and can usually be sanded and stained to blend in once they have dried, although you’ll want to start with the color that most closely matches your floor and apply stain from there.

Prevention
Of course, the best way to treat your hardwood floors is to try to keep them from getting scratched in the first place. That’s why it’s critical to keep them clean using a product specifically formulated for hardwood floors, such as the Bellawood Hardwood Floor Cleaner. (Supermarket floor detergents can damage your floor’s finish and are best avoided.) Remember that dirt and grit on your floors can act like sandpaper, scratching the finish. Keeping your floors clean removes this potential hazard and will help them look their best for years to come. And, when you’re shopping for wood floors, be sure to look for quality products that offer an extended warranty—anywhere from 30 to 100 years—on finishes.

 

This article is sponsored on behalf of Lumber Liquidators. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


How To: Choose the Right Materials for Your Outdoor Project

You’ve already got enough work to do maintaining your yard. When you're installing a deck or fence, be sure to choose low-maintenance materials so that your project adds to your enjoyment—rather than your to-do list!

WeatherShield Red Brown Pressure-Treated Decking

WeatherShield Pressure-Treated Decking at The Home Depot

Thinking of building a fence? Looking to add a deck? Both projects will be subjected to the whims of Mother Nature, so choosing the right materials can mean the difference between a deck or fence that lasts for years and one that seems to deteriorate right before your eyes. Luckily, there are a variety of superstrong weather-resistant materials available to help you build with confidence, and they’re all as close as your nearest Home Depot. Here are three you should consider.

PRESSURE-TREATED LUMBER
The most affordable option for constructing your deck, pressure-treated lumber can also be one of the most durable if properly cared for. In creating pressure-treated lumber, manufacturers put boards and posts into pressure chambers and infuse them with chemical preservatives, making them insect- and rot-resistant.

One of the smarter choices in pressure-treated lumber is the WeatherShield brand. In addition to offering the usual rot and insect protection, these products are less corrosive to nails, screws, and other fasteners. Plus, they come treated with a factory-applied water repellant, which means you can skip the sealing process that you usually have to do with pressure-treated lumber about six weeks after the deck is built. WeatherShield won’t need resealing for two full years.

The lumber is also pretreated with a wood stabilizer that reduces splitting, cracking, warping, and swelling. You can choose boards and posts in either premium grade, which has fewer knots, or standard grade. In either case, all WeatherShield products carry a lifetime warranty.

ArmorGuard Composite Decking from Home Depot

ArmorGuard Composite Decking at The Home Depot

COMPOSITE DECKING
Composite deck boards are typically made from a plastic polymer bonded with wood fibers. Boards are created in such a way that they mimic the look and grain of real wood, but because of the synthetic nature of the product, it can last practically forever with very little maintenance. Boards won’t splinter or rot, for instance, and they don’t need staining or sealing—meaning that on a deck made from composite boards, you’ll be able to truly relax for years to come.

Veranda ArmorGuard Composite Decking, available exclusively at The Home Depot, makes a fine choice for your next deck-building project. It’s available in a variety of rich natural wood tones and is mold- and mildew-resistant, which means all it’ll ever take to keep it clean is a little soap and water. It also can be installed with hidden fasteners, which means there are no screws on the surface of the boards. Plus, when you’re relaxing on a deck built with ArmorGuard, you can do so with confidence, knowing that the stain-, fade-, scratch-, and mold-resistant boards are backed by a 20-year limited warranty.

Linden Pro Vinyl Privacy Fence Kit at The Home Depot

Linden Pro Vinyl Privacy Fence Kit at The Home Depot

VINYL FENCING
Wood fences need to be stained and treated in order to last a long time. And even if they’re well cared for, there’s still the chance that some will eventually split, crack, or warp, which means that slats in the fence will someday need to be replaced.

Vinyl fencing avoids these problems while providing an attractive and extremely durable solution for decorative or privacy barriers around your home’s property. There’s no need to ever paint them and there’s also no worry about rot or insect infestation.

One of the more recent evolutions in vinyl fencing is the Veranda SlideLock bracket system. This new bracket system can speed up installation time by up to 50 percent and provides a cleaner look with no visible screws. It’s a true win-win for the homeowner or the contractor—less time with a better-looking end product!

 

This post has been brought to you by The Home Depot. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Everything You Need to Know About Engineered Wood Floors

An engineered wood floor offers distinct advantages over its hardwood cousin while retaining all of the warmth and appeal of real wood. The reason—it is real wood!

Schon Golden Teak Quick Clic Engineered - Lumber Liquidators

Lumber Liquidators' Schon Golden Teak "Quick Clic" Engineered Wood Flooring

Engineered flooring might sound like something that’s made in a lab from plastics and other chemicals but, in fact, it consists of real wood. What sets engineered flooring apart from other types of hardwood flooring is that the boards are composed of a multi-layer “core” substrate with a wood veneer top rather than a solid piece of wood.

The core contains anywhere from three to seven layers of plywood or medium density fiberboard (MDF) which are put together in a cross-grain pattern using heat and high pressure. The top layer is a veneer of real hardwood and therefore can achieve the look of virtually any type of solid flooring available.

BENEFITS
The “sandwich-like” construction of engineered flooring is what gives it a distinct advantage over hardwood floors. Because each layer can shrink and swell on its own, engineered flooring is much less likely to buckle or warp under moist or extreme temperature conditions. The end result is a wood flooring product that mimics the beauty and appeal of solid hardwood, but costs less, installs easier and offers the benefits of moisture resistance.

“Engineered flooring is a popular choice for today’s homeowner for many reasons,” says Chelsea Fossum from Lumber Liquidators, a national flooring retailer that sells nearly 80 different styles of engineered hardwood products.  ”Since it is less susceptible to moisture issues, it can be installed below grade—including basements, and areas in the house subject to variations in humidity, like the bath. It can also be installed on top of a wood subfloor or concrete slab making it an easy install for the do-it-yourselfer,” she adds.

INSTALLATION
Installing engineered flooring is similar to other wood floor installations. The product can be nailed, stapled or glued down. “Easy Click” products are also available, allowing floorboards to be snapped together and “floated” above the base floor. Engineered wood is an extremely stable install because there’s very minimal potential for gapping and cupping, which is where the wood actually buckles on the edges. The flexible construction also makes it ideal for installing on top of radiant heat systems as it’s not subject to the shrinkage that pure hardwood can undergo from being dried out by this type of heat.

DOWNLOAD BOB VILA’S FLOORING GUIDE HERE

Virginia Mill Works Heritage Hickory Easy Click

Virginia Mill Works' Heritage Hickory "Easy Click" Handscraped Pre-Finished Engineered Hardwood at Lumber Liquidators

DESIGN
Engineered flooring comes in a wide range of wood species, from domestic maple and hickory to exotic Brazilian cherry and bamboo. Regardless of whether you live in a country cottage, suburban ranch, or contemporary condo, there is an engineered floor to suit your decorating style.

In addition to the variety of woods, you can also choose engineered flooring planks in a variety of widths, ranging from 2 ¼” to 7″, as well as a variety of lengths from 12″ to 60″. Many boxes have planks of differing sizes to keep the installation visually interesting. One of the more popular engineered wood floor finishes today is handscraped, which gives the product a worn, distressed feel reminiscent of authentic hand-planed wood floors.

MAINTENANCE
Maintaining engineered floors is pretty much the same as maintaining hardwood floors. You’ll want to be sure that the surfaces remain free from dirt, grit and any other grime that might scratch. Do this simply by sweeping with a soft-bristled brush or vacuuming on a regular basis. When the floors start to get a build up of dirt, clean them with a damp mop and a mild solution of vinegar and water. Never use a soaking-wet mop because even though engineered floors are moisture resistant, it’s never a good idea to drench them completely. Since floorboards are generally pre-finished, waxes or harsh chemical cleaners are generally not recommended.

Just like hardwood floors, if someday your engineered floors lose their luster, you can sand them down and refinish them. This is especially true of engineered flooring boards that are 3/4″ thick as opposed to the thinner 3/8″ variety. In the thicker boards, the veneer is also beefier, so you should be able to refinish them two-to-three times over their lifespan, which is generally considered to be 40 – 80 years—a long life indeed for a product that can be had for as little as $1.69 per square foot.

 

This post has been brought to you by Lumber Liquidators. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


How To: Install a Sump Pump

If you have a wet basement, installing a sump pump can have significant payoffs. Not only will a sump pump help control basement moisture and protect your home and foundation, but it will greatly add to your peace of mind. So dig in!

Photo: harrycaswell.com

In an ideal world, there’d be no basement flooding. But in reality, despite our best efforts to address the underlying issue, basement moisture remains a sometimes expensive, always exasperating difficulty for many homeowners. In one way of looking at it, by installing a sump pump you may be treating the symptom and not the disease—the source of the moisture. But in the absence of superior, inexpensive options, a sump pump is an effective stopgap. Bear in mind that the technology doesn’t do anything complicated: Essentially, it collects floodwater and then pumps it away to the outdoors, where it can drain safely into the ground. Although—or perhaps because—a sump pump operates so simply, installing one can make a world of difference. Read on to learn how to install a sump pump in your basement.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Electric submersible sump pump
- Sump pump basin
- Sledge or jackhammer
- Flexible discharge hose (or PVC and glue)
- Check valve
- Hose clamps
- Filter fabric
- Gravel
- Cement
- One paver that will fit in the bottom of the basin
- Drill/driver with hole-saw bit
- Weatherproof caulk

STEP 1
Identify the lowest point in your basement, the area where you usually first notice moisture accumulation. Here, dig a hole wide and deep enough to accommodate the sump pump (the top edge of which should ultimately sit flush with floor level). Of course, when your basement floor is concrete, digging a hole is more easily said than done. To break through, you need to use either a sledge or jackhammer. After penetrating the masonry, continue digging until the cavity can fit the pump basin.

STEP 2
The most effective sump pumps typically feature weep holes, which allow water to enter from the sides and from beneath. If yours doesn’t have these important perforations, take the time to drill them yourself. Next, wrap a layer of filter fabric around the basin exterior to prevent silt and sludge from clogging the basin. Add two or three inches of gravel to the bottom of the hole you created, then place a paver or fieldstone over those pebbles in order to establish a stable platform. Now place the sump pump into the hole, backfilling around its perimeter with excavated dirt. At this point, the unit shouldn’t wobble even if you gently jostle it.

STEP 3
For the sump pump to do its job, its float valve must be able to move freely up and down. When the water level rises, so too does the float—and when it does, the sump turns on. It’s crucial to test the float valve before going any further. Move it up and down with your hand to make sure there’s nothing obstructing it.

Of equal importance is the check valve, which channels water away from (never back into) the sump. Between the valve and the home exterior, run either a flexible discharge hose or a span of PVC pipe (with glued joints and, if necessary, elbows). Where the output meets the basement wall, make a hole big enough for the hose or pipe to fit through. To do so, use a drill/driver fitted with a hole-saw bit. Once you’ve run the pipe through the hole, caulk around it to fill any gaps, large or small.

STEP 5
Finally, plug in the pump and give it a test run. Fill the basin with water nearly to the top. The float should rise, the pump should turn on, and the water should pump out. Inspect the connections for leaks, and if all is in working order, place the lid over the basin. The very last thing to do is cover the hole surrounding the pump. This typically involves cement: Mix up a small batch to the consistency of peanut butter then spread it around to conceal all but the sump pump lid.

Finished! The next time a big storm comes your way, you can rest assured that you won’t have to run downstairs in a frenzy to rev up the wet/dry vac!


How To: Remove a Stripped Screw

Even the most conscientious DIYer is bound to strip the occasional screw. Don't let this annoyance get in your way! Next time, try one of these useful tips for removing a stripped screw. You'll be back to work in no time.

How to Remove Stripped Screws

Photo: w6rec.com

It was supposed to be a quick and easy repair. But darn it, one of the screws wouldn’t budge, and so by the time you finally finished, it had grown dark outside. Yes, stripped screws are extremely frustrating, but they’re not impossible to deal with. In fact, it can be pretty easy to remove a stripped screw. If you don’t own a screw extractor—a special tapered drill bit with a square head—then all you need to know are a handful of (lifesaving) tips. Scroll down to see what they are.

 

1. RUBBER BANDS

How to Remove Stripped Screws - Rubber Bands

Photo: shutterstock.com

Before trying anything else, try this: Put a rubber band over the stripped screw, firmly insert the point of your screwdriver, then slowly unscrew the fastener. Don’t have access to a rubber band? Substitute a bit of steel wool instead or some of the green abrasive from the scouring side of a sponge.

 

2. PLIERS

How to Remove Stripped Screw - Pliers

Photo: shutterstock.com

Inspect the screw head closely. Is there any daylight between it and the surface to which it’s fastened. If so, see if you can get hold of the screw with a pair of locking pliers, also known as vise grips. Provided that the tool has a firm grip on the screw, you should be able to turn the pliers until the screw loosens and pulls away.

 

3. HAMMER 

How to Remove Stripped Screws - Hammer

Photo: shutterstock.com

Use a hammer to tap the screwdriver down, lodging it as firmly as you can into the screw head. Doing so may provide the extra grip you need to twist the fastener, especially if it’s made of soft metal—and, of course, soft metal screws are the kind that are most likely to become stripped in the first place.

 

4. FLAT-HEAD SCREWDRIVER

How to Remove Stripped Screws - Screwdriver

Photo: shutterstock.com

Does the stripped screw have a Phillips head? If so, reach for a flat-head screwdriver narrow enough to fit (in its entirety) within the Phillips-head hole. Keep in mind that it takes real muscle to pull this off. To facilitate things, it’s smart to combine this clever strategy with the rubber band method described in Option 1.

 

5. OSCILLATING TOOL

How to Remove Stripped Screws - Dremel

Photo: shutterstock.com

If there’s a Dremel in your workshop—and if you’re a committed DIYer, you probably should own one of these handy oscillating tools—affix the metal-cutting disc and create a new, deeper slot in the screw head. Follow up with a flat-head screwdriver, pressing it firmly into the indentation and twisting it slowly.

 

6. DRILL

How to Remove Stripped Screws - Drill

Photo: shutterstock.com

Sometimes drilling a small hole into a stripped screw can allow your screwdriver to reach deeper into—and achieve a better grip on—the stuck fastener. If you’re going to try this approach, make certain to use a drill bit designed for use on metal, not wood. And don’t drill too far down; the screw head could pop off!

 

7. NUT

How to Remove Stripped Screws - Nuts

Photo: shutterstock.com

If you’re experienced with welding and have the necessary equipment on hand—and you really want to remove that pesky stripped screw—here’s a last-ditch effort you can make. Spot-weld a nut to the top of the screw head, wait a sufficient period of time, then remove both screw and nut by means of a socket wrench.

Armed with all these tips, the next time you strip a screw you can rest assured it’s not the end of the world—it’s just another solvable, albeit annoying, problem. No single trick works every time, but once you’re familiar with the options at your disposal, you’ll gradually learn to recognize which scenarios call for which particular solution.