Author Archives: Roseann Foley Henry

About Roseann Foley Henry

Roseann Foley Henry is a writer, editor, and home improvement buff. She and her partner and their two children live in Bayside, where they are ever-so-slowly renovating a classic 1920 Dutch Colonial. Among her writing credits are The Life of a House, the story of a tiny gatekeeper’s lodge that was once home to her great-grandparents in County Clare, Ireland. Check her out on Google +!

Bob Vila Radio: The Insulation Perimeter

You can reduce your home's overall energy use by ensuring proper insulation. However, before adding extra insulation, consider these three options to make sure your home is energy-efficient.

With energy costs going up, more and more homeowners are considering adding insulation to reduce their energy use. Here’s what you need to know as you consider your options.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON THE INSULATION PERIMETER or read the text below:

Insulation Perimeter

Photo: Lowe's

First, see if your utility company or state energy department offers free or low-cost energy audits. An energy audit will help you identify which parts of your home are most in need of help, and can help you prioritize the work you need to do.

If you do need to add insulation, remember that the goal is to create an energy-efficient perimeter around your living space. For example, you don’t need heat or air conditioning in an unfinished attic, so insulating the attic floor establishes the perimeter there. If your attic is finished, however, it doesn’t make sense to insulate the floor — your perimeter will be at the ceiling level.

Also keep in mind that well-insulated doesn’t mean airtight. Your home still needs to breathe, and it has an optimal number of “air changes per hour” depending on its size and the number of occupants. Your energy auditor will be able to tell you your home’s ideal number of air changes per hour, and how many it’s currently getting. Eliminating drafts will help close the gap and get you closer to the ideal.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Bob Vila Radio: Indoor Herb Gardens

There are no fresher herbs than those you've grown at home. Besides decorating the windowsill, indoor herb gardens enable you to keep flavorful herbs on hand year-round.

Fresh herbs add flavor, fragrance, and sophistication to your cooking—and they can’t get much fresher than those you have grown yourself. A good way to keep fresh herbs on hand, whatever the season, is to maintain an indoor herb garden.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON INDOOR HERB GARDENS or read the text below:

Indoor Herb Gardens

Photo: bonnieplants.com

There are many advantages to growing herbs indoors. For one, your crop is always nearby—no need to go foraging outside—and you’ll have herbs available year-round. You won’t need to weed, and you’ll have fewer pests to worry about.

On the minus side, however, herbs grown indoors tend to be less lush and flavorful than their outdoor counterparts. And as indoor space tends to be limited, you need to plant selectively.

The right location and soil are crucial to success. Herbs need lots of sunlight—as much as six to eight hours each day—to thrive. If you don’t have appropriate south- or southeast-facing windows, consider grow lights.

For best results, use a soil-less potting mix and water carefully whenever the medium is dry to the touch. Either plant each type of herb in a separate container or group together herbs that have similar watering needs.

Harvest frequently to encourage growth and discourage blooming (but more lightly than you would an outdoor plant). And bon appétit!

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Bob Vila Radio: Why Have a Raised Garden Bed?

For those with poor soil, limited green space, or physical limitations, raised garden beds offer a number of persuasive benefits.

Growing plants in raised beds is a tradition that goes back at least hundreds of years. Here are five reasons why a raised garden bed might be a good idea for you today.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON WHY YOU SHOULD CONSIDER A RAISED GARDEN BED or read the text below:

Raised Garden Bed

Photo: windowbox.com

First, a raised bed is a solution to poorly drained soil. It’s tough to get good results from a garden when the soil is heavy clay or wet and marshy. A raised bed allows you to control the moisture in the soil.

Second, if your soil is thick with roots from nearby plants or trees or is plagued with weeds, a raised bed lets you rise above it all. Your plants will grow stronger if they’re not competing with roots and weeds.

Third, raised beds are great in gardens with limited space, since the rich, concentrated environment produces higher yields than in-ground garden plots.

Fourth, if your lawn (or your neighbor’s) has been chemically treated, planting your herbs or tomatoes in organic soil in a raised bed can help keep them away from insecticides and pesticides.

Finally, a raised bed is a good idea for gardeners with bad backs or other physical limitations, since it can bring the garden space closer to you, so you don’t have to bend so much to reach it.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Bob Vila Radio: CFL Bulbs

The most common alternative to the light bulbs you've used for years—incandescents—are compact fluorescent lamps, better known as CFLs.

With incandescent light bulbs on their way out, shoppers who had been reluctant to buy alternative bulbs are realizing that it’s time to make the switch.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON CFL BULBS or read the text below:

CFL bulbs

Photo: mpe2013.org

The most common alternative is the compact fluorescent lamp, or CFL, which fits into a standard lamp base and can be used pretty much anywhere you once used an incandescent. Fixtures labeled “incandescent only” will be fine with a CFL, but don’t use an LED lamp or floodlight in them. Look for wattage equivalence—if your fixture calls for a 60-watt bulb, look for a CFL that’s equivalent to 60 watts.

CFLs claim to have long life spans, and they often do, but there are several reasons why they might fail earlier than expected. CFLs do best when they’re lit for long periods of time and burn out faster when frequently turned on and off. Some CFLs will fail early if used in enclosed fixtures or in areas with extremely high temperatures. CFLs can also be affected by colder temperatures, so they don’t always last that long when used in outdoor fixtures in cold climates.

You may be able to extend the life of a CFL by choosing a lower-wattage bulb than the fixture says it can accommodate. Using a 40-watt equivalent in a fixture rated for 60 watts may be just what you need to get a little more life out of your CFL.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Bob Vila Radio: Blown-in Insulation

For cost-effective insulation that can be brought into older homes, consider blown-in cellulose, the installation of which can be successfully handled by experienced do-it-yourselfers.

There are several different kinds of insulation—fiberglass batting, rigid boards, and spray-on foam to name a few. For retrofitting an older home, though, the most cost-effective insulation material is blown-in cellulose.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON BLOWN-IN INSULATION or read the text below:

Blown-In Insulation

Photo: insul-tite.com

Cellulose fiber is made up mostly of recycled newspaper that has been treated with non-toxic borates to make it fire retardant and resistant to mold and insects. Cellulose is light and fluffy to the touch, but it can be packed densely into wall cavities to form a thick blanket between a home’s interior and the world outside. It has the added advantage of being able to settle into small gaps and cracks, where it can help eliminate drafts as well.

Homeowners can rent a blowing machine and pump cellulose into an open area, such as an attic floor, but it’s a messy job that’s not for those who are new to DIY projects. Blowing cellulose into exterior walls is definitely a job for the pros, who know how to achieve proper density, how to identify and work around any fire blocks within walls, and how to close up the walls properly afterward. Most importantly, if you’re insulating around a soffit vent, a pro will know how to keep that vent clear so that air keeps moving and your roof doesn’t get damaged.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Bob Vila Radio: Using Fire Extinguishers

Did you know there are times when using a fire extinguisher can actually make matters worse?

You probably wouldn’t think of living in a home without smoke detectors—they are proven lifesavers. But what about fire extinguishers? Is it smart to have one in your home? And in the event of a fire, does it make sense to use it?

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Listen to BOB VILA ON USING FIRE EXTINGUISHERS or read the text below:

Using a Fire Extinguisher

Photo: shutterstock

The answer is not so clear-cut. It’s true that a fire extinguisher, if it’s the right type and properly used, can keep a small fire from turning into a larger one. But although it makes sense to put out a fire in a wastebasket before it spreads to consume an entire home, using the wrong type of extinguisher, or not using it correctly, can actually make matters worse.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has guidelines for when to use a fire extinguisher. First, pick up your extinguisher only after the fire department has been called and all other occupants alerted. And try to use it only on a fire that is contained in a single place, such as a wastebasket.

Second, identify your means of escape before you use a fire extinguisher, and don’t use it if the fire is between you and that escape route.

Finally, don’t use an extinguisher if you are breathing in smoke, or if your gut instinct tells you that the situation is not safe. When in doubt, get out.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Bob Vila Radio: Frameless Shower Doors

Free of the metal hardware that so strongly defined these bathroom elements in previous decades, frameless shower doors are safe, visually light, and easy to clean.

Glass shower doors have been popular alternatives to shower curtains for decades. Both serve the same simple purpose, which is to keep the spray of water inside the tub or shower stall.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON FRAMELESS SHOWER DOORS or read the text below:

Frameless Shower

Photo: shutterstock.com

Shower curtains are inexpensive to purchase and easy to replace, but the liners quickly get moldy (when the curtain is left open and water stays in the folds). When the curtain is pulled shut to dry out, however, the room becomes visually smaller. Both of those factors help account for the surge in popularity of shower doors. They are easy to clean, and their transparency makes even the smallest bathroom seem larger.

The shower doors you may remember from the ’70s and ’80s, with their metal frames and tracks, have largely given way to frameless models. Frameless shower doors have minimal hardware, so there are fewer places for soap or grime to build up. That makes them visually cleaner as well—all you see is a wall of glass.

Like all shower doors since the ’70s, frameless doors are made of tempered glass, which crumbles into small pieces instead of large shards, if it’s ever broken. The doors are so sturdy that breakage isn’t much of a concern, but you do want to be sure that the door is properly installed so that it closes against soft bumpers, not hard ceramic tile.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Bob Vila Radio: Microwave Steam Cleaning

It's a fact of life that microwaves get dirty over time. When it's time to give yours a wipe-down, follow these steps to make this workhouse appliance sparkling clean and fresh-smelling.

The best way to keep your microwave clean is to wipe it down after every use. But that doesn’t always happen—you’re in a rush, or the kids make themselves a snack and leave a mess behind. Before you know it, you’ve got caked-on food on the carousel, the walls, and even the top of the oven.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON MICROWAVE STEAM CLEANING or read the text below:

Microwave Steam Cleaning

Photo: LG

Before you start scrubbing with a chemical cleanser that could end up in your next serving of pasta, try grandma’s best cleaning product. Sponge on a paste of baking soda and vinegar, then wipe down the appliance interior with four tablespoons of baking soda dissolved in warm water. Finally, wipe with plain water.

For a steam cleaning that leaves your microwave fresh as well as clean, squeeze the juice of two lemons into a microwave-safe bowl, then add the rinds and two cups of water. Microwave on high until the water comes to an active boil. Turn the oven off but leave it closed, with the bowl inside, for ten minutes. After that, remove the bowl, wipe down the interior, and wash the carousel.

You’ll be left with a microwave that’s not only sparkles, but also smells fresh and lemony.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Bob Vila Radio: Linoleum Rugs

Do you remember linoleum rugs? At one time, they were hugely popular and today, they're a great, noncommittal way of participating in the comeback of this retro yet eco-friendly flooring material.

Linoleum rugs are a little-remembered footnote to floorcovering history. These days, unless you uncover one when you’re ripping up an old floor, you’re unlikely to find a linoleum rug outside of a vintage shop. But their half-century or so of popularity makes them worth a moment of consideration.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON LINOLEUM RUGS or read the text below:

Linoleum Rugs

Photo: hgtv.com

Introduced in the late 1800s, linoleum was first produced by coating a fabric, such as burlap or canvas, with a mixture of linseed oil, cork, resins and wood flour. The easy-care, resilient flooring was perfect for high-traffic areas—kitchens and hallways, for instance.

Although early linoleum was available primarily in solid colors, patterns became more sophisticated as production methods advanced. By the early 1900s, manufacturers began to offer linoleum rugs—essentially movable, highly patterned sheets of linoleum with decorative borders. They tended to mimic textiles—oriental rugs and intricate florals—but unlike their “real” counterparts, they could just be wiped clean.

By the 1950s, the rugs’ popularity began to wane as less expensive vinyl entered the market. Today, however, true linoleum is enjoying a comeback of sorts, thanks to its relative eco-friendliness and the advent of brighter colors suited to modern interiors. Some fabricators are even making linoleum rugs that unlike their predecessors, aren’t pretending to be something else, but instead celebrate what they are.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Bob Vila Radio: Painting Wood Paneling

Rather than remove the wood paneling you no longer care for in your home, consider painting it to give the treatment an entirely new look at a low cost, with minimum hassle.

Wood paneling certainly has a place in the home. It can make a space feel traditional and warm, but it can also look dark and dated. If your paneling is getting you down, you could tear it out or hide it behind drywall. But if the paneling is in good shape, it may be quicker, cheaper, and easier to brighten it up with a few coats of paint. Here’s how.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON PAINTING WOOD PANELING or read the text below:

Painted Wood Paneling

Photo: decorpad.com

Start by washing the wood-paneled walls with a solution of TSP and water. Fill any nail holes, gouges, or other imperfections with spackle, let it dry, then sand. Now lightly sand the entire paneled area to scuff it up (don’t forget the trim and baseboards). Scuffing will help that first coat of primer adhere. Be sure to wear a dust mask and to wipe away the dust with a damp rag as you go.

Once the surface is sanded and dust-free, move on to priming. For best results, use a stain-blocking primer and plan on two coats.

Finish by applying your chosen paint. Put on two or three coats, lightly sanding between each one. For a smoother finish, opt for a foam sponge roller cover. Keep a paintbrush handy for cutting in at corners and wiping up drips. Then step back and admire the new, lighter view.

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.