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: Track Lighting Trends

Thanks to innovations in design, track lighting is more versatile than ever and complements virtually any decorating style in any room of the house.

If the mention of track lighting conjures up visions of bulky white cans jutting out awkwardly from a thick rail, you haven’t seen the chic takes on track that have hit the market in recent years.

Track Lighting Trends

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Listen to BOB VILA ON TRACK LIGHTING TRENDS or read the text below:

Track lighting has a number of selling points, but versatility may be one of its greatest. Depending on how the heads, or fixtures, are mounted and directed, track lighting can provide accent or task lighting as well as some general illumination—although a traditional ceiling fixture gives off a more diffuse, ambient glow. Now, with the advent of slender, flexible monorail tracks, compact low-voltage fixtures, and a rich array of styles from colorful cans to quirky pendants, track lighting is more versatile than ever. Track systems are particularly well suited for use in the kitchen, brightening an island or breakfast bar. But you can find a track style that works with almost any interior design scheme in any room of the house.

Like much lighting these days, track systems are available in standard 120-volt as well as low-voltage designs. There are even standard line-voltage tracks that approximate the flexible curves and smaller profiles of their low-voltage siblings. Some line-voltage tracks can hold transformer-equipped low-voltage fixtures—an innovation that opens up a world of options in fixture sizes and styles.

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: Maintaining Brick

Of all the commonly used materials in homebuilding, brick ranks among the most durable, but in order to look and perform its best, occasional maintenance is necessary. These tips can help you clean brick, whether it's inside or outdoors.

Stately and strong, brick has been a popular building material for centuries. Though it seems impervious, brick needs occasional attention to ensure its longevity and structural integrity.

How to Clean Brick

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Once a year, clean your brick exterior with a garden hose fitted with a spray nozzle. If you notice moss, mold, or mildew—typically in low-sunlight areas—use a scrub brush to apply a solution of bleach (one cup) and water (one gallon). Give the brick a thorough soaking first to help prevent it from absorbing the bleach. Protect your plantings and use a natural- or synthetic-bristle brush. Don’t use a wire brush that could leave behind metal that would discolor the brick.

As you clean, check to make sure the weep holes are clear. These are typically vertical breaks in the mortar at intervals above the foundation (and often above and below windows and other openings). Also, be on the lookout for water damage, whether it’s soft or cracked mortar or flaked or chipped brick. Efflorescence—a white, chalky coating—can also be a sign of moisture. Water damage may be the result of weather, improper drainage, or rising damp (water wicking up the porous brick). Whatever the cause, it’s made worse by freeze-thaw cycles, so don’t wait long before having damaged brick replaced and repointed.

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: Sites for Compost

What are the best sites for compost piles on your property? These guidelines can help you decide where to deposit the kitchen and yard waste that go into creating nutrient-rich soil.

Composting puts your yard and kitchen waste to work creating nutrient-rich soil for your garden. It’s a true win-win, and it’s not hard to do. For greatest success, however, use care when choosing a site for your pile.

Sites for Compost

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Listen to BOB VILA ON SITES FOR COMPOST or read the text below:

First, check with your homeowner’s association or other municipal authority. Some have regulations stipulating where compost piles can be placed; others forbid composting outright. In the absence of restrictions, your best bet is to put your compost pile on a sunny, level area with good drainage. Ideally, it should sit on top of earth rather than concrete. This will aid drainage and encourage earthworms, bacteria, and other beneficial microbes. Keep the pile within reach of a hose so you can give it a spritz if it’s too dry.

Heat is important, but you also want to avoid extreme cold. Shelter your compost pile from the winds to keep things decomposing even as the temperature dips. Barriers or smart landscaping can also be a courtesy to your neighbors by shielding your pile from view. While smell shouldn’t be a problem—a properly maintained compost pile doesn’t stink—do be concerned about wildlife. Access doors should latch shut, and any meshing should be made of metal and be fine and strong enough to keep out rodents and other foragers.

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: Wallpaper Borders

Wallpaper borders are strips of varying widths, typically used as the finishing accent in traditionally wallpapered rooms. But did you know that you can also employ wallpaper borders on their own? Try it!

A wallpapered room has a rich, distinctive look—but hanging wallpaper can be an intense, painstaking job. You can add some of the texture and patterns of wallpaper to any room—without going the whole nine yards—just by adding a wallpaper border.

Wallpaper Borders

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Listen to BOB VILA ON WALLPAPER BORDERS or read the text below:

Border strips, which come in a variety of widths, were once used almost exclusively at the top of a room (where a wallpapered wall met the ceiling) to finish off the look and hide any goofs at the top of the wallpaper. But there’s no reason you can’t add a border alone at the top of a painted wall to add visual interest. A colorful pattern raises the eye, making a room appear larger than it is. If you have very high ceilings, you may want to place the border a few inches below the ceiling to bring the eye down a bit.

Running a border around the room as a chair rail is also a nice decorating idea. It allows you to paint the lower half of the walls a different color than the top. Or wallpaper just the bottom of the walls. Don’t stop there: Wallpaper borders can be used to create picture frame molding effects on large walls, to accent a soffit or a dormer, even to make a kitchen island a real standout. You can completely frame a door or window, accent your fireplace, or come up with your own original ideas for using wallpaper borders.

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: Small Yards

With smart planning, even a small yard can be beautiful and functional. Find out how to make the most of your compact outdoor space.

A well-designed outdoor space is like having an extra room in the house. Even a small yard is a great treasure, but it takes smart landscaping to make it functional and beautiful. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your small yard.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON SMALL SPACE YARDS or read the text below:

Small Yards

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First, keep the space open and uncluttered. Avoid privacy fencing, opting instead for soft boundary-setters like plantings and hedges. This will keep your yard from feeling hemmed in.

By the same token, choose small-scale, unobtrusive furnishings and forgo large structures like pergolas. Make use of all the square footage; even a neglected side yard can become a quiet dining area or a cozy reading nook.

To create a unified design and keep clutter to a minimum, establish a single focal point—a fountain, tree, or sculpture. Meanwhile, select furnishings that do double duty. For example, choose benches that provide both seating and storage and if possible, incorporate seating into hardscaping like retaining walls.

Container gardening and vertical plantings are particularly suited to small spaces. Flowers, vegetables, and even small trees can thrive in containers and create a beautiful mix of textures, colors, and heights. Even better, they can be moved around to create smaller “rooms” in your yard. Hanging baskets, trellises with trailing greenery, and planters mounted on walls all draw the eye up and bring interest and depth to small spaces.

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: Tips on Cutting Plywood

Though plywood can be difficult to cut cleanly, these tips on sawing plywood can help you get the job done well, with a minimum of hassle.

Plywood is a versatile product great for lots of building projects. Cutting it can be a little tricky, however, as the edges are prone to little tears and nicks. Here are a couple of tips to help you get cleaner cuts in plywood.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON CUTTING PLYWOOD or read the text below:

Sawing Plywood

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The most important thing you can do to get a clean cut is choose the right blade. If you’re using a jigsaw, you need a fine blade specifically designed for plywood or laminate. For circular saws, get a good carbide-tip blade. And for table saws or miter saws, you’ll need a blade with 80 teeth per inch (TPI).

Second, understand how your saw works. The tearout usually happens on the side of the cutting action. So if you’re working with a jigsaw, which cuts on the upstroke, place your plywood with the good side face down. Also place the plywood face down if you’re using a circular saw or miter saw. For a table saw, flip the plywood over so it’s face up.

Whatever saw you’re using, give the plywood plenty of support. Those big sheets can be unwieldy, and an unexpected shift can cause chips. Finally, try running painter’s tape along the length you intend to cut, and score your cut line with a razor first.

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: Farmhouse Sinks

Farmhouse sinks, whose style harkens back to the 19th century, are enjoying a revival, with more models being offered than ever before.

Farmhouse sinks, also known as apron-front sinks, are a country kitchen staple. These distinctive vessels have an exposed front that sits above, not behind, the base cabinet. Common in early 19th-century kitchens, the farmhouse sink has enjoyed renewed popularity over the past decade, which has spurred manufacturers to offer a greater range of models, materials, and options than ever before.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON FARMHOUSE SINKS or read the text below:

Farmhouse Sink

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The popularity of farmhouse sinks isn’t just a matter of aesthetics. Their deep basin comfortably accommodates large pans and helps cut down on splashes. Because the sink sits far forward, the user doesn’t need to bend down as much. And thanks to the style’s appeal, apron-front sinks now come in both single- and double-bowl models with a range of options.

On the downside, these sinks have a higher price tag and less selection than the more common drop-in styles. Because of their shape and considerable weight, they usually require additional support and a specially designed base cabinet. But this situation is changing: Due to such innovations as shallower bowls and overmount designs, it’s easier than ever to retrofit an apron-front sink. In addition, the introduction of clean-lined stainless steel models has made this highly coveted style appropriate for even sleekly modern interiors, with nary a cow in sight.

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: Rain Gardens

If you're concerned about storm water runoff, consider the practical—and yes, aesthetic—benefits of a rain garden.

In a heavy downpour, all of that water pouring through your downspouts can overwhelm your local sewer system, leading to flooding. Even worse, storm runoff can carry pollutants, fertilizers, and other chemicals into local lakes and rivers. A rain garden is a clever—and beautiful—way of diverting this water before it enters the system.

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

Rain Gardens

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A rain garden is a plot that is sited, sized, constructed and planted with the express goal of capturing a house’s rainwater runoff. Through planning, thoughtful selection of plants, and the right mix of soils, a rain garden acts like a water runoff sponge. In fact, compared with a typical lawn, a rain garden absorbs about 30 percent more water.

To be effective, a rain garden needs to be properly sited and sized. It must be at least 10 feet from the house to keep the water from seeping into the foundation, and it cannot be placed over a septic system. Its size and depth are determined by many factors, including the type of soil, the amount of runoff it needs to absorb, and the garden’s distance from the downspout. You’ll find plenty of calculators online, as well as suggestions for appropriate native plants and soil amendments.

Be forewarned: Establishing a rain garden takes some serious digging. Before you start, call to find out where your cable, electric, gas and other utility lines 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 Over Wallpaper

Wallpaper is even harder to remove than it is to apply. The good news is that if you've grown tired of your wallpaper, you can probably paint right over it. Here's how.

Getting tired of the floral wallpaper in your dining room or the Stewart plaid in the den? If you’re daunted by the prospect of removing wallpaper, don’t despair—you may be able to paint right over it.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON PAINTING OVER WALLPAPER or read the text below:

Painting Over Wallpaper

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First, a few caveats: You’re more likely to achieve satisfactory, long-lasting results if you just bite the bullet and remove the wallpaper first. If, however, you have cause to be concerned about the integrity of the drywall or plaster under your wallpaper, painting over it may be your best bet (so long as the paper is in good condition).

Before you begin, make sure that the wallpaper is securely adhered to the wall; repair any loose or damaged paper. Run a thin bead of caulk along the line where the paper meets the walls, at the ceiling and the base. If the paper is textured, lightly spackle and sand to get a smooth surface, and gently sand the wallpaper seams so they won’t show through the paint.

Once the wall has been prepped, apply a coat of oil-based primer to seal the adhesive and to protect the paper from the paint’s moisture. After the primer has dried, paint the walls the color of your choice, sticking with an oil-based product.

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: Lumber Grades

Did you ever wonder what differentiates the many grades of lumber you see at the local home improvement center? As it happens, there are only a few things necessary to remember. Learn more now.

If you feel a bit confused when you walk down the lumber aisle in your local home store, you’re not alone. For a basic DIY project, it can be tough to know exactly what the names and grades are all about. Here’s a primer on different grades of lumber.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON LUMBER GRADES or read the text below:

lumber-grades

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The first thing to know is that no piece of lumber is perfect. That being the case, lumber grades are based on the number of defects in a board. The highest grade is called FAS, for “firsts and seconds.” After that comes “select.” Both FAS and select grades are good choices for architectural framing, molding, and other uses that call for long lengths of wood with few defects. What constitutes a defect? A number of things, including knots, bark pockets, decay, splits or holes.

After select comes “common,” which is suitable for uses that require shorter lengths of clear wood. Number 1 common is often called cabinet grade, since it provides clear boards in the lengths and widths needed for kitchen cabinets. Meanwhile, Number 2A common is an economy grade, so expect shorter lengths without defects. For smaller projects, where long lengths of clear, straight boards are not necessary, number 2A common is typically more than adequate.

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.