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: Front Yard Landscaping

The best front yard landscaping draws the line of sight to the front door and features eye-catching color and textural combinations along the way. Here are a few simple but effective tips for boosting curb appeal with trees and bushes, your driveway and walkways, and more.

Every garden needs a focal point; for the front yard, that’s usually the home’s entryway. When the front door is the focal point of your front yard landscaping, your home looks more inviting than ever. Here are a few tips for using plants to draw the eye toward the door.

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Front Yard Landscaping

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First and foremost, don’t hide your door behind large shrubs and trees. You want your landscaping to sweep the eye up to the door, not block the view completely. Position larger plants and trees off to the sides and keep them trimmed back to allow a full view of the door.

Second, don’t skimp on foundation plantings. A typical two-story home should have a bed about eight feet deep around the front to soften the view. Use plants of varying heights, different shades of green, and different textures to create an interesting mix. Use containers on the front steps and walkway to add variety and color, but not so many as to make things look chaotic. Keep it simple and elegant.

Finally, don’t forget your hardscaping—that is, the walkway, driveway, and other hard surfaces. Little things like changing a straight walkway to one with a little curve or flair, or allowing plants to drape over a wall, can have outsized effects on your entry.

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: Pot Fillers

Read on to learn why you ought to consider including a handy pot filler as part of your next kitchen remodeling project.

If you’re planning a kitchen remodel, one feature to consider adding is a pot filler. These handy fixtures are basically additional cold water faucets installed right over the stove, making it easier and safer to fill large pots.

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Pot Fillers

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Even if your sink isn’t far from the stove, it’s still a chore to fill a large pot and haul it over to the burners. Water weighs eight pounds per gallon, so even a two-gallon pot can weigh almost 20 pounds when full. With a pot filler mounted above your range, you just extend the fixture out from the wall and fill your pot while it’s sitting right on the burner.

You’ll probably want to coordinate your pot filler with your sink’s faucet. Many manufacturers create matching or complementary styles to go with their faucet sets. Be sure to measure carefully before choosing a pot filler—the arm needs to clear the top of your range without hitting the cabinet above it, and you don’t want it mounted so high that water splashes out of the pot when you fill it.

Pot fillers do require a new supply line, and the fixtures themselves can be pricey, so this is not an inexpensive addition. Still, as part of a larger remodel, the cost is usually not prohibitive, and once you’ve had one, you’ll wonder how you ever did without 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: Crabgrass

Left unchecked, crabgrass can run amok and ruin the look of your lawn. Here's how to prevent this pesky interloper—and what to do if it's already competing with your grass.

Crabgrass is a pesky interloper that can really ruin the look of your lawn. Left unchecked, it can spread quickly across wide areas as its seed travels. Here’s how to stop it in its tracks.

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Crabgrass

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The best offense, of course, is a good defense, and that means keeping your lawn thick and healthy and mowing it high. That creates deep shade at the roots, which makes it tough for sun-loving crabgrass to get started.

If you do see a small growth of crabgrass, pull it by hand and dispose of it. Don’t use a mulching mower on a lawn that has patches of crabgrass, as that only spreads the seeds over a wider area.

If your crabgrass is widespread, you’ll need to remove the affected areas of your lawn with a tiller or power rake, then reseed. Keep the newly seeded area lightly watered until the grass comes in, and immediately reseed any bare patches.

If you have persistent problems with crabgrass, come springtime you might want to use a pre-emergent crabgrass preventer on your lawn. That will keep any of the seeds that blow in from your neighbors’ yards from taking root in yours.

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: Removing Tree Stumps

Even a small tree can leave a formidable stump. When it comes to dealing with the landscape challenge presented by one or multiple tree stumps, homeowners have options.

At some point, you may need to remove a tree, whether because it’s too close to the house or because it’s dead or dying. Either way, you’ll have to deal with what remains once the tree is gone: the stump.

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Removing Tree Stumps

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Even a small tree can leave a formidable stump, making it difficult, if not impossible, to dig it out by hand. You can hire a service to grind the stump or rent a grinder and do it yourself, but how effective that is depends on the location of the stump.

If the tree was close to the house or in a confined space, you’ll need to use a small grinder, which doesn’t go very deep. The remaining stump and roots will remain underground and will continue to decay for years. Not only do you need to top off the area with new soil, you should also add some lime to keep your soil balanced, as the decaying stump turns the soil acidic.

Of course, another alternative is to leave the stump in place and use it as part of your landscaping. Put in vines or other climbing plants next to it and allow them to drape over the stump. Or if the center of the stump is hollow, you can fill it with fresh potting soil and plant annuals in 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: Day Lily Care

Day lilies are a favorite among gardeners, in part because these colorful summer bloomers require little care. Follow these simple steps in order to keep this much-beloved perennial going strong, year after year.

There are few flowering plants as satisfying as day lilies—they bloom in late spring and early summer, just as the spring flowers are fading, and provide color for many weeks into the summer. These perennials come back year after year with only minimal care. Here’s what you need to know to keep your day lilies going strong.

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Day Lily Care

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First, be sure to plant them in full sun, or at least where they will get several hours of sun every day. Day lilies look especially beautiful along a fence or walkway, where the showy flowers provide a dramatic border, and their full green foliage keeps weeds to a minimum.

If you choose cultivars that bloom at slightly different times, you can extend your blooming season and enjoy the different colors that emerge as the weeks go by. After each flower blooms, its stalk will dry out and turn brown; keep your plants looking tidy by removing the brown stalks with a gentle tug. Don’t worry—new blooms will keep coming.

At the end of the season, the green foliage will turn brown. It’s best to leave it in place for the winter to provide protection from the cold. Finally, clear away the dead foliage in the spring, when new green shoots appear.

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: Removing Paint From Concrete

Getting paint off concrete or other masonry is tough, but can be done. Here's how to do the job.

If you’ve ever dripped paint on your sidewalk or changed your mind about that coat of paint you put on a concrete planter, you know how tough it can be to remove paint from concrete. Here’s what you need to know about getting paint off concrete or other masonry.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON REMOVING PAINT FROM CONCRETE or read the text below:

Paint Removal

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Start by sweeping or vacuuming thoroughly to remove any loose particles. Then clean the surface with soapy water or a solution of TSP, scrubbing with a long-handled brush. Be sure to wear gloves. Allow the surface to dry completely.

Next, if the painted area is small, you may be able to get it off with an orbital sander. For bigger surfaces, you’re probably going to have to resort to a chemical paint remover. Wear heavy-duty gloves for this, and be sure the area is very well ventilated. Apply the chemical and allow it to do its work—this stage could take several hours, so follow the instructions on the can. If you’re working outdoors near plants, be sure to cover them to protect them from the chemical.

When the chemical has done its job, scrape the area clean with a wire brush or a paint scraper and wrap up the residue for disposal. Rinse the area thoroughly. Very large painted surfaces or stubborn stains may need to be blasted with a pressure washer.

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: Fire Escape Ladders

Protect yourself and your family by taking the precaution of putting a fire escape ladder in every upper-story room in which you spend time. Here's what you need to know.

Here’s a dismal statistic: According to the Home Safety Council, just 6 percent of U.S. homes have a fire escape ladder. Apparently, a lot of us have some shopping to do!

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Fire Escape Ladders

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You really should have a ladder in every occupied upper-story room. Measure each room’s windowsill to make sure you purchase a ladder that fits. Ladders come in two standard lengths—15 feet (for second-story windows) and 25 feet (for third-story). Look for a ladder with lots of standoffs. These protrusions hold the ladder away from the house, keeping it steady. Your ladder should hold at least 1,000 pounds and have been tested by an independent certifying authority.

Next, decide whether you want a portable or permanent ladder. In an emergency, a portable ladder is carried to the window, hooked over the sill, and deployed. It must fit the window opening and be light enough to handle and easy to open.

Permanent ladders are mounted either inside the room or outside, near the window. While they are typically more stable and easier to deploy than portables, they’re also more expensive and require installation.

Finally, have your family practice using the ladder; young children can practice on a first-floor window. An escape ladder will do no good if your family can’t use it when they need to.

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: Lilac Pruning

Pruning lilacs too late in the season can endanger next year's blooms. Observe the following maintenance practices in order to ensure beautiful displays of seasonal color year after year.

If you didn’t prune your lilacs right after they bloomed, you still have a little time left, but don’t delay: Pruning them too late can take off next year’s blooms. Here’s what you need to know about pruning lilacs.

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Lilac Pruning

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Lilacs flower on old wood, not on the new growth in spring. That’s why you can’t prune them once summer begins, at which point next year’s buds are developing. Prune now for best results next year. You should prune off about a third of the branches and clip any shoots around the stem, right at ground level. Lilacs put out prodigious quantities of new shoots, but you want only a handful of main stems coming out of the ground.

Reach deep inside the lilac to do your pruning; the one-third you remove needs to come from the interior to allow light into the plant. Keep the plant’s overall height in mind as you prune; unless you want all the blooms over your head, you’ll want to trim the plant back to no more than six feet tall.

If a lilac has become completely overgrown and unwieldy, you can cut the entire plant back to within inches of the ground and wait a few years for it to bloom again. Regular maintenance, however, should keep you from having to take such a radical step.

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: New Designs for Recessed Lighting

For homeowners, it's well worth taking a fresh look at recessed lighting, which in recent years has seen an explosion of new and exciting design options.

Recessed lighting has always been efficient, since it takes up no space at all in a room. Over the years, as a variety of new trim kits appeared on the market, recessed lighting became even more appealing, with amenities like eyebrow kits that let you direct light in a specific direction. Today there’s a veritable explosion of new style options, making recessed lighting worth a fresh look.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON RECESSED LIGHTING NEW DESIGNS or read the text below:

Recessed Lighting

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New styles of trim kits are breaking old boundaries by extending the fixture beyond the surface of the ceiling. That may fly in the face of the whole “recessed” concept, but the result is a new slate of options with glass teardrops, metal frames, and even crystal arrangements. These trims enhance the look of the fixture and also diffuse the light to great effect.

Recessed lights are even moving out of the ceiling and into the walls and staircases, where they are terrific space-saving ideas that provide valuable light in previously dark spots. That’s a great idea for those of a certain age, especially those who don’t want to sacrifice elegant design as they get older. So if you haven’t shopped for lighting in a while, take a new look—these are not your father’s high hats anymore.

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: Vinyl vs. Linoleum

Though often mistaken for one another, vinyl and linoleum are in fact different materials, each with a different set of pros and cons.

Homeowners often refer to vinyl and linoleum interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. These resilient floor coverings are made from different materials and have distinct selling points.

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Linoleum vs. Vinyl

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Vinyl, the more common of the two, is made from the petrochemical vinyl, along with felt, fiberglass, and dyes. It’s extremely resilient, waterproof, easy to install, and easy to care for. Most vinyl flooring comprises several layers, with the pattern printed on a backing material and then covered with a tough, clear wear layer. Vinyl is available in a huge range of colors, patterns, and textures. Because vinyl is subject to off-gassing, look for low-VOC products.

Linoleum is manufactured from natural components like linseed oil, tree resins, cork and pigments, making linoleum a more “green” choice. It’s relatively easy to install and because the color usually goes all the way through, it’s long-wearing and resistant to scratches. Water-resistant but not waterproof, linoleum should be cleaned with care and only with appropriate cleansers. Although today’s linoleum typically has a factory-applied coating, some products require occasional application of a wax or other finish. Linoleum is pricier than vinyl, but it should also last longer. And while linoleum comes in striking colors and textures, it’s not as ubiquitous as vinyl and doesn’t offer the same wealth of hues and patterns.

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.