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: Reclaimed Brick

On top of the familiar advantages offered by new brick—including sturdiness, low maintenance requirements, and lasting beauty—reclaimed brick boasts eco-friendly properties as well as the appealing patina of age.

Brick is an extremely sturdy construction material. It’s attractive, fire resistant, and low maintenance—and it stands up well to weather. Because brick is so durable, there’s a growing market for used, or reclaimed, brick. This popularity is due in part to our increasing interest in green building and recycling, but aesthetics play an important part as well.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON RECLAIMED BRICK or read the text below:

Reclaimed Brick

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Homeowners who are trying to match their existing brick for an extension or other renovation project find reclaimed brick particularly valuable. The distinctive look of old brick can give even new construction the patina of age.

If you’re looking for used brick, local salvage yards are a good place to start, as are specialty firms that deal primarily in reclaimed brick. Search online for reclaimed brick dealers, some of whom will ship nationwide, although that can be a pricey option.

It’s a good idea to have used brick inspected to make sure it’s structurally sound. Brick that has been through a fire, for example, can look fine on the outside even though its strength has been compromised. Finally, depending on its age, old brick may require special mortar, so be sure your contractor has experience working with reclaimed brick.

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: Reducing Dust

Follow these tips not only to remove the dust that has settled on your floors and furniture, but also to prevent dust from entering your home in the first place.

For most people, dust is a housecleaning nuisance. But for those with respiratory ailments or allergies, dust can be a real health threat. I have some tips for reducing dust, so you can spend less time trying to remove it.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON REDUCING DUST or read the text below:

Reducing Dust

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Dust consists of common particles that you really can’t avoid, including flakes of dead skin, hair, pet dander, fibers shed from carpet and clothing, and even dried soil brought in from the outdoors. Start your war on dust by getting in the habit of leaving your shoes near the door and changing to slippers for use indoors. You’d be amazed at how much cleaner this simple step can keep your home.

Now look at your floors. Rugs and carpeting are notorious dust traps, so those with allergies are usually advised to stick with bare floors. If you do have rugs or carpet, vacuum often and thoroughly, using a beater attachment that pulls up lots of deep-down dirt.

Next, clean up the clutter. Cluttered surfaces, from floors to tables to shelves, are a challenge to keep clean, since they create little nooks where particles can accumulate, and because you have to move everything in order to clean.

Finally, use electrostatic cloths and mops when you dust; materials that grab onto dust are better than dry or damp cloths, which always leave particles behind to re-settle.

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 Raw Wood

Painting raw wood? Even before applying primer, there are a few steps you should take at the outset to ensure professional-level results in the end.

You probably know that bare, raw wood needs to be primed before it’s painted. For best results, though, there are a few steps that you should take care of even before you start priming.

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

Paint Raw Wood

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First, check all surfaces for finish nails—even though they are headless, they should be countersunk using a small nailset to be sure they are completely below the surface. Fill all those nail holes, as well as any other imperfections, with wood filler. When the wood filler has completely dried, sand it smooth using fine-grit sandpaper.

Next, you’ll want to fill in any gaps and seams with caulk. Anywhere two pieces of wood butt against each other should be caulked, so that your finished product will appear seamless. Smooth out the caulk with your fingers or with a damp rag, being sure to remove all the excess.

Finally, if the wood has any visible knots, seal them with clear shellac so that the sticky resins inside the wood can’t seep out through the knot and ruin your paint job. When everything is sealed, caulked, and dry, run some fine-grain sandpaper over it all one more time, then start priming. You’ll be amazed at how these few simple steps in the beginning really pay off in the end.

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: Fixing Chipped Stove Enamel

Is your enamel stove looking a little worse for wear? You can restore the appliance to gleaming, pristine condition by repairing any portions of the surface that have gotten chipped in the course of cooking.

There’s something so crisp and clean about a kitchen with a traditional, white porcelain enamel stove. But sometimes all it takes to chip that gleaming surface is a dropped pan or a clumsily replaced grate. Over time, the exposed metal can rust, not only worsening the look but also damaging the appliance. Fortunately, it’s not too hard to repair those scratches and dings, getting your stove to look as good as new. Here’s how.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON FIXING CHIPPED STOVE ENAMEL or read the text below:

Fixing chipped Stove Enamel

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First, purchase a porcelain enamel repair kit in a color to match your appliance. These kits can be found online or at home improvement or hardware stores. Start by washing and thoroughly drying the damaged spot. Then sand the chipped area with 400-grit sandpaper, wiping it down with a damp rag. Make sure the area’s dust-free and completely dry before continuing.

Shake the bottle of liquid enamel well, then apply according to the directions on the repair kit. Typically, you’ll use a provided applicator to brush or dab some of the liquid onto the chip. One application should do it, but for deeper dings you’ll probably need several coats to build up an even surface. Allow each coat to dry (according to the manufacturer’s directions) before adding another. Be sure to wipe off any drips with a dry rag as you’re working.

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: Baseboard Covers

Baseboard heaters have been popular for more than fifty years, but not everyone loves how they look, especially once the units become shabby with age. Baseboard covers are the simple solution, and they're worthwhile for more reasons than you might expect.

Baseboard heating has been a popular choice for homeowners since the 1950s. But over time, baseboard units can start to look shabby, as their sleek metal covers accumulate dents, scratches, and rust spots. If the units themselves are still working fine, you can spruce up the look of a room by upgrading the look of their covers.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON BASEBOARD COVERS or read the text below:

Baseboard Covers

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It’s worth noting that baseboard covers aren’t just for looks. They protect the heating elements and keep your family from coming into contact with dangerously hot surfaces, and they also enhance and help regulate the heat. So if your covers are missing or badly damaged, replacing them may be your best option. Before you head off to the home improvement store, measure carefully and if possible, take an end cap with you to help identify the right replacement covers.

If your concerns are just aesthetic, you have a number of options. Possibly the cheapest fix is to paint the covers. If you don’t like the look of baseboards at all, though, you may be able to cover them up. Many suppliers sell metal or even wooden covers that sit on top of the entire baseboard unit. There are also products that slip over the heating element to replace the original baseboard cover. Before you purchase anything, measure carefully and do your research—some covers can be used only on hot water baseboard systems, not electric ones.

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: Plaster Wall Cutouts

It can be somewhat complicated to create plaster wall cutouts for light switches, electrical outlets, or recessed shelves, but following these simple steps can help you get the job done with minimal fuss.

It’s pretty straightforward to cut a hole in drywall to add a light switch, electrical outlet, or even a recessed shelf or niche. If your walls are made out of old plaster, the job is a little bit more complicated, but you can still do it yourself if you take proper precautions and have the right tools.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON PLASTER WALL CUTOUTS or read the text below:

Plaster Wall Cutouts

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The tricky part is that old plaster doesn’t necessarily want to come down in straight lines, and unless you’re gutting the whole room, you probably want a sharp outline between the plaster you’re removing and the wall you’re leaving up. So how can you get clean cuts in plaster?

One way is to pencil in your cutout first, then score the plaster surface with a utility knife or a rotary tool, penetrating a quarter-inch or so. Once you have a clean line scored all around the area you want to cut, use a reciprocating saw to cut along the line and take out both the plaster and underlying lath at once. Work slowly and carefully, and don’t force the blade.

Remember, wear a respirator mask, safety goggles, and thick work gloves. And if the plaster does crumble in a spot or two and create a jagged edge in your straight line, don’t worry—you can fill in small irregularities with drywall compound.

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: Woodworking Chisels

If you are thinking about taking up woodworking, you'll need a few basic tools to get started. Chisels are the foundation of any woodworker's toolbox, so here are a few tips to choose and use these vital tools.

No woodworker’s toolbox is complete without a set of chisels. If you’re just getting started on do-it-yourself woodworking, here’s what you need to know about choosing and using chisels.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON WOODWORKING CHISELS or read the text below:

woodworking chisels

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First, beginning woodworkers can start with a simple set of three or four chisels. Be sure to look for woodworking chisels, not masonry chisels or other types. The three-quarter-inch size is the workhorse for most projects, but quarter-inch, half-inch, and one-inch widths also come in handy. You’ll be using them for leveling surfaces and cleaning up the edges of your work when you cut a mortise for a lockset or hinge or similar jobs, so you want them to stay super sharp. Store them in a cloth roll or even in an old sock to keep them from getting dinged in your tool box.

Chisels don’t take much maintenance — just be sure they’re clean when you put them away after use. Once in a while, you can spray them lightly with a little oil to be sure they don’t get rusty. The most important thing you can do is to use them correctly. Don’t use a chisel to scrape globs of glue off a work surface or for other utility jobs. That’s a great way to dull the chisel and make it less useful when you need it later.

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 Aluminum Siding

If the aluminum siding on your home has seen better days, but you don't want to replace it completely, consider repainting it instead. Here are a few tips to give your siding a new lease on life.

Aluminum siding started to become popular after World War II, when this metal, which had been so crucial to the war effort, became more readily available. Valued for its weather resistance, low maintenance requirements, and long-lasting finish, aluminum was a common siding choice until vinyl overtook it in the 1970s.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON PAINTING ALUMINUM SIDING or read the text below:

painting aluminum siding

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Although it’s durable, aluminum siding is prone to denting, and its color chalks and fades over time. But if you live in an aluminum-clad home that has lost its luster, replacement isn’t your only option. If you’re otherwise happy with your siding’s performance, consider cleaning, patching, and repainting it instead.

First you’ll need to replace any dented or damaged sections. Then scrape off flaking paint, and chisel out and reapply caulk lines as necessary. Scrub away mildew with a bleach-water solution before hand-washing the siding with soap and warm water. To speed things up, you can power-wash instead, using a low-pressure tip. Let the siding dry for a few days before painting, beginning with an application of galvanized metal etching primer. Once the primer is dry, paint the house using 100 percent acrylic exterior paint. A low-luster finish will help hide surface irregularities, and I strongly recommend two coats.

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: Pulling Nails

Most avid DIYers know well how to hammer in a nail— but there are plenty of projects that will require you to pull a nail out. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you pull a nail out.

You may be pretty good at swinging a hammer to drive in a nail, but there are plenty of do-it-yourself jobs that will require you to get some nails out instead of in. Here are a few quick tips to help make pulling nails a little easier.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON PULLING NAILS or read the text below:

Pulling Nails

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You can often remove a nail with the claw end of a hammer. Start by slipping the claw under the nail head and rocking it loose. To avoid damaging the wood surface OR breaking your hammer, once you get the nail partly out, slip a wood block under the hammer head next to the nail before you pull straight on the handle to remove the nail.

If the nail is resistant to pulling and you don’t mind roughing up the wood surface a little, you can try a cat’s paw instead of a hammer’s claw. A cat’s paw is a nail-pulling tool that does great work getting to buried nails. Use the head of the hammer to tap the cat’s paw into the wood to extract the stubborn nail.

If the nail is buried and you have access to both sides of the wood, you can use a hammer on the back side to drive the nail out far enough so you can grab its head on the front.  If the nail has no head, you can sometimes pull it out from behind using pliers and a little elbow grease.

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: Restoring Old Windows

If you love the double-hung windows in your old house, consider restoring—and replacing—rather than replacing them.

If your home has old-style double-hung windows with heavy sash weights on pulleys, you probably know that they’re not very energy efficient and they can be a pain to repair when those sash cords break. Most homeowners opt for replacement windows and tear out the old ones completely. But what if your old windows have amazing leaded or stained glass or some other feature worth saving? That might be a reason to opt for restoring, not replacing, your windows.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON RESTORING OLD WINDOWS or read the text below:

Restored Windows

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Restoring old windows is not an easy job, and it can be pricey. The old sashes must be removed, along with the sash weights, and the hollow channels that held the weights and pulleys need to be filled in.  Those channels are one of the main reasons old windows are so drafty — all that hollow space allows a lot of cold to infiltrate. Old windows can operate on new spring-loaded balances once the weight channels have been filled in. The sashes need to be retrofitted to work with these balances, with new grooves routed into the frames to accommodate them. It’s an ambitious project best reserved for unique or historic windows, or for windows with glass you just can’t bear to part with. But done well, restored windows can truly enhance the beauty of your old home.

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.