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: 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.


Bob Vila Radio: Resetting a Circuit Breaker

There's a lot of power in your home's electrical panel. Here's how to reset a circuit breaker if the lights go out.

The source of your home’s power is the breaker box, also known as the electrical panel or circuit breaker box. Whatever you call it, there are a few things you need to know about it.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON BREAKER BOX SMARTS or read the text below:

How to Reset Circuit Breaker

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The first is that the breaker box is not for amateurs—a lot of power comes into the box from the utility it’s connected to, and electrical shock can kill you. So for the most part, leave the panel to the pros.

But there are a couple of times when you might need to open the box. The most common is when a circuit breaker trips, causing you to temporarily lose power to a part of your home. A tripped breaker is an inconvenience, but it’s also a warning that one of your zones may be overloaded. You may have too many things plugged in or too many appliances running at once. Correct that situation before you reset the breaker.

When you’re ready to reset, open the door to the box to see which breaker tripped. You can usually spot the one that’s out of alignment with the others, and it will feel loose when you touch it. Flip it completely to the OFF position first, then set it back to ON. If the same breaker trips again, call in a professional electrician to find the cause of the problem.

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: Planning After President’s Day

Now's the time of year to switch gears and start thinking about spring home maintenance. Follow these guidelines, so you can hit the ground running once the chill of winter fades.

I know it’s still winter here in the Northeast, but I start thinking about spring the minute Presidents’ Day weekend is over. Now’s the time to start planning springtime projects.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON PLANNING AFTER PRESIDENT’S DAY or read the text below:

Winter Home Checklist

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First, review your checklist—checking your home for winter damage, feeding and seeding your lawn, and doing all the other routine tasks that mark the end of winter. Check your calendar to make sure you have weekends set aside for that next month. This is also a good time for making appointments for any fence or sprinkler repairs or painting projects that require contractors. They’ll start booking up soon, so reserve their time now.

Think about your garden and what you’d like to grow this year. Some plants can get started from seeds now, so if you have space indoors to set up seed trays, this is the time to do that. If you’re thinking about making changes to your landscaping, map out a schedule for pulling out the old and putting in the new.

Finally, make a priority list of home improvement projects you’d like to get done this year. Be realistic about your budget and the scheduling—don’t bite off more than you can chew in one year. Write out a timeline for DIY tasks and start getting bids on larger projects. Spring is just around the corner!

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: President’s Day Inventory

Capitalize on the long weekend by conducting a home inventory.

For those of you in the tristate area who aren’t hitting the ski slopes or escaping to the Bahamas this weekend, Presidents’ Day is a great opportunity to do some annual financial homework.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON PRESIDENT’S DAY INVENTORY or read the text below:

Home Inventory

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First, check your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy to be sure your coverage is up to date. Do you have all the riders you need for musical instruments, jewelry, or other unique items? If you own a home, you should also have an umbrella policy—check to be sure you have the required underlying coverage to support it.

Next, check your home inventory: Have you purchased new appliances or electronics since you last updated it? If you’ve never created a one, now’s the time. The easiest way to get started is to walk through every room of your home with a video camera, talking about what you see. You can document the items later on paper, but a video record is a good place to start.

If you own your home, check your cost basis records. The cost basis is what you paid for your home originally, plus what you’ve spent on all the capital improvements you’ve made since then. You’ll need it when you sell your home, and it’s much easier to keep your records current than try to figure it all out when it’s time to sell. Happy Presidents’ Day!

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: Installing Versatile Pegboard

Traditionally, pegboard has been a hallmark of basement workshops and garages. But times have changed and with improved design options, homeowners have begun to hang the storage utility—well, just about everywhere.

Perforated hardboard, more commonly known as pegboard, has been a staple of workshops and retail stores for decades. The boards are amazingly strong given how thin they are, and they have dozens of uses around the home. They are not just for tool storage anymore.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON PEGBOARD VERSATILITY or read the text below:

Pegboard

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If you haven’t looked into pegboard lately, you’ll be amazed at how many different specialty hooks and accessories you can find to customize your board. In addition to simple metal hooks, you can find brackets for small shelves, rods for hanging laundry, hangers for a full set of screwdrivers, baskets for craft supplies, even padded hangers to hold guitars.

Hooks and hangers now come in a wide variety of colors as well as shapes, so your pegboard display can be as vibrant as you’d like it to be. It’s easy to customize a pegboard, too. The easiest way to do that is to paint it, but you can also now buy specialized pegboard skins—paper covers in a variety of designs that are prepunched with holes that align with your board. With a bit of imagination, you can create a display that’s not only functional, but beautiful as well.

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 Plaster

Removing plaster can be a messy job. These pointers can help you keep the dust and debris neatly contained.

It’s tough to think of a dirtier job than tearing down old plaster. The dust gets everywhere!

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

Removing Plaster

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You certainly don’t want it in your lungs, so the first step in removing plaster is to get yourself a respirator mask—not one of those paper masks, but a good-quality mask with a filter. Wear eye protection—real safety goggles that provide wraparound coverage—and thick work gloves.

Next, you’ll want to seal off your work space as best you can from the rest of your home. Nothing is 100% effective in keeping the dust contained, but thick plastic sheeting taped along every inch, over every exit from the room, will at least reduce the spread of the dust. Protect the floor with kraft paper first, then place a drop cloth or tarp over that.

Remove the plaster using a flat bar, putting the larger chunks into heavy-duty contractor bags. If you’re using a container service, you can skip the bagging and put the debris into trash cans to be hauled out to the curb (and emptied into the container).

Once the plaster is down, pry off the old lath with a hammer and bundle it up for disposal. Watch out for nails! And here’s one more tip: Don’t take up the floor protection right away; dust will continue to settle for days.

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: Types of Chisels

Chisels date back all the way back to the Ancient World. Today, there are hundreds of different types of this tool for cutting stone, wood, or metal.

Chisels are sharp-edged metal tools used to cut stone, wood, or metal, and they have a spectacularly long lineage. In fact, today’s chisel would probably be quite recognizable to an ancient Egyptian or Roman.

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

Types of Chisels

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Today, there are hundreds of types of chisels, each designed for a specific use. Very generally, chisels can be divided into two categories according to their handle style. In a tang chisel, the tang, or shank, of the blade runs completely through the handle; in a socket chisel, the handle fits into a socket in the metal blade. But handle style is just one of many variables, the most important being whether the chisel is intended for use on stone, metal, or wood. Chisels also come in different lengths, width, thickness, shape, and edge design, which makes for a confusing array of choices. It’s tough to know what to buy.

If I had to pick just one, I’d opt for a set of what’s called firmer chisels, which are all-purpose tools with flat blades, designed to be tapped by a mallet. They’re available in a range of widths and lengths.

Whatever type you choose, spring for good-quality chisels. They’ll maintain their edges longer, and a sharp chisel is not only more effective, but it’s much safer, too.

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: Plywood Basics

Plywood is one of the most versatile materials in modern construction, and can be used in everything from flooring to furniture. Make sure you understand its basic characteristics and grading before using it in your next project.

Plywood is a manufactured material used throughout the home in such elements as flooring, walls, and furniture. Veneer-core plywood, the type you’re most likely to find at your local home improvement store, is made up of several glued-together layers—or plies—of wood. The number of plies can range from three up to as many as 11. Typically, each layer sits perpendicular to the one below. This composition adds to plywood’s strength, which is one of its big selling points. Others include its stability and resistance to moisture-related swelling and warping. Plywood is also lighter than solid wood and, depending on quality, can be less expensive.

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

plywood basics

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The impressive range of plywood on the market varies according to factors such as core material, thickness, panel size, number of plies, and the species of wood used for the outermost layers—or faces. Other important variations include plywood grade—the aesthetic quality of the faces—and suitability for exterior use.

In recent years, environmental groups have raised an alarm  about the off-gassing of formaldehyde used in plywood glues. Keep an eye out for products with low formaldehyde-emission, or “E,” ratings.

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: Natural Paint

Thanks to manufacturing advancements, today's low- and no-VOC natural paints perform as well, and go on as easily, as their VOC-containing counterparts.

The harmful effects of VOCs on indoor air quality have received a lot of attention in recent years. In response, paint manufacturers have formulated a wealth of low- or no-VOC coatings. Here’s how to be a smart consumer and choose paints that are good for your health, your home, and the environment.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON NATURAL PAINT or read the text below:

Natural Paint

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Start by reading the label on the paint can. Acceptable VOC concentrations vary from state to state, but one of the more stringent standards stipulates a VOC concentration in flat paint of no more than 50 grams per liter (g/L). But remember: A base paint may be low- or no-VOC, but added tints may contain VOCs. Before you ask for a custom mix, ask about the VOCs in the tint.

If you’re prepared to spend a little more, you can seek out one of the specialty producers that offer natural paint. These formulas draw on historic—in some cases, ancient—recipes that incorporate ingredients like milk, chalk, clay and natural pigments. These paints may require special handling or application, so read the manufacturer’s directions carefully.

The first paints with low or no VOCs got a bad rap for being difficult to apply or requiring extended drying times. Most of the better paint brands have solved these problems and now offer products that go on as easily and perform as well as their traditional VOC-containing counterparts.

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.