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: Banquettes

In an awkwardly shaped or small-size space, banquettes are casual dining spots perfectly suited for breakfast and snack time.

Banquette seating has a nostalgic charm that may remind you of your favorite diner or that cozy spot in your grandmother’s kitchen. But banquettes have more to offer than nice memories—they’re also smart space-savers. Is a banquette right for your kitchen? Let’s look at the pros and cons.

Listen to BOB VILA ON BANQUETTES or read the text below:

Kitchen Banquettes

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Banquettes are great for providing seating in areas that are too tight for a traditional table and chairs. They make good casual dining spots and are perfectly suited for breakfasts and snack time (that’s why they’re so common in eat-in kitchens). And banquettes excel at making the most of awkward corners or alcoves, transforming these potentially wasted spaces into functional, welcoming dining nooks.

A banquette isn’t the best choice, however, for large families, particularly in homes that lack a more formal dining space. Bench-style seating means disruption every time someone needs to get up for a glass of milk or another piece of bread. And while banquette benches are fun seating for kids, they can be tough for older family members to negotiate.

Finally, it can be difficult to keep the bench clean. If you opt for a banquette, you may want to invest in a table that can be rolled in and out for easier access to those crumb-littered corners of the banquette.

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: Backyard Chickens

There's no fresher or more locally raised eggs than the ones from your coop. But before you jump into raising backyard chickens, take into account these considerations.

If you’re in the market for fresh, locally raised eggs, you can’t get more local than your own backyard. Here are a few things to consider if you’re thinking about a backyard coop.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON BACKYARD CHICKENS or read the text below:

Backyard Chickens

Photo: bobvila.com

The first is to check local laws—not all municipalities allow backyard chickens. If you have a homeowners’ association, check that as well—chickens may be legal in your city but not in your neighborhood. For example, chickens are okay in New York City, but not in many suburbs and not even in some small communities within city limits.

Next, start educating yourself on what chickens need in terms of space, feed, and care. Make sure you can keep your birds safe from predators like dogs, coyotes, and raccoons.

When you’re ready, buy your baby chicks and raise them until they’re ready to start producing eggs, usually at around five or six months. A healthy hen can produce 200 to 300 eggs a year until age two, when production slows down.

Backyard chickens have become so popular that your neighbors probably won’t squawk when they see your birds, but if they do, a few dozen fresh eggs will probably change their mind.

Remember that hens can live eight or ten years, making this a long-term commitment. Talk to someone who’s done it, so you understand the pros and cons before you take the leap.

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: Pantry Storage

Ready-made and do-it-yourself organization solutions help you ensure that even in a well-stocked pantry, you can always find what you're looking for.

A well-stocked pantry is key to planning and preparing meals efficiently. But even if you keep loads of ingredients on hand, they won’t do you any good if you can’t find them. Here are a few tips on keeping your pantry items organized, visible, and easily accessible.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON PANTRY STORAGE or read the text below:

Pantry Storage

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The first step is to get rid of stale or expired items—and anything else that you don’t think anyone in your household will ever eat. Next, if possible, completely clear out your pantry shelves, clean them off, and start organizing. Make collections of like items—for example, soups and other canned goods, or pastas, legumes, and grains. As you restock your pantry, you’ll want to keep these groups together, making sure you can see every item.

Fortunately, there are plenty of products (and DIY solutions) oout there to help you organize a pantry. Among the handiest are undershelf baskets, which add storage space and keep frequently used items accessible. Lazy Susans can help with accessibility but in small pantries, they can be inefficient space hogs. Stair step-style shelf organizers help keep soups and other canned goods readily visible; you can DIY your own by using lengths of wood. Finally, consider storing grains, cereals, and other bulk items in clear plastic stackable containers. They use space efficiently and let you see what you’ve got.

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: Moss Lawns

Moss lawns are an intriguing alternative to traditional grass, not only for their velvety texture, but also because they are comparatively low maintenance.

If you think of moss just as a nuisance in your lawn, or as something that doesn’t gather on a rolling stone, it’s time to think again.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON MOSS LAWNS or read the text below:

Moss Lawns

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For the past decade or so, moss has been gaining popularity as a ground cover. It’s not hard to understand why. Moss creates a velvety green carpet that requires no fertilizing, no mowing, and very little water. In fact, to keep most mosses going strong, you just need acidic soil, shade, and some moisture.

You do, however, have to remove leaves and other debris, thing that will kill moss if left for long periods of time. And rake carefully, because moss can be easily pulled up. Another significant disadvantage: Moss doesn’t hold up well to foot traffic.

There may be as many as 1,000 species of moss in the United States, so you’re bound to find one that will thrive in your region. If you’re interested in establishing your own mossy carpet, there are specialty retailers you can turn to for kits and guidance.

Given EPA estimates that about one-third of all residential water is used for landscaping, maybe it’s time to make some room in your yard for this humble, drought-tolerant ground cover.

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: Backyard Ponds

You don't need to be a millionaire to enjoy the peace and serenity of a garden pond. Here's how to create an affordable oasis in your own backyard.

The sense of serenity you get relaxing in your yard can be enhanced by the sound of a babbling brook or waterfall, but not too many yards are located near water. Fortunately, you don’t need to live in the woods (or be a millionaire) to enjoy a water feature of your own.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON BACKYARD PONDS or read the text below:

Backyard Ponds

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Even a small yard can accommodate a garden pond. You can create a custom pond lined with concrete or vinyl, but the easiest way is by using a pre-formed shell. Plastic shells are inexpensive, but they’re vulnerable to cracks and punctures. Fiberglass shells cost a bit more but are far sturdier and much less likely to crack. A shell that has edging attached will be easier to install.

Choose a location that gets a fair amount of sun and is not under a tree that will drop leaves or needles into it. Add a cascade or waterfall to keep the water moving and include a filter in your plans to keep the water clean.

To install your pond, rough out a hole that’s slightly larger than the shell; level the bottom and line it with landscape fabric; then add a few inches of sand. Place the shell into the hole and start adding water. As the pond fills, backfill dirt around it, making sure it remains level. Conceal the top edge with decorative rocks or slate.

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: Radical Hedge Pruning

Have your hedges gotten unruly? Read this before doing anything drastic. Often a multi-year approach is the best way to go about radical hedge pruning.

Hedges make great privacy screens, and they’re certainly friendlier than stockade fences. At some point, though, you may decide that your hedges have gotten too tall. (A hedge that’s taller than you are requires a ladder to trim, so cutting it back makes it easier to maintain.) Before you start slashing, here are a few things to consider.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON RADIAL HEDGE PRUNING or read the text below:

Hedge Pruning

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A mature hedge is often green on the outside but woody on the inside, because the outer foliage blocks sunlight from reaching the inner branches. Cutting a large amount at once off the top of a hedge to reduce its height will expose all that bare wood and leave you with rather unattractive results. If you want a shorter hedge right now, remember that it will look quite spare this first season but will fill in nicely in years to come.

If you don’t want to live through a season with a hedge that looks like bare sticks, you can take a multi-year approach to the project. Thin out your hedge by cutting a third of the larger wood stems back to the ground, which will open it up and allow inner branches to leaf. Do the same thing the following year and by year three, you should be able to cut back your hedge to a more reasonable height and still have a nice green screen.

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: Planting Bulbs in Spring

Though flowering bulbs are often associated with fall planting, many varieties may be planted in the spring to provide your summer garden with stunning color.

When we think about flowering bulbs, we often picture beautiful spring bloomers like daffodils and tulips, whose bulbs go into the ground in the fall. But there’s a whole world of bulbs and tubers you can plant in the spring that will grace your garden with vibrant summer color.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON PLANTING BULBS IN SPRING or read the text below:

Planting Bulbs

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Start by picking out a sunny spot with well-drained soil and select only bulbs and tubers that should be planted in the spring. You’ll have a lot to pick from, including towering gladiolus, sweet-smelling freesia, willowy iris, and a number of varieties of anemone.

Make sure to wait until danger of frost in your area has passed, then plant the bulbs at the correct depth for the type of flower you’re planting, with the root at bottom and pointy end or sprout on top.

Depth and watering requirements vary by species, so read up before you plant. And be prepared to stake some of the taller flowers, such as the statuesque, top-heavy dahlia.

Depending on your hardiness zone, you may not be able to leave your spring-planted bulbs in the ground over the winter. If you need to remove them, shake off excess dirt and let them dry out before storing them in a cool, dry location. Then drop them in the ground next spring, and enjoy them all over again.

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: Building a Raised Garden Bed

Raised garden beds offer many advantages over planting directly into the earth. You can purchase a ready-made raised bed or follow these tips to construct your own.

There are lots of reasons why you might want to plant in a raised garden bed rather than directly in the soil. Raised beds create controlled environments that allow you to overcome problems such as weeds, roots, and poor soil. The good news is that raised beds are relatively inexpensive to buy and so simple to build that almost any gardener can have one.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON BUILDING RAISED GARDEN BEDS or read the text below:

Raised Garden Beds

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To plan your raised bed, start by evaluating the space you have available. You can build to suit almost any size space, but you’ll want to be sure you’re able to reach all your plants, so your bed shouldn’t be more than four feet wide. If you have more space than that, consider building two or more beds side by side, with a path between them.

The basic garden bed is bottomless: You can set it on the ground or inset it several inches into the earth. Freestanding beds have bottoms and can be placed anywhere. The frame and sides can be made of many different materials, including wood, stone, and brick, and can be assembled from a kit or built from scratch. Don’t use pressure-treated posts or railroad ties for a garden bed, since treated lumber contains chemicals that could leach into the soil.

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 Extinguisher Inspection

Check your fire extinguishers at least twice a year to ensure proper functioning in case you ever need them. Here's how to evaluate its condition.

You know you should test your smoke alarm twice a year, but what about your fire extinguisher? If yours is at the back of the closet where you stashed it ten years ago, chances are it won’t be much help in a fire. Here’s how to check your fire extinguisher to make sure it’s ready if you ever need it.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON FIRE EXTINGUISHER INSPECTION or read the text below:

Fire Extinguisher Inspection

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The first thing to check is the pressure gauge, which will tell you if your fire extinguisher is overcharged, undercharged, or just right. If it’s not properly charged, contact your local firehouse first to see if they can help. If they can’t, they can at least point you in the right direction.

Check the fire extinguisher for dents, rust, or other signs of damage. If you see any, it’s time to dispose of it, because a crack in a pressurized fire extinguisher can cause it to explode.

Make sure the tamper seal and the pin are in place. If your extinguisher has an inspection tag, check to see when it was last professionally inspected, if ever.

It’s a very good idea to stick to the recommended schedule for professional maintenance. If you have any doubts, contact a local fire safety company for guidance.

Finally, don’t put your extinguisher back in that closet—for it to be useful, you need to be able to get to it quickly.

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: Ferns

Ferns remain popular with homeowners and renters alike, thanks to the ancient plant's attractive fronds and forgiving care requirements.

Leafy, green, and graceful, ferns bring drama and texture to the garden. They are attractive in rock gardens and make effective background plantings and ground covers. Their frilly fronds, some with subtle variegations, lend character and color to shady spots. If chosen wisely, a fern can enhance your landscape for many years.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON FERNS or read the text below:

ferns

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Ferns have an ancient lineage. They first appeared on earth more than 300 million years ago and have over time adapted to a diverse range of environments. Although you can find a fern suited to almost any conditions, they generally prefer shady, moist locations and loose soils with a high concentration of organic matter.

One of their big attractions is that ferns are easy to grow and maintain. Once established, they need little care. They typically don’t require fertilizer, they’re unattractive to pests, and they’re not subject to disease. You’ll have greatest success, however, if you stick with ferns that are suited to your region. In colder climates, plant ferns in the spring; in warmer areas, in the fall. Water regularly—don’t let the soil dry out—and mulch to help the plant retain moisture.

One caveat: Tempting though it may be, don’t collect ferns from the wild—you could mistakenly end up with highly endangered or highly invasive species, and you shouldn’t have either in your garden.

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.