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INFOGRAPHIC: Get a Head Start on a Healthy Lawn

Behind every great lawn is a great lawn mower. Find out how proper mower maintenance and smart lawn care can give you a picture perfect yard.

After a cold and blustery winter, homeowners are geared up and ready to get back outside. First on many to-do lists is reviving the worse-for-wear grass. Of course, a lot goes into the cultivation of a lush and lovely lawn, but no care routine can be considered complete if it lacks the right equipment. So before you get to work weeding and feeding, watering and mowing, check out these tips from the experts at John Deere.

John Deere lawn infographic

 

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This post has been brought to you by the John Deere. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


How To: Make Your Own Window Cleaner

Save your window from streaks—and still save a little money—with a DIY version of your favorite commercial cleaners.

Homemade Window Cleaner

Photo: shutterstock.com

Windows get dirty, in part because we put off cleaning them, mistakenly thinking of the chore as a somehow complicated one. Certainly, cleaning windows can be a chore, but complicated? No. That’s never more true than when you eschew fancy store-bought formulas in favor of homemade window cleaner. Save some dollars and keep things simple by mixing up your own window cleaner with nothing more than a few pantry staples you likely have on hand. Here’s a recipe for success.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Vinegar
- Liquid dish soap
- Water
- Essential oils (optional)
- Spray bottle

STEP 1
Raid the pantry to gather your materials. Here, as in so many other non-toxic cleaners, vinegar plays a key role. Its acidity cuts through dirt and grease, an attribute that well equips the stuff to remove streaks from windows. Plus, if you’ve washed your windows for years with a commercial cleaner, it’s likely that the glass sports a subtle, waxy film. That comes off easily with ordinary dish soap, another ingredient contributing to the efficacy of homemade window cleaner.

Homemade Window Cleaner - Washing Detail

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 2
Mix your ingredients. In a spray bottle, combine a quarter-cup of vinegar with a half-teaspoon of liquid dish soap. Dilute the mixture with two cups of water, then shake the bottle vigorously to combine the components. If you happen not to have vinegar on hand, note that you can substitute in lemon juice. Like vinegar, lemon juice has a mild acidity that cuts through grease and grime with equal panache.

STEP 3
As a cleaning agent, there’s much to love about vinegar, but the strong odor isn’t everyone’s favorite thing. Fortunately, you can go a long way toward camouflaging the scent by adding essential oil into the spray bottle mixture. Pick your favorite oil—it doesn’t matter which—and include about 10 or 15 drops.

With your homemade window cleaner now ready, mist the window glass with it and then, using a lint-free cloth, wipe the cleaner across the entire surface you’re cleaning. Be careful not to use a cloth or sponge that’s going to leave streaks (or even scratches). For best results, opt for microfiber or chamois.

If the windows are dusty but not streaky, you can clean them without bringing a cleaning solution, homemade or otherwise, into the equation. Simply use a lint-free cloth to pick up and clear away the dust. Then, once finished, complete the job by polishing the glass to a shine with a different, clean cloth.


Quick Tip: Mix Sand with Paint for Non-Slip Surfaces

Prevent slips by finishing potentially dangerous outdoor living surfaces with a gritty, traction-lending mixture of paint and sand. Here's how.

Adding Sand to Paint - Deck Stairs

Photo: shutterstock.com

Slippery when wet: Those words of caution may be most familiar in the context of hospital and airport floors, but they also apply to porch stairs and backyard decking. So the next time you undertake a painting project outdoors, add traction with an extra ingredient—sand. Though special non-slip paint formulas are available on the shelves of your local home center or hardware store, you can save a little money and achieve the same result with the following DIY approach.

Adding Sand to Paint - Decking

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 1
Begin by scraping away any cracked, flaking, or peeling paint from the area that you’re refinishing. Next, sand the area by hand, or if you want to make quicker work of things, opt for a power sander. Continue sanding until there’s a roughed-up surface to which the paint can adhere properly. Before moving on to the next step, be sure to clean the surface thoroughly, leaving plenty of time for the area to dry out completely.

STEP 2
Now comes the part that may be unfamiliar. Pour some paint into a paint tray, then toss in a small handful of clean white sand. Aim for a ratio of four parts paint for every one part sand. Stir well—and keep stirring each and every time you load fresh paint onto the tool you have chosen for the work, be it a brush or a roller.

STEP 3
Once you’ve finished applying the initial coat of paint, allow plenty of time for it to cure. Temperature and humidity are factors that may influence the amount of drying time necessary, but all things considered, the process ought to take no longer than 24 hours (though it may take considerably less time than that).

STEP 4
Complete the job with a second, sand-less coat of paint. To a degree, the second coat is going to hide the sand, but you are still likely to notice it, especially with time and once the surface has undergone some wear.

If you’re painting a highly visible area and have concerns with how the sand looks, choose clear plastic grit instead. Whereas sand grains can look like dark specks, clear plastic does remain relatively unnoticeable.

Another option is to glue down rows of coarse, non-slip strips (like those used to provide traction in the bathtub). While these strips lose their grit in time, so too does the mixture of paint and sand. If you live somewhere with harsh winters, expect to reapply your treatment, whatever it is, every two or three years.


This Company Makes Furniture with Salvaged Railroad Materials

Knotty timber and centuries-old iron rails become hardy, arty furniture in the calloused hands of Rail Yard Studios.

Rail Yard Studios Furniture - Desk

Photo: railyardstudios.com

As the owner of a railroad contracting and maintenance firm, John Hendrick oversaw a crew responsible for, among other things, disposing of old or unusable rails and ties. After a while, Hendrick grew tired of seeing so much beautiful, often historic material either junked or sold off for scrap. That’s when he developed an idea.

His newest company, Rail Yard Studios, works to transform railroad cast-offs into pieces of fine furniture. Since Hendrick had trained as an industrial designer, it wasn’t much of a stretch for him to envision a second life for these heavy-duty components, particularly with his carpenter father involved as a business partner.

Rail Yard Studios - Adirondack Chair

Photo: railyardstudios.com

Today, Rail Yard Studios fashions chunky yet chic tables, seating, desks, bed frames and more from steel rail, spikes, wooden ties and brackets. Each one-of-a-kind piece manages to capture the rugged romance of American train travel, with many steel members still bearing the imprints of industrial titans like Andrew Carnegie.

Though you may find evidence of past centuries, you won’t find any hazardous materials. Rail Yard Studios relies on timber rejected due to knots and splits and other imperfections that, while not conducive to supporting massive trains, are ideal for furniture that’s handsome, heavy, and definitely not for the dainty-of-heart.

All aboard!

Rail Yard Studios - Coffee Table

Photo: railyardstudios.com

For more information, visit Rail Yard Studios.


Bob Vila Radio: For No-Hassle Decorative Painting, Use a Dual Roller

Whereas many other decorative painting techniques can only be mastered through experience, a dual roller brings unique, arty effects within reach for even novice do-it-yourselfers.

Want to add a designer touch to your next interior paint job? One option is to experiment with a dual roller, a tool that weaves together two colors of paint in unpredictable, arty ways.

Dual Roller Decorative Painting

Photo: amazon.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON DUAL-ROLLER DECORATIVE PAINTING or read the text below:

Dual rollers usually come as part of a kit that includes, besides the roller itself, a paint tray split down the middle to accommodate the different hues you’ve chosen to combine. To test the combination, it’s a good idea to first apply the roller to a large sheet of cardboard or, if you happen to have one, an extra panel of drywall.

Use diagonal strokes with the roller for best results. Less rolling produces more contrast between the colors; more rolling blends the colors. Roll as close to edges as possible, then use a trim brush and a sponge to blend the line.

If you compare the time, effort, and cost of wallpapering versus using dual-roller effects, it’s easy to see that, if you like the effects, dual rollers are the better deal. And perhaps the biggest plus is that if you don’t like the results you get with the dual roller, you can always just roll on another coat!

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free.

Meet the Kansas City Artist Modernizing a Centuries-Old Craft

What's behind the art you hang on your living room wall? If it's a Hammerpress print, then it's history, design, and solid craftsmanship.

Hammerpress - Brady Vest

Photo: Chris Mullins

Brady Vest, founder of Kansas City-based Hammerpress, has his pulse on a letterpress renaissance. Even if you haven’t heard of letterpress, you’ve certainly benefitted from its invention. Until the middle of the last century, letterpress printers were responsible for creating books, pamphlets, and newspapers. To some, these movable type machines are considered junk in our digital age. But letterpress prints, cards, and posters are making a big comeback—as offbeat decor for your home. This vintage tool is leaving its mark on our walls and throughout our houses today.

Now, the letterpress isn’t your dad’s power tool. (For one, it’s probably too large for most home workshops.) But take a look at Hammerpress designs and you’ll find that the vintage machinery is far more versatile than you might think. We had to know more about what motivates Hammerpress makers so we caught up with Brady as he was in the midst of opening his new, expanded Kansas City storefront.

Hammerpress Kansas City

Photo: Hammerpress

The reason I started Hammerpress is…
I suppose my initial attraction to letterpress printing was the machinery and the objects involved in the process. The type, the cabinets, the old machinery. Also, I think the fact that it was sort of a hybrid of art and design seemed intriguing.

Once I got a little more involved, the commerce aspect of it intrigued me—as did the fact that you could mass produce artful products in a way you could not do in the fine art world. Plus, the process seemed to lend itself to collaboration.

Hammerpress print happiness will find you

Photo: Hammerpress.net

The thing I love most about working with letterpress is…
There’s always an excitement when you start working on a design, pulling all of the pieces out of the drawers. I go into a project with a fairly good vision of what it will look like—the ways the inks, patterns, type—will lay over each other, but it always changes. I suppose, in that way, the thing I love is also sometimes the thing I hate. The machinery sometimes dictates what happens more than you can. I love that, but it’s also a little scary.

Hammerpress - Lucinda Williams poster

Photo: Hammerpress.net

My main source of inspiration is…
I look at a lot of things that are outside of my experience. Lately, a lot of textiles—older and newer—a lot of vintage ephemera, photo collage, architecture and space design, children’s books from the past, etc. I try to not just look at things that are similar to what we do.

I’d describe the Hammerpress aesthetic as…
Hard to nail down. I feel like we are constantly trying to keep some continuity while also trying to push ourselves to do things we aren’t totally comfortable with. I think the main thing we always try to maintain in each design is a sense of handwork. Although we do work digitally a lot now, our goal is to always keep handwork involved and not allow it to get too clean or refined.

Hammerpress calendar

Photo: Hammerpress.net

The most challenging thing about this work is…
Trying to maintain consistency and keep it fresh. It’s always a challenge.

My favorite part of the design process is…
Seeing it go to press. Usually—not always, but usually—it’s like the clouds opening up and the sun shining through once you see the actual ink on paper.

Hammerpress - Stay Strong Badge

Photo: Hammerpress.net

I think the biggest mark of Hammerpress design is…
We tend to use a lot of large floods of color and try to work with the layering of colors and textures a lot. That seems to be what most people are attracted to in our work.

The story behind our name is…
I had a friend in college with whom I collaborated a lot. He would put the name “one ton press” on his work, with an anvil as a logo. When we started working together, I wanted something that would look and sound good on collaborations between us. The anvil and the hammer seemed to make sense. And I continued to use the hammer from there on out.

Hammerpress Kansas City store front

Photo: Hammerpress

The new Hammerpress shop is now open in the Crossroads Arts District of Kansas City, but no matter where you live, you can also find their letterpress designs at the click of a button right here.


Scout: A Next-Generation Home Security System

Finally, there's a fully featured home security system you can not only tailor to your needs, but even install on your own.

Scout Home Security

Photo: scoutalarm.com

Joining the ranks of smart-home gadgets and gizmos is Scout, a completely wireless, internet-connected home security system. Scout departs from tradition in several important ways, offering a flexible, tech-savvy, and user-friendly security solution. Once upon a time, a home security system was not only expensive to buy, but also required elaborate, professional setup and a monthly service fee. Though it offers many of the same features, Scout costs considerably less and has been designed for do-it-yourself installation.

At the heart of the system is the hub, which plugs into the wall and connects to your modem. From there, it’s easy to configure the other components provided in the starter kit: a door sensor, a pair of window sensors, and a motion sensor. Additional components are available on an à la carte basis, so you can buy only the add-ons that you want or need. But Scout does more than let you sidestep superfluous hardware purchases—you can also avoid a monthly subscription by monitoring the system yourself. If you prefer, however, Scout offers professional monitoring, complete with a call center and police notification, for $20 per month.

Scout Home Security - Window Sensors

Photo: scoutalarm.com

Scout faces stiff competition from both new and established companies. But while all are manufacturing home security systems with broadly similar capabilities, the Scout line manages to look pretty darn good while getting the job done. Clean, modern, and almost self-effacing in design, the sensors fit unobtrusively in the home. Three finish options—Arctic White, Midnight Black, and Walnut—allow customers to coordinate Scout with their decor.

With the Scout app (or its Web portal), you can check in with and control your system from anywhere. Here, you can also customize how your Scout system behaves in different situations. Of course, Scout works has default settings for modes such as “Home” and “Vacation.” But if you prefer, you can also format Scout to take actions like sending a notification to your smartphone when the door opens, or an email when the motion sensor detects movement in its range.

Scout Home Security - Camera

Photo: scoutalarm.com

Recently, Scout launched a new HD video camera that you can access remotely at any time. Not only does the camera have night vision, but it also boasts two-way audio, enabling you to listen and speak to those at home. Though Scout only improves with such additions to its suite of products, its base price hasn’t changed. Sure, Scout is not cheap, but if in the past you thought peace of mind was a luxury you could never afford, it’s time for a reassessment.

Purchase the Scout Wireless Home Security System, $319.99.


Bob Vila Radio: Button Up Your Crawl Space

Even if you don't plan on ever using your crawl space, sealing the area can prevent mold and mildew while helping to minimize heating and cooling bills.

If you have a crawl space in your home that’s not adequately sealed and insulated, you’re probably wasting money on inefficient heating and cooling (not to mention inviting insects and rodents to share your abode).

Sealing a Crawl Space

Photo: lowes.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON SEALING YOUR CRAWL SPACES or read the text below:

To button up your crawl space, survey the space on a clear day, looking for any signs of sunlight coming through the foundation. If you don’t see any, that’s a good sign, but take a closer look with a flashlight, paying special attention to areas where ducts, pipes, and wiring are concentrated.

Seal any gaps you find using a quality, flexible caulk or expandable foam. In addition, install weather stripping around the crawl space entry door. If the floor down there is either soil or gravel, carpet it with thick plastic sheeting (to combat moisture problems). Use bricks or heavy rocks to keep the sheets in place.

Finally, install insulation between the floor joists. That’ll ensure that what happens in the crawl space, temperature-wise, stays in the crawl space.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free.


In a New Short Film, BoConcept Steals the Show

Contemporary furniture from BoConcept stars alongside international sensation Mads Mikkelsen in an amusing—and revealing—new short film.

BoConcept Storage Bed

Photo: BoConcept

BoConcept furniture returns to the screen in a new short film starring Mads Mikkelsen—the suave Danish actor famous for his role in the NBC series Hannibal. Like an earlier BoConcept film with Mikkelsen, “The Guest” centers on the actor, playing himself, at home in a luxurious villa in Spain. And once more, sleek and modern furniture from the European-based retailer absolutely steals the show—though numerous cameos compete for viewers’ attention.

In its five minute duration, the film sets its sights on answering a lofty question: “What exactly is comfort?” As the plot unfolds with Mikkelsen showing off his new place to an old friend, we see the functionality and versatility of BoConcept living, dining, and bedroom furniture. Although the visiting friend’s interests lie elsewhere, Mikkelsen cannot get over the fact that, while elegant and eye-catching, BoConcept pieces are much more than mere showpieces. As BoConcept designer Mortgen Georgsen says, “Beauty and function must go hand in hand. What’s the point of beautiful design if you cannot use it?”

This just in: BoConcept is giving fans a chance to win an interior makeover worth up to $5,000! Visit BoConcept today for all the details on entering.


Genius! Boards and Brackets Create a Window Haven

Constraints beget creativity, as evidenced by the simple, useful, modest, and unexpected refined DIY breakfast nook one blogger devised when short on space.

DIY Breakfast Nook

Photo: offbeatandinspired.com

Last year, Tiffany left her roomy rental house for a compact apartment closer to downtown. Though ideally located, the apartment offered limited space—not simply for stuff, but also for activities. At her old place, Tiffany had loved to host occasional guests; to do the same in her comparatively cramped new digs, she would need to get creative. After weeks of brainstorming, she struck upon the idea for what would become a DIY furniture equivalent to a Swiss Army knife.

It’s a breakfast nook. It’s a dining area, desk, and project area. It’s all of those things. It’s genius. Here, in one corner of her apartment, Tiffany created a sunny, versatile zone in which to do everything she feared there wouldn’t be enough room for. The best part? Once she had figured out the design, the rest was easy. Tiffany spent under $200, but theoretically, you could ratchet down costs to a minimum by opting for low-cost shelf brackets and pair of secondhand stools.

DIY Breakfast Nook - Shelf Bracket

Photo: offbeatandinspired.com

You can read, in Tiffany’s own words, how she did it. But here’s the gist: Having carefully measured the window area, Tiffany decided the desired dimensions for her table. Next, she gathered materials that included two boards cut to the correct width. Because she wanted the table to have some heft, she chose to double-up the boards, placing one on top of the other. With wood glue, she joined the boards, applying pressure as the adhesive set. Then she secured the bond with screws.

Bracket time! To determine the right height for the brackets that would support the table top, Tiffany sat on one of her stools and marked where her knees touched the window trim. That’s where, with a couple inches added for leg room, she drilled in the brackets. Next, she placed the table top into position on the brackets, then screwed the two together from below, adding stability. Last, Tiffany finished things off with a soft wax that really brings out the knots and texture of the wood.

FOR MORE: Offbeat and Inspired

DIY Breakfast Bar - View 2

Photo: offbeatandinspired.com