Welcome to Bob Vila
- Major Systems >
- What Do Homeowners Like Best About Radiant Heat?
What Do Homeowners Like Best About Radiant Heat?
Listen up! We've got six solid reasons real-life homeowners are happy—and you could be, too—about upgrading to a radiant heat system before winter arrives.
As the mercury continues to drop, heralding the arrival of the colder months, Mother Nature prods homeowners to think ahead. Winter is coming, and the weather’s only going to get worse. It’s time to turn your attention to the best ways to keep the inside of your house toasty warm. There are numerous options to consider, including traditional HVAC, radiators, and baseboard units as well as an army of space heaters and, less commonly, radiant heating. While each comes with its own set of pros and cons, radiant-heating systems also come with a surprisingly long track record that dates all the way back to ancient Rome. But it’s the technology’s modern advantages that are really getting people talking and making radiant heat ever more popular here in the United States. Keep reading for six important reasons that homeowners who installed a radiant heat system from industry leader Warmboard have remained warm and fuzzy about the decision—even on the coldest nights of the season.
“Our winter weather can drop to 20 degrees below zero, and, in our previous home, fuel heating with propane cost us $6,000 to $7,000 a year. [With radiant heat], this past winter it cost us only a thousand.”
With traditional forced-air heating systems, warm air sneaks out through leaky ductwork on its journey from the furnace to your living space. Plus, any cold air let in through an open window or poor weather stripping will quickly replace warm air, adding to the total heat loss—all of which forces your boiler to work harder. Radiant heat, by contrast, is designed to warm your space and the things in it from the ground up—not simply the air—through panels installed beneath your flooring. No ductwork, no heat loss. Compared with forced-air systems, radiant heat operates at least 25 percent more efficiently to get heat right where you need it most, significantly lowering your energy bill month after month.
“When you walk through our main floor, there are no hot or cold spots or obvious sources of heat—just a nice comfortable warm feeling.”
No registers or space heaters to tie yourself to here! When you install radiant heat at home, hydronic tubes spread boiler-heated water throughout panels beneath the flooring so that every square foot warms evenly. In years past, these panels were typically made of concrete, a poor conductor of heat, but today’s technology has evolved and the market has expanded to include aluminum-based panels, which are up to 232 times more conductive. For the astute homeowners who choose radiant heating, that means more heat, more quickly, for less energy (and less money).
Heat Where You Need It
“We built a log home with cathedral ceilings and have always felt like the lower the heat to the floor, the better. With radiant heating, it can be less than 30 degrees outside and my living room stays comfortable at 70 to 71 degrees.”
In homes with high ceilings, standard heating options tend to fall short. Because hot air rises, the gusts of warmth generated by a forced-air heating system naturally travel toward the ceiling, prompting homeowners to crank up the thermostat just to feel any heat on the main level. Radiant heat, however, doesn’t get carried away. Its thermal radiation warms what it encounters first—the floor, furniture, and people standing or sitting in the living space—keeping even a vast, open space cozy.
More Design Options
“The home has a variety of flooring types—tile, hardwood, and some carpet—so the flexibility in flooring that comes with choosing radiant heat is definitely a benefit.”
As the system runs beneath the surface and out of sight, there’s virtually no need to compromise your home’s design for your heating system. Radiant heat lets you arrange your furniture the way you want, without worrying about blocking a register or having to sacrifice square footage to a bulky, immobile radiator. Moreover, a high-efficiency radiant hydronic system allows flexibility in the types of flooring you can install over it. Panels manufactured by Warmboard, for example, are so conductive that they can generate ideal room temperatures while warming the water that runs through them to temperatures 30 degrees less than the competition—safe enough to sit below thick wool carpets, ornate tile and marble, and even patterned hardwood!
Fewer Allergy Flare-Ups
“The room’s a comfortable temperature, without feeling stuffy. And it doesn’t blow cat hair around the room!”
Forced air blowing through ductwork cycles allergens—and worse, cold-causing germs—through your home. As well, breathing dried-out, stale air can irritate nasal passages and lungs. Give your humidifier a rest! Ear, nose, and throat specialists and allergy doctors alike recommend radiant heat over most other systems because it won’t stir up trouble.
“There’s no noise, no air blowing around, yet as soon as you walk inside you’re warm.”
Functioning completely out of sight, the hydronic tubes beneath your floors operate also out of earshot. Radiant-heating systems silently and stealthily distribute the constant, uniform comfort your household desires. After winters of noisy stop-and-start blasts of air interrupting conversations, and creaking radiators disrupting sleep, this whole-room heat is as soothing to the ears as it is warming to the body.
This content has been brought to you by Warmboard. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.
- Doors & Windows >
- 3 Fixes for a Stuck Key
3 Fixes for a Stuck Key
Leaving your keys at home isn't the only way to get locked out. If you—and your key—get stuck, try these three fixes to get inside without having to hire a locksmith.
It’s been one of those days. You caught every red light on your way home from work, your laundry wasn’t ready at the dry cleaners, and now—when you finally get home and are dying to sink into your sofa—you can’t get your key out of the front door‘s lock. While frustrating, it’s usually not that difficult to remove a key that’s stuck, so long as nothing is broken inside the lock. The culprit could be just a loose part of the lock assembly, a a sharp burr or ridge on a new key, or a bend in an old one. Forcing a key can cause it to break off in the lock, so take a deep breath and give one of these easy fixes a try.
1. PUSH THE PLUG
The keyhole plug in a pin tumbler lock (found in deadbolts and key-in-knob locks) is just one part of a larger locking cylinder. What’s visible to you, the face of the plug, is the small circle surrounding the keyway—and your stuck key. Now, if this plug is loose, it can move slightly within the cylinder and prevent the pin tumblers from aligning, which makes it difficult to unlock the door or remove the key. Push your key in as far as it will go and turn it so that the keyway slot is in the exact position it was in when you inserted the key; this is the correct position for the pin tumblers to align in the cylinder. With your other hand, use the tip of your finger to push firmly on the face of the plug next to the key. The light pressure will prevent the plug from shifting as you gently twist and pull the key out.
2. LUBRICATE THE LOCK
If stabilizing the cylinder on your house’s lock doesn’t work, it might not be a loose plug causing the problem. New keys and imperfect copies are notorious for hanging on tumbler pins. Spray lubricant like WD-40 makes a great assistant when attempting to retrieve a key stuck in a lock, and most cans come with a tiny straw nozzle for getting into spaces as tight as a keyhole. (If you don’t keeps some handy in your car’s trunk, a quick run to the store might be in order.) Hold the straw right above your stuck key, aiming it into the hole. Now, wiggle the key (up and down, not side to side) to work it out of the lock. Once it’s out, use a fine file to smooth away any barbs or sharp points on the key teeth to prevent future sticking, or ask the key maker to file them down for you.
3. TURN UP THE HEAT
Excessive twisting and prying at a stuck key could take a situation from bad to worse: You might end up breaking the key in half inside the lock. Should this happen, you do have a couple of DIY options still available to you before hiring professional assistance. First, simply slick the keyway with a squirt of spray graphite or lubricant, then attempt to grab any visible end of the key using a pair of needle-nose pliers. If you don’t have enough metal extending from the keyway to grip, run to the store to pick up an under-$10 tool made just for the job: a broken key extractor kit. (That errand may still be quicker than waiting around for a locksmith!) Select the size of specialty tool from the kit best fit for your problem lock, and slide the slim implement along the recessed groove of the key as far as it will go. Once in place, turn it so that its hook can grab the key’s tip, then pull it back toward you to try dislodging the remaining chunk of key. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!
Of course, if you’re still stuck after trying all of these fixes, rest assured you have given it your best shot—this job is truly one for the professionals. You’ll need to call a locksmith to either retrieve the key or replace the lock altogether. Then, going forward, save yourself the sticky situation! Aim to keep a spare handy to switch into your key ring if your primary one begins to bend with wear—a warped key is more likely to stick down the road than a straight key. Also, give your locks a quick squirt of lubricant every few months to dissolve any gunk and keep the locking mechanisms moving freely. With this minimal effort, you may never have to wrestle with a stuck key again.
- How To's & Quick Tips >
- DIY Lite: Make Graveyard-Inspired Candle Holders from Concrete Mix
DIY Lite: Make Graveyard-Inspired Candle Holders from Concrete Mix
These concrete candle holders look like they've been ripped from gargoyles or the nearest graveyard, making them a perfect addition to your DIY haunted house.
Looking to make your own creepy decor for October’s main event? This easy DIY molds concrete into the shape of a cold, statuesque hand to hold mood lighting at your Halloween festivities. Rest the finished product on a table outside your door to light the way for trick-or-treaters, or have it haunt a dimly lit corner indoors. Wherever you set them up—we recommend making a batch of three of four, for all of your lighting needs—these concrete candle holders are sure to thrill.
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Reusable rubber gloves (4 or more)
- Safety pin
- Concrete (about 2 pounds)
- Chip clip
- Medium-size disposable container
- Tapered candles (4 or more)
- Utility knife
- Microfiber cloth
Hold up your reusable rubber gloves and, using the safety pin or a needle, prick a hole at the end of each finger. These holes will allow any air to escape once you start filling the glove with concrete, leaving you with a smoother appearance and fewer visible air bubbles.
Pour your concrete powder with water in a bucket, according to the package’s recommended ratio, and mix with a spoon (preferably one that’s designated for crafts and won’t make it back to the dinner table) until its consistency looks like that of cookie dough.
Then, shovel the concrete into the opening at the base of each rubber glove. Wiggle each finger to ensure that the concrete travels all the way to the fingertips, and lightly shake the entire glove to prevent an excessive amount of air bubbles as the concrete cures.
Once you’ve filled the glove, clamp the end with a long chip clip to hold the concrete inside.
Take your filled glove and and place it on its side (pinky down) into a medium-size container. Then, stand a tapered candle between the fingers and thumb, and carefully curve the glove to grip the tall candle. Try not to fold the fingers too much, or else you might separate the concrete in the palm from the concrete in the fingers!
Once you are satisfied with the shape of the hand, eyeball each finger one last time to see that there is still enough concrete so that none snap when you peel away the rubber in the next steps.
Leave the concrete to cure for the required amount of time specified by your mix (we let ours dry for two days). Once completely cured, you can undo the chip clip and begin to cut away the glove.
Hint: It will be easier if you can remove the candle from the clutch of the concrete hand, but that’s not always possible. Do your best, or snip the rubber off around the in-place candle, if needed.
Be patient while removing the rubber between the fingers. Work with small scissors and a utility knife to snip the rubber free, and carefully lift away each piece using tweezers. Peel away rubber slowly and gently in order to avoid breaking any of the fragile concrete fingers.
Wipe off the dust with a microfiber cloth, replace the tapered candle, and strike a match! If you light their wicks early and let the flame go long enough for a few drips of wax to roll, your concrete candle holders will be looking their creepiest in time for the Halloween party.
Ama is a DIY addict and the creative mind behind Ohoh Blog. She likes home decor, lighting, and furniture projects that may involve painting, sewing, drilling…no matter the technique! Whatever she has on hand is inspiration to create, and fodder for her serious addiction to upcycling.
All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from BobVila.com
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on BobVila.com. Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build or make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.
- How To's & Quick Tips >
- How To: Winterize Your Sprinkler System
How To: Winterize Your Sprinkler System
Prevent frozen water lines from damaging your sprinkler system by performing this crucial seasonal maintenance.
You rely on your sprinklers to keep your lawn looking great most of the year, but when autumn rolls along you need to take some time to empty and insulate them so they’ll be every bit as reliable next spring. If you fail to winterize your sprinkler system properly, when the cold weather hits, any water left in the lines can freeze, expand, and crack, potentially causing costly damage. For the various types of sprinkler systems in use today, there are two primary methods of releasing this water: draining it from the valves and/or using an air compressor to blow it out of the irrigation pipes. Because the consequences of leaving even the slightest bit of water behind in your pipes can be dire, sprinkler system manufacturers recommend that homeowners follow both procedures every fall before temperatures dip to 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
Depending on the type of drain valve your system utilizes, draining could be truly automatic, or it could be manual, requiring that you pull a few levers to get things moving. One way to tell if your system is manual-draining is if your sprinkler heads have check valves on them. Once you know what type of system you have, you can accomplish almost all the necessary winterization on your own with the information below—though, of course, you should keep your owner’s manual nearby for reference. Even still, it is strongly advised that you not neglect the pro portion of the process: That extra step (which costs a national average of about $85) could save you hundreds in replacement or repair of your sprinkler system later.
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Pliers (optional)
- Foam insulating tape
- Foam pipe covers
First, turn off the main water supply, often found near your water meter.
If your sprinkler has manual drain valves, also shut off the valves on the backflow preventer. A backflow device, typically located near the water main from which the sprinkler water is drawn, prevents pressurized, potentially contaminated water from mixing with the potable water supply. If you’re not using potable water for irrigation, your system may not include a backflow device, but if it does, turn it off via two valve shut-off handles on the separate pipes feeding into the device. Just turn these rectangular handles clockwise one-quarter to one-half turn; use pliers if the valves are too tight to turn by hand.
Your next move depends on the type of drain valve you have.
• If your sprinkler system uses an automatic drain valve, this spring-loaded drain valve will open every time the system shuts off because there is little to no water pressure running through the lines to press and close the valves. But this draining won’t release water trapped inside the valves themselves, so on each valve of the sprinkler system, locate the solenoid—which typically looks like a PVC cap with wires coming out of it—and loosen it by hand so air can flow inside the system. Once this is done, water should drain out from each zone of the system’s mainline.
• If your sprinkler system uses manual drain valves, locate the valve at the lowest point on your system’s mainline. Wear protective goggles for this, because the water can be under pressure and it’s possible to open valves before they depressurize. Next, turn off the the sprinkler system’s mainline shut-off valve. Then, open one of the control valves on the system. You may be able to do this from a controller, otherwise it’s a manual valve. Doing this will depressurize the sprinkler system mainline. Finally, slowly open the manual drain valve and allow it to drain fully. Follow this procedure for each manual drain valve on your system’s mainline. When all the water has drained, close each manual drain valve.
After emptying the mainline via automatic draining or manual draining, make certain that no water remains around the various valves that could expand when temperatures drop. Depending on your system, you may have a “boiler drain valve” or a “stop and waste valve,” which will turn off the local water supply and also allow for draining that pipe. Locate this valve’s drain cap and open the valve to drain the last of the water left between the irrigation system and the backflow device.
If you plan to hire professionals to perform a blow-out, proceed to Step 4; if you’re looking only to drain the pipes, you can proceed to Step 5.
STEP 4 (optional, but recommended)
Assuming that your sprinklers are relatively new and installed correctly with the irrigation pipes sloping downward toward the valves (where water can release at the lowest point in the system), gravity will guide nearly all the water out after you’ve relieved the pressure in the mainline. But it’s hard to know for certain that there’s not some left behind—say, caught around a dip or curve in a pipe that has shifted since installation. For this reason, experts recommend calling in a professional to take a further precaution that will release any last lingering water remaining in the sprinkler system: blowing out the pipes using an air compressor.
Sure, you might own a similar machine to power your nail guns and other air tools; perhaps it even boasts the capability to generate more than the recommended 50 pounds per square inch (PSI) needed to clear a sprinkler system’s worth of flexible polyethylene pipes, or the 80 PSI needed to blow out rigid PVC pipes. Still, experts advise against DIYing this next step for two reasons. First, safety: All kinds of potential injuries can arise in air compressor use, from valve tops blasting off to flying debris. Second, the typical at-home air compressor might generate roughly the same force but not the same volume as the professionals’ machine (a 10 cubic-feet-per-minute compressor). Theirs has the capacity to work more quickly and more thoroughly, whereas homeowners’ equipment can take significantly longer and potentially leave water behind—not a risk anyone should take.
After the professionals connect their air compressor to the hose leading from the water main supply and blow out your sprinkler system zone by zone, they should also close the main shut-off valves. They’ll also drain any water that collected around your backflow preventer (the device that isolates the system’s backflow and keeps it safe from damage).
Some systems require that valves be stored indoors and pipes capped during the winter. Consult your owner’s manual to find out how to proceed. If storage isn’t necessary, go on to Step 6.
If your system—including pipes, backflow preventers, and main shut-off valves—is at all aboveground, it’s advisable to insulate the exposed parts. Your local hardware store should offer foam insulation tape, foam pipe covers, and other winterizing protection. Following package instructions for the foam insulating products, cover exposed pipes and other system parts to protect against freezing or cracking, taking pains not to block valves or drainage ports.
If your system is on a timer, shut it off for the season. (Remember to reprogram it in the spring!) It’s also possible that you have a “rain mode,” which stops the sprinklers without turning off the timer when you get precipitation during the regular season. You can turn rain mode on for the winter to prevent the system from watering at all. This way you can avoid shutting the system off and losing the programmed settings, which would leave you with the hassle of reprogramming come spring. The sensor uses such a small amount of energy that leaving it on through the winter won’t add to your energy costs. In the spring, simply turn off the rain mode and watering will resume like clockwork.
- Tools & Workshop >
- 3 Tips for Smarter Security in the Digital Age
3 Tips for Smarter Security in the Digital Age
As more and more of our lives are lived online—both on the Web and through smarter technology throughout the home—our personal information has become more vulnerable to thieves. Help protect your identity by following these three safety measures.
Once upon a time, the only type of theft a person had to worry about was the old-fashioned kind, in which someone might physically break into a house and steal material possessions that aren’t theirs to take. But as life has become increasingly dependent on the digital realm, and every company, service, and product pushes you to connect via a new app, threats of identity theft and online fraud have risen exponentially, changing the ways in which we keep our lives and resources safer. You might have a state of the art home security system, but your identity needs protection, too. Luckily, although thieves today may be more tech-savvy than ever before, so are the tools we can use to help protect our assets. Read on to learn three key tips for being smart about security in a digitally insecure age.
1. Keep your machines clean.
A 2015 survey conducted by the National Cyber Security Alliance and ESET, an antivirus software developer, reports that one in five Americans already uses a mobile device to access at least one device in the home—say, a thermostat, cable box, or lighting system—remotely. Moreover, nearly every household these days is connected to the Internet, probably through its own Wi-Fi network. We’ve entered the age of the Internet of Things, when a growing network of physical objects—from phones and watches to home security systems and cars—is embedded with technology that enables these objects to connect and exchange data with one another and with us. So, it’s important to take control of that data and the things that collect it.
If you’re using devices and apps to control your home’s temperature, security, lighting, or television recordings, start by programming those apps with strong passwords, then keep your login information (both usernames and passwords) close to the vest and your router secure at all times.
It’s also crucial to keep your software up to date. “Updating the software, apps, and operating systems you use in a timely manner will help ensure that the latest security issues will have been addressed,” says Paige Hanson, chief of identity education at LifeLock, a leading identity theft protection company. In other words, the fact that you bought or downloaded something and gave it a password isn’t enough on its own; indeed, the more technology you use, the more vulnerable you are. By making sure you’re not falling behind the times, you can see that you aren’t leaving yourself open to security breaches. Hackers work around the clock to steal your information, so diligence is key.
2. Pay attention to what you’re sharing (and who you’re sharing it with).
In this era of social media, online banking, and constant connectivity, it’s still easy to forget the full reach of the Internet. When you post a photo to Facebook, you may think you’re simply sharing it with a few dozen or hundred acquaintances, but you may in fact be sharing it with anyone and everyone who happens to click on your profile—identity thieves included. The same goes for listing your phone number, home address, and other sensitive information on networking sites that feel personal but are often very public. Privacy settings on social media channels are a constantly moving target, so it’s essential to check all your profiles on a regular basis to ensure that your audience is as limited as you’d like it to be, and that if something changes, you’re sharing only information you’re comfortable having out there. Set a monthly (or even more frequent) calendar appointment with yourself to run such a quick security check.
Pay particular attention to your smart devices, many of which collect more data than you may realize. Take time to read up on each device and understand how your information is being stored and used. Can it be sold to third parties? What happens if you decide to discontinue its use? Knowledge is power when you’re deciding how and where to allow your data to be shared, so do your homework by reading the fine print and diving into user reviews before committing to a new technology that might not have your best interests in mind.
3. Invest in an identity theft prevention system.
If you really want to ensure that your assets—from your name and social security number to the very last penny on your credit card balance—have protection, it may be wise to explore subscribing to an identity theft protection service like LifeLock. While no one can prevent identity theft or monitor all transactions at all businesses, LifeLock provides a wide range of services, from proactive identity alerts and threat detection to remediation services. The company leverages an intricate theft prevention system based on unique data, science, and patented technology to offer protection that goes beyond the scope of simpler services like basic credit monitoring.
“At the core, our products help monitor identity-related incidents, alert members to suspicious activity that is detected within our network, and address ID theft-related issues on behalf of victims,” Hanson says. “In the event that identity theft occurs, LifeLock provides an award-winning member service team,” she continues, including any necessary lawyers, investigators, and accountants, all funded up to $1 million as part of the company’s $1 Million Service Guarantee. And, depending on your level of membership, you can replace anywhere from $25,000 to $1 million in stolen funds unable to be recovered.
Investing in any level of the services offered by LifeLock sooner rather than later is a smart move, especially if you plan to use more technological devices in your home—and, thus, share more of your personal information—in the future. As smart homes become the norm rather than the exception, it’s wise to set a system in place that captures and monitors everything you add, the moment you add it, from here on out.
The old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” certainly applies here. Rather than disease agents you’re trying to keep at bay, however, we’re talking about equipping yourself against high-tech thieves who are determined to take what you’ve earned. By entrusting an expert to stay two steps ahead of them on your behalf, you’re free to devote your time and energy to the people and activities you enjoy—all the while confident that your home’s technology, your assets, and your identity are being diligently protected.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of LifeLock. The opinions and text are all mine.
- How To's & Quick Tips >
- How To: Use a Fire Extinguisher
How To: Use a Fire Extinguisher
Here’s everything you need to know about getting the right fire extinguishers and using them effectively.
Fire extinguishers are like insurance: You have it in hopes of never needing it (and there’d better be at least one in your home!). But if it came down to it, would you be able to use it? There’s no better time than the present—before a stressful situation with flames—to familiarize yourself with these must-have emergency devices. Ahead, you’ll find a crash course in the types of extinguishers and the fires they quell, followed by a step-by-step guide for how to use a fire extinguisher effectively.
Types of Fire Extinguishers
As you no doubt learned in high school science, fire needs oxygen, fuel, and heat to sustain itself. Remove any one of the three and the “fire triangle” collapses. Yet with different fuel sources, fires must be fought differently, so be sure your extinguisher has the correct agent—be it foam, water, dry chemical, or wet chemical—for the particular fire. Using the wrong extinguisher can make a dangerous situation worse.
• Fire extinguishers typically found in homes tend to be water- or foam-based. Industry experts recommend homeowners have an all-purpose ABC dry chemical extinguisher to handle a variety of fires, except kitchen grease fires.
• Class A fires involve common combustibles like wood, paper, plastic, cloth, and trash.
• Class B fires are caused by flammable liquids like gasoline, kerosene, and oil (but not cooking oil or grease fires).
• Class C fires begin with electrical sparks.
• Kitchen fires, known as Class K, should never be fought with water. To battle a small grease fire in a frying pan, turn off the heat and cover the pan with a metal lid or throw a large amount of baking soda all over it. If you regularly cook with big quantities of cooking oil, purchase a “wet chemical” extinguisher rated for grease fires (it will work on some Class A fires as well).
All extinguishers are only meant to deal with fires in the “incipient stage,” which is fire department lingo for “just getting started.” If the fire is as tall as you, leave the area immediately, close the door to the room, and call 911.
Using a Fire Extinguisher
While there are different types of extinguishers, they all operate in essentially the same way, and there’s an easy anagram for their use. So should you be confronted by a small fire, grab the right fire extinguisher and think P.A.S.S.—“Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep.”
Pull the pin, usually attached to a plastic or metal ring, put in place to prevent accidentally squeezing the lever. When pulling the pin, be careful not to press the lever yet or you’ll break the canister’s seal and decompression will begin.
Aim the nozzle or hose at the base of the fire. This is critical—blasting the flames won’t stop the source of the fire. Stand at least 6 feet away from the fire (extinguishers have a range of 6 to 20 feet distance for spray, so check your extinguisher for specifics).
Squeeze the lever to spray the extinguishing agent. An average extinguisher has around 10 seconds of spraying time, so you’ll need to be precise and fast.
Sweep the nozzle or hose side to side until the fire has been put out. Close in on the fire as it diminishes, watching closely for re-ignition. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, so any smoke at all means the fire isn’t fully out yet. The best indication that the fire is out is that the area is cool to the touch. Proceed cautiously, holding out your hand to feel for heat, before you start touching charred surfaces.
If you’ve used your fire extinguisher, you can likely refill or recharge it. Contact the manufacturer or your local fire department to learn if that’s possible, and if so, where to go. If unable to refill it, let your discharged fire extinguisher rest for a few days to completely depressurize, then dispose of it in your trash, or contact your local fire department for info on recycling it. If necessary, purchase a new extinguisher without delay.
Experts recommend storing extinguishers mounted near a doorway. Never store an extinguisher near a stove and, because leftover chemicals and paints make garage fires potentially very dangerous, be sure to mount an extinguisher by the garage entrance.
Check your extinguisher regularly, preferably monthly, to ensure the pin is in place and the pressure gauge shows either between 100 and 175 psi, or the needle is in a green “ready” zone. If not, replace it or contact your local fire department to see if they can recharge it or recommend where to go to have this done.
Now, armed with proper extinguisher knowledge, you’re ready to tackle any small fire. But remember, do not confront any fire as large as you. Fires can grow double in size every 60 seconds, so be smart, be safe, and protect yourself.
- Flooring & Stairs >
- How To: Shampoo Carpeting
Our carpets suffer the collateral damage of our busy, active lives. The daily foot traffic and those inevitable spills and stains guarantee they will need regular cleaning. The good news: The hot water extractor, a machine specially designed for deep restorative carpet cleaning, can attack deeply embedded dirt and grime to keep carpets as pristine as the rest of the décor. Of all of the machines available to homeowners for cleaning carpets with commercial shampoo—including shampooing machines and buffers with solution-moistened pads attached—the hot water extractor models are today’s gold standard for a deeper, long-lasting cleaning. When used once or twice a year on stained and heavily soiled synthetic carpets, heated water mixed with an appropriate shampooing chemical can remove even stubborn substances like ketchup, coffee, wine, pet urine, and ink.
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Hot water extractor
- CRI-approved carpet shampoo
- Can of spot remover
- Clean cloth
- Vacuum cleaner
It’s important to note that, though the industry tends to juxtapose hot water extraction with steam cleaning, they are in reality two completely different cleaning methods. A steam cleaner uses—surprise!—steam along with shampoo. Critics claim can steam cleaning can actually worsen stains and damage carpet fibers, so it is more widely recommended for hard surfaces. Hot water extraction, on the other hand, forces a mixture of hot water (though not quite steaming) and carpet shampoo deep into the carpet. The solution and dirt are then extracted from the carpet, leaving the fibers and carpet base clean. Now, read on for how to shampoo carpets with this deep-cleaning machine.
First order of business: Acquiring the equipment. Deciding whether to rent or buy a hot water extractor rests on your projected usage. Prices to buy are all over the map—from under $200 up to $4,000 for bigger, more powerful models—depending on the bells and whistles included. For most consumers who devote one day to the task, the rental option is the more cost effective. Renting a machine from a big home improvement store will typically cost about $30 for the day, or $116 for the week.
Whether you rent or buy, be sure to select a machine that is approved by the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI). Representing carpet manufacturers nationwide, the CRI tests machines for effectiveness and those that qualify are labeled with a bronze, silver, or gold certification.
Once you’ve chosen your cleaning device, pay close attention to the directions. Use only a commercial carpet shampoo with a CRI seal of approval and make sure it is a brand compatible with your particular extractor. Do not add any other chemicals to the mix or under dilute the cleaning solution in an attempt to make it stronger.
Before you even press the start button on the extractor, clear the room to expose as much carpet as possible. Take a little time to notice and address smaller tough stains using a stain remover spray. The cleaner is sprayed directly on the stain and then either vacuumed up or dabbed with a clean cloth, depending on the product’s recommendations.
Run your trusty vacuum cleaner over the entire open space before you bring in the big guns. This will remove loose dirt as well as any gravel or sand that has been tracked into the house. At the same time, vacuuming will fluff the carpet fibers and loosen dirt trapped deep within, making your cleaning effort much more effective.
A good pre-shampoo vacuuming will also give you an opportunity to spot and pick up those little items—like rubber bands, hair accessories, and paper clips—that can jam the hot water extractor and wreak havoc on your cleaning parade.
Your basic hot water extractor is a self-contained, two-tank unit. One tank holds the clean water mixed with commercial carpet shampoo. The other becomes filled with dirty waste water as you shampoo carpets. Strictly adhering to measurement instructions, fill the clean water tank with the exact amount of water and carpet shampoo specified. Do not use more shampoo than stipulated, as this won’t dissolve well and will leave added residue on the carpet that will act as a dirt magnet.
Once you have set up your dispersal and collection buckets according to the machine’s instructions, you are ready to begin. Start in a far corner of the room and slowly walk forward, pressing the button on the handle to gently release the properly diluted carpet shampoo onto the rug. The vacuum runs as long as the machine is turned on and will suck up the residual dirty, sudsy water as you go.
- Before you expose your entire carpet to any chemical solution, test the hot water extractor on an inconspicuous corner to make sure the carpet shampoo solution will not affect the color or damage the surface.
- Do not use hot water to clean natural materials as it will shrink and destroy the fibers. For wool carpets, fill the machine with cold water instead of hot. Use hot water with synthetic carpet only.
- For best results, do not hold the water release button down continuously but instead press intermittently to keep from flooding the carpet with excess water. Drowning the carpet will definitely increase drying time and could potentially cause subsequent mold issues.
Continue working from one wall to the other until the water being extracted appears clear. Empty the waste water tank and refill the clean water tank with solution as needed.
How long it takes carpets to dry after shampooing with the hot water extractor depends on the size of the room, type of carpet, thickness of the padding, amount of dirt addressed, and ventilation. Some experts predict 4 to 6 hours of drying time for an average sized room with good ventilation, but carpets may take anywhere from 8 to 12 to up to 24 hours to be fully dry. Beware of wood furniture coming into contact with wet carpeting; when wet, dyes from the wood stain can be released onto the carpet and create lasting marks.
If you’ve only rented the hot water extractor for one day, and you have a whole house of dirty carpets to tackle, time is of the essence. While one room is drying, empty out the waste water tank, refill the clean water tank with diluted carpet shampoo and move on to the next space.
Once you are sure the carpet pile is well and truly dry, you can run the vacuum cleaner to remove any traces of leftover cleaning residue (remember: dirt magnet). Now all that is left is to enjoy the clean fruits of your labors!
- Kitchen >
- Genius! Give Your Appliances a Stainless Steel Makeover
Genius! Give Your Appliances a Stainless Steel Makeover
Every homeowner with a remodeled kitchen knows that new appliances can take a big bite out of the budget. If you're looking for a wallet-friendly way to get the stainless steel look without the stainless steel price, we've got you covered.
Stainless steel automatically free from dirt and grime, but it’s durability and beauty sure make it popular. It’s now the first choice for almost every kitchen appliance, from the humble microwave to the full-size fridge. Unfortunately, the popularity of this artful alloy is matched by a steep price tag—and, if you make the upgrade, the hassle of labor of disconnecting an old appliance and installing a newer model. These setbacks didn’t stop Julie Blanner from creating the kitchen of her dreams. With a cheap roll of stainless steel contact paper and her trademark precision, the resourceful DIYer transformed an out-of-place black dishwasher into a stunning faux stainless steel appliance that both complemented her white cabinetry and saved her hundreds of dollars that she’d planned to spend on something new.
Blanner’s solution is perfect for the fully functional appliance that it feels a waste to part with simply for aesthetic reasons. Although application wasn’t altogether painless, it was certainly easier than a hookup on a new dishwasher. Blanner cut a single sheet of the stainless steel paper about 3 inches larger in length and width than the door to her small dishwasher. Lining up the corner of steel paper with the top edge of the appliance, she simultaneously peeled away the backing and pressed the paper down with a credit card. The makeshift applicator made smoothing out bubbles a snap, leaving behind the pristine polish of a new stainless steel appliance.
Looking to recreate the luxe look at home? Having a type-A personality helps, but all you really need is plenty of patience, time, and a teammate you trust. While Blanner applied the faux finish, her project partner held the steel paper taut to prevent creases. And don’t worry about messing it up: Even if you have an “oops” moment, you can always peel the contact paper back, reposition it, and get back to business.
FOR MORE: Julie Blanner
All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from BobVila.com
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on BobVila.com. Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build or make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.
- Interior Design >
- Bob Vila Radio: Recipe for a Retro Kitchen
Bob Vila Radio: Recipe for a Retro Kitchen
You might not be able to serve up a malt, but a little paint and planning can get you the 1950s look for less.
If you love classic kitchens but can’t afford a renovation, there are still plenty of ways to add retro appeal. Start by digging up a few old photos with design details you want to recreate at home.
Listen to BOB VILA ON RETRO KITCHENS or read on below:
A lemon yellow, turquoise, or bubblegum pink accent wall will take your kitchen back in time in an afternoon. For cabinets, go with a vintage-inspired pastel on the outside or remove the doors and paint the back panel to create eye-catching open shelving. When everything is dry, finish the mini-makeover with chrome drawer pulls and knobs. And while you’re at it, swap out a builder-grade light fixture with a few pendant lights to brighten up your counter or island.
Experienced DIY-ers can build their own cozy breakfast nook with hinged benches. The compartment below the seat is the perfect place for seldom-used cookware. If you’re not that handy, a 50’s-style dinette set will give your family a place to gather.
Another option? Look into retro-inspired brands that are cashing in on the new-again trend with candy-colored appliances and range hoods. Finally, put those vintage kitchen linens and dishes you’ve collected to use. They’ve stood the test of time for a reason!
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!
- Other Rooms >
- Buyer’s Guide: Room Humidifiers
Buyer’s Guide: Room Humidifiers
A heated home doesn't have to go hand in hand with dry air. Pick out the perfect room humidifier with the help from our guide, and you'll rest comfortably indoors all season long.
Heating and air conditioning strip your home’s air of its natural humidity. The result: An uncomfortable dryness that leaves your skin feeling dehydrated, contributes to sinus and respiratory problems, and even promotes static electricity—that annoying shock you get every time you cross a carpeted room and touch the television. A little added moisture in the air helps alleviate dust mites and soothes irritated nasal passages. In addition to a handful of household hacks, homeowners can rely on humidifiers to help the situation. Humidifiers have been around for decades but today’s models offer more choices than ever before. We’ve done the legwork and found out what features buyers want most in room humidifiers as well as which models they rate as the best room humidifiers.
Demystify cool mist versus warm mist. Both cool mist and warm mist humidifiers add much-needed moisture to dry indoor air, with slight differences.
• A standard warm mist humidifier brings its water to a boil to inject the room’s air with a little extra moisture; this high heat reduces the risk of bacterial transmission, leading it to be considered slightly healthier. Warm mist humidifiers are also typically quieter to operate since steamy mist naturally rises, eliminating the need for an internal fan. They do require additional cleaning, however, because the boiling process leaves behind mineral deposits.
• A cool mist humidifier uses a fan to blow air through a damp wick, so it can be noisy when it turns on. Cool mist humidifiers are preferable to warm mist humidifiers, however, in homes with small children since undo the dry air without presenting a risk of steam burns to little fingers.
Understand ultrasonic technology. Ultrasonic humidifiers—the new kids on the block—can disperse a warm mist or a cool mist, or both. Cool mist option is more common, but some models include an internal heater that facilitates a cool mist in the summer and warm mist in the winter. Instead of utilizing a strong fan, as your standard cool mist humidifier might, an ultrasonic humidifier breaks up water droplets into mist using a ceramic diaphragm that vibrates at a frequency too high to be audible to the human ear. Best of all, most ultrasonic humidifiers are whisper-quiet, so they won’t interfere with your sleep.
Size up your needs. A humidifier that is too small may not be sufficient, while one that’s too large could add so much moisture in the room that droplets appear on furniture and other surfaces. Fortunately, humidifiers are rated by intended room size. A small room humidifier effectively treats rooms with less than 400 sq. ft. of floor space. They are often portable and lightweight, making them a good choice for bedrooms, nurseries, kitchens, and other small rooms. Medium-size room humidifiers treat rooms between 400 to 900 sq. ft. and are only semi-portable. For a room with 1,000 sq. ft. or more, look for a large room humidifier. Large room humidifiers feature bigger water reservoirs and therefore are stationary.
TOP PICKS TO CONSIDER
Here’s what reviewers—everyone from the experts who tested selections out in their laboratories to the consumers who have grappled with the pros and cons to find the best room humidifier long before you—said about today’s top models.
Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier with Auto Shut-Off ($30)
In the warm mist humidifier category, SweetHome recommends one of the oldest names in the vapor industry, Vicks. The Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier with Auto Shut-Off is a small, affordable choice for those who prefer warm mist. This model holds one gallon of water and runs for up to 24 hours before needing to be refilled. For extra decongestant and sinus-soothing power, fill the built-in medicine cup with Kaz Inhalants or Vicks Vaposteam. This model’s lower noise level and soft nightlight option earn the machine a strong 4-star rating on Amazon. The auto shut-off feature turns the humidifier off if the reservoir runs dry. The medicine cup, removable tray, and mist chimney are dishwasher safe for easy cleanup. Available on Amazon; $29.86.
Luma Comfort Cool and Warm Mist Humidifier ($110)
Home Depot reviewers give the Luma Comfort Cool and Warm Mist Humidifier an enviable 4.5-star rating. This preferred table-top model’s reservoir is just under one gallon and easily humidifies a room up to 538 sq. ft., making it suitable for any mid-size room in your house. Running on its lowest speed, a single fill-up can last up to 40 hours. You can set the timer for up to 12 hours, and with the Luma’s built-in hygrometer, you can select the level of humidity you prefer, from 30% to 70% relative humidity. While the Luma Comfort humidifier tops the charts in cool mist humidifiers, it has the additional advantage of being able to switch over to warm mist if desired—its demineralization cartridge reduces hard water deposits formed from the boiling water, make cleaning a snap. Available at Home Depot; $109.99.
Boneco Air-O-Swiss® 7144 Digital Warm & Cool Mist Ultrasonic Humidifier ($230)
Good Housekeeping puts the Air-O-Swiss 7144 at the top of the list of best-performing ultrasonic humidifiers. This model earns high praise for its large, easy-to-see digital display and the use of silver ions that reduce microbial bacteria transmission. With a hefty 3.5-gallon tank capacity and high output, the Air-O-Swiss easily humidifies rooms up to 650 sq. ft. for up to a week on a single fill. That sort of capacity makes it ideal for larger mid-size rooms, like great rooms or recreation rooms. In addition, this model is virtually silent, so it won’t disrupt sleep or study. It comes with the ability to disperse either warm or cool mist, and you can set the timer so it turns on and starts emitting comfort an hour or so before you’re due to arrive home. At just over $200, it’s the most expensive model in our roundup, but customer reviews, at 4.3 stars, indicate it’s worth the extra money. Available at Kohls; $229.99.