Welcome to Bob Vila
- Major Systems >
- Add Central AC to Your Old House—Without Erasing Its Charm
Add Central AC to Your Old House—Without Erasing Its Charm
Old houses are notoriously difficult to retrofit with central air conditioning, and installation can often compromise the home's space and character. Consider the advantages of a mini-duct system, which can cool—or heat—unobtrusively without the need for extensive remodeling.
If your home was built before the advent of air conditioning, you’ve likely bemoaned the fact that, for all its historic charm, the structure can’t accommodate this marvel of modern-day comfort, at least not with ease. Sure, in many homes, central AC wouldn’t be impossible to retrofit, but doing so would entail a sacrifice of space or architectural integrity, or both. So, rather than take drastic measures, you’ve settled for and have been living with a seemingly necessary evil—window units.
Sound familiar? If so, there’s something you need to know: Mini-duct HVAC, such as the Unico System, brings state-of-the-art cooling to virtually any home, no matter its age, without necessitating any sacrifice of space or style on the part of the homeowner. Whereas conventional ductwork typically requires a large amount of demolition and remodeling, flexible mini ducts snake though existing wall cavities and ceiling joists, fitting unobtrusively, almost invisibly, into even the tightest nooks and crannies.
Sure, window units may have sufficed in the short term, but if you’re tired of those window-rattling, expensive-to-run eyesores, it may be time to seek out a permanent solution. Relatively few manufacturers are known for mini-duct HVAC, but with a track record of heating and cooling some of the most prestigious historic homes in the United States—Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington, D.C., for instance, or Truman’s Little White House in Key West—the innovative Unico System stakes a strong claim as the very best in the business.
The Unico System cools—or for that matter, heats—any home, no matter its age or physical configuration. Where conventional HVAC components simply cannot fit, Unico slides right in, thanks to remarkably compact air handlers and highly versatile, unobtrusive ducts. Measuring only two or two and a half inches in diameter, these supply tubes are specially designed to travel behind walls, between joists, and through cramped spaces of the existing structure. Whereas traditional, full-size ductwork can usually be accommodated in older homes only through remodeling, the Unico System bends to the structure’s nuances, allowing you to hold on to your existing square footage and retain the distinctive characteristics that make your home so special in the first place.
Also critical to the Unico System is the air handler, whose blower and coil are the source of the conditioned air responsible for establishing and maintaining a comfortable indoor temperature. Here too, Unico has managed to pack energy-efficient, first-rate performance into a remarkably compact housing. Able to squeeze into an opening only a couple of feet tall or wide, Unico’s air handler can deliver up to three times as much cooling power as a conventional unit with a similar spatial footprint.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
You’ve seen commonplace air conditioning vents before. If you’ve read this far, it’s safe to assume that you wouldn’t be eager to see such ugly grillwork strewn across the interior of your home. Perhaps needless to say, the Unico System—conceived and engineered around the principle of invisibility—doesn’t settle for traditional metal registers. Instead, its mini ducts terminate in unobtrusive outlets, which can be located wherever they would be least noticeable in a given room—on the ceiling, floor, or wall. Plus, those outlets come in a wide variety of styles so you can choose a style that integrates seamlessly with the colors and textures of your decorating scheme. For a custom look, choose unfinished wood outlets, as those can be painted or stained to your precise specifications. In the same way that Unico requires no major remodeling, it similarly requires no sacrifices in your interior design. Indeed, a successful Unico installation is one you barely see.
Central air conditioning typically pushes a high volume of cool air into the conditioned space, creating a sort of turbulence that causes drafts and creates both hot and cool spots. In short, temperatures vary as you travel from room to room or even as you move about one space. The Unico System sidesteps those all-too-common problems by moderating airflow so that, when air enters your living spaces, it draws the ambient air into its stream. The result is a draft-free environment with a wholly consistent temperature. That’s another way in which Unico remains invisible: Because its effects are entirely uniform, you don’t even notice the system is on.
With most air conditioning systems, you know they’re running because, if nothing else, they make noise. That’s not the case with Unico, whose components are carefully insulated not only for efficiency, but also for sound-attenuating purposes. The mini ducts include nylon inner cores that, besides preventing condensation and thermal loss, manage to quiet the movement of air to a whisper. The air handler, too, operates within a sheath of closed-cell, sound-deadening insulation. Taken together, those details mean that you not only don’t see or feel intrusive evidence of an air conditioning system at work, you can’t hear evidence either.
If you’ve been dreading the idea of living through yet another summer in a steamy house with a series of cumbersome, rattling window units as your only source of relief, it may be time to reconsider your assumption that central air conditioning isn’t a possibility in your place. No matter when your home was built, it can be catapulted into the present day with high-performance, virtually invisible, state-of-the-art HVAC from Unico.
This post has been brought to you by Unico System. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.
- Doors & Windows >
- How To: Choose a Skylight
How To: Choose a Skylight
There's never been a better time to be in the market for a skylight. Today's models are markedly more reliable than previous generations, while the familiar designs have been joined by new and exciting options.
Picture the average lightbulb. Now picture sunlight streaming into a room in your home. There’s no comparison, right? By opening interior space to the outdoors and the sun, skylights usher in unparalleled brightness and vibrancy. Yet, even as they transform the character of formerly dark, gloomy interior spaces, skylights also deliver a practical, bottom-line benefit. Sunlight is free, after all, so that means adding a skylight means subtracting from your month-to-month electricity bill. Whereas older skylights earned a reputation for unpredictable performance, mainly due to moisture problems, the technology has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years. In fact, today’s homeowner can choose among skylight options that weren’t readily available, or didn’t even exist, only a few decades ago.
If you’ve shopped for a skylight before, you know that historically, there have been two main types of skylights—fixed and vented. Either installs flush to the roof deck or on a curb raised slightly above it. True to its name, a fixed skylight is non-operable and intended only for the purpose of providing extra illumination. Meanwhile, a vented skylight can be opened, either manually or via remote, depending on the unit. Of course, remote-operable vented skylights cost considerably more than their manual cousins. And, by virtue of involving a greater number of more sophisticated parts, electric skylights are comparatively more vulnerable to problems. Still, vented skylights offer, beyond the aesthetic and perhaps emotional benefits of natural light, an additional way to admit fresh air into the home.
Essentially, conventional skylights are windows on the roof. A newer option—tubular daylighting devices (TDDs) from Solatube International, Inc.—are a compact, efficient, and cost-effective alternative. Also sometimes known as tubular skylights, TDDs depart from the basic functionality of a window, and their innovative design clearly demonstrates that departure. On the roof, a weatherproof dome captures daylight, then channels it into your living spaces through highly reflective metal tubing. Where the light tube terminates, a special lens takes over to diffuse the harvested sunlight, evenly spreading it through the room in a pure white glow. Solatube Daylighting Devices even allow for customization: You can add ventilation, a daylight dimmer, or a lightbulb add-on kit to create a multifunctional system.
Once upon a time, skylights were nothing more than a single pane of glass held within a metal frame. Today, glazing runs the gamut from single- or multi-paned glass to advanced plastics, with or without insulation and coatings to control such variables as heat and UV radiation. In a traditional installation, glass would afford a more crystal-clear view to the outdoors. Plastic, though less expensive, boasts a few key advantages. For one, it’s more durable. Plus, whereas glass skylights are typically flat and rectangular, plastic can take virtually any shape, lending itself to any number of placements on the roof. More importantly, domed skylights—only possible with plastic—outperform glass, not only by shedding leaves and snow, but also by receiving sunlight even when it comes in at an angle.
In its 30-year history, Solatube International has focused on a domed skylight alternative that, through its patented technology and leading-edge optics, corrects many flaws of earlier approaches to skylights. First of all, Solatube domes are leak-proof, impact-resistant, and self-cleaning, so you can enjoy trouble-free maintenance. You can also plainly see the Solatube International difference: Its light-capturing dome and reflector work together to achieve unsurpassed year-round performance. On the one hand, Solatube systems redirect low-angle sunlight so that even on winter days, your skylight functions satisfactorily. On the other, Solatube systems reject overpowering sunlight, so you don’t get too much of a good thing. Inside, you can even tweak the strength and color of the daylight entering your home through the Solatube “effect” lenses.
To choose the right skylight, you must account for the structure of your roof. Take a peek into your attic to assess the framing. How far apart are the rafters? Partly for the sake of convenience, conventional skylights come in sizes that fit snugly between the rafters of roofs with standard 16- or 24-inch framing. It’s not impossible to install a larger skylight—so long as yours isn’t a truss roof—but doing so goes beyond the abilities of the average do-it-yourselfer. Rafters must be cut, doubled up, and headed off—in other words, it’s no easy weekend project!
Even a modestly sized conventional skylight can take days to install. Solatube Daylighting Systems take just a couple of hours. Depending on your skills and experience, you might even be able to handle the installation on your own. That’s because Solatube devices require no changes to be made on the framing, and there are no major ceiling or wall repairs required on inside. Rather than contend with rafters and joists, Solatube devices cleverly fit between such components, with their patented fastening system, adjustable-length tubes, and angle adapters all making for a fast and painless remodeling project.
So easily routed, Solatube TDDs can illuminate those spaces you never thought daylight would reach. Because the light-channeling tube in the Solatube system extends up to 30 feet, the room you would like to brighten doesn’t have to sit directly beneath the roof. The tube component of the system can travel through attic, utility, and wall spaces to deliver natural light virtually wherever you want it, even the ground floor or basements in a multi-story home.
Skylight prices vary widely, depending on the options you choose. Homeowners are wise to consider, not only the upfront product and installation costs, but also the ongoing impact the skylight may exert on heating and cooling energy bills. Though insulated skylights have become the norm, there remains a risk of efficiency losses offsetting the practical and aesthetic benefits introduced by the skylight. In winter, because hot air rises, inferior skylights lose more heat than a window. In summer, skylights admit more heat than a window, again by virtue of their placement on the roof. In either case, your HVAC would have to work overtime to counteract the skylight and maintain a comfortable temperature. Therefore, it pays to insist on a product with Energy Star certification. Energy Star-approved skylights, such as the daylighting systems offered by Solatube International, exceed the defined minimum energy performance requirement for climates around the country.
This post has been brought to you by Solatube. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.
- Major Systems >
- This Motion-Sensing Dimmer Fully Automates Your Lighting
This Motion-Sensing Dimmer Fully Automates Your Lighting
Finally, a dimmer for all bulb types that automatically turns on for you when you enter a room. Now that's progress!
If you’ve bought new light bulbs anytime in the last few years, you know the selection has changed dramatically for the better, with traditional incandescents having been mostly replaced by newer CFLs and LEDs. The transition to more energy-efficient bulbs, however, has not been without its share of hiccups. For example, some people initially struggled to find a next-generation bulb whose output resembles the warm incandescent glow that had become so familiar over past decades. In addition, many homeowners discovered that their old dimmers were not compatible with the latest lighting. Industry leader Lutron has solved that problem by creating a line of cutting-edge dimmers specially designed for use with dimmable CFLs and LEDs. But the company didn’t stop there. With its Maestro C.L Dimmer Sensor, Lutron now offers a dimmer that’s even more fully featured and convenient for today’s homeowner. Leveraging innovative motion-sensor technology, the product actually turns the lights on and off for you, automating your home while saving you time and energy.
Smooth, Reliable Operation
Though dimmers perform a seemingly straightforward role, they are in fact sophisticated electrical components whose proper functioning depends on a variety of factors. When a homeowner uses CFLs or LEDs in combination with a conventional dimmer, the two may work fine in concert, more or less, but the pairing isn’t UL-listed. That means it has not been determined to meet nationally recognized safety standards. Performance issues may also be evident, including:
• dropout: when lights turn off before the slider on the dimmer reaches its lowest setting
• pop-on: when lights do not turn on at a low level, abd the slider must be raised for the lights to turn on
• flickering: when dimmed CFLs or LEDs flicker excessively or turn off when household devices turn on
Lutron eliminates these problems with the company’s advanced, patented technology that provides improved, safe dimmer performance with dimmable LEDs and CFLs. And though the Lutron C•L line works reliably with the latest bulbs, it also boasts compatibility with incandescents and halogens.
Besides smooth and reliable dimming, the Maestro Dimmer Sensor includes a motion sensor. By configuring the simple press-and-hold settings, you can set the dimmer to turn on the lights when you enter the room, turn off the lights when you exit, or both. For laundry rooms and storage rooms—spaces you are likely to enter with your arms full—automatic lighting provides a high level of convenience. You no longer need to set down your load, hit the light switch, and then carry on with what you were doing. The lights go on for you.
The Maestro Dimmer Sensor employs passive infrared technology (PIR) with Lutron’s XCT sensing technology to sense true human movement. It also uses patented technology to detect fine motion, such as turning a page. In tests comparing the performance of Maestro sensors with the sensors from three other major companies, researchers concluded the Maestro sensors were two to three times better at detecting fine motion. That level of precision helps to ensure that you’re not left in the dark when, for instance, you are working on the computer at night.
The Maestro can save even more energy by sensing the amount of ambient light in the room. When in “Ambient Light Detection” mode, the dimmer turns on the lights only if there’s not enough ambient light, whether from the windows or a table or floor lamp. You like even more light? Hit the switch and, over time, the sensor learns your preferred light level and adjusts.
Lastly, don’t worry about the Maestro compromising your decor. Sleek and unobtrusive, the dimmer comes in 27 colors to match or complement any scheme.
This post has been brought to you by Lutron. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.
- Interior Design >
- Timeless Handmade Furniture with Midwestern Roots
Timeless Handmade Furniture with Midwestern Roots
A Minnesota woodworker unites artistry, skill, and regional materials to stunning effect.
For home design enthusiasts, wood furniture built by true craftsmen is coveted for its uniqueness, its durability, and its timeless design. But there’s yet more to love about handcrafted furniture—it’s all within its essence. A single chair, for instance, reflects more than the maker’s structural intentions; it tells the story of a region.
To sustainable maker Scott McGlasson of St. Paul-based Woodsport, community is part and parcel of his furniture. He sources his materials from the “urban forest” of the Upper Midwest and partners with local foundries to make metal bases for his work. Then, when the work is done, he gives back to the region that keeps him abundantly supplied, sending wood chips from his shop floor to local chicken coops and the like. All this thought, care, and sense of place can be seen in McGlasson’s sleek and elegant designs. We caught up with him to discover more about his work and motivation.
How did you get into this line of work?
I’ve always had an interest in design: architectural, interior, furniture. Years ago, I figured I could learn how to make some furniture pieces that I wanted but couldn’t afford, and I took an evening cabinetmaking class at a local technical college. The classes were offered as a fringe benefit of my job with the Minneapolis Public Schools—I was on track to become a teacher at the time.
Have you always been interested in woodworking?
Not at all. I was about 30, so I came to it pretty late. I sometimes compare that with one of my teenage sons who has been following me around my shop, putting things together, since he was 3.
Do you have a favorite tool?
I love Lie-Nielsen planes, Starrett squares, good chisels—pretty typical woodworking accoutrements. But my fave would be a machine: my Powermatic lathe. It has opened up so much for me by way of design.
Where do you source your materials?
It’s quite simple. Someone calls me about a tree that they are removing or has fallen, and I go check it out. I’m specific in what I want: It has to be a big walnut or cherry tree and accessible. I have a sawyer that I work with, and we mill it to my specifications, usually on-site, and he dries it for me. It’s usually slabbed up for my Peasant Benches or tabletops.
I don’t spend that much time sourcing urban lumber; I’ll get one or two logs a year, and that keeps me supplied. I also have relationships with some other small sawmills that get me slabs too. I go to the lumberyard for everything else—we have some great hardwood suppliers in the Upper Midwest.
It sounds like you’re really connected to the community. Are there other ways those connections play out?
You bet; I source out all my metalwork. A friend does my bronze fabrication, I use a couple of foundries for iron and bronze, and a metal fabricator makes my steel bases. I used to do some metalwork, but now I concentrate on the woodworking.
I also source the pelts for my Finny stools from a farm just west of Minneapolis that has the largest herd of pasture-raised Icelandic sheep in the country.
How much time do you typically spend designing a single piece?
It depends. Some designs come quickly, and I nail them right away. Others need to rest, be put out of mind for a while. Challenging pieces like chairs need a long time, even years. I go through a process where I draw it up in full scale, then mock it up, then actually build a usable prototype. The prototype might sit around for a while—my house is littered with them. I’ll make adjustments, and, if the piece seems viable, it will go into my line. I used to do a lot of one-off pieces for people, but because the design process can be onerous, I don’t anymore.
What’s the response been like to your work? Any surprises?
When I first started selling pieces on a retail basis, I was amazed at the positive response. These days I sell the majority of my work all over the country, often via email, and I never actually meet the person. It’s fun doing shows—like the Architectural Digest Home Design Show in New York—and seeing the response. Sometimes people are blown away by the work; they can’t believe that I actually design and make everything. And nothing is more gratifying than when someone whom you’ve never met comes along and pays a good chunk of money for a piece.
What’s your favorite part of the process of furniture making?
I enjoy the entire process, but it would have to be finishing up a piece. For about five seconds, I’ll step back and admire it… and then it’s on to the next one. It’s especially satisfying when new designs work—where once this was just an idea, and now it’s an actual thing that is part of the world. My goal is that the magic and excitement that I felt when it was only an idea gets manifested in the actual piece. It’s not always there, but nothing is better than when it is. I’m addicted to it.
What would you say is the most challenging part of what you do?
Maybe some of the business aspects of it. I’ve always let things develop pretty organically, and I’ve been at a good spot for the past few years. Direct demand for my pieces has been good, and we can keep up with orders. Everyone is happy. But I’m always turning away wholesale requests, and I sometimes wonder if Woodsport could be bigger and better. But then I just shrug my shoulders and get back to work.
To see more of Scott’s collection, visit Woodsport’s website.
- Walls & Ceilings >
- The Fastest, Easiest Fix for a Damaged Wall
The Fastest, Easiest Fix for a Damaged Wall
Perhaps you swung the door open with a bit too much force. Or maybe the movers took a wrong turn with the dresser. Whatever its origins, there’s now a hole in your wall, and sooner or later it needs to be filled. Sure, you can always hire a pro, but why spend money on such a simple fix? Wall patching isn’t the hassle it used to be, at least not with HYDE Wet & Set. For holes or cracks in flat or curved surfaces—drywall, plaster, wood, or stucco—use the Wet & Set repair patch to achieve a quick and easy yet lasting result. Best of all, whereas wall repair used to take the whole weekend, including dry times, Wet & Set enables you to achieve same-day results.
Available as a sheet for a single use or roll for multiple applications, Wet & Set looks and feels a little like fabric. In actuality, it’s a rather sophisticated material, imbued with both joint compound and specially formulated polymers. Wet the patch, and it fully activates, becoming a fast-setting, firmly adhering fix-all for dents, dings, and openings that are smaller than a baseball yet larger than a nail hole.
Working with HYDE Wet & Set couldn’t be more simple. Here’s the process: Hold the patch over the problem area to determine how much of the material you’re going to need. From there, use an ordinary pair of scissors to cut the patch to the appropriate size. Next, dip the patch into any vessel of water, be it a bucket or a dishpan, and gently shake off the excess liquid. Last, place the patch over the damaged portion of the wall, using your fingers to smooth out the applied material.
That’s it! The patch sets within 30 minutes, at which point you’re ready to do a skim coat of joint compound or spackle. Because the patch contains the initial layer of compound, you need to add only one more. Once it’s dry, proceed to sand down the protrusions, then prime and paint the patched area to match its surroundings. Nobody needs to know your wall or ceiling was ever anything less than perfect.
Purchase HYDE Wet & Set, $14.33
This post has been brought to you by Hyde Tools. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.
- Major Systems >
- Genius! Cool Off on the Cheap with a DIY Air Conditioner
Genius! Cool Off on the Cheap with a DIY Air Conditioner
Cooling down in the hot summer months isn't easy—or cheap. Save on your electric bill this season with a handy DIY that uses only a fan, bucket, and ice to help you chill out.
We owe a lot to the humble air conditioner. Like most inventions, the idea came from a very real need: relief from extreme temperatures. The quest for cooler air has a venerable history. In ancient Egypt, people hung reeds in windows after dipping them in water; the water evaporated, cooling the air that blew through the window. Over time, innovators in China, England, and the United States transformed this cool idea into our familiar American household staple. But for all their virtues, modern in-window air conditioners are not perfect machines. For one thing, they cost a small fortune to run. With a fan and Debbie Williams’s genius DIY, however, you can get all the benefits of a window AC for far less than a store-bought unit by using that same age-old concept: chilled water, or ice.
Besides an old fan and instructions, you’ll need to round up a utility knife, a five-gallon bucket (with lid), Styrofoam lining, 12 inches of PVC pipe, a hole saw or Forstner bit—and a gallon jug of water to freeze for later. First, place the fan upside down on the lid (so the airflow will be directed into the bucket), trace the outline of the fan on the lid, and cut it out with a utility knife. If necessary, saw off the fan’s stand or support, then fit your fan securely in the hole. Next, use the Forstner bit to drill three large holes through the bucket’s side, just wide enough for the PVC pipes you have on hand. Remove the lid in order to line the inside of the bucket with Styrofoam, then repeat with the drill so that the holes go through the lining too. Saw your PVC pipe into three pieces, each three to four inches long, and slide a section snugly into each hole. The unit works for about six hours at a time, but a tighter seal can extend that span by keeping the ice in the bucket cooler.
Finally, place the frozen jug of water into your bucket and replace the lid. Remember: The fan should be facing down. Go find the nearest electrical outlet, plug the fan in and switch it on, and your modified appliance will pass air through the cooler to chill—leaving you at a solid 68 degrees of comfortable. Then, grab yourself a chair and enjoy the breeze; all of this hard work deserves a breather.
For More: eHOW
- Major Systems >
- Innovative Pipe Fittings Let You Be Your Own Plumber
Innovative Pipe Fittings Let You Be Your Own Plumber
No soldering, clamps, or glue? Read on to learn about DIY-friendly pipe fittings that make quick work of the improvements and repairs you used to hire a pro to handle.
Quick-connect, push-fit plumbing has been taking a bite out of local plumbing trades, as homeowners discover the ease, versatility, and quality of SharkBite fittings. Their innovative design “allows anyone to connect copper, PVC, and PEX tubing—in any combination—in seconds,” says Daniel O’Brian, technical expert from online retailer SupplyHouse.com. For that reason, “SharkBite fittings are a homeowner’s best friend and the bane of plumbers everywhere.”
When you insert pipe into one of the corrosion-resistant, solid forged brass fittings offered by SharkBite, its stainless steel teeth bite down and grip tightly, while the specially engineered O-ring compresses to form a perfect seal. That means the homeowner can join pipe without soldering and without using clamps, unions, or glue. All you need to do is make sure the end of the pipe is cut square and stripped of rough edges. As O’Brian says, it’s “cut, push, done!”
Made a mistake? With SharkBite fittings, it’s easy to undo a measuring or installation error—something that cannot be said for soldered connections. Simply use the disassembly tool to press the release collar on the fitting. Doing so retracts the teeth within the grab ring, allowing the pipe to be removed. From there, you can reuse the fitting wherever you please. Another convenience: You can even rotate assembled SharkBite fittings for easier installation in tight places.
In the average home, for the average do-it-yourselfer, there are any number of ways to capitalize on the convenience and dependability of SharkBite fittings. For instance, if a pipe freezes over the winter, small cracks may develop once it thaws. After turning off the water supply and flushing the system, you can remove the damaged section of pipe and re-establish the connection, quickly and easily, with a SharkBite coupling—and save yourself the cost of a plumber’s visit.
For all their benefits, SharkBite fittings do come at a premium price. They are ”significantly more expensive than some other options,” says O’Brian of SupplyHouse.com. But, he points out, working with SharkBite means you don’t have to purchase any special materials or tools—soldering paste, for instance, or a propane torch. So, if you are doing small repairs and improvements on a one-off or occasional basis, SharkBite fittings may be the wisest choice.
The SharkBite system includes couplings, elbows, tee fittings, ball valves, stop valves, male and female adapters, conversion couplings, fitting reducers, and an assortment of faucet, toilet, and water heater connectors, all geared toward simplifying additions to, or modifications of, potable water plumbing and hydronic heating systems. All SharkBite fittings are rated to accommodate pressures up to 200 pounds per square inch and temperatures up to 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
SupplyHouse.com not only carries a large selection of SharkBite products, but has also put the fittings to the test—watch!
This post has been brought to you by SupplyHouse.com. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.
- How To's & Quick Tips >
- Bob Vila Radio: A Primer on Patching Concrete
Bob Vila Radio: A Primer on Patching Concrete
Though it's one of the most durable building materials on the planet, even concrete needs maintenance on occasion. And while the installation may last decades, patching a small area takes under an hour.
Does your concrete walkway or driveway need patching? That’s an easy fix! Here’s how to do it.
Listen to BOB VILA ON PATCHING CONCRETE or read the text below:
First, use a wire brush to dislodge any loose concrete from the area. Then, with an old paint brush, clear way what the wire brush dislodged. Once it’s clear, spray the area with your garden hose to jettison any remaining fine grit. Remove standing water with a sponge, and you’re ready to apply the patch.
Depending on the job, latex cement may be a better choice than patching compound. That’s because the former dries faster and remains somewhat pliable. Mix the latex cement to create a heavy paste, then apply it in quarter-inch layers, allowing each layer time to partially dry before you continue.
When you reach the level of the surrounding concrete, finish the job by smoothing out the patch with a trowel or float, just as you would for regular concrete. Allow at least six hours of drying time before allowing foot or vehicle traffic on the repaired area.
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.
- How To's & Quick Tips >
- DIY Lite: Make a Wood-Slat Doormat for Almost No Money
DIY Lite: Make a Wood-Slat Doormat for Almost No Money
Greet guests with a chipper "Hello!" right at the door when you adorn your entrance with this simple and sunny DIY welcome mat.
The entrance to your home is the first impression that strikes visitors, so why don’t you make it a friendly one with a cheery greeting? This season, as friends and family drop in for summer barbecues, welcome them at the door with a custom doormat. A little wood, stain, and paint go a long way in this DIY!
TOOLS & MATERIALS
- 16 feet of 1″ x 2″ lumber
- Handsaw (optional)
- Drill with 1/4″ bit
- Wood stain
- Painter’s tape
- Acrylic paint
- Wood varnish
- Synthetic rope
- A lighter or silicone glue
First, cut your wood into a total of eight equal pieces, each two feet long. You can make it easier on yourself by asking for the cuts at your local hardware store when picking up the wood.
Along the thinner side of every slat, measure three inches from each end, mark it, and drill a hole through the center. This will be where you slip a rope through to hold the mat together, so the drill bit you use should be the same thickness as the rope; we used a 1⁄4-inch bit on ours.
Sand down the eight pieces in order to remove any splinters around the holes.
Now, stain the wooden slats in a tone that best complements your outdoor features; we went with a medium brown color. Follow package instructions for dry time before continuing.
Print out this handy PDF pattern to help you create the speech bubble. Simply assemble the four sheets to line up the outline of the bubble, tape them together, then cut out the shape.
Align the wood pieces together horizontally, leaving no space between slats, and center the bubble on your wooden rectangle. Trace the shape onto the wood using a pencil.
Time for paint! We chose a white acrylic, but you can pick any color you like. Using a thin brush, paint a line that follows the pencil marks you made in Step 5. This will delineate the area to be painted and help you to center the letters in the space.
Now for the message: Spell out “HELLO” with strips of painter’s tape. Try to make your letters all the same size; if you need guidance, you can use the PDF to cut out and trace each letter.
Start filling in the bubble with paint, working in light coats to avoid any drips. If you’ve chosen a light color on a dark background, you will be likely to need at least three coats to achieve its brightest hue.
When the paint is dry, carefully remove the painter’s tape.
Apply two coats of varnish on each slat so your outdoor mat will be well protected against the weather.
When the varnish is dry, you’re ready to start assembling the doormat! Cut two pieces of synthetic rope, each roughly 2 feet or so long. Make a knot at the end of one, and thread the string through the bottom left hole on the mat’s bottom piece of wood. Repeat with the second rope and the other hole.
A tip to secure the knot: Use a lighter to carefully burn the end of it. The synthetic rope will melt a bit, and the knot won’t come undone.
Tie knots in each rope, then pass them through the holes of the next slat up. You’ll continue the pattern of knot, slat, knot, slat until you get to the last wooden piece.
Make the two last knots, and cut the extra rope length. If you don’t feel comfortable burning the rope ends, instead dab some silicone glue around them to secure the knots. All that’s left is to move your DIY welcome mat outside—and to put a summer get-together on the calendar so your cheerful accessory can greet your next visitors!
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.
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- How To: Build a Paver Patio
How To: Build a Paver Patio
Nothing encourages outdoor enjoyment quite as much as a patio does. If you've been coveting the idea of a sturdy, inviting paver patio for years, take heart: Even a relatively inexperienced do-it-yourselfer can achieve professional-level results. Here's how.
Patio. The very word conjures up visions of lazy, relaxing afternoons spent with friends and family. For those whose homes lack this appealing outdoor feature, however, the word stirs up the unwelcome prospect of building a new patio. Homeowners assume that constructing a patio requires either a huge expense or a similarly monumental amount of hard work. The truth is that anyone can handle the installation of all but the grandest of patios, especially if you work with DIY-friendly pavers. Indeed, with proper planning, the right tools and materials, and attention to detail, you can achieve professional-level results in a short time—even within the space of a single weekend—regardless of your skill level or previous experience. To see how surprisingly easy it can be enhance your outdoor living with a long-lasting patio, scroll down for step-by-step instructions, courtesy of QUIKRETE®.
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Stakes and string
- Edge restraints
- Carpenter’s square
- QUIKRETE® All-Purpose Gravel
- QUIKRETE® Patio Paver Base Sand
- 2×4 boards
- 1×1 boards
- Hammer and nails
- Pavers or natural stones
- Rubber mallet
- QUIKRETE® PowerLoc Jointing Sand (for joint widths up to 1/2″) or
- QUIKRETE® HardScapes Polymeric Jointing Sand (for joint widths up to 2″)
- Garden hose with spray attachment
- Push broom
Before you can make any real progress toward building a paver patio, you must first decide where to put it. Don’t have a specific spot in mind? Think about it this way: How do you intend to use the patio? If you would like to enjoy alfresco dinners on your patio, situate it within an easy distance of your kitchen. If, on the other hand, your patio fantasies involve a suntan, then site the installation on a part of your property with a southern exposure. Once you’ve settled on a location, mark off the perimeter with stakes and surveyor’s string. Alternatively, if your plans involve an irregularly shaped patio, outline the dimensions with a bright-colored spray paint.
The next step may be the most physically taxing part of this project. Though the finished patio surface ought to sit slightly above ground level, you must excavate to create space for the substrate—that is, the gravel and sand that will provide a stable, leveling base for the paver installation. With a shovel, excavate to a depth of seven inches below grade. This depth allows for two to four inches of gravel, one to two inches of sand, and accommodation for the height of your chosen pavers.
Once the project area has been excavated to the appropriate depth, proceed to install edge restraints around the site perimeter. At your local home center, choose from a selection of ready-made edge restraints in a variety of materials, including plastic, aluminum, and wood. These simple hardscaping components perform the vital role of preventing pavers from settling and shifting over time due to foot traffic and harsh weather. Additionally, because the pavers are installed level with the edge restraints, the latter serve the secondary, though critically important, duty of ensuring that the patio allows stormwater to run off its surface. So, take care to position your edge restraints on a slight incline; professionals recommend a slope of about a quarter inch for every 12 linear feet. Direct the angle away from, not toward, the house.
Next, add enough QUIKRETE® All-Purpose Gravel to fill up two to four inches of the excavated project area. The amount of gravel you can add largely depends on the height of the pavers you plan to install. For instance, if you’ve excavated to a depth of seven inches, and your pavers are each four inches tall, then there’s room for only a couple of inches of gravel. That said, there’s a direct relationship between the amount of gravel under a patio and its compression strength—in other words, its ability to endure great weight, whether from a parked car or a large group of people. Where circumstances allow, depending on how exactly you intend to use the patio, it may be wise to incorporate as much gravel as the vertical space allows. After you’ve laid the gravel, pack it down by means of a tamper.
Over the tamped-down, compacted gravel, add one to two inches of QUIKRETE® Patio Paver Base Sand. Whereas the gravel provides strength to the patio, the sand contributes precision, helping the installed pavers sit level. To function properly, the sand layer must be smooth and level. A screed board—that is, a straightedge—is the most effective way to even out an expanse of sand. You can make yours from a simple two-by-four that has been cut to equal the shortest distance across the project area. After that, cut a one-by-one into two pieces, nailing one onto each end of the larger board. These “handles” lend accuracy to the screed. With a helper manning the opposite end of the screed, push the board along the surface of the sand. As you go, periodically remove the excess sand that accumulates in front of the board. Use this excess to fill where dips appear behind the screed. Several passes may be necessary before the bed becomes level.
At last, it’s time to install the pavers. Starting in a corner, work outward as you place the pavers in the sand, tapping each into position with a rubber mallet. Note that it’s important for the gap between pavers to be the same width. To keep the gaps consistent, use a piece of plywood whose thickness corresponds to your target gap width. Keep a level handy so you’re able to confirm frequently that your paver surface conforms to a drainage-promoting incline.
After you’ve set all the pavers, the penultimate step is to fill the joints between pavers with sand—but not just any sand. For lasting, professional-quality results, be sure to use a sand that’s been specially manufactured to bind pavers together. For narrow joints of a half inch or less, choose QUIKRETE® PowerLoc Jointing Sand. For joints up to two inches wide (or if your pavers are natural stone), opt for QUIKRETE® HardScapes Polymeric Jointing Sand. Simply pour your chosen sand directly from its packaging into the joints. Finish up by sweeping the excess sand out of the project area. As you go, look for any unfilled joints and top them up.
Finally, attach a nozzle to your garden hose and gently mist the pavers, allowing water to saturate the sand-filled joints. After the initial spray down, dampen the pavers once every 60 minutes over the next three hours. Be judicious in your spraying—avoid flooding the sand onto the paver surface. As temperature and humidity are significant (and changeable) factors, it’s difficult to estimate the dry time, but over the course of several days, you’ll notice that the joints are firming up.
By the following weekend, you’ll have nothing left to do except write up the guest list for the first barbecue on your new patio!
Watch the project come together in a step-by-step video, courtesy of QUIKRETE®:
For even more details on the paver patio project, visit QUIKRETE®!
This post has been brought to you by QUIKRETE®. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.