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How To: Mix Concrete

Even if your only experience with the stuff has been to walk upon it, you can mix concrete successfully on your first attempt by following these simple, fool-proof steps.

How to Mix Concrete

Photo: shutterstock.com

Everyone knows how concrete looks and that it lasts for years and years. What you may not have realized is that preparing a batch of the stuff is basically a “just add water” affair. Even if you’ve never done it before, you can mix concrete in under an hour. Of course, there’s more to working with concrete than simply mixing the material. But being able to do successfully is the first step towards building something to stand the test of time. Once you’re familiar with the technique, a bevy of DIY projects in and around the home fall squarely within your range of capabilities. These include creating a walkway, a durable countertop, or a stylish weather-resistant planter. To be on your way toward such rewarding home improvements, follow the simple steps to learn how to mix concrete like a pro.

- Concrete mix
- Wheelbarrow
- Watering can
- Plastic cup
- Shovel (or garden hoe)

Concrete mix usually comes in a paper bag, on the front of which you’ll find the yield of the package listed in cubic feet. Know that for smaller DIY projects, you are going to need the entire bag. For larger projects (e.g., patios), you’ll need all that and then some. Several full bags are likely to be in order, though depending on the task at hand, you may choose not to mix all the concrete needed at one time. If you’re confused about how much concrete to buy, use a quantity calculator like this one from Quikrete. Whether you need the entire bag or only a portion of it, place the package into your wheelbarrow, cut it open, and by lifting the bag gently upwards, empty out as much of its contents as called for by the job. On a windy day, do this step indoors, perhaps in the garage, to avoid making a mess.

How to Mix Concrete - Texture

Photo: shutterstock.com

Having filled up your watering can in preparation for the project, pour a little of the liquid into the center of the mounded concrete mix. Continue pouring in water little by little until you’ve added the amount specified in the manufacturer’s instructions. Be careful not to put in too much water; you can always add more, but you can’t take any out. And remember that if you only need a portion of the concrete mix—half, for instance, or a quarter—then you must adjust the “recipe” accordingly. Worried about using too much or too little? Allay your uncertainty by employing a kitchen measuring cup to fill the watering can with a carefully pre-measured volume of water.

Combine the concrete and water, working the material in a back-and-forth motion, using either a shovel or garden hoe. The goal here is to evenly distribute the water across the powder. If you’ve used water conservatively, you may find that as the mixture stiffens, it appears dry and crumbly. In that case, add more water until you’ve achieved a relatively smooth, moldable consistency, with no standing puddles.

Test your concrete with the “slump” test. Here’s an easy way to do it. First, cut the bottom off a plastic or paper cup. Next, shape the container into a cone. Scoop up enough concrete to fill the cone, then empty the cone onto a flat surface. If the concrete collapses to about half the height of the cone, perfect—you’re ready to go. If the concrete loses none of its height—that is, if it doesn’t slump at all—go back and add some more water. If the concrete collapses considerably farther than half the height of the cone, you’ve added too much water and must compensate with additional mix (or in a pinch, dry sand can be used).

Your wheelbarrow should now be filled with usable concrete. Move it to wherever you’re going to be working. Meanwhile, leave any tools that have touched concrete (e.g., your shovel) in a bucket of water. That way, the concrete won’t set on the tool, and you’ll have the opportunity to clean it properly later on. To keep your wheelbarrow spic and span, aim to empty empty and clean it as soon as possible. Once the concrete sets, it’s going to be mighty difficult, if not impossible, to remove. Of course, strength and durability are selling points for concrete, but now that you’re working with the stuff, you are likely to find that you see concrete and its characteristics from a fresh perspective.

How To: Tie Dye

Brighten any basic white T-shirt with one of three tie-dye techniques using our step-by-step guide.

How to Tie Dye

Photo: shutterstock.com

A staple of summer camp (and of America in the late ’60s), tie dye entertains and engages the young and young-at-heart. Whether you’re leading an activity for kids at a slumber party or making a batch of matching shirts for the family reunion, you’ll enjoy not only the kaleidoscopic colors of the final result, but also the process itself—this is fun stuff! And perhaps the best part is that in tie dyeing, you can’t really make a mistake. Anything goes (just about). Now how ’60s is that?

Step 1: Gather the materials.
White T-shirts are best for beginners. For better dyeing quality, work with 100 percent cotton. You will also need a fabric dye kit, soda ash (if not included in the kit), rubber gloves, tubs, spoon, plastic table cloth, rubber bands and glass marbles. You’ll also need squeeze bottles with nozzles, if you plan to jump head first into multicolor dye projects—and we wholeheartedly recommend that you do!

Step 2: Set up your station.
Minimize mess by covering your work station in plastic—a disposable plastic tablecloth would work nicely. Meanwhile, gear up in clothes you wouldn’t mind getting splashed. Wearing rubber gloves, mix one cup of soda ash and one gallon of warm water in a bucket. (This should be enough to pre-treat up to 12 adult shirts.) In separate buckets, mix up each of the colors, according to the instructions on the dye packaging. Bear in mind that the dye can stain a plastic bucket, so you may wish to use an enamel or glass container. For a lighter, somewhat faded end result, add more water than the amount stipulated in the instructions.

Step 3: Pick your pattern.
Using rubber bands, you can experiment and achieve several designs on your shirt. Of course, there’s a degree of randomness and chance to these designs. For many, that’s the appeal of tie dyeing. But if you’d like more control over the look of your shirt, skip to Step 4. Otherwise, keep the following techniques in mind:

How to Tie Dye - Spiral

Photo: shutterstock.com

Lay your wet shirt on a smooth, flat surface. Pinch the cloth where you’d want the center of the circle to be, then slip a marble behind the shirt to that point. Tie a rubber band to secure the cloth around it. Add another marble behind the first, wrap a rubber band around it, and continue to do so until you have a string of marbles separated by rubber bands. When dyed, the bands will leave large white circles on the newly colored background. For smaller circles scattered on your T-shirt, tie marbles in clusters side-by-side rather than one beside the other.

Roll a wet shirt tightly into a tube. If you want horizontal stripes, roll the shirt side to side; for vertical stripes, roll from bottom to top. Place rubber bands around the wrap, spacing the bands at equal intervals. Once the shirt has been dyed, these bands will produce white stripes.

Place your finger in the center of the flat, wet T-shirt. Rotate the shirt clockwise, keeping your finger still so that the shirt twists around it like a pinwheel. When the whole shirt is tightly spiraled into a disc shape, remove your finger and carefully wrap three to four rubber bands over the shirt so that they cross like a starburst in the center.

Step 4: Soak your shirt.
Wearing gloves, stick your shirt into the solution of soda ash and warm water and let it soak for ten to 15 minutes. Doing so helps the dye cling to the fibers. After you remove the shirt, wring out any excess water, so it’s damp but not dripping.

Step 5: Get colorful.
If you are dyeing a shirt with a single color, the easiest method is to dip dye it. Fill a bucket with the dye you’ve mixed, then dunk the shirt in, making sure the fabric is completely submerged. Leave the shirt in the bucket for as long as the instructions specify, anywhere from ten to 30 minutes. The longer the shirt soaks, the deeper the color is going to be.

If you are creating a multicolored pattern, take the colors you’ve mixed and pour them into squeeze bottles. Place your white shirt on the plastic-covered work station, then squirt colors from the different bottles onto different parts of the shirt (flip the shirt over and add color to the back, too). When you’re finished, cover the garment in plastic wrap to keep it moist for as long as the instructions recommend.

Step 6: Rinse and roll out.
When soak time is up, rinse the cloth of excess dye, first in warm water, then gradually in cool water. Repeat until the water runs clear. Finally, unveil your masterpiece (if you used rubber bands, now is the time to take them off). The first time you wash the shirt, remember to put it in the machine on its own. That way, you can avoid any accidents. Dry the shirt on the dryer’s coolest setting. Or opt to air dry—somehow that seems most appropriate, no?

DIY Repurposed Window Headboard

These thrift store windows bring new life to a guest bedroom as a simple repurposed headboard.

At BobVila.com, we love an old window. No, really. And this repurposed window headboard from Liz Marie puts one of our favorite materials on full display. By letting their natural window-ness shine through (see what we did there?), she ended up with a headboard that elevates a potentially ordinary guest bedroom to cottage chic.  So if you have some spare windows left over from a remodel or are lucky enough to find some at the local thrift store, read on and get ready to be inspired.

DIY Repurposed Window Headboard


- (4) antique windows
- painter’s tape
- picture hangers
- tape measure
- level
- screws
- nails
- drill/driver
- hammer
- polyurethane
- caulk and caulk gun

I found these windows at a local thrift store for a price that I could not pass up. I loved that they were all similar and knew right away what I wanted to do with them. I also loved all of the flaws in the windows & didn’t want to change them in any way.

This headboard was quite simple to hang & only required a few steps to make sure it was secure & ready for guests. I am not going to lie, having windows hanging above a bed wasn’t my safest idea ever so I wanted to make sure things were as secure as possible.


Tape off wall for diy window headboard

We taped off the wall in sections the size of the windows to see how we wanted the windows hung and how we wanted them to be spaced on the wall.


We then secured any loose parts on the windows, we wanted them to be shabby, but not fall apart on our guests. Different steps for each window. We polyurethaned the windows so that the paint would not chip off of the window. It would also be wise to caulk the glass in your windows if you find that any are loose.


We attached picture hangers on the back of all of the windows that were appropriate for the weight of the windows. One picture frame holder for each window.


Screw in DIY Window Headboard

Using a tape measure, level, and screws we hung the windows as level and straight as possible. This is hard when you are working with rustic materials because there are flaws as you can see, but we tried to keep them as similar as possible.


We put nails in the wall behind the windows to secure them from being able to move back and forth if anyone were to bump them. Also this step straightens out your windows if they are hanging a little crooked.

DIY Window Headboard

We have actually had guests stay in this room already and I was so excited to ask them the morning after they slept in the room if the windows bothered them at all or if anything. They said they were perfect and didn’t effect them at all.

Thanks to Liz Marie Blog for sharing! To check out more of her DIY projects and get the home tour, visit her site.

Bob Vila Radio: Fast Fixes for Sticky Double-Hung Windows

Do you work up a sweat wrestling with sticking windows? These time-tested tricks can help you get those slashes sliding freely up and down again.

Sure, you love your old wooden double-hung windows. But sometimes—after raising and lowering them—do you feel like you need a visit to the chiropractor? Here are some tips for freeing up those sticking windows.

Sticking Windows

Photo: shutterstock.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON STICKING WINDOWS, or read text below:

First, if the windows have been painted shut, use a hammer and stiff putty knife (with a blade at least 4″ wide) to work your way between the window sash and the moldings. Holding the putty knife parallel with the glass, gently tap the corner of the blade between the molding and the sash. Once you have the blade partly in, wiggle it around to loosen the paint. Repeat the process around any areas of the sash where it appears there could be binding.

You can also try using a hammer to drive a block of wood into the window tracks, as near to the sash as you can. The wood should be about 1/8″ wider than the tracks. The idea is to spread the tracks just enough to ease the binding. Finally, rub a little candle wax into the tracks. That’ll help keep those sashes sliding!

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.

Genius! DIY Citronella Candles

Mother and daughter team Vicki and Jennifer at 2 Bees in a Pod show off their inventive DIY candle.

You mean you can make your own citronella candles? Now, that’s genius! Mother and daughter team Vicki and Jennifer at 2 Bees in a Pod can show you how it’s done. Inspired by an upcoming lake vacation (and a free set of canning jars), they used their inventiveness to hack humble mason jars into useful, bug-repelling luminaries. 

These two have been blogging together for one year, but they’ve being DIYing together for decades. In fact, they’ve tackled projects of all sizes. When the pair teamed up with family to renovate Jennifer’s kitchen, they did everything from tiling the floor to creating custom drapes (and when it comes to furniture, they’re repurposing gurus). So when they spotted a mason jar lamp for sale—with a hefty price tag—they knew it’d be a cinch to make their own. With the addition of citronella oil, these are not only a source of illumination, but a serious bug-repellant as well.

“Our oil lamps are still burning,” they tell us. “We have used them all summer long and there is plenty of citronella oil left.” But that’s not the last from these home inventors. “We’ve been toying with the idea of creating outdoor solar lights on a pedestal to line the sidewalk. It may be fun to “stain” them orange for the fall,” says the mother-daughter duo.

Read on to see how Vicki and Jennifer created these affordable, wow-worthy DIY citronella candles.

DIY Citronella Candles - Flames

Photo: 2beesinapod.com

- Mason jars
- 100% cotton rope
- Citronella oil
- Hammer
- Screwdriver

DIY Citronella Candle - Citronella

Photo: 2beesinapod.com

Hammer a hole in the center insert of the jar top. TipYou can hammer two lids at one time. 

DIY Citronella Candle - Lids

Photo: 2beesinapod.com

DIY Citronella Candle - Punctured Lid

Photo: 2beesinapod.com

Use three strand rope for your wick. TipUse 100% cotton rope. Nylon will melt, sizzle and quit burning.

DIY Citronella Candle - Rope

Tip Wrap the tip of the rope with tape. This will keep the rope from unraveling when you place it in the jar lid.

DIY Citronella Candle - Wick

Photo: 2beesinapod.com

Pour citronella oil into the jar, anywhere from a quarter- to a third-full.

DIY Citronella Candle - Oil

Photo: 2beesinapod.com

Screw the lid into place. Snip the taped end off of the rope.

DIY Citronella Candle - Snip

Photo: 2beesinapod.com

Let the rope soak up the citronella oil for about 10-15 minutes before lighting.

DIY Citronella Candle - Finished Pair

Photo: 2beesinapod.com

Stand back and light it up.

DIY Citronella Candle - Lit

Photo: 2beesinapod.com

When the rope wicks are first lit, they will burn high. After a few minutes the flame will be more like a candle burning. Take them outdoors and let them work their magic on keeping the mosquitos away.

Thanks to our genius DIY bloggers Vicki and Jennifer from 2 Bees in a Pod for sharing their tutorial for the perfect DIY citronella candles! To catch up with their latest hacks and projects, check out their blog.

Weekend Projects: 5 DIY Designs for a Custom End Table

Rather than treat the modest yet versatile end table as an afterthought, give this workhorse of the living room all the attention it deserves.

We entrust a great deal of responsibility to the end table, an unsung hero of the living room furniture ensemble. A versatile workhorse, the end table performs such non-trivial duties as supporting coffee mugs, holding reading material, and keeping remote controls from vanishing under seat cushions. Despite its day-to-day importance, we don’t give much thought to the end table. Though we might spend weeks or even months shopping for the perfect sofa, the end table often enters the space as an afterthought. Also at issue is the question that eternally complicates one’s choice of an end table: Is it the right height? See, this is why it makes so much sense to undertake a DIY end table. By taking matters into your own hands, you can tailor the piece to your exact specifications, with no sacrifice in the style department. Scroll down now to see five favorite DIY end table projects you can either replicate or use as the inspiration for your own design.



Photo: stylebyemilyhenderson.com

Perfect for a small room, appearing to occupy almost zero floor space, this svelte and brassy DIY end table on only two main components—copper pipes and leather strips. Furniture retailers sell similarly industrial chic pieces for hundreds, but you follow the lead of Emily Henderson to make yours for much less.



Photo: abeautifulmess.com

The combination of rolled aluminum sheet metal and a cut-to-size wood top creates this lightweight, high-impact DIY end table from A Beautiful Mess. Stain the wood and spray-paint the metal to create a unified look, or give a different hue to each part of the piece. It’s such an easy project, you may be tempted to do two.



Photo: matsutakeblog.blogspot.se

Having struggled to find a nightstand that would reach the top of her bed, Katie of Matsutake finally resolved to DIY the solution. Here’s what she came up with. It’s a modern martini-style table, with a cardboard tube at its core and vinyl strips manipulated to form the hourglass shape that so uniquely defines the project.



Photo: ashbeedesign.com

Multipurpose furniture can be as stylish as it is functional. From Ashbee Design, this DIY end table serves both as a sofa-side surface and a storage place for such things as table runners and month-old magazines. These stay out of sight when they aren’t needed but remain easily within reach, even at a moment’s notice.



Photo: thegoldensycamore.com

For a DIY end table like this one, you’ll need to negotiate only one slightly tough step: sawing out twin squares of butcher block. The rest is a matter of simple assembly, which The Golden Sycamore makes very easy with her detailed instructions. Once finished, you can rest a celebratory drink on your sturdy new table!

Bob Vila Radio: Are There Plants That Repel Mosquitos?

In a word, yes. If you're sick of being bitten while trying to enjoy your background, think about including one or all of these pest-repelling plants into your landscaping.

Modern mosquito repellents generally do a pretty good job of keeping the bugs away, but toxic chemicals often top their lists of ingredients. The good news is that there are plants you can easily grow, and place strategically around your deck and patio, that will deter flying pests.

Plants That Repel Mosquitoes

Photo: shutterstock.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON PLANTS THAT DETER MOSQUITOES, or read text below:

Citronella, one of the most popular, is very effective and easy to grow. In colder climates, it’s best to use planters, so you can bring Citronella plants inside when the temperature drops. Catnip is another good choice. (Be aware, though, that as it repels mosquitoes, it may attract neighborhood cats!)

Marigolds are an excellent option for border plants. Mosquitoes hate their scent and will avoid entering bordered areas. Finally, why not grow herbs that repel mosquitoes? That list includes basil, garlic, lemongrass, and rosemary. Pick the leaves you need for cooking, and leave the rest to keep the bugs at bay!

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.

5 Things to Do with… Old Window Screens

Turn a torn screen into a window of opportunity with these practical projects involving repurposed mesh.

If that window screen is torn beyond repair, don’t take the entire panel out to the trash. Rather, look for ways to reuse the screen in and around your house. That meshy material can do much more than simply block out bugs. Scroll down to see five of our favorite ways to give screens a second life.



Sift old paint

Photo: Shutterstock.com

Before you embark on a touch-up project that involves leftover paint, take the time to filter out debris (for example, dust or brush bristles) or any film that has formed. Cut out a patch of window screen large enough to fit over the can, then hold it in place as you pour the liquid into the paint tray you plan to use in your day’s work.



Stop Sidewalk Infestations

Photo: Shutterstock.com

To keep cracks in driveways or walkways from becoming prime real estate for critters, use crumpled window screening to fill any gaps you encounter in surfaces meant to be continuously paved. The mesh works to discourage small animals from making themselves a permanent home on your property.



Shield Gutters

Photo: Shutterstock.com

Improper storm drainage can lead to serious damage, so get your game plan together. Cleaning gutters annually or twice per year is a no-brainer, but with gutter guards you can keep leaves and other debris from reaching your gutters in the first place. But as gutter guards don’t come cheap, repurposed window screens work almost as well, and at a fraction of the cost.



Preventing Clogged Drains

Photo: Shutterstock.com

A long, hot shower should be nothing but relaxing. You certainly don’t want the stress and mess of a slow drain ruining your bathing ritual. Drain grates go only so far to trap hair and other pipe-clogging debris from entering your plumbing system. Add a further layer of protection by placing a small square of window screen under the grid.



Protect New Grass

Photo: Shutterstock.com

Whether you’re planting a new lawn or reseeding a failed patch, anchor a swath of screening over the area. That way, the grass seed won’t become dinner for the neighborhood birds. Once the grass has sprouted, pull the screen back, roll it up, and store it in the garage or basement until next time you need it.

Hypnotized, One Couple Lives Its Future at IKEA

IKEA turns a furniture showroom into a time machine, as hypnotist Justin Tranz sends one couple ahead 12, 18, and 23 years to witness their future together.

A birthday celebration in an IKEA bedroom

Photo: Courtesy of IKEA

Here’s what we’ve been waiting for: It’s the first official video in a mind-bending new promotional series from IKEA. If we were excited about last week’s trailer—and we definitely were—then we are beyond thrilled today. Whereas the teaser clip left us intrigued and yes, slightly confused, the full video leaves no doubt that the Swedish retailer has done something remarkable. With the help of renowned hypnotist Justin Tranz, IKEA showed real customers a glimpse of their future.

The story begins with Tranz on the floor of an unidentified IKEA showroom. A few cuts later, Tranz is lulling one willing couple, Adam and Sofi, into what looks like a genuine state of hypnosis. What comes next is truly amazing: From room to room, with different hired actors helping cement the illusion, Tranz leads the couple through scenes from what, to their hypnotized minds, must have appeared to be moments from their life together 12, 18, and even 23 years down the road.

As Adam and Sofi walk and talk through these—to put it lightly—novel experiences, IKEA goods provide the familiar domestic backdrop. Soon, the price tags hanging from the furniture become less noticeable, and the viewer forgets this is all taking place in a store. In one scene, we meet the couple’s daughter; in another, we see her as a rebellious teenager; finally, we meet her live-in boyfriend. Throughout, there’s IKEA, providing “solutions for every episode in life.”

When it comes to hypnosis, you’re either a believer or you’re not. But when it comes to ad’s message, we think there’s only one conclusion: No matter where you are in life, no matter your current needs, you can always find a way to live better at IKEA.

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

Bob Vila Radio: Help Your Lawn Thrive This Sweltering Summer

Here's how you can help your lawn rise to the challenge of not only surviving the summer, but thriving despite the heat and drought conditions.

Summertime is great for beaches, boating, and barbecues. But it’s not so great for turf grasses. They tend to take a beating in hot, dry weather. Here are some ways you can help your lawn get through the stressful summer months.

Photo: shutterstock.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON HOT WEATHER LAWN CARE, or read text below:

First, water wisely. Treating your turf to thorough soakings, spaced a couple days apart, is better than light, daily sprinklings. Most lawns do best on at least an inch of water per week (more, if temperatures are really soaring).

Use a rain gauge—or just a short, empty can—to help keep track of  how much you’re watering. Cut your grass often, but not too short. It’s best to raise your mower blade, so you’re trimming your turf at about three inches high. That’ll encourage healthy root growth.

One other tip: Make sure your mower blade is sharp. That way you’ll be cutting the grass cleanly rather than shredding it. Shredding is an extra stress your turf doesn’t need, especially this time of year!

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.