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Is a Walk-In Tub Right for You?

The bathroom can be one of the most dangerous rooms in the home, especially for seniors. But with a walk-in hydrotherapy bathtub, almost any bathroom can be transformed into a safe haven of relaxation and comfort.

Walk-In Jacuzzi Tub - Water

Imagine if instead of having to make an appointment and haul yourself to the spa—and then have to pay for the privilege—you could treat yourself to a spa-like experience every day at home. This idea is not so far-fetched: For decades now, homeowners have been outfitting their decks with hot tubs and their master bathrooms with oversize jetted Jacuzzi tubs. And while for the younger set, time spent in a Jacuzzi is merely a luxury, those who are older know that it can be something else entirely.

For women and men of a certain age, walk-in tubs with built-in hydrotherapy turn bathing into a restorative, even health-giving, experience. As one recent remodeler put it, “The whirlpool has helped take lots of aches and pains away. It is like being on vacation all the time without all the travel.” Having a walk-in Jacuzzi tub allows bathing to become a pleasure instead of a task.

While Jacuzzi is best known for hot tubs, their walk-in bathtubs put the emphasis on safety. Ordinary tubs can be dangerous for anyone; slips are responsible for many thousands of serious injuries, sometimes even deaths, each year. For seniors in particular, that danger is present not only during moments of inattention, but increasingly as their mobility naturally declines with age. About 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day in the USA and one in three of these seniors suffers a fall each year, so this is not a marginal issue. The latest walk-in tub designs combine legendary Jacuzzi comfort with extraordinary safety features, including a leak-proof, low threshold bathtub door, built-in grab bars, raised seat, anti-scald water temperature protection, and textured, skid-resistant floor.

Though made specifically for one type of homeowner, Jacuzzi walk-in tubs are not just for one type of home. On the contrary, they know that no matter your age, it’s a priority to combine safety with preserving the look and feel of your bathroom and ensuring that your house not seem institutional. Innovators like Jacuzzi, Inc. have treated this seriously, using the concept of universal design—that is, features for the home that look great and work equally well for everyone, young and old. Their walk-in tubs, in other words, accommodate both grandparents and grandchildren.

Walk-in Jacuzzi Tub - open

Photo: HydrotherapyBathing.com

As you age, your house hasn’t changed, but your needs do change. Rather than leave your home prematurely for a senior living setting, the obvious solution is to fix your house to meet your needs. Aging In The Home Remodelers makes that process hassle-free by guiding you from product selection all the way through to installation. Their walk-in bathtubs and showers are available in multiple sizes, so if your existing tub is a standard size, the walk-in Jacuzzi can fit right into the space that it vacates.

In-home installation is handled by professional, certified installers, and is often completed in one day. This really is not a DIY project. There are a number of factors that can come up during installation, including the type and condition of the existing plumbing, electrical wiring and service, flooring conditions, local building code requirements, and the location of the bathroom within the house. However, certified installers can deal with all of the issues during the installation process. That’s why most quality walk-in tubs are sold as an all-inclusive package including your new tub, installation and clean-up.

To learn more about hydrotherapy and the Jacuzzi Walk-In Bathtub, visit HydrotherapyBathing.com.

This post was created in conjunction with Aging In The Home Remodelers, Inc. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.

Bob Vila Radio: Measure Twice, Cut Once

Accurate measurement is fundamental to any successful DIY project. Remember to choose the right tools, mark precise points, and keep perspective on just how accurate is accurate enough.

You’ve heard the old saying, “Measure twice, cut once.” When it comes to do-it-yourself projects, there couldn’t be a better motto. Here are some tips for sizing up jobs around the house…

Measure Twice Cut Once

Photo: shutterstock.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON ACCURATE MEASUREMENT or read the text below:

Don’t use a 25-foot tape to measure for a 6-inch cut. Better to use a smaller tape that’s easier to manipulate.

To transfer your measurements to the surface of the material you’re cutting, first press on the edge of the tape and roll it until the edge makes contact with the material. Then put the point of your pencil at the measurement and flick it up and to the right, then up and to the left. That’ll give you a mark that’s very visible yet small enough at the point to maintain accuracy.

Also, keep a clear perspective on how accurate your measurements really need to be. For example, if you’re cutting drywall, a quarter-inch gap isn’t gonna make a big difference. You can always cover it with tape and mud. It’s the same with trim you’re planning to paint. A little caulk goes a long way. For clear-finish woodwork, though, you’ll need to be more precise.

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.

So, You Want to… Heat Your House with a Wood Stove

There's no denying the rustic, romantic appeal of heating with a wood stove. Before you commit, though, do your research and ask whether you're up to the tasks entailed.

Heating with Wood Stove

Photo: northerntool.com

Recently, you were visiting friends, and as the night grew colder outside, you were snug indoors, mesmerized by the warmth and glow of their wood stove. “Let’s get one!” you exclaimed to your family. As charmed as you were by the stove, your partner and children were even more so. A wood stove; what a good idea!

But is it really such a good idea? As with so many other things relating to the home, the answer depends. Before going any further, be sure to do your homework.

The Pros and Cons of Heating with a Wood Stove 
In areas where wood is dependably available at low cost, wood-stove heating can save money over a gas or oil system. That’s never more true than for those who harvest their own firewood. Of course, it’s a lot of work to fell trees, saw them into logs, and split those logs into stove-length pieces. There are techniques and best practices here that might take the neophyte several seasons to master. You need to be realistic about your abilities and tolerance for heavy work.

Even apart from the amount of labor involved, heating the home with a wood stove takes real commitment. Every morning, you need to start a new fire. In the absence of a backup heating system, there must always be someone at home to tend the fire, lest the plumbing pipes freeze. There are good reasons for our having moved beyond wood heat long ago. For many people who enjoy a modern lifestyle, heating with a wood stove would be a monumental inconvenience.

Of course, unlike fossil fuels, wood is a renewable resource. For some, that’s reason enough to think seriously about making the switch from a traditional oil- or gas-fueled system. And it would be a mistake not to mention that there’s something deeply satisfying, on a primal level, about wood heat. It offers a connection to the land—and to human history—that simply cannot be matched by a system that’s controlled by a thermostat on the wall.

Heating with Wood Stove - Installed Detail

Photo: energy.gov

The Art and Science of Dispersing Heat
A wood stove-based heating system presents many challenges. One that continually frustrates many, even veteran wood-stove custodians, is the art and science of dispersing the heat that the stove produces.

One method is to use a wood stove fan, which is placed on top of the stove. This sort of fan operates quite differently from the fans used to create a more comfortable environment in the dog days of summer. Rising heat causes the fan blades to turn, and as they do, the fan pushes that heat outward into the room.

Another option is to buy a plug-in blower. Positioned beneath or next to the stove—but not too close—the blower runs on electricity and pushes heat away from the unit. In some homes heated by a wood stove, there are multiple fans running at once in different rooms, each strategically positioned to maximize heat flow. Sometimes these are ceiling fans; sometimes they are small fans mounted at the corners of doorways.

Consider an Alternative to a Purely Decorative Fireplace
While a wood stove can be a viable sole heating solution for some homes in some parts of the country, it more commonly serves as a valuable companion to an existing gas- or oil-fueled system. But there’s a third option, one that gives the average homeowner a compelling reason to consider the wood stove.

When most of us hear the word “fireplace,” we picture an open hearth in the living room or a stone chimney billowing smoke into the evening. These decorative fireplaces are prized not so much for their heat production as for their aesthetic value. The trouble is that they’re so inefficient; the same way an open window would, a decorative fireplace rapidly leaks heated air (air you’ve paid to heat) out of the house.

A wood stove offers much the same benefit—something beautiful to gaze at—without seriously compromising your home’s overall energy efficiency. So if you’re looking to improve on your existing fireplace, or if you’ve always wished that your home had a fireplace, a wood stove may be your best bet.

It all depends on what you want to get out of the wood stove—and what you’re willing to put into it.

Do You Need a Dehumidifier?

You probably made sure that your home was adequately caulked, insulated, and weatherized before the worst of winter arrived. But now that you've sealed yourself in, the place may feel a bit stuffy. Read on to learn how a dehumidifier can help, and how you can select the best possible unit for your space.

How to Choose a Dehumidifier

Photo: thehomedepot.com

With winter in full swing, folks are spending the majority of their days out of the wind and behind closed doors. While the insulation and tight construction of today’s homes foster comfortable indoor temperatures, air quality can suffer in myriad ways. Excess humidity ranks among the least desirable effects. Left unchecked, moisture buildup can lead to a number of problems within the home, including but not limited to musty odors, warped wood, peeling paint and mold. If at any point during the year a homeowner becomes concerned about the high humidity level inside, what can he do to alter the status quo? One word: dehumidifier.

Dehumidifiers range in size from portable, one-room units to whole-house solutions that tie into the home’s HVAC system. Though variations exist both in product design and quality, most dehumidifiers work the same way. You configured the preferred humidity level, and when humidistat registers a level in excess of your preference, the dehumidifier clicks on. Driven by a fan, moist air moves through the appliance, where it passes over a cold metal coil. At that point, the moisture condenses into water, which gets stored internally or drained away. The filtered air then passes over a warm coil before returning to the home’s conditioned space.

How to Choose a Dehumidifier - Isolated

Photo: thehomedepot.com

If you suspect but aren’t certain whether your home has been experience moisture issues, research the problem by purchasing and monitoring a humidity gauge, also known as a hygrometer. If on the other hand you know that your home needs a dehumidifier, consider these factors in making your selection:

• Determine the scope of the problem. Is the whole house overly humid, or is the issue confined to one area (e.g., the basement)? The scope of the problem directly determines the nature of the solution. Larger whole-house dehumidifiers tie into the HVAC system and include a drainpipe that empties directly into a slop sink, sump pump, or to the outdoors. These types of dehumidifiers aren’t cheap and typically involve professional installation. Portable dehumidifiers, meanwhile, are much less expensive and much more consumer-friendly. They plug right into the wall and operate via built-in interfaces that are easy to understand and configure. Some portable dehumidifiers are equipped with hoses that can drain or pump out collected water automatically; others feature a bucket that must be emptied out on a regular basis.

• Calculate the area’s square footage. Even dehumidifiers of the same basic design can differ in capacity. Select one that can hold ten pints of water for a 500-square-foot space; add four pints of capacity for every additional 500 square feet. So if you wish to dehumidify a 1,000-square-foot basement, you’d need a unit with a 14-pint capacity. For a very damp space, choose a dehumidifier that holds 12 pints of water for a 500-square-foot space, adding five pints for every additional 500 square feet.

• Don’t forget about energy efficiency. Energy Star-certified dehumidifiers use about 15 percent less energy than conventional units. In the long run, that means a savings of approximately $175 over the life of the dehumidifier, not to mention avoiding roughly 2,800 pounds’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions.

Dehumidifiers can provide a continuous flow of fresh, dry air in the home, resulting in an energy-efficient solution that improves indoor air quality and keeps mold growth at bay all season long.

The Right Way to Clean a Toilet

Remember the gleaming porcelain bowl installed in your bathroom all those years ago? You can get it back! Here's how.

How to Clean a Toilet

Photo: shutterstock.com

A dreaded household chore, cleaning the toilet is the definition of dirty work. Mostly it’s a matter of hygiene, but cleaning the toilet properly can also make the fixture last longer, particularly if you live in an area with hard water. While the self-cleaning toilets of tomorrow hold out the promise that one day, we’ll be free of this least-favorite duty, it is—at least for the time being—unavoidable. The silver lining? It’s actually not at all hard to clean a toilet. Here’s how to do a thorough job.

- Rubber gloves
- Disinfectant
- Scrubbing brush
- Pumice stone
- Antibacterial spray
- Paper towels (or clean rags)

Before getting started, suit up in protective gear. Rubber gloves are must, but an apron and protective eyewear might be a good idea, too, since the process involves some harsh chemicals. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the saying goes. The next preparatory step is to drain the toilet. To do so, you can turn off the water supply and then flush, or you can wedge the float valve (also known as the ballcock) so that after flushing, the toilet does not automatically refill.

Toilet Cleaners

Photo: shutterstock.com

Lift up the toilet seat and squirt disinfectant around the rim and sides of the bowl, allowing it to run slowly down to the bottom. (If you live in an area with hard water, opt for a disinfectant that contains a chemical like borax, one that removes lime scale. Alternatively, you can purchase and use lime scale remover separately.) With a stiff, plastic-bristled brush, scrub the cleaner over the entire bowl, then allow it to set.

To remove tough stains, use a wet pumice stone to scrub the affected area of the ceramic bowl. Pumice stone can also dislodge lime scale deposits. It’s a handy tool, no matter the specific cause of discoloration.

With the disinfectant working its magic, close the seat and lid and focus on the exterior. Here, use an antibacterial spray, following with a clean rag or paper towels to wipe it all down. Pay extra attention to the seat hinge, notorious for its grime buildup. Finally, spray and wipe both sides of the lid and seat.

Now grab your scrubbing brush once more and have another go at the toilet bowl. This time, spend most of your energy on the area underneath the rim and down into the toilet U-bend. Once finished, restore the water supply or unplug the float valve. Flush the toilet, allowing fresh water to clean off any remaining disinfectant. Last but not least, rinse off the bristle brush so that it be used again—next week!

Bob Vila Radio: Every 2 Years, Flush Your Water Heater

To improve the performance of your water heater and extend the useful life of the tank, don't forget to flush out the sediment buildup every couple of years. Here's how

If you want to make sure you’ll have hot water whenever you need it, it’s a good idea to flush your water heater every couple of years.

Flushing a Water Heater

Photo: shutterstock.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON FLUSHING A WATER HEATER or read the text below:

Over time, mineral sediments build up, and those sediments can not only cut down on efficiency but also cause corrosion, shortening the life of the tank.

To flush the water heater, start by cutting off the electricity or gas, whichever powers your heater. Also, shut the valve that supplies water to the tank (it’s at the top of the tank). Then proceed to attach a hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the tank, positioning the other end of the hose outside the home or into a drain below the level of the drain valve. Open the valve.

Next, open a hot water faucet in the house. That’ll allow air into the system and soon, water should begin draining out the hose. Be careful: Water exiting the heater will be very hot!

Once the tank’s finished draining, close the drain valve, open the supply valve, and power up the heater.

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.

How To: Get Rid of Raccoons

Behind that adorable masked face lies a determined forager and a potentially destructive intruder. If raccoons have colonized your property, follow these suggestions for making your yard and your house less welcoming.

How to Get Rid of Raccoons

Photo: shutterstock.com

Sure, raccoons are sort of cute, but know this: If it feels threatened, a raccoon can be dangerous, particularly if it’s carrying a disease (e.g., rabies). Tread carefully, and remember that there are professionals trained to deal with raccoons and other creatures. Your local government most likely includes an animal control department with field operations aimed at helping residents cope with wildlife. Of course, if you’ve been frustrated by repeated incidents or feel the need to get on the case immediately, try the following strategies to get rid of raccoons safely and effectively, whether they’re causing trouble under your roof or strictly outdoors.

Raccoons are scavengers; if they’re hungry, even mere morsels of food left out in the open can lure them to your property. Keep discarded food waste out of sight and to the greatest extent possible, contain or mask the odor of those scraps. Purchase and use receptacles with lids that close tightly and lock into place. Additionally, consider double-bagging any trash that’s going to spend at least one night outdoors before your next scheduled garbage collection date.

Any food—even pet food—left outside can attract raccoons. If you must feed your pets outdoors, feed them only at certain times of day, and remove anything uneaten. If you and your family like to cook and/or dine al fresco, always take the time to clean up afterward. Here, it’s well worth being thorough; as a precaution, hose and wipe down your picnic or patio table at the end of a meal. For best results, use a cleaner that contains bleach, a chemical that goes a long way toward vanquishing odors. Note that bleach works so well at eliminating food odors, you might even pour some over any trash bags left outdoors in a unsecured receptacle.

How to Get Rid of Raccoons - Indoors

Photo: shutterstock.com

While raccoons can make a real mess of your yard, strewing trash in all directions over a surprisingly broad radius, they can wreak even greater havoc indoors, endangering your family’s health and safety.

It may be tempting to use poison. Ethics aside, this may not be the wisest course to take, because if the poison works and the animal dies, you’ll be left with a noxious odor and a mess you surely won’t enjoy cleaning up—assuming you can even find the dead raccoon, and that it’s in an accessible location.

To get rid of raccoons in a way that does not create additional problems, you must determine the animals’ entry point. Typically, raccoons get in through the eaves of the roof or in openings at the foundation level.

Once you’ve located the access point, the next step is to make your home inhospitable. Raccoons enjoy the dark, so a strategically placed flashlight can be a deterrent. Because they’re also put off by strange noises, playing a small radio may help keep them at bay. Finally, raccoons hate the smell of ammonia, so leave a saucer full of the stuff (or an ammonia-dipped rag) near the creatures’ entry point. Within 48 hours, thanks to one or all of the above tricks, the raccoons are likely to vacate the premises.

Once you’re certain your visitors have left the building, the final step is to seal up the access points so as to prevent return. In future weeks and months, periodically walk your home’s perimeter to check for signs of a pest presence. Likewise, remain vigilant about securing trash bags and cleaning up after outdoor meals.

Hold Down the Fort: Home Security Tips for Holiday Vacations

It's the most wonderful time of the year—for burglars, that is. With a large portion of the neighborhood out on holiday vacation, empty houses can look particularly inviting to thieves. But don't fret: We've got the scoop on how to make yours less of a target.

Home Security Tips for Holiday Vacations

Photo: shutterstock.com

Marty Hoffmann of Kwikset, a leading manufacturer of home security products, says that in the weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year’s, “Many families take vacation with kids out of school.” Indeed, holiday travel is an American tradition, a rite that’s ingrained in our collective consciousness and intimately familiar to everyone, including criminals. Drive past any house on any street in any town in late December, and “would-be thieves are well aware that no one may be home.”

If you have plans to go away this year, whether to a sunny locale or your in-laws’, it’s only prudent to take reasonable steps toward securing your home against intruders. “A good deadbolt is the best protection there is,” Hoffmann says. “That’s where your security lies.” Quality deadbolts are certified by Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA) and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in grades 1 through 3. Grade 1 offers the highest level of security available.

Home Security Tips for Holiday Vacations - Kwikset Kevo

Photo: kwikset.com

Beyond installing a deadbolt, you can go further to protect your home by making it appear as though the place is occupied. Ask a trusted friend, neighbor, or family member to park in the driveway, if it would otherwise remain empty, and also to periodically check up on the house.

Thanks to smart locks like the Kwikset Kevo, providing others with access to your home couldn’t be easier. Using the Kevo app, you can send an electronic keycode, valid on a temporary basis, to whomever you’ve asked to drop by. And from your phone, you can monitor that person’s comings and goings. If he forgets to lock up, you can do it from your phone, no matter how many miles you are from your front porch.

For all the advantages of a digital solution, there remain a handful of purely analog steps recommended to vacationing homeowners. Remember to do the following, if relevant, to keep your home safe and sound:

• Notify the post office to stop mail delivery to your address for the duration of your trip.

• Place electronic timers in various rooms, setting them to activate lights on a staggered schedule.

• Consider motion detector lights for the front and back of your property.

• Hire a landscaping service (or a neighborhood kid) to shovel snow while you’re away.

• If you have an alarm system, remember to turn it on and to inform the alarm company of your plans.

Before you’re set leave, put together a checklist of all the security measures you’d like to take. This list will help you stay on task in the hectic days and hours before you leave. After all, the last thing anyone wants is to go on vacation with the lingering thought, “Did I remember to lock the back door? “Plan ahead and you’ll find it’s easy to stay on the safe side without stressing. Merry Christmas, indeed!

Bob Vila Radio: The Tool-Free Way to Locate Wall Studs

Though an stud finder would make things a bit easier, not everyone has one—and the fact is that you don't always need one. Here's how to locate a wall stud without the aid of a tool.

If you’ve got a heavy mirror to hang on the wall, you’ll need to find a stud that will support the weight. The easiest way to do that is with a stud finder. Electronic and magnetic versions are both readily available at home centers.

Locating Studs

Photo: KStansley

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Listen to BOB VILA ON LOCATING STUDS or read the text below:

But if you’d just as soon stay home—and save some dough—try looking for nails in the baseboard. They are usually hammered into studs. Studs are usually spaced 16 inches from one center to the next. So if you find a nail in the baseboard, just measure over, in 16-inch increments, to where you want to hang the mirror.

Also remember that electrical outlets and switches are usually attached to studs, either from the left or the right side. Try knocking gently on the wall directly to the right and left of the outlet or switch. If one side sounds hollow, then the other side is where you can expect the stud to be.

Still can’t find a stud? Well, you can always drill a small test hole to make a way for a bent coat hanger, which you can then twist around until you knock against a stud. Aftewards, you’d repair the test hole with a little spackle and paint.

But if you’re going to go through the trouble of drilling, spackling, and painting, you might as well run to the store for a stud finder. Hey, you gave it your best shot.

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.

Weekend Projects: 5 Ways to Make Floating Shelves

Opt for floating shelves to give your favorite floorspace-saving storage method a sleek, modern look. By Sunday evening, you'll have a new spot for reading material, tchotchkes, and anything else you'd like to display or keep within easy arm's reach.

Physically and visually lighter than bookcases—hello, extra floor space—shelves are a favorite storage option for everything from books to souvenirs, suitable for virtually any room. Of all the designs out there, many prefer floating shelves, because with their bracket hardware hidden, these wall-mounted surfaces take on a sleek, modern look. DIY floating shelves are easy for anyone to install. Here are five different ways you might approach the project this weekend.



DIY Floating Shelves - Simple

Photo: thewonderforest.com

There’s a lot to be said for simplicity, particularly when you’re pursuing a clean, minimalist aesthetic. Over at The Wonder Forest, Dana created DIY floating shelves from stock lumber. Her secret to keeping the brackets totally invisible? She didn’t use any. Instead, she attached the shelf directly to the wall studs.



DIY Floating Shelves - Book Stack

Photo: thesimplylivingblog.blogspot.com

If you’re sick of running out of space in your library, try this fun approach to DIY floating shelves. Pick up a bargain-priced large-format hardcover, attach a metal bracket to its back, and that book becomes a base on which to rest a stack of other books. For step-by-step instructions, visit The Simply Living Blog.



DIY Floating Shelves - Double

Photo: fourgenerationsoneroof.com

In a storage-starved laundry room, DIY floating shelves accommodate supplies like bleach and detergent, while also providing a surface for separating and folding. Jessica of Four Generations One Roof built hers from plywood, fixing them to the wall with pine cleats. Go now to get the full how-to on her blog.



DIY Floating Shelves - Repurposed Ladder

Photo: freshmommyblog.com

A utilitarian ladder and a handful of L-brackets: Sounds like part of the materials list for an average home improvement, right? Well, in this case, those materials are the project. Tabitha from Fresh Mommy Blog reimagined the ladder as a DIY shelf, filling the space between rungs with books and collectibles.



DIY Floating Shelves - Corner

Photo: houseofroseblog.com

In small homes, capitalized on the corners that might be overlooked in a larger space. Mandy at House of Rose offers a terrific tutorial on building DIY floating shelves with a triangle design tailored to fit at the meeting place between walls. We’ll need to practice self-restraint not to put these everywhere!