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Genius! Double Your Grilling Space Without Spending a Dime

Why slave away over the grill for your next summer barbecue? This space-saving homemade warming rack can half your grilling time—and is doubly fun to build!

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Photo: seriouseats.com

From searing a steak to piecing together the perfect kebabs, manning the grill is a juggling act. For BBQ-ers without a built-in top rack for buns, melting cheese, and cooking veggies, a simple Labor Day cookout requires precise timing, coordination, and creative use of limited space. Even if you’re blessed with a two-tiered grill, hosting a family get-together or a tailgating party usually calls for even more cooking room. Whatever you’re working with, the problem is the same: Put side dishes on too soon, and you might not have space for the main entrée—but, wait until the entrée is fully cooked to add the sides, and you’ll have to serve cold burgers and dogs to hungry guests.

For those in the same BBQ bind over the holiday weekend, Joshua Bousel of Serious Eats devised a DIY grill add-on that warms finished food and doubled his cooking space. The grilling gastronome’s rack rose from humble beginnings: two rinsed tin cans, to be exact. With both ends cut off and the labels removed, Bousel stood the two containers upright on his charcoal BBQ. He then rested another circular grate (an oven rack or a stove burner will work, too) right over the cans.

Removed from the blazing heat of the flames below, the second level serves as a standalone warming rack for finished food.  Or, covered with foil, the top tier works as a a slow cooker by evenly roasting potatoes, corn, and other seasonal veggies without burning them. Best of all, this free BBQ booster leaves plenty of room on the bottom for more food. With all of the extra space, you’ll be able to throw everything on at once, essentially cutting cooking time in half and getting you back to the party sooner.

FOR MORE: Serious Eats

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Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from BobVila.com
With fair weather having arrived finally, it’s time to turn your home improvement efforts to the backyard and your deck, porch, or patio—the parts of the home built specifically to enjoy the extra hours of sunlight. Guided by these practical pointers and inspiring ideas, you can introduce beauty, comfort, and utility to your backyard and outdoor living areas, making them as inviting and enjoyable as your home interiors.


The Dos and Don’ts of Spray Painting

Grab a can and shake up your decor with these practical tips.

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Spray Painting Tips

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When you need a quick, cool upgrade that doesn’t cost a bundle, spray paint is hard to beat. A host of exciting new hues and finishes have taken spray paint to the next level, and you can use it on all sorts of surfaces, from concrete blocks and stepping stones to wood, plastic, or metal furniture. But getting pro-quality results does take a bit of skill, so read on before you spray away!

DO Choose the Right Location

As with any painting project, you’ll need to work in a well-ventilated spot. If the weather is pleasant, you can take it outside, but beware of breezes. Wind can mess with your ability to get good coverage, and it can blow dirt onto your piece, which will be difficult to remove and will mar the finish. If working indoors, open all windows for cross ventilation, or consider painting in the garage, near the open door.

 

Spray Painting - 7 Do's and Dont's - Bob Vila

Photo: istockphoto.com

DON’T Slack on Prep Work

Prep is key to any successful paint job. So, depending on the material you’re painting, do what’s necessary to mend any scratches or holes, then sand to smooth out rough spots. Wash your piece with mild detergent solution, rinse with water, and allow it to dry thoroughly.

 

DO Practice Protection

There will be overspray, so cover the surrounding area with drop cloths or newspaper. If you’re working on something small, contain overspray by setting the piece inside a cardboard box. Perhaps more crucial is protecting yourself. Aerosol paint can get into eyes and lungs, so wear goggles and a dust mask or respirator. Gloves are a good idea, too, and remember that overspray on the floor can stick to the bottom of your shoes—remove footwear and check your soles before leaving the area to avoid tracking paint.

 

DON’T Rush It

For optimal, even coverage, apply spray paint in several thin coats. Don’t worry if you can see through the first or even the second coat. Patience is a virtue here.

 

DO Use a Sweeping Motion

Waving the can randomly will result in uneven results. Instead, hold the can six to eight inches from the surface and use even, horizontal strokes, sweeping from left to right, then right to left. Be careful not to hesitate in any one spot or you’ll get drips.

 

DON’T Have a Heavy Trigger Finger

To avoid glops and spots—and to conserve paint—spray in short spurts rather than a constant stream. Listen for brief bursts of air coming from the can, as opposed to a long, steady hiss.

 

DO Allow the Paint to Cure Completely

Spray paint does dry quickly, but it usually requires at least 24 hours to cure completely. Resist the urge to move your piece or replace any hardware you’ve removed until you’ve reached the curing time indicated on the can. A scratch or fingerprint late in the game will be difficult to fix.

 


All of the Expert Painting Advice from BobVila.com
Of all the options available to remodelers, paint provides the quickest, easiest, and most affordable way to achieve a transformation, inside or out. Ready to look at your home in a new way? Click now for the color ideas to make your project beautiful.


Which Type of Dehumidifier Is Right for You?

Savvy homeowners dread high humidity, not only because it causes discomfort, but also because over time, excess moisture can be severely damaging to the home. Often, dehumidifiers are the answer, but choosing the right model can be tricky business. Continue to get advice from an industry pro.

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Types of Dehumidifiers

Photo: supplyhouse.com

Does this sound familiar? You step outside on a hot day, and though the weather may not be ideal, you can certainly tolerate it. The next day, however, the same heat combines with a higher level of humidity, and you’re left fantasizing about taking the next plane to a kinder climate. Though many people focus primarily on their own sticky discomfort, veteran homeowners know the darker side of humidity: When the moisture content of air rises above a safe threshold indoors, there can be a battery of negative consequences, from musty odors and mold growth to warped wood and cracked or peeling paint. In other words, your house hates humidity as much as you do!

The solution? It’s simple—install a dehumidifier. Doing so not only boosts the efficiency and effectiveness of air conditioning, but also protects against damage due to excess moisture. The technology always works the same way, no matter if the dehumidifier is a portable model or a whole-home unit tied into the household HVAC. Air is pulled into the dehumidifier and exposed to a cold coil inside the unit, which causes water contained in the humid air to condense into liquid water that is then stored or drained. The now-dry air then exits the unit after passing over a warm coil. For all their fundamental similarities, however, dehumidifiers often differ dramatically in terms of capacity and design.

Types of Dehumidifiers - Portable Unit

Photo: supplyhouse.com

For a dehumidifier to serve its intended function, its capacity must match the demand. In other words, according to Daniel O’Brian, a technical specialist with SupplyHouse.com, “You need to make sure you get the right size dehumidifier for the job.” Much depends on two variables—the size of the space and the conditions within it. For instance, in a large, damp, closed-in basement, you would need a higher-capacity dehumidifier than in a relatively compact living space with sufficient airflow. If you’re considering whole-home dehumidification, it’s wise to consult with a contractor to make sure your unit will be compatible with your HVAC system and powerful enough for your needs. For portable units, however, you can generally rely on the coverage area specified by the manufacturer.

In terms of design, homeowners are probably most familiar with portable dehumidifiers that can be wheeled from one room to another in order to remove moisture from the immediately surrounding air. Such units are popular because they are user-friendly—as O’Brian puts it, “Installing one is as easy as installing a toaster.” They’re appealing also because these “plug and play” dehumidifiers tend to be the least expensive option, though not necessarily the least powerful. The downside: Portable units don’t run for very long on their own; many “need to be checked and emptied fairly regularly,” O’Brian notes. That said, in the wake of a moisture-related event—for instance, a flooded basement—O’Brian maintains that there’s no better option.

Some homeowners are fortunate enough to face perilously high humidity only on occasion and in certain parts of the house. For others, though, it’s a persistent problem, and not just in one or a few rooms, but throughout the home. In the latter situation, “your best bet may be an in-line dehumidifier,” O’Brian says. Specially designed to integrate with the existing forced-air HVAC system, whole-home dehumidifiers are more sophisticated than their stand-alone cousins and for that reason usually cost more—”if only because their installation requires a pro,” O’Brian adds. Yet the added cost gets you at least a couple of virtues not found in portables. For one, whole-home units do their job behind the scenes, without ever becoming an eyesore. Plus, “set it and forget it” in-line units rarely require homeowner intervention.

Retailers like SupplyHouse.com offer both portable and whole-home dehumidifiers in a wide range of capacities, from a suite of industry-leading manufacturers. To get a head start on selecting a unit, first monitor the moisture level in different areas of your home and use a hygrometer to take some humidity measurements. Then, when you’re ready to discuss specific requirements, don’t hesitate to contact SupplyHouse.com customer service, either online or by phone at (888) 757-4774. O’Brian concludes, “Whether you’re looking for a little extra comfort or a lot of protection against moisture damage, there’s a dehumidifier perfectly suited to match your needs and budget.”

Types of Dehumidifiers - Inline Unit

Photo: supplyhouse.com

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


How To: Get Rid of Clover

Try some of these simple DIY solutions to eradicate this common lawn invader.

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How to Get Rid of Clovers

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Stubborn weeds are the bane of a beautiful lawn. Yet, although it’s pretty stubborn, clover (aka Trifolium repens) is actually beneficial. It brings nitrogen into the soil and encourages grass growth when it decomposes. In fact, some grass blends even include micro-clover as a welcome addition to a lawn. Still, many homeowners simply don’t appreciate all those small white flowers interrupting their field of green. Mowing it over is only a temporary fix: Clover grows back, fast. So, if you’re adamant about keeping this herbaceous three-leaved intruder off your landscape, you’re in luck! Read on for easy remedies that can get rid of clover for good.

Knock it out with nitrogen. Generally speaking, a well-fertilized lawn keeps all weeds at bay, but ensuring proper nitrogen levels will give you an extra edge against clover. It’s a lack of nitrogen that allows clover to thrive, so try a nitrogen-rich weed-and-feed formula. Organic fertilizers might do the trick if you have a small amount of clover, but if your lawn is becoming overrun, choose a standard fertilizer that is not slow release.

Remove it manually. Don’t give clover a chance to spread. Get rid of small clumps as soon as you notice them by gently loosening the soil around the base with a spade or your fingers, then plucking the clover up. Be sure you get all of the root.

How to Get Rid of Clovers

Photo: istockphoto.com

Cook it. A natural way to thwart clover is to deprive it of sunlight and oxygen. Place plastic sheeting (a garbage bag will do) on top of clover, securing the corners so it won’t blow away. This ought to kill the weed in a few weeks, but use this method only on large clover patches; otherwise, surrounding grass will probably experience collateral damage.

Douse it. Here’s a natural remedy many gardeners find effective: Mix vinegar with a small amount of dish soap, put the mixture in a spray bottle, and spot treat clover clumps. Just take care to avoid surrounding plants.

Kill it with corn gluten. Corn gluten meal, available at garden centers and nurseries, can inhibit clover growth with no ill effects on nearby plants. It releases organic dipeptides into the soil, which dry out seeds and make it more difficult for them to sprout. Spread about 20 pounds of corn gluten meal per 1,000 square feet of lawn, water well, and allow to dry naturally.

Hit back with herbicide. If you’ve got to pull out the big guns to get rid of clover, broadleaf herbicides can do the job. These products generally contain the chemicals 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, Mecoprop, and Dicamba, which disrupt normal growth patterns and cause the weeds to twist, the leaves to cup, and the stems to crack. While these herbicides don’t harm surrounding grass, they can hurt some garden plants and insects, so it’s wise to spot treat directly on clover rather than apply freely.


So, You Want to… Install a Screen Door

Here’s everything you need to know about selecting, installing, and maintaining this summertime essential.

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How to Install a Screen Door

Photo: istockphoto.com

Breezes in, bugs out—functionally speaking, the screen door hasn’t changed much in the past hundred years or so. Different types, however, and their varying price points have emerged in more recent times. If you’re in the market for one to separate your indoor and outdoor spaces, read this before you shop. You’ll find all the guidance needed for selecting and installing a screen door that’s ideal for your house and budget.

Screen Doors vs. Storm Doors
Screen doors are different from storm doors, though the terms are often erroneously used interchangeably. Storm doors, as the name implies, are designed as barriers against inclement weather. Though their frames are rugged (made of steel, vinyl, or aluminum), they may have a screen along with a sliding glass panel to let air pass through at your discretion. Standard screen doors, however, aren’t intended for heavy duty. If you’re looking for protection against the elements, opt for a specialized storm door.

How to Install a Screen Door

Photo: istockphoto.com

Types of Screen Doors
Three varieties of screen doors exist to supplement the myriad of home entrances.

• Perhaps the most familiar style, one known to go hand-in-hand with a picturesque front porch, the traditional type fits in the outer portion of an exterior doorjamb and opens outwards. Purely functional, bare-bones models are suited to side or backyard entries, yet you can certainly find a stylish one to complement a front door. These traditional screen doors come in standard sizes and are typically made of wood, although aluminum and vinyl versions are available.

• Some homeowners prefer a retractable screen for a front door. Based on the principle of pull-down window blinds, the retractable screen is stored in a spring-loaded casing, positioned either at the side or at the top of the doorframe. You pull it across or down when you want to leave a door open to get a breeze and block bugs. It’s appealing for a front entrance, since it’s all but invisible and won’t interfere with curb appeal.

• Finally, there are slider screen doors that install on the exterior track of a sliding patio door. While some patio doors do come with sliding screens, you can find add-on options for an existing sliding door.

Pick Your Price
You can find a traditional screen door made of unfinished pine for around $30, while low-end vinyl and aluminum models start at around $50. If you’re looking for stainable hardwood or an ornate design, the cost could go as high as $200.

Retractable screens start at around $30 but these cheaper models don’t offer sidetracks, leading you to potentially deal with gaps at the edges. High-end models, running $500 or more, have a variety of bells and whistles, including secure tracks, motorized remote-control operation, and double-door protection for French doors.

Sliding screen panels for patio doors start around $40 and come in standard sizes, but not all sliding doors accept generic screens. Check with the manufacturer of your patio door to determine if you need to order a custom screen, which could run upwards of $100.

Make Sure to Measure
Screen doors come in standard sizes. For a traditional screen door, measure the door you’ll be pairing it with and purchase a screen door in a matching size. If you have an off-size door, consider purchasing the next size larger wooden model and cutting it to fit. Most, but not all, retractable screens require measuring the inside of the doorjamb. Read manufacturer’s measuring instructions (usually posted on the outside of the box) to be sure. For a sliding patio door, measure the door panel that slides and purchase a corresponding screen panel.

Screen Door Installation
Because models vary so, installing a screen door entirely depends on the variety you’ve chosen for your home. Many homeowners are drawn to the traditional screen door for its simplicity, as it requires little more than attaching the hinges and pull-handle with the screws that come included. You’ll need a drill with a bit slightly smaller than the screws, a screwdriver bit, a tape measure, and a pencil for marking where to drill pilot holes. Install the hinges at the same level as the upper and lower door hinges, or about eight inches from the top and also from the bottom. Similarly, the handle should be placed at the same height as the exterior doorknob. Use shims, as needed, under the hinges to center the screen door in the jamb. (It’s standard to leave a 1/8-inch gap around the sides and the top, and a 3/8-inch gap, or larger, at the bottom.)

Most traditional screen doors are universal, meaning you can install them to open on the either the right or the left, depending on your preference. The spring that holds the door closed installs midway on the door, typically behind the push bar, on hooks, so you can remove it when you want to open the door all the way.

Retractable screen installation differs by type and brand, so follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Typically, you’ll use the same tools needed for traditional screen door installation, but if you’re attaching a bottom track to a concrete or brick porch, you’ll also need a masonry bit and concrete screws. Some higher-end retractable screens do require professional installation.

Last but not least, installing a screen door that slides is all about track placement: Position the door in the exterior track and lift it up to hook the rollers in the upper track runner. When it’s in the right spot, it should slide smoothly.

How to Install a Screen Door

Photo: istockphoto.com

Seal and Secure
Most wooden screen doors come painted, but often the top and bottom edges are raw wood. Sealing the raw edges with exterior paint that matches the door before installation will prevent premature weathering. If you purchase an unfinished door, paint the whole thing with quality exterior paint, or stain it and brush or spray on a coat of spar varnish to keep it looking new. Vinyl and aluminum screen doors require no additional weatherproofing.

If the bottom of the screen door has a large gap, consider installing a door sweep. Available at most any hardware store, this add-on attaches to the bottom of the door to keep out dust and crawly bugs.

After installation, enjoy the easy, breezy nature of your new screen door—and don’t let it hit you on your way out!

 

Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from BobVila.com
With fair weather having arrived finally, it’s time to turn your home improvement efforts to the backyard and your deck, porch, or patio—the parts of the home built specifically to enjoy the extra hours of sunlight. Guided by these practical pointers and inspiring ideas, you can introduce beauty, comfort, and utility to your backyard and outdoor living areas, making them as inviting and enjoyable as your home interiors.


Bob Vila Radio: Replace Your Roof Without Getting Ripped Off

Every homeowner is grateful to have a roof over their head—unless you're dealing with leaks and shedding shingles. Here's how to find a reliable roofer that will get it right the first time.

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Worried your roof won’t make it through another season? If you spot sagging, raised shingles, and ceiling leaks, you might be right. Before you sign that contract, make sure you’re dealing with a reputable contractor.

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Photo: istockphoto.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON REPLACING YOUR ROOF or read the text below:

First, take a closer look at the estimates you’ve already received. How comprehensive are they? Steer clear of roofers that give you a list of bullet points with important details missing. A careful review takes time, but it can save you thousands of dollars—and loads of grief. Make sure you know exactly what materials the contractor plans to use, too. Second-rate supplies may seem more budget-friendly, but you’ll pay for it later with additional repairs or early replacement.

Don’t let your roofer talk you into nailing new shingles over the old ones. You’re better off inspecting the sheathing below and correcting any issues before moving forward. Finally, before you sign the contract, read it over so you understand any liabilities and warranties. If anything goes wrong on the job—or after the crew leaves—you’ll know exactly where you stand.

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: Clean Quartz Countertops

Engineered quartz countertops rival the sophistication, design, and timeless appeal of real stone, minus the high maintenance. If you're lucky enough to have this luxurious material in your kitchen, read on for our complete guide to keeping it clean.

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How to Clean Quartz Countertops

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Quartz. Quartzite. The names sound alike. Yet, although both of these popular countertop materials are derived from the same mineral—quartz—and achieve a similar aesthetic when installed, they are not the same. Quartzite is formed when quartz-rich sandstone is exposed to high heat and pressure over time as a result of natural processes. It’s found all over the world and in a variety of patterns and colors. Engineered quartz, in contrast, is factory-produced by combining quartz with resins, binding agents, and occasionally pigments, depending on the manufacturer.

Thanks to the latest leaps in the aesthetics of man-made stone, today’s quartz genuinely reflects nature’s organic splendor, but with an important upgrade: Unlike natural quartzite, which must be sealed on a regular basis (twice a year, according to some experts), quartz does not require any sealing in order to resist stains, making it a very popular compromise. In fact, resin binders make the material nonporous, so mold, mildew, and stain- and odor-causing bacteria cannot penetrate the surface. Once it’s sealed, though, quartzite, the natural stone, can be cared for and maintained in the same way as its man-made counterpart. Follow these basic guidelines to keep either material sparkling like new for years to come.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Mild dish detergent
- Soft cloth
- Glass cleaner
- Nonabrasive sponge
- Plastic putty knife
- Degreasing cleaner
- Goo Gone or comparable cleaner
- Trivet
- Cutting board

SOONER IS BETTER

Though quartz will resist permanent staining when exposed to liquids like wine, vinegar, tea, lemon juice, and soda, or fruits and vegetables, it’s important to wipe up spills immediately—before they have a chance to dry. Take care of fresh messes with mild dishwashing detergent and a soft cloth. For dried spills or heavy stains, your best bet is a glass or surface cleaner, a nonabrasive sponge (sponges designed for nonstick pans are safe and effective), and a little elbow grease. Keep a plastic putty knife handy to gently scrape off gum, food, nail polish, paint, or other messes that harden as they dry.

How to Clean Quartz Countertops

Photo: istockphoto.com

Should you find yourself confronting a particularly sticky situation, your stain-busting might require a couple of extra tools.

• Remove cooking grease. If dinner was great but the counter took a beating, use a degreasing product that will first loosen then remove the grease from the surface. Follow the cleanser manufacturer’s instructions for use.

• Erase permanent markers. Permanent markers are supposed to be, well…permanent. When the kids get creative, make sure your counters are protected from their artistry by first putting down placemats or kraft paper, so the only thing they leave behind is a happy memory. Should you find an ink or permanent marker stain after craft time, moisten a cloth with Goo Gone or a comparable product, and rub it into the stain. Rinse thoroughly with warm water to remove any cleanser residue.

 

DEEP CLEANING

Daily wiping and attention to spills and messes will satisfy your countertop’s basic daily maintenance requirements. But experts also recommend an overall deeper general cleaning at regular intervals. For best results, spray a generous amount of a nonabrasive surface cleaner over your countertop and let it sit for 10 minutes. Wipe away with a non-scratch sponge.

 

AVOID AT ALL COSTS

When it comes to care and maintenance of quartz countertops, the dos are easy and straightforward: Wipe clean with a damp cloth. Use a mild nonabrasive detergent soap for deep cleaning. Simple, right? Preserving your counter’s integrity and appeal is more about adhering to the list of don’ts.

Abrasives and Acid or Alkaline Cleaners
For starters, never use abrasive cleansers and avoid scouring pads, which can dull the surface. Fortunately, soapy water will usually do the trick. If you need a gentle cleanser with a little more oomph to remove surface stains, make sure it is specifically designed for use on quartz.

Beware, too, of harsh cleaning solutions at both ends of the pH spectrum. Culprits include products from nail polish remover and turpentine to drain cleaner and dishwasher rinsing agents. Whether highly acidic or highly alkaline, those chemicals can disintegrate the bonds between quartz and resin. Quartz will tolerate casual exposure to milder alkaline solutions, such as diluted bleach, but high-pH substances, such as oven cleaners and concentrated bleach, will damage the surface. If any of the substances mentioned above come into contact with your quartz countertop, rinse the exposed surface immediately and thoroughly with water.

Extreme Heat
Trivets and hot pads are your quartz countertop’s best friends. Though the material is heat- and scorch-resistant, the resin used in manufacturing quartz countertops is a plastic and therefore prone to melting in heat above 300 degrees Fahrenheit. A sudden change in temperature or prolonged exposure to heat from a pan left on the countertop may even cause the quartz to crack. To be safe, always use a trivet or hot pad.

Slicing or Dicing Without a Cutting Board
Quartz is a hard surface, but not hard enough to withstand the effects of sharp objects like knives. So, slice and dice to your heart’s content, but make sure to do it on a cutting board to avoid ugly scratches on your quartz countertops.

The Elements
Quartz is not the right choice for an outdoor kitchen. If you install it outdoors, you do so at your own risk, as all manufacturer warranties cover indoor use only. Day after day in direct sunlight will fade colors and lead to warping or splitting.

Combining the best of authenticity and ingenuity, quartz is truly the rock of all ages. Be kind to your quartz countertops with regular attention and cleaning, and they will give you a lifetime of pleasure!

 

How to Clean Quartz Countertops

Photo: istockphoto.com


Solved! What to Do About a Sewage Smell in the Bathroom

Bathroom odors are a dime a dozen, but when you’ve got one that lingers for days, you should try for a DIY repair. Follow these steps to stamp out the sewer smell—and breathe easy.

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Q: I’ve noticed a rotten smell coming from my bathroom lately and can’t figure out the source. Do you have any idea what could be causing this lingering odor and how I can get rid of it?

A: Sewer smells in your bathroom can result from a few different issues, so you’ll need to spend a bit of time in the room to sniff out the source. Once you’ve identified where the odor is coming from, the fix will probably be easy for you to tackle on your own. It’s smart of you to address the offensive odor sooner rather than later, though: In some cases, inhalation of high levels of sewer gas can lead to a host of health problems. Prolonged exposure to sewer gases can cause nausea, dizziness, and, in the case of hydrogen sulfide poisoning, even fatality, and extreme buildup can trigger an explosion. What’s more, airborne pathogens can creep in when the seal that keeps out sewer gases has been breached, leaving you vulnerable to sewer-dwelling germs. Before you start sniffing around, slip on a painter’s mask so you don’t breathe in toxic fumes, and then take things step by step.

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Photo: istockphoto.com

First, check for clogs. This is the fastest problem to fix, because all you’ll need is a bottle of drain cleaner from the supermarket or hardware store. Pour it down the shower and sink drains to eliminate any gunk that may have built up in the pipes and caused the stink. Carefully follow the instructions on the packaging, and make sure you wait the requisite amount of time before you flush the drains with water. If the odor disappears after a day or two, then congrats! You’re good to go.

If the problem persists, look for leaks in your sink plumbing. Check for standing water on the floor or cabinet base beneath the U-shaped pipe (the P-trap) under the sink. Also, run your hand along the length of the pipe to detect any moisture. Dampness in either location is a sure sign of a leak.

Normally, a small amount of water collects inside the P-trap, even when it’s not in use, capturing sewer gases that would otherwise sneak up through the drain opening. But if the water in the P-trap dribbles out and leaves the interior of the pipe dry, those gases will escape and linger in the air. When that happens, it’s probably because the washers have corroded and created a small breach. If that’s the case, you should be able to replace them and reinforce your work with caulk or plumber’s tape to ensure a good seal.

Call in a pro for inspection. Unfortunately, if your drains are clear and your P-trap isn’t in need of repair, you’ll probably have to hire a plumber. It could be that there’s a broken wax ring where the toilet meets the floor—a situation that you can detect by observing how much water remains in the bowl between uses. If there isn’t sufficient water for a flush, you could very well have a leaky seal that has unsettled your commode and let sewer gas seep into the room—both unsanitary and unsafe. Alternatively, clogged or incorrectly installed vent pipes could be the culprits. These pipes conduct sewer gases out of your home, and fixing them would require specialized equipment and a trip up to the roof. If the vent pipes are involved, tracking down the source of the odor and remedying the problem is a job best left to a professional.


5 Even Easier Fixes for Household Problems—All in 1 Innovative Can

Finally, you can put the power of WD-40 to use in even the most awkward and annoyingly tight spaces, thanks to the long, flexible applicator of the product's new can.

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WD-40 EZ-REACH Fixes Stuck Plumbing Joints Faster

Photo: wd40.com

An essential at job sites, in workshops, and on garage shelves for more than 60 years, WD-40® Multi-Use Product has earned the trust of do-it-yourselfers by solving hundreds of problems in both household and professional settings. It works to un-stick, un-gunk, and protect virtually any item that has moving parts. Yet, while its multitasking formula and short, stiff applicator consistently delivered positive results, success still required very precise aim on the DIYer’s part and often necessitated stooping, twisting, or reaching awkwardly around. The product’s latest packaging, however, makes the go-to fixit a whole lot easier to use on a wide variety of projects.

Fear not: The formula you’ve long relied on for repairs at home and at work remains the same. But now, the brand-new flexible straw on WD-40 EZ-REACH™ enables you to apply the tried-and-true solution in tight or inconvenient spots without having to twist yourself into a pretzel to get it where it needs to go. Using just two fingers, you can easily shape and reshape the eight-inch applicator into any angle, curve, or hook necessary to lubricate hard-to-reach cracks and crevices. The new straw can reach around corners, maneuver between staggered fan blades, and even arch over tall items to spray WD-40 exactly where you need it, providing greater precision with less time and effort than ever before. No more creaks. No more squeaks. No more frozen push buttons or pulleys. No more wasted product.

Stock up, and say goodbye to scraped knuckles! We’ve rounded up five handy ways that the new flexible applicator on WD-40 EZ-REACH™ can make daily DIY projects and repairs a cinch.

 

Use WD-40 EZ-REACH to Loosen Sink Plumbing

Photo: istockphoto.com

Loosen Under-Sink Plumbing Connections
No need to scoot about and twist yourself into knots under the sink just to fix a clogged trap. With a can of WD-40 EZ-REACH™ in your arsenal of tools, you can lubricate the entire circumference of a stuck galvanized or metal plumbing joint by contorting your spray nozzle, not yourself. Simply twist and reshape the metal flex straw to hook around the back and sides of the connections. Saturate the joint thoroughly and give it a few minutes to work its magic before using a pipe wrench or water pump pliers to twist the connections loose.

 

Use WD-40 EZ-REACH to Clean Mower Blades

Photo: istockphoto.com

Keep Mower Blades Clean and Sharp
Savvy homeowners and professional landscapers alike know that clean lawn-mower blades create sharper cuts than dull, gunked-up ones—and already entrust WD-40® with keeping their mower blades cleaner for longer amounts of time. They’ve seen for themselves how the go-to lubricant makes it easier for grass clippings to slide off rather than stick during the job. But tipping the mower on its side after each run to remove the blade and apply a coat of WD-40® isn’t easy. With WD-40 EZ-REACH™, however, you’ll spend less time underneath the machine because it’s so much easier to reach behind the blade. Just bend the flex straw upward to direct the spray toward the blade and the undercarriage to help keep grass from sticking and limit hard grass deposits.

 

Use WD-40 EZ-REACH to Repair Noisy HVAC Fans

Photo: istockphoto.com

Repair Noisy HVAC Fans
Shrill squeals every time the AC kicks on can drive you up the wall, especially when the ductwork carries that annoying sound throughout the house. With a little WD-40®, however, you can lubricate the HVAC blower fan assembly and achieve blissful peace and quiet. Before you tackle this repair, first turn off the breaker to the HVAC unit. Remove the cover from the squirrel cage fan, then bend the straw of the WD-40 EZ-REACH™ can to aim between the fins. Thanks to the straw’s pliable length, you’ll be able to easily and directly spray the shaft to help silence the squeaking.

 

Use WD-40 EZ-REACH to Preserve Garage Door Opener

Photo: istockphoto.com

Extend the Life of Your Garage Door Opener
Over time, corrosion causes garage door opener chains to bind, putting unnecessary stress on the motor—enough to potentially cut its life short. Spare yourself the inconvenience and expense of replacement by preserving your current machine with a yearly application of lubricant. With the garage door closed, climb a step stool or ladder and let the hooked straw of WD-40 EZ-REACH™ provide just the boost needed to spray the opener hinges, pulleys, and tracks. You’ll want to coat the entire length of the track, from the door to the opener. The lubricant will cut friction, and ultimately extend the life of your garage door opener.

 

Use WD-40 EZ-REACH to Lubricate Stuck Doors

Photo: istockphoto.com

Slide Closet Doors with Ease
You probably already reach for WD-40® when it’s time to silence a squeaky door hinge, but did you know that you can also ease the motion of a sliding closet door, thanks to the new and improved applicator on WD-40 EZ-REACH™? With the door in its open position, bend the straw to reach above the wheel assembly, which is tucked between the top of the door and the trim. Lubricate the bottom tracks at the same time. While you’re at it, carry the can over to any pocket doors to smooth out the movement along their tracks in the same manner.

Save yourself the hassle of any of these five home improvements by purchasing WD-40 EZ-REACH™ today.

 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of WD-40. The opinions and text are all mine.


Buyers’ Guide: Power Hedge Trimmers

Find the right tool to tame your shrubs and keep your landscape looking sharp.

SHARES
Best Power Hedge Trimmers

Photo: istockphoto.com

The shape and tidiness of your shrubs is a crucial component of curb appeal. Whether you’ve got a densely landscaped plot with all manner of hedges and trees or a simple series of bushes lining the perimeter, regular upkeep is critical. Luckily, with today’s power trimmers it’s easy to groom that growth like a pro, saving you the cost of hiring a gardener. We’ve got the lowdown on the different types of tools and the most highly recommended models to help you pick the best hedge trimmer for your property’s needs.

Find your type. You’ve got two options: gas and electric. The one you choose will be based on how much power and portability you’re after.

• Gas-powered hedge trimmers. These tough tools, which generally require both oil and gas to run properly, tend to work harder than their electric counterparts. The downside to more power is weight: Gas hedge trimmers may be more than 10 pounds, making it a challenge to reach up and around tall shrubbery.

• Electric-powered hedge trimmers. While they don’t provide quite as much oomph as gas-juiced models, electric trimmers are usually lighter, making them easier to wield at chest height or higher. Lower-priced corded models offer uninterrupted use but less mobility because they’re plugged into an outlet—a problem for larger yards. Battery-powered trimmers mean total freedom of movement, though you must recharge or replace batteries regularly.

Choose a cut above the rest. Another factor to consider is how big of a branch the trimmer can tackle. Most slice through branches up to ½-inch thick, while more powerful models can usually handle up to an inch in diameter. Check the size of the gap between the blade’s teeth; the greater the gap, the higher the cutting capacity. A majority of trimmers have a gap between ⅜ to ¾ of an inch to manage common hedges cleanly.

 

THE BEST BETS

So what really makes the cut? Here’s what reviewers—everyone from the experts who tested selections out in their laboratories to the consumers who have added these power landscaping tools to their collections—said about today’s top models.

 

Stihl  HSA 66 Hedge Trimmer

Photo: stihlusa.com

HSA 66 Stihl Lithium-Ion Hedge Trimmer ($220)
“This machine is a brute,” declared the no-nonsense team at Popular Mechanics, which ranked it best overall in a recent challenge. “It cuts with a vengeance, and it’s got incredible longevity. You’ll get tired before this trimmer will.” That may be due to its weight, since the HSA 66 clocks in at a decidedly hefty 8.7 pounds with an AP 100 battery—or 10.4 pounds, if you purchase the model with an AP 300 battery. With the extra weight comes as much muscle as a gas-powered trimmer: A 20-inch dual-sided blade cleanly cuts through shrubbery at 3,000 strokes per minute, and the 36-volt lithium-ion battery allows the machine to work with no added fuel costs, power cords, or exhaust emissions. Thanks to an energy-efficient design, the Stihl HSA 66 has an impressive run time, never slowing down until you completely deplete the power. The hedge trimmer retails for around $220, depending on the dealer. Note that the battery and charger are sold separately. Available at authorized Stihl dealers.

 

Echo SHC 225S Hedge Trimmer

Photo: homedepot.com

Echo SHC 225S Gas Hedge Trimmer ($359)
Earning high marks from Home Depot shoppers, this ruthless gas-powered trimmer boasts a 20-inch shaft and double-sided, double-reciprocating razor-edge blades. The high-capacity 21.2 cc power boost vortex engine can easily conquer large hedge growth, with a maximum cut diameter of 0.5 inches. This trimmer also boasts a 1-inch blade length and fuel tank capacity of 14.9 oz. Features like hand grips and vibration control create added comfort, which almost makes up for the trimmer’s heavy weight of 13.7 pounds. Available at The Home Depot.

 

Black & Decker Hedge Trimmer

Photo: lowes.com

Black & Decker TR117 Corded Electric Hedge Trimmer ($35)
For a reliable budget option, consider this runaway favorite of Lowe’s customers, which earned an almost-perfect 4.5-star average from more than one hundred users. The corded electric trimmer spans 17 inches in length and tackles branches up to ⅝ inches thick. Its 3.2 amp motor stands up to moderate jobs, with the help of a rust-resistant and dual-action stainless steel blade that remains sharp for an extended length of time. Additional features include a lock-off switch (so you don’t need to worry about accidentally starting the engine) and cord retention. The trimmer’s light weight of 4.3 pounds makes it a breeze to pilot around bushes, and the compact design gives off minimal vibration. Priced under $50, this trimmer is both cost-effective and efficient. Available at Lowe’s.

 

Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from BobVila.com
With fair weather having arrived finally, it’s time to turn your home improvement efforts to the backyard and your deck, porch, or patio—the parts of the home built specifically to enjoy the extra hours of sunlight. Guided by these practical pointers and inspiring ideas, you can introduce beauty, comfort, and utility to your backyard and outdoor living areas, making them as inviting and enjoyable as your home interiors.