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Quick Tip: Scrub Your Tub with… Grapefruit?

If you love grapefruit, here's one more reason to keep the sweet citrus amply stocked in your kitchen.

Clean Your Bathtub with Grapefruit

Photo: shutterstock.com

The Natural Alternative

Is a grapefruit going to leave your tub any cleaner than a commercial cleaner would? Probably not. So if you've already got a solution that works for you—and which you don't mind using—stop reading now. Just keep this in mind: Cleaning doesn't have to be a noxious affair. Few people truly enjoy scrubbing, but such chores can be slightly more palatable if you insist on using cleaners that do not irritate your skin or make it hard to breathe normally. Yes, in some particularly sticky situations, your best bet is likely going to be a potent, lab-formulated commercial cleaner. But for everyday cleaning, why not go a little easier on yourself?

There are plenty of housekeeping jobs that people put off. And as opposed to a task like clearing the gutters, there are few risks tied to not cleaning the bathtub. But it’s only a matter of time before you finally tackle the tub, with all its nasty soap scum and mineral buildup. When that day comes, you have no shortage of options, from potent store-bought cleaning agents to milder, all-natural alternatives. Surprising though it may seem, one method gives you the best of both worlds: It’s not only an effective cleaner, but it’s also pleasant to work with. Yes, it’s grapefruit. We’re used to hearing about all the many wonderful things you can do with lemons, but this time it’s a different citrus fruit that not only fights stains and germs, but also imparts a genuinely fresh, invigorating scent in the process.

Clean Your Bathtub with Grapefruit - Tub Closeup

Photo: shutterstock.com

Depending on the size of your tub and the condition it’s in, you may need more than one grapefruit. But in any case, start by cutting one decently sized grapefruit in half. Next, coat the flesh of each half with a generous helping of salt. The salt works as abrasive that allows the fruit’s acidity to penetrate more deeply.

Now run the shower or bath for about thirty seconds, or for as long as necessary to dampen the full length of the tub. Once it’s wet, sprinkle additional salt over the area. You’re now ready to begin scrubbing. Apply the grapefruit directly to the tub, and as you go, be sure to squeeze the fruit gently to release its juice.

The most satisfying results come when the grapefruit juice and salt work in tandem, so add salt or switch to a new grapefruit half whenever you need to. For any particularly stubborn areas of residue, try scrubbing, not with the flesh of the fruit, but with its rind. Oh, and don’t forget to give some attention to the fixtures!

Once finished, simply run the water to rinse away the leftover juice, pulp, and salt. To wipe down the shower head, valve, tub spout and drain, use a clean cotton or microfiber cloth. That’s it—all clean, right?

Of course, it would be silly to keep grapefruit in your house all year round simply in order to clean the bathroom. Rather than base your bathroom cleaning schedule around trips to the grocery store, you can prepare a grapefruit cleaning paste that’s easy to keep on hand in all seasons. Here’s how to make a small batch (double or quadruple the recipe, if it’s grapefruit season and you can purchase the fruit at low cost).

1. Halve the grapefruit and squeeze the from each half until you have a half-cup of liquid. Remove seeds.

2. Add one and a half cup of salt to the liquid, then stir until the ingredients are combined.

3. Transfer the paste to an airtight container.

The next time you wish to clean the tub, apply the paste to a clean cloth and then scrub the entire tub, including the fixtures, washing or wiping away the grapefruit-and-salt remnants once you’re finished.

Bob Vila Radio: Is MDF Better Than Plywood?

For many carpentry projects, medium-density fiberboard is the most affordable and user-friendly among affordable yet high-performing wood products.

Medium-density fiberboard, MDF for short, can be a cheaper, more stable alternative to plywood, if used in the right way.

Medium Density Fiberboard

Photo: shutterstock.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON MEDIUM-DENSITY FIBERBOARD or read the text below:

MDF is made from wood scraps that are broken down into fine fibers, mixed with a binder such as glue, then formed into sheets. Most home centers carry four-by-eight-foot sheets, usually one-half or three-quarters of an inch thick.

MDF offers many benefits. First, it’s a bit less expensive than plywood. Second, it holds its shape, so you can use it for shelving, cabinets, trim and moulding. But since it doesn’t like moisture, it’s best used in indoor projects.

One important caveat: MDF contains formaldehyde, a suspected carcinogen. Wear a respirator when cutting it. And be aware that until it’s properly sealed with paint or urethane, the material continues to off-gas.

That being said, if you take proper precautions when working with it, MDF can save you money and reward you with good results.

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.

Bob Vila’s $3,000 Entertainment Furniture Give-Away—Week 2 Starts Now!

Enter to win a home theater cabinet or bar, courtesy of BDI!

$3,000 Entertainment Furniture Give-Away

You have one more chance this month to make your home the ultimate gathering spot! Look to your own living room the next time you want to catch a movie or have a beer with family and friends. With the right amenities, you’ll have everything you need to keep your favorite crowd entertained. Who needs a night out when your house has the best in home entertainment luxuries? With that in mind, we teamed up with BDI to help you transform your home into a relaxing winter retreat. Our sweepstakes winner will receive $3,000 worth of furniture! The best part? You can pick your own prize—choose between a home theater cabinet or a spacious minibar.


BDI, an industry leader in modern furniture, works to make beautiful, functional pieces accessible to everyone. Their love for interior design is reflected in each piece of furniture they create—right down to the packaging that protects their products.

Tailored to fit today’s technology, the Corridor® 8179 home theater cabinet has four roomy compartments to accommodate a range of speaker sizes, players, and accessories. You shouldn’t have to choose between beauty and function—and with BDI’s home entertainment furniture, you won’t have to.

Behind solid walnut or oak doors, speaker audio and remote signal access are able to pass through the unit without any quality loss. Have a wiring issue or need to swap out your cable box? The hidden wheels let you roll the unit away from the wall for easy access to cables and connections.

Bob Vila's $3,000 Entertainment Furniture Give-Away - Corridor Home Theater
Photo: bdiusa.com

The spacious Corridor® Bar features a 12-bottle wine rack, in-door liquor storage, a wooden stemware rack for glasses and shelves to keep tumblers, mixers, and bar extras organized. Everything is concealed behind two louvered doors—the signature design feature of the Corridor® collection—while the the bar’s black glass top is the perfect space to whip up your favorite cocktails.

Bob Vila's $3,000 Entertainment Furniture Give-Away - Corridor Bar
Photo: bdiusa.com

ENTER TODAY and every day this month to win your choice of Corridor® entertainment furniture from BDI!

Bob Vila’s Give-Away is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. The Contest Period will last from noon EST Saturday, February 14, 2015 through 11:59 a.m. EST Saturday, February 28, 2015. One entry per household per day on BobVila.com. Alternative means of entry for Drawing is available by faxing your name and address to 508-437-8486 during the applicable Entry Period. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. By entering, all entrants agree to the Official Rules.

Official Rules: Bob Vila’s 2nd $3,000 Entertainment Furniture Give-Away

Bob Vila’s “$3,000 Entertainment Furniture Give-Away” (the “Sweepstakes”) is sponsored by BobVila.com, LLC, Post Office Box 835, West Barnstable, MA 02668 (“Sponsor”). The Sweepstakes consists of one (1) drawing. The Sweepstakes Period will begin February 14, 2015 at 12 PM EST and last until February 28, 2015 at 11:59 AM EST. At the end of the Entry Period, there will be one (1) drawings in which one (1) potential winner (“Winner”) shall be selected from all eligible entries received for each prize available during that Entry Period by employees or representatives of the Sponsor to receive the prize designated for the Drawing for that Entry Period. The winning entry will be chosen at random. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. MAKING A PURCHASE DOES NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. ODDS OF WINNING WILL DEPEND ON THE TOTAL NUMBER OF ENTRIES RECEIVED. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. ONLINE ENTRY ONLY AND INTERNET CONNECTION REQUIRED. AFFIDAVIT OF ELIGIBILITY AND RELEASE OF LIABILITY FORM MAY BE REQUIRED.

Open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of all fifty states and the District of Columbia. Void in all other geographic locations. Employees of Sponsor and its respective parents, affiliates, subsidiaries, and advertising and promotion agencies and any other entity involved in the development or administration of this Sweepstakes, and their immediate family members or household members are not eligible to participate in or win the Sweepstakes. Sponsor reserves the right to disqualify any person who fails to meet the eligibility requirements or any person it determines, in its sole discretion, to be sufficiently connected with the Sweepstakes such that such person’s participation could create the appearance of impropriety. Entries generated by script, macro or other automated means are void, and Sponsor expressly reserves the right to disqualify any entries that it believes in good faith are generated by an automated program or via scripts. Entries that are determined, in the sole discretion of the Sponsor to constitute advertisements, commercial messages, or “spam” will be disqualified and deleted.

Void where prohibited by law. All applicable federal, state and local laws apply. No purchase is necessary to participate in the Sweepstakes. You may enter any given Drawing one (1) time per household per day by visiting the BOB VILA website at http://www.bobvila.com and submit your name and email address using the online “$3,000 Entertainment Furniture Give-Away” submission form. Each entry submitted in response to a Drawing and in accordance with the Official Rules will constitute an official entry. Duplicate entries submitted through either method within one day will be deemed void. If you do not have internet access, alternative means of entry for each Drawing is available by faxing your name, address and phone number to the Sponsor at 508-437-8486 during the applicable Entry Period. One (1) alternative entry per household per day. Any additional entries submitted via fax within one day will be deemed void. Entries received after the end of the Sweepstakes Period will be deemed void. Normal time, toll, connection and usage rates, if any, charged by your Internet service provider will apply.

All entries become the property of the Sponsor. By entering any Drawing during the Sweepstakes, you will be agreeing that any information collected in connection with the Sweepstakes may be used by Sponsor in accordance with BobVila.com, LLC’s Privacy Policy, a current copy of which can be found here. By participating, all entrants agree to abide by these Official Rules. The number of eligible entries received during the Entry Periods for a Drawing determines the odds of winning for that Drawing. The Sweepstakes will be conducted under the supervision of the Sponsor. If the Winner is determined to be ineligible, forfeits or does not claim the prize, the prize will be re-awarded, in Sponsor’s sole discretion based on a subsequent drawing from the pool of eligible entries. Other restrictions may apply. Decisions of the Sponsor are final and binding with respect to all matters related to the Sweepstakes.

All prizes (or in the event of a lost, misdirected, or otherwise unavailable prize, a prize of equivalent value) will be awarded. In no event shall the Sponsor be obligated to award more prizes than the number of prizes stated in these Official Rules. Winner shall be responsible and liable for all federal, state and local taxes on the value of their prize. To receive a complete list of winners or a copy of the Official Rules, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Prize Fulfillment, BobVila.com, LLC, PO Box 835 Barnstable, MA 02668. Specify winner’s list or rules on your request.

The Winner will be notified by email, or in the case of alternate entry, by phone; Sponsor reserves the right to determine the method of notification. Winners must claim their respective prize within twenty-four (24) hours after the date of notification of their prize. A Winner’s failure to respond to the prize notification within the specified twenty-four (24) hours will be considered such Winner’s forfeiture of the prize and an alternate Winner may be selected from the pool of eligible entries. If an entrant is found to be ineligible, an alternate Winner may also be selected from the pool of eligible entries. Sponsor reserves the right to ship prizes directly to the mailing and/or email address (as applicable) provided by Winners during their entry to the Drawings.

The prize for the Drawing shall be one (1) of four (4) prizes (BDI Corridor Home Bar 5620 in either Chocolate Stained Walnut Finish or White Oak Finish and the BDI Corridor 8179 in either Chocolate Stained Walnut Finish or White Oak Finish) offered by BDI. No transfer, substitution or cash redemption will be awarded in lieu of Prize. Limit one prizes per winning entrant per Entry Period. Prizes shall be delivered within 30 days from end of the Sweepstakes Period. An entrant or winner may be disqualified from the Sweepstakes, and his or her entry may be deleted, if he or she fails to comply with each provision of these Official Rules, as determined in the sole discretion of the Sponsor. Participation in the Sweepstakes is at entrant’s own risk.

Sponsor shall not be liable for (1) failed, returned or misdirected notifications based on inaccurate information provided by the winner on the Drawings entry forms, (2) entries and responses to winner notifications which are lost, late, incomplete, illegible, unintelligible, postage-due, misdirected, damaged or otherwise not received by the intended recipient in whole or in part or for computer or technical error of any kind, (3) any electronic miscommunications or failures, technical hardware or software failures of any kind, lost or unavailable network connections, or failed incomplete, garbled or delayed computer transmissions which may limit an entrant’s ability to participate in part or wholly in the Sweepstakes, (4) any technical malfunctions of the telephone network, computer on-line system, computer equipment, software, program malfunctions or other failures, delayed computer transactions or network connections that are human, mechanical or technical in nature, or any combination thereof, including any injury or damage to entrant’s or any other person’s computer related to or resulting from downloading any part of this Sweepstakes or (5) any warranty of fitness or merchantability of any prize or the function or operation thereof, which shall be the sole responsibility of the manufacturer of the prize.

Sponsor does not make any, and hereby disclaims any and all, representations or warranties of any kind regarding any prize. Unless prohibited by applicable law, your entry constitutes your permission to use your name, photograph, likeness, voice, address (city and state) and testimonials in all media, in perpetuity, in any manner Sponsor deems appropriate for publicity purposes without any further compensation to such entrant. By entering or accepting a prize in the Sweepstakes, Winners agree to be bound by these Official Rules and to conform to all federal, state and local laws and regulations. When applicable, the Winner (or, if the Winner is a minor, the Winner’s parent or legal guardian) may be required to execute and return to Sponsor within three (3) business days an Affidavit of Eligibility, a Liability and Publicity Release and relevant tax forms to be eligible for the prize or an alternate winner may be selected. Winner may be required to furnish proof of identity, address and birth date in order to receive a prize.

By entering, an entrant agrees to indemnify, release and hold harmless Sponsor and each of its respective parents, subsidiaries and affiliated entities, directors, officers, employees, attorneys, agents, and representatives (collectively, the “Released Parties”) from any damage, injury, death, loss, claim, action, demand, or other liability (collectively, “Claims”) that may arise from their acceptance, possession and/or use of any prize or their participation in the Sweepstakes, or from any misuse or malfunction of any prize awarded, regardless of whether such Claims, or knowledge of the facts constituting such Claims, exist at the time of entry or arise at any time thereafter. Released Parties are not responsible or liable to any entrant or to any Winner or any person claiming through such Winner for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action, regulation, order or request by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action, regulations, order or request proves to be invalid), equipment failure, threatened terrorist acts, terrorist acts, air raid, blackout, act of public enemy, earthquake, war (declared or undeclared), fire, flood, epidemic, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal) labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond the Released Parties’ sole control.

The Released Parties are not responsible for: (1) any incorrect or inaccurate information, whether caused by entrants, printing, electronic or human errors or by any of the equipment or programming associated with or utilized in the Sweepstakes; (2) viruses or technical failures of any kind, including, but not limited to malfunctions, interruptions, or disconnections in phone lines or network hardware or software; failed, incorrect, incomplete, inaccurate, garbled or delayed electronic communications or entry information, any error, omission, interruption, deletion, defect, delay in operation or transmission, failures or technical malfunction of any computer online systems, servers, providers, computer equipment, software, email, players or browsers, whether on account of technical problems, traffic congestion on the Internet or at any website, or on account of any combination of the foregoing; (3) the unavailability or inaccessibility of any transmissions or telephone or Internet service; (4) unauthorized human intervention in any part of the entry process or the Sweepstakes; (5) technical or human error which may occur in the administration of the Sweepstakes or the processing of entries; (6) any injury or damage to persons or property which may be caused, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, from entrant’s participation in the Sweepstakes or receipt or use or misuse of any prize; or (7) late, lost, misdirected, illegible, incomplete or mutilated entries or for theft, destruction or unauthorized access to, or alteration of entries. These indemnification and release provisions shall survive expiration of the Sweepstakes.

Persons found tampering with, abusing, or otherwise disrupting any aspect of this Sweepstakes, or otherwise attempting to defraud Sponsor, as solely determined by Sponsor, will be disqualified and their entries will be deleted. If disqualified, Sponsor reserves the right to terminate the entrant’s eligibility to further participate in this Sweepstakes and future promotions and sweepstakes of Sponsor or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates. Any attempt by an entrant or any other individual to undermine the legitimate operation of this Sweepstakes may be a violation of criminal and civil laws. Should such an attempt be made, sponsor reserves the right to seek damages from any such person to the fullest extent permitted by law. This Sweepstakes is strictly for promotional and entertainment purposes and may not be used in connection with any form of gambling. In the event this Sweepstakes is challenged by any legal or regulatory authority, Sponsor reserves the right to terminate the Sweepstakes, or to disqualify entrants residing in the affected geographic areas. In such event, the Sponsor shall have no liability to any entrants who are disqualified due to such an action.

Sponsor reserves the right to modify these Official Rules in any way or at any time. Sponsor reserves the right, in their sole discretion, to cancel or suspend this Sweepstakes should viruses, bugs or other causes beyond their control corrupt the administration, security or proper play of the Sweepstakes. In the event any portion of this Sweepstakes is compromised by any non-authorized human intervention, actions of entrants, or other causes beyond the control of Sponsor which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, corrupt or impair the integrity, administration, security, or operation of this Sweepstakes, Sponsor reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to suspend, modify, abbreviate or terminate the Sweepstakes without further obligation.

If Sponsor elects to abbreviate the Sweepstakes, Winner(s) will be determined from all eligible entries received for Drawing(s) prior to the action or compromise giving rise to the suspension or termination of this Sweepstakes. In the event of cancellation, abbreviation or suspension, Sponsor shall promptly post a notice on the Sweepstakes entry page to such effect. This Sweepstakes shall be governed by New York law. By participating in this Sweepstakes entrants agree that New York courts shall have jurisdiction over any dispute or litigation arising from or relating to this Sweepstakes and that venue shall be only in New York City, New York. The failure to exercise or enforce any right or provision of these Official Rules shall not constitute a waiver of such right or provision. If any part of these Official Rules is held by a court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid or unenforceable, that part will be enforced to the maximum extent permitted by law, and the remainder of these Official Rules will remain fully in force.

The Designers Who Move In, Remodel, and Leave Houses Transformed

Jersey Ice Cream Co. designs homes instead of serving up frosty treats, but there's something satisfyingly sweet about the way they renovate their lived-in homes.

Jersey Ice Cream Co - Tara and Percy

Photo: jerseyicecreamco.com

Meet Tara Mangini and Percy Bright, the brains, braun, and creative force behind a truly unique home remodeling company, Jersey Ice Cream Co. This duo’s impressive renovations are a sight to behold, but equally impressive is their design process. Consider them the method actors of home remodelers: They actually move into their remodels, and by living there, they ultimately discover what each house needs and how they should look. It means living in an active constructive site, but the results speak for themselves. They spoke to us about their company and being able to work at their dream jobs.

The reason we started doing what we do is…

When this whole thing got started, we were both in that murky mid-twenties stage where we thought “What am I going to do with my life?” We met while Percy was in the midst of renovating his house in Philadelphia. Almost simultaneously, we completely fell for each other, and started working together to design, furnish, and decorate his house. While looking for furniture, we talked about starting an Etsy shop, selling at flea markets, and hopefully one day expanding into design. At the time, Tara was waiting tables and the thought of any of that coming to fruition was beyond belief. The fact that 5 years later all of those dreams have come true, is just an utterly mind-blowing blessing.

Jersey Ice Cream Co - Breakfast Nook

Photo: jerseyicecreamco.com

Our renovation process could be described as…

An organic evolution. We get asked so often how we decided on a paint color or a wall finish or a piece of furniture. And the honest (and usually unhelpful) answer is that we let the project evolve and listened to our guts along the way. Sometimes an unexpected vintage find will totally change our initial thoughts for a space. Sometimes randomly moving a couch will give us a new perspective for a room layout. Living in the space gives us a real understanding for what is needed, and we let our inclinations guide us. I love that our final design feels like a discovery, a surprise, a solution—even to us.

The thing we love most about renovating houses is…

Truly, there are so many things we love about our job, but there are these little moments. Maybe it’s stepping back to really admire something we just finished, maybe it’s that feeling when something suddenly clicks and you realize everything will make sense if you move a doorway, or go with dark plaster instead of light. It could really be anything, but when it happens I feel completely overwhelmed with a feeling of “This is why we do this.” It doesn’t happen everyday, sometimes it doesn’t happen for months. But when we get that feeling we know we’re doing something right.

Jersey Ice Cream Co - Vintage Kitchen

Photo: jerseyicecreamco.com

Our first jobs were…

Renovating and designing Percy’s house in Philadelphia was our first job. It was the best kind of job because we were our own client and we had the freedom to do whatever we wanted. It really allowed us to develop confidence in our work and our style. From there we did a few small jobs, but our first real official “can you believe this is happening to us?!” job was the house at Shipley Corner. We had a little section on our website at the time about what our dream job would be. All we wanted was for someone to give us a budget, some keys to a house and the freedom to do whatever we wanted with it. When someone emailed to say that wanted to hire us to do just that, we totally lost our minds. It’s been non-stop since then.

Our main sources of inspiration are…

Though we look at blogs and Instagram and things like that for inspiration, I think more of our inspiration comes from the world around us. Details on old barns, the paint color of a restaurant, a scene from a movie. It can get really overwhelming scouring through Pinterest and ideas that seem fresh start to look repetitive and stale. I find the farther away I stay from a computer while we’re working, the better.

Jersey Ice Cream Co - Wood Paneled Room

Photo: jerseyicecreamco.com

The most challenging thing about our work is…

One main challenge is that we don’t really have a home base. We live where we work, so we have no actual apartment or house of our own. At times, it’s very freeing, but naturally there are moments when I wish we could go home to a place where we live, with our things, in a house that isn’t currently undergoing major construction. But it’s a choice. I’m sure one of these days we will get an apartment and pull our things out of storage and put dishes on shelves and clothes in dressers. And still, there is a part of me that thinks we’ll do that and discover we like being nomads more than we realized! So it’s a challenge, but also one of the things that keeps us from getting bored, so a mega bonus at the same time.

Jersey Ice Cream Co - Open Shelves

Photo: jerseyicecreamco.com

Our favorite part of the process is…

There is a lot of joy in the design process along the way, but nothing really beats the big client reveal. Usually we are running around frantically trying to make everything look perfect, and their knock on the door is like Christmas and getting an exam grade back combined. Our adrenaline is so high while they are walking through the house seeing everything for the first time. It’s a really exciting and really exhausting day.

Jersey Ice Cream Co - Exterior House

Photo: jerseyicecreamco.com

The story behind our name is…

We went up to the Brimfield Flea Market a few weeks into dating and stumbled across a booth with a bunch of old embossing stamps. I had never seen one before, but Percy explained how they worked, and I slipped a piece of paper in, stamped down, and there it was! Jersey Ice Cream Co! We joked that we would use that as the name of our business, and then, as all too often happens, that joke became real. We worried a bit about the confusion factor a few years ago, but stuck with it. I’m so glad we did.

Jersey Ice Cream Co - Bathroom

Photo: jerseyicecreamco.com

Our all-time favorite tools are…

Tara: My favorite has to be a paintbrush. There have been so many days, when I’m painting a porch, or a kitchen with the windows open, listening to music, maybe sipping on a late-afternoon cocktail when I think “I can’t believe I get paid to do this.”

Percy: I’d have to say my hammer. Not many days go by when I don’t use it for one reason or another, and you can’t go wrong with a classic, right?

Jersey Ice Cream Co - Rustic Dining Table

Photo: jerseyicecreamco.com

If you loved these pictures, find more—or set up a consultation—at Jersey Ice Cream Co.

Cabin of the Week: The Shack at Hinkle Farm

Built by an architect as a family retreat, a West Virginia cabin harkens back to a time when houses offered little more than shelter from the storm.

Shack at Hinkle Farm

Photo: broadhurstarchitects.com

Perched on South Fork Mountain in West Virginia, deep within a 27-acre site you can only reach on foot or with an off-road vehicle, there’s an uncomplicated cabin. Architect Jeffery Broadhurst built the place for his family and by his own description, it’s only a modest step up from tent camping. Here, there’s no electricity, and besides oil lamps and a wood stove, there are few creature comforts. There’s shelter from the elements, and a platform from which to admire the spectacular view.

Shack at Hinkle Farm - View

Photo: broadhurstarchitects.com

As noteworthy as the design may be, in all its refreshing simplicity, the cabin also impresses with its clever execution. Most obvious is the overheard garage door that completely opens up one side of the cabin to the outdoors. But there are smaller triumphs as well. For instance, a metal mesh rodent barrier—the kind used to protect local corn cribs—lines the underside of the floor. So even though a person can see the ground through gaps between floorboards, furry pests can’t get in.

Similarly ingenious is the makeshift plumbing system. Beneath the cabin and accessible by a trap door, there’s a large storage tank that feeds (by means of a marine bilge pump) a smaller distribution tank mounted to the ceiling. From there, gravity delivers water to the sink faucet in a tiny, tucked-away kitchen area.

Shack at Hinkle Farm - Wood Stove

Photo: broadhurstarchitects.com

Broadhurst built the cabin himself, with help from family, friends, and neighbors. The materials used are no different from what the average person would find on the shelves at his nearby home improvement retail store. Sitting atop a quartet of pressure-treated lumber posts, just as a backyard deck would, the cabin features board-and-batten wood siding and terne-coated metal roofing. Though plainly utilitarian, both elements lend a timeless look of elegant, enviable simplicity.

Shack at Hinkle Farm - Site

Photo: broadhurstarchitects.com

Is Your Tape Measure Obsolete? Maybe.

Thanks to compact, versatile, and accurate devices like this one, your once adequate measuring tape may soon be gathering cobwebs.

Bosch Laser Distance Measurer

Photo: boschtools.com

The measuring tape: It’s a tool of unobjectionable simplicity, no more or less complicated than it needs to be—for some measuring jobs. There are times, however, when the old standby reveals its limitations. For instance, if you’re measuring over a long distance, it can be a real pain to get an accurate reading, if it’s possible at all, without a second pair of hands. Similarly, if you’re taking multiple measurements, one after another, over and over, fiddling with the tape becomes tiresome.

Bosch Laser Distance Measurer - At Work

Photo: boschtools.com

For years, laser measuring tools have been used by those in the trades, but only somewhat recently has the technology come down enough in price to be attractive for handy homeowners. Now, for less than $100, you can use the same timesaving tool that many pros swear by. It’s no toy. Simply put, for all but the shortest distances, working with a so-called “laser tape” is faster and easier than the traditional alternative. And the digital tool is just as trustworthy as its analog forebear. One popular model, the Bosch DLR130K Digital Distance Measurer, exhibits accuracy down to 1/16 of an inch, even for distances as long as 130 feet.

Bosch Laser Distance Measurer - Floor

in aPhoto: boschtools.com

Weighing in at just about five ounces, the Bosch DLR130K fits conveniently in a pouch or pocket, making it easy to carry as you move around the job site. As portable as it may be, it’s also fully featured. Not only does it report distances, but the tool also conveniently calculates area and volume—in four systems (inches, feet and inches, decimal feet, and metric). Batteries are included with purchase, and that single set of AAAs can power approximately 30,000 measurements.


Purchase the Bosch DLR130K Digital Distance Measurer Kit, $89

Bob Vila Radio: Get the Right Recessed Lighting

Recessed lighting fixtures have one thing in common—they're all meant to be installed within the ceiling. Beyond that, however, recessed lights can behave in a variety of ways, each enabling you to achieve a different desired effect.

Whether you’re building a new home or remodeling the interior of an existing residence, recessed lighting offers to add both style and functionality to your digs.

Types of Recessed Lighting

Photo: zillow.com/digs

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Listen to BOB VILA ON RECESSED LIGHTING or read the text below:

But before you head to the home center, give some serious thought to exactly what you want to do with the lights. There are several different types of recessed lighting fixtures, and each has its own specific purpose.

For example, wall-washer fixtures flood walls with wide swaths of light, and when they’re positioned around the perimeter of a room, the walls appear to recede, making the room look more airy and inviting.

Narrow-beam adjustable lights, on the other hand, can be aimed at artwork to create dramatic effects. Installing them on the ceiling about a foot and a half from the wall usually gives good results.

Fixtures that have recessed reflectors put out the most light and are best for illuminating such things as a desk, a computer, or a favorite reading chair. Be careful, though. Make sure to position task lighting directly above, not to the side of, the target area; that way, you won’t get shadows from your head or shoulders.

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.

Warm Up Your Workspace with a Unit Heater

Tired of DIYing in the cold? Here's one way to bring a little bit of heat to your garage or workshop.

Unit Heaters

Photo: supplyhouse.com

If you spend time on projects in the garage, or if you’re lucky enough to enjoy a stand-alone workshop, chances are that you’re tired of wearing a winter jacket while working. Rather than put progress on hold as the temperature drops, why not make the area more comfortable? One cost-effective method would be to install a unit heater. Designed expressly for the purpose of introducing warmth to work spaces, unit heaters come in a range of sizes and styles, and can be powered by a variety of fuels. Most can be purchased for a reasonable up-front cost, are relatively easy to install and operate, and can provide you with years of reliable service.

According to Daniel O’Brian, a technical expert from online retailer SupplyHouse.com, “unit heaters are a good fit for large, open, unheated spaces.” While they are used quite often in commercial or industrial applications, “homeowners typically use them in shops, garages, or barns.” And because most models are meant to be mounted on the ceiling or to a wall, you don’t need to give up any square footage that could otherwise be devoted to, say, a grinding machine or a table saw.

Unit heaters are rated, like air conditioners, in terms of British thermal units, or BTUs. At SupplyHouse.com, which sells unit heaters from the leading brands, outputs range from a modest 15,900 BTUs to a whopping 400,000. Most residential applications call for a unit heater on the smaller end of the spectrum. For instance, 30,000 or 45,000 BTUs would suffice in a one-car garage, while in a three-car garage, a 100,000- or 125,000-BTU heater would be most appropriate.

Sizing a unit heater isn’t a slapdash matter. Make the wrong choice, and you end up uncomfortable or overspending, or both. Proper sizing, says O’Brian, “should be done with a full heat loss report,” which accounts for “the construction of the walls, floor, and ceiling, as well as the amount of insulation.” To arrive at a rough estimate, however, you can use a simple formula: After carefully measuring the space, find the approximate BTU rating needed by multiplying the room’s length times width times five (L x W x 5 = BTUs needed).

Photo: supplyhouse.com

For many handy homeowners, installing a unit heater can be a DIY project, but as there are likely to be relevant building codes, you may wish to at least consult with a professional. Plus, depending on the model you’ve chosen and the fuel type it uses, “wiring, exhaust venting, and gas and/or water lines may need to be taken into consideration,” O’Brian says. If your installation involves any elements with which you’re not experienced, it’s recommended that you seek out help from a pro.

When it comes to locating your unit heater, there’s a great deal of flexibility, particularly with natural gas-powered models. These can be placed virtually anywhere within the space—on the ceiling, on the wall, or on the floor—so long as there’s ventilation and access to both a gas line and electrical outlet (to power the blower). Meanwhile, electric, infrared, and hydronic unit heaters do not require ventilation, but they do need to be near an electrical outlet, and in some cases they do require a minimum clearance. For example, an infrared heater must be placed at least three feet away from the nearest object and seven feet from the floor.

Gas-powered unit heaters are a common choice, partly for financial reasons. Compared with electric or infrared models, they cost less to purchase (sometimes half as much) and, depending on the utility rates where you live, they’re likely to be less expensive to run. Gas-powered heaters, however, typically operate like a forced-air home heating system, with a blower that kicks on intermittently, sending a blast of heated air through the conditioned space. If you have a wood shop filled with sawdust, that’s not what you want! It may be better, depending on the type of work you do, to opt for an electric, infrared, or hydronic model without a blower.

No matter what type of unit heater you select, you are going to love being able to keep working, even through the coldest days and months of the year.

Unit Heaters - Product Detail

Photo: supplyhouse.com

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

Before & After: A Massive Makeover for a Minuscule Kitchen

One cramped kitchen sees new life, thanks to the husband-and-wife team behind The Grit and Polish.

Kitchen Before and After

Photo: thegritandpolish.com

Cathy Poshusta says, “My husband and I are a couple of old-house renovation junkies.” Together, she and Garrett renovate one after another residence in the Seattle, WA, area, temporarily living within the walls of the project house before moving on to their next adventure. Right now, the couple lives in a 1926 Tudor they’ve dubbed the Ravenna House. Here, one major area of focus has been the kitchen, which at the outset was woefully outdated and inconveniently closed off from the rest of the home. The plan? Transform the space into the sort of heart-of-the-home kitchen that modern families have grown accustomed to enjoying. The result? Stunning. Though Cathy documents her challenges and triumphs over on The Grit and Polish, we tracked her down to find out more details about the design decision-making and do-it-yourself feats that went into achieving a kitchen before-and-after of such jaw-dropping style and persuasive substance.

Kitchen Before and After - Full View

Photo: thegritandpolish.com

What was the kitchen like before?
When we bought the house, the kitchen had 1920s cabinets, an original cast-iron sink, and a wall-mounted faucet. It was also the smallest kitchen I had ever seen and completely closed off from the rest of house. It all added up to a space that no one wanted to be in. Our renovation goal was to open up the space and create a room that people actually wanted to gather in.

Where did you look for inspiration?
I have a pretty robust “kitchen” board on Pinterest, where I keep all my inspiration. Once I saw a kitchen with a marble herringbone backsplash, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. In the last two kitchens we remodeled, I installed a white subway tile backsplash. This time, I wanted to try something new.

Kitchen Before and After - Herringbone Backsplash

Photo: thegritandpolish.com

What did you learn from installing the tile yourself?
My husband and I learned a lot from that DIY tile installation, mainly that laying tile in a herringbone pattern is not for the faint of heart. There are a lot of custom-cuts and sore thumbs involved. We probably won’t attempt herringbone again.

Kitchen Before and After - In Progress Work

Photo: thegritandpolish.com

What was the biggest challenge? Any compromises along the way?
Like many old houses, nothing in the Ravenna House is square or plumb. That proved tedious, particularly when it came to hanging cabinets and installing molding. The ceilings were a real construction challenge as well. After taking out the wall between the kitchen and living room, we had varying ceiling heights. The simplest solution to hide the imperfections, we decided, would be to install a faux beam and beadboard ceiling. In the end, those details are two of my favorite features. We did have to compromise on counter and cabinet space in order to fit in a dining table. An island would have added workspace and storage, but I just couldn’t stomach the idea of not having a table, since our family gathers there every night.

Small Kitchen Makeover

Photo: thegritandpolish.com

As someone who’s renovated a few different houses, do you have any tips for our readers?
If all else fails, shim it and caulk it, and everything will look just fine. That’s a mantra my husband and I find ourselves repeating during every renovation. I’ve also learned to take my time and do the job right. It’s natural to want to rush through a project… but doing that second measurement and checking the level one more time will ultimately save you time and money. Having to redo a project that you or a previous homeowner has already done is beyond frustrating. Just check out the tile floor we had to rip up and redo in our basement shower!

Kitchen Window Seat

Photo: thegritandpolish.com

Now that you’ve lived with the new kitchen, how do you think it’s changed the way you use the space?
The new kitchen is way more open. It is a small space but well laid out and really efficient. It’s now a gathering place for our family and friends (instead of a closed-off room that could only fit one person). And we use the space every day for every meal and often sit at the table to do coloring or reading with our 1-year-old son. This kitchen is now truly the heart of our home.


See even more photos of this kitchen before-and-after over at The Grit and Polish.