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5 Things to Do with… Test Tubes

Test tubs aren't just for the lab! Check out these surprising and practical projects that will have you scattering test tubes all around the house.

Test tubes are commonplace and entirely unremarkable in locations like science labs and chemistry classrooms. But in the home, where you normally wouldn’t expect to come across them, test tubes are an arresting sight. As simple as they are practical—and available in a range of sizes, with or without stoppers—test tubes appear in a variety of storage and decor projects, both in and around the home. Scroll down now to see five favorite test tube crafts from around the Web.

 

1. ARRANGE FLOWERS

Test Tube Crafts - Vase

Photo: ourblogoflove.com

Whereas a single bloom is a pleasing sight, a grouping of flowers serves up a lavish, delightful feast for the eyes. Start with a metal or wooden rack, either wall-mounted or portable. Set a row of test tubes into the rack, fill them to the halfway point with fresh water, then place one or two stems into each vessel.

 

2. KEEP SUPPLIES

Test Tube Crafts - Storage

Photo: madvertizing.wordpress.com

Home office supplies are so often jumbled in a desk drawer, remaining maddeningly elusive on those occasions when you really need a thumbtack or paper clip. Rarely is a desktop organizer as design-savvy as the above set of mini test tubes. Occupying limited real estate, the compact trio keeps all the essentials within easy reach.

 

3. STORE SPICES

Test Tube Crafts - Spice Rack

Photo: instructables.com

If you frequently cook at home, then you already know how quickly and completely a spice collection can take over the cabinet it’s stored in. Sound familiar? Let test tubes come to the rescue! They are perfectly sized, airtight containers for any dried spice, and the colors and textures of the contents make a lovely display.

 

4. TRY A TERRARIUM

Test Tube Crafts - Terrarium

Photo: fragiletaller.etsy.com

There are a million and one ways to do a terrarium. Here’s one more. Fill the bottom quarter of a test tube with pebbles and a small amount of activated charcoal. Next, add about a half-inch of dirt followed by a thumbprint-size piece of moss. Cap the test tube and display it on a stand or attach a magnet and stick it to the refrigerator door.

 

5. HANG A CHANDELIER

Test Tube Crafts - Chandelier

Photo: makezine.com

Simultaneously retro and futuristic, and elegant without being overly formal, a test tube chandelier like this one makes for an unforgettable conversation starter, especially when the integrated tubes are filled to varying levels with dyed water in a spectrum of bright, buoyant hues.


17 Reasons You Need a Good Multi-Tool

For your next DIY project, you'll minimize trips to the garage and workshop if you keep a multi-tool on hand. Here are 17 good reasons why you should have one in your pocket.

HYDE 17-in-1 Painter's Multi-Tool

HYDE 17-in-1 Painter's Multi-Tool

We’d all like a little more time. Unfortunately, you can’t buy it. You can, however, save some time as you go about your daily routines. Ordering online, using a GPS, and always putting your keys in the same spot are just a few common time-savers.

There are also plenty of ways to conserve time in your home improvement and maintenance tasks. The venerable adages “measure twice, cut once” and “a stitch in time saves nine” immediately come to mind. To these I add my own advice for time seekers: “put a multi-tool in your pocket.”

Nothing slows you down (or wears you out) more than constantly having to fetch tools or search for ones that have been misplaced. I try to minimize trips to the basement workshop and garage by keeping a spare set of basic tools in the kitchen junk drawer. The set includes two screwdrivers, a utility knife, a tape measure, a putty knife, a set of Allen wrenches, and a hammer. In the past, I had considered consolidating the tools with a multi-tool, but unfortunately most of the ones I had seen were too insubstantial to be of much use.

Recently, however, I was able to get my hands on a multi-tool made by HYDE, the company that created the first multi-tool 60 years ago and now makes all sorts of tools for painters, paperhangers, masons, and drywall contractors. Made of stainless steel, it combines 17 tools that can be used for hundreds of jobs around the house.

The 3-inch-wide blade works as a paint scraper, putty knife, and paint can opener. It is pointed on one end for digging out loose grout or caulk, scoring, and cutting. All it takes is a file to keep it razor sharp. The 8¼-inch overall length gives you plenty of leverage for prying but fits nicely in your back pocket or tool belt.

In the middle of the blade is a slot for pulling small nails and brads. The edges of the blade include two concave cutouts for scraping paint from large and small rollers, two wrench cutouts (thoughtfully sized for air hose and airless paint sprayer hose connectors), and a bottle opener.

On the opposite end of the tool is a steel-butted handle that can drive small nails. It’s also handy for knocking trim pieces into alignment prior to nailing them off. Pop off the handle to access four screwdriver bits (flat and Phillips) in two sizes and a small-diameter nail punch that can be used also as a scribe or awl.

In the short while I’ve owned my 17-in-1 HYDE Painter’s Multi-Tool, it has come in handy for filling voids in the bathroom subfloor that I’m prepping for tile, removing old caulk along the base of the tub, setting protruding nail heads, removing old drywall screws, and knocking down the nubs on the wall I’m about to paint. It has now earned a permanent place in the kitchen junk drawer.

HYDE offers a full range of multi-tools in stainless steel, brass, and high-carbon steel.

 

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

 

 


Bob Vila Radio: CFL Bulbs

The most common alternative to the light bulbs you've used for years—incandescents—are compact fluorescent lamps, better known as CFLs.

With incandescent light bulbs on their way out, shoppers who had been reluctant to buy alternative bulbs are realizing that it’s time to make the switch.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON CFL BULBS or read the text below:

CFL bulbs

Photo: mpe2013.org

The most common alternative is the compact fluorescent lamp, or CFL, which fits into a standard lamp base and can be used pretty much anywhere you once used an incandescent. Fixtures labeled “incandescent only” will be fine with a CFL, but don’t use an LED lamp or floodlight in them. Look for wattage equivalence—if your fixture calls for a 60-watt bulb, look for a CFL that’s equivalent to 60 watts.

CFLs claim to have long life spans, and they often do, but there are several reasons why they might fail earlier than expected. CFLs do best when they’re lit for long periods of time and burn out faster when frequently turned on and off. Some CFLs will fail early if used in enclosed fixtures or in areas with extremely high temperatures. CFLs can also be affected by colder temperatures, so they don’t always last that long when used in outdoor fixtures in cold climates.

You may be able to extend the life of a CFL by choosing a lower-wattage bulb than the fixture says it can accommodate. Using a 40-watt equivalent in a fixture rated for 60 watts may be just what you need to get a little more life out of your CFL.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 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.


Planning Guide: Driveways

Whether you want a driveway that is simple and functional or eye-catching and elegant, you need to consider a number of factors and options to achieve the best results.

Building a Driveway

Photo: shutterstock.com

Why do we drive on the parkway and park on the driveway? That’s just one of life’s little mysteries, but there’s no mystery involved in creating a beautiful and practical driveway—just some thoughtful planning. Your driveway makes a big first impression, whether you realize it or not. Its size, shape, and surface material are certainly important considerations. So too are other aesthetic and practical issues, such as the architectural style of your house, the amount of space you have, how many vehicles you need to accommodate, and even the part of the country where you reside. Use this driveway planning guide to help you determine the best driveway for you and your home.

Slope and Width 
Although you’ll be constrained by the natural topography of your property, there’s definitely a desirable “sweet spot” for the slope of a driveway, neither too flat nor too steep. If it’s too flat, drainage may become an issue, and if it’s too steep, the surface becomes slippery and dangerous. As a general rule, a driveway should be less than a 15% grade, which means that it should not rise more than 15 feet over a distance of 100 feet. If your driveway is completely flat, however, be sure to build up the middle so water runs off the sides and doesn’t pool. Also, you’ll need to direct the runoff to an appropriate place. If your driveway is very steep and long, you may have to add curves or switchbacks to reduce the slope.

Another general rule is that your driveway should be around 10 to 12 feet wide, and a few feet wider at the curves. If you have space, it’s always a good idea to provide a larger area at the top for turning around or for additional parking when needed. A 12’x18’ space or larger is ideal for this.

Straight, Curved, or Circular?
This decision is partly aesthetic and partly functional. In general, a curved driveway will add more character and depth than a straight driveway, but if you have limited space or a very short distance from the street to your garage, then straight will have to do. You can add character to a straight driveway using interesting borders, stamped concrete, color variations, or intricate patterns. Long, straight driveways can also be very attractive if they are lined with trees and frame the property as you approach.

Building a Driveway - Pavers

Photo: landscapingnetwork.com

Sometimes a curved driveway may actually function better, not just look better. This may be the case if there are obstructions in the direct path to the garage, such as trees or other landscaping features, or if your access point from the street doesn’t line up with the garage or parking area. If you do decide on a curved driveway, the curves should be gradual and sweeping, never tight and cramped.

Circular driveways offer the benefit of not having to back out; if you live on a busy street, this may be an important consideration. Keep in mind, however, that if you don’t have a garage and you have more than one vehicle using the driveway, then only the first car in has the luxury of not backing out. A variation, the teardrop driveway, is similar in that it splits off into two paths, but it has only one access point from the street. Either way, a circular drive will take up quite a bit of real estate in your front yard, so this isn’t the best choice for everyone.

Curb Appeal
The main purpose of your driveway is utilitarian, but there’s no denying the impact it has on your home’s curb appeal. When you’re planning your driveway, consider how it will look and how it will tie in to the rest of your property. To get ideas, take notice of other driveways in your neighborhood and think about what you like and don’t like about them. You can still create a unique design, but there’s nothing wrong with surveying what’s already been done and borrowing a few ideas. Consider adding plants, lighting, or a front gate if you really want to boost your curb appeal.

Materials
There are quite a few choices when it comes to the material for your driveway. The most common options are gravel, asphalt, cement, and pavers. Within each category there are plenty of variations as well. Your budget will dictate the material to some degree—we have listed them from least to most expensive—but other practical and aesthetic considerations will come into play too. Just a few of these are the slope of your lot, the style of your home, and the severity of the weather in your neck of the woods. Here’s a quick rundown of each material’s pros and cons.

Building a Driveway - Gravel

Photo: premierdriveways.net

Gravel  This is the most affordable option, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is inferior. If installed correctly with properly compacted subgrade, durable block edging, and a shallow surface layer of pea gravel, you can create a driveway that will stand the test of time without requiring an unreasonable amount of maintenance or loss of aesthetic appeal.

A well-designed and properly built gravel driveway is especially attractive for certain styles of home. Plus, gravel has the added benefits of providing quick water drainage and never cracking or splitting. To add character to a gravel driveway, use decorative edging to contain the gravel, and pick a gravel color that will complement your home and yard.

Keep in mind that weeds and grass can grow through gravel fairly easily if landscape fabric or some other underlayment is not installed. Also, if your driveway is too sloped, gravel may not be ideal because it will slide down. And if you live in a colder climate, plowing snow from a gravel driveway can be a hassle.

Asphalt and Cement Asphalt and cement are both very durable and popular choices for driveways. Asphalt is typically cheaper, although the price has recently risen along with the cost of oil, so the savings here are not what they used to be. Both materials are versatile. They can be colored, stamped, engraved, stained, or grooved to add interesting aesthetic dimensions. Over time, however, they can also crack and split, and collect stains from oil and tires. Also, because these materials are not permeable, the driveway must be designed with water drainage issues in mind and properly sealed. But overall, they are both solid choices.

Building a Driveway - Pavers 2

Photo: landscapeodandbeyond.com

Pavers Considered the most sophisticated option, pavers are also the most expensive. They’re also endlessly versatile when it comes to shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns. Pavers are very durable and they tend to have good drainage properties, because water can escape through the gaps. Unlike asphalt and concrete, pavers don’t generally crack or split, and small areas are easy to replace if problems ever do occur. Permeable interlocking pavers have become very popular lately. These are engineered with uniform gaps and installed on a granular base rock to allow very efficient water runoff. They have a clean look and are available in different shapes, sizes, and tones.

This planning guide should get you well on your way to designing a driveway that adds curb appeal, functions properly, and suits your particular needs and style. Our last bit of advice is to think long term; you don’t want to revisit this project in the future. Resist cutting corners to save a little time or money. Remember, nothing is more expensive or time-consuming than doing the job right the second time.


How To: Clean Laminate Floors

With regular maintenance and careful cleaning, you can keep your laminate floor looking shiny and new.

How to Clean Laminate Floors

Photo: pergo.com

Laminate floors are so beautiful when first installed, but over time they can start to look a little worse for wear. Of course, unsightly streaks and blemishes need not be permanent. By following these simple guidelines, you can clean laminate floors effectively and restore their original sparkle and luster.

How to Clean Laminate Floors - Flat Mop

Photo: shutterstock.com

Basic Cleaning
If you’re going to coexist happily with this particular flooring material, then you’ve got to know one thing: Laminate hates water. If you allow the flooring to get overly wet, then the installation may warp as moisture seeps between and under the boards. That said, mopping is often the best way to clean laminate floors. So how the heck do you mop the laminate surface without putting it in jeopardy?

There are two methods:

• Use a flat mop and wring it out often; it should remain damp but never make contact with the floor when dripping wet.

• Working in sections, use a spray bottle to mist the floor, then promptly go over with a dry mop. If the floor still looks wet a minute after you’ve mopped it, that means you’re probably using too much water.

Chemical Cleaners
When plain warm water doesn’t cut it, consider using a store-bought commercial cleanser. Take care in making your product selection, however. Some chemicals in common floor cleaners can damage laminate, so it’s prudent to double-check the packaging to be certain you are purchasing something that’s laminate-safe. Also, remember that using twice the recommended amount won’t render the floor twice as clean. Rather, the excess leaves a streaky, cloudy residue that actually makes the floor look dirty.

Stain Removal
For a tough stain that neither water nor floor cleaner can budge, try an acetone-based solution, such as nail polish remover. Apply it directly to the stain, in as small a quantity as possible. Once the solution has done its work, wipe it away with a soft, clean cloth (not with a scouring pad or anything else that could leave scratches). Another good thing to know: If you’re trying to remove a hard, stuck-on substance like wax or gum, harden it first with an ice pack, then scrape it away with a plastic putty knife.

Regular Maintenance
The least demanding, most reliable way to clean laminate floors is through light but consistent maintenance. Once a week—or as often as traffic in the room demands—sweep or vacuum the floor to control dust and debris. Given the sensitivity of laminate floors to moisture, wipe up spills swiftly after they occur.

Laminate floors shown in magazines and catalogs always shine brilliantly, don’t they? Well, yours can too! Once you’ve managed to get the floor clean, follow up with a soft cloth (or an old T-shirt) and buff the surface using circular motions to achieve a gleaming polish.


How To: Clean Marble

Marble surfaces are elegant and classic, but they require special care to retain their luster. Follow our tips to keep your marble countertops and floors clean, shiny, and stain-free.

How to Clean Marble

Photo: shutterstock.com

Unquestionably, marble ranks among the most luxurious and beautiful countertop and flooring materials. Equally beyond question is the fact that marble requires special care and maintenance. Whenever you set out to clean marble, you’ve got to be very careful: Many products and techniques that are traditionally used with other surfaces can cause permanent damage to marble. Avoid common pitfalls by following these guidelines to clean marble effectively and safely.

How to Clean Marble - Countertops

Photo: imptile.com

Everyday Cleaning
Marble can be easily stained by many of the liquids that frequently appear in the kitchen—for example, wine, coffee, and orange juice. Watch out for spills and clean them up as quickly as possible. Even water, if left to pool for a period of time, can discolor marble, so it’s best to keep stone surfaces dry.

Avoid general-purpose cleaners unless the product specifically states that it’s marble-safe. Most of the time, a solution of dish soap and warm water is all that’s needed to keep marble looking new. Dip a soft cloth into the diluted soap, wring out the cloth so that it’s damp but not dripping wet, then wipe the marble clean.

You can also clean marble floors with a solution of dish soap and warm water—and you don’t need to get down on your hands and knees. It’s totally fine to use a mop; just be careful not to slosh too much water all over the place. When you’re finished, the floor should be a little damp, but if any pools have collected, you haven’t wrung out the mop well enough. Wipe up any standing water quickly with a dry cloth or towel.

Be aware that while many homeowners rightly revere the cleaning virtues of vinegar, this handy pantry staple should never be applied to marble; its high level of acidity can actually corrode the stone.

Stain Removal
Given the material’s sensitivity, removing stains from marble can be a little tricky, but it’s not an insurmountable challenge. The key is to absorb the stain. Try this: Mix baking soda with a small amount of water to form a thick paste. Apply it directly to the stain, then cover it with plastic wrap. Leave the paste in place for at least 24 hours, then check to see whether the solution has worked. If the stain is less noticeable but is still hanging on, repeat the process with a fresh application of paste.

No luck yet? So long as the marble is light-colored, you can experiment with hydrogen peroxide. But don’t go near this method if your marble is darker—the bleach could discolor it.

The very best way to care for marble is to prevent stains in the first place. Clean up any spills quickly, never put hot pans on the surface, and always be careful using sharp objects near marble because it can be easily scratched. Treat marble well and it will stay looking great for a lifetime.


How To: Grow Moss

Moss has many uses in the garden. A scattering on a stone wall lends a romantic patina, while cultivated tufts can create a velvety green ground cover. Here's how to establish and maintain this eco-friendly, versatile plant in your own garden.

How to Grow Moss

Photo: shutterstock.com

There are two main types of mosses—acrocarpous and pleurocarpous. The former grows vertically and resembles strands of hair, while the latter is characterized by a close-cropped horizontal growth habit. Gardeners have been cultivating both types for centuries, particularly in Japan, for a host of reasons: Not only does moss excel as a ground cover, but it also lends a sense of maturity to the landscape, helping a planted environment look less manicured and more natural.

How to Grow Moss on Soil
Planning to grow moss on a bed of soil? I recommend transplanting from elsewhere in your garden or a neighbor’s property. The goal is to relocate a patch of moss that’s been growing in circumstances similar to those in the spot where it will be planted. Transplanting requires no special removal techniques. Once you’ve identified the moss you want to transplant, simply use an old knife or garden spade to free up the amount of moss you’d like to—or have permission to—take.

Back on your home turf, prepare the ground with a rake. Next, dampen the soil and lay the moss on top. Once the moss is in place, press down on it firmly, pinning it down with enough rocks to ensure that the moss maintains a high level of contact with the surface of the soil. Over the next few weeks, be sure to keep the moss consistently moist. This is critical. You’ll know the moss has successfully established itself only when you can give it a light tug without shifting the material.

How to Grow Moss - Rocks

Photo: shutterstock.com

How to Grow Moss on Rocks, Bricks, or Pots
To grow moss on objects in your garden, such as dry stones on a retaining wall or a collection of clay pots, you need to take a different, slightly trickier approach. First, combine plain yogurt or buttermilk (two cups) and chopped moss (one and a half cups) in a bucket. Mix until the concoction becomes easily spreadable; add water if it’s too thick, additional moss if it’s too thin. Now spread the mixture wherever you would like the moss to grow. Over the next few weeks, make sure to keep the burgeoning moss moist. Within six weeks, so long as it’s been properly cared for, the moss should begin to grow rather vigorously.

How to Care for Moss
Moss likes moisture and acidic (pH 5.0 to 6.0) soil. It also likes shade. There’s no getting around it: Because moss draws nutrients via filaments, not through a root system, it dries out very quickly in the sunshine. Bear in mind that weeds can steal the moisture that moss needs, so in order to grow moss successfully, you must be a vigilant and ruthless weed killer. Finally, come fall, remember that moss cannot survive under a blanket of dead leaves. Rake—and rake often!

 

 


Bob Vila Radio: Blown-in Insulation

For cost-effective insulation that can be brought into older homes, consider blown-in cellulose, the installation of which can be successfully handled by experienced do-it-yourselfers.

There are several different kinds of insulation—fiberglass batting, rigid boards, and spray-on foam to name a few. For retrofitting an older home, though, the most cost-effective insulation material is blown-in cellulose.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON BLOWN-IN INSULATION or read the text below:

Blown-In Insulation

Photo: insul-tite.com

Cellulose fiber is made up mostly of recycled newspaper that has been treated with non-toxic borates to make it fire retardant and resistant to mold and insects. Cellulose is light and fluffy to the touch, but it can be packed densely into wall cavities to form a thick blanket between a home’s interior and the world outside. It has the added advantage of being able to settle into small gaps and cracks, where it can help eliminate drafts as well.

Homeowners can rent a blowing machine and pump cellulose into an open area, such as an attic floor, but it’s a messy job that’s not for those who are new to DIY projects. Blowing cellulose into exterior walls is definitely a job for the pros, who know how to achieve proper density, how to identify and work around any fire blocks within walls, and how to close up the walls properly afterward. Most importantly, if you’re insulating around a soffit vent, a pro will know how to keep that vent clear so that air keeps moving and your roof doesn’t get damaged.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 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.


Spring Home Maintenance? Don’t Overlook Your Gutters

With all the home maintenance tasks that pile up in the spring, it's easy to forget about cleaning the gutters. Don't ignore this important chore! If you don't clear debris from your gutters, you could be heading for roofing, siding, and foundation issues in the months ahead.

Spring Gutter Cleaning

Photo: LeafGuard

Spring has officially arrived, and that means a whole host of outdoor chores for homeowners. One of the most important—but often overlooked—tasks is checking gutters for winter debris and damage.

A properly functioning gutter system protects your home from water damage by draining water from the roof and funneling it away from the house. When the gutters and downspouts are clogged, however, water can back up and damage the roof, fascia, soffits, and siding.

Experts agree that regular examination and maintenance will help reduce the need for gutter repairs and replacement. “One of the biggest problems we see with regular gutters is that the problems are hidden from view for most homeowners,” points out Robert Lowe, director of operations for Englert LeafGuard, a leading manufacturer of covered one-piece gutter systems. “From the ground it is very difficult to see inside of the gutter; therefore, most problems with built-up debris are noticed only when it is too late and damage is occurring.

Spring Gutter Cleaning - Damage

Photo: LeafGuard

“The most common problem is the obvious leaves and debris clogging the gutters, making the water back up over the top and damaging the fascia board, then the decking, the rafters, and in some cases the foundation of the home itself,” Lowe continues. “If you have ever experienced gutters that are pulling away from the house, or if you have to keep pushing the spikes back into the gutters to hold them to the house, these are tell-tale signs of fascia board damage. The problems need to be fixed as soon as possible because damage ramps up fast—as the gutter starts to sag, it can cause more water to run over, which in turn leads to more and faster damage.”

A simple way to check on a gutter’s performance is to wait for a rainy day and look to see if water is emptying from the downspouts. If water isn’t flowing freely from the bottom of a downspout, or if you notice water overflowing the edges of the gutter, there is debris clogging the gutters or downspouts or both.

According to Lowe, the easiest answer to most gutter problems is to clean your gutters on a regular basis. Most debris consists of small leaves and twigs that can either be scooped out by hand or removed with a handheld leaf blower or wet/dry vacuum. Flushing the gutters with a garden hose removes dirt and small particles. For denser debris, you may want to invest in a gutter cleaning tool. Most clogged downspouts can be flushed with a garden hose; use a plumber’s snake to break up those really stubborn clogs.  (Note: If you are climbing a ladder, be sure to follow safety measures.)

Gutter cleaning may be needed much more frequently than just once a season, especially if you live in an area where there are many trees. “The one problem we find, other than procrastination, is that you go out on a Saturday and spend all day cleaning the gutters and sealing up holes only for a windstorm to come the following week and blow more debris right back into the gutters,” Lowe says. “Most people don’t realize that more debris actually blows into the gutter system than gets washed in with rain.”

Spring Gutter Cleaning - After

Photo: LeafGuard

Other problems to look for when cleaning gutters include holes, corrosion, sagging sections, and loose, bent, or missing fasteners. Holes should be plugged or caulked immediately. Sagging is often the result of loose or missing spikes, which should be tightened or replaced.

In some cases, however, gutters may simply be too far gone and need to be replaced. “If you have problems with your gutters and you want to solve the problems once and for all, you have to ask the question, ‘What do I want my gutters not to do ever again?’ ” Lowe explains. “The top two answers should be, ‘I don’t want the water from my gutters to get to my house’ and ‘I don’t want to have to clean them again.’ ”

Lowe points out that LeafGuard Brand gutters solve both of these issues, due to the product’s patented one-piece design and seamless construction. “LeafGuard Brand by Englert is the original and only one-piece gutter system, with a built-in hood that covers the gutter bottom and deflects leaves and other debris,” Lowe says. “This unique, seamless design keeps debris from collecting in your gutters, which prevents clogs from forming; keeps water flowing freely; eliminates leaks and the threat of water damage; and makes climbing ladders to clean gutters unnecessary. LeafGuard Brand gutters eliminate the problems homeowners worry about, because these gutters will not let water go anywhere but out the front or down the downspout.”

Spring Gutter Cleaning - Guard

Photo: LeafGuard

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


What Would Bob Do? Polishing a Concrete Floor

Sleek, shiny, and easy to maintain, polished concrete is a great flooring choice, particularly for modern interiors. If you'd like to create this look in your own home, here are the basics on the polishing process.

How to Polish Concrete - Living

Photo: kaplanthompson.com

I am living in Spain and redoing an old house in the country. I’d like some of the floors to be polished concrete. Can anyone tell me how to do this?

It’s no wonder that homeowners have adopted polished concrete floors. They’re quick to install and don’t cost a lot. They also wear well and require minimal maintenance. Years ago, you’d see polished concrete only in public spaces—at the mall, say, or in office building lobbies—but nowadays it’s a common sight in private residences.

How to Polish Concrete - Foyer

Photo: cromadesign.com

To polish concrete the do-it-yourself way, you’re going to need a concrete grinder. If you can’t borrow one from a friend in the trade, you can rent one from your local home improvement center. In addition, you’ll have to get your hands on an assortment of grinding discs (in a wide variety of grits, from 30 to 3,000) as well as polishing pads.

Polishing concrete bears some similarities to sanding a hardwood floor. One of the big differences, however, is that with concrete you are going to make many more passes with the grinder than you would with a sander on a wood floor of a similar size. Also, you should expect to spray on a densifier or hardener between passes with the grinder.

Near the end of the polishing process, swap out the grinding disc in favor of a burnishing pad. At this point, you’ll notice the floor starting to get really smooth. Before burnishing one last time, put a thin coat of concrete sealer over the floor. The result will be a stone-like surface that gleams without the aid of floor waxes or oils.

The best concrete grinders typically include a skirt and a vacuum, both of which are designed to contain dust. Look for a unit that is also equipped with a built-in liquid dispenser. To polish concrete near existing walls without causing damage, it’s best to use a specialized edging machine (another tool you can rent from the home center).

Renting a concrete grinder can be a little pricey—as much as $1,000 per week for the grinder itself, plus $250 per week for the edging polisher. That being the case, if you have a small job on your hands the most cost-effective option might be to hire a professional, as counterintuitive as that may seem. I recommend gathering estimates from a few local crews, then comparing those quotes to the amount charged by the tool rental depot.