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

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

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

Flushing a Water Heater

Photo: shutterstock.com

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

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

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

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

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

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


How To: Get Rid of Raccoons

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

How to Get Rid of Raccoons

Photo: shutterstock.com

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

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

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

How to Get Rid of Raccoons - Indoors

Photo: shutterstock.com

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

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

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

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

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


Hold Down the Fort: Home Security Tips for Holiday Vacations

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

Home Security Tips for Holiday Vacations

Photo: shutterstock.com

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

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

Home Security Tips for Holiday Vacations - Kwikset Kevo

Photo: kwikset.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Locating Studs

Photo: KStansley

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

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

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

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

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

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


Weekend Projects: 5 Ways to Make Floating Shelves

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

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

 

1. KEEP IT SIMPLE

DIY Floating Shelves - Simple

Photo: thewonderforest.com

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

 

2. SEE HOW YOU STACK UP

DIY Floating Shelves - Book Stack

Photo: thesimplylivingblog.blogspot.com

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

 

3. INCREASE YOUR SURFACE AREA

DIY Floating Shelves - Double

Photo: fourgenerationsoneroof.com

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

 

4. STEP UP YOUR GAME

DIY Floating Shelves - Repurposed Ladder

Photo: freshmommyblog.com

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

 

5. STUCK IN A CORNER

DIY Floating Shelves - Corner

Photo: houseofroseblog.com

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


5 Things to Do with… Stair Spindles

Even after they've been banished from the banister, stair spindles can still play an important supporting role. If you have a few left over from a renovation, see how you can reuse them in five surprising repurposing projects.

On your last trip to the architectural salvage yard, you doubtless saw scores of antique sinks, windows, and at every turn, balusters. Most often made of wood, these spindles once supported the handrail along a staircase. When that staircase came down, the spindles—with their slim profiles sporting decorative notches and curves—were freed to be used elsewhere in and around the home. Scroll down to see five creative ways DIYers are reusing balusters.

 

1. SLEEP WELL

Baluster DIY Projects - Nightstand

Photo: etsy.com

The long and slender shape of stair spindles makes them preternaturally fit for use as supports for small tables. With four spare spindles—or even three—plus your choice of tabletop, you can, quickly and pretty easily, put together an elevated surface that would function perfectly as a nightstand or end table.

 

2. TAKE A SEAT

Baluster DIY Projects - Bench

Photo: My Repurposed Life

This charming little bench from My Repurposed Life illustrates how you can upcycle two leftover materials at once. A quartet of balusters, combined with a couple of shutters, creates a bench destined to sit pretty on the porch. To complete the look, give both the shutters and spindles the same distressed finish.

 

3. LIGHT A FIRE

Baluster DIY Projects - Candelabra

Photo: hipcycle.com

Hipcycle shows how well spindles lend themselves to reuse in a candelabra. It’s a simple process, perfect for beginning woodworkers. First, cut each spindle to a different height. Next, use a drill with a hole-cutting bit to form the candle-holding slot in each baluster. Finish by attaching the spindles to a wood base.

 

4. RACK IT UP

Stair Spindle Magazine Rack

Photo: etsy.com

A bevy of balusters may be used to create a magazine rack or a similar storage piece, assuming you can handle yourself in the woodworking shop. In something like the piece pictured, spindles would form not only the furniture legs, but also the vertical members corralling the reading material kept within.

 

5. FOR THE BIRDS

Stair Spindle Birdhouses

Photo: RoboMargo.com

Balusters can help you build a birdhouse that oozes with cottage character. Whether the baluster itself serves as the birdhouse (left) or spindles add on as ornamentation for a larger assembly (right), it’s obvious that for an imaginative maker like Robo Margo, spindles are a stairway to new DIY heights!


Bob Vila Thumbs Up: The Best of 2014 Competition Begins Today!

Vote now—and vote daily—to choose your favorite from among this years previous Bob Vila Thumbs Up winners and pick one to be the best of the best!

Best of Bob Vila Thumbs Up

Best of Bob Vila Thumbs Up 2014

Photo: Shutterstock

Six months ago, we started Bob Vila Thumbs Up as a way to recognize the incredible work of DIY bloggers—from the well-established pros to the up-and-coming makers. Along the way, we’ve been impressed again and again by the ingenuity, craftsmanship, and creativity of all the Bob Vila Thumbs Up competitors. And your votes have determined 6 amazing winners from among those ranks.

SEE ALL PROJECTS NOW!

So this December we’re highlighting those past winners once more—and we’re asking you to vote your favorite to award the winning blogger a $250 Amazon gift card. All of these bloggers are winners, without a doubt, but only the project with the highest number of votes can win the prize. So vote today and everyday through December 17, 2014 (midnight EST) to help us choose this month’s winning Bob Vila Thumbs Up blogger!

A hearty congrats to each and every Bob Vila Thumbs Up competitor in 2014. Thank you for sharing your inspiring projects—and good luck to this month’s competitors!

Congrats to last month’s winning blogger, Domestic Superhero. Read more about her winning Bob Vila Thumbs Up project right here.

Would you like to recommend a blogger for the next Bob Vila Thumbs Up? Tell us about it on Facebook or Twitter!


1 Coffee Table, 3 Ways

What are the keys to a great piece of furniture? Sturdy construction, attractive styling, and flexibility—qualities this adaptable little coffee table has in spades.

What I love most about quality furniture is its staying power. Over the course of its at times decades-long career in the home, a well-made piece can serve multiple purposes. After all, a nightstand is a nightstand only if you place it beside the bed. Choose another location for the same piece, accessorize it accordingly, and that same small table can easily perform an entirely different function. As your life and your needs change, quality furniture adapts.

Since the fall, our lift-top coffee table from Sauder has been sitting in the living room, where it’s been doing those things a coffee table does best—displaying books and magazines, for example, and keeping beverages within arm’s reach. Because the tabletop lifts, the piece has also served as a casual work surface and has even functioned as an impromptu snack bar. Lately I’ve been thinking of yet more ways to take advantage of the coffee table’s versatility. That is to say, what if I didn’t actually use it as a coffee table? The same qualities that make it work so well in the living room—built-in storage and a low profile—would allow it to work equally well elsewhere at home.

ENTRYWAY

I love my house, but it’s not perfect. Particularly in the colder months, I’m annoyed by the lack of a coat closet in the entryway. Especially now, as the holidays bring guests, and those guests bring parkas, peacoats, and puffer jackets, I knew something had to be done to contain the approaching onslaught of winter paraphernalia.

Out back, we have a mudroom that goes a long way toward keeping our kids’ stuff organized. I thought, if it works for the kids, then it can work for anyone. So I set out to re-create the mudroom’s magic in the front hall. The recipe for success involved three crucial ingredients: a place to hang coats; a spot to store miscellaneous items, such as hats and gloves; and an area for people to sit while taking off their big, bulky boots. The coffee table, of all things, ties all these requirements together.

Whereas in the living room we’d used the coffee table’s cubbies to store board games and DVDs, here the same cubbies hold winter boots, lunch boxes, and a basket to catch wayward mittens. With the addition of a coat rack and umbrella bin, our winter wear solution became complete. To make the area as attractive as it is hardworking, a small graphic rug warms up the space, and cozy pillows and a throw blanket invite visitors to rest upon arrival or as they prepare to leave.

All told, it took me just 15 minutes to move and restyle the coffee table, and I feel certain that, in its new location, it’s going to serve us well through the season.

WINDOW SEAT

My kids are learning to read, and it’s wonderful to see them so excited about books. To encourage their new pastime, I’ve wanted to create a special place where they can lounge comfortably with a favorite book. A built-in window seat in the playroom would be perfect, as the exposure looks onto the garden and has a beautiful view of the sunset. We may be a year or two away from actually building that window seat, but in the meantime, I couldn’t help testing out the design concept.

Here, the coffee table serves as both a bench and a mini library. A well-made piece of solid-wood furniture, it’s sturdy enough to support the weight of a 40-pound child. And the integrated cubbies fit books of all sizes, keeping them off the floor in a room whose carpet often cannot be seen for a blanket of playthings.

On top of the table, I placed a long, cushy pillow covered in a fabric that unites my girls’ love for both rainbows and animals. A couple of fuzzy throw pillows round out the look. A beanbag chair, which we already had on hand, sits next to the bench, so both girls can occupy the nook at the same time if they want.

Sure enough, before long my youngest planted herself on the window seat to browse her latest find from the library.

I’d hate not to have the coffee table in our living room, where it fits right into the decor and our lifestyle. But I love knowing that if the room ever evolves to the point where the table no longer belongs, I can easily use it elsewhere. That’s what I call staying power, and it’s the reason to buy quality wood furniture.

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

 


How To: Get Rid of Pantry Moths

There's nothing quite like an unwelcome guest who eats you out of house and home. But when that vexing visitor is a pantry moth, it's as much a stomach-turner as anything else. Here, learn how to rid your home of these pests and prevent them from returning.

How To Get Rid Of Pantry Moths

Photo: shutterstock.com

Like their closet-lurking cousins, pantry moths are destructive pests. Act fast before they eat through (and lay eggs on) the stored food in your cabinets or pantry. Even if it’s a minor problem that hasn’t yet escalated to a full-blown infestation, take these steps to get rid of pantry moths and prevent them from ever returning.

STEP 1
Empty out the affected area—completely. Remove every can, box, bag or bottle. Along the way, look for larval sacs (or webs of any sort). Also, keep an eye out for small holes in packaging. Remember that you’re pursuing the pantry moths themselves, but also their larvae. So check under the lids of jars; moths are known to lay eggs here. If you’re intent on keeping any jars that’ve been kept in an affected area, wash the jars under hot, soapy water in combination with a scrub brush.

How to Get Rid of Pantry Moths - Moth Detail

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 2
Next, dispose of any dry goods with open packaging. And definitely throw away any boxes or bags found to have any holes that you didn’t make. Be thorough as you look over these items: If you’ve seen even one pantry moth near a certain cupboard or inside your pantry, then—troubling as it may be—all non-airtight packaging within the area may have been compromised by pests. To repeat: be thorough!

STEP 3
If possible, remove the shelves in the affected area. Either way, vacuum every square inch you can reach. Once finished, empty the vacuum bag, tie it off in a garbage bag, and take the garbage outside. Proceed to wash the affected area with a 50-50 solution of vinegar and warm water. If you have any or can get some, add peppermint oil into the mixture (pantry moths hate peppermint). Finish by mopping the floor with the same 50-50 mixture. And just to be on the safe side, why not bleach your mop head?

STEP 4
Wait a few weeks before restocking the area you’ve now cleaned. It pays to patient. If the problem hasn’t gone away, you can repeat the steps above, this time widening the scope to adjacent areas, without going through the hassle and expense of tossing the food you purchased to replace what you had already lost.

Once you’ve successfully gotten rid of pantry moths, take the following measures to keep them away:

• Store dry goods in plastic or glass containers with air-tight seals.

• Leave peppermint, bay leaves, mint or cedar chips exposed within the area, perhaps in a sachet.

• Inspect your cabinets and pantry on a regular basis. Whenever you spot pantry moths—and we hope, after this, you never spot them again—always act quickly in order to limit their spread as much as possible. After all, it’s easier to clean a single cabinet than it is clean every cabinet with food inside.

Finally, it’s well worth mentioning that pantry moths often piggy-back home with you from the grocery store. Disgusting but true. Before purchasing flour, cereal, bread or pet food, scrutinize the packaging. Leave any suspect packaging right there on the shelf, then run the other way!

How To: Paint Your Front Door

A can of fresh paint is all it takes to boost home's curb appeal and brighten your mood upon pulling into the driveway. Cleaning up that lackluster paint on your front door is a simple and satisfying job, so why not make a day of it? Follow this step-by-step for an easy home update.

How to Paint a Front Door

Photo: shutterstock.com

Front doors undergo wear and tear on a daily basis, not least from the elements—precipitation and wind and the glaring-hot rays of the sun. That being the case, it’s no surprise that every so often, depending on the architecture of your home, it becomes necessary to paint the front door. Some might see this as a chore, a purely maintenance-oriented responsibility, but why not capitalize on the chance to paint the front door a new color? After all, a new look for the entryway can go a long way toward boosting curb appeal, and I think the change can make it more enjoyable to return home after a day at work or weekend away. Of course, painting is one of the easiest home improvements one might undertake, and if you start in the morning, you can have the project completely finished by nightfall.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Screwdriver
- Primer (optional)
- Exterior acrylic paint
- Paint roller
- Paintbrush
- Putty knife
- Lint-free cloths

STEP 1
For best results, particularly if you are painting both sides of the door, I highly recommend remove the door from its hinges. Certainly, it can be a hassle to do so—after all, front doors are heavy—but wouldn’t you rather inconvenience yourself for ten minutes than suffer the sight of a poor paint job over the next few years?

How to Paint a Door - Blue Paneling

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 2
Prepare an adequate work area. That includes laying down an old sheet or drop cloth to catch paint drips, then bringing a pair of sawhorses (or makeshift stand-ins) into position to hold the door off the floor. Finally, ask a friend or family member to help you lift the door and place it over the supports.

STEP 3
If the existing paint on the door has cracked or peeled, remove it with a putty knife. Just be careful not to gouge the door with the tool. Next, smooth rough areas with fine-grit sandpaper before washing the surface with warm, soapy water. Wipe the door down with a lint-free cloth and be sure that it’s completely dry before you start to actually paint. Remember, preparation is key in any paint job.

STEP 4
Take off all removable hardware, including the doorknob and lockset. If the door features any immoveable details, such as an integrated pane of glass, cover those carefully with blue painter’s tape.

STEP 5 (optional)
You don’t have to apply a coat of primer, but if the new color you’ve chosen is lighter than the existing one (or if you’ve had to remove a lot of old paint), then it’s probably wise to take this extra step. Priming the door will save you from having to do an extra topcoat or two. Of course, if you buy a primer-paint combination, and you should if possible, then you can very likely complete the job with only two coats.

STEP 6
Stir up the paint before beginning to apply it. Use a three- to four-inch paintbrush around the outside edges and corners of the door, then brush the edging around any raised or recessed panels. Switch to a small paint roller to make quicker work of the flat parts of the door. Assuming you’ve used a water-based—which is to say latex—paint product, each coat should take a few hours to dry in low humidity.

STEP 7
Apply the final coat in the same manner as above, starting with the outside edges and corners. Once finished, allow a little extra drying time—perhaps an additional hour. Finally, remove the painter’s tape, reattach the hardware, and replace the door on its hinges. That’s it—see, I told you it wouldn’t take long!