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Solved! What to Do About Squirrels in the Attic

If you’ve got uninvited visitors overhead, a little patience and a handful of smart strategies can prevent damage to your home and restore peace and quiet up above.


Photo: Flickr via tammra

Q: I keep hearing noise coming from upstairs and am fairly sure that a family of squirrels has taken up residence in my house. Short of setting traps, what’s the safest way to tell that there are squirrels in the attic and get rid of them? 

A: They might make cuddly cartoon characters and leave your backyard feeling like a magical forest, but squirrels that move into your house are a little less whimsical. Left unchecked, these real-life pests can poke holes in your siding, damage insulation, and even chew through electrical wiring.

First, find out what you’re dealing with. If you’ve heard skittering, scratching, or rolling noises from your ceiling, there’s a good chance you’re harboring some kind of wildlife in your attic, but it may not necessarily be a squirrel. To pinpoint the type of pest, pay attention to when you’re hearing the commotion. Generally, squirrels are active during the day, so noises in the evening hours are more likely to come from nocturnal animals like rats and mice. If the strange sounds have occurred between the months of March and October, it might even be that a mother came to nurse her newborn squirrels in the attic and out of the elements. In that case, you may find that the family leaves on their own within a few weeks.


Photo: istockphoto.com

If you’re still uncertain, check the tracks. You can capture paw prints with the help of a pantry item or two. Spread a dusting of flour over a piece of cardboard, and place it inside the attic’s entryway or near the suspected access point. Leave it there for a day or two, and then inspect the surface for the prints. Most squirrel tracks look like small feet and are around 1 to 1 ½ inches long. (Alternatively, footprints double that size might belong to a raccoon, while mice prints are far smaller and rat tracks feature fine points created by their claws.) A foul smell or droppings littering the floor could signal a longstanding infestation, so it’s important to move quickly once you’ve identified the type of critter you’re dealing with.

Don’t supply their snacks. By reining in their food supply, you’ll eventually send these freeloaders off in search of a more comfortable crash pad. And if you have a bird feeder in your yard, stop stocking it with squirrel favorites like corn, sunflower seeds, and nuts.

Try a one-way door. If you’ve managed to track down the critters’ access point, consider installing a one-way cage door or funnel just outside of it. Secured to the home’s exterior, these additions can catch squirrels on the way out of the attic for food or, in the case of funnels, allow them to leave but prevent return through the same hole. After setting up a live-catch trap, check the contraption twice daily and be prepared relocate it to somewhere at least 3 miles away should it prove successful. All in all, this is one of the more effective and humane ways to send squirrels scurrying away for good. That said, check your city, county, and state’s wildlife ordinances before proceeding with one of these measures to make sure you’re adhering to local laws and protocol. In California, for example, it’s illegal to trap gray squirrels without a permit.

Close off any roads that lead back to your place. Send the visitors a strong message by spraying a liquid taste-based repellent on your lawn, soil, and trees to make the yard less inviting, and double down by sprinkling a granular version around the perimeter of your yard to light up the proverbial “No Vacancy” sign. If you have a garden, consider planting daffodils around your home’s foundation, since they’re a natural deterrent. Likewise, if you have a tree branch that hangs over your roof (or within 8 to 10 feet of it—remember, these little guys are talented jumpers!), cutting it back can make it harder for other squirrels to crawl into your attic while you work on solving the problem from within.

Know when you’ve lost the battle. If you’ve inspected your attic, removed any possible food sources, and tried the store-bought remedies without ousting your unwanted guests, pick up the phone and call in a professional for backup.

DIY Lite: Declutter Your Entry with an Easy Shoe Storage Bench

Who doesn't need more shoe storage? Build an organizer and entryway seat in one when you follow this easy DIY tutorial.

DIY Shoe Storage - Entryway Bench

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Streamlining the home’s entryway or mudroom poses a real challenge for bustling households. Add up all of the jackets, the bags, the umbrellas, and the shoes for each family member, and you’ll find yourself hard pressed to find a place for each last item. Sure, a leaning coat rack can corral the most-often used outerwear, but each member of a household may rotate through three or more pairs of shoes in a given week. Alleviate part of the mess by giving favorite footwear a home in the entryway between uses via this DIY shoe storage bench. Not only will its cubbies organize up to six pairs of shoes—and floor space below for taller boots—but the sturdy bench top provides the perfect perch as you lace up on the way out the door in the morning.


DIY Shoe Storage - Supplies

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

- Over-shelf hanging storage baskets (3)
- Metallic spray paint
- 2×6 lumber (10 feet)
- Wood glue
- Trigger clamps
- 2-inch by 3-inch gauge mending plates (4)
- Hammer
- Palm sander
- Sandpaper (60- and 120-grit)
- Wood stain
- Cloths
- Wood oil or varnish
- Paint brush
- Pen
- Measuring tape
- Drill
- Cup holder hooks (15)
- ¾-inch galvanized pipe (36-inch pieces, 2)
- Hacksaw
- Round file
- ¾-inch floor flanges (4)
- 1-inch screws (16)


DIY Shoe Storage - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

The storage space for shoes beneath the bench is actually constructed using three white wire under-shelf baskets. To give them an industrial look that more closely matches the legs, so we spray-painted them a metallic silver. Coat with several layers on each side of the baskets for the most uniform color.

If you’ve purchased an already silver or bronze wire basket, go ahead and skip this first step altogether!


DIY Shoe Storage - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Next up: the seat part of the bench. Take the 10-foot-long 2×6 lumber and cut it in half, so that you have two pieces of the same dimensions. (You might even ask to have the big box hardware store that sells you the lumber cut it for you, too—it’s often free and makes transporting the wood home easier.)

Put some wood glue along the 1-½-inch-thick edge of one board, and slide the two 5-foot-long boards next to each other so that the glue bonds them. Be careful to place the boards perfectly next to each other without leaving any gap. You can use trigger clamps to hold them together.


DIY Shoe Storage - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Strengthen the board assembly by affixing four equidistant mending plates to what will be the underside of the bench. Make sure each is centered over the crack between the boards, then lightly hammer it into place.


DIY Shoe Storage - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Once the glue has dried, sand the bench seat. Start with a 60-grit paper to remove the glue residue, and finish with a 120-grit for a smooth finish surface that is free of splinters.


DIY Shoe Storage - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Stain the top and sides of the wood—all but the bottom—with the color of your choice. After you achieve the right depth of color (it may take a couple of coats) and the stain dries completely according to the manufacturer’s instructions, finish with wood oil or varnish to protect the DIY shoe storage bench from dust and stains.


DIY Shoe Storage - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Once dry, flip the board so that its underside is up. Center the three metallic baskets across the board, and mark the location of each basket’s corners in pen. Each basket will be hold by five cup hooks: two on each side and one on the back (opposite the opening).

Drill five small holes into the wood, and screw in the hooks so that each faces inward toward the center of the basket. Then, hook up your first “cubby”! Repeat the same process to fix the other two baskets.

Working upside down like this will leave the basket feeling a little loose—don’t worry too much about this. It will be resolved once you turn the bench right side up to attach the bench’s legs, as gravity will pull the baskets to hang from the hooks. As long as you know that each fits, you can unhook the baskets for now and continue working.


DIY Shoe Storage - Step 7

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Cut each of the two 36-inch-long, ¾-inch galvanized pipes in half so that you end up with four legs of the same lengths. (Ours are 18 inches apiece.) Sand the edges using a round file to remove any metal flakes. You can also put some rubber or plastic tip under each leg to prevent the pipe to scratch your floor.


DIY Shoe Storage - Step 8

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Attach a floor flange to each corner of the bottom of the board with 1-inch screws, and twist the pipe into it until it’s snug.

Once each leg is in place, flip the bench right side up and replace the baskets onto the designated cup hooks. You’re ready to start moving your shoes out of a pile and into their new homes! Whenever you head to the store next to buy DIY supplies for your next project, you’ll find your footwear right beneath your seat—and slide them on easily from your spot on this new storage bench.


DIY Shoe Storage - Completed Project

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

DIY Shoe Storage - Close-up of Finished Bench

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Ama is a DIY addict and the creative mind behind Ohoh Blog. She likes home decor, lighting, and furniture projects that may involve painting, sewing, drilling…no matter the technique! Whatever she has on hand is inspiration to create, and fodder for her serious addiction to upcycling.

DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from BobVila.com
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on BobVila.com. Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build or make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.

How To: Splice Wires

Whether you're swapping in a new light fixture or adding an outlet in the garage, you'll probably need to reconnect wires, connect a new wire to an old one, or extend a few wires. In other words, you'll need to do some splicing. Learn how to perform this basic, essential electrical fix safely and efficiently.

How to Splice Wires

Photo: istockphoto.com

If your around-the-house to-do list includes an ambitious DIY electrical project—be it installing a light fixture, replacing a switch, or extending electrical wires to add another outlet in the garage—you’ll need to know the fundamental skill of splicing wires. Learning how to splice wires correctly will not only ensure that your electrical repairs and upgrades function properly, but, equally important, keep you and your property safe.

- Voltmeter
- Electrician’s or linesman’s pliers
- Junction box
- Romex wire connector
- Needle-nose pliers
- Screwdriver
- Wall anchors
- Wood screws
- Grounding screw
- Utility knife
- Wire strippers
- Wire caps or nuts
- Junction box cover (if sold separately)

The following instructions assume that you’re splicing together two Romex wires of the same type. (In this example, we’re connecting a 12/2 NMC with ground to the same type and size of wire.) Romex is a brand name of wire preferred by many electricians that is commonly used in residential applications. The markings stamped on the outer insulation, “12/2 NMC with ground,” indicate the size and type of wire—in other words, a 12-gauge wire with two inner insulated conductors (a black “common” and white “neutral”) as well as a non-insulated grounding wire. NMC is an acronym for nonmetallic cable, the type of wire that is most common in residential applications.

Other types of Romex wire used in residential construction are:

• 12/3—12-gauge wire with three inner insulated conductors and ground, commonly used for switches and light fixtures
• 10/2—10-gauge wire with two inner insulated conductors and ground, commonly used for water heaters
• 10/3—10-gauge wire with three inner insulated conductors and ground, commonly used for electric clothes dryers
• 6/3—6-gauge wire with three inner insulated conductors and ground, commonly used for electric ranges and ovens

It most be noted that while it is possible to splice different types of Romex wire—12/2 to 12/3, for instance—you should never splice together wires of a different gauge. Wire gauge is determined by the amount of amperage it’s expected to carry. For example, a 12-gauge wire is capable of handling approximately 20 amperes, while a 10-gauge wire is capable of handling 30 amperes. Overloading a wire with more than its intended amperage could cause it to overheat, melt, and possibly catch fire.

Before beginning any work, turn off the circuit breaker supplying electricity to the wire that you want to splice. Use extreme caution when working with electricity, as it can cause serious injury or even death when not handled properly. Verify that the power is indeed off using a voltmeter, a device that measures the electrical current in wires—you can pick one up at most home improvement centers. If you still aren’t certain that the power is off, turn off the main circuit breaker for the entire house.

Additional precautions you should take before beginning your project:

• Find a partner. Never work on electrical wiring alone. You want someone around in the event that an unfortunate circumstance occurs.
• Switch your shoes. Wear rubber-soled shoes to insulate your body.
• Make sure the space is dry. Never work on electrical wiring in wet or damp conditions.

Use the electrician’s or linesman’s pliers to remove two of the knockouts on the new junction box, which will house and protect the spliced wires and contain any sparks that could cause a fire if something should go wrong. The knockouts are pressed into the box in predetermined locations during manufacture for easy removal. Most junction boxes are universal and include knockouts of various sizes to accommodate different applications and a range of wire gauges. This setup lets you choose the locations on the box where you want to install the wire connectors and wire during installation.

How to Splice Wires

Photo: istockphoto.com

Insert a wire connector, commonly referred to as a Romex connector, in each knockout hole in the junction box. Be sure to purchase a connector that fits the knockout holes you’re using on the junction box and is suited for the diameter of wire you are splicing. Secure the connector to the junction box using its threaded locknut and tightening with needle-nose pliers and/or a screwdriver. The connectors act as protective guides that also secure the wires to the junction box. Without them, the wires could be damaged by the sharp edges of the knockout holes.

Install the junction box appropriately—many types attach directly to the wall stud or surface with mounting screws or anchors—and in an area within range of the existing wire.

Thread the end of each 12/2 Romex wire—the existing wire and the wire you’re splicing to it—through one of the Romex wire connectors attached to the box. Tighten the screws on the sides of the wire connector designed to hold it in place, using the appropriate style of screwdriver.

Thread a grounding screw through the threaded hole on the back of the junction box. The grounding screw grounds the junction box—returns excess electrical current safely to the ground—in the event of a short circuit.

Strip approximately six inches of the outer plastic sheathing from the end of the wires you’re splicing together. A utility knife is ideal for slicing and cutting away the outer insulation. Remove the protective paper wrapping surrounding the insulated wires and ground wire.


How to Splice Wires

Photo: istockphoto.com

Wrap one of the bare copper ground wires once around the grounding screw that’s attached to the junction box; you should leave about six inches of exposed wire hanging past the screw. Tighten the ground screw using the screwdriver to secure the ground wire to the box.

Now, twist the second ground wire tightly together with the attached ground wire using the electrician’s pliers, and secure the joint with a twist-on wire cap/nut. Fold the joined wires neatly into the back of the junction box.

Using a pair of wire strippers, remove approximately 1/2 inch of insulation from the ends of both 12/2 cables, from both the black and white wires. Wire strippers are a convenient tool for this task, as they’re designed to strip a wide range of wire sizes and they’re available at most home improvement centers. Similar to a pair of pliers, the tool incorporates sharp edges and predetermined cutting points that allow you to remove the protective insulation from each wire without damaging the wire itself.

Using the electrician’s pliers, twist together the stripped ends of the corresponding wires from each strand of 12/2 Romex, white wire to white, and black to black. Twist them until they are tightly joined, and secure each joint with a threaded wire cap/nut. Fold both sets of wires neatly into the junction box.

Align the protective cover with the mounting screws on the junction box, and tighten firmly using a screwdriver.

Knowing how to splice your own electrical wires can save you time and money on numerous electrical and lighting projects around the house. If, however, you’re apprehensive about working with electricity or lack basic electrical knowledge, do not hesitate to hire a licensed electrician for your project. While hiring an electrician can easily set you back at least $50 per hour, it’s a small price to pay to protect your family and your property from the severe consequences of poorly performed electrical work.

How to Splice Wires

Photo: istockphoto.com

Genius! The Secret to This Modern Bed Is Hiding on Your Shelf

For furniture that fuses elegance with economy, start with a few everyday supplies and tools—and end with this crafty cot!


Photo: homemade-modern.com

When it’s time to settle into a new home or apartment, most people face a tough trade-off: Buying all of the furniture you need calls for a big investment but saves time, while building it yourself takes more hours (and practice) but cuts the total cost. Who better to solve this classic decor dilemma than Jessie Uyeda of HomeMade Modern? On a mission to furnish her whole home on a budget, the former lumberjack devised a DIY compromise for her video channel‘s master class in minimalism—and discovered how to build a bed frame with a single sheet of plywood and shelf brackets from Ikea. The best part? Even beginners can tackle this project, all for only $75!

Uyeda’s bracket bed can be built with the same thrifty trio of tools (and essentially the same materials) used to make and hang a set of wall shelves: a cordless drill, a circular saw, and a random-orbit sander. To save some time and effort, Uyeda enlisted free help from her local Home Depot to cut a twin bed-sized portion from one 4-foot by 8-foot plywood sheet to fit in the car. Then, armed with clamps and a circular saw, she cut the excess length into three equal pieces at home—two for the lengthwise support strips, and a third sawed into two more pieces to brace the remaining ends. To keep the bed’s ultra-slim 3/4-inch base from buckling or sagging under the weight, she secured all four strips with wood glue and reinforced the bond with heavy-duty screws.

Despite Uyeda’s humble materials, her approach to assembling them is nothing short of genius. After gluing the supports to the main platform, each corner of the bed’s base is effortlessly elevated by a pair of screw-on shelf supports that feature just enough of a flat bottom edge to act as sturdy feet. Two last brackets shore up the raised headboard to create a stunning and sound bed frame in just four hours.

It’s hard to top Uyeda’s sublime sleeper in affordability, ease of construction, or ingenuity. Its flexible design can even be modified to fit any mattress! But topping the DIY platform bed with a mattress, a plush pillow, and lightweight linens will make it bedroom-ready—and you won’t lose any sleep over your budget.

FOR MORE: HomeMade Modern


Photo: homemade-modern.com


DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from BobVila.com
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The Dos and Don’ts of Sharpening a Chainsaw

The crucial tool of woodcutters just won’t cut it when it gets dull. Learn the know-how you need to hone it here.

Sharpening a Chainsaw - Do's and Don'ts

Photo: istockphoto.com

Whether you’re a timber worker or you’re just interested in cutting your own firewood, it’s vital to maintain a professional attitude towards the use and maintenance of your chainsaw. As dozens of cutter teeth chew through dense wood, they’re bound to become dull, reducing the tool’s effectiveness and making it more physically demanding for you to control. Regular sharpening, accomplished by filing, will keep your chainsaw purring like a very rugged kitten. Before you attempt the task, read on for the ways and means of proper chainsaw sharpening.

Sharpening a Chainsaw - Do's and Don'ts

DO Study the Sawchain

Familiarize yourself with the parts of the sawchain by studying the detailed diagrams in your owner’s manual. In addition to links and straps you’ll see numerous cutters, the focus of the sharpening process. Each cutter has two sharp areas, one on the edge of the top plate and the other on an outside plate where it intersects the top plate. In the middle of the cutter is a notch, known as a “gullet,” and on the other end is a hook-like protrusion. The hook, sometimes called a “raker,” is a depth gauge that determines how much of a bite the cutters take out of the wood when the saw is operating. Sharpening a chainsaw’s cutters and filing the depth gauges allows for optimal cutting. Keep in mind that the shape and size of chainsaw cutters vary slightly from model to model but all are honed in the same manner.


DON’T Wait for Dust

The old rule was to sharpen a chainsaw when it produced more wood dust than wood chips while in operation. The smarter move is to sharpen the cutters before that point. If you adopt a routine of sharpening every second or third time you fill the chainsaw with fuel, the sharpening process will be minimal and you’ll never have a dull sawchain.


DO Stabilize Your Chainsaw

Hold the chainsaw steady on a mounted vice while honing the cutters. If you’re going to be in the woods all day, consider a tailgate-mounted vice that will allow you to stabilize the saw to sharpen on-site with ease.


Sharpening a Chainsaw - Do's and Don'ts

Photo: istockphoto.com

DON’T Forget Protective Wear

The sawchain, with its dozens of sharp cutters, can scratch or cut bare skin, so put on heavy-duty work gloves, preferably leather, before you start. You’ll also need a good pair of safety goggles to protect your eyes from shavings.


DO Use the Correct File Diameter

A round file is most commonly used to sharpen sawchain cutters, and the standard diameter of most files used for this purpose range from 4mm to 6mm. But not all sawchains are the same size. Check your owner’s manual for the optimal file diameter to sharpen your sawchain.


DON’T Leave Your File Behind

A lot of timber cutting is done away from home, so remember to bring your sharpening tools with you. Otherwise, you’ll be heading back before you’ve filled your pickup bed with firewood.


DO File in One Direction

To get the sharpest cutting edge, file from the inside edge of the cutter, toward the outside edge. Sawchains feature both right and left cutters, alternating from one side of the sawchain to the other. To file the individual cutters, position yourself on one side of the saw bar and file the cutters on the opposite side of the sawchain. For instance, if you’re standing on the left side of the saw bar, you’ll file the cutters on the right side of the sawchain. When you finish with one side, move to other side of the saw bar and file the remaining cutters.


DON’T Pull the File–Push It

A round file sharpens in one direction only—on the stroke away from you. To sharpen the cutting corner (the spot on a cutter where the sharp top and side plates intersect), hold the file horizontally and follow the factory angle of the cutting corner as you lightly but firmly push the file. Then lift the file up to return to the starting position and push it again. Use the same number of filing strokes, and the same degree of pressure, to file every cutter. It may take as few as two strokes per cutter to hone the cutting corner, but it could take more if the cutters are very dull.


DO Use a Chainsaw Sharpening Guide

If you’re not confident filing the factory cutter angles, use a sharpening guide. These inexpensive tools resemble rulers and feature a bracket on the bottom that holds a round file. Handheld models go for under $10, but if you’d like more help, opt for a guide that clamps securely on the chain bar. The guides come with pre-marked lines that allow you to align the file at the correct sharpening angle, usually around 30- or 35-degrees. Check your owner’s manual for the correct filing angle for your sawchain.


DON’T Forget the Depth Gauges

Depth gauges also require filing, though not as frequently as the cutters. Over time, both sawing and filing take a toll on the cutters, wearing them down until the depth gauges (which stick up in front on each cutter) are too high. This can make sawing ineffective, because the depth guides actually block the cutters. You can file freehand, straight across, with a flat file, or purchase a depth gauge guide that fits between the cutters and features an opening that lets you file the top of the depth gauges. The top of the depth gauges should be just a hair—0.025-inches—below the top of the cutter’s cutting corner.


Sharpening a Chainsaw - Do's and Don'ts

Photo: istockphoto.com

How To: Maintain Stucco

Stucco isn't delicate. Whether applied as exterior siding or as a finish for interior walls, the age-old material requires little in the way of ongoing maintenance. Occasional cleaning or patching may be necessary, but with the right combination of products and tools, any homeowner can get the job done. Here's how.


Photo: istockphoto.com

Over the course of millennia, builders have used everything from animal horns to whiskey in the making of stucco—an attractive, durable plaster finish suitable for both interior walls and exterior siding. Today, the material typically consists of more familiar ingredients like cement and sand, but it remains as tough as ever, often lasting as long as 50 or 80 years. However, in order to live out its expected lifespan successfully, stucco tends to require a modest amount of care and attention. How much largely depends on the nature of the application. Indoor stucco may call for nothing more than a new paint job now and again. But with exposure to the beating summer sun, the howling winds of winter, and simply the dirt and dust kicked up by passing traffic, it’s only a matter of time before stucco siding needs minor repair or, at the very least, a simple cleaning. For many homeowners, stucco maintenance starts and ends with a close look at the surface or surfaces in question. If your inspection reveals a reason to go a step further, read on for advice on ensuring your stucco looks and performs its best.



How to Maintain Stucco - Cleaning

Photo: ctscement.com

A porous material, stucco collects dirt and absorbs stains, even indoors. The good news is that cleaning indoor stucco usually takes nothing more than water and a bit of elbow grease. Simply scrub the dingy stucco with a dampened nylon brush to saturate the surface, then rub away the buildup with a moistened microfiber cloth (or clean cotton rag). In extreme cases—for instance, with deeply set stains—you may find that you need more firepower. Experts recommend, not a conventional household cleaner, but a chemical solution known as trisodium phosphate, or TSP. Though it’s commonly available at home centers and hardware stores, be advised that in order to use TSP safely, homeowners must take the proper precautions. Ventilate the area by opening windows and running a fan, and when working, wear the right gear (rubber gloves, protective eyewear, and long-sleeve clothing). Once it’s safe to proceed, combine the TSP with water in a bucket, diluting to water-to-TSP ratio of 15 to 1. Finally, apply the TSP to the affected area by means of a nylon brush and allow the stucco an hour or two to dry.

In outdoor applications, when used as a siding material or even a garden wall finish, stucco tends to get a lot dirtier and for that reason, requires more frequent cleaning. The process doesn’t take long, though, so long as you use either a garden hose (equipped with a spray nozzle) or a power washer (on its lowest setting). First, with your chosen tool set to spray in a mist formation, saturate the stucco from bottom to top. Next, switch to a more concentrated spray and proceeded to clean, not from bottom to top, but from top to bottom (that way, dirt higher up on the wall doesn’t simply settle at the base). After spraying, check the stucco for any lingering buildup and, if you encounter any buildup, dislodge it with a stiff-bristle brush. Just be careful not to scrub so vigorously that you grind down the stucco. Now, if blemishes still remain on the siding, there’s one more step. With a pump sprayer or a hose wand with a built-in soap reservoir, apply diluted TSP (described above) directly to the affected areas. Then, having allowed sufficient time for the stucco to dry, finish up by rinsing the stucco surface one last time.



How to Maintain Stucco - Repair Area

Photo: ctscement.com

Why does stucco last so long? In part, its durability owes to the fact that unlike other, more flexible materials, stucco boasts the gift of rigidity. That said, the rigidity of the material can also be a curse, causing it to develop cracks, chips, and gouges over time. Inside the home, surface stucco imperfections are merely an eyesore. But on the exterior, gaps in stucco siding can lead not only to further degradation of the stucco, but also to a host of nasty issues— mold growth, for example, or pest infestations. Don’t give a minor crack the chance to become a major headache. Take swift action. On your own, without having to hire a contractor, you can restore both the outward appearance of your stucco and, in the case of siding, its ability to defend your home against the elements. Modest stucco repairs are easily within reach for do-it-yourselfers because of products like Rapid Set Stucco Patch. On the one hand, Stucco Patch simplifies the crack-filling process, and on the other, speeds it up. In fact, due to its unique formulation, you get the job done in remarkably little time.

To begin, clear any loose or crumbling material away from and out of the crack, whether simply by using your hands or by employing a wire brush. At the same time, remember to eliminate any chalk, dirt, or oil that would inhibit the ability of the repair compound to adhere properly. Next, if the crack you’re addressing isn’t already at least a quarter of an inch thick, use a cold chisel and a hammer to widen it that much (and if possible, chisel the crack so that its edges are perpendicular to the wall). At this point, it’s worth taking a moment to assess the ambient conditions where you’re working. If it’s especially hot (or if you’re outdoors, especially windy), take the time to pre-moisten the stucco surrounding the crack. Otherwise, assuming you’ve prepared the stucco surface, you can proceed directly to preparing the Rapid Set Stucco Patch. In a wheelbarrow, mixing tub, or bucket, combine Stucco Patch with water in a 4-to-1 ratio and, with a drill-mounted paddle, mix the material for a few minutes until you have achieved a smooth, uniform, lump-free consistency like peanut butter.

Now you’re ready to apply the Rapid Set Stucco Patch. Working with a putty knife or small trowel, press the material firmly into the crack. Then, after completely filling the crack, run a flat board over the area. Doing so ensures that the patch doesn’t protrude beyond the plane of the existing stucco. What happens next depends on the texture of the existing stucco—and, depending on the size and location of the patch, if you deem it necessary for the patch to feature the same texture. Of course, if the existing surface features a smooth finish, then no problem—you can smooth the patch to an equally smooth finish with a traditional plastering tool. If, however, you need to match a decorative effect like stippling, then you may wish to take a cue from the pros who often employ ad hoc tools like sponges and kitchen whisks to create the desired effect. Once you have finished the patch to your satisfaction, you can more or less call it a day. There’s no complicated curing process involved with Rapid Set Stucco Patch.

Rapid Set Stucco Patch sets on its own, and a lot more quickly than other similar products. But that’s not the best part. When you repair stucco with other materials, you have to wait as long as 28 days before being able to paint over the patch. That’s 28 days before you can cross the project off your to-do list. Meanwhile, true to its name, Rapid Set Stucco Patch is ready to receive paint only 90 minutes after application. That’s why both pros and homeowners favor rapid-setting repair materials that give them the ability to move quickly through the process, from the beginning all the way to the end. The emphasis on speed only makes sense given that, after all, many stucco failures are time-sensitive, with prudence favoring a sooner-rather-than-later repair.

Overall, though stucco doesn’t require a great deal of care, you can’t forget all about it. Inspect it periodically—once per season, in the case of stucco siding—and clean or repair the material as necessary. Give stucco the modest amount of attention it demands, and it’s likely to reward you with decades of beauty and weather-tight performance.

How to Maintain Stucco - Rapid Set Stucco Patch

Photo: ctscement.com

This article has been brought to you by CTS | Rapid Set. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.

How To: Crackle Paint

Transform drab wood furniture with this authentic-looking “antique” finish.

How to Crackle Paint

Photo: istockphoto.com

A coat of latex paint will add color to plain wood furniture—but not much else. To really beat the blahs, consider treating tables, chairs, picture frames, or other decorative items to a crackle finish, a mottled veneer that gives off a vintage vibe. Produced by manipulating two different shades of paint, it’s an easy and elegant effect to achieve with the right tools and techniques. And though the process of crackling paint can be relatively quick, its artful results will leave people thinking that the aged patina took decades to develop!

- Sandpaper (various grits from 80 to 150)
- Orbital sander (optional)
- Clean cloth
- Paintbrushes
- Primer
- Latex paint (two shades: one gloss, one flat)
- Paint roller (optional)
- Painter’s tape
- Sponge
- Crackle medium or school glue
- Hair dryer (optional)
- Clear, water-based polyurethane sealant

In order to remove aberrations and prep the surface for paint, it’s crucial to sand wood that you intend to crackle. Starting with unfinished furniture? A light sanding with 150-grit or finer sandpaper is all it takes to smooth it. If there’s already stain or lacquer on the piece, remove the color and sheen with an orbital sander and 80- to 100-grit sandpaper. Wipe away the sanding dust with a damp cloth.

How to Crackle Paint

Photo: istockphoto.com

Apply a thin, even coat of primer to the dry piece; use a paintbrush for smaller pieces and spray primer for larger surface areas. Let dry according to manufacturer’s instructions.

You can use latex paint of any level of gloss for the base coat color, but a semi-gloss or satin is ideal so that the cracks of color shimmer in the light. Moving in the direction of the grain, brush paint over the surfaces and joints of the piece and then allow the base coat to dry overnight.

The crackle medium can take one of two forms, each with a different application technique:

• For a goof-proof finish, choose commercial crackle medium sold at craft stores. Tape off any surface areas you don’t want to crackle paint. Then, apply a thick layer of the milk-white substance over the painted piece, using a sponge to create small cracks, or a clean paintbrush or roller for larger cracks. The crackle medium rolls on clear, so work from the top down or bottom up so you’ll know which surfaces you have yet to cover. Let dry for at least one but no more than four hours.

• For a less expensive—but equally effective—old finish, enlist the aid of a school glue like Elmer’s when practicing how to crackle paint. Keeping the piece level with the floor, brush a thin layer of glue over it to create hairline cracks, or a thicker layer for larger cracks. Proceed to Step 5 while the glue is still tacky. If you’re crackle-painting a small project, you can coat the entire piece in glue before applying the top coat; larger pieces will require you apply glue to one surface at a time so the glue doesn’t cure before it is crackled.

Using a clean paintbrush, apply a top coat of flat latex paint in a different color over the dried crackle medium or tacky glue until the piece is fully coated. Choose a shade of paint that contrasts with the base coat color.

• The top coat will shrink, crack, and reveal slivers of the base coat almost instantly after the paint is exposed to the crackle medium. Avoid retouching painted areas so as not to wipe out the cracks. Let the crackle finish air-dry overnight.

• If you’re using school glue, cure the top coat and glue with a hairdryer on the hot setting. Hold the dryer two to three inches from the surface and blast in one area until the degree of “crackliness” suits your style, then move on to another spot. Continue until the entire piece is crackled and the glue is fully cured.

Apply a clear coat to furniture pieces that will get a lot of use to protect the finish and make it last, or let the crackle finish go without sealant to play up its distressed glamour.

After practicing on a single decor accent, you might find you’re ready to put those newfound skills to use giving a new-old finish to more forgotten furniture throughout the house!

How to Crackle Paint

Photo: istockphoto.com


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

How To: Make Your Own Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Avoid the harmful chemicals in store-bought toilet cleaners by making your own DIY version.

Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Photo: istockphoto.com

Everyone loves a clean home, but our obsession with sanitation may come at a cost to our health. Some people, especially those with allergies, develop sensitivities to the harsh chemicals in store-bought cleaning products. To escape from the toxic ingredients and irritating scents, a number of homeowners have started turning to homemade cleaning products—right down to their toilet bowl cleaners! Although DIY-ing your toilet bowl cleaner won’t put a surprising amount of money back in your pocket with every batch, it will provide a safe and natural solution for stains. Don’t be intimidated by the extra work it takes to make your own cleaning products: We’ve researched a recipe that’s simple and affordable, so you can whip up your own natural toilet cleaner quickly and without a lot of fuss.

- Glass bowl
- Baking soda
- Disinfecting essential oils
- Wooden spoon
- Glass jar (for storage)
- 20% white vinegar
- Toilet brush


Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaner - from Baking Soda and Essential Oils

Photo: istockphoto.com

Making the Cleaner 

In a glass bowl, add two cups baking soda and 100 drops (roughly one teaspoon) of a disinfecting essential oil, such as tea tree oil, lavender, orange, pine, or a blend of oils, any of which are available for purchase in health food stores or online. Make sure your mixing bowl is glass, not any old stainless steel or Tupperware container; essential oil reacts with metal and can even deteriorate plastic.

Use a wooden spoon to mix the oil and baking soda together, breaking up clumps as you go. Hold off on the vinegar. As it reacts chemically with baking soda, the two should be mixed only in the toilet bowl during cleaning.

You should have enough powder for about 30 uses. To keep the homemade toilet bowl cleaner fresh as you work your way through the supply, transfer it to an airtight glass jar for long-term storage outside of the bathroom—otherwise, excess moisture from steamy showers and long baths may cause clumping and uneven distribution of ingredients.


Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaner - All Natural Cleanser

Photo: istockphoto.com

Using the Cleaner 

When you’re ready to clean your toilet, drop one tablespoon of the baking soda/essential oil mix into the bottom of the bowl. Sprinkle additional mixture onto the walls of the bowl as well, and use your toilet brush to spread the powder around.

Next, pour ½ cup of 20% vinegar into the bowl. (Note: This product isn’t your standard white vinegar found at the supermarket; it’s generally used only to kill weeds or clean, and it can be bought online. If you can’t find it, normal 5% distilled vinegar from the grocery store will work, but you’ll need to increase the quantity to 2 cups for each cleaning.)

The contents of the bowl should start to fizz when the vinegar reacts with the baking soda. If no fizzing occurs, the toilet water may be diluting the mix, or your baking soda may be too old. Try adding another tablespoon of powder and spreading it around.

Once the homemade toilet bowl cleaner fizzes, use the brush to scrub away any stains or spots in the bowl.

Let the remaining mixture sit for about 15 minutes, then flush the toilet. Easy! Now you can ready to enjoy a spotless bathroom, free of gunk and harsh chemicals!


Cleaning Tips for a Spotless Home

All of the Essential Cleaning Advice from BobVila.com
There’s no way around it: Keeping the house clean demands your time, your energy, and even some of your money. Fortunately, this arsenal of cleaning tips can help you finish the housekeeping more quickly—and with fewer commercially sold products.

How To: Cut Copper Pipe

Prep for your piping project—be it plumbing or something a little craftier—by first learning how to slice your star material.

How To Cut Copper Pipe

Photo: istockphoto.com

Beyond its well-earned prominence in the plumbing department, copper piping is having its moment in the DIY world as an “it” accent. With its rich color, sheen, and potential for patina, this metal brings character to any project and looks great in everything from table legs to lighting fixtures. No matter how you intend to use this trendy material, manipulating copper pipe starts with knowing how to cut it—and it’s dead simple! As with most jobs around the home, how hard you’ll have to work will depend on your choice of tools.

- Pipe cutter
- Pipe slice
- Hacksaw
- Round file
- Ketchup
- Paper towels
- Microfiber cloth

How To Cut Copper Pipe Using a Pipe Cutter

Photo: istockphoto.com

Using a Pipe Cutter

Cutting copper pipe with a tool built expressly for that purpose—a pipe cutter—is an easy, exact, and complication-free process. One caveat, however: This tool is recommended primarily for pipes of larger diameters. For small-diameter copper pipe, which can be soft and pinchable, stick to the pipe slice method described later.

To proceed using a pipe cutter, position your copper pipe in the pipe cutter and tighten the blade just enough so it is snug—any tighter and you may bend the pipe. Once it’s snug, give your pipe a couple of turns within the tool’s grasp. Pull out the pipe to inspect it, and you should see a groove cut around its circumference. Slide the pipe through the pipe cutter so the groove aligns with the blade, and tighten it once more until it’s just snug. Twist until your pipe is cut.

When you’re done, use the pipe cutter’s built-in burr removal tool to shave any burrs or raised lips left on the inside of the pipe, as those would inhibit smooth water passage. No burr remover on your pipe cutter? A round file worked around the interior of the pipe will do the trick.

Using an Autocut Pipe Slice

Though you have to purchase a pipe slice tailored to the diameter of your pipe (even multiple slices, if you plan to cut pipes of different dimensions), this is ultimately the best tool to use when you’re working with thinner copper diameters of ¼ inch or so. A pipe slice will get the job done without pinching or complications, even more easily than the pipe cutter! The pipe slice’s blade is spring-loaded; slip it around your pipe, and it automatically determines how much to tighten for a clean cut so all you’ll need to concentrate on is twisting the pipe within its grip. Once the pipe has been cut through, use a round file to remove any burrs left behind.

Using a Hacksaw

Attempt this method only if you’re working on a non-plumbing project—or are trapped in your home and cannot pick up another tool from the store. Though a hacksaw will cut through the copper pipe, it’s difficult to hold the pipe firmly enough to get a clean cut with a hacksaw, no matter how strong you are.

In plumbing, if the pipe is affixed to other plumbing when you’re sawing, the excess movement can result in future joint failure. If you’re not working on plumbing, a little movement is not so much of a problem, but it’s undeniably grunt work. Brace the pipe securely and saw it as you would anything else. Before putting a hand-sawn pipe in a plumbing fixture, use a round file to smooth the pipe interior.

Finishing Touches

Depending on the type of project you’re working on, you’ll want to follow the cutting with a crucial next step.

• For plumbing projects, you must always end with the removal of burrs or any raised edges inside the pipe. If not removed, those burrs could cause water flowing through the pipes to swish, creating loud noises as water travels through the pipes. As well, rough interior edges could lead to pipe pitting and corrosion that could one day turn into pinhole leaks. Take the time to sand down the rough edges now, however, and your pipes will function smoothly for years to come.

• Although much less important for most plumbing jobs, copper tubing destined to brighten a DIY home accent may need a cleaning after cuts have been made. If you forgot to don gloves before beginning your copper project, you’ll probably find that your fingerprints stained the metal surface. Fortunately, the fix is simple: Put a coat of ketchup (yes, really!) or Heinz A1 Steak Sauce over the pipe, leave it for a minute, and wipe it off with a dry cloth or paper towel. The condiment’s acidic quality will take the tarnish right off. Buff with a clean microfiber cloth, then rinse, dry, and admire your shiny new copper accent.

Bob Vila Radio: Stop Deer in Their Tracks

These garden grazers can eat over six pounds of food a day. Unfortunately, all that snacking and trampling through the yard can damage fruit trees, vegetables, and flowers. Here's what you need to know to find a deer deterrent that really works!


You might enjoy their pastoral presence, but there’s no doubt that deer wreak havoc on garden vegetables, plants, and trees.  Here are some ways to keep them from snacking on your lawn and garden.

Photo: istockphoto.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON KEEPING DEER AWAY or read below:

First, deer love fruit trees, ivy, and high-protein crops like peas and beans, so remove those from your garden if you can. Consider planting prickly bushes to create a barrier around the perimeter of your yard. If you’re really determined, you can always install an opaque fence—but remember that most deer can scale a six foot barrier in seconds. To be effective, it should be at least eight feet tall. Another option is to install a lower fence topped with chicken wire and tilted away from your yard at a 45 degree angle.

For a less hands-on solution, try motion-sensor lights or an automated sprinkler system to startle the sneaky intruders. It might sound strange, but chili spray, bits of human hair, or repellents containing wolf or coyote urine can also do the trick.  Most of all, experiment with new methods if the problem persists. Every person, like every deer, is different—so what doesn’t work for one may be the perfect deterrent for another.

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!