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Enter Bob Vila’s $3,500 Get Your Green On Give-Away from the Craftsman® Brand Today!

Enter for your chance to win an amazing weekly prize from the Craftsman brand.

updated Feb300x250 (1)Winter is coming to a close, which means it’s time to brush off those patio chairs, barbecue pits, and, most importantly, lawn tools. If your green machines are in less than stellar order, it might be time for an upgrade. To save you some hard-earned cash and to help get your outdoor retreats in tip-top shape, we’ve partnered with the Craftsman brand to bring you the $3,500 Get Your Green On Give-Away, which offers a must-have outdoor maintenance or storage prize each week throughout February.


Today and every day in February (starting at 12:00 p.m. EST January 31st, 2016 through 11:59 a.m. EST on February 29th, 2016), enter to win an amazing weekly prize from the Craftsman brand to get your home and lawn ready for spring. (See Official Rules below.)

riding mower

Since 1972, the Craftsman brand has been dedicated to offering high-quality, durable tools that everyone from first-time DIYers to seasoned weekend warriors can always count on. Featuring over 80 categories and more than 6,000 products for the lawn, garden, garage, workshop, and more, there’s no job you can’t fix when armed with Craftsman tools.

Each week in February, we’re awarding one lucky winner an outdoor maintenance or storage prize from the Craftsman brand. Check back each week to enter to win one of four incredible prizes from America’s best-selling tool brand:

Throughout Week 1 (January 31st–February 8th) you could win a collection of the Craftsman brand’s newest cordless tools, including the 24V 22” Cordless Hedge Trimmer, the 24V Cordless Hard Surface Sweeper, the 24V 10” Cordless Chain Saw, and the 24V 12” Cordless Line Trimmer, to add to your yard work arsenal.

During Week 2 (February 8th–15th), enter to win a Craftsman Premium Heavy-Duty Floor Cabinet that can keep your go-to home improvement essentials safe and stored.

For Week 3 (February 15th–22nd), we’re offering up a Craftsman Pro Series Wide Deck Gas Mower—a new addition to the Craftsman Pro Series line that boasts a 28″ 2-in-1 dual-blade mowing deck and an engine qualified to 60% longer life (comparing against the expected life of standard Briggs & Stratton E Series Engine). 

Week 4 (February 22nd–29th) concludes with awarding one lucky winner the Craftsman Pro Series 20 HP 42” Riding Mower, which features Consistent Cut Technology, the power and durability of a Kohler 7000 Elite Series engine, and more.

So what are you waiting for? Enter today and every day in February for your chance to win an amazing tool to help beautify your backyard.

To learn more about the Craftsman brand, click here.

The “Bob Vila’s $3,500 Get Your Green On Give-Away from the Craftsman Brand” is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia; residents of Alaska and Hawaii are not eligible. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Contest Period runs from 12:00 p.m. (EST) Sunday, January 31st, 2016, through 11:59 a.m. Monday, February 29th, 2016. One entry per household per day on BobVila.com. Alternative means of entry for Drawing is available by faxing your name and address to 508-437-8486 during the applicable Entry Period. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. See Official Rules.

How To: Make Your Own Carpet Cleaner

Whether caused by foot traffic or just long-term wear and tear, dingy carpet can really bring down the appearance of an entire room. Get your carpeted spaces looking as good as new by using this homemade solution to get rid of stains and lingering dirt.

Homemade Carpet Cleaner

Photo: fotosearch.com

The more you entertain, the more likely it is that you’ll have to deal with stains. A spilled glass of wine, a smudge of dirt—it’s frustrating to see stubborn stains on an otherwise clean carpet. But stains aren’t the only problem. You also need to worry about the effects of long-term wear and tear. Over time, it’s inevitable that carpeting will start to lose its brand-new sheen. Before you spend big bucks on a heavy-duty over-the-counter rug shampoo, try whipping up your own homemade carpet cleaner and giving dingy areas (and errant stains) a good scrub. We’ve got the perfect recipe—all you need to do is set aside a weekend to concentrate on getting your carpeting truly clean.

- 2 tablespoons liquid detergent
- 1/4 cup all-purpose cleaner (for example, Formula 409)
- 1 scoop OxiClean
- 1 teaspoon Downy fabric softener (optional)
- 1 gallon hot water
- Protective gloves
- Large bowl
- One-gallon pot
- Carpet cleaning machine

Homemade Carpet Cleaner - Clean Carpet Pile

Photo: fotosearch.com

Pour 1 gallon of water into the pot and set it to boil on the stove. While you’re waiting for the water to boil, put on your rubber gloves and combine the liquid detergent, all-purpose cleaner, OxiClean, and fabric softener (if you opt to use it) in a large bowl.

Wait a few minutes until the cleaning products have dissolved. (The OxiClean is typically in powder form, which means you may need to stir the mixture a bit.) Next, slowly add in the gallon of hot water. Be sure to pour it gently so you don’t create too many bubbles, which can lead to air pockets inside the carpet cleaner.

Next, pull out your carpet cleaning machine. (There are many models on the market, but if you’re not interested in investing in one, check with your local home improvement store to see if they rent out machines.) Transfer the solution to your carpet cleaner, following the instructions for the appliance. Keep in mind that the cleaning solution you’ve made already contains a fair amount of water, so you can use it at full strength in the carpet cleaner.

Before you start cleaning your carpets, test a small spot to make sure that the machine cleans properly and that neither the solution nor the machine damages the carpeting. Remember, carpets are made of different materials; you don’t want to worsen the stain or harm your carpet. Also be careful not to use too much cleaning solution, because soapy residue can harm the carpet, and too much moisture can lead to mildew. Wait at least 24 hours for the test spot to dry to see the results.

After you’ve checked the efficacy of the machine, run over your entire carpet with the machine, paying special attention to stains and areas that look particularly dingy. Just as you did with the test spot, wait at least 24 hours for your carpeting to dry, and then you’re done!

3 Fixes for Unsightly Cords

Sure, you need them to power up your devices, but wouldn’t it be nice if cords could just be banished from view? These 3 solutions prove that where there's a wire, there's a way.

After you’ve spent years getting your living spaces in line, it can be almost maddening to walk into a room that has everything in its place only to have your eyes linger on unsightly wires that run rampant from your electrical devices. While you may think that there’s no cure for this tangly trouble, don’t be discouraged. Instead, try one of these three inexpensive DIY projects to disguise those cords hanging from your TV, computer, lamps, and more—you’ll preserve your sanity and your cash.




Photo: julieblanner.com

Mounting the TV is popular among homeowners in quest of a clean-lined living space. But along with the sophistication of a sleek, lofty screen comes an array of dangling cords that can make your viewing area look more dorm room than curated creation. To conceal a smattering of wires, try this makeshift mantel that tucks stray cords beneath an inexpensive molding. Start by choosing a style of crown molding shelf that best matches your room’s aesthetic. Julie Blanner, the brains behind this brilliant fix, chose a traditional white version to complement her classic living room. Next, measure and mark the shelf on both ends, and cut it down to the exact size you need. Feed the cords through one side of the molding—Julie drilled a hole in her built-ins to further camouflage the unpleasant necessities—and then attach the shelf with glue. Voilà! Movie night just got so much better.



how to hide wires - pegboard

Photo: organizingmadefun.com

If a jumble of computer cords is cramping your desk style, try this solution from Organizing Made Fun that will stealthily stash away wires while keeping them accessible. First, cut a piece of pegboard to size, about 1/4 inch smaller on all sides than the space beneath the desk so you’ll be easily able to pull back the board to reach the cords. Next, give the pegboard a few coats of spray paint, or leave it blank—whatever best matches your decor. Use cable ties threaded through the pegboard holes to attach a power strip to the back of the board so that the outlets face the wall, then secure the board in place using light clips and Velcro. This combination of fasteners will ensure that your designated disguiser won’t tip forward yet will still be easy to remove whenever you need to unplug.



how to hide wires - furniture

Photo: inmyownstyle.com

Now you see them, now you don’t! That’s how we feel about this clever trick from Diane of In My Own Style, which discreetly hides wires in the nooks and crannies of furniture. First, gather a wire basket, a power strip, an extension cord, cup hooks, and clear cord organizing clips. Cut one of the corner pieces off the basket using a wire cutter, and then use cable ties to secure the extension cord to the basket. Next, screw in cup hooks to attach the basket upside down to the bottom of your desk so that the extension cord remains easily accessible. Using the clear cord organizing clips, run cords and wires up the legs and along the underside of your tabletop until you reach the power strip. Thread the cords through the hole in the basket, and plug ‘em in for a seemingly wireless experience.

Quick Tip: The Simplest Way to Clean a Dusty TV Screen

If dust is as glued to the tube as you are, check out the small-screen talents of these everyday cleaning companions that can keep your binge-watching crystal clear.

Cleaning a Flat Screen TV

Photo: ikea.com

Cleaning a Flat Screen TV - Dusting

Photo: fotosearch.com

One of life’s simplest pleasures is plopping down in front of the TV to watch your favorite show. But sometimes when you tune in to your beloved comedies, mysteries, and old westerns, you may notice that your flat-screen TV is mired in a dust bowl drama of its own, with accumulated dirt, debris, and fingerprints fading its shine and clouding your view. While the glass screens of old-school TVs  can handle Windex and other store-bought products, the LCD screens of today’s models have delicate pixels that can be damaged by many common cleansers. Before you reach for a chemical-laden specialty cleaner, try using humble materials already under your roof to bust the dust on your flat-screen.

To start, turn off your TV and let it cool to reduce the risk of static shock and also to make the imperfections easier to see. Because paper towels and hand tissues have wood-based fibers that can wear away the screen’s antiglare coat, choose a clean, lint-free microfiber cloth or a cotton T-shirt to do your dirty work. Dab or spray a well-mixed solution of equal parts vinegar and water onto your cloth—never spray liquid directly onto the TV—and, using moderate pressure, gently wipe the cloth over the screen from left to right and then top to bottom before tackling the frame. Vinegar, however, isn’t the only kitchen staple that can destroy dirt on contact: Using the same motion, you can slide an unused coffee filter over the screen to capture dust and cut screen static faster than you can make a cup of joe!

Repeat this ritual at least once a week to maintain the crystal-clear finish of your flat-screen. Don’t forget to extend the same consideration to your TV’s hardworking partner—the remote control. Using a cotton swab saturated in rubbing alcohol, sweep dust from the crevices of the clicker. And when you’re all done, press the power button and get settled in for an ultra-vivid TV marathon!

A Smart Add-On to Boost Boiler Efficiency by 15% or More

If an older boiler drives your heating system, there's a good chance you can achieve greater efficiency by augmenting the appliance with an outdoor reset control. Affordable and easily installed, the technology ensures that you spend no more than necessary to keep your home comfortable throughout the winter months.

Photo: supplyhouse.com

This time of year, homeowners around the country bemoan the high cost of home heating and naturally seek out ways to reduce their costs. A point of frustration is that, while there’s no shortage of energy-saving measures to pursue, many offer only a modest payoff in relation to the amount of time or money required to put them into effect. That said, if yours is a hydronic heating system, you have a simple, affordable, and highly effective option at your disposal. Install an outdoor reset boiler control, and you can ensure that you spend no more than necessary to keep your home warm throughout the winter season.

To appreciate the value of the device, remember that hydronic systems are designed to output enough heat to compensate for the heat loss incurred on the coldest days of the year. Most of the time, however, temperatures are not so extreme, making it unnecessary for the boiler to run at maximum capacity. But while newer boilers are capable of self-regulating, but the typical older model “fires at full blast, even if it’s 50 degrees outside,” according to Daniel O’Brian, a technical specialist with SupplyHouse.com. That means, O’Brian continues, “You may be wasting a lot of money on heating that your home doesn’t really need.”

Photo: supplyhouse.com

When the alternative is to purchase a new boiler, many homeowners choose instead to install an outdoor reset control. The latter costs only a few hundred dollars, but works to make any existing, traditional boiler considerably more energy efficient. How? By means of a discrete, electronic sensor positioned on the home exterior, the device actively monitors the outdoor temperature. Then, based on its reading, a microprocessor calculates the heating demand and adjusts the performance of the boiler accordingly. That way, the boiler never runs harder or for longer than necessary to achieve the desired indoor temperature.

“Outdoor reset controls save money and increase comfort; it’s as simple as that,” O’Brian says. On the one hand, by modulating the boiler, the device increases the efficiency of the appliance by at least 15 percent, saving the homeowner no small amount on month-to-month utility bills. On the other hand, it leads to a more pleasant living environment by eliminating the dramatic temperature swings that inevitably occur in any home whose boiler goes back and forth between inactivity and full-capacity operation. “There’s a good reason why newer boilers have outdoor reset control technology built-in,” O’Brian points out.

Among the outdoor reset controls on the market, different models come with different features. For instance, some include an automatic boiler differential function, which helps homeowner save even more by preventing the heating system from short-cycling—that is, operating in inefficient bursts—when there’s a low level of heating demand. Others feature a “warm weather shut down” mode, which turns off the boiler on unseasonably warm days, when the outdoor temperature rises above a certain preset threshold point. The value of such features, O’Brian says, “depends on your needs and the climate where you live.”

The experts at SupplyHouse.com are always be on hand to help homeowners choose the right product, but it’s important to note that for installation, it’s recommended that you contract with a professional. Even if you’re a veteran home handyman, “there are a lot of variables to consider, and any oversights can pose serious problems for the performance of your heating system, not to mention causing permanent damage to your boiler.” For homeowners, O’Brian concludes, it’s best to concentrate on the results of an outdoor reset control installation. “Compare your bills before and after,” he says. “You’ll like what you see.”

Photo: supplyhouse.com

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

3 Ways to Get Fresher Indoor Air This Winter

Stuffy, dust-heavy air need not be a fact of life in winter. This year, pursue a healthy, invigorating environment with a suite of improvements designed to help you breath easy at home.

Winter Indoor Air Quality Solutions

Photo: fotosearch.com

This season, as temperatures drive lower and lower, it’s only natural for people to retreat into the safety and comfort of their warm, inviting homes. There’s only one problem: With the doors closed and the windows tightly sealed—in other words, with a lot less fresh air circulating throughout the home—many complain of dry, stuffy, and overall unpleasant conditions. Others harbor genuine health concerns, based on reports that a wide range of household products and furnishings release impurities that can linger in the air. Fortunately, if you wish to maintain a comfortable, healthy home, not only during the winter, but year-round, you’ve got a number of options. You don’t have to worry over choosing the right strategy, either. As homeowner awareness of the issue has risen in recent years, so too has the number of companies that address indoor air quality concerns. Sears Home Services, for instance, routinely offers free in-home consultations, with experienced professionals able to guide you toward an effective solution. David Kenyon, an HVAC specialist with the company, summarizes, “There’s no single approach that works every time.” The challenge is to strike upon the “correct combination” of measures that, working in tandem, “make a real, noticeable difference.” Read on to learn about three improvements commonly recommended by Sears.



Winter Indoor Air Quality Solutions - Furnace Maintenance

Photo: fotosearch.com

“In terms of maintenance, the average HVAC system isn’t so different from a car,” says Kenyon. “For peak performance, the hardworking internal components often require replacement or repair.” Without care and attention, heating systems fail to operate as designed, and in homes heated by a furnace, indoor air quality may suffer. The reason is that, while every forced-air furnace contains a filter, not every filter works equally well to take dust, germs, and other particulates out of the air. If you haven’t checked yours in years, there’s a good chance that it’s a traditional fiberglass filter. While good enough to protect the heating appliance, such filters do little to protect the air you breathe. Newer, better-quality furnace filters catch even microscopic impurities, removing them from circulation. There’s a catch, though. Kenyon says that, compared to their fiberglass forebears, “high-efficiency filters must be cleaned or replaced more often, about every three months.” That’s one of the reasons why many homeowners schedule regular system check-ups with a provider like Sears Home Services. At your request, in addition to inspecting the appliance, technicians are able to clean or replace the filter, ensuring the furnace plays its part in purifying the indoor air.



Winter Indoor Air Quality Maintenance - Ductwork Cleaning

Photo: fotosearch.com

If you’re like most people in homes with forced-air heating, you rarely consider the network of ducts engineered to channel air from the furnace to your living spaces. It’s well worth taking a second look, though, if you’re dissatisfied with your indoor air quality. According to Kenyon from Sears, “ducts are notorious for collecting and distributing irritants and allergens.” You can try to corral things like dust and pet dander before they enter the ductwork and spread, but “it’s always going to be a losing battle,” Kenyon says. After all, he continues, “dust is ubiquitous.” So what can be done to prevent ductwork from exacerbating indoor air quality problems? Grab a flashlight, choose a room, and, after removing the grate from the return register, peer inside to assess. If you notice an accumulation of dust and debris, “that may be why you’re sneezing all the time,” Kenyon says. It may be tempting to try cleaning out the ductwork on your own, but special tools and techniques are needed to do a comprehensive job. For instance, Sears Home Services utilizes truck-mounted suction equipment. If you’re convinced your dusty ducts are part of the problem, seek out a local pro or book online with Sears today.



Winter Indoor Air Quality Solution - Air Purification Systems

Photo: searshomeservices.com

To remove the toxins that are invisible to the naked eye, health-conscious homeowners often opt for an air purification system, be it a standalone or an add-on to the central HVAC system. The upside of working with a nationwide company like Sears Home Services is that, unlike many smaller outfits, Sears routinely installs air purifiers of all types and, well versed in their differences, the company can help you choose the best approach for your home. “Different air purification systems rely on different technologies, each with its own set of pros and cons,” says Kenyon. Some use ultraviolet light, while others employ high-efficiency particulate arrestance (HEPA). Still others—namely, photo catalytic oxidization (PCO) systems—combine multiple technologies in one. After an initial consultation and survey of your home, Sears specialists can handle the process from start to finish, recommending and installing a purification technology whose capabilities correspond to your specific indoor air quality concerns.


Kenyon concludes by highlighting the elusive, hard-to-pin-down nature of indoor air quality issues. “If a baseball flies out of the backyard and breaks a window, you can see damage. You can see the broken glass. You can see the problem.” When it comes to indoor air quality, though, “you’re dealing with a problem that needs to be carefully evaluated.” For that reason, if you doubt the purity of the air in your home, Kenyon suggests the modest first step of arranging a visit from a trained, certified professional, specializing in HVAC. “Once the problem is understood, then the solution follows not far behind.”

Winter Indoor Air Quality Solutions - Curtains and Blinds

Photo: fotosearch.com

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

The Dos and Don’ts of Painting Laminate Cabinets

Prime your laminate cabinets for the perfect paint job with these tips for surface preparation, paint selection, and application.

Painting Laminate Cabinets - Kitchen Paint Job

Photo: fotosearch.com

Short of committing to a more costly replacement of outdated laminate cabinets, repainting them is an affordable way to turn the eyesore into eye-catching, modern cabinetry. But while you may be well-versed in painting most any old wood furnishings, from side tables to pantry doors, laminate is another beast altogether. Not nearly as porous as its wooden lookalike, this type of surface requires unique preparation, paint, and paint application. Follow these best practices to reinvigorate your laminate cabinetry with a fresh face that lasts!


If laminate is cracked, warped, or peeling, that damage can interfere with the bonding of paint to the cabinet. Ensure that the laminate is in good condition by repairing minor laminate damage or re-facing cabinets before applying paint.



Remove knobs, pulls, and other visible cabinet hardware before painting for smooth paint application without obstructions. You can mask metal on the hinges with painter’s tape and paint the doors in place, or, if the hinges are visible and removable, take the doors down from the cabinets and paint them separately on a work bench or sawhorse.

Painting Laminate Cabinets - White Kitchen Cabinets

Photo: Zillow Digs home in New York, NY


It may be tempting to eyeball your cabinets and decide that any dirt is minimal enough to conceal with a paint job, but your dirty secret will get out when the color fails to adhere well to the laminate. Before you start any painting, gently wipe away settled-on grime and grease using trisodium phosphate. Then, rinse with fresh water and dry the cabinets completely.



To create a strong bond between the paint and your cabinet, you’ll need to roughen up the slick laminate with the help of a gritty companion: sandpaper. (For better coverage of a large surface area, consider upgrading to a motorized orbital sander. Your upper body will thank you.) Thoroughly scuff the surfaces of the cabinet with 120-grit sandpaper—enough to get a dusting, but not so much that you tear through the paper-thin laminate surface—and clean up any dusty remains with a handheld vacuum and a damp cloth.



Laminate doesn’t play well with all primers and paints, only those specially formulated to adhere to its picky surface. If you opt for a primer, choose a bonding primer tenacious enough to stick to laminate, and then top it with an oil- or latex-based paint after the primer has cured. If you select a paint that can be applied directly over laminate, you can skip the primer—just know that this qualification may limit your color choices (or, at the very least, rule out using paint leftover from another household project).

Painting Laminate Cabinets - Green Kitchen Cabinets

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Altanta, GA


Paint in hand, you’re almost ready to get to work. But first, double-check that your stock is well suited for the job. Testing its bonding capabilities before diving into an entire paint job could save you from a case of peeling paint down the road—and the need to redo hours of work. Apply your paint to a small, inconspicuous area of the cabinet (like the back of one you hardly ever open), let it cure, then inspect the bonding. If you spot some bubbles in the coat, that means it is not adhering well; consult a paint dealer at your hardware store to pinpoint a more suitable paint for the job.



If  your first-choice paint applicator for the traditionally flat surface of laminate cabinets is a brush, take a moment to reconsider. These popular paint tools tend to leave an unsightly trail of brush strokes in their wake. Opt instead for a roller, sprayer, or a paint pad for a streak-free finish.



Due to the powerful fumes released from the primer and paint (and your close proximity to them during a cabinet repaint), station a respirator in the room for increased ventilation, and keep children and pets out of the room. Lastly, pull on a pair of chemical-resistant work gloves before you go off to paint the town—or, perhaps in this case, cabinets—red!

How To: Install a Toilet Seat

This simple upgrade can make a marked improvement in your bathroom's appearance. If your toilet seat is cracked, dinged, or worn out, it may just be time for a (quick) change!

How to Install a Toilet Seat

Photo: fotosearch.com

Sure, there are plenty of intimidatingly complex bathroom repairs for which you would be wise to hire a plumber. This is not one of those. Virtually anyone can install a new toilet seat. Really, it’s only slightly more involved than swapping a new roll into the toilet paper holder. So, regardless of the reason for a new seat, whether the old one has cracked or you’re simply in need of a change, you can move forward confidently on this project, which should take no more than half an hour.

- Replacement toilet seat
- Tape measure
- Screwdriver
- Pliers
- Lubricating oil (optional)
- 1/2-inch socket wrench (optional)

How to Install a Toilet Seat - Upright Isolated

Photo: fotosearch.com

Remember that although they often look the same, toilet seats come in a variety of sizes. For that reason, before you purchase a replacement, be sure to measure your existing toilet seat. It simplifies things that these days, toilets come in a set of standard sizes and their accessories (seats included) are made to fit. Still, in the interest of avoiding a return trip to the home center, take three measurements—the length of the seat, the width of the seat, and the distance between the bolts that secure the seat to the toilet. Note that on some toilet seats, the bolts are hidden by plastic covers that snap off to reveal the fasteners beneath.

Removing the old seat may be the trickiest part of the job. Much depends on the nature of the nuts and bolts that keep the seat in place. If either or both are plastic, then you’ll probably have no problem. With pliers, hold the nuts on the underside of the toilet tank in place while you unscrew the bolts with a screwdriver. If the nuts and bolts are metal, particularly if the toilet seat hasn’t been replaced in years, corrosion may stand in your way. Here, it often helps to apply lubricating oil (WD-40, for instance) to the nut. Wait about 15 minutes, then use pliers—or, for extra punch, a 1/2-inch socket wrench—to take off the nut.

Having removed the old toilet seat, take the opportunity to clean in and around the bolt holes. Next, place the new seat on the toilet, threading the bolts through the freshly cleaned holes. With one hand preventing the bolt from budging, use the other to finger-tighten the nut underneath. Finally, gently screw in the bolt as you hold the nut steady with pliers. Take care not to over-tighten the bolt; doing so runs the risk of damaging your toilet. Put the plastic covers, if any, over the bolts, and before you call it a day, raise and lower the seat a few times to test for looseness. Tighten if necessary.

If only every home improvement offered such an outsize reward for so little effort! Though we seldom acknowledge it, the toilet seat—first and foremost a practical component—actually goes a long way toward influencing the appearance of a bathroom, especially one with a small footprint. Does your bathroom look better with the new toilet seat in place? Thought so.

9 Things You Won’t Believe Home Insurance Doesn’t Cover

Read the fine print on your homeowners insurance policy to ensure that you’re covered for everything. If you're not careful, these 9 high-risk liabilities might not make the cut.

Most homeowners insurance policies get squared away in the early stages of home buying and aren’t much looked at again until the time comes when they’re needed, say, after a burglary or significant storm damage. But don’t wait until the day you need to invoke it to learn what your policy doesn’t cover. A number of liabilities—ranging from trampolines to certain pests, and from out-of-the-home businesses to certain dog breeds—may not be included. So, before you’re caught off guard in a worst-case scenario, double-check your policy to make sure you’re protected for the following scenarios.


1. You Run Your Business Out of Your Home.

What Does Homeowners Insurance Cover - Not Home Businesses

Photo: fotosearch.com

Typically, home insurance covers only minor damages on at-home work equipment, up to a $2,500 loss limitation for business property, such as computers. Yet, for those who keep large amounts of inventory on their premises, such a small payout in all likelihood wouldn’t cover the cost of replacement. So, for business conducted in your home—not to mention liability for potential lawsuits—it’s wise to purchase a separate business insurance policy.


2. The House Sustained Flood Damage.

If you, like many homeowners, mistakenly believe that your homeowners insurance policy covers your property for flood-related damage, you’re not alone. Most people are surprised to learn that floods are excluded from coverage on almost every standard homeowners policy. Those who want protection need to apply through the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program, which is run by FEMA.

3. Your Sewer Backed Up.

With a strong El Niño predicted for 2016, torrential downpours could cause sewer backups into your drains and basements, causing thousands of dollars in damage. Most sewer backups, however, are not covered under a standard policy, nor are they covered by flood insurance. The good news: You may be able to purchase a separate rider for protection.


4. You Own a Certain Dog Breed.

What Does Homeowners Insurance Cover - Not High-Risk Dog Breeds

Photo: fotosearch.com

According to the Insurance Information Institute, dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for more than $500 million in homeowners insurance liability claims paid out in 2014, constituting more than one-third of all homeowners insurance claims. While most injuries caused by pets are covered by home insurance, some policies exclude those caused by certain “high-risk” breeds, like German shepherds or pit bulls. Check with your agent to be sure your dog’s breed won’t compromise your coverage.


5. You’ve Detected Termites.

According to the National Pest Management Association, in the United States termites cause an estimated $5 billion in damage each year—none of which is covered by homeowners insurance. While you can sometimes obtain something like termite coverage through a pest removal service, you’re much better off taking measures to prevent the problem. Trim back trees, keep your roof in good repair, and avoid ice dams caused by snow accumulation in order to keep these pests from penetrating your property. If your home is prone to termites, schedule a regular inspection with a pest professional.


6. Everything Is Under Construction.

What Does Homeowners Insurance Cover - not poor remodels

Photo: fotosearch.com

Considering a remodel this year? It’s nearly impossible to collect on a claim from your homeowners policy for faulty, inadequate, or defective workmanship, materials, or maintenance. That means, if you plan to hire a contractor, it’s important to confirm that he is licensed for liabilities. Request a physical or digital copy of any contractor’s insurance certificate from his insurance company. In the event that a contractor does something that injures someone or damages your home, he’ll be liable to pay for it—not you. You may also want to invest in additional coverage, such as a “builder’s risk policy” (also called a “course of construction” policy), to protect the premises during the construction process from damages including wind, rain, and even theft.


7. Burglars Found the Cash.

Let this be a lesson: Don’t go stashing significant cash underneath your mattress or between couch cushions. A standard homeowners insurance policy offers very limited coverage on lost paper money, typically capped at $200 (although the amount of coverage depends on the individual insurance company and the specific policy). Cash often gets lumped into the same category as collectibles, coins, medals, and banknotes, as “personal property,” with an aggregate limit in a standard homeowners policy. Unless the policy specifically states otherwise, don’t expect to be reimbursed for those bills lost during a burglary.


8. Your Pool Rivals a Water Park.

What Does Homeowners Insurance Cover - Not Diving Boards

Photo: fotosearch.com

While you could jump from a diving board at nine out of 10 in-ground swimming pools about 15 years ago, today those boards are a much less popular addition—with good reason. Depending on the policy, premiums may increase significantly or liability claims may be denied due to these “high-risk” pool features. Such equipment may even disqualify a home from coverage altogether. Weigh the risks against the rewards before walking the plank.


9. You Set Up a Trampoline.

Similarly, while kids consider trampolines a blast for the backyard, most insurance companies call them a liability. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission cites that trampoline-related accidents account for nearly 92,000 emergency room visits each year. Some homeowners insurance policies will not cover trampolines at all, meaning that if you, your kids, or any neighborhood kids get injured on the trampoline, your insurance company is not liable for the claim. Adding a trampoline could even result in non-renewal of your current policy. Before you buy or install a trampoline or any other “high-risk” playground equipment, you’ll want to read the fine print on your policy.

How To: Remove Soap Scum—Once and For All

Use one of these methods to get rid of that gross, filmy layer coating your tub, shower, and tile, then try out our tips for eliminating it forever!

How to Remove Soap Scum - Clean Bathtubs and Showers

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Franklin Park, NJ

If you bathe your body at all, you’ll inevitably encounter soap scum. It’s a sad irony of housekeeping that a substance that gets you clean every day can make your shower or tub so grungy. While that stubborn, scaly buildup forms when the fatty acids, talc, and other ingredients in bar soap react with the minerals in hard water, soap scum also contains body oil, dirt, bits of dead skin, and bacteria. Gross. Making the situation even less appealing, if soap scum is left to harden, it’s incredibly difficult to remove from your tub or shower. But fear not! There are many successful methods for removing soap scum. Read on to find the approach that’s right for you.

How to Remove Soap Scum - Caused by Bar Soap

Photo: fotosearch.com


Store-Bought Cleaners
Some popular commercial cleaning products, such as Dow Scrubbing Bubbles, have cracked the code on soap scum. If these appeal to you, the process is straightforward: Spray your tub and shower walls with the product, and give it a few minutes to cut through the greasy grime of the soap scum. Then, rinse and wipe down the surfaces with a sponge, scrub brush, or cloth. Follow up with a clean towel to get everything dry—remember, moisture attracts yucky buildup.

Homemade Cleaners
If DIY cleaners are more to your liking, here are a couple of recipes you can try.

Baking soda and vinegar. Pour a cup of baking soda into a small bowl and add enough white vinegar to make a paste. Once the mixture stops fizzing, use a sponge to apply it to your shower and tub, then let it set for about 15 minutes. Wipe the surfaces down with a non-scratch sponge, rinse thoroughly with water, and then dry.

Vinegar and dish detergent. Combine equal amounts of vinegar and water into a spray bottle, then add one tablespoon of dish detergent. Spray the solution on the soap scum, and allow it to sit for about 15 minutes. When you return, scrub it with a soft-bristle scrub brush, and rinse with hot water. Dry thoroughly.

Elbow Grease
If you have a porcelain tub, you can use a wet pumice stone to remove soap scum—so long as you work carefully. Improper technique or a dry stone can scratch glass doors or tile. To give it a try, wet both the pumice stone and the surface you’re working on. Then, very gently rub the wet stone over the soap scum. As the soap scum transfers to the pumice stone, use a stiff-bristle brush to clean it off, then go at it again. Alternatively, on a surface with very bad soap scum, you can try scraping it off with a razor. But avoid using any abrasive technique on a fiberglass or acrylic tub or shower.


How to Remove Soap Scum - Wipe Down the Tub

Photo: fotosearch.com


As in most activities, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. These top tips can help you manage buildup by preventing soap scum from forming in the first place.

1. Use liquid soap instead of bar soap. It’s the talc and fatty acids in bar soap that cause soap scum, so if you switch to liquid soap or shower gel, you should see a significant decrease in filmy residue.

2. Keep your shower and tub dry. Squeegee and/or towel dry your shower and tub after every use. You’ll be wiping away a good portion of the soap scum-creating particles left behind after you bathe, so you won’t experience the same level of buildup.

3. Soften your water. Soap scum thrives on hard water, so one way of thwarting it is to install a water softener, which will remove those minerals in your water that react with soap to make soap scum. If you’re not up for purchasing a water softener, consider adding Epsom salts to your bathwater to help soften it and keep soap scum under control. As a bonus, the Epsom salts will also soothe your sore muscles.

4. Use a daily shower cleaning product, or invest in an automatic cleaner. We live in a beautiful world where automatic shower cleaners exist. If you use one, you’ll notice a big reduction in soap scum, and you’ll be relieved of the arduous chore of removing it.