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Is This One App Going to Change DIY Forever?

For DIYers with more time and energy than experience and know-how, a brand-new app makes pro consultations easy, virtually instantaneous, and best of all, cheap.

Fountain Home Improvement App

Photo: fotosearch.com

Even if you’re a veteran do-it-yourselfer and hip to the many different avenues for project research available on the Internet, you’re never going to vanquish moments of uncertainty. When in doubt, during those situations when you’ve got the momentum but lack the know-how, wouldn’t it be nice to have an expert on your side? The next time you hit a stumbling block halfway through a home improvement or repair job, all you’ve got to do is reach for your smartphone.

Fountain App - Screenshot 1

Photo: fountain.com

When you open the free-to-download Fountain app (available for iOS), you are greeted by a screen that asks, “What are you stuck on?” Type in your problem and, if you’d like, include an annotated photo to clarify the issue. From there, the app digs through its index of the nationwide professionals best qualified to lend assistance. These are pre-screened pros, and Fountain has them for every imaginable home-and-garden category, from architecture and interior design to gardening and carpentry. In just 90 seconds, you’ll get automatically connected to a qualified expert for a phone call, video chat, or text messaging session.

While the app itself costs nothing, each 15-minute consultation runs a modest $7. That’s a fraction of what it would cost to get a home visit from a plumber or electrician. Besides that savings, we think what’s really exciting here is that, for the first time ever, you can pay a professional, not for actual service, but for advice.

Skeptical? Fountain shrewdly anticipated that first-time users of the app might feel trepidatious, so your first consultation is free, with a $10 credit being automatically applied to you account upon download.

Think of how many more projects you can tackle at home, now that something like Fountain exists! The only downside might be that you can no longer claim ignorance as an excuse for putting off your to-do list.

Fountain App - Screenshot 2

Photo: fountain.com

Download Fountain for iPhone or iPad, free.


Bob Vila Thumbs Up: The Copper Pipe Competition Starts Today

Vote now—and vote daily—to choose your favorite among the copper pipe projects competing to win this month's Bob Vila Thumbs Up competition!

fotosearch.com

Those who keep an eye on trends in home decor know that copper is having its moment right now. But ready-made copper fixtures and baubles into your space can cost a lot. However, some very savvy DIYers have discovered a way to bring this coveted material home for a fraction of the cost—copper pipes! By cutting, capping, and manipulating this metal, a handful of resourceful bloggers have created works of art worthy of recognition in this month’s Bob Vila Thumbs Up competition.

SEE ALL PROJECTS HERE

Bob Vila Thumbs Up highlights some of the best and brightest DIY bloggers, and this month we’re thrilled to share six very different copper pipe projects. They all win points for creativity and style, but we’re counting on you to help us name one blogger as the champion of this month’s competition and the prize—a $250 gift card.

SEE ALL PROJECTS HERE

So cast your vote today and every day in April to help your favorite blogger become this month’s Bob Vila Thumbs Up winner. After all, it’s your vote that determines the outcome of this competition.

Congrats to last month’s winning blogger, 33 Shades of Green. Read more about the 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!


Bob Vila Radio: The Reason for Rafter Vents

Attic insulation promotes, not only energy efficiency, but comfortable indoor temperatures—year round. For best results, however, be sure to supplement attic insulation with air-channeling rafter vents. Here's why.

Seasonal extremes in temperature put your attic insulation to the test. To get the best performance out of your insulation year in, year out, you would do well to install rafter vents in your attic.

Rafter Vents

Photo: completeroofing.ca

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Rafter vents channel air from the vents in your soffit—that’s the underside edge of the roof—all the way up to the ridge vents at the roof peak. That air flow helps keep the attic cooler during the summer, and during the winter, it helps keep ice from forming on the edge of the roof. It also guards against mold, mildew, and rot.

Rafter vents are usually made of aluminum, sheet metal, or plastic. They come in various lengths and are installed between the rafters, under the insulation. Once installed, they allow you to cover your attic floor with insulation all the way out to where the floor meets the roof.

Use a step ladder to install the vents, starting from the edge of the roof and working up to the ridge. And when you’re installing, make sure you don’t cover either end of the vents with insulation. Otherwise all your work will be for naught.

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.


Genius! Make a Candle with a Stick of Butter

If the lights go out and your regular emergency supplies are not available, what can you do? Well, if there's a stick of butter in the fridge, you're halfway to a serviceable candle.

How to Make a Butter Candle

Photo: instructables.com

Is it a MacGyver-style party trick or a practical skill for managing power-outtage emergencies? We’re not positive, but we think it could be both simultaneously.

Here’s what you need: A stick of butter, a knife, a toothpick, and a piece of toilet paper. That’s it. The steps involved in actually creating the butter candle are similarly few. First, halve or quarter the stick of butter so that you end up with a four-tablespoon pad (with the paper attached). Next, using a toothpick, poke a hole through the exposed face of the butter, plunging the toothpick all the way down through the stick so that it pierces the paper wrapping at the bottom.

To complete the candle, twist a piece of toilet paper into a tight coil. Once finished, fit one end of the coil through the channel that you burrowed through the butter. Using the toothpick if necessary, coax the makeshift wick through the butter until the tip peaks out of the paper-wrapped bottom side. If the top end of the wick measures much longer than a quarter-inch, simply tear off the excess material. For safety’s sake, set your candle on a plate before you finally light it.

According to Instructables user The King of Random, a four-tablespoon stick of butter prepared in this way can burn for as long as four uninterrupted hours!

FOR MORE: Instructables

How to Make a Butter Candle - Wick

Photo: instructables.com


4 Questions to Ask Before You Get a Hot Tub

Before you commit to a hot tub, put some serious thought into whether you're prepared to go all the way for the enjoyment of a home spa.

Hot Tub Installation

Photo: shutterstock.com

A hot tub is a wonderful luxury to enjoy at home. There are few better ways to relax. But for the reality to match your expectations, be sure to plan ahead. The benefits of a hot tub may be clear, but choosing the right model can be a little complicated. Before you make a purchase, ask yourself these four questions.

1. Is it going to be safe?
Often, the more desirable tubs are taller and can be difficult to climb into, but for safety reasons, easy access is important. After all, when you’re retreating to the tub for a peaceful dip, the last thing you want is to slip and fall on the way in. To make entering and exiting easier, you might install the hot tub in-ground. Similarly, consider incorporating the tub into a new or existing deck. Also, insist on such basic and essential safety features as automatic shut-off and a strong, locking cover. These are not bells and whistles to skimp on; they’ll offer peace of mind while promoting the well-being of your family and neighbors.

Hot Tub Installation - Waters

Photo: shutterstock.com

2. Is it going to be private?
Ideally, the hot tub would fit into a private area of your property (while still being close to the required utilities). For a clearer sense of the privacy afforded by a location you’re thinking might be suitable, mark out the dimensions of a tub using garden hose or a length of rope. Track the sight lines from different vantage points around the yard, inside the home, and even off the property. In addition, keep in mind that in some areas, building codes require hot tubs to be surrounded by a fence. Perhaps building that barrier would contribute the extra degree of privacy you feel is missing?

3. How much will it cost to install and maintain?
Standard two-person spas start at about $4,000, while six-person tubs go for $8,000 and higher. Many dealers provide installation at five or ten percent of the product cost (and because both water and electricity are involved, professional installation is strongly recommended). Often the largest expense for a first-time hot tub purchaser is site preparation. Even an empty tub can easily weigh close to a ton. Be smart and consult with a qualified contractor or structural engineer to make certain that, whatever the support structure, it’s going to safely carry the hot tub load size. With regard to maintenance, what primarily determines cost is whether or not you hire out the work or do it yourself. For many home spa owners around the country, worrying about water chemistry is a pesky, time-consuming chore.

4. Is it worth it?
Doctors don’t usually prescribe “30 minutes of spa time,” but hydrotherapy goes back thousands of years, with more and more studies showing its link to good things like joint pain relief, increased blood flow, and better sleep. There’s also the relaxation factor and the fact that, well, hot tubs are fun! So why do some folks never move beyond the planning stage? Many fear the allure would fade too quickly, and while there’s no way to know for sure, it’s a question—perhaps the most important one—to ask yourself.


The 2-Ingredient Powerhouse That Cleans Almost Anything

What if we told you that you only needed to stock two ingredients in your pantry to clean most of your house? You better believe it. Read on for six ways to use vinegar and baking soda around the house.

Cleaning with Baking Soda and Vinegar

Photo: fotosearch.com

It’s almost hard to believe: By combining two seemingly mild pantry staples, you can handle most of the tougher messes in your home. But the fact is that, most of the time, baking soda and vinegar are the only one-two punch you need to get your home clean. Seriously! The secret is in how you apply the two, as too much of either can neutralize both. So long as you remember these recipes, though, you can always be ready to clean everyday messes and your home’s grimiest corners.

Cleaning with Baking Soda and Vinegar - Stainless Steel Sink

Photo: fotosearch.com

1. Freshen a Drain (and Shine a Stainless Steel Sink)
Instead of using harsh chemicals that could potentially damage your pipes, unclog and refresh your drain by pouring in a ½ cup of baking soda and 1 cup of vinegar. Always keep the ratio one-part baking soda to two parts vinegar. The mixture will fizz and bubble, like your favorite middle school volcano science project. Once it dies down, flush the drain with very hot water for five minutes, then run the cold water.

Take the opportunity while surface is damp to sprinkle extra baking soda in the basin of the sink, and give it a good scrub using a scrub brush or dish sponge. The slightly abrasive qualities of the baking soda should help to remove stuck-on gunk and stains.

2. Solve Hard Water Stains
Give tough hard water stains the boot! Place a cloth or paper towel soaked with vinegar over the affected area and let it sit for a few hours. Remove the cloth, scrub with a baking soda paste (a mixture of dry baking soda and just enough water to create a paste-like consistency), spritz lightly with vinegar, and wipe clean.

3. Reverse Carpet Stains
With these cleaners up your sleeve—or, rather, sitting in your pantry—you need not cringe when a guest spills a bit of drink on your carpet. Create a paste with baking soda and a small amount of vinegar, then work it into the stained carpet fibers with your fingers. Allow the mixture to sit and dry overnight, then vacuum up any remnants. Before trying out this tip on a large area, test it on small, out-of-sight patch of carpet first. If everything looks kosher, treat the rest of your stain.

4. Kill Mildew in a Load of Laundry
Baking soda and vinegar’s cleaning and deodorizing properties work wonders in the wash. Add ½ cup of baking soda in with your detergent to help boost its cleaning power. One cup of vinegar poured in during the rinse cycle will help kill bacteria in the load and doubles as a chemical-free fabric softener.

5. Whiten and Brighten Grout
The abrasive qualities of baking soda add muscle to your own scrubbing efforts. Nowhere could use that extra “oomph” more than your stained grout! Make a paste using baking soda and water, spritz lightly with vinegar, and immediately scrub and rinse the area. Full disclosure: You’ll probably still need a little bit of muscle—just think of these power players as your line of backup.

6. Get Rid of Gunk on Pots and Pans
Dried-on food particles, baked-on grime, and burnt dinner remains all can add time on to your dinner cleanup—but they’re no match for this power couple. Sprinkle baking soda on damp (not wet) pots and pans, spritz with vinegar, then go to town scrubbing with a nylon dish sponge. The slight foaming action will break up some of the tougher stuck-on food, leaving you with a little extra energy after dish duty.


How To: Get Rid of Squirrels

Most of the time, squirrels are completely benign, but in some situations, they can cause considerable damage. If you want to put an end to your squirrel problem, don't miss our five-point action plan.

How to Get Rid Of Squirrels

Photo: fotosearch.com

Don’t let the bushy tails fool you. They may be cute and and bright-eyed, but if left unchecked, squirrels can do an impressive amount of damage, not only to your garden, but also to your home (particularly the attic and eaves). While there’s no quick and easy way to get rid of squirrels, you can do a number of things to slowly shoo away these mischievous creatures. Whether you’re responding to an existing squirrel problem or seeking to prevent one, read on for a five-step action plan.

How to Get Rid of Squirrels - Tree Branch

Photo: fotosearch.com

1. Focus on food.
If the neighborhood squirrels seem to be more interested in your house than in the one next door, it only makes sense to investigate the reason why. First things first, scan your property for an obvious food source, such as a bird feeder. Even if mounted on a tree or atop a pole, bird feeders are well within reach of squirrels, agile animals capable of jumping eight to ten feet with relative ease. If not going to go great heights in search of food, squirrels are just as likely to dig for it. Garden bulbs, in particular, are vulnerable. In lieu of protecting your flower beds with chicken wire, consider planting strategically placed daffodils. Since these perennials are poisonous to squirrels, they act as effective deterrents.

2. Prevent passage.
Everyone knows that squirrels are expert climbers. What you may not have realized is that, by banding tree trunks with plastic or metal collars (sometimes known as baffles), you can prevent squirrels from progressing along those routes that afford access to vulnerable areas, such as the overhang of your roof.

3. Opt for odors.
To augment your other efforts, hang ammonia-soaked rags on the branches squirrels seem to favor. Doing so has proven moderately successful for Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek, CA. Alternatively, you can purchase and spread predator urine, available for sale at garden supply stores or home centers. The downside is that such treatments must be reapplied after every rainfall.

4. Count on chemicals.
There are many chemical repellents on the market that work well to get rid of squirrels. Look for products containing the active ingredient capsaicin. While some homeowners choose to spray repellent near entry points to the attic, others go a step further and apply it directly to bulbs before planting.

5. Trap and relocate.
A last option—perhaps a futile one—is the use of live-catch traps. Even when baiting the trap with a squirrel favorite like peanuts, expect to wait a few days for the trap to become a familiar part of the environment, something the squirrels feel comfortable investigating. Once that introductory period has passed, be sure to check the trap twice daily. If you trap a squirrel, act quickly to relocate it from your property to a suitable location at least three miles away, preferably across a major highway or large body of water.

Before doing anything else, the wise course is to check in with your local fish and game department, since various municipal and/or state laws may govern the treatment of squirrels where you live. In California, for example, it’s illegal to trap gray squirrels without a permit. Note that some of the heaviest regulations pertain to the use of rodenticides. For that reason alone, putting aside all ethical questions, it’s recommended that you rely solely on nontoxic control methods.


Quick Tip: Keep Cut Flowers Fresh Longer

Although there's no fountain of youth for cut flowers, you can boost their longevity with these uncomplicated, time-tested tips.

How to Keep Cut Flowers Fresh

Photo: shutterstock.com

It’s amazing to witness, time and time again, how much brightness and cheer a simple vase of flowers can introduce to a room. Unfortunately, like other forms of beauty, bouquets are a fleeting treat, and it’s only a matter of days before they wilt away and die. Though you cannot prevent the inevitable, there are a few ways to forestall it. First, check to see whether the florist included a packet of flower food with your purchase. Believe it or not, that stuff actually works. If there’s no flower food available—if, for instance, you cut the flowers in your own garden—try one of these time-tested tricks to keep cut flowers fresh just a little bit longer.

How to Keep Cut Flowers Fresh - Snips

Photo: shutterstock.com

1. Container Conscious
Since bacteria and fungi accelerate the natural deterioration of cut flowers, it’s imperative to wash—thoroughly wash—whatever vessel you’re planning to display your blooms in. When cleaning the container, use hot and soapy water. Or, if you like, disinfect the vessel with a solution of diluted household bleach (one part bleach for every 10 parts water). Finish up by rinsing with plain water.

2. Careful Cutting
Clipping flowers from your garden? Try to do so early in the morning, before the heat of day saps any vigor from the blooms. Along with your pruner, remember to bring a bucket of tepid water. As you cut each flower, place it into the bath so as to prevent the end of the stem from drying out and sealing off.

If working with store-bought flowers, remove about one inch from the bottom of each stem. Make your cut at angle, under a running tap. Shortening the stem encourages the flower to take up water again Before setting your bouquet into its container, remove the lower leaves to minimize decay.

3. Feeding Frenzy
Rather than simply filling your chosen container with water, many recommend keeping cut flowers suspended in a solution comprised of one part lemon-lime soda, three parts water, and, for every quart of liquid, a quarter-teaspoon of household bleach. Don’t use diet soda; the full-calorie sugar provides valuable nourishment to the flowers. Meanwhile, the bleach keeps harmful bacteria at bay.

Having taken all the right steps toward keeping your cut flowers flesh, go ahead and set them out on a surface in your home. Be aware, however, that not all surfaces are equally conducive to flower longevity. Avoid putting blooms in direct sunlight, near heating vents, or next to heat-generating appliances.


Enter Bob Vila’s 3rd Annual DIY Dollars Give-Away from InComm—TODAY!

Enter today and every day in April for your chance to win $1,000 in Do It Yourself Home Improvement™ gift cards from InComm!

Spring has officially sprung, and that means relaxing outdoors with friends and family. But for many homeowners, warmer weather means it’s time to play catch-up on home improvement projects. So, this month we’re giving away four weekly prizes of $1,000 in Do It Yourself Home Improvement™ gift cards, courtesy of our friends at InComm!

So step up your home’s curb appeal, build a patio, or renovate the deck; the choice is yours if you win this month’s give-away!

ENTER HERE TO WIN!

Starting today and every day in April (from 12:00 p.m. EST Tuesday, March 31st, 2015 until 11:59 a.m. EST, Thursday, April 30th, 2015), you can enter to win one of four prizes of Do It Yourself Home Improvement™ gift cards, valued at $1,000. (See Official Rules below.)

Photo: incomm.com

Redeem your Do It Yourself Home Improvement™ gift cards from InComm at thousands of home improvement retailers in the U.S. where Discover cards are accepted, including True Value, Home Depot, Sherwin Williams, Sears, Restoration Hardware, Menard’s, and more!

What could you do with an extra $1,000 in your pocket this spring? Would you put it towards replacing your kitchen countertops, buy a new grill, or install an outdoor movie screen? The limit is your imagination!

Start daydreaming, and enter Bob Vila’s 3rd Annual DIY Dollars Give-Away today and every day to increase your chances of winning.

To learn more about InComm and their productsclick here.

The “Bob Vila’s 3rd Annual DIY Dollars Giveaway from InComm” sweepstakes 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. Contest Period runs from 12:00 p.m. (EST) Tuesday, March 31st, 2015 through 11:59 a.m. (EST) Thursday, April 30th, 2015. One entry per household per day on BobVila.com. Alternative means of entry for Drawing is available by faxing your name and address to 508-437-8486 during the applicable Entry Period. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. See Official Rules.

The Do It Yourself Home Improvement gift card is issued by The Bancorp Bank; Member FDIC. Discover® and the Discover acceptance mark are service marks used by the Bancorp Bank under license from Discover Financial Services. Card is distributed and serviced by ITC Financial Licenses, Inc., which is Licensed as a Money Transmitter by the New York State Department of Financial Services. Card may be used at identified home improvement retailers in the U.S. everywhere Discover Cards are accepted. Terms and conditions apply – see Cardholder Agreement.


DIY Copper Towel Rack

The shape and weight of copper pipe makes it a no-brainer for this industrial towel rack in a sleek bathroom remodel.

DIY Copper Towel Rack

Jesse, from Nine Red had a lackluster bathroom that needed a remodel, but cheaply. Neutral tones and wood accents were chosen to bring the space to life, but the sheen of the copper towel rack steals the show. Find out how to make your own stunningly simple towel bar.

MATERIALS

- 2 Half-inch floor flanges
- 2 Half-inch copper male adapters
- 2 Half-inch copper elbow pieces
- Copper pipe, 1/2” x 5’
- Pipe cutter if you have it
- E-6000 glue
- 8 screws
- Copper spray paint

STEP 1

DIY Copper Towel Rack - measure

First up, you want to measure how wide your rack will be. Cutting the pipe is very easy, so it may be best to measure larger so you can trim down to fit. I wasn’t actually too picky about the width, I just didn’t want it wider than the window. I knew I could center it if it was shorter. Anyway, measure your area, and don’t forget that the elbows will add about 3/4” to each side. While you’re in measuring mode, figure out the distance you want it to stick out from the wall, as we’ll be cutting little pipes for this area. I chose 2 inches.

I lined up with the old towel rack to double check. Keep in mind your flange size.  This is really a “try it on” situation, and adjust accordingly.

STEP 2

DIY Copper Towel Rack - cut

Measure & make your marks on the copper pipe, and let’s get to cutting. It’s so easy. I promise.

STEP 3

DIY Copper Towel Rack - cut pieces

So be sure you’re cutting 3 things. The main width, and 2 equal length pipes for the depth. Moving on, just try it all on—dress rehearsal.

STEP 4

DIY Copper Towel Rack - spray paint

Everything seem good? If not, make your adjustments. If it sticks out too far, just trim a little more off the smaller pipes. Mine seems pretty good, so now it was time to paint. Take these flanges outside after a good cleaning.

STEP 5

DIY Copper Towel Rack - fitted

Hooray, we have copper! Try on the male adapters to see if they need any lubrication. Sometimes the threads can get a little sticky. I wiped a li’l WD-40 in there to help. Next, just assemble.

STEP 6

Here’s where you can learn from my mistake, when I first put these together, it seemed like it was going to hold itself together. As I mounted, it started sliding out, and that’s where the E-6000 comes in. A little dab of that stuff (which glues anything and everything to anything and everything else) on the insides of the pipe connections will keep this puppy sturdy. I did it once it was already on my wall, I bet it’s easier to do it first. But I’m impatient.

STEP 7

DIY Copper Towel Rack - hang

Mounting was simple, 4 standard drywall screws.

DIY Copper Towel Rack - finished

Thanks for sharing, Jesse! For even more how-tos, check out Nine Red.