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How To: Use a Stud Finder

Master this tool and technique, and you can rest assured that whatever you wall-mount—mirror, television, or shelves—won't be going anywhere.

How to Use a Stud Finder

Photo: istockphoto.com

When hanging heavy mirrors, bracing large furniture, wall-mounting a new television, or erecting shelving, you need to start with the sturdy support of a 2×4 wall stud. Sure, nailing into drywall alone may be sufficient for hanging light wall art, but these fasteners can cause the wall to crumble if weighed down too much—not like the wood studs that exist to hold up drywall. There’s too much at stake to be less than 100 percent certain of the location of the stud’s center. Why risk a kitchen shelf loaded with dishes or baking supplies crashing down at any moment because you miscalculated where to place the fasteners? Fortunately, stud finders are practically foolproof and even easier to use than the old-school stud-finding methods,which can come in handy in minor situations. Read on for how to use a stud finder for a worry-free wall-hanging project.

- Stud finder
- Pencil
- Tape measure

Before You Begin
Get to know the kind of stud finder you picked up. Is it a magnetic stud finder or does it read the density of the wall? A magnetic stud finder will read screws and nails behind the wall, but whether or not these are dead-center still requires some guesswork. If your project is valuable or heavy, it’s best to use a center-finding density-reading stud finder that will show the edges of your studs. No matter which type you pick up at the home improvement store, how to use a stud finder doesn’t change—only the information is displayed differently.

How to Use a Stud Finder to Locate Studs

Photo: istockphoto.com

Decide where you roughly want to hang your item. Know where the top should be and how far down it requires mounting. This is the height at which you want to search the wall for studs. Remove any nearby wall-mounted photos or other partly-metal objects that could interfere with readings on a magnetic stud finder and set them aside for now.

Ensure your stud finder batteries are fresh and functioning, as weak batteries can greatly distort readings. Also check to make sure the flat side of the stud finder (where you’ll see the contacts and usually some felt to protect the wall from scratches) is clean of debris and dust.

Studs are typically either 16 or 24 inches apart, so you’ll be looking for a stud somewhere within a two-foot span. Hold your stud finder flat against the wall, about 1 foot left of where you ideally want to drill.

Turn it on. Usually this is done with buttons mounted on the sides where you grip the tool. Now press a button to calibrate the stud finder; when the tool stops flashing or beeping, then it’s ready to go. (Check your manual for exactly how your stud finder is calibrated, as it varies.)

Slowly slide the stud finder to the right, horizontally, while keeping the unit flat on the wall.

When the stud finder alerts you to a stud—via a beep or flashing light, depending on the finder in question—retrace the last few inches with the unit, to double-check where the alert is occurring.

Mark the correct spot with your pencil. If you’re using a center-finding stud finder, you’ll be shown where the edges of the studs are. Mark each edge so that, when you go to drill or hammer into the stud, you’ll know where dead center is.

Don’t accept this alert as the end of your journey; instead, continue searching for the flanking studs 16 to 24 inches away from the initial mark following steps 3 through 6.

Even though your tool indicated that it located a stud right where you need it, a stud finder can signal false positives when there is metal piping or flashing or brackets within the wall. Make sure your alert wasn’t a false positive by also locating the studs on either side of the one on which you plan to mount your mirror, television, shelf bracket, or other heavy item.

Mark their locations upon finding them, and then measure. If, in fact, they are 16 or 24 inches apart, then you’ve found your center stud. Now you’re ready to hammer or drill as needed. Proceed carefully and precisely, and you’ll have no regrets.

Official Rules: Bob Vila’s Great Holiday Give-Away


Bob Vila’s Great Holiday Give-Away (the “Sweepstakes”) is sponsored by Vila Media, LLC, Post Office Box 835, West Barnstable, MA 02668 (“Sponsor”). The Sweepstakes consists of four (4) random drawings. The Sweepstakes and entry period begins at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (“EST”) on November 30, 2016 and ends at 11:59 a.m. EST on December 31, 2016 (the “Sweepstakes Period”). NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. MAKING A PURCHASE DOES NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. ODDS OF WINNING WILL DEPEND ON THE TOTAL NUMBER OF ENTRIES RECEIVED. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. ONLINE ENTRY ONLY AND INTERNET CONNECTION REQUIRED. AFFIDAVIT OF ELIGIBILITY AND RELEASE OF LIABILITY FORM MAY BE REQUIRED.

Open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia. Void in all other geographic locations. Employees of Sponsor and its respective parents, affiliates, subsidiaries, and advertising and promotion agencies and any other entity involved in the development or administration of this Sweepstakes, and their immediate family members or household members are not eligible to participate in or win the Sweepstakes. Sponsor reserves the right to disqualify any person who fails to meet the eligibility requirements or any person it determines, in its sole discretion, to be sufficiently connected with the Sweepstakes such that such person’s participation could create the appearance of impropriety. Entries generated by script, macro or other automated means are void, and Sponsor expressly reserves the right to disqualify any entries that it believes in good faith are generated by an automated program or via scripts. Entries that are determined, in the sole discretion of the Sponsor to constitute advertisements, commercial messages, or “spam” will be disqualified and deleted. Void where prohibited by law. All applicable federal, state and local laws apply. No purchase is necessary to participate in the Sweepstakes.

You may enter any given Drawing one (1) time per household per day by visiting the BOB VILA website at http://www.bobvila.com and submit your name and email address using the online “Bob Vila’s Great Holiday Give-Away ” submission form. Each entry submitted in response to a Drawing and in accordance with the Official Rules will constitute an official entry. Duplicate entries submitted through either method within one day will be deemed void. If you do not have internet access, alternative means of entry for each Drawing is available by faxing your name, address and phone number to the Sponsor at 508-437-8486 during the applicable Entry Period. One (1) alternative entry per household per day. Any additional entries submitted via fax within one day will be deemed void. Entries received after the end of the Sweepstakes Period will be deemed void. Normal time, toll, connection and usage rates, if any, charged by your Internet service provider will apply. All entries become the property of the Sponsor. By entering any Drawing during the Sweepstakes, you will be agreeing that any information collected in connection with the Sweepstakes may be used by Sponsor in accordance with Vila Media, LLC’s Privacy Policy, a current copy of which can be found here. By participating, all entrants agree to abide by these Official Rules. At the end of each Entry Period, there will be one (1) drawing in which one (4) potential winners (“Winner”) shall be selected from all eligible entries received for each prize available during that Entry Period by employees or representatives of the Sponsor to receive the prize designated for the Drawing for that Entry Period. Each winning entry will be chosen at random. The number of eligible entries received during the Entry Period for a Drawing determines the odds of winning for that Drawing. The Sweepstakes will be conducted under the supervision of the Sponsor. If the Winner is determined to be ineligible, forfeits or does not claim the prize, the prize will be re-awarded, in Sponsor’s sole discretion based on a subsequent drawing from the pool of eligible entries. Other restrictions may apply. Decisions of the Sponsor are final and binding with respect to all matters related to the Sweepstakes. All prizes (or in the event of a lost, misdirected, or otherwise unavailable prize, a prize of equivalent value) will be awarded. In no event shall the Sponsor be obligated to award more prizes than the number of prizes stated in these Official Rules. Winners shall be responsible and liable for all federal, state and local taxes on the value of their prize. Must be over 18 to win.

To receive a complete list of winners or a copy of the Official Rules, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Prize Fulfillment, Vila Media, LLC, PO Box 835 Barnstable, MA 02668. Specify winner’s list or rules on your request. The Winner will be notified by email, or in the case of alternate entry, by phone; Sponsor reserves the right to determine the method of notification. The Winner must claim their respective prize within twenty-four (24) hours after the date of notification of their prize. A Winner’s failure to respond to the prize notification within the specified twenty-four (24) hours will be considered such Winner’s forfeiture of the prize and an alternate Winner may be selected from the pool of eligible entries. If an entrant is found to be ineligible, an alternate Winner may also be selected from the pool of eligible entries. Sponsor reserves the right to ship prizes directly to the mailing and/or email address (as applicable) provided by Winners during their entry to the Drawings.

The prize for the four (4) Drawings held during the Sweepstakes Period shall be a prize package from Hayneedle.com. There are four separate prize packages: Elegant Home, Grilling Guru, Exceptional Entertainer, and Outdoor Enthusiast. The winner of the Elegant Home package will receive a $1000 shopping spree on Hayneedle.com. The prize for the Grilling Guru package is a Traeger Pro Series 34 Pellet Grill, which retails for $999.99. The winner of the Exceptional Entertainer package will get a Belham Living Jamestown bar cart ($399.99) with the following barware and accessories: a 17-bottle wine cooler ($107.99), a set of glasses ($30), Moscow mule mugs ($40.10), granite chillers ($35.99), a decanter with wine glasses ($69.90), martini glasses ($36.66), a stainless steel martini shaker ($29.25), a 6-piece kitchen and bar set ($79.99), a turntable ($99.95), a record storage crate ($29), a cheese board set ($41.81), and a glass decanter ($27.07). The prize for the Outdoor Enthusiast package is a $1000 shopping spree to Hayneedle.com. No transfer, substitution or cash redemption will be awarded in lieu of Prize. Limit one prize per entrant. Prizes shall be delivered within 30 days after the winner is verified. An entrant or winner may be disqualified from the Sweepstakes, and his or her entry may be deleted, if he or she fails to comply with each provision of these Official Rules, as determined in the sole discretion of the Sponsor. Participation in the Sweepstakes is at entrant’s own risk.

Sponsor shall not be liable for (1) failed, returned or misdirected notifications based on inaccurate information provided by the winner on the Drawings entry forms, (2) entries and responses to winner notifications which are lost, late, incomplete, illegible, unintelligible, postage-due, misdirected, damaged or otherwise not received by the intended recipient in whole or in part or for computer or technical error of any kind, (3) any electronic miscommunications or failures, technical hardware or software failures of any kind, lost or unavailable network connections, or failed incomplete, garbled or delayed computer transmissions which may limit an entrant’s ability to participate in part or wholly in the Sweepstakes, (4) any technical malfunctions of the telephone network, computer on-line system, computer equipment, software, program malfunctions or other failures, delayed computer transactions or network connections that are human, mechanical or technical in nature, or any combination thereof, including any injury or damage to entrant’s or any other person’s computer related to or resulting from downloading any part of this Sweepstakes or (5) any warranty of fitness or merchantability of any prize or the function or operation thereof, which shall be the sole responsibility of the manufacturer of the prize. Sponsor does not make any, and hereby disclaims any and all, representations or warranties of any kind regarding any prize. Unless prohibited by applicable law, your entry constitutes your permission to use your name, photograph, likeness, voice, address (city and state) and testimonials in all media, in perpetuity, in any manner Sponsor deems appropriate for publicity purposes without any further compensation to such entrant.

By entering or accepting a prize in the Sweepstakes, the Winner agrees to be bound by these Official Rules and to conform to all federal, state and local laws and regulations. When applicable, the Winner (or, if the Winner is a minor, the Winner’s parent or legal guardian) may be required to execute and return to Sponsor within three (3) business days an Affidavit of Eligibility, a Liability and Publicity Release and relevant tax forms to be eligible for the prize or an alternate winner may be selected. Winner may be required to furnish proof of identity, address and birth date in order to receive a prize. By entering, an entrant agrees to indemnify, release and hold harmless Sponsor and each of its respective parents, subsidiaries and affiliated entities, directors, officers, employees, attorneys, agents, and representatives (collectively, the “Released Parties”) from any damage, injury, death, loss, claim, action, demand, or other liability (collectively, “Claims”) that may arise from their acceptance, possession and/or use of any prize or their participation in the Sweepstakes, or from any misuse or malfunction of any prize awarded, regardless of whether such Claims, or knowledge of the facts constituting such Claims, exist at the time of entry or arise at any time thereafter. Released Parties are not responsible or liable to any entrant or to any Winner or any person claiming through such Winner for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action, regulation, order or request by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action, regulations, order or request proves to be invalid), equipment failure, threatened terrorist acts, terrorist acts, air raid, blackout, act of public enemy, earthquake, war (declared or undeclared), fire, flood, epidemic, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal) labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond the Released Parties’ sole control.

The Released Parties are not responsible for: (1) any incorrect or inaccurate information, whether caused by entrants, printing, electronic or human errors or by any of the equipment or programming associated with or utilized in the Sweepstakes; (2) viruses or technical failures of any kind, including, but not limited to malfunctions, interruptions, or disconnections in phone lines or network hardware or software; failed, incorrect, incomplete, inaccurate, garbled or delayed electronic communications or entry information, any error, omission, interruption, deletion, defect, delay in operation or transmission, failures or technical malfunction of any computer online systems, servers, providers, computer equipment, software, email, players or browsers, whether on account of technical problems, traffic congestion on the Internet or at any website, or on account of any combination of the foregoing; (3) the unavailability or inaccessibility of any transmissions or telephone or Internet service; (4) unauthorized human intervention in any part of the entry process or the Sweepstakes; (5) technical or human error which may occur in the administration of the Sweepstakes or the processing of entries; (6) any injury or damage to persons or property which may be caused, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, from entrant’s participation in the Sweepstakes or receipt or use or misuse of any prize; or (7) late, lost, misdirected, illegible, incomplete or mutilated entries or for theft, destruction or unauthorized access to, or alteration of entries. These indemnification and release provisions shall survive expiration of the Sweepstakes.

Persons found tampering with, abusing, or otherwise disrupting any aspect of this Sweepstakes, or otherwise attempting to defraud Sponsor, as solely determined by Sponsor, will be disqualified and their entries will be deleted. If disqualified, Sponsor reserves the right to terminate the entrant’s eligibility to further participate in this Sweepstakes and future promotions and sweepstakes of Sponsor or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates. Any attempt by an entrant or any other individual to undermine the legitimate operation of this Sweepstakes may be a violation of criminal and civil laws. Should such an attempt be made, sponsor reserves the right to seek damages from any such person to the fullest extent permitted by law.

This Sweepstakes is strictly for promotional and entertainment purposes and may not be used in connection with any form of gambling. In the event this Sweepstakes is challenged by any legal or regulatory authority, Sponsor reserves the right to terminate the Sweepstakes, or to disqualify entrants residing in the affected geographic areas. In such event, the Sponsor shall have no liability to any entrants who are disqualified due to such an action. Sponsor reserves the right to modify these Official Rules in any way or at any time. Sponsor reserves the right, in their sole discretion, to cancel or suspend this Sweepstakes should viruses, bugs or other causes beyond their control corrupt the administration, security or proper play of the Sweepstakes. In the event any portion of this Sweepstakes is compromised by any non-authorized human intervention, actions of entrants, or other causes beyond the control of Sponsor which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, corrupt or impair the integrity, administration, security, or operation of this Sweepstakes, Sponsor reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to suspend, modify, abbreviate or terminate the Sweepstakes without further obligation. If Sponsor elects to abbreviate the Sweepstakes, Winner(s) will be determined from all eligible entries received for Drawing(s) prior to the action or compromise giving rise to the suspension or termination of this Sweepstakes. In the event of cancellation, abbreviation or suspension, Sponsor shall promptly post a notice on the Sweepstakes entry page to such effect.

This Sweepstakes shall be governed by New York law. By participating in this Sweepstakes entrants agree that New York courts shall have jurisdiction over any dispute or litigation arising from or relating to this Sweepstakes and that venue shall be only in New York City, New York. The failure to exercise or enforce any right or provision of these Official Rules shall not constitute a waiver of such right or provision. If any part of these Official Rules is held by a court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid or unenforceable, that part will be enforced to the maximum extent permitted by law, and the remainder of these Official Rules will remain fully in force.

Enter Bob Vila’s Great Holiday Give-Away from hayneedle.com TODAY!

Enter today and every day in December for your chance to win a prize package of your choice from hayneedle.com!


Hayneedle.com Give-Away

The holiday season has officially arrived, and people everywhere are hoping to ring in the new year with new stylings for the home. But while modern appliances and brand-new furniture can improve a home’s aesthetic and functionality, they can set a homeowner back thousands of dollars. That’s why we’ve partnered with hayneedle.com to give away four home-gifting prize packages during the month of December!

Today and every day this month (starting at 12:00 p.m. EST on November 30, 2016 through 11:59 a.m. EST December 31, 2016), enter Bob Vila’s Great Holiday Give-Away for the chance to win one of four prize packages from hayneedle.com!


Hayneedle.com Give-Away


Hayneedle.com is a leading online retailer for home furnishings and décor offering thousands of brands and millions of products for every space, style, and budget. This month, we’re giving away four prize packages from hayneedle.com valued at approximately $1,000 each. The packages fall into four different categories: Elegant Home, Grilling Guru, Exceptional Entertainer, and Outdoor Enthusiast. And the best part? With every entry you submit, you get to choose which prize package you’d most like to win.

  • Elegant Home Package: Explore the wide range of home furnishings available at hayneedle.com when you win this incredible prize. If you’re the lucky winner, you will receive a $1000 shopping spree on hayneedle.com to spend on any of their fine products for the home.
  • Grilling Guru Package: Consider this prize pack the crown jewels of the backyard cookout. The winner of this prize will receive a Traeger Pro Series 34 Pellet Grill, which retails for $999.99. The durable and powerful grill features a Digital Pro controller, large cooking space, and 6-in-1 cooking capabilities (grill, smoke, bake, roast, braise, and BBQ).
  • Exceptional Entertainer Package: Every host and hostess will relish the spoils of this prize pack. If you win this package, you will receive a Belham Living Jamestown bar cart ($399.99) with the following barware and accessories: a 17-bottle wine cooler ($107.99), a set of glasses ($30), Moscow mule mugs ($40.10), granite chillers ($35.99),  a decanter with wine glasses ($69.90), martini glasses ($36.66), a stainless steel martini shaker ($29.25), a 6-piece kitchen and bar set ($79.99), a turntable ($99.95), a record storage crate ($29), a cheese board set ($41.81), and a glass decanter ($27.07).
  • Outdoor Enthusiast Package: Spring and summer are only a daydream (and a couple snowstorms) away. Prepare for the coming seasons when you win this prize — a $1000 shopping spree to hayneedle.com to spend on porch and patio furnishings, and everything you need for an amazing outdoor retreat.

Enter today and every day in December to increase your odds of winning one of these four prize packages! To learn more about hayneedle.com, click here.

“Bob Vila’s Great Holiday Give-Away ” is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Contest Period for Prize runs from 12:00 p.m. (EST) Wednesday, November 30th, 2016 through 11:59 a.m. (EST) Saturday, December 31st, 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. By entering, all entrants agree to the Official Rules.

3 Reasons Radiant Heat Has Never Been Better

Centuries of improvements have made this particular heating solution more responsive, accommodating, efficient, and even affordable than ever before.

Radiant Heat Has Never Been Better

Photo: warmboard.com

As might be expected, the consistent comfort and high efficiency that are hallmarks of radiant heat didn’t develop overnight. But you may not know that it took centuries of innovations to get to the advanced technology we see today, one that warms homes better than any other traditional heating system and operates at least 25 percent more efficiently than forced-air systems, the most prevalent type of heating in the United States. The basic concept behind radiant heat is hardly new. It first appeared in Korea where shelters used a system called ondol, in which fireboxes and freestanding chimneys connected to smoke passages that channeled heat beneath strategically raised masonry floors. These stones absorbed the heat and slowly radiated it outward. Then, thousands of miles away, during the Roman Empire, homes of wealthy citizens adopted hypocausts—narrow chambers in the walls and floors—that were fed with warmth generated by exterior fires.

Radiant technology made its debut in the United States during the late 1930s, when famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright created homes that used hot water to heat floors. Since then, increasing numbers of consumers have been drawn to these systems. Today, radiant heating products deliver like never before, offering finely tuned, zero-maintenance warmth and providing a qualitatively different, supremely comfortable heating experience—one with three improvements that are particularly hard to ignore.


Radiant Heat is Responsive

Photo: istockphoto.com

1. Responsiveness

Though the general concept of radiant heat as we know it today hasn’t changed significantly, technological advancements in materials have significantly improved responsiveness. Early designs involved tubes that circulated hot water through thick concrete under the flooring. While concrete certainly absorbs and stores a considerable quantity of heat, its density and low conductivity made the heating process very sluggish, resulting in uneven heating performance and long wait times for warmth. And, because concrete takes a while to lose heat, it is difficult for homeowners to reduce temperatures quickly when the weather changes.

Though gypsum concrete systems are still installed today, they aren’t the only options available to homeowners. In fact, radiant heat’s performance improved greatly when more-conductive materials appeared on the scene—namely aluminum, which conveys heat 232 times more efficiently than concrete slabs. This metal heats and cools much more rapidly than concrete, allowing homeowners to adjust their systems on a moment’s notice, thereby eliminating discomfort as well as wasted energy.

Beyond speed of response, today’s systems can offer an unprecedented amount of control over not only when you need heat, but where you need it. Advances in technology have made radiant heat systems uniquely well suited to zoning, with which you can maintain different temperatures in different areas of your home. Dedicated thermostats for these “zoned” systems ensure that your bedroom, for example, remains toasty at night while you reduce the heat in the unoccupied areas of your home—further shrinking the energy bill that comes at the end of the month.


Radiant Heat Installation - Under Hardwood

Photo: warmboard.com

2. Design Flexibility

In the past, reliance on bulky concrete—combined with its uneven heating output—limited radiant-heat installations to rooms with inexpensive tile, stone, or concrete flooring. But with today’s heat-conductive aluminum panels, radiant heat knows no such bounds. Once you install a network of hydronic tubes during construction, you can cover those panels with wall-to-wall carpeting, decorative tile, or even patterned hardwoods. The aluminum is so conductive that the system can circulate heated water that’s 30 degrees cooler than the water that runs through concrete and achieve a higher degree of heat output and uniform temperatures. These lower water temperatures mean that even delicate flooring materials can be safely installed over the heated panels.

The optimal time to incorporate radiant heat is during the process of designing and building a new home, because at this stage of the game you have options that could save you both labor and building material costs. Industry leader Warmboard offers panels with 1-1/8-inch-thick plywood at their base, so they can serve as both your heating system’s “backbone” and the subfloor. If, however, you’ve already bought a house, radiant heat is still a viable option if you’re planning a project where you’ll be removing and replacing floors. Ultra-thin 13/16-inch panels can slip into your intended design without creating any ledges or height differences between floors that have radiant panels beneath and floors in an adjacent room that were left untouched in the renovation.


Radiant Heat Installation 2

Photo: warmboard.com

3. Efficiency

According to the Department of Energy, nearly half of a home’s energy usage is devoted to heating and cooling. Come winter, when homeowners tend to crank up the thermostat, you can expect that percentage (and, more generally, the energy costs) to spike. In many cases, you’ll also end up paying for more heat than you actually feel. Forced-air heat systems lose up to 25 percent of their efficiency through leaks at the seams of their lengthy ductwork, and then whatever heat does make it to the targeted space can be easily displaced through thermal energy loss. As a result, the furnace needs to work harder and longer to maintain the temperature set on the thermostat. In other words, you’re essentially paying extra every month to make up for your system’s design flaws.

Since radiant heat doesn’t rely on ductwork, this system maximizes energy savings by minimizing heat loss. Plus, by taking it easier on your furnace, you’ll likely save money on your heating bills and extend the appliance’s lifespan. Increased efficiency and consistent comfort means lower costs, and having more cash in your pocket is nearly always a good thing, especially during the holidays.


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

Bob Vila Radio: The DIY Drain That Will Save You Thousands

Imported from Europe and popularized in Massachusetts, the French drain is a classic, low-cost solution for water pooling around your foundation or in your basement. We'll show you how to get your house back on dry land!

Runoff from rain or melted snow can cause serious damage to your foundation and basement. The best solution to lead all that water away from your home? Head to your local home improvement store for a few supplies, and dig your own French drain.


Photo: blackanddecker.com

Listen to BOB VILA ON FRENCH DRAINS or read below:

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The job is a surprisingly simple. Start by digging a trench alongside the foundation where the water is pooling. It should be about a foot wide and at least two feet deep. Be sure to create a gradual slope in the direction you want the water to run. Add a few inches of crushed stone in the bottom of the trench, then lay down perforated PVC pipe. Before installing the pipe, it’s a good idea to wrap it in a layer of water-permeable landscaping fabric to keep dirt and roots from blocking the pre-drilled holes. Next, cover the pipe with gravel, stopping about three inches below the grade of your yard. Finish with a layer of sod to hide the drain.

If the excess moisture is concentrated in your basement, remember that you can also install a French drain there too— as long as you have a sump pump to remove the water. It’s a lot more work, since you’ll need to cut through the concrete slab to before breaking out your shovel, but the concept is the same.

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!

How To: Whitewash Brick

Lighten and brighten surfaces in your living spaces with this easy-to-master painting technique that mutes the dark tones of red brick walls or fireplaces.

How to Whitewash Brick

Photo: istockphoto.com

Seems like just yesterday that the red brick in your family room looked perfect, but tastes change with time. Now you think it’s a little too dark and a little too red for the space. Your gut tells you it’s time for a change, but you’re intimidated by the thought of demolition and renovation. Rather than reach for the sledgehammer, grab a rag and a brush instead, and give your room a bright new look by following these instructions for whitewashing brick. While painting over brick with 100 percent latex paint will give the brick a solid, opaque color, whitewashing mutes the brick’s natural color with a translucent finish. The technique preserves the bricks’ natural, random variations, depending on how much paint is applied and how each individual brick absorbs it.

Start with a fireplace or an interior brick wall that needs updating. Once you get the hang of it, there is no limit to the brick you can tackle, indoors or out.

- Grease-cutting dish soap
- Salt
- Cotton rags
- Scrub brush
- Boric acid powder
- Gallon bucket
- Rubber gloves
- Ammonia
- Pumice powder
- Trisodium phosphate
- Protective eyewear
- Drop cloths
- Garbage bags
- Face mask
- Putty knife, wire brush, or paint scraper
- Painter’s tape
- Kraft paper
- White latex paint
- 5-gallon bucket
- Paintbrush
- Paint grate
- Paper towels
- Spray bottle
- Sash brush

How to Whitewash Brick with Paint

Photo: istockphoto.com

Whitewashing over dirty brick will not achieve the desired effect, so cleaning your brick and grout is the first order of business—and possibly the most intricate. Though brick is hardly a delicate-looking material, it can be easily damaged by harsh cleaning. Try the mildest method of cleaning first, and graduate step by step to more aggressive approaches until you find one that adequately addresses the dirt and soot.

Below, listed from mildest to harshest, are several cleaning options to consider. Whichever you use, apply the cleaning solution according to the instructions and then rinse it off with a clean rag dipped in warm water.

Dish soap: Mix one part mild grease-cutting dish soap and one part salt with just enough water to make a loose paste. Apply to the brick with a clean rag and, using a scrub brush, work the paste into the surface. Let sit for 10 minutes before you rinse.

Boric acid: Add about one tablespoon of boric acid powder to one gallon of warm water. Wearing rubber gloves, dip the scrub brush into the solution and scrub the surface of the brick.

Ammonia: Create a loose paste with one part ammonia, two parts mild grease-cutting dish soap, and one part pumice powder—which can be found in either beauty supply or arts-and-crafts stores. Wearing rubber gloves, use a clean rag to spread the mixture on the brick. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes before rinsing.

Trisodium phosphate: Wearing gloves and protective eyewear, mix about ½ cup trisodium phosphate (TSP) into a gallon of hot water. Dip your scrub brush in the solution and scrub the brick. If stains remain after rinsing, you can scrub again, increasing the TSP to one cup per gallon of hot water. Exercise extreme caution as this is a very strong, abrasive solution.

STEP 2 (optional)
If your brick has ever been painted, there may still be chipping, flaking, or blistering paint left over on the brick that could cause your whitewashing to crackle. Now is the time to repair any damaged areas. If you suspect that the paint has been there for decades, it is possible that you are dealing with toxic lead paint, which needs to be removed by a professional. If, however,  you’re sure that’s not the case, move on to protecting the floor with a drop cloth—and yourself with goggles and a face mask—then prep a garbage bag to receive the old, dried paint you’re about to strip. Using a putty knife, wire brush, or paint scraper, carefully remove all the chipped or peeling paint from the brick.

Tape and cover the surrounding areas so you don’t get paint on anything but the brick surface you intend to whitewash. For brick walls, that would include adjacent drywall and floors. If you’re lightening brick around a fireplace, protect the mantel, floor, and other furnishings by taping kraft paper around the mantel’s edges. Also tape around and over the firebox or fireplace insert, and lay drop cloths over the flooring. If you have fireplace doors, tape them shut. Whitewashing bricks inside the fireplace itself is not recommended.

The importance of painter’s tape to this project cannot be overstated. Whitewashing may be easy, but nobody ever said it wasn’t going to be messy!

Prepare your whitewash: a 50/50 solution of water to white latex paint, stirred to an even consistency. If you find as you are working that you want the brick to be less white, add more water to further dilute the white paint. Conversely, if you want a whiter look, try a higher paint-to-water ratio. Take a moment to test a small, inconspicuous area with whitewash of several different paint-to-water ratios until you get the desired effect. (It might be a good idea to let the test area dry before you continue, so you’ll know what the dried whitewash will really look like.)

It’s time to whiten, brighten, and lighten! Techniques for whitewashing brick vary greatly, but these two tried-and-true methods work for even beginner DIYers:

• Dip a brush into the thinned paint, and remove excess paint on a grate before applying so you don’t end up with a wall covered in drips. Begin to whitewash the brick in small sections, starting with the grout lines and then working your way to the faces of the bricks. Keep to one manageable two-foot-square patch at a time, because you’ll want to be able to quickly blot the bricks with a wadded-up paper towel so the surface looks washed, not painted. (Blotting or dabbing the paint instead of simply wiping creates a more natural texture.) Continue working in small sections until whitewashing is complete.

• Fill a spray bottle with water and, without leaving drips, lightly mist the brick area to be whitewashed. While the bricks are moist, lightly load a wadded cotton cloth with thinned paint and wipe it on the damp surface. If the mortar is deeply recessed from the brick, load a sash brush with a small amount of thinned paint and use a dry-brushing technique to reach both the mortar and the edges and ends of the bricks. After you’ve whitewashed all the bricks that can be painted with a rag, use a dry brush to fill in hard-to reach places. If a spot has too much color, mist it thoroughly and blot up the moisture along with some of the paint.

No matter which method you choose to whitewash brick, keep in mind that brick is a very porous material that will soak up the wash. It’s possible that after the first coat the paint will appear more opaque than you would like. Don’t be concerned about this. Over the next few hours, the bricks will absorb the paint and begin to show through.

Let your handiwork dry overnight, then return to bask in your whiter, brighter living space the next day. Any lingering paint smell from your diluted whitewash solution can be erased with this unexpected grocery item.

How To: Clean Window Tracks

Don't let a dirty, dusty frame detract from your view. Clear the grime from your window tracks quickly with this helpful how-to.

How to Clean Window Tracks

Photo: istockphoto.com

Dirty window tracks can spoil even the sunniest views. Whether you leave your windows open or closed, the tracks inevitably become a catchall for dust, insect corpses, mildew, and even mold. Regular upkeep is a necessity, but, unfortunately, window tracks can be awkward to clean with your typical arsenal of tools. But have no fear! Follow this guide for how to clean window tracks properly with supplies you likely have on hand.

- Garden hose
- Rag
- Mini dust-busting vacuum
- Vacuum with narrow nozzle attachment (optional)
- Baking soda
- Spray bottle
- White vinegar
- Rubber gloves
- Toothbrush
- Paper towel
- Butter knife

Note: If you haven’t already, clean your windows before addressing the tracks, or else you risk more filth trickling into the window tracks as you wash the glass.

Open your window as wide as it can go. This can be done with or without your window screen in place, but we recommend removing the screen and setting it aside. (As long as you’ve got the screen out, it’s a good idea to clean it. Simply tap off the dust, give it a hard spray with your garden hose, and dry it with a clean rag.)

Grab a dust-busting mini vacuum (or a regular-size vacuum with a narrow nozzle attachment), and suck up all the loose debris and dead insects from the window tracks. A brush attachment is optional, but not necessarily recommended for this part—while it will effectively loosen caked-on dirt, it will also get the brush quite dirty in the process.

How to Clean Window Tracks

Photo: istockphoto.com

Generously sprinkle an even dusting of baking soda into the window tracks. Try to avoid creating lumps or piles of the powder.

Mix a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar in a spray bottle. Spritz generously into the window tracks until the baking soda is uniformly saturated. A chemical reaction between the baking soda and vinegar will cause the powder to foam and fizz. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

As the baking soda fizzes, spray the vertical window tracks along the sides of your window with more of the vinegar-water mix. Put on rubber gloves, and scrub from the top of the vertical track down to the bottom with an old toothbrush. Make sure to get into the corners of the window tracks.

Now, turn your attention back to the bottom of your open window. Brush from one end of the track to the other, scrubbing the corners and grooves thoroughly to effectively clean window tracks.

Press a piece of paper towel into the top of the vertical track. In a steady and continuous motion, wipe all the gunk toward the bottom of the track. Take a fresh piece of paper towel, and repeat the process on the bottom track, wiping from one end toward the center. If either track still appears dirty, spray with more of the vinegar-water solution, and wipe again with more paper towel.

Wrap the blade of a butter knife in a clean, dry rag, and work it into all the corners and nooks of your window tracks. When the rag starts collecting dirt, adjust it to expose a clean piece.

If needed, do a final light spray with the vinegar solution, then wipe with a clean rag. Tidy up your materials, pop the butter knife into the dishwasher, and enjoy your cleaner-than-ever window tracks!

Is It Wise to DIY? A New Survey Says, Not Always

Before you jump into your next home remodeling project, make sure you know what you're getting into.

Photo: istockphoto.com

We Americans are a can-do crowd, particularly when it comes to maintaining and improving our homes. Need proof? Look no further than a recent survey sponsored by Esurance. The results firmly support the notion that more often than not, regardless of prior experience or skill level, homeowners don’t think twice about undertaking a wide range of projects on their own, without a contractor. What’s more, some of these homeowners think quite highly of their abilities. In fact, 45 percent claim that they’re better able to care for their homes than even a contractor would be.

Where do these homeowners get their confidence? Does it spring from the glut of home remodeling programs on television, or is it simply human nature to believe in oneself? We can’t know for sure, but one thing’s certain: Take a trip to any home improvement center on a Saturday morning, and it’s plain to see that we have become a nation of hammer-swinging do-it-yourselfers. Yet, although 67 percent of those surveyed have handled a major home project on their own, 52 percent readily admit that they’ve had to hire a professional to fix or finish a DIY that went awry.

As it turns out, there’s a disconnect between homeowners’ perceptions of their DIY skills and the reality. And this disconnect affects not only the occasional DIY project, but also basic household maintenance. Just think: While a full 88 percent of survey respondents claim to know how to keep up their homes, a startling number admit to neglecting key tasks. For example, 74 percent say they have no plans for maintaining the foundation, even though experts recommend yearly inspections. Similarly, 54 percent say they have no maintenance plan for major systems like heating and cooling, despite the fact that, as any technician would tell you, hardworking HVAC equipment needs TLC to perform its best and stand the test of time.

Photo: istockphoto.com

Make no mistake: Overconfidence can have serious consequences for your bottom line. Witness the fact that 22 percent of all homeowners surveyed—and a whopping 54 percent of millennial homeowners—report having filed an insurance claim in the wake of a “DIY fail.” Complicating the situation is that, just as homeowners often misjudge their competence, many also fail to understand certain basics of insurance coverage. When asked whether such things as sewer backups and termite damage would be covered by a standard policy, 99 percent were wrong on at least one count.

Simply put, there are downsides to DIY. When something goes awry, it can result in costly mistakes. When you bring in a contractor halfway through a project, particularly if there’s damage to undo, you can expect to spend more than if you’d simply hired a pro to handle everything from the get-go. The best course? At the outset of any project, before you dive in headfirst, take the time to assess whether you’re truly up for the task at hand. Do your due diligence—learn all you can about every step of the process—then ask yourself the following questions:

Photo: istockphoto.com

• How much will it cost to purchase what you need to get the job done? Especially if you don’t envision yourself using the necessary supplies more than once, there’s a good chance that, counter to intuition, you would save money by hiring a pro who has access to all the tools of the trade.

• Is a permit required for the project you’re planning? If so, it also probably requires municipal inspection. If that’s the case, doing it yourself means running the risk of failing the inspection and then having to purchase more materials—and invest more time and energy—to redo the job right.

• Would the quality of the finished result impact the resale value of your home? While it’s one thing to do a slapdash job of painting the guest bedroom, it’s another to install roof shingles or exterior siding incorrectly. Before committing, be sure you fully understand what may be at stake.

• Are there any dangers inherent to doing it yourself? Many homeowners opt not to clean their own gutters, not because it’s complicated, but because the work entails getting up on a shaky extension ladder to reach the gutters. The lesson here: Don’t tempt fate if you don’t have to.

As the saying goes, “You can never have too much of a good thing.” Despite the wisdom of those words, it’s indeed possible to have too much self-confidence—a failing that can cloud judgment and drive a homeowner to undertake projects far beyond his abilities. So, go ahead and learn new skills and expand your reservoir of knowledge, but don’t lose sight of your strengths and weaknesses. We all have our limits; the trick is to embrace yours, not only for peace of mind, but also to protect your biggest investment, your home. DIY? Well, it’s one way, but it’s not the only way.

Photo: istockphoto.com

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

Solved! Here’s How Long Paint Actually Lasts

We all have at least one old gallon of paint in the garage. But should you hold onto a can that's only half-full? And will it spoil if you leave it in storage? Here's how to know if you should crack open that can or if you'll have to make another trip to the store.


Photo: istockphoto.com

Q:  We stored some leftover paint from our living room remodel a few years ago, and now our toddler has decided to use one of our living room walls to showcase his art skills in permanent marker. We’d like to roll a fresh coat over that wall, but is that old paint still good? How long does paint last?

A: It might be OK. There’s not quite a hard-and-fast rule for how long paint actually lasts, but you can figure out if it’s time to throw it away based on a few important clues. Depending on whether or not the can was opened, where you stored it, and what kind of paint it is, you may still be able to use it.


Photo: istockphoto.com

If it’s unopened, it’s probably still usable. Unopened cans of paint last for years when stored correctly. Unused latex and water-based acrylic paints last up to 10 years, and the shelf life of alkyd and oil-based can be as long as 15 years. Since unopened paint hasn’t spent much time exposed to air, it still has the same ratio of liquids and semi-solids, although the ingredients have probably separated over time. But if you stored the can in the garage or shed where it froze or was exposed to extreme heat, even fully sealed contents could be ruined.

Test it to make sure. Pry open the can and blend the contents thoroughly with a paint stirrer. This can take five minutes or more, so don’t rush it. Dip a brush in the paint and brush it onto a piece of cardboard. If the paint goes on smooth, you’re in luck! Go ahead and roll that wall. If it contains grainy lumps that you can’t stir out, exposure to extreme temperatures have probably changed the paint’s chemical makeup beyond salvaging.

Even if it’s opened, there’s still hope. Because opened cans of paint are exposed to air, they often develop a thickened skin on the top that should be removed with a paint stick before attempting to stir the paint left in the can. If the remaining paint blends smoothly, it’s good to use in your next paint job.

Look for lumps. Like unopened cans of paint, opened cans can also suffer from exposure to temperature extremes. The difference? Lumps in a partially used can don’t always mean that the paint is unusable. A few in a gallon that’s otherwise smooth may indicae that some of the thickened skin on the paint was stirred into the good paint underneath. Before using the paint, pour it through a paint strainer (available at paint stores for a couple of bucks) to remove the lumps and proceed as planned.

Take a whiff. A foul or rancid smell, or the presence of mold in the can, means bacteria has contaminated the paint—it’s time to throw it away. Dispose of spoiled paint in accordance with your local toxic waste disposal ordinances.

Store paint the right way to extend its shelf life. Paint is expensive, and it can be tough to match custom colors years later. Whether you want to save a partial can of paint for touchups or you ordered too much and have a few untouched gallons on your hands, you’ll get the best shelf life possible if you store paint indoors, preferably away from extreme temperatures and sunlight. To store a half-empty can and make the paint last, place a piece of plastic wrap over the top and then use a tap the lid back into place with a hammer. While you’re at it, mark the date and color name in marker on the side for easy future reference.

Weekend Projects: 7 Designs for a DIY Chair

In desperate need of extra seating? Don’t just sit there! Save money—and add personality to your space—by building one of these crafty DIY chairs.


Whether you’re preparing to entertain a crowd or just looking to fill a sparse corner of your living room, a spare chair is just the ticket. But when you see that a store-bought seat rings up at a few hundred dollars, you may find that investing only a fraction of that cost—and a weekend of your time—sounds much more appealing. Building your own furniture is a simple, affordable, and rewarding project for any DIY enthusiast. With a few tools and some common materials (discarded pallets and standard two-by lumber from the local hardware store), you can construct anything from a set of patio chairs to a formal dining chair. Still skeptical? We’ve rounded up seven inspiring DIY chair options, which can be modified to fit your home’s needs, style, and available square footage.



DIY Chairs

Photo: instructables.com

Turning a set of chair plans into a striking seat took Instructables user diycreators little more than a bit of improvisation and a few of the usual suspects when it comes to building materials: 2×4 lumber, a router, a circular saw, a power drill, screws, a bit of wood glue, and the necessary products for protecting the final product against weather damage. The seat is supported by bolts in four places along the square-frame legs, so you can count on this modern two-toned chair to be sturdy.



DIY Chairs

Photo: addicted2decorating.com

This “made-from scratch” wingback chair required serious concentration and craftsmanship, a challenge that the DIYer behind Addicted to Decorating gladly accepted. And did she come through! To aid in finding the proper angles for the back legs and a perfect seat height, she traced one of her dining chairs onto some 2×6 lumber, and then cut. And, believe it or not, she drew the shape of the ever-classic wingback frame freehand and, as she did with much of the rest of the project, cut it out with a jigsaw. Contrasting upholstery patterns in bright colors offer an updated take on a traditional silhouette.


DIY Chairs

Photo: ana-white.com

While it may seem too good to be true, Ana White built this DIY chair in just one hour, proving that furniture feats can happen and still leave you with plenty of time to accomplish the rest of your weekend to-do list. Her detailed cut list and set of diagrams can help you re-create this sturdy seat for around $20—all in less time than it takes to mow the lawn or cook a family dinner!


DIY Chairs

Photo: southernrevivals.com

These modernly rustic stick chairs have a secret superpower: they fold. Inspired by an interior design post on Instagram, the minds behind Southern Revivals constructed the seats with some power tools and pine (although cedar is also an option), using eight slats in the back, eight slats in the seat, and another handful for the legs. For a finish as dramatic as the design, each DIY chair was coated with black milk paint and sealed with tung oil.


DIY Chairs

Photo: funkyjunkinteriors.net

This two-seat pallet chair from Funky Junk Interiors is a rough-and-tumble take on a traditional country love seat. Requiring only a shipping pallet, some reclaimed wood, foam, and burlap sacks, this project can be customized by printing a favorite logo or phrase on the back cushion. Or, simply embrace the weathering, printing, and stamping of your found wood and burlap to make your DIY chair the shabbiest of chic.


DIY Chair

Photo: instructables.com

In this fun and funky design, Instructables user wholman repurposed a length of rubber air hose of a type often found at construction sites as the support system for a DIY chair. Because it incorporates 45 feet of such a heavy-duty material, this chair is built to support—and it molds perfectly to the person sitting on it. In total, this whimsical project took around $20 and left behind little waste.


DIY Chair

Photo: designsbystudioc.com

As it requires a certain amount of precision for maximum results, this rocking chair project puts a builder’s measuring skills to the test. Cher at Design by Studio C worked with scrap boards and lumber, relying on an extensive cut list, pocket-hole screws, and wood glue to bring her vision to life. The result: A classic homemade rocking chair that, if treated with care, can be handed down for generations to come.