Welcome to Bob Vila


Bob Vila Radio: Fend Off the Power Surge Scourge

A spike in electricity can fry your electronics. Protect your beloved gadgets and gizmos with a surge protector. Here's how to choose one.

These days, we’re increasingly sharing our homes with electronic devices. Many of them are pretty pricey, and that includes computers, home theater setups, and sophisticated AC or heating systems. One characteristic most of those devices share is that they have circuit boards that can be easily damaged by power spikes.

How to Choose a Surge Protector

Photo: shutterstock.com

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to BOB VILA ON SURGE PROTECTORS or read the text below:

The best way to avoid such calamities? Surge protection. Here are some tips on how to choose: Look for protectors that have a “joules rating” of 700 or higher. Joules ratings tell you how much power the protector can absorb before it fails. You’ll also want a protector that has a “clamping voltage rating” of 400 volts or less. Clamping voltage describes how much voltage the unit needs to sense before it begins absorbing energy.

You’ll also want to have a look at the warranty. Many companies reimburse for devices that get fried while plugged into their protectors. Check the fine print. Another option—whole-house surge protectors. Many types are available, and they’re not all that expensive.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Now at IKEA, Time Travel

See how the Swedish home retailer helps real couples, shopping in a real showroom, envision their future, all with the help of a world-renowned hypnotist.

Ikea Time Travel Experiment

Photo: Courtesy of IKEA

Who doesn’t love IKEA? Whereas other furniture purveyors mainly appeal to one or another niche market, IKEA appeals as much to students furnishing a dorm room as it does to homeowners remodeling the kitchen. With something for everyone, the Swedish megastore makes aspirational living truly affordable, enabling us all to design and decorate our spaces in ways that respond to our lifestyles and reflect our sensibilities—our dreams, even. And, boy, are they dealing in dreams these days.

For a brand-new online video promotion, the folks at IKEA have pulled out all the stops to show how the store remains a touchstone in our lives, even as we mature and transition through life’s game-changers. For help, the company enlisted world-famous hypnotist Justin Tranz, who leads some IKEA customers through a very special experience—a trip through time. That’s right, we’re talking time travel. And yes, we’re as excitedly bewildered as you are.

Hypnotized, couples walk through a showroom, entering bedrooms and bathrooms, seeing how IKEA products set the scene for the beginning and end of any day. That apparently includes moments which the volunteers actually believe they are living through, not in a busy showroom in the present day, but in their own private homes in the future.

“At IKEA, we believe that life happens everyday,” says Johan Wickmark, catalogue manager at IKEA. “That it’s on those seemingly ordinary days the magic happens, when life takes shape and changes, and it’s for those moments we create our products and solutions.”

Check out the magic in the teaser trailer below, then join us in waiting anxiously for the full video, going live Wednesday, August 20. We’ll bring the popcorn.

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


Buyer’s Guide: Portable Generators

Don't be left in the dark the next time a storm cuts the cord to your home's electricity. With our tips for buying and the best portable generators on the market, you can find the whole-home backup to fit your needs

Best Generators - Control Panel

Photo: generac.com

The storm hits. Power lines topple. And your home loses electricity for an hour, a day, or even a week. These inconvenient—and in some cases, downright dangerous—grid failures seem to be more and more prevalent with each passing year. Brief, infrequent outages are a nuisance and if nothing else, remind us of our complete dependence on electricity. But soon enough, the ordeal is over. However, if your area has been experiencing blackouts more frequently, or for more protracted periods, it’s well worth asking this question: If a major storm came rolling into your town tomorrow, would you be ready for the potential consequences?

An electrical outage doesn’t have to mean the suspension of your life until grid power is restored. You can take matters into your own hands, without spending a small fortune, using a portable generator. Deciding you want to buy one is only the first step. Next comes the process of determining which are the best generators to consider for your household. Read on for details on the main considerations to bear in mind as you navigate the assortment of options available today:

Wattage. Generators vary by the number of watts they are capable of producing. To narrow the field, first determine how many watts you are going to need. Only you can answer that; the answer depends on which appliances you want to feel comfortable running during a blackout. Make a list of those must-have appliances, and write down the number of watts that each one needs in ooder to start. Know that lights typically require 60 to 200 watts to start; a refrigerator needs about 600 watts; and a portable heater may need as many 1,500 watts. For many homeowners, a generator in the 5,000- to 7,000-watt range proves sufficient.

Best Generators - Driveway

Photo: generac.com

Fuel Type. That list of must-have appliances also bears on whether the best generators for you to consider are ones that run on batteries, gas, propane or diesel. Many smaller inverter-style generators are designed to run off a car or a deep-cycle battery, while most models suitable for residential use operate on gas.

Exhaust. Any portable generator that runs on gas, diesel, or propane produces exhaust. For that reason, such machines must be used outdoors, with protection from the weather, at least 15 feet from the house. If you live in California, focus on generators compliant with the standards set by the California Air Resources Board.

Noise. Portable gas-powered generators can be pretty loud. But some are built with noise-absorbing glass wool, special mufflers, and/or vibration-absorbing feet. If you anticipate noise being an issue, the best generators for you to consider are ones specially designed to do their work effectively, but quietly.

Accessories. Many things you’d assume are included with a generator must actually be purchased separately, and those incidental costs can add up. For instance, wheel kits sold separately range from $40 to $150. And if you want to wire the generator’s output to your electrical panel, you’ll need a $500 to $900 transfer switch. Before you buy a generator, make certain you understand what, if any, components are going t0 be missing.

If you’ve begun shopping for a generator, you’ve likely noticed there’s no shortage of options. To save you time and effort, we studied the rankings put out by leading consumer testing sites. And we waded through tons of feedback from people who’ve actually shopped for and used portable generators. We discovered a couple of things: While it’s not easy to identify which are the best generators, these are clear favorites:

 

Generac GP7500 Electric Start Portable Generator

Best Generators - generac gp7500e

Photo: northerntool.com

Shoppers at The Home Depot give 4.7 out of 5 stars to this 7,500-watt generator from industry leader Generac. The reviews praise the generator’s ease of use as well as its ample 8-gallon fuel tank, which enables the unit to run continuously for up to 12 hours. The battery for its electric start is included in the price; it features a low-tone muffler for quiet operation; and its fold-down locking handle and heavy-duty wheels make transportation and storage easy. Price: $999

 

Westinghouse WH7500E Portable Generator

Best Generators - westinghouse wh7500

Photo: norwall.com

From Westinghouse, a generator boasting 7,500 running watts and 9,000 starting watts garnered 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon. With its 6.6-gallon fuel tank, it produces up to 11 hours of runtime, and it purrs along quietly, thanks to its specially designed muffler. Reviewers liked its color-coded control panel, but they loved that everything needed comes in the box. When the time comes to actually use the thing, you don’t need to scramble for any extra components. Price: $999

 

Yamaha EF2000iS Portable Inverter Generator

Best Generators - yamaha EF2000iS

Photo: acmetools.com

Dubbed the “Michael Jordan of inverter generators” (by TopGeneratorReviews.com), this 2,000-watt Yamaha received 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon. It runs—quietly—for up to 10.5 hours. And thanks to its sleek, briefcase-size design, the lightweight generator is eminently portable. Special features include the Smart Throttle Load, which contributes to overall fuel efficiency, and a handy oil-watch warning system that lets you know when to change the oil. Price: $1099


Bob Vila Radio: Planting Ground Cover

For all of its rewards, lawn maintenance can become a loathsome chore. If you're sick and tired of mowing and watering, why not ditch the grass and plant ground covers instead?

If you’ve grown a bit weary of spending your weekends wedded to your lawn mower, perhaps it’s time to replace some of your sod with low-maintenance ground covers.

How to Plant Ground Cover

Photo: shutterstock.com

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to BOB VILA ON GROUND COVERS or read the text below:

Here’s what you’ll need to do: First, use a rototiller or a sod-stripping machine to clear your intended plot of grass and weeds. Next, water the area, then cover it with clear plastic for several weeks. The sun will heat the soil and boost its potential to support the new plants.

Once you’ve removed the plastic, cover the area again, this time with a water-permeable landscaping fabric to discourage weeds. Cut small holes in the fabric, fold back the flaps, and plant your plants.

There are literally hundreds of plant varieties that work well as ground covers. They spread quickly, need little  maintenance, are drought-resistant and lend an elegant touch to your landscaping. As you would with any other landscaping effort, keep the climate in mind when you’re choosing what to plant.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


5 Steps to Hiring the Right Roofer

Roofing ranks among the largest and most expensive projects a homeowner can undertake, so take the time to be certain you find a roofing contractor you trust to put a roof over your head.

How to Find a Roofing Contractor

Photo: shutterstock.com

Whereas other home upgrades are purely elective, roof repairs aren’t a choice; they’re essential. Besides being critically important to personal comfort, structural integrity, and the resale value of your home, roofing ranks among the largest and most expensive projects a homeowner can undertake. The significant costs involved motivate some ambitious do-it-yourselfers to do the work on their own. But for the majority of us, a roofing job means hiring a professional. So if you’re at an early stage of the process, take control by finding a qualified contractor with a solid reputation. Hire well, and you can expect the roofer not only to get the job done on time and on budget, but also to offer valuable insight on the best materials for your house style and the climate where you live. So rather than flip open the yellow pages and settle on the first company listed, follow these steps designed to help you find someone you can trust to put a roof over your head:

How to Find a Roofing Contractor - Shingles

Photo: Shutterstock.com

1. Get a referral
One tried-and-true method of finding a reliable contractor is to query your friends and neighbors. Within the past few years, has anyone in your life had work done on his roof? Make a list of names, reach out to each person, and ask two questions: Was he happy with the job done and would he work with that contractor again? Testimonials provide the most accurate picture of what your experience might be with a given company, and you can count on personal contacts to give you honest feedback. Outside of your circle, you can also get leads from lumber yards and hardware stores.

2. Do your research
If you’ve identified at least three qualified roofers, you can get started investigating each one. Start by verifying the businesses’ contact information. Next, confirm that each one is licensed and insured. Consult your chamber of commerce and the Better Business Bureau to be certain there are no red flags to be aware of. Then finally look for reports on contractor review sites, such as Angie’s List.

3. Meet face-to-face them
Having narrowed the field, invite the prospective contractors to visit your home and scope out the job. You’ll want to discuss roofing materials and the extent of work to be done, but don’t forget to ask about the time and manpower needed for completion. Observe the contractor: He should be enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and professional in demeanor. Certainly, you’re dealing with an authority on materials and methods, but don’t be deterred from participating in the decision-making process! Ask a lot of questions and before he leaves, remember to get a list of references (then remember to check them).

4. Get it in writing
Work shouldn’t begin until you have a signed contract detailing every aspect of the job. Make certain it covers safety procedures and liability, including workers’ compensation. The contract should also specify such things as clean-up methods, payment amounts, and the schedule. Consider requesting a lien waiver to protect against claims that could arise if the roofer fails to pay a vendor for materials.

5. You get what you pay for
The cheapest bid probably isn’t your best bet. Of course, the estimates issued are a factor to consider. But more important is your level of confidence in a given roofer’s ability to do an outstanding job. If you’re impressed by a company that isn’t the cheapest, ask yourself, “How much is peace of mind worth to me?” For many homeowners, it’s worth quite a lot.

Good luck!


How To: Remove Water Stains from Wood

Those white, cloudy rings on your wood furniture don't have to stay there forever. Try one of these methods for removing—or at least minimizing—water stains on wood.

How to Remove Water Stains from Wood - White Ring

Photo: carriegreenedesign.ca

Wood furniture is beautiful, but it’s not impervious to the wear and tear of everyday life. To retain their looks, new and antique wood tables and chairs must be properly maintained. It’s for good reason that your parents sternly insisted that you use coasters: Water and wood are indeed natural enemies.

If the damage has already been done, and you now have to figure how to remove water stains from wood, don’t be discouraged—many have been there before you and successfully eliminated—or at least made significantly less visible—the unsightly marks that moisture can leave in its wake. In fact, for anyone researching the issue, it can be difficult to know where to start, not because there isn’t enough advice available, but because there’s so much. How do you know which of the many repair methods are most reliable? What follows are details on the three approaches that we and others have found to be the most effective. You may need to work through a bit of trial and error before discovering the trick that works in your case. Be patient, and good luck!

Water stains show up as white or light-colored rings or clouds. The light color is a sign that the moisture hasn’t reached the actual wood; rather, it’s trapped within the finish. (It’s when the stain is black or dark-colored that you have a real problem and should either refinish the piece yourself or consult a pro.)

How to Remove Water Stains from Wood - Coaster

Photo: shutterstock.com

Method 1: Ironing
As with most stains, it helps to act quickly. If the stain has been there for only a few days, try this: Empty your clothes iron of all the water inside, then bring it into the room with the affected piece of furniture. Plug in the iron, then lay a cotton napkin, towel, or T-shirt over the stain. With the iron set on low, apply it briefly to the fabric before lifting the cloth to see if the ring has diminished. Repeat until (we hope) the white stain has disappeared. Alternatively, you can try using a hair dryer to achieve the same effect. Move the dryer back and forth over the area for about 10 minutes until the moisture evaporates.

Method 2: Mayonnaise 
Assuming Method 1 gets no results, it’s worthwhile to experiment with what may at first sound like an odd thing to put on furniture: mayonnaise. Dab a bit onto a rag, then gently apply the mayonnaise directly to the stained area. Let it sit for at least an hour or as long as overnight, reapplying the mayonnaise if the initial coating dries out. If there’s no mayonnaise in your fridge, petroleum jelly may be used as an alternative. Either way, the idea is for the oil in these substances to seep into the finish, displacing the lodged moisture. Note that if you’re seeing some results but wish the remedy packed a little extra punch, consider bringing cigarette ashes into the equation. Many have reported that the penetrating power of oil works best when combined with the abrasiveness of cigarette ashes.

Method 3: Toothpaste
If the above methods have gotten you nowhere, walk to your bathroom, reach into the medicine cabinet, and pull out a tube of toothpaste—but not just any toothpaste. You’ll need the white, non-gel variety. Squeeze some onto a rag, then massage it onto the stain. You shouldn’t need to scrub hard or for very long to see results. To avoid causing any further damage to the furniture in question, it’s best to concentrate your efforts only on the affected portions, because the toothpaste can wear away the finish.

If the water stain isn’t gone completely, then it may at least have lightened enough to be less noticeable. The ace up your sleeve is that, if all else fails, you can always sand the furniture down to bare wood and refinish it. (If you’re dealing with a prized piece, you may want to consult a pro.) To prevent similar damage in the future, heed your parents’ advice and use a coaster!


Meet the Brighter Alternative to Traditional Skylights

Traditional skylights are no longer the sole option available to homeowners eager to bring light into dark spaces. Learn the many reason to opt for a tubular daylighting devices instead of traditional skylights.

Photo: Solatube International

There’s nothing quite like natural light to brighten the rooms of a home. For one thing, sunlight’s free, so making good use of it can cut down on electricity costs. For another, exposure to sunlight tends to boost people’s moods, and can even improve health. And when compared to fluorescents and other often unflattering types of lighting, natural light shines in its ability to draw out and intensify colors, enhancing the effect of your decor.

These are among the chief reasons that homeowners have in the past chosen to install skylights, which are, in effect, windows on the roof. But a traditional skylight is no longer the only option. These days, many homeowners are attracted to the significant advantages of a tubular daylighting device (TDD).

Illustration: Solatube International

Not only are TDDs more versatile than traditional skylights, but they also eliminate one of the problems that frequently plague skylights—leaks. Tubular skylights emit light through a small dome, not through a pane of glass, which results in their being far less prone to moisture seepage. Further, because TDDs are installed around structural components like joists and rafters, they can be accommodated without extensive renovation work. That means tubular skylights can often be installed faster—and for less money—than traditional skylights.

TDDs look virtually identical to ordinary lighting fixtures. In fact, a visitor who notices an installed TDD may not even realize that the light he’s seeing isn’t artificial. Solatube International—a global leader in daylighting systems—goes a step further, offering a wide range of decorative fixtures that ensure the company’s TDDs look perfectly at home in any decorating style.

Solatube even offers a Daylight Dimmer that lets you adjust the brightness. Plus, the company has developed a hybrid TDD with integrated LEDs that provides energy-efficient electric light for nighttime use (or when the weather is cloudy). That way, you don’t have to include a separate artificial lighting system in the room—the skylight alone can provide all the lighting you need.

Finally, TDDs may require less maintenance than a traditional skylight. The domes are designed to minimize the chance of leaves or debris building up around or on top of them, and because the domes are self-cleaning, you don’t need to make any dangerous trips to the roof.

Now that you know more about the advantages that TDDs have over traditional daylighting, are you beginning to see the light?

This post is sponsored on behalf of Solatube International. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


How To: Get Rid of Moles

All summer long, you've put hard work into maintaining a lush lawn. Don't let it go to waste! If you see signs that moles are wreaking havoc with your lawn, save yourself a migraine by trying these methods to remove the disruptive underground pests from your yard.

How to Get Rid of Moles - Culprit

Photo: shutterstock.com

There’s no mistaking when a mole or two have invaded your lawn and garden. Though you’re not likely to see one above ground, the hills and ruts a mole leaves in its burrowing wake can spoil, if not devastate, your landscaping. Beyond the eyesore of new mounds sprinkled throughout your lawn, the tunneling can separate roots from soil, killing grass and other vegetation. If you’ve been researching the topic of how to get rid of moles, then you’ve probably come across scores of reports, each touting this or that method as being the best solution to a mole problem. It might be worth trying one or some of those recommendations, but in our experience—and according to most experts—trapping remains the only reliably effective means of stopping these creatures.

First, the bad news: If you were hoping there’d be a way to get rid of moles without getting your hands dirty, it’s time to either modify your expectations or call in a professional. Trapping is not only somewhat labor-intensive, but it’s also going to bring you up close and personal with at least one mole. If you’re squeamish about such things, enlist the help of a neighbor or hire a pro.

How to Get Rid of Moles - Mounds

Photo: shutterstock.com

If you’re used to dealing with animals—or if the damage caused by the moles has driven to you a point of frustration-induced courage—then you’re ready to get to work. Basically, there are two options: You can try to catch a mole, so to speak, in the act, or you can set out a series of mechanized traps. The former is the more humane approach, because it doesn’t require killing the mole. The latter is more likely to produce results, but the mole may die in the clutches of your trap.

Option 1: More Humane, Less Effective 
Here’s the prevailing wisdom on how to catch a mole and keep it alive. It turns out that things haven’t changed much since Bill Murray portrayed a hapless, mole-crazed groundskeeper in Caddyshack.

First, use the back of a shovel to flatten out and pat down any molehills that you’ve noticed on your lawn or garden. Next, remove yourself to a vantage point elsewhere on the property, somewhere at a distance—and ideally downwind—from the patches of earth you’ve shoveled over. If a mole catches your scent in your air, or if your footsteps send vibrations into the ground, the mole isn’t likely to show itself. Wait patiently and be as still as you can be until you see a disturbance in the soil caused by the mole returning to repair the hill you’ve covered. Carrying two shovels, rush to the disturbed area and plunge the shovels into the ground, one on either side of where you saw the ground move. The mole should now be trapped in the small section of its tunnel between your tools.

Now that you’ve isolated the mole, dig it out from its tunnel, transfer it to a cardboard box, and take it to a field far away from your property. Repeat the process until you’ve relocated all the offending moles.

Option 2: Less Humane, More Effective 
Purchase a mole trap online or at your local home center. Place the spring-loaded snare into a mole’s tunnel, being sure to choose an active tunnel. If you’re not sure of a given tunnel’s status, cover over the nearest molehill. Wait a day or two, and if the molehill has been uncovered, that’s a pretty clear indication of activity. Once you’ve set the mole trap, check it often. Also, remember that catching one mole doesn’t mean the problem’s behind you. You’ll need to set the trap again and again, because additional moles may decide to occupy the initial one’s pre-established tunnels. Indeed, several moles may need to be trapped before the tunnel goes dormant. Finally, know that it may not be legal in your state to set a trap that kills moles. Check with your local authorities.

Until you’re rid of the pesky critters, know that it can be OK and even beneficial to live with your underground neighbors for the time being. Their quick digging actually aerates your yard and circulates nutrients in the soil. Plus, a mole’s diet of  grubs and other insects could get rid of pests that would otherwise eat at the roots of your plants. While you’re cohabiting, just follow a little bit of maintenance to be sure their shallow tunnels don’t completely disrupt the roots of your plants: Press any raised soil back into place with your foot, and water thoroughly so that the roots do not dry out. To discourage moles in the future, cut back on the watering in your lawn-care routine, and maybe even consider choosing a grass that can survive on less water. The drier soil will attract fewer earthworms and thus minimize your chances of tempting a mole to move in and chow down.


Bob Vila Radio: Installing a Fold-Down Ironing Board

To save space wherever you do the laundry, install a fold-out ironing board. Here are some tips on getting it done.

If you’re like a lot of people, space in your home is at a premium. In other words, figuring out where to stash your stuff is an ongoing preoccupation. One prime example of a “where do I put this?” item is the ironing board.

Photo: shutterstock.com

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to BOB VILA ON FOLD-DOWN IRONING BOARDS or read the text below:

Why not solve that storage problem by installing a fold-down unit? Sure, you can build one from scratch, but they’re also available—pre-assembled and ready for installation—online or at your local home center.

Whether you build or buy, it’s best to install the fold-down unit in a stud bay that has existing wiring. That way, you’ll have ready access to power for the iron (and for a lamp, so you can see what you’re doing).

First, measure the dimensions of the unit, then use a drywall saw to cut an appropriate size hole in the wall. Next, cut and screw-mount two sections of 2×4 to frame the top and bottom of the cavity. Once you drill a hole for your wiring, you’re ready to slide your cabinet into the framed cavity and secure it with wood screws.

Chances are your old ironing board will find a new home at your next yard sale!

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Are You Safe from Bedbugs?

Are a few suspicious bites making you think that you have a bedbug infestation on your hands? Here are some tips for determining if those blood-sucking pests have invaded your home.

How to Spot a Bedbug

photo: shutterstock.com

Bedbugs haunt homeowners’ nightmares like the bogeyman. These nasty little critters that feast on your blood while you sleep cause you to check under your bed any time your skin begins to tingle. But in the summer months, when outdoor activities mean exposure to mosquitoes, gnats, and fleas, how are you to tell that your red, itchy bites came from a bedbug? Read on for the tips and tools to help you with early detection of an infestation.

Related Galleries

Recognize Bedbug Bites
Reactions to bedbug bites can vary, but they generally take the form of itchy, red bumps that appear in straight rows—often in threes—rather than scattered on the body. If you’re still uncertain whether your bites are signs of an infestation or just souvenirs from last night’s buggy barbecue, try this: Check your body for bites before you go to bed and then again when you get up in the morning, making a mental note of any new ones that occurred overnight. Bites that appear while you sleep may suggest that you are sharing your home with a nibbling pest.

Search Your Sheets, Mattress, and More
On your hunt for more evidence, start with your mattress. Keep your eyes peeled for four signs: bug droppings (which will appear as tiny, dark spots); red blood stains left over from feeding; insect eggs; and the bugs themselves. Bedbug eggs are white ovals about 1/16 of an inch in length, while the bugs are wingless, brown ovals that can grow up to a quarter-inch long.

First, pull your bed and nightstand away from the wall, and watch to see if any bugs scurry away. You may also see excrement stains on the wall. Then remove the top layers of bedding (your blankets or comforters), leaving just the fitted sheet on the bed. Hold a flashlight close to the sheet to examine thoroughly. If you don’t find anything on the sheet, then move on to check the mattress. Pull the sheet back and pay particular attention to the mattress seams, where bugs like to hide. You can press a credit card against the seam to hold it back while you shine the flashlight on the darker areas. You’ll want to flip the mattress over and check the other side as well. Finally, check the joints of your bed frame, shining the flashlight into all the dark crevices to search out the bugs. Snap photos and bag any evidence you find.

Continue your search through the rest of the apartment or house, pulling all upholstered furniture away from walls and thoroughly checking around zippers and seams.

Invest in Tools to Help
Just because you don’t see any bugs doesn’t mean you’re safe. More than just inspecting visually, you’ll want to employ a few tools to do the work for you.

Adding bedbug interception devices to each leg of your bed frame allows you to keep an eye on the situation without having to flip your mattress every morning. Instead, monitor the devices every few days to see if any pests show up. Consider using these on other upholstered furniture in the bedroom as well. Trapping a bug and identifying the pest is the only way to be truly sure of an infestation.

At the same time, you may also want to invest in encasements for your mattress and box spring. Although pricier than a detection device, these work double duty: They protect your bed by sealing out bugs, and they also cover crevices, leaving a smooth surface for easier inspection in the future.

Call In the Pros
Whether you find signs of a bedbug infestation or are still simply itching from an unknown cause, phone a professional. A qualified pest-control expert has much more experience with the search and knows exactly what to look for—and in this case, it’s better to have a second opinion. Bedbugs spread easily from room to room by hitching a ride on human clothing or other objects that are moved around the house.