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Bob Vila Radio: Small Yards

With smart planning, even a small yard can be beautiful and functional. Find out how to make the most of your compact outdoor space.

A well-designed outdoor space is like having an extra room in the house. Even a small yard is a great treasure, but it takes smart landscaping to make it functional and beautiful. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your small yard.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON SMALL SPACE YARDS or read the text below:

Small Yards

Photo: shutterstock.com

First, keep the space open and uncluttered. Avoid privacy fencing, opting instead for soft boundary-setters like plantings and hedges. This will keep your yard from feeling hemmed in.

By the same token, choose small-scale, unobtrusive furnishings and forgo large structures like pergolas. Make use of all the square footage; even a neglected side yard can become a quiet dining area or a cozy reading nook.

To create a unified design and keep clutter to a minimum, establish a single focal point—a fountain, tree, or sculpture. Meanwhile, select furnishings that do double duty. For example, choose benches that provide both seating and storage and if possible, incorporate seating into hardscaping like retaining walls.

Container gardening and vertical plantings are particularly suited to small spaces. Flowers, vegetables, and even small trees can thrive in containers and create a beautiful mix of textures, colors, and heights. Even better, they can be moved around to create smaller “rooms” in your yard. Hanging baskets, trellises with trailing greenery, and planters mounted on walls all draw the eye up and bring interest and depth to small spaces.

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.


Bob Vila Radio: Tips on Cutting Plywood

Though plywood can be difficult to cut cleanly, these tips on sawing plywood can help you get the job done well, with a minimum of hassle.

Plywood is a versatile product great for lots of building projects. Cutting it can be a little tricky, however, as the edges are prone to little tears and nicks. Here are a couple of tips to help you get cleaner cuts in plywood.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON CUTTING PLYWOOD or read the text below:

Sawing Plywood

Photo: shutterstock.com

The most important thing you can do to get a clean cut is choose the right blade. If you’re using a jigsaw, you need a fine blade specifically designed for plywood or laminate. For circular saws, get a good carbide-tip blade. And for table saws or miter saws, you’ll need a blade with 80 teeth per inch (TPI).

Second, understand how your saw works. The tearout usually happens on the side of the cutting action. So if you’re working with a jigsaw, which cuts on the upstroke, place your plywood with the good side face down. Also place the plywood face down if you’re using a circular saw or miter saw. For a table saw, flip the plywood over so it’s face up.

Whatever saw you’re using, give the plywood plenty of support. Those big sheets can be unwieldy, and an unexpected shift can cause chips. Finally, try running painter’s tape along the length you intend to cut, and score your cut line with a razor first.

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.


How To: Transform a Cabinet with Spray Paint

You can revitalize almost any piece of furniture with a few coats of spray paint. And once you've got the technique down, you'll be surprised at how easy—and addictive—spray-painting can be!

How to Spray Paint Furniture - Detail Before

Photo: Jennifer Noonan

Is there a dated, shabby, worn-out cabinet hogging space somewhere in your home? If so, you may feel tempted to get rid of the old eyesore. But if the only thing you don’t like about the furniture is the way that it looks—if it’s unlovely but perfectly functional—bear in mind that you can completely transform the cabinet quickly, easily, and inexpensively. Yes! The key: spray paint. Invest in one or two cans of spray paint; spend an hour or two on the makeover, depending on the size of your cabinet; and you’ll be amazed (I certainly was) by the difference. Best of all, the project costs a mere fraction of what it would to purchase a brand-new cabinet.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Rust-Oleum Universal spray paint
- Drop cloth
- Wood filler (optional)
- Sandpaper
- Tack cloth or cotton rag
- Protective gear
- Screwdriver or drill (optional)

STEP 1
Whenever you’re spray-painting furniture, it’s recommended that you work in a well-ventilated area. On a nice day, you might even choose to work outside, provided there’s little to no wind. (You don’t want gusts to blow yard debris onto your project during the drying stage.) Another benefit of painting in the driveway or backyard is that you don’t need to worry about overspray. Working indoors? Open the windows and use drop cloths to cover anything you wish to protect from the spray paint.

How to Spray Paint Furniture - Detail Spraying

Photo: JNoonan

STEP 2
Now that you’ve readied your work area, the next step is to prepare the piece of furniture you’re going to spray-paint. First things first, remove all hardware (for example, hinges or handles) and set it safely aside. Next—this is optional—fill any scratches or holes with wood filler, closely following the directions from the product manufacturer. Finally, sand down the furniture, not only to even out nicked edges, but also to give the spray paint an accommodating surface to which it can adhere easily. Once you’ve finished sanding, wipe the furniture with either a tack cloth or a damp cotton rag. Wait for the piece to dry completely before proceeding to paint.

STEP 3
Don the appropriate protective gear—in this case, a dust mask (spray-paint particulates are very fine and can be accidentally inhaled) and safety gloves (well, these kinds of projects are known to get a little messy on occasion).

I used Rust-Oleum’s Universal spray paint. Because it works on any surface, I was able to use it on both the wood and the metal cabinet hinges. Another plus: It can be sprayed from any angle—handy if you need to reach into corners.

Whenever I spray-paint furniture, I apply several thin coats instead of a single heavy coat. That strategy has seemed to yield the best results. Holding the can 8 to 12 inches from the surface, pull the trigger on the spray-paint can, applying the paint with a sweeping motion. As you go along, let the spray fall a few inches past the left and right edges of the furniture. Remember that spray paint dries quickly; subsequent coats can be added within two hours. For further details about application, be sure to read the instructions provided by the manufacturer.

STEP 4
Give the paint at least 24 hours to cure fully before reinstalling hardware or placing any objects on or inside of the furniture. That may seem like a long time to wait, but personally I’d wait five times as long if it meant revitalizing a cabinet that I would have otherwise hauled to the Dumpster. Spray paint really is an amazing thing. With a little practice, you’ll be able to spray-paint like a pro. And then if you’re anything like me, you’ll look at the world in a new way, always finding things around the house to revamp and totally renew.

How to Spray Paint Furniture - Cabinet Makeover After

Photo: Jennifer Noonan

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


How To: Get Rid of Wasps

How to Get Rid of Wasps

Photo: shutterstock.com

Springtime and summer are lovely times of year, but they do usher in a host of seasonal hazards, perhaps none more fearsome than wasps. Not only are wasps annoying, buzzing in your ears and hovering over your picnic, but they are also more likely than most bees to actually sting you. To minimize the presence of these pests on your property, the most important thing you can do is to destroy any wasp nests that you come across. Although it’s not especially difficult or time-consuming to get rid of wasps in this way, you are going to need courage, first and foremost, and like any soldier heading into battle, you must arm yourself with the right weapons. Many potent (and oftentimes toxic) chemicals are sold commercially for the purpose of ridding homeowners of wasps, but we recommend handling the problem the old-fashioned way. Continue reading to learn how you can get rid of wasps using little more than soap and hot water.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Large bucket
- Dishwashing liquid
- Water
- Protective clothing
- Courage!

STEP 1
If you haven’t done so already, the first step is to locate the wasp nest. There are at least two strategies, one more sophisticated than the other. First, if you are able to distinguish the species of wasp, you can then proceed to research its nesting habits. Some wasps prefer trees, while others prefer manmade structures. Knowing the enemy enables you to narrow the search range so that you can find the nest more quickly. Alternatively, simply walk around the property, checking all those snug, out-of-the-way hiding places that wasps are known to haunt—roof eaves and rafters, wall cavities, crawlspaces, railings, fence posts, and tree branches.

STEP 2
When you set out to get rid of wasps, let’s face it: You face the risk of getting stung. That’s why it’s only common sense to wear full protective gear. No, it’s not necessary to go out and buy a beekeeper’s suit. But it’s only prudent to cover up well, and in layers. Put on long pants, a long-sleeved shirt under a thick jacket, gloves, socks and shoes, and a hat paired with a bandana (the latter to cover your face). Oh, and don’t forget to tuck your pants into your socks!

How to Get Rid of Wasps - Nest

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 3
Having properly equipped yourself for battle, you are now ready to attack. Choose your battle plan:

Boiling Water
Pouring a bucket of boiling water onto the wasp nest accomplishes two things. One, it immediately kills scores of wasps and two, it ruins their nest. However, it may take a few buckets full to destroy the nest and to completely detach it from where it was hanging. Meanwhile, you’re likely to have upset dozens of stinging wasps. The wise course is to stage your attacks several hours (or even a full day) apart.

Water With Soap
A second method—similar but slightly superior to the first—involves the addition of liquid dishwasher soap to the boiling water before you pour it on the nest. OK, why the soap? Because it bogs down the wasps, making it more difficult for them to counterattack. Again, it’s probably going to take you more than one bucket to destroy the nest, but this way, you’re less likely to get stung in the process.

STEP 4
Timing is everything. It’s best to approach the nest at night, when most or all of the wasps are inside it. While it may seem counterintuitive to mount your attack when the wasps are “at home,” but experience has shown that wasps pose less of threat inside the nest than flying around it.

Good luck, noble warrior!


How To: Install a Medicine Cabinet

Add beauty and storage to your bath by installing a medicine cabinet. Choose one that is wall-mounted—rather than inset—and the project becomes even more suitable for DIY.

How to Install a Medicine Cabinet

Photo: hgcinc.biz

Add storage to your bathroom—and in the process, give the space a jolt of fresh style—by installing a medicine cabinet. Even if you’re new to home improvement, installing a medicine cabinet makes for an excellent do-it-yourself project. That said, the process entails complexities best addressed through a careful, deliberate approach. Read on to learn how to install a medicine cabinet that mounts to the wall (as opposed to being recessed into the space between wall studs behind the drywall or plaster).

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Pipe locator
- Flush-mounted medicine cabinet with fixings
- Spirit level
- Pencil
- Drill
- Screwdriver

STEP 1
To install a medicine cabinet, you’ll need to drill into the walls. Since bathroom walls often conceal a warren of pipes and wires, it’s only prudent to make sure you won’t accidentally disturb any vital conduits of water or electricity (in the worst case, such a mistake could bring about extensive, expensive damage to your home). Stay on the safe side and run an electronic pipe locator over the area of the wall into which you are planning to drill. So long as the “coast is clear”, you can proceed.

How to Install a Medicine Cabinet - Chest Detail

Photo: signaturehardware.com

STEP 2
Next, position the medicine cabinet flush to the wall, approximately where you are planning to install it. Is the face of the cabinet mirrored? If so, pay close attention to the cabinet height; it should be at eye level. Finally, confirm that nothing (doors, fixtures, etc.) would be obstructed were the cabinet to be permanent.

STEP 3
Having determined the best place in which to install the medicine cabinet, enlist a friend to continue holding it in place. Meanwhile, reach for the spirit level, placing it on top of the cabinet (assuming there’s a ledge; if not, simply hold it against the top edge.) Make minor adjustments until you have gotten the cabinet to be perfectly level, then draw lines where the top and bottom edges of the frame meet the wall.

STEP 4
With your helper still holding the cabinet, open its door (or doors) and find the holes on the rear interior. On the wall, pencil an X-mark to correlate with each one of the installation holes that you identified on the cabinet. For the time being, take the cabinet away from the wall and set it aside at a safe distance.

STEP 5
Look at the hardware that came packaged with the cabinet; outfit your drill/driver with a bit whose size matches that of the hardware; then drill holes in the wall wherever you penciled an X-mark in Step 4. Tread carefully here; if the drilled holes are too large, then chances are the cabinet is going to wobble.

STEP 6
Position the cabinet back on the wall, matching its top and bottom edges to the pencil lines you drew in Step 3. While your helper holds the cabinet, screw the fasteners through each of the holes on the back of the cabinet. Don’t attach them tightly until you are satisfied the cabinet is precisely where you want it.

Additional Tips
• Temporarily tape the door (or doors) closed so as to safeguard against damage caused during installation.

• Power tools and moisture don’t mix: Before using the drill/driver, make sure the area is completely dry.

• Don’t worry about the pencil marks remaining visible post-installation. They can be removed via eraser.


ENTER to Win $1,000 in DIY Gift Cards

Enter today and every day in July to win one of four weekly prizes of DIY Home Improvement Gift Cards valued at $1,000 from InComm.

DIY Dollars Give-AwayWith summer in full swing, homeowners are heading outdoors for fun and relaxation.  If you’re backyard isn’t quite ready for the season, don’t despair. This month, we are giving away four weekly prizes of Do It Yourself Home Improvement™ gift cards valued at $1,000, courtesy of our friends at InComm. Improve your home’s curb appeal, add a new deck or an above ground pool—or create that outdoor kitchen you’ve been dreaming about—the choice is all yours if you win the DIY Dollars.

ENTER HERE TO WIN

Starting today and every day in July (from 12:00 p.m. EST Monday, June 30th, 2014 until 11:59 a.m. EST, Thursday, July 31st, 2014), you can enter to win one of four weekly Do It Yourself Home Improvement™ gift cards valued at $1,000. (See Official Rules below.)

InComm DIY Gift Card

Photo: InComm

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

Imagine what you could do with an extra $1,000 this summer. Put it towards a new lawn mower or power washer, update your old kitchen appliances, or maybe splash a fresh coat of paint on your walls. The options are endless and the choice all yours!

Enter Bob Vila’s DIY Dollars Give-Away daily to increase your odds of winning. And remember to check back next week for another shot at the prize!

To learn more about InComm, click here.

The “Bob Vila’s DIY Dollars Giveaway” 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) Monday, June 30th, 2014 through 11:59 a.m. (EST) Thursday, July 31st, 2014. 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.


Bob Vila Radio: Farmhouse Sinks

Farmhouse sinks, whose style harkens back to the 19th century, are enjoying a revival, with more models being offered than ever before.

Farmhouse sinks, also known as apron-front sinks, are a country kitchen staple. These distinctive vessels have an exposed front that sits above, not behind, the base cabinet. Common in early 19th-century kitchens, the farmhouse sink has enjoyed renewed popularity over the past decade, which has spurred manufacturers to offer a greater range of models, materials, and options than ever before.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON FARMHOUSE SINKS or read the text below:

Farmhouse Sink

Photo: houzz.com

The popularity of farmhouse sinks isn’t just a matter of aesthetics. Their deep basin comfortably accommodates large pans and helps cut down on splashes. Because the sink sits far forward, the user doesn’t need to bend down as much. And thanks to the style’s appeal, apron-front sinks now come in both single- and double-bowl models with a range of options.

On the downside, these sinks have a higher price tag and less selection than the more common drop-in styles. Because of their shape and considerable weight, they usually require additional support and a specially designed base cabinet. But this situation is changing: Due to such innovations as shallower bowls and overmount designs, it’s easier than ever to retrofit an apron-front sink. In addition, the introduction of clean-lined stainless steel models has made this highly coveted style appropriate for even sleekly modern interiors, with nary a cow in sight.

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.


Weekend Projects: 5 Crafty Paper Lanterns to Create Quickly

Let your individuality shine with stunning personalized paper lantern projects that will add a pop of fun in your home.

To add a delightful detail to your home, you need not invest heavily in the effort, either financially or in terms of time. Likewise, you need not struggle to make use of any heavy-duty tools or cumbersome materials. Instead, reach for something that you likely have an abundance of: paper. Colorful, versatile, and easy to work with, paper lends itself to a variety of DIY projects, perhaps none more special and eye-catching than a permanent or temporary lantern. Scroll down to see five of our favorite DIY paper lantern projects. We hope that among these designs—some simple, some more elaborate—you find at least one that inspires your own creativity!

 

1. HANG A GARLAND

DIY Paper Lantern - Garland

Photo: ao.com

Make a set of traditional DIY paper lanterns and hang them via twine to create a decorative garland. Visit AO at Home for a step-by-step tutorial. What you’ll need to complete the project is only a small handful of common items that you may even have on hand already—a ruler, craft knife, stapler, scrapbook paper and glue.

 

2. ERECT A PYRAMID

DIY Paper Lantern - Pyramid

Photo: tinkerlab.com

A handmade alternative to store-bought candles, this tabletop DIY paper lantern makes for an ideal kid-friendly crafts project. TinkerLab shows you how it’s done. Once you’ve folded, cut, and taped your way to a pyramidal shape, a hole puncher produces the unique shapes through which a battery-powered tea light glows.

 

3. FESTOON A SPHERE

DIY Paper Lantern - Faceted

Photo: the3rsblog.wordpress.com

With such an unusual texture, this remarkable DIY paper lantern seizes attention, no matter whether the integrated light is turned on or off. Start with a standard, unadorned spherical lampshade, then go about hot-gluing—in a series of concentric circles—dozens of origami fortune tellers onto the waiting surface of the shade.

 

4. SAVE YOUR SCRAPS

DIY Paper Lantern - Shreds

Photo: designsponge.com

“Shaggy” is the word that comes to mind, seeing this out-of-the-ordinary DIY paper lantern spotted over at Design*Sponge. To make yours, simply cut long, narrow, palm leaf-shaped strips from the paper you’ve collected in your scrap pile. Then hot-glue those cuttings to a plain, white, orb-like shade, starting from the bottom up.

 

5. SKYLINE

DIY Paper Lantern - Skyline

Photo: rebeccasdiy.blogspot.com

Inspired by Stockholm architecture, Rebecca put together this charmingly simple DIY paper lantern. Having drawn a city scene on wallpaper, she wrapped her artwork around a glass jar, inside of which she’d hung tea lights. Not much of an artist? Create a similar effect by printing out a black-and-white graphic you love.


Bob Vila Radio: Rain Gardens

If you're concerned about storm water runoff, consider the practical—and yes, aesthetic—benefits of a rain garden.

In a heavy downpour, all of that water pouring through your downspouts can overwhelm your local sewer system, leading to flooding. Even worse, storm runoff can carry pollutants, fertilizers, and other chemicals into local lakes and rivers. A rain garden is a clever—and beautiful—way of diverting this water before it enters the system.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON RAIN GARDENS or read the text below:

Rain Gardens

Photo: betterground.org

A rain garden is a plot that is sited, sized, constructed and planted with the express goal of capturing a house’s rainwater runoff. Through planning, thoughtful selection of plants, and the right mix of soils, a rain garden acts like a water runoff sponge. In fact, compared with a typical lawn, a rain garden absorbs about 30 percent more water.

To be effective, a rain garden needs to be properly sited and sized. It must be at least 10 feet from the house to keep the water from seeping into the foundation, and it cannot be placed over a septic system. Its size and depth are determined by many factors, including the type of soil, the amount of runoff it needs to absorb, and the garden’s distance from the downspout. You’ll find plenty of calculators online, as well as suggestions for appropriate native plants and soil amendments.

Be forewarned: Establishing a rain garden takes some serious digging. Before you start, call to find out where your cable, electric, gas and other utility lines are.

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.


How To: Hang a Hammock

Who doesn't dream of whiling away the afternoon cradled comfortably in a hammock? Make it your summer reality by following these easy tips on how to hang a hammock in your backyard.

How to Hang a Hammock

Photo: shutterstock.com

Laying in a hammock is the epitome of summertime relaxation. Getting the hammock set up, on the other hand, can be a frustrating endeavor. Consult the tips below to make quick and easy work of the process so that soon, you will have gone from hanging the hammock to hanging out in its comfy, swaying embrace.

Location
Choosing a location for your hammock is perhaps the most difficult part. While you probably don’t have the perfect pair (and ideally spaced) palm trees on your property, you might very well have two healthy oak, maple, or beech trees that are strong enough to support your weight. Ideally, those hardwoods would be as far apart as the total length of your hammock, fully stretched out.

If the trees are too close together, the underside of the hammock is going to scrape along the ground. If the trees are too far apart, you’ll need to extend the reach of the hammock by means of an added-on rope or chain. While there’s a simple remedy for the latter problem, there’s unfortunately no fix for the former (other than to buy another, smaller hammock). Note, however, that it can be a mistake to extend a hammock any more than 18 inches at each end. Doing so leaves it vulnerable to ripping. So if you fully anticipate having to add extensions, only consider buying a hammock outfitted with a spreader bar to inhibit rips.

How to Hang a Hammock - Detail Suspension

Photo: shutterstock.com

Suspension
For obvious reasons, it’s important to establish a secure connection at each end of the hammock. One option is to use tree-fastening straps (which may or may not be included with your purchase). These straps feature a loop on one end and a metal ring on the other. Simply wrap the strap around the tree, pass the loop through the metal ring, then attach the hammock to the ring with S-hook hardware. One virtue of tree-fastening straps is that while effective, they cause no harm to the trees involved.

Though there are countless hammocks on the market, most fall into one or two design categories. First, you have traditional hammocks, and then you have hammocks with spreader bars (like the one pictured at right). Traditional hammocks are meant to hang loosely between two trees, with the center dipping down. Since they get attached to points that are six to eight feet high up on nearby trees, you can, in a pinch, consider using tree branches, not tree trunks—so long as the branches offer sufficient heft.

The other type of hammock involves spreader bars, which force the hammock to remain open, so the occupant never becomes wrapped up in a hammock burrito. Unlike the traditional design, hammocks with spreaders hang only four or five feet from the ground. Also, whereas a traditional hammock hangs loosely, these hammocks hang taut; when unoccupied, they are virtually parallel with the ground.

Remember that the wonderful thing about hanging a hammock is that once you’ve finished the job, your reward is right there in front you. Collapse into your new favorite spot—hey, you’ve earned a break!