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Green Your HVAC: A Small-Duct System Can Bring Big Savings

Keep your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter with an innovative, efficient, and nonintrusive system that's as suitable for retrofitting as it is for new construction.

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Small Duct High Velocity HVAC Efficiency

Photo: absolutegreenhomes.com

For homeowners who have witnessed their energy bills rise ever higher over the years, heating and cooling represents a constant push-and-pull between livability and affordability. While there’s no disputing that HVAC systems are necessary to ensure year-round comfort, it’s unfortunately also true that these systems are household energy hogs, accounting for about 50 percent of the monthly utility bill.

Thankfully, there’s good news: The march of technology has brought new HVAC options to the fore, and the next generation of indoor climate control offers the best of both worlds—that is, unparalleled comfort delivered efficiently enough to minimize the cost of operation. There are many alternatives to traditional forced air that are worth considering, but there may be none more intriguing than the Unico System.

With its barely noticeable vents and whisper-quiet operation, the Unico System calls no attention itself—that is, until the utility bill comes in the mail with a pleasing total that attests to the system’s efficient operation. Installed at the heart of several award-winning, envelope-pushing green homes—in the Department of Energy’s Builders Challenge and Race to Zero competitions, for example, and the annual GreenBuild Expo—Unico System has earned a reputation for energy-saving, eco-friendly HVAC innovation.

Small Duct High Velocity HVAC Efficiency - Unico Floor Outlet

Photo: unicosystem.com

There are multiple ways in which Unico promotes efficiency. First, the small, flexible ducts are virtually leak-free, while the full-size metal ducts in a run-of-the-mill HVAC system create a huge potential for leakage. In fact, air leaks and thermal loss can compromise system efficiency by 25 percent or more. By contrast, Unico’s mini ducts feature nylon inner cores and are sheathed in closed-cell insulation. In combination, the added layers eliminate air leaks and thermal loss, and in so doing prevent the waste of energy.

Second, the system leverages the principle of aspiration, ensuring that the conditioned air draws in the ambient air to bring about an even temperature across the entire home. The house stays neither too hot nor too cold, so homeowners save by not having to turn the thermostat up or down, depending on the season, in order to combat discomfort. Even a few degrees matter to the bottom line!

With the Unico System, in the summer homeowners can actually set the thermostat a few degrees higher than usual. That’s because the system employs advanced cooling coils, which remove up to 30 percent more humidity than conventional AC. Lower humidity, of course, means greater comfort, but it also means savings, with each one-degree increase in the set temperature translating to a 3 percent cut in energy use. Over time, the savings really add up.

Small Duct High Velocity HVAC Efficiency - Unico iSeries Outdoor Unit

Photo: unicosystem.com

For maximum efficiency, consider the new iSeries, a system that allows you to use Unico’s ducting, or a ductless high-wall split, or the two together. Driving the iSeries is the inverter unit, which works in an ingenious way. In the winter, it harvests heat from the outdoor air and sends it indoors. In the summer, it does the opposite, expelling heat from the home. Able to either heat or cool, the inverter effectively replaces both the furnace and AC compressor.

What makes the iSeries so efficient? Most important, it avoids one of the energy-hungry hallmarks of traditional HVAC. Typical systems operate intermittently, turning on and off, on and off, in a constant cycle. Although it seems counterintuitive to saving money, the iSeries runs continuously, but at a lower power level. This minimizes energy consumption—and in the process, achieves a remarkably high Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER).

Indoors, an iSeries high-wall mounted unit auto-adjusts its output to match the demand, while its fan distribution ensures even coverage. Best of all, if you choose to install multiple indoor units, the iSeries allows for zoning. That means that you can establish different zones rather than setting one temperature for the entire home, so you can economize on climate control in those parts of the home that you’re not occupying. This is such a simple, effective way to save!

It’s a common homeowner complaint: HVAC costs an arm and a leg. But in light of the latest technology, that may no longer hold true. Nonintrusive, versatile, and efficient enough to help homes achieve LEED, National Green Building, HERS and Zero Net Energy certifications, the Unico System proves once and for all that comfort and savings are not mutually exclusive. In the past, homeowners had to sacrifice one or the other—but not anymore.

Want to find a Unico-certified installer in your area? Visit the Contractor Locator now!

Unico Infographic

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


The Dos and Don’ts of Pruning Shrubs

Snip your front yard's shrubs into shape with our easy-to-follow pruning tips.

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Pruning Shrubs

Photo: fotosearch.com

Shrubs play a vital role in your landscape, serving as decorative borders, living fences, and foundation plantings that add distinction and personality to your property. But if your privet hedge is suddenly sprawling all over your sidewalk, it may be time to get out the pruning shears. Whether you’re just trying to control the rapid growth of the hedges under your windows, or you want to increase the number of blooms on your snowball bush, correct pruning is the key. Before you start clipping away, prepare yourself with this list of common dos and don’ts.

DO Prune Shrubs When Planting

Get your shrub off to a good start. Immediately remove any dead branches by cutting them as close to the shrub’s main stem as possible. This is also the time to inspect the root ball and remove broken roots, which can spread disease to the rest of the shrub. Cut off any large roots (thicker than your little finger) that have grown in a circle around the root ball, as these “girdling” roots will never straighten out and could eventually kill the shrub.

DON’T Forget to Maintain Your Tools

Dull blades can damage branches, creating tears that lead to disease. Sharpen your pruning tools to ensure the smoothest cuts, and keep them clean to avoid transmitting infection from a diseased shrub to a healthy one. Sterilize pruning tools before every use, and in between uses on individual shrubs, by wiping them down with rubbing alcohol, household disinfectant, or a 10-percent solution of household bleach and water.

Pruning Shrubs - Clippers

Photo: fotosearch.com

DO Prune Flowering Shrubs at the Right Time of Year

Spring-flowering shrubs, such as lilac and forsythia, develop buds that will display the following year during the previous year’s late summer and early fall. If you prune during fall or winter, you will cut off these potential blooms, resulting in little to no growth the following spring. If you need to maintain size or remove dead wood, prune immediately after buds bloom to avoid snipping off next year’s blossoms. Summer-flowering shrubs, such as roses and crape myrtle, develop buds in late spring and early summer, and should be pruned during dormancy in late winter or early spring to stimulate flower production.

DON’T Prune During Fall

No matter what type of shrub you have, fall pruning can stimulate late-season growth that may not have enough time to harden, which can weaken and damage the plant—especially if there’s an early frost. Wait until the shrub is deep in dormancy to give it a trim.

DO Maintain Throughout the Year

Unlike seasonal pruning, maintenance pruning is an ongoing process. This includes removing diseased or broken branches and snipping away any fast-growing sprouts during the growing season. Limit maintenance pruning to fixing immediate problems, and never cut away more than is needed.

DON’T Let Shrubs Get Too Dense

Shrubs that get abundant light and air circulation are healthier than shrubs with compact centers. To thin a dense shrub, prune up to one-third of its side branches where they connect to the main stem. If it’s a multi-stem shrub, prune out the branches at ground level. By opening up the center of the shrub, you’ll ensure that it receives adequate air and light.

DO Consider the Natural Shape of the Shrub

The simplest shape to maintain is the one that is most natural to your shrub. This factor is just as important during the shrub-buying stage as it is to the pruning process. By knowing what your shrub should look like as an established specimen, you’ll know where it will fit best in your landscape and how to prune it to maximize its display potential.

DON’T Shear Off the Top to Control Vertical Growth

Cutting off the top of a shrub is a radical step, and it doesn’t work. By shearing off the top to obtain a cube look, you’ll stimulate leggy vertical growth, which leads to that unsightly “witches’ broom” effect. Unless you’re in the topiary business, you’re better off individually cutting back too-tall branches. Keep in mind that whichever way a bud faces determines the direction of the new growth. The guiding principal here is to prune at a spot that’s just above an outward-facing branch bud. It takes a bit more time, but you’ll be happier with the results.

DO Prune to Rejuvenate a Declining Shrub

Give that ancient woody spirea a new lease on life by pruning out the older wood to stimulate new growth. The new branch sprouts will produce more blossoms, so you’ll be able to keep an older shrub looking young for years.

DON’T Leave Stubs

When removing side branches, cut within one-quarter inch of the main stem. Anything longer is susceptible to disease or infestation by insects. Pruning flush with the main stem at a branch’s point of origin gives the shrub its best chance of healing from the wound.


Genius! The Backyard Movie Theater You Can Build in a Day

Next time you're looking to share the fun of the theater with your family, try this budget-friendly fix that brings the big screen right to your backyard.

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DIY Outdoor Movie Screen

Photo: running-w-scissors.com

A night at the movies doesn’t come cheap. With the steep price of tickets, not to mention the popcorn and M&Ms, this classic family outing can make a big dent in a tight budget. Jessica, busy mom and blogger behind Running with Scissors, suffered from the same costly problem, but didn’t want to cut out summertime entertainment altogether. Starting with a few inexpensive materials, she built an outdoor alternative—a backyard “big screen”—that was perfect for showcasing fan-favorite flicks all season long.

Feeling thrifty, Jessica started on eBay, snatching up an affordable digital projector for super-sized showings. (Secondhand models in good condition are a steal online, sometimes going for as low as $10!) Next, she found herself a giant panel of screen fabric on Amazon for about $40, although an even cheaper canvas drop cloth or thick white curtain can work in a pinch. As for the stand itself, Jessica relied on what her backyard supplied: Her property featured two trees that faced each other, perfect for the job of stringing up a projector screen, hammock, or clothesline. Of course, handy homeowners looking to re-create the project, but short a pair of trees, can sub in anything sturdy and available—like a fence post or deck railing—for the screen support.

After she determined the aspect ratio she wanted for her screen and what that meant for dimensions, she assembled a rectangular frame from 1×4 boards. Then Jessica stretched her fabric taut over the frame and secured it with staples—first across the top and bottom, then the sides, and finally in the corners—for a smooth, wrinkle-free viewing surface. Three screw hooks fastened to the top of the lightweight frame allow it to hang from a curtain-hanging wire suspended between the two tree trunks. As an extra precaution against windy days, Jessica drilled an eye bolt into each trunk a few inches lower than the base of the screen, threaded a set of bungee cords through them, and tethered the cords to the bottom corners of the frame. Once everything was secure, Jessica went back to enjoying blockbuster entertainment, now in the comfort of her own private theater—minus the long lines and loud teenagers.

FOR MORE: Running with Scissors

diy-outdoor-movie-screen-2

Photo: running-w-scissors.com


Enter to Win Bob Vila’s $3,000 Refresh Your Deck Give-Away with Hyde Tools Today

Enter for your chance to win a $3,000 deck makeover.

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April showers have brought May flowers, and we can now exchange the confines of our indoor spaces for the sunshine and warmth of our backyards, and—even better—our decks. But if yours is looking a little worse for the wear, then Bob Vila and Hyde Tools have just what you need: Enter to win the $3,000 Refresh Your Deck Give-Away for the chance to get your deck spick-and-span for spring.

ENTER HERE TO WIN 

Today and every day in May (starting 12:00 p.m. EST April 30th, 2016 through 11:59 a.m. EST May 31st, 2016), enter to win $3,000 from Hyde Tools to put toward a deck makeover. (See Official Rules below.)

If you’re the winner of this month’s give-away, you’ll score $3,000 to put toward transforming your outdated deck into a relaxing retreat. Spend the prize money on whatever your deck needs, from repairs and contractor services, to a brand-new outdoor dining set. In addition to the $3,000 prize, Hyde Tools is also offering up an assortment of gear to help make your dream deck a reality. Whether you try out the PivotPro Water Wand—which transforms any standard garden hose into a cleaning machine—or another of their multitasking tools, Hyde has what you need to keep a good deck looking great.

Don’t waste another minute! Enter today and every day in May for your chance to upgrade a forlorn deck into the gathering hub you’ve always imagined.

To learn more about Hyde Tools, click here.

The “Bob Vila’s $3,000 Refresh Your Deck Give-Away with Hyde Tools” is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 50 states and the District of Columbia; residents of Alaska and Hawaii are not eligible. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Contest Period runs from 12:00 p.m. (EST) Saturday, April 30th, 2016 and ends at 11:59 a.m. EST on Tuesday, May 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. See Official Rules.


Bob Vila’s $3,000 Refresh Your Deck Give-Away with Hyde Tools Official Rules

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Bob Vila’s “$3,000 Refresh Your Deck Give-Away with Hyde Tools” (the “Sweepstakes”) is sponsored by Vila Media, LLC, Post Office Box 835, West Barnstable, MA 02668 (“Sponsor”).

The Sweepstakes consists of one (1) random drawing (the “Drawing”). The Sweepstakes begins at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (“EST”) on April 30th, 2016 and ends at 11:59 a.m. EST on May 31st, 2016 (the “Sweepstakes Period”). One Drawing will be held during the Sweepstakes Period. The entry period for the Drawing shall begin at 12:00 p.m. EST on April 30th, 2016 and ends at 11:59 a.m. EST on May 31st, 2016 (the “Entry 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 50 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 “$3,000 Refresh Your Deck Give-Away with Hyde Tools” submission form.

Each entry submitted in response to the Drawing and in accordance with the Official Rules will constitute an official entry. Duplicate entries within one day will be deemed void.

If you do not have internet access, alternative means of entry for the 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 the 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 the Entry Period, there will be one (1) drawing in which one (1) potential winner (“Winner”) shall be selected from all eligible entries received during that Entry Period by employees or representatives of the Sponsor to receive the prize designated for the Drawing. The winning entry will be chosen at random. The number of eligible entries received during the Entry Period for the Drawing determines the odds of winning. 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. Winner shall be responsible and liable for all federal, state and local taxes on the value of their prize. 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. Winner must claim their 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 Winner during their entry to the Drawing.

The prize for the Drawing during the Sweepstakes Period shall be provided by Hyde Tools, Inc. (the “Prize Supplier”) and shall consist of up to $3,000 reimbursement by the Prize Supplier of Winner’s verified, direct expenses for paint, supplies, and professional services in connection with a deck refurbishment. No transfer, substitution or cash redemption will be awarded in lieu of Prize. Limit one prize per entrant. The prize will be delivered within 30 days from when the prize winners’ documents are executed and sent to the prize provider.

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, 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.


Cool Tools: The Ultimate Accessory for Any Paint Job

This king among paint tools, from HYDE, is the only accessory you’ll need to complete your next DIY paint project with ease!

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Hyde Painter's Assistant - Cleaning a Paintbrush

Photo: thehydeway.com

Whether you’re refreshing your living room wall color or priming the porch for perfection, when it comes to paint jobs, even DIYers with a can-do spirit can’t do it all on their own. After all, when you find yourself with your hands full, teetering on a ladder to reach that last unpainted square inch, who’s going to secure your paint can or hang onto the narrow paintbrush? The answer isn’t a pricey personal assistant, but instead the HYDE Painter’s Assistant. This multi-tool gives you the second set of hands you’ve always wanted—and the versatility of Picasso himself. Equipped with a magnetized surface, a clippable ladder and belt hook, and paint-removing tines, the Painter’s Assistant easily transforms from a carrying handle for paint containers to an on-demand brush holder and cleaner. Find out how the Painter’s Assistant can help you achieve a perfect—and fumble-proof—finish on your next paint job.

Hyde Painter's Assistant - Packaging

Photo: thehydeway.com

All-In-One Appeal
While you may be familiar with the paint-can openers, paint-bucket ladder hangers, and paintbrush combs that line the paint aisle of your hardware store, the multipurpose yet lightweight Painter’s Assistant outmatches these single-use tools in both value and versatility. By consolidating all their functions and offering even more conveniences, it provides DIYers of all skill levels with more bang for their buck.

Solves Painting Problems from Start to Finish
Whether you’re painting indoors or out, one room or everywhere in the house, the Painter’s Assistant stands by you from the first brushstroke to the finishing touch. Use the lip on the bottom of the tool to pop open a can of paint like a pro, no screwdriver required. Then, when you’re ready to start painting, flip the tool around. Snapped onto the edge of a one- or two-quart paint container, the Painter’s Assistant acts like a carrying handle, providing a sturdy grip and thereby thwarting paint splatters on the floor or furniture as you move down the wall. If your project has you up a ladder painting a ceiling, wall, or window trim, stay high and dry by hooking the bottom lip of the tool to the paint can’s handle and the other end over a ladder rung—you’ll prevent your paint and yourself from taking a messy spill. The Painter’s Assistant’s can even serve as a belt or garage hook, with its clip and magnetic strip that can keep painter’s tape and other tools of the trade ready for use whenever—and wherever—you are.

Should you need to take a breather from the paint fumes or simply want to stop and assess (or admire) your progress, your assistant is ready to hold down the fort. Snap the multi-tool onto the edge of your paint can or tray, and stick your paintbrush onto the tool’s magnetic surface to keep it from falling into the paint.

Finally, after completing a successful, no-spill paint job, the Painter’s Assistant instantly morphs into the perfect cleanup companion, thanks to its compact paintbrush cleaner and a paint roller squeegee. Glide your drenched paint roller through the ring of the Painter’s Assistant to quickly squeeze out excess paint. Or, run the tines of the tool over your paintbrush to clear off the bristles. As you field compliments about your freshly applied, professional-quality paint job, feel free to take all the credit for this team effort—your faithful Painter’s Assistant won’t mind.

Purchase HYDE Painter’s Assistant at The Home Depot, $4.97

 

Watch the video below to see the HYDE Painter’s Assistant in action!

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


DIY Lite: A Modern Floor Lamp with a Most Unusual Shade

Here's a bright idea: Light up the dimmest corner of your living area with a customizable lamp. While its modern copper design may look like it cost a fortune, this DIY fixture comes in well under budget.

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DIY Floor Lamp

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Any interior designer will recommend layering multiple light sources, from wall sconces to floor lamps, for both illuminating everyday tasks as well as inspiring a spectrum of moods. Investing in these various lighting options for each of your spaces can add up quickly—that is, unless you’re willing to get your hands dirty with a DIY project or two. You can make your own floor lamp with all the style but a fraction of the cost of lookalikes at luxury retailers. Start the day with a trip to the hardware store, and you can end it with a seat on the well-lit couch and a good book.

 

DIY Floor Lamp - Supplies

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Reclaimed lumber
- Handsaw
- Wood glue
- Clamps
- Drill with a 3⁄4-inch bit, a 1⁄4-inch bit, and a 1-1⁄4-inch hole saw
- Wood chisel
- 1-1⁄4 inch wooden dowel (at least 55 inches long)
- 3⁄4-inch copper pipe (39 inches long)
- 70 percent isopropyl rubbing alcohol
- Clean cloth
- Protractor
- Permanent marker
- All-­purpose glue
- 3⁄4-inch-diameter copper elbow
- Lamp kit with light socket, electrical cord (10 feet), and plug
- Pliers
- Screwdriver
- Plastic bin
- Utility knife
- Spray paint
- LED light bulb

 

STEP 1

DIY Floor Lamp - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Start by making the lamp base with the reclaimed wood or whatever other scrap lumber you have lying around. Cut approximately 13 inches from a 2×8 plank and 12 inches from a 1×6 plank, then sand both pieces. You can use wood blocks with different dimensions—slightly smaller or slightly larger—but make sure that the base is heavy enough to keep the tall lamp from tipping.

 

STEP 2

DIY Floor Lamp - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Apply wood glue to the bottom of the smaller piece, then align it so that it sits centered along the shorter end of the bottom block. Press together and clamp for as long as the glue needs to dry completely.

 

STEP 3

DIY Floor Lamp - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Measure 2 inches from the edge and drill vertically in the base center with the 1-1⁄4-inch hole saw. As the wooden base is quite thick, you will have to proceed in several stages: Drill as far as you can, remove the drill, then pull out the wood cuttings using a wood chisel. Repeat until the hole goes completely through the wood, then sand all edges and set aside.

 

STEP 4

DIY Floor Lamp - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

To make create the height of the floor lamp, cut the 1-1⁄4-inch wooden dowel to be 55 inches long and the 3⁄4-inch copper pipe to be 39 inches long. (We picked these lengths to make a reading light that hovers over the seat of the couch, but you can opt for a longer wooden dowel if you want a taller lamp.)

Wipe down the pipe with 70 percent rubbing alcohol to remove labels and sticker residue before you continue.

 

STEP 5

DIY Floor Lamp - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

In this design, the copper pipe slides through the dowel at an angle so that the lamp hangs over any seat. To facilitate this, you need to drill a hole into the dowel using the 3⁄4-inch bit.

Measure 11 inches from the end of the dowel, mark, place your drill bit against the spot, and then—this is key—rotate the dowel so that it is at a 60 degree angle with your drill bit (you can check against a protractor for help finding the precise angle). Steady the dowel with a firm grip or clamps while you drill.

 

STEP 6

DIY Floor Lamp - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Slide the copper pipe through the dowel so that only 10 inches hang out the end. Use a permanent marker to note the point of intersection.

 

STEP 7

DIY Floor Lamp - Step 7

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Switch to a 1⁄4-inch bit to drill where you’ve marked in Sharpie, through one side of the tube but not out the other. In a later step, this will allow you to thread the lamp’s cord through the pipe to reach the light bulb.

 

STEP 8

DIY Floor Lamp - Step 8

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Time to assemble! Cover the bottom end of the dowel (the one further from the 1-1⁄4-inch hole) in wood glue, and fit it into the hole drilled in the wooden slab base. Hold the two pieces in place for the amount of dry time recommended by the wood glue manufacturer.

 

STEP 9

DIY Floor Lamp - Step 9

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Slide the copper pipe through the 3⁄4-inch hole in the dowel, leaving the small hole in the copper pipe exposed and facing the floor. Once the pieces are in position, join the two materials using an all­-purpose glue. Next, glue a copper elbow (curved down) at the end of the pipe where the lampshade will hang.

 

STEP 10

DIY Floor Lamp - Step 10

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Wiring your floor lamp with a DIY-friendly light kit—one with an electrical cord that’s 10 feet or longer—is the easiest way to go about these next steps. Kits can come in a variety of shapes and forms, some with a cord, plug, socket, and maybe even a switch, and others with just a plug at one end of your electrical cord with socket sold separately. Given the choice, opt to start with a kit that is nearly complete.

If your socket comes already attached to an end of the electrical cord, you’ll need to cut the cord in order to thread it through the 3⁄4-inch copper piping. Push the non-plug end of the cord in through the hole that you made in Step 7 and out through the elbow pipe fitting.

 

STEP 11

DIY Floor Lamp - Step 13

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Before you can affix a socket and light bulb to end of the cord, you must first prep and attach your desired lampshade.

Rather than purchasing something standard from the store, we upcycled a small plastic basket with a slotted design. (If you don’t have one on hand, you can find similar options at the dollar store.) To minimize the basket-like features, carefully cut the curved plastic edge off using a utility knife.

 

STEP 12

DIY Floor Lamp - Step 14

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Next, cut a 1-1⁄4-inch hole in the center of the container’s  bottom so that you can thread the cord through to attach a light socket. (Ideally, the hole should be slightly smaller than the diameter of the socket in order to prevent the shade from slipping down over it and resting on the bulb.)

Tip: Drill very slowly with your hole saw so that you do not break the plastic.

 

STEP 13

DIY Floor Lamp - Step 15

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Spray paint the plastic shade inside and out with a copper color to match the pipe. For best results, apply a primer and at least two coats to completely mask the plastic. (Be sure to follow the can’s instructions to allow the appropriate amount of dry time after each coat for a professional finish.)

 

STEP 14

DIY Floor Lamp - Step 16

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Finally, you can slide the wire through the shade and attach the light bulb socket. While best to refer to your specific lamp kit’s instructions, here’s a preview of what that process entails.

Typically, you’ll start by removing the base of the socket. Screw the threaded pipe (also known as a socket nipple) into the base cap, then pass the wire through a nut the size of the threaded pipe, the hole drilled in your shade, and the threaded pipe-base combo. Tightening the nut over the threaded pipe will secure the socket to the shade.

Pull the electrical cord out so it has a little extra give while you finish the wiring job. Where the cord splits, tie a special underwriter’s knot out of the two ends (refer to your light kit for a diagram). Then identify the difference in the two wires’ texture: one is smooth, and the other is ribbed. Pick up your socket and separate it from its shell to expose two screws. Loosen these and wrap a wire around each—the smooth wire attaches to the brass screw, the ribbed wire to the silver screw—before tightening once more. Pop the shell back on and twist the wired socket into the base inside the shade.

Now reach around the back of the angled floor lamp where the electrical cord enters the copper piping, and gently pull on it so that the lampshade raises to meet the elbow pipe fitting. All that’s left to do is insert an LED bulb—which both saves more energy and gives off less heat than an incandescent bulb. You’re ready to plug in your new floor lamp, curl up beneath its glow with a good book, and call it a night!

DIY Floor Lamp - DIY Lighting for Any Room

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Ama is a DIY addict and the creative mind behind Ohoh Blog. She likes home decor, lighting, and furniture projects that may involve painting, sewing, drilling…no matter the technique! Whatever she has on hand is inspiration to create, and fodder for her serious addiction to upcycling.


How To: Cut In Paint

While a fresh coat of color can quickly update any room, the crisp lines where your walls meet trim or ceiling are really what set apart a stand-out paint job. Read on for how to achieve such a professional touch on your next project.

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How to Cut in Paint

Photo: fotosearch.com

Any professional painter knows that a successful paint job is only as good as the preparation that comes before it. That’s why it’s so important to cut in around trim, ceilings, and baseboards before you start rolling paint on the walls. Lucky for us, even the average DIYer can do this well with the right equipment, a little instruction, and some careful application of paint.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- 2- or 2-1/2-inch high-quality angle sash brush
- Low-tack masking tape for tough-to-reach areas
- Paint
- Small bucket or pail
- Ladder
- Drop cloth
- 5-in-1 painter’s tool or spackling knife
- Damp rag

How to Cut in Paint - Cutting In Brush

Photo: fotosearch.com

STEP 1
Even when you’re dealing with the small amount of paint required for cutting in, drips and spills can happen. So, begin by prepping the room, making sure that floors and other surfaces are protected. Always use a drop cloth, and move it as you work through the room. Use painter’s tape to mask only those awkward or tough-to-reach spots where you know you won’t be able to guarantee clean results without taping. Otherwise, avoid taping—it takes extra time, and unless the tape is properly applied, paint can seep underneath it or dry on top of it, creating a real mess upon removal.

STEP 2
Get ready to paint by loading the brush. Pour about 2 inches of paint into the bucket. Hold your brush with a pencil grip, with the longer side of the brush bristles in line with your pointer finger. Dip the brush into the paint, but be careful not to load more than 2/3 the length of the bristles with paint. Gently tap the brush against the side of the bucket to remove any excess.

STEP 3
Now it’s time to get some paint on that wall! Begin about an inch away from the area you’re cutting in, whether you’re working along the trim or down a corner. Holding the brush horizontal with respect to the floor and ceiling, paint a roughly 12-inch stripe on the wall, using a downward stroke if you’re painting at a corner, or a sideways stroke if you’re working along the ceiling, baseboard, or other trim. Now that you’ve used up some of the paint on your brush, turn your brush 90 degrees so that it angles into the wall, and go back to the beginning of your stroke. This time, using long, even strokes, cut in a thinner line of paint that gets right up to the trim or wall corner.

STEP 4
Once you’re satisfied that you have a cleanly painted edge or corner, again turn your paintbrush horizontal to the floor and ceiling, and gently sweep back over the area to erase brush marks and feather the outer boundaries of the painted area. Doing so will ensure a smooth, seamless finish after you’ve rolled the walls.

Continue to work your way around the room, gently overlapping sections to keep a wet edge. If you have an accidental drip or get paint on the trim or baseboard, wrap a damp cloth around a spackling knife or the long edge of a 5-in-1 painter’s tool, then run it along your paint line to remove any excess.

Cutting in does take practice, but taking the time to cut in neatly will make a huge difference in the appearance of your newly painted room.

TIPS FOR SUCCESS
Use a light touch. Applying too much pressure on your strokes will cause the paint to ooze out of your brush and drip.

Don’t load the brush with too much paint. This will result in drips and heavy lines on the walls, and you’ll risk getting the bristles of your brush caked with dried, crusty paint.

Use a high-quality brush. It’s well worth investing in a high-quality cutting in paintbrush. The better the brush, the less taping you’ll need to do, making the job go more quickly and with less frustration.


3 Fixes for a Garage Door That Won’t Close

How many times have you waited for the garage door to close, only to have it go back up once it reaches the bottom? Try one of these troubleshooting strategies to put a stop to this maddening problem.

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Garage Door Won't Close

Photo: fotosearch.com

Garage doors sometimes seem to have a mind of their own, often deciding when—and how far—they want to open or close. Sometimes the fix can be as simple as replacing the batteries in the opener, and other times a finicky door may be the sign of a bigger issue. Although some repairs, such as replacing springs or altering the track, should be performed only by a professional, there are a few troubleshooting tricks you can tackle on your own before consulting an expert. Here are a few ways you can combat common garage door issues to keep your home safe and secure.

 

CLEAR THE WAY

Garage Door Won't Close - Eye

Photo: ocgaragedoorsandgates.com

Clutter or obstructions that block the sensor are the first problems to look for if your door won’t close or, in extreme cases, open at all. First, check the sensor lights: Depending on the brand of garage door you have, one of the sensor lights may flash, dim, or go out completely when the beam is interrupted. Even if nothing seems to be in the way, consider giving the eyes of the sensors a good cleaning, as oftentimes dirt, debris, or even spiders that have made themselves at home can interrupt the beam and stop the door from operating. If the door still won’t stay shut, double-check that the sensors are aligned with each other; if they aren’t, gently bend them to restore a clear connection—and secure a clean escape from your garage.

 

SET THE LIMITS

Garage Door Won't Close - Limits

Photo: fotosearch.com

If you’ve checked the sensor eyes and alignment and the door still won’t work properly, the open and close limits could be to blame. These settings—also referred to as travel limits—tell the opener how far the door should travel before it’s fully closed and help prevent the door from crushing objects in its path. When the settings are too high, the door senses the floor as an obstruction and immediately opens again after closing. The good news is, this can be easily adjusted with a screwdriver and a few measurements. For specific instructions, consult your manual or the website of the door manufacturer so you can stop the sporadic madness once and for all.

 

BACK ON TRACK

Garage Door Won't Close - Track

Photo: fotosearch.com

Keeping the garage door closed is important to home security, so life can become pretty stressful when that door can’t seem to stay shut. In your efforts to get your home safely sealed up again, you may need to turn your attention to the garage door’s track and rollers; improper maintenance can cause these components to malfunction. Set the problem straight by first cleaning the metal rollers with a toothbrush to remove any grime, and then lubricating them with a non-silicon-based product like motor oil. (If your door has nylon rollers, lubricate only the bearings.) Next, clean the tracks with a cloth and brake oil, removing any buildup that may be preventing the door from operating properly. If that doesn’t do the trick, it’s a good idea to consult a pro before attempting any extensive DIY repairs on your own.


All You Need to Know About Stainless Steel Countertops

If you’re a serious cook, you should seriously consider all the possibilities stainless steel countertops have to offer in a hardworking kitchen.

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Stainless Steel Counters - Modern Kitchen

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Southampton, NY

Fancy yourself an at-home chef with serious skills? Then you may be interested in upgrading your cooking space to one that embodies your enthusiasm. The quickest way to bring a professional vibe to your home’s meal prep zone is by incorporating a restaurant-kitchen hallmark: stainless steel countertops. Once primarily found in restaurants and commercial kitchens, this material has gained recent popularity with residential homeowners who have similar (albeit on a smaller-scale) needs: a durable, stain-resistant, and heat-tolerant worktop—with a contemporary flair to boot.

Stainless Steel Counters - Matching Stainless Steel Appliances

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Seattle, WA

The sleek, modern appearance of stainless steel complements both traditional and modern kitchens. While some worry that a metal worktop may look too austere, certain areas of customization can soften the appearance.

Edge profiles. The square edge is the most popular style, with other options including a bullnose, beveled, or unwrapped edge.

Finish options. As you’d find when shopping for faucet fixtures, stainless steel countertops come in a variety of alternative finishes: satin, mirror polish, brushed metal, and antique matte. If fingerprints or smudges are a concern, choose a brushed finish for its smooth, soft look which more easily hides evidence of sticky fingers.

Square feet. Avoid imitating a restaurant kitchen too closely by adjusting the amount you choose to install. Consider starting small, mixing it in as a stand-alone island in a kitchen designed with butcherblock or granite countertops—this reflective surface blends in with nearly any aesthetic, much as a stainless steel sink can pick up the color temperature of its surroundings.

 

The Benefits
Stainless steel countertops are a sure sign of a workhorse kitchen. As most chefs will attest, this nearly indestructible material stands up to the toughest treatment. In fact, that’s just the start of the long list of pros:

 These counters cannot burn or rust. Unlike other countertop materials such as wood and stone, food grade stainless steel resists both heat and rust, thanks to a combination of chromium and nickel. That means you can place a hot pot on the surface and, when you lift it later, you’ll find zero scorches. And while you may notice water will leave a temporary ring if left to dry, the metal’s special composition prevents permanent damage.

Additionally, as the name would suggest, they are impervious to stains. Spill a glass of red wine? Wipe it up without worrying about a lingering color! Oils, acids, drinks, and more that might mark up wooden counters won’t set on stainless steel—ideal for the room in the house house that hosts most of the food messes.

Installation is a cinch. No need for a sealing process, as required with granite, butcherblock, or concrete countertops. For this type of counter, a sheet of metal is cut to size and wrapped over a wood frame. To determine the amount of metal you need for a DIY installation, measure the length and width of your cabinets and add a 1-1/2-inches overhang for any exposed edge. (For counters that span wall to wall, you’ll add to the depth; if a kitchen island, add twice that amount to both your width and length so that the perimeter is covered.)

• To top it off, the metal is 100 percent recyclable. Selecting this environmentally friendly ingredient for your kitchen construction keeps your carbon footprint minimal.

 

Stainless Steel Counters - In a Traditional Kitchen

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Atlanta, GA

The Drawbacks
While there’s no denying the positive qualities of stainless steel, you may want to take a seat at the kitchen table for the bad news: Contact with your metal cookware and cutlery can get dicey. First, there’s the noise—the clashing and clanging—that happens when cooking equipment makes contact with the metal surface. But an even larger reason to get in the habit of setting down those pots and pans gently would be to decrease the likelihood of scratches on the new surface. Lower-gauge stainless steel has a propensity to dent and scratch, so if you’re looking to turn your kitchen into a restaurant-worthy cookspace, it’s best to purchase the strongest, thickest material you can afford. Even then, stainless steel countertops will “age” over time as objects slide, rub, and drop on the surface.

 

Shopping for Stainless Steel
These high-performing stainless steel countertops go for between $50 and $150 a square foot—right in the same ballpark as marble. Price varies depending on the gauge, which ranges from 14 to 20. Rule of thumb: The lower the gauge, the thicker the steel and the more expensive the product. When planning your installation, you’ll want to invest in the highest gauge within budget, as a thicker countertop means less chance for dents.

 

Easy, Breezy Maintenance
While a nylon sponge and warm, sudsy water are often all it takes to clean this stain-resistant worktop, messy meal prep might require a light scrub: Sprinkle baking soda across the surface, wipe vinegar over top in the direction of the grain, rinse, and dry thoroughly. Then, restore maximum shine by working just a few drops of mineral or olive oil across the surface and buffing it out with a dry a cloth. It’s that easy! Just remember to avoid harsh abrasives—like the scrubbing side of a sponge—which could do more harm than good and leave scratches behind.

Unfortunately, deep scratches and dents are near impossible to remove without professional restoration. Surface scratches, however, can be carefully “rubbed out” using a mild abrasive pad. Working a 180-grit pad in the same direction as the existing grain will help blend the existing scratch mark by removing micro amounts of material. While not all scratches will completely disappear, this scouring action will, at the very least, dull their appearance. Whatever remains can be considered a badge of honor in your hardworking kitchen.

Stainless Steel Counters - In a Colorful Kitchen

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Evanston, IL