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A Guide to Protecting Your Greatest Investment from Wood-Destroying Insects

Of all the countless types of common household pests, there's one that homeowners dread most—wood-destroying insects. A threat to homes nationwide, insects like termites and carpenter ants cause an estimated $5 billion in property damage each and every year. Keep reading now for advice and how to safeguard your home—and what to do if damage has already been done.

Wood-Destroying Insects

Photo: istockphoto.com

One of the biggest threats to your home can come in the form of small pests—from termites to carpenter ants to beetles. Often referred to as wood-destroying insects, these pests have an uncanny ability to launch silent attacks on the wood found in the rafters, windowsills, support beams, flooring and other structures used to ensure the stability of your greatest investment.

Of all wood-destroying insects, termites are by far the most problematic and economically important in the United States, occurring in every state but Alaska. They are classified into three groups based upon nesting preferences: subterranean, drywood, and dampwood. Subterranean termites are the most destructive termites species, using their scissor-like jaws to chew through wood 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With as many as two million members in a colony, subterranean termites can bite off enough wood over time to collapse an entire building. More alarming, though, is the fact that termites in general cause more than $5 billion in property damage each year according to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA)—a cost typically not covered by homeowners’ insurance.

Wood-destroying beetles, on the other hand, are more widely distributed than termites. They are found in every state; however, they come in second to termites in their destructiveness to wood and wood products. The powderpost beetle, which falls into the category of wood-destroying beetles, attacks hardwoods – the same lumber materials used throughout many homes.

Another type of wood-destroying insect to keep an eye out for is the carpenter ant. Its name alone says it all. Carpenter ants are found throughout the United States, but they are most commonly discovered in cool, damp climates in the northern states. These ants create tunnels through wet or rotted wood to build their nests. The tunnels are usually found in window frames and doorframes, and crawlspaces under roofs, chimneys, sinks and bathtubs. They are difficult to spot with the naked eye, but homeowners may notice small piles of wood fragments and sawdust around the property, both of which are telltale signs of a carpenter ant infestation.

Wood-Destroying Insects - Termite Damage

Photo: istockphoto.com

To protect your home from these and other wood-destroying insects, consider completing a handful of simple, do-it-yourself tasks around the house before the change in season. Follow these tips from the NPMA for year-round protection against wood-destroying insects:

• Keep basements, attics and crawl spaces well ventilated and dry.

• Repair leaking faucets, water pipes and AC units on the outside of the home.

• Repair fascia and soffits and rotted roof shingles.

• Replace weather stripping and repair loose mortar around basement foundation and windows.

• Direct water away from your house through properly functioning downspouts, gutters and splash blocks.

• Store firewood at least 20 feet away from the house and 5 inches off the ground.

• Keep mulch at least 15 inches from the foundation.

• Remove rotting tree stumps from the property.

• Homeowners should have a termite inspection completed every one to three years. Homes with previous termite infestations should be re-inspected every year.

• Before finalizing the purchase of a new home, homebuyers are encouraged to obtain a wood-destroying organism (WDO) inspection, separate from a standard home inspection, which assesses only the condition of the home’s physical structure. A WDO inspection typically lasts for about an hour, during which time a termite management specialist will probe the home from the attic to the basement for telltale signs of termite damage and conditions conducive to an infestation.

Given the severity of damage that these types of pests can cause to the home, and the huge expense that comes directly out of the homeowner’s pocket, it’s important to contact a licensed pest control professional at first indication of an infestation. Don’t wait until it’s too late. And better yet, is a regular, recurring inspection to help keep your home pest-free.

For more information about wood destroying organisms, other structural pests and to find a qualified and licensed pest professional, visit PestWorld.org.

Wood-Destroying Insects - Pest Control Professionals

Photo: istockphoto.com

This article has been brought to you by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA).

3 Hidden Benefits of New Windows

If you still need a bit of convincing to get moving on that long-delayed window replacement project, here are yet three more compelling reasons to get rid of those old, leaky, tired-looking windows.


Photo: istockphoto.com

Technology has redefined virtually every aspect of contemporary life, and home construction and remodeling are no exception. Today, thanks to breakthroughs in design and manufacturing, once-simple building components now boast a stunning level of sophistication. Windows offer a prime example. In the past, the typical window consisted of a wood frame and single-pane glass. But in 2016, the best windows are packed full of cutting-edge features that serve the home and its occupants better than ever before. Still, “many homeowners don’t realize how much has changed,” according to Jim Eldredge, a product manager with Sears Home Services. Certainly, window replacement remains a popular improvement, but homeowners tend to pursue the project for the same reasons that motivated previous generations—that is, enhanced energy efficiency and improved aesthetics. “These are the expected benefits of installing new windows, and they are worthy goals,” Eldredge says. But when it comes to the current crop of windows, he adds, “there are plenty of additional incentives that go overlooked.” For details on three lesser-known advantages associated with new windows, keep reading now!



Photo: istockphoto.com

To stand the test of time—to look and perform their best over a span of decades—windows require care. How much? That depends on the frame. Older windows often need a lot of attention, not least because their wood frames should be refinished every three to five years to ward off rot and mold. Tired of all the hassle, many homeowners insist on replacement windows that demand little in the way of ongoing maintenance. Aluminum windows are popular for precisely that reason. Aluminum, however, is highly conductive and, as a result, doesn’t insulate very well. According to Eldredge, only vinyl offers the “best of both worlds”—the insulating capacity of wood and the easy-care virtues of aluminum. In fact, the Weatherbeater vinyl windows installed by Sears Home Services rarely need more than mere cleaning. Of course, cleaning a window can be a pain, as you well know if you’ve ever climbed a ladder to reach the glazing on an upper story. The good news? Quality modern windows, the Weatherbeater line included, feature tilt-in sashes, which provide easy access to the exterior glass, making cleaning a breeze and freeing up time for “the things you actually want to do,” Eldredge concludes.



Photo: istockphoto.com

Once upon a time, if you were to put your hand to a window on a cold day, the glass would feel as icy as the temperature outdoors. “You wouldn’t have the same experience today,” Eldredge says. With double- or even triple-paned construction, windows are able to deliver a degree of thermal performance increasingly on par with that of exterior walls. That said, some windows insulate better than others. Weatherbeater windows from Sears Home Services stand out in particular because the cavities between their panes are filled with argon, a denser-than-air gas that insulates even further. Such innovations help to eliminate drafts and minimize energy loss, enabling homeowners to enjoy more efficient, less expensive heating and cooling. Interestingly, though, many of the same features that benefit household efficiency also usher in a secondary benefit—they attenuate sound. Indeed, a window that blocks out uncomfortably cold or hot air also works to block out sound. Though homeowners rarely expect window replacement to result in a quieter, more serene indoor environment, “that’s often the first thing that the homeowner notices once the new windows go in,” Eldredge says.



Photo: istockphoto.com

Savvy homeowners know that window replacement—a major improvement project—typically calls for a correspondingly major investment of money. Hesitant over the high price? Don’t forget that you’re not the only one painfully aware of the costs involved—house hunters are too. In fact, it’s common for prospective buyers to walk away from homes whose windows would require replacement sooner rather than later. It’s unlikely that you’d make immediate plans to move after replacing your windows, but when it’s time to sell, “the preference for up-to-date windows can work to your advantage,” Eldredge remarks, and could result in a faster or more lucrative sale. In addition, bear in mind that while new windows may not be cheap, their purchase and installation isn’t a sunk cost. On the contrary, the upgrade adds considerable value—in fact, owners typically recoup more than half of what they put into the project, according to Eldredge. It’s true that not every home improvement offers a favorable return on investment, but window replacement does—especially when you take into account the fact that, as Eldredge notes, “high-performance windows help you to save each and every month on climate control,” in many cases the single greatest ongoing expense of homeownership.


If the scale of window replacement doesn’t intimidate you, and if the price tag doesn’t put you off, then it’s likely that the biggest source of stress you’ll encounter as you embark on this major project will be trying to find and hire professionals you trust. We’ve all heard plenty of horror stories about amateurs and crooks who either do a poor job or agree to do the work but never actually show up. As windows are critical to the integrity of any home, and because their performance depends on proper installation, it’s only prudent to do your due diligence and hire as responsibly as possible. Don’t know where to begin? You can start by scheduling a free in-home consultation with Sears Home Services. Operating nationwide, with a long history of helping homeowners achieve their dreams of more beautiful, better-functioning homes, Sears can guide you through the entire process, from the selection of new windows to their on-time, on-budget installation. Providing peace of mind all the while is the fact that with Sears in your corner, you benefit from the company’s hallmark Satisfaction Guarantee—an assurance that, even once your new windows are in place, Sears remains committed to the long-term success of your project. Contact Sears Home Services today!

Photo: istockphoto.com

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

3 Ways to Save with Zoned Comfort Solutions

Cooling and heating costs an arm and a leg. But the conventional wisdom simply doesn't apply to climate control technology like Zoned Comfort Solutions™.


Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

You don’t need to be told that energy doesn’t come cheap. With the arrival of each utility bill, you get another reminder. But here’s something you may not know: In the average home, cooling and heating can account for more than half of the total energy consumption. That means, if you’re shelling out a small fortune from one month to the next, your cooling and heating system(s) may be at least partly to blame. The good news? While traditional systems reinforced the perception that comfort and savings are mutually exclusive, the latest cooling and heating technologies suggest a new way forward by excelling precisely where older, outmoded systems often fall short. For climate control that pairs top performance with low costs, more and more homeowners are choosing comfort-creating, energy-saving Zoned Comfort Solutions™ from Mitsubishi Electric. Featuring a powerful combination of ultra-efficient operation with control and customization, the Mitsubishi Electric system inspires you to reevaluate everything you took for granted about indoor climate control.


Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

Zoned Comfort Solutions take a fresh approach to climate control that impacts the design of the system and its basic mode of operation. To understand what makes the Mitsubishi Electric system unique, consider that a traditional forced-air system operates cyclically, in a stop-and-start pattern that devours electricity, drives up bills and leads to dramatic ups and downs in the indoor temperature. By contrast, Zoned Comfort Solutions slash energy use—enough to save you up to 40 percent on cooling and heating—by not operating cyclically, but continuously at a lower rate. Of course, efficiency doesn’t mean much if you’re left sweating or shivering, so Zoned Comfort Solutions work to ensure a steady, uniform home environment. With multiple indoor units installed within the home to distribute conditioned air and monitor temperatures, the system automatically adjusts its output to match the cooling or heating demand at any given time. The result? You always get the temperature you set on the thermostat. Other systems put homeowners in the position of having to sacrifice savings for comfort, or vice versa. Zoned Comfort Solutions stand out, because they require no sacrifice—finally, you can enjoy comfort and savings at the same time.


Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

Beyond its baseline efficiency, Zoned Comfort Solutions also enable you to seize countless opportunities to save. The key: Unlike a traditional system with one thermostat to control the temperature of the entire house, Mitsubishi Electric provides custom-tailored climate control, thanks to its zoning capability. In a whole-home system, homeowners can establish a set of distinct zones, each one independently controlled with its own thermostat. Now, if you want to cool or heat one room, you no longer need to pay for the energy consumed to cool or heat all the rooms—even the unoccupied ones. Instead, you can save energy—and enhance comfort simultaneously—by targeting temperatures on a zone-by-zone basis. For example, daytime activity centers on the ground floor, you can cut back on (or even turn off) climate control in the zone or zones upstairs. The added benefit: Only a zoned system accommodates for the fact that different people prefer different temperatures. Your spouse likes it cooler? Adjust the temperature accordingly in the zone where he or she spends the most time. By sidestepping the wasteful, all-or-nothing approach of traditional systems, Zoned Comfort Solutions present a win-win for your bottom line and the comfort of your family.


Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

With its kumo cloud™ app, Mitsubishi Electric extends the already high degree of control it puts in your hands. Available for any iOS, Android or Fire OS smartphone or tablet, kumo cloud allows you to control your system from anywhere, at any time. (There’s even a web browser version, great for laptops or desktops). With virtually no barriers to system access, you never miss a chance to conserve. For example: On your commute to work one morning, you wonder whether you left the air conditioning on. With only a few taps or clicks, you can check the system status and make adjustments, potentially saving a day’s worth of wasted energy and expense. It’s true that most of the time, you can save by configuring your system to run on its own, in keeping with a pre-set schedule. But the unavoidable fact is that life doesn’t always follow a routine. Headed home earlier than you expected on a cold winter night? Use the kumo cloud app to ensure that upon arrival, your home welcomes you with cozy warmth. If anything, the innovative app testifies to the fact that cooling and heating isn’t what it used to be—and that’s a good thing!


There’s one final way in which a Mitsubishi Electric cooling and heating system breaks from tradition. Though we’re used to thinking of cooling and heating as being separate, the savings achieved with integrating Zoned Comfort Solutions continues year-round, because the streamlined system delivers comfort in both the warm and cold seasons. In summer, it takes heat from the home and expels it outdoors, while in winter, the operation reverses and the heat from compression is used to warm the air indoors. Impressively, with an advanced Hyper-Heat® technology, the Mitsubishi Electric system manages to accomplish the latter even at temperatures as low as -13 degrees Fahrenheit. But most impressive of all is that Zoned Comfort Solutions deliver on their simple promise—performance of the utmost efficiency with no compromise of comfort. If you’re tired of hit-and-miss cooling and heating that costs more per month than it sometimes seems worth, you’re not alone. But whereas alternatives were few and far between in years past, we’re now living in the 21st century. There’s no reason to continue tolerating lackluster performance and unnecessarily high costs. Embrace change and upgrade to versatile, cost-effective, endlessly customizable Zoned Comfort Solutions—get started now!

Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

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

Material Matters: Expert Advice on 3 Top Options in Roofing

Is it time to put a new roof over your head? There's much more to the project than its cost. First things first, you must decide what type of shingles to install. Read on for one expert's take on a trio of the most enduringly popular options.


Photo: istockphoto.com

It’s hard to overstate the importance of a sound roof. Besides keeping out the weather, the roof also contributes to curb appeal, making it one of the few components consequential enough to impact the home both in terms of performance and aesthetics. When the time comes to replace something so pivotal, the usual rules of home improvement cease to apply. Most projects are purely elective, after all, but re-roofing isn’t a choice—it’s an essential step toward protecting the structural integrity, outward condition, and long-term health of your biggest investment. Given the high stakes, not to mention the costs, re-roofing tends to intimidate. Only adding to the stress are all the unfamiliar terms that planning a re-roofing project brings into play. There are tough choices to make, too. Perhaps trickiest of all is selecting a new roofing material. Unfamiliar with the relative merits of the many different options, the average homeowner often doesn’t know where to begin. For guidance, we spoke to Jim Eldredge, a product manager with Sears Home Services—a nationwide company with a decades-long history of helping customers navigate the re-roofing process from beginning to end.



Photo: istockphoto.com

Before modern manufacturing delivered a host of new options to the market, wood shakes and shingles served for decades, if not centuries, as one of the few materials commonly used in roofing. Though by no means as ubiquitous as in the past, it remains a popular choice today, particularly among those seeking to enhance the period authenticity of a historic home. You can’t beat the look: Whether cedar, redwood, or pine—machine-sawed or hand-split—wood shakes and shingles offer an undeniable appeal. Their charm comes at a cost, though. With a price point at least twice as high as other roofing types, “wood simply isn’t in the budget for many remodelers,” according to Eldredge. “There’s also the issue of maintenance,” he says. Wood and water don’t mix. It’s that simple. So in order to remain free of rot and mold, wood roofing must be treated periodically with preservative, fungicide, or both. For those willing to meet their demands, wood shakes and shingles offer the reward of a 25-year average lifespan. But as Eldredge puts it, “not every homeowner feels comfortable committing to such a high-cost, high-maintenance material,” regardless of its aesthetic virtues.



Photo: istockphoto.com

The terra cotta color and half-cylinder shape of clay roofing tiles are the perfect complement to the stucco finish found on the many Mediterranean-style homes in such warm-weather states as Florida and Arizona. “It’s expensive,” Eldredge says—sometimes even quadruple the cost of a budget-friendly material—but since tile roofs commonly last more than 100 years, “you get bang for your buck.” Some homeowners cut costs by opting for concrete, not clay, tiles. But compared to the genuine article, concrete tile roofing—though it fares better in colder climates—lasts only half as long. Still, “if there’s one major downside to tile,” Eldredge says, “it’s how much the stuff weighs.” Whereas a typical roof weighs about 230 pounds per ten-foot-square area, a tile roof covering the same area can weigh over 1,000 pounds. If you’ve never had a tile roof before, don’t commit to one without first consulting a structural engineer. “It might not be possible for your roof to support the anticipated weight,” Eldredge concludes. Of course, you can always add structural reinforcement to bolster the strength of your roof, but to do so would add even more to the cost of an already expensive job.



Photo: istockphoto.com

If you were to close your eyes and picture the roof of a typical home, chances are that you would imagine a roof with asphalt shingles. “They have emerged as the industry standard,” Eldredge says. In fact, among the three lines of shingles routinely installed by Sears Home Services, all are asphalt, and for good reason. For one thing, asphalt shingles are often the most cost-effective option, not least because their ease of installation helps keep labor fees low. For another, “Asphalt shingles need little maintenance,” Eldredge says. The one knock against them—that they are unremarkable looking—no longer applies. “A lot has changed over the last 20 or so years,” Eldredge says. “Gray isn’t your only option anymore.” Today, companies like Sears offer asphalt shingles in a range of designs and colors. “But don’t pick your shingles based on aesthetics alone,” Eldredge advises. Instead, once you have found a look that you like, take the time to check the warranties of any roofing products on your radar. Whereas some guarantee 20 or 25 years of problem-free performance, others—including the Owens Corning shingles installed by Sears—carry a full 50-year warranty (view details).


Make no mistake: Roofing product warranties are key, but if the shingles aren’t installed correctly, even a best-in-class guarantee can’t do you much good. Also note that, as Eldredge says, “Roofs develop leaks and other issues more often because of poor installation than because of faulty shingles.” That being the case, the long-term viability of your new roof depends most of all on the skills and qualifications of the pros you trust to handle the job. Sears Home Services sets itself apart here, because unlike most small, local contractors, the nationwide company provides a limited warranty on labor (view details). Normally, if you hire a reputable contractor, you hope the work gets done on time and on budget. With Sears Home Services, you can expect more, thanks to the company’s trademark Satisfaction Guarantee, which promises a commitment to the success of your project that continues even after its completion. Still don’t know what type of shingles are best for your budget and needs? Schedule a free in-home consultation with Sears Home Services. Experts are ready and waiting to lead you through the entire process. Selecting a new roof material is just the beginning!

Photo: istockphoto.com

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

Solved! What to Do About Squirrels in the Attic

If you’ve got uninvited visitors overhead, a little patience and a handful of smart strategies can prevent damage to your home and restore peace and quiet up above.


Photo: Flickr via tammra

Q: I keep hearing noise coming from upstairs and am fairly sure that a family of squirrels has taken up residence in my house. Short of setting traps, what’s the safest way to tell that there are squirrels in the attic and get rid of them? 

A: They might make cuddly cartoon characters and leave your backyard feeling like a magical forest, but squirrels that move into your house are a little less whimsical. Left unchecked, these real-life pests can poke holes in your siding, damage insulation, and even chew through electrical wiring.

First, find out what you’re dealing with. If you’ve heard skittering, scratching, or rolling noises from your ceiling, there’s a good chance you’re harboring some kind of wildlife in your attic, but it may not necessarily be a squirrel. To pinpoint the type of pest, pay attention to when you’re hearing the commotion. Generally, squirrels are active during the day, so noises in the evening hours are more likely to come from nocturnal animals like rats and mice. If the strange sounds have occurred between the months of March and October, it might even be that a mother came to nurse her newborn squirrels in the attic and out of the elements. In that case, you may find that the family leaves on their own within a few weeks.


Photo: istockphoto.com

If you’re still uncertain, check the tracks. You can capture paw prints with the help of a pantry item or two. Spread a dusting of flour over a piece of cardboard, and place it inside the attic’s entryway or near the suspected access point. Leave it there for a day or two, and then inspect the surface for the prints. Most squirrel tracks look like small feet and are around 1 to 1 ½ inches long. (Alternatively, footprints double that size might belong to a raccoon, while mice prints are far smaller and rat tracks feature fine points created by their claws.) A foul smell or droppings littering the floor could signal a longstanding infestation, so it’s important to move quickly once you’ve identified the type of critter you’re dealing with.

Don’t supply their snacks. By reining in their food supply, you’ll eventually send these freeloaders off in search of a more comfortable crash pad. And if you have a bird feeder in your yard, stop stocking it with squirrel favorites like corn, sunflower seeds, and nuts.

Try a one-way door. If you’ve managed to track down the critters’ access point, consider installing a one-way cage door or funnel just outside of it. Secured to the home’s exterior, these additions can catch squirrels on the way out of the attic for food or, in the case of funnels, allow them to leave but prevent return through the same hole. After setting up a live-catch trap, check the contraption twice daily and be prepared relocate it to somewhere at least 3 miles away should it prove successful. All in all, this is one of the more effective and humane ways to send squirrels scurrying away for good. That said, check your city, county, and state’s wildlife ordinances before proceeding with one of these measures to make sure you’re adhering to local laws and protocol. In California, for example, it’s illegal to trap gray squirrels without a permit.

Close off any roads that lead back to your place. Send the visitors a strong message by spraying a liquid taste-based repellent on your lawn, soil, and trees to make the yard less inviting, and double down by sprinkling a granular version around the perimeter of your yard to light up the proverbial “No Vacancy” sign. If you have a garden, consider planting daffodils around your home’s foundation, since they’re a natural deterrent. Likewise, if you have a tree branch that hangs over your roof (or within 8 to 10 feet of it—remember, these little guys are talented jumpers!), cutting it back can make it harder for other squirrels to crawl into your attic while you work on solving the problem from within.

Know when you’ve lost the battle. If you’ve inspected your attic, removed any possible food sources, and tried the store-bought remedies without ousting your unwanted guests, pick up the phone and call in a professional for backup.

DIY Lite: Declutter Your Entry with an Easy Shoe Storage Bench

Who doesn't need more shoe storage? Build an organizer and entryway seat in one when you follow this easy DIY tutorial.

DIY Shoe Storage - Entryway Bench

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Streamlining the home’s entryway or mudroom poses a real challenge for bustling households. Add up all of the jackets, the bags, the umbrellas, and the shoes for each family member, and you’ll find yourself hard pressed to find a place for each last item. Sure, a leaning coat rack can corral the most-often used outerwear, but each member of a household may rotate through three or more pairs of shoes in a given week. Alleviate part of the mess by giving favorite footwear a home in the entryway between uses via this DIY shoe storage bench. Not only will its cubbies organize up to six pairs of shoes—and floor space below for taller boots—but the sturdy bench top provides the perfect perch as you lace up on the way out the door in the morning.


DIY Shoe Storage - Supplies

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

- Over-shelf hanging storage baskets (3)
- Metallic spray paint
- 2×6 lumber (10 feet)
- Wood glue
- Trigger clamps
- 2-inch by 3-inch gauge mending plates (4)
- Hammer
- Palm sander
- Sandpaper (60- and 120-grit)
- Wood stain
- Cloths
- Wood oil or varnish
- Paint brush
- Pen
- Measuring tape
- Drill
- Cup holder hooks (15)
- ¾-inch galvanized pipe (36-inch pieces, 2)
- Hacksaw
- Round file
- ¾-inch floor flanges (4)
- 1-inch screws (16)


DIY Shoe Storage - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

The storage space for shoes beneath the bench is actually constructed using three white wire under-shelf baskets. To give them an industrial look that more closely matches the legs, so we spray-painted them a metallic silver. Coat with several layers on each side of the baskets for the most uniform color.

If you’ve purchased an already silver or bronze wire basket, go ahead and skip this first step altogether!


DIY Shoe Storage - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Next up: the seat part of the bench. Take the 10-foot-long 2×6 lumber and cut it in half, so that you have two pieces of the same dimensions. (You might even ask to have the big box hardware store that sells you the lumber cut it for you, too—it’s often free and makes transporting the wood home easier.)

Put some wood glue along the 1-½-inch-thick edge of one board, and slide the two 5-foot-long boards next to each other so that the glue bonds them. Be careful to place the boards perfectly next to each other without leaving any gap. You can use trigger clamps to hold them together.


DIY Shoe Storage - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Strengthen the board assembly by affixing four equidistant mending plates to what will be the underside of the bench. Make sure each is centered over the crack between the boards, then lightly hammer it into place.


DIY Shoe Storage - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Once the glue has dried, sand the bench seat. Start with a 60-grit paper to remove the glue residue, and finish with a 120-grit for a smooth finish surface that is free of splinters.


DIY Shoe Storage - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Stain the top and sides of the wood—all but the bottom—with the color of your choice. After you achieve the right depth of color (it may take a couple of coats) and the stain dries completely according to the manufacturer’s instructions, finish with wood oil or varnish to protect the DIY shoe storage bench from dust and stains.


DIY Shoe Storage - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Once dry, flip the board so that its underside is up. Center the three metallic baskets across the board, and mark the location of each basket’s corners in pen. Each basket will be hold by five cup hooks: two on each side and one on the back (opposite the opening).

Drill five small holes into the wood, and screw in the hooks so that each faces inward toward the center of the basket. Then, hook up your first “cubby”! Repeat the same process to fix the other two baskets.

Working upside down like this will leave the basket feeling a little loose—don’t worry too much about this. It will be resolved once you turn the bench right side up to attach the bench’s legs, as gravity will pull the baskets to hang from the hooks. As long as you know that each fits, you can unhook the baskets for now and continue working.


DIY Shoe Storage - Step 7

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Cut each of the two 36-inch-long, ¾-inch galvanized pipes in half so that you end up with four legs of the same lengths. (Ours are 18 inches apiece.) Sand the edges using a round file to remove any metal flakes. You can also put some rubber or plastic tip under each leg to prevent the pipe to scratch your floor.


DIY Shoe Storage - Step 8

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Attach a floor flange to each corner of the bottom of the board with 1-inch screws, and twist the pipe into it until it’s snug.

Once each leg is in place, flip the bench right side up and replace the baskets onto the designated cup hooks. You’re ready to start moving your shoes out of a pile and into their new homes! Whenever you head to the store next to buy DIY supplies for your next project, you’ll find your footwear right beneath your seat—and slide them on easily from your spot on this new storage bench.


DIY Shoe Storage - Completed Project

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

DIY Shoe Storage - Close-up of Finished Bench

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.

DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from BobVila.com
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on BobVila.com. Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build or make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.

How To: Splice Wires

Whether you're swapping in a new light fixture or adding an outlet in the garage, you'll probably need to reconnect wires, connect a new wire to an old one, or extend a few wires. In other words, you'll need to do some splicing. Learn how to perform this basic, essential electrical fix safely and efficiently.

How to Splice Wires

Photo: istockphoto.com

If your around-the-house to-do list includes an ambitious DIY electrical project—be it installing a light fixture, replacing a switch, or extending electrical wires to add another outlet in the garage—you’ll need to know the fundamental skill of splicing wires. Learning how to splice wires correctly will not only ensure that your electrical repairs and upgrades function properly, but, equally important, keep you and your property safe.

- Voltmeter
- Electrician’s or linesman’s pliers
- Junction box
- Romex wire connector
- Needle-nose pliers
- Screwdriver
- Wall anchors
- Wood screws
- Grounding screw
- Utility knife
- Wire strippers
- Wire caps or nuts
- Junction box cover (if sold separately)

The following instructions assume that you’re splicing together two Romex wires of the same type. (In this example, we’re connecting a 12/2 NMC with ground to the same type and size of wire.) Romex is a brand name of wire preferred by many electricians that is commonly used in residential applications. The markings stamped on the outer insulation, “12/2 NMC with ground,” indicate the size and type of wire—in other words, a 12-gauge wire with two inner insulated conductors (a black “common” and white “neutral”) as well as a non-insulated grounding wire. NMC is an acronym for nonmetallic cable, the type of wire that is most common in residential applications.

Other types of Romex wire used in residential construction are:

• 12/3—12-gauge wire with three inner insulated conductors and ground, commonly used for switches and light fixtures
• 10/2—10-gauge wire with two inner insulated conductors and ground, commonly used for water heaters
• 10/3—10-gauge wire with three inner insulated conductors and ground, commonly used for electric clothes dryers
• 6/3—6-gauge wire with three inner insulated conductors and ground, commonly used for electric ranges and ovens

It most be noted that while it is possible to splice different types of Romex wire—12/2 to 12/3, for instance—you should never splice together wires of a different gauge. Wire gauge is determined by the amount of amperage it’s expected to carry. For example, a 12-gauge wire is capable of handling approximately 20 amperes, while a 10-gauge wire is capable of handling 30 amperes. Overloading a wire with more than its intended amperage could cause it to overheat, melt, and possibly catch fire.

Before beginning any work, turn off the circuit breaker supplying electricity to the wire that you want to splice. Use extreme caution when working with electricity, as it can cause serious injury or even death when not handled properly. Verify that the power is indeed off using a voltmeter, a device that measures the electrical current in wires—you can pick one up at most home improvement centers. If you still aren’t certain that the power is off, turn off the main circuit breaker for the entire house.

Additional precautions you should take before beginning your project:

• Find a partner. Never work on electrical wiring alone. You want someone around in the event that an unfortunate circumstance occurs.
• Switch your shoes. Wear rubber-soled shoes to insulate your body.
• Make sure the space is dry. Never work on electrical wiring in wet or damp conditions.

Use the electrician’s or linesman’s pliers to remove two of the knockouts on the new junction box, which will house and protect the spliced wires and contain any sparks that could cause a fire if something should go wrong. The knockouts are pressed into the box in predetermined locations during manufacture for easy removal. Most junction boxes are universal and include knockouts of various sizes to accommodate different applications and a range of wire gauges. This setup lets you choose the locations on the box where you want to install the wire connectors and wire during installation.

How to Splice Wires

Photo: istockphoto.com

Insert a wire connector, commonly referred to as a Romex connector, in each knockout hole in the junction box. Be sure to purchase a connector that fits the knockout holes you’re using on the junction box and is suited for the diameter of wire you are splicing. Secure the connector to the junction box using its threaded locknut and tightening with needle-nose pliers and/or a screwdriver. The connectors act as protective guides that also secure the wires to the junction box. Without them, the wires could be damaged by the sharp edges of the knockout holes.

Install the junction box appropriately—many types attach directly to the wall stud or surface with mounting screws or anchors—and in an area within range of the existing wire.

Thread the end of each 12/2 Romex wire—the existing wire and the wire you’re splicing to it—through one of the Romex wire connectors attached to the box. Tighten the screws on the sides of the wire connector designed to hold it in place, using the appropriate style of screwdriver.

Thread a grounding screw through the threaded hole on the back of the junction box. The grounding screw grounds the junction box—returns excess electrical current safely to the ground—in the event of a short circuit.

Strip approximately six inches of the outer plastic sheathing from the end of the wires you’re splicing together. A utility knife is ideal for slicing and cutting away the outer insulation. Remove the protective paper wrapping surrounding the insulated wires and ground wire.


How to Splice Wires

Photo: istockphoto.com

Wrap one of the bare copper ground wires once around the grounding screw that’s attached to the junction box; you should leave about six inches of exposed wire hanging past the screw. Tighten the ground screw using the screwdriver to secure the ground wire to the box.

Now, twist the second ground wire tightly together with the attached ground wire using the electrician’s pliers, and secure the joint with a twist-on wire cap/nut. Fold the joined wires neatly into the back of the junction box.

Using a pair of wire strippers, remove approximately 1/2 inch of insulation from the ends of both 12/2 cables, from both the black and white wires. Wire strippers are a convenient tool for this task, as they’re designed to strip a wide range of wire sizes and they’re available at most home improvement centers. Similar to a pair of pliers, the tool incorporates sharp edges and predetermined cutting points that allow you to remove the protective insulation from each wire without damaging the wire itself.

Using the electrician’s pliers, twist together the stripped ends of the corresponding wires from each strand of 12/2 Romex, white wire to white, and black to black. Twist them until they are tightly joined, and secure each joint with a threaded wire cap/nut. Fold both sets of wires neatly into the junction box.

Align the protective cover with the mounting screws on the junction box, and tighten firmly using a screwdriver.

Knowing how to splice your own electrical wires can save you time and money on numerous electrical and lighting projects around the house. If, however, you’re apprehensive about working with electricity or lack basic electrical knowledge, do not hesitate to hire a licensed electrician for your project. While hiring an electrician can easily set you back at least $50 per hour, it’s a small price to pay to protect your family and your property from the severe consequences of poorly performed electrical work.

How to Splice Wires

Photo: istockphoto.com

Genius! The Secret to This Modern Bed Is Hiding on Your Shelf

For furniture that fuses elegance with economy, start with a few everyday supplies and tools—and end with this crafty cot!


Photo: homemade-modern.com

When it’s time to settle into a new home or apartment, most people face a tough trade-off: Buying all of the furniture you need calls for a big investment but saves time, while building it yourself takes more hours (and practice) but cuts the total cost. Who better to solve this classic decor dilemma than Jessie Uyeda of HomeMade Modern? On a mission to furnish her whole home on a budget, the former lumberjack devised a DIY compromise for her video channel‘s master class in minimalism—and discovered how to build a bed frame with a single sheet of plywood and shelf brackets from Ikea. The best part? Even beginners can tackle this project, all for only $75!

Uyeda’s bracket bed can be built with the same thrifty trio of tools (and essentially the same materials) used to make and hang a set of wall shelves: a cordless drill, a circular saw, and a random-orbit sander. To save some time and effort, Uyeda enlisted free help from her local Home Depot to cut a twin bed-sized portion from one 4-foot by 8-foot plywood sheet to fit in the car. Then, armed with clamps and a circular saw, she cut the excess length into three equal pieces at home—two for the lengthwise support strips, and a third sawed into two more pieces to brace the remaining ends. To keep the bed’s ultra-slim 3/4-inch base from buckling or sagging under the weight, she secured all four strips with wood glue and reinforced the bond with heavy-duty screws.

Despite Uyeda’s humble materials, her approach to assembling them is nothing short of genius. After gluing the supports to the main platform, each corner of the bed’s base is effortlessly elevated by a pair of screw-on shelf supports that feature just enough of a flat bottom edge to act as sturdy feet. Two last brackets shore up the raised headboard to create a stunning and sound bed frame in just four hours.

It’s hard to top Uyeda’s sublime sleeper in affordability, ease of construction, or ingenuity. Its flexible design can even be modified to fit any mattress! But topping the DIY platform bed with a mattress, a plush pillow, and lightweight linens will make it bedroom-ready—and you won’t lose any sleep over your budget.

FOR MORE: HomeMade Modern


Photo: homemade-modern.com


DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from BobVila.com
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on BobVila.com. Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build or make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.

The Dos and Don’ts of Sharpening a Chainsaw

The crucial tool of woodcutters just won’t cut it when it gets dull. Learn the know-how you need to hone it here.

Sharpening a Chainsaw - Do's and Don'ts

Photo: istockphoto.com

Whether you’re a timber worker or you’re just interested in cutting your own firewood, it’s vital to maintain a professional attitude towards the use and maintenance of your chainsaw. As dozens of cutter teeth chew through dense wood, they’re bound to become dull, reducing the tool’s effectiveness and making it more physically demanding for you to control. Regular sharpening, accomplished by filing, will keep your chainsaw purring like a very rugged kitten. Before you attempt the task, read on for the ways and means of proper chainsaw sharpening.

Sharpening a Chainsaw - Do's and Don'ts

DO Study the Sawchain

Familiarize yourself with the parts of the sawchain by studying the detailed diagrams in your owner’s manual. In addition to links and straps you’ll see numerous cutters, the focus of the sharpening process. Each cutter has two sharp areas, one on the edge of the top plate and the other on an outside plate where it intersects the top plate. In the middle of the cutter is a notch, known as a “gullet,” and on the other end is a hook-like protrusion. The hook, sometimes called a “raker,” is a depth gauge that determines how much of a bite the cutters take out of the wood when the saw is operating. Sharpening a chainsaw’s cutters and filing the depth gauges allows for optimal cutting. Keep in mind that the shape and size of chainsaw cutters vary slightly from model to model but all are honed in the same manner.


DON’T Wait for Dust

The old rule was to sharpen a chainsaw when it produced more wood dust than wood chips while in operation. The smarter move is to sharpen the cutters before that point. If you adopt a routine of sharpening every second or third time you fill the chainsaw with fuel, the sharpening process will be minimal and you’ll never have a dull sawchain.


DO Stabilize Your Chainsaw

Hold the chainsaw steady on a mounted vice while honing the cutters. If you’re going to be in the woods all day, consider a tailgate-mounted vice that will allow you to stabilize the saw to sharpen on-site with ease.


Sharpening a Chainsaw - Do's and Don'ts

Photo: istockphoto.com

DON’T Forget Protective Wear

The sawchain, with its dozens of sharp cutters, can scratch or cut bare skin, so put on heavy-duty work gloves, preferably leather, before you start. You’ll also need a good pair of safety goggles to protect your eyes from shavings.


DO Use the Correct File Diameter

A round file is most commonly used to sharpen sawchain cutters, and the standard diameter of most files used for this purpose range from 4mm to 6mm. But not all sawchains are the same size. Check your owner’s manual for the optimal file diameter to sharpen your sawchain.


DON’T Leave Your File Behind

A lot of timber cutting is done away from home, so remember to bring your sharpening tools with you. Otherwise, you’ll be heading back before you’ve filled your pickup bed with firewood.


DO File in One Direction

To get the sharpest cutting edge, file from the inside edge of the cutter, toward the outside edge. Sawchains feature both right and left cutters, alternating from one side of the sawchain to the other. To file the individual cutters, position yourself on one side of the saw bar and file the cutters on the opposite side of the sawchain. For instance, if you’re standing on the left side of the saw bar, you’ll file the cutters on the right side of the sawchain. When you finish with one side, move to other side of the saw bar and file the remaining cutters.


DON’T Pull the File–Push It

A round file sharpens in one direction only—on the stroke away from you. To sharpen the cutting corner (the spot on a cutter where the sharp top and side plates intersect), hold the file horizontally and follow the factory angle of the cutting corner as you lightly but firmly push the file. Then lift the file up to return to the starting position and push it again. Use the same number of filing strokes, and the same degree of pressure, to file every cutter. It may take as few as two strokes per cutter to hone the cutting corner, but it could take more if the cutters are very dull.


DO Use a Chainsaw Sharpening Guide

If you’re not confident filing the factory cutter angles, use a sharpening guide. These inexpensive tools resemble rulers and feature a bracket on the bottom that holds a round file. Handheld models go for under $10, but if you’d like more help, opt for a guide that clamps securely on the chain bar. The guides come with pre-marked lines that allow you to align the file at the correct sharpening angle, usually around 30- or 35-degrees. Check your owner’s manual for the correct filing angle for your sawchain.


DON’T Forget the Depth Gauges

Depth gauges also require filing, though not as frequently as the cutters. Over time, both sawing and filing take a toll on the cutters, wearing them down until the depth gauges (which stick up in front on each cutter) are too high. This can make sawing ineffective, because the depth guides actually block the cutters. You can file freehand, straight across, with a flat file, or purchase a depth gauge guide that fits between the cutters and features an opening that lets you file the top of the depth gauges. The top of the depth gauges should be just a hair—0.025-inches—below the top of the cutter’s cutting corner.


Sharpening a Chainsaw - Do's and Don'ts

Photo: istockphoto.com

How To: Maintain Stucco

Stucco isn't delicate. Whether applied as exterior siding or as a finish for interior walls, the age-old material requires little in the way of ongoing maintenance. Occasional cleaning or patching may be necessary, but with the right combination of products and tools, any homeowner can get the job done. Here's how.


Photo: istockphoto.com

Over the course of millennia, builders have used everything from animal horns to whiskey in the making of stucco—an attractive, durable plaster finish suitable for both interior walls and exterior siding. Today, the material typically consists of more familiar ingredients like cement and sand, but it remains as tough as ever, often lasting as long as 50 or 80 years. However, in order to live out its expected lifespan successfully, stucco tends to require a modest amount of care and attention. How much largely depends on the nature of the application. Indoor stucco may call for nothing more than a new paint job now and again. But with exposure to the beating summer sun, the howling winds of winter, and simply the dirt and dust kicked up by passing traffic, it’s only a matter of time before stucco siding needs minor repair or, at the very least, a simple cleaning. For many homeowners, stucco maintenance starts and ends with a close look at the surface or surfaces in question. If your inspection reveals a reason to go a step further, read on for advice on ensuring your stucco looks and performs its best.



How to Maintain Stucco - Cleaning

Photo: ctscement.com

A porous material, stucco collects dirt and absorbs stains, even indoors. The good news is that cleaning indoor stucco usually takes nothing more than water and a bit of elbow grease. Simply scrub the dingy stucco with a dampened nylon brush to saturate the surface, then rub away the buildup with a moistened microfiber cloth (or clean cotton rag). In extreme cases—for instance, with deeply set stains—you may find that you need more firepower. Experts recommend, not a conventional household cleaner, but a chemical solution known as trisodium phosphate, or TSP. Though it’s commonly available at home centers and hardware stores, be advised that in order to use TSP safely, homeowners must take the proper precautions. Ventilate the area by opening windows and running a fan, and when working, wear the right gear (rubber gloves, protective eyewear, and long-sleeve clothing). Once it’s safe to proceed, combine the TSP with water in a bucket, diluting to water-to-TSP ratio of 15 to 1. Finally, apply the TSP to the affected area by means of a nylon brush and allow the stucco an hour or two to dry.

In outdoor applications, when used as a siding material or even a garden wall finish, stucco tends to get a lot dirtier and for that reason, requires more frequent cleaning. The process doesn’t take long, though, so long as you use either a garden hose (equipped with a spray nozzle) or a power washer (on its lowest setting). First, with your chosen tool set to spray in a mist formation, saturate the stucco from bottom to top. Next, switch to a more concentrated spray and proceeded to clean, not from bottom to top, but from top to bottom (that way, dirt higher up on the wall doesn’t simply settle at the base). After spraying, check the stucco for any lingering buildup and, if you encounter any buildup, dislodge it with a stiff-bristle brush. Just be careful not to scrub so vigorously that you grind down the stucco. Now, if blemishes still remain on the siding, there’s one more step. With a pump sprayer or a hose wand with a built-in soap reservoir, apply diluted TSP (described above) directly to the affected areas. Then, having allowed sufficient time for the stucco to dry, finish up by rinsing the stucco surface one last time.



How to Maintain Stucco - Repair Area

Photo: ctscement.com

Why does stucco last so long? In part, its durability owes to the fact that unlike other, more flexible materials, stucco boasts the gift of rigidity. That said, the rigidity of the material can also be a curse, causing it to develop cracks, chips, and gouges over time. Inside the home, surface stucco imperfections are merely an eyesore. But on the exterior, gaps in stucco siding can lead not only to further degradation of the stucco, but also to a host of nasty issues— mold growth, for example, or pest infestations. Don’t give a minor crack the chance to become a major headache. Take swift action. On your own, without having to hire a contractor, you can restore both the outward appearance of your stucco and, in the case of siding, its ability to defend your home against the elements. Modest stucco repairs are easily within reach for do-it-yourselfers because of products like Rapid Set Stucco Patch. On the one hand, Stucco Patch simplifies the crack-filling process, and on the other, speeds it up. In fact, due to its unique formulation, you get the job done in remarkably little time.

To begin, clear any loose or crumbling material away from and out of the crack, whether simply by using your hands or by employing a wire brush. At the same time, remember to eliminate any chalk, dirt, or oil that would inhibit the ability of the repair compound to adhere properly. Next, if the crack you’re addressing isn’t already at least a quarter of an inch thick, use a cold chisel and a hammer to widen it that much (and if possible, chisel the crack so that its edges are perpendicular to the wall). At this point, it’s worth taking a moment to assess the ambient conditions where you’re working. If it’s especially hot (or if you’re outdoors, especially windy), take the time to pre-moisten the stucco surrounding the crack. Otherwise, assuming you’ve prepared the stucco surface, you can proceed directly to preparing the Rapid Set Stucco Patch. In a wheelbarrow, mixing tub, or bucket, combine Stucco Patch with water in a 4-to-1 ratio and, with a drill-mounted paddle, mix the material for a few minutes until you have achieved a smooth, uniform, lump-free consistency like peanut butter.

Now you’re ready to apply the Rapid Set Stucco Patch. Working with a putty knife or small trowel, press the material firmly into the crack. Then, after completely filling the crack, run a flat board over the area. Doing so ensures that the patch doesn’t protrude beyond the plane of the existing stucco. What happens next depends on the texture of the existing stucco—and, depending on the size and location of the patch, if you deem it necessary for the patch to feature the same texture. Of course, if the existing surface features a smooth finish, then no problem—you can smooth the patch to an equally smooth finish with a traditional plastering tool. If, however, you need to match a decorative effect like stippling, then you may wish to take a cue from the pros who often employ ad hoc tools like sponges and kitchen whisks to create the desired effect. Once you have finished the patch to your satisfaction, you can more or less call it a day. There’s no complicated curing process involved with Rapid Set Stucco Patch.

Rapid Set Stucco Patch sets on its own, and a lot more quickly than other similar products. But that’s not the best part. When you repair stucco with other materials, you have to wait as long as 28 days before being able to paint over the patch. That’s 28 days before you can cross the project off your to-do list. Meanwhile, true to its name, Rapid Set Stucco Patch is ready to receive paint only 90 minutes after application. That’s why both pros and homeowners favor rapid-setting repair materials that give them the ability to move quickly through the process, from the beginning all the way to the end. The emphasis on speed only makes sense given that, after all, many stucco failures are time-sensitive, with prudence favoring a sooner-rather-than-later repair.

Overall, though stucco doesn’t require a great deal of care, you can’t forget all about it. Inspect it periodically—once per season, in the case of stucco siding—and clean or repair the material as necessary. Give stucco the modest amount of attention it demands, and it’s likely to reward you with decades of beauty and weather-tight performance.

How to Maintain Stucco - Rapid Set Stucco Patch

Photo: ctscement.com

This article has been brought to you by CTS | Rapid Set. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.