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Get the Job Done Quicker with Prefinished Flooring

Prefinished wood flooring gives you all the beauty and warmth of real hardwood in a fraction of the time.

Prefinished Wood Flooring - Brazilian Koa

Photo: Lumber Liquidators

Anyone shopping for a new hardwood floor quickly discovers that there’s no shortage of options on the market. Homeowners are confronted by a seemingly infinite variety of wood species and floorboard finishes. But before you can choose between, say, dark-stained oak or hand-scraped maple, you have to decide whether you want traditional or prefinished boards. Bear in mind that if you opt for the latter, you can complete a hardwood flooring job more quickly than you might have thought possible.

Understanding the Distinction
Installing traditional floorboards can be a tiring, time-consuming process. Even after the boards have been laid down, there’s still a fair amount of work to do. Before the floor can be finished, it must be sanded, and each coat of stain or sealant must be given sufficient time to dry thoroughly. Taking all these tasks into consideration, it might take a week, possibly more, before you’ll be able to walk on the completed floor. Also, because installation and finishing both require the kind of skill that only experience provides, many homeowners decide to hire a professional rather than risk an imperfect result. Prefinished floorboards are a whole different story. Here, the finishing process has already been done back at the factory, putting the do-it-yourselfer in a better position to achieve a professional-quality installation.

Prefinshed Wood Flooring - Pre Detail

Photo: istock.com

Get More for Your Time (and Your Money)
Opt for prefinished flooring if you want to avail yourself of the widest-possible range of floor finishes. A simple stain is one thing but with traditional floorboards, something like a hand-scraped finish would involve hours of additional labor (if it wasn’t off the table completely). Whereas you might have dismissed a highly involved finish as being too difficult to DIY or too expensive to hire out, ready-to-go prefinished flooring makes such options not only practical, but also affordable.

Access the Help You Need—Fast 
When you buy a prefinished floor at Lumber Liquidators—or any type of floor, for that matter—support is at your fingertips. Installation experts are ready to help, whether by phone or live Internet chat. With someone there to answer your questions, most jobs can be done within a day or two—a speed that’s basically impossible to match with the installation and finishing of traditional floorboards. If you prefer not to handle the installation yourself, then you can leave the installation of any floor from Lumber Liquidators in the hands of the company’s capable installers.

Prefinished hardwood flooring affords you the best of all worlds. Enjoy the warmth and beauty of real wood at a competitive price, be able to select from all the varieties offered in traditional hardwood, and benefit from installation (DIY or otherwise) that can be done quickly with a minimum of hassle. Seriously, what’s stopping you?

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


Bob Vila Radio: Circular Saw Safety

So long as you know what you're doing with it, the circular saw can be a tremendously handy for a variety of projects. Here are some tips on using the tool safely.

Although circular saws are one of the most useful tools you can have in your toolbox, they can also be one of the most dangerous—that is, if you don’t know how to use them properly.

Circular Saw Safety

Photo: shutterstock.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON CIRCULAR SAW SAFETY or read the text below:

Here are a few safety tips: First, make sure the material you’re cutting is positioned correctly. For example, never attempt to cut the middle of a board whose ends are resting on sawhorses spaced apart from one another; as you’re progressing with the cut, the board will likely sag and pinch the blade, causing the saw to kick back. Instead, position the sawhorses closer together and use clamps to secure the lumber.

Never try to use a circular saw to make a cut in a stud. Again, you risk a kickback. Better to use a reciprocating saw for that job. Most importantly, once you’ve started a cut, never attempt to lift the saw or remove it until you’ve released the trigger and the saw blade has come to a complete stop.

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


Weekend Projects: 5 Summery DIY Porch Swings

I’m not sure, I haven’t researched it, but sitting—no, swaying—on a porch swing might be the most relaxing of all the ways a person could spend a summer afternoon. Of course, there’s a big difference between enjoying a porch swing and actually (successfully) building one. In fact, the work involved in making a DIY porch swing probably sounds to you like the very antithesis of relaxation. But though the prospect may at first seem daunting, it’s more than attainable. Scroll down now to see five DIY porch swings, any of which could be a permanent fixture of your outdoor living area before the sun rises on Monday morning.

 

1. SWING SIMPLY

Photo: shanty-2-chic.com

Compact in size and elegantly simple in shape, a no-frills modern look characterizes this stylish DIY porch swing. It’s built almost entirely of 2×4 and 1×6 lumber, so if you have intermediate woodworking experience, go ahead and set up your saw. Then visit Shanty 2 Chic for clear and simple step-by-step project directions.

 

2. HANG OUT

Photo: abeautifulmess.com

A couple yards of canvas, a length of polypropylene rope, and a wooden dowel all combine to create a unique hammock swing. Install yours indoors or out. Though sewing is required, you can most definitely complete the project within the space of a weekend, even if you’re a novice when it comes to needle and thread.

 

3. DREAM OF DAYBEDS 

Photo: club.conservationgardenpark.org

Large enough to accommodate a twin-size mattress, this oversized DIY porch swing might more accurately be described as a hanging daybed—hat luxury! To be certain the bed remains safely suspended, and that you don’t tip over once you climb in, be sure to hang something like this from four (sturdy) points, not two.

 

4. HACK A HEADBOARD

Photo: therusticpig.com

If you’re looking forward to catching some Z’s on your new porch swing, there would be a certain poetic justice to repurposing a headboard as part of the swing’s construction. Don’t have an extra headboard in your attic or basement? Try your local thrift store. Once you’ve got one, see The Rustic Pig for all the DIY details.

 

5. RESTORE A DOOR 

Photo: huckleberrylanefurniture.blogspot.com

From Huckleberry Lane Furniture, here’s a DIY porch swing involving an old door and the remnants of a falling-apart antique table. It goes to show that scrap wood comes in many forms and that, for a functional and beautiful result, money spent at your local lumber yard is by no means a prerequisite.


Bob Vila’s Fall Paint Give-Away Official Rules

Bob Vila’s “Fall Paint Give-Away” (the “Sweepstakes”) is sponsored by BobVila.com, LLC, Post Office Box 835, West Barnstable, MA 02668 (“Sponsor”).

The Sweepstakes consists of four (4) separate, successive, random drawings (each a “Drawing” and collectively, the “Drawings”). The Sweepstakes begins at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (“EST”) on August 31st, 2014 and ends at 11:59 a.m. EST on September 30th, 2014 (the “Sweepstakes Period”). One Drawing per week will be held during the Sweepstakes Period. The first entry period will end at 12:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 9th, 2014. The entry period for each weekly Drawing shall begin at 12:00 p.m. EST on each respective Tuesday during the Sweepstakes Period and end at 11:59 a.m. EST on the following Tuesday (each an “Entry Period” and collectively, the “Entry Periods”). 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 all 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 “Fall Paint Give-Away” submission form.

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

If you do not have internet access, alternative means of entry for each Drawing is available by faxing your name, address and phone number to the Sponsor at 508-437-8486 during the applicable Entry Period. One (1) alternative entry per household per day. Any additional entries submitted via fax within one day will be deemed void.

Entries received after the end of the Sweepstakes Period will be deemed void. Normal time, toll, connection and usage rates, if any, charged by your Internet service provider will apply. All entries become the property of the Sponsor. By entering any Drawing during the Sweepstakes, you will be agreeing that any information collected in connection with the Sweepstakes may be used by Sponsor in accordance with BobVila.com, LLC’s Privacy Policy, a current copy of which can be found here. By participating, all entrants agree to abide by these Official Rules.

At the end of each Entry Period, there will be one (1) drawing in which one (1) potential winner (“Winner”) shall be selected from all eligible entries received for each prize available during that Entry Period by employees or representatives of the Sponsor to receive the prize designated for the Drawing for that Entry Period. Each winning entry will be chosen at random. The number of eligible entries received during the Entry Period for a Drawing determines the odds of winning for that Drawing. The Sweepstakes will be conducted under the supervision of the Sponsor. If the Winner is determined to be ineligible, forfeits or does not claim the prize, the prize will be re-awarded, in Sponsor’s sole discretion based on a subsequent drawing from the pool of eligible entries. Other restrictions may apply. Decisions of the Sponsor are final and binding with respect to all matters related to the Sweepstakes. All prizes (or in the event of a lost, misdirected, or otherwise unavailable prize, a prize of equivalent value) will be awarded. In no event shall the Sponsor be obligated to award more prizes than the number of prizes stated in these Official Rules. Winners shall be responsible and liable for all federal, state and local taxes on the value of their prize. To receive a complete list of winners or a copy of the Official Rules, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Prize Fulfillment, BobVila.com, LLC, PO Box 835 Barnstable, MA 02668. Specify winner’s list or rules on your request.

The Winners will be notified by email, or in the case of alternate entry, by phone; Sponsor reserves the right to determine the method of notification. Winners must claim their respective prize within twenty-four (24) hours after the date of notification of their prize. A Winner’s failure to respond to the prize notification within the specified twenty-four (24) hours will be considered such Winner’s forfeiture of the prize and an alternate Winner may be selected from the pool of eligible entries. If an entrant is found to be ineligible, an alternate Winner may also be selected from the pool of eligible entries. Sponsor reserves the right to ship prizes directly to the mailing and/or email address (as applicable) provided by Winners during their entry to the Drawings.

The prize for each of the four (4) Drawings during the Sweepstakes Period shall be 16 (sixteen) gallons of BEHR MARQUEE paint valuing $750 each, or four prizes worth a total of $3,000. Gift cards are subject to any and all restrictions stated thereon. No transfer, substitution or cash redemption will be awarded in lieu of Prize. Limit one prize per entrant. Prizes shall be delivered within 30 days from end of the Sweepstakes Period.

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, Winners agree 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.


Bob Vila Radio: Dealing with Finicky Fridge Doors

If you're tired of checking and rechecking the fridge to make sure the door has closed tightly, read on to find out how easy it is to fix that problem for good.

If your refrigerator door doesn’t open and close as it should—or if it doesn’t seal as tightly as it’s supposed to—the  problem could be that the fridge is not level.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON LEVELING YOUR REFRIGERATOR or read the text below:

Fortunately, getting your fridge to sit up straight isn’t a difficult job. For safety’s sake, start by unplugging the appliance. Next, remove the grill on the bottom. That’ll expose the adjustable leveling feet.

Place a level on top of the fridge, positioning across the front of the cabinet. Note the position of the bubble in your level. Then use either pliers or a crescent wrench to adjust the leveling bolts until the bubble in your level moves to the middle.

Once that’s done, turn your level so it sits front-to-back on the top of the cabinet. Recheck the level and fine-tune the adjustment on your leveling bolts as needed. If the floor where your refrigerator sits is not level, you may need to position shims under the leveling feet to make up the difference.

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


The Right Way to Plunge a Toilet

Believe it or not—though it may seem like the most straightforward, uncomplicated of tasks—plunging a toilet requires proper technique. Here's what to do the next time you're dealing with a clog.

How to Plunge a Toilet - Plunger

Photo: shutterstock.com

People go weeks, months, and even years without giving the toilet a second thought. The instant it clogs, however, the toilet becomes the center of attention. While most homeowners are wise enough to keep a plunger somewhere in the house—if not in the bathroom itself, then perhaps in the linen closet or basement—a remarkable proportion don’t actually know how to plunge a toilet. The correct technique is easy to master. Certainly, practice makes perfect, but just about anyone can capably handle the task. Simply follow the steps detailed below.

STEP 1
There’s more than one type of plunger, so make sure you’re using the one that’s best for the task at hand. One type of plunger looks like a basketball cut in half (this is commonly known as the “standard plunger”). The other type features an extended flange. Use this type to plunge a toilet. The flange is there to fit snugly into the drain hole, ensuring a tight seal and resulting in superior suction power.

How to Plunge a Toilet - Toilet

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 2
It can be messy work to plunge a toilet. Minimize cleanup by heaping dirty rags or old towels at the base of the toilet. The fabric here becomes the landing area for any water that splashes out during the process. Another cleanliness-oriented tip: Before plunging a toilet whose bowl is completely filled with water, don gloves and use buckets to bail out half of the fluid.

STEP 3
You can plunge and plunge, working yourself into a frustrated sweat, but if there isn’t a tight seal between the tool and the toilet’s drain hole, you’re not going to be successful in clearing the clog. An easy method of improving plunger suction is to rub petroleum jelly on the rim of the flange—the part that goes into the drain hole. Before you plunge, it’s recommended that you plug any other drains in the bathroom (for example, the sink and shower drains). Doing so isn’t strictly necessary, but it does make the plunger more effective.

STEP 4
When you’re inserting the plunger into the bowl, take pains to be certain the flange has gone into the drain hole. Meanwhile, the rubber lip of the plunger should sit around that drain opening. Hold the tool in a vertical position, so the handle is pointing straight up. Though it may feel more comfortable to hold the plunger at an angle, doing so will compromise the seal between the plunger and the drain.

STEP 5
Now move the plunger forcefully up and down for about 10 or 20 seconds. That’s about as long as it should take for the force of the water and air going back and forth in the drain to clear up the clog.

As mentioned, plunging a toilet can get a little messy, so it’s a bad idea to attempt to plunge after you’ve poured in a drain-clearing chemical. If that chemical finds its way out of the toilet, it can harm your skin or even corrode materials on the toilet or elsewhere in the bathroom.

If after 30 seconds of steady plunging the clog has not cleared, call a plumber—that is, unless you happen to own a few plumber’s tools. What’s most likely needed now is what’s referred to as a snake, a flexible auger that is used to clear clogged pipes. To protect your toilet’s finish, it’s best to use an auger made specifically for toilets. Good luck!


INFOGRAPHIC: Your Quick & Easy Guide to a Lush Lawn

Lawn care can drive a person crazy during these dog days of summer, but using these pointers, you can say goodbye to scruffy, brown grass!

Remember that old saying, “The grass is greener on the other side”? Not true. You can get the lawn of your dreams. The key is to adopt a routine that promotes healthy grass, while identifying and addressing the gnarliest threats (we’re looking at you, dandelions and crabgrass). Don’t let the frustrations of lawn care ruin your summer. Follow these tips and by the time Labor Day rolls around, your front lawn just might have become the envy of your neighborhood.

Copy and paste the below to embed this infographic on your site:


Bob Vila Thumbs Up: Announcing the Concrete Projects Competition!

Vote for your favorite among the six DIY concrete projects competing to win this month's Bob Vila Thumbs Up! competition!

Bob Vila Thumbs Up Concrete

DIY Concrete Projects

Every day, we see tons of incredible DIY projects. Some are done by seasoned veterans of the do-it-yourself world. Others are the result of hard work by total beginners. Indeed, no matter your skill level, there’s virtually zero cap on the creativity you can introduce to home projects.

By the same token, it seems like there’s no material that clever people out there haven’t found a way to make beautiful. For instance, concrete—that humble, utilitarian staple of the construction yard—is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of furniture and decor. But around the Web, we’ve noticed DIY bloggers—a select few, in particular—using concrete to create highly functional or super eye-catching pieces for the home. And that—no doubt about it—deserves a thumbs up.

VIEW ALL PROJECTS NOW!

So this month, we’re shining the spotlight on some of our favorite instances of DIY brilliance with concrete. Vote for your favorite, and help us choose this month’s winner of Bob Vila Thumbs Up.

Each of these six special projects represents something extraordinary being made from perhaps the most quotidian building material. So they’re all winners, in our book. But only one competitor can win this month’s prize, a $250 gift card to The Home Depot, so we need you to vote for the one you think is most deserving. Thank you for helping us recognize the incredible work of DIYers like yourselves!

Congrats to last month’s winning blogger, Johnnie of Saved by Love Creations. Read more about her winning Bob Vila Thumbs Up project right here.

Would you like to recommend a blogger for the next Bob Vila Thumbs Up? Tell us about it on Facebook or Twitter!


A “Charged” Debate: Portable vs. Standby Generators

If the region where you live is subject to more than the occasional power outage, consider investing in either a portable or standby generator. These guidelines can help you choose between the two.

Photo: shutterstock.com

Major storms in recent years have spurred many homeowners to consider whether it might be wise to purchase a generator. If your area witnesses only brief, infrequent electrical outages, then you can probably continue to live quite happily without a generator. But if you’re losing power more frequently and for longer periods of time, then perhaps it makes sense to invest in a machine that produces electricity on demand, so you’ll be prepared for the next inevitable power failure. If you’ve researched the subject at all, then you know there are two main types of generators: portable and standby. Besides the obvious fact that both provide power, these two types of generators have remarkably little in common. The following can help you understand the important differences before selecting a generator for your home.

Portable generators: Labor-intensive but affordable
Smaller portable generators cost between $500 and $1,500, and are capable of powering your home’s essential appliances. These are considerably less expensive than standby generators—and all in all, they are fairly user-friendly—but a portable generator does require manual operation and close monitoring. What does that mean? For one thing, you must be at home to start the generator. So if you leave for vacation the day before a power outage, you’re likely to return home to an array of hazards and headaches ranging from a flooded basement (due to a failed sump pump) to a refrigerator full of spoiled perishables. By contrast, a standby generator—as you’ll read in the section below—offers the peace of mind of knowing that no matter where you are when the power goes out, the generator will come on automatically.

Further inconveniences of operating a portable generator stem from the fact that most such machines are powered by gas. Because a typical tank holds a finite quantity of gas—say, three or six gallons—you must periodically fill it, even during the worst winter weather. More seriously, due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from engine exhaust, a portable must be placed at least ten feet away from the house, in an enclosure that protects the generator from the elements but also encourages the free movement of air. As tempting as it may be to run the generator in the garage with the garage door open, this is strongly discouraged. An open garage door does not provide adequate ventilation. Make sure you factor into your generator project budget the cost of a store-bought or DIY enclosure.

Photo: generac.com

Standby generators: Hands-off but expensive
Whereas a portable generator can handle the electrical demands of just a handful of appliances, a standby generator is brawny enough to power all the appliances your family has grown accustomed to using. So while the rest of the block is in darkness, your house would continue humming along as if nothing had happened.

Standby generators are quieter and safer than portables, and they operate automatically—you don’t have to lift a finger. Of course, that convenience doesn’t come cheap. Including professional consultation—which can be crucial in determining the appropriate-size generator—and installation, an average system costs about $10,000.

Making the price tag more palatable is the fact that standby generators tend to last a long time, about 15 years. And upon home resale, these machines recoup about 50 percent of their cost. Although maintenance is necessary every two years, licensed professionals can help ensure a unit’s reliability. And for some families, especially those who have vital medical equipment running in the house, the reliability afforded by a standby generator is virtually priceless.

Which type of generator is right for you? That largely depends on your needs. In choosing between a portable and standby generator, try to strike a balance between what is essential for your comfort and safety, and what your budget allows.

 


Bob Vila Radio: Installing Toggle Bolts

Planning to support a heavy load, be it shelving or a framed mirror, on plaster wall? The best starting point is to install toggle bolts. Here's how.

Installing wall hooks or fasteners into plaster walls isn’t difficult—that is, if you use the right approach. Probably the best type of anchor to use is a toggle bolt; they’re the ones with the threaded “butterfly” that’s spring-loaded.

Toggle Bolt

Photo: homedepot.com

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

Listen to BOB VILA ON ANCHORS FOR PLASTER or read the text below:

First, use two pieces of painter’s tape to mark an X over the spot where you plan to drill. That’ll help keep the plaster from cracking.

Using a drill bit that’s just slightly larger than the butterfly on your bolt, drill through the tape and the wall, then gently withdraw the bit straight out and remove the tape. Slip your fastener onto the toggle bolt.

Next, thread the butterfly onto the bolt, squeeze the butterfly, then pass it through the hole until you feel the butterfly open. Use your fingers to tighten the bolt, then finish with a screwdriver. Be careful not to over-tighten the bolt, or you could crack the plaster.

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