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- Bob Vila Radio: Emergency Generators
Bob Vila Radio: Emergency Generators
If you've been thinking about purchasing an emergency generator, don't wait until after the lights have gone out. Start your research now.
We used to think of late summer and early fall as the storm season, but with all the unpredictable weather lately, it’s best to be prepared year ’round. For many people, part of being ready for anything is to own a generator.
Listen to BOB VILA ON EMERGENCY GENERATORS or read the text below:
What type of generator should you choose—portable or stationary? Here are some points to consider…
Most portable generators crank out somewhere between 3,000 and 10,000 watts. That’ll probably be enough to run most of your lights and plug-in appliances, but only the large portables can feed power-eaters like central air or electric ranges. Portables are relatively inexpensive, though, and they’re a good bargain if you just want to power the essentials.
Stationary generators, on the other hand, are permanently installed outside the house and run on propane or natural gas. The largest standby generators put out 15,000 watts or more and can virtually power your whole house. That power doesn’t come cheap, though. Expect to pay $5,000 to $10,000 plus installation.
- Interior Design >
- A Coffee Table Quest Ends at Sauder
A Coffee Table Quest Ends at Sauder
The quest for a versatile, attractive coffee table lead this writer to Sauder, the well-known manufacturer of ready-to-assemble furnishings—and to a few new pieces that have quickly become part of her family.
Three years ago, our family moved from a tiny New York City apartment to a sprawling 3,000-square-foot house in Delaware. In the time since, we’ve been slowly furnishing the rooms of our new home as we better understand our needs and find the time to shop (with two kids under 6, that can be difficult).
Apart from the kitchen, the living room is where we find ourselves spending most of our time. Activities include working on the computer, family game-playing, and entertaining guests. So I had been looking for a storage-friendly coffee table with the versatility to accommodate all the different ways that we use the room.
That’s when I found Sauder. Founded in 1934, the company has been making furniture in Archbold, Ohio, ever since. Navigating the many options might have been tough—Sauder offers 30 distinct collections—but then I found the fun and quite instructive Find Your Furniture Style on the easy-to-use Sauder site.
Somehow the tool determined that my taste is “transitional.” That seemed exactly right (and the thrill of a computer understanding my style preferences was something akin to having a fortune-teller correctly guess my birthday). Sauder’s site then recommended sets of furniture with transitional design features. I began to explore.
Quickly, I found the perfect piece—the Lift-Top Coffee Table from the Edge Water Collection. I love how the hinged top swings up to create a higher surface, perfect for typing on a laptop. Meanwhile, beneath the tabletop sits a hidden storage area, and at the base there are three open cubbies. You know how books and board games, remote controls, and DVDs create clutter in the living room? I couldn’t wait to neatly corral these things in the roomy nooks provided by the coffee table.
If anything were to change—and with a growing family, that’s always a distinct possibility—there are at least two or three other settings in which I could envision using the lift-top coffee table. Confident I was making the right choice, I went ahead and ordered the piece, along with three accompanying storage ottomans (we need the storage—and places to put our feet up). The online ordering process was simple, and within a week, four boxes arrived on my doorstep.
The ottomans were a cinch to assemble. It took me all of three minutes. Boom!
Then it was time for the coffee table. Inside the heavy-duty cardboard box, I found the wood pieces, hardware, and instructions I would need. The cam-and-dowel assembly, I knew, would be nearly invisible after construction but would create joints that, while strong and lasting, could be easily taken apart later.
Having experience building similar pieces in the past certainly made things easier, but the instructions from Sauder were as clear as one could hope. If I had needed any help, I could have contacted customer service, online or by telephone, anytime Monday through Friday, between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.
All told, there was only one hitch: A single piece arrived damaged. Remedying the situation was painless and took only a few minutes. On the Sauder site, I placed an order for a replacement part, and it was delivered to my door free of charge.
The coffee table is now sitting where I’d envisioned it, in the middle of the living room, and I couldn’t be more pleased. When my daughters want to play a game of Uno after dinner, they pull the storage ottomans up to the sides of the table, and it all works. We’ll be enjoying these pieces from Sauder for a long time.
This post has been brought to you by Sauder. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.
- Contests & Give-Aways >
- Bob Vila Thumbs Up: The DIY Headboards Competition Starts Today
Bob Vila Thumbs Up: The DIY Headboards Competition Starts Today
Vote now—and vote daily—to choose your favorite among the DIY headboards competing to win this month's Bob Vila Thumbs Up competition!
The headboard is no mere decorative accent; as the focal point of the bedroom, it sets the mood and style tone for the most personal space in your entire home. If you’ve ever shopped around for a headboard, then you know that in a retail store, it can cost you a pretty penny to pick up a quality headboard. Being that it’s a relatively straightforward construction anyway, it makes a lot of sense to go the DIY route.
Countless people have done so in the past, using almost every material you can think of, following a wide range of designs. But not every headboard turns heads like the inventive, eye-catching, and all around remarkable projects we’ve chosen for this month’s Bob Vila Thumbs Up. Some are simple, while others are more complex, but all worth your attention—and your vote!
We put our stamp of approval on each of these inventive headboards, but only one can win the prize—a $250 gift card to The Home Depot. We need you to make the call, so vote as often as once per day for your favorite project! And thank you for helping us recognize the work of creative and dedicated DIYers just like you.
- Green >
- How To: Clean a Washing Machine
How To: Clean a Washing Machine
Every now and then, the appliance responsible for cleaning your lucky socks and favorite sweater needs a little TLC. Neutralize odors and maximize efficiency with these easy maintenance musts.
When you throw a load of laundry into the washing machine, your clothes emerge stain- and sweat-free, and that’s a wonderful thing. But how often do you actually wash the washer? It may seem counterintuitive, as the appliance deals entirely in detergent and suds, but if left untouched, it could eventually leave your favorite outfit smelling worse than it did in the hamper. Fortunately, using only a few household staples, you can clean a washing machine in a few easy steps.
1. Remove Dirt and Debris
Like it or not, loose dirt inevitably collects in the washing machine. And if you own a pet, you can be sure that some of its fur—some way, somehow—will find its way into the appliance. So even though your clothes come out clean, contaminants are left behind on the inside of the washer. From week to week, remember to wipe it out so that lingering crud doesn’t land in your next load of laundry. I recommend using a vacuum cleaner. Outfit it with a brush attachment, double-check that the washing machine’s drum has dried completely, then run the vacuum head over all parts of the cylinder. You may be surprise by how much you pick up!
2. Neutralize the Stink
Newer washing machines have a special self-cleaning cycle that helps eliminate odors. But if yours is an older model, you can fight smells by running the empty machine on a hot-water cycle, with liquid chlorine bleach added to the detergent drawer. Afterward, open the door to the drum, so the interior can fully dry out. Repeat this exercise at least once a month to keep your machine smelling its freshest.
If despite your best efforts, a musty odor lingers in the washing machine, mold or mildew may be responsible. Particularly vulnerable are those components of the machine where water collects—the detergent tray, for example, or the rubber seal around the door. The trick here is to spray the problem areas with a solution of vinegar and water. This, too, should be done once a month for best results.
3. Improve the Washer’s Efficiency
On the back of most washers, inlet screens work to filter out particles suspended in the hot and cold water entering the machine. Here, dirt and limescale accumulate over time—occasionally, that buildup can disturb washer operation. If you’ve noticed poor performance, the first thing to check is the inlet screen. After unplugging the washer and turning off its water supply, unhook the hot and cold water lines and remove the filters with careful twist. Soak each in vinegar to remove the limescale. Quickly rinse and reconnect them, then plug the machine back in. You should see immediate improvement.
- Kitchen >
- 5 Simple Steps to a Perfect Pantry
5 Simple Steps to a Perfect Pantry
Bring neatness to your pantry—a notoriously hard-to-organize space—with these tips and tricks, based both on common sense and experience.
In many households, meals start in the pantry. Whether it’s an oversize cabinet, a converted armoire, or a separate small room, we rely on the pantry to store as many canned goods, paper products, pet supplies, packaged foods, and cleaning solutions as the laws of physics allow. No matter how compact or generously sized, pantries hold more and function better if well kept. But neatness can be difficult to maintain in these notoriously jumbled, chronically overstocked storage areas. Read on for five simple yet effective pantry organization tips, all geared to help you get in and out with a minimum level of frustration along the way.
1. MAXIMIZE AVAILABLE SPACE
Put every square inch to good use. That means packing as many shelves, drawers, or cabinets into the pantry as possible. In an awkward corner or cavity where nothing else would fit, capitalize on exposed sections of the wall, using them to support hooks, pegboards, or magnetized panels. Also, if there’s a door into the pantry, don’t overlook the straightforward, no-frills benefits of a hanging pocket organizer, perfect for loose items like bags of rice or pouches of beans.
2. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
Successful pantry organization depends in part on the changeability of the space, whether or not it can be modified over time as storage needs shift. Whenever there’s a choice, opt for configurable shelves over fixed-in-place ones. Built-ins are nice, but stand-alone metal units are a fraction of the cost, at least as functional, and most important of all, they’re almost endlessly versatile. Adjustable wood cabinetry exists, but it tends to be one of the costliest options.
3. CONSIDER USING CONTAINERS
It may seem unnecessary—and for some people, it probably is unnecessary—but if you struggle to keep the pantry tidy, I recommend storing dry goods (e.g., flour, sugar, and rice) in transparent, airtight containers. There are many round-shaped options to be found in this product category, but rectangular containers stack much better, affording a more efficient use of space. For miscellaneous small items, use inexpensive baskets or repurposed crates to cut down on clutter.
4. GO LABEL CRAZY
Many homeowners love open storage, because with no cabinet doors or drawer faces to obstruct the line of sight, you can see what you’ve got at a glance. Particularly in the pantry, where so many different items commingle, the downside of open storage is how visually chaotic it can look. One solution is to store like items in opaque containers, each labeled in keeping with its contents. To make your labels, get creative with washi tape, clothespins, or chalkboard paint.
5. ADD STYLE
The pantry’s role is a functional one, but loving how it looks may motivate you to keep the space more organized day in, day out. Paint the walls a cheery color, or hang wallpaper over visible portions of the wall. Space permitting, install a funky pendant light or chandelier. And if you’re buying baskets and bins to fill the shelves, coordinate them not only with each other, but also with the decorating scheme that exists elsewhere in the kitchen and throughout the rest of your home.
- Interior Design >
- How To: Refinish a Dresser
How To: Refinish a Dresser
Do you have a dresser in good condition but with a dingy, worse-for-wear finish? With only a little elbow grease, you can transform it into a stunning signature piece.
Hold on a second! Don’t get rid of that old wooden dresser just yet. Give it a second look, and this time try to see past its paint job or cracked coat of stain. Do you like its design? Do the drawers hold enough? If you admire everything about the piece except for its current condition, you can—with less effort than you might expect—transform it from a dingy eyesore into a captivating keeper. Indeed, anybody can refinish a dresser; there are no special tools or advanced skills required. All you need to be successful in the task are two things: a free afternoon and the willingness to get your hands a little sawdusty. Are you ready? OK, let’s go.
Removing the existing finish is the first, hardest, and most important step in the project. In fact, that’s mostly what furniture refinishing means—taking off the finish that’s worse for wear (or whose aesthetics you’re not too fond of). Adding the new finish is a snap, comparatively. How you go about removing the existing finish depends on whether the dresser is now sporting paint or stain. Not sure? If you see any wood grain, that means there’s a stain. If not, then you’re very likely dealing with paint. Bring the dresser to an area where you can make a mess, and to facilitate cleanup, position the dresser over a tarp. Don your goggles and dust mask, then proceed.
Use sandpaper—or to make quicker work of things, a power sander—to remove the paint, or layers of paint as the case may be. In hard-to-reach crannies, swap the sandpaper for a scraper or steel wool. It’s not necessary to take off every single speck of paint, but the closer you can get to bare wood, the better. After sanding, wipe the piece down with a tack cloth to pick up sawdust.
If you’ve tried sanding and the paint will not budge, there’s another option: chemical paint stripper. Working with such a product absolutely requires good ventilation and proper protective gear. Instructions vary from product to product, but the process generally starts with a thorough cleaning. Next, the gel-like stripping agent goes on with a brush and is left alone for a period of time. Slowly but surely, the paint bubbles into an easily removable layer, which you can then peel off using a putty knife in combination with your gloved hands. Finish by washing down the dresser and letting it dry out.
To remove existing stain from the dresser, just as above, use sandpaper or a power sander. Either way, start with coarse sandpaper. As the bare wood starts to show through, switch to medium-grit sandpaper. To complete the process, use fine-grade sandpaper. The sandpaper actually does double duty: It removes the old stain while also preparing the bare wood to accept a new finish.
There are chemical strippers designed specifically for use with stains. Your best bet is to use a product that contains methylene chloride, which cuts through anything. As stipulated above, working with such toxic chemicals demands the observance of various safety measures. For specific details, make sure to read and follow the instructions printed on the container of the product you end up using. The dresser must be clean and dry (and of course, bare) before you can proceed to add the new finish.
At this point, the dresser is down to bare wood and ready for just about anything—the traditional paint or stain, or even something creative, such as decoupage or a faux finish. Yes, this is the fun part! What new finish should you give to your old dresser? There is no right or wrong here, and the answer, of course, is entirely up to you. Heed your personal style preferences, and consider the decor already ensconced in the room where you plan to use the refinished dresser.
Stain. As the name suggests, stains are coloring agents that change the color or shade of the wood. Stains can highlight the grain, lighten or darken natural tones, or change them altogether. For step-by-step directions on how to stain wood furniture, click here.
Paint. Paint differs from other finishes in that it’s opaque. Remember that traditional paints are sold in a variety of lusters—flat, satin, and so on. If you wish to apply a traditional paint with a brush, click here for a tutorial. Interested in spray-painting? Right this way.
No matter your chosen finish, when you’re done following the steps outlined above, you can be certain that the dresser will look quite different from the one you were ready to say goodbye to. And instead of purchasing a new piece of furniture for hundreds of dollars, you were able to customize one for less than $50. Not bad!
- How To's & Quick Tips >
- DIY Barn Door Headboard
DIY Barn Door Headboard
New and salvaged materials come together in a rustic-inspired DIY headboard.
We’ve seen a resurgence in barn door decor over the years but when we spotted this project from Beth at Home Stories A to Z—a barn-inspired DIY headboard, we fell head over heels, so to speak. What’s more, because she and her husband, Matt, had antique side doors on hand, the project only cost them $90.57. We think their hard work speaks for itself in this one-of-a-kind headboard. Read on to see how they pulled it off.
- (7) 1x4x8 pine boards
- (1) 4×8 beadboard panel
- (6) mending plates
- (3) T-plates
- mitre saw
- hammer or nail gun
- milk paint
- gate hardware
The hardest part for us was figuring out the measurements. Matt and I stink at math and the brainiacs who decided to make dimensional lumber measure differently than the actual size stated didn’t help matters! FYI: a 1″x4″x 8′ is really a 3/4″ x 3 1/2″ x 8′.
The height of our doors and the width of the sheet of beadboard we used to back the headboard frame helped determine the dimensions.
Once we had the pieces cut, we screwed them all together using mending plates.
You can see that we wrote notes to ourselves in pencil which piece was to go where. Doing this saved us a ton of time in reassembly after the boards were all cut!
Once the frame was finished and painted, I nailed the beadboard into place by hand. (My dog chewed through my nailgun cord!) Then Matt screwed the frame into the two windowed-side panels using more mending plates.
To paint the headboard, I used General Finishes milk paint in Snow White. I didn’t use a primer on the wood first; I just went for it with the milk paint.
I sanded a few spots on the headboard to create a worn look and used the burnt umber glaze over the top.
I bought cheap gate hardware in silver and spray painted them ORB. I just hot-glued them in place because I was tired of drilling . Yes, we might get hit in the head by a random piece of flying hardware in the middle of the night, but that’s the risk of laziness that I’m just willing to take right now!
Here’s the most recent update to this headboard:
- How To's & Quick Tips >
- DIY Wood Headboard
We love it when home DIYers aren’t afraid to work with wood and stains. So when we saw this project from Mandy at The Hankful House, we knew we wanted to give it a spot in the Bob Vila Thumbs Up competition. The transformation from before to after was so incredible, we didn’t even recognize the room—always a good sign. And for us, it all starts with this headboard, which anchors the space. Read on to see how Mandy did it.
- wood planks
- dark wood stain
- 2 x 4 boards
I have never had a headboard. I have always been a box spring and mattress kind of gal. Not that I had anything against headboards it was more of a money issue. But it’s like being able to purchase that amazing and beautiful yet really expensive accessory. That was the headboard. I knew we needed it to finish off our bedroom so we made it.
I wanted some rustic-ness to come in to match our beachy but not really beachy themed room. Does that make sense? There is something so elegant about natural materials.
It cost me about $70.00 or so, which wasn’t that bad. We had to buy the longer planks because our bed is so large.
We had the Home Depot guy cut the wood to our length there so I wouldn’t have to listen to my husband complain. Seriously it worth hanging out at the store for a few more minutes.
I brought them home and stained them. I did want them pretty dark to match our furniture so I gave them 2 heavy coats and didn’t rub any off. I will tell you it did take a few days for them to dry completely. If I had done this in August, the boards would have been dry in 5 minutes.
Once they were dry we placed them together and Mike screwed in 2×4′s to the back for support. We attached those to the wall for extra support and that was it. It is beautiful and I am in awe!
This was our before picture—the colors were just all wrong! Nothing relaxing about this room at all. Plus I still can’t believe Mike and I slept under 100 ton rod iron candlestick holders, what was I thinking?
What a difference our bedroom has now! I am so happy with our transformation and I got to cross off a few more projects for this room! Yeah! It’s almost done!
- How To's & Quick Tips >
- DIY Wingback Upholstered Headboard
DIY Wingback Upholstered Headboard
A DIY take on the classic wingback gives this bedroom a whole new look.
There’s something transporting about wingback furniture. And private. When it comes to wingback headboards, that little extra bit of material marks the borders of your own personal sanctuary. So we were thrilled by Sarah M. Dorsey’s fantastic DIY wingback headboard. From the tufted look to the nailhead edging, all the details came together to make this project a visual success. Read on to see how she created the high-end look for under $150.
- plywood (62.5-inch x 48.5 inch)
- fabric (4 yards)
- (28) buttons
- foam (62.5-inch x 48.5 inch)
- nailheads (about 500)
- drill and screws
- staple gun
- gorilla glue
- upholstery thread and needle
*measurements are for queen-size bed
The plywood was cut to size, holes drilled in plywood for tufting, 1x4s were cut to build a support around the entire back. 1-inch foam was attached with adhesive to avoid it slipping while tufting.
Batting was attached with staple gun, fabric on top (attached after tufting).
Buttons were covered with fabric (I also applied a small amount of gorilla glue on the interior of the button since I wasn’t using heavy duty button covers, to avoid them popping off). I doubled up upholstery thread and used a long needle to tuft. Like the ottoman we made, I pushed to button from the top—pulling the fabric tight as I went and David stapled from the bottom. Fabric was pulled tight and stapled underneath on all sides.
Next the arms were attached. A 2×6 and 1×6 were attached together with screws.
Fabric and batting were cut to cover the arm. Fabric and batting were placed in between headboard and arm then the arm was attached to the headboard.
Fabric was pulled tight around the arm and stapled to the back.
The fold for the fabric on the top of the wing was created by first pulling the fabric over the top, stapling on the outer side, wrapping the fabric around the front and side of the wing, folding the top edge to create the crease (excess fabric and batting were cut off at this point too), and then stapling in the back.
- How To's & Quick Tips >
- DIY Door Upcycled Headboard
French doors are one of those charming classics that we think never goes out of style. And so that’s why we thought this French door DIY headboard was such an amazing idea. Lindsay from The White Buffalo Styling Co.—along with her family—changed this $20 Goodwill find into a brand new focal point in her master bedroom. Because Lindsay is a professional home stylist, it’s no wonder that her matching bedding and complementary drapes made this old door looks right at home at the head of her bed. Want to see how she transformed an ordinary door into a one-of-a-kind headboard? Read on.
- old French door
- saw (depends on size of bed)
- (4) 2×4 wood pieces
- power drill and screws
- palm sander
- sand paper
I found this old french door at Goodwill for $20. I will admit, my first thought when I saw it was not “Oh a headboard!”. But it was just too good of a deal to pass up. I paid for it, brought my sweet husband back with me to lift it into the car (it was seriously that heavy), and brought it home to decide how to use it. Chris had the great idea of somehow turning this door into a headboard! I had the vision for how to finish it out. Chris and my dad had the know-how to build the frame and make it happen.
First, we had to saw a little off of each side. It was so much wider than our Queen bed!
Then, they started building the frame.
They put a 2×4 on each side and then two running horizontally to connect them.
Here they are checking to make sure the frame fits the bed. Once we knew it fit, we lugged it back downstairs for painting and finishing.
Next, we sanded off the old stained finish with our handy palm sander.
Then, it was time for the paint. I thought it would need at least two coats, but since I wanted a more rustic feel and was planning to sand some paint off anyway, one coat did the trick!
After the paint was dry, I sanded all of the edges by hand to let a little of the natural wood shine through. And here she sits today: