Welcome to Bob Vila


Bob Vila Radio: Keeping Concrete Floors Clean

It's official: Concrete flooring has moved out of the garage and into the home. Though it's undoubtedly a durable material, cleaning its finish requires finesse. Here's what to know.

Concrete floors are no longer found only in garages and basements. With elegant finishes now available—like stenciling, staining, and texturing—they’re also showing up in kitchens, bathrooms, and even living rooms.

How to Clean Concrete Floors

Photo: shutterstock.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 CLEANING YOUR CONCRETE FLOORS or read the text below:

Even though concrete itself is durable, its finish may not be so tough. So when you set out to clean a concrete floor, you need to take care. For routine upkeep, a soft dust mop or vacuum is usually fine. To get at more stubborn messes, try using a sponge saturated with water and dish detergent.

When you’ve cleared the mess, rinse with plain water and dry the floor immediately to avoid any discoloration. Cotton cloths are best for drying, as synthetics might scratch the finish.

If you need to pre-treat a particularly tough stain, use a pet stain-and-odor remover; these products contain organic compounds that will dissolve the stain without harming the finish). Before applying your chosen solution, remember to test it first in an inconspicuous spot.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free.


How To: Remove Mold from Wood

Unsightly fungus doesn't have to mean peril for your home or health. Provided the mold has not spread far and wide, you can remove it from wood by following these steps.

How to Remove Mold from Wood

Photo: shutterstock.com

Wood, which naturally soaks up and retains water, makes an ideal environment for mold and mildew. To remove mold from wood, the key is to act fast, not only to minimize the scope of your cleaning project, but also to be sure the mold does not compromise the health of the allergy sufferers in your family. So long as the mold has not spread over an area larger than ten square feet, you can remove mold from wood without help from a professional. Here’s how to get it done.

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- Air mask
- Rubber gloves
- Safety goggles
- HEPA-filtered vacuum
- Soft-bristled scrub brush
- Dishwashing detergent
- Distilled vinegar in a spray bottle (optional)
- Bleach
- Sponge
- Sandpaper

STEP 1
Take the appropriate safety measures to keep yourself safe. Wear rubber gloves and safety goggles and importantly, don an air mask to prevent mold spores from getting into your lungs. If you intend to use a cleaning solution that contains bleach, wear protective outerwear in order to safeguard your clothing against stains.

How to Remove Mold from Wood - Paneling

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 2
Using a machine equipped with a HEPA filter, vacuum the affected area of wood to remove any loose mold spores (along with any other accumulated dirt and debris). Once finished, empty the vacuum bag or canister into a plastic bag outside the house. Tightly seal the bag and dispose of it.

STEP 3
If the wood you’re dealing with is either painted or stained, that means the mold has not penetrated. You can therefore stick to a mild cleaning solution—a simple mixture of dishwashing detergent and warm water. Dip a soft-bristled scrub brush into the soapy water you’ve prepared, then gently go over the moldy area. If you get unsatisfactory results, opt for vinegar, an effective mold killer. With a spray bottle filled with vinegar, spritz the mold and then let the vinegar sit for an hour to work its magic. Once enough time has elapsed, proceed to wipe down the wood with a clean, damp towel. Inspect the wood for any remaining mold, and if you don’t see any, wipe the wood down with a rag.

STEP 4
Whether the wood is finished or raw, if mold has penetrated, you are going to need a stronger solution, one that’s capable of killing spores beneath the surface of the material. To that end, mix 1 part detergent, 10 parts bleach, and 20 parts warm water. Apply your solution to the moldy area by means of a scrub sponge or a stiff-bristled brush, then allow the solution to air-dry on the wood.

STEP 5
If mold remains even after scrubbing in step 4, it’s time to reach for the sandpaper. Laborious though it may be, sanding offers the only way to reach the mold deep within the wood. Work the sandpaper slowly around the affected area until you see no more signs of mold. After sanding, it’s a good idea to refinish the wood, not only for appearances’ sake, but also to prevent a future outbreak. Finally, get rid of all the rags and such that came into contact with the mold, and start trying to figure out how to limit the amount of moisture present in the area where you’ve been working.


How To: Clean a Refrigerator

While you may cringe upon opening the door to a dirty fridge, even more upsetting is how the appliance may be affecting your electric bill. Clean your refrigerator today, not only for cosmetic and health reasons, but for financial reasons as well.

How To Clean A Refrigerator

Photo: shutterstock.com

As the only home appliance to host a rotating population of mess-making foods, it’s no wonder the refrigerator ranks as the quickest of all to get seriously grimy. Within only a week, splatters and drips, leakage and smells take hold and compromise, not only the appearance of your fridge (and your mood upon opening it), but also its energy efficiency. That means a fridge you haven’t cleaned is a fridge that’s costing you more than it should on your month-to-month energy bills. So if you were looking for a reason to clean the refrigerator, you’ve finally got one—money! To do a thorough job it, follow the simple series of steps detailed below.

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- Coil brush
- Vacuum with attachments
- Soft cloths
- Rubbing alcohol
- Vinegar
- Dishwashing detergent
- Warm water
- Sponge
- Toothbrush
- Baking soda

STEP 1
Start by unplugging the fridge. Next, locate the condenser coils; these may be on the back of the unit or on its bottom side. If the coils are on the back, pull the unit away from the wall and then use a coil brush (a tool well worth its low cost) to free whatever dust and dirt has accumulated there. If the coils are on the bottom of the fridge, you need not go through the trouble of moving the appliance, but you do have to hunker down so as to manipulate the coil brush toward the target area. In either case, sweep up or vacuum all the stuff your brushing has brought to light—there may be quite a bit, if you haven’t cleaned the coils before.

STEP 2
Empty the refrigerator of all contents and put them aside. In the process of doing so, take the opportunity to purge any items that are past their expiration date. When it comes to choosing a cleaning solution, you may prefer something store-bought, but the following homemade version works well, too. Mix 1 teaspoon rubbing alcohol, 1 teaspoon vinegar, and warm water into a spray bottle. Add in a few drops of dish detergent, then shake it up. While the alcohol and vinegar cut through tough stains, the detergent works to eliminate grease and disinfect. It’s a potent cleaning cocktail, to be sure, but using it won’t make you want to retch.

“]How To Clean a Refrigerator - Compartment

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 3
Take out any shelves or drawers that are removable, place them on the counter, and clean them one by one in the sink. Spray each with your cleaning cocktail, then scrub with a sponge. Once you’ve cleaned one, rinse it off and move to the next. As they all air-dry, proceed to cleaning the inside of the fridge.

STEP 4
Start at the top and work your way down, spraying the back and side walls along with any fixed-in-place shelving. Use the sponge to scrub any areas with stubborn food residue, and follow up with a paper towel to clean up the excess spray. Where crevices have collected crumbs, use an old toothbrush or a similar tool. Pay special attention to where the drawers sit, and don’t forget to address the pocket panels on the door. Finish by tackling the door edges as well as the door seal (go gentle on the latter).

STEP 5
Now it’s time to clean the refrigerator exterior. Spray and wipe it down on all sides; go over the door handles more than once, as they are likely to harbor both finger smudges and germs. Note that if yours is a stainless steel appliance, special cleaning techniques apply. Do not use any product that contains bleach, and shy away from any abrasive scrubbing pads that might leave scratches behind. Opt instead for a damp, soapy washcloth. For extra firepower, mix together baking soda and liquid dish soap, then apply the paste with a nylon scrubbie. As a last step, wipe away all remaining suds with a damp towel.

STEP 6
Plug the refrigerator back in and refill it. Your appliance is now in tip-top shape!

Additional Notes
It’s best to clean the refrigerator coils every few months, even if the visible parts of the refrigerator look more or less clean. If you find the refrigerator isn’t getting cold enough, dirty coils are likely to blame.


New Kits Make DIY Profitable for Some, Foolproof for All

Darby Smart makes DIY easy, both for novices who want nothing more than to learn, and for veterans wanting something beyond recognition.

Photo: darbysmart.com

Like so many other do-it-yourself enthusiasts, Nicole Shariat Farb frequently browsed blogs and social media sites, always in search of her next project. On many occasions, however, her attempt would pale in comparison to what had inspired her. After a while, experiences like these finally led Farb to develop a business idea. And the more she researched the market, the more she came to believe in the promise of a company now known as Darby Smart. A new type of online marketplace, the mission of Darby Smart is to make DIYing easy for everyone, while providing the opportunity for talented makers to profit from their passion.

Darby Smart - Mason Jar Light

Photo: darbysmart.com

For consumers, Darby Smart offers dozens of mail-order kits, each containing instructions and all the materials needed to build a home accessory, be it a mason jar lamp or wood block candle holder. Engineered to be completed in less than an hour, each virtually foolproof kit carries a price tag between $15 and $45, shipping included. Importantly, a sizable portion of every sale goes to the outside person who came up with and submitted the idea for the kit. So for all the makers whose talents have brought large followings online but little financial reward, there’s now a way to earn money by making clever and beautiful things.

Darby Smart - Light Bulb Planter

Photo: darbysmart.com

For more information, visit Darby Smart.


Bob Vila Radio: For a Quick Bathroom Refresh, Recaulk the Tub

Sometimes, you've just got to work with what you have. If you don't have the money for a full bathroom remodel, take this budget-friendly approach instead.

If your bathroom is looking a bit dated but there’s no room in your budget for a full renovation, think in terms of small upgrades that’ll spruce things up.

How to Recaulk a Bathtub

Photo: shutterstock.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 RECAULKING THE TUB or read the text below:

One such project is recaulking the bathtub, replacing the years-old discolored bead with new, fresh-looking silicone. Of course, the first step here is to remove the old caulk. You can do so by applying caulk softener and then letting it sit for a couple of hours (or for however long the instructions call for). Once the old caulk has softened, use a stiff putty knife to remove it.

Next, after getting rid of any remaining soap scum or debris, apply rubbing alcohol to kill any mildew that may be lurking. Once the area is dry, fill the bathtub with water to ensure that it’s fully settled. Finally, apply a new bead of quality silicone caulk, having made sure the product was specially made for bathrooms and contains mildewcide. That’ll help keep your tub looking clean and inviting for you and your guests.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free.


Quick Tip: Restore Shine to a Light Fixture with… Denture Tablets?

To bring the brilliance back to your glass lighting fixtures, look no further than the oral hygiene aisle of your local drugstore.

Clean a Light Fixture with Denture Tablets

Photo: shutterstock.com

Highly Effective Fizz

While denture tablets work wonders on light fixtures, these fizzy fighters can also be used to clean a surprising range of glass, ceramic, and porcelain items in the home. For instance, if you scrubbed and scrubbed but cannot purge the brown bits from inside a glass baking dish, try soaking it in warm water with a couple of denture tablets. Likewise, if your ceramic mug has coffee stains you were beginning to consider permanent, fill the vessel with water and drop in a denture tablet. Hey, you can even use denture tablets to clean a toilet bowl!

Time has a way of proving the old adage “out of sight, out of mind.” Case in point: Whether your ceiling lights are flush-mount fixtures or hanging pendants, chances are you’ve neglected to clean them—not because you’re lazy, but simply because those fixtures seldom enter your eyeline. Of course, like anything else in your home, glass lighting fixtures accumulate dust and dirt; left unattended for months or even years, their radiant dazzle slowly dulls to a hazy glow. Fortunately, even if you’ve fallen far behind on housekeeping, you can catch up quite quickly, thanks to an unlikely yet effective secret weapon—denture tablets!

Clean a Light Fixture with Denture Tablets - Fiz

Photo: shutterstock.com

Denture tablets are those fizz-making additives Grandpa plops into a glass of water, along with his dentures, before he goes to bed. Just as the tablets’ effervescence manages to penetrate and sanitize the crevices of dentures, so too does the fizziness lift ancient residue from within the facets and angles of any glass lighting fixture. A box of denture tablets, conveniently available at any pharmacy, costs less than ten bucks, so even if you’re skeptical, we think it’s definitely worth a try.

STEP 1
Fill a bucket with hot water. Make sure the bucket is large enough to accommodate the fixture you are trying to clean. Place the glass fixture into the bucket, then add a handful of denture tablets (about six or eight, depending on the size of the fixture). Let the bucket sit for about 30 minutes.

STEP 2
Remove the fixture and set it aside, then dump out the dirty water from the bucket.

STEP 3
Refill the bucket, this time adding one part bleach for every two parts water. Rinse the fixture off, then place it back in the bucket. Let it sit for another half hour, ventilating the area as necessary. When the time has elapsed, rinse and dry off the fixture before finally putting it back into position.

While the denture tablets pull dust and debris from all the nooks and crannies that would otherwise be hard to reach or inaccessible, the bleach goes the extra mile toward restoring sparkle to the glass.

A word of caution: Make sure that neither pets nor children have access to the bucket when it’s full. Denture tablets can be toxic if ingested, and of course the harmful effects of bleach are well known.


A Contractor Duo Designs a More Perfect Hammer

After decades of working as contractors, two brothers set out to design a long-lasting hammer. And they succeeded.

Hardcore Hammers - Product Shot

Photo: hardcorehammers.com

After a combined thirty years in the construction business, brothers Steve and Rick Spencer had grown tired of relying on tools they viewed as merely mediocre. Together, they set out to design a more perfect hammer—powerful enough for framing yet specialized enough for finish work. Within a year, they had completed a prototype and begun Hardcore Hammers. Though axes and hatchets have joined the product offerings, the company’s signature hammer remains the top seller.

Hardcore Hammers - Side View

Photo: hardcorehammers.com

Made in America—entirely in America—the hammer boasts fine craftsmanship and a loving attention to detail. For instance, the hickory handle thickens at the bottom, at the point where you would grip it, but slims down at the middle so as to make the tool as light as possible. Where it really excels, however, is in the unique design of its durable, versatile striking surface.

The Spencer brothers knew that long before the rest of a typical framing hammer wears out, its waffled face loses the traction so important in driving nails. Though that problem had always existed, it actually became more pronounced when the tool industry switched from steel to titanium. While newer titanium framing hammers cost more to purchase, their grooved faces would smooth out even faster than before, thus leaving fairly young tools with useless heads.

For many pros, another frustration with typical framing hammers is how they’re unsuited to finish work; their waffled striking surfaces leave obvious and unsightly marks on workpieces. In the past, you’d have to switch to another hammer, one with a smooth face, just to tap in a few last nails. But with Hardcore Hammers, you can keep on working, with no interruption.

Here’s the breakthrough: Hardcore Hammers have slightly recessed striking faces, with a smooth outer ring around a waffled inner face. That means you can use the same hammer for rough carpentry and finish work. No other hammer on the market gives you the same freedom.

Meanwhile, Hardcore Hammers go a long way toward ensuring that the waffle, once the first to wear down, now outlasts the other tool components. While the outer rim protects the waffled face from striking anything but the nail, the waffle itself has been specially manufactured to last a long, long time. It’s milled, not in the conventional way, but with hardened steel. So only after years of sustained use would the tightly waffled pattern even begin to flatten out.

With a sticker price of $79, it’s not an inexpensive tool. But then again, that’s the whole point: You’re making an investment here, knowing the tool is going to serve you for years to come.

Purchase the Hardcore Hammer, $79


Danish Modern Furniture Stars in a New Drama from BoConcept

In a brand-new cinematic short film, BoConcept modern furniture plays a leading role opposite the international television and movie star Mads Mikkelsen.

Mads Mikkelsen

Photo: boconcept.com

We’re stunned by the latest marketing campaign let loose by BoConcept. In the past, we’ve always appreciated BoConcept in its role as a leading purveyor of Danish modern furniture. Today, we’re seeing the company’s wares in a scintillating new role—as the backdrop for a sophisticated short film known as “The Call.” Here, BoConcept sofas, tables, and chairs play opposite Mads Mikkelsen, an international star best known in the United States for the TV series Hannibal. 

The Call Living Room Furniture

Photo: BoConcept Furniture

Shot over a six-day period on location in Valencia, Spain—inside the real-life home of a BoConcept designer—the set features pieces carefully chosen for their ability to highlight and enhance the storyline. “You can take our concept in many different directions,” says Jette Christensen, Visual Manager for BoConcept, “but in this case, we wanted to achieve a mature, luxurious ambience to complement Mikkelsen’s character.” Sumptuous materials, glossy surfaces, and a moody mix of colors all combine as the ideal stage for a thrilling scene that features a pair of nice-to-look-at actors doing what they do best. Watch “The Call” right now, below!

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


Weekend Projects: 5 Quick DIY Fire Starters

Create a cozy blaze in your fireplace, quickly, with a DIY fire starter made with nothing more than items you already have in the house.

If you love your fireplace and spending time in front of a cheery, crackling flame, you’re no doubt familiar with products like fatwood. These treated wood pieces facilitate burning, helping to get the show on the road more quickly. Fatwood isn’t cheap, though, and you may not always have the stuff readily at hand. So the next time you’re in a pinch, or if you want to cut costs, you can make a DIY fire starter using only common household items. Here are five ways to go about it.

 

1. LEVERAGE LINT

DIY Fire Starter - Lint and Cardboard

Photo: shutterstock.com

The easiest DIY fire starter involves two things that are ubiquitous in homes across America: dryer lint and a cardboard toilet paper (or paper towel) roll. Every time you clear the lint trap in your dryer, set the fuzzy fibers aside until you have enough to stuff a cardboard roll end to end. For best results, use two or three lint-stuffed rolls to start your next fire. Note: For the lint to burn correctly, it must not be packed too tightly. Be sure to leave enough room for air to circulate through.

 

2. PREPARE PINECONES

DIY Fire Starter - Pine Cones

Photo: shutterstock.com

Here’s a way to use some of those pine cones that have been littering your yard. After gathering a basket full of cones, tie a six- or eight-inch length of yarn to each one. Use the yarn to dip each cone individually into a quantity of melted wax (which you can create with the simple method described further on). Dip enough times for the cones to develop multiple waxen layers. Finally, move the cones to a sheet of newspaper and allow sufficient time for the wax to cool and harden.

 

3. CAPITALIZE ON COTTON

DIY Fire Starter - Cotton Balls

Photo: shutterstock.com

Handy for a slew of household needs, cotton balls are a staple in many medicine cabinets and linen closets. Cotton balls are also highly flammable, especially when soaked in petroleum jelly. To make this DIY fire starter, simply roll a bunch of cotton balls in Vaseline until they are saturated. Once done, store the balls in a zip-lock plastic bag until you need them. Three or four should do the trick. If you don’t have any cotton balls, you can even try using Vaseline-covered cotton swabs.

 

4. CUT UP A CARTON 

DIY Fire Starter - Egg Carton

Photo: shutterstock.com

This method enables you to create, all at once, a series of compact DIY fire starters that are easy to store at home or take with you on a camping trip. Start with an empty egg carton. Next, collect enough candle nubs and broken crayons to fill a tin can. Place the can in a pot of water on the stove, providing enough heat for the wax to simmer and melt. Meanwhile, fill each compartment in the egg carton with a combustible material, be it dryer lint, sawdust, or shredded paper. Then finish by carefully pouring melted wax over each compartment. When the wax cools and dries, break apart the compartments, and you’ll have a dozen fire starters.

 

5. DEPEND ON DUCT TAPE

DIY Fire Starter - Duct Tape

Photo: shutterstock.com

Believe it or not, duct tape is flammable and particularly potent when crumpled into a loose ball. To really get things going, wrap duct tape around a crumple sheet of newspaper. With a generous dollop of hand sanitizer (with alcohol), these makeshift DIY fire starters are an easy, cheap, and effective means of starting a blaze.


Thousands of Years in the Making, Radiant Heating Arrives

With a history that stretches back to the Roman Empire and ancient Asia, radiant heating is not some newfangled idea. Instead, it's a smart concept that now, thanks to advances in technology, offers today's homeowners unprecedented comfort and efficiency.

Radiant Heating Technology

Photo: warmboard.com

While the origins of radiant floor heating stretch way back into the mists of history, the technology has come of age only in recent years. Today, it works as well as any other traditional system, if not better, and operates at least 25 percent more efficiently than forced-air systems, the most ubiquitous type of heating in the United States. Increasing numbers of consumers are choosing radiant heating, not only for the energy savings it provides, but also for its indoor air quality benefits and its ability to free homeowners from the tyranny of radiators, baseboards, and vents. That said, many wonder why radiant heating isn’t in more American homes, especially considering its popularity abroad (in Europe and Asia, 40 and 80 percent of homes, respectively, are heated by a radiant system). Well, though it may now be a viable product, it didn’t start out that way.

The very first radiant heating systems emerged in the Roman Empire. In the wealthiest citizens’ homes, the walls and floors were buttressed by slim chambers called hypocausts. Fires around the building fed heat into these hypocausts, which in turn heated the interior spaces of the home. Around the same time, on the other side of the globe, the Korean ondol system heated homes by means of cooking fires that transmitted heat from the kitchen to a series of strategically positioned stones. These stones would absorb the heat and slowly radiate it outward. Though primitive compared with the finely tuned, zero-maintenance radiant-heating products available today, the fact that the basic technology has been around for so long speaks to the simple wisdom of its design.

Radiant Heating Technology - Panel Detail

Photo: warmboard.com

In the United States, it was none other than the distinguished architect Frank Lloyd Wright who first introduced the concept of radiant heating to countless Americans. Of course, Wright was ahead of his time in more ways than one, so it was not until decades after his death that radiant heat finally came into focus.

When environmental concerns came to the fore in the 1970s and 1980s, a diverse group of professionals and amateurs began testing out various nontraditional modes of building. In these experimental efforts, the principles of radiant heating were often aligned with solar power. A typical setup would put a concrete floor, painted a dark color, beneath a sunny south-facing window. Throughout the day, the sun would heat the concrete, then as night fell and temperatures dropped, the concrete would radiate heat back into the home. That worked fine for supplemental heat, but it could not heat a whole house through the winter season.

In the next phase of development, radiant heating took a big step toward becoming its own entity, an active system capable of providing heat with or without help from the sun. Ingeniously, hydronic tubes were set into the concrete flooring. Water heated by the boiler could be pumped through the tubes, heating the concrete in the absence of sun. The only problem now was the concrete. Whereas its thermal mass had proved an asset before, it was now making the system sluggish. Not only would the concrete take too long to heat up, but it would also continue to radiate for several hours after the thermostat had been turned down or off.

The answer, Warmboard found, was to combine hydronic tubing with lightweight, highly conductive aluminum. Compared with concrete, aluminum is a staggering 232 times more conductive. So when heated water travels through the hydronic tubing within aluminum panels, the metal swiftly transfers the heat to the home. The panels conduct heat so effectively that they can be used beneath any type of flooring, be it tile, hardwood, or even thick-pile carpeting.

Broadly similar products exist on the market, but Warmboard stands alone in terms of efficiency and conductivity. Put simply, Warmboard requires the least amount of energy of any radiant system to maintain a comfortable temperature in the home. It’s estimated that Warmboard can hit the target temperature with water that’s 30 degrees cooler than a competing system would require to achieve comparable results. This efficiency means that your furnace doesn’t need to work as hard, and you save an additional 10 to 20 percent on energy costs—above and beyond what you’re already saving by choosing radiant heat over a traditional system.

It may have taken a few thousand years to get right, but radiant heating has finally arrived.

Photo: warmboard.com

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