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How To: Make Your Own Fabric Softener

Stop worrying about the potential allergens and irritants in store-bought fabric softener—and save a little money—by switching to a homemade version of this laundry staple.

Homemade Fabric Softener - For Your Load of Laundry

Photo: istockphoto.com

By adding a cap of liquid fabric softener to certain loads of laundry, you condition the clothing fibers and textiles running through that cycle. Maintaining the quality of the material, removing static, and sometimes even scenting your wash can be exactly what your favorite T-shirts need. Unfortunately, many store-bought softeners can contain harsh dyes and chemicals that can irritate sensitive skin and provoke allergies. Like making your own laundry detergent, and DIY-ing liquid fabric softener can be just as easy. By mixing together a few simple ingredients, you’ll have complete control of what cleanses the clothes on your back and the sheets on your bed—even save some money along the way by eliminating one more pricey laundry staple from your grocery bill. This popular recipe for homemade fabric softener calls for store-brought ingredients that you probably have at home already.

- Pitcher
- Large bowl (optional)
- Funnel (optional)
- Saucepan
- Water (6 cups)
- Hair conditioner (2 cups)
- Vinegar (3 cups)
- 1-gallon plastic bottle
- Fabric softener dispenser ball (optional)

How to Make Homemade Laundry Detergent

Photo: istockphoto.com

Pull out a large container in which to mix up the homemade fabric softener—either a 1-gallon pitcher or a bucket will work just fine. The pitcher’s spout will make for easy pouring into another bottle for storage after you thoroughly combine all of ingredients; otherwise, if you stir up the components in a bowl, you’ll also need a funnel.

Heat 6 cups of water on the stove using a saucepan or kettle until it boils.

Combine the hot water and 2 cups of hair conditioner in your container. (No need to limit yourself to a pricey professional brand—that will negate some of the cost-saving benefits of the DIY. Almost any generic brand will do, as long as you like the scent and have carefully read the ingredients to rule out potential allergies.) The hot water will help thin out the thick conditioner so that you can easily combine the two ingredients—and stir out any lumps—using a spoon.

While your mixture is still warm, add the 3 cups of vinegar next (a go-to natural laundry ingredient that will remove odors and soften fibers) and continue to stir. Be careful not to shake the mixture, or else your conditioner might get sudsy!

Transfer the finished product from your pitcher or bowl into an old fabric softener bottle (again, using a funnel if you need one). No bottles on hand? Any clean, gallon-sized container with a resealable lid, like a milk jug, can sub in—just choose something that will facilitate an easy pour into a measuring scoop come laundry day.

When it comes time to put your homemade fabric softener to the test, use this mix on appropriate fabrics the same way you’d use its store-bought counterpart—about a quarter- or half-cup will do the trick, inserted at the start of the rinse cycle. Most machines have a dispenser, but you could also opt to distribute throughout the contents of a top-loading washing machine using a automatic fabric softener–dispensing ball to make laundry day even less of a chore.


Cleaning Tips for a Spotless Home

All of the Essential Cleaning Advice from BobVila.com
There’s no way around it: Keeping the house clean demands your time, your energy, and even some of your money. Fortunately, this arsenal of cleaning tips can help you finish the housekeeping more quickly—and with fewer commercially sold products.

How To: Kill Tree Roots

Just because you cut down the trunk doesn’t mean your troubles are over. These options will help you regain your yard.

How to Kill Tree Roots

Photo: istockphoto.com

Trees add great beauty to your landscape and their shade can help keep cooling costs low. But when a tree outgrows its location or is seriously damaged in a storm, it becomes a hazard that should be removed—and chopping it down is only half the battle. A tree’s underground root system can extend up to 20 feet deep in ideal soil conditions, and spread over an even greater area. These tree roots can continue to grow even after the trunk is history and, if close to your sewer line or foundation, cause serious damage. Eliminate underground issues with either the chemical or natural treatment described here—just remember to use caution and keep both herbicide and rock salt out of reach of pets and kids. Now read on to get to the root of the problem.

OPTION 1: Chemical Herbicide

The fastest, most effective way to kill roots is with chemical herbicide, as soon as the tree has been cut down. If you can treat the tree immediately, proceed to Step 2; if not, follow Step 1.

How to Kill Tree Roots

Photo: istockphoto.com

- Saw
- Water
- Watering can or hose
- Glyphosate herbicide (such as RoundUp) with 41 percent or higher active ingredient concentration
- Small bucket
- Garden sprayer, hand-held sprayer, or paintbrush

If the tree was cut down days (or more) ago, make a fresh cut with a saw across what remains of the trunk. This slice should create a flat surface and expose new flesh. With trees three inches or less in diameter, cut across the entire surface of the trunk. For larger trees, expose new flesh of the outer two to three inches.

Saturate the tree’s cambium layer—the outer ring located just under the bark—with 2 to 3 inches of water. As t his outer layer is still alive and growing, the liquid will help carry the herbicide from the live tissue to the tree roots.

Mix a 50/50 solution of glyphosate herbicide to water and apply it to the exposed cambium layer. You can use a garden sprayer, hand-held sprayer, or paintbrush to do so. Be careful in your application to avoid splashing and inadvertently harming plants or grass surrounding the trunk. Tree roots should die off completely in a couple of weeks.


OPTION 2: Rock Salt

Although it takes longer than chemical herbicide, rock salt can effectively kill tree roots by robbing them of water.

- Rock salt
- Water
- Drill with 1-inch or larger drill bit

Drill several holes 3 to 4 inches deep into the cut surface of the tree trunk. Before you stow your power tool, bore several additional holes into any larger roots that are exposed near the ground.

Fill the holes completely with rock salt, and pour water into them to fill to the top. Avoid overfilling, as the rock salt solution is harmful to surrounding vegetation and toxic to pets—you won’t want any spillover. Repeat this process several times for a few months, and eventually rock salt will kill the tree roots. (You’ll know the roots are dead when there is no longer any regrowth from the trunk.)


Fear that the roots have invaded a sewer line or your foundation? Maybe you wish to keep the decomposing material from feeding unattractive fungus. In either case, you could also attempt digging the larger tree roots out of the ground. It’s an arduous process, but once you remove them you can reclaim your lawn.


Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from BobVila.com
With fair weather having arrived finally, it’s time to turn your home improvement efforts to the backyard and your deck, porch, or patio—the parts of the home built specifically to enjoy the extra hours of sunlight. Guided by these practical pointers and inspiring ideas, you can introduce beauty, comfort, and utility to your backyard and outdoor living areas, making them as inviting and enjoyable as your home interiors.

Solved! What to Do When the Toilet Won’t Flush

If one of the most frequently-used fixtures in your home isn’t doing its job, don’t call the plumber just yet. Here's how to do your own toilet tune-up without flushing extra money down the drain.


Photo: istockphoto.com

Q: Help! My toilet won’t flush. The handle moves freely, but nothing happens when I press down. Can I fix it without calling a plumber?

A: For what it’s worth, you’re experiencing an issue that happens at least once in almost every home. Luckily, it’s easy to narrow down the cause and find a fix that works for you! So, if your toilet won’t flush, just follow these steps to send your problem out to sea.


Photo: istockphoto.com

First, check to make sure the water shut-off valve is turned all the way on. Occasionally, friction from a nearby object or a deep-cleaning session can nudge it to the off position, preventing water flow to the tank. This leaves just one or two flushes before the water level gets too low for the toilet to work properly. To see for yourself, look just behind the base of the toilet, a few inches from the floor. The valve should jut out slightly from the wall and be turned all the way to the left; if it’s not, twist the head counterclockwise, and then give it a minute to reset before trying to flush. Once you’ve restored the flow, your issue should be water under the bridge.

If your valve has been wide open the whole time, it’s possible you’re dealing with a clogged pipe. Heavy paper products are usually the culprit here, and they can be dealt with easily. To clear things up, first make sure the water in the bowl isn’t high enough to overflow when you insert a plunger. (If it is, use a disposable plastic cup to ladle the contents into the bathtub. Follow up with 2 to 3 capfuls of bleach and a stream of hot water to wash everything down the tub drain.) Next, take a plunger and place its flange directly into the drain opening. Hold it in place to seal the drain while pumping up and down for 20 seconds. If the clog has cleared, you should be able to remove the plunger and flush right away. Prevent another problem by switching to a lower-ply toilet paper, and remember that flushing paper towels or other heavy products is pretty much asking for trouble.

Still nothing? No big deal. Carefully remove the top of the tank and set it aside for a moment so you can check if your flapper—which is shaped like an inflated balloon and often red—is causing the backup. One that looks warped or damaged likely needs replacing. Luckily, this part usually costs less than $10 at your local hardware store and isn’t hard to swap out yourself.

While the top of the tank is lifted, take a look at the lift chain that connects the flapper to the toilet handle. If your flapper shows no signs of a problem but there’s too much slack in the line, it won’t react when you try to flush. You can adjust the length easily for a better connection by slipping a different link over the hook at the lever end—leave just enough length so that the flapper can close completely, and nothing extra. Now, pushing the handle should cause the flapper to whisk water through the tank, into the toilet, and down the drain like it should.

If your toilet still won’t flush, it’s probably time to call in a pro. Even so, you’re not necessarily in hot water. There are plenty of small issues a plumber can solve without much fuss or financial strain. Good luck!

Enter to Win the $5,000 Dream Office Give-Away from BDI—TODAY!

Enter today and every this month for a chance to win your choice of desk and office furniture.


For many Americans, a home office is more than a luxury—it’s a necessity. Not only is it the natural spot for doing taxes, paying bills, and storing important documents, but in today’s digital world, it’s the new HQ for a growing number of people who work remotely. But if you intend to spend your 9 to 5 (or any amount of time) in a home workspace, it’s time to outfit the room with well-designed furniture that’s built to last. That’s why we’ve teamed up with BDI to give away a stunning set of home office furniture in this month’s $5,000 Dream Office Give-Away!


Today and every day this month (starting at 12:00 p.m. EST on July 31, 2016 through 11:59 a.m. EST August 31, 2016), enter to win your choice of several quality pieces of furniture for the home office. (See Official Rules below.)


BDI, a leader in home furnishings, is on a mission to make great design accessible to everyone. Their unique and functional designs bring a touch of modern style to the home or corporate environment alike. With their wide range of desks and storage options, it’s possible to turn any spare room into a fully customized—and fully organized—workspace.

If you’re the lucky winner in this month’s give-away, you’ll be able to pick a prize from each category, for a total value of up to $5,050, and create your dream office—all in just three simple steps. First, choose from two desk sizes, then select your preferred file cabinet, and finally pick your bonus storage or extra workspace solution. Read on for a full list of offerings.

Step 1: Pick a Desk

  • Sequel Lift Desk 6052 (MSRP $2205)—with optional drawer (MSRP $280)
  • Sequel Lift Desk 6051 (MSRP $1905)

Step 2: Pick a File Cabinet

  • Tall Mobile File Pedestal 6005 (MSRP $890)
  • Low Mobile File Pedestal 6007-2 (MSRP $845)

Step 3: Pick Bonus Storage or Extra Workspace

  • Sequel Storage Cabinet 6015 (MSRP $1525)
  • Sequel Lateral File Cabinet 6016 (MSRP $1565)
  • Sequel Multifunctional Cabinet 6017 (MSRP $1675)
  • Sequel Return 6002 (MSRP $1145), with optional Back Panel 6009 (MSRP $235) and Return end Panel 6012 (MSRP $135)

Enter Bob Vila’s $5,000 Dream Office Give-Away daily to increase your chances of winning your choice of furniture.

Bob Vila’s $5,000 Dream Office Give-Away is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. The Contest Period will last from noon EST Saturday, July 31, 2016 through 11:59 a.m. EST Wednesday, August 31, 2016. One entry per household per day on BobVila.com. Alternative means of entry for Drawing is available by faxing your name and address to 508-437-8486 during the applicable Entry Period. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. By entering, all entrants agree to the Official Rules.

All You Need to Know About Fence Materials

Before you set out to build an enclosure for your property, consider these nine popular materials to find the type of fencing that's best for your needs and budget.

Fence Types

Photo: istockphoto.com

From the zigzag post-and-rail of the Colonial era to the elaborate molded vinyl styles of today, fences have always been a preferred means of ensuring privacy and deterring unwanted visitors. Whether you want to keep your pets safely in your yard or keep the neighborhood children out of your flowerbed, there’s a fence style and material fit for your property.

Before loading your truck with fencing materials at the lumberyard, take a few minutes to call your local zoning office to find out what, if any, preliminary steps you need to take. If you’re putting the fence on a property line, you might need a lot survey. If you belong to a homeowners association or live in a development that is subject to covenants, you could be restricted to using specific materials and limited on fence height. Once you’ve got the green light, the next step is choosing the right type of fence material.


Fence Types - Cedar

Photo: istockphoto.com

Cedar, the king of backyard privacy fencing, is known for its long-lasting good looks—tight grain, fewer knots, and a desirable red hue—and its promise never to warp or shrink. While cedar also naturally resists decay and insects, this wood is not as impervious to soil as treated wood and will likely rot after several years set in it. If you choose to build a fence from cedar, it’s recommended to install in a concrete base or secure to fence posts that are treated wood. Even so, the installation process is DIY-friendly, and you can customize the planks to create a variety of styles, including saddleback and lattice-topped.

Maintenance Tip: Cedar naturally weathers to a silvery gray, and a fence of this material will require maintenance, including occasional plank replacement. For long-lasting color and protection, apply a penetrating sealant immediately after installation and annually thereafter.


Fence Types - Vinyl

Photo: istockphoto.com

Vinyl fencing has been around for a few decades, but it’s still a relatively new kid on the block. Early vinyl fencing products had a tendency to yellow, sag, or become brittle after a couple of years, but today’s fence manufacturers are putting out durable fencing products in a variety of heights and styles. When it comes to quality, thickness counts; thicker gauge, “virgin” vinyl will look best for the longest amount of time (some with a lifetime guarantee). For the best results, installation must be precise, so consider hiring a professional fence installer. A little out-of-level here or slightly out-of-plumb there will be significantly noticeable in the finished fence.

Maintenance Tip: Once installed, vinyl fencing is virtually maintenance-free. Wash dirt off occasionally with a mild detergent, rinse with a garden hose, and you’re good to go.


Fence Types - Composite

Photo: homedepot.com

FENCE TYPE: Composite
Manufactured from wood fibers combined with plastic polymers, composite fencing provides a like-wood look without the propensity to degrade from insects and rot. Such combination of style and substance runs slightly more expensive than vinyl and cedar, though, in both material and installation—like vinyl fencing, composite requires precise installation by professionals. Since the material’s quality varies, you’ll want to explore your options and buy composite fencing components from a reputable dealer.

Maintenance Tip: After professional installation, composite fencing requires only an occasional spraying with plain water to keep it looking clean and fresh.


Fence Types - Redwood

Photo: homedepot.com

FENCE TYPE: Redwood and teak
You’ll pay top dollar for a redwood or teak fence, but nothing else compares to their natural softness and luster. Because they’re expensive, redwood and teak fences are usually limited to small areas: enclosures around spas or pools. Like cedar, redwood and teak both naturally resist insects, decay, shrinking, and warping from the elements.

Maintenance Tip: Both redwood and teak require the application of a penetrating sealer or oil once or twice a year to maintain their original color. A light sanding prior to application will remove surface weathering.


Fence Types - Metal

Photo: istockphoto.com

Options for metal fencing range from classic to contemporary, with a variety to match or blend with any home exterior. Wrought iron fences have survived centuries of style changes, and with good reason: More than simply classic, they’re extremely durable. Consider hiring a specialized fencing contractor if you’re looking to incorporate the traditional appeal of wrought iron into your property, as these enclosures tend to be custom made to fit the property and even include more intricate patterns. Some newer metal options—including cast iron, aluminum, and steel fences—package the strength of wrought iron with a more DIY-friendly panel installation.

Maintenance Tip: Aluminum fencing holds up without rust all year long, but wrought iron and some steel fences require treatment with a brush-on or spray-on rust-inhibiting paint when they start to show signs of corrosion.


Fence Types - Treated Wood Pickets

Photo: istockphoto.com

FENCE TYPE: Treated wood
Pressure- and chemically-treated wood pickets or cedar-style planks are a popular pick for outdoor structures as a whole—gazezbos, decks, pergolas, and more—and assembled as a fence, they offer privacy at a wallet-friendly cost. While this more economical fencing option is a perfect choice for fence posts inserted in the ground (treated wood resists both insects and moisture), its fence pickets have a tendency to warp or twist as quickly as one month after installation. For best shot at a warp-free results, handpick out the planks individually from your local lumberyard rather than having them delivered in bulk. Look for the straightest planks and skip any that look “green,” or damp, which could indicate they recently came from the manufacturer and are more likely to move as they dry.

Maintenance Tip: Seal or paint treated wood for a better look, and replace warped planks as needed.


Fence Types - Brick Masonry

Photo: istockphoto.com

Concrete, stucco, brick, block, and stone fences create a stately aesthetic around the home, but at a cost: These materials skew pricey and require professional installation. Due to their weight, masonry fences need a structural footing poured below the frost line, or the depth to which the groundwater in soil is expected to freeze in winter. Many homeowners mix some type of masonry with another fencing material, such as wrought iron or wood, for reasons of both design and cost. Block and poured concrete require steel reinforcement and brick fences often feature a concrete or block inner fence with brick veneer only on the exterior.

Maintenance Tip: Over time, mortar joints in stone and brick fences can work loose and require re-pointing to stabilize.


Fence Types - Chain Link

Photo: istockphoto.com

FENCE TYPE: Chain link
While their open links certainly don’t do much for privacy, chain link fences offer adequate security for pets and kids at a competitively low cost. The materials are among the least expensive fencing options available, making this type of fence is a common choice for large rural yards where the amount of fencing needed makes other choices cost-prohibitive. In addition to economical materials, an easy-to-DIY installation—one that involves setting posts, installing a top rail, and then stretching linked mesh between the rails and posts—saves homeowners more money.

Maintenance Tip: Chain link can corrode, especially at the junctions where the mesh links meet, but it’s difficult to prevent. For a better look and a longer life, consider upgrading to vinyl-coated chain link.


Fence Types - Barbed Wire

Photo: istockphoto.com

FENCE TYPE: Barbed wire
This type of fence is strictly functional, usually set up to keep livestock in or natural predators out. Its standard design is simple and affordable enough for property owners looking to fence in a larger area: five strands of barbed wire strung taut between metal T-posts around the perimeter of the property, with heftier wood or steel posts installed at the corners to support the tension of the stretched wire. Before you install, know that barbed wire fencing is limited to rural use and prohibited in most communities.

Maintenance Tip: Barbed wire strands should be re-stretched from time to time if they sag due to livestock leaning on them.

Bob Vila Radio: Going Green in the Garden

What would we do without clean water? From brushing our teeth to boiling pasta, we use the life-giving liquid all day long. But it's outside—not in our homes—where we waste the most resources. Do your part to save water in the garden with these fast fixes.


Playing nice with the planet includes conserving resources, and good old H2O is at the top of the list. Every gardener can cut down on water waste at home with a few simple changes.


Photo: istockphoto.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON SAVING WATER IN THE GARDEN or read the text below:

First, instead of dousing your flowers and vegetables with gallons of water all at once, use a soaker hose. You’ll get less runoff and less evaporation. Bend a flexible length of gutter to guide water from a downspout into a rain barrel. Rain barrels come in a variety of sizes and are available at home improvement stores.

If your prefer your plants in hanging baskets, pick self-watering containers. When the soil dries out, the built-in water reservoir at the bottom replenishes moisture. Decorative ceramic pots, on the other hand, should be treated with a sealer to make them less porous. Finally, try adding water-absorbing crystals to the soil. They’ll keep your plants from drying out, even if you forget about them for a few days.

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!

The Pros and Cons of Radiant Heat

Experts agree that for comfort in winter, no other technology comes close to matching the performance of radiant floor heating. But is it the right choice for your home? Like so many other questions in building and home improvement, the answer depends. Learn the pros and cons, and decide for yourself.

Radiant Heat Pros and Cons

Photo: istockphoto.com

It’s no surprise if home heating doesn’t rank high on your list of priorities right now, but let’s face it: If you were uncomfortable at home last winter, you are going to be uncomfortable again in only a matter of months—that is, unless you make a change. Particularly if it’s been years since you last surveyed your options, you might be surprised by how much the landscape has changed. No, a 100% perfect climate control system hasn’t been invented yet, but many of the most exciting options today excel where forced air fell short. The leading heating technology of the past several decades, forced air isn’t without virtues, but on the whole accounts for the perception that home heating must be hit-and-miss in performance yet consistently expensive. By contrast, innovative options like radiant heating prove that homeowners can now enjoy total comfort at a lower cost.

Radiant heat isn’t new. In one form or another, it’s been around since before the days of the Roman Empire, but it wasn’t until relatively recently that it became a viable option for average homeowners. Today, many would argue that it outperforms its peers, delivering a qualitatively home heating experience than forced air ever did. Not only does it operate silently to create even, all-encompassing, “everywhere” warmth, but it does so at least 25% more efficiently than conventional HVAC. That said, radiant heat may not be the perfect climate control solution for every homeowner, in every situation. Much depends on the precise nature of the project you are planning. Keep reading now for details on the biggest considerations that come into play.

Radiant Heating Pros and Cons - Cutaway Shot

Photo: warmboard.com

PRO: Uniform heating
Homeowners are eschewing traditional forced air in favor of radiant heat, largely because there’s simply no question as to which provides a higher level of comfort. Installed beneath the floor, radiant heat panels deliver warmth across virtually every square inch of the home. That way, no matter where you travel in the home, you always get the temperature you want. With forced air, it’s a different story. Designed to operate in a stop-and-start pattern, conventional HVAC dumps hot air into the home, then stops. Minutes later, once the temperature has dipped below a threshold point, the system snaps on again, and the cycle repeats. The result? Dramatic, uncomfortable temperature swings, only enhanced by the fact that hot air quickly rises to the ceiling after arriving. Radiant heat, meanwhile, concentrates comfort not above your head, but at floor level where you actually feel it.

CON: Challenging to Retrofit
Heating and cooling components are often integral to the basic infrastructure of the home in which they are installed. That being the case, most do not lend themselves painlessly to retrofit applications. With forced air, ducts are the foremost impediment to installation. With radiant, the complicating factor is that panels must be set beneath the floor. If you love the flooring in your home and had no intention of removing it, even if only temporarily, then the installation requirements of a radiant system may give you pause (though a wall or ceiling installation may be a good alternative). But of course there are plenty of occasions when homeowners enjoy a blank slate. Custom home building may present the out-and-out ideal opportunity to install radiant heat, but you can also capitalize on the technology during a renovation. In fact, manufacturers like Warmboard offer ultra-thin radiant panels specially designed to fit seamlessly into existing homes.

PRO: Quiet and clean
Walk into any home heated by forced air, and the system soon announces itself to you, one way or another. The first thing you notice might be the unsightly metal grille of an air vent, or it might be the sound of conditioned air roaring through the ductwork. There’s also the issue of dust. Though intended to channel warm air through your home, ductwork also often ends up collecting and distributing dust and other impurities. Over the years, having become so accustomed to forced air, many homeowners may assume that home heating has to be ugly, noisy, and dusty, but it doesn’t. With panels slotted out of view beneath the floor, hydronic radiant systems are invisible, and in the absence of blowers and rushing air, they operate not quietly, but silently. Plus, for allergy sufferers and others concerned about indoor air quality, radiant heat can be like a breath of fresh air, as the ductless system does nothing to diminish indoor air quality.

CON: Boiler dependent
To supply the water that lends heat to a radiant system, you need a boiler. If you’d need to buy a new boiler, that would add to the final project cost. But of course, in any HVAC system, there are upfront costs and operating costs, and the latter are perhaps the more important. Radiant keeps running costs low, because thanks to its duct-free design, it’s not susceptible to the air leaks and energy loss that compromises forced air. That’s the main reason why radiant has been found to operate at least 25% more efficiently. To save an extra 10 to 20 percent each month, opt for a radiant system with highly conductive panels. Why? The more conductive the panel, the less hard the boiler needs to work. By way of example, Warmboard panels transfer heat so effectively that they can keep the home comfortable using water boiler-fired to a temperature 30 degrees cooler than that required by other, broadly similar systems. From one month to the next, year after year, incremental savings can really add up.

Already widely popular in Europe and Asia, radiant heating has been steadily gaining traction in the United States over the past several years, as homeowners discover its unique and compelling advantages. Able to operate at a whisper-quiet decibel level even while promoting indoor air quality, the “out of sight, out of mind” technology ultimately delivers on a deceptively simple promise: It enables you to enjoy greatly enhanced comfort during the winter months, and often for less per month. Indeed, for the increasing numbers of homeowners who are foregoing traditional HVAC in favor of radiant, the obvious pros of the latter far outweigh any potential cons.

Radiant Heat Pros and Cons

Photo: warmboard.com

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

How To: Clean Ceramic Tile

Keep your floors looking shiny and new with these simple techniques.

How to Clean Ceramic Tile

Photo: istockphoto.com

It’s hard to beat ceramic tile for beauty, versatility, and durability. Perfect for bathroom, kitchen, even entryway floors—as well as backsplashes and countertops—ceramic tile is generally easy care, but it does require some upkeep. Follow these guidelines on how to clean ceramic tile, and you’ll ensure that yours stays in sparkling shape for years to come.

How to Clean Ceramic Tile - With a Mop

Photo: istockphoto.com

Stave off scratches. Though a relatively tough material, ceramic tile—composed of natural clay, sand, and water, then baked in a kiln—can get scratched. Regular sweeping or vacuuming (using a soft head attachment) will keep dirt and debris from marring the surface and getting ground into the grout. If you’ve got ceramic tile in an entryway, place a doormat both outside and inside and encourage family to wipe their feet.

Wash tiles weekly. After sweeping or vacuuming, mop ceramic tile floors at least once a week with a small amount of mild dish detergent mixed in hot water. There should be no need to use stronger stuff, but if you wish to, test the cleanser on an unobtrusive spot (like behind an appliance) to ensure it won’t harm the finish. Avoid using a sponge mop, which will push dirt off tiles and into grout; use a string or strip mop head instead. Replace water as soon as it gets dirty or you’ll get dull, cloudy results.

Avoid accidents. Ceramic tile can be slick when wet, so either dry the area thoroughly with a clean towel or stay out of the room until it air-dries completely to avoid a slip.

Pick up spills promptly. Everyday messes like spilled milk and tracked mud should be cleaned up as soon as you spot them or tiles can stain. Simply dampen a cloth or mop with warm water and a bit of mild dish detergent and swipe it up.

Seal the seams. Grout is applied to tiles to lock them tight, keep out water, and provide a finished look. But grout is porous substance and often white or light-colored, so prone to getting dingy. A preventive measure is to seal the grout once tile has been installed, and once or twice a year afterward. There are various easy-to-apply sealers available at your local hardware or home store. Tip: When installing new tile, consider darker grout. Not only does it hide dirt, the contrast lends an attractive modern look.

Get grime out of grout. If grout does need cleaning, often a good going-over with a stiff brush and hot water will do the job. Tougher jobs call for a vinegar/baking soda paste or a hydrogen peroxide solution: Allow several minutes dwell time before scrubbing with the brush, then rinse. Really stubborn stains may require bleach or even steam cleaning. Once grout is clean, a regular spray-down with vinegar-and-water solution will help to prevent new stains from setting in. (For more grout-cleaning know-how, go here.)

How To: Get Rid Of Weevils

Don’t let these pantry pests get the best of you. Vanquish the beetles with this battle plan.

How to Get Rid of Weevils

Photo: istockphoto.com

No matter how scrupulously you clean your kitchen, you may still open your cabinets one day to find them crawling with tiny beetles. Unlike insects that enter through doors, windows, and crevices, weevils sneak in with your groceries. The adults chew into grains and lay eggs, making it virtually impossible to tell if you’ve purchased a sack of something that contains larvae. Of the some 60,000 species of weevils, the ones that threaten your larder are the rice and maize varieties (dark reddish-brown with red or yellow spots, about 1/16-inch long) and the larger, shiny, dark brown-to-black grain weevils. But have no fear! The following step-by-step will walk you through how to get rid of weevils for good.

How to Get Rid of Weevils - Inspect Your Rice

Photo: istockphoto.com

By the time you spot weevils, odds are they’ve infested other nearby food items. So in order to oust them, you’ve got to purge your pantry of unsealed dry foods, including oats, rice, barley, flour, corn meal, pasta—even pre-packaged box-type dinners that don’t have sealed internal pouches. And don’t stop there: If boxed products have sealed airtight bags inside, toss the box and label the bag with an indelible marker. Do this even for boxed products weevils won’t eat, such as gelatin, because the pests might have entered the box and could later emerge to re-infest new products.

Put salvageable foodstuffs in the freezer for four days, which will kill any larvae that might be hiding in the product. Items you don’t think will withstand freezing—dried herbs, for instance, that may lose their zing—can go in a sealed bag or container and be stored elsewhere. Before returning anything to the shelves, proceed to Step 3.

Thoroughly clean the pantry and cabinet shelves. Everything has to come out—canned goods, spices, aluminum foil, whatever you store in there—in order to get rid of every weevil. Vacuum the shelves, making sure to get the nooks and crannies, and then take your vacuum outside to dump its canister. Wipe down the entire vacuum (canister included) with disinfectant before bringing it back inside. Sponge all shelving and cabinet interiors with either hot soapy water or spray cleaner, and let dry thoroughly.

Finally, spray shelves and cabinet interiors with a household insecticide labeled as effective for killing weevils. Follow all the manufacturer’s safety precautions, and keep children and pets out of the area while you work. When dry, you can safely re-stock the shelves.

Sure, these four easy steps can get rid of weevils in an afternoon. But since any and all innocent-looking dry food packages could contain weevils, the only sure way to prevent another infestation is to put dry staples, such as rice, beans, lentils, quinoa, wheatberries, macaroni, and cereals in the freezer for four days after purchase before stowing them. Alternately, store these items in individual sealed plastic or glass containers. While these suggestions might seem like overkill, all it takes is one female weevil to start another invasion.

How to Get Rid of Weevils - Infestation

Photo: istockphoto.com

Official Rules: Bob Vila’s 3rd Annual $5,000 Fall Flooring Give-Away


Bob Vila’s “3rd Annual $5,000 Fall Flooring Give Away” (the “Sweepstakes”) is sponsored by Vila Media, LLC, Post Office Box 835, West Barnstable, MA 02668 (“Sponsor”). The Sweepstakes consists of one (1) random drawing. The Sweepstakes and entry period begins at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (“EST”) on August 31st, 2016 and ends at 11:59 a.m. EST on September 30th, 2016 (the “Sweepstakes Period”). NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. MAKING A PURCHASE DOES NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. ODDS OF WINNING WILL DEPEND ON THE TOTAL NUMBER OF ENTRIES RECEIVED. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. ONLINE ENTRY ONLY AND INTERNET CONNECTION REQUIRED. AFFIDAVIT OF ELIGIBILITY AND RELEASE OF LIABILITY FORM MAY BE REQUIRED.

Open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 48 contiguous 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 “3rd Annual $5,000 Fall Flooring 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 Vila Media, LLC’s Privacy Policy, a current copy of which can be found here. By participating, all entrants agree to abide by these Official Rules. At the end of 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. Must be over 18 to win.

To receive a complete list of winners or a copy of the Official Rules, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Prize Fulfillment, Vila Media, LLC, PO Box 835 Barnstable, MA 02668. Specify winner’s list or rules on your request. The Winner will be notified by email, or in the case of alternate entry, by phone; Sponsor reserves the right to determine the method of notification. The Winner 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 the one (1) Drawing held during the Sweepstakes Period shall be one (1) Lumber Liquidators gift card, worth a total of $5,000. 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, the Winner agrees to be bound by these Official Rules and to conform to all federal, state and local laws and regulations. When applicable, the Winner (or, if the Winner is a minor, the Winner’s parent or legal guardian) may be required to execute and return to Sponsor within three (3) business days an Affidavit of Eligibility, a Liability and Publicity Release and relevant tax forms to be eligible for the prize or an alternate winner may be selected. Winner may be required to furnish proof of identity, address and birth date in order to receive a prize. By entering, an entrant agrees to indemnify, release and hold harmless Sponsor and each of its respective parents, subsidiaries and affiliated entities, directors, officers, employees, attorneys, agents, and representatives (collectively, the “Released Parties”) from any damage, injury, death, loss, claim, action, demand, or other liability (collectively, “Claims”) that may arise from their acceptance, possession and/or use of any prize or their participation in the Sweepstakes, or from any misuse or malfunction of any prize awarded, regardless of whether such Claims, or knowledge of the facts constituting such Claims, exist at the time of entry or arise at any time thereafter. Released Parties are not responsible or liable to any entrant or to any Winner or any person claiming through such Winner for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action, regulation, order or request by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action, regulations, order or request proves to be invalid), equipment failure, threatened terrorist acts, terrorist acts, air raid, blackout, act of public enemy, earthquake, war (declared or undeclared), fire, flood, epidemic, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal) labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond the Released Parties’ sole control.

The Released Parties are not responsible for: (1) any incorrect or inaccurate information, whether caused by entrants, printing, electronic or human errors or by any of the equipment or programming associated with or utilized in the Sweepstakes; (2) viruses or technical failures of any kind, including, but not limited to malfunctions, interruptions, or disconnections in phone lines or network hardware or software; failed, incorrect, incomplete, inaccurate, garbled or delayed electronic communications or entry information, any error, omission, interruption, deletion, defect, delay in operation or transmission, failures or technical malfunction of any computer online systems, servers, providers, computer equipment, software, email, players or browsers, whether on account of technical problems, traffic congestion on the Internet or at any website, or on account of any combination of the foregoing; (3) the unavailability or inaccessibility of any transmissions or telephone or Internet service; (4) unauthorized human intervention in any part of the entry process or the Sweepstakes; (5) technical or human error which may occur in the administration of the Sweepstakes or the processing of entries; (6) any injury or damage to persons or property which may be caused, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, from entrant’s participation in the Sweepstakes or receipt or use or misuse of any prize; or (7) late, lost, misdirected, illegible, incomplete or mutilated entries or for theft, destruction or unauthorized access to, or alteration of entries. These indemnification and release provisions shall survive expiration of the Sweepstakes.

Persons found tampering with, abusing, or otherwise disrupting any aspect of this Sweepstakes, or otherwise attempting to defraud Sponsor, as solely determined by Sponsor, will be disqualified and their entries will be deleted. If disqualified, Sponsor reserves the right to terminate the entrant’s eligibility to further participate in this Sweepstakes and future promotions and sweepstakes of Sponsor or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates. Any attempt by an entrant or any other individual to undermine the legitimate operation of this Sweepstakes may be a violation of criminal and civil laws. Should such an attempt be made, sponsor reserves the right to seek damages from any such person to the fullest extent permitted by law.

This Sweepstakes is strictly for promotional and entertainment purposes and may not be used in connection with any form of gambling. In the event this Sweepstakes is challenged by any legal or regulatory authority, Sponsor reserves the right to terminate the Sweepstakes, or to disqualify entrants residing in the affected geographic areas. In such event, the Sponsor shall have no liability to any entrants who are disqualified due to such an action. Sponsor reserves the right to modify these Official Rules in any way or at any time. Sponsor reserves the right, in their sole discretion, to cancel or suspend this Sweepstakes should viruses, bugs or other causes beyond their control corrupt the administration, security or proper play of the Sweepstakes. In the event any portion of this Sweepstakes is compromised by any non-authorized human intervention, actions of entrants, or other causes beyond the control of Sponsor which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, corrupt or impair the integrity, administration, security, or operation of this Sweepstakes, Sponsor reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to suspend, modify, abbreviate or terminate the Sweepstakes without further obligation. If Sponsor elects to abbreviate the Sweepstakes, Winner(s) will be determined from all eligible entries received for Drawing(s) prior to the action or compromise giving rise to the suspension or termination of this Sweepstakes. In the event of cancellation, abbreviation or suspension, Sponsor shall promptly post a notice on the Sweepstakes entry page to such effect.

This Sweepstakes shall be governed by New York law. By participating in this Sweepstakes entrants agree that New York courts shall have jurisdiction over any dispute or litigation arising from or relating to this Sweepstakes and that venue shall be only in New York City, New York. The failure to exercise or enforce any right or provision of these Official Rules shall not constitute a waiver of such right or provision. If any part of these Official Rules is held by a court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid or unenforceable, that part will be enforced to the maximum extent permitted by law, and the remainder of these Official Rules will remain fully in force.