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DIY Lite: Upgrade Simple String Lights on a Shoestring Budget

Enhance ordinary string lights with a festively floral makeover that will brighten your space—and mood.

DIY Outdoor Lighting - Easy String Lights

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Thoughtful lighting is key to evoking a desired ambience in nearly any space. (They don’t call it “mood lighting” for nothing.) Cords of twinkling lights—a festive decorating favorite—are particularly versatile. They’re small enough to store, powerful enough to brighten dark corners, and easy to hang both outdoors and in. Use them to dress up your porch, patio, windows, trees—you name it. For a design that radiates a little more energy than your standard set, read on to learn how to upgrade the miniature lights you probably have left over from holiday celebrations, using merely recycled plastic bottles and a little imagination.

 

DIY Outdoor Lighting - Supplies

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- Plastic bottles
- Scissors
- Spray paint
- Utility knife
- String lights

 

STEP 1

DIY Outdoor Lighting - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

First, round up your collection of recyclables for the week and pull out all the plastic bottles—any size will do.

Using a pair of scissors, cut the bottom two-thirds off from each bottle. In Steps 2 through 8, you’ll transform the end with the cap into one of a variety of flowers. (You can toss the other end back into the recycling.) We’ll show you three petal options here, but if you get creative, you can design numerous other styles.

 

STEP 2

DIY Outdoor Lighting - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

For the look of a spiny succulent, cut the plastic into skinny strips, working from the fresh edge in toward the bottleneck.

 

STEP 3

DIY Outdoor Lighting - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Then, when all strips have been cut, bend them outward to create a flower shape.

 

STEP 4

DIY Outdoor Lighting - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

To make a daisy, cut another cone-shaped bottle top into eight strips of equal width.

 

STEP 5

DIY Outdoor Lighting - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Fan the strips outward, then use your scissors to trim each strip into a rounded petal shape.

 

STEP 6

DIY Outdoor Lighting - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

To make a bellflower, cut the bottle top into six equal strips.

 

STEP 7

DIY Outdoor Lighting - Step 7

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Then, cut each petal end into a teardrop-like point; don’t open up this particular bloom. Repeat Steps 2 through 7 to make as many flowers as bulbs on your string of lights (or only half, if you decide that you’d like a little extra buffer between buds).

 

STEP 8

DIY Outdoor Lighting - Step 8

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Lay all the cut plastic flowers and their caps out on a newspaper-covered work surface, and spray them with paint. Be sure to use a paint that will adhere to plastic. When that coat dries, you can add some details to the flowers with a targeted second coat of spray paint. For example, paint the center a different color, or add pattern to the petals’ edges in a darker hue. These flourishes will give the flowers more depth and are a whimsical nod to the authentic inspiration.

 

STEP 9

DIY Outdoor Lighting - Step 9

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Gather all the caps, and carefully cut a cross in the center of each, using a utility knife.

 

STEP 10

DIY Outdoor Lighting - Step 10

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

You should be able to push each tiny bulb through the cut section of a cap, from the top to the underside. If the plastic cap is still too hard to work with, open up the cut with the tip of a pen, and then try pressing the light through again. Put a cap on every (or every other) light bulb.

 

STEP 11

DIY Outdoor Lighting - Step 11

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Screw a plastic flower onto a cap, hold it out to enjoy the effect, and proceed to attach the rest of the flowers to the caps. Now, for your next celebration, be it birthday or backyard barbecue, this tropical touch you’ve fashioned for an otherwise simple strand of string lights will really amp up the energy.

 

DIY Outdoor Lighting - Completed Garland Lights

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

 

Ama is a DIY addict and the creative mind behind Ohoh Blog. She likes home decor, lighting, and furniture projects that may involve painting, sewing, drilling…no matter the technique! Whatever she has on hand is inspiration to create, and fodder for her serious addiction to upcycling.


Genius! The Clean, Green DIY Washing Machine

Buying a new washing machine can really wring out your savings. While making your own machine may seem like a drastic step, it will not only help the environment, but also leave your clothes—and your conscience—squeaky clean!

DIY Washing Machine - Washing a Load

Photo: makezine.com

When a new washing machine can cost up to $1,000, there are plenty of reasons to consider a cheaper alternative before trekking to the appliance store. Well, you can’t get much cheaper than this: If you’re doing laundry for only one or aren’t ready to spend so much on a brand-new model, you can always build your own. Industrial designer Michael Perdriel was far from home when he first dreamed up his design for a DIY washing machine—7,586 miles away, to be exact, in Hyanja, Nepal. Here, Perdriel collaborated on a plan for local families that couldn’t afford a washer and dryer. But the benefits of this $50 version extend well beyond the small town in Nepal: Perdriel’s DIY conserves both water and energy and, because it’s entirely human-powered, provides a good workout too—minus the cost of a gym membership.

The washer consists of three main parts: a five-gallon bucket shell, a net bag to hold the dirty clothing, and a lever-driven shaft mechanism that sets the entire contraption in motion. Two cones made from short cuts of plastic tubing, which sit at either end of the net bag, achieve the agitation necessary for an effective wash by squeezing and releasing the clothing with every pump. When the handle of the lever is pushed down, clothes are lifted out of the water and wrung out between the tubing; release the handle, and the laundry gets dunked back into the water. The long pump handle offers ample leverage, so operating the machine is a breeze.

True, the small capacity isn’t for everyone. Lighter loads work best—ideally no more than five pounds of clothes at a time. But if you’re doing laundry for one or two people, this eco-conscious machine may be the easiest way to tackle smaller daily loads or delicates. And if you don’t have a washing machine at all, you’ll be able to avoid the crowded laundromat altogether. Whether you long to live off the grid or you’re just trying to beef up your savings account, there’s a laundry list of reasons to give this DIY a spin!

FOR MORE: Makezine 

DIY Washing Machine - Top View

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The Best Alternative to a Window Air Conditioner

Get that bulky, view-obstructing, noisy AC unit out of your window for good! A ductless mini-split system offers a sleeker appearance, remarkable efficiency, and unparalleled comfort.

Ductless Mini Splits vs Window Air Conditioners

Photo: Mike Crews Photography

You are reading one installment in a 10-part series devoted to exploring Mitsubishi Electric ductless heating and cooling. See all.

In the market for a window air conditioner? Before you make any purchases, be sure to weigh all your options. Seen against the rich background of today’s cooling and heating technologies, window units are becoming increasingly outmoded. For all their enticing pros—low initial cost, portability, ease of installation—these appliances come with a host of off-putting cons. For one, even the most energy-efficient models are expensive to run over the course of the cooling season. Plus, because of their bulk and in-window position, portable air conditioners obstruct the view to the outdoors and block out the natural light that would otherwise stream into the home. When you also consider that window units are noisy and that they severely undermine home security, it’s easy to comprehend why so many people have gone looking for a better method of cooling one or more rooms. Countless budget-conscious, comfort-craving homeowners are discovering cost-effective, high-performance ductless cooling and heating systems from industry leader Mitsubishi Electric.

By design, window air conditioners are temporary solutions. Mitsubishi Electric ductless systems, on the other hand, are permanent installations handled by qualified contractors. That’s not to say the technology takes up a lot of space or requires extensive remodeling work. On the contrary, ductless systems are streamlined and compact, consisting of two discrete components—an outdoor condenser and an indoor unit. Connecting the two is a pair of refrigerant pipes that run through a three-inch-diameter hole in an exterior wall. A three-inch hole: That’s the extent of the changes necessary to accommodate the system. Because it’s so nonintrusive, the installation process usually takes less than a day. And once it’s up and running, a Mitsubishi Electric ductless system lasts much longer than the average, expendable window AC. Having already earned widespread popularity in Europe and Asia, ductless cooling and heating may represent the future of climate control in this country too. Continue reading to learn more about why more and more American homeowners are choosing to go ductless.

Ductless Mini Splits vs Window Air Conditioners - Wall Mount Installation

Photo: Michael Lee

EFFICIENCY
True, a ductless system costs more up front than a window unit. Over the long term, however, Mitsubishi Electric pays you back with the system’s remarkable energy efficiency. Compared with the average window unit, a Mitsubishi Electric system consumes 40 percent less energy, allowing you to enjoy lower monthly utility bills during the cooling season. Those savings wouldn’t mean much if you were uncomfortable, though. So, what truly sets apart Mitsubishi Electric is that, even though the operation costs are relatively low, the system still provides unparalleled comfort. Thanks to a variable-speed compressor—and accurate monitoring of conditions in the room—the system continuously adjusts its output to match the demand. That way, the technology steadily maintains your target temperature. The average window AC either keeps running until the room gets too cold, or it cycles on and off, creating unpleasant, sometimes extreme temperature variations. That’s not the case with Mitsubishi Electric. Here, the temperature you set is the temperature you get.

NOTICEABILTY
Whereas there’s only one way to install a window air conditioner, the twin components of a ductless system can be configured in any number of ways, leaving you free to seek the most inconspicuous solution. For starters, within a set radius that depends on your chosen system, the outdoor unit can be placed on the portion of your property where it’s least likely to draw attention. You may also conceal its presence with strategic landscaping or even a curtaining structure, such as a trellis. Meanwhile, sleek, low-profile indoor units can mount either high on the wall, near the floor or within the ceiling, wherever you think it would look the best. No matter what you decide, the windows in the room would remain completely unobstructed. That’s right: You no longer have to sacrifice daylight and your view to the outdoors, as you would with a window unit, for the full duration of the summer.

Another factor to consider is noise. Even the quietest window air conditioners tend to make a racket. Not only in comparison, but objectively speaking, Mitsubishi Electric ductless systems are ultra-quiet. When running, indoor units reach volumes as low as 19 decibels—quieter than a whisper!

Ductless Mini Splits vs Window Air Conditioners - Bedroom Wall Mount

Photo: Mike Crews Photography

VERSATILITY
Though many homeowners rely on Mitsubishi Electric for cooling one or a couple of rooms, others employ the technology for whole-home climate control. In such a setup, multiple indoor units work in concert to maintain a comfortable temperature across the full square footage. For the time being, you may be interested only in, say, cooling down the bedroom. But if in the future you decided to extend your ductless system beyond the bedroom, you wouldn’t need to scrap what you’ve got and start over from scratch. Being that some outdoor units are capable of accommodating multiple indoor units, you would need to add only the latter into any room or rooms you wanted to make more comfortable. You might even look at your initial, single-room-focused ductless system as a first step toward piecing together a comprehensive solution for all the space under your roof.

One final aspect of Mitsubishi Electric technology proves its all-around versatility. These ductless systems provide, not only cooling, but heating as well. In cooling mode, the indoor and outdoor unit work to draw heat from inside the home and deposit it safely outside. The flip of a switch reverses the action, causing the system to collect heat from outside and bring it indoors. In effect, the same ductless system you count on for effective and efficient summertime cooling can also provide comfort-giving heat in the winter. Try saying that about a window AC!

Photo: Josh Pabst

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


Bob Vila Radio: What Is a Rain Garden?

Expressly designed to capture rain before it enters the local sewer system, rain gardens are a smart, attractive, and environmentally responsible means of managing stormwater runoff.

Rain gardens are essentially natural or man-made depressions on the property, which the homeowner fills with a variety of hardy plants that don’t need a lot of painstaking care.

What Is a Rain Garden?

Photo: annerobertsgardens.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON RAIN GARDENS or read the text below:

Not only does a rain garden add an extra layer of visual interest to the landscape, but it also helps the environment. Instead of rainwater gushing down storm drains and flowing, unfiltered, into nearby lakes and streams, rain gardens collect the run-off from roofs, driveways, and walkways, slowly absorbing and naturally filtering the water through the roots and soil.

Most rain gardens include gravel to aid in the absorption process. And since they’re more tolerant to local soil and moisture conditions, native plants are normally chosen. For help selecting suitable plants, ask around at your garden supply store or extension office.

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 Paint from Carpeting

From muddy boots to spilled drinks, your carpet undergoes a great deal of wear and tear. That said, in the case of splattered paint, you might assume your carpeting has finally met its match. Maybe, but not always. You may be able to rescue your carpet with nothing more than water, soap, and elbow grease. Here's how.

How to Remove Paint from Carpet

Photo: fotosearch.com

It’s the stuff of nightmares for any do-it-yourselfer who takes on a weekend painting project. Even though you carefully covered the floor with drop cloths or plastic sheeting, drips and drops of paint still somehow managed to reach the carpeting underneath. It’s frustrating, to be sure. But the good news is that, more often than not, you can remove paint from carpet using only a handful of everyday household items. So for the time being, hold off on shopping for a replacement carpet. Whether the paint remains wet or has had time to dry, it’s well worth trying to undo your mishap by following these simple step-by-step cleaning instructions.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Clean rags
- Mild dish detergent
- Carpet stain remover (if necessary)
- Paper towels
- Table knife
- Iron or handheld steamer (for dried stains, if necessary)

How to Remove Paint from Carpet - Blotting Rag

Photo: fotosearch.com

If you notice the accident right away, move quickly to act before the paint dries.

Blot, Don’t Scrub. Whatever you do, no matter how desperately you want to remove paint from carpet, resist the urge to scrub. The last thing you want to do is force the paint into the fibers of the carpet. Instead, with paper towels (lots of them), gently blot up as much of the paint as you possibly can.

Grab the Dish Soap. With all or most of the excess paint out of the way, you can focus more closely on treating the affected area. In a small bowl, combine warm water with a modest amount of dish soap. Soak the corner of a clean rag in the water-and-soap solution, then continue blotting the stain. Start on the outside and gradually work toward the center. If, along the way, moisture accumulates on the carpet, soak up the water with paper towels. Continue blotting until you’ve removed all the paint.

When All Else Fails. So long as you’re dealing with latex or water-based paint, you can expect to see results with the combination of diluted dish soap and the blotting method. But if you don’t seem to be getting anywhere, remember that you have one other viable option: commercial carpet stain remover. Application techniques vary by product; be sure to act in keeping with the manufacturer’s instructions.

How to Remove Paint from Carpet - Multicolor Covering

Photo: fotosearch.com

If you failed to notice the stain on the carpet until after the paint had dried completely, don’t lose hope. Removing dried paint takes more work, but it’s not impossible to do.

Clear a Path. Before doing anything else, first scrape away any loose, flaking bits of paint with a table knife (sharp enough to do the trick, but not so sharp that it would damage or cut off the carpet fibers).

Soak the Area. In a small bowl, combine hot water with a modest amount of dish soap. Carefully pour some of the solution onto the stain, letting the soapy water soak into, and soften, the dried paint.

Steam Power. If the hot, soapy water did not succeed in softening the paint, plan B is to steam the area using either a handheld steamer or a clothing iron configured to the steam setting. Note that if you end up using an iron, place a wet rag between the carpet and the iron to avoid scorching the fibers.

Scrape and Blot. Now that the dried paint has softened, go back to gently scraping it off the carpet fibers, bit by bit. If and when necessary, blot the paint with a moistened rag or dry paper towels.

When All Else Fails. Many homeowners have managed to rescue their carpeting by following the steps described above. Given all the variables at play, however, no technique can be guaranteed to work in all cases. If, for all of your efforts, some paint residue still remains, don’t hesitate to give commercial carpet cleaner a shot.

Indeed, even when you’re very careful, there’s always a chance, however remote, of paint ending up on the carpet. It happens to the best of us. Sure, a mishap like that might ruin your day—but it doesn’t have to ruin your carpet!


How To: Remove Moss from the Roof

A layer of green moss might look cozy and rustic atop your house, but it can drastically shorten your roof's lifespan. Follow these three straightforward steps to clean off moss—and keep it from coming back.

How to Remove Moss from Roof - Wood Shingles

Photo: fotosearch.com

A green, moss-covered roof may make you think you’ve wandered into a fairy tale, complete with a quaint little woodcutter’s cottage. But, in the real world, moss is much less a fantasy than it is a nightmare. Left untreated, the clumpy greenery can cause virtually any roofing material to degrade—most commonly wood and asphalt, but also metal, clay, and concrete—and thus drastically shorten its lifespan. Moss starts as a thin green layer on and between shingles, but then it proceeds to lift those shingles up as it grows, allowing water to seep underneath. Hello, wood rot and leaks. Fortunately, removing moss is a fairly simple task that you can perform on a seasonal or as-needed basis to keep your roof weathertight and great-looking.

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- Ladder
- Slip-resistant shoes
- Old clothes
- Safety glasses
- Rubber gloves
- Safety rope
- Garden hose with spray nozzle
- Long-handled soft-bristle scrub brush
- Commercial cleanser or DIY solution (below)
- Pump spray bottle
- Plastic sheeting

How to Remove Moss from Roof - Beginning Stages

Photo: fotosearch.com

STEP 1
Carefully place a ladder near the area of moss growth, and don slip-resistant shoes, old clothes, rubber gloves, and eye protection. (You may also want to secure yourself with a safety rope.) Hose off the area with plain water, spraying at a downward angle. Then, use a long-handled soft-bristle scrub brush to remove the moss from the roof, scrubbing from the top down to avoid lifting shingles. As you continue, rub gently—don’t scrape, scour, or pound on the roof—and work in one small section at a time to avoid ripping, cracking, or breaking the shingles.

Note: Don’t use a pressure washer on the roof. The high-powered water jets can damage shingles and remove the shingle granules that protect the roof.

STEP 2
If your moss problem requires more than just a simple scrub, there are a wide variety of commercial cleaning solutions as well as DIY options that will get the job done. Just wait for the next cloudy day before you head out to the roof with your cleanser of choice—you don’t want the solution to evaporate too quickly. Keep in mind that both commercial and homemade spray cleansers can damage sensitive plants and discolor siding, decks, or pathways, so you may want to spread plastic sheeting below your work area before you get started.

Some popular cleansers at your local hardware store or home center include Wet & Forget, a spray-on product for removing moss, mold, and mildew; Bayer 2-in-1 Moss and Algae Killer, a potassium soap of fatty acids and inert ingredients that you mix with water and then spray on; and Moss B Ware, a 99 percent zinc sulfate monohydrate powder that can be applied dry or mixed with water. Whichever you choose, follow the manufacturer’s directions for application; some cleansers should be rinsed off after use, while others specify to be left on.

You also can make your own moss remover in a large spray bottle with one of these four DIY recipes:
• 8 ounces Dawn Ultra dish soap + 2 gallons of water
• 1 pound powdered oxygen bleach + 2 gallons of water
• 1½ to 3½ cups chlorine bleach + 2 gallons of water
• 1½ to 3½ cups white distilled vinegar + 2 gallons of water
For any of these homemade options, you’ll want to wet down the roof with plain water first, then apply the cleanser and let it sit for 20 to 45 minutes. Lightly scrub with a soft-bristle brush, then rinse with water.

STEP 3
Prevent a moss problem from returning by installing strips of zinc- or copper-coated sheet metal just below the top ridge on both sides of the roof. Copper is more toxic to moss and algae, but zinc is much less expensive. You can purchase sheet metal in rolls and cut it into two- to four-inch strips. Attach the strips to the roof using roofing nails or screws with a rubber washer. You also should consider pruning any tree limbs that overhang the roof—natural sunlight is a powerful moss preventive.


Quick Tip: Use Vinegar to Give Wood a Weathered Look

Antiqued furniture can be a beautiful addition to a room, but the price tag can be much less attractive. Get this popular look for less with an inexpensive DIY stain made from two common household ingredients.

DIY Wood Stain

Photo: fotosearch.com

A weathered finish on a beloved table or chair chronicles the story of a bygone era. But while authentic antique pieces can make great investments, they aren’t always readily available—or within our price range. Fortunately, there’s a simple way to achieve this highly sought-after look on your existing furniture using nothing but two items you probably already keep in your pantry: steel wool and vinegar.

DIY Wood Stain

Photo: fotosearch.com

Start by ripping a pad of #0000-grade steel wool into smaller pieces and stuffing them into a mason jar. Next, pour in about 1½ cups of white vinegar. Let the solution sit for at least two days so the wool can dissolve in the vinegar, turning it a silvery-gray color.

While you wait for the mixture to oxidize, sand down your piece and take note of the type of wood. If it’s a light-colored wood like pine, you’ll want to pretreat it with a solution that’s high in tannins, such as tea. To do this, steep five black tea bags in a pot of boiling water for about an hour, then apply the tea to the furniture using an old paintbrush. Allow the piece to dry thoroughly before continuing.

When the vinegar-steel wool solution is ready, pour it into a large bowl, using a strainer to remove the solids. Next, apply the stain to the wood with a paintbrush. Because the piece may appear darker when it’s wet than when it’s fully dried, let it dry between coats so that you can be sure of the color before applying another layer of stain. If you notice any drip marks or want a more blended result, buff the wood with fine-grit sandpaper. Finally, seal the wood with a wax finish for a polished, aged look that’s worthy of a high-end antiques shop.


Do Less Yard Work with 4 Smart Strategies

Gardens can do great things for your outdoor decor, but the general upkeep can be tedious. Try these tricks to make time spent tending your favorite florals easier and more efficient.

How to Garden

Photo: fotosearch.com

Whether it’s the colorful buds that line your front walkway or the blooming beds out back, incorporating a lush garden into your landscape can pay off in spades. While time spent sowing seeds is well worth the effort, it tends to be more enjoyable when you can minimize the hours stuck toiling in the hot sun. Try these four strategies to help eliminate gardening growing pains and make your outdoor experiences that much more rewarding.

How to Garden - Water Efficiently

Photo: fotosearch.com

1. Choose Plants Wisely
You’ll want to start by researching plant varieties that are in line with your USDA hardiness zone, as well as species that are disease-resistant. If flowers that require little upkeep are more your speed, consider annuals like lobelia, impatiens, or fibrous begonias, that continue to bloom without requiring constant deadheading.

Also, beware of “fertile myrtles,” annuals like calendulas or cleome that reseed if you don’t get rid of the spent blooms come fall. If you’re interested in keeping them in your garden design, let them self-sow; but if not, deadhead to stop them from taking over.

2. Plan Out Your Arrangement
Group the thirstiest plants in one spot. This will improve watering efficiency, as you can tend to these high-maintenance varieties all at once, rather than making multiple trips around the garden. Next, save yourself hours you would have spent staking and prop up floppy, more delicate plants simply by placing stiff, bulky varieties in front of them.

Lawn work is easily one of the most tedious yard tasks. Make things easier on yourself by eschewing grass on sloped areas and swapping in ground covers instead so that you don’t find yourself pushing a mower uphill. It’s also wise to pass on turf grass in areas that don’t have strong drainage solutions.

And don’t overlook the importance of convenient tool storage: Consider purchasing a decorative container that you can tote along with you while tending the garden, so that you don’t have to trek to the shed or garage every time you need something. Buy tools with brightly colored handles, as these will easily catch your eye if left behind.

3. Upgrade Your Water Routine
Investing in a timed system is well worth the cost. Soaker hoses with tiny pores that run the length of the tube are smarter than your standard hose or sprinkler, resulting in no run-off, less evaporation, and the luxury of being able to relax or complete other tasks while they go to work. Schedule the system to start in the early morning for best results.

On days you mow the lawn, leave the clippings out instead of cleaning them up. This trick doesn’t make you lazy! More than saving you extra effort, it also helps shade the grass and conserve water.

4. Eliminate Weeds
To start, plant densely and mulch freely around your flowerbeds to discourage uninvited weeds, but wage war on existing species when the soil is moist. While you can try to pull the weeds out by the roots, another simple solution is to cut them and let them wither. If they’re joining forces to form a thick mat, use a sharp shovel to slice the ground beneath them, then flip the weeds over to bury them. This will ensure your flowers’ safety and also nourish the soil when the weeds decompose.


Bob Vila Radio: Removing the Knockouts in Electrical Boxes

Knockouts are partially stamped, quarter-size openings in the electrical boxes that service such things as outlets and switches. Once removed, a knockout allows electrical wires to be run in and out of the box.

How to Remove Knockouts from Electrical Boxes

Photo: homedepot.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON REMOVING KNOCKOUTS or read the text below:

In the average electrical box, there are several knockouts, each with one or two attachment points resembling small bumps. Remove the knockout that would give the wires the straightest shot—that is, the knockout that would require the least amount of bending on the part of the wires.

To remove a knockout, position the tip of a regular, blade-tip screwdriver just inside the edge, on the side opposite the attachment points. That ought to partially dislodge the knockout, allowing you to remove it the rest of the way by twisting back and forth until the attachment points snap.

When you’re running wire in or out of a knockout, be sure to install a strain-relief clamp, an add-on that not only holds wires in place, but also keeps them from chafing against the edges of the electrical box. Multiple strain-relief options exist; check your local home improvement center.

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!


Genius! Remix Your Backsplash with Old CDs

Transform your backsplash on a budget—and declutter your entertainment center at the same time! See how a stack of unused CDs upgraded this boring, builder-grade kitchen.

Cheap Backsplash with Old CDs

Photo: instructables.com

Remember when your biggest problem was keeping your favorite CD from skipping? Times were simpler before iPhones, Netflix, and high-speed Internet conquered the world. Thanks to digital libraries, almost no one is worried about the state of their CD collection anymore. But other quandaries—like what to do with all those old CDs now that we’ve moved on—hang around for years. Instructables author Illona solved the dilemma of an unloved collection by crafting this one-of-a-kind kitchen backsplash using discs, scissors, grout, and very little planning. While relieving the environment of a little extra tech trash, her reflective backsplash brightened up the whole kitchen without the addition of a mirror or task lamps!

Piecing it together requires very little as far as specific tools go—only a sharp, strong pair of scissors or one designed to cut plastic. To better preserve the holographic film that creates the mirror effect, first brush a layer white glue over the printed side of the CD and let it dry completely. Cut up your discs, then glue the larger pieces up first and fill in gaps with smaller cuts later. Once you’ve arranged all of the pieces, apply grout to your mosaic. Illona opted for a light grey over white grout to make cleaning easier; the color requires less scrubbing, preventing possible future scratches and preserving the rainbow effect of the holographic film.

Even through Ilona ended up scratching some CDs in the trial-and-error process and dulling the project’s shine ever so slightly, any nicks are quickly lost against full effect of the mosaic. It’s practically impossible to mess up this DIY! With a backsplash this beautiful, it will feel like trading in your old flip phone for a smarter model.

FOR MORE: Instructables

Cheap Backsplash with Old CDs - Detail in Process
Photo: instructables.com