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The Essential Guide to Fall Home Improvement

For no-hassle home improvement this fall, entrust one company with all your repair, replacement, and remodeling needs.

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While you were on summer vacation, your home was hard at work battling the elements. After enduring intense heat or seasonal thunderstorms, your home deserves a little TLC to get it ready for the colder months ahead. With fall on the way, now is the time to inspect windows and HVAC systems for signs of distress, and repair or replace them for improved operation and aesthetic appeal. While you’re at it, perhaps it’s a good idea to freshen up the bathroom as well, in preparation for the hordes of overnight guests the holidays bring. With expert recommendations from Sears Home Services, you can make short work of these traditionally time-consuming tasks and add an extra dose of comfort to your home.


Don’t wait for frost to set in before you winterize your windows. Structurally compromised windows invite cold air in and let warm air escape, forcing your HVAC system to work extra hard to keep your home at a comfortable temperature. Put a stop to winter drafts by inspecting and replacing inefficient or outdated windows to ensure comfortable indoor temperatures and lower energy bills all winter long.

Cold resistance and energy efficiency: If your living room feels like a freezer, your windows may be to blame. Drafts can enter your home through cracks in window casings, jambs, or windowsills, so it’s important to check these areas, and seal cracks and any rotted spots. Yet, as important as it is to winterize your existing windows, sometimes the best course is to replace them. Inefficient, outmoded single-pane windows let in more cold air than their modern counterparts. “Put your hand to an old window, and it’s cold to the touch,” says Dave Lincoln of Sears Home Services. If your single-pane windows are keeping your house cold and your energy bills high, it may be time to make the switch to new double-paned windows. One option is the Sears Weatherbeater window, a double-paned model with a layer of argon gas in between the plates of glass. That important feature gives you an extra buffer against the cold, and can help produce warmer indoor temperatures, better energy efficiency, and lower energy bills. “New windows keep the cold out and warm in—the way it should be,” says Lincoln.

- Sound reduction: Do you wish you could live in a quieter neighborhood free from the sounds of traffic or noisy neighbors? You may be able to get your wish without having to change your address if you’re willing to change your windows. “Time and time again I work with clients who report that after replacing old windows, their living spaces seem quieter and more peaceful—like it’s the same house, but in a new location,” says Lincoln. Double-paned windows, such as Sears Weatherbeater windows, put another layer between you and the sounds on the street while they insulate your home from the cold, meaning you’ll reap double the benefits from a single installation.

Home Air Filter Replacement

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As you brace yourself for freezing temperatures, take some time to inspect your HVAC system. It’s better to discover any weak spots in your cold-weather defense now than have to deal with a broken furnace, heat pump, or boiler in the middle of winter.

- Furnaces: If your home is heated by a furnace, the most effective winter prep task involves replacing your furnace filters with high-efficiency versions to keep dust, germs, and other particulate matter out of your indoor air. Know that “high-efficiency filters must be cleaned or replaced more often, about every three months,” according to David Kenyon, an HVAC specialist with Sears Home Services. After swapping the filters, continue your preseason furnace checkup by inspecting the internal components to ensure proper functioning. If you don’t have much experience working with HVAC systems, you’ll benefit from making a quick call to a pro, who can do the inspection for a small fee. On the other hand, if you suspect that your old or underperforming furnace won’t last the season, consider replacing it now rather than later. The experts at Sears Home Services can provide you with a free consultation to review your home heating options.

- Heat pumps: When it’s doing its job right, a heat pump is the unsung hero of ductless heating and cooling systems, drawing thermal energy from the cold outdoors and turning it into warm, comfortable indoor heat. But when the heat pump experiences problems, such as cycling on and off, making loud noises, or failing to heat or cool, it certainly makes its presence felt. Take precautions by having your heat pump inspected and, if necessary, repaired or replaced by trained HVAC experts like those at Sears Home Services.

- Boilers: Many homeowners rely on a boiler for heat, sometimes using the appliance to both heat water and warm the house. Although boilers are highly energy efficient and have relatively few mechanical components, they are still prone to the occasional failure. When your boiler doesn’t fire up, doesn’t heat water effectively, or begins to leak, your heat could cut out just when you need it most. For that reason, it’s a good idea to get your boiler inspected early in the season. Trained technicians, like those from Sears Home Services, can diagnose problems, repair boilers made by any of the major brands, or, if necessary, install a brand-new boiler.


According to the old real estate adage, kitchens sell houses, but surely the bathroom is almost as important to a home’s value. When done well, a bathroom renovation can increase your home’s resale price while adding a touch of modern convenience to your everyday life. Renovations come in all sizes, both large-scale and small. Even if you can’t commit to a full bathroom remodel today, keep in mind that you can start by replacing just one outdated fixture at a time.

-Toilets: Most often, toilet trouble can be resolved with a simple fix, swapping out the handle, for instance, or replacing the flapper. In other cases, your time and money may be better spent replacing the fixture. You may want to opt for replacing rather than repairing a toilet if it has a crack in the porcelain, clogs frequently, has poor water efficiency, or suffers from some other costly problem. These functional faults, however, aren’t the only reasons to invest in a new toilet. Even if you’re simply tired of looking at cosmetic imperfections like chips, scratches, or stains, it may be time to replace a decades-old toilet. To help you navigate your bathroom remodel, consider calling on the experts at Sears Home Services, who can advise you on selecting a new, efficient, ergonomically friendly toilet that fits your style and budget.

- Showers: Nothing ages your bathroom like a stained bathtub or discolored grout and tile in the shower. Putting in a new tub and tile gives you a fresh look and a new chance to banish mold and mildew from the bath. To take your project one step further, consider replacing the existing flooring in your bathroom. New tile floors can “boost home resale value,” according to Joe Maykut of Sears Home Services. Even if you’re not planning on selling your home anytime soon, you can still benefit from a modest makeover. Tiny changes like swapping a lime-covered shower head for an easy-clean model can make a big difference to your daily quality of life. Whatever the scope of your bathroom renovation, you can look to Sears Home Services for a range of showers, tubs, and accessories as well as the trained professionals who can install them.

- Cabinets: Whether your bathroom cabinets are part of the sink vanity, installed over the toilet, or mounted on another wall, they may benefit from a quick spruce-up. Particularly if the cabinets are intact but in need of a new finish, you’ll get a “tremendous bang for the buck” by refacing them, says Maykut. On the other hand, if the cabinets are structurally deficient, “refacing them would be beside the point,” Maykut advises. In that situation, cabinet replacement may be a worthier investment. If you’re not sure which approach is best for your bath, call the experts at Sears Home Services to schedule a free in-home consultation.

Photo: istockphoto.com

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

How To: Clean a Shag Rug

High pile is back in style! So keep yours fresh with these simple steps.

How to Clean a Shag Rug

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Shag rugs are enjoying a resurgence, thanks to their groovy textured looks and comfy feel underfoot. The potential bummer? Those long tendrils catch dirt and dust particles quickly. Whether made of wool or synthetic fibers, a shag rug requires more frequent, conscientious cleaning. A rule of thumb is to double the care you’d give traditional rugs, both for vacuuming and deep cleaning. But since calling a pro can be pricey, try the four-step process here and you’ll find that owning a shag needn’t be a drag!

- Plain white vinegar
- Water
- White microfiber cloth
- Mop or broom
- Vacuum cleaner
- Vacuum cleaner upholstery attachment
- Dry carpet shampoo (optional)

How to Clean a Shag Rug

Photo: istockphoto.com

Ideally, you’ll use this method to treat a spill before it has a chance to set in, but even if it’s dry before you get to it, there’s still hope. Combine equal parts plain white vinegar and room-temperature water, and pour directly onto the affected area. For a small stain caused by a few tablespoons of spilled liquid or food, start with ½ cup of each ingredient to form the mixture, making more if necessary.

Work the solution into the stain with a white microfiber cloth—better than a rag because it won’t stain or leave lint behind—using some elbow grease to release it from the fibers. Once you’ve eliminated the stain entirely, hang the clean shag rug in a well-ventilated area to dry completely.

Take the dry rug outside where you can shake it vigorously to release loose dirt and dust.

Next, if the shag rug is smaller than 3 or 4 feet wide, fold it in half, face-down, over a clean porch railing or the back of a chair and use a mop or broom handle (not its business end) to whack the rug from the back side to release stubborn dirt particles. Put enough muscle into it to shake spare dirt loose, but mind your aim and be careful not to damage the railing or chair in the process.

Cleaning professionals advise against vacuuming a shag rug, as suction could break the long fibers. However, it’s highly effective to turn the rug face down and vacuum its back side, keeping the pile safe while further removing deep-down dirt. This will also redistribute the tendrils from behind to fluff them up again. For an extra-deep clean, use an upholstery attachment, which offers stronger suction in a concentrated area.

If things are still looking dingy and you’re willing to take a risk, consider cleaning with dry carpet shampoo. Shake or spray a small amount onto the least-visible area of the shag rug, making sure to use a product safe for its content (some shampoos are better for wool while others suit synthetics) and following package instructions to the letter.

Carefully vacuum over the shampooed portion only; a handheld vacuum is ideal because it gives you complete control. If any pile breaks off, stop and take the shag rug to a carpet cleaning pro. If all is well, though, proceed with caution and repeat the process until your rug is as shagadelic as ever.

Bob Vila Radio: Planning a Pet-Friendly Yard

With all the weeding, fertilizing, and mowing most of us do, it's easy to understand why some homeowners don't want to leave their lawn and garden to the dogs (literally!). But with a few tweaks, your pets and yard can live in perfect harmony.

Cats and dogs need just as much time outside as people do, but designing a safe space for pets and protecting your landscape is trickier than it looks.

Photo: istockphoto.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON PET-FRIENDLY YARDS or read below:

Start with the basics, and keep them corralled with a good fence. Wood, metal, and vinyl will all work, as long as the construction is solid. If you have a cat, top your fence with a roller bar attachment. For a dog that loves getting their paws dirty, try buying or building a sandpit so they can burrow away from the garden. And when it comes to safety, every owner can help prevent scuffles with wildlife by keeping pets inside during prime feeding times: dawn, dusk, and overnight.

When it’s time to pick out plants, opt for hardier varieties with soft foliage, like Artemisia or lilacs. Avoid foxglove, lily-of-the-valley, mums, lilies, and cocoa mulch, all of which can be toxic to pets. If you’re planning to add on to your garden, think about the paths you’re creating for prowling and patrolling—and remember to leave a shady spot free for napping between adventures. Consider installing a small circulating fountain too, so your pet will always have access to fresh water.

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!

What Are You Going to Do When Your Water Heater Fails?

In recent years, water heater technology has advanced by leaps and bounds, affording homeowners a range of new choices that get the job done with admirable, cost-saving efficiency. When's the right time to make the switch? It may be sooner than you think.

Energy Efficient Water Heaters

Photo: istockphoto.com

To state the obvious, hot water plays a vitally important role in daily life, making it possible for households to enjoy dishwashers, washing machines, steamy showers and countless other modern conveniences. Now here’s something that you may not know already: Hot water costs the average family a whopping $400 to $600 per year. In terms of ongoing operating expenses, only HVAC comes with a higher price tag. Budget-minded homeowners can pursue savings in a number of ways. Some are conscious of using cold water when possible, but consumption isn’t the end-all and be-all of the issue. Much of the time, it pays to look closely at the water heater, specifically with regard to energy efficiency. Believe it or not, a standard unit devours more energy than most other major household appliances combined!

On paper, it makes a lot of sense to invest in a high-efficiency model, one that offers a better bang for the buck. In practice, though, it can be tricky to execute a seamless replacement. Our usual consumer mindset gets in the way. Under most circumstances, it’s wise to replace an appliance only when necessary. For instance, many people wouldn’t buy a new TV until after the old one stops working. But applying the same approach to water heater replacement rarely leads to a successful outcome. Why? While you can easily go a week without a television, the same can’t be said for hot water. Plus, while you can guess how many years your existing unit has left to give, you can never be sure. When faced with a sudden failure, many homeowners prioritize a speedy replacement over an efficient one.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR program suggests an alternative: Begin preparing for replacement as soon as your water heater turns 10—the average lifespan for standard storage water heaters. Is your water heater included among the more than 40 million old models in operation nationwide? If so, don’t delay. Now is the time to take the initial steps toward replacing it. Waiting only increases the chances of your water heater springing a leak or causing a flood. In addition, with sufficient time to identify and arrange for the installation of an ENERGY STAR certified water heater, you can be sure to lower utility costs moving forward. In fact, if all water heaters sold in the United States were ENERGY STAR certified, homeowners would save nearly $10 billion annually.

Energy Efficient Water Heaters - Different Technologies

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There’s a simple reason why running costs are substantially lower with ENERGY STAR certified water heaters—the certification applies only to units that boast exemplary efficiency. Precisely how much of an efficiency improvement can you expect? Like so many other questions in home improvement, the answer depends. There are a wide range of competing technologies on the market, and there can be critical differences that determine whether your upgrade results in modest or jaw-dropping savings. For that reason, be sure to consult a contractor before making any purchases, but at the outset of the selection process, the recommended first step is to familiarize yourself with the most popular options.

The traditional go-to, storage water heaters, consist of a storage tank that holds hot water until it’s needed. When used by the household, cold water is added to replenish the tank. All the while, the appliance works steadily to maintain the stored water at the designated, pre-set temperature. This means the appliance incurs standby energy losses that drive up the bill. Fortunately, you can do better.

Heat Pump Water Heaters. An increasingly popular option, heat pump water heater (HPWH) technology delivers dramatic savings by consuming 50% less energy than traditional electric models. In fact, EPA estimates that with an ENERGY STAR certified HPWH, the average four-person household can save $330 each year over the life of the appliance. In design, HPWHs share one similarity with traditional storage-style units; both involve tanks of water that the appliance works to heat continuously. But the HPWH stands out in terms of how it heats the water. Ingeniously, like a refrigerator running in reverse, a HPWH pulls heat from the air, which it then transfers to the water. Also available are ENERGY STAR certified hybrid HPWH models, which incorporate traditional water-heating technology as a backup.

Energy Efficient Water Heaters - Tankless Type Illustration

Photo: istockphoto.com

Instantaneous Water Heaters. Still another burgeoning water heater technology dispenses with the storage tank altogether. For that reason, such models are commonly referred to as “tankless”. Compact enough to mount on the wall, tankless water heaters are an ideal choice for those seeking not only space efficiency, but energy efficiency as well. Whereas other ENERGY STAR certified water heaters limit standby energy loss, tankless water heaters eliminate it. By activating only when needed (and idling the rest of the time), the technology operates with far greater efficiency than a conventional water heater that runs all day, every day. In fact, with a tankless water heater certified by ENERGY STAR, a family of four can save $1,800 over the course of the long, 20-year lifespan that tankless units offer.

It’s important to note that while an ENERGY STAR certified water heater can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, it will likely have a higher price tag. Models that cost the least upfront are also less efficient and, therefore, the most expensive to own long term. Still, if you find yourself hesitating over the price tag attached to a high-efficiency model, remember that rebates and other incentives are often available for ENERGY STAR certified water heaters. More than 150 utility companies, energy service providers, and municipalities offer incentives, some as high as $1,000, making the upfront cost virtually the same as a traditional non-efficient water heater. Also, in 2016, ENERGY STAR certified heat pump water heaters qualify for a $300 federal tax credit. Check with your local utility or visit the ENERGY STAR Rebate Finder to find offers in your area.

With energy costs on the rise and environmental concerns mounting, manufacturers have ushered in improved options and entirely new innovations. Of course, the water heater that lasts forever still hasn’t been invented yet. Indeed, it’s only a matter of time before your current model ceases to be viable. You have two options. One: You can wait for the day that your water heater finally fails and only then, under far from ideal circumstances, face the issue of how to replace it. Or as an alternative, you can tackle the opportunity on your own terms and plan ahead to fully capitalize on the chance to lock in lower utility bills. What about the fact that by reducing energy consumption, ENERGY STAR certified water heaters help curtail greenhouse gas emissions? Well, you can consider that an added benefit! Learn more about how to choose the ENERGY STAR water heater that’s right for you by visiting www.energystar.gov/waterheaters.

Energy Efficient Water Heaters - Shower Illustration

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

Genius! Hack a Bookcase for Healthier Houseplants

Fall and winter can be deadly for houseplants, especially if your space isn't sunny enough to give them the nutrients they need. Here's how to convert your bookcase to keep your plants alive—and inside—all year long.


Photo: rodalesorganiclife.com

Millennia ago, Roman philosopher Marcus Cicero wrote, “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” For Willi Evans Galloway, a seasoned pro who literally wrote the book on growing your own food, it’s a lesson worth building on. Have the library part down, but your houseplants can’t seem to survive the transition indoors for the winter? Experts recommend installing a grow light, but—as Galloway aptly puts it—“who wants a shop light hanging in their living room?” We couldn’t agree more, and that’s why her ingenious bookshelf conversion works for more than just bibliophiles.

Nearly everyone wants to host a plant or two at home, as long as they’re hassle-free. But with limited light and low humidity levels, creating ideal growing conditions can get complicated—and that’s where this DIY grow light project really shines! The top interior of an otherwise ordinary bookshelf hoists the fluorescent fixture that provides a steady source of artificial rays, even in poorly lit or windowless rooms. Meanwhile, its electrical cord travels from the back of the mounted light and slips through a small hole in the back panel and into the nearest wall outlet. Add an extension cord, and you really can grow anywhere.

Thanks to the DIY grow light, plants (even finicky herbs and vegetables) set on a shallow tray filled with water and pebbles can survive almost anything—even a whole year indoors. As water evaporates under the heat of the light, the tray transforms into an all-natural humidifier, counteracting harmful dry air. For even more control, plug an automatic light timer into the fixture to set your own customize hours of light exposure.

Galloway’s houseplant hack is as beneficial for budding gardeners as it is for ravenous readers. Tucking the bulky grow light inside the shelf and pulling the cord through the back keeps the focus on both of your growing collections. And since it’s easily adapted to a taller bookcase, you’ll have plenty of space below for books, mementos, or magazines in your new living library.

FOR MORE: Rodale’s Organic Life


Photo: rodalesorganiclife.com


DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from BobVila.com
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on BobVila.com. Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build or make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.

The Best Way to Heat a Home with High Ceilings

Don't get left in the cold when you step into a lofty room! Upgrading to radiant floor heating will keep any size space cozy and comfortable.

Heating a Room with High Ceilings - Warmboard Parquet Wood Floor

Photo: warmboard.com

As summer heat gives way to fall’s cooler temperatures, daily activities—from dinners to DIY projects—migrate back indoors. But really, how much more comfortable are you indoors with your current home heating system? Sure, being inside provides shelter from the elements, but it doesn’t always guarantee a consistent temperature (even when you’ve properly sealed off all air leaks to the outdoors). When you still have to bundle up before walking across your home’s icy floors or need to curl up with a blanket to work comfortably, you may wonder, What am I paying so much each month to heat? The answer is, you’re probably paying most to heat the ceiling and second floor rather than your primary living space. Settling for uneven temperatures or a heating system that underperforms isn’t the only option. Instead, consider a more direct, dependable, and energy-efficient alternative: radiant heat.

Heating a Room with High Ceilings

Photo: istockphoto.com

Radiant-heating systems aren’t new. In fact, ancient Korea used controlled fires to heat air chambers under floors and behind walls. Fast-forward a few thousand years, and the highly evolved innovative materials and designs behind today’s modern systems are capable of providing efficient, uniform heat that offers numerous advantages over traditional HVAC systems. Their silent, dust-free operation eliminates allergy problems often associated with heating ducts while distributing even heat underfoot. And, on top of all these benefits, radiant heating built into your home’s flooring aims to keep the living space comfortable—no matter how tall the ceiling.

Why Forced Air Falls Short
If you currently rely on forced-air heat and are fed up with its less-than-stellar performance, don’t be too quick to put all the blame on your heating system. The way your home is designed plays a part in how efficiently (or inefficiently) the rooms warm up. Think back to your elementary school science lessons, and remember: Hot air rises. When your forced-air heating system pushes heat out of its vents, the heat naturally rises toward the ceiling. Your rooms become cozily warm at the top, but remain chilly down below, where you do your actual living. 

To cope, shivering homeowners may move closer to the nearest vent or resort to cranking up the thermostat to achieve a comfortable temperature at ground level, producing more heat than actually necessary and ultimately costing more money to do so. For rooms with standard 9-foot ceilings, this law of science is simply an inconvenience; but in the case of high ceilings, upwards of 12 feet, it can be costly. In a two-story house, the result is too much heat upstairs, and the only solution is to open some windows to let the heat (the heat that you’ve just paid for) escape the house. What’s a homeowner to do?

Concentrating Heat Where You Need It Most
While forced-air systems push heat into a room in cycles, unaffected surrounding surfaces can remain cool to the touch and actually steal warmth from your body, leaving you chilly despite the fact that your heating system is working overtime. Radiant floor heating systems, on the other hand, are designed to deliver even heat throughout your rooms by radiating constant warmth from beneath your flooring. The process warms the cooler areas it encounters first—the floor, the furniture, and the people occupying the living space. Because radiant heat warms objects in the room as well as people, you won’t be giving up body heat to, say, that favorite chair of yours. It, too, will emit a welcoming warmth when you sit down, rather than cause you to reach for the nearest woolen blanket.


Heating a Room with High Ceilings - Under Hardwood

Photo: warmboard.com

Choosing the Most Efficient Radiant System
Before committing to an upgraded heating setup, be it in that one lofty room or your whole house, working knowledge of the systems can help you optimize your energy savings with this already highly efficient system. Radiant floor heating travels through flexible hydronic tubes or electric coils installed either inside or adjacent to panels laid beneath your flooring material of choice. The system’s energy source and materials do vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and considerably impact the energy efficiency of this heating system.

Hydronic radiant floor systems lower fuel bills by utilizing a boiler to heat water within a network of tubes beneath your home flooring to relatively low temperatures. Because the whole floor receives even heat, the water doesn’t have to be as hot as what might run through a conventional radiator.

For best possible heat transfer, panels should be made with a very conductive material—aluminum is the most common. Depending on the specific alloy, aluminum can conduct heat 232 times more efficiently than lightweight gypsum concrete, a standard alternative. Put simply, a material that offers better heat transfer means you’ll get more heat, more quickly, and for less energy (and less money). The thin, highly conductive panels produced by industry leader Warmboard require the least energy to operate of any radiant-heating system, providing the same comfort as competing systems while the water in the hydronic tubes can be more than 30 degrees lower than the others. That alone translates into a 10 to 20 percent savings in your monthly energy bills compared to other radiant options!

Whether you are building a brand-new home with a bold design or already live with the luxury of high ceilings, you can ensure affordable everyday comfort by opting for radiant floor heating. Even if the ceiling heights in your home extend only slightly above average, there are enough compelling reasons to choose radiant heat—its ease on allergies, quiet operation, and seasonal energy savings—that the system shines in lofty areas and smaller home additions alike. Install a state-of-the-art radiant-heating system, and you and your family will enjoy its benefits for years to come.


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

Your Guide to Reviving a Tired Garage Floor

Make your garage flooring look good as new again with one of four easy, do-it-yourself strategies.

Concrete Floor Repair in the Garage

Photo: istockphoto.com

As one of the strongest, most durable, and longest-lasting construction materials, it’s no wonder why concrete is the most popular flooring choice for garages across the country. Still, despite its ability to hold up under adverse weather conditions and even the heaviest vehicles, all of that constant tire and foot traffic does take a toll over time. Gradually, the heavy use detracts from the garage floor’s appearance—and, worse yet, causes the sort of vulnerabilities that can jeopardize the structural integrity of the slab. Fortunately, there’s an easy fix for any worn-out garage floor. Keep reading, and you can adequately equip yourself with the right products and tools for rescuing your flooring from old age.


Concrete Floor Repair - Cleaning with a Pressure Washer

Photo: istockphoto.com

Wash Away Years of Wear
Ground-in dirt and oil stains build up in the garage can mask an otherwise perfectly good floor. In these cases, a little elbow grease and some common cleansers may go a long way towards revitalizing the concrete’s overall appearance.

First, remove stubborn oil and grease stains. Fresh spills can be soaked up with granulated cat litter and swept up with a stiff brush. Older stains respond well to a good scrubbing with a number of household remedies: paste made from either powdered laundry detergent or baking soda and water; grease-cutting dish detergents; hydrogen peroxide; or full-strength bleach. Rust stains and excessive smears of dried mortar and grout will require a more powerful solvent called muriatic acid. Proceed with extreme caution if you work with this last solvent—protective clothing, plenty of ventilation, and careful dilution according to the manufacturer’s directions are all must-dos.

Once you’ve treated individual spots, you can use a pressure washer and biodegradable detergent (or even simply a stiff scrub brush, a bucket filled with warm soapy water, and elbow grease) to remove lingering mold, mildew, ground-in dirt, and paint drips from the entire surface. Mold, mildew, and algae stains as well as mortar or grout discoloration might require treatment with solvents, including TSP (trisodium phosphate). Then apply a clear, water-repellent concrete sealer over the newly-clean surface to help prevent future dirt, grease, and grime buildup.


Concrete Floor Repair - Resurfacing with NewCrete

Photo: ctscement.com

Start Fresh with a Resurfacing
Wear from vehicles, foot traffic, and the elements can turn into spider web–like “craze” cracking, flaking, or spalling, when the top layer of the concrete breaks off and exposes the patchy and pitted aggregate underneath. Luckily, any of these issues can be strictly cosmetic, as long as they are tended to soon after discovery. Ignore the early stages of spalling, however, and it could spread enough to compromise the integrity of the surface beyond repair.

A high-quality, professional resurfacing product like NewCrete Concrete Resurfacer from CTS Cement | Rapid Set addresses all of these imperfections in a single go. The cutting-edge product is self-curing, requiring no additional primers or products to finish the job after you coat your concrete floors. Best of all? Your garage won’t have to be “off-limits” for too long; Rapid Set NewCrete is ready for foot traffic after only two to three hours.

To apply, simply mix the product with water according to the ratio specified on the packaging, stirring for two or three minutes until it reaches a lump-free consistency. Like other resurfacers, NewCrete remains spreadable for about 30 minutes after a batch is mixed, so how much you prep—and the square footage you cover—at once will depend on how much you can do within that time. It’s best to work on one section at a time, especially if you’re resurfacing a large area. Wet the old concrete with clean water and make sure there is no standing water before applying the NewCrete mixture to prefill any minor cracks or holes. Once you’ve addressed these, spread the rest of your resurfacing product on in an even, thin layer up to 1/8-inch thick. Thanks to the product’s speedy curing, you’ll have a flawless finish that you can walk across as soon as 60 minutes after you complete the last section.


Concrete Floor Repair - Level Low Paints with Concrete Leveler

Photo: ctscement.com

Level Out Any Low Points
Many garage floors see dips, depressions, or hollows caused by settling or by moisture intrusion. To reverse these imperfections before they cause deeper structural problems, you will need to smooth out the surface using a premium product such as Concrete Leveler. This easy-to-use material is designed to spread across uneven concrete, filling in low spots and creating a new, level surface in the process.

For best results, first prepare the surface of the existing concrete by applying Concrete Leveler Primer to prevent pinholes and bubbles in the leveling layer. Then, mix enough Concrete Leveler with water to cover the entire surface of the garage floor while filling in the depression. (At half-inch thickness, a 50-pound bag of Concrete Leveler will sufficiently cover 12 to 15 square feet. For a quarter-inch-thick application, the same size bag would cover between 24 and 30 square feet.) Apply the Concrete Leveler compound across the concrete surface, getting all the way into the corners and along the edges using a long-handled squeegee, and allow gravity to do the rest of the leveling. Within four hours, a smooth, level surface will have formed, strong enough to be walked upon; after 24 hours, you can even roll the car back in.


Concrete Floor Repair - Fill in Cracks with Cement All

Photo: ctscement.com

Fill In the Cracks
Sometimes even the most solid concrete floors can develop structural damages—crumbling, chipping, or deep cracks—as a result of something as simple as freezing and thawing in the changing seasons. To remedy these issues before they get worse, turn to a professional-grade product: Rapid Set Cement All. This high-quality, fast-setting material offers superior adhesion to pre-existing, damaged concrete, making minor concrete repairs an easy do-it-yourself project and eliminating the need for a full-on floor replacement.

Thoroughly clean the area to be repaired, removing any crumbling concrete. Saturate the surface, then mix the necessary amount of Cement All (ideally with a power-driven mechanical mixer) for one to three minutes until it’s reached a smooth, peanut-butter consistency. Apply the resulting compound to the damaged area, packing it to the desired level, and smooth the concrete with a trowel or broom. Once the surface loses it moist sheen, you can finish by water-curing for at least an hour.

Not only will you have restored your garage floor to its former glory with assistance from any of these CTS Cement | Rapid Set products, but you will have made it even better! When repairing structural damage with Cement All, you’re implementing an aid that rates as three times stronger than most concrete, ensuring that your garage floor will continue to stand up to traffic and weather for years to come.


This post has been brought to you by CTS Cement | Rapid Set. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.

How To: Unclog a Bathtub

Don’t let dirty water submerge your ankles for one more shower! Take these simple steps to a smooth drain

How to Unclog a Bathtub

Photo: istockphoto.com

Nothing interferes with a refreshing shower like a slow-draining bathtub. And that inch or two of water that sneaks up on you is also likely to leave a ring of soap scum and dirt that’s tough to clean. The cause of this scuzzy situation is commonly a clump of hair gathered in the drain pipe a few inches below the stopper. Fortunately, it’s quick and easy enough remove the stopper and banish that nasty bundle. So act on the guidance that follows to unclog the bathtub and enjoy a delightful shower experience again.

- 12-gauge wire or metal coat hanger
- Wire cutters
- Needle-nose pliers
- 4-in-1 screwdriver
- Rubber gloves
- Trash bag
- Utility knife
- Liquid dish soap

Snip a straight, 6-inch section of 12-gauge wire or coat hanger with your wire cutters. Grab one end of the wire with your needle-nose pliers, about ½” in, and bend it up to make a small hook. You want about a ½”-wide U-shaped hook so hair won’t fall off as you extract it. Set the hook aside.

How to Unclog a Bathtub

Photo: istockphoto.com

If you stop your bathtub with a plug, move directly to Step 3. If your tub has a stopper, there are different methods to remove it, depending on type.

  • Removing a drop stopper that you twist half a turn to pop down and close, a screwdriver is required. Usually but not always, a Phillips head will do the job. To take out the stopper, raise it as high as you can. Inside, just under the stopper, you’ll find a small screw on the shaft. Loosen this screw a bit and the top slides off. Set it aside.
  • A push/lock stopper that you push down to lock shut, then push up to release, is easily removed by unscrewing the stopper. The shaft is removable by loosening the screw on the shaft so that the shaft slides up and out. Note: You may need to futz a bit with this screw to get a proper seal when you reinstall the shaft, so be prepared to test the seal and make adjustments.

Look inside the drain to see the hair clump. Don your rubber gloves and get a trash bag ready. Insert the hook you made to remove and discard the hair. Carefully cut any remaining hair wrapped around the crosshairs or bars with your utility knife and remove these last bits with your gloved fingers.

Remove all your tools and stopper parts from the bathtub and then run the water to see how free-flowing the drain is. Is it draining quickly? Move ahead to Step 6.

Still draining slow? Pour some liquid dish soap, up to ¼ cup, into the drain and follow that with a bucket of hot water, poured slowly to lubricate pipes and push through any residue. If you’ve got plastic pipes, use hot water from the tap only; anything hotter could loosen the pipes. For metal pipes, boiling water can be used. If your drain is still running slow, you might have to use a snake or call a plumber.

Replace the stopper and clean the bathtub. Clean and dry your hook, too, saving it for future clog-busting duties. To keep clogs at bay, use a drain cover and avoid emptying mop buckets and other liquids likely to contain dust, dirt, lint, and pet hair into your tub.

How To: Spray Paint Metal

Spray your way to a whole new look with the right paint and these tips.

How to Spray Paint Metal

Photo: istockphoto.com

Metal furniture and ornaments are popular because they’re durable, but the longer a piece lasts, the older its look can become. Fortunately, everything from chairs and lamps to shelving and hardware can be spruced up with a fresh coat of spray paint. Generally speaking, the best spray paint for metal is hard-wearing enamel. Its oil base makes it somewhat slow to dry, but it stands up to cleaning and use well; many enamel paints are rustproof, too. Read the label or ask your retailer if suitable for your project. Then stock up: The average 12-ounce can should yield 8 to 10 square feet coverage, but if your retailer has a good return policy, consider buying more than you think you need. It’s easy to underestimate, and you don’t want to run out in the middle of a project.

- Medium- and fine-grit sandpaper or steel-bristle brush
- Cloths
- Drop cloths
- Masking tape
- Mask
- Goggles
- Rubber gloves
- Paint thinner
- Primer (optional)
- Spray paint

Step 1
Proper surface prep is essential for spray paint adhesion, so sand or brush off all loose paint and rust spots. Because shiny objects seldom allow paint to bond well, use the metal brush and sandpaper to lightly scour and dull the surface till it looks lightly scratched, almost like brushed nickel. A very lightly scoured surface will help paint bond; don’t be overly zealous or you’ll get gouges or scratches.

How to Spray Paint Metal

Photo: istockphoto.com

Step 2
Wipe thoroughly with clean, dry cloth to remove any dust, dirt, and debris. You may need a water-dampened rag to remove stubborn crud, but ensure metal is 100 percent dry before painting.

Step 3
Prepare your work location, which ideally will be outdoors and protected from wind. Not only can wind blow leaves and pollen onto your project, it can literally push your paint around, causing uneven results. If working indoors, ventilate the area well, opening doors and windows. Move all furniture from the area or cover with drop cloths, and also protect floors with drop cloths or newspaper for as much as 10 feet around your work zone for large projects. Using masking tape, tape off areas of your piece that you want to keep unpainted.

Step 4
Get your mask, gloves, and goggles on and test your spray paint to ensure it provides a thin, fine mist. Shake the can vigorously for 45 to 60 seconds and spray onto a cardboard box or the bottom of your project. If you see spitting or uneven spray on a new can, return it for a replacement. Spitting can mean a malfunctioning nozzle, but it also might be a bit clogged; if dealing with a can of paint you’ve had for a while, try cleaning the nozzle with warm water. If that doesn’t resolve matters, dab lacquer or paint thinner onto the nozzle with a rag, then wipe it off and test it again.

Step 5
If your paint doesn’t include primer, follow the painting techniques in Step 6 with a paint primer and allow it to dry thoroughly before repeating Step 6 for your first color coat.

Step 6
These techniques will ensure smooth, even results. Repeat with as many as three applications, working in light, even coats.

  • Always begin and end spraying off your project, by simply spritzing the air beside it, to ensure that once paint hits the target, you’re shooting a steady, even, misting spray.
  • Holding the can a foot from the painting surface, aim the light, fine mist on the object and sweep side to side or up and down to coat the width or length of your project. Each time you complete a single pass or row, stop spraying and give your can a quick shake for 5 to 10 seconds, then start spraying off the item before you do another pass. For every new spray, overlap with the last row of paint. Briefly shake the can regularly throughout the process.
  • If painting larger items, like bookshelves or an iron fence, step along sideways toward the direction of your spray. If you only move your arm, you may not maintain the same density of spray.
  • Pausing even briefly, or hovering, while spraying can create drips or spots. If this happens, remove all excess wet paint with a clean, dry, lint-free cloth. If you don’t notice these drips until after the drying process, sand them down with a fine-grit paper and dry-wipe the dust off.

Step 7
If you get paint on anything accidentally, use the label-recommended paint thinner or cleaning agent and a rag to clean up as soon as possible, before paint dries or cures. Then allow your project to dry thoroughly. Drying time varies by paint type, coat thickness, and even weather and humidity—it could take anywhere from three hours to overnight. Just be sure to wait 24 hours before using spray-painted items.

How to Spray Paint Metal

Photo: istockphoto.com



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How To: Descale a Kettle

Say goodbye to those stubborn limescale deposits in your teakettle with a low-cost DIY solution.

How to Descale a Kettle

Photo: istockphoto.com

As temperatures chill, who can resist a piping-hot cup of tea? But beware! If you fall into the tea habit, over time you’ll discover that the interior of your kettle will gradually become coated in limescale. These white calcium deposits form on the inside of kettles, both electric and stovetop varieties, when hot water evaporates and leaves solid minerals behind. The results are both unsightly and unsavory. Plus, if neglected too long, limescale can shorten the life of your kettle. While you can certainly use commercial products to descale your kettle, everyday acids are equally effective—and often more affordable.

- Cloth
- Soft sponge
- Dish soap
- White vinegar
- Lemon or lime (optional)

Safety comes first. Before descaling, make sure to first unplug an electric kettle or turn off the heating element under a stovetop model. When the kettle is cool to the touch, discard any remaining liquid, remove the lid, and rinse the interior under cold water.

In order to remove exterior grime or grease, gently wipe the sides and base of the kettle using a soft sponge saturated with water and dish soap. Because copper and stainless steel kettles tend to scratch easily, use only nonabrasive sponges or cloths to remove caked-on residue. Avoid wire brushes or scouring pads that can damage or discolor the kettle. Dry the kettle with a soft cloth.

When you’re dealing with an electric kettle, exercise caution to avoid exposing the electrical components or the socket to water. Never immerse an electric kettle in water. If your electric kettle is equipped with a built-in water filter, don’t forget to clean grime from the filter itself. Remove the filter according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and then rinse it under hot water. Gently wipe the filter with a soft cloth before drying and pressing it back into place.

How to Descale a Kettle

Photo: istockphoto.com

Fill the kettle halfway with a solution of equal parts cold water and white vinegar, a natural descaling agent. As an alternative, citric acid can also break down limescale; just fill the kettle with the juice of one fresh lemon or lime topped with enough cold water to reach the halfway point of the kettle.

Turn on the stove under the kettle, or plug in your electric kettle, and bring the solution to a boil. Once the water is boiling, turn off the heat, be it a burner or the electric power. (If your electric kettle has an automatic switch-off feature, let it turn off on its own.) Allow the vinegar-water (or citrus) solution to sit in the kettle for 30 minutes to an hour.

TIP: While either diluted vinegar or lemon is gentle enough for most kettles, you should reference the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid exposing your kettle to liquids that could cause damage. If you’re unsure how your kettle will react to an acid, test a drop of the solution on an inconspicuous area before proceeding with the full soak.

With the decalcifying stage complete, you can now pour out the vinegar-water (or citrus) solution. When the kettle’s empty, remove the lid and rinse the interior under cold water. Any lingering limescale can be wiped away with a clean, damp cloth. Because the acetic acid in vinegar is powerful enough to dissolve limescale, vigorous scrubbing is neither needed nor recommended.

Though you may have successfully descaled a kettle, that mean it is ready to boil water for your next beverage. Prevent any vinegary aftertaste from seeping into future cups of tea, fill the kettle halfway with cold water. Turn on the stove or plug in the electric kettle, and boil the water in the kettle to deodorize it. When the odor is gone, discard the water and air-dry the kettle before its next use.

Repeat this routine to descale the kettle once every month or so, depending on how often you use your kettle, and you’ll keep contaminants at bay while your beverages remain fresh and flavorful.