Welcome to Bob Vila


Bob Vila Radio: Protect Trees from Lightning

This time of year, thunderstorms are inevitable. Before bad weather comes to your neck of the woods, consider taking steps to protect the trees that contribute so much to the beauty—and value—of your property.

Beautiful trees enhance the look and value of residential properties, so no wonder people spend so much time trying to keep them healthy. One step you can take to ensure trees stay healthy is to protect them from lightning.

How to Protect Trees from Lightning

Photo: shutterstock.com

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to BOB VILA ON PROTECTING TREES FROM LIGHTNING or read the text below:

Trees attract lightning for a couple of reasons. One, they’re tall. Two, they’re filled with an excellent conductor of electricity—water. Protection usually involves installing a copper cable that’s affixed to a lightning rod at the top of the tree and runs down to a long copper stake that’s driven into ground beyond the tree’s drip line. The cable isn’t attached directly to the tree. Instead, it’s mounted with special fasteners that keep it away from the trunk.

Protection doesn’t come cheap. The tab for protecting a large tree can run into several thousand dollars. If that gets you thinking of installing a cable yourself, you’ll want to ensure it’s done right. Nailing a cable directly to the trunk of a tree can attract strikes and end up doing more harm than good.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.



Weekend Projects: 5 Low-Cost DIY Fire Pits

Even a do-it-yourself novice can complete a DIY fire pit for less than a hundred bucks—and within a single weekend!

After a summer spent out in the Great Wide Open, we hate to retreat indoors, but in most parts of the country, it’s only a matter of time before bitterly cold winter temperatures set in. For now, though, you can extend patio season and enjoy the fall season to utmost, with a DIY fire pit. Scroll down to see five different approaches, each of which involves a different material and a different level of skill to complete. Their s’more-making capabilities? Equally outstanding.

 

1. ROCK ON

DIY Fire Pit - Stones

Photo: spoonfulofimagination.com

Rocks arranged in a circle: If there’s an older, more tried-and-tried way of safely containing a fire, I’d like to know about it. No, you needn’t live near a quarry; Spoonful of Imagination built one from stones found on the property. Occasionally maintained, this is a zero-dollar DIY fire pit that’s bound to last a lifetime.

 

2. BLOCK IT OUT

DIY Fire Pit - Cinder Blocks

Photo: mustaddfabricsoftener.com

Cinder blocks lend themselves well to a variety of projects around the house. Here, Must Add Fabric Softener laid two courses of cinder blocks over a platform of pavers to create a $20 DIY fire pit. To more firmly secure the assembly, an optional step would be to put construction adhesive where the blocks join one another.

 

3. SEE IT THROUGH

DIY Fire Pit - Glass

Photo: theartofdoingstuff.com

Karen of The Art of Doing Stuff made what she calls a “personal fire pit.” A can of gel fuel situated in the base—a repurposed metal planter—delivers the small flame, while decorative stones lay over cut-to-size mesh. Framing the fire bed is a transparent box made of four glass panels connected together with silicone.

 

4. GRILL IT UP

Photo: instructables.com

Here’s a DIY fire pit designed and built around a portable charcoal grill. The concrete portions are pre-made and readily available in home centers, where the clerks would know them as “tree rings.” Perhaps the most difficult part is to design the inner ring so that it’s of the perfect size to support the lip of a grill bowl at center.

 

5. A DRUM, SOLO

DIY Fire Pit - Drum

Photo: houseandfig.com

I would never have thought of turning the drum from a busted washing machine into a DIY fire pit. House and Fig began by stripping the drum of all its plastic parts. Next, unsightly edges were removed (with a grinder), legs were welded on, and the entire thing was painted with high-heat black matte paint. Brilliant!


Bob Vila Radio: Dodge the Dangers of Demolition Work

Before you dive into demolition, understand a few things about how to safely undertake these types of jobs.

Demolition is one part of the remodeling process that most homeowners can lend a hand with. But there are some important points to keep in mind.

Photo: shutterstock.com

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to BOB VILA ON DEMOLITION or read the text below:

Before you start cutting into sheetrock, make sure you know where all your plumbing, electric, and cable lines are located. Same for heating and AC components.

If you’re planning to do anything with a wall, first check in the basement to see if the floor joists run parallel with the wall upstairs. If they do, chances are it’s a load-bearing wall, meaning it’s integral to the structure of the house and should only be altered by someone who’s qualified.

Having the right tools makes demolition jobs a lot easier. The basics include hammers, screwdrivers, pry bars, and a reciprocating saw. It’s also a good idea to have a dumpster handy to keep the work area clear.

And don’t forget safety gear—eye, ear, and lung protection are all important. So too is a hard hat. They’ll lessen chances your job will be postponed by a trip to the emergency room!

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day. 


The Right Way to Weatherstrip a Door

Besides being unpleasant, door drafts force your heating system to work harder (and consume more energy) to keep your home at a consistently comfortable temperature. You can go a long way toward solving the issue by weatherstripping your doors. Here's how to do it the right way.

Door Weather Stripping

Photo: montpelierrestoration.wordpress.com

Door drafts can be a cause of real discomfort. Besides the immediate unpleasantness of a chilly gust invading the warmth of your home in winter, there’s also the impact that drafts can have on your energy bills. That’s where weatherstripping comes in. According to Energy Star, the installation of weatherstripping can save you up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs. Best of all, virtually anyone can install weatherstripping; this is definitely not a sophisticated DIY. But to coax the greatest value from its insulating properties, weatherstripping must be installed correctly. Continue reading to learn the right way to go about the project.

STEP 1
First, clean the door and the jamb, removing as much dirt and debris as possible. If any grime remains after scrubbing with soapy water, consider using fine-grit sandpaper to eliminate residual buildup. Once you’ve got the doorway clean, proceed to do some measuring. You need to answer two questions. First, how wide is the gap between the door and jamb? (Be sure to measure twice, once along the side, and again along the top. These measurements might differ.) Second, how wide is the jamb? While the answer to the first question tells you how thick the weatherstripping you purchase can be, the second answer reveals how widePlan on buying enough weatherstripping to run across the width and height of the door, plus about 10 percent extra (just in case).

Door Weather Stripping - Install Detail

Photo: dulley.com

STEP 2
Weatherstripping comes in a variety of materials. Each has pros and cons. Felt weatherstripping offers the benefits of being cheap and very easy to cut and install, but because it’s not very durable, it’s best confined to rarely used doors. Marginally more expensive is easy-to-install foam weatherstripping. Though foam wears better than felt, neither boasts the durability of rubber, the most expensive option. Rubber insulates well, but it can be somewhat challenging to install. Unlike the other options, it often must be nailed into place.

STEP 3
With your chosen weatherstripping at the ready, proceed to cut three pieces—one for the top, and two for the sides. If the product features an adhesive back, peel it away and press it into place around the perimeter of the door jamb, not the door itself. Even if your weatherstripping has adhesive, you may wish to reinforce the installation with heavy-duty staples or small tacking nails. Either will help keep the weatherstripping in place over time.

STEP 4
To complete the job, install a sweep along the bottom of the door. The most common type of door sweep consists of a metal band from which a strip of rubber juts down. When the door opens, the rubber flexes so as not to be an impediment, and when the door closes, the rubber provides a strong air seal.

Door sweeps come in standard sizes, but if you cannot find one whose width matches that of your door, you can use a hacksaw to cut the sweep down to size. Attach the right-size sweep to the door using the screws provided. Because these screws tend to be small and not self-tapping, it’s best to predrill holes for them by means of an electric drill/driver. Position the sweep so that it seals tightly against the threshold.

From start to finish, the door weatherstripping process should take no longer than an hour. That’s a small time commitment to ensure that you remain comfortable through the winter, without spending a fortune on to keep the house warm. Though it’s a simple project, weatherstripping really is one of the most effective ways to stop drafts and the discomfort they cause.

 


Bob Vila Thumbs Up: The PVC Pipe Competition Starts Today

Vote now—and vote daily—to choose your favorite among the PVC pipe projects competing to win this month's Bob Vila Thumbs Up competition!

PVC Projects

PVC pipes are a ubiquitous fixture in many homes, though you wouldn’t know it by looking at the surface. That’s because PVC pipe, a tried and true plumbing product, is usually hidden behind walls, in basements, or even underground. So that’s what makes this month’s Bob Vila Thumbs Up competitors so incredible; each and every one of these bloggers has transformed an often overlooked home staple into an extraordinary—and affordable—DIY project.

Most of these projects can be completed in an afternoon, but don’t let their apparent simplicity fool you. No matter how long they take to accomplish they get big points for creativity—and any one could be this month’s Bob Vila Thumbs Up winner and take home the prize—a $250 gift card from True Value.

SEE ALL PROJECTS HERE!

Each of these projects gets the Bob Vila stamp of approval, but only one can win. That’s why we need you to vote now and each day this month for your favorite projects. After all, it’s your vote that will determine who will be this month’s winning Bob Vila Thumbs Up blogger.

Congrats to last month’s winning blogger, Sarah M. Dorsey Designs. Read more about winning Bob Vila Thumbs Up project right here.

Would you like to recommend a blogger for the next Bob Vila Thumbs Up? Tell us about it on Facebook or Twitter! 


Bob Vila Radio: Pros and Cons of Cathedral Ceilings

There are many reasons to love cathedral ceilings—and one big reason to temper your affection.

Vaulted ceilings, also called cathedral ceilings, have some great attributes, but others you may not be so fond of. On the one hand, they do give your room a light and airy feel, and they can make a small room appear bigger than it really is.

Cathedral Ceilings

Photo: laramasselos.com

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to BOB VILA ON VAULTED CEILINGS or read the text below:

But when it comes to energy efficiency, cathedral ceilings a bit of a bust, especially during the winter. That’s because air you’ve spent your money to heat ends up at the peak of the ceiling, not down where it can keep you warm (although a ceiling fan can help with that).

As an energy-saving alternative, you might consider what’s called a ‘tray ceiling.’ Tray ceilings look like conventional flat ceilings, except all but the outer part of the ceiling is raised a foot or so. The reduced height of a tray ceiling can help keep your heating bills within reason, but you’ll still get some of that light-and-airy feel.

Before you start cutting into collar ties, be sure to check with a contractor or structural engineer.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


How To: Remove Poison Ivy from Your Yard

If poison ivy crops up on your property, you can remove it chemically, naturally, or—if you're ready to get your hands dirty—physically.

Photo: shutterstock.com

Homeowners know too well that not all greenery contributes to the beauty of a garden. Weeds, for instance, are a chief nuisance, and the meticulous among us have spent countless weekend hours picking dandelions, nettle, and thistle out of the ground. But even in their multitudes, weeds are more or less benign when compared to the itchy threat posed by poison ivy. If you spot these vine-like plants, with their telltale trio of pointed leaves, you can resign yourself to the inevitability of suffering a painful red rash, or you can take action. We highly recommend the latter! Read on to learn three different ways to get rid of poison ivy.

Chemicals
Upon realizing there’s poison ivy growing on their property, most people enlist a store-bought herbicide. Before purchasing any, double-check that the product in question contains either glyphosate or triclopyr. (Because both of these chemicals kill most other plants in addition to poison ivy, you may wish to use an alternative method, depending on whether or not the poison ivy abuts plant material you would like to keep alive.) Closely following the product directions, fill up a spray bottle with the herbicide and apply it directly to the leaves of the poison ivy. Remember: Herbicide is potent stuff, so be careful where you’re spraying. If, for instance, the poison ivy is climbing up the trunk of a tree, take pains not to get any herbicide on the tree bark. Instead, dab a bit of herbicide directly onto the individual leaves of the poison ivy plant. Once you’ve finished treating the area, monitor it on and off for the next couple of weeks, reapplying if and when the poison ivy reemerges.

How to Get Rid of Poison Ivy - Leaf Detail

Photo: shutterstock.com

Naturally
If you steer clear of commercial herbicides because of the chemicals they contain, experiment with an organic approach. You need not look any farther than your kitchen pantry for an active ingredient. It turns out that salt, in high enough concentrations, works to kill most unwanted plants, including poison ivy. But you can’t simply sprinkle it around. First things first, concoct a saline solution by mixing three pounds of salt, a gallon of water, and a quarter-cup of dish soap. Fill a spray bottle with your homemade herbicide and apply it directly to the poison ivy leaves. Do so on a clear day, allowing the salt the opportunity to do its job before rain washes it away. Check back occasionally and continue to re-apply the herbicide until the poison ivy no longer returns. Be careful not to spray the herbicide onto neighboring plants, unless you’re willing to bid them farewell.

Get Physical
The least hands-off method is perhaps the most effective way to get rid of poison ivy. Provided you own a good pair of work gloves (and a set of full-sleeve clothing), the answer to your problem can be as simple as digging up the poison ivy with a garden trowel. To remove all the roots, be sure to excavate each plant to a depth of around eight inches. Also, take extra care in outfitting yourself for the task. It’s not a bad idea to go so far as using duct tape to seal the seam between your gloves and shirtsleeves (and between your pants and socks).

Whatever method you choose, fully getting rid of poison ivy requires patience and persistence. If a plant reemerges, keep at it with your chosen method, always being careful to keep your skin protected as you work.


Enter Bob Vila’s $5,000 Fall Flooring Give-Away—TODAY!

Enter for your chance to win Lumber Liquidators flooring!

It’s October, and fall is here in earnest. You might find yourself searching for ways to reinvigorate your surroundings. With the seasonal change in mind, we partnered with Lumber Liquidators to help you refresh your home. This month, one lucky winner will receive $5,000 worth of Lumber Liquidators flooring! Lumber Liquidators’ flooring options will bring new style and functionality into your space–from the ground up. If you’re considering the switch to hardwood floors, now’s the time to enter.

ENTER HERE TO WIN

Today and every day this month (from noon EST Tuesday, September 30th, through 11:59 a.m. Friday, October 31st), enter to win one $5,000 prize applicable towards Lumber Liquidators flooring (see Official Rules below).

Fall Flooring Give-Away

Photo: lumberliquidators.com

If you win this month’s give-away, you’ll get $5,000 of premium hardwood flooring, courtesy of Lumber Liquidators! The company was started in 1993 by contractor Tom Sullivan, and grew quickly after that, specializing in a wide variety of hardwood floor options. They offer solid and engineered hardwood, engineered hardwood, bamboo, cork, and resilient vinyl flooring for all your needs. Butcher blocks, molding, accessories and tools are also for sale at their website and at their many store locations.

• Lumber Liquidators boasts one of the largest collections of unfinished and prefinished hardwood flooring in the industry, so you’ll never have to go anywhere else.

• Their engineered hardwood and resilient vinyl options especially durable, allowing your floors standing up to changing temperatures, humidity, and day-to-day wear.

• Choose between different finishes depending on the look you want, and don’t forget their easy clickable flooring options!

Enter Bob Vila’s $5,000 Fall Flooring Give-Away daily to increase your odds of winning $5,000 of flooring from Lumber Liquidators.

To learn more about Lumber Liquidators and their variety of flooring options, click here.

The “Bob Vila’s $5,000 Fall Flooring Give-Away” is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Contest Period for Prize runs from 12:00 p.m. (EST) EST Tuesday, Spetember 3oth, 2014 through 11:59 am Friday, October 31st, 2014. 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.


How To: Clean Pillows

When was the last time you washed your pillows? If you don't remember, then it's probably well past time to do so.

How to Clean Pillows

Photo: shutterstock.com

Whether tucked under our heads while sleeping or behind our backs while lounging in the living room, pillows are an often used, seldom truly appreciated hallmark of the civilized world. Perhaps it’s because we take them for granted that we tend not to clean pillows as often as we should. Or perhaps people don’t clean pillows for a simpler reason: They didn’t know they could. In any case, consider the mystery solved. You can indeed clean pillows, and here’s how it’s done.

Bed Pillows
Check their care labels, of course, but most pillows today can be machine-washed and dried, no matter what they’re stuffed with. Try to clean two pillows simultaneously, because a lone pillow gets thrown around so much in the process that its filling can come out distorted. Once you’ve loaded the washer with a pair, set the machine to run on a hot-water cycle. Add the normal amount of detergent, opting for liquid rather than powder, because the latter can leave a residue. Run two complete rinse cycles to fully rid the pillows of soap, then immediately move them to the dryer. Synthetic-filled pillows should ry on the machine’s lowest setting, while down- or feather-filled pillows are best dried on the air or fluff cycle. Before closing the dryer door, throw in two new tennis balls, each tied off within a white sock (a precaution meant to keep the balls’ neon dye from transferring to the pillows). The balls bounce around in the drum and help restore full pillow fluff.

How to Clean Sofa Pillows

Photo: Shutterstock.com

Pillows yellowed from sweat need a little more TLC. In the washing stage, start by filling the machine a third of the way with hot (even boiling water), then add in one cup of powdered laundry detergent, one cup of powdered dishwasher detergent, and a half-cup of borax. Finally, add a full cup of bleach into its designated compartment, before starting the machine and letting it run for a few minutes to agitate and dissolve the detergents. Now put in the your pillows—again, clean two simultaneously for best results—and run the washer on its hottest water setting. Go through two complete rinse cycles before moving the pillows to the dryer (and again, for maximum fluff, include two tennis balls knotted inside white socks).

Decorative Pillows
Many decorative pillows have zippers that allow for the case to be separated from the cushion. In these instances, simply remove the case and wash according to the care directions on the label. If you’d like to clean a throw pillow whose cover doesn’t come off, first consider the fabric it’s made of. Don’t know? Check the label; it should say whether it’s velvet, silk, linen, cotton or a synthetic. Generally speaking, velvet, silk, and upholstery materials—or any pillow with heavy braiding or trim—must be professionally dry-cleaned.

If your throw pillow cover is made of thinner cotton, linen, or a synthetic fabric, you can use a mild upholstery shampoo. But first, lightly rub a damp sponge over an inconspicuous spot on the pillow to test how colorfast the fabric is. If the color leaks, have the pillow dry-cleaned. If not, proceed to whip the upholstery shampoo into a froth, then use the same damp sponge to rub suds over the entire pillow. With a white towel, pat away excess foam, before giving the pillow plenty of time to completely air dry.


DIY Desk Organizer with PVC Pipe

PVC pipe makes for a cheap and efficient desktop organization solution.

PVC Pipe Desk Organizer

Why buy a desktop organizer when you can make your own? That’s what Cher, brains behind Designs by Studio C, thought when she made this incredible PVC pipe office supply holder. Taking her inspiration from an in-store version, she hacked her own for less money and only a little extra work. Well done! Take a look to see how she took a simple plastic tube and made it into so much more.

For less than $10.00 including paint, you can make desk organizing cups with PVC in whatever color you want to match your decor plus the number of cubbies are entirely up to you!

MATERIALS

- PVC pipe (2″, 1.5″, 1.25″ round sizes)
- cardboard
- liquid nails
- spray paint
- mitre saw (or handsaw—or ask them to cut for you at hardware store)

STEP 1

I used a miter saw (or you can use a handsaw and miter box) to cut the pipe in random lengths. I cut a 30 deg. bevel at one end of each pipe.

Cut PVC pipe for DIY desktop organizer

STEP 2

I used spray paint (Valspar in Gloss Frosty Berry) and painted each piece separately.

STEP 3

Once the pieces were dry, I arranged the pieces in a manner I was happy with—not an easy task—then glued the pieces together with dabs of Liquid Nails.

Glue PVC pipe for DIY desktop organizer

 

STEP 4

For the bottom, I put the entire assembly on a piece of cardboard and drew around the outside of the cubbies.

Making DIY PVC pipe Desk Organizer

STEP 5

I cut it out with scissors, dabbed Liquid Nails on the bottom of the cubbies, and attached it to the cardboard.

DIY PVC Pipe Desktop Organizer

It is so easy and inexpensive to make desk organizing cups with PVC – the cups can be edged with washi tape for a sort of whimsical look or paint each pipe a different color. Taller pipes can be used for organizing paint brushes, as well.

PVC pipe organizer finished

Thanks for sharing, Cher! To see even more ingenious DIY projects and furniture plans, check out her website, Designs by Studio C.