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How To: Get Rid of Mothball Smell

Try some of these strategies for removing the smell of mothballs from your clothes and closets, and learn how to avoid using mothballs altogether!

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How to Get Rid of Mothball Smell - In Your Clothes

Photo: fotosearch.com

The pungent odor of mothballs is the very smell of storage. Made from either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, these little lumps of pesticide give off a toxic vapor that not only kills moths and their larva but also kills or repels a number of other insects. While these fumes’ efficacy made mothballs a go-to choice for protecting treasured blouses and sweaters stashed between seasons, their offensive scent lingers on clothes, carpets, closet interiors—wherever they were placed—long after you’d like. While airing the musty items out helps dissipate the smell, a little DIY know-how and some dedicated effort can help eradicate the mothball scent more quickly. Read on for a few strategies for removing the odor of mothballs from your clothes and throughout the home.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Vinegar
- Water
- Non-chlorine bleach
- Detergent
- Activated charcoal

How to Get Rid of Mothball Smell - Mothballs with Napthalene

Photo: fotosearch.com

Once you’ve assembled your arsenal of odor-fighting ingredients, you’re ready to combat mothball odors wherever you find them.

To Treat Washable Clothing…
One of the most successful methods for ridding the mothball smell from clothing is to soak the affected garments in a solution of equal parts water and vinegar. Alternatively, put the clothes in the washing machine and run a cycle using only vinegar; follow up with another wash cycle using detergent and softener. Vary the treatment depending on the clothing; for example, for more delicate fabrics you might try combining the vinegar and water in a spray bottle and spritzing the fabric.

No vinegar on hand? Durable clothing can be presoaked in hot water and non-chlorine bleach, followed by a normal wash cycle using detergent and softener.

Whatever method you choose, be sure not to put the clothes in the dryer until the smell is gone, as heat could permanently set any mothball smell that remains.

To Treat Closets and Rooms…
The odor can be particularly stubborn in rooms or closets where mothballed clothes have been stored. To remove these odors, leave out bowls of vinegar or plates of activated charcoal in the affected areas. (Activated charcoal is sold in various pellet sizes and is usually available at pet stores.) You can also try placing containers of coffee grounds or odor-absorbing candles for similar results. Whichever material you choose, place it in the areas with the heaviest smells, and change it often until the smell is gone.

A Less Offensive Alternative

While they’re great for protecting fabrics from the ravages of insects, mothballs have bigger drawbacks than simply their smell. If ingested, can also be toxic to children, pets, and other animals, so it’s important not to use them in outdoor locations or in attics or crawlspaces. It’s worth keeping in mind that the fumes can cause dizziness or nausea in some people, so exercise caution if you’re considering using them around the house.

Given the effort and time required to get rid of that mothball smell, there’s some benefit in seeking out alternatives that won’t make you want to plug your nose and hold your breath. Some popular “natural” moth repellents involve ingredients like flowers, herbs, or essential oils. To make one such repellent, combine lavender blossoms, whole cloves, and a couple of handfuls of cedar chips, then place the mixture in cheesecloth or another breathable material, and tie it at the ends. Use these sachets in areas of concern; replace them as the scent wears off to ensure prevention. Many of these mixtures include lavender oil or other fragrant oils that not only deter moths but also give off pleasing scents to delight homeowners and their guests.

Other tips to keep in mind when storing clothes without mothballs:

• Before putting clothes away for the season, wash and dry them to remove any scents that attract moths.
• Store clothes in well-sealed containers or vacuum storage bags to restrict moth access.
• Wipe out all containers or drawers prior to use to remove any existing moth eggs.
• Stash a mix of natural repellents away with the clothes. Candidates include bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, eucalyptus leaves, peppercorns, rosemary, wormwood, and many other botanicals.


Quick Tip: The Trick to Drilling Through Slippery Ceramic Tile

This quick trick makes easy work of drilling holes through slick tiles.

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How to Drill Hole in Tile

Photo: fotosearch.com

How to Drill Hole in Tile - Hole

Photo: fotosearch.com

Cutting a hole through the glazed surface of ceramic tile can be tricky, as the glaze is slippery and ceramic is breakable. But if you need to mount a towel rack or toilet paper holder on an existing tiled wall, it’s an unavoidable task, as the anchor screws for the fixtures have to get through the tile and into the stud or backer board behind it. Luckily, a little help from a DIY staple can make the process much easier.

The key to keeping your drill from slipping and sliding is as simple as a strip of painter’s tape. This non-damaging adhesive gives your bit traction and prevents it from meandering all over the tile, which can mark up your surfaces with unsightly scratches. And, unlike masking tape, it won’t leave gummy residue in its wake.

To start, make a cross with two pieces of painter’s tape at the drill site. Use a permanent marker to draw a dot on the tape where the hole must go. Next, create a starter hole by gently tapping a center punch on the dot to penetrate just below the surface of the glaze. Assemble a carbide-tipped masonry bit of the appropriate size in your drill, and set your power tool to the lowest speed. Apply moderate pressure as you proceed, working slowly to avoid splitting the tile.

If the bit starts to overheat, lubricate it with water or cutting oil every 15 to 30 seconds. You can spray the tip of the bit with water as you drill, or dip the tip in cutting oil, remembering to wipe off any residue before resuming. Once you’ve made it through the tile, remove the tape to reveal a clean hole that’s ready to take on its new fixture.


Bob Vila Radio: An “Old School” Storage Staple Comes Home

The lockers we knew in our youth are now skipping school and coming home to serve as a unique and versatile storage solution for a new class of nostalgic homeowners.

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Remember twisting the dial of your combination lock to retrieve a textbook from your high school locker? Well, you’re not the only one. Lately, plenty of nostalgic graduates have been repurposing lockers for use in the home.

vintage-lockers-entryway

Photo: fotosearch.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON REPURPOSING SCHOOL LOCKERS or read the text below:

Look for lockers in thrift shops, salvage yards, and used furniture stores. Typically, they come fastened together in a set, so in order to fit one into a tight space, you may need to remove a few screws first. Consider your finishing options too. With paint, you can make your lockers match your decor, or you can embrace the vintage look, in all its scratched (or even graffitied) glory.

Lockers with vented doors are great for stashing gym gear in the mudroom or entry hall, while units with rods or hooks for clothing are perfect for kids’ rooms or laundry areas. That’s not all, though; lockers are surprisingly versatile, with dozens of potential applications around the house. Some especially creative folks have even put their vintage finds in the kitchen or pantry.

Where would you put yours?

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!


So, You Want to… Install a Pocket Door

Homeowners who want more space and the convenience of a flexible layout love the pocket door. If you're considering installing one, first read our handy planning guide to see whether this retractable door is right for you.

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Installing Pocket Doors - Sliding Doors for Separating Small Spaces

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Atlanta, GA

What’s true about fashion is true also about doors: If you wait long enough, the old styles come back in vogue. Pocket doors were ubiquitous in Victorian homes, where they were often used to separate large indoor spaces like living rooms and dining rooms. After fading from the architectural scene for a century or so, the pocket door has resurfaced, finding new fans for its space-saving functions and retro forms. Before you start ripping out walls, however, make sure you understand the mechanics of a pocket door to decide whether it’s the best choice for your home.

The Many Pros to Pocket Doors
Rather than swinging open and shut, the pocket door slides into a hidden wall compartment to allow entry and exit. A pocket door is perfect for rooms where you don’t have clearance for a swinging door or you just want to make the best use of space. After all, replacing a swinging door with a pocket door recovers at least 10 square feet of floor space behind the door and frees up real estate on the walls for fixtures or artwork. Moreover, as a pocket door simply withdraws into the wall, it’s even more utilitarian than its trendy cousin, the sliding barn door.

Pocket doors also work well where homeowners want a flexible partition. If a door rarely needs to be closed, or if you’re trying to isolate a smaller room—say, the laundry room, office, or pantry—from a larger open-plan area, pocket doors pull out when you need them and disappear when you don’t. Some designs can be adapted to modern uses—for example, a Dutch pocket door extends only half the height of a standard 80-inch-tall door and pulls out from one side or both, making it a great alternative to those unsightly or rickety safety gates that protect pets or children.

The Pocket Door’s Drawbacks
Unfortunately, pocket doors don’t work everywhere. Before moving ahead with the project, consider these potential complications: locking limitations, door frame stability, and wall space requirements.

Pocket doors don’t seal a room as tightly as a traditional swinging door, and the typical locking mechanism is flimsier than a tubular latch or deadbolt. (If the occupants of your home can learn that a closed door speaks for itself, you might skip the locks altogether and shop for something more creative. Some people use cabinet pulls or even antlers to make an otherwise pedestrian piece of hardware stand out.)

Should the flimsier seal not be problematic for your household, move on to examine the wall in which you intend to fit the door. The pocket-door frame isn’t as strong as the studs it will replace, so it might be inappropriate—or even prohibited—to install one in a load-bearing wall. Consider the work and expense involved, and consult building codes before beginning demolition. Another deal breaker: If the walls abutting the entryway are too short, or cluttered with electrical or plumbing fixtures or built-in shelves or cabinets, there will be nowhere for the pocket door to slide.

Installing Pocket Doors - Closet Door

Photo: fotosearch.com

How to Know If You Have the Space
A pocket door requires a “sleeve” inside the wall of the door frame in which it retracts. For a traditional 32-inch-wide interior door, you’ll need at least 66 inches of linear wall space: 32 inches for the door and the rest for the housing. (Note: It’s OK if this sleeve intersects with another wall, but you might need special hardware to reinforce that juncture if a supportive stud needs to be removed.) The wall should also be thicker than four inches, as the standard door thickness is about two inches.

Another measurement to take during the planning phase is that of the doorway itself. Generally, when it’s open, a pocket door disappears completely and remains accessible via a recessed pull on the leading edge. If, however, you’d rather install handles on the sides of the door, it won’t retract all the way but it will be a little easier to open and close. Ask yourself: Is the doorway wide enough to sacrifice a few inches for that more convenient door pull, or do I need the full width of the walkway because it’s a high-traffic area? Weigh the pros and cons to having it jut out some—remember, the couple of inches your door eats into your walkway may give you wiggle room by requiring less than the standard 66 inches of linear wall space to house it when retracted.

Next, you’ll have to assess what else shares the wall space where the pocket door cage will go and how difficult these fixtures would be to move. The wall is a poor candidate for a pocket door if:
Pipes or electrical wires run through it. Rerouting pipes and wires is beyond the skill set of the average do-it-yourselfer and adds to the installation cost. As well, because of the depth of the electrical box in which it’s housed, you won’t have room for a standard switch or outlet.
You want to hang a heavy frame on a nail that penetrates far into ½- to ¾-inch drywall. This will impede the door’s movement and gouge the door.
You need to install an assist bar or fixture that requires deep anchors. The pocket door cage includes split studs that can support a towel bar or toilet-paper holder but won’t meet the standards for a weight-bearing fixture. If the pocket door frame uses steel studs rather than wood, you’ll have to attach the wallboard to the bottom plate below the pocket door compartment, which further limits the use of wall space.

Installing Pocket Doors - French Doors

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Atlanta, GA

What to Expect at Installation
If all the stars align, you’re ready to introduce your home to this old-fashioned feature. Here’s what to expect with this project.

Assuming you’re not fortunate enough to be installing the door in a home that’s under construction, expect to remove the drywall on both sides of the wall where the pocket door will go. You’ll remove the studs as well to make way for a new door header and pocket door framework. If your home was built before 1978 and it’s likely that the existing walls were finished with lead-based paints, you need to follow protocol to dispose of the materials you’re ripping out.

Do yourself a favor and buy a pocket door installation kit or prefabricated frame—it simplifies the project by orders of magnitude. Kits come with all the hardware, including the track system from which the door hangs; premade units are just what they sound like, with all the parts where they belong. Both include detailed instructions that minimize mistakes. The prefabricated frames fit standard door sizes, but a competent do-it-yourselfer can customize.

Most pocket doors hang from recessed tracks, with the top of the door attached to a trolley system and glides that keep the door centered as it moves. But some are mounted from the ground—or from the ground and ceiling—if the door is heavier and wider than normal. A ground-mounted system can present a tripping hazard and limit accessibility, but you can find recessed tracks that eliminate this problem. Expect to spend more for this setup.

After installing the frame, you’ll hang the pocket door and adjust it so it’s plumb. Remove the door to paint it and install any recessed hardware, then remount it before hanging new drywall on both sides from the frame’s split studs and nailing baseboard or other molding to the base plate. The last step is to finish the jambs.

Once you start using your new pocket door, you’ll wonder why home builders ever abandoned such an ingenious device that does its own disappearing act.


Cool Tools: Is This the Only Adhesive You’ll Ever Need?

With all the specialized adhesives out there, wouldn't it be great if just one tube could do it all? Well, here's one that can tackle most materials, indoors or out, in extreme heat or cold, and even in wet conditions. Sound promising? Read on!

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Photo: liquidnails.com

Imagine that you’ve just spent several hours—the better part of a weekend afternoon—painstakingly adhering ceiling tiles overhead. Moments ago, you set the last square into position, when suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, every single tile crashes to the floor. Ugh! Making the situation all the more frustrating is the irony that the adhesive you were counting on to save time and effort ended up being the reason you wasted both. If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s simply this: The right adhesive often spells the difference between completing a satisfying, successful project and finding yourself all the way back at square one. The trick is finding the best adhesive for the job.

Photo: liquidnails.com

Liquid Nails Fuze*It promises to be the construction adhesive you can truly depend on for any number of jobs, whether you’re putting up paneling or simply fixing a loose cabinet drawer pull. The remarkable versatility of the product hinges on a hybrid technology that enables Liquid Nails Fuze*It to bond just about everything to just about everything else. In fact, there are only two materials for which it’s not recommended—polyethylene and polypropylene. Otherwise, Liquid Nails Fuze*It works for all the most common household materials, including but not limited to glass, metal, wood, marble, granite, rubber, laminate, tile, and foam.

Equally handy is that Liquid Nails Fuze*It, unlike many other adhesives, remains effective even when it’s in contact with water. If the project calls for it, you can even apply Liquid Nails Fuze*It in the pouring rain, with no sacrifice in the quality of its bond. Further, Liquid Nails Fuze*It can safely withstand punishing environmental extremes, because the adhesive holds fast in temperatures up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit or down to 40 below zero. You may in the past have stocked a slew of different adhesives, each specially formulated for a particular use. Now, with Liquid Nails Fuze*It up to pretty much any task, indoors and out, and effective under even the most challenging conditions, you may need only one adhesive.

Because Liquid Nails Fuze*It creates a bond twice as strong as fasteners alone would, you might suspect that the product would be unwieldy or difficult to work with. But in reality, Liquid Nails Fuze*It makes application convenient for pros and DIYers alike. Case in point: The adhesive offers instant grab, which means that clamping, taping, or otherwise bracing the bond requires neither finesse nor surgical precision. Simply unscrew the nozzle, cut the plastic tip of the nine-fluid-ounce cartridge to the desired bead, screw the nozzle back on, load it into a standard gun, and apply the adhesive. Clamp if necessary, then wait four to six hours for Liquid Nails Fuze*It to set (for porous surfaces). That’s it!

Assuming a quarter-inch bead, you can cover about 27 linear feet with a single cartridge. In other words, unless you are undertaking something extra ambitious, you don’t need to worry about running out of adhesive just when you need it. More important, with Liquid Nails Fuze*It you also don’t need to worry about potential health effects. These days, increasing numbers of contractors and homeowners are concerned about the harmful effects of volatile organic compounds, and justifiably so. You can set these worries aside with Liquid Nails Fuze*It, which carries Greenguard Gold Certification, a designation for products scientifically proven to reduce the risk of indoor air pollution and toxic chemical exposure.

Versatile, strong, and easy to use, Liquid Nails Fuze*It now joins the ranks of adhesives, caulks, and sealants that have made Liquid Nails a go-to choice in building and home improvement for nearly five decades. If your toolbox has room for just one tube, Liquid Nails Fuze*It may be the top contender for that coveted spot—and it’s certainly your best bet for tackling whatever adhesive need is next on your to-do list.

Purchase Liquid Nails Fuze*It exclusively at The Home Depot.

Photo: liquidnails.com

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


3 Fixes For Coffee Stains

Coffee spills are an everyday battle. Conquer them for good with one of these three smart solutions.

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How to Remove Coffee Stains

Photo: fotosearch.com

There’s nothing better than a nice cup of coffee to kickstart your morning. What’s not quite as energizing? An accompanying spill all over your shirt or pants right as you’re running out the door—or worse, when you’ve hit a bump during the car ride to work. Don’t let a rogue sip of java spoil the rest of the day! Instead, try one of these quick fixes and return your clothes to their former spotless glory.

 

THE SODA SAVE

How to Remove Coffee Stains - Club Soda

Photo: fotosearch.com

The next time you accidentally dribble coffee down your shirt, head to the fridge or pantry for this powerful product: club soda. Douse the stained area with the bubblier beverage and use a paper towel to gently blot the coffee stain, lifting out the unsightly dark marks. If that doesn’t work, try applying the club soda to the back of the shirt to push the stains out of—instead of into—the fabric. Let the garment air dry, and then toss it in the wash as soon as you arrive home to ensure any lingering blemishes are banished.

 

WHITE VINEGAR FOR THE WIN

How to Remove Coffee Stains - Vinegar

Photo: flickr.com via Mike Mozart

If you notice coffee spots on your cotton-blend clothing, a few drops of tried-and-true vinegar can be just the trick for removing any trace of their splotchy existence. Moisten a paper towel or clean cloth with vinegar, and dab away at the spot, making sure not to rub as this can further set the stain. If it’s a larger spill that doesn’t seem to budge, consider soaking it overnight in 3 parts vinegar to 1 part cold water. (Yep, you’ll want to run back indoors to change outfits the day of the damage.)

No matter which method you choose, toss the garment in the wash afterward to ensure you get out every last drop. And don’t forget to double-check before drying—if it encounters high heat before fully being removed, your favorite shirt or pants may be stuck serving the house brew for good.

 

AN EGG-CELLENT IDEA

How to Remove Coffee Stains - Eggs

Photo: fotosearch.com

This method may take a little longer to whip up, but the final recipe is a surefire solution for any stubborn coffee stain. To start, gather an egg, some rubbing alcohol, warm water, and a washcloth. Separate the yolk into a bowl, and add in a spoonful or two of warm water and a splash of rubbing alcohol. Beat well with a fork until combined, and then dip the washcloth in the mixture. Blot the stain with the solution for about a minute, and then rinse with warm water. While you’ve got the carton out, put some of the remaining protein-packed eggs to good use by cooking up a hearty breakfast to go with your coffee (or whatever’s left of it, anyway).


Problem Solved: A Cutting-Edge Cure for Household Hassles

Harness the power of smart technology to solve irritations and inefficiencies, both big and small, all around your home.

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Photo: sagebyhughes.com

You live and learn—theoretically. But I’ve lived in my creaky old house for nearly 20 years, and I still haven’t mastered all its frustrating little quirks. There is, however, one lesson that I absorbed early in my tenure here: Always turn the light on in the entry hall when I’m going out for the day. Why? For some obscure reason that may have made sense to the builder (or previous owner), or perhaps for no real reason at all, there’s no light switch near the front door. That means that if I return after dark, I have to walk a dozen timid paces through the pitch-black foyer, risking life and limb along the way, to reach the switch on the far wall. Hence, my simple workaround—just turn the light on before leaving. Unfortunately, experience has proven that, at least for me, it’s not so easy to remember to do so.

Time after time, with my mind preoccupied with where I’m going and what I’ll be doing, I get into the car, turn on the engine, exit the driveway, and proceed down the block. Then, almost without fail, as I pull up to the stop sign at the corner, I suddenly seize the steering wheel and angrily ask myself, “Sarah, did you leave the light on?” I occasionally remember having done so, but much more often I’m not so sure. When there’s time, I drive back home to double-check, cursing myself for being so absentminded. If I’m running late, though, I have to drive on, cursing myself for the same reason. Why am I telling you this? Well, if what I’m describing sounds at all familiar, you may be interested to learn how I finally put this problem to rest. Spoiler: It wasn’t by pinning a note-to-self on the door. (I had already tried that.)

The solution: Home automation. It’s a hot topic these days, with many calling it the wave of future. Who knows? I’ve always harbored mixed feelings about the rise of digital devices in our lives, and I certainly never envisioned that smart-home technology would be of use to me personally. As I learned more about it, however, I discovered that the phrase “smart home” can mean very different things to different people. Some appreciate technology for its own sake and would embrace home automation whether or not it was truly practical. Others—me, for instance—appreciate technology only for its problem solving. What made me a believer? It wasn’t that automation magically made me remember to leave on the light. It’s that now, thanks to SAGE by Hughes, I no longer need to remember.

Photo: sagebyhughes.com

Brand-new SAGE by Hughes encompasses a suite of easy-to-use home automation and security products. In contrast to many of the expensive, elaborate whole-home systems that are out there, SAGE offers a modular solution, which means that you can choose the components you really want and ignore all the others. The modular system design also means that if in the future you decide to change or add onto the system, SAGE makes it easy to do so. The system can even move with you when you relocate to a new home. SAGE works with you, so you can use the technology to create your own personalized solutions. And that’s just what I did—after opting for the SAGE Automation Starter Kit, I set out to settle my long, highly irritating struggle with the hall light.

Surprisingly, after all those years of cursing that hall light, solving the problem ended up being pretty painless! In any SAGE setup, no matter where you install the components or how you plan to use them, there’s one central piece—the hub. The heart of the system, the hub connects to your TV, which in turn becomes the command center where you configure and monitor the SAGE system. (If you choose to download the free SAGE app to your smartphone or tablet, you can also interface with the system whenever you want, wherever you may be.) Once I had the hub plugged in, I moved on to installing the SAGE Light Switch (the video instructions were nice to have, but not vital). Finally, I swapped out the standard bulb in the hall light fixture and screwed in the Internet-enabled LED Light Bulb. All told, the setup took only about 20 minutes.

With the hub, switch, and bulb taken care of, I sat next to the television and, following the intuitive prompts, used the SAGE remote control to sync up the Light Switch and bulb with the hub. I then easily set up a rule instructing the hub to turn on the hall light every evening at 5 o’clock. Sure enough, a few hours later, as I stood in the entryway with one eye on the clock, I watched with deep satisfaction as the bulb turned on, all by itself. Wonderful! Excited now, and a bit curious, I pulled out my smartphone, opened the SAGE app, and inspected the menu. Here, I saw that the app and I were in full agreement—the hall light was indeed on. A tap or two later, I was using the app to adjust the brightness of the bulb. A few more taps, and I was turning the bulb off, then on again. I walked out to the driveway and tried again—success!

Photo: sagebyhughes.com

Whereas it used to drive me bonkers, I now go days at a time without even thinking about the hall light. If it does happen to cross my mind, it’s only because I’ve pulled into the driveway at night and found that, sure enough, there’s a light on in the foyer, welcoming me home. In addition, I enjoy the comfort of knowing that if there’s ever a change of plan, no matter where I am—under the covers in bed or at my desk at the office—I can always pull out my smartphone to turn the lights on or off remotely, with just a tap. I’m even thinking about expanding my system to include switches and bulbs in every room, and possibly even incorporate the Deadbolt Lock. That way, I could make the lights in, say, the kitchen, den, and bedroom all turn on instantly and automatically the moment I unlock the door. Pretty cool, no?

I haven’t gotten that far yet. For the moment, I’m still experimenting with the SAGE Automation Starter Kit, which, alongside the Light Switch and LED bulb, also includes the Appliance Switch. Any appliance that I plug into this clever device can be remote-controlled via the SAGE app (or through the TV in my living room). At least for now, rather than pairing the switch with a single appliance, I’ve been using it for a range of different purposes. Recently, I connected it to the slow cooker in my kitchen and, after putting in all the ingredients, left for work. If I’d begun cooking right then and there, the meal would have been overcooked by the time I got home. By starting the cooker around noon, from miles away, simply with a tap in the SAGE app, I was able to ensure a delicious dinner, cooked to perfection.

You can view and purchase the full line of home automation and security solutions at SAGE by Hughes. Besides being a storefront, the website provides access to customer service, an array of instructional videos, and helpful advice in plain English on how to get the most utility out of the kits or individual components you ultimately choose. The ordering process isn’t complicated—like the products themselves, it’s all very intuitive and seamless. As you browse, go ahead and consider your life at home and the often irritating hassles we all encounter every day, sometimes multiple times a day. Does the new world of automation offer a solution to these annoyances? Maybe, like me, you’re going to find that the little problems and inefficiencies that once seemed inevitable are simply no match for the best of digital technology.

Photo: sagebyhughes.com

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


How To: Paint a Metal Door

Metal doors offer great benefits in security and weather resistance, but to keep their surfaces welcoming and rust-free, you have to keep up with the painting. Here's how to brighten up a worn, scratched, or just tired-looking metal door with a fresh coat of paint.

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How to Paint a Metal Door - Steel Entry Door Colored Yellow

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Seattle, WA

Steel doors are wonderful at keeping the wind and weather out of our homes, and they’re remarkably durable—they can last a lifetime. The paint that covers them, however, will not last that long. So, if your house has a metal door, at some point you’ll be faced with repainting it. It’s not a difficult job, but as with any painting project, the final results will be directly impacted by your preparation. Read on to learn what steps you should take to give your metal door a makeover that will last.

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- Screwdriver
- Hammer
- Sawhorses
- Degreasing cleaner
- Bucket
- Water
- Sponge
- Towel
- Fine-grit sandpaper or sanding block
- Dust mask
- Safety goggles
- Painter’s tape
- Newspaper
- Exterior primer
- Satin or semi-gloss exterior paint
- Trim-size paint roller
- Short-nap roller cover
- Paint tray
- Small paintbrush or sponge applicator

 

How to Paint a Metal Door - White Steel Entry Door

Photo: homedepot.com

STEP 1
Before you get started, know that paint drying times and environmental factors can turn this into a multiday project. If you are able to securely lock your door with an exterior storm door, you can remove the door to paint it. (Note: You will not be able to rehang it until it is completely dry.) If you can’t secure your home without the door, you’ll need to paint it in place, which may wind up taking longer.

If you can remove the door without compromising your home security, place a screwdriver under the head of the hinge pin and lightly tap it with a hammer until you’re able to pull it out. Repeat with the other hinges, and remove the door.

STEP 2
Begin by prepping the door for painting. Before you dig in, however, note that doors painted prior to 1978 are likely to have lead-based paint on them. If your door does have lead-based paint, follow EPA guidelines for removal. If you have any question, have the paint tested prior to beginning this project.

Once you’ve taken the door off its hinges, lay it across two sawhorses or on a large, flat surface. Wash the entire door thoroughly with a degreasing cleaner according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then dry it with a towel.

STEP 3
Next, put on your dust mask and safety glasses, and go over the door lightly with fine-grit sandpaper or a sanding block to rough up the surface and remove any loose paint. Take off any removable weatherstripping, and apply painter’s tape over any hinges or hardware. Protect kickplates or windows that can’t be removed by taping newspaper over them. Once again, wipe down the entire door to remove all the dust from sanding, and allow the door to completely air-dry.

STEP 4
If your door has a smooth surface, just roll on your first coat of primer with a short-nap roller, and let it dry. If your door has recessed panels, start by using a small brush to paint the inside panels first. Then, roll the mullion (the vertical section between the panels). Follow up by rolling paint onto the rails (the horizontal pieces between the panels). Finish by painting all the outside edges. Allow the primer to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and apply a second coat, if necessary, the same way you did the first.

STEP 5
Paint the door with at least two coats of exterior satin or semi-gloss paint, following the same process you did for the primer and being sure to leave the recommended amount of drying time between coats. If you have to paint the door while it’s on its hinges, plan to work over a stretch of days when there is no rain in the forecast. Prep the door one day, and then start your first coat of primer bright and early the next morning. If you start early enough, you should have time for the paint to dry before you close the door for the night. Get going on the second coat the first thing the next morning, with the goal of its being dry by nighttime. Continue in this fashion until you’ve applied as many coats as are necessary.

STEP 6
After the paint has dried completely, carefully remove the painter’s tape and replace any hardware or weatherstripping you removed. Then, rehang the door.

It’s amazing how a fresh coat of paint on a door can really lift the spirits of an entire facade. If you allow time for careful preparation and sufficient drying, your rejuvenated metal front door will look great and welcome visitors for many years to come.


How To: Remove a Tub Drain

If your tub drain just isn't doing its job, you may need to take it out to clean or replace it. Rest assured that in just a few simple steps you'll have the drain out and be on your way to resolving your tub trouble.

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How to Remove a Tub Drain

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Los Angeles, CA

It’s unfortunate but true: Over time tub drains clog and sometimes even corrode. After all, your bathtub is put to the test every day as you and the other members of your household bathe, forcing all sorts of body care products—and copious amounts of human hair—through the drain and into the pipes beyond. The day may come when your drain ceases to function. When that happens, you’ll probably need to remove the drain for inspection, followed by either a careful cleaning or a complete replacement. The removal process isn’t particularly difficult or time-consuming, taking anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours from start to finish, depending on the type of drain you’re dealing with. Yet, as with all things DIY, a few simple instructions will help the task go more smoothly.

While bathtub drains vary by type, they can be sorted into two broad categories: simple drains (including foot lock, roller ball, and lift-and-turn types) and drains with a trip lever (such as pop-up and plunger drains). Instructions for removing both types appear below. Just find your drain style, and follow the step-by-step to remove it yourself.

 

Type #1: Simple Drains (Foot Lock, Roller Ball, and Lift-and-Turn)

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Rubber gloves
- Screwdriver
- Wrench
- Vinegar
- Baking soda
- Mild cleanser (optional)
- Blow dryer (optional)
- Drain key or smart dumbbell (if you’re e moving the entire drain, including the flange)

STEP 1
Before you disassemble your tub drain, it’s important to note its condition. Excessive amounts of rust, mildew, or decay may indicate a larger problem, in which case professional assistance may be needed. Otherwise, if the drain is in good shape, pull on a pair of rubber gloves and continue on your mission.

• For a foot lock or roller ball plug, simply rotate it counterclockwise until it separates completely from the drain shaft.

• In the case of a lift-and-turn drain, lift the plug and free it by loosening the setscrew underneath. If you find that the setscrew on your lift-and-turn drain is stuck, a series of light-to-medium taps may help to loosen it. Use your wrench or screwdriver to nudge it into motion if necessary, but be careful not to use too much force, which could damage the drain.

STEP 2
Once the drain basket is fully exposed, use a mild cleanser or a mixture of one part vinegar and one part baking soda to wash it off. Also clean the plug or stopper if you’re planning to reinsert it rather than replace it.

Now, fill the tub with an inch or so of water and watch it drain. If the water still drains too slowly, move on to a stronger drain cleaner (one that specifies that it’s suitable for tubs) or turn to a tried-and-true DIY drain cleaner that uses materials you already have on hand. Fill the tub again with about an inch of water, and watch it drain. Repeat as necessary until the tub empties at a reasonable rate, then proceed to reinstall or replace the part(s) you’ve removed.

STEP 3
If you’re removing the entire drain apparatus, including the basket (also known as the flange), insert your drain key or smart dumbbell into the opening. Turn it counterclockwise and continue turning until the drain flange is released, then remove the flange while it’s still attached to the drain key.

Tip: If the flange is stuck, use a hair dryer to heat it up and loosen the putty, then try again.

STEP 4
Once the drain flange has been removed, be sure to clear out any old putty residue from the base of the opening before replacing the flange or installing a new one.

 

Type #2: Drains with Trip Levers (Pop-Up and Plunger)

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Rubber gloves
- Screwdriver
- Wrench
- Drain key or smart dumbbell (if removing the entire drain, including the flange)
- Blow dryer (optional)
- Vinegar and baking soda, or mild cleanser (optional)

STEP 1
Before you begin, check the drain for excessive rust, mildew, or decay, which may indicate a larger problem that may require the services of a professional. If the drain looks to be in good shape, it’s probably fine to proceed.

• If your drain has a visible stopper, then set the lever to the open position and use a screwdriver to remove the trip lever faceplate as well as the lever and linkage.

• If your drain has a trip lever without a visible stopper, use a screwdriver to remove the screws on the trip lever faceplate and move it away from the tub wall; the attached plunger should come out along with it.

STEP 2
Once the drain has been disassembled, use a mild cleanser or a mixture of one part vinegar and one part baking soda to wash it off. Also clean the plug or stopper if you’re planning to reinsert it rather than replace it.

Now, fill the tub with approximately one inch of water and watch it drain. If the tub still drains slowly, try your luck with a stronger, tub-specific commercial drain cleaner or a homemade cleaner and repeat the drain test.

STEP 3
When the tub again drains properly, reinstall the cleaned drain parts or replace them with new ones. If you choose to remove the entire drain apparatus, including the flange, use a drain key or smart dumbbell as described in Steps 3 and 4 above.

 

Although a number of DIY plumbing projects fall outside of most homeowners’ comfort zones, removing a tub drain is a relatively accessible task. The best rule of thumb when you’re tackling any new plumbing job is to proceed with an abundance of caution and remember that if complications arise, a professional plumber is just a quick phone call away.


How To: Get Rid of Fire Ants

Want these painful pests off your property? Choose the extermination method that best suits your infestation.

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How to Get Rid of Fire Ants - Outdoor Infestation

Photo: flickr.com via Marufish

Millions of people and animals are swarmed and stung every year by fire ants. Their burning (hence the name) bites are especially a bane in the southern states, where about 30 percent of the population falls prey to the reddish-orange little buggers. The FDA estimates that this invasive insect leads to billions of dollars spent annually in medical treatment, damage repair, and extermination. Concerned about the potential damage that can come from a population on your property? This guide will set you up to get the caustic creepy crawlers under control.

How to Get Rid of Fire Ants

Photo: flickr.com via Elroy Serrao

While there are indigenous species that aren’t particularly invasive or aggressive, the red imported fire ant (also known as RIFA) is a notoriously nasty opponent. RIFA’s main food source is plant sugars, making them a serious problem for farmers, but the ants also consume insects, rodents, birds, and reptiles. They lock onto victims with a powerful four-toothed mandible and then emit an alkaloid-based venom, leaving a red and white pustule in its wake. The venom also contains proteins and peptides that can produce an allergic reaction. While only five percent of fire ant attacks are lethal to humans, hypersensitive individuals should get immediate medical attention upon being stung (the rest of us can just cuss and treat the area as we would a bee sting). Small pets and young livestock that disrupt a nest can also be killed.

The Best Defense
Fire ants can invade virtually anywhere—your home, your lawn, your driveway, you name it—and their nests aren’t always visible. In an open field, however, they appear as a sandy mound that can reach 16 inches in height. Alas, like an iceberg, most of RIFA’s business lies beneath the surface, where tunnels can be as deep as seven feet. Each nest will have at least one queen that can lay 2,000 eggs a day—and a typical nest will also have up to 500,000 worker ants as well—so it’s easy to see why RIFA’s are so challenging to get rid of for good.

Choose Your Weapon
There are various ways to manage a fire ant situation—including everything from sprinkling them with talcum powder to bringing in an anteater—and each has plusses and minuses. Bear in mind that any approach that involves standing close to the nest risks instigating a swarm and getting stung, so be sure to gear up with protective clothing before you begin. Whatever you choose, never fight fire ants with fire; it’s extremely dangerous and ineffective to ignite gasoline on a nest.

Below, some of the most popular battle tactics:

Dousing the mound with boiling water is an old-school approach. Though free, organic, and immediate, it’s not very effective. Chances are slim that the water will reach the queen, who resides deep in the nest. Drenching the mound with liquid insecticide works somewhat better.

Pressure injecting insecticide directly into the mound is more effective because the poison will go deeper. But in addition to the perils of proximity is the risk of the agent leaking onto your body or spraying your face due to faulty equipment. Be sure to proceed with caution.

Bait, which is placed around a mound or in areas where nests may be hidden, are a safe, fairly effective means of RIFA management, though not a quick fix. The ants take the bait and carry it deep inside, ideally killing the queen.

Broadcast treatment with granular insecticide is often best for a large area. Granules are tossed as if you were feeding chickens, and the ants bring them home. This is the safest method because you don’t directly engage with the nest, but granules may be light sensitive and lose their lethal potency before the ants feed on them.

A canvas of professional exterminators found a resounding reliance on the broadcast method, using a product called Top Choice. Most states require you to have a pest control license to purchase this highly effective insecticide, so chances are you’ll need to call a pro. A once-a-year treatment usually costs about $500 per acre—pricey but worth it if you’re truly overrun.

If you choose to go it alone against fire ants, you’ll find insecticides of varying potency at hardware stores; online retailers tend to sell stronger formulas (look into licensing requirements). Know that you are not defenseless and will ultimately prevail!