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Bob Vila Radio: 3 Popular Paths to Radon Reduction

To safeguard the air quality in your home, ensuring the continued health of your family, it's critical to act swiftly if testing reveals unsafe levels of radon. Read on to learn more about a few of the most commonly pursued mitigation options.

If radon tests have found unacceptably high readings in your home, there are at least a few effective ways to address the potentially hazardous issue.

Radon Mitigation Systems

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Listen to BOB VILA ON RADON REDUCTION or read the text below:

One popular choice is to install a mitigation system, which combines a small outdoor unit with a special fan located inside the house. The outdoor unit creates suction, which encourages interior air to enter the fan. The fan, in turn, sends the exhaust through a vertical vent stack, positioned on the home exterior, which terminates at the roof line. Another option is to route the stack through the home interior, up to the attic, where a fan pushes the exhaust into the outdoor air.

If the radon level are particularly high, then, in addition to removing radon from the air, you may also need to remove it from the earth beneath your home. Doing so typically requires what’s known as an active de-pressurization system, or ASD, which creates a vacuum in the soil underlying the foundation.

Concerned about radon? Consult with a professional trained and experienced in radon mitigation.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!


How To: Stain Hardwood Floors

You can rejuvenate your tired, worn hardwood floors with a beautiful new finish, provided you have the right tools, sufficient elbow grease, time, patience, and a healthy attention to detail.

How to Stain Hardwood Floors

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Hardwood flooring offers rich, warm, timeless beauty, and can even favorably affect the resale value of your home. Without question, wood costs more than other types of flooring, but many homeowners view the material as a wise long-term investment. Why? Because when a hardwood floor starts to show wear and tear, you can refinish it and in so doing, revitalize its look and performance. Make no mistake, however: Sanding, staining, and sealing a wood floor takes time and effort. It’s a demanding project, even for a veteran home handyman. That said, you can save a considerable sum by doing it yourself, sometimes more than half of what it would cost to hire a pro. If you’re ready and willing to take on the task, keep reading for the details on how to stain your own hardwood floors.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Shop vac
- Tack cloth
- Random orbital sander
- Protective eyewear and dust mask or respirator
- 60-, 80-, and 100- or 120-grit sandpaper
- Palm sander (or detail sander)
- Stain
- Lambswool stain applicator
- Rags
- Two-inch paintbrushes
- Polyurethane sealer
- High-density foam roller
- 320-grit sandpaper with sanding pole (optional)
- Protective gear

STEP 1
Before doing anything else, get the room ready. Relocate all furniture, and if the room has baseboards use a pry bar to remove the quarter-round shoe moldings that mark the transition between the baseboard and the floor. (Note: Label each piece of shoe molding with its location to ensure easy reinstallation later.) Because floor sanding creates a great deal of dust, don’t forget to cover the doorways with plastic sheeting or a set of old sheets, preventing dust from traveling beyond the work area. You may also want to cover any light fixtures or HVAC vents. In short, if there’s something you don’t want filmed by a layer of dust, now is the time to protect it.

STEP 2
Sanding may be the single most critical step in the process; it largely determines the quality of the end result. If you don’t sand the floor carefully and deliberately, that’s going to show once the stain dries. Adding even more stress to the task: For any room larger than a closet, you’ll need a similarly large sanding tool to get the job done—namely, a waist-height random orbital sander. The good news is that random orbital sanders are readily available for rent at your local home center. They’re also generally user-friendly and pose little risk of damaging the floor, so long as you read and adhere to the operating instructions provided with the unit.

Be prepared to sand the floor three times, using a lighter-grit abrasive with each pass. First, set up the sander with 60-grit sandpaper and, after donning protective eyewear and a dust mask, start moving the sander over the floor. The preferred technique isn’t so different from the one you’d use when mowing the lawn: Sand the floor in rows, overlapping your runs by approximately half the width of the sander. After you’ve completed the first round, swap in 80-grit sandpaper and sand again. Remember to keep the sander level, and never stop the sanding disks when they are in contact with the floor. Finally, switch to 100- or 120-grit abrasive and sand one more time. In any area where the random orbital sander is too large to reach, use a palm sander or a detail sander to achieve the desired level of smoothness.

How to Stain Hardwood Floors - Process Shot

Photo: fotosearch.com

STEP 3
At this point, your job is simple but painstaking: Thoroughly vacuum up the enormous quantity of dust created during the sanding stage of the project. Don’t use your regular household vacuum, though—it’s probably not up to the task. Opt instead for a heavy-duty shop vac, fitted with a brush attachment and, ideally, a new filter. Even after vacuuming every inch of the space, there’s still more to do. Using either tack cloths or rags dampened with mineral spirits, wipe down the floor until it’s clean and clear of dust and debris. Doing so may take more sweat than you anticipated, but for a quality stain finish, it’s an important and sadly unavoidable effort.

STEP 4
At last, you’re ready to stain—but not before ensuring proper ventilation (after all, floor finishes can emit harmful vapors). Once you’ve ensured a safe work environment, stop a moment and strategize. You need to make sure that when the floor has been freshly stained, you’ll be able to leave it without stepping all over your work. It’s usually wise to begin in one of the corners opposite the door and then work your way toward the exit. Once you’ve mapped out your path, get started. Using a lambswool applicator, apply the stain to the floor, aiming for even distribution over one two-foot section at a time. Wipe away the excess with a rag before moving on to the next section. Try not to let the “wet edge” dry. Rather, start the applicator a couple of feet away from the edge, then maneuver it to meet the previously coated section. In the corners, or where the floor meets the baseboards, a two-inch paintbrush may prove handier than the applicator. Finished? Let the stain dry, then assess whether you’d like the finish to be darker. If so, apply a second coat in the same way that you did the first.

STEP 5
When the stain is completely dry, it’s time for the last step—protecting the finish with polyurethane sealer. Using a high-density foam roller (and, if necessary, a two-inch brush for some parts of the room), apply a thin, even coat across the entire floor surface. Wipe up any excess, then let the coat dry to a glassy finish. If the type of sealer you’re using does not require sanding between coats, you can proceed directly to the second application of polyurethane. Otherwise, sand the floor with fine, 320-grit abrasive to ensure that the second coat properly adheres. Don’t be tempted to use the brawny random orbital sander to sand at this late stage; here, finesse is the name of the game. Instead, sand either by hand or with a sanding pole. After cleaning up the inevitable dust with your shop vac and tack cloths, apply the second, final coat of sealer, then let it dry. You typically must wait 24 hours before being able to walk safely on the floor again, and as long as 72 hours before replacing furniture in the room. The drying period is a little annoying, but for a beautiful new finish and a dramatically transformed room, the wait’s worth it.


Quick Tip: The Best Way to Remove Gum from Carpet

If you’re stuck on how to remove gunky gum from the carpet, chew on this fast, easy, and non-damaging fix!

How to  Remove Gum from Carpet - Stick of Gum

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Even if you’re not a gum chewer, you can still fall victim to the sticky substance if a wad on the concrete sneaks its way onto the soles of your shoes. The gunky guest then follows you home, where it takes up permanent residence in your carpet. While you may be tempted to forcibly remove the clingy carpet dweller by pulling it by hand, this approach can cause collateral damage to the delicate fibers of your carpet. To prevent a sticky situation for getting even stickier, give lodged-in gum wads the cold shoulder—with ice cubes!

How to  Remove Gum from Carpet - With Ice Cubes

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This is why it pays to always stock ice: Gather ice cubes from the freezer, then press a single cube directly into the offending gum wad. Now, the ice won’t in and of itself remove gum from the carpet. But when left on the gum for at least one minute, it will freeze and harden it—making it a cinch for you to lift it in one piece. Gently pick at and pull the stiffened gum from the carpet using your fingers, a spatula, or a butter knife. Start lifting along the edges and move toward the center of the wad, taking care not to remove the carpet fibers along with the gum! Master this technique, and you can even apply it to upholstery messes and gummed up clothes in future.

At this point, most of the gum should be out of sight and out of mind, but if stubborn residue remains, root it out with a few drops of a rub featuring Methyl salicylate (like the pain-relieving cream, Bengay). Lastly, scrub away any discoloration or carpet stains left in the gum’s wake with a mild carpet cleaning detergent. Rinse the area with warm water to send your gummy ordeal packing!

How to Remove Gum from Carpet - And Clothes

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Bob Vila’s $3,500 Get Your Green On Give-Away from the Craftsman® Brand Official Rules

Bob Vila’s “$3,500 Get Your Green On Give-Away from the Craftsman Brand” (the “Sweepstakes”) is sponsored by Vila Media, LLC, Post Office Box 835, West Barnstable, MA 02668 (“Sponsor”). The Sweepstakes consists of four (4) random drawings (each a “Drawing” and collectively, the “Drawings”). The Sweepstakes begins at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (“EST”) on January 31, 2016 and ends at 11:59 a.m. EST on February 29, 2016 (the “Sweepstakes Period”). Four Drawings will be held at the conclusion of the Sweepstakes Period. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. MAKING A PURCHASE DOES NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. ODDS OF WINNING WILL DEPEND ON THE TOTAL NUMBER OF ENTRIES RECEIVED. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. ONLINE ENTRY ONLY AND INTERNET CONNECTION REQUIRED. AFFIDAVIT OF ELIGIBILITY AND RELEASE OF LIABILITY FORM MAY BE REQUIRED.

Open only to permanent legal U.S. residents in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Void in all other geographic locations. Employees of Sponsor and its respective parents, affiliates, subsidiaries, and advertising and promotion agencies and any other entity involved in the development or administration of this Sweepstakes, and their immediate family members or household members are not eligible to participate in or win the Sweepstakes. Sponsor reserves the right to disqualify any person who fails to meet the eligibility requirements or any person it determines, in its sole discretion, to be sufficiently connected with the Sweepstakes such that such person’s participation could create the appearance of impropriety. Entries generated by script, macro or other automated means are void, and Sponsor expressly reserves the right to disqualify any entries that it believes in good faith are generated by an automated program or via scripts. Entries that are determined, in the sole discretion of the Sponsor to constitute advertisements, commercial messages, or “spam” will be disqualified and deleted. Void where prohibited by law. All applicable federal, state and local laws apply. No purchase is necessary to participate in the Sweepstakes.

You may enter any given Drawing one (1) time per household per day by visiting the BOB VILA website at http://www.bobvila.com and submit your name and email address using the online “$3,500 Get Your Green On Give-Away from the Craftsman Brand” submission form. Each entry submitted in response to a Drawing and in accordance with the Official Rules will constitute an official entry. Duplicate entries submitted through either method within one day will be deemed void. If you do not have internet access, alternative means of entry for each Drawing is available by faxing your name, address and phone number to the Sponsor at 508-437-8486 during the applicable Entry Period. One (1) alternative entry per household per day. Any additional entries submitted via fax within one day will be deemed void. Entries received after the end of the Sweepstakes Period will be deemed void. Normal time, toll, connection and usage rates, if any, charged by your Internet service provider will apply. All entries become the property of the Sponsor. By entering any Drawing during the Sweepstakes, you will be agreeing that any information collected in connection with the Sweepstakes may be used by Sponsor in accordance with Vila Media, LLC’s Privacy Policy, a current copy of which can be found here. By participating, all entrants agree to abide by these Official Rules. At the end of the Sweepstakes, there will be four (4) drawings in which four (4) potential winners (“Winners”) shall be selected from all eligible entries received for each prize available by employees or representatives of the Sponsor to receive the prize designated for the Drawing. Each winning entry will be chosen at random. The number of eligible entries received during the Entry Period determines the odds of winning. The Sweepstakes will be conducted under the supervision of the Sponsor. If the Winner is determined to be ineligible, forfeits or does not claim the prize, the prize will be re-awarded, in Sponsor’s sole discretion based on a subsequent drawing from the pool of eligible entries. Other restrictions may apply. Decisions of the Sponsor are final and binding with respect to all matters related to the Sweepstakes. All prizes (or in the event of a lost, misdirected, or otherwise unavailable prize, a prize of equivalent value) will be awarded. In no event shall the Sponsor be obligated to award more prizes than the number of prizes stated in these Official Rules. Winners shall be responsible and liable for all federal, state and local taxes on the value of their prize.

To receive a complete list of winners or a copy of the Official Rules, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Prize Fulfillment, Vila Media, LLC, PO Box 835 Barnstable, MA 02668. Specify winner’s list or rules on your request.

The Winners will be notified by email, or in the case of alternate entry, by phone; Sponsor reserves the right to determine the method of notification. Winners must claim their respective prize within twenty-four (24) hours after the date of notification of their prize. A Winner’s failure to respond to the prize notification within the specified twenty-four (24) hours will be considered such Winner’s forfeiture of the prize and an alternate Winner may be selected from the pool of eligible entries. If an entrant is found to be ineligible, an alternate Winner may also be selected from the pool of eligible entries. Sponsor reserves the right to ship prizes directly to the mailing and/or email address (as applicable) provided by Winners during their entry to the Drawings.

The Winners will receive one of four weekly prize packages. Prize for Week One, Cordless Package valuing $429.96: 1 (one) Craftsman® 24V 22” Cordless Hedge Trimmer valuing $99.99, 1 (one) Craftsman® 24V Cordless Hard Surface Sweeper valuing $99.99, 1 (one) Craftsman® 24V 10” Chain Saw valuing $129.99, and 1 (one) Craftsman® 24V 12” Cordless Line Trimmer valuing $99.99; Prize for Week Two: 1 (one) Craftsman Premium Heavy Duty Floor Cabinet valuing $499.99; Prize for Week 3: 1 (one) Craftsman ProSeries 233cc Gas Large Deck Mower valuing $799.99; and Prize for Week 4: 1 (one) Craftsman Pro Series Riding Mower, 42” deck valuing $1,799.00. No transfer, substitution or cash redemption will be awarded in lieu of Prize. Limit one prize per entrant. The prize will be delivered within 30 days from when the prize winners’ documents are executed and sent to the prize provider.

An entrant or winner may be disqualified from the Sweepstakes, and his or her entry may be deleted, if he or she fails to comply with each provision of these Official Rules, as determined in the sole discretion of the Sponsor. Participation in the Sweepstakes is at entrant’s own risk. Sponsor shall not be liable for (1) failed, returned or misdirected notifications based on inaccurate information provided by the winner on the Drawings entry forms, (2) entries and responses to winner notifications which are lost, late, incomplete, illegible, unintelligible, postage-due, misdirected, damaged or otherwise not received by the intended recipient in whole or in part or for computer or technical error of any kind, (3) any electronic miscommunications or failures, technical hardware or software failures of any kind, lost or unavailable network connections, or failed incomplete, garbled or delayed computer transmissions which may limit an entrant’s ability to participate in part or wholly in the Sweepstakes, (4) any technical malfunctions of the telephone network, computer on-line system, computer equipment, software, program malfunctions or other failures, delayed computer transactions or network connections that are human, mechanical or technical in nature, or any combination thereof, including any injury or damage to entrant’s or any other person’s computer related to or resulting from downloading any part of this Sweepstakes or (5) any warranty of fitness or merchantability of any prize or the function or operation thereof, which shall be the sole responsibility of the manufacturer of the prize. Sponsor does not make any, and hereby disclaims any and all, representations or warranties of any kind regarding any prize. Unless prohibited by applicable law, your entry constitutes your permission to use your name, photograph, likeness, voice, address (city and state) and testimonials in all media, in perpetuity, in any manner Sponsor deems appropriate for publicity purposes without any further compensation to such entrant.

By entering or accepting a prize in the Sweepstakes, Winners agree to be bound by these Official Rules and to conform to all federal, state and local laws and regulations. When applicable, the Winner (or, if the Winner is a minor, the Winner’s parent or legal guardian) may be required to execute and return to Sponsor within three (3) business days an Affidavit of Eligibility, a Liability and Publicity Release and relevant tax forms to be eligible for the prize or an alternate winner may be selected. Winner may be required to furnish proof of identity, address and birth date in order to receive a prize.

By entering, an entrant agrees to indemnify, release and hold harmless Sponsor and each of its respective parents, subsidiaries and affiliated entities, directors, officers, employees, attorneys, agents, and representatives (collectively, the “Released Parties”) from any damage, injury, death, loss, claim, action, demand, or other liability (collectively, “Claims”) that may arise from their acceptance, possession and/or use of any prize or their participation in the Sweepstakes, or from any misuse or malfunction of any prize awarded, regardless of whether such Claims, or knowledge of the facts constituting such Claims, exist at the time of entry or arise at any time thereafter. Released Parties are not responsible or liable to any entrant or to any Winner or any person claiming through such Winner for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action, regulation, order or request by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action, regulations, order or request proves to be invalid), equipment failure, threatened terrorist acts, terrorist acts, air raid, blackout, act of public enemy, earthquake, war (declared or undeclared), fire, flood, epidemic, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal) labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond the Released Parties’ sole control. The Released Parties are not responsible for: (1) any incorrect or inaccurate information, whether caused by entrants, printing, electronic or human errors or by any of the equipment or programming associated with or utilized in the Sweepstakes; (2) viruses or technical failures of any kind, including, but not limited to malfunctions, interruptions, or disconnections in phone lines or network hardware or software; failed, incorrect, incomplete, inaccurate, garbled or delayed electronic communications or entry information, any error, omission, interruption, deletion, defect, delay in operation or transmission, failures or technical malfunction of any computer online systems, servers, providers, computer equipment, software, email, players or browsers, whether on account of technical problems, traffic congestion on the Internet or at any website, or on account of any combination of the foregoing; (3) the unavailability or inaccessibility of any transmissions or telephone or Internet service; (4) unauthorized human intervention in any part of the entry process or the Sweepstakes; (5) technical or human error which may occur in the administration of the Sweepstakes or the processing of entries; (6) any injury or damage to persons or property which may be caused, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, from entrant’s participation in the Sweepstakes or receipt or use or misuse of any prize; or (7) late, lost, misdirected, illegible, incomplete or mutilated entries or for theft, destruction or unauthorized access to, or alteration of entries. These indemnification and release provisions shall survive expiration of the Sweepstakes.

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

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

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


Bob Vila Radio: Look Again at Recessed Lighting

Space-saving design used to be its biggest selling point, but while recessed lighting remains a compelling choice for that reason alone, a host of new features make it well worth renewed attention.

Recessed lighting has always been a discreet choice that occupies next to no space in the room where it appears. Making it even more appealing are the variety of new features that have made it to market, improving an already popular product category.

Recessed Lighting Options

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Listen to BOB VILA ON NEW OPTIONS IN RECESSED LIGHTING or read the text below:

If it’s been years since you last considered recessed lighting, it’s well worth a fresh look. For proof that things are substantially different now, look no further than the designs that break old boundaries by extending the fixture below the surface of the ceiling. Certainly, such fixtures stretch the definition of “recessed” lighting, but semantics are secondary to the result—a host of teardrop, metal, and crystal fixtures that are as eye-catching as they are high-performing.

Recessed lights are even moving out of the ceiling and into the walls, where they offer their signature space-saving design even while providing much-needed illumination in once-shadowy areas, such as hallways and stairs. Another welcome advance: There are now so-called “eyebrow” kits that enable you to focus the light in a specific, targeted direction. To be sure, these are not the “high hats” you remember from the old days. Indeed, for recessed lighting, there’s a bright future.

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!


3 Aggressive Ways to Cut Down Your Energy Bills

You're certainly not the only one who dreads opening utility bills. However, there are many people who do so with little fear of sky-high fees. Want to be one of them? Keep reading!

Photo: warmboard.com

Does your blood pressure rise and fall with the ups-and-downs in your monthly energy costs? Particularly during heating season, utilities account for a sizable portion of the average household budget. Indeed, no matter how much you spend to keep your home up and running, chances are good that you would like to spend less—much less. Of course, bargaining for lower rates with your local utility companies isn’t really a viable proposition, but that doesn’t leave you without any expense-limiting options. On the contrary, there are countless do-it-yourself ways to take a bite out of your bills—defeating door and window drafts, for instance, or outfitting light fixtures with the latest high-efficiency bulbs. However, while such measures may be penny-wise and, especially in combination, effective, it’s best to harbor only modest expectations for the sort of improvements you can accomplish in a weekend, for next to nothing. Significantly reducing energy costs typically requires a commensurately significant investment, whether of time or money or both. Plenty of homeowners go forward anyway, though, recognizing that large-scale, energy-smart upgrades offer exceptional bang for the buck long-term. Intrigued? Learn the details about three of the most successful ways in which homeowners like you achieve radical results.

ATTIC INSULATION

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Venture up to your attic and take a look around. One question: Is there insulation? If not, then rest assured it’s not your imagination—your energy expenses really are going through the roof! For lower heating and cooling costs, attic insulation isn’t elective; it’s essential. According to the Department of Energy, proper attic insulation decreases the amount you spend each month to keep your home comfortable, not by a few pennies, but rather 10 to 50 percent. Bear in mind that if your attic already has insulation, you may be able to secure greater savings simply by adding more. How much is enough? A rule of thumb is that if the existing insulation doesn’t reach high enough to conceal the floor joists, then you would likely benefit from an additional layer. That’s straightforward enough, but it’s important to remember that different types of insulation provide different levels of effectiveness. To make an informed choice, you must consider R-value, a scale that measures the ability of a given insulation product to block the passage of heat and cold. The appropriate R-value for your home largely depends on its geographic location, but generally speaking, if you’re adding new insulation over a pre-existing layer, experts recommend insulating up to R38. For a previously uninsulated attic, go with a higher R-value, ideally R60. Whether you handle the job yourself or hire a professional, there’s no doubt that over months and years, attic insulation stands to dramatically improve your bottom line.

 

TANKLESS WATER HEATER

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Traditional tank-style water heaters work at all times to keep a volume of water heated to the target temperature, even in the middle of night when there’s nobody awake to shower or run the dishwasher. That’s a major reason why heating water can account for as much as 30 percent of the average monthly energy expenditure. If you were planning to replace your water heater soon, it may be wise to consider a relatively new and appreciably more efficient technology—the tankless water heater. Also known as an instantaneous water heater, a unit like this operates strictly on demand. That is, instead of storing and constantly re-heating a 40- to 80-gallon tank of water, it fires only when a plumbing fixture or appliance calls for hot water. Compared to older, less energy-smart models, tankless water heaters are 24 to 34 percent more efficient, according to the Department of Energy. In addition, besides being much more compact in design (small enough to mount on the wall, in fact), tankless units tend to last longer too, sometimes twice as long as their predecessors. With a superior lifespan and a lower operating cost, tankless water heaters more than make up for their somewhat higher upfront cost. The downside? If you live in a busy home where multiple showers and appliances may require hot water at once, then, to meet your gallons-per-minute requirement, you may need more than one unit. Otherwise, a tankless water heater can save you thousands over its lifetime.

 

RADIANT HEATING

Photo: warmboard.com

The Department of Energy reports that of all the energy consumed in the average home, 50 to 75 percent stems from heating and cooling. That being the case, there’s strong incentive to review the systems on which you rely to maintain a comfortable home. That’s never more true than in the winter, when costs often increase. Though there are many types of heating technologies, chances are that yours is a forced-air system. Since first becoming popular in the mid 20th century, forced air has dominated, for better and worse. Due to its ubiquity, it’s very often the case that when homeowners complain about the high cost of home heating, they are often unknowingly condemning, not so much heating in general, but forced-air systems in particular. Indeed, forced air has changed surprisingly little over the years, never overcoming the performance drawbacks that frustrate homeowners for a host of reasons, including financial ones.

Why does it cost a small fortune every month to heat a home with forced air? A primary explanation is that forced-air systems are designed around elaborate networks of ductwork that channel heated air from the furnace to the conditioned rooms of the home. On paper, there’s no problem, but in practice, ducts prove imperfect. Particularly on runs through uninsulated space, ducts are notoriously prone to air leaks. Even if those leaks occur only at the seams between sections of ductwork, they are enough to compromise overall system efficiency by up to 25 percent. To make up for the heat loss, the furnace must then work harder, for longer—that is, consume more energy—in order to maintain the temperature that you set on the thermostat. In other words, you’re essentially paying extra on a month-to-month basis for the forced-air system to correct its own serious, fundamental design flaws.

Here’s the good news: While forced-air technology has remained stagnant, other systems have made enormous, transformative strides. Take, for instance, radiant heating. Though it’s been around, in one form or another, for thousands of years, it’s only relatively recently that it’s improved to the point of becoming a viable alternative. Already, radiant heating enjoys wide acceptance in Europe and Asia, and increasingly, as more or more American homeowners look beyond forced air, it’s gaining ground here at home. Perhaps most appealing is that radiant heating offers a qualitatively different experience by delivering even, “everywhere” warmth, both silently and without any of the airborne dust and particulates that forced-air systems collect and circulate. That said, for as much as radiant heating makes home heating vastly more comfortable, it also manages to attract converts for yet another compelling reason—efficiency.

Involving no ductwork whatsoever, radiant heating maximizes energy savings by minimizing heat loss. In fact, according to a study conducted by Kansas State University and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, radiant systems operate at least 25 percent more efficiently than forced air. Not all radiant technologies are the same, though. To be sure, on the level of system design, radiant always comes with advantages. But individual system components can make a big difference for your monthly bills. So when assessing your options, look closely at the material composition of the radiant heating panels that form the backbone of any such system. Some panels are made of gypsum concrete, which works reasonably well but usually responds too sluggishly to be effective in a home. That’s why Warmboard constructs its panels with aluminum, 232 times more conductive than concrete.

Aluminum actually transfers heat so well that in a Warmboard system, the boiler can heat the water to a temperature 30 degrees lower than what other radiant systems would require. In this way, you can save an extra 10 to 20 percent every month, and thats ‘s top of what you’d already save by opting for radiant! So while forced air may have been the default choice for decades, homeowners looking to slash their ongoing costs have every reason to contemplate a switch.

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


All You Need to Know About… Painting Appliances

Get a new look for less: Save thousands of dollars by painting—not replacing—your perfectly good (perhaps slightly outdated) appliances.

Painting Appliances - Budget Kitchen Update

Photo: homedepot.com

Wishing for a way to refresh a kitchen or laundry room without sinking thousands of dollars into a renovation? If your outdated appliances are still in good working order despite some small signs of a little wear and tear, consider this familiar store-bought solution: paint. Just as a fresh wall color can invigorate any space, so, too, can a brush of bold color or coat of stainless steel completely transform your current refrigerator, oven, dishwasher, or dryer. Painting your appliances can cover up the scratches, update the finish, and even extend their lifespan—all without breaking the bank.

 

Pick the Right Paint

Yes, sprucing up your appliances can cost as little as $20, thanks to the power of paint. Depending on the appliance and its condition, you might need only a small bottle of specialized paint for touch-ups or an entire one-quart can for complete coverage. For long-lasting results and household safety, choose paints appropriate to your project.

• One option—good for unifying the color of your appliances and hiding nicks or discoloration—is to cover with appliance epoxy paint. Application couldn’t be easier for this self-priming paint, with options to either brush or spray, and you’ll find all of your standard appliance colors available.

• For appliances that do tend to heat, like the oven or radiator, you’ll need to purchase a specialty heat-resistant product that is designed to withstand high temperatures.

• You won’t find appliance paint in much more than a standard white, black, or silver, so if a splash of color is the goal, widen your selection to the wall of spray paint for a stand-out appliance in an otherwise ordinary kitchen. Because these aren’t specifically engineered to cover appliances, you’ll want to top with an enamel gloss protective spray. (Alternatively, try a chalkboard paint—black or any other hue you’d like to mix—and start jotting your memos directly on the fridge.)

 

Painting Appliances - How to Paint a Stand Mixer

Photo: dwellbeautiful.com

Before You Start

You’ve carried home your paint cans, but before you begin, remember: Safety first! Start by unplugging the appliance from the wall. Then, spread out a drop cloth and/or plastic sheets  to protect your floors and surroundings.

Remove all hardware (you’ll paint that separately) and give the appliance a thorough cleaning. A little ammonia works wonders to clean off any grease and oil buildup so the paint adheres properly. Just be sure to crack open a window and move some fans into the space for proper ventilation, as those fumes can be caustic. Leave these precautions in place if you plan to spray-paint indoors, or take this time to move the appliance outside before you clean and paint so that you won’t inhale any of the fumes.

Next, rough up the surface of your appliance. While it may seem counter-intuitive to creating a fresh clean look, it helps the paint to bond to what’s likely already a slick, glossy surface. Rub a piece of steel wool in a circular motion across the entire surface of the appliance. High-gloss finishes may require an extra pass with 150-grit sandpaper or sanding block to really scratch up the surface and eliminate the shine. A clean, matte feel is the perfect canvas for a fresh coat of appliance paint. Take a damp cloth and wipe away all of the dust so it won’t interfere with your paint job.

Now, strategically place painter’s tape to cover up logos as well as non-removable knobs and buttons. And speaking of cover-ups, you should mask your face to keep from inhaling fumes. While you’re at it, protect your skin with a long sleeve shirt and pants, especially if you’re using a spray can—this do-it-yourself project gets pretty messy!

 

The Painting Process

Once your appliance is properly prepped, spray, brush, or roll on the product of your choice. If you go with a spray can method, keep the nozzle at a constant level and at an even distance (approximately 12 inches from the surface) for best results. If you’re using a brush or roller, use slow and even strokes to fully coat the entire appliance. If you notice the paint (particularly epoxy) bubble up, no need to panic; in most cases it will even itself out.

Once you’re done with the first application, plan to apply a second or third coat for a smooth, even finish. When spray painting, you’ll most likely need 2 or 3 coats to ensure the surface is evenly covered, and one coat of enamel gloss protective spray if you chose to work with something other than specialty paint. Wait 15 minutes between applications, and when your satisfied with the results, allow your appliance to dry for 24 hours before touching—that includes hauling your masterpiece back inside. Painters who use a brush or roller may only require a second coat to give the appliance a smooth, even finish.

While painting your appliances is not a permanent fix, it does offer you additional time to budget and save for those replacement appliances you’ve been dreaming about all along.


Bob Vila Radio: Fending Off the Next Flood

With a small handful of home upgrades, you can gain control over an influx of floodwater, going a long way toward preventing the most devastating damage. Keep reading to learn more.

With severe weather events becoming ever more common, it may be wise to prepare for the possibility of your home being subject to a major flood.

Flood Control Tips

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Listen to BOB VILA ON FLOOD PREVENTION or read the text below:

Before doing anything else, consult literature from the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) to learn whether or not you live in a flood-prone area. If you are located in a vulnerable zone, don’t delay purchasing flood insurance, bearing in mind that many policies take at least 30 days to go into effect.

At home, there are a few other protective measures you can take. For one, make sure to label all the circuit breaks in the electrical panel. That way, you don’t waste any time in an emergency. Further, consider using bricks or pavers to raise up any appliances in the basement, and that includes the furnace and water heater.

An additional option: Hire a professional to add check valves to your plumbing system as a means of preventing wastewater from backing up into your drain lines. Another smart move is to set up a sump pump (or two) that would discharge any groundwater that enters the basement in the wake of a storm surge.

Finally, if you live in a particularly risky area, you may even want to think about constructing a levee. Neighbors might be willing to partner up for the project.

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!


3 Fixes for Ink Stains

Don’t have an inkling as to how to remove ink stains from your clothing, carpet, or couch? Skip the store and use one of these three household remedies instead.

How to Remove Ink Stains

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DIYers usually welcome a sudden burst of artistic creativity—except when it means their pen goes awry, leaving a splotch of ink on nearby fabric, flooring, or upholstery. Once this colorful liquid takes up residence in the fibers of your clothing, carpet, or couch, it can seem downright impossible to remove. Instead of crying over spilled ink, use one of these three simple but effective household ingredients to make stains fade or vanish altogether!

 

FOR CLOTHES AND OTHER FABRICS:
HAIRSPRAY HERO

How to Remove Ink Stains - With Hairspray

Photo: fotosearch.com

Ready, aim, spray! Hairspray may be your go-to for style setting, but this sticky substance can also play an active role in removing ink stains from clothes.

Before you bid goodbye to blots, first protect your work surface by covering it with a paper towel or two; these will absorb the ink as you treat. Lay the soiled portion of the material directly over the paper towels, and then coat the spot liberally with hairspray. Dab (don’t rub!) with a damp towel to remove any residue, repeating the process as necessary until your item has returned to a blank canvas. Toss the garment into the wash on cold with a mild detergent to banish any residual markings. Finish by drying on high heat for a literally spotless finish. (Note: Don’t dry unless the ink is completely gone—otherwise the heat will set the stain!)

The key is to use hairspray with a formula that features alcohol as a main ingredient, which helps to draw out the liquid. If the brand you keep at home doesn’t contain alcohol, check your medicine cabinet for another substitute, straight rubbing alcohol, and follow these instructions using a cotton ball soaked in it.

 

FOR CARPETING:
KITCHEN CONCOCTION 

How to Remove Ink Stains - With Cornstarch

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Don’t confine cornstarch and milk to the kitchen! When their talents are combined, this domestic duo can eliminate stubborn ink stains from carpets. To put the power couple to work in your living room, family room, or bedroom, start by mixing a small amount of cornstarch and milk in a bowl until they form a paste. Apply your homemade cleaner to the ink stain, and leave it to dry for at least a few hours, or until it hardens on the stain. Using a dry toothbrush, gently brush the concoction off the carpet fibers. Vacuum the area to fluff up the carpet and reveal a spot-free surface.

 

FOR SUEDE AND LEATHER:
GET GRITTY

How to Remove Ink Stains - With Sandpaper

Photo: fotosearch.com

When it comes to removing ink from delicate suede or leather upholstery, you need a cleaning companion that’s gentle enough not to damage the material, but gritty enough to obliterate the stubborn stain. There’s no better tool for the job than fine-grit sandpaper. First, test the sandpaper on an inconspicuous area to ensure that your item won’t be damaged. Then, gently buff away the stain, taking care not to abrade the fabric. When it looks like most of the ink has been lifted, gently scrub the spot with a soft-bristle brush doused in white vinegar. Finally, use a dry toothbrush to give the material a final clean sweep that lasts!


Is Varnish or Polyurethane the Right Finish for You?

Learn the pros and cons of polyurethane and varnish—and which of these popular finishes can best preserve your next woodwork of art.

Varnish vs Polyurethane - What Wood Finish to Choose

Photo: fotosearch.com

A coat of durable wood finish on your hardwood floors, fine furniture, and outdoor decking can mean the difference between a long, lustrous lifespan and one cut short by the passage of time and exposure to the elements. Given the unattractive consequences of poorly protected wood surfaces and the annoyance of frequent refinishing, it’s smart to do your homework first to ensure that you’re doing your best to preserve these valuable features. Polyurethane and traditional varnish are two popular finishes that cure into durable protective coats when applied. But although they’re often referred to interchangeably, each one has distinct uses and offers varying levels of protection from environmental elements. Up your woodworking IQ and learn which product is best suited for your next project, so you’ll be able to attain the perfect protection from start to finish.

Varnish vs Polyurethane - Water-Based Polyurethane

Photo: fotosearch.com

Polyurethane

Polyurethane is like a liquid plastic, often either a pure synthetic plastic or a blend with resin. There’s an option for everyone: DIYers have the choice of a water- or oil-based resin (and one in between) as well as sheens from flat to satin to glossy. Despite its sometimes milky appearance in the can, polyurethane goes on clear and—in just one or two coats—cures into a scratch- and abrasion-proof hard plastic that is versatile enough for most indoor projects.

The Best Uses
With so many options, how can you pick the right polyurethane for the job? The choice of sheen, from glossy to something more flat, comes down to personal preference, but there are certainly common usages where one is preferable to another. Review these guidelines before making your final selection at the home improvement store.

• Completely clear when dry, water-based polyurethane is ideal for indoor use, on pieces like nightstands, desks, photo frames, and coat racks that already have a stunning natural hue and simply need a revitalizing finish. Perhaps its biggest selling points, however, are that it’s lower in toxicity than its counterparts and requires only soap and water for cleanup.
• Often used to finish hardwood floors, the newer water-based oil-modified polyurethane lends a more robust level of protection than traditional water-based poly. However, any water-based polyurethane is more susceptible to cracking from heat and UV damage, so intricate wood carvings or surfaces that will be exposed to the outdoors may be better protected by an oil-based product.
• Finally, more heat-tolerant but also higher in toxicity, oil-based polyurethane goes on with a subtle amber tint that can beautifully enhance the underlying wooden tones of kitchen tables, bar tops, and cutting surfaces.

The Application
The process of applying polyurethane varies depending on the product’s base.

• Fast-drying water-based polyurethane and its newer water-based oil-modified cousin can be applied with a fine-bristle brush, foam roller, spray, or rag. If applying over an oil-based stain, rough up the stain with a little bit of steel wool so the new coat of polyurethane will adhere better. Also, keep in mind that the more watery the polyurethane, the thinner it is—and the more coats it will require.
Oil-based polyurethane uses similar methods: a natural-bristle brush, a spray can for larger projects, or a rag for an elegant, hand-rubbed finish. While any polyurethane application requires an open window and good ventilation, because this particular category of finish is higher in VOCs, when you’re applying it indoors you should use a respirator and ensure that the surrounding area remain well-ventilated throughout the lengthier drying time.

 

Varnish vs Polyurethane - Varnish

Photo: fotoserach.com

Varnish

You may have heard varnish used as a generic term for any finish, but traditional varnish describes an older form of finish that contains alkyd resin, oil, and solvents. When applied to wooden surfaces indoors or out, varnish cures into a thin and glossy film with a faint yellow or amber tint, similar to the finish achieved with oil-based polyurethane.

The Best Uses
The high solid content and water resistance of varnish make it particularly apt for use on water-exposed outdoor decks, deck chairs, and boats. Its low toxicity, however, means that it’s equally safe to use near the entryway on exterior doors and trim. A variant of varnish known as spar or marine varnish offers both UV protection and flexibility, which makes it a favorite among DIY woodworkers, who can confidently apply it to soft woods like pine that bend under extreme conditions.

The Application
Despite its ability to serve as a wood sunblock, it’s not all sunny when it comes to varnish. If varnish is not applied correctly or dried completely, it can peel, crack, or form bubbles that leave wood more susceptible to environmental damage. For optimal results, apply varnish in several layers using a natural-bristle brush. Then, allow this traditionally slow-drying finish to sit for at least six hours under fair weather conditions to give your wood surfaces a photo finish!