Welcome to Bob Vila


How To: Build a Temporary Wall

If you need to divide a shared kids' room or transform a corner alcove into a home office, then a temporary wall may be just the ticket.

Photo: lawallco.com

If you can’t live with the layout of your space, a temporary wall may be just the solution you need. For decades, renters have relied on temporary walls to “make it work” under less-than-ideal circumstances. Homeowners too can benefit from temporary walls: Building one enables you to judge whether a planned change is worth pursuing. And because a temporary wall does not tie into the framing, removing it is easily done, with a minimum of mess.

Note: Before you undertake to build a temporary wall, be sure that you check local building codes, paying close attention to relevant stipulations. Contact your municipal building department for clarification, if necessary. Renters are advised to ask the building owner or management company for permission.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Sill seal
- 2x4s (quantity and lengths depend on wall size)
- Wooden shims
- Drywall
- Nails or screws
- Circular saw
- Drill
- Hammer

Sill seal is foreign to many do-it-yourselfers, even those who’ve successfully completed scores of projects. Here, the 1/4-inch-thick foam performs two functions. First, it protects the existing floor, walls, and ceiling from damage. Second, and more importantly, the sill seal provides the pressure needed to secure the temporary wall wherever you choose to position it. Before doing anything else, apply the sill seal to those surfaces with which the temporary wall is going to be in contact.

STEP 1
Cut a pair of 2x4s to the length you want the temporary wall to be. These two pieces of wood are known as the plates; they will form, respectively, the top and bottom margins of the wall. Next, measure the height from floor to ceiling. Because that height may vary, it’s wise to measure twice: once for the left edge of the temporary wall, then again for the right edge. Subtract three inches from each measurement, then cut a 2×4 to correspond to each length. These are the end studs.

How to Build a Temporary Wall - Studs

Photo: finehomebuilding.com

STEP 2
Set the bottom plate over the sill seal you’ve already applied to the floor. Next, ask a helper to hold up the top plate—with sill seal between the board and ceiling—as you wedge the end studs into place. (Remember that sill seal also needs to run along the existing walls against which you are placing the vertical members.) If either stud needs persuading to fit snugly between the plates, tap it in with a hammer. Are the studs too tall? Trim off some height with a sander or circular saw, then try your luck again. With short studs, use one or more wooden shims to close the gap.

STEP 3
Now that you’ve established the wall perimeter, fasten the end studs into the plates by means of either nails or screws (the latter are easier to remove). For added stability, particularly if you have kids or plan to install a door, it’s smart to nail or screw the top plate to the nearest ceiling joist.

STEP 4
Install the remaining studs at intervals of 16 or 24 inches. (At this point, if you’d like to inhibit the transmission of sound through the temporary wall, add batt fiberglass insulation in the stud cavities.) Finally, put up the drywall panels; for ease of removal later, screws are recommended.

STEP 5
Finish the wall however you please. Some may be perfectly satisfied with the rudimentary look of unfinished drywall. Others may choose to paint the surface or even to install baseboard. Much depends on the purpose of the temporary wall, but it’s certainly possible to make it resemble your permanent walls. But remember, the more you add on, the more you’ll eventually need to take off.

Follow your design sense and do what makes you happy. After all, it’s your (newly defined) space!


Bob Vila Radio: Starting Vegetables from Seeds Indoors

In some climates—the chillier ones—this is the time of year to start vegetable seeds indoors so that once the weather warms, you're ready with strong seedlings to put in the ground.

Now that spring is here, many people’s thoughts turn to gardening, and to the joys of leafy salads and delicate spring vegetables. Depending on where you live, it’s probably too early to sow most vegetable seeds outdoors, but now may be just the right time to start seeds indoors.

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

Listen to BOB VILA ON STARTING VEGETABLES FROM SEED INDOORS or read the text below:

Starting Vegetable Seeds Indoors

Photo: preparedforsurvival.blogspot.com

There are plenty of good reasons to grow vegetables from seed. For one, starting seeds can be cheaper than purchasing seedlings. Another big benefit is choice: If you start from seed, you aren’t limited to the varieties stocked by your local garden store. Particularly now, with increased interest in heirloom and organic varieties, there’s a huge world of seeds to choose from online.

Another plus—starting from seed lets you get a jump on the growing season. If you’re conscientious, by the time the threat of frost has passed, you’ll have strong young seedlings ready to thrive outdoors in the ground.

Finally, starting seeds indoors gives you more control over your plants’ early environment and may increase your chances of success. Keep in mind, however, that some plants do better when they’re direct-seeded—in other words, sown directly into the ground. Always read instructions on the seed package, so you’ll know which approach works best, as well as the plant’s germination period and the best time to transplant the seedling.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


How To: Clean Wood Furniture

Over time, wood furniture accumulates grime that can't be removed with regular dusting. When this happens, some serious cleaning is in order. Try these methods for spiffing up your wood furniture safely and effectively.

How to Clean Wood Furniture - Table

Photo: shutterstock.com

Homeowners have long relished the beauty, versatility, and toughness of wood furniture—and above all, they’ve appreciated its low maintenance. Like the ideal houseplant for brown thumbs, wood furniture survives on its own, requiring little intervention. Every now and again, though, whether due to an accident or normal wear and tear, it becomes necessary to clean wood furniture to renew its appearance and ensure its longevity. When that inevitable day comes, follow these steps to restore a wood finish to impeccable condition without inadvertently causing damage.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS:
- Cotton balls
- Dishwashing detergent
- Sponge
- Bucket
- Clean cloth
- Mineral spirits
- Cheesecloth
- Wood wax
- Denatured alcohol

If you are certain of your wood furniture finish—paint, stain, or some other treatment—then use a cleaning method appropriate for that specific wood finish. Otherwise, it’s best to clean the furniture in stages, starting with a mild cleanser that poses no risk to the integrity of the finish, then graduating to a stronger solution only if the gentler one fails. Proceeding in this way means that you can safely clean wood furniture without knowing precisely what you’re dealing with.

How to Clean Wood Furniture - Chair

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 1
Start out with perhaps the humblest of household cleaners: dishwashing detergent. Add a drop to a water-moistened cotton ball, then wipe it on an inconspicuous part of the furniture, such as the inside of a chair leg. If the detergent mars the finish in your test area, then continue without the detergent. If the test area shows no evidence of damage, it’s safe to proceed. Mix water and detergent in a bucket and use this solution to sponge down the entire piece. Be careful not to soak the wood: Brush the sponge lightly over the wood surface and don’t let the liquid linger for long. Dry thoroughly.

STEP 2
If you want to see if you can get your furniture a little cleaner, the next thing to try is mineral spirits. They should be harmless to wood finishes, but you should still test an inconspicuous area with a moistened cotton ball. If you see nothing suspicious, wash the piece with a clean cloth soaked in mineral spirits. (Work in a well-ventilated location.) In many cases, mineral spirits can remove years of grime. Finish by wiping away any residual cleaner with water, inspecting the wood for blemishes as you go.

STEP 3
If the finish reacted negatively when you tested the mineral spirits on your furniture, don’t push your luck—move on. Before you try any further interventions, you’ll need to determine the type of finish that’s on your piece. To do this, dab some denatured alcohol onto a cotton swab and test it in a small, inconspicuous area. If the finish dissolves, that means it’s probably shellac. If the finish stands up to the alcohol, it’s probably oil, lacquer, varnish, or polyurethane. Either way, if you’re still dissatisfied with your furniture’s appearance, chances are that you’ll need to refinish the piece to truly restore it.

STEP 4
If you are satisfied with the results of your cleaning efforts, the wise choice at this point is to protect the wood from future damage by applying furniture wax. Apply it liberally with a cheesecloth, rubbing in the direction of the grain. Afterward, buff with a clean cloth.

Note: Always dust wood furniture with soft, lint-free cloths. Avoid feather dusters, because they aren’t as effective and sometimes have sharp quills that may scratch the wood surface. 


Bob Vila Radio: Wallpaper Prep

Before tackling this tricky task, take the time to properly prep the wall you are going to paper. Here's how it's done.

Hanging wallpaper can be tricky, but it’s worth the effort for the beautiful effect it can have on a room. As with so many do-it-yourself jobs, the secret to great results is in the preparation. Here are a few tips to help you achieve professional-looking results.

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

Listen to BOB VILA ON WALLPAPER PREP or read the text below:

Wallpaper Prep

Photo: timticks.com

First, put a coat of primer on the walls to be papered. Primer seals the surface and protects against moisture building up beneath the paper. It also keeps the wallpaper adhesive from penetrating into your walls, which makes it impossible to remove the paper if and when you opt for a new look. And if the walls are painted a dark color and your paper is light, a coat of white primer will help conceal any small imperfections in your seams.

Once the primer is dry, apply a coat of sizing on the walls. Sizing creates a slick, glossy surface that will make it much easier to maneuver the paper as you’re installing it. Without sizing, your paper can stick to the wall before it’s in its final position, and that can cause the paper to tear when you try to move it. On a sized wall, you can slide the paper around to get it right. Sizing has a thin, watery consistency and can be applied with a paint roller. Be sure it’s dry before you start papering.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


What Would Bob Do? Repairing Cracked Stucco

If you have a small crack in your exterior stucco, you can patch it pretty easily—and you definitely should, or you may be in for more extensive repairs down the line.

How to Repair Stucco

Photo: activerain.com

My house is 55 years old and still has the original stucco. On one exterior wall, there’s a fine crack with paint peeling away on either side. Is there a way to repair stucco quickly and easily before the rains come, and is it a job that I can do on my own?

A bit of good news: From your description, it sounds like your crack is not due to the foundation settling. If you had noticed larger cracks and such accompanying signs as sticking doors and windows, then I would have recommended that you call in a foundation specialist. As it is, yes, this is a job any do-it-yourselfer can handle. And it’s important work, so you’re right to have been vigilant. If rainwater were to penetrate behind the stucco, you might have a bigger problem on your hands.

How to Repair Stucco - Application

Photo: newhudsonvalley.com

To repair stucco, you can use any number of commercially sold products. While some are designed to remedy larger gouges and holes, others are meant specifically to fix cracks like the one you describe. Quikrete, for example, manufactures a sanded (textured) acrylic caulk that’s both easy to use and effective.

The first step may seem counterintuitive: Using a cold chisel and hammer, widen the crack to at least a quarter inch. The edges of the crack should be chiseled perpendicular to the wall. If possible, back cut the crack so that its base is slightly wider than its top. Then clear all loose debris from the crack with a wire brush.

Now use a standard caulk gun to apply the stucco repair compound along the crack. As you go along, trowel the patch so that it matches the surrounding stucco finish. Allow the repair to cure for 24 hours, then cover it with a water-based paint, preferably the same color as the home’s exterior.

You may notice that despite having cured, the finished job feels flexible to the touch. That elasticity actually attests to the strength of the repair. Should the wall move slightly in the future, the patch will adjust rather than come undone. With the crack now properly repaired, you can rest assured that precipitation will not be able to get behind the stucco.


Bob Vila Radio: High Hats

For understated room lighting around the house, consider the space-saving convenience of recessed high hats.

Choosing the best lighting can be a bit of a challenge.  Some rooms need cozy, subdued lighting to create ambience; others need high-wattage task lights to allow you to get the job done. But if what you need is overall room lighting that takes up barely any space at all, there’s nothing like a high hat.

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

Listen to BOB VILA ON HIGH HATS or read the text below:

High Hat Lighting

Photo: lowes.com

High hats are recessed lights—often called can lights—that are flush with the finished ceiling (the fixture itself is up inside the joists). High hats are terrific for illuminating large areas, where you need lots of light, such as kitchens, offices, and basements. They’re also great in hallways, where you need strong light for safe passage, but there’s not a lot of room for a hanging fixture or floor lamps.

Today’s high hats aren’t the simple industrial-looking can lights of yesteryear. You can find stylish models with a wide variety of trim kits to get just the look you want, including “eyebrow” styles that can help direct some of that overhead light in a specific direction.

Remember, if you’re installing high hats in a ceiling that is or will be insulated, choose fixtures that are insulation-rated, meaning that you can install insulation right up against them. High hats going into shower stalls or over bathtubs should have a shower trim, which has a gasket that keeps moisture out of the fixture.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Welcome to AT&T Digital Life: The New Smart Home Security Solution

Home security isn't just about peace of mind. It's about convenience and freedom. See how the new AT&T Digital Life has made home security, even smarter.

AT&T Digital Life Home Security

With AT&T Digital life, cameras mounted on the front porch let you see who is at the door or approaching the house.

When it comes to home security, we’ve certainly come a long, long way from hanging signs that caution “beware of dog”. Today’s high tech home security options offer homeowners a full range of features from keyless door locks and video doorbells to motion detector-activated alarm systems. And, while there are a good many gadgets, gizmos, products and apps on the market to support your security and automation needs, they are, for the most part, independently sourced and controlled. That is, at least, until now.

AT&T Digital Life is a 24/7 integrated professionally monitored system that lets you customize your home security and automation features to suit your specific needs.  Create programs based on daily routines, like automatically locking doors, turning lights off, adjusting the thermostat and arming the security system all from just about anywhere.  Or keep an eye on your property day and night with video monitoring outside and in—even when you’re away from home with the convenience of your smartphone, tablet or computer. Check on the kids, know when the housekeeper, dog walker, or pool man comes to the house, and get an email or SMS alert when the system detects a problem. It’s all about freedom, convenience and peace of mind.

AT&T Digital Life Motion Sensor

AT&T Digital Life motion sensors provide security ...

In addition to security benefits, AT&T Digital Life also provides automation packages that let you control lights, temperature and small appliances.  Everyone knows you can save money on your heating and cooling costs by simply resetting your thermostat when you are away from home.  But no one wants to return to a less than comfortable house after a long day at work. With AT&T Digital Life door and energy packages, you can raise the temperature to a comfortable 72 degrees and turn on the living room and kitchen lights even before you pull into the driveway, park the car in the garage that automatically opened with a motion sensor and simultaneously unlocked the front door.

AT&T Digital Life - Wall-mounted keypad

AT&T Digital Life's wall-mounted keypads provide in room convenience.

Since there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all when it comes to home security, AT&T Digital Life let’s you choose the features that best suit your household needs.  The Simple Security package, starting at $29.99 a month (plus equipment costs and a two-year agreement), includes 24/7 monitoring, wall-mounted and key chain controls, remote arming and disarming of alarms, and contact sensors for doors and windows.

An upgrade to the Smart Security package ($39.99 a month, plus equipment costs and a two-year agreement) comes with everything you need to monitor and access your home’s security system from almost anywhere using your mobile phone, tablet and computer. With Smart Security you can also opt for a full range of automation add-ons, including cameras for video monitoring, automatic and remote door locks, energy control of lights, temperature and small appliances, and water shut off. In short, just the right solution for your family and household needs!

Note: AT&T Digital Life available in limited markets.  Two-year agreement and equipment purchase required with either Simple or Smart Security; service restrictions apply; see www.att.com/dldisclaimers for details; optional automation packages only available with Smart Security package. See www.att.com/licenses for license information.

This post has been brought to you by AT&T Digital Life. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Weekend Projects: 5 Clever Designs for a DIY Curtain Rod

Sure, you want a rod to hold up your curtains. But if you take the time to DIY something unusual, it can also be a stunning expression of your individual style.

Details: They make a house a home. Every element you add to serve a purpose also offers an opportunity to personalize your space. Curtain rods are no exception. Functionally, these metal, plastic, or wooden poles do nothing more than support your window treatments. Decoratively speaking, however, they are capable of much more. The look you choose is, of course, a matter of personal taste, but with so many DIY curtain rod options out there, you’re bound to discover a design you love.

 

1. ROPE OFF

DIY Curtain Rod - Rope

Photo: hgtv.com

If your curtains come with eyes—that is, grommets or other types of circular cutouts along the top of the fabric—consider using rope as a DIY curtain rod. Although this is an inexpensive, utilitarian solution, it’s also a stylishly offbeat and eye-catching design. For added authenticity, use boat cleats to secure the rope across the window.

 

2. BRANCH OUT

Photo: shelterness.com

Slender tree branches are “natural” DIY curtain rods, equally perfect for those who just love the rustic look and anyone on a budget who has easy access to woodland. Seek out branches slightly larger than your window frames. Prune if necessary, and paint if you choose. For hanging, use regular brackets or—to complete the theme—twigs.

 

3. PIPE DREAMS

DIY Curtain Rod - Pipe Fittings

Photo: yellowbrickhome.com

Even a total novice could piece together this DIY curtain rod, made of galvanized metal plumbing pipes that join without special tools. One trip to your local hardware store or home improvement center will furnish you with all the materials you need. Head over to Yellow Brick Home for an easy-to-follow project guide.

 

4. EITHER “OAR”

DIY Curtain Rod - Oar

Photo: abeachcottage.com

You can finish this charming, beach cottage-y DIY curtain rod project quicker than you can say “ahoy matey.” Vintage oars are readily available from online auctions; choosing the perfect one may very well be the most difficult and time-consuming part of the job. Alternatively, use a golf club, baseball bat, or even fishing gear.

 

5. GET HOOKED

DIY Curtain Rod - Hooks

Photo: oliveandlove.com

To re-create this unique DIY curtain rod from Olive and Love, start with a wood board, one whose finish (or lack thereof) is worthy of display. Cut the board to the appropriate length, then mount it above the window. Finally, attach simple coat hooks at intervals that correspond to the space between the tabs, grommets, or other connecting pieces at the top of your curtain.


Bob Vila Radio: Freestanding vs. Built-In Tubs

Freestanding tubs add an element of luxury that simply cannot be matched by traditional built-ins. Appealing though they may be, freestanding tubs aren't the right choice in every renovation. You've got to weigh the pros and cons.

Freestanding tubs are becoming increasingly popular in today’s luxury bathrooms. Is one right for your bath? Let’s weigh the pros and cons.

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

Listen to BOB VILA ON FREESTANDING VS. BUILT-IN TUBS or read the text below:

Freestanding Tubs

Photo: vangviet.com

Freestanding tubs are finished on all sides, so you can plunk one down right in the middle of a room. The category includes commodious soaking tubs, vintage-look clawfoots, and sinuous modern designs. Freestanding tubs are great for making a dramatic sculptural impact and creating a spa-like atmosphere. They’re available in lots of styles and in materials ranging from acrylics to cast iron to high-end stones, metals, and woods. The plumbing typically comes up from the floor, not through a wall, and faucets usually attach to the tub.

Because they’re set away from the walls and tend to be larger than standard built-ins, freestanding tubs take up more space. Depending on the material they’re made of, they can be quite heavy and may require reinforcing the floor. They’re not the best choice if you need a shower and don’t have space for a standalone—most freestanding tubs don’t do double-duty as showers. Be warned that faucets for freestanding tubs tend to be pricey. And one last caveat: Because a freestanding tub doesn’t have a surround to hold toiletries, you’ll need storage or a small table to keep all those candles and soaps handy while you’re having a relaxing, steaming soak.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


5 Things to Do with… Junk Mail

Don't get overwhelmed by the stacks of junk mail on your dining room table, get inspired! Try one of these 5 ingenious projects that will put your junk mail to creative use.

Everyone hates email spam, and rightfully so. It does have one redeeming factor, though: It’s relatively easy to manage. By comparison, bona fide front-door-jamming junk mail seems intractable, not to mention wasteful. The situation becomes manageable, however, if you choose to see junk mail not as an annoyance, but as an opportunity. There’s no shortage of junk mail projects that can bring beauty, utility, and fun into your home. Scroll down now to see five creative junk mail uses!

 

1. CRAFT AN ENVELOPE

Junk Mail Uses - Envelope

Photo: greenprophet.com

With folding, snipping, and pasting, you can easily repurpose junk mail into a one-of-a-kind custom envelope that’s guaranteed to impress and delight whoever is on the receiving end. In addition to saving paper, this project further personalizes the birthday wishes or holiday greetings you are sending.

 

2. GO FOR A GARLAND

Junk Mail Uses - Garland

Photo: katrinarodabaugh.blogspot.com

Some rooms call for a festive feel year-round. One way to cultivate a sense of celebration—on a shoestring budget—is tailoring your unwanted mail into a garland. To make yours, cut identical shapes from different-colored letters and envelopes. Fix those cutouts to a string, then drape it loosely along the wall.

 

3. PRODUCE A NOTEPAD

Junk Mail Uses - Notebook

Photo: craftingagreenworld.com

In stationery stores and bookshops, I’m always drawn to the section where charming blank notebooks are displayed—and every time, I’m amazed at their price tags. If only I’d discovered sooner that it’s possible to make your own pads of paper out of junk mail you would otherwise throw away. I could’ve saved a fortune!

 

4. MAKE A MURAL

Junk Mail Uses - Wall Art

Photo: behance.net

Last time you looked at the stack of junk mail piled high on your kitchen table, chances are you didn’t think, “How gorgeous!” But the fact is that shredded junk mail lends itself perfectly to Jackson Pollock-like murals that couldn’t be easier to create. Besides canvas, all you need is a tube of glue and a pair of hands!

 

5. BUILD A BASKET

Junk Mail Uses - Basket

Photo: findyourhappydesign.etsy.com

Rather than depositing all your junk mail into the trash, set some aside to make a small basket that you can use to store miscellaneous bits and baubles, such as paper clips and rubber bands. First, roll the junk mail paper into tight strands. Glue them into the shape you desire, then secure it with lengths of string.