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Got Pests? Expert Advice to Deter Unwanted Houseguests

April showers don’t just bring May flowers. They also bring springtime pests. Check out these top home improvement projects to ensure a pest-free spring.

Spring Pest Control - Cockroaches

Photo: fotosearch.com

The blooming flowers, sunny skies, and much-anticipated return of warmer weather across the country are not the only signs that spring has officially sprung. The change in seasons is also marked by the emergence of common springtime pests—from ants, cockroaches, and flies to termites and stinging insects. In fact, the pest control industry deems this time of year the start of pest season, as many insects begin to emerge from their winter hiding spots to mate and find new places to form colonies, and that often includes our homes.

Pest Prevention Tactics
The best way to minimize the chance of an infestation this spring is prevention. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) recommends conducting an audit around the perimeter of your home to look for potential pest harborage sites, such as abandoned tires, rotted tree stumps, and piles of leaves or debris. There are also a handful of other do-it-yourself pest prevention tactics that you can complete in a day’s work to help keep bugs and rodents from becoming unwanted houseguests.

Spring Pest Control - Centipedes

Photo: fotosearch.com

8 Home Projects For a Pest-free Spring
Consider these eight simple home improvement projects to ensure you enjoy a pest-free spring.

1. Seal any cracks and crevices with silicone caulk, paying special attention to areas where utility pipes enter the structure. Young cockroaches, for example, only need a crack as thin as a dime to crawl into.

2. Screen windows and seal potential entryways, repairing any rips or tears in screens. Also, screen attic vents and openings to chimneys.

3. Replace weatherstripping and repair loose mortar around basement foundation and windows.

4. Clean out leaves and other debris from your gutters to prevent standing water, which can provide the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and other pests.

5. Repair fascia and rotted roof shingles, as some insects like carpenter ants and termites are drawn to deteriorating wood.

6. Properly landscape around the home to avoid providing pest harborage sites. Keep shrubbery trimmed and ensure mulch is at least 15 inches from the foundation.

7. Direct water away from the house through properly functioning downspouts, gutters, and splash blocks. Repair leaking faucets, water pipes, and AC units.

8. Be sure to keep basements, attics, and crawlspaces well ventilated and dry.

Being proactive can go a long way in preventing a pest infestation, but there is always the chance that a creepy cockroach or army of ants could find its way inside the confines of your home, especially during the spring and summer months when pest pressure is at its highest. Once inside, some pest species can cause serious health threats to our families, while others can inflict extensive property damage.

If you suspect an infestation, contact a licensed pest professional who has the tools and expertise needed to inspect your home, properly identify the problem, and recommend the best course of action. Oftentimes, people are tempted to take matters into their own hands to try and get rid of a pest problem, but the truth is that pests are better left to the professionals.

For more information on common household pests, visit PestWorld.org.

Spring Pest Control - Ants

Photo: fotosearch.com

This post has been brought to you by National Pest Management Association.


Bob Vila Radio: Best Practices for Mounting Outdoor Speakers

Outdoor speakers bring the party outdoors, but to enjoy optimal sound and to maximize product lifespan, remember these simple installation guidelines.

If you often host outdoor get-togethers and seek a better method of providing music, installing outdoor speakers is the way to go. Here are some issues to consider before tackling the job.

Photo: bethesdasystems.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON INSTALLING OUTDOOR SPEAKERS or read the text below:

First, make sure to purchase speakers expressly made for the outdoors. And know that even specialized outdoor speakers last longer if you minimize their exposure to the elements. You can do so by mounting them under an overhang or an awning. Don’t be tempted to hang your speakers to gutters or flimsy aluminum siding. It’s far better to screw them into sturdy wooden posts.

Audio experts say that for optimal sound, it’s best to mount outdoor speakers about ten feet high and ten feet apart, tilted slightly downward. Try to be precise in determining how much speaker wire you’ll need, so you don’t run any more than you have to. Excess wire takes away from the quality of sound.

A final point: Even if you have everyone on the deck dancing, don’t go overboard with the volume—that is, unless you invited all your neighbors to the party!

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.


One-Step Spring Upkeep with a Multitalented Outdoor Tool

Photo: JNoonan

Here’s what the real estate agent doesn’t say: Owning a home near the ocean is rarely a day at the beach. Salt air puts vulnerable components to the test, and thanks to frequent strong winds, all manner of dust and debris gets whipped against the home’s exterior surfaces. That’s why our spring cleaning routine tends to focus as much on outdoor decking and house siding as it does on things like forgotten closet shelves and the neglected hardwood floors beneath heavy furniture.

Photo: JNoonan

Although there’s a fully exposed deck in our backyard, the covered front porch typically takes more of a beating due to its orientation toward the sea. Here, the floorboards are made of a composite material touted for its low maintenance requirements. In my experience, composite may need less upkeep than natural wood does, but it calls out for at least yearly attention, particularly in our neck of the woods.

When we clean the porch, our goal is not only to refresh its look, but also to discourage the growth of mildew, an unsightly, damaging menace that always looms threateningly in the background around here. Our usual tools for the task are a humble assortment of buckets, brushes, and garden hoses. But this year, we took things up a notch by trying out the new HYDE PivotPro Outdoor Cleaning Water Wand.

PivotPro fits onto your garden hose and gives you more concentrated power from your garden hose. As with some other quality hose nozzles and wands, you’re able to obtain more pressure by forcing the water through a constricted nozzle. But PivotPro surpasses others with the patented feature for which it’s (presumably) named. By pushing or pulling a grip on the barrel of the tool, you can rotate—or pivot, if you will—the spray along a radius of 135 degrees. So without bending or stretching, you can attack grit and grime from every angle.

The PivotPro Outdoor Cleaning Water Wand Kit includes a built-in scrub brush as well as a spindle brush. While the oversize scrub brush works well for flat surfaces, such as my porch floor, the spindle brush lets you clean narrow crevices where even hands can’t easily fit. I used the spindle brush on my porch rail, both along the top and up and down the balusters, and I must admit that that’s probably the most attention those unsung heroes of the porch have ever received in my career as the home’s owner.

The other feature that distinguishes PivotPro is its integral 16-ounce mixing reservoir. Here, you can pour in your chosen liquid cleanser and, at the push of a button, set the tool to spray soapy water at one of six preconfigured soap-to-water ratios. In years past, we applied deck-cleaning solution first, then followed up separately with a scrub and a rinse. Today, armed with PivotPro, we were able to do all three at once.

After adding deck cleaner to the reservoir, I set the soap-to-water ratio I wanted, then got to work spraying soapy water even as I scrubbed. The combination of a powerful spray, crud-cutting soap, and the stiff-bristle brush worked wonders to eliminate the muck that hadn’t seemed like it was going to budge. To finish, I moved the bristle brush out of the way, disengaged the soap dispenser, and rinsed with clear water. Clean!

It’s well worth noting that PivotPro accepts not only its own attachments, but a range of third-party components as well. That’s encouraging, because as much as I love my garden-watering hose attachment, it’s not perfect. This summer, I hope to hook it up to the PivotPro, a tool that, at 46 inches in length, would certainly help me reach those flower-filled baskets that I always hang but usually can’t water without a stepladder. I’m also really looking forward to using the HYDE PivotPro Boat/Auto Cleaning Water Wand, because after those last few weeks of winter, my poor station wagon would surely benefit from a bit of—no, a ton of—TLC!

For the time being, though, now that the porch is sparkling, I can’t wait to sit out in the morning with a cup of tea, reading the newspaper as the sun comes out.

Photo: JNoonan

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


How To: Clean a Coffeemaker

You'll serve up a fresher pot of coffee tomorrow morning if you take some time today and follow these easy instructions to give your coffeemaker a good cleaning. Trust us—you'll thank yourself later.

Cleaning a Coffee Maker with Vinegar

Photo: shutterstock.com

Bleary-eyed fumbling for that first cup of joe can lead to spills, yet despite this repeated abuse during the morning rush, your coffeemaker may be one of your most neglected kitchen tools. Sometimes it’s those appliances that we use every single day that accumulate the most dirt and germs—and the least TLC. Think back now: When was the last time you gave your coffeepot a thorough cleaning? The worst part is, this isn’t just about aesthetics: The mineral and coffee oil buildup in your appliance can actually be making your java taste terribly bitter—and that’s no way to start your day. To brew a fresh cuppa that you and your family can enjoy, follow these simple steps that will get your coffeemaker back into pristine condition.

TOOLS & MATERIALS
- Water
- White vinegar
- A dish sponge
- Hot water
- Dishwashing liquid
- A clean, dry towel

Cleaning a Coffee Maker with Vinegar - Fresh Coffee

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 1
First, fill your coffeemaker’s water chamber with equal parts water and white vinegar, then start the brew cycle.

STEP 2
Halfway through the brew cycle, turn off the coffeemaker and let it sit for 30 minutes. This wait time will give the vinegar a chance to do its job, which is cleaning and disinfecting the insides of the appliance. When the time is up, turn the coffeemaker back on and let it complete its cycle. Let it cool.

STEP 3
Pour cool water into the water chamber and run the machine again without stopping. Let it cool. Repeat two or three cycles of clean water to make sure all the vinegar is removed—that can taste more bitter than the burnt-on coffee oils.

STEP 4
Once the carafe and machine have cooled, wash the inside and outside of the carafe with warm water and dishwashing liquid using a dish sponge. Next, turn back to the countertop appliance and thoroughly wipe down the entire outside, paying extra attention to crevices and buttons. Now’s the time to clean off any last sticky spot that might be left over from a morning spill.

STEP 5
Dry both the machine and carafe thoroughly with a soft towel, then fill the water reservoir again—because all that work deserves a fresh brew!


Meet the Women Who Are Changing the Face of Fine Furniture

First friends and creative collaborators, then ultimately business partners, the all-female founders of the Egg Collective furniture design company are bucking convention and succeeding in what'd been, until now, a male-dominated industry.

Egg Collective

Photo: eggcollective.com

Stephanie Beamer, Crystal Ellis, and Hillary Petrie are the founders of Egg Collective, a furniture design firm that’s been making waves since it launched four years ago. Though based in New York, the company’s roots are in St. Louis, where the trio met as freshmen architecture students at Washington University. Back then, they likely never would have guessed that together, they would start any sort of business, let alone one that would achieve rapid success in a formerly male-dominated industry. All they knew was that their aesthetic tastes overlapped and that when it came to design, they shared a similar, deeply felt philosophy.

As students, the Egg Collective nurtured their earliest concepts through weekly brainstorm sessions held over casual late-night dinners. Post-college, each followed her interests to a different part of the country. Beamer apprenticed with fabricators and finishers in St. Louis and New York. Ellis extended her studies at the Rhode Island School of Design, earning an MFA in Sculpture. Petrie, meanwhile, went to work in a New Orleans cabinet shop. Though now geographically dispersed, Beamer, Ellis, and Petrie kept in touch and continued to exchange creative ideas, not longer in person, but through online video chats.

Egg Collective Stools

Photo: eggcollective.com

Finally, having spent five years apart, the trio reunited with the goal of making heirloom-quality furniture with a modern sensibility. Though women remain a rare sight in lumber mills and woodworking shops, the all-female Egg Collective never thought twice about gender. Instead, the founders focused on how their individual skill sets mixed, mingled, and complemented one another, making them effective not only as designers and makers, but also as businesspeople. “Like a puzzle, we fit together really well,” Petrie told Martha Stewart, when the magazine honored the Egg Collective with a high-profile American Made award in 2014.

Indeed, for a company that’s still so young, the Egg Collective has won a surprising number of prestigious accolades. And with the opening of a brand-new showroom, plus a partnership with retailer Design Within Reach, the three friends seem poised on the brink of even greater success. Through so much change, their approach has remained the same: Egg Collective continues to craft each piece by hand, placing special emphasis on all that enables furniture to stand the test of time. Petrie says, ”If something is made well and is finished well and detailed well, you can definitely respect that, and I think that inspires a lot of what we do.”

Egg Collective Table

Photo: eggcollective.com

For more information, visit Egg Collective.


One Attachment Turns Your Garden Hose into a Powerhouse Cleaning Tool

HYDE PivotPro - Siding

Photo: thehydeway.com

This time of year, we all rely on the garden hose for any number of chores around the yard. But useful though it may be, the garden hose does nothing more than extend the reach of, and give you control over, the water from your outdoor spigot. That’s why so many homeowners equip their hoses with specialty nozzles of one type or another. You’ve probably owned one in the past, and no matter its design or material composition, you may have been frustrated by its limitations. If that sounds all too familiar, take a minute to meet the HYDE PivotPro Outdoor Cleaning Water Wand. When you need a hose attachment to make quick and easy work of outdoor cleaning jobs, there may be no tool on the market better suited to the task. Dirty decks, driveways, paths, siding, windows, and outdoor furniture—none are a match for PivotPro and its cleansing spray, pivoting nozzle, built-in scrubbing brush, and soap-dispensing functionality. Find out why it’s so different.

HYDE PivotPro - Product Shot

Photo: thehydeway.com

Easy and Convenient
PivotPro takes its name from its patented pivoting nozzle, a feature that saves you from having to bend, stretch, or stoop to access those hard-to-reach places (e.g., the underside of your patio table). Simply pull or push the slide grip, and the spray angle, rotating along a radius of 135 degrees, instantly adjusts to your setting. You can remain standing on your own two feet the entire time, letting the tool eliminate all the hassles you’d usually associate with seasonal maintenance.

The power and convenience of a pivoting nozzle may be most easily appreciated by way of an example. Have you ever used a regular hose nozzle to clean off the blades of your lawn mower? Like me, you probably tipped the mower onto its side, got down on your knees, and ended up soaking not only the mower, but your clothes as well. With PivotPro, you just lift the mower a few inches, position the wand, and point the nozzle upward. The tool takes it from there; you stay high and dry.

Powerful and Effective
Water and water alone doesn’t always do the trick. Sometimes, you need a bit more punch to overcome caked-on grime or lingering stains. With PivotPro, consider yourself fully equipped to easily handle even the most challenging cleanups.

Two features make PivotPro much more powerful than the average hose wand. First, there’s the built-in mixing reservoir. Here, you can add up to 16 ounces of your favorite liquid cleanser. After setting your desired soap-to-water ratio, you simply toggle the lever and boom—right away, you’re ready to spray the soapy water needed to cut through tough crud.

The other key to the potency of PivotPro is its adjustable stiff-bristle nylon brush. Swing it into place when you want it, and when you’re done with it, swing it back out of the way. Particularly when combined with the tool’s soap-dispensing spray, the brush gives you a heavy-duty, effective weapon to deploy in the fight against mold and mildew, soils and oils.

Endlessly Versatile
Depend on PivotPro to clear the gunk out of your garbage cans, wake up a tired fence, or restore your weathered garage to its pre-winter glory. Plus, with its 46-inch reach, PivotPro can even blast all the leaves and debris out of your gummed-up gutters. For a tool that’s so lightweight and compact, and takes up such little space in your toolshed, PivotPro brings scores of common upkeep projects within reach, whether you’re a veteran weekend warrior or a newbie.

Purchase HYDE PivotPro Water Wand Outdoor Cleaning Kit, $50.99

 

Of course, the house isn’t the only thing in our lives that needs TLC. Check out the other PivotPro specially designed for boats and automobiles. Like its outdoor cleaning cousin, HYDE PivotPro Boat/Auto Cleaning Water Wand gives boat and car owners a convenient, powerful, and versatile tool that makes maintenance not only hassle-free, but actually sort of fun!

Purchase HYDE PivotPro Water Wand for Boat/Auto Kit, $50.99

 

Want to see both tools in action? Watch the video!

 

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


Genius! Vertical Vegetable Garden

Want a garden, but don't have anywhere to put it? Find out how one blogger made her own window oasis on the cheap!

Photo: jillm.com

“My mom once said she could only keep so many things alive…thankfully, she choose her children over her plants,” writes Jill. So when the time came to make her own garden, Jill engineered a low-maintenance option.

There were other challenges too, the most important being space.  Living in a small apartment meant no access to a garden, backyard, or a balcony for potted plants. But the news wasn’t all bad: her rental had 10′ windows, so there was plenty of sunlight.

With height and space efficiency in mind, she trekked to Ikea one Sunday to make her own vertical garden. She decided on three different pieces: the ORE shower rod, the FINTORP cutlery caddy, and stainless steel GRUNDTAL hooks. After spray painting everything to match, she adjusted the ORE tension rod to size and mounted it about a foot above the window sash. Then, she planted her herbs in the caddies and attached them to the rod with the hooks.

Jill picked herbs for her window garden, but you can choose whatever you like. Stack them or a mount one low on the frame—just get started before the sun goes down!

FOR MORE: JILLM

Photo: jillm.com

 


Bob Vila Radio: Cleaning (or Concealing) Wall Stains

You can't always prevent stains. But with some know-how and elbow grease, you can either remove those stains or conceal them completely.

If you spy some ugly stains on your walls, don’t despair. Chances are there’s a way to either remove those walls stains or block them from coming through paint.

Cleaning Wall Stains

Photo: allstarplumbingandrenovation.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON CLEANING AND BLOCKING WALL STAINS or read the text below:

To clean water stains, of course you first need to locate and repair the leak. Once you’ve done that, and once the stain has dried to the touch, sand it with a medium-grade sandpaper, then use a brush to coat the spot with a good quality stain-blocking primer.

For stains from tobacco smoke or kitchen grease, add a quarter cup of trisodium phosphate, or TSP, to a gallon of water and—after you’ve donned gloves and goggles—use a sponge to remove the discoloration.

And what about squiggles from pens and magic markers—are they a lost cause? Not at all. Just dip a couple cotton balls in rubbing alcohol and, using a gentle, circular motion, wipe the stains away.

If you run up against a particularly tough stain, remember that a coat of stain-blocker combined with touchup paint can make almost anything disappear.

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.


Weekend Projects: 5 Designs for a DIY Rain Barrel

It pays to be green when you collect rainwater for your landscaping needs. Start saving on your water bill this very weekend by setting up a rain barrel based on one of these easy designs.

These days, it would be hard to ignore the need for water conservation. Due to drought conditions, California now enforces strict water regulations, and it may be the first of many states to enact such measures. No matter where you live, you can get proactive by setting up a DIY rain barrel. Inexpensive and easy to construct, DIY rain barrels collect and store rainwater for use, if not in a garden, then wherever you would like. Here are five favorite ways to approach the project.

 

1. DIY WITH HEAVY METAL

DIY Rain Barrel - Stock Tank

Photo: thebikegarden.com

A galvanized stock tank is great for collecting and storing rainwater—it’s naturally rust resistant and just the right height to sit underneath a shortened downspout. A slatted cedar lid outfitted with a mosquito screen on the underside completes the tank’s country-rustic look—so well, in fact, that the DIYers at The Bike Garden set up four outside their home.

 

2. TURN WINE INTO WATER

DIY Rain Barrel - Wine Barrel

Photo: nailpolishandpaint.wordpress.com

Aesthetics are not of foremost importance with DIY rain barrels, but when you enlist a reclaimed wine barrel for the project, function and form come together in a charming win-win. When sourcing a barrel, opt for one with a lid and a cork. Read one DIYer’s adventure from wine country to backyard at Nail Polish and Paint.

 

3. GO WITH THE FLOW

DIY Rain Barrel - Painted Plastic

Photo: lovelacefiles.blogspot.com

When using rainwater to nourish a vegetable garden, be sure your DIY rain barrel hosts no contaminants. A sure bet might be large food-grade plastic barrel like this one, which once held olives. To better integrate the vessel into your landscape, paint it a neutral, non-offensive hue. Get all the details over at Lovelace Files.

 

4. REINVENT A ROUGHNECK

DIY Rain Barrel - Trash Can

Photo: instructables.com

Don’t care to get fancy? With an 32-gallon Rubbermaid Roughneck trash can, plus a few important spare parts—namely, a couple of spigots, window screening, and a handful of locknuts and washers—you can fashion a DIY rain barrel you’d be happy to see overflowing. For the step-by-step, visit Instructables now.

 

5. UNDERCOVER CONSERVATION 

DIY Rain Barrel - Pallet Surround

Photo: thedoodlehouse.com

If even the most carefully considered and constructed rain barrel seems like an eyesore, this project from The Doodle House is for you. The ever-versatile reclaimed wooden pallet comes to the rescue here, with openings between slats ready to support a collection of cheery camouflaging plants. Set up this structure around your barrel, and you’ll soon be doing your part for the planet in style.


Bob Vila Radio: Painting Exterior Brick

For best results, painting brick requires proper preparation, never more than when it's being painted for the first time.

Keeping exterior brick masonry walls looking their best requires time and effort. When you paint, proper preparation is key. Here’s how to go about it.

Painting Exterior Brick

Photo: mymcmlife.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON PAINTING EXTERIOR BRICK WALLS or read the text below:

First, use a sandblaster to get rid of any flaked or peeling paint. Next, clean the brick using a solution of trisodium phosphate—TSP for short.

If the brick hasn’t seen a previous coat of paint, apply a masonry sealer. Oil-based, pigmented sealers work best, since they soak deeper into the brick. Apply the sealer using a long-nap roller in combination with an angled-sash brush. Make sure you fully seal the surface, including mortar joints.

Once the sealer’s dry, use a pole sander and medium-grit sandpaper to scuff-sand the wall. After that, you’re ready to paint. Choose a moisture-resistant masonry paint. A single coat is usually enough, but if you want to apply a second coat, scuff-sand the finish first.

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.