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How To: Get Rid of Voles

Say “Vamoose!” to these underground varmints before they wreak havoc on your landscape.

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How To Get Rid of Voles

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If you’ve never actually seen a vole, it’s not surprising. The 7-inch-long rodent also known as a meadow mouse is rather shy. Yet evidence of the pests’ presence is unmistakable: Their maze of 2-inch-wide tunnels leads to dying plants and displaced grasses. So don’t wait to roll up the welcome mat! Follow these do-it-yourself control methods before you’re faced with a full-scale vole invasion.

How To Get Rid of Voles - Backyard Rodent

Photo: fotosearch.com

Be a Bad Host
Active year round, voles multiply rapidly, producing up to 100 offspring annually. With adequate shelter and a plentiful food supply, a colony will thrive. So your first move is to eliminate environments that make voles feel at home: excess brush and mulch, leaf piles, wood stacks, and tall grasses. If there are fruit trees on your property, clean up fallen fruit immediately, and rake up pine needles around evergreen trees as well. By cleaning up prospective nesting areas and removing food sources, voles ought to decide that the grass looks greener on the other side and decamp.

Fence Them Out
Vole “runways” tend to be less obvious in landscapes with loose topsoil. But if you notice plants suddenly drooping for no apparent reason, it’s safe to suspect you’re the victim of voles. Your best defense is a good mesh fence. To protect roots and bulbs, install rolls of ¼-inch wire mesh secured with stakes throughout your garden. Because these pests are diggers, be sure to bury the fencing at least a foot down. The good news is they don’t like to climb, so fencing need only be a foot tall.

Trap and Release
Although it’s illegal to kill voles in some parts of the country, relocating them is fair game—and entirely humane. The steel trap made by Havahart, available at home improvement stores, and the Sherman Trap (SNG model), available online, are both effective choices that hold up to 15 voles. Bait traps with peanut butter or apple and set them at a 90-degree angle to the vole “runway.” Once you’ve captured the critters, release them far from residential areas—and at least half a mile from your home.

Go Natural
Non-toxic ways to ward off voles include castor oil, derived from the seeds of the castor plant, and capsaicin, an oil found in hot peppers. Spraying either substance on your greenery provide a smell and taste voles are sure to find unpleasant. Try this approach in a small garden; for greater expanses, pick up coyote or fox urine, available at home improvement stores and trapper supply houses (typically priced at $15 for an 8-ounce bottle). The scent of predators can send voles scrambling.

Give a Hoot!
Owls also prey on voles, and unlike coyotes and foxes ought to be welcome in your yard. To encourage their nesting, mount owl nest boxes in your trees (purchase premade boxes or plans to build your own from sources like The Hungry Owl Project). Although these beautiful birds won’t eliminate a vole population entirely, they will reduce their numbers. Don’t rely on outdoor cats to be of much help, though—they can’t be bothered going after pests who spend most of their time underground.

If possible, avoid extermination. Poison can be viable against voles, but toxins may pose a risk to children, pets, and other wildlife. If you have exhausted all other methods of control and extermination is your only option, the safest, most effective poison baits are those that contain Warfarin, a slow-acting anticoagulant that prevents the animals blood from clotting, eventually leading to death. Laying the traps during the fall and winter season when food is scarce increases the likelihood that the voles will take the bait. Before administering this type of treatment yourself, consult a pest control specialist for the safest, most effective outcome.

Once you’ve rid your outdoor space of uninvited guests, replace the plants they’ve ravaged and otherwise spruce up the area. Then why not ask people over to enjoy your gorgeous garden!


Bob Vila Thumbs Up: The Outdoor Furniture Competition Starts Today

Vote today and everyday this month to help your favorite blogger win the May Thumbs Up challenge.

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The warm breezes and longer days signal that we can finally escape to our decks, patios, and porches to bask in some much needed sunshine. And how could we enjoy our outdoor structures without an assortment of chairs, tables, and other furnishings? To welcome spring, and to inspire you to spruce up your own spaces, we’re showcasing some of the best outdoor furniture projects on the web for this month’s Bob Vila Thumbs Up competition.

SEE ALL PROJECTS HERE

Bob Vila Thumbs Up recognizes some of the very best DIY projects around, and this month we’re shining the spotlight on amazing outdoor furniture projects. Each of these bloggers wins points in our book for creativity but only one can win the Bob Vila Thumbs Up competition and the $250 gift card.

SEE ALL PROJECTS HERE

So cast your vote today and every day through May 31st to help your favorite outdoor furniture project become this month’s Bob Vila Thumbs Up winner. After all, only you and your vote can determine the outcome of this competition.

Congrats to last month’s winning blogger, Prodigal Pieces. Read more about the winning Bob Vila Thumbs Up project here.


Is Your AC Safe from Brownouts and Power Surges?

This summer, consider installing a simple device that can protect both your air conditioning system and your family's comfort from the ups and downs of the power grid.

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HVAC Surge Protection - Air Conditioner Compressor

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It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of electronics and appliances in our lives today. We are sounded by equipment that beeps and whirs, blinks and buzzes. From the systems that provide our entertainment to those that keep our homes comfortable year-round, the great advances in technology over the last century have made life easier, more enjoyable, and simply better all around, in ways both major and minor.

In the typical home, one finds a host of appliances, each designed for a different purpose. Despite their variety, most of these appliances have one thing in common—a need for a steady, uninterrupted electrical current. That’s a problem. To a far greater extent than most people appreciate, the power grid isn’t perfect, and when it inevitably hiccups, it endangers the appliances you depend on and for which you spent a small fortune.

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, power disturbances cost homeowners a whopping $79 billion each year. The reason? Power surges, brownouts, and blackouts do not discriminate—and appliances, no matter their sticker price, are equally vulnerable. If a power surge fries your coffeemaker, you might not hesitate to replace it. But what will you do if a power surge ruins your central air conditioning system?

Spikes, limits, or breaks in electricity pose a particularly acute risk for a key component of a conventional central air conditioning system—the compressor. Typically situated in the yard, the compressor performs the pivotal role of controlling the flow of refrigerant through the system. In effect, it’s the engine that drives your air conditioning. Perhaps needless to say, compressors don’t come cheap, and replacing one requires the services of a pro (another charge).

HVAC Surge Protection - Compressor Defender

Photo: intermatic.com

Homeowners would be wise to protect their investment in central air conditioning, particularly given the fact that a power disturbance may strike at any time, incurring considerable out-of-warranty costs. While there are various options for safeguarding your system from damage, many homeowners choose to install the innovative Compressor Defender™. Easy to set up—it can be fully operational in 10 minutes—it provides years of defense against all types of potentially destructive electrical events.

Available at Lowe’s, the Compressor Defender™ takes the hit so your air conditioning equipment doesn’t have to. With the Compressor Defender™ standing guard, you can avoid the hassle and expense of AC replacement. And almost as important, the Compressor Defender™ lets you count on your central air conditioning to keep your home comfortable through the hottest months of the year, no matter how many surges or brownouts the summer season brings.

Like other devices of its kind, the Compressor Defender™ isn’t invincible. With exposure to multiple power disturbances, its internal metal-oxide varistors gradually deteriorate, although thanks to its state-of-the-art TPMOV® Technology, the Compressor Defender™ eliminates many potentially hazardous failure modes associated with older, increasingly outmoded electrical protection options. Another improvement: Compressor Defender™ reports on its own status, via LED indicators, letting you know when the unit must be replaced. That way, you find out before it’s too late.

Bear in mind also that the Compressor Defender™ comes with a three-year warranty covering all electronic, connected equipment parts up to $7,500. Simple and effective, with painless maintenance requirements and a no-nonsense warranty, the Compressor Defender™ removes worry. And with the power grid under increased strain due to mounting electricity demand and the upswing in extreme weather, don’t we all want a little peace of mind?

 

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


Buyer’s Guide: Showerheads

Make sense of pressure, efficiency, and more in order to purchase the best device to transform your bathroom into a home spa.

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Best Showerhead - Master Bathroom with Shower

Photo: homedepot.com

There’s nothing quite like the sense of clean and calm that comes with a great shower after a long day’s work. One of the simpler pleasures in life, it washes away the stress of the day both literally and figuratively. Yet whether you’re fine-tuning choices for a bathroom remodel or just fed up with a drippy drizzle, you may need some assistance choosing the perfect showerhead. This guide, which includes recommendations of some highly rated models, will streamline the process and help you determine what you really want in terms of functions and features.

Pick your pressure. There was a time when showerheads merely sprayed—and over their lifespan, the plastic or metal nozzles were prone to blockages. Today, most are manufactured with silicone or a similar polymer far more resistant to scaling. Not only will you enjoy an uninterrupted stream, there are a host of mist options available to help you customize your cleanliness.
Aerating showerheads mix air and water to produce a misty, substantial spray, yet they may cool the water by as much as 15 degrees.
Laminar-flow showerheads offer a mighty yet less misty experience, through individual streams of water. They tend to be a bit pricier.
Rain showerheads have a large head and a wide, low-pressure spray pattern to give you the sensation of gentle precipitation.
Multi-setting models let you customize flow, with up to 12 shower experiences—from a trickle to a pulsing massage.

Choose your placement. Aside from spray options, the biggest difference between showerheads is wall- or ceiling-mounted and handheld. The mounted variety is more popular for its clean-lined look and ease of use. Handheld versions attached to a hose can be a real boon if you’ve got mobility issues, or if you’ll be bathing small children or pets. If you don’t wish to choose, you can have both, either a wall-mounted main head and an optional, often smaller handheld, or even a shower tower, with a number of wall- and ceiling-mounted heads plus a handheld.

What about water waste? No one wants to pour money down the drain, so for both economic as well as environmental reasons water efficiency is worth considering. Since 1994, federal law has required showerhead manufacturers to limit flow to 2.5 gallons of water per minute. Fortunately, even those that meet the EPA’s WaterSense guidelines by keeping flow under 2 gallons per minute can offer satisfying showers. (Note: In California, due to stricter water use regulation, WaterSense is a state law.)

Showered with Praise

We combed customer and critical reviews to help you narrow your choices. Here are three shower experiences that go to the head of the class:

Best Showerhead - Delta 75152 Adjustable Water-Amplifying Showerhead with H20Kinetic Technology

Photo: amazon.com

Delta 75152 Adjustable Water-Amplifying Shower Head with H2Okinetic Technology ($21)
With an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon, this Delta showerhead creates a wave pattern from the water flow, producing the effect of more water being used than actually is. For households with varying water pressure preferences, its dual settings offer both a conservative high-power spray and an even more efficient setting with a slight adjustment. It meets the EPA’s WaterSense requirements, so it may reduce your water bill, too.

Best Showerhead - Toto TS200AL65 Showerhead

Photo: amazon.com

Toto TS200AL65-CP Showerhead ($49)
The Sweethome team put this rain shower model through nearly 20 tests in a 240-shower exercise comparing nearly a dozen showerheads before declaring it the best of the best. It includes a high-pressure mist setting that’s both comforting and efficient, while a temporary-shutoff option further conserves water beyond its 2-gallon-per-minute flow. And its easy installation—under a minute, using only an adjustable wrench—is another plus.

Best Showerhead - Moen 5-Spray 4-Inch Hand Shower

Photo: amazon.com

Moen Banbury 5-Spray 4-Inch Hand Shower ($32)
For those seeking the flexibility of a handheld, this model—which overwhelmingly impressed Home Depot reviewers—offers five spray settings, from an energizing narrow-stream massage to a relaxing wide-stream option. Bonus: It’s available in a chrome, bronze, nickel, or white finish to blend with nearly any existing bathroom fixtures. But with its 2.5 gallon-per-minute flow, it’s not as water-conservative as some units.

Now that you know your options, don’t spend another day settling for an inferior spray. Purchase and put in the showerhead that suits your needs, then jump in and enjoy!


Removing Wallpaper—It’s Easier Than You Think!

Peeling back outdated wall coverings doesn't have to be a pain in the neck! Armed with a few wallpaper removal tools from HYDE, you can tackle this weekend project with ease.

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How to Remove Wallpaper - With HYDE Wallpaper Scoring Tool

Photo: hydetools.com

No homeowner wants to be confronted with ripped-up wall coverings as a day-in, day-out reminder of a job not yet finished. For this reason, wallpaper removal is a project that should be done in one fell swoop rather than dragged out over the course of a week in odd spare moments. But the sheer scope of the project—imagine four long walls in a high-ceilinged master bedroom—and fear of failure can be just daunting enough to discourage even the most determined homeowner from taking on the project at all. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be difficult to get rid of that outdated, tired old wallpaper. (And no, we’re not suggesting you run out to hire a professional.) With the proper technique and assistance from the right tools, you can remove even the most stubborn wallpaper on your own and with ease, leaving you free to transform your walls with a fresher, more modern treatment.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Nonslip drop cloth
- Wide painter’s tape
- Hot water
- Hand or pump sprayer
- Liquid fabric softener
- HYDE Wallpaper Scoring Tool
- Ladder
- HYDE 4-Inch Glass and Wall Scraper
- Large noncellulose sponge
- Trash bag

STEP 1
First, take precautionary measures to protect the flooring and baseboards in the room where you’re planning to remove the wallpaper. Spread a nonslip canvas drop cloth over the floors, then cover up the baseboards with wide painter’s tape. The tape will keep scraps of fallen wallpaper from coming into contact with your baseboards, saving the molding from damage and you from having to unstick the paper all over again.

STEP 2
Test just how tightly adhered your wallpaper is by soaking a corner of one panel with some hot water from a hand or pump sprayer. After 10 minutes, peel back the moistened wallpaper. If it comes off easily, you’re in luck! You have strippable wallpaper. All you need to do is spray each panel thoroughly with hot water and give it time to absorb. After a few minutes, peel the panel off. Work on one panel at a time until all are down, then skip to Step 6.

If, however, the wallpaper remains stuck after you spray on the water and wait 10 minutes, you may be dealing with a vinyl wall covering that resists water absorption. Proceed to the next step for the key to tackling your obstinate wallpaper.

How to Remove Wallpaper - With HYDE 4-Inch Glass and Wall Scraper

Photo: hydetools.com

STEP 3
To better reach the source of the problem—the wallpaper glue—you’ll want to make many tiny incisions in the wallpaper so the hot water will be able to reach and saturate the adhesive beneath. The fastest, most painless way to do this requires one simple-to-use instrument: HYDE’s Wallpaper Scoring Tool.

Position the easy-to-grip tool against the wall and move it back and forth in circles and swipes, taking care not to miss the areas closest to the ceiling and corners. With 96 amazingly sharp teeth, HYDE’s Wallpaper Scoring Tool makes wallpaper perforation a snap. After you’ve worked your way around the walls, you’ll see thousands of tiny holes in even the toughest paper.

STEP 4
After scoring the wallpaper, spray hot water on the wall; work on only one or two panels at a time so the water doesn’t cool off too much as you proceed through the next steps. Wait 15 minutes for the panel to saturate completely, then peel back a corner to see how easily it releases.

Do not despair if the paper resists your tug. If it’s still stuck in the same spot, repeat the spraying process. Depending on the thickness of the glue and how long it has been in place, you may need to apply hot water multiple times in order to loosen the paper enough for easy removal. Are you up against a real challenge? Mix liquid fabric softener—which helps dissolve wallpaper glue—into the hot water at the ratio of 1/4 cup of softener per gallon of water. Dampen your wallpaper panels with this solution as you did with the plain hot water.

STEP 5
Once the wallpaper seems loose enough to remove, climb your ladder to start where the wall meets the ceiling. Because loosened strips of wallpaper will naturally hang downward, working from the top down allows you to scrape and peel as you go. For best results, use HYDE’s 4-Inch Glass and Wall Scraper to shave the damp wallpaper from the wall. The blade should be turned to dull side out, instead of the sharp blade which will tend to dig into the wallboard.

While no one would fault you for wanting to finish up the project as quickly as possible, use a little caution while you scrape. You may very well be planning on painting the wall after the paper is gone, and you really don’t want to have to fill in nicks and gouges on the drywall or plaster before you paint. To protect the wall, hold the scraper so the blade is nearly parallel to the wall, and draw your tool along the wall carefully.

STEP 6
Keep a large noncellulose sponge and a bucket of warm water handy while you’re stripping off the paper so you can scrub down the wall frequently to remove residual glue. This is easier to do while the wall is still wet; once the job is complete, the glue can harden on the wall and require rewetting and scraping.

When all the paper has been removed, a final wipe down of the entire wall using the sponge and fresh water is all that’s necessary to prep the wall for its new look. Wait a day for the walls to dry completely, and you can move ahead with either a fresh coat of paint or another style of wallpaper—perhaps one with a timeless design so you won’t have to repeat the project too soon!

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


DIY Lite: These 1-Hour Wind Chimes Star a Few Surprise Materials

Transform your basic backyard into an peaceful outdoor oasis with the soft melodies of this handmade ornament.

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How to Make Wind Chimes - DIY Wind Chimes

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Looking to enhance your backyard escape with little more than an hour-long DIY project? Consider the charm of an accent that appeals to multiple senses: the humble wind chimes. With just a little creativity, you can make your own melodic outdoor ornament from bits of hardware supplies and around-the-house odds and ends. Hang the new set of chimes anywhere—deck, porch, or garden patio—and you can enjoy its soothing sounds as soon as the next cool breeze passes through.

 

How to Make Wind Chimes - Supplies

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- 1-1⁄2-inch flat washers (25)
- Steel wire
- Pliers
- Wire cutter
- 56-inch metal curtain rod (or other piping)
- Clamp (optional)
- Metal saw or a tubing cutter
- Drill with a small metal bit
- Colored twine
- Scissors
- Superglue
- Shower drain cover

 

STEP 1

How to Make Wind Chimes - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Thread thin steel wire through the centers of two 1-1⁄2-inch washers, and lay them flat on your work surface so that their edges touch. Use pliers to help you complete the loop and tie them together, then snip the excess length with a wire cutter. Connect a third washer to your chain in the same manner, making sure they all lie flat in a row.

Repeat this process until you have eight rows of three washers.

 

STEP 2

How to Make Wind Chimes - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Use a metal-cutting saw or a tube cutter to slice your pipe into eight 7-inch pieces. We cut up an old, hollow curtain rod, but any metal pipe that is about an inch in diameter works for the chimes.

 

STEP 3

How to Make Wind Chimes - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Hold the pipe steady with your hand or a clamp, and drill two small holes through opposite sides of the pipe at one end (you’ll thread twine through these in the next step when you start assembling the hanging design). For best results with the drill, switch to a bit that is designed to cut through metal and set your power tool to a slow speed.

Repeat on the seven remaining tubes.

 

STEP 4

How to Make Wind Chimes - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Now you’re ready to start stringing together the pieces. First, thread twine through both holes and knot it. Then, leave 5 inches of space before you thread the twine through one end of a washer set. To keep your knots from coming apart in strong winds, you can bond them with a drop of superglue.

Do this for all eight sets.

 

STEP 5

How to Make Wind Chimes - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Now, you’ll cut the twine at varying lengths to suspend each chime: The longest is 15 inches, and each subsequent piece will be 1-½ inches shorter until the eighth and last cutting is 4-½ inches long. Tie one on the free end of each row of washers (again, securing each knot with a dot of superglue).

 

STEP 6

How to Make Wind Chimes - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Now, for the secret to how this all comes together: a perforated shower drain cover. The contraption’s holes are perfectly suited for stringing the chimes up. Work in order from the shortest chime to the longest, tying each loose end of twine to the outermost holes along the circumference of the shower drain cover. Dab a bit of superglue over each knot.

 

STEP 7

How to Make Wind Chimes - Step 7

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Finally, thread a piece of twine through each screw hole in the shower drain cover and tie them together around a single washer. Loop one more string through the top-most washer and knot it, and you’re ready to hang your handmade wind chimes up in the branches of your backyard.

 

How to Make Wind Chimes - Easy Backyard Project

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Ama is a DIY addict and the creative mind behind Ohoh Blog. She likes home decor, lighting, and furniture projects that may involve painting, sewing, drilling…no matter the technique! Whatever she has on hand is inspiration to create, and fodder for her serious addiction to upcycling.


Is Your Air Conditioner Going to Survive the Summer?

Take a little time now, before the season of heat and humidity really kicks in, to evaluate the health and efficiency of your AC.

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Air Conditioner Troubleshooting

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With the winter finally passed, savvy homeowners around the country are preparing for another summer of sizzling, sweltering heat. A comprehensive seasonal maintenance routine includes a long list of must-dos, but when it comes to the health and comfort of your home and family, there’s at least one especially critical task that you shouldn’t delay. Right now, before the mercury rises any higher, make sure that your central air-conditioning system still has what it takes to deliver peak performance.

Before you evaluate the health of your system, however, take the time to determine its age. Air conditioners last between 12 and 17 years, on average, so if yours has been in place for more than a decade—or if you simply don’t know when it was installed—the equipment “may already be on borrowed time,” says David Kenyon, a product manager with Sears Home Services. Do you suspect that your air conditioner may be on its last legs? If so, check for the following signs, which often indicate the need for repair or replacement.

Air Conditioner Troubleshooting - Compressor Unit Profile

Photo: fotosearch.com

Excessive Noise
Air conditioner troubleshooting sometimes requires the expertise of a technician, but even typical homeowners can easily discern if the system has been making excessive noise. Indeed, “standing next to the appliance can tell you a lot about its condition,” Kenyon says. Grating and grinding, rattling and whining—any such sounds indicate the possibility of damage to one or more internal components. “If things don’t sound right,” Kenyon concludes, it’s wise to contact a professional.

Unusual Patterns 
Central AC operates on a cycle. “It runs for a specific amount of time, then rests for a specific amount of time,” Kenyon explains. If the system rarely rests, or if it constantly turns on and off, it may be improperly sized or excessively strained. Either situation may lead to discomfort or inexplicably high energy bills. The good news: “Long and short cycling are common issues,” Kenyon says, and their resolution often leads to “a more livable environment and lower monthly operating costs.”

High Humidity
Professionally installed, properly operating AC works to keep humidity at a comfortable, healthy level. If you find yourself adjusting the thermostat down to a lower-than-usual target temperature, of if you discover mold and mildew where it never existed before, “there’s probably something wrong,” Kenyon says. “Your best bet is to work with a pro,” he says, ideally through regular checkups, at least twice a year, “not simply to solve problems, but to prevent problems from occurring.”

Poor Air Quality
In the past, “dust was a hallmark of home HVAC,” but over the years, filtration has improved by leaps and bounds. If at your house the cooling season is still the harbinger of red eyes, scratchy throats, or allergy or asthma symptoms, Kenyon advises that you should “at least replace the filter, or to go a step further, explore some of the new technology.” Meet with a local contractor to learn more about the latest healthy home air-conditioning options, or schedule a free in-home consultation with Sears Home Services.

Uneven Cooling
As you walk from one room to another, do you notice a marked difference in temperature? If so, the age of your system may be to blame. Uneven cooling was typical of “old, single-blower setups.” To put poor performance in your past, Kenyon says, “the sole viable option is to upgrade.” Nowadays, HVAC specialists like Sears Home Services install AC technology that’s been carefully engineered to maintain a consistent temperature across the entire house—”top to bottom and wall to wall.”

Air Conditioner Troubleshooting - Thermostat Action Shot

Photo: fotosearch.com

If your evaluation suggests that there may be a performance problem, whether major or minor, with your central air-conditioning system, don’t wait until the system fails at noon on a sizzling August day. Be proactive in addressing your concerns. The first step? Arrange a visit from a technician qualified to work on your specific type of air conditioner. Keep in mind that some pros specialize in only one type. Others, like Sears Home Services, perform maintenance on all makes and models.

With proper maintenance by a qualified provider, it’s often possible to ensure that your air conditioner fulfills its expected useful lifespan. But there’s no such thing as an HVAC system that lasts forever. As yours gets older and older, you can expect more frequent breakdowns, at which point “it may actually be more cost-effective to upgrade,” Kenyon says, not least because the latest air conditioners boast exceptional energy efficiency, often leading to lower cooling costs.

Additionally, it’s important to note that installing a new air conditioner can boost the value of your home. In fact, upon resale, homeowners often recoup much of the sum invested in bringing the system up to date, Kenyon says. Even so, any project that comes with a high price tag also comes with anxiety. Only compounding the stress is the fact that HVAC, essential as it is, remains largely mysterious to many homeowners. Choosing the right replacement can be an overwhelming prospect; it’s a decision that a homeowner really wants to get right. An important advantage of a company like Sears Home Services is that a project coordinator guides you through the process, from selection to installation. Plus, in contrast with many local contractors, the nationwide company demonstrates its commitment to customers by providing a Satisfaction Guarantee. No matter the scope of your project, there’s peace of mind in having a familiar, firmly established, decades-old service provider on the job, particularly when the comfort of your family is at stake.

Photo: fotosearch.com

This article has been brought to you by Sears Home Services. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


How To: Cut Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tile affords a durable, attractive surface for floors and walls alike. If there's a ceramic tile job in your future, ensure quality results by first learning what tools you'll need and how best to use them to make a variety of cuts in tile.

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How to Cut Ceramic Tile - Prep for Cuts

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A small- to medium-size ceramic tiling job is a project that’s well within the grasp of most DIYers. With careful measuring, the right tools, and conscientious attention to detail, a determined homeowner can achieve satisfying results. But doing things right can be time-consuming. Case in point: Even the most straightforward tiling job will require cutting a few tiles, whether to complete the edges of the surface or to work around obstacles. Cutting tiles is a task that demands accurate measurements and precise use of tools. To make sure your project goes smoothly, it’s best to figure out ahead of time how you’ll handle all those cuts.

Different jobs require different types of cuts. For some, you’ll be able to get by with just straight cuts; for others, you may need to cut on the diagonal or carve a corner or curve out of a tile. And each type of cut entails different methods and tools. As you lay out your tile design, determine what kinds of cuts you’ll need, then check below for the situation that best describes your job to find out how to proceed.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Eye protection
- Gloves
- Pencil
- Glass cutter or tile-cutting pliers
- Square
- Rubbing stone
- Tile nippers
- Tile cutter
- Wet saw

BEFORE YOU BEGIN

Whatever cuts you’re making, the general process is the same: Measure and mark the tile on the top (glazed) side, snap or cut it, then smooth the edges. If you’re doing a one-time job that will require a tile cutter or wet saw, you may want to rent instead of buy; these tools are available for rental from home improvement stores. If you have never used any of these tools before, it’s a good idea to practice a little on some spare or scrap tiles before you get started in earnest.

Note that the divisions below are just general guidelines: For some tiles, you may need to use a combination of tools and techniques. Most important, before starting any project that involves cutting tile, put on your eye protection and gloves!

 

How to Cut Ceramic Tile - Using a Glass Cutter

Photo: fotosearch.com

1. FOR SMALL JOBS WITH STRAIGHT CUTS

If you need to cut just a few tiles and you don’t need to make any curved or corner cuts, you can probably make do with just a square and a glass cutter or tile-cutting pliers.

• Measure and Mark. Measure, then use a pencil to mark the tile where you want to make the cut.

• Score. Place the tile on a flat surface, such as a workbench or a piece of plywood. Set your square slightly off your marked line so the glass cutter (or the scoring wheel on the pliers) will hit the right place. Then, starting at the edge of the tile, place the scoring tool on the line and press down firmly as you drag it across the tile. You should hear a scratching noise, which is the sign that the tile is being scored.

• Snap. If you’re using pliers, open them and slide the tile all the way into them, with the scoring wheel sitting directly under the line you’ve scored on top of the tile. Squeeze the pliers while gently supporting the tile as it snaps. If you’re used a glass cutter, place a length of wire hanger or other appropriately sized material beneath the scored line, then push down on either side of the tile to snap it; alternatively, grab the tile nippers and snap off the scored piece.

• Smooth. If the cut edge of the tile is rough, smooth it with a rubbing stone.

 

How to Cut Ceramic Tile - Using a Tile Cutter

Photo: fotosearch.com

2. FOR BIGGER JOBS WITH STRAIGHT CUTS

If you have lots of tiles to cut, or if you need to make cuts from corner to corner, use a tile cutter. Whether you plan to invest in the purchase or rent one to save a few bucks, just make sure you pick up a tile cutter that’s big enough for the tile you’re cutting! Then, as mentioned above, practice on a few spare tiles until you’re comfortable with this tiling tool.

• Measure and Mark. First, measure and mark the tile where you want to make the cut.

• Score. Place the tile into the tile cutter. Make sure the tile is pushed snugly up to the fence and that your marked line is directly under the scoring wheel. While applying slight pressure on the handle, slide the wheel forward across the tile. You should hear a scratching noise, which is the sign that the tile is being scored.

• Snap. Once you’ve scored the tile, move the handle back slightly from the tile’s edge and let the breaking feet lie flat on top of the tile. Apply downward pressure on the handle, and the tile will snap.

• Smooth. If the cut edge of the tile is rough, smooth it with a rubbing stone.

 

How to Cut Ceramic Tile - Using a Wet Saw

Photo: amazon.com

3. FOR CORNER CUTS AND REALLY BIG JOBS

If you’ll be cutting lots of tiles for a big job, or if you need to make corner cuts around door jambs or wall outlets, you should either invest in or rent a wet saw. As with any power tool, read the instructions before you begin and use all recommended safety precautions—and take a few practice cuts before jumping into the project.

• Measure and Mark. First, measure and mark the tile where you want to make the cut.

• Cut. Follow all the manufacturer’s instructions for the wet saw, and make sure you’ve put enough water in the tub. Turn the wet saw on, confirm that water is flowing over the blade, then proceed to make your cut the same way you would cut wood on a table saw.

• Smooth. If the cut edge of the tile is rough, smooth it with a rubbing stone.

 

How to Cut Ceramic Tile - Using Tile Nippers

Photo: fotosearch.com

4. FOR CURVED CUTS

To make curved cuts, or to remove small pieces of tile, use tile nippers. Have patience, as you can successfully cut tile this way only a little bit at a time.

• Measure and Mark. First, measure and mark the tile where you want to make the cut.

• Nip. Starting at the edge of the tile, place the tile into the tile nippers and squeeze, removing just a small amount of tile. In this fashion, continue to work your way toward your marked line, taking off only a little bit of tile at a time. If you try to remove too much at once, you will end up cracking the tile. As you get closer to your marked line, take smaller and smaller nips.

• Smooth. The cut edge of a nipped tile will be rough, so be sure to smooth it with a rubbing stone.


Quick Tip: Control Weeds Using a Propane Torch

The reemergence of perennials heralds the arrival of spring, but not all resurgent greens are equally welcome. When weeds start to rear their unwanted heads, try this white-hot trick for getting rid of them for good.

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Best Way to Kill Weeds - Dandelion

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How you choose to eradicate weeds depends on your patience, physical abilities, and environmental ethics. You could get down on all fours and suffer the backbreaking work of pulling them by hand. Or, you could run the risk of harming desirable plants along with the weeds by applying herbicides. Instead, why not go for an approach that doesn’t damage your soil or your muscles: Just as farmers burn their fields to make way for crops, you can put the natural force of fire to work in your yard to get rid of weeds.

Best Way to Kill Weeds

Photo: amazon.com

A simple propane vapor torch kit—the kind made for garden use, not for soldering—and a gas cylinder are all you’ll need to scorch your weed-covered earth. Before you get started, however, you may want to seek permission from your local fire department to save you a fine if burning restrictions are in effect. A few other caveats: Have a fire extinguisher or garden hose nearby to quench flames that grow more than a few inches tall, don’t burn when it’s windy, and always avoid piles of dry, brown material.

Launch your attack as soon as weeds emerge, before they go to seed. First, read the manufacturer’s instructions for connecting the torch to its fuel source, and for lighting and operating it. Start with a low-intensity flame, adjusting output as needed. Slowly wave the tip of the wand a few inches above the plants you want to kill. A second or two is all you need—you’re scorching the weeds with 2,000 degrees of heat, effectively destroying their protective outer skin and boiling the water in their cells, so a little bit goes a long way. Your red-hot revenge is complete when you notice an unwelcome weed turn from glossy green to a darker, matte shade.

Even if a weed doesn’t wilt right away, rest assured that the damage has been done. Once singed, it can’t retain moisture or photosynthesize. Its roots might contain enough stored energy to produce another stem, but if that happens, apply a second or third treatment, and you’ll eventually starve the plant. To avoid displacing the soil and spreading more seeds, leave the dying weeds to decompose on their own and turn your attention to tending more beneficial blooms.


Clanking Pipes? Restore Quiet with a Water Hammer Arrester

Silence the distressing sound of clanking metal pipes—and banish any worries about damaged plumbing—with one simple installation.

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Water Hammer Arresters

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Have you ever been spooked by strange banging, clanking, or thumping sounds coming from your water pipes whenever you flush a toilet or finish a load in the dishwasher? No need to call in the ghost hunters. The cause of these startling sounds commonly goes by the name of  “water hammer,” although it’s also known as hydraulic shock. Both names refer to a pressure surge that results when flowing water is forced to stop or change direction suddenly when a valve closes at an end of a pipeline system. While the eerie noises may conjure up images of the supernatural, the problems this pressure wave can cause are all too real, ranging from vibration to a partial pipe collapse. Water hammer plagues many homes, but—lucky for you—it’s easy to address.

Water Hammer Arresters - Sioux Chief Model

Photo: supplyhouse.com

Homeowners often first notice water hammer issues soon after the installation of a new water-using appliance, such as a washing machine, dishwasher, or ice maker; the addition of any of these heavy water users may cause uneven pressure throughout the plumbing system. If the cushion of shock-absorbing air that is typically contained by your plumbing’s vertical air chambers is depleted, then the water rushing through your pipes will slam into the fixtures without something to soften the blow. As soon as you hear the telltale banging or clanking, try to equalize the air distribution throughout the system. Start by closing the main valve that supplies the house with water, and then open the faucet that sits highest in the house, for example, the sink faucet in the top-floor bathroom. Head downstairs and turn on the faucet that sits lowest in the house (perhaps the basement sink). Finally, flush all the toilets. As the water drains, air replaces it throughout the system—exactly what needs to happen in order to quiet the water hammer. When water stops draining from that lowest faucet and you’ve emptied the entire system, shut off the faucets and reopen the main valve to let water reenter.

If this equalization process does not stop the banging and thumping, check the water pressure. A high household water pressure will create more hammering and knocking noises. You can test the water pressure by screwing a pressure gauge onto an exterior hose bib or behind the washing machine. The magic number is 75 psi—more than that, and you’ll want to call a professional to install or replace a pressure regulator. Less than that, however, means that your household water pressure is within normal limits and you need to look elsewhere for a solution.

Daniel O’Brian, a technical expert from online retailer SupplyHouse.com, recommends a solution that’s readily available and not terribly difficult to install: a water hammer arrester. This regulator fits right into a home’s plumbing system to absorb the shock, stop the banging, and ultimately prevent pipe damage. When water and all the force behind it has no place to go, the arrester, using either a piston or air bladder, takes the hit—the air in the bladder compresses, slowing down and stifling the noise triggered by the water.

It’s fairly simple to figure out whether this fix might correct the noise issue. Open the valve or fixture you think has been causing a problem, then close it after it’s been flowing. If the pipes start banging, an arrester may be a worthy investment. “When a fixture opens up, water pressure blasts the water through the pipes out through whatever outlet you opened,” O’Brian explains. “If that outlet closes abruptly, as is the case with a lot of solenoid valves on washing machines, the water goes from ‘60 to 0’ in no time flat. With no arrester, this 20-car water pileup smashes into the valve and all the piping it was traveling through. A water hammer arrester will dampen the clangor and take the shock, protecting any delicate components that the water had been crashing into before.”

According to O’Brian, today’s market includes a range of types and sizes of water hammer arresters, most of which are simple enough for typical homeowners to install themselves. Some models for sinks and toilets screw directly onto the outlet of the stop valve and hook up to the riser; others are designed to attach to appliances like dishwashers and washing machines. Even larger models can regulate multiple fixtures using a rechargeable air bladder, but these units usually require professional installation.

Whatever your needs and budget, experts at SupplyHouse.com are ready to help you sift through the wealth of options—including those from industry-leading brands like Sioux Chief, Dahl, and Watts—to find the right model for your household. Getting that proper unit into position may spare you from both the unsettling noises and any larger plumbing problems that might have been coming down the pipeline.


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