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How To: Find Property Lines

Before you start building or planting toward the margins of your property, head off disputes with the folks next door by first figuring out where your space begins and ends.

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How to Find Property Lines

Photo: istockphoto.com

Good fences may make good neighbors, but accidentally erecting one on a neighbor’s property can lead to hard feelings, or even a lawsuit. Whether you want to build an addition, figure out who’s responsible for tree removal, or plant a border hedge, you need to know where your yard legally ends and the next guy’s begins. Here, we’ve put together the most common methods for figuring this out. Some are simple and inexpensive, adequate for satisfying your curiosity. Others demand skills and will cost a few bucks, but may be necessary for certain construction projects. Read on to learn how to walk the line—and ensure that your house and landscaping stay on your side of it.

Check Sidewalks and Streetlights
Examine the lines that are cut in the sidewalk in front of your house. Often, the contractor who poured the sidewalk started and stopped on the property lines, so those cut lines may coincide with the edges of your property. As well, the appearance of the concrete on your side of the property may be slightly different from that on your neighbor’s side. Streetlights, too, are often placed on property lines. While these visual clues are good indications of property lines, if you intend to build or install something on your land, you’ll need additional verification.

Visit the Local Zoning Department
The zoning department is the municipal office that records plats: the maps, drawn to scale, that show land division. Unless your home was built more than a hundred years ago, you can probably obtain a copy of your block and lot plat for a minimal fee. This will give you the exact dimensions of your lot—in other words, the property you legally own—in relationship to other lots on your block.

Retrace the Surveyor’s Steps
When the surveyors were laying out the original plat, they determined a starting point for all the lots on your block. You can retrace the original surveyor’s steps by locating the starting point, which will be labeled on the plat as either the “common point” or the “point of beginning” (POB). It is often the center point of a side street. The original surveyor’s measurements will all be listed on the plat. With a long measuring tape, follow the plat as you would a treasure map, measuring your physical property as you go. Your measurements should correspond with the ones on the plat.

How to Find Property Lines - Using a Metal Detector

Photo: istockphoto.com

Locate a Hidden Survey Pin
Survey pins are thin iron bars, two to three feet long and sometimes capped with plastic, which the original survey crew inserted on the property lines. If you have access to a metal detector, move the device over the ground along the sidewalk to the curb to locate the survey pin. Pins may be buried just under the surface, or up to a foot below. A few days before you dig, however, you must call 811, the free, federally designated number that will route you to your local utility company. Ask the utility company to come out and mark any buried lines so you don’t unintentionally hit one. There’s no charge for this service, but if you damage a buried utility line, you could end up having to pay to repair it.

Beware of Moved Survey Pins
Survey pins are not foolproof markers. Over the years, previous owners, utility workers, or even a tree-removal company may have dug up a survey pin and reinserted it nearby, or just tossed it aside. Your actual property line, however, does not change just because someone messed with the survey pin. For example, if you locate survey pins 60 feet apart on opposite sides of your property but the plat says your lot is 50 feet wide, one of those pins may have been moved, and your property is still just 50 feet across.

Dig Out Your Deed for Additional Info
In older neighborhoods, property owners may have purchased or sold off portions of their yards. Locating a survey pin won’t give you this information, but the most recent legal description recorded on your deed will list any such changes. If you don’t have a copy of your deed filed with your homeowner records, get one at the register of deeds office, often located within your county courthouse.

Consider the Metes and Bounds Survey
If your deed features a metes and bounds survey—a survey that describes the exact distances and directions from one established point on your property line to the next—you’ll have all the information you need to locate your property lines. Unfortunately, this type of legal description is notoriously difficult to comprehend unless you’re a surveyor.

The metes and bounds survey cites a starting point, located at one of corners of your property. From there, the survey will give you detailed directions and distances to help you locate the rest of the corners and boundary lines of your property. It’s similar to a connect-the-dots game, except you do it on foot, not on paper. You’ll need a long measuring tape as well as a good-quality directional compass so you can move systematically from point to point.

But egad! You’ll find that a metes and bounds survey reads like a Shakespearean play. A typical survey may tell you to “commence” from the point of beginning (POB), “running thence westerly 100 feet, thence southerly at an interior angle of 55 degrees to a point,” and so on until it brings you back to the original starting point.

Bring in a Professional Surveyor
Before you drive yourself too crazy with the metes and bounds survey, know that the only legally binding method to determine exact property lines—essential, for example, if you intend to build an addition to your house—is to have a professional survey. Local building codes will determine how close to your property line you can legally build. A professional survey could cost from a few hundred to more than a thousand dollars, depending on the size of your property and the complexity of the survey. Costly, perhaps, but adding to your dream house while keeping in your neighbors’ good graces is priceless.


DIY Lite: Build a Backyard Hammock Stand from Scratch

Build this outdoor hammock stand in an afternoon—just in time to take a nice long nap in the sun!

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DIY Hammock Stand

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Wish that you had a relaxing moment in a camping hammock in your own backyard, but have nowhere to hang it? Rather than wait years for two trees to grow large enough to anchor it, solve this problem before the end of summer by building a DIY hammock stand. Made from a few planks of lumber, this hammock stand is lightweight enough to pull toward any shady corner—even follow the shade throughout the afternoon—yet sturdy enough so that any grown adult can enjoy nap time once again.

 

DIY Hammock Stand - Supplies

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- 2×4 lumber (7 8-foot-long pieces)
- Set square
- Power saw or handsaw
- Sandpaper
- Wood clamps
- Power drill
- 6-inch hex bolts with nuts (12)
- Washers (24)
- Wood glue
- 3-½-inch screws (6)
- 4-inch metal brackets (4)
- 2-inch screws (24)
- Wood stain (preferably for exterior use)
- Varnish (optional)
- Paintbrush
- Hitch rings with plate (2)
- 3/8″ spring link (2)

 

STEP 1

DIY Hammock Stand - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

The first thing to do is cut all the lumber to the dimensions needed for the project. To make what we’ll continue to refer to as the “base” of the DIY hammock stand, you will need two 8-foot-long 2×4s.

Lay them so that the 3-½-inch sides (remember, a 2×4 isn’t exactly 2 inches by 4 inches) rest flat on the floor. Then, use a set square to help you make mirroring 30-degree angle cuts at each end of the boards. You’ll pencil lines from the top left and top right corners of each plank at a 30-degree angle in toward the center, then cut. Sand down your lumber, paying particular attention to the sawn ends.

Note: You’ll make several cuts at 30- and 60-degree angles during this project. If you don’t own a fancy power saw, you can use a set square and a hand saw instead.

 

STEP 2

DIY Hammock Stand - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Next, cut two 2×4s in half to make four “lateral posts,” each with one flat and one angled end. To make these cuts without any wood scraps, measure and mark the exact center of each length of lumber—at 4 feet in, and then 1-3/4 inches down. Lay your set square over the center dot so that you can draw a line at a 30-degree angle directly through your mark. Draw a line at a 30-degree angle, and cut. Sand down your cut pieces.

 

STEP 3

DIY Hammock Stand - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Now, you’ll create “slant timbers” to connect the base and lateral posts for extra support (see the diagram in Step 4). Take one of the couple remaining 2×4s, measure to find its center (again: at 4 feet in, and then 1-3/4 inches down). Draw a line at a 60-degree angle through the center, and cut following the line. You’ll have two pieces of wood of the same length, each with one end at 60-degree angle.

Cut the straight end of each piece at a 60-degree angle, too, but one that is a mirror image. Sand down all of the pieces.

 

STEP 4

DIY Hammock Stand - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Cut four 15-inch pieces from another of the remaining 2×4s. Leave two pieces with 90-degree cuts on either end; you’ll use those to join the top part of the lateral posts. The other two should each have one end flat and the other cut at a 30-degree angle (so that the cuts mirror each other); those two will strengthen where the base meets the lateral posts. Sand them completely.

On a flat surface, start laying out the planks according to the diagram above to build the DIY hammock stand:

• Start with the one base lumber (its longer side should face up) and a lateral post on each side, touching but not overlapping.
• Then lay a slant timber diagonally to connect the lateral post and base; where the slant timber’s end overlaps the base should be about 20 inches in from the base’s end.
• Finally, position the four 15-inch cuts: two (without angles) on top of the lateral posts and two (with angles) overlapping where the base and the lateral post meet.

 

STEP 5

DIY Hammock Stand - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Now, start to actually assemble the structure with bolts, beginning at one end. (You’ll see we started on the right side.)

Hold the pieces of the in-progress hammock stand with clamps as you and drill pilot holes through both layers of both wood. You’ll want to drill as straight as possible to easily pass the bolts through afterward. Drill two holes through the top of the stacked 15-inch pieces and lateral posts, one hole through each end of the slant timbers, and two holes through each of the 15-inch cuts joining the base and the lateral post.

Repeat on the other side, so that you end up with 12 holes total.

 

STEP 6

DIY Hammock Stand - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Now, lay out your remaining cuts—the second base wood and the two unused lateral posts—as you did in Step 4, just without any 15-inch pieces.

As the drill bit is not long enough to drill through three layers of 2×4s to join both sides of the DIY hammock stand, you need to precisely mark the holes you’ve just completed onto your remaining materials. Lay the already bored base and slant timbers over top of them, and use your drill to mark the holes’ locations. Remove the wood you’ve already drilled in Step 5, and complete the holes where you’ve marked. Again, remember to drill as straight as possible.

 

STEP 7

DIY Hammock Stand - Step 7

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Thread a 6-inch hex bolt with washer through each hole in the first half of the structure that you created in Steps 4 and 5, assembling any overlapping layers as previously explained. Apply a little wood glue between each piece of lumber.

Finish by laying the second base and the two lateral post on top. Cap each bolt with a washer and a nut, in that order, then tighten.

 

STEP 8

DIY Hammock Stand - Step 8

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Wait until the glue dries before flipping the structure vertically. Then, add two feet to steady the DIY hammock stand. You’ll cut your last 2×4 in half to make them.

At the center of one of the 4-foot-long pieces, cut a notch into the 3-1⁄2-inch-wide side of the 2×4 that measures 1-inch deep and 4-1⁄2 inches wide (about as wide as your hammock stand measures after assembly) using a wood chisel and hammer.

Repeat to make a second foot for the opposite end of your hammock stand, then sand both pieces.

 

STEP 9

DIY Hammock Stand - Step 9

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

On the first foot, line the notch with wood glue, then turn 2×4 so that its 3-1⁄2-inch side remains flat to the ground and slide it up to fit the notch snugly around the bottom of the hammock stand. Drill pilot holes for three 3-1⁄2-inch screws. Then, affix metal brackets (using four 2-inch screws apiece) to connect the foot to the lateral post on each side of the stand.

Repeat with the second foot.

 

STEP 10

DIY Hammock Stand - Step 10

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Almost done! This is what your DIY hammock stand should look like at this point.

 

STEP 11

DIY Hammock Stand - Step 11

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Apply a coat of exterior wood stain in the color of your choice to protect the wood from the moisture it’ll encounter outdoors, working the stain in the direction of the grain with your brush. If you choose an oil-based stain, use a natural-bristle brush; for latex stains, use a synthetic-bristle brush. Then, leave the wood to dry for the amount of time suggested on the stain’s package (likely 24 hours).

If you don’t have a specially formulated exterior wood stain to help weatherproof your backyard project, you can choose any standard wood stain followed by at least two coats of varnish instead.

 

STEP 12

DIY Hammock Stand - Step 12

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Finally, to hang the hammock, fasten a hitch ring with four 2-inch screws into the top of each end (over where the lateral posts sandwich a 15-inch-long plank). Then use a 3/8″ spring link—one that specifies a working load limit of at least a couple hundred pounds—at either end to hook the hammock to the hitch ring. Last, but not least, climb on in and enjoy the view from your new DIY hammock stand.

 

DIY Hammock Stand - Completed Project

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

DIY Hammock Stand - Detail Shot

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

DIY Hammock Stand - Lounging in a New Hammock

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

DIY Hammock Stand - View from the New Hammock

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.

 

 

Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from BobVila.com
With fair weather having arrived finally, it’s time to turn your home improvement efforts to the backyard and your deck, porch, or patio—the parts of the home built specifically to enjoy the extra hours of sunlight. Guided by these practical pointers and inspiring ideas, you can introduce beauty, comfort, and utility to your backyard and outdoor living areas, making them as inviting and enjoyable as your home interiors.


How To: Remove Paint from Clothes

Found a splotch on a favorite garment? Never fear! Here are the right removal methods, no matter whether the accident was oil-, acrylic- or water-based.

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How to Get Paint Off Clothes

Photo: istockphoto.com

It’s bound to happen. You’re just going to do a bit of touch-up or you accidentally brush up against a still-wet project. Next thing you know, there’s paint on your clothes. Don’t panic! First, find out if the offender is latex, acrylic, or oil. To test, apply rubbing alcohol to a clean white rag and dab the stain: If paint appears on the rag, it’s latex; if not, you’ll need help from paint removal agents. While delicate fabrics like silk don’t always fare well in the paint removal process, denim and other cottons often turn out as good as new. So try these treatments, and you might be able to wear that paint-besmirched shirt on your next night out of the house!

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Clean rags
- Spoon
- Butter knife
- Paper towels
- Liquid dish detergent
- Liquid laundry detergent
- Clean sponge or white cloth rags
- Packing or duct tape
- Rubbing alcohol
- Nail polish remover
- Toothbrush
- Turpentine or paint thinner
- Disposable plastic container
- Cotton balls

Removing Latex Paint from Clothes

Follow these tips for water based-paint, whether wet or dried.

How to Get Paint Off Clothes

Photo: istockphoto.com

Step 1: Act fast if paint is still wet! Place a pad of clean rags or paper towels directly under the paint to keep it from transferring to another area of the garment. Then, scoop off wet paint with a spoon or butter knife, rinse under warm running water, and blot carefully with a clean, dry rag or paper towels. (If you can’t peel your clothes off just then, get rid of the excess as best as you can and wet the area with water until you can take off the garment.) Turn inside out and run warm water through from the back.

Step 2: Liquid dish detergent is great against paint, as long as the garment is color-safe. (Test an inconspicuous area like an inseam by rubbing in detergent and rinsing it. If the item isn’t color safe, use liquid laundry detergent.) Apply detergent directly to the stain and work up a lather with a clean sponge or cloth. Work on the area with clean sections of cloth, and move the padding underneath occasionally as well.

Blot to check your progress, and repeat as needed. Then launder as usual. If the paint had dried and remains steadfast despite your efforts with detergent, allow the fabric to dry and proceed to the next step.

Step 3: Again, gently scrape off the now-dried excess with a butter knife. Or firmly press a piece of packing or duct tape onto the paint, then lift it off, repeating until no more comes off.

If the paint residue remains on color-fast fabric (see Step 2), you have one more option: Apply a small amount of rubbing or denatured alcohol (or as a last resort, nail polish remover) to the stain, and work at it with an old toothbrush. Blot with water and repeat as required, then launder as usual.

 

How to Wash Paint Off Clothes

Photo: istockphoto.com

 

Removing Oil and Acrylic Paint

You’ll be working with chemicals, so be sure to do so in a well-ventilated spot.

Step 1: Scoop off excess wet paint with a spoon or butter knife. If the paint has dried, use the butter knife to scrape off as much as you can. Turn the garment inside out and place a pad of cloth or paper towels under the stained area to aid in blotting.

Step 2: Pour a paint removal agent such as a paint thinner or turpentine into a small plastic container—ideally something disposable, like a yogurt tub, for easy cleanup. Soak cotton balls or a clean rag in the paint remover and dab at the stain. Switch out for fresh cotton balls or an unused section of the rag as they pick up paint, moving the pad underneath occasionally, too, for a clean blotting surface.

For a truly stubborn stain, pour a bit of removal agent directly on it and scrub gently with a toothbrush, front and back, to free the fibers of paint.

Step 3: By now, the garment should be practically stain-free. Place a fresh dry cloth or paper towel pad behind the area and blot to absorb the removal agent.

Step 4: Heeding the label’s recommended laundry detergent, apply a bit of detergent directly to the area and lightly rub it in as a final spot treatment. Wash and dry as usual, and wear the garment proudly. Whether or not you chose to disclose its former paint stain is up to you!

 

Cleaning Tips for a Spotless Home

All of the Essential Cleaning Advice from BobVila.com
There’s no way around it: Keeping the house clean demands your time, your energy, and even some of your money. Fortunately, this arsenal of cleaning tips can help you finish the housekeeping more quickly—and with fewer commercially sold products.


All You Need to Know About Dry Wells

Considering this out-of-sight yard drainage option could save your property (and your neighbor's) from erosion after every storm.

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Installing Dry Wells Prevents Storm Water from Tearing Up the Yard

Photo: istockphoto.com

If storm water races from your yard and across the next lawn over after every heavy rain—washing out a flowerbed and cutting a ditch along the way—you could probably expect a knock on the door from one very disgruntled neighbor. But neighbor issues would be the least of your problems. When uncontrolled storm water drains, you can expect erosion and localized flooding time and time again. Dry wells are just one means by which homeowners can collect and control storm water runoff. They are not suitable for everyone, however, so read on to determine if it’s the best drainage solution for your yard.

Water Woes—and When a Dry Well Can Help
Imagine a large paved parking lot. Before the parking lot was there, rain fell onto a lawn and soaked evenly into the soil. Now, when it rains, the water can no longer drain, so it runs to the lowest area on the parking lot. Before long, rainwater pools, and—if the developer did not make provisions to divert it in a controlled manner—it will run over the curb and erode the soil beyond. The same principle is at work in your own yard: Rain falls on your roof, drains to the gutters, and then rushes out of the downspouts to wherever it can drain in the soil. Even water from a gentle rain can build up force as it exits the downspouts.

Now, enter a dry well into equation. This installation harnesses gravity to direct water toward the intentionally lowest point in the yard where it is buried. Here, it gives runoff water a place to go and gradually dissipates it into the lower levels of soil—ultimately preventing that water from cutting an unwanted path across the top of your lawn. While it typically collects runoff from a roof, it can also be used to relocate graywater, the relatively clean water wasted by sinks, baths, washing machines, and dishwashers.

 

Dry Wells - Catching Water from Downspouts

Phot: istockphoto.com

Is a Dry Wall Right for Your Property?
In some developments, homeowners may be required to install one or more dry wells to reduce the impact on municipal storm drains. If it’s not mandated in yours, however, you can use soil testing along with advice from your local building authority to help determine whether a dry well would help your setup.

The most important factor in determining whether your yard could benefit from this in-ground installation is your soil’s infiltration rate, or how quickly water can be completely absorbed into soil. To calculate this rate, you’ll conduct a percolation (perc) test in your yard—a process that involves digging a hole (or numerous holes), filling them with water, and then recording the rate at which the water seeps into the ground. Detailed instructions for performing a perc test on your own property are available from your county extension office. A spot where the water drains away quickly might be a good candidate for a dry well; while homeowners who have heavy clay soil on the property and slower drainage will likely need to find a different option for moving storm water.

Sizing and Materials
If local ordinances do not regulate the size and number of dry wells, it’s standard practice to install one for each downspout. Additional dry wells may be necessary if elements of your landscape are creating a drainage problem, such as runoff from a driveway or large patio.

Ideally, dry wells should be large enough to collect runoff without overflowing in typical rain events. Depending on the average amount of storm water you need to control, you can choose install a dry well that’s as small as a couple feet in depth and diameter or as large as several feet wide and several feet deep.

The type of dry well you choose to install can vary greatly depending on the amount you’re looking to invest. They run the gamut from inexpensive hand-dug pits lined with permeable landscape fabric and packed with rocks to high-end perforated concrete or polyethylene tanks. No matter style what you choose, you can cover a dry well with turf for camouflage or an open grate for easy monitoring.

Installation Basics
Assuming your soil passed a perc test, you’ll want to position a dry well or two on storm water’s natural drainage path through your yard—but keeping a safe distance from your home’s foundation, no shorter than 12 feet. To keep the water from cutting a rut after it leaves the downspout, you can install a simple swale (a trench filled with gravel) leading to the collection pit or a buried French drain that is undetectable from the surface of your yard. Your project should also include provisions for dispersing excess water that occurs during rain events that cause your dry well to overflow, such as an overflow pipe that leads to a storm sewer.

Call DigSafe at (811) to find the location of buried utilities before digging, and contact your local building authority to see if you need a permit. Installing a dry well can be a DIY project, but it’s also a relatively quick job for a professional landscaping contractor.

Maintenance Matters
Many dry wells function for years without problems, but sometimes sediment and debris washed along with runoff can clog the pit walls and reduce the dry well’s ability to disperse water. Alas, the only remedy for a clogged dry well is re-excavating and repacking the pit. Before you even encounter such a hassle of a problem, however, you can help prolong the useful life of your dry well by regularly cleaning gutters and down spouts to eliminate grime and debris early on—before they even reach the pit. If you’re using a dry well for gray water, install a filter on the drain line and clean it frequently to remove lint and soap scum that might otherwise clog it.


How To: Choose a Radiant Floor Heating System

With the growing array of radiant systems on the market today, make sure that you're picking the best possible product for your home's situation and your family's comfort.

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How to Choose a Radinat Heat System

Photo: istockphoto.com

Whether it’s a new floor for the living room or new cabinetry for the kitchen, remodeling typically involves changing how the home looks. When you install new HVAC equipment, however, you are changing how the home actually feels. Putting in a new HVAC system is a key moment in your tenure as homeowner. After all, you may repaint the walls of your living spaces multiple times, but you’ll probably install a new heating and cooling technology just once, and this selection will have an impact on your daily comfort and contentment for years, if not decades, to come. How can you make such an important decision when there are so many different options?

Ask a half dozen homeowners to name the best residential heating method, and you might get a half dozen different answers. Each type comes with its own pros and cons, and each fits differently into the overall landscape. For instance, forced-air heating, the dominant mode of home heating for the past 50 years or so, is probably the technology to which most people are accustomed. Radiant heating, meanwhile, although it’s achieved wide popularity elsewhere in the world, remains relatively rare here. But that’s changing. Increasing numbers of homeowners are choosing the radiant alternative, and it’s easy to see why.

For starters, radiant floor heating delivers a qualitatively different experience than the hit-and-miss level of comfort provided by traditional systems. The fact is that in a room heated by a single source—a baseboard, for example, or a radiator—comfort often proves elusive. Get too close and you sweat, too far away and you shiver. Forced air only compounds the problem of uneven heating, because such systems operate in a cyclical stop-and-start pattern that inevitably leads to uncomfortable temperature swings. And as the hot air rises, you can often find yourself too cold in some parts of the house, too hot in others. By contrast, radiant heat provides consistent, complete warmth that feels the same no matter where you are in a room.

Radiant heat’s ability to create “everywhere” warmth owes partly to the fact that its components sit beneath the floor and stretch across virtually every available square foot. It’s a unique system design, one that helps create not only comfort, but also energy savings. Unlike forced air, radiant heating requires no ductwork—and ducts are notoriously leaky, compromising the efficiency of a system by 25 percent or more. By sidestepping ducts, radiant heating systems minimize (if not eliminate) heat loss, maximizing homeowners’ energy savings from month to month and one year to the next.

With a radiant system, you can also look forward to a number of quality-of-life benefits. Because radiant heat is largely an “out of sight, out of mind” affair, you probably won’t be constantly aware of these improvements, but they’ll be there all the same. For example, there’s the fact that radiant heat runs at a whisper-quiet decibel level, in stark contrast to the typically noisy operation of traditional systems. As well, while conventional forced-air heating seems to supply as much dust and germs as it does warmth and comfort, radiant heating does nothing to detract from indoor air quality, making it a particularly attractive option for anyone concerned about home health.

If you’re sold on the superiority of radiant heating, read on for a few considerations to bear in mind when it’s time to choose the right system for your home.

 

ELECTRIC VS. HYDRONIC

How to Choose a Radiant Heat System - Electric vs Hydronic

Photo: warmboard.com

There are two main types of radiant heating technologies. Though they share a handful of superficial similarities—both heat from the ground up, for example—the two couldn’t be more different. Electric radiant heating systems rely on a network of below-floor electric cables to provide supplemental heat in a room that’s underserved by the main heating system (for instance, the master bathroom). As electricity doesn’t come cheap, such systems are generally considered comfort luxuries, effective for warming the floor but not the whole home. If you’re trying to keep your entire house toasty warm, narrow your search to include only the second main type of radiant heating—hydronic.

Hydronic radiant heat systems work completely differently. Here, boiler-heated water circulates through a network of tubing installed under the floor. Heat radiates outward from the tubing, first to the floor, then to the furniture, objects, air, and people in the conditioned space. Homeowners enjoy an enveloping, all-around warmth that surpasses the whole-home heating performance of traditional HVAC options. Better still, hydronic radiant heating runs primarily not on pricey electricity, but on the relatively inexpensive energy produced by an oil or gas boiler.

 

PANEL PARTICULARS

How to Choose a Radiant Heat System - Aluminum vs. Gypsum

Photo: warmboard.com

In the realm of hydronic radiant heat, the differences between competing systems are somewhat subtle yet still important to near-term comfort and long-term savings. Much depends on the design of the radiant panels that play such a pivotal role in the success of any radiant installation. Some products on the market are essentially slabs of gypsum concrete poured over the tubing. The problem is that, while not without virtues, gypsum concrete heats up slowly and cools down slowly, delaying the attainment of comfort temperatures.

For greater responsiveness—and even additional savings—consider a system like Warmboard, which has panels built with quick-to-respond aluminum, a material 232 times more conductive than sluggish gypsum concrete. In fact, aluminum transfers heat so effectively that the Warmboard system can achieve a target temperature with water 30 degrees cooler than would be required by another system. By lightening the load for the boiler, aluminum-clad panels can save the homeowner 10 to 20 percent on energy costs—and that’s in addition to the savings achieved by choosing radiant heat in the first place.

 

RETROFIT CHALLENGES

How to Choose a Radiant Heat System - Retrofitting

Photo: warmboard.com

Homeowners tend to appreciate the fact that radiant systems hide their components beneath the floor, making them basically invisible. There’s only one downside: In order to sit under the floor, radiant panels must be installed before the flooring. So, to complete installation in an existing home, it would first be necessary to remove the flooring, even if only temporarily, to accommodate the panels. On paper that all makes perfect sense, but in practice there’s a further complication. Once in place, typical radiant heating panels subtract inches from the overall height of a room and often create unevenness where different flooring materials meet. (Note that installing panels in walls may also be an option with some products.)

Given these challenges, it might appear that radiant heating is best installed during construction of a new home or addition, but it’s by no means impossible to retrofit a radiant system. At least one manufacturer actually offers a special type of panel that’s custom tailored for such projects. Look for ultrathin panels that slip over the existing subfloor. New construction does, however, offer homeowners the possibility of saving on the cost of materials and labor by opting for full-size radiant panels that double as subflooring.

 

To be sure, there are plenty of big, meaningful points of contrast between radiant heat and traditional HVAC options like forced air. More surprising, though, are the tremendous differences among systems that share the same basic technology. That’s why it’s so important to compare the radiant technologies on your radar in terms of not only their price tags, but also their design and performance. After all, your family’s comfort is at stake! Fortunately, no matter which system you ultimately choose, with radiant heating you can depend on getting a clean, quiet technology that achieves total, unparalleled comfort with the utmost energy efficiency.

How to Choose a Radiant Heat System - Warm Floors

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


3 Fixes for Sticky Tree Sap

Do you have tree sap stuck to your car, deck, or clothing? Use these short and sweet solutions to remove the sticky substance ASAP.

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How to Remove Tree Sap

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The beauty, shade, and privacy offered by trees make them a popular environmental feature for any property. But many varieties, from pine to maple, hide a sweet but sinister cargo behind their majestic exterior: sap. When the sticky substance drips or drizzles from trees, it can coat more than your skin. Your car exterior, wooden deck, and even the clothing on your back might fall victim to stray splatters. Fortunately, you don’t have to live with the remains of the resin for long. Read on to learn how to remove tree sap from common surfaces in surprisingly simple DIY ways.

AN UNWANTED PASSENGER

How to Remove Tree Sap

Photo: istockphoto.com

During the summer, the most sought-after parking spot in any lot is usually located under a shady tree. But while the tree’s broad branches will shelter your four-wheeler from the heat, they can also drip sap onto the hood of the vehicle. If left to linger for too long, that sap can eventually erode the car’s clear coat and discolor underlying paint.

To remove the resin, skip a trip to the car wash and opt for an at-home fix using an emulsifier in your medicine cabinet: a no-frills acetone-based nail polish remover. Start by dipping a cotton ball into the acetone. Work the applicator in a circular motion over the sap-laden surface of the car until it’s clear of the residue. Don’t let the solvent linger for too long, as it can strip the paint. Once you’ve rubbed away the sap, give the spot a once-over with a clean cloth and a solution of one-part baking soda to three-parts water for a streak-free finish.

 

ALL MOPS ON DECK

How to Remove Tree Sap

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If you feel a light drizzle on your shoulder as you lounge on deck but there’s no cloud in sight, the culprit might not be rain so much as a shower of sap from an overhanging tree branch. And it is a culprit! Left untreated, the sap can saturate even sealed wooden decking and leave behind unsightly stains once it hardens.

The simple solution for the stubborn mess? Mop undiluted oil soap, a natural sap-softener, over the affected area of the deck. Let the wood absorb the soap for 10 to 15 minutes, then scrub the sap with a stiff-bristle brush doused in water. Hose down the deck to send the sap out of sight and out of mind for good.

 

COLD-FASHIONED COLDING

How to Remove Tree Sap

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Whether you’re relaxing in a backyard hammock or raking up leaves from your yard’s shadiest trees, a retreat into nature can easily go awry when tree sap sticks to your clothing. However, removing tree sap from your garments is as easy as a walk in the park.

Head home and place the grubby clothing in the freezer for up to two hours. If the item is too large for the freezer, cover the sap stain with an ice pack or wax paper topped with ice cubes. Once the stain has gone from sticky to frozen solid, wiggle a butter knife beneath it to lift it from the fabric, or use the knife to crack the brittle sap and then scrape it away. If any resin remains, pre-treat the offending spot with warm water and vinegar and then toss your garments into the washing machine, where ordinary detergent and water will restore your fashions to a like-new condition.


Bob Vila Radio: Outdoor Speakers Hit a High Note

Taking your music to go has never been easier—or more affordable. But with so many new models on the market, whittling down the list can feel a little intimidating. For a party-ready backyard, look for a few of these helpful features before you buy.

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Audio speakers designed for the outdoors? They’ve been around for years—but recent innovations in weather-resistant components and wireless technology have created a host of new options for taking your music wherever you want.

outdoor-rock-speakers

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

If you live near the water, there’s no longer any need to worry about corrosion caused by damp, salty air. Pick up a model with marine-grade hardware and aluminum grills, and your speakers will withstand wet or snowy weather for years.

Some versions double as docking stations for portable music devices. Many connect wirelessly to smartphones, tablets, or laptops, so you won’t have to wrestle with wires and staple guns during installation.

And if you don’t love the look of a regular sound system, you can try “rock speakers” instead. They’re designed and manufactured to look like the real thing, so they won’t look out of place by a tree or in your deck-side garden. Once you’re done, you’ll have the Beatles to go along with your begonias!

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!


The Right Stuff: 3 Types of Safety Gear You Need for DIY

Check out the strides made in personal protective equipment, and gear up right before you start your next big project.

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Types of Protective Gear Essential to the DIY Job

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Few do-it-yourselfers would consider remodeling a room, building an addition, or addressing a plumbing or electrical issue without the right tools. Yet, unlike pros who are required to wear safety gear, too many DIYers risk serious injury by tackling projects without appropriate eyewear, footwear, and hearing protection—a bad habit that needs to change. And thanks to comfortable, streamlined, and tough new products from Honeywell, a leading manufacturer of quality personal protective equipment, weekend work warriors now have every reason to put safety first. Read these three considerations before your next home improvement endeavor, so you can get smart, and gear up right!

 

Honeywell Oliver 45 Series Protective Footwear

Photo: honeywell.com

Put Your Best Foot Forward
Have some demo on your to-do list? Hauling lumber, bricks, or other light construction soon? Perhaps you’ll reach new heights in roofing. Step one for any of these jobs is lacing up a top-notch pair of work boots. Foot injuries from construction sites run the gamut from punctures, burns, and lacerations to sprains, breaks, even the loss of a toe or two.

With Oliver Safety Footwear by Honeywell 45 Series, you won’t sacrifice comfort for safety. An innovative composite toe makes the boots 40 percent lighter than their steel toe counterparts while still offering optimal high-impact protection. Throw in flexible underfoot support that absorbs shocks and impacts, a heat-resistant outer sole that withstands temperatures up to 266 degrees Fahrenheit, and a fully lined padded collar and tongue, and you’ve got a boot that’ll thwart foot, leg, and lower back fatigue as well. Plus, like any good tool, the Oliver 45 Series—made of water-resistant leather with a rugged sole—is built to last. You’ll run out of projects before you’ll need another pair!

 

Honeywell Uvex Hypershock Protective Eyewear

Photo: honeywell.com

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
With all the debris that goes flying, it’s no surprise that construction has the highest incidence of eye injury than any other industry. But electrical work (due largely to its overhead nature) and plumbing also present their share of eye hazards. Even heavy-duty garden chores, like taking down tree limbs, put your vision at risk. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, nearly 90 percent of all eye injuries could be avoided with safety eyewear, yet only 35 percent of people consistently protect their eyes while doing home repairs or projects. The reinvention of once clunky protective gear aims to change all of that.

Now, the Uvex by Honeywell line of sport-inspired eyewear offers excellent performance, superior comfort, and sleek, bold style. Its Acadia model boasts a ¾ frame design and sculpted padded temples for high-impact protection, plus a soft, ribbed ergonomic nosepiece to keep the pair from slipping. Or, pick the full-frame Hypershock, with padded temples and a molded nosepiece for a secure, comfortable fit. You can even choose frame color and lens tint, and opt for Uvextreme Plus® anti-fog lens coating. With either selection, safety has never looked so good!

 

Honeywell Sync Digital AM/FM Radio

Photo: honeywell.com

Take This Sound Advice
Carpentry is cacophonous, as a quick check of decibel levels makes clear. A router and circular saw both clock in at 110 dBs, while a nail gun pops at a whopping 120 dBs—not much quieter than a roaring jet engine (140 dBs). And, it doesn’t take a lot of exposure to too-loud tools to harm your hearing.

Today’s hearing protection has come a long way not just in noise reduction ratings, but also in comfort, style, and even built-in entertainment. Take for example the Honeywell SYNC Digital AM/FM Radio, a sleek, smart electronic headset that combines hearing protection with high-fidelity sound. SYNC Radio lets you digitally tune in up to 10 of your favorite AM/FM stations, or use the AUX input jack to connect your MP3 player, mobile phone, or other personal listening device. With DJ-inspired earcups and sound quality that’s on par with professional headphones, you’ll have more than enough motivation to get the job done. Hey, you may just whistle while you work!

 

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


So, You Want to… Build a Floating Deck

Add an elevated platform to your outdoor area with the know-how you’ll find here.

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How to Build a Floating Deck

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Summer isn’t summer unless you’re soaking up the sun, grilling, and chilling in your own backyard. Yet a traditional deck isn’t always feasible or permitted by local authorities, so for many homeowners, a “floating” deck—a raised wooden platform that sits a few inches off the ground—is the perfect solution. A floating deck isn’t all that difficult to build for the DIYer with basic carpenter hand and power tools and a working knowledge of standard deck construction. Ahead, all the information you’ll need before purchasing materials for the project—or opting to hire a pro.

KNOW THE DIFFERENCE: FLOATING VERSUS TRADITIONAL DECKS
There’s not a big cost differential in materials for either a traditional or a floating deck; the main difference lies in their structural support systems.

A traditional deck has posts cemented below ground level, making the deck a permanent structure and subject to local building codes.

Floating decks, on the other hand, sit low to the ground and actually appear to float on two or more sides, depending on the joist system design. They rely on a structural base that’s not permanently fixed in the ground, classifying them in most communities as personal property instead of real estate. Because it’s not attached to the ground or an existing structure, local building authorities do not require a building permit. If your neighborhood has a homeowner’s association, however, you will need to get permission before proceeding. All of that said, don’t let the term fool you: You can’t take a floating deck with you if you choose to move—they’re not portable.

 

How to Build a Floating Deck

Photo: istockphoto.com

CONSIDER THE CAVEATS
A well-constructed floating deck adds style and comfort to a backyard, but it has a few possible downsides:

• Because floating decks sit low to the ground, there is an increased likelihood of weeds growing up between the decking planks.
• A floating deck can become a hazard in serious storms, as high winds can potentially toss it off its base.
• If the ground beneath a floating deck settles, the deck could tilt or sag, requiring it to be rebuilt.

GET A STRONG BASE
If you decide that a floating deck is for you, keep in mind that your finished product will only be as good as its structurally sound base. While you can build one on concrete pavers or over an existing level patio, perhaps the soundest way to support a floating deck is with pre-made concrete deck blocks that have notched tops designed to hold either 4×4 posts (on end) or 2×6, 2×8, or 2×10 lumber (on edge). Deck blocks must sit on a stable surface, typically comprised of compacted sand a few inches deep, and their tops must be perfectly level. Using a laser level will ensure accuracy. Basic models start in the $200 range, so if you don’t want to spring for one, rent one for about $40 per day.

 

How to Build a Floating Deck in the Backyard

Photo: istockphoto.com

ASCRIBE TO STANDARD DECK CONSTRUCTION
Once the base is in place, you’ll apply standard deck construction techniques. You’ll set support beams on the deck blocks, and then install deck joists on top, perpendicular to the beams.

Lumber dimensions you choose depend on the intended size of the deck and joist span. If you’re unsure how to size your lumber, take a drawing of your deck to the engineering department of your local lumberyard (not a do-it-yourself center) for help choosing the correct dimensions.

The “floating” aspect is created when joists extend far enough past the blocks to obscure the blocks. This, combined with the deck’s close proximity to the ground, gives the illusion of a hovering platform. Usually, this floating effect occurs on the two sides of the deck where the joists end. On the sides parallel to the joists, the support blocks beneath will be visible. A deck that floats on all sides requires advanced framing skills that involve installing cross-joists and notching rim joists to support them. If you’re not experienced in this type of framing, call a reputable contractor or deck builder.

Should you decide to build a deck more than 8 inches above the ground, don’t forget to include a stair or two in the plans for stepping on and off safely and easily.

 

How to Build a Floating Deck - with Steps

Photo: istockphoto.com

MAINTAIN YOUR INVESTMENT
Once you’ve invested your money, time, and effort into updating your backyard with this installation, keep the brand-new floating deck looking great for years to come with some easy (and essential) maintenance. Immediately after construction, application of a penetrating sealer, or a sealer/stain combo, will repel moisture and prolong the deck’s lifespan. Beyond that, simply remember to sweep the deck frequently to remove fallen leaves and debris, and spray it down with plain water to rinse off occasional spilled food or bird droppings. A thorough cleaning at least once a year with a good deck-cleaning solution and scrub brush—followed by more sealer—should take care of the rest for your backyard retreat.

 

Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from BobVila.com
With fair weather having arrived finally, it’s time to turn your home improvement efforts to the backyard and your deck, porch, or patio—the parts of the home built specifically to enjoy the extra hours of sunlight. Guided by these practical pointers and inspiring ideas, you can introduce beauty, comfort, and utility to your backyard and outdoor living areas, making them as inviting and enjoyable as your home interiors.


How To: Cut Brick

Learning how to cut your own brick opens up a world of home improvement opportunities. Thanks to today's technologies, cutting brick for back yard patios and other outdoor projects has never been easier.

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How to Cut Brick

Photo: istockphoto.com

Many home improvement enthusiasts choose to enhance their landscapes with the DIY installation of brick patios, walkways, walls, even the occasional outdoor fireplace. And, thanks to the impressive selection at home improvement centers, they can find a wide range of styles and colors for landscaping bricks and stone to suit just about any landscaping project. While some of these projects—walkways, patios—are easy enough to lay out, you most likely will run into a circumstance that requires you to cut the brick to fit your intended design, especially with more complicated structures such as a fireplace or water feature. Decades ago, cutting brick would have required a mason’s hammer or cold chisel to score and snap each building block. Thankfully, a little know-how and an electric powered angle grinder with attached diamond cutting blade have simplified the job for today’s DIYers.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Angle grinder with attached diamond cutting blade
- Workbench
- 50-foot extension cord
- Tape measure
- Small framing square
- Pencil
- Dust mask or respirator
- Safety glasses
- Hammer

STEP 1
Set up your workbench close to the work area to reduce travel time between cuts. An ideal workbench would include a set of sawhorses with a scrap of plywood or similar on top; this provides a stable surface when cutting the brick.

In addition, since brick cutting with an angle grinder is a dusty affair, maintain a safe distance from swimming pools, automobiles, and other areas where the dust could pose a concern. A 50-foot extension cord connected to an outlet provides extra flexibility in location for your power tool when setting up your cutting area.

How to Cut Brick

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 2
Use a tape measure, small framing square, and pencil to mark the brick on all sides you plan to cut so that you can visualize the desired size and shape. While many cuts will be straight during a brick installation project, you may run across circumstances that require an L-Shaped or curved cut. Take your time when measuring and determining the shape of the cut and be as accurate as possible to reduce material waste and re-cuts.

STEP 3
Place the brick on your workbench with the marked surface facing up. Don your protective gear—dust mask and safety glasses—and connect the angle grinder to the extension cord. Word of caution: Make sure the angle grinder is in the Off position before connecting to the power source so that it doesn’t inadvertently start work without an operator.

With the angle grinder firmly in your hand and its blade perpendicular to the brick, turn on the switch that activates the tool. Slowly lower the blade to the brick’s surface and begin cutting along the marked line. You should always cut on the waste side—the section of brick you do not want to use—of the pencil line. This not only facilitates accurate cuts but provides a little leeway until you gain the feel of the tool and cutting process.

STEP 4
Cutting completely through the brick material with one pass will depend on two things: the thickness of the brick material and the size of the angle grinder and diamond blade you are using. For example, an angle grinder designed to use a 4-1/2-inch diameter blade can cut approximately 2-1/4 inches deep—the distance from the center of the blade in each direction—at best, while a 9-inch grinder can cut to depths of approximately 4-1/2 inches. Since brick sizes vary depending on the type and style you are using—the average range is between 1-5/8-inch through 2-3/4-inch thick with some specialty bricks even thicker—the size of your angle grinder is important if you need to cut through the brick in one pass.

If you cannot cut all the way through the brick, you must score the material as deeply as possible on one side with the angle grinder, slide the brick to the edge of your work surface, and finish the cut by lightly tapping the top of the waste side of the brick with a hammer to snap it off. A quick pass with the angle grinder (this time held so that its blade is near parallel with the brick’s cut side in order to shave) will clean up any rough edges.

In addition, making L-Shaped cuts in thicker materials may require that you transfer the pencil marks to the backside of the brick and finish cutting with the angle grinder to prevent accidental (and unwanted) breakage.

A few cuts in, and you will get in the groove of taking measurements and cutting like a pro in no time. The result? A DIY backyard upgrade that will pay dividends in both personal entertainment and property value.

sHow to Cut Brick

Photo: istockphoto.com