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Bob Vila Radio: The Best Screws for a Strong Hold

Get to know structural screws: They're the quicker, easier fastener alternative in heavy-duty applications that don't require lag bolts.

If you need to securely fasten boards together—for framing or other heavy-duty applications—you might want to check out structural screws.

Structural Screws

Photo: strongtie.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON STRUCTURAL SCREWS or read the text below:

Structural screws are a relatively new fastener option that’s been getting a lot of good reviews, and for good reason. Though they’re much thinner than lag bolts, they’re made of hardened steel and are extremely sharp. That makes them easier to drive with a drill—no pilot holes needed. Their design also virtually eliminates any chance of shear-offs.

A number of manufacturers produce structural screws, and each makes a different. Some brands actually embed a special drill bit into the points of the screws, which helps the fasteners bite through wood dust and shavings. Other brands have rippled threads near the tip of the screw; these create a path for the remaining threads, allowing a strong hold.

Structural screws are not cheap. They usually run about three times the cost of lag screws. But if you figure in the time you’d have to spend pre-drilling holes for lag bolts, then ratcheting them all the way in, the extra cost of structural screws isn’t a bad deal.

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.

2 Ways to Make Your Own Wallpaper

Don't let a blank wall get you down! Create a truly custom interior that suits your style and needs—be they temporary or permanent—with one of these two DIY wallpaper methods.

How To Make Wallpaper

Photo: fotosearch.com

Wallpaper is having its moment again—and we’re not talking about the stuffy prints you remember seeing in your grandmother’s house as a kid. The sky’s the limit nowadays, especially with all the options for creating your own prints. The newest trend in interior design has homeowners customizing wall coverings with beautiful printed papers or fabrics, in both permanent and temporary styles. Confused, and wondering how you can cash in on this crafty project? Read on for a detailed how-to, then grab a partner to get started.

Option #1: Permanent Wallpaper
You can adhere just about any type of paper—including gift wrap—to a wall using wallpaper paste. Tip: Skip thin, shiny wrapping paper, which is very challenging to hang without it wrinkling. Instead, choose a thick, higher-quality wrapping paper with either a repeating pattern that’s easy for you to line up or a random print that won’t need extra attention—this will all help make your job look pro instead of pathetic.

- Drop cloth
- Paint tray
- Wallpaper paste
- Step ladder
- Gift wrap (or old book pages)
- Painter’s tape
- Scissors
- Foam roller
- Sponge
- X-Acto knife
- Small foam brush

How To Make Wallpaper - Permanent Method

Photo: fotosearch.com

First, prep your work space by covering the floor with a drop cloth in case any wallpaper paste should slop or splatter.

Cut your paper into ready-to-hang pieces. Hop onto your step ladder to align the top edge with the top of your wall; unroll the rest so that it measures roughly the length of the wall, with a little extra on the bottom. Cut your length, and use painter’s tape to lightly hold it in place while you unroll your second column of “wallpaper” and match up the pattern. Continue this all the way down the wall.

Pour the paste adhesive into a paint tray, and work with one panel at a time. Remove the tape from your first paper, and lay it on a flat surface so you can apply paste with a roller directly to the back of the paper. Be careful not to oversaturate.

If instructions on your can of wallpaper paste require it, “book” the wallpaper so that the paste completely penetrates. Do this by curling each end up to the middle of your paper, then lightly pressing the pasted sides together as much as possible without creasing the folds. Wait the length of time suggested on the can before unfolding the top end.

Align the top of the wrapping paper once more to where the wall meets the ceiling or the molding. Press the paper into place, and smooth it downward with clean hands. (You can use a damp sponge to remove any traces of excess paste on the wall.) If you’ve booked your paper, unfold the bottom end when you reach the middle, and continue to smooth the rest of the way down.

If you need to make any cuts to fit around molding or hardware, trim with your X-Acto knife and then use the small foam brush to lightly spread the wallpaper paste along the edges and stick it to the wall.

Repeat Steps 3 through 5 with the next sections of wrapping paper until you’ve covered the full wall, taking care to smooth down the paper and get rid of any bubbles as you go. When you’re finished, let the walls dry following the instructions on the paste container.


Option #2: Temporary Wallpaper
Whether you inhabit a rental or just enjoy changing up styles from year to year, a wall covering with the flexibility to come down easily and leave your wall damage-free is like a mini miracle. Use the following instructions to create your own temporary wall motif using your favorite cotton print fabric as your “wallpaper” and liquid fabric starch as an adhesive. When you’re ready for a change, removal is as simple as softening the wall covering with warm water and a sponge, and then pulling it off.

- Lightweight cotton fabric
- Fabric scissors
- Drop cloth
- Step ladder
- Thumbtacks
- Paint tray
- Liquid fabric starch
- Paint roller and cover
- Utility knife

How To Make Wallpaper - Temporary Method

Photo: vintagerevivals.com

Whichever fabric you decide to use, make sure you have enough square footage to cover the wall and then some—you’ll want at least a few feet extra so you have room to reposition pieces when you’re lining up the print. Wash and dry the fabric, then cut off the white edges with a good pair of fabric scissors. Also, give a quick wash to the wall you’re going to be hanging the fabric on, and let it dry thoroughly. While it’s drying, lay out a drop cloth to keep your floors from being ruined.

Attach your fabric to the wall with thumbtacks, and cut it roughly to size, leaving a little excess at the ceiling and baseboard. Do the same for all panels of fabric until your wall is completely covered. Then, use your utility knife to cut around any fixtures or molding in the middle of the wall.

Unfasten a portion of the cloth so that you can thoroughly coat a patch of wall with fabric starch. Work in only one small area at a time—the starch dries fast. Position the fabric on top of the liquid starch, and smooth it down. It should start sticking to the wall immediately, but replace the thumbtacks once more to hold it in place while it dries. Continue until the entire wall of fabric has a starch backing.

Roll over the fabric with the liquid starch. Make sure the fabric is completely covered, and really drench it with fabric starch so that the starch seeps through the fabric and onto the wall.

Allow the starch solution a few hours to dry completely, then pull out the thumbtacks, and slice off any excess fabric at the molding and/or baseboards using a utility knife.

How To: Get Rid of Drain Flies

Fuzzy winged insects flying out of seemingly clean sinks are the stuff of homeowners' nightmares. Fortunately, if you can unclog and clean up a drain, you can rid your home of this pesky problem.

How to Get Rid of Drain Flies - Psychodidae

Photo: fotosearch.com

Drain flies, also known as moth flies, are a common nuisance in many homes. These pests live and breed inside your plumbing pipes, feeding on decomposing material and laying eggs within the gelatinous slime that collects along the interior walls of your drain. While these insects don’t bite or spread disease, no one likes to see tiny, winged bugs flying out of otherwise clean sinks. If you see some hanging around your kitchen or bathroom, follow these steps to identify the source of drain flies and eliminate them.

- Masking tape
- Pipe snake
- Plunger
- Enzyme drain cleaner

How to Get Rid of Drain Flies - In the Kitchen Sink

Photo: fotosearch.com

Before you can rid your home of drain flies, you need to identify the affected drains. Adult drain flies love to feed and breed in slow-moving or clogged drains because they provide plenty of decomposing material where the insects can complete their life cycle. If any of your drains are backed up, chances are that those are the root of the problem.

If diagnosing the source turns out not to be that simple, try this other easy trick: Simply cover each drain in your home with a strip of masking tape, sticky side down. (You don’t want to block airflow in your drain, so just make an “X” over each drain opening with the tape.) Drain flies are most active at night, so put the tape on the drains before you go to bed and leave it there overnight to catch any insects that may try to fly out. Check the tape the next morning for signs of bugs to figure out which drains are the source of your flies.

Once you’ve determined the problem drains, you need to clean the slimy gunk that has collected there and wipe out the breeding zone. Resist the urge to pour a bottle of chemical drain cleaner down the drain, as that won’t effectively take care of all the decomposing material in your home’s pipes and traps. Instead, start by running warm water down the drain to wet it.

Insert a pipe snake or pipe brush down the drain and use a gentle scrubbing motion to remove the built-up slime covering the inside of the drain pipe. A plunger can also be used to help pull out any leftover material from your pipes.

Open the U-trap under your sink so you can easily reach and remove any other clog-causing remnants that have collected inside.

Once you’ve cleared out the gunk, close the system back up and pour an enzyme drain cleaner down the drain to attack any remaining residue that didn’t come off with the pipe snake or brush. This specially designed gel has the additional benefit of coating the inside walls of the pipe to prevent future blockages. Let the gel sit in the drain for several hours, according to the instructions on the label, then run more water down the drain to flush it out.


Additional notes: The length of the life cycle of a drain fly varies depending on the climate and temperature of the drain, but it can last anywhere from eight to 24 days. Once you’ve wiped out their breeding ground, the adults will eventually disappear because there is nowhere left for them to deposit their eggs. After a week, if drain flies are still a problem in your home, it’s safe to assume you didn’t adequately treat all the problem areas. Perform another set of tests (as in Step 1), and look for other spots that need your attention.

Quick Tip: What to Do If a Bird Flies into Your House

Feathered friends make for great window watching, but when they come too close, things can get chaotic. If a bird swoops in through an open window and gets stuck in your home, try this trick to shoo it back outdoors using a common household item.

How To Get a Bird Out of Your House - Bird at Window

Photo: fotosearch.com

Cracking the windows is an effective way to air out your house in the summer—but an open window can also be an open invitation to any number of unwanted visitors. Occasionally, a bird may fly in through this entrance and trap itself indoors, fluttering about looking for an exit. If one makes its way into your house this season, keep calm and just head to the linen closet for the only thing you need for assistance: a flat sheet.

How To Get a Bird Out of Your House - Bird Indoors

Photo: fotosearch.com

Start by opening one window as wide as possible to give the bird a way out. Then, close all blinds and drapes over the rest of the windows, and switch off all lights inside the house so that the open window shines brightly like an exit sign. Your feathered intruder will associate the light with the open air and will, we hope, fly toward it. If the bird still hasn’t made any moves after some time, get ready to guide it. Take your large bedsheet in both hands, and hold it up at eye level or higher, arms extended so that it makes a large, flat surface. Check that the bird is between you and the exit, then slowly walk toward the bird. By creating a “wall” closing in on it, you can better direct the bird out through the window. Once it leaves, close the window, send your sheet through the wash, and call it a day.

Additional notes: If you’re still stuck with a bird in the house even after following these suggestions, then it is time to call in the professionals. Look up wildlife groups or bird sanctuaries in your local area to see whether they will come and deal with your feathery nuisance. Wildlife experts know how to handle a bird without causing injury, and they have equipment to help the process along.

Bob Vila Radio: The Easiest Way to Fertilize Trees and Shrubs

Compared to other, more demanding fertilizer applications, fertilizer spikes offer a quick and easy, no-hassle method of providing trees and shrubs with the nutrients they need to thrive. Here's what you need to know.

Looking to give your trees and shrubs a nutritional boost? If so, consider fertilizer spikes. Filled with vital nutrients, these solid, spike-shaped plugs are hammered into the ground, supplying gradual-release feeding for up to several months.

Fertilizer Spikes

Photo: gardensalive.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON FERTILIZER SPIKES or read the text below:

You’ll find many different fertilizer spikes on the shelves of your local home center. While some are general purpose, others are formulated to benefit a specific variety, be it fruit trees, deciduous trees, evergreens, palms or even vegetables.

It’s usually best to place fertilizer spikes when the ground is moist and soft, typically during spring and fall. In colder weather, when the soil is dry and hard, water the ground thoroughly to make the going a little easier.

Note that fertilizer spikes come with a special plastic cap. Place the cap over the top of a spike to make sure that it remains intact as you hammer it into the ground, usually to a point just below the surface.

Generally speaking, fertilizer spikes are positioned in a circle around the tree or shrub, at a remove of several feet from its trunk or main stems, respectively. For instructions specific to your chosen fertilizer spikes, see their packaging or included manual.

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

Weekend Projects: 5 DIY Teepees for Indoors and Out

For a cozy hideout that's a big step up from the standard blanket fort, craft an indoor-outdoor tipi inspired by one of these 5 imaginative designs.

With a design that evokes images of dream catchers and fort-like fabric walls, tipis have grown to be a favorite hangout for kids, adults, and even pets! A wealth of options when it comes to construction—from simple no-sew tutorials to the more involved machine-required projects—make it easy for DIYers of any skill set to tackle this trendy hideaway in a weekend. Let these five crafty projects inspire you to build your own imaginative retreat.



DIY Teepees - No-Sew

Photo: thehandmadehome.net

To skip sewing and ultimately shrink the total cost of this large DIY, the savvy blogger behind The Handmade Home raided her craft closet for a bundle of fabric scraps she had saved from previous projects. Each pattern was cut into strips of various sizes, wrapped around the tipi’s six poles, and glued into place—no stitches required! At the top, string lights woven around the poles make this hangout a magical spot for playing, both day and night.



DIY Teepees - Outdoor

Photo: blog.boatpeopleboutique.com

Mark your calendar for a slumber party under the stars when you craft a larger-than-life backyard tipi like this one from Boat People Boutique. Thoughtful details including textured muslin fabric, 12-foot-long debarked branches for tipi poles, and scrap wood pins to hold the flaps shut will fuel your imagination, transporting you out of your own backyard and into the woodsy settings of your favorite childhood stories.



DIY Teepees - Lace

Photo: abeautifulmess.com

Hello, living room hideaway! Even with the door rolled down, this lace-cloaked tipi lets in lots of light so you can color, craft, read, or play in these cozy quarters. You may have to brush up on your sewing skills before you dive in, as you’ll need to measure and stitch together the paneled slipcover for your frame of 1×2 poles. Fortunately, the detailed instructions from A Beautiful Mess are there to guide you as you complete this pretty tipi masterpiece.



DIY Teepees - Pets

Photo: fudgejoy.wordpress.com

Why not let your furry friend in on the fun? These whimsical designs from FudgeJoy can be recalculated to fit a pet of nearly any size, whether it’s a cuddly cat or a petite guinea pig. Fluffy will certainly enjoy a new snug sleeping spot, complete with a cushy fabric floor—and you’ll love an amusing pet accessory that’s a far cry from a carpeted cat tree.



DIY Teepees - PVC

Photo: strawberryswingandthings.com

For a lightweight and light-on-the-wallet option, follow the lead of the crafty mom at Strawberry Swing and Things who structured her children’s tipi using a large drop cloth and cut-to-size PVC pipes. After you’ve saved on the bulk of the project by relying on hardware store basics, dress up the front doors and tie-backs of the indoor shelter with your favorite patterned fabric. Depending on the print you choose, you can complete this project for less than $50.

Genius! Turn Your Phone into a Movie Projector

If you love a big screen but don't want to sacrifice space to accommodate a TV, set up your smartphone instead! Given that it uses only a few recycled materials, how can you afford NOT to make this DIY?

DIY Movie Projector

Photo: photojojo.com

Having a TV is great—except when you’re not using it. Then the box just sits in your living room, idle and unappealing, upsetting the room’s feng shui. The average American may binge on five hours of television a day, but what good is a big screen if you’re part of the minority that tunes in only once a week? When we show you this smartphone hack that lets you eliminate the need for a screen and still enjoy your favorite programming, you’ll definitely consider downsizing.

To turn your phone into a projector, all you need are a handful of leftover household supplies—an empty shoebox, duct tape, magnifying glass, construction paper, and a paper clip—and an unused white wall. First, cut a hole the size of your magnifying glass lens in the side of the shoebox, pop in the lens, and secure it with tape. Then, cover up the inside of the box with black construction paper to frame the magnified image better. Once your casing is assembled, just bend a paper clip into a stand to hold your smartphone upright inside the box. Finally, open your video-playing app of choice, turn the brightness all the way up, and slide your phone closer or farther away from the lens to focus the picture. All that’s missing in this tutorial from Photojojo is how to make movie-theater-quality buttered popcorn.

FOR MORE: Photojojo

DIY Movie Projector - Cardboard Box

Photo: photojojo.com

3 Fixes for Smelly Footwear

Embarrassed by your shoes' lingering scent? Give your favorite pair that new-shoe smell again with these solutions for banishing bad odors.

3 Fixes for Smelly Shoes - Smelly Shoes

Photo: fotosearch.com

With the kickoff of summer comes sunshine, warm temperatures, backyard games—and sweat, lots of sweat, from head to toe. And those balmy feet quickly lead to stinky shoes. Bacteria on your feet feed off of sweat and produce a byproduct with a pungent scent that’s hard to erase once it’s there. Luckily, easy solutions for avoiding the stench are within reach. Open wide your pantry and rummage through your closet to mix up one of these concoctions that will eliminate smelly-shoe shame for good.



How to Clean Smelly Shoes - Baking Soda

Photo: fotosearch.com

Baking soda has many superpowers, neutralizing unpleasant odors chief among them. Simply pour some into your shoes and let them sit overnight. The powder will soak up excess moisture while you sleep, leaving your kicks clean and dry in the morning. For a fresher scent, consider mixing in few drops of an essential oil with the baking soda before filling your shoes. Just don’t forget to empty the baking soda into the trash the next day—the only thing worse than smelly feet is leaving a powdery trail in your wake!

Once you’ve sopped up the extra moisture, craft a pair of homemade deodorizers to slip into your shoes between uses. Fill a pair of socks (or feet cut from nylon stockings) with baking soda, and knot the ends of each. You can even stuff the socks with kitty litter; made to tackle far more offending scents, it’ll work wonders for your shoes.



How to Clean Smelly Shoes - Newspaper

Photo: fotosearch.com

Surprisingly, your morning paper can work overtime as an effective way to squash shoe odor. Stuff a generous amount of crumpled newspaper into each shoe—it will help your shoes dry even faster by absorbing extra moisture, thus eliminating any bacteria that comes with it. For a dose of sweet-smelling goodness, sprinkle a few drops of vanilla onto the newspaper first; come morning, your go-to loafers will not only be rid of their funky scent, but they’ll actually smell fresh.



How to Clean Smelly Shoes - Washing Machine

Photo: fotosearch.com

For heavier-duty stinks, head to the laundry room. Pull out your sneakers’ insoles and run them through the washing machine with a load of towels. If you want to wash the entire shoe, remove the laces and put the shoes in a pillowcase before throwing them in the washer. Let them air-dry for a day or so before wearing again. Still smell? Soak just the insoles in a water-vinegar solution for a few hours, then air-dry under a heater or in a sunny spot.

As you implement any (or all) of these measures, also limit wearing your favorite pair of shoes to every other day—even just once every few days. This will ensure that they have time to dry out fully, which will cut down on bacteria buildup. Start working these solutions into your everyday routine, and you’ll be amazed at the difference they’ll make in keeping your shoes fresh and clean.

Bob Vila Thumbs Up: The 2 x 4 Competition Starts Today

Vote now—and vote daily—to choose your favorite project competing to win this month's Bob Vila Thumbs Up competition!

Photo: fotosearch.com

When it comes to woodworking, few things are as ubiquitous as the humble 2 x 4 wooden plank. There’s a good reason this material appears in so many DIY projects. Not only is this board multifunctional, but it’s sturdy and of good quality to boot. That’s why we ‘re featuring a few of our favorite 2 x 4 projects from around the web in this month’s Bob Vila Thumbs Up competition.


Bob Vila Thumbs Up highlights some of the best and brightest DIY bloggers, and this month we’re excited to share three incredible 2 x 4 projects. Each and every one wins points for creativity and style, but we’re counting on you to help us name one blogger as the champion of this month’s competition and the prize—a $250 gift card.

So cast your vote today and every day in July to help your favorite blogger become this month’s Bob Vila Thumbs Up winner. After all, it’s your vote that determines the outcome of this competition.

Congrats to last month’s winning blogger, Start at Home. Read more about the winning Bob Vila Thumbs Up project right here.

Would you like to recommend a blogger for the next Bob Vila Thumbs Up? Tell us about it on Facebook or Twitter!

How To: Get Rid of Woodpeckers

While woodpeckers may be attractive additions to your backyard, their eating habits can be a hindrance to your home. Try these solutions to ward off the noisy birds.

How to Get Rid of Woodpeckers - Woodpeckers

Photo: fotosearch.com

As pretty as woodpeckers are to observe in your backyard or garden, these noisy birds can cause major damage to your trees and wooden structures if left unattended—not to mention, their constant drumming can be extremely disruptive to the peace and quiet you need to be productive around the house. Prevent woodpeckers from taking over your outdoor space with these tips for handling the winged troublemakers.

How to Get Rid of Woodpeckers - Read Headed Woodpecker

Photo: fotosearch.com

You’re most likely to hear woodpeckers in the spring, during their mating season. That’s when the medium-size birds are usually most active—and noisy—drumming to attract mates and mark their territories. The hallmark pecking will aid you in locating where a bird’s nest might be and therefore usher them out of your backyard.

To get rid of woodpeckers that have already made themselves at home in your yard, it’s best to use a technique that will scare them off. Always avoid solutions that could harm woodpeckers, such as sticky substances that trap the birds. Instead, use one of these four ideas that have been proven to help ward off woodpeckers safely.

1. Hang up a shiny object. A mirror (or aluminum foil if you’re in a pinch) near the spot where a woodpecker has made its home will show the bird its reflection when it returns, startling it and potentially scaring it away from the area.

2. Set up a wind chime or a pinwheel near the spot. The noise or motion these objects make in the wind may fool your woodpecker into thinking a predator is near and deter them from coming any closer.

3. Set up a pretend predator. Because owls prey on woodpeckers, you can purchase a decoy owl from a home improvement or garden store to place in your yard. Opt for one with reflective eyes, which look more realistic.

4. Spook them with noise. This last simple deterrent (no purchase necessary!) only requires you to clap your hands, whoop, or make another loud noise to frighten the bird off if you’re outdoors and you see one.

Prevent the Woodpeckers’ Return
Even if you successfully scare the woodpeckers away, the fact that these birds are frequent visitors to your yard could be an indicator of a bigger problem: an insect infestation. Do some investigating to see if carpenter ants, carpenter bees, or termites are present in your yard. If so, treat the infested trees with an insecticide that is specifically made to kill pests without affecting other animals or the trees themselves. Stay inside while the insecticide goes to work, as the chemicals can be harmful to children and pets. Then, plug up any hole made by wood-boring insects. This will trap them deep inside the tree so they will die off, and other members of the colony will not be able to enter the structure easily. Not only will this process rid your property of unwanted insects, it will also keep woodpeckers from returning to your yard and causing any further damage to your home.