Category: Basement & Garage


Bob Vila Radio: Be Good to Your Garage Door

Up and down. Up and down. Through all your day-to-day comings and goings, the garage door rarely complains. That said, for the door to continue operating without a hitch, it needs a simple course of maintenance on occasion. Here's what to do.

No matter whether you use muscle or a motor to open and shut your garage door, it’s going to need TLC every so often to continue operating safely and smoothly.

Garage Door Maintenance Tips

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Listen to BOB VILA ON MAINTAINING YOUR GARAGE DOOR or read the text below:

To get started, stand inside your garage and, in the course of raising and lowering the door a few times, note all the moving parts, including hinges, springs, and rollers. You may want to wear a pair of safety goggles, along with a shop apron, as a way of keeping dust and oil off your clothes and out of your eyes.

Now, with the door closed, use a rag to wipe away any dust, grime, and cobwebs you can get at (you’ll probably need a step ladder to reach the overhead tracks). Next, squirt a bit of silicone spray onto all the moving parts of the assembly. Repeat the process with the door opened to about the halfway point. That’ll ensure the lubricant coats all the components involved in guiding the door on its back-and-forth journey.

Don’t forget: Pay some attention to the rollers. Use a straw applicator to send lubricant into their centers—the part the axles go through. As you go about this final task, keep a rag handy to wipe away the excess drips.

You see, it doesn’t take much effort to keep your garage door in tip-top shape. The hardest part is remembering to get out there and do it!

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!


Bob Vila Radio: Your Finished Basement Needs an Egress

In most municipalities these days, a finished basement must include an egress window or door. Here's what that means for you.

Transforming a dark, dank basement into welcoming living space isn’t a small job. But once complete, a finished basement gives a big boost to home value, even while adding comfort and convenience to daily life.

Basement Egress Windows and Doors

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Listen to BOB VILA ON ADDING AN EGRESS or read the text below:

When planning a basement renovation, don’t forget to account for egress windows and doors. These are exits to the outside meant to be used in case of fire or other emergencies. Today, most building codes not only require egresses, but also enforce detailed specifications as to their size and placement.

If you have a sloping yard, you may be able to add exits completely above ground. On an average lot with even terrain, you’ll probably need to excavate, then cut through the concrete walls of the foundation to install a window well.

Cutting through concrete isn’t a DIY-friendly job; call in an experienced pro. And remember that before you do any digging, it’s imperative that you check with all utility providers for the location of buried lines coming in or out of your house. You don’t want to end up with an even larger and more expensive project on your hands.

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.


Bob Vila Radio: Button Up Your Crawl Space

Even if you don't plan on ever using your crawl space, sealing the area can prevent mold and mildew while helping to minimize heating and cooling bills.

If you have a crawl space in your home that’s not adequately sealed and insulated, you’re probably wasting money on inefficient heating and cooling (not to mention inviting insects and rodents to share your abode).

Sealing a Crawl Space

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Listen to BOB VILA ON SEALING YOUR CRAWL SPACES or read the text below:

To button up your crawl space, survey the space on a clear day, looking for any signs of sunlight coming through the foundation. If you don’t see any, that’s a good sign, but take a closer look with a flashlight, paying special attention to areas where ducts, pipes, and wiring are concentrated.

Seal any gaps you find using a quality, flexible caulk or expandable foam. In addition, install weather stripping around the crawl space entry door. If the floor down there is either soil or gravel, carpet it with thick plastic sheeting (to combat moisture problems). Use bricks or heavy rocks to keep the sheets in place.

Finally, install insulation between the floor joists. That’ll ensure that what happens in the crawl space, temperature-wise, stays in the crawl space.

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.


Bob Vila Radio: Sump Pumps Need Maintenance, Too

Periodic maintenance ensures that your sump pump remains a first line of defense against the extensive, expensive damage caused by basement flooding.

With melting snow and spring rains just around the corner, now is the most important time of year for sump pump maintenance.

Sump Pump Maintenance

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Listen to BOB VILA ON SUMP PUMP MAINTENANCE or read the text below:

First things first, remove the cover on the sump pump pit, check the interior, and get rid of any debris that’s settled there. To test the pump, simply pour some water into the pit. Once the water level reaches nine inches or so, the pump should kick on and send water out of the house via the exit pipe.

Provided the sump pump itself is working as it should be, give a little thought to the exit pipe. Lots of folks install flexible hoses on the end of their exit pipes to help move pumped water even farther away from the house. In winter, those hoses are often removed to prevent damage from freezing. The trouble is that if the pump runs during the winter (without the extension hose in place), water exits right next to the foundation. To get around that problem now or in the future, keep a couple of hoses on hand. If you notice the sump pump running a lot during a period of freezing temperatures, simply reattach one of the hoses to the exit pipe. If it freezes, switch it with the other hose. It can also help to wrapping some pipe insulation around the hose.

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.


Get More from Your Garage: Top Tips for Strategic Storage

Corral the chaos in your garage and turn the space into a convenient, efficient storage area with careful planning and, contrary to your fears, only a reasonable amount of effort.

Garage Storage Ideas

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Is it starting to seem like there’s no storage space left in your house? Is every closet, cabinet, and drawer totally crammed? Well, the solution to your storage woes may be as close as your garage. Sure, it’s already housing your tools and gardening gear, and maybe even your car, but the average garage can fit more boxes and bins than most rooms inside the house. With planning, you can transform your garage from a messy catchall into an efficient, well-organized household annex.

Birds of a Feather
First things first: Get rid of anything you no longer use. After you’ve winnowed down the contents of your garage, sort what’s left into groups. Items used together ought to be stored together. Where possible, place like items into stackable, clear plastic containers with lids. (Opaque bins work in a pinch—just be sure to label each one.) These will keep your belongings clean, protect against insects and rodents, increase the amount of usable floor space, and cut down on visual clutter.

Garage Storage Ideas - Wall Shelving

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Location, Location, Location
Efficient use of space partly depends on positioning stored items in a thoughtful, strategic way. For instance, are there certain items in the garage that you’re likely to need on a regular basis? If so, locate these items near the door so that retrieving them only requires a quick and painless trip. Meanwhile, stash rarely used or seasonal items, such as sleds and skis, in harder-to-reach spots.

Climb the Walls
In many garages, there’s a simple key to staying organized and making the most of every inch: keep things off the floor. By capitalizing on the wall space, you can fit more into your garage without sacrificing access. What type of wall storage you choose ultimately depends on your needs, budget, and preferences. Many homeowners opt for one or a combination of the following storage standbys:

Pegboard. Inexpensive and easy to install, pegboard has been a garage storage favorite for generations. By outfitting your pegboard with a custom combination of compatible hooks, clamps, bins and shelves, you can use this utilitarian method to store and organize just about anything of modest weight.

Open shelving. Whether a wall-mounted track system or a set of stand-alone units, open shelves are affordable, versatile, and user-friendly. Plus, depending on their construction, 12- or 16-inch-deep shelves are typically capable of holding the heavier items on your storage radar (unlike pegboard).

Closed cabinetry. If you plan to park your car in the garage, cabinets with doors may be most desirable, because closed storage means not having to come face-to-face with paint cans and garbage bags every time you leave or arrive home. Keep in mind, however, that cabinets—customizable, with countless material and style options—generally cost more than other solutions. And being unable to accommodate very large items, cabinets are most effective when used in conjunction with another storage system.

Panelized systems. Here, entire walls are covered with specially designed panels that hold any number of companion add-ons (e.g., hooks and shelves). Though panelized systems can handle heavy and awkwardly sized items, that strength and utility comes at a cost, especially since some products require pro installation.

Moving On Up
For certain infrequently used belongings, the ceiling provides ideal, out-of-the-way storage space. Ladders and seasonal gear can be kept here, hung by clips or straps fastened to the joists. Or you can take advantage of hoist pulley systems, which cleverly operate like the cords on window blinds. Bear in mind, however, that ceiling storage must be oriented so that it doesn’t interfere with the operation of the garage door.

A Note on Safety
As you sort and reorganize the pieces in your garage, keep safety top of mind. It can be dangerous to store gasoline and propane in the garage; a single spark could lead to tragedy. Likewise, if you have children or pets, you should store hazardous materials and power tools far out of reach or, ideally, inside a locked cabinet.


Bob Vila Radio: An Easy DIY Way to Seal Your Garage Door

Cold air and moisture often infiltrate at the point where the garage door meets the concrete floor. With this trick, you can seal the garage door with little effort and at next to no cost.

Though garage doors do a pretty good job of keeping bad guys away from your car, they’re not so good at keeping out the elements. That’s especially true if the floor in your garage is uneven.

Seal Garage Door

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Listen to BOB VILA ON SEALING GARAGE DOORS or read the text below:

Try this: Open the garage door so that the bottom is about head high. Cut a length of 3/4″ foam pipe insulation to fit the width of the door. Then position the insulation against the bottom of the door with the slit facing down.

Next, spread the slit in the insulation and use a screw gun or electric drill to attach the insulation to the bottom of the door. To keep the screws from tearing through the insulation, you’ll probably want to add washers around the heads of the screws.

Pipe insulation doesn’t exactly add to curb appeal. So if you don’t want it poking out the bottom of the door so it’s visible from the street, just drive your screws a little more toward the backside of the door than the front.

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


Convert Your Crawl Space into a Storage Area

There's nothing stopping you from storing off-season items in your crawl space—nothing except for moisture, mold, insects and potentially rodents. Here, learn what's involved in converting your crawl space into a safe haven for belongings you want to keep but don't frequently need access to.

Crawl Space Solutions - Dirt Floor

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For children and perhaps even many adults, the crawl space is shrouded in mystery. Rarely do we think of the dark, dingy, low-ceilinged, and dirt-floored crawl space as providing opportunity. And yet, with planning and elbow grease, you can make even the most intimidating crawl space into an ideal storage area for off-season items. Plus, many of the improvements you’d pursue to make the environment storage-ready would also contribute to overall home comfort and energy efficiency. You’ve got nothing to lose! Read on to learn what crawl space solutions other homeowners choose, then decide which are right for where you live.

Assessment
What’s this going to take? That largely depends on the crawl space’s current condition. For most homeowners wishing to convert a crawl space into a storage area, moisture is going to be the main impediment. Your crawl space may not have a moisture problem, but there’s only one way to know: get down there and assess things. Look for evidence of mold—on the walls, joists, ductwork or insulation. Where there’s mold, there may also be insects, including termites—and the presence of insects might one day attract rodents, if it hasn’t already. Mold also indicates a level of moisture that could eventually affect the flooring, drywall, and insulation in the upper portions of your home. So before you can confidently keep any of your belongings in a moldy, potentially rodent-ridden crawl space, your first order of business is getting the moisture under control. And it’s worth doing, not only for the immediate benefit of additional storage, but because your home might otherwise be at risk to a host of moisture-related problems. For help here, consider consulting a contractor who specializes in basements and crawl spaces.

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Moisture Control
In crawl spaces, much of the humidity and moisture comes from the soil floor. To contain that moisture, line the floor (and the foundation walls) with a plastic vapor barrier. Proper installation of the vapor barrier depends on your climate and the product used, but generally speaking, the liners overlap, with taped seams, to leave no patch uncovered. There are many types of vapor barriers on the market, with varying composition, thickness, strength and durability. Because you’ll be using the crawl space for storage, choose a product thick and durable enough to withstand foot traffic. Of course, some homeowners eschew vapor barriers in favor of poured concrete, the best and longest-lasting defense against crawl space moisture. But given the complexities of working within a crawl space, we recommend that approach only to experienced do-it-yourselfers or those prepared to hire a professional crew to handle what’s not an inexpensive job.

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Insulation
Insulation further protects against moisture by helping to control the temperature within the crawl space. A bonus: If pipes run through the crawl space, the insulation prevents them from freezing during the coldest parts of the year. Of course, there are many types of insulation available, but only rigid board insulation is appropriate here, because it resists water damage. Install these foam boards against the foundation walls—not along the ceiling—using either construction adhesive or mechanical fasteners. Once the insulation is in place, the vapor barrier goes up on the walls. Climate depending, it may also be wise to install mat insulation over the earthen floor (below the vapor barrier). For advice specific to your home and region, invite an expert to take a look.

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Ventilation
You wouldn’t think so, but crawl space ventilation is a contentious topic. For years, building codes required crawl spaces to be vented, and many still think year-round venting makes sense. (In coastal areas, vents are undoubtedly necessary to prevent a buildup of water pressure from destroying the home’s foundation during a flood.) But more and more experts are saying crawl space vents fail to do what they were designed to do—eliminate moisture. Those experts argue that on the contrary, crawl space vents invite moisture, particularly in the summer when moist, warm air from the outside meets the cooler air under the house. Given the competing opinions and that there are geographic factors at play, we recommend getting advice from a local contractor steeped in the issues at play.

Crawl Space Solutions - Dehumidifier

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Conditioning
If you go so far as to block or seal up the vents to your crawl space, the only way for moisture to escape is by means of a dehumidifier (that is, if it’s impossible to install an HVAC register in the crawl space). Dehumidifiers vary widely, from small, portable units to crawl space-specific models plumbed in to the home’s drainage system. Similarly, the cost of a humidifier can range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to well over $1,000. A dehumidifier may not seem necessary for your crawl space, but if you find that moisture problems linger, be sure to purchase a unit whose size is up to handling the square footage of the crawl space.

Crawl Space Solutions - Storage Bin

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Storage Matters
Even if you’ve eradicated most of the moisture (and its attendant issues), we recommend storing items in airtight plastic containers. Depending on the height of the crawl space, you might consider shelving. No matter what storage methods you opt for, be sure so leave enough space around plumbing and ductwork, in case a contractor needs access for repair work. Now that you’ve converted the crawl space, you should have many more square feet of storage than ever before. Though inappropriate for frequently used items, crawl space storage works great for those items you can’t bear to part with, but which you don’t need regularly.


Bob Vila Radio: Prevent Basement Window Leaks

Don't blame basement window leaks on the amount of rain. Likewise, the problem probably isn't due to the age or installation of your windows. The first things to are your gutters and window well drain. Here's what to look out for.

Basement windows are great for letting natural light into subterranean space, but what if they also let in water? The culprit could be your gutters and downspouts.

Basement Window Leaks

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Listen to BOB VILA ON BASEMENT WINDOW LEAKS or read the text below:

Check the gutter running along the roofline nearest the window well in question. Check, too, the nearest downspout—that is, the gutter leading from the roofline to the ground. If there’s a clog in both or either one, then excess amounts of water could be spilling right into the window well. That’s not necessarily a problem in itself, but it might be a contributing factor.

If the window well was installed correctly, there’d be a drain at the bottom designed to let water permeate into the soil. If you don’t see a drain, dig down a few inches. If you still don’t see one, that’s a problem. In an exceptionally heavy rain storm—or in combination with a clogged storm drainage system—the absence of a drain could very well be the causer of basement window leaks.

You can add a drain, but it’s not the easiest of jobs. An alternative is to remove about two feet of the soil at the bottom of the window well, replacing it with crushed stone. Keep the level of the stone about three inches below the bottom of the window. That will help keep the water out.

For added protection, hinge a clear window well cover to the foundation. Being clear, the cover will still admit sunlight without inviting in water, too.

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


Bob Vila Radio: Flooded Basement Cleanup Tips

Among the litany of ways in which a serious storm can damage your home is the pernicious, hard-to-solve problem of basement flooding. These cleanup tips can help you back to life as you knew it before the rain.

What a huge job it is to clean up a flooded basement! But the job can be a lot less of a headache if you keep some key points in mind.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON CLEANING BASEMENT FLOODS or read the text below:

First, don’t panic. You do need to act quickly, though, to salvage your belongings and also to minimize the growth of unhealthy mold and bacteria. Use a pump or wet vac to suck up as much water as you can.

Next, haul wet items up to an area where they can begin drying. Get a couple of dehumidifiers going, plus as many fans as you can muster. If the flooded area is large, it may be a good idea to call for some heavy-duty commercial fans and dehumidifiers.

Your aim is to get as much dry air moving around as possible. Pull off baseboards and moldings. It’s probably also a good idea to cut a few small holes in sheetrock so air can get to the inside of the walls as well as the outside.

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


Bob Vila Radio: Give Your Garage Floor a Makeover

Does your garage look a little like a dungeon? Coat the floor with colorful (and highly durable) epoxy paint. Here's how.

Looking to make your garage a little snazzier? Dressing up the concrete floor with colorful epoxy paint may be just the ticket. Besides looking sharp, epoxy resists grease and oil. Plus, it’s easy to clean.

How to Epoxy Garage Floor

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Listen to BOB VILA ON EPOXY PAINT or read the text below:

As with any paint job, preparation is key. First, wait for mild weather. Epoxy doesn’t bond well in extreme temperatures.

Next, remove any existing paint. Use a degreaser to clean up oil stains, then an electric scrubber to clean the whole floor. Wet vac the floor to get up as much water as you can, then sprinkle a mix of muriatic acid and water on the floor and go over it again with the scrubber.

Rinse thoroughly and allow the floor to dry completely.

You’ll need to apply at least two coats of epoxy. Be sure to allow plenty of time between coats. And don’t forget to wear protective gear during the job, as epoxy fumes can be toxic.

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