Category: How To’s & Quick Tips


Solved! What to Do About Spalling Concrete

Is your pitted, flaking driveway bringing you—and your home's curb appeal—down? Here's an easy fix that will have your concrete surface smooth again in practically no time.

SHARES
Spalling Concrete

Photo: dreamstime.com

Q: Parts of my concrete driveway are flaky, cracked, and pitted. How do I halt the deterioration and return the surface to its formerly pristine condition?

A: Its strength and durability make concrete a preferred material not only for driveways like yours, but also for a range of applications, indoors and out. That said, though it can last for decades, concrete typically doesn’t endure without at least a modest amount of care and maintenance. The good news? What you’re describing—a condition known as spalling—ranks high among the most common issues that afflict concrete. Here, the top layer of the installation flakes away, leaving the surface patchy and pitted while exposing the aggregate underneath. If you ignore spalling, it eventually spreads, compromising the integrity of the surface until it is beyond repair, leaving you no recourse but to rip it out and start over.

If you tackle a spalling problem early on, however, it’s easy to remedy. After all, it starts out as merely a cosmetic imperfection caused by cold weather. When the temperature drops below freezing, moisture in the concrete tends to expand, creating internal pressure. Over the course of a winter, or over the course of years, as the internal pressure rises and falls, it stresses the surface layer of the concrete, which leads to spalling. The fix may involve nothing more than applying a new surface layer, which will give your driveway a smooth, like-new appearance as well as protect it against future damage. This repair doesn’t require any special skills or previous experience working with concrete. You just need to equip yourself with the right materials and follow the simple steps outlined below.

Spalling Concrete - Driveway Resurfacing

Photo: ctscement.com

Choose a product. Specially formulated to restore lackluster concrete, resurfacing products like Rapid Set NewCrete make it quick and easy for homeowners to address spalling on their own, without having to hire a contractor. The resurfacing material simply spreads over the existing, spalled concrete surface to create a fresh, flawless finish. NewCrete in particular stands out, because it simplifies and speeds up the process. Unlike other resurfacers, for instance, NewCrete rarely requires primer. In addition, you can consider the job done once the product has been applied, because in most conditions, NewCrete cures all by itself. Perhaps best of all, you can return to regular use of your driveway after only 60 to 90 minutes—that’s how fast it works!

Prepare the driveway. First things first: Thoroughly clean the driveway by means of a pressure washer, using the high-powered tool to remove dirt, dust, and debris—really, any extraneous material that could potentially interfere with adhesion and bonding. Remember, if you don’t own a pressure washer, you can rent one for a half day at your local home improvement store. (In some situations, a hand grinder may be needed for proper preparation before using the pressure washer. When in doubt, contact CTS Cement for technical advice at [email protected] or 800-929-3030.)

Ready your tools and materials. Next, check the weather: If the temperature isn’t below 50 degrees, you can move forward with confidence. Not many tools are needed—only a long-handled squeegee and a cordless drill chucked with a paddle-type mixer. Get everything together before you begin so you don’t have to waste any time midway through the job. Once your tools are in place, you’re ready to mix and apply Rapid Set NewCrete.

Apply the resurfacer. In a bucket, tub, or wheelbarrow, combine NewCrete and water in the recommended ratio. Then, using your drill-mounted paddle attachment, mix the two until you’ve achieved a lump-free consistency similar to that of pancake batter. (If it seems too thick, add a bit more water; if it’s too thin, put in some more of the mix.) Next, after lightly dampening the driveway, prefill any cracks or holes with a small amount of NewCrete. With that done, pour the rest of the resurfacer onto the driveway and, with your long-handled squeegee, push and pull the material across the surface to create an even layer up to an eighth of an inch thick.

Believe it or not, that’s all it takes to deal with spalling on your driveway—or your patio, walkway, or garage floor slab. Indeed, you can use NewCrete to revive just about any worn-out concrete surface, and you can get great results more quickly than you might have thought possible. And because NewCrete is made with Rapid Set Cement, your results will last twice as long compared to regular portland cement based products.

Because NewCrete self-cures in moderate conditions, you can consider the task complete when, only 60 to 90 minutes after application, the product hardens. In especially dry, windy, or hot conditions, it may be necessary to mist the area while the resurfacer gains strength. But if you’ve chosen the right day for the project, you can apply Rapid Set NewCrete, drive off to do errands, and then return a little later and park your car on a pristine, perfectly smooth driveway. Welcome home!

Spalling Concrete - NewCrete

Photo: ctscement.com

This post has been brought to you by CTS Cement | Rapid Set. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


How To: Cut Glass

Get a perfect pane for your project with this step-by-step guide.

SHARES
How to Cut Glass

Photo: dreamstime.com

If the very thought of cutting glass makes you cringe, perhaps it’s because you remember a painful occasion when glass cut you. Yet while caution is required, cutting a piece of glass—to, say, replace a broken window, frame a picture, or top a table—is literally a snap to DIY. And it can certainly save cash: Hiring a handyman or professional window installer to replace a pane can cost upwards of $100.

The essential tool at play in your project is a glass cutter, though its name is somewhat misleading. This inexpensive, pencil-sized implement with a carbide- or diamond-tipped wheel in its head scores, rather than slices through, the surface. Once that’s done, you simply snap the pane along the straight line. A beginner with any fears about the process should wear goggles (in the unlikely event of flying shards) and work gloves for protection (keeping in mind that thicker gloves could impair dexterity). It’s also smart to practice on scrap glass till you get the hang of it, but soon you’ll be custom-fitting panes like a pro!

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Glass pane
- Glass cutter
- Work gloves (recommended for beginners)
- Safety goggles (recommended for beginners)
- Solvent or glass cleaner
- Cutting oil
- Framing square, ruler, or tape measure
- Marking pencil
- Straightedge
- Square-jaw pliers
- Dowel
- Sandpaper or sharpening stone

How to Cut Glass - Scoring Glass with a Glass Cutter

Photo: dreamstime.com

STEP 1
First, get your glass squeaky clean. Dirt or grime will interfere with the cutter’s operation, resulting in an uneven edge. Using glass cleaner or solvent, thoroughly wipe down both sides of the pane. Make sure the wheel of the cutter is clean as well, by dabbing a bit of lubricating cutting oil on the tip with a rag.

STEP 2
For best results, prepare a clean, flat, layered surface on which to cut the glass. A plywood or a similarly resilient work table is best, cushioned with a few sheets of butcher paper, newspaper, or fabric, smoothed to eliminate bumps.

STEP 3
Place the glass on your prepped surface and use a framing square, ruler, or tape measure to measure it to the required dimensions.

When cutting windows of identical size—such as double-paned windows—you can use a cut pane instead of the framing square to measure the second window.

To measure a replacement pane for a window frame, remove about ¼ inch from the length and width of the frame’s opening so the glass fits well once glazing is added to its edges. Mark the score line with a marking pencil if you want a visual guide, but it’s not necessary to mark more than starting and stopping points for simple, straight cuts; a straightedge works as a scoring guide.

STEP 4
Score! If you plan on wearing goggles and gloves, gear up now. To score the glass, place the straightedge along the line or marks you made. If the straightedge feels slippery, put a piece of masking tape on the underside to improve its stability. Dab a drop of cutting oil on the cutter wheel, and place the side of the tool against the straightedge at the far end of the cut line. Pull the tool toward you, using moderate force in one smooth glide. If you hear a ripping sound, you’ve got the pressure just right; if it sounds like there’s grit on the glass, easy up. Keep going in one single motion until you reach the end. Retracing the score mark increases the likelihood of ragged edges and a bad break.

STEP 5
Remove the straightedge and lift the glass. Lay a long dowel directly under the score line and place one palm on either side of the mark. Press firmly to snap the glass in two.

STEP 6
The edge of the glass will be sharp! Trim residual slivers or chips with square-jaw pliers if your glass cutter’s head doesn’t have nibbling slots. If using pliers, put cloth or cardboard scraps between the glass and the plier jaws to pad the glass. Use fine-grit sandpaper or a sharpening stone to dull the edge and make the pane safer to handle.

Your next move is perfectly clear: Time to place the glass you’ve cut and cross one more household repair from your to-do list.


Genius! Kill Off Fruit Flies with 3 Kitchen Basics

Fruit flies are the worst kind of dinner guests—showing up uninvited, hovering over your food, and helping themselves to your beer and wine. If they're bugging you, try this free fix from your kitchen!

SHARES
homemade-fruit-fly-trap-1

Photo: instructables.com

When you get back from the grocery store with bags full of juicy strawberries, peaches, and cherries, your kids won’t be the only ones who want the fresh pickings. The season’s most persistent pests—fruit flies—will soon descend on and devour the fruits of your labor. Before your kitchen turns into a bed-and-breakfast for bugs, take a cue from Instructables contributor NoFiller and build this budget-friendly fruit fly trap to catch flying foes and leave more fruit for you to enjoy.

Short on patience with these uninvited guests and high on inspiration, this fruit fly whisperer devised an easy, homemade alternative to classic cone traps with a plastic yogurt container, plastic wrap, a rubber band, and bait. Because nothing is more irresistible to a fruit fly than its sticky sweet namesake, the DIY-er filled a clean container with sliced mango—though you can also use any fruit that you have on hand. No matter which you choose, adding an equally tempting liquid like apple cider vinegar or wine will lure the flies to death by drowning rather than simply entrapment.

Once the cup was covered in plastic wrap and secured with a rubber band, NoFiller poked a few holes in the film with a knife—large enough for flies to crawl in, but small enough to keep them from finding their ways and flying out. With the trap done, there was nothing left to do but wait for the flies to take the bait. Once they beelined for the fruit, they became mired in the sticky mix.

Economy and ease of construction aside, the best part about this simple snare is its portability (to, say, your deck or a picnic in the park) and disposability. When the homemade fruit fly trap is full, just throw it away—or build a few to make your home a no-fly zone!

FOR MORE: Instructables via NoFiller

homemade-fruit-fly-trap-2

Photo: instructables.com


How To: Get Rid of a Skunk

Say so long to this stinky beast with these smart moves.

SHARES
How to Get Rid of a Skunk - Pests on Your Patio

Photo: istockphoto.com

Nocturnal and relatively shy, skunks aren’t often seen—but they certainly are smelled! Though the black-and-white creatures aren’t innately antagonistic, they will spray people or animals if they feel threatened, leaving behind an awful odor that can linger for days. Even if they don’t make a big stink, skunks are likely to plunder your garden and even make a mess of your garbage. Bottom line: It’s hard for humans to co-exist with these cute but fetid critters, so if you suspect a skunk has taken up residence nearby, try this two-part eviction strategy.

How to Get Rid of a Skunk

Photo: istockphoto.com

PART 1: Stop the smorgasbord!
Insects are a skunk’s favorite dish, but the opportunistic animals will dine on pretty much anything. Completely cut off their food supply, and they likely won’t stick around.

• Cover trash cans with tight-fitting lids and place them in a secure location where they can’t be easily tipped over.

• Regularly tidy up fruit and nuts that have fallen from trees on the property to keep skunks from scavenging.

• Don’t let pet food become pest food. Feed your pets indoors, or clean up any leftovers as soon as mealtime is done. Also be sure to supervise your pets outside. Remember, a skunk’s only real defense is his foul smell, so cats and dogs that get this guy riled up are likely to come home stinking to high heaven!

• Avoid putting kitchen scraps in your compost and keep it well covered until the skunk moves on.

• The seed you offer to attract songbirds can inadvertently make a tasty snack for skunks. Secure feeders to ensure they can’t be turned over, and be conscientious about cleaning up any spilled seed.

• Need another reason to mow the lawn? Skunks love the insects that live in tall, lush grass.

PART 2: Deter like a demon.
After removing all food sources, employ the following techniques to get skunks to vamoose even more readily.

• Skunks are poor climbers and worse jumpers, so a 3-foot fence ought to keep them out of areas, like your garden, where they’re unwanted. Just be sure that whatever you install goes at least a foot deep; skunks are excellent diggers and could easily burrow under a shallow barrier. Make it a tight fence, too: Though about the size of a large house cat, these critters can squeeze through a hole as small as 4 inches wide!

• Commercial skunk repellents are available in stores and online, but why not make your own? Boil a chopped onion, a chopped jalapeno, and 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper in 2 quarts of water for about 20 minutes. Strain the liquid into a spray bottle and squirt plants to make skunks steer clear. Each dose should last up to five days.

• Skunks are nocturnal, foraging at night, and are scared of bright lights. Leave your exterior lights on or install motion sensors that will turn on when pesky prowlers cross their path.

If these methods fail to solve a stubborn skunk who’s made its den on your digs, you may wish to contact a wildlife control professional who will trap and release the animal away from your home. Because skunks can carry rabies among other diseases, it’s definitely not worth trying to do yourself (note: trapping skunks is not legal in every state). Do be persistent and eventually your outdoor space will have the sweet smell of success! Should you manage to get your black-and-white guest to move on only after he leaves his signature scent, freshen up using our guide to removing skunk smell from almost any part of the house.


How To: Get Rid of Crows

If these big black hungry birds are making a noisy nuisance of themselves, here a guide to encouraging them to please take a powder.

SHARES
How to Get Rid of Crows

Photo: istockphoto.com

The bald eagle may be our national symbol, but virtually every American has encountered the crow. These highly intelligent, adaptable birds congregate in our rural and urban areas alike in flocks (also ominously known as murders) of sometimes hundreds, even thousands. Though a bane to gardeners for the way they feast on seeds and fruits, crows could be called the goats of the sky because they’ll eat virtually anything, making a mess on your property and a lot of noise in the process. So while they aren’t all bad—a crow family can devour tens of thousands of grubs, caterpillars, and other garden pests in a single season—they can be discouraged from roosting ‘round your place with these helpful tips.

How to Get Rid of Crows in the Yard

Photo: istockphoto.com

Employ Scare Tactics
A lone scarecrow might not be too effective, but the strategies below—which work best when used consistently and in conjunction with one another—can frighten off your feathered foes. Just be sure to vary the position and location of items you utilize so clever crows won’t become desensitized to them. To send crows packing, use:

Decoys. Hang creepy crow Halloween decorations upside with the wings spread out. Crows will think these are their dead brethren and beat it, pronto!

Shiny stuff. Put out Mylar balloons and bright, reflective ribbons that will blow in the breeze and catch the sun’s light. String together multiple pie tins, cheap silverware, and/or old CDs as a funky set of wind chimes and hang in a tree or trellis. The idea here is to not only look scary but rattle too.

Distress signals. Play recorded distress calls of other crows to keep them at bay. Noisemakers and the sounds of fireworks are also repellent. Just be considerate: Let close neighbors in on your noisy battle plan and find out the best time to enact it that won’t disturb others.

Keep Them Away
To prevent crows from returning, make your property less attractive by:

Covering your trash. Use garbage cans with tight-fitting lids and put them in a secure area. If they’re open, crows will belly up to the buffet. And if dogs or raccoons turn your receptacles over at night, crows will have a smorgasbord come morning.

Composting wisely. If you put kitchen scraps in your compost, cover it to keep crows out. Or only compost yard waste, which doesn’t interest crows.

Feeding conscientiously. The seed you offer songbirds will attract crows as well, so secure and clean around feeders. Only use feeders that exclude large birds, position them so that they can’t be overturned, and tidy up any spilled feed regularly. Also avoid feeding Fido and Fluffy outdoors, or remove any leftovers as soon as mealtime is over.

Thinning trees near gardens. Crows love to roost in tall trees, so you may wish to remove mighty specimens growing near a food source like your veggie patch. Plant new trees in areas less hospitable to crows.

Protecting your plants. If crows return despite your best efforts, keep them from ravaging your garden. Drape bird netting over  plants or suspend it from a framework built around plants. Protect seedlings with fabric row covers and, since corn is a crow’s favorite dish, thwart the hungry devils by placing a paper cup or bag over each ear after the silk has turned brown.

Now that you’ve banished these wily, unwelcome guests, your garden can flourish—and that’s really something to crow about!


How To: Strip Wire

Kick off any easy, do-it-yourself electrical project with one of these three simple ways to strip wire. Think you need new tools? Think again: We guarantee you already have all you need on hand for at least one of these methods!

SHARES
How to Strip Wire

Photo: istockphoto.com

Whether you’re rewiring an old lamp, installing a new doorbell, or adding another outlet to a wall, the first step to this sort of do-it-yourself maintenance project often involves stripping the sheathing from the wire. While this introduction to electrical work may seem scary, it’s a skill that’s not hard to master. Specialty tools can help you with the task, but aren’t a necessity—you can still get by just fine without them with a little bit of practice. Learn how to strip any type of wire with whatever tools you have on hand, and you’ll soon be tackling future home wiring tasks with confidence.

MATERIALS & TOOLS
- Wire stripping tool
- Utility knife
- Scissors

Using Wire Strippers

How to Strip Wire - Using a Wire Stripper

Photo: istockphoto.com

A wire stripper can make DIY electrical work especially easy for a beginner, outfitted with several notches that correspond to various wire gauges. To strip wire using this specialty tool, first identify the gauge of the wire you plan to strip by comparing it to the guide along the side of the stripper. Then place the tip of the wire (about 1-½ inches) into the jaws of the wire stripper, notched in the appropriate space for its gauge. Close the wire strippers around the wire so that it cuts through the wire’s exterior sheathing. Then, with the jaws of the wire strippers still closed, pull the sheathing off the end of the wire.

 

Without Wire Strippers

If you don’t have a specialty tool for the job, don’t dismay. A resourceful DIYer can still strip just about any wire as long as he or she has an implement sharp enough to cut the sheathing, like a utility knife, a pair of scissors, or even a sharp pocket knife. The process is similar, but takes a little more practice to get just the right touch—enough pressure to cut off the sheathing without damaging the actual metal wires.

How to Strip Wire - Using a Utility Knife

Photo: istockphoto.com

When working with a utility knife…
Lay the wire across a workbench or piece of wood. In one hand, hold the utility knife so that its blade gently rests on the wire’s sheathing at the exact point you intend to cut to strip it off. Use the other hand to roll the wire across the work surface so that the blade scores the sheathing all the way around the wire. Pull the sheathing off with your fingers, and inspect the wire beneath to make sure no damage has been done.

 

How to Strip Wire - Using Scissors

Photo: istockphoto.com

When working with a scissors…
Open the scissors halfway and fit your wire as close as possible to where the blades meet. With just the slightest pressure, begin to close the scissors—you want to bite into the sheathing but not cut through the wire. Use your fingers to twist the wire around within the open scissors so that the sheathing gets completely scored by the pair of blades. Once the end sheathing has been separated, go ahead and pull it off.

It really is that simple. As mentioned, take care to not be so overzealous with the task that you accidentally nick or the insulation or wiring beneath the sheathing. Worst case scenario, you can lop off the end of the wire and start over. With a little bit of practice, some concentration, and a steady hand, you’ll be able to strip the sheathing off of any wire quickly and cleanly.


How To: Polish Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is a popular choice for sinks, appliances, mixing bowls, and more. Its strength, durability, and luster are universally appreciated, but even this go-to material requires a bit of work from time to time to keep it looking new.

SHARES
How to Polish Stainless Steel - Kitchen Sink

Photo: istockphoto.com

Thanks to its ability to resist corrosion, withstand heat, and handle all sorts of chemicals, stainless steel is a common constituent of appliances, sinks, and cooking implements. Increasingly, with the proliferation of sleek, professional-look kitchens, stainless steel is also often incorporated in larger fixtures such as countertops and backsplashes. While stainless steel is a rugged and reliable material, it’s not impervious to the effects of use or age, and it does have an unfortunate tendency to dull over time. But it’s fairly simple and straightforward to resurrect the original gleam of your stainless steel surfaces. Follow the handful of steps below to defeat the dullness and make your stainless steel shine again.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Dish detergent
- Dish sponge or brush
- Microfiber cloths
- Olive oil
- Flour
- Stainless steel polish (optional)
- Handheld power buffer with pads (optional)

Note: In most cases you can polish your stainless surfaces using only ingredients pulled from the pantry. Tougher jobs may require an extra trip to the store for a specialty solution and, possibly, a handheld power buffer to restore that sparkly magic, but even then the process is still fairly quick and easy.

How to Polish Stainless Steel - Polishing a Stainless Steel Stovetop

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 1
Before you polish stainless steel, it’s important to make sure that the surface is clean and free of stuck-on gunk. Give the stainless steel a gentle but thorough washing with dish detergent, warm water, and a dish sponge or brush. Once you’ve cleaned the surface, rinse it off with fresh water and pat to dry. (For large, freestanding appliances, be sure to lay down a few towels first to protect the floor around the appliance from water damage, and be diligent about mopping up spills.)

Don’t worry if you see any streaks or smudges after you’ve dried the stainless steel surface; they’ll be taken care of later in the process.

STEP 2
Olive oil, which is readily available in most kitchens, can be a surprisingly effective polishing agent for stainless steel. Pour just a dot or two onto a microfiber cloth—or a bit more if you’re working with a large surface, such as a refrigerator or farmhouse sink—and use the cloth to spread a very thin layer of oil over the entire stainless steel surface of the fixture or appliance you’re polishing.

STEP 3
Once the whole surface has been lightly covered with oil, use moderate pressure to buff it, making small circles with the oiled part of the cloth. Work your way across the entire surface until it feels smoother than when you began. This should take just a couple of minutes.

STEP 4
After you’ve finished buffing, go over the entire surface once more, this time with a clean, dry cloth, using the same circular motion and pressure. It’s important to get rid of excess oil, which can leave a sticky residue and, over time, dull the shine again. If you’re happy with the shine you’ve uncovered, then congratulations—you’re done! Otherwise, if you think that the stainless surface could use a bit more work, never fear: Read on for two more solutions you can try.

STEP 5
If olive oil didn’t produce the results you wanted, try another common pantry dweller: flour! Start by covering the entire stainless steel surface with a thin layer of flour—just a fine coating, without any clumps. For reference, it takes about one-quarter cup of flour to completely cover a standard kitchen sink. Using this as a gauge, adjust your measurement accordingly. Once you’ve thinly covered the whole surface, repeat the buffing process, but this time with a dry cloth.

When you’re finished buffing, wipe away any excess flour. Your stainless steel should now be in good shape, but if it’s still dull, or if you notice scratches that need to be smoothed out, you may need to resort to one final option, a tool-assisted fix that’s described in the next step.

STEP 6
For a difficult polishing job plagued by pesky scratches and an elusive shine, you can always turn to a handheld power buffer and commercial stainless steel polish. The point here is to get tough with the material, so you’ll need to use a pad that’s slightly abrasive. Affix the pad to the buffer and apply polish to the pad according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Then, plug in the buffer, turn it on, and begin buffing. Start at the edge of the surface, work in small circles, and let the buffer apply the pressure for you as you proceed.

STEP 7
If you’re trying to buff away scratches, be sure to buff the entire area—not just the scratched sections—to ensure a uniform finish. Once you’ve finished with the buffer, grab a clean, dry cloth to go over the entire surface lightly one last time, making sure you’ve completely removed the polish.

STEP 8
When you’ve finally achieved the sparkling surface of your dreams, look deeply into your handiwork and give your reflection a thumbs-up. You’ve finished!


How To: Get Rid of Voles

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

SHARES
How To Get Rid of Voles

Photo: fotosearch.com

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

How To Get Rid of Voles - Backyard Rodent

Photo: fotosearch.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


How To: Get Rid of Mothball Smell

Try some of these strategies for removing the smell of mothballs from your clothes and closets, and learn how to avoid using mothballs altogether!

SHARES
How to Get Rid of Mothball Smell - In Your Clothes

Photo: fotosearch.com

The pungent odor of mothballs is the very smell of storage. Made from either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, these little lumps of pesticide give off a toxic vapor that not only kills moths and their larva but also kills or repels a number of other insects. While these fumes’ efficacy made mothballs a go-to choice for protecting treasured blouses and sweaters stashed between seasons, their offensive scent lingers on clothes, carpets, closet interiors—wherever they were placed—long after you’d like. While airing the musty items out helps dissipate the smell, a little DIY know-how and some dedicated effort can help eradicate the mothball scent more quickly. Read on for a few strategies for removing the odor of mothballs from your clothes and throughout the home.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Vinegar
- Water
- Non-chlorine bleach
- Detergent
- Activated charcoal

How to Get Rid of Mothball Smell - Mothballs with Napthalene

Photo: fotosearch.com

Once you’ve assembled your arsenal of odor-fighting ingredients, you’re ready to combat mothball odors wherever you find them.

To Treat Washable Clothing…
One of the most successful methods for ridding the mothball smell from clothing is to soak the affected garments in a solution of equal parts water and vinegar. Alternatively, put the clothes in the washing machine and run a cycle using only vinegar; follow up with another wash cycle using detergent and softener. Vary the treatment depending on the clothing; for example, for more delicate fabrics you might try combining the vinegar and water in a spray bottle and spritzing the fabric.

No vinegar on hand? Durable clothing can be presoaked in hot water and non-chlorine bleach, followed by a normal wash cycle using detergent and softener.

Whatever method you choose, be sure not to put the clothes in the dryer until the smell is gone, as heat could permanently set any mothball smell that remains.

To Treat Closets and Rooms…
The odor can be particularly stubborn in rooms or closets where mothballed clothes have been stored. To remove these odors, leave out bowls of vinegar or plates of activated charcoal in the affected areas. (Activated charcoal is sold in various pellet sizes and is usually available at pet stores.) You can also try placing containers of coffee grounds or odor-absorbing candles for similar results. Whichever material you choose, place it in the areas with the heaviest smells, and change it often until the smell is gone.

A Less Offensive Alternative

While they’re great for protecting fabrics from the ravages of insects, mothballs have bigger drawbacks than simply their smell. If ingested, can also be toxic to children, pets, and other animals, so it’s important not to use them in outdoor locations or in attics or crawlspaces. It’s worth keeping in mind that the fumes can cause dizziness or nausea in some people, so exercise caution if you’re considering using them around the house.

Given the effort and time required to get rid of that mothball smell, there’s some benefit in seeking out alternatives that won’t make you want to plug your nose and hold your breath. Some popular “natural” moth repellents involve ingredients like flowers, herbs, or essential oils. To make one such repellent, combine lavender blossoms, whole cloves, and a couple of handfuls of cedar chips, then place the mixture in cheesecloth or another breathable material, and tie it at the ends. Use these sachets in areas of concern; replace them as the scent wears off to ensure prevention. Many of these mixtures include lavender oil or other fragrant oils that not only deter moths but also give off pleasing scents to delight homeowners and their guests.

Other tips to keep in mind when storing clothes without mothballs:

• Before putting clothes away for the season, wash and dry them to remove any scents that attract moths.
• Store clothes in well-sealed containers or vacuum storage bags to restrict moth access.
• Wipe out all containers or drawers prior to use to remove any existing moth eggs.
• Stash a mix of natural repellents away with the clothes. Candidates include bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, eucalyptus leaves, peppercorns, rosemary, wormwood, and many other botanicals.


Quick Tip: The Trick to Drilling Through Slippery Ceramic Tile

This quick trick makes easy work of drilling holes through slick tiles.

SHARES
How to Drill Hole in Tile

Photo: fotosearch.com

How to Drill Hole in Tile - Hole

Photo: fotosearch.com

Cutting a hole through the glazed surface of ceramic tile can be tricky, as the glaze is slippery and ceramic is breakable. But if you need to mount a towel rack or toilet paper holder on an existing tiled wall, it’s an unavoidable task, as the anchor screws for the fixtures have to get through the tile and into the stud or backer board behind it. Luckily, a little help from a DIY staple can make the process much easier.

The key to keeping your drill from slipping and sliding is as simple as a strip of painter’s tape. This non-damaging adhesive gives your bit traction and prevents it from meandering all over the tile, which can mark up your surfaces with unsightly scratches. And, unlike masking tape, it won’t leave gummy residue in its wake.

To start, make a cross with two pieces of painter’s tape at the drill site. Use a permanent marker to draw a dot on the tape where the hole must go. Next, create a starter hole by gently tapping a center punch on the dot to penetrate just below the surface of the glaze. Assemble a carbide-tipped masonry bit of the appropriate size in your drill, and set your power tool to the lowest speed. Apply moderate pressure as you proceed, working slowly to avoid splitting the tile.

If the bit starts to overheat, lubricate it with water or cutting oil every 15 to 30 seconds. You can spray the tip of the bit with water as you drill, or dip the tip in cutting oil, remembering to wipe off any residue before resuming. Once you’ve made it through the tile, remove the tape to reveal a clean hole that’s ready to take on its new fixture.