Category: Lawn & Garden


Bob Vila Radio: Best Practices for Mounting Outdoor Speakers

Outdoor speakers bring the party outdoors, but to enjoy optimal sound and to maximize product lifespan, remember these simple installation guidelines.

If you often host outdoor get-togethers and seek a better method of providing music, installing outdoor speakers is the way to go. Here are some issues to consider before tackling the job.

Photo: bethesdasystems.com

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

First, make sure to purchase speakers expressly made for the outdoors. And know that even specialized outdoor speakers last longer if you minimize their exposure to the elements. You can do so by mounting them under an overhang or an awning. Don’t be tempted to hang your speakers to gutters or flimsy aluminum siding. It’s far better to screw them into sturdy wooden posts.

Audio experts say that for optimal sound, it’s best to mount outdoor speakers about ten feet high and ten feet apart, tilted slightly downward. Try to be precise in determining how much speaker wire you’ll need, so you don’t run any more than you have to. Excess wire takes away from the quality of sound.

A final point: Even if you have everyone on the deck dancing, don’t go overboard with the volume—that is, unless you invited all your neighbors to the party!

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.


One-Step Spring Upkeep with a Multitalented Outdoor Tool

Wash away a winter's worth of dirt and debris with a practical, versatile tool that attaches to your garden hose and lets you both soap up and scrub down grimy surfaces all around your house.

Photo: JNoonan

Here’s what the real estate agent doesn’t say: Owning a home near the ocean is rarely a day at the beach. Salt air puts vulnerable components to the test, and thanks to frequent strong winds, all manner of dust and debris gets whipped against the home’s exterior surfaces. That’s why our spring cleaning routine tends to focus as much on outdoor decking and house siding as it does on things like forgotten closet shelves and the neglected hardwood floors beneath heavy furniture.

Photo: JNoonan

Although there’s a fully exposed deck in our backyard, the covered front porch typically takes more of a beating due to its orientation toward the sea. Here, the floorboards are made of a composite material touted for its low maintenance requirements. In my experience, composite may need less upkeep than natural wood does, but it calls out for at least yearly attention, particularly in our neck of the woods.

When we clean the porch, our goal is not only to refresh its look, but also to discourage the growth of mildew, an unsightly, damaging menace that always looms threateningly in the background around here. Our usual tools for the task are a humble assortment of buckets, brushes, and garden hoses. But this year, we took things up a notch by trying out the new HYDE PivotPro Outdoor Cleaning Water Wand.

PivotPro fits onto your garden hose and gives you more concentrated power from your garden hose. As with some other quality hose nozzles and wands, you’re able to obtain more pressure by forcing the water through a constricted nozzle. But PivotPro surpasses others with the patented feature for which it’s (presumably) named. By pushing or pulling a grip on the barrel of the tool, you can rotate—or pivot, if you will—the spray along a radius of 135 degrees. So without bending or stretching, you can attack grit and grime from every angle.

The PivotPro Outdoor Cleaning Water Wand Kit includes a built-in scrub brush as well as a spindle brush. While the oversize scrub brush works well for flat surfaces, such as my porch floor, the spindle brush lets you clean narrow crevices where even hands can’t easily fit. I used the spindle brush on my porch rail, both along the top and up and down the balusters, and I must admit that that’s probably the most attention those unsung heroes of the porch have ever received in my career as the home’s owner.

The other feature that distinguishes PivotPro is its integral 16-ounce mixing reservoir. Here, you can pour in your chosen liquid cleanser and, at the push of a button, set the tool to spray soapy water at one of six preconfigured soap-to-water ratios. In years past, we applied deck-cleaning solution first, then followed up separately with a scrub and a rinse. Today, armed with PivotPro, we were able to do all three at once.

After adding deck cleaner to the reservoir, I set the soap-to-water ratio I wanted, then got to work spraying soapy water even as I scrubbed. The combination of a powerful spray, crud-cutting soap, and the stiff-bristle brush worked wonders to eliminate the muck that hadn’t seemed like it was going to budge. To finish, I moved the bristle brush out of the way, disengaged the soap dispenser, and rinsed with clear water. Clean!

It’s well worth noting that PivotPro accepts not only its own attachments, but a range of third-party components as well. That’s encouraging, because as much as I love my garden-watering hose attachment, it’s not perfect. This summer, I hope to hook it up to the PivotPro, a tool that, at 46 inches in length, would certainly help me reach those flower-filled baskets that I always hang but usually can’t water without a stepladder. I’m also really looking forward to using the HYDE PivotPro Boat/Auto Cleaning Water Wand, because after those last few weeks of winter, my poor station wagon would surely benefit from a bit of—no, a ton of—TLC!

For the time being, though, now that the porch is sparkling, I can’t wait to sit out in the morning with a cup of tea, reading the newspaper as the sun comes out.

Photo: JNoonan

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


One Attachment Turns Your Garden Hose into a Powerhouse Cleaning Tool

Fully featured and eminently user-friendly, HYDE PivotPro makes light work of all the outdoor cleaning jobs on your to-do list, from cleaning patio furniture to clearing the gutters.

HYDE PivotPro - Siding

Photo: thehydeway.com

This time of year, we all rely on the garden hose for any number of chores around the yard. But useful though it may be, the garden hose does nothing more than extend the reach of, and give you control over, the water from your outdoor spigot. That’s why so many homeowners equip their hoses with specialty nozzles of one type or another. You’ve probably owned one in the past, and no matter its design or material composition, you may have been frustrated by its limitations. If that sounds all too familiar, take a minute to meet the HYDE PivotPro Outdoor Cleaning Water Wand. When you need a hose attachment to make quick and easy work of outdoor cleaning jobs, there may be no tool on the market better suited to the task. Dirty decks, driveways, paths, siding, windows, and outdoor furniture—none are a match for PivotPro and its cleansing spray, pivoting nozzle, built-in scrubbing brush, and soap-dispensing functionality. Find out why it’s so different.

HYDE PivotPro - Product Shot

Photo: thehydeway.com

Easy and Convenient
PivotPro takes its name from its patented pivoting nozzle, a feature that saves you from having to bend, stretch, or stoop to access those hard-to-reach places (e.g., the underside of your patio table). Simply pull or push the slide grip, and the spray angle, rotating along a radius of 135 degrees, instantly adjusts to your setting. You can remain standing on your own two feet the entire time, letting the tool eliminate all the hassles you’d usually associate with seasonal maintenance.

The power and convenience of a pivoting nozzle may be most easily appreciated by way of an example. Have you ever used a regular hose nozzle to clean off the blades of your lawn mower? Like me, you probably tipped the mower onto its side, got down on your knees, and ended up soaking not only the mower, but your clothes as well. With PivotPro, you just lift the mower a few inches, position the wand, and point the nozzle upward. The tool takes it from there; you stay high and dry.

Powerful and Effective
Water and water alone doesn’t always do the trick. Sometimes, you need a bit more punch to overcome caked-on grime or lingering stains. With PivotPro, consider yourself fully equipped to easily handle even the most challenging cleanups.

Two features make PivotPro much more powerful than the average hose wand. First, there’s the built-in mixing reservoir. Here, you can add up to 16 ounces of your favorite liquid cleanser. After setting your desired soap-to-water ratio, you simply toggle the lever and boom—right away, you’re ready to spray the soapy water needed to cut through tough crud.

The other key to the potency of PivotPro is its adjustable stiff-bristle nylon brush. Swing it into place when you want it, and when you’re done with it, swing it back out of the way. Particularly when combined with the tool’s soap-dispensing spray, the brush gives you a heavy-duty, effective weapon to deploy in the fight against mold and mildew, soils and oils.

Endlessly Versatile
Depend on PivotPro to clear the gunk out of your garbage cans, wake up a tired fence, or restore your weathered garage to its pre-winter glory. Plus, with its 46-inch reach, PivotPro can even blast all the leaves and debris out of your gummed-up gutters. For a tool that’s so lightweight and compact, and takes up such little space in your toolshed, PivotPro brings scores of common upkeep projects within reach, whether you’re a veteran weekend warrior or a newbie.

Purchase HYDE PivotPro Water Wand Outdoor Cleaning Kit, $50.99

 

Of course, the house isn’t the only thing in our lives that needs TLC. Check out the other PivotPro specially designed for boats and automobiles. Like its outdoor cleaning cousin, HYDE PivotPro Boat/Auto Cleaning Water Wand gives boat and car owners a convenient, powerful, and versatile tool that makes maintenance not only hassle-free, but actually sort of fun!

Purchase HYDE PivotPro Water Wand for Boat/Auto Kit, $50.99

 

Want to see both tools in action? Watch the video!

 

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


Weekend Projects: 5 Designs for a DIY Rain Barrel

It pays to be green when you collect rainwater for your landscaping needs. Start saving on your water bill this very weekend by setting up a rain barrel based on one of these easy designs.

These days, it would be hard to ignore the need for water conservation. Due to drought conditions, California now enforces strict water regulations, and it may be the first of many states to enact such measures. No matter where you live, you can get proactive by setting up a DIY rain barrel. Inexpensive and easy to construct, DIY rain barrels collect and store rainwater for use, if not in a garden, then wherever you would like. Here are five favorite ways to approach the project.

 

1. DIY WITH HEAVY METAL

DIY Rain Barrel - Stock Tank

Photo: thebikegarden.com

A galvanized stock tank is great for collecting and storing rainwater—it’s naturally rust resistant and just the right height to sit underneath a shortened downspout. A slatted cedar lid outfitted with a mosquito screen on the underside completes the tank’s country-rustic look—so well, in fact, that the DIYers at The Bike Garden set up four outside their home.

 

2. TURN WINE INTO WATER

DIY Rain Barrel - Wine Barrel

Photo: nailpolishandpaint.wordpress.com

Aesthetics are not of foremost importance with DIY rain barrels, but when you enlist a reclaimed wine barrel for the project, function and form come together in a charming win-win. When sourcing a barrel, opt for one with a lid and a cork. Read one DIYer’s adventure from wine country to backyard at Nail Polish and Paint.

 

3. GO WITH THE FLOW

DIY Rain Barrel - Painted Plastic

Photo: lovelacefiles.blogspot.com

When using rainwater to nourish a vegetable garden, be sure your DIY rain barrel hosts no contaminants. A sure bet might be large food-grade plastic barrel like this one, which once held olives. To better integrate the vessel into your landscape, paint it a neutral, non-offensive hue. Get all the details over at Lovelace Files.

 

4. REINVENT A ROUGHNECK

DIY Rain Barrel - Trash Can

Photo: instructables.com

Don’t care to get fancy? With an 32-gallon Rubbermaid Roughneck trash can, plus a few important spare parts—namely, a couple of spigots, window screening, and a handful of locknuts and washers—you can fashion a DIY rain barrel you’d be happy to see overflowing. For the step-by-step, visit Instructables now.

 

5. UNDERCOVER CONSERVATION 

DIY Rain Barrel - Pallet Surround

Photo: thedoodlehouse.com

If even the most carefully considered and constructed rain barrel seems like an eyesore, this project from The Doodle House is for you. The ever-versatile reclaimed wooden pallet comes to the rescue here, with openings between slats ready to support a collection of cheery camouflaging plants. Set up this structure around your barrel, and you’ll soon be doing your part for the planet in style.


Genius! Hack This Old Appliance Part for the Perfect Fire Pit

Break out the marshmallows! See how one DIY blogger transformed an old washing machine part into a high-end summer staple, and you'll surely want to make one of these for yourself.

Washing Machine Fire Pit

Photo: houseandfig.com

This story starts out like many other tales of DIY savvy. While browsing the a trendy retailer store, Sarah of House and Fig fell in love with a particular product—a geometric steel fire pit, to be exact. The problem? Its four-figure price tag. Rather than break the bank, Sarah and her husband, Joe, instead set out to create their own version. In doing so, they would revisit a peculiar concept they’d discovered on a camping trip years before: lighting a fire in a washing machine drum.

Why a washing machine drum? Well, its stainless steel holds up against high heat, and the slotted housing allows for the free flow of the oxygen that a fire needs to burn efficiently. Also—and unexpectedly—the humble washing machine drum somehow manages to look quite stylish when lit up against the a dark night sky.

To follow Sarah’s lead, head out to a used appliance store—she snagged her washing machine drum, used, for $10. Besides an angle grinder, you’re going to need several grinder attachments, including a cup wire brush, cut-off wheel, and flap wheel sanding disc. Also a must is the proper protective gear—don’t forget glasses!

First, remove the drum’s plastic rim and base. Next, use the grinder and cut-off wheel to take out the center spindle, thus carving out space for firewood. From there, it’s largely a matter of shaping the drum to your liking. Sarah and Joe ground down their drum’s metal lip and smoothed its rough edges with the flap wheel attachment. Lastly, with the wire brush, they cleaned the drum walls to completely eliminate any soap scum still lingering from the drum’s previous incarnation.

You could stop there, but if Sarah’s uncompromising sense of style has inspired you, then finish things off by giving the drum a coat of black high-heat spray paint. Also, importantly, consider welding on a quartet of legs at the base. Perhaps sooner than you think, you can be be roasting s’mores over your finished project!

FOR MORE: House and Fig

Washing Machine Fire Pit - Grinding

Photo: houseandfig.com


Bob Vila Radio: Does Pressure Washing Ruin Your Landscape?

Though it's a useful and versatile tool, the pressure washer do more harm than good if you don't take the proper steps to protect your plantings.

Want to remove years of dirt and grime from the exterior of your home? A power washer might be the right tool for the job. However, it can be bad news for your landscaping. Proceed with caution.

Does Pressure Washing Ruin Landscaping?

Photo: shutterstock.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON PRESSURE WASHERS AND LANDSCAPING or read the text below:

If you’re going to use bleach as part of the cleaning solution, opt for oxygen bleach over chlorine bleach. The former goes easier on foliage. Move as many potted plants as possible out of the immediate area. The plants you can’t move should be hosed down thoroughly with clear water before you start. That’ll naturally dilute any overspray that happens to land on the plants.

Another alternative is to cover your plants with plastic. But it’s important not to cover all the plants at once, especially if you have a large home and it’s a warm day. Prolonged periods shrouded in plastic can smother even the hardiest species. Covering plants becomes essential if you have natural wood siding and plan to use a sealant after power washing. That’s because most sealants can’t be washed off and are lethal to flora.

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: Raising Sunken Pavers

Over time, some pavers in your installation might sink to a level beneath that of the surrounding patio or driveway. When that happens, it can be an eyesore as well as a safety hazard.

If a few of the pavers in your patio or driveway have begun to sag, don’t fret—there’s an easy, DIY-friendly fix. Here’s how to handle the project.

How to Fix Sunken Pavers

Photo: shutterstock.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON SUNKEN PAVERS or read the text below:

First, remove the pavers using the tip of a small, flat-bladed screwdriver. Little by little, pry up the end of each paver. Sometimes employing a pair of screwdrivers—one at each end of the paver—helps with the wiggling process. If the pavers are wedged in tight, pound them with a rubber mallet to loosen things up.

Next, prepare a screed board of the kind used to level freshly poured concrete. You are going to use the board to scrape and level out the now-exposed ground beneath the sagging pavers. For that reason, make sure the board’s long enough to reach across the exposed area, all the way to the level pavers surrounding the problem area. Butt the board against the in-place pavers and notch its edges about an eighth of an inch below where the pavers hit.

Finally, add all-purpose sand to the low area and, with the notched ends of the screed aligned with the level pavers, pull the screed over the sand to level it out. Reset the pavers. Then use the rubber mallet to pound them down until they’re level with the other pavers. Sweep dry sand into the joints and you’re done!

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.


Genius! Instant DIY Hammock

The next time you want to relax in the yard, remember that you can always rig up a homemade hammock with nothing more than a bed sheet and a length of rope.

Instant DIY Hammock

Photo: instructables.com

We’re always choosing between saving time and saving money. So when a DIY comes along that’s both quick and inexpensive, people tend to take notice. That was certainly the case for the Instant Hammock. Ingenious yet face-palm simple, the project drew nearly 250,000 views on Instructables and a feature in Make: magazine. Behind the sensation was Tim Anderson, who showed that in just ten minutes, using only a bed sheet and rope, you can create a backyard oasis.

Whether store-bought or homemade, a hammock needs supports. To start things off, survey your property for a pair of uprights spaced six to nine feet apart. For a flatter, more bed-like experience, consider using a three-way, triangular setup, as shown. They don’t need to be trees, but your chosen supports do need to be sturdy.

Next, get your bed sheet ready for its new role. (Note that if you’d rather not sacrifice a sheet to the cause, you can try a tarp or drop cloth instead.) Lay the sheet so that you can clearly see its top and bottom edges. Now proceed to knot the fabric, once for every support you plan to employ. Three supports? You need three knots.

The last step is to hang the hammock. Using a Lark’s Head knot, fasten one length of rope to each of the two or three knotted points you made in the sheet. That leaves two or three rope ends, each to be tied to a different support. Here, too, use a Lark’s Head knot or whatever knot you feel most comfortable with. That’s it!

As Anderson says, “If you don’t fall, it means you did it right.”

FOR MORE: Instructables

Homemade Hammock - View 2

Photo: instructables.com


Before & After: This Tropical Patio Started as a Pile of Pallets

See how two renters—yes, renters!—renovated their tiny patio using pallets, plants, and a lot of imagination.

Patio Makeover - Before and After

Photo: apieceofrainbow.com

With the mercury rising and spring in full swing, we’re ratcheting open the windows and stepping gratefully back outdoors. But what if your enthusiasm outmatches the appeal of your outdoor living area? Such was the case for Ananda and Jeff. Their apartment patio was of the “Grand Bland Style,” staid and uninviting. What they wanted was a lush and tropical look and feel, but as renters, the husband-and-wife team would need to find a creative, non-permanent way to make it all happen. Ultimately, the solution came in unexpected form: disused shipping pallets. Dozens of them. We caught up with Ananda, the blogger behind A Piece of Rainbow, to find out how she and Jeff managed to realize their dream space, all without directly nailing into or painting over the existing concrete and stucco. Read on!

Patio Makeover - Before and After 2

Photo: apieceofrainbow.com

How would you describe the outdoor space pre-makeover?
At first, we sort of took it for granted that we couldn’t make dramatic changes in a rental. So the patio was never a beloved space…. It never drew us out.

What were your main goals in revamping the area?
We had two big goals in mind. First, to completely transform the patio to our dream space without breaking any rental rules. The other, perhaps even more exciting goal was to inspire others to live their dreams more courageously. Sometimes we assume that we need to wait for the right place and the right income to realize our dreams. The truth is that our creativity is our greatest gift, and it can transform limitations.

What was your inspiration?
Our dream is to live on a tropical island with wooden boats, lush jungles, and fruits falling from the sky. We wanted our patio to evoke those magical experiences.

Patio Makeover - Pallet Furniture

Photo: apieceofrainbow.com

Nearly every part of the project involves pallets: the floor, the furniture, the living wall—even the planters atop the paneling. As a seasoned vet when it comes to working with pallets, what’s your best advice for a beginner?
First, always look for HT-stamped pallets. These are heat-treated and not chemically treated. Second, know that pallet wood is rough-sawn, so unlike those store-bought 1x6s or 2x4s, they are not perfectly square or the same thickness. Take that into consideration when designing and to get a feel for things, maybe start with a simple and useful project like pallet wood crates.

What were your go-to tools?
The tools we used most were:
portable work bench
• Kreg Pocket Hole Jig
cordless circular saw, plus a cross-cut jig that we made
Duckbill Deck Wrecker (for taking apart pallets)

Patio Makeover - Paneling

Photo: apieceofrainbow.com

Without attaching anything to the existing building, how did you manage to make the paneling, flooring, and furniture look so permanent, and so seamless?
It works like a free-standing, three-sided box. We created corner posts and attached the pallet wood paneling to them. It’s further strengthened by situating the furniture pieces tight against the walls.

What was the biggest challenge?
The tools, for sure! When I took a 16-week woodworking class, I got to use all the amazing tools one can imagine. Here, when designing, we had to keep in mind the tools that we actually had. But I am so happy we were able to do all this with only simple tools, because many people do not have access to table saws and jointers. If we can do it with basic tools, so can anyone!

Patio Makeover - Pallet Decking

Photo: apieceofrainbow.com

Which part of the new design are you most proud of?
We love the built-in look, which makes the space feel bigger, even with the deep, comfy benches. We also love the happy vibe from all the colors and greenery.

Finally, how does this makeover change how you use the space?
Before, we escaped to the beach and rarely used the patio. Now we use it almost daily. It’s a blissful place for us to eat, read, and daydream.

See more photos of the transformation on A Piece of Rainbow.


4 Questions to Ask Before You Get a Hot Tub

Before you commit to a hot tub, put some serious thought into whether you're prepared to go all the way for the enjoyment of a home spa.

Hot Tub Installation

Photo: shutterstock.com

A hot tub is a wonderful luxury to enjoy at home. There are few better ways to relax. But for the reality to match your expectations, be sure to plan ahead. The benefits of a hot tub may be clear, but choosing the right model can be a little complicated. Before you make a purchase, ask yourself these four questions.

1. Is it going to be safe?
Often, the more desirable tubs are taller and can be difficult to climb into, but for safety reasons, easy access is important. After all, when you’re retreating to the tub for a peaceful dip, the last thing you want is to slip and fall on the way in. To make entering and exiting easier, you might install the hot tub in-ground. Similarly, consider incorporating the tub into a new or existing deck. Also, insist on such basic and essential safety features as automatic shut-off and a strong, locking cover. These are not bells and whistles to skimp on; they’ll offer peace of mind while promoting the well-being of your family and neighbors.

Hot Tub Installation - Waters

Photo: shutterstock.com

2. Is it going to be private?
Ideally, the hot tub would fit into a private area of your property (while still being close to the required utilities). For a clearer sense of the privacy afforded by a location you’re thinking might be suitable, mark out the dimensions of a tub using garden hose or a length of rope. Track the sight lines from different vantage points around the yard, inside the home, and even off the property. In addition, keep in mind that in some areas, building codes require hot tubs to be surrounded by a fence. Perhaps building that barrier would contribute the extra degree of privacy you feel is missing?

3. How much will it cost to install and maintain?
Standard two-person spas start at about $4,000, while six-person tubs go for $8,000 and higher. Many dealers provide installation at five or ten percent of the product cost (and because both water and electricity are involved, professional installation is strongly recommended). Often the largest expense for a first-time hot tub purchaser is site preparation. Even an empty tub can easily weigh close to a ton. Be smart and consult with a qualified contractor or structural engineer to make certain that, whatever the support structure, it’s going to safely carry the hot tub load size. With regard to maintenance, what primarily determines cost is whether or not you hire out the work or do it yourself. For many home spa owners around the country, worrying about water chemistry is a pesky, time-consuming chore.

4. Is it worth it?
Doctors don’t usually prescribe “30 minutes of spa time,” but hydrotherapy goes back thousands of years, with more and more studies showing its link to good things like joint pain relief, increased blood flow, and better sleep. There’s also the relaxation factor and the fact that, well, hot tubs are fun! So why do some folks never move beyond the planning stage? Many fear the allure would fade too quickly, and while there’s no way to know for sure, it’s a question—perhaps the most important one—to ask yourself.