Category: Lawn & Garden


DIY Kids: Make a Garden Stepping Stone

Make and decorate stepping stones with the whole family for a garden accessory that's extra personal. Craft enough of them, and you can build yourself—quite literally—memory lane!

DIY Stepping Stones - Craft with Kids

Photo: bobvila.com

Whether you’re looking for a way to personalize the lawn and garden with mementos from the kids or you’re on the hunt for memorable presents for the grandparents, look no further than a bag of cement mix. Seriously! You probably have most of the other materials on hand at home already to make these stone- and seashell-dappled stepping stones. Gather the whole family for this craft: These custom pavers are fun for all ages, and easy enough to make and decorate in a weekend. The more the merrier—and the more stones for your new walkway!

 

SKILL LEVEL: EASY
This project is good for children of all ages, from toddlers to teenagers. For kids under 3, mix the cement by yourself and let them do the decorating. My 5-year-old was capable of pouring water into the mix and spreading the cement. Kids ages 10 and up can help mix, and may be able to complete the whole project themselves with supervision.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Plastic tarp
- Large board (optional)
- Pizza box
- Duct tape
- Hardware cloth or chicken wire (optional)
- Scissors
- Plastic garbage bag
- Eye protection
- Dust mask
- Gloves
- Quick-setting cement
- Water
- 5-gallon bucket
- Trowel
- Embellishments (sea shells, marbles, etc.)

 

STEP 1

DIY Stepping Stones - Materials

Photo: bobvila.com

Set up shop in a well-ventilated area, and protect the floors with a tarp, drop cloth, or old sheet. If you have it, lay out a board that’s larger than the pizza box to serve as your work surface—it’ll make lifting the project much simpler later on when the box is filled with cement.

 

STEP 2

DIY Stepping Stones - Step 1

Photo: bobvila.com

Cut the top cover off the pizza box, and restructure the bottom half so that any tabs or flaps folded along the inside of the box move to the outside. When you’re finished, the inside of your mold should be completely smooth. Wrap the sides with duct tape for added support.

If you’d like to use hardware cloth or chicken wire as a reinforcement, cut a piece of the material an inch or so smaller than your pizza box and set it aside for when it’s time to drop it into the mixed cement. Using wire mesh as reinforcement will help strengthen the stone so that it’s less likely to crack down the road, but it’s not absolutely necessary.

 

STEP 3

DIY Stepping Stones - Step 2

Photo: bobvila.com

Cut a black garbage bag down the sides and open it up. Then, cut it in half to make a liner for your cardboard mold. Lay the liner into the pizza box, and smooth it out across the bottom and up the sides.

 

STEP 4

DIY Stepping Stones - Step 3

Photo: bobvila.com

First, have everybody put on dust masks, eye protection, and gloves. Cement mix is very dusty, and you really don’t want to inhale any of it or get it in your eyes.

Then, pour a quarter of an 80-pound bag of quick-setting cement mix into a 5-gallon bucket. Pour in 2 cups of water, and mix with a garden trowel. You’ll want to get the mixture to the consistency of something like banana bread batter: thick, but still easily spreadable. Add more cement mix if the batch is too liquid, or more water if it’s too dry—a little at a time until you reach the right consistency. Once the cement is mixed, pour it into the pizza box until it’s half full, and spread it to the edges. Jiggle the box (via the board, if you used one) to help the mix settle and get the air bubbles out.

 

STEP 5

DIY Stepping Stones - Step 4

Photo: bobvila.com

If you’re using it, place your hardware cloth or chicken wire reinforcement onto the cement and squish it into the mix. Jiggle the box a little more to work out bubbles. Then, mix another batch of cement (exactly as in Step 4) to pour on top and complete the stone. Again, spread it evenly corner to corner, and work the bubbles out by jiggling the box.

 

STEP 6

DIY Stepping Stone - Step 5

Photo: bobvila.com

Now for the fun part! You can remove your dust mask and eye protection, and just leave on the gloves. Lightly press shells, rocks, marbles, or any other embellishments you’d like into the setting cement. Since we live by the beach, we used shells and stones, but the decorative elements can be whatever treasures you’ve collected lately.

 

STEP 7

DIY Stepping Stones - Completed Project

Photo: bobvila.com

Let the stepping stone sit undisturbed for at least 24 hours to let it cure. Then, carefully turn the stone over and remove the box from the bottom of the stepping stone. Peel the garbage bag liner off and voilà! It will be hard for the kids to wait, but it’s best to let the stepping stone cure outside the box for another 24 hours before walking on it. After that, place your stepping stone in your garden or yard where it’s sure to get plenty of use. You’ll have good memories of the fun you had working together every time you set foot on it.


DIY Lite: A Wooden Bench That Anyone Can Build

Start this brag-worthy backyard bench one afternoon, and you'll be sitting on it roasting marshmallows before sunset. Trust us: This DIY is so simple, even a beginning woodworker can tackle it!

DIY Outdoor Bench - Backyard View

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

As summer approaches, the growing number of sunny hours each day means that we have more time to spend out in the yard. Outdoor attractions abound: coffee on the porch at sunrise, afternoons filled with family barbecues and backyard games, and long evenings around the fire pit roasting s’mores. But to enjoy any of these pastimes, you’ll need ample outdoor seating. Rather than buying a few flimsy chairs from the nearest big-box store, consider crafting additional seats on your own. All it takes is some lumber and basic woodworking knowledge—don’t worry, we’ll guide you through—and you’ll get bragging rights for seasons to come whenever someone compliments your sturdy bench.

 

DIY Outdoor Bench - Tools and Materials

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- 20 feet of 2″ x 2″ lumber (purchased in 10-foot pieces)
- 16 feet of 1″ x 2″ lumber (purchased in 8-foot pieces)
- 16 feet of 1″ x 3 7⁄8″ lumber (purchased in 8-foot pieces)
- 8 feet of 1″ x 6″ lumber (purchased as an 8-foot piece)
- Handsaw
- Wood glue
- 24 2 1/2-inch screws
- 24 1-inch screws
- 4 5″ x 5″ metal brackets
- Drill
- 1 1/2-inch nails
- Hammer
- Sandpaper
- Three colors of wood stain
- Brush
- Varnish

 

STEP 1

DIY Outdoor Bench - Lumber Cuts

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Round up your lumber, then start by cutting the two 10-foot pieces of 2″ x 2″ lumber into shorter lengths that you will use to build the bench’s structure. Optimize your cuts by sawing each 10-foot length into six pieces: one 39-inch length, two 15-inch lengths, and three 11-inch lengths.

 

STEP 2

DIY Outdoor Bench - Seat

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

To make the bench seat, lay the two 39-inch pieces out horizontally and put the four 11-inch lengths into place perpendicularly—one inside either end and two evenly spaced out in the middle. There should be approximately 10 2/3 inches between each crosspiece.

Starting with the bottom right corner, apply wood glue to the ends you’re bringing together. Then, use two 2 1/2-inch screws to connect the pieces at each meeting point. Tip: To make the screwing easier, use a drill with a thin bit.

 

STEP 3

DIY Outdoor Bench - Complete Seat Frame

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Continue to glue and then screw in the four 11-inch pieces along the bottom 39-inch length, following the directions in Step 3. Repeat to attach them to the opposite length. As you screw each piece into place, check that you’re keeping the structure relatively straight.

 

STEP 4

DIY Outdoor Bench - Begin Legs

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Set this piece—the bench seat frame—aside while you work on the frames for the two bench legs. For each, you’ll need two 15-inch lengths of wood and one 11-inch piece to connect them at the bottom. Assemble the pieces with glue and two screws at each joint (as you did in Step 3) to form two U-shaped frames.

 

STEP 5

DIY Outdoor Bench - Continue Legs

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Now, attach the legs to the bench seat frame using the four brackets. Place each leg so that the open side of the U shape connects to an end of the seat frame. Place a bracket at each corner where the 39-inch side of the bench seat meets the 15-inch leg frame, and use 1-inch screws to attach.

 

STEP 6

DIY Outdoor Bench - Rough Frame

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Congratulations! The bench structure is finished. Flip it over so it’s standing, and admire your handiwork for a few minutes before starting on the cover. To create the rustic design shown above, cut the all the rest of your lumber into 15-inch-long slats, which will yield 12 pieces of 1″ x 2″, 12 pieces of 1″ x 3 7⁄8″, and six pieces of 1″ x 6″.

 

STEP 7

DIY Outdoor Bench - Stained Parts

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Sand the entire bench structure and all the wooden slats, then stain them. Choose three complementary colors of wood stain to provide a more modern finish—you can pick any shades you like. We stained the structure and the 1″ x 2″ slats in Chocolate, the 1″ x 3 7⁄8″ slats in Mahogany, and the 1″ x 6″ slats in Early American.

 

STEP 8

DIY Outdoor Bench - Finishing Work

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

With three widths of slats in varying colors, you have plenty of options for creating a pattern. You can (and should) try out different sequences before nailing the slats in place.

When you find your favorite combination, glue and then nail the slats along the bench structure. (Tip: One nail at each end should be enough to secure the 2-inch-wide slats; for the rest, put a nail at each corner.) Start on the left side, work your way across the seat, and finish with the right side. Depending on your pattern of choice, you’ll probably have a few slats left over.

 

STEP 9

DIY Outdoor Bench - Slat Top

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

The widths of the slats will most likely not add up exactly to the 39-inch length of the structure—and that’s OK! If that happens, just cut the last slat to fit, and restain the sawed-off end. No one will be the wiser.

 

STEP 10

DIY Outdoor Bench - Sealing Seat

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Finally, varnish the bench. Because it’s a piece of furniture intended for the outdoors, give it at least two coats for lasting protection from the elements. Follow the directions on the can of varnish closely, especially when it comes to dry time: You don’t want to sit on your handcrafted beauty before time is up, lest you leave a seat print behind—or worse, get varnish on your clothes!

When dry time is up, we highly recommend moving your bench to the sunniest patch on your property to test it out. Bring a refreshment and some summer reading with you—you’ll surely want to stay there a while.

 

DIY Outdoor Bench - In Situ Completed

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

 

Ama is a DIY addict and the creative mind behind Ohoh Blog. She likes home decor, lighting, and furniture projects that may involve painting, sewing, drilling…no matter the technique! Whatever she has on hand is inspiration to create and fodder for her serious addiction to upcycling.


Genius! DIY a Custom, Collapsible Sunshade

No air conditioner? Don't despair! This easy-to-make DIY sunshade will help cool off your next backyard barbecue and beyond. Use it to keep comfortable all season long—without running up your electric bill.

DIY Sun Shade - Collapsible Awning

Photo: designsponge.com

Some days, hanging out under an awning is the closest we can get to enjoying the breeze underneath a shady beach umbrella. The relief is real: That soft wind you feel in the shade can be up to 20 degrees cooler than the temperature out in direct sunlight! Well, you’ll be happy to know that squeezing some shade into your own backyard just got easier. Whether your outdoor space consists of a patch of grass around the side of the apartment or a full-fledged suburban backyard, you can craft a tented oasis, using just a single set of instructions. This DIY sunshade on Design*Sponge can be tailored to cool off nearly any space.

The premise is simple and easily convertible. Create two sturdy supports for the base of the structure by sticking dowels into two plastic buckets filled with quick-setting concrete. As the concrete hardens, you can decide how far apart you’d like to position the supports; this will determine the width of your awning and, ultimately, how much fabric you’ll need for your shade. Four tiny cup hooks—two screwed into the top of the dowels and two along a nearby exterior wall—will serve to catch grommets that you’ll add to the four corners of your shade to hold it in place. Then, whenever you’re ready to cool off outside, simply set up your two poles a few feet in front of the wall and hook the shade into position. Warning: If you dress it up just right with an eye-catching fabric, you may make your neighbors insanely jealous. For best results, mix up a margarita and camp out in your favorite folding chair for the afternoon.

FOR MORE: Design*Sponge

DIY Sunshade - Concrete Base

Photo: designsponge.com


How To: Pour a Concrete Patio

DIY Concrete Patio

Photo: quikrete.com

Whether rectangular or curvy in design, next to the home or freestanding in the yard, a concrete patio establishes new living space outdoors and adds a striking feature to the landscape. Of all the commonly used patio building materials, concrete ranks as one of the most durable and versatile. It’s affordable, too, not least because an ambitious, capable do-it-yourselfer can handle the project himself, saving the considerable cost of a contractor. If you’ve worked with concrete before and feel ready to tackle a larger, more complex project, you can—with proper planning, the right materials, and the necessary tools—achieve a long-lasting, eye-catching result. To help you succeed with minimal hassle, QUIKRETE® offers these detailed guidelines.

Before you begin, survey the location you’ve chosen for your DIY concrete patio. If the ground here isn’t level, you may need to regrade the site, with or without the help of an excavator. Even if there’s no plainly visible, dramatic slope and the terrain looks level, it’s best not to trust your naked eye. Rather, drive stakes around the project area, attaching mason’s strings between each one. Using a line level, make sure the string runs at a consistent height. Next, measure from the string to the ground at each stake. Compare the line-to-ground measurements of any two stakes, dividing the difference (in inches) by the distance between the two stakes (in feet). If you get a calculated slope greater than one inch per foot, then you’ve got some grading work ahead of you.

 

MATERIALS AND TOOLS

Photo: quikrete.com

- QUIKRETE® Concrete Mix or QUIKRETE® Crack-Resistant Concrete Mix
- Grade stakes
- Mason’s string
- Line level
- Tape measure
- Square-end spade
- QUIKRETE® All-Purpose Gravel
- Tamper
- 2×4 lumber
- Circular saw
- Level
- Power drill
- 3” screws
- Vegetable oil or release agent
- Wheelbarrow
- Stiff-bristled broom
- Concrete finishing tools
- QUIKRETE® Acrylic Cure & Seal

 

STEP 1: LAYOUT

DIY Concrete Patio - Layout

Photo: quikrete.com

Using either rope or a garden hose, delineate a rough outline for the planned patio. Next, drive in stakes in alignment with, but sitting about a foot outside, each corner of the rough layout. Once you have done so, run mason’s strings between the stakes; where possible, use two stakes set back about a foot from each corner so that the perpendicularly running strings will intersect at the true corners of the project area. Now it’s time to square the staked-out area. To do so, use what’s known as the 3-4-5 triangle method. From any corner, measure and mark a point three feet out along one string, four feet out along the other. Measure between the two points. Is the distance precisely five feet? If not, adjust the position of the strings, resetting the stakes if necessary, until the points are, indeed, five feet apart. Follow the same approach in each corner of the project area. Finally, use a line level to ensure that the mason’s strings run at a consistent level.

 

STEP 2: EXCAVATION

DIY Concrete Patio - Excavation

Photo: quikrete.com

To keep water from pooling on the patio surface—or worse, flooding your basement—give your patio a slight, rain-shedding slope. At this stage, setting the slope means angling the mason’s strings. Follow the two strings running away from the house to the stakes where they’re tied. Because the standard slope is 1/8 inch per foot, multiply the planned length of the patio’s side (in feet) by 1/8. Whatever you get, that’s how far down to move the strings. Finished? OK: The most laborious part of the process begins now. Your goal is to excavate the project area—and six inches around it—to a depth of six inches below the mason’s strings. For all but the most forgiving soil, a square-end spade may be your best bet. Good luck! Upon completing the excavation, add in a layer of QUIKRETE® All-Purpose Gravel to provide a level, stable foundation. Pour the gravel to a thickness of about five inches, then use a tamper to compress it to four inches.

 

STEP 3: FORM WORK

DIY Concrete Patio - Formwork

Photo: quikrete.com

Whereas it takes brawn to complete the site excavation, it takes finesse to construct the form—that is, the wood frame that needs to be built to contain the poured concrete, establish its height, and determine its shape. Begin by positioning 2×4 boards onto the gravel along the perimeter of the project area, using the mason’s strings as a reference. Because the inside dimensions of the form must equal the total size of the project area, set the boards so that their inside edges hit directly below the strings. Then, every three feet along the outside edges of the form boards, drive in a foot-long stake cut from your stock of 2×4′s. To fasten the stakes to the boards, drill three-inch deck screws through the one and into the other. Finally, after leveling the form boards, screw them all together to finish. To prevent the concrete from bonding with the wood, coat the form with either vegetable oil or a commercial release agent.

 

STEP 4: POURING AND FINISHING

DIY Concrete Patio - Pouring & Finishing

Photo: quikrete.com

Proceed to mix and pour the concrete in evenly placed mounds. From there, distribute the concrete over the project area by means of a hoe, then level out the concrete with a screed board—here, simply a 2×4. Advance the screed in a sawing motion, removing the excess concrete in front of the board and using it to fill any dips behind it. Once the concrete has lost its sheen, go over it with a wood float, using arcing motions to smooth the surface. After that, finish the conrete with a stiff-bristled broom to make the surface nonslip. Now, as a next-to-last step, allow for seasonal expansion and contraction by using a groover and straightedge to put in control joints. Control joints should be cut to a quarter of the slab depth and added at least every 10 feet in each direction. Finally, apply QUIKRETE® Acrylic Concrete Cure & Seal, not only to eliminate the need for water-curing, but also to repel water and prevent stains.

 

Watch a video demonstration of concrete pouring, courtesy of QUIKRETE®!

For more even more details on pouring a patio, visit QUIKRETE® now!

Photo: quikrete.com

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


Lawn Mower Pit Stop: 5 Maintenance Musts

This summer, show your lawn mower some love, and let it reward your efforts with better performance and a longer life.

Lawn Mower Maintenance Tips

Photo: fotosearch.com

Your lawn mower has more in common with a race car than you might think. To stay in top working order, both require that their hardworking parts be properly maintained on a regular basis. Just as Nascar drivers pull over for pit stops midcompetition, homeowners should take time for some lawn mower maintenance at least once during the season. If neglected, your mower might not make it to summer’s end. By following these simple tune-up tips, you can go a long way toward ensuring that your mower not only continues to function at peak level, but also remains a reliable performer for many summers to come.

 

1. CLEAN SLATE

Lawn Mower Maintenance Tips - PivotPro Isolated

Photo: thehydeway.com

First things first: Mower maintenance must include a thorough cleaning. Spray down the plainly visible portions of your mower, but also, and more important, be sure to clean the underside of the deck. This is where the most dirt and grass clippings accumulate. Traditionally, cleaning the underside of a lawn mower always begins with the hassle of tipping the machine over onto its side—no easy feat, considering average equipment size and weight. Today, it’s all a lot easier—a lot less messy too—if you employ the HYDE PivotPro Outdoor Cleaning Water Wand. Named for its patented pivoting nozzle, this powerhouse cleaning tool attaches directly to your garden hose and sprays water at any angle along a radius of 135 degrees. Simply tilt up the mower, prop up its wheels, and slip the PivotPro nozzle underneath. Then, by adjusting the grip on the barrel of the PivotPro, aim the spray upward to blast crud off the mower blade and deck housing.

Has it been a while since you last cleaned your mower? If so, don’t hesitate to bring soap into the equation. Choose a mild detergent, and pour it right into the PivotPro mixing reservoir. Next, after setting your desired soap-to-water ratio, point the PivotPro and toggle the trigger to send a steady, soap-infused stream of cleansing water wherever you want it to go. For maximum cleaning power, scrub the mower at the same time as you’re spraying it down. PivotPro comes with a stiff-bristle brush that swings into action when you need it and out of the way when you don’t. For all its attachments, perhaps the best part about PivotPro is that, thanks to its 46-inch length and adjustable spray angle, you can easily get to all those hard-to-reach areas, attacking grit and grime from every side, all without having to bend, stretch, or stoop. For that reason and many more, cleaning the mower—and countless outdoor surfaces—couldn’t be easier, thanks to PivotPro.

Note: Before you begin cleaning your mower, cover up the air intake to keep it dry. Also, try to avoid spraying directly into any parts of the engine that are enclosed with steel mesh.

 

2. TOP UP 

Lawn Mower Maintenance Tips - Engine Oil

Photo: fotosearch.com

It would be overkill to check the oil level every time you mow the lawn, but when you’re tuning up the mower, it’s a good idea to top off the fill tube. Be careful not to add too much, though; excess oil can cause many of the same engine problems that too little oil does. If you’ve been operating the mower over rough and dusty terrain, be aware that such conditions sometimes degrade oil. Before adding any oil, therefore, it’s smart to inspect the color of the existing oil. If it’s dark, that means the oil has degraded and needs to be changed out. Different mower models drain oil in different ways; check your manual for specific instructions.

 

3. FRESH AIR

Lawn Mower Maintenance Tips - Air Filter

Photo: fotosearch.com

Lawn mowers live not only on gasoline, but also on air. Therefore, it’s critical to address any clogs in the air filter. Left unchecked, a clogged air filter can kill a perfectly good engine. Fortunately, most air filters are easy to clear out. You can usually restore a paper filter to like-new condition by means of an air hose. Own a mower with a foam filter? Simply wash it under soapy water, then allow it to dry out completely. No matter what type of filter you’re dealing with, if you find that it’s damaged beyond repair, you can always purchase and install a new one. Just bring your old filter with you to the home center so you know what type to get.

 

4. PLUG IN

Lawn Mower Maintenance Tips - Spark Plugs

Photo: fotosearch.com

In the absence of a functional spark plug, the fuel you’re adding to your lawn mower might as well be pure water. So, as a general rule of thumb, whenever you change the oil, you should also change the spark plug. To do so, remove the wire attached to the existing spark plug, then use pliers or a wrench to remove the plug by turning it counterclockwise. Once it’s free, check the threaded part of the plug for grease or oil; if you see any, something may be amiss. Be smart and take your mower to a repair shop that specializes in small engine repair. Otherwise, swap in a new plug, aiming for a snug fit but making sure not to overtighten the component.

 

5. BE SHARP

Lawn Mower Maintenance Tips - Blade

Photo: fotosearch.com

Mower blades take a serious beating from common, often hidden, landscape hazards like loose rocks and exposed roots. Unless you go out of your way to look at it, you probably wouldn’t notice a dull blade, but you can plainly see its effects. That’s because, rather than cleanly trim, a dull blade rips and shreds grass blades. This isn’t merely a problem of aesthetics—grass cut by a dull blade can be unusually susceptible to disease and pest problems. To protect the health of your lawn, have a local service shop sharpen your blade. Alternatively, tackle the job yourself: Remove the blade, clamp it in a vise, and repeatedly run a metal file along the edge.

 

If you keep your mower in top condition this summer, you’ll be able to spend more time enjoying your weekends and less time struggling with your lawn equipment. Take good care of your mower, and you can expect the machine to reward your efforts with peak performance and a longer lifespan.

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


Genius! Grow a Garden on a Curtain Rod

Want a garden, but don't have anywhere to put it? Find out how one apartment dweller made her own window oasis on the cheap!

Photo: jillm.com

“My mom once said she could only keep so many things alive at once,” writes Jill Kurtz, photographer, architect, and DIY blogger. “Thankfully, she chose her children over her plants!” When the time came to start her own garden, Jill knew she wanted to keep it simple. Limited space was a challenge, though, and so was the lack of a balcony or backyard. But the news wasn’t all bad: Her rental had 10-foot windows, so there was plenty of sunlight.

With a small budget and one very tall window to work with, Jill trekked to IKEA to make her own vertical garden. She decided on three different products: the ORE shower curtain rod, the FINTORP cutlery caddy, and stainless steel GRUNDTAL hooks. After spray-painting everything to match, she adjusted the tension rod to size and mounted it nearly 1 foot above the bottom of the window sash. Then, she repurposed the silverware caddies to hold seedlings and attached them to the rod with the hooks. The window fits four across comfortably, and she can continue to grow the garden higher by adding more rows, with the help of a stepladder and a few extra rods.

Jill planted herbs in her window garden, but you can choose whatever you like. Mount a single rod low on the frame or stack up several of them—just get started before the sun goes down!

 

FOR MORE: JILLM

Photo: jillm.com


Bob Vila Radio: Separating Squirrels from Your Bird Feeder

It's never easy to separate squirrels from access to birdseed, but with a trial-and-error approach to these simple tips, you can likely find a solution that works for your yard.

What’s the best way to keep those persistent squirrels from pigging out at your bird feeder? Here’s an assortment of tactics well worth trying.

How to Keep Squirrels Out of Bird Feeders

Photo: fotosearch.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON SQUIRRELS or read the text below:

First, make sure the feeder is in a location that’s good for the birds but bad for the squirrels. Squirrels can manage ten-foot horizontal leaps with no sweat, so the ideal feeder location is away from roofs, porches, trees or utility wires. Make sure to prune any trees that are within launching distance. And if you can, mount the feeder on a smooth metal pole at least ten feet high and away from any trees or structures.

No matter where you position the feeder, consider adding smooth plastic baffles both below the feeder and above it. The most effective baffles are designed to tilt and twirl if a squirrel hops aboard. You might also try enclosing the feeder in metal fencing whose mesh is large enough to allow birds in, small enough to keep furry critters out.

One more weapon in your arsenal: Mix cayenne pepper in with your birdseed. Squirrels can’t take the heat, but birds don’t seem to mind.

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.


How To: Resurface a Concrete Driveway

Rather than rip up and replace your time- and traffic-worn driveway, why not renew its look, quickly and easily, with a concrete resurfacer?

How to Resurface a Concrete Driveway

Photo: quikrete.com

Durability ranks high among the many reasons to choose concrete as a driveway surfacing material. After years of exposure to the elements, however, as well as to foot and vehicle traffic, your concrete driveway may begin to look worse for all that wear. Rather than rip it all out and start from scratch, it’s far easier and much cheaper to renew the existing installation.QUIKRETE® Concrete Resurfacer will protect against future damage and discoloration while making your old driveway look new again. If you think your concrete driveway has reached the end of the road, read on and learn how easy it can be to give it a second life.

 

MATERIALS AND TOOLS

How to Resurface a Concrete Driveway - Mix Bag

Photo: quikrete.com

-QUIKRETE® Concrete Resurfacer
- Pressure washer
- Long-handled squeegee
- Power drill with paddle mixing blade
- 5-gallon bucket
- Measuring pail
- Hose with adjustable nozzle
- Chisel
- Hammer
- Wire brush
- Finishing broom
- 1/4″ weatherstripping
- Gloves and safety glasses

 

STEP 1

How to Resurface a Concrete Driveway - Pressure Washing Detail

Photo: quikrete.com

Before applying QUIKRETE® Concrete Resurfacer, prepare the old concrete surface so that the renewing layer can properly adhere to it. Start by eliminating dirt, oil, and flaking concrete with a 3,500-psi pressure washer. (Note that if you don’t happen to own a pressure washer, you can always rent one at your local home center.) Once you have cleaned the driveway, inspect it for large cracks or deeply spalled areas, being sure to repair any with patching compound. Finally, hose down the driveway to the point of saturation, then use a broom to remove standing water. Doing so cools down the slab and prevents the mixing water from being drawn out of the wet concrete resurfacer you’re going to lay down. Now, pause to consider the weather: For the resurfacer to cure, temperatures must remain above 50 degrees Fahrenheit for eight hours, and above freezing for 24 hours. So long as you expect those conditions, it’s safe to proceed to the next step.

 

STEP 2

How to Resurface a Concrete Driveway - Mixing 5g Bucket

Photo: quikrete.com

QUIKRETE® Concrete Resurfacer isn’t your typical concrete product; as a result, your typical mixing method may not be appropriate here. Being that hand-mixing so often leaves lumps, it’s recommend that you use a power drill that’s outfitted not with a barrel-type attachment, but with a paddle mixer. Now, with your equipment ready, go ahead and recruit a helper; you’re going to need an extra pair of hands. First, add three and a half quarts of water to a five-gallon bucket. Next, while you operate the mixing paddle within the bucket, ask your helper to slowly pour in the resurfacer. After it’s all been added, continue mixing for at least five minutes. Stop only once the mix has reached a lump-free, syrup-like consistency. If the mix seems too thick, add a bit more water; if too thin, add a bit more resurfacer. As you’re mixing, your helper can fit weatherstripping into the expansion joints of the driveway to prevent the resurfacer from filling them.

 

STEP 3

How to Resurface a Concrete Driveway - Squeegee Application

Photo: quikrete.com

In 73-degree weather, QUIKRETE® Concrete Resurfacer remains workable for 30 minutes. In hotter weather, it hardens more quickly, but by keeping the bag in the shade and using cold mixing water, you can widen the window of workability. Resurfacing a large driveway? It may be wise to work in sections, mixing and applying resurfacer on one modestly sized area (no larger than 144 square feet) at a time. Once it’s ready, pour the resurfacer from the mixing bucket onto the driveway in strips about a foot wide. Then, with a long-handled squeegee, spread the material back and forth across the driveway, effectively scrubbing the resurfacer into the concrete. After allowing the smooth new surface to set for five minutes, you can give it a nonslip finish, if you choose, with a wide-head concrete broom. For a uniform appearance, run the broom, without stopping, across the work area, and be sure to make each broom stroke in the same direction.

 

STEP 4

How to Resurface a Concrete Driveway - Moist Cure

Photo: quikrete.com

Believe it or not, that’s all it takes to renew the look of your driveway for the life of the concrete slab. In mild weather, the resurfacer cures on its own, requiring no extra steps. If it’s very hot—above 90 degrees—QUIKRETE® recommends misting the driveway intermittently for up to 48 hours after application. Most of the time, however, you can expect the new surface to be ready for foot traffic in about six hours. And in 24 hours, you can pull your car in and park in the driveway again—that very same driveway that was tired- and worn-looking yesterday, but today, thanks to QUIKRETE® Concrete Resurfacer, appears brand-new.

 

See how to resurface a concrete driveway in a step-by-step video, courtesy of QUIKRETE®!

For more even more details on concrete driveway resurfacing, visit QUIKRETE®!

How to Resurface a Concrete Driveway

Photo: quikrete.com

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


How To: Build a Paver Patio

Nothing encourages outdoor enjoyment quite as much as a patio does. If you've been coveting the idea of a sturdy, inviting paver patio for years, take heart: Even a relatively inexperienced do-it-yourselfer can achieve professional-level results. Here's how.

How to Build a Paver Patio

Photo: quikrete.com

Patio. The very word conjures up visions of lazy, relaxing afternoons spent with friends and family. For those whose homes lack this appealing outdoor feature, however, the word stirs up the unwelcome prospect of building a new patio. Homeowners assume that constructing a patio requires either a huge expense or a similarly monumental amount of hard work. The truth is that anyone can handle the installation of all but the grandest of patios, especially if you work with DIY-friendly pavers. Indeed, with proper planning, the right tools and materials, and attention to detail, you can achieve professional-level results in a short time—even within the space of a single weekend—regardless of your skill level or previous experience. To see how surprisingly easy it can be enhance your outdoor living with a long-lasting patio, scroll down for step-by-step instructions, courtesy of QUIKRETE®.

 

MATERIALS AND TOOLS

How to Build a Paver Patio - Project Materials Shot

Photo: quikrete.com

- Stakes and string
- Shovel
- Edge restraints
- Level
- Carpenter’s square
- QUIKRETE® All-Purpose Gravel
- Tamper
- QUIKRETE® Patio Paver Base Sand
- 2×4 boards
- 1×1 boards
- Hammer and nails
- Pavers or natural stones
- Rubber mallet
- QUIKRETE® PowerLoc Jointing Sand (for joint widths up to 1/2″) or
- QUIKRETE® HardScapes Polymeric Jointing Sand (for joint widths up to 2″)
- Garden hose with spray attachment
- Push broom

 

STEP 1

How to Build a Paver Patio - Stakes and String

Photo: quikrete.com

Before you can make any real progress toward building a paver patio, you must first decide where to put it. Don’t have a specific spot in mind? Think about it this way: How do you intend to use the patio? If you would like to enjoy alfresco dinners on your patio, situate it within an easy distance of your kitchen. If, on the other hand, your patio fantasies involve a suntan, then site the installation on a part of your property with a southern exposure. Once you’ve settled on a location, mark off the perimeter with stakes and surveyor’s string. Alternatively, if your plans involve an irregularly shaped patio, outline the dimensions with a bright-colored spray paint.

 

STEP 2

How to Build a Paver Patio - Excavation

Photo: quikrete.com

The next step may be the most physically taxing part of this project. Though the finished patio surface ought to sit slightly above ground level, you must excavate to create space for the substrate—that is, the gravel and sand that will provide a stable, leveling base for the paver installation. With a shovel, excavate to a depth of seven inches below grade. This depth allows for two to four inches of gravel, one to two inches of sand, and accommodation for the height of your chosen pavers.

 

STEP 3

How to Build a Paver Patio - Edge Restraints

Photo: quikrete.com

Once the project area has been excavated to the appropriate depth, proceed to install edge restraints around the site perimeter. At your local home center, choose from a selection of ready-made edge restraints in a variety of materials, including plastic, aluminum, and wood. These simple hardscaping components perform the vital role of preventing pavers from settling and shifting over time due to foot traffic and harsh weather. Additionally, because the pavers are installed level with the edge restraints, the latter serve the secondary, though critically important, duty of ensuring that the patio allows stormwater to run off its surface. So, take care to position your edge restraints on a slight incline; professionals recommend a slope of about a quarter inch for every 12 linear feet. Direct the angle away from, not toward, the house.

 

STEP 4

How to Build a Paver Patio - Adding Gravel

Photo: quikrete.com

Next, add enough QUIKRETE® All-Purpose Gravel to fill up two to four inches of the excavated project area. The amount of gravel you can add largely depends on the height of the pavers you plan to install. For instance, if you’ve excavated to a depth of seven inches, and your pavers are each four inches tall, then there’s room for only a couple of inches of gravel. That said, there’s a direct relationship between the amount of gravel under a patio and its compression strength—in other words, its ability to endure great weight, whether from a parked car or a large group of people. Where circumstances allow, depending on how exactly you intend to use the patio, it may be wise to incorporate as much gravel as the vertical space allows. After you’ve laid the gravel, pack it down by means of a tamper.

 

STEP 5

How to Build a Paver Patio - Screeding

Photo: quikrete.com

Over the tamped-down, compacted gravel, add one to two inches of QUIKRETE® Patio Paver Base Sand. Whereas the gravel provides strength to the patio, the sand contributes precision, helping the installed pavers sit level. To function properly, the sand layer must be smooth and level. A screed board—that is, a straightedge—is the most effective way to even out an expanse of sand. You can make yours from a simple two-by-four that has been cut to equal the shortest distance across the project area. After that, cut a one-by-one into two pieces, nailing one onto each end of the larger board. These “handles” lend accuracy to the screed. With a helper manning the opposite end of the screed, push the board along the surface of the sand. As you go, periodically remove the excess sand that accumulates in front of the board. Use this excess to fill where dips appear behind the screed. Several passes may be necessary before the bed becomes level.

 

STEP 6

How to Build a Paver Patio - Rubber Mallet

Photo: quikrete.com

At last, it’s time to install the pavers. Starting in a corner, work outward as you place the pavers in the sand, tapping each into position with a rubber mallet. Note that it’s important for the gap between pavers to be the same width. To keep the gaps consistent, use a piece of plywood whose thickness corresponds to your target gap width. Keep a level handy so you’re able to confirm frequently that your paver surface conforms to a drainage-promoting incline.

 

STEP 7

How to Build a Paver Patio - Joining Sand

Photo: quikrete.com

After you’ve set all the pavers, the penultimate step is to fill the joints between pavers with sand—but not just any sand. For lasting, professional-quality results, be sure to use a sand that’s been specially manufactured to bind pavers together. For narrow joints of a half inch or less, choose QUIKRETE® PowerLoc Jointing Sand. For joints up to two inches wide (or if your pavers are natural stone), opt for QUIKRETE® HardScapes Polymeric Jointing Sand. Simply pour your chosen sand directly from its packaging into the joints. Finish up by sweeping the excess sand out of the project area. As you go, look for any unfilled joints and top them up.

 

STEP 8

How to Build a Paver Patio - Misting

Photo: quikrete.com

Finally, attach a nozzle to your garden hose and gently mist the pavers, allowing water to saturate the sand-filled joints. After the initial spray down, dampen the pavers once every 60 minutes over the next three hours. Be judicious in your spraying—avoid flooding the sand onto the paver surface. As temperature and humidity are significant (and changeable) factors, it’s difficult to estimate the dry time, but over the course of several days, you’ll notice that the joints are firming up.

By the following weekend, you’ll have nothing left to do except write up the guest list for the first barbecue on your new patio!

 

Watch the project come together in a step-by-step video, courtesy of QUIKRETE®:

For even more details on the paver patio project, visit QUIKRETE®!

How to Make a Paver Patio - Job Complete

Photo: quikrete.com

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


How To: Clean Patio Furniture

How to Clean Patio Furniture

Photo: thehydeway.com

A fixture of backyard barbecues and poolside parties, patio furniture must withstand not only the elements, but also the everyday wear and tear that occurs even in fair weather. Given your furniture’s almost constant exposure, dirt and grime inevitably accumulate over time, but with proper preparation, you can clean patio furniture fast—and with next to no hassle. The key? Insisting on the very best tools for the task at hand. Read on to discover the easy way to care for wood, metal, and plastic outdoor furniture.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- HYDE PivotPro Outdoor Cleaning Water Wand
- Garden hose
- Vacuum with hose attachments
- Sponge
- Oil-based soap, dishwashing soap, or automatic dishwashing detergent

How to Clean Patio Furniture - Table 2

Photo: thehydeway.com

STEP 1
Cleaning patio furniture the easy way hinges on HYDE PivotPro, a triple-threat tool that’s part sprayer, part soap dispenser, and part stiff-bristle brush. Swing the brush into position, then use the 46-inch tool to scrub away all the loose dirt or debris from the furniture. Before you get going in earnest, remove any cushions, setting them aside to be handled separately.

STEP 2
Different cleaning agents are best for different patio furniture materials. No matter what type of furniture you’re dealing with, however, you can usually count on having to pull out a bucket and pour in about a quarter-cup of the appropriate cleanser with about a gallon of warm water. But with PivotPro, you can skip the bucket and let the tool dispense the correct cleanser-to-water ratio.

• For wood and natural wicker furniture, opt for a nourishing oil-based soap.

• For both colored plastic and wrought-iron furniture, choose a clear, mild dishwashing soap.

• For white plastic furniture, use automatic dishwashing detergent. Because such detergents typically contain bleach, wear rubber gloves for protection. After applying, remember to let the solution stand for 15 minutes before rinsing it off.

The PivotPro comes with a built-in 16-ounce mixing reservoir. Just add the appropriate cleaner to the reservoir and set the tool to dispense precisely two ounces of soap for every one gallon of water (which is just one of several available ratios). Now attach the PivotPro directly to your garden hose.

STEP 3
Point and shoot, using the PivotPro to spray down the furniture with a steady, rapid stream of soapy water. Be sure to address every surface—top and bottom, front and back. For best results, capitalize on the patented pivoting nozzle from which the PivotPro derives its name. Simply slide the grip on the barrel of the tool, and the spray angle adjusts along a radius of 135 degrees, enabling you to clean those hard-to-reach areas, all without bending, stretching, or stooping. If you encounter any crud that refuses to budge, swing the brush back into position and scrub while simultaneously spraying. That ought to do it!

STEP 4
Disengage the soap dispenser and rinse the furniture with clear water, taking care to remove all residue left by the cleaning agent. Finally, let your furniture air-dry outside, and it’s sure to be ready in time for a relaxing, well-deserved alfresco dinner that very evening.

How to Clean Patio Furniture - Al Fresco

Photo: fotosearch.com

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