Category: Lawn & Garden

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


Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.

Michelin Quite Literally Reinvents the Lawn Mower Wheel

What do you a call a tire that never goes flat? According to Michelin, the manufacture, it's not a wheel but a Tweel, and it's available only on John Deere Ztrak series riding lawn mowers.

Michelin Tweel


Imagine the perfect riding lawn mower: Are its tires low-maintenance and highly durable, and do they make for an impeccably smooth ride? As if in direct response to the fantasies of outdoor equipment enthusiasts everywhere, Michelin has quite literally reinvented the wheel with its launch of a product called X Tweel Turf.

Now available only as an option for the John Deere ZTrak series, the Michelin offering manages to challenge nearly every preconception regarding what lawn mower tires look like and how they behave. For starters, the Michelin Tweel never needs air, never goes flat, and never requires patch repairs for any punctures. That’s not to say Michelin has created an invincible lawn mower component. However, compared to conventional pneumatic tires, the Tweel lasts two or three times as long.

Michelin Tweel - Detailed Look


Then, of course, is the remarkable appearance of the Tweel. From the side, it resembles the intake of a jet engine. But those fines are not made of metal. They are collapsible poly-resin. So when the riding mower goes over rocky terrain—or the curb of a sidewalk—the Tweel compresses so as to prevent a bumpy experience.

Another innovation of the Tweel is its unprecedentedly wide, traction-boosting surface area. That feature adds further stability, giving the operator extra confidence on the side of hills, for instance, or where mud would, under usual circumstances, pose a challenge. Finally, there’s the fact that, in the absence of variable tire pressure, Tweel makes it possible for the mower blade to remain always at the desired height, so you get predictable, consistent results each time you cut the grass.

With all its many functional attributes—and yes, its fantastic design—we hope John Deere decides to add the Tweel to more mower models someday—and soon!

For more information, visit John Deere.

Bob Vila Radio: Prep Your Snow Blower for the Off-Season

When storing your snow blower for the off-season, take care to ensure the machine can roar into action when you need it next year.

As winter begins to loosen its grip, start thinking about storing your snow blower for the off-season. But before you put the machine away, be sure to give your snow blower some TLC.

Snowblower Storage


Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to BOB VILA ON SNOW BLOWER STORAGE or read the text below:

Although some people advise topping off the fuel tank, it’s a better bet to run the engine dry. Doing so protects the engine from the detrimental effects of oxidized gas and ethanol. While you’re at it—change the oil, too (check your owner’s manual if you don’t know which grade to use). In addition, replace the spark plug, and when you do, apply a light coat of anti-seize lubricant to the threads. That’ll make it a snap to remove the next time.

You probably don’t need reminding that snow blowers produce quite a bit of vibration, so check for nuts or bolts that might have loosened over the winter. Finally, stock up on any spare parts you might need come next season. When the snow’s blowing, it’s a lot easier making a trip to your shed rather than the home center!

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.

INFOGRAPHIC: Get a Head Start on a Healthy Lawn

Behind every great lawn is a great lawn mower. Find out how proper mower maintenance and smart lawn care can give you a picture perfect yard.

After a cold and blustery winter, homeowners are geared up and ready to get back outside. First on many to-do lists is reviving the worse-for-wear grass. Of course, a lot goes into the cultivation of a lush and lovely lawn, but no care routine can be considered complete if it lacks the right equipment. So before you get to work weeding and feeding, watering and mowing, check out these tips from the experts at John Deere.

John Deere lawn infographic


Copy and paste the below to embed this infographic on your site:



This post has been brought to you by the John Deere. Its facts and opinions are those of

Quick Tip: Mix Sand with Paint for Non-Slip Surfaces

Prevent slips by finishing potentially dangerous outdoor living surfaces with a gritty, traction-lending mixture of paint and sand. Here's how.

Adding Sand to Paint - Deck Stairs


Slippery when wet: Those words of caution may be most familiar in the context of hospital and airport floors, but they also apply to porch stairs and backyard decking. So the next time you undertake a painting project outdoors, add traction with an extra ingredient—sand. Though special non-slip paint formulas are available on the shelves of your local home center or hardware store, you can save a little money and achieve the same result with the following DIY approach.

Adding Sand to Paint - Decking


Begin by scraping away any cracked, flaking, or peeling paint from the area that you’re refinishing. Next, sand the area by hand, or if you want to make quicker work of things, opt for a power sander. Continue sanding until there’s a roughed-up surface to which the paint can adhere properly. Before moving on to the next step, be sure to clean the surface thoroughly, leaving plenty of time for the area to dry out completely.

Now comes the part that may be unfamiliar. Pour some paint into a paint tray, then toss in a small handful of clean white sand. Aim for a ratio of four parts paint for every one part sand. Stir well—and keep stirring each and every time you load fresh paint onto the tool you have chosen for the work, be it a brush or a roller.

Once you’ve finished applying the initial coat of paint, allow plenty of time for it to cure. Temperature and humidity are factors that may influence the amount of drying time necessary, but all things considered, the process ought to take no longer than 24 hours (though it may take considerably less time than that).

Complete the job with a second, sand-less coat of paint. To a degree, the second coat is going to hide the sand, but you are still likely to notice it, especially with time and once the surface has undergone some wear.

If you’re painting a highly visible area and have concerns with how the sand looks, choose clear plastic grit instead. Whereas sand grains can look like dark specks, clear plastic does remain relatively unnoticeable.

Another option is to glue down rows of coarse, non-slip strips (like those used to provide traction in the bathtub). While these strips lose their grit in time, so too does the mixture of paint and sand. If you live somewhere with harsh winters, expect to reapply your treatment, whatever it is, every two or three years.

Bob Vila Radio: Is It OK to Cut Protruding Tree Roots?

When tree roots surface, a portion of your property can be rendered more or less unusable by their protrusion. In weighing your options, here are few rules of thumb to remember.

You love that tree in your backyard. But one of the roots is protruding above ground, creating a sure toe-stubber, and you’re wondering if you can cut it without harming the tree. Here’s some advice from the experts.

Tree Root Removal


Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to BOB VILA ON CUTTING TREE ROOTS, or read the text below:

If the root is large—say, four or five inches in diameter, or more—you should avoid cutting the root, as doing so could cause irreparable harm to the tree.

Here’s another guideline: Measure the diameter of the trunk, in inches, and multiply that figure by eight. That total represents the number of inches from the tree’s trunk that you should leave undisturbed.

If you do decide to cut a root, first dig out the soil all the way around the root, then make a clean cut using either a sharp hand saw or a reciprocating saw. Once you’re done, refill the hole with soil and make sure the tree gets plenty of TLC over the next several months.

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

Never Shovel Snow Again After This One Improvement

If you've grown sick and tired of shoveling snow time and time again through the long winter months, perhaps it's time to consider the next best thing to a driveway that shovels itself.


Though winter’s worst storms are likely yet to come, many homeowners around the country have already had ample opportunity to grow tired of shoveling snow. After all, it’s a tedious, time-consuming, back-breaking chore, one that’s regrettably unavoidable in cold climates. But wait—is it truly unavoidable? No. There is another way, thanks to an innovative snow-melting system that enables equipped driveways and walkways to automatically melt away accumulated snow on their surfaces.

Manufactured by SunTouch, the ProMelt line of heating cables and mats operates similarly to radiant-heat flooring installations. The system heats from below, and because it’s specially designed for use outdoors, the electric heat works to melt away not only powdery snow, but also stubborn ice. The cables “are generally activated by special snow sensors,” says Daniel O’Brian, a technical expert from online retailer That means, once the snow begins to stick, the system can automatically click on. You don’t have to think about it if you don’t want to, but “manual controls are often an option as well,” O’Brian confirms.


Manual control can you help you minimize the operating cost of a heated driveway and/or walkway. It’s difficult to estimate the seasonal expense involved, because, as O’Brian points out, “electricity rates and the severity of winter storms change from location to location.” In addition to the cost of operation, there’s also the initial investment to cover the components and their installation. O’Brian notes that snow-melting systems are ideal for new home construction, or for homeowners who plan to install a new driveway or walkway. “Retrofitting them is virtually impossible, unfortunately,” because the mats must run under or within the paving.

ProMelt snow-melting mats range in size from 2′ x 5′ to 2′ x 56′; prices start at $190. Customizable configurations allow them to be used with the majority of today’s popular driveway and walkway materials—concrete, asphalt, pavers, and tile among them. Installation methods differ somewhat from material to material. Beneath pavers and stone, for instance, the mats are set into the substrate sand. In concrete, the mats are affixed to wire or rebar that’s suspended into the middle of the pour.

ProMelt mats rely on oxygen-free copper heating elements and are made to be flexible and long lasting. Thermoplastic insulation guards against corrosion and temperature resistance, while a tough polyurethane outer jacket adds further protection against chemicals and abrasion. Though the mat configuration facilitates installation, in certain outdoor configurations it may be preferable to use “loose” heating cables, as these can be worked around bends and other such obstacles. Both types are available through, and both can be handled by contractors or ambitious DIYers.

This post has been brought to you by Its facts and opinions are those of