Category: Tools & Workshop


All-Purpose Transfer Pumps Move Water with Ease

Though invaluable for cleaning up in a wet basement, these pumps are actually handy for a broad variety of household tasks. Learn the basics here.

What Is a Transfer Pump?

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Sure, there may be calm before the storm, but afterward, once the dark clouds have given way to sunshine, there’s often the stress and labor of cleaning up—at least for those plagued by seemingly intractable drainage issues. You’ve checked and rechecked the gutters. You’ve shored up the foundation. Maybe you’ve even brought in an excavator to adjust the slope of your site. In short, you’ve consulted the experts and done everything right, yet your water woes persist. Indeed, for some homeowners there’s nothing left to do but deal swiftly and diligently with standing stormwater, both in and around the home. Sump pumps go a long way toward preventing basement floods, but for a versatile, all-purpose weapon in the war against moisture, you may want to consider arming yourself with a transfer pump.

Also sometimes known as utility pumps, transfer pumps perform one simple but critical function: They move water from one place to another. Straightforward though it may be, a transfer pump’s functionality proves handy in any number of ordinary homeowner situations, including but not limited to storm cleanup. If, for instance, you wanted to empty out your water heater for maintenance or repair purposes, a transfer pump would enable you to get the job done effectively and with minimal mess. Likewise, if your swimming pool cover had begun to sag under the weight of an oversize puddle, you could use a transfer pump to relocate the water to a storage container or, better yet, your thirsty lawn or garden. In other words, a transfer pump makes it easy to handle otherwise unwieldy watery tasks.

What Is a Transfer Pump? - Pony Product Isolated

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Daniel O’Brian, a technical specialist with SupplyHouse.com, points out that transfer pumps’ designs are as varied as their potential applications. “Transfer pumps can be submersible or non-submersible, portable or permanently installed. And while many run on electricity, there are gas-powered and manually operated models as well.” Despite their differences, most transfer pumps operate in a broadly similar way, by creating a difference in pressure that pushes the water from the inlet to the outlet. Typically, a standard garden hose can be hooked up to either side (if not, use lengths of plastic tubing of the type you can find at any home center). Simply place the inlet hose in the water you want to remove, and position the outlet hose to direct the water wherever you want it to go. Activate the pump, and you’re on your way.

When choosing among the many transfer pumps on the market, base your selection on how you plan to use the equipment. If you need to shift volumes of water only between locations that are for the most part dry, then opt for a standard, non-submersible model. If your needs are more demanding—if, for example, your goal is to pump water out of a pond or hot tub—then go for a submersible model, one whose motor sits within a special watertight housing. Also, be sure to consider the fact that transfer pumps range widely in terms of overall capacity. The pumping power of any given model is influenced by two key measurements—the horsepower generated by its motor and the amount of water the pump can move (measured in gallons per hour). Generally, you need to pay more for more power.

Modestly sized transfer pumps are relatively inexpensive. For instance, you can purchase the Little Giant 360 Transfer/Utility Pump for about $90. Portable and lightweight, the non-submersible, electrically powered Little Giant 360 boasts a 1/10-horsepower motor, capable of drawing liquid from as many as seven feet below and pumping it up as high as 48 feet. By comparison, the Liberty Pump 331, which sells for a little over $200, offers 1/2 horsepower and can pump water up to 100 feet overhead. As is to be expected with any product, transfer pumps each come with their own pros and cons. For help navigating the wide variety of available transfer pumps, don’t hesitate to reach out for advice, custom-tailored to your individual needs and goals, from the experts at SupplyHouse.com.

What Is a Transfer Pump? - Liberty Product Isolated

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


Bob Vila Radio: Your Quick Guide to the Contour Gauge

Recreate the precise shape of corners, edges, and curves on wood, tile, and other materials with a simple, low-tech tool that couldn't be easier to use. Learn more now.

Cutting flooring or siding to fit around curved surfaces can be tricky, especially if you don’t have the right tool. In this case, what you need is a contour gauge.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON CONTOUR GAUGES or read the text below:

Contour gauges look a bit like a hair comb, but with teeth protruding from both sides of the handle. Rather than being fixed and stationary, those teeth slide smoothly through the handle, molding to the contour of whatever profile you set the gauge against.

Using the tool is dead-simple. First, lightly press the teeth against a flat surface to make sure the ends are in line. Then nudge the gauge up against whatever shape you wish to duplicate. Once you’ve got it, lay the contour gauge onto the material you’re working with. Trace the shape dictatated by the teeth of the gauge, then make your cut with a jigsaw, bandsaw, or coping saw.

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! Turn a Plastic Fork into a Tiny Screwdriver

Before you head out to buy a specialized tiny screwdriver for your smallest of screws, try crafting your own with these genius DIY instructions—all for free!

DIY Screwdriver

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Instructables user deluges, a self-described amateur tinkerer, has nothing against custom screws—just the added cost and hassle to remove them. Found on window guards, door locks, license plates, IKEA furniture, game consoles, laptops, glasses and more, these tiny screws are designed to be tamper-resistant. So how did he deal with the custom screws that needed to be removed before he could clean the inside of his laptop? He crafted his own screwdriver for the purpose by melting and reshaping a plastic fork!

Lucky for us, this handy man shared his money-saving trick with the rest of the Web. To follow his lead, all you need is a lighter, a plastic fork, and a little MacGyver spirit. Start by breaking off a tine of your plastic fork. Heat the plastic tip with the flame for about 30 seconds. Then, before the plastic has a chance to cool and harden, push the tip into the screw head. Press down firmly to create a clean, deep impression of the screw, holding your new custom screwdriver in place for a minute or two before gently pulling it off. Is the plastic still warm to the touch? To harden it in a hurry, dip the tool in cold water and you can get to work.

This works best on screws that are small but not impossibly tight, potentially saving you an unnecessary trip to The Home Depot or a custom repair shop. Give it a go next time you’re stuck—since it’s free, you’ve got nothing to lose. In the words of one impressed commenter: “This is genius… 1,000 thumbs up.” We couldn’t agree more.

FOR MORE: Instructables

DIY Screwdriver - Closeup Fork

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Bob Vila Radio: Nails or Screws? Screws or Nails?

Though nails and screws are sometimes used interchangeably, there are pros and cons to each. Read on to learn more about which types of applications call for which types of fasteners.

Nails or screws? Sometimes it’s difficult to decide which to use for a given do-it-yourself project. The next time you need to choose between the two, bear in mind the following guidelines.

Nails or Screws

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Listen to BOB VILA ON NAILS AND SCREWS or read the text below:

If you’re joining two pieces that are going to be under tension—in a porch railing, for example, or when building kitchen cabinets—then screws are the better choice. Also, since screws are easier to remove, they’re often superior for temporary fastening jobs. Finally, if you’re working with a fragile material like plaster, you may wish to use screws because driving them into place causes much less vibration than pounding in a nail would.

Nails have pluses, too. For one thing, compared with screws of the same length and gauge, nails are usually stronger. That makes them the preferred choice for withstanding “shear” pressure—that is, keeping the fastened pieces from sliding past one another. In most cases, nails are also less expensive. And particularly if you’re working with a gun, nails can be secured quite quickly. Speed makes them ideal for framing, flooring, roofing shingles, siding and sheathing.

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: A Simple Tweak for Any Caulk Gun

Given its purpose and common applications, caulk often needs to go places where the gun doesn't fit. In those situations, you can extend the reach of the tool using this simple, ingenious trick.

Your good old caulk gun is a user-friendly tool—until you need to use it in a tight spot (say, the back side of a toilet). What to do? Here’s one idea: Make yourself a flexible extension to attach to the nozzle.

Caulking Toilet

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Listen to BOB VILA ON CAULKING HARD-TO-REACH PLACES or read the text below:

It’s simple! Head to the hardware store and pick up some clear plastic tubing at least a foot-and-a-half long. Choose tubing with an interior diameter of a quarter inch.

Gently work one end of the tube onto the tip of the caulk, then cut the other end of the tube at an angle—the same angle you’d cut into the dispensing tip of a normal tube of caulk.

Now, squeeze the trigger of the caulk gun until you see the caulk nearing the end of the extension tube. Bend the tube to your target area and dispense as usual. If the tight quarters produce some wobbles in your line of caulk, no worries. Just use a wet finger to smooth the imperfections.

Done? Finish by detaching the extension tube and cleaning it with a small wooden dowel. That way, the tube will be clear and ready for use next time.

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 Academy—Enroll Today!

Become a student in Bob Vila Academy and learn the basics of home improvement the fun and easy way.

Bob Vila Academy

When it comes to home improvement, we could all use a mentor—someone to guide us through the process and offer hints and tricks along the way. Well, the help we all need has finally arrived—Bob Vila Academy. A brand-new digital workshop, Bob Vila Academy includes exclusive, project-based video courses hosted by the next-generation of DIY experts. Gain new skills, raise your confidence level, have fun and—yes—make things. We’ll help!

ENROLL IN BOB VILA ACADEMY

Bob Vila Academy already offers a range of courses, with new ones every month. Enroll in your favorites today, and let the instructor of each course take you through every step of the project, from start to finish, while teaching you the techniques needed to succeed. Courses include:

• Building a concrete top for your bathroom vanity. Course instructor Pete lays out the basics of working with one of the most versatile and durable materials on the planet.

• Crafting a new wall sconce. Here, course instructor Isabelle explains how to weave your own stylish shade and wire up a light fixture, without having to hire an electrician.

Creating functional wall art. Discover the fun of working with reclaimed wood, as course instructor Tanya demonstrates how to build a home accent you can proudly put on display.

What are you waiting for? Visit Bob Vila Academy to preview each course and enroll!

Bob Vila Academy - Coin Vault


Bob Vila Radio: Add Security with Tamper-Proof Screws

How secure is your home, if it would only take a thief with a Philips-head to gain access? Tamper-proof security fasteners add a layer of much-needed protection.

For years, companies have been trying to keep one step ahead of vandals and thieves by manufacturing so-called security fasteners, removable only with specialized tools. Predictably, the bad guys keep finding workarounds.

Security Fasteners

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Listen to BOB VILA ON SECURITY FASTENERS or read the text below:

There are now dozens of security fasteners on the market. Some of the more effective crime-busters are those with a protruding pin in the middle of an otherwise conventional screw head. Another popular type—referred to as “snake eye” fasteners—features only two small indentations on top. Still another has no slots or indentations at all, leaving the would-be thief to see only a flat, slightly-out-of-round head. And, of course, there are always reverse-thread fasteners. These are designed so that when crooks try to screw them out, they’re actually making them tighter.

Shop your local home center for many of these fasteners, along with the tools that fit them. For some of the more exotic security fasteners, though, you’ll need to go to specialized suppliers.

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: Stainless vs. Galvanized Steel

Though both are undeniably strong and durable, stainless and galvanized steel each have vulnerabilities that make one or the other a more suitable choice, depending on the application.

Have you ever wondered which holds up better against the elements, stainless or galvanized steel? Well, that depends on several factors.

Galvanized Steel vs Stainless Steel

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Listen to BOB VILA ON GALVANIZED AND STAINLESS STEEL or read the text below:

Galvanized steel is coated with a thin layer of zinc that helps guard against corrosion. It’s commonly used in nails, screws, bolts, nuts and other kinds of fasteners. Galvanized steel usually stands up well to water exposure—as long as it’s not salt water.

Stainless steel, on the other hand, is made by adding chromium to molten steel. Because of its strength and resistance to rust, stainless is the primary metal used in construction. Stainless doesn’t mind water, even if it’s salty, so it’s great for marine environments.

You should stay away from stainless, though, if there’s any chance two pieces might come into contact with one another. Friction can rub through the coatings and cause the two parts to weld together. And don’t use stainless steel around pools or other places where it might be exposed to chlorine. Chlorine degrades the coating on the metal and causes rust.

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: Removing a Wall Anchor

They make it a cinch to mount artwork and keepsakes, but removing wall anchors can be a tricky task. Here are some pointers.

Wall anchors allow you to hang almost anything almost anywhere. But what does one do to remove a wall anchor?

Removing Wall Anchors

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Listen to BOB VILA ON REMOVING WALL ANCHORS or read the text below:

If there’s a screw in the anchor, remove it. Next, inspect the anchor closely. If it’s made of plastic and features a plus-sign-shaped slot on its end, insert a Phillips screwdriver and turn it to the left. If the anchor binds on the way out, give it a gentle pull with your needle-nose pliers. If it still remains stuck, slip the edge of a putty knife under the collar of the anchor, then tap the handle of the knife until it slices off the collar. Finally, poke an awl into the anchor and give it a tap or two, pushing the anchor in the cavity of the wall.

For metal anchors, you’ll probably do better using your needle-nose pliers to grab the collar of the anchor and gently bend and twist it until it pops off. You can then tap what remains of the anchor into the wall cavity. Now, all you’ll need to a little joint compound and light sanding to make that hole disappear!

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: The Right Way to Hammer

There's a hammer in most every home, but few do-it-yourselfers recognize the a tool as potentially dangerous. Follow these safety precautions in the future.

There may be no tool more basic than the humble hammer. But however straightforward it may be in design and utility, there are still some important safety considerations to bear in mind when using one.

Hammer Safety

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Listen to BOB VILA ON HAMMER SAFETY or read the text below:

Perhaps most important: Before you start swinging, take a minute to check that the handle isn’t loose or cracked. Then take another minute to put on your safety glasses. You should never strike any object without eye protection in place.

Also, never use a steel claw hammer to strike hardened steel, stone, or concrete. Doing so may chip the face of the hammer and launch metal shards toward you or bystanders.

If you’re working anywhere near exposed electrical wiring or other energized components, choose a hammer with an insulated handle. And whenever hammering a moveable object, such as a two-by-four or small sheet of plywood, first secure the material by means of a clamp or vise.

Finally, before you make your first swing, make sure no one—including you—is the way of the swing path!

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.