Category: Tools & Workshop

Bob Vila Radio: Safe Setup for Extension Ladders

Extension ladders can be more dangerous than useful, if you're not careful, so remember these rules of thumb.


For committed do-it-yourselfers, extension ladders are a must-have. When you’re using them, though, it’s important to keep a few safety pointers in mind.

How to Use an Extension Ladder


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

First, never try to set up an extension ladder when it’s extended. Instead, position the ladder where you want it, then raise the upper half at least three feet above the roof line. Make sure the bottom of the ladder is angled out about a quarter of its height.

Don’t try shifting the position of the ladder, even slightly, while you’re standing on it. Better to make an extra trip down to move the ladder properly. And be sure you stay well clear of any overhead electrical wires when you’re moving the ladder, especially if it’s a metal ladder. Forgetting that could cost you your life.

Finally, make sure you don’t position the bottom of the ladder in front of a door that opens outward. Sure, that may seem like a no-brainer, but such mishaps send people to the hospital every year.

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.

Hire the Home Help You Need—Instantly

When you don't know have the time, interest, or know-how to take on one of life's many chores, turn to Handy for help.

Handy Instant Booking


Today, Americans buy everything from groceries to furniture over the Internet without thinking twice. But what’s true of products hasn’t been true of services, at least not so far. However, it stands to reason that perhaps millions of people would appreciate the convenience of booking cleaning and repair appointments with click-of-a-button ease. Or so thinks Oisin Hanrahan, a founder of Handy, a four-year-old company that seeks to become “the Uber of home maintenance”.

Using the Handy site or its companion mobile app, customers are able to book a maid, plumber, electrician or general handyman in mere minutes. On the strength of that convenience, the company has expanded to 37 locations, including most major U.S. cities. Though its growth has been rapid and wide-reaching, Handy hasn’t wavered in its mission. Hanrahan, who once dabbled in real estate, knows it’s a hassle to find reliable pros. Handy exists to simplify that search.

Handy Instant Booking - App Screenshots


Here’s how it works: After filling out an online form with basic information, you receive a list of qualified local pros and price quotes for the task you want tackled, be it painting, plumbing, housecleaning or something else you don’t want, or don’t know how, to do. (You can even hire someone to assemble that “simple” wall unit you bought from IKEA.) As early as seven the next morning, the work you ordered can be underway—with a 100% money-back satisfaction guarantee.

Not surprisingly, Handy has been party to no small amount of buzz. For instance, Forbes ranked the company among the “Hottest Startups” last year. Meanwhile, it’s also witnessed negative press, some of it in connection with a lawsuit over alleged labor-code violations. There may be some critical kinks left to work out, but for time-starved homeowners and renters, there’s reason to hope that Handy ultimately succeeds, because, well, the whole thing sounds pretty handy, doesn’t it?

Handy Instant Booking - Animated Gif


For more information, visit Handy.

Genius! Prop Up a Pallet for Instant Shed Organization

Want to whip your shed into shape at next to no cost? This pallet project offers lots of organization for your bulkiest of garden tools, for only a little bit of effort.



Among shots of cats napping on windowsills and family vacations, there’s a wealth of DIY ideas on Flickr. This one, shared by Nic Robinson, shows a perfectly simple addition for a shed that lacks built-in storage. You might even have the necessary materials stashed in your garage left over from your last pallet project! While pallets are often broken down for wooden slats or used together as building blocks in a larger construction, the beauty of this truly clever design is that it relies on a single, intact pallet and requires no additional construction. So long as you stand it so the outside slats run horizontally, this structure is ready to corral outdoor tools.

If you don’t already have a pallet on hand, you can often pick one up for free at most garden, grocery, and home improvement stores, if you ask nicely. While you’re out, purchase some wood screws—they’re the only other materials you’ll need for this project. Once you get the pallet home, remove any extra nails and sand down splintered edges until the wood is smooth. Then, grab your drill and secure the pallet to the wall with the wood screws. It’s that easy!

Store rakes, shovels, and brooms in the shipping pallet’s hollow center. And don’t forget about the horizontal slats! You can use those to hang garden gloves and a rag—handy in the unlikely event you break a sweat finishing this DIY.

FOR MORE: Gardenista


Meet the Women Who Are Changing the Face of Fine Furniture

First friends and creative collaborators, then ultimately business partners, the all-female founders of the Egg Collective furniture design company are bucking convention and succeeding in what'd been, until now, a male-dominated industry.

Egg Collective


Stephanie Beamer, Crystal Ellis, and Hillary Petrie are the founders of Egg Collective, a furniture design firm that’s been making waves since it launched four years ago. Though based in New York, the company’s roots are in St. Louis, where the trio met as freshmen architecture students at Washington University. Back then, they likely never would have guessed that together, they would start any sort of business, let alone one that would achieve rapid success in a formerly male-dominated industry. All they knew was that their aesthetic tastes overlapped and that when it came to design, they shared a similar, deeply felt philosophy.

As students, the Egg Collective nurtured their earliest concepts through weekly brainstorm sessions held over casual late-night dinners. Post-college, each followed her interests to a different part of the country. Beamer apprenticed with fabricators and finishers in St. Louis and New York. Ellis extended her studies at the Rhode Island School of Design, earning an MFA in Sculpture. Petrie, meanwhile, went to work in a New Orleans cabinet shop. Though now geographically dispersed, Beamer, Ellis, and Petrie kept in touch and continued to exchange creative ideas, not longer in person, but through online video chats.

Egg Collective Stools


Finally, having spent five years apart, the trio reunited with the goal of making heirloom-quality furniture with a modern sensibility. Though women remain a rare sight in lumber mills and woodworking shops, the all-female Egg Collective never thought twice about gender. Instead, the founders focused on how their individual skill sets mixed, mingled, and complemented one another, making them effective not only as designers and makers, but also as businesspeople. “Like a puzzle, we fit together really well,” Petrie told Martha Stewart, when the magazine honored the Egg Collective with a high-profile American Made award in 2014.

Indeed, for a company that’s still so young, the Egg Collective has won a surprising number of prestigious accolades. And with the opening of a brand-new showroom, plus a partnership with retailer Design Within Reach, the three friends seem poised on the brink of even greater success. Through so much change, their approach has remained the same: Egg Collective continues to craft each piece by hand, placing special emphasis on all that enables furniture to stand the test of time. Petrie says, ”If something is made well and is finished well and detailed well, you can definitely respect that, and I think that inspires a lot of what we do.”

Egg Collective Table


For more information, visit Egg Collective.

This Company Delivers Houseplants Straight to Your Door

The Sill pairs easy-care houseplants with eye-catching stoneware to create irresistible combinations available for home delivery.

The Sill - Store Interior


When Eliza Banks lived in student housing as a freshman at NYU, the window in her room looked upon an all-too-familiar urban vista—the brick exterior of the building next door. Having spent her childhood surrounded by nature in rural Massachusetts, Banks had to do something to feel more at home, and fast. Even a tiny houseplant, she knew, would make a huge difference, injecting life into the drab and dreary space. She wasn’t the first to notice that greenery provides a boost to both mood and the look of a room. But where others would merely sigh in appreciation, Banks saw a business opportunity. Five years later, she launched The Sill, a houseplant delivery service that helps New Yorkers do what she did in her dorm—live better among plants.

The Sill - Succulents


The Sill recognizes that while everyone loves fresh flora, not everyone has the time or the touch for keeping plants alive. So while the company can easily accomodate veteran indoor gardeners, it’s perhaps total beginners who have the most to gain from the service. That’s because throughout the process, from selecting the right species for a specific space to understanding the upkeep, Banks and her staff keep the hassle and stress to a minimum, while never losing sight of the aesthetic priority. Though of course beautiful unto themselves, plants from The Sill are made even more irresistible by the clean, modern stoneware that the company pairs with its offerings and includes with your purchase. Say goodbye to half-dead Philodendron in broken plastic pots!

The Sill - Storefront Exterior Mural


If you live in New York City, stop by The Sill storefront or shop online for delivery to your door. Don’t live in NYC? Don’t fret! The Sill ships nationwide.

For more information, visit The Sill.

Bob Vila Radio: Pros and Cons of Metal Adhesives

When bonding metals, your best bet, at least in some situations, may be to use nothing more complex than adhesive.


When you want to join two pieces of metal, your first impulse may be to go for a rivet or even a soldering iron. But there are alternatives to consider, one of them being metal adhesives.

Metal Adhesives


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Listen to BOB VILA ON METAL ADHESIVES or read the text below:

Adhesives offer several advantages. Unlike bonding methods that use heat, adhesive don’t cause metals to distort. And since there’s no heat involved, you can use an adhesive to join different pieces of metal, each with different melting points. There are a couple more positives too: Adhesives generally don’t cause discoloration, and you don’t have to pre-drill holes for fasteners.

Adhesives do have some drawbacks, however. There’s usually a bit of surface prep involved and once applied, adhesives may take quite a while before they cure to full strength. When the bond has fully cured, though, you won’t want the job of detaching the two pieces—that could be a major undertaking!

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.

Is This One App Going to Change DIY Forever?

For DIYers with more time and energy than experience and know-how, a brand-new app makes pro consultations easy, virtually instantaneous, and best of all, cheap.

Fountain Home Improvement App


Even if you’re a veteran do-it-yourselfer and hip to the many different avenues for project research available on the Internet, you’re never going to vanquish moments of uncertainty. When in doubt, during those situations when you’ve got the momentum but lack the know-how, wouldn’t it be nice to have an expert on your side? The next time you hit a stumbling block halfway through a home improvement or repair job, all you’ve got to do is reach for your smartphone.

Fountain App - Screenshot 1


When you open the free-to-download Fountain app (available for iOS), you are greeted by a screen that asks, “What are you stuck on?” Type in your problem and, if you’d like, include an annotated photo to clarify the issue. From there, the app digs through its index of the nationwide professionals best qualified to lend assistance. These are pre-screened pros, and Fountain has them for every imaginable home-and-garden category, from architecture and interior design to gardening and carpentry. In just 90 seconds, you’ll get automatically connected to a qualified expert for a phone call, video chat, or text messaging session.

While the app itself costs nothing, each 15-minute consultation runs a modest $7. That’s a fraction of what it would cost to get a home visit from a plumber or electrician. Besides that savings, we think what’s really exciting here is that, for the first time ever, you can pay a professional, not for actual service, but for advice.

Skeptical? Fountain shrewdly anticipated that first-time users of the app might feel trepidatious, so your first consultation is free, with a $10 credit being automatically applied to you account upon download.

Think of how many more projects you can tackle at home, now that something like Fountain exists! The only downside might be that you can no longer claim ignorance as an excuse for putting off your to-do list.

Fountain App - Screenshot 2


Download Fountain for iPhone or iPad, free.

French Toy Maker Debuts a Life-Size Erector Set

The maker of a much-beloved children's toy has branched out into a new market and now offers versatile furniture-making kits to delight kids of all ages.

Meccano Home 1


What happens when you combine the ease and convenience of flat-pack, ready-to-assemble furniture with the fun and whimsy of the Legos you loved as a child? Well, now we know. For decades, the French company Meccano has been manufacturing Erector sets—toys that kids prize for their endlessly interchangeable nuts, bolts, and plates. This year, for the fist time ever, Meccano enters the adult market with life-size pieces designed to make genuine furniture for everyday life.

In the Meccano Home collection, there are 20 modules that allow for the construction of everything from tables and chairs to bureaus and buffets. Just as an Erector set lends itself to a virtually limitless number of configurations, so too can Meccano Home components be used for whatever you want to build—be it a piece of furniture that would be immediately recognizable out of context, or a custom creation that only makes sense given the idiosyncrasies of your space.

Meccano Home 2


Do you want a coffee table with an integrated chair? How about a modular storage system that doubles as a work surface? “With Meccano Home, the user becomes the creator of his living space,” states the company’s Web site. You can follow the included instructions, of course, or you can completely ignore them. So it’s just like when you were a kid, except with one major difference: At the end of the day, you no longer have to put your toys back where they came from!

Featuring a tough, durable finish, the Meccano Home pieces, available in eight vibrant colors, are only part of the story. Additional elements can be purchased to add even more functionality where necessary or desired. For instance, with a crank and fixing kit, you can create a table that doubles in size or contracts by half , depending on the number of people you wish to accommodate. Similarly, the addition of a light kit turns an ordinary storage unit into an extraordinary lamp.

Meccano Home 3


While it’s hard to envision a home decked out exclusively in Erector set-style furniture, it’s easy to see the appeal of Meccano Home for DIY kids of all ages!

For more information, visit Meccano Home.

This Company Makes Furniture with Salvaged Railroad Materials

Knotty timber and centuries-old iron rails become hardy, arty furniture in the calloused hands of Rail Yard Studios.

Rail Yard Studios Furniture - Desk


As the owner of a railroad contracting and maintenance firm, John Hendrick oversaw a crew responsible for, among other things, disposing of old or unusable rails and ties. After a while, Hendrick grew tired of seeing so much beautiful, often historic material either junked or sold off for scrap. That’s when he developed an idea.

His newest company, Rail Yard Studios, works to transform railroad cast-offs into pieces of fine furniture. Since Hendrick had trained as an industrial designer, it wasn’t much of a stretch for him to envision a second life for these heavy-duty components, particularly with his carpenter father involved as a business partner.

Rail Yard Studios - Adirondack Chair


Today, Rail Yard Studios fashions chunky yet chic tables, seating, desks, bed frames and more from steel rail, spikes, wooden ties and brackets. Each one-of-a-kind piece manages to capture the rugged romance of American train travel, with many steel members still bearing the imprints of industrial titans like Andrew Carnegie.

Though you may find evidence of past centuries, you won’t find any hazardous materials. Rail Yard Studios relies on timber rejected due to knots and splits and other imperfections that, while not conducive to supporting massive trains, are ideal for furniture that’s handsome, heavy, and definitely not for the dainty-of-heart.

All aboard!

Rail Yard Studios - Coffee Table


For more information, visit Rail Yard Studios.

This Company Makes Furniture from Salvaged Fire Hose

Not long ago, decommissioned fire hose went only to landfills. Now, the Oxgut Hose Co. repurposes as much of the material as possible into unique modern furniture and homewares.

Oxgut - Fire Hose Mat


Every single month, tons of fire hose reaches the end of its useful life and must be disposed of. That’s when Oakland-based Oxgut Hose Co. steps in. Since 2013, the company has been working with fire departments around the U.S. to salvage decommissioned fire hose and launch the unique material in a new direction.

Manufactured in synthetic fiber and cotton, in bold colors, and subject to character-defining wear and tear, fire hose is of course rugged and durable, but it’s also—unexpectedly, and in a utilitarian way—beautiful. Plus, every fire hose features a fascinating history—or as Oxgut chooses to phrase it, a “heroic past.”

Oxgut - Fire Hose Chairs


Taking its name from the fire hose of Ancient Greece, Oxgut partners with contemporary, locally-based designers, challenging their talents to develop fresh ways of repurposing the material. If the past provides any indication, fire hose serves well as a main component in a surprising range of functional, aesthetically pleasing furniture and home accessories. So far, Oxgut products have ranged widely, from lounge and dining chairs to floor mats, log carriers, and hammocks.

Oxgut - Fire Hose Carrier


To a great extent, Oxgut offerings depend on the nuances of the fire hose itself. Different sizes and textures tend to send the designers off in different creative directions. Due to the non-uniform nature of the material, everything from Oxgut can be said to be one of a kind, and it’s all crafted by hand, domestically.

In honor of the fire hose and its original purpose, Oxgut donates a portion of every sale to the Children’s Burn Foundation.

Oxgut - Hose Company


For more information, visit Oxgut Hose Co.