Category: Walls & Ceilings


Bob Vila Radio: Plugging Leaks in Concrete or Masonry

Specially designed to block running water in concrete or masonry surfaces, hydraulic cement is the one weapon you need to fight a leaky foundation.

A special type of cement, similar to mortar and easy to use, hydraulic cement is handy for preventing water from seeping through your foundation and into the basement.

Hydraulic Cement

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Listen to BOB VILA ON HYDRAULIC CEMENT or read the text below:

Once mixed with water, hydraulic cement sets and hardens in a matter of a few minutes. (Hot water quickens the setting time; cold water slows it down.) It can be used, not just on horizontal surfaces like floors, but also on vertical ones like basement walls. And it doesn’t shrink, rust, or corrode. It’ll remain intact even if it’s submerged in water.

So what’s not to like? Well, a couple of things. For one, exposure to hydraulic cement can be toxic, so you need to wear protective gear. And you need to work quickly, as the mortar only remains workable for about 10 minutes once mixed. One other drawback: It doesn’t work on frozen surfaces, so be sure to make your repairs before winter sets in!

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.


The Fastest, Easiest Fix for a Damaged Wall

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Perhaps you swung the door open with a bit too much force. Or maybe the movers took a wrong turn with the dresser. Whatever its origins, there’s now a hole in your wall, and sooner or later it needs to be filled. Sure, you can always hire a pro, but why spend money on such a simple fix? Wall patching isn’t the hassle it used to be, at least not with HYDE Wet & Set. For holes or cracks in flat or curved surfaces—drywall, plaster, wood, or stucco—use the Wet & Set repair patch to achieve a quick and easy yet lasting result. Best of all, whereas wall repair used to take the whole weekend, including dry times, Wet & Set enables you to achieve same-day results.

Photo: thehydeway.com

Available as a sheet for a single use or roll for multiple applications, Wet & Set looks and feels a little like fabric. In actuality, it’s a rather sophisticated material, imbued with both joint compound and specially formulated polymers. Wet the patch, and it fully activates, becoming a fast-setting, firmly adhering fix-all for dents, dings, and openings that are smaller than a baseball yet larger than a nail hole.

Working with HYDE Wet & Set couldn’t be more simple. Here’s the process: Hold the patch over the problem area to determine how much of the material you’re going to need. From there, use an ordinary pair of scissors to cut the patch to the appropriate size. Next, dip the patch into any vessel of water, be it a bucket or a dishpan, and gently shake off the excess liquid. Last, place the patch over the damaged portion of the wall, using your fingers to smooth out the applied material.

That’s it! The patch sets within 30 minutes, at which point you’re ready to do a skim coat of joint compound or spackle. Because the patch contains the initial layer of compound, you need to add only one more. Once it’s dry, proceed to sand down the protrusions, then prime and paint the patched area to match its surroundings. Nobody needs to know your wall or ceiling was ever anything less than perfect.

Purchase HYDE Wet & Set, $14.33

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


Install Wood Paneling with Peel-and-Stick Ease

Get the look of the beautiful wood-paneled wall of your dreams without all the labor and costs involved with planking it from scratch. Stikwood's thin peel-and-stick panels get the job done in no time at all.

Stikwood - Wall Installation

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Want wood paneling without the hassle of nailing lumber to the walls? Meet Stikwood, the first peel-and-stick solid wood planking solution.

Stikwood planks are thin, flexible, adhesive-backed slices of real wood. The concept is reminiscent of contact paper, the old household standby that may still be lining your cabinets. Stikwood installation is similarly painless. Simply plan out your design, cut planks to fit, peel off the backings, and stick up the planks. The adhesive binds to any clean and smooth interior surface—walls, ceilings, doors, cabinets, and drawer fronts—and will last at least 10 years. Because each plank measures no thicker than three-sixteenths of an inch, installation—if you can call it that—is a snap. Indeed, Stikwood can transform an ordinary room in a matter of hours. And with 16 finishes to choose from, ranging from rustic white to a more contemporary mocha, there’s bound to be a texture and color combination suited to your taste.

Stikwood - Entertainment Center

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Stikwood can be purchased online in multiples of 20 square feet, with some 10-square-foot quantities available by special order. But whereas measurement would be a taxing step in a typical paneling project, Stikwood simplifies this portion of the job, too. Just plug in the measurements for the height and width of the surface you plan to panel, and the Stikwood site calculator tells you how many square feet of product you need. So really, the only “work” for you to do is in dreaming up a design.

Purchase Stikwood, $10 to $14 per square foot


Bob Vila Radio: Cleaning (or Concealing) Wall Stains

You can't always prevent stains. But with some know-how and elbow grease, you can either remove those stains or conceal them completely.

If you spy some ugly stains on your walls, don’t despair. Chances are there’s a way to either remove those walls stains or block them from coming through paint.

Cleaning Wall Stains

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Listen to BOB VILA ON CLEANING AND BLOCKING WALL STAINS or read the text below:

To clean water stains, of course you first need to locate and repair the leak. Once you’ve done that, and once the stain has dried to the touch, sand it with a medium-grade sandpaper, then use a brush to coat the spot with a good quality stain-blocking primer.

For stains from tobacco smoke or kitchen grease, add a quarter cup of trisodium phosphate, or TSP, to a gallon of water and—after you’ve donned gloves and goggles—use a sponge to remove the discoloration.

And what about squiggles from pens and magic markers—are they a lost cause? Not at all. Just dip a couple cotton balls in rubbing alcohol and, using a gentle, circular motion, wipe the stains away.

If you run up against a particularly tough stain, remember that a coat of stain-blocker combined with touchup paint can make almost anything 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: Patching Large Holes in Drywall

It's easy to damage drywall. Fixing it: Well, that can be more difficult. But far from requiring a call to your contractor, patching drywall is a DIY-friendly job you can complete in a single morning or afternoon.

Need to patch a hole in drywall? While you can resolve smaller problems with spackling paste, larger jobs call for a commensurately larger commitment of time and materials.

How to Patch a Hole in Drywall

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First, cut a patch of scrap drywall that’s larger than the hole you plan to fill. Regardless of the shape of the hole, it’s best to work with a square or rectangular patch piece. Place that patch over the hole and trace around its edges with a pencil. Next, using a utility knife or saw, cut the drywall along the outline you traced.

Now cut a piece of one-by-two that’s a few inches longer than the width of the hole. Holding it in the middle, pass it through the hole and, from the outside, screw it into place on each end with a screw gun. Make sure the screws pull the one-by-two tightly up against the hidden, rear side of the drywall.

Once you have that anchor board installed, insert a screw into the middle of the patch piece. Then, using that screw as a handle, position the patch into the cutout, against the anchor board. At this point, finish driving the screw all the way through the drywall patch and into the wood anchor board. Add a couple more screws to fully secure the patch against the anchor.

Now you’re ready to complete the job by concealing your repair with drywall tape and joint compound!

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: Why Not a Wainscot?

For a low-cost, high-impact way of adding character to a lackluster room, give a second thought to installing wainscoting.

If you’re looking to dress up the interior of your home but are working on a limited budget, why not consider adding some classic wainscoting to the walls?

Installing Wainscoting

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

The term wainscoting refers to a broad range of moldings and panels usually applied to the lower third of walls. Besides a character-lending decorative effect, wainscoting also performs a practical role, protecting the walls from damage.

In close quarters with a great deal of foot traffic—halls, for example, or entryways—beadboard has been a favorite for centuries. For a more formal look, you can eschew beadboard and its country connotations in favor of panels that you design and build yourself or buy pre-made. Solid wood wainscoting remains an option, though it’s also now commonly made of medium-density fiberboard, plywood, and even PVC.

In the design phase, some do-it-yourselfers create cardboard stencils of prospective wainscot panels, temporarily mounting them on the walls to experiment with different configurations. Don’t be hesitant to try whatever you like. It’s your home, after all!

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.


So, You Want to… Install Wainscoting

Careful planning leads to getting the look you want with wainscoting, be it crisp or ornate.

How to Install Wainscoting

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The term “wainscoting” refers to any type of paneling that covers the lower portion—usually the lower third—of an interior wall. Originally, wainscoting was meant to protect plaster walls from dings and dents, but today it’s primarily decorative. Whether it’s elaborate and elegant or simple and casual, wainscoting adds warmth and character, making a room look more inviting. If you’ve ever seen a beautiful wainscot, you might think it’s not possible for a do-it-yourselfer to re-create the look. But the fact is, if you’re comfortable working with wood and handling a few basic tools, you can install wainscoting yourself over a long weekend.

How to Install Wainscoting - Beadboard Painted

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MATERIAL MATTERS
Wainscoting took off in the 19th century, when industrial milling made low-cost wood products widely available. These days, although many homeowners continue to install wainscoting made of solid wood, newer and cheaper materials like MDF and PVC are perhaps the most commonly used.

If you’re planning to paint, not stain, the wainscoting, give due consideration to MDF. Because it comes with no knots, it’s easy to cut and work with. Plus, MDF resists the sort of warping and splitting that solid wood might undergo due to seasonal expansion and contraction. One caveat: Standard MDF fares poorly if exposed to moisture, so if you’re wainscoting a bathroom or mudroom, be sure to purchase (and expect to pay more for) the moisture-resistant variety.

Alternatively, for wainscoting that stands up well to both heat and moisture, think about opting for PVC. No, you might not think of PVC as the most stylish stuff for a home interior, but once painted, it looks no different from more traditional materials, and it lasts a long time without maintenance.

There’s one major downside to inexpensive sheet wainscoting products: As easy as they are to install, they can accentuate an uneven or wavy wall. If yours is an older home that’s fallen out of plumb, it’s probably worth it to spring for tongue-and-groove solid wood wainscoting. Here, you can use furring strips to correct for minor imperfections, and you can sand down any protrusions.

PROJECT PLANNING
When you set out to install wainscoting, don’t underestimate the importance of planning. To a large extent, the installation process hinges on the design decisions you make early on. In fact, some people choose to create cardboard stencils and mount them on the wall in order to test different looks.

One key question: Do you want the wainscoting to have decorative panels? Know that eschewing panels tends to make for easier installation. Unlike panels, commercially sold tongue-and-groove strips simply need to be snugged together and nailed (or otherwise adhered) directly to the wall.

That said, frame-and-panel wainscoting is by no means beyond the skilled amateur. Get ready to use your tape measure, though. For the installation to look right, you must figure out a design that allows the wainscoting panels to be of equal size. If uniform panels are simply not possible given the size or shape of the room, there’s a compromise: Only panels on the same wall technically need to share the same dimensions. So if you are adding wainscoting to multiple walls, different walls can have panels of a different set size.

During the planning stage, it also helps a great deal to settle on a finish. If you decide to stain or clear coat the wainscoting, it’s easiest to do so prior to installation. Another reason to get your ducks in a row before getting to work: You can buy prefinished wainscoting products, which can save you significant time.

RISK ASSESSMENT
Yes, it’s easy to install wainscoting, but there are some complexities. Perhaps the hardest part is ensuring that the wainscoting gets along with the door and window trim in the room. Depending on the thickness of the wainscoting that you’re adding, it may even be necessary to replace the door and window casing.

Also, remember that wainscoting must be notched to fit around electrical boxes. And because building codes normally require electrical boxes to be flush with wall paneling, you may need to extend the boxes. Luckily, box extensions are inexpensive, widely available, and easy to fit behind either switches or receptacles.

Whether your home was recently built or has been around for more than a hundred years, wainscoting imparts depth and texture, giving any interior space a three-dimensional appeal that no mere coat of paint could possibly achieve, no matter how striking the color.


Bob Vila Radio: The Right Height for Chair Rails

Chair rails remain a popular option for dressing up interior walls, but while their installation can be straightforward, homeowners need to know where on the wall this type of molding looks best.

Chair rail molding adds a tasteful touch to rooms, especially when combined with wainscoting or crown molding. But if you’re thinking of installing chair rails, here are a few points to keep in mind.

Chair Rail Height and Width

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Listen to BOB VILA ON CHAIR RAILS or read the text below:

To be the most visually appealing, chair rails need to be installed at the right height. Most experts say that ‘right height’ is about one third the distance from the floor to the ceiling. So for a room with an 8-foot ceiling, you’d want to nail the molding about 32 inches from the floor.

The best width for chair rail molding will vary a bit, depending on the dimensions and the wall color of the room. Two to three inches is most common.

Chair rail-type moldings were used as far back as the Greeks and Romans. But the term ‘chair rail’ didn’t come into common usage until the 19th century. That was when Shakers installed pegs in their moldings. Their purpose? To hang chairs out of the way during sweeping and mopping!

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.


Bob Vila Radio: The Tool-Free Way to Locate Wall Studs

Though an stud finder would make things a bit easier, not everyone has one—and the fact is that you don't always need one. Here's how to locate a wall stud without the aid of a tool.

If you’ve got a heavy mirror to hang on the wall, you’ll need to find a stud that will support the weight. The easiest way to do that is with a stud finder. Electronic and magnetic versions are both readily available at home centers.

Locating Studs

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Listen to BOB VILA ON LOCATING STUDS or read the text below:

But if you’d just as soon stay home—and save some dough—try looking for nails in the baseboard. They are usually hammered into studs. Studs are usually spaced 16 inches from one center to the next. So if you find a nail in the baseboard, just measure over, in 16-inch increments, to where you want to hang the mirror.

Also remember that electrical outlets and switches are usually attached to studs, either from the left or the right side. Try knocking gently on the wall directly to the right and left of the outlet or switch. If one side sounds hollow, then the other side is where you can expect the stud to be.

Still can’t find a stud? Well, you can always drill a small test hole to make a way for a bent coat hanger, which you can then twist around until you knock against a stud. Aftewards, you’d repair the test hole with a little spackle and paint.

But if you’re going to go through the trouble of drilling, spackling, and painting, you might as well run to the store for a stud finder. Hey, you gave it your best shot.

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.


So, You Want to… Knock Down a Wall

Your quest for more light and openness might lead you to removing a wall (or several). Before you start swinging the sledge, make sure you understand what you're getting into.

How to Remove a Wall

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You live in an older house populated by a warren of small, cozy rooms. Lately, you’ve been thinking of knocking down a wall or two to open up space and bring in more light. While it’s true that removing a wall can help accomplish that aim, there are several important factors to consider before taking your plans any further.

Is the Wall Load-Bearing?
First things first. Before you plow ahead, you must determine whether or not the wall in question is load-bearing. In other words, is it keeping the house standing? Here’s a quick way to find out: Inspect the floor joists beneath. If the joists run perpendicular to the wall, chances are it’s a load-bearing wall. That’s not to say that your dreams of an open floor plan are outside the realm of possibility. It only means that you must consult a professional—a reliable contractor or engineer—to help you devise a strategy for removing the wall that will not compromise your home’s overall structural integrity. In general, though, removing a non-bearing wall is a much more modest proposition.

How to Remove a Wall - Plan

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What’s Inside the Wall?
OK, so it’s not holding the house up. That’s good. But what else is the wall doing? Is it hiding wires, gas lines, or heating ducts? If you jump the gun and saw right into plumbing, electrical, or HVAC work, you may suddenly find yourself dealing with a much more complicated (and expensive) job. Before you start demolition, be certain that you know exactly what you’re dealing with. Not sure? Look closely at your building plans or call in a contractor. It’s certainly possible to remove a non-bearing wall no matter what it contains, but a professional can help you figure out how to reroute those components without causing any lasting disruption to the normal operation of your house.

Brace Yourself for Dust
No matter how you slice it, the job of removing a wall is a messy one. Be prepared for dust, and lots of it. Because that dust can do nothing but harm to your belongings, be sure to partition off the work area, using tape and plastic sheeting. Move everything you want to protect beyond the partition, and then cover it carefully; it’s amazing how much of that fine dust can make it past even a conscientiously devised and well-executed partition.

Beware of Hidden Hazards
Was your house built before the 1980s? If so, lead may be present in old layers of paint on the wall you’re removing. Hiring a professional inspector can be pricey, so check into some of the test kits readily available at home centers. The results are generally reliable, especially if you cross-test with a couple of kits that use different methods of detection. If you discover that lead is indeed present, follow the EPA guidelines for proper disposal.

Pull a Permit
Before you or a contractor you’ve hired actually picks up a saw or sledgehammer, be sure that you’ve secured all the necessary permits. Some municipalities charge stiff fines for undertaking projects without proper permitting.

All those considerations aside, there’s no doubt that removing a wall can dramatically transform the look of an interior. It can be a big job, but if you’ve done your homework, you’ll efforts will probably be well worth the result.