July 2011 Archives - 4/4 - Bob Vila

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Downsizing with Style

tumbleweed homes,

Photo: Tumbleweed Homes

With rising energy costs and the lingering effects of the mortgage crisis, demand for smaller houses has never been greater. Which is a boon for Jay Shafer, who’s been preaching the gospel of downsizing since 1997, when he founded Tumbleweed Tiny House Co. in Sebastopol, California, and began designing and constructing homes that range in size from 65 to 172 square feet. But his petite abodes pack a lot into their wee footprints. The company’s 65-square-foot XS-House, for instance, offers built-in storage, a kitchen, bathroom, sleeping loft, and front porch.

Slideshow: 11 Tiny Houses We Love

tumbleweed houses, bungalow, craftsmen house style

Photo: Tumbleweed Houses

Shafer himself resided in an 8’-by-12’ house that measured just 100 square feet until he married three years ago. Now he and his wife (and their toddler son) reside in the relatively spacious 500-square-foot home he built next door. “Once I moved into a tiny house, my life opened up, says Shafer. “There was less maintenance, less mortgage, less waste—more time to live.”

Fully constructed with electrical, plumbing, and heating systems, Shafer’s Tumbleweed Tiny Houses start at about $39,000. Most customers, however, just buy the plans, which cost from $99 to $859, and build the diminutive structures themselves. Because the tiny houses have wheels, the structures are considered travel trailers and do not require a building permit. “You can pretty much put one anywhere you can place an RV,” notes Shafer.

In August, the company plans to launch its new Box Bungalows, a line of Craftsman-style tiny houses that feature mix-and-match modular components. To learn more, visit Tumbleweed Tiny House Company online or pick up a copy of Jay Shafer’s book, The Small House Book (Paperback-2009), at Amazon.

For more on prefab and tiny houses, consider:

10 Cool Shipping Container Homes
Mobile Homes: Then and Now
Home Sweet Container

How To: Grout Tile

How to Grout Tile - Bag

Photo: recoore.com

Maybe I’m the only person (at least over the age of three) who gets a kick out of making a mess, but I would still argue that grouting is the best part of a tiling job—and not just because you get to smear mud all over everything. Grouting tile is when everything starts to come together and your project stops looking like a collection of individual tiles and starts looking like a finished floor (or wall, or counter).

If you have an existing tile surface that needs re-grouting, here’s some simple steps on how to grout tile. You will first need to remove the old grout compound. A grout saw or grout removal bit for a rotary tool like a Dremel are good options. If you’re tiling a new surface, make sure all tiles are fully set before grouting.

There are different types of grout for different applications. Traditionally grout comes in “sanded” and “non-sanded” varieties; the latter being best suited for tile spaces less than 1/8″ wide. For the purposes of this tutorial on grouting tile, we’re talking about the mix-it-yourself sanded grout.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Two buckets (one for mixing grout, one filled with clean water)
Grout sponge
Grout float (specially designed groutsmoothing tool)
Putty knife, stirring stick, or mixer attachment for drill

Step 1. Mixing the Grout
When mixing grout, you’ll want to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, but here are a few additional tips. Pour about 3/4 of the recommended amount of water in the bucket and then add the grout. Once mixed, add the remaining water to achieve the desired consistency, which should look something like this. I find that working in smaller batches and hand mixing is best.

How to Grout Tile - Mix

Photo: Kit Stansley

Step 2. Using a Float
Press the grout into the spaces between tiles by first moving the float across the spaces at a diagonal to make sure the grout line is filled.

How to Grout Tile - Float

Photo: Kit Stansley

Then do a second swipe over the top to clean off the excess.

How to Grout Tile - Swipe

Photo: Kit Stansley

Step 3. Removing the Excess
You now have a floor full of mud, but you know that fun can’t last forever. After the grout sets for 15-30 minutes (you may have to work in sections if you have a large area to cover) wipe up the excess grout with water and sponge. Wait three hours and do it again, this time making sure there isn’t excess grout on the tile or outside of the grout line. Also, change the water as often as necessary to keep things pretty clean.

How to Grout Tile - Wiping Clean

Photo: Kit Stansley

Step 4. Wiping the Floor Clean
No matter how good you are with a sponge, once everything is dry (usually overnight) there will still be a grout haze on the floor. You’ll be tempted to use a wet cloth to wipe it off, but if you do that you’ll find yourself in a vicious grout-wiping cycle. A better idea is to use a dry towel, or perhaps your significant others sock (not that I would ever do that) to rub off any haze. The dust can then be swept up.

How to Grout Tile - Complete

Photo: Kit Stansley

Learning how to grout tile is that easy. After everything dries I would recommend a good grout sealer.

For more on tile, consider:

How To: Work With Mosaic Tile
Using Glass Tile for a Handcrafted Look
Installing Tumbled Marble in the Bathroom

DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from BobVila.com
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on BobVila.com. Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build or make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.

Flag Etiquette

Flag Etiquette

Photo: Shutterstock

On this Fourth of July weekend, we thought we would share some information on the proper etiquette for displaying the flag. Here are some guidelines from the Betsy Ross Homepage resource at ushistory.org that should help you celebrate the holiday with renewed pride and respect.

When the flag is displayed over the middle of the street, it should be suspended vertically with the union to the north in an east and west street, or to the east in a north and south street.

The flag, when flown at half-staff, should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. The flag should be again raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day. By “half-staff” is meant lowering the flag to one-half the distance between the top and bottom of the staff. Crepe streamers may be affixed to spear heads or flagstaffs in a parade only by order of the President of the United States.

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This Old Flagpole

This Old Flagpole

Photo: flickr.com

Summer folks on the New England shore have a long-standing tradition of flying the flag from Memorial Day to Labor Day. We always flew the colors at my in-laws place on Cape Cod and when I built a house nearby I had trouble finding a flagpole that wasn’t aluminum or some form of plastic. I found a salvaged one made from a 30-foot-long Spruce taken down from an old estate in Wianno–a town in Barnstable County, MA.

Every seven years or so it needs a good scraping and a couple of coats of paint. With today’s modern boat finishes it makes sense to spend the extra money on a high-quality marine grade coating that will keep its gloss and last for years.

While I’m sure to tackle a couple of projects around the house this weekend, I intend to spend the better part of the holiday relaxing, grilling and spending time with family and friends.  I hope you are planning to do the same.

Happy Fourth!

P.S. If you are inclined to tackle a couple of projects this weekend, consider:

Care and Repair of Outdoor Furniture
Creating Your Ideal Outdoor Room
Smart New Choices for Outdoor Lighting