March 2012 Archives - 2/3 - Bob Vila

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7 DIY Recycling Centers for Small Spaces

Whether you’re lucky enough to have once-weekly curbside service, or you have to transport your paper, glass, metal and plastic to a local drop-off center, there’s that necessary first step: storing and organizing your recyclables.

No problem if you have extra space in the garage or on the patio for recycling containers, but for those of us with kitchens barely large enough to hold appliances, the challenge is to be creative. Here are seven small-space recycling solutions you can easily create at home.



Be Inventive. This Elf Medium Mesh Laundry sorter from The Container Store offers an immediate and attractive solution. Simply add a few labels and tuck it under a countertop, below a desk, or in a pantry or closet. For a less expensive option, consider IKEA’s Antonius Series.



Behind the Door. For those with no floor space to spare, consider this inexpensive over-the-door solution made from plastic bins and shelving tracks. You can find the how-to at ReadyMade.

IKEAHackers Recycling Bin Solution


In the countertop. If you have wall space in the kitchen and could use more prep surface area, check out this brilliant through-the-countertop solution from Ikea Hackers.



Leave it out. If you don’t have a place to hide your recycling—leave it out! The team at Martha Stewart turned store-bought stacking bins into a rolling, decor-friendly solution.



From scratch. If you’re itching to break out the power tools, check out Ana White’s plans for an attractive recycling cabinet made from MDF.



On the wall. This hanging basket from Women’s Day isn’t intended for recycling, but I can imagine it working perfectly as an attractive solution for paper and junk mail, recyclable plastics and aluminum.



Customized. Sometimes you have the storage space, but can’t find the bins to fit it. In those situations, you can always whip up your own.

For more on recycling, reuse and energy efficiency, consider the following articles and slideshows:

Learning to Love Recycling
10 DIY Projects You Can Make with Old Cabinet Doors
20 Ways to Go Green Today

Laminate Countertop Renewal

Our laminate countertop looked fine, but the protective coating was pretty much gone. Coffee, tea, wine, juice, sauces, and egg yolk caused stubborn stains that required almost daily scrubbing. So when we decided to update the kitchen, it seemed like installing a new countertop was a no-brainer. “Think of the annual savings in Soft-Scrub,” said my wife.

But that was before we priced a new countertop—$1,400. For that much, we could buy a new refrigerator and dishwasher! Plus, I’d heard horror stories about countertop removal sometimes damaging the base cabinets beneath the counter (not to mention the tile backsplash, a feature of our kitchen we were determined to preserve).

So instead of replacing it, I decided to try my hand at re-coating the plastic laminate. Several experiments on scrap material later, I settled upon a non-yellowing, clear acrylic. A small eight-ounce can of Polycrylic by Minwax ($6) was enough to make my 30 square feet of countertop appear new again. Here’s how I did it:

How to Resurface Laminate Countertops - Sanding Detail

Photo: JProvey

1. Using a very fine 320-grit abrasive, sand the entire countertop and wipe it clean. Be sure that you’ve removed all stains and sanding dust.

How to Resurface Laminate Countertops - Sealer Detail

Photo: JProvey

2. Apply a thin coat of the protective finish to the countertop using a lint-free, soft cotton rag. Cover only one two-foot section at a time, because the finish dries quickly. Immediately after application, smooth application marks with long parallel strokes using the finish-dampened rag.

3. Move on to the next section. Minimize lapping as much as possible.

How to Resurface Laminate Countertops - Sealer Detail 2

Photo: JProvey

4. Allow two hours of drying before re-coating again (using the same technique described above). The second coat will help eliminate any lap marks.

Minwax Polycrylic is available in several sheens. I chose clear satin; the application marks are less visible than with semi- or high-gloss.

It has been six months since my first application of the acrylic protective finish, and there have been no problems with peeling or discoloration. Best of all, spills wipe up easily with a sponge—without leaving any stains behind.

For more on kitchen remodeling, consider:

Quick Tip: Budget Kitchen Remodeling
Kitchen Countertops 101
Personalize Your Kitchen Countertops

House Envy: Modern Colonial in MA


HOUSE STYLE: Modern Colonial

LOCATION: Brookline, MA

PRICE: $4,999,900

HOUSE STATS: 5,786 sq. ft., 6 bedrooms, 6 baths

Modern Colonial

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5 Top Tool Apps for Your iPhone

The growing number of tool apps on the market means that smartphone-equipped DIYers now have a diminishing number of excuses to use for putting off projects.

The number of tool apps on the market leaves smartphone-equipped DIYers with few excuses for putting off projects. Since the variety of digital tools may seem overwhelming, and of course not all tool apps are created equal, we’ve highlighted six selections for the iPhone that you should know about.


Bob Vila’s Toolbox is your ultimate guide to the essentials of remodeling and repair. Specially designed and built for the iPad, Toolbox teaches you the fine art of choosing and using the right tool for the job. As you gear up to tackle your next project, wouldn’t you feel more confident with Bob Vila at your side? DOWNLOAD



Tool Apps - Power Tools

Photo: Power Tools

After Angry Birds, no other app is so obviously named. Power Tools is a concise explanation of six popular power tools: circular saw, jigsaw, miter saw, reciprocating saw and router. You learn the most likely uses for each one, common designs, and innovative new features. Power Tools is a basic tip sheet for consumers deciding on purchases and rentals. Interestingly, it includes recordings of what each tool sounds like. Good for identifying what your neighbor’s using at 6 a.m.


2. sightLEVEL

Tool Apps - sightLEVEL

Photo: sightLEVEL

This tool app is billed as a virtual laser level, which might lead some to believe that it will actually produce a laser line on walls. That’s not the case, of course. Apple hasn’t put lasers in iPhones or iPads—yet. But sightLevel is perfectly serviceable and uses the phone’s camera and accelerometer to determine angles and slopes. Choose different grids and guides for images shown on the screen, or use two fingers to find the slope of something within the image.


3. SIZEd

Tool Apps - SIZEd

Photo: SIZEd

This is a dead-simple tool app that might seem superfluous at first. What it does is join the two most important factors at play in purchasing materials for your home: dimensions and context. Use SIZEd to take a picture of, say, your living room. Then use your fingers to draw lines signifying the window dimensions (for drapes) or the big empty spot where you would like a couch. Standing in a home furnishing store, you can more accurately anticipate how a piece of furniture will fit, and blend with, the room.



Tool Apps - Fence Builder

Photo: Fence Builder

Here’s another tool app. This one estimates the cost of building more than a dozen styles of fences. At its heart, Fence Builder is a robust materials calculator, telling you how much wood, concrete, and hardware you’ll need. Want to surround South Dakota with a dog-eared cedar fence with one gate? You’ll need 14 million planks, 780,000 posts, 1.6 million boards, 62 million nails, two hinges and one latch. Fence Builder estimates that it would cost $90 million to let South Dakotans have their privacy, but—and this is a big “but”—the app uses estimated average materials pricing. Your cost may vary, indeed.



This tool app seems custom-made for tablets. There are in-depth articles, vendor manuals, photos, schematics, animations and no-nonsense instructional videos. It’s easy to imagine using Construction Instruction—a combination textbook, cheat sheet, and clipboard—not only to plan and build your own home, but also to examine a contractor’s work on the fly. Overall, Construction Instruction is like walking through an in-progress building. You can see potential, but it’s not ready for a certificate of occupancy. Where there is content, it’s crunchy with useful, often technical info. But there are a lot of blank pages and obvious topical gaps. It’s also too easy to lose track of where you are within the app. And most of the textual content is displayed on PDF pages, which are difficult to navigate on small screens. Download this one and hope for frequent updates.


For more on tool apps, consider:

3 Top Apps to Help You Plan a Remodel
5 Home Improvement Apps for Your iPad
The 5 Apps You Won’t Want to Renovate Without

The New American Home

Midcentury modern roots and the latest in energy efficiency make this the New American Home for 2012.

New American Home

2012 New American Home, Winter Park, FL. Photo: James F. Wilson/courtesy BUILDER Magazine

Take the classic white box architecture popularized by Richard Meier and others in the 1960s and 70s and add the latest in building technology, design trends and energy features, and you have the New American Home—the centerpiece of this year’s International Builders’ Show, which took place in Orlando, FL, in February.

The New American Home, an annual co-sponsored project from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and Builder magazine, is designed to educate and inform building professionals of new innovations in construction, materials and products. As the name implies, it is a model home of considerable note.

This year’s house, designed by Florida architect Phil Kean of Phil Kean Designs, Inc., occupies an urban infill lot in an older neighborhood in Winter Park. While ranking as the smallest-ever New American Home, this year’s entry, at 4,183 square feet, exemplifies the modern aesthetic by which it is inspired—a blend of functional and transitional spaces combining to create a living environment that is casual, low-maintenance and perfectly suited to its climate. “I wanted this house to honor the past,” notes architect Kean, “but take full advantage of current technologies and design trends.”

Outside, the house features a white stucco façade accentuated by Osceaola Prairie Stone—long, linear panel stones designed specifically for this project—which adds a subtle rock-faced texture to the exterior and unites the home with its surroundings. The cantilevered roof, floor-to-ceiling windows, and cube-like design play up the home’s modernist roots.

Inside is another hallmark of modern architecture: an open plan. In this house, the airy layout includes expansive glass areas, stone veneer walls, a suspended staircase and limestone plank flooring. The kitchen-family room, adjacent to the dining room and gallery on the first floor, form an L-shape footprint that not only makes full use of the narrow urban lot, but also helps define the enclosed backyard space. Moveable glass panel walls and motorized screens provide seamless transitions from indoors to out, where a deck, swimming pool, and outdoor kitchen provide the ultimate in resort-style living.

The kitchen, which anchors the main living areas of the house, is highly stylized and dramatically distinguished by its dark, “near-noir” Maple Espresso-colored cabinetry (from Timberlake), as well as by the center island of DuPont Zodiac Quartz solid surfacing. Jenn-Air appliances outfit the kitchen with the latest in technology and Energy Star-efficiency, including an induction cooktop, built-in refrigerator and convection oven featuring the industry’s first “touch anywhere” LED screen controls.

The second-floor master bedroom suite includes a luxurious marble bath with fixtures and accessories by Kohler, among them the Numi toilet, Revee bubble/massage bath and Waterlite shower, complete with sound panels, integrated spray heads and steam generator. The room extends to a generous closet area configured with Closet Factory doors and storage, and a concealed laundry room. Balconies on the second floor extend the interior space and provide shade below.

As one would expect, green technology is factored into every aspect of the 2012 New American Home’s design and construction, from its Logix ICF (insulated concrete form) exterior walls and open-cell spray foam insulation to an ultraviolet light air-treatment system designed to improve indoor air quality. With 4KW photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, low-e aluminum windows and patio doors, Energy Star-rated appliances, LED/CFL lighting in the home and around the property and air-tight thermal shell, the house is expected to consume 52% less energy than a standard home—or provide $1,536 in annual savings to the homeowner. The house exceeds U.S. Energy Star standards, meets LEED Platinum certification and has been recognized by the National Green Building Standard with “Emerald” certification—the highest level of classification.

In keeping with the eco-friendly features of the house, the exterior landscaping utilizes artificial turf for lawn areas—reducing the need for water, maintenance and pesticides—and features only native Florida plants.

You can see more of the house in the video below or take a tour in our New American Home slideshow.

DIY Deals: St. Patrick’s Day Savings


DIY Deals

St. Patrick’s Day is upon us and with it have come some very lucky deals. Whether you’re going green, adding green to your decor or just looking to spend your green wisely, these are some weekend deals sure to please.

Bloomingdale’s is having their online and in-store Home Sale this weekend, so a visit to the department store (virtually or physically) should be on your to-do list. Save 20-50% on select home items through Sunday, 3/18.

Take advantage of K-Mart’s online St. Patrick’s Day Sale for additional savings on items already reduced as part of the retailer’s Think Spring Sale. Save an extra 10% on patio furniture (already 20% off), an extra 5% on swing sets and trampolines (already 40% off), and an extra 10% on living room and bedroom furniture (already 40% off). Basketball fans will also find great savings on large-screen TVs; perfectly timed for March Madness viewing. Sale ends at midnight 3/17.

Kmart Seiki 32" LCD HDTV

Seiki 32" LCD HDTV on sale at KMart for $229.99 (reg. $279.99)

Don’t let Easter (Sunday, April 8th) sneak up on you! Shop for décor now at Williams–Sonoma and get free shipping on all holiday items.

If you’re looking for a new phone, look no further than Verizon. The cellular service provider is having a St. Patrick’s Day Sale that includes a free HTC Rhyme Android Smartphone with accessories (tangle-free headphones, charging docking station and charm call indicator), a 2-year activation fee, and data package. But hurry, this sale ends when its namesake holiday does (3/17).

Target Belmont Wicker Patio Chair Set

Target Belmont Patio Chair Set on sale for $261 (reg. $374)

Target is offering up to 30% off select patio and garden furniture, including gazebos, outdoor furniture, umbrellas, cushions and fire pits. Free shipping is included with purchases of $50 or more (on eligible items) and always when you use your REDcard. Sale ends at midnight 3/17.

If you’re going green, visit the online environmental store this weekend to save 25% on six bottles of non-toxic, vegetable-based enzyme cleaners. Good for you, your home, the environment and your pocketbook. Offer ends 3/19.

Shop at Lowe’s this weekend and save 10% on all major appliances priced at $299 or more. Sale ends 3/19.

Visit to save up to 50% on computers, cameras, phones and other electronics. Plus, get free shipping on most items. Sale ends 3/19.

5 Eye-Catching Range Hoods for All Kitchen Styles

There once was a time when homeowners tried to keep their range hoods concealed—attached to a microwave, tucked underneath a cabinet, or in my case even now, within the actual range itself (but where the fumes and smoke are not). But times have changed. Today, everyone knows that you have to have one, so why not embrace it? Instead of hiding it away, make your range hood a focal point.

A well-chosen one can totally define the feel, and set the tone for, your entire kitchen. While some of the wall-mounted varieties and under-cabinet installations can be tackled by a competent DIYer, more elaborate range hoods are best left in the hands of a professional. Below, a few eye-catching examples of range hoods for all kitchen styles.


Copper range hood

Farmhouse. Decorators usually suggest that you avoid mixing metal finishes, but this copper hood by The Metal Peddler warms up the stainless oven for a perfectly contemporary farmhouse look.

Cold Spring Granite Carved Limestone Range Hood

Carved limestone range hood

Tuscan/California Wine Country. Carved limestone is an investment, sure, but it’s also an amazing way to add old-world charm to a new or renovated kitchen. This hood by Cold Spring Granite adds color and texture to off-the-shelf white cabinets and proves that investing in a focal point allows you to save money on other fixtures.

Stanisci Design Oak Mantle-Style Range Hood

Oak mantel-style range hood

Arts and Crafts. This quarter-sawn oak mantel-style hood seamlessly integrates with the beautiful cabinetry in this Shaker-inspired, Arts and Crafts-style kitchen. Bungalow owners, take note!

HCTV Kitchen Island Range Hood

Stainless wall-mounted range hood

Contemporary. This stainless steel hood, designed for restaurant-style kitchens, adds a cool touch to the warm yellows and browns of a contemporary kitchen remodel.

Rangecraft Metal Range Hood

Metal ceiling-mounted range hood

European Manor. This rococo range hood is this kitchen. Perfect for those who aren’t afraid to make a statement, a dramatic, oversized hood demands attention, and centers the bright accent colors around the stone-topped island, the “hearth” of the kitchen.

5 Creative Alternatives to Kitchen Cabinetry
Painted Cabinets: 10 Reasons to Transform Yours Now
Kitchen Countertops 101

From Construction Site to Runway: The Loop Jacket

Loop Jacket

Final countdown to spring! Time to park the parka and whip out the windbreaker. Don’t have one or looking to buy something fresh? Check out the Loop Jacket, a lightweight, stylish, and eco-friendly windbreaker from Mio Culture. The Loop Jacket is made of Tyvek, DuPont’s high performance weather-resistant plastic sheeting, most commonly seen wrapped around buildings. Mio Culture’s creative director Jaime Salm figured that if Tyvek could protect a home from the elements, then it could do the same for those who dwell within.

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House Envy: Victorian-Era Home in GA

SHARES Victorian-Era House For Sale in Millen, Georgia


HOUSE STYLE: Folk Victorian


PRICE: $148,000

HOUSE STATS: 3,200 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, sitting room, dining room, office, front and back porch, detached garage

WHY WE LOVE IT: Improbably, this 1890s Folk Victorian home in Millen, GA, manages to be both rustic and refined at once. That’s the view from the curb, at least. The interiors are, if not lavish, then generously proportioned and finely detailed. The original tongue-and-groove pine floors have been completely refinished and a grand staircase greets visitors upon entrance. Enhancing the home’s period appeal are elegant light fixtures, high ceilings (10-14′), and five (count ’em!) fireplaces.

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Turning a Frown Upside Down: Repurposing Bricks to Make a Walkway

No one likes cleaning up after a storm. But when the storm causes structural damage to your home, the cleanup process is even more distressing. Sometimes, however, you can find a silver lining in those dark clouds.

A case in point came several years ago, when we found ourselves in the unfortunate position of having to replace a brick wall that had been ruined by a hurricane. Once we repaired the wall, we were left with a large supply of used bricks. Rather than pay to have them hauled away, we decided to repurpose the bricks and construct a decorative walkway between a flower bed and the front lawn.

The project began with digging—lots and lots of digging. In hindsight, it might have been a good idea to rent a small excavator, but at the time we didn’t realize it would be such a time-consuming and back-breaking process to dig out a small patch of lawn. Trust me, if I had to do this again, I would definitely rent an excavator!

We marked off the proposed walkway area with small bamboo stakes and string and proceeded to dig out a trench roughly 18 inches deep by 36 inches wide, running for 25 feet across the front of our house, with another six feet on the side of the house to make the walkway join up with our driveway. Once we had a nice trench, we went to the local garden center and discussed the best substrate for a walkway. We didn’t want something as coarse as gravel or stone; the veterans at the garden center recommended crusher dust, which has a fine, powdery texture.

How to Build a Slate Walkway - Liner

Mesh liner placed in the path. Photo: DSchwartz

First we lined the trench with a mesh barrier fabric to cut down on weed growth, and then we had a dump-truck-load of crusher dust delivered. Luckily, they were able to dump most of the crusher dust into the trench, thereby saving a lot more shoveling on our part. We did a loose rake on the crusher dust, mounding it in the middle of the trench and leaving room on either side for our bricks.

How to Build a Slate Walkway - Brick Border

A border created from salvaged bricks. Photo: DSchwartz

We took the bricks that had formerly been part of the wall and carefully knocked off the old mortar. We lined the trench with a row of bricks on each side, with the “raw,” red sides facing upward to create a rustic appearance.

How to Make a Slate Walkway - Dust

Path covered in crusher dust. Photo: DSchwartz

Once we had our border framework of bricks in place, we raked out the crusher dust evenly across the width of the walkway and tamped it down. We then filled in between the two rows of bricks with a surface layer of irregularly shaped pieces of slate, in various shades of gray, green and red, creating a smooth and level walkway surface. So now, instead of having a pile of old bricks in the back yard, we have a front yard walkway that is both functional and attractive.

How to Build a Slate Walkway - Path

Slate stones with salvaged brick border. Photo: DSchwartz

For more on driveways and walkways, consider:

How To: Make a Stone Walkway
Garden Paths: 12 Easy-to-Imitate Stone Walkways
10 Popular Driveway Options to Welcome You Home