April 2012 Archives - 3/5 - Bob Vila

Welcome to Bob Vila

Childproofing Checklist

Take these steps to focus on home safety and prevent many accidents.


Photo: furnishburnish.com

One of the most important tasks for new parents is insuring the safety of their child. While the basics are generally covered before leaving the hospital — using a car seat, feeding them correctly, dressing them for the weather and preventive health care — home safety is often overlooked. 

Before Baby Comes Home
There are some basic safety items that every home should have. Having a baby just makes them more urgent.

  • Make sure smoke/carbon monoxide detectors are in good working order with fresh batteries. Once the baby arrives it will be harder remember to change them.
  • Check your fire extinguishers, and be sure you have one in the kitchen and utility room.
  • Verify that you have multiple exit routes in case of a fire.
  • Test all the doors in your home to be sure they shut completely and cannot be opened without turning the knob.
  • Consider using doorknob sleeves for bathrooms, kitchens, and doors that lead to stairs, the garage, workshop, or other dangerous areas.
  • Double check the water heater—it should be set to below 120 degrees to prevent scalding.

Crawling Babies and Toddlers
You have a few months before the baby becomes mobile, but it’s best to prepare for what they can get into. Walk through your house, then crawl, looking for dangerous areas.

  • Gate off the kitchen and all stairways. An ambitious toddler can pull a chair and climb up just about anywhere.
  • Keep all bathroom doors closed.
  • Lock up, and put high and out of reach, any poison, cleaning product, chemicals, medicines, fertilizers, alcohol, spices, tools, knives, lighters, or items that can cause instant harm to your baby.
  • Consider a refrigerator lock or latch.
  • Install stove dial covers.
  • Cover any unused electrical outlets with outlet plugs or sliding outlet covers and keep electrical cords out of reach.
  • Ensure curtain cords are tied down and cut blind cords that are too long or form a loop. Keep blind and drape cords out of the child’s reach.
  • Put childproof latches on all drawers and cabinets that are not intended for baby. If you leave a lower cabinet unlatched be sure it is not connected to other locked cabinets on the inside.
  • Pad sharp corners on furniture, cabinets, and counters.
  • Secure Furnishings, Wall Hangings, and Shelves

    Furnishings, Wall Hangings, and Shelves
    Anything your child can topple over presents a serious hazard.

    • Install furniture straps on any item that is top heavy or front heavy, including televisions, dressers, stoves, refrigerators, bookshelves, tall lamps, or statues.
    • Ensure that all wall hangings within reach are well secured and will not come loose if tugged.
    • Anchor shelves to the wall using brackets and screws. Use toggle bolts if necessary to ensure they will not pull out if toddlers try to climb the shelves.


    • Keep all bathroom doors closed.
    • Never leave a child unattended in the bathtub.
    • Buy toilet lid locks.
    • Keep water temperature below 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • Never leave a bucket with water in it.

    Accidental drownings are a leading cause of death among children. Take all precautions to ensure that your child cannot reach the pool without an adult.

    • Verify that all doors leading to the pool area have automatic safety locks that cannot be reached by small hands.
    • Install a pool alarm.
    • Install secondary gates to prevent a child from accessing the pool area once in the yard.
    • Check that gates and fences meet safety standards for height, height off the ground, slat width, and latch position and design to prevent unwanted entry.

    Baby Gear
    Make sure baby gear meets all of the standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and check their website for product recalls. Above all else, it is the parents’ and caregivers’ vigilance and caution that keep children safe.

    Workshop Planning Checklist

    Seven things to consider as you plan out your workshop.


    Photo: Flickr

    In laying out your workshop, have you considered the following?  Taking these factors into account will help make building your workshop a smooth process.

    Existing Utilities. What about the fixed equipment or appliances that encroach upon the perimeter space, such as the furnace, hot-water heater, washer/dryer?

    The Workbench. How big is it?

    The Table Saw. Is there enough space on all sides for presenting workpieces both for ripping and crosscutting?

    Band Saw. You can put its back against the wall, but don’t forget to leave operator space at its front and space on either side for workpieces.

    Drill Press. Like the band saw, the drill press can be set out of the way, against the wall. But
    you’ll need work space in front for you and for the stock being drilled or shaped.

    Jointer, Shaper, and Sander Stations. Each of these needs to have space to approach from and to go to. And operator areas, too.

    Assembly Tables. Don’t skimp here. This work can be painstaking; it requires good light and care. Give yourself some elbow room.

    Dream Patio Giveaway: Week Three


    Today marks the start of our third week in the month-long Bob Vila Dream Patio Give-Away—a spring celebration featuring four weekly prizes from online retailer Wayfair. Enter daily here and then increase your chances of winning by entering every day on the Bob Vila Facebook page.

    Wayfair's Crosley Sedona 5-piece Outdoor Dining Set

    This week (through midnight ET Saturday, April 21) you can enter to win the beautiful Crosley Sedona 5-piece Outdoor Dining Set featuring a 42” round table and four armchairs. This heavy-duty, solid-cast aluminum furniture, valued at $899.99 (MRSP), is designed for style and built to last. The set features a charcoal black powder coated finish that will weather even the harshest conditions. And don’t worry, it also passes the comfort test, thanks to contoured seats.

    For official rules and entry, click here. Be sure to enter Bob Vila’s Dream Patio Give-Away daily on the site and on Facebook to increase your chances of winning. And bookmark us to be sure you see what terrific prizes are in store from Wayfair during the rest of our give-away.

    The “Bob Vila Dream Patio Giveaway” sweepstakes is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Contest Period runs from 12:00 a.m. (EST) Sunday, April 1, 2012 through 11:59 p.m. (ET) Saturday, April 28, 2012. One entry per household per day on BobVila.com and/or Facebook. Alternative means of entry for each Drawing is available by faxing your name and address to 508-437-8486 during the applicable Entry Period. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. See Official Rules.

    The Dutch Colonial House

    Dutch Colonial House

    Photo: Flickr

    Most houses that survive from the Colonial era—such as early Capes, Saltboxes, and Georgians—are descendants of English styles. But in some regions of the country, settlers originating in other lands put to use the building traditions they knew to cre­ate distinctly different homes.

    Consider the Dutch Colonial. This house is a variation on the theme of the Basic House, but there are important differences. The Dutch were known as the Old World’s best masons, so not surprisingly many Dutch houses built in America between the seventeenth and early nineteenth century were constructed of brick or readily available local stone. The Dutch colonized much of New York’s Hudson Valley, as well as portions of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, so it is in those areas that the majority of early Dutch houses survive.

    When you think of a “Dutch Colonial house,” perhaps the image that comes to mind is of a gambrel roof, in which the plane of the roof on both sides of the central ridge is broken roughly halfway down, with the lower half of each side falling at a steeper pitch toward the eave. In fact, gambrel roofs aren’t uniquely Dutch, though when the style reemerged in the suburbs of twentieth-century America, the gambrel roof had become standard in the Dutch Revival jouse. In contrast, the prototypical Dutch house in early America was one-and-a-half stories tall with a steep gable roof that flared toward the eaves. Such “sprung roofs” provided deep overhangs, often covering open porches.

    REMODELER’S NOTES: Another construction detail that distinguishes the early Dutch house from the Cape and other English-inspired homes of the era is the design of its wooden skeleton. All these houses have a timber frame, but in Dutch houses there are more beams traversing the ceilings downstairs. Typically, these ceiling beams are spaced about four feet apart and they have been planed smooth. Unlike the unplaned structural timbers in English houses, the ceiling beams in Dutch houses were intended to be left exposed. In Dutch houses where the ceil­ings beams were covered in latei renovations with boaids 01 lath ana plastei. your renovation might reveal those early beams, both to restore the original appearance and to add character to the space.

    The Spanish Colonial House

    Homes from early Spanish settlements are found in St. Augustine, Florida; San Anto­nio, Texas; Sante Fe, New Mexico; Tucson, Arizona; and along the California coast. Relatively few survive, in part because of their construction.

    Spanish Colonial House

    Photo: instablogsimages.com

    Homes from early Spanish settlements are found in St. Augustine, Florida; San Anto­nio, Texas; Sante Fe, New Mexico; Tucson, Arizona; and along the California coast. Relatively few survive, in part because of their construction.

    Spanish ColonialThough some were built of stone, most have adobe walls, which consist of bricks of sun-dried clay. Adobe walls, which are often three feet or more thick at the base, are covered with a wash of clay or gypsum to give them a uniform appearance. Adobe walls require continued maintenance to survive the elements, as rainwater entering an unprotected wall will simply wash it away. Countless examples have been lost over the centuries to abandonment and the onslaught of wind and rain.

    While Spanish Colonial houses in various regions of the country differ from one another, most share certain elements. Most are one-story buildings. Their roofs are flat or low-pitched and extend over covered porches. At the time of original construction, most adobes were single-room structures, with additional rooms added over time. Typically the rooms do not open into one another, but onto the porch or, in larger examples, onto a common courtyard surrounded by the house and attendant buildings. The rear of many Spanish Colonial houses opens onto a patio or garden.

    The roof frame often consists of vigas, horizontal logs laid across the top of the adobe walls. Layers of sticks and branches crisscross the vigas and, in turn, are covered with a thick coating of clay. In some regions, baked clay tiles were used as the roof surface.

    Spanish Colonial homes tended to be very utilitarian structures: missions built for the church and governmental buildings were more likely to be ornamented with Baroque detailing, giving them a more stylish appearance.

    REMODELER’S NOTES: These houses are rare indeed since only a few years of neglect can reduce them to unrestorable piles of mud. The remodeler with a true Spanish Colonial house should attempt to conserve as much of the original building material as possible, in particular the adobe and the vigas.

    DIY Deals: Tools


    At BobVila.com we are dedicated to providing the tools and information necessary to help you with all of your home improvement and do-it-yourself endeavors. But if you are looking for “real” tools, check out these excellent weekend deals; a great opportunity to stock up on tools without busting your budget.

    Harbor Freight Tools is having its Spring Blowout Sale now through 4/15. Visit the site to save big on a variety of tools, from Drill Master cordless drill/drivers to General Pneumatic air compressors.

    Lowe’s is offering great tool “freebies” this weekend. Get a free 18-volt Kobalt battery when you buy a Kobalt lithium-ion or NiCd cordless combo kit through Sunday, 4/15. You’ll also receive a free Porter-Cable circular saw when you buy a Porter Cable 18-volt Drill/Driver and Impact Driver Cordless Combo Kit. Offer ends 5/1.

    Craftsman 309 pc. Mechanic's Tool Set, $249.99 (reg. 399.99) at Sears

    Sears is offering great online-only deals this weekend. Save up to 30% on all Hot Price Items and mechanic’s tool sets, such as the 309-piece Craftsman set ($249.99, reduced from $399.99). You can also pick up a Craftsman 23-Drawer Tool Storage Combo for 50% off the regular price. Visit promptly as this sale is for a limited time only.

    Home Depot has some great limited-time-only deals on tools as well. Receive a free Ridgid battery with the purchase of select Ridgid cordless power tools. Plus, save up to 15% on DeWalt Bare tools.

    Maxtool.com is having its Spring Sale with big savings on drills, rotary hammers, reciprocating saws and various other power tools. Pick up a Bosch 12-Volt Max Lithium-Ion Impact Driver for $119.99 (reg. $199.99) and a DeWalt Heavy-Duty 1/2″ Spade Handle Drill for $157.99 (reg. $189.99).

    Bosch 12-Volt Max Lithium-Ion Impact Driver, $119.99 at Maxtool.com (reg. $199.99)

    What’s Your Tools I.Q.? Take the Quiz
    The Essential Toolbox
    Tool Storage

    What’s Your Color I.Q.?


    Color Quiz

    There is nothing that stirs the senses quite like color. Consider how a sunny day affects your temperament, and why we are drawn to the color yellow when we want to create a cheery environment. Or how blues and greens are more restful colors, and red evokes feelings of passion, rage or danger. Color can alter our perceptions, making a small room appear larger and a big space more intimate.

    Color Quiz: Level 1

    It serves as a reflection of personal taste and style. We are identified by color as individuals—just look at your driver’s license or passport. And conversely, we use color as a means of defining who we are, from changing hair color to choosing clothes that will make us look younger, slimmer and hipper.

    Don’t think that designers, marketers and advertisers haven’t realized the impact that color has on brand recognition and consumer purchasing. Just envision the purple and orange coloring of FedEx, the Starbucks green, the Coca Cola red and the golden arches of McDonald’s. They are recognized as much for their color as they are their logo design.

    But there is more to color than meets the eye… and our color quiz is a fun way to test your overall knowledge. Go to Level One and see how you do!

    Bob Vila’s Guide to Historic Paint Colors
    Color Trends 2012: Top Forecasters Weigh In
    Eve Ashcraft’s 6 Inspirations for Choosing a Color Palette

    Options for Kitchen Cabinets

    Showrooms feature stock, semi-stock, or custom kitchen cabinets.

    Kitchen Cabinet Options

    Photo: Ben Herzog Architect, PC

    In-Stock and Semi-Stock Kitchen Cabinet Options
    Ready-to-assemble open-frame and pre-assembled kitchen cabinets are easy and convenient to purchase and install. Available in-stock at most large home centers, these no-frill cabinets typically feature engineered wood construction with a melamine finish and steel-sided drawers. Style and finish choices are limited, but it is the most economical way to go. In-stock cabinets cost less to purchase, but professional installation is still an option.

    Semi-stock cabinets let the homeowner create a more personalized space, but often require four to six weeks for delivery. Home centers offer showroom displays of semi-custom cabinets while staff designers help customers visualize their kitchen space and design a plan to meet their needs.

    Semi-custom cabinets feature higher quality workmanship and materials than in-stock units, and offer a greater selection of design features like plate racks, corner cupboards, sliding shelves, or pantries. Styles and finishes vary widely, but semi-stock cabinets typically have sides constructed of engineered wood or plywood and solid wood doors or faces.

    Oak, maple, cherry, and hickory are all popular woods for kitchen cabinets. Veneers over plywood are another option. Cabinets may be open or framed, but drawers are usually constructed from solid wood and are dovetail or dowel assembled.

    In-stock and semi-stock cabinets are built to industry specs. Standard base cabinets built in the U.S. are 34-1/2 inches high and 24 inches deep. Cabinet sides are typically 3/4 of an inch. Wall cabinets, except those above a range hood or refrigerator, are 30 inches high and 12 inches deep. Some manufacturers will customize a semi-stock cabinet by giving the buyer the ability to decrease the depth of a base or wall cabinet. Widths increase in three-inch increments from six to 48 inches. Trim work or filler is used to make up the difference when cabinet measurements do not fit the space exactly.

    Custom Kitchen Cabinets
    When it comes to custom cabinetry, your budget is the only limit. A custom-built cabinet is not constructed until it is ordered. Most people assume that custom work will be the most expensive option, this is not always the case. Upper-end semi-stock cabinets often cost the same as basic custom cabinetry. For example, if the only issue is cabinet width, a custom unit can be built to the homeowner’s specs using engineered wood, which costs far less than solid wood but still allows for a custom fit.

    If expense is not an issue, custom-built kitchen cabinets provide the best of all worlds to the homeowner with discriminating taste. Choices include hand-selected wood, reclaimed wood, and exotic woods like mahogany. Cabinetmakers will even match the paint or finish of an existing hutch or corner cupboard. Homeowners can select everything from glass doors with the look of authentic hand-blown glass to inset doors with decorative beading. Pie-cut corner cabinets, full extension glides on drawers, and Super-Susans provide added convenience.

    Custom cabinetmakers vary in their delivery time. Depending on the complexity of the job, a homeowner should allow six to 12 weeks for construction and delivery. Installation takes time, too. Some jobs require up to six months and much on-site time.

    Paint Makeovers: An Expert Tells All

    Painting furniture: A "make-over" artist shares her tips on turning old into new with little more than a fresh coat of paint.

    Painting Furniture

    Before and After Paint Makeover. Photo: Lark Nest Design

    As a decorator and “junker,” I’ve discovered plenty of beauty and utility in stuff others have kicked to the curb. And there are fewer ways easier and less costly to update your street find than with a paint makeover. Whether you’re painting one color, or attempting a fancier treatment, good prep is the key to knowing how to paint furniture.

    Related: 5 Easy Steps to a Successful Paint Makeover

    Regardless of what you choose for a paint makeover—a kitchen cabinet, dresser or chair—you’ll want to start by wiping it down with lightly soapy water to remove dust and dirt.  Once dry, make a fair assessment of the piece.  Is the color so strong or the finish so uneven that it will require a primer? Are there rough spots, flaking paint or gouges that need sanding or wood putty? Has the finish been sealed in any way? You’ll want to do everything possible to make the surface ready when painting furniture.

    Here are the professional tips that I live by for successful paint makeovers (and you can bet that I learned a few of them the hard way!):

    You can paint metal
    You can do a paint makeover on metal but the surface should be primed. You’ll find plenty of options at the hardware store. Pieces with lots of curves lend themselves to a spray-on primer that comes in a can. Kilz makes a good one. Tired of a brass lamp base? This can help you change it to the color of your dreams.

    Primer is not always needed
    Depending on the condition of the piece you’re working on, and how you plan to finish it, you may not have to apply a primer when painting furniture. Sanding or deglossing could be all that’s required. For the uninitiated, a paint deglosser is a liquid you apply by hand to strip off the sealed finish. If a piece has been finished with wax, apply naphtha (also available at the hardware store) to remove the wax and to prep the surface. Don’t forget to wear gloves.  The key to a successful paint makeover is to make sure the paint adheres to the surface.

    Get to know your sander
    Some people prefer to sand by hand, but I love using a small, iron-shaped hand sander that can easily get in to corners. The more you sand, the more you’ll pick up a technique. You don’t want to sand so deeply that you go beyond the top layer of wood. Learning how your sander handles will also help you when you “distress” painted objects.

    Be thorough
    Don’t try shortcuts when painting furniture. If a piece has hardware or drawers, remove them entirely for prep and painting. Because these areas get a lot of use, they are ripe for eventual paint flaking. Sand drawer edges carefully so the old paint is gone before applying new. Two coats of sealer should give the drawers “armor” for future use.

    Choose the right paint
    Expensive does not necessarily mean better, so buyer beware. When you find a paint you like, you can always have it matched to whatever color you choose. I’ve had great luck with Benjamin Moore’s waterborne Satin Impervo. It’s a scrubbable latex enamel (cleans up with water) that can handle a lot of traffic. It paints like a dream. Because many flat or matte paints today are available with scrubbable finishes, you can get that look without sacrificing utility. I cruise the “mistint” piles at the local hardware stores—paint custom mixed and then left. Someone else’s “mistake” paint may be just right for you, at a vastly reduced price.

    How to Paint Furniture - Blue Console

    Photo: Lark Nest Design

    Use a decent brush
    This sounds like basic advice and it is. You don’t want to be fishing stray brush hairs out of your paint finish. Quality brushes will last for years if you clean them well (and promptly) after using.

    Be patient
    When painting furniture, allow adequate dry time between coats. The standard is 24 hours, but honestly, more is better with many paints, especially if there is humidity. The same goes for sealer. Don’t brush on or hand-apply without at least 24 hours of lag time since the last coat dried. If the paint is not totally dry, it will start to come off once you add the polyurethane finish. I like a poly finish rather than varnish, but you might prefer varnish for a more traditional look. Poly comes in flat and glossy finishes so you can choose whatever fits with the look you desire.

    Dont’ be afraid
    The learning curve is always in play, so don’t be afraid to try new ways of adding to and removing color from your pieces. Some paint makeover trials will naturally work better than others, but even mistakes can lead to unexpected “works of art.”  The important thing is to have fun.

    Ready to give it a try?  See my “5 Easy Steps to a Successful Paint Makeover” slideshow.


    Author’s note: Kim Yeager is founder and principal of Lark Nest Design where she refurbishes decor and furniture for clients.


    All of the Expert Painting Advice from BobVila.com
    Of all the options available to remodelers, paint provides the quickest, easiest, and most affordable way to achieve a transformation, inside or out. Ready to look at your home in a new way? Click now for the color ideas to make your project beautiful.

    The Best Floor Sander for Beginning DIYers

    DIY Floor Sander

    Random orbital floor sander with rectangular base

    Unless you plan to sand many floors in your lifetime, the best choice for do-it-yourself floor refinishing is the random orbital sander. Sure, it may take longer to remove old finishes than it would with a drum sander, but you don’t need a lot of experience to operate a random orbital sander and most importantly, it’s less likely to permanently damage your floor by causing grooves or valleys that are impossible to fix.

    I have found that Clarke-American random orbital sanders are the easiest to use of the models available for rental at most home centers. In my opinion, the U-Sand is far more difficult to control, and because its sanding surface is relatively compact, it can take longer to do the job. Making matters worse, four-disk units like the U-Sand offer little or no padding under the disks, so the abrasive does not lie flush to the floor, further reducing the available sanding area while slowing down the process even more.

    Random Orbital Floor Sander Pads

    Pads attach to the sander base

    Just because you’ve rented a random orbital machine doesn’t mean there’s no need to be careful. Be sure the sander is running at full speed when you lower it to the floor. It is also important not to move the sander too quickly across the boards. Above all, remember to never turn the machine off while it is resting on the floor. For any of these different mistakes, the consequence is the same: circular scratches on the floor surface. They may not be very noticeable as you’re sanding, but they’ll definitely show up when you apply the finish.

    For a primer on using random orbital sanders, view our slideshow The Best DIY Floor Sander

    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.

    Sanding Wood Floors (VIDEO)
    Proper Sanding Techniques
    Making Friends with a Detail Sander: Refinishing Your Front Door