May 2012 Archives - 4/11 - Bob Vila

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Bob Vila Radio: Kitchen Faucet Options

If your kitchen needs a quick pick-me-up, just changing the sink faucet goes a long way.

Kitchen Faucet Options


Listen to BOB VILA ON KITCHEN FAUCET OPTIONS, or read text below:

Start by deciding on a style and finish, but don’t go crazy:  it should be consistent with the hardware you already have, or you’ll need to change that, too.

Next think about how you use your faucet. If you need to fill large pots, a hi-arc model works well. The pull-down sprayer in some models is pretty handy, especially with a touch sensor to turn it on and off without touching the handle. A bridge faucet will also give you some extra height, and gives a more rustic look. There are models with filters and diverters for drinking water. There’s even a faucet that will light up so you can see the bottom of the pot you’re washing… or get a drink at night without turning on the lights!

Depending on the faucet you choose and your plumber’s rate, this two-to-three-hundred dollar project could change the way you feel about your whole kitchen!

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—or reading—to Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.

For more on kitchen faucet options, consider:

Smart Water: Faucets, Heaters, and Systems
Kitchen and Bath Show: Day 2 Top Picks
Green Kitchen

Adirondack Chairs: Modern Takes at Reduced Prices

The Adirondack chair dates back to 1903, when Thomas Lee couldn’t get comfortable. While vacationing with his family in the Adirondack mountains, Lee decided to construct patio furniture for his family. All 22 members of the Lee clan approved, and since then many other families have done the same. The design is so comfortable that its popularity hasn’t waned in more than 100 years. Be sure to take a look at these modern spins on the classic Adirondack and snatch a few while the prices are low.

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Bob Vila Radio: Kitchen Cabinet Design

If your kitchen feels a little crowded and cramped, the solution starts with your cabinets.

Kitchen Cabinet Design



Listen to BOB VILA ON KITCHEN CABINET DESIGN, or read text below:

The way they’re designed is a big factor:  cabinets are far more user-friendly than they used to be. The floor-to ceiling pantry cabinet with fold-out storage on the doors is a really popular option for storing cans and spices, and pull-out shelving and deep drawers has all but replaced the conventional box cabinet, because they make finding and reaching things so much easier.

Overhead cabinets are great if your kitchen is ample, but in a small kitchen they can be a little oppressive.  Glass-fronted cabinets open things up a little, and if you keep things neat, open shelving is a great way to display dishes and collectibles. Remember, cabinets should be designed as point-of-use storage:  if you keep things right where you use them, work in the kitchen gets a lot more efficient, and a lot more fun!

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—or reading—to Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.

For more on kitchen cabinet design, consider the following Bob Vila articles:

Options for Kitchen Cabinets
Small Kitchen Design
Bob Vila’s Guide to Kitchen Cabinets

New Smart Home Option: AT&T’s Digital Life



Technology is permeating our domestic lives and “smart homes” are at the apex of this movement. Communications giant AT&T is launching Digital life, a connected home program in two parts. The first is a suite of web-enabled home products; the second is an intuitive platform for monitoring and managing those products—from any internet connection, be it laptop, mobile phone, or tablet computer.

Digital Life is being rolled out on a trial basis in Atlanta and Dallas. We assume that once they’ve worked out the kinks, the program will be made available nationwide.

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Bob Vila’s Top 5 TV Shows & Movies


Tina Fey and James Franco in "30 Rock"

I was amused to see James Marsden geared up in a tool belt on “30 Rock”, as his character set about fixing loose floor boards in the apartment he’s sharing with his girlfriend Liz Lemon (Tina Fey). I hope he completes his project successfully—I guess we’ll find out in future episodes.

It’s no mystery why home improvement turns up so often in entertainment. Fixing up our homes can involve drama, conflict, maybe a little comedy–all ingredients of good entertainment.

Here are five of my favorite TV shows and movies where homes and/or improvements figure prominently. When you need to take a break from your latest project, these options will provide a terrific respite:

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Bob Vila Radio: Induction Cooking

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—or reading—to Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day. Today, it’s all about Induction Cooking.

Induction Cooking


Listen to BOB VILA ON INDUCTION COOKING, or read text below: Read the rest of this entry »

How To: Get Clean, Chip-Free Cuts in Melamine and Veneer

How to Cut Laminate

Melamine-coated particleboard is a great material for storage, basement, garage, home office, and kid’s room projects. It’s less expensive than plywood and has a much cleaner finished look than painted MDF or fiberboard. Unfortunately, the plastic resins in the coating are prone to chip when cut with a spinning saw blade. They make special (read: expensive) saw blades just for the task, but with a bit of care, you can get perfectly clean, factory-like edges with the circular or table saw blade you currently have.

How to Cut Laminate - Bad Cut 1

This technique will also work when salvaging old particleboard furniture from secondhand stores or garage sales.


1. First, measure your cut line and use a straight edge, utility knife, or box cutter to lightly score along the line on both sides of the board.

How to Cut Laminate - Scoring Height


2. Next, set up your table saw or circular saw blade to cut 1/4″ into the material. You are not cutting through the material here, you are simply creating a clean cut in the bottom face of the melamine. Since most chips occur when the teeth that are not actually removing material come in contact with the surface, this 1/4″ deep scoring will help prevent tear-out during the final cut.

How to Cut Laminate - Chip Free


3. Now, set your blade height or cut depth to just above the gullets of the blade (the standard height to prevent kickback), then…

How to Cut Laminate - Final

Turn on the saw and make your final cut.

How to Cut Laminate - Circular Saw Blade

See? No chips, and no need for a special $150 laminate cutting blade.


For more on sawing and techniques, consider:
Quick Tip: Table Saw Techniques
How To: Cut Straight Lines With a Circular Saw
Why Every DIYer Needs a Thickness Planer

Bob Vila Radio: Countertop Options

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—or reading—to Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day. Today, it’s all about Countertop Options.

Countertop Option


Listen to BOB VILA ON COUNTERTOP OPTIONS, or read text below: Read the rest of this entry »

Plumbing Fixture Options

It’s your call when it comes to selecting toilets, sinks, and other plumbing fixtures for your renovation. But a couple of very popular options might figure into your thinking. One’s an old standard that’s been reborn, the other a new engineering marvel.

The pedestal sink. Pedestal sinks were once almost a given in a bathroom. They went out of favor for decades (the advantages of the vanity cabinet for storage are obvious) but have come back into vogue. They’re not the answer for everyone, but they can be very handsome.

As with virtually any household product, the price range is broad. With luck you may come across a slightly pitted but perfect usable sink at salvage for less than $100; new models start at about the same price. At the top of the line, you will find meticulously restored or newly designed models for $3,000 to $4,000! The choice is yours.

Low-flow toilets. Low-flow toilets are designed to use less water. While older designs used as much as 7 gallons per flush (gpf), low-flow models typically use a maximum of 1.6 gpf, the amount mandated first in Massachusetts then in California and subsequently in other states. Most of the low-flow toilets now on the market resemble conventional toilets, while matching their performance. Some of them, however, are loud, relying upon a plastic compression tank concealed within the vitreous china tank that uses the pressure in the supply line to force the water out of the tank, producing a whooshing sound. Even if you are not required by code to install low-flow toilets, it’s an environmentally sound approach to do so.

The compression tank in a low-flow toilet is usually hidden by the vitreous china top of the tank.

How To: Keep a Christmas Tree Fresh

Preserve live Christmas trees from early December into the new year.

How To Keep a Christmas Tree Fresh


It’s the time of year when Christmas tree lots start appearing around your community, bringing with them a difficult decision–will bringing home your evergreen so early in the season mean having a Charlie Brown-style tree come Christmas Day? Luckily, Dr. Larry Kuhns, Professor Emeritus of Ornamental Horticulture and owner of Kuhns Tree Farm, has some tips on maintaining a fresh pine.

First off, pick the right tree. “True firs nearly always have good needle retention,” said Dr. Kuhns. That doesn’t include the confusingly named Douglas Fir, which is another species, and has less longevity. Frasier Firs are a better option. At the lot, give your choice a shake and watch the type of needles that fall. “Brown needles, which come from the center near the trunk, are fine, but fallen green needles means the tree has gotten dry,” Dr. Kuhns explained.

Related: Christmas Trees: Real vs. Artificial

Because trees are often cut several weeks before appearing on the lot, they have a lot of time to dehydrate—if they aren’t sprayed often with water or are stored in the sun, you’ll end up with more needles under the tree than presents. After getting a fresh cut on the trunk, rush your tree home to get it into water as soon as possible. If you don’t plan on putting it up right away, store your tree in a cool place, like the garage, in a bucket of water.

Once you’re ready to deck the boughs, find a good quality tree stand. Dr. Kuhns noted, “The biggest mistake people make is getting a cheap tree stand that doesn’t hold enough water.” Those that require a hole drilled in the base of the trunk are good for providing stability, but they don’t affect the water intake. Keep replenishing with fresh water daily, and if possible, mix in floral preservative, which you can pick up at the florist, or at the Christmas tree lot. Make sure to place the tree in a cooler area of the house, away from heat sources and preferably away from the sun (or just keep the blind drawn). As long as your tree stays moist, it should last several weeks, maybe even until New Years.

For more on Christmas trees, consider:

Bob Vila’s Top 10 Artificial Trees
Real and Fake: A Christmas Tree Timeline
Bob Vila Radio: Picking a Tree
DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

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