June 2012 Archives - Bob Vila

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How To: Install Landscape Edging

You can add a decorative border to your garden or landscape easily with today's crop of DIY-friendly landscape edgers.

How to Install Landscape Edging

Photo: suncast.com

A tired planting bed can be refreshed with new landscape edging, available in a range of prices and a wide variety of styles, from natural stone to pavers to molded cement. An equal assortment of plastic and composite edging materials are also on the market, like the faux-stone border above.

Landscape edging can help to visually define your planting beds and keep grass and mulch in their respective places. It’s an easy DIY project, too, with minimal materials and skill required.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Garden hose
Spray paint
Hammer or wooden mallet
Landscape edging material
Sand (enough to make a 1” base in the trench you dig for your edgers)
Garden Gloves

1. Prepare the Area. Mark out the perimeter of the area where you want your landscape edgers to go, using a garden hose—it’s flexible and easy to adjust while you’re visualizing the edge of your planting bed. Once you’re happy with the layout, trace along the edge of the hose with spray paint.

How to Install Landscape Edging - Mallet

Photo: thehomedepot.com

2. Dig a Trench. Dig a trench that’s 4″ to 6″ wide and 3″to 4″ deep along your spray-painted line. Fill the bottom of the trench with a 1″ bed of sand, and pack it smooth and level.

3. Set Edgers. Place your edgers snugly next to one another in the trench. Make sure you start at the most visible end or corner of the space, so that if edgers need to be cut to fit, they are in the least noticeable place. Tap the edgers evenly into place with a hammer or wooden mallet. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for cutting your edgers if necessary. Most can be separated into smaller chunks with a small chisel.

4. Finish the Job. Fill the empty areas of the trench with soil or some other stabilization material like mulch or gravel.

Now stand back and admire your work! Installing decorative stone, cement, or paver edging around your planting beds will not only keep your grass and mulch in place, but also give your beds a stand-out, tidy look. This little bit of sweat equity rewards you with instant curb appeal!

Want more How To? Browse all projects in 30 Days of Easy Summer DIY

Bob Vila Radio: Outdoor Living Adds Value

Summer’s here, and it’s a great time to expand your living space—and your home’s value—by making the most of the great outdoors!

Photo: Illico Design


Listen to BOB VILA ON OUTDOOR LIVING, or read text below:

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Sizzling Hot Deals on Grills—NOW!

If you don’t have a grill—or are in need of a replacement or upgrade—this is the week to shop. With July 4th just days away, most stores have kicked off their annual holiday savings events early with some sizzling hot deals. We did some shopping ourselves and here is a sampling of some of the super deals you’re likely to find, all perfectly timed for a Fourth of July cookout!

Home Depot Brinkmann 4-Burner Propane Grill in Copper

Brinkmann 4-Burner Propane Grill in Copper at Home Depot for $99

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How To: Care for Garden Tools

There's more to gardening than tending to weeds and plants. It also requires proper tool maintenance and care.

How to Maintain Garden Tools

Photo: laptopgardener.com

A quality garden starts with quality care—and that doesn’t just mean keeping up with your weeding. Maintaining your garden tools will ensure that any chore you complete gets done with the highest potential for accuracy and precision. Not only do tools need to be sharp, they also need to be clean and sterile, so they don’t accidentally spread disease or viruses across your garden beds. And of course, stored in a dry location, not just left in the grass for tomorrow’s chores! Here’s how to keep your tools in good shape for any gardening issue that comes up.

Start by washing the dirt off your tools with a garden hose by scrubbing with a wire brush. Dip the tools in a diluted solution of any household bleach. Turpentine can be used for any items that might be covered in sap and vinegar can be used to soak items coasted in rust. Give wooden handles a light rubbing with linseed oil. Not only does a thorough cleaning mean sterile tools, it also ensures your tools will last longer. Just think of it as protecting your investment.

How to Maintain Garden Tools - Sharpening

Photo: easydigging.com

Hoes, shears, scissors, knives, loppers, prunes, and shovels all need an occasional sharpening. Wipe the blades down with WD-40 or another lubricant. Most blades can be filed with a 10” flat mill file, purchased at most hardware stores. File at a 20 to 45 degree angle for most tools; it’s usually easiest to follow the original bevel. For items that need a finer edge (pruners or shears), use a whetstone to finish the edge.

Storing Tools
Even when you know you’ll be using your tools the next day, don’t leave them out in the elements. After cleaning them, return used items to the shed, where they will be kept dry and are likely to remain rust-free. A great way to store small spades and trowels is by keeping them in a pot filled with sand that’s been soaked with motor oil. This helps keep the metal well-conditioned. Your larger tools will do best hanging in a dry, ventilated shed. A pegboard will keep everything organized and easy to access. Keep the tools you frequently use within arm’s reach, and place less-utilized items as you wish.

Want more How To? Browse all projects in 30 Days of Easy Summer DIY

9 Designer Tips to Maximize Small Bathroom Design

Small Bathroom Design

Photo: Lawrence Duggan

Small baths can live large when designed with care. Choosing the right materials, fixtures, and fittings is key, as is thoughtful spacing planning and a considered emphasis on scale. For ideas on how to make the most of a compact bathroom, we turned to interior designer Lawrence Duggan, principal of Manhattan-based, full-service residential interior design firm LD Design, which specializes in custom kitchens, bathrooms, and built-in cabinetry. Here’s a roundup of his recommendations:

1. Establish a focal point. “Keep color, pattern, materials simple,” says Duggan. “Do not load up with details, but do introduce one element that is bold or intricate, such as an elaborate mirror or pendant fixture, to create a focal point. As well, original artwork can have a huge impact in a small space.”

2. Include clever storage. “Use a wall-hung vanity rather than one that sits on the floor,” says Duggan. This type of unit not only creates an airier feeling in small space but also eases maintenance. “Recessed medicine cabinets and toiletry niches also take up less visual space,” he says. “I even recessed a small magazine niche in the wall next to the toilet in one bath. It was very functional and took up no space.”

Small Bathroom Design - Wall Mounted Vanity

Photo courtesy: Lawrence Duggan

3. Opt for frameless shower doors. “Use clear glass to maximize visual space,” Duggen recommends. “They are also easier to clean than shower curtain liners.”

4. Add interest with a mix of tile sizes. “I like to use large (24″x24″ or larger) tiles with minimal grout lines that match the color of the tile,” says Duggan, noting that a consistent tone gives a sense of more room. “That said, I also like to mix it up by using small tiles on the floor with large tiles on the walls or vice versa. The juxtaposition keeps things interesting.”

Using Decorative Tile - Sconce

Robern Candre Light Sconce

5. Employ both direct and indirect lighting. “Use recessed lighting if possible over the tub or shower and sconces or wall lights at the mirror,” Duggan suggests. “Decorative lighting should be slim-lined. Try to find fixtures that have subtle details that won’t overwhelm.”

6. Use a variety of materials. In addition to tile, Duggan likes to layer in marble, wood, metal, and paint to bring in subtle textures with polished and honed finishes. “Polished tile walls work well because they reflect light,” says Duggan, who recommends selecting a honed stone countertop for balance.

7. Stick to one type of metal finish. “Mixing brass hardware with nickel faucets is not clever,” says the designer. “It’s just confusing.”

8. Be judicious with color. “The color palette in a small space should be simple—using one main color in a variety of shades throughout is soothing and calm,” Duggan notes. “In fact, I prefer all painted surfaces to be the same color—even the ceiling. If you introduce a secondary color, do it in small splashes.”

9. Go vertical. “When space is tight, put a hotel shelf above the door or high in the shower for towels,” says Duggan. “Or, in the bath of one of my clients, who stood 6’6″, I created a custom recessed medicine cabinet that measured 24″ wide and 50″ tall. He could reach those high shelves!”

For more information on the interior design of Lawrence Duggan, click here.  For more on small bathrooms, consider:

5 Small Bathroom Space-Busters
15 Ways to Make a Small Bathroom Big
Planning Guide: Bathroom Remodeling

Bob Vila Radio: Surviving a Remodel

While they’re always inconvenient, major remodeling projects can also become a real strain on your relationship if you let them. But there are ways to make sure you’re just gutting the kitchen, not your marriage.

Photo: Bowles Group


Listen to BOB VILA ON SURVIVING A REMODEL, or read text below:

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Bob Vila’s 5 “Must-Do” Projects for July

As summer kicks into high gear, focus on simple upgrades that provide immediate enjoyment.

Summer Projects

. Photo: Haiku Fans

July ushers in the start of summer, which translates into outdoor living, grilling, and staying cool. But this month, like any other, there are things you can do to improve your summer living; things that will bring you more opportunity for leisure-time pursuits, while still keeping your home and garden in peek condition. 

Here are my five top “must-dos” for the month of July:

Installing a ceiling fan is a fantastic way to cut energy costs all year round. It helps circulate cool air in the warm summer months but can also help push down heated air in the winter, allowing you to dial down the thermostat and save money. It’s also the perfect weekend project for a homeowner, since you can accomplish the task in a few hours and enjoy the investment immediately. Some things to consider:

When choosing a fan, note the size of your room. The blades need to be at least 18-24″ from all walls, a minimum of 7′ from the floor, and 10″ from the ceiling. Choose a 36″ fan if your room is less than 12′ square; 42″ if the room is between 144″ and 256″ square; and 52″ if the room is more than 15×15′ square.

Choose a ceiling box approved for fans. Boxes for overhead lights are not strong enough to support the weight. Choose a metal box that can support the weight. If you have access from the attic above, you can install the box to additional framing between joists. If not, grab a brace bar at the hardware store. This will screw into the joists, and the ceiling box and fan will hang from the newly added support.

Turn off the electricity at the breaker box. Putting the wall switch in the ‘off’ position won’t cut it. To be safe, you’ll want to turn off the electricity at the breaker box. Then carefully remove the old light fixture and its ceiling box with a screwdriver. Make sure the wiring is in good condition and consult an electrician to replace if necessary. Making sure the hole is between two ceiling joists, trace the outline of the ceiling box onto the ceiling and cut out the shape with a keyhole saw. It should be about 5″diameter.

Always follow the manufacturers instructions. Attach the fan’s down rod with the ball end towards the ceiling and secure (usually with an included cotter pin). Next, connect the fan’s wires to the circuit wires: white to white, black to black, and the grounding wire to the green lead wire of the fan or a grounding screw. Secure all connections with wire connectors and tuck them into the ceiling box. Attach the canopy or medallion using the screws included and install the blades. Make sure all screws are tightened securely to prevent wobbling.

For 10 of the “Coolest” Cooling Fans, click here.

Depending on how much of the job you hire out, maintenance, supplies, and electrical costs can run between $1,000 and $3,000 a year, with opening and closing, cleaning, checking connections, adjusting pH, adding algaecide, surface repairs, and liner replacements. Cost-saving green alternatives are available. Before deciding upon chlorine as your primary sanitizer (it’s a major pollutant), consider some of the natural water purifiers, which include saltwater, ionization, oxidation, sonic waves, and certain types of plants. And if you’re thinking about heating your pool to extend its use into the cooler seasons, consider solar thermal heating. Of all the solar technologies, its payback is the fastest. For more on swimming pool construction, decking, maintenance and safety, check out Swimming Pools 101.

If you have roses, you know that, although hardy, they do require special care to lead up to their full potential. Since their roots go deep, frequent watering is important. So too is fertilizer, which you should lay down after each flush of new blooms. And to trick your roses into re-blooming throughout the summer, remove the spent blooms and cut the stem down to the first or second five-leaf set. For guidance on rose varieties and their growth habits, consider Roses: 11 Sensational Varieties to Consider.

Since outdoor entertaining will be an ongoing affair this month, do something to dress up your patio or deck and play off your own skills and personality by transforming unused clay pots into decorative accents for your patio, deck or front porch.     

Few summer DIY projects are as easy to complete—or provide as much fun—as a backyard sandbox. With just some basic home improvement knowledge, you can build a simple backyard sandbox complete with benches for sitting, holes to trickle sand through, and a beach umbrella holder for shade. Just follow the how-to here.

Easy, Breezy Tips on Replacing a Patio Door Screen

AllAboutScreenDoors-torn screen-sliding-patio-doors

Photo courtesy: All About Screen Doors

I don’t mind the squirrels taking their turn at the bird feeder, but our dog seems to have developed a personal vendetta against the creatures. She’s so vehemently opposed to squirrels that she managed to rip right through the mesh screen on the patio door, leaving a large gaping hole in the bottom third.

Not only was this hole unsightly, but the warmer weather means that mosquitoes, flies, and gnats are active. Replacing the screen quickly moved to the top of the priority list.

Related: 10 New Ways to Use Old Doors

The first step was removing the screen door from the frame. Since the entire door slides on flexible rollers, I lifted the frame up until the bottom edge of the rollers could clear the lip, then tilted the door out from the bottom.

The next stop was the hardware store, where I found a somewhat daunting array of materials and supplies. There are basically two types of replacement screen material—wire and fiberglass. Both are sold in rolls and offered in either black, white, or charcoal shades.


The key materials and tools, including screening, spline and spline roller. Photo courtesy: Real Simple

There are also a couple of specialty fabrications, including wire mesh with smaller holes designed to block out “no-see-ums” and a heavier-duty fiberglass “pet” option. Although our old screen was wire, I decided to try the pet-friendly fiberglass. The standard patio-door-size roll measures 36×84″, although both larger and smaller rolls are available.

The next choice was in screen spline, flexible tubing that holds the screen in place. Sold in rolls and available in different widths and two colors, the spline inserts between the screen mesh and a narrow groove along the edge of the door frame. I chose the narrowest gauge, because the pet mesh was a thicker screen and I wanted to make sure that it would fit securely in the existing groove.

Before I began work, there was one more specialized tool that I needed—a spline roller, the tool I would use to fit the spline into the groove of the door. For a small job or single use, the plastic version is fine; if you have multiple door and window screens to replace, you may want to purchase the wooden tool.

Related: Know Your Door Styles: 10 Popular Designs

Armed with my materials, I headed home and assembled a few more tools, including a skinny regular screwdriver, needle-nose pliers, regular pliers, and a utility knife with a fresh blade.

I inserted the tip of the screwdriver in one corner of the door frame and pried out the old spline material with the pliers, being careful not to bend the metal edges of the groove. Once I had removed the old spline and the ripped screen, I thoroughly cleaned the door frame. Then I unrolled the new fiberglass screen onto the door, making sure to overlap all of the edges.

Starting at one corner, I used the concave end of the spline roller to gently push the spline and screen into the metal groove. Before I’d gone too far though, I realized the mesh wasn’t going in evenly. So I carefully pulled out the spline and screen, re-seated the screen on the frame, and tried again. This time I put lightweight clamps on the corners to hold the screen in place and placed my free hand firmly on the frame to keep the mesh from shifting.

Once I had the spline and screen in place on all four sides, I used the convex end of the spline roller to firmly push everything into place and, using the utility knife, I trimmed the excess screen material. I replaced the screen door on the frame and sat down with a cool iced tea to enjoy the fresh spring breezes.

For more on doors and windows, consider:

Replacing a Window Screen
How To: Install a New Door
Porch Railing and Screen Door Installation (VIDEO)

How To: Have a Yard Sale

Plan a summer sale by following our simple outline, designed to keep stress low and sales high.

How to Have a Yard Sale

Photo: popularmechanics.com

Take advantage of the warm weather by holding a yard sale to clear the clutter and maximize your home’s space potential in an easy and profitable way. Here are four tips to help you plan and execute the most fun and successful sale in your neighborhood this summer!

1. Sort and Organize. It will come as no surprise that the most important part of finding success with a yard sale is making sure you have enough stuff to sell. To be sure of this, start going through your home, room by room, and deciding which items are taking up valuable space and are in good enough condition to sell. Tackle a closet or one room at a time, and designate a spot in the house to collect your sale items. Having them all in one place will help you visualize how they will look in the yard.

How to Have a Yard Sale - Sign

Photo: e-signaturehomes.com

2. The Price is Right. The most profitable yard sales are the ones that are priced right. If you’re not sure what the resale value of a wicker chair is, go on eBay and see what they’re selling for. Understanding the value of your items will help you set a profit goal for your sale.

3. Advertise! Most local papers have affordable spaces to advertise your upcoming sale. Secure this a couple of weeks in advance, once you’ve settled on a date and assembled the majority of your sale items. Be specific: if you’re selling baby furniture, advertise it. Shoppers will base their weekend yard sale circuit off of what they’re looking for, so be clear about what you’re offering. Include time, date, address, and a short description; advertising your sale can only make it more successful.

4. Sign Language. A few weeks in advance, research the ordinances in your city for setting up small signs the weekend of your yard sale. Depending on the flexibility of these guidelines, use neat, eye-catching designs and post them on higher-traffic streets. Highlight time and address, and be sure to include an incentive to stop, e.g., “antiques!” With yard sales becoming increasingly popular, do what you can to set yours apart.

Want more How To? Browse all projects in 30 Days of Easy Summer DIY

5 Things to Do with… Old Windows

Vintage windows are much easier to come by than you might think. Before the salvage craze became mainstream, windows were often one of the few items saved from building demolition. As a result there are centuries worth of windows floating around antique shops, flea markets, and architectural salvage depots. Or perhaps you’ve done an upgrade on your own home, and your old windows are still around, waiting to be turned into something great.

However you come across them, vintage windows are an inexpensive and unique way to make great additions to your home. Here are five examples:



Old Window DIY Projects - Sunset Magazine

Photo: David Fenton

A window’s flat, rectangular shape means it’s a natural candidate for becoming a tabletop. Plus, the solid frame with the glass inset makes for a lighter feel, perfect for use outdoors. This garden table from Sunset magazine uses a single 2×2 for legs and door hinges as brackets—brilliant.



Old Window DIY Projects - Talia Christine

Photo: Talia Christine

A window’s strong frame is designed to keep heavy glass in place, it works equally well to help you display family photos, art, or little bits and baubles. You can find so many terrific examples of windows being transformed into photo and art frames; one of my favorites is this string and clothespin “picture” frame from Talia Christine.



Old Window DIY Projects - Instructables

Photo: Instructables

Since windows are (literally) built to be a bridge between the indoors and outside, they can stand up to weather, which makes them perfect for use in the garden. I love the greenhouse above, built entirely from recycled windows salvaged from a neighborhood remodel by Cheft on Instructables.



Old Window DIY Projects - CraftyNest

Photo: CraftyNest

For decades, we’ve been hearing that putting a mirror in a room can make it feel bigger. Unfortunately, just throwing a mirror on the wall makes it look like you just learned that putting a mirror in a room can make it feel bigger. But adding a worn window frame full of character can turn a functional necessity into a great investment that looks like it was made to be there. CraftyNest has a full tutorial on how to complete the transformation yourself.



Old Window DIY Projects - BHG

Photo: Better Homes & Gardens

Fortunately, simply connecting old windows or window frames together looks… well, totally awesome. The repetition of geometric shapes makes for a great large-scale display, from room dividers to custom headboards. This example from Better Homes & Gardens was made with fabric covered, fiberboard inserts set into a pair of salvaged windows.


For more on DIY repurposing, consider:

5 Things to Do… With Wood Shutters
5 Things to Do… With Shipping Pallets
10 DIY Pipe Fitting Projects (No Plumbing Required)