July 2012 Archives - 2/8 - Bob Vila

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Creating Privacy and Beauty with Hedgerows


The common privet. Photo Courtesy: Villagewalkbonita.com

Whether you’re looking to create a privacy enclosure, windbreak, or wildlife deterrent, or simply bring some traditional appeal to your outdoor space, hedgerows are a versatile, beautiful addition to any garden. Although commonly used in reference to any type of hedgerow, “privets” are actually a specific type of plant; members of the genus Ligustrum that includes about 40-50 species of evergreen, semi-evergreen, and deciduous shrubs and small trees. While actual privets do the job beautifully, hedgerows can be created from a variety of plants, offering an option to fit any purpose and style.

Related: 10 Evergreens to Beautify Your Garden Year-Round

Due to the large array available, choosing which plant to use in your hedgerow might seem daunting at first. Your goal, however, should help you determine the best plant for the job. Here are a few to consider, depending on your aims. You don’t have to choose just one; alternating two or more types of plants can create a pleasing display of color and texture.



Growing Hedgerows - Privacy

Arborvitae. Photo: Aces.edu

Tallhedge, privet, boxwood, and arborvitae work well for creating a living visual shield. These types, which can be made to look “wall-like” offer traditional, European appeal. Privet, in particular, is very hearty and can grow in most types of soil. It retains its foliage almost all winter long.



Growing Hedgerows - Windbreak

Hybrid Willows. Photo: Daves Garden

Though technically trees, hybrid willows and poplars are both excellent windbreakers. Depending on how you prune them, they can appear as more of a shrub than a tree. Leave the lower limbs on for more privacy.


Wildlife Deterrent

Growing Hedgerows - Wildlife Deterrent

Variegated Holly. Photo: Shutterstock

Anything with thorns or prickles will help deter grazers, such as deer, from your property. Hedge roses, holly, and blackthorn are all effective, and beautiful, choices.



Growing Hedgerows - Flowering

Forsythia in Spring. Photo: Conservation Garden Park

Rose of Sharon, azalea, spirea, forsythia, and lilac are all suitable as hedgerows with the added benefits of beautiful blooms come spring.


How To
Buy hedging plants either in soil, or bare root. If purchased in soil, the plant can be put in the ground either in the fall or the spring. Dormant (bare root) plants must be planted in spring.

First, measure and stretch a line of twine or rope to make sure you’re planting in a straight “row.” Dig a trench, and set the plants in it. For a privet hedge, aim for a foot-deep trench with about a foot between plants. Pay attention to what you are planting: some bushes will have different root depths or may need more spacing in between. You should be able to tell how deep to plant by looking at the stem poles of your plants.

Related: How To: Plant a Bush

Once you’ve got them in the ground, spread the roots out and distribute the soil over them, making sure not to pack the soil too hard. Soak the roots with water. It is a good idea to prune your hedges severely at planting time to stimulate growth if they have been dormant. Doing so will give you denser growth, too.

Before you begin work on your hedgerow, make sure to research the particular plant you choose to use, as every variety requires different care and pruning. If you give your hedgerow the water, fertilizer, and pruning it needs, it will reward you with years of beauty and elegance.

For more on trees and bushes, consider:

Landscaping Made Easy
Boxwood: Maintaining Structure in Your Garden
Creating Privacy Through Landscaping

Bob Vila Radio: The Saber Saw

For a saw that’s great on the curves, no workshop is complete without a good saber saw.

Photo: shutterstock.com

CM_BVILANOTES-4 Tool Tip- Saber Saw

Listen to BOB VILA ON THE SABER SAW, or read text below:

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What You Might Not Know About HVAC Filters

HVAC Filters

Photo: JProvey

Everyone agrees that you should change your HVAC filter on a regular basis, but not everyone agrees on the type of filter you should use. Next time you go shopping for a furnace (or AC) filter, here are a few things to keep in mind. These tips can save you a bundle and perhaps even prevent you from inadvertently damaging your HVAC equipment.

The primary purpose of a filter is to protect HVAC equipment, not to improve indoor air quality, as many homeowners have been led to believe. Many furnace manufacturers recommend that you use a low-cost fiberglass filter, but when I asked a representative of one major maker, his response was “no comment.”

Perhaps this was because high-efficiency filters that are too good may actually slow airflow across the heat exchanger, reducing the unit’s efficiency, raising your energy bills, and causing furnace damage due to overheating. Similarly, a high-efficiency filter can freeze the condensing coils on an AC unit. (A dirty filter can do the same thing.)

Even more of a shocker is that furnace filters do relatively little to reduce the number of small particles you inhale. That’s because these particles tend to be in the air wherever there is human activity—and that’s not necessarily where your return registers and ductwork can capture them, according to research by the Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation (CHMC).

In addition, furnaces (and central ACs) run only seasonally. Even during the heating and cooling seasons, furnaces run only part of the time. So it stands to reason they are not filtering the air when the fan is not running.

HVAC Filter Kits

Washable electrostatic filters are available in several standard sizes, as well as kits.

Want to save money and stop wasting time trying to figure out conflicting furnace filter maker ratings systems? Make your next filter a permanent electrostatic filter (also known as a washable one). The kit I tried is available online and can be cut to fit most filter cabinets. Washable filters may be reused for 5 to 10 years and cost about $20 each. These filters should be rinsed once a month and prior to re-installation, they should be allowed to dry. Some permanent electrostatic filters include carbon filtration for odor removal.

Keep in mind that electrostatic filters are most effective when new and clean, so they should be washed frequently. Pre-made sizes are limited, but some manufacturers, such as WebProducts, will fabricate filters to your specs for about $35 each.

For more on HVAC, consider:

Really “Cool” Cooling Fans
How To: Choose the Right Furnace Filter
Quick Tip: Alternatives to Air Conditioning

5 Things to Do… with Vintage Ladders

Vintage Ladder DIY

Photo: DandelionExpress.com

Chances are that, languishing in your basement or garage, you have an old wooden ladder splattered with coats of paint and worn from years of use. If not, old ladders can usually be found for a fair price in antique and vintage stores. Repurposed, they are a great way to bring character into a modern interior.

What exactly can you do with a dilapidated ladder? We’ve got five ideas on how to transform your time-worn climber into something useful again.



Vintage Ladders

Photo: Martha Stewart

The small stature of a step ladder makes it an ideal nightstand, no alterations required. The steps provide multiple levels, so a reading lamp, books, beverage and even flowers can share the real estate. Spied on Vintage With a Twist.



Vintage Ladders

Photo: Deborah Ory

Avid DIYers can try this ladder-as-pot-rack project. Head to your local hardware store for four lengths of sturdy chain, four screw hooks and toggle bolts, and long S-hooks. Attach the screw hooks to one side of the ladder, loop the chains onto the hooks, and attach the chains’ other ends to the ceiling-mounted toggle bolts. Be sure to locate the ceiling joists when installing the toggle bolts for secure installation. Finally, use the S-hooks to hang your pots and pans. For full instructions, visit Woman’s Day.



Vintage Ladder Shelves

Photo: Networx

Two ladders and some plywood create a wide shelving unit perfect for housing books and decorative objects. Since finding two vintage ladders of the same dimensions can be tough, consider buying matching new ladders to achieve the look. Courtesy of Furious Shirley.



Photo: Chic Cheap Nursery

Utilize the rungs on both sides of a folding ladder and attach plywood shelves; the result is a great spot to display your treasures. Paint the shelves with a durable semi-gloss finish for a nice contrast with the weathered wood.



Ladder Storage

Photo: West Elm

West Elm shows how to use vertical space in a bathroom wisely. This leaning ladder easily becomes a multi-tiered towel rack. A typical ladder takes up about the same width as the average towel bar but allows for more towels to be stored simultaneously.



Vintage Ladder Storage

Photo: Cory Connor Designs

Another simple use for old ladders seems downright obvious yet helps clear the clutter from your coffee table. Cory Connor Designs suggests leaning a ladder against the wall, then draping magazine issues or newspapers on the rungs.


For more on repurposing, consider:

5 Things to Do… With Mason Jars
10 Reasons to Love Architectural Salvage
5 Creative Alternatives to Kitchen Cabinetry

Bob Vila Radio: Painting Windows

When you’re painting, windows are often the hardest things to get right.

Photo: windowcleanerchicago.com

CM_BVILANOTES-3 Painting Windows

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

How Many Tools Does a Good Multi-Tool Need?

A century ago, knife-maker Wenger (of Swiss Army Knife fame) started a debate that only got louder in 1983 when Tim Leatherman, the eponymous inventor of his multi-tool, started selling pocket toolboxes. The question is how many tools are too many in a multi-tool? Or conversely, how many are too few? Sages wiser than me haven’t divined the truth, so I won’t try.

How Many Tools Does a Good Multi-Tool Need?

Photo: CRKT

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5 Upcycled Pot Racks & Cookware Storage Ideas

I have a tiny urban townhome kitchen. You can’t open the refrigerator door more than 60% without banging into the oven, and the oven can’t be opened more than 80% without hitting the fridge. And don’t get me started on having any more than two people in the kitchen at once.

My mother, on the other hand, has a newer home where the kitchen/dining area takes up more than half of the “great room”. The walk-in pantry is bigger than my entire kitchen, and I’d estimate that that Mom enjoys 15 times more cabinet space, and roughly 30 times more counter area, than I do.

But even with these differences in our kitchens, we do share one thing in common: we’re both out of storage space. Everyone, everyone, needs more kitchen storage space. And if you’ve gathered a respectable set of cookware—pots, pans, skillets, griddles and gadgets—you probably want to keep them where you can get to ’em.

You, my friend, need a pot rack! And through the magic of S-hooks, you can turn all sorts of objects into a custom option with plenty of character. Here are five creative kitchen storage ideas that will should help you maximize available space.



Creative Kitchen Storage Ideas - Ladder Pot Rack

Photo: Deborah Ory

This ladder pot rack is certainly my favorite. It’s got the warmth of the wood and plenty of places to hang your cookware. I love that you can still distinguish the original object while it does double duty as a functional pot rack. Old ladders can be found everywhere. If damaged, simply cut off the problematic areas, hang, and put to new use. See how it’s done at Women’s Day.



Creative Kitchen Storage - Galvanized Pipe Rack

Photo: ReadyMade

Galvanized pipe fittings are amazing for creating all kinds of stuff for the home (here are ten ideas), but nothing more suitable than hanging heavy-duty cookware. (Well… except actual plumbing.) There are endless configurations that work for hanging pots and pans—a long bar against a wall, a square grid secured to the ceiling, a lattice-like freestanding design set in a corner. The choice is yours. For inspiration, check out this how-to from ReadyMade.



Upcycled Pot Racks

Photo: The Kitchn

For the seriously space-challenged, consider this vertical pot rack solution constructed of shelving parts from a certain beloved Swedish flat-pack store. Or for some serious repurposing, check out a similar project involving heavy-duty chain from the hardware store.



Creative Kitchen Storage Ideas - Over the Door Solution

Photo: The Kitchn

This over-the-door solution is straight brilliant. Can you guess what it was constructed with? They’re replacement grill grates! Genius, right? They are a fantastic option for readily available, strong, metal “organizers.” I’d love to see this same technique applied to a ceiling-mounted pot rack using a kettle grill grate (available for less than $35 just about anywhere).



Creative Kitchen Storage Ideas - Upcycled Window Pot Rack

Photo: Young House Love

And lastly, an upcycled window pot rack! Windows are readily available at architectural salvage stores, Habitat for Humanity ReStore shops, garage sales, flea markets, and thrift stores. And as it turns out, they make a fantastic, strong source material for kitchen storage!


For more on kitchen storage, consider: 

Free Your Pots & Pans from Cupboard Captivity
5 Creative Alternatives to Kitchen Cabinetry
7 DIY Recycling Centers for Small Spaces
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.

Bob Vila Radio: Paint Stripping Tools

When it comes to re-painting, everyone’s least favorite part of the job is prepping the surface… but it’s also the most important. Using the right tools can make it a lot easier.

Paint Stripping Tools

Photo: borealispalace.wordpress.com

CM_BVILANOTES-2 Paint Stripping Tools

Listen to BOB VILA ON PAINT STRIPPING TOOLS, or read text below:

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Easy-Care Entryway: Replacing Carpet with Tile

You never know why a previous homeowner made the decorating decisions they did, but sometimes you just have to scratch your head and wonder why in the world they chose a particular paint color, wallpaper, or floor covering.

Our entry hallways perfectly illustrate this point. For some inexplicable reason, both the front and side entryways to our house were carpeted—and the carpet was always a mess.

Related: Subway Tiles: The New Classics

We experimented with a variety of doormats, both inside and outside the doors. And over the years, we’ve enjoyed a fair number of attractive and whimsical looks, including my favorite, a coir mat that said, “Go Away!”

But even the best doormats can’t keep up with the combined effects of rainwater, snow, ice, dirt, grass and grit.

Removing Carpet

Removing the carpet to expose the concrete subfloor

The final straw came when a section of carpet actually ripped. We decided the time had come to remove the carpet and find an easier-care alternative. The first step was removing the carpet and determining the condition of the floor. Surprisingly, the concrete slab under the carpeting was in very good shape—smooth and level—so we turned our attention to floor coverings.

We considered hardwood flooring and laminate options but decided we wanted something that would stand up better to moisture and dirt. Then we looked at both self-adhesive vinyl tiles and sheet vinyl. Both would have been easy to install, inexpensive, and fairly durable.

But even though there are a wide variety of fashionable designs and colors available in vinyl, we were concerned about the long-term durability of these options, so we decided to go with a harder surface.

Next, we looked into natural stone tiles, which are extremely durable and stand up well to foot traffic. The natural stone, which offered appealing color variations and a lovely appearance, was also pretty pricey. Also, due to the fact that we were dealing with a small area, the natural stone seemed to overwhelm the space. Ultimately we decided against it.

For a lower price, we were able to achieve a similar natural look with ceramic tile. Ceramic tile boasts superior durability and a sophisticated look. At the same time, maintenance is a breeze. A quick sweep gets rid of the surface dirt and dust, while an occasional damp mop will eliminate tracked-in mud.

We chose ceramic tile with a faux marble design in a neutral grayish hue to simulate the look of natural stone.

Replaceing Carpet with Tile

The ceramic floor installed

Installation was fairly simple, since we were installing the ceramic tile over a concrete floor. We thoroughly cleaned the concrete and then put down a layer of leveling compound. Once that dried, we measured to find the center of the floor and snapped chalk lines.

Next we did a rough layout on the tiles and shifted the center line slightly to minimize cutting along the edges. We re-did our chalk lines and started placing the tile (working from the center out to the walls). Between the tiles, we placed small plastic spacers to make sure the lines were straight and the tiles were evenly placed.

Once the tile had set and cured, we accented it with a pearly gray grout. As an added indulgence, we selected a real marble “saddle” to separate the entryway from the adjoining room, putting a final, fashionable finish on the project.

We now have a much more attractive, durable and easy-care floor covering in our entry hall—and we no longer have to buy stock in a doormat company.

For more on flooring, consider:

How To: Choose Tile
Choosing the Right Floor Covering
Vinyl Flooring Installation (VIDEO)

Anatomy of an Adirondack Chair

Adirondack Chair

Photo: shutterstock.com

Warm summer nights make me want to lounge back with a cool beverage and watch the sunset from our back deck after the kids are in bed. I’m currently doing that in a camp chair—we’ve yet to acquire deck furniture since moving to the suburbs from the city.

So I’m on the hunt for the perfect piece of furniture for outdoor relaxation. I keep being drawn to an old classic: the Adirondack Chair. There’s something about its sturdy simplicity and clean, unfettered lines that attracts me. It looks like something to settle into for the evening… or the weekend.

Slideshow: Adirondack Chairs: 10 Classics for Today

The Adirondack chair was designed by a man named Thomas Lee. Suffering a shortage of patio furniture at his family summer home, Lee began to experiment on his front lawn with the chair design that is now so recognizable by its slanted back and seat, and its oversized armrests.

After perfecting his design by testing it out on his family, Lee showed his “Westport plank chair” to a local carpenter, Harry Bunnell, who saw the potential profit to be made from tourists flocking to the mountains every summer.

In 1905, without Lee’s knowledge, Bunnell secured a patent for the chair design that is now ubiquitous. For 20 years, he manufactured them as quickly as people snapped them up.

Adirondack Chair - Blue

Photo: shutterstock.com

The original Adirondack chair was constructed from 11 pieces of wood, all from a single plank. Characterized by a low-slung seat, slanted back, and wide arm rests, it’s ready to accommodate a cool, summer drink or a sleepy, summer book.

Bunnell’s chairs were made of hemlock or basswood, and stained a dark green or medium brown hue. Over the years, artists, craftsmen, and carpenters have all put their own twists on the design.

You can find Adirondack chairs in wood, recycled materials, and plastics—And in any color of the rainbow. They’re made in varying shapes and sizes: reclining, gliding, folding, with leg rests, for dining, bar stool height, cushioned, built for two, built for kids, and everything in between. They are as at home on the beach as they are on a mountain slope, in any season, in any setting. There’s a style of Adirondack chair for just about everyone.

I’m afraid if I buy one, I might never want to get out of it.  There are even a surprising variety of plans available for purchase, so with a weekend and the right tools, I could make one myself. Hmmm… I feel a project coming on. And the perfect place to kick back and relax once I’m finished.

For more on outdoor living, consider:

10 Fire Pits We Love
Care and Repair of Outdoor Furniture
Bob Vila Radio: Choosing Outdoor Furniture