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Bob Vila Radio: Paint Stripping Tips

It’s not uncommon to find beautiful woodwork with coat after coat of paint obscuring its detail, especially in older homes.

Paint Stripping Tips

Photo: From Bob Vila's Home Again "Bob's Shingle Style House"

CM_BVILANOTES-1 Paint Stripping Tips

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

It’s not uncommon to find beautiful woodwork with coat after coat of paint obscuring its detail, especially in older homes.

It’s no longer considered safe to use heat guns or scraping and sanding to remove paint in homes built before lead paint was banned in 1978. Instead, you should use a chemical stripper.

Environmentally friendly citrus-based strippers are now as common as the old caustic gel. Brush the gel on, leave it to do its work and then scrape it off. Here’s a quick tip: sprinkle sawdust on the gel to make it easier to scrape off and throw away.

For tough jobs, try a stripper that peels away after dissolving the paint:  you may not have to scrape much at all.

Finish what you start the same day, because dried gel can be tough to remove. The chemicals may affect the animal glues in older furniture, so be prepared to re-glue here and there. And you should always follow the precautions on the product label.

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

For more on paint stripping, consider:

Quick Tip: Stripping Paint
Stripping Paint to Reveal Original Detailing (video)
Exterior Paint Stripping and Priming (video)

Boxwoods: Maintaining Structure in Your Garden


Photo courtesy: Lou Penning Landscape

Boxwood hedges might look formal, but they are a workhorse in the garden. The evergreens can define areas and be the frame of the garden while maintaining their glossy green leaves throughout the year.

The American Boxwood can reach up to twenty feet high, although very slowly, but normally a boxwood hovers around five feet tall. Japanese Boxwoods grow more compactly and stay about three feet high—perfect for edging and for growing in containers. Both require well-draining soil in a semi-shaded location.

Now, however, is not the season to incorporate boxwoods into the garden; do that in the fall or spring. Now is the time to care for the ones that are already settled in.


Shaping boxwoods. Photo courtesy: Home Guides, SF Gate

Boxwoods don’t have be flat-topped hedges. Their slow-growth pattern allows you to create shapes through shearing and pruning. To maintain a compact, healthy boxwood, you need to remove the flush of new growth for the first couple seasons after planting—this encourages branch development. Use loppers for the thicker growth and hand-pruners for close-up trimming. Remember that when shaping, less is more. Take a step back after every snip to make sure you are following the design you set out to accomplish.


Pruning boxwoods. Photo courtesy: Commercial Appeal

Pruning isn’t just about maintaining a boxwood’s shape. New growth often causes boxwoods to become too dense for their own good; the interior struggles to get enough sunlight to survive and the poor air circulation encourages fungal infections. When pruning, remove any diseased, dead, or dying branches and don’t neglect the inner branches. Finish up by making small adjustments here and there to retain the proper shape.

If you are interested in doubling your boxwood, the summer months are the perfect time to establish a cutting. To do so, take a six-inch-long cutting and plant in a container of sandy soil. Keep it moist and provide it with indirect sunlight. In the fall, after a solid root system has developed, transplant into the garden.


Photo courtesy: Katy Elliott

For more on gardening, consider:

10 Hydrangea Show-Stoppers
Roses: 11 Sensational Varieties to Consider
Ground Covers: 7 Popular Ground Covers to Enhance Any Yard

FHA Financing for Renovations? Yes, But…

FHA Financing

Photo courtesy: Westchester Home Building

It’s not a snap, but the Federal Housing Agency’s 203k program enables homeowners to finance home improvements as part of their FHA-insured purchase or refinance loan.

How much? It depends. How does it work? It depends.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bob Vila Radio: Power Sprayer Tips

Use a power sprayer to cut days off your next big paint job.

Power Sprayer

Photo: valsparpaint.com


Listen to BOB VILA ON POWER SPRAYER TIPS, or read text below:

You can rent a sprayer from a home center for as little as thirty dollars a day. If you’ve got your work cut out for you, you can buy one for anywhere from two to eight hundred dollars. They’ve even got cordless hand-held models now if you want freedom from carts and hoses.

Sprayer nozzles generally allow for four- to ten-inch spray patterns, so you want to use even, steady strokes that overlap each other. Start at the bottom and work your way up to get the underside of clapboards or shingles.

Once you get the hang of it, a sprayer can help you finish the job ten times faster and look better than if you’d used a brush or roller. The only hitch is, you’ve got to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning every part thoroughly when you’re done with the job, so it works just as well for the next one.

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

For more on power sprayers, consider:

Choosing a Paint Sprayer
Exterior Paint
Exterior Painting With an Airless Sprayer (VIDEO)

Bob Vila Radio: Exterior Painting Prep

Summertime’s a great time to get to that exterior paint job you’ve been putting off.

Exterior Paint Prep

Photo: citywidemaintenance.com


Listen to BOB VILA ON EXTERIOR PAINTING PREP, or read text below:

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WEEK 4: “Easy Summer Living” Give-Away

This is the final week of the four-week Bob Vila “Easy Summer Living” Give-Away. The winners of WEEK 1 (a John Deere Lawn Tractor); WEEK 2 (a Fiji Bay All-Weather Wicker Outdoor Chat Group from Hayneedle.com); and WEEK 3 (an Outdoor Living Today Storage Shed from Wayfair.com) have been selected and notified, but we still have WEEK 4 and your chance to win $2,000 in Do It Yourself Home Improvement™ gift cards from InComm.

ENTER NOW and every day this week (from 12:01 a.m. EST Sunday, July 22, through midnight EST Saturday, July 28, 2012) to be eligible to win $2,000 worth of gift cards to spend on your home improvement needs.

InComm DIY-Home Improvement Gift CardThe Do It Yourself Home Improvement™ gift cards from InComm are redeemable at thousands of home improvement retailers in the U.S. where Discover® cards are accepted, including The Home Depot, True Value, Sears, Sherwin Williams, Restoration Hardware, Lumber Liquidators and Menard’s.

Think of the projects you would be able to tackle this summer with an additional $2,000 to spend! Put it towards that deck you’ve alway dreamed of. Use it to replace outdated appliances with newer, more efficient models. Upgrade your home with energy-smart replacement windows or invest in paint, shutters, pavers and landscape lighting to improve your home’s overall curb appeal.  The choice—and dream—is yours to make.

For official rules and entry, click here. Be sure to enter Bob Vila’s “Easy Summer Living” Give-Away daily to be eligible to win the $2,000 in gift cards from InComm. Contest ends midnigt EST Saturday, July 28, 2012. For more information on the Do It Yourself Home Improvement™  gift card and locations accepted, visit InComm.

The “Bob Vila’s Easy Summer Living 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, July 1, 2012 through 11:59 p.m. (ET) Tuesday, July 31, 2012. One entry per household per day on BobVila.com. Alternative means of entry for 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.

Bob Vila Radio: Irrigating Sustainably

Irrigating your yard can really be wasteful and expensive; clean water is a precious commodity, and not just in desert communities.

Photo: sweettmakesthree.com


Listen to BOB VILA ON IRRIGATING SUSTAINABLY, or read text below:

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DIY Deals: Container Gardening

Container Gardening - DIY Deals

Photo: container-gardening-for-you.com

Whether you’re a city dweller, rural resident, or citizen of suburbia, container gardening is a convenient way to get the best of the backyard on a small, manageable scale. Rectangular planters are ideal for the patio or a balcony vegetable garden, but circular containers and urns are perfect for the gardeners wishing to plant for purely aesthetic purposes. With the middle of summer upon us, there are some fantastic deals to be taken advantage of. We’ve done the bargain-hunting for you; all you need to do is get to the store and start your DIY project today!

The galvanized metal planter from Privet House for Target is a chic and space-conscious option for the smaller-scale container gardener. At 50% off this weekend, it comes to a smart $17.49.

Restoration Hardware, from $130

Restoration Hardware, purveyor of all things luxurious and substantial, has deals on five lines of planters. If you’re looking for something that makes a statement and lasts forever, take a look at the Estate Zinc Collection, with styles from $130 on sale.

Perfect for a small vegetable garden and designed in traditional cedar, The Home Depot offers Blue Marble Designs’ 40-inch planter at $43.45.

Wayfair, $115

If it’s minimalist appeal you’re looking for—but you don’t want to pay modern art prices—Wayfair offers an affordable 30-inch planter by Gus Modern, fashioned in stainless steel with contemporary styling.

As always, Amazon offers affordable options for the spontaneous DIY container garden project. With 10% savings this weekend, the Adams 36-inch planter is only $29.77.

Hayneedle.com, from $129.98

For longer-rooted plants, cedar planters in either 41-inch or 70-inch sizes are available for 35% off from Hayneedle.com (prices begin at$129.98). Bonus: you’ll get free shipping this weekend.

Landscaping Ideas
Quick Tips: Growing Tomatoes
How To: Plant a Vegetable Garden

How To: Install Floating Shelves

How to Install Floating Shelves

Photo: Apartment Therapy

Before hanging anything, it’s important to find out what your wall is made of. Ideally, you should attach floating shelves (or anything else you’re hanging) to a wall stud, as this will give you the most supportive base for your project. A stud finder—a hand-held device that uses a magnet to detect metal, such as the nails and screws in the wall studs of your home—can help you locate these.

But what if you want to hang a shelf in a spot with no stud? First, check to see if your wall is made of drywall or plaster. To do this, simply knock with a light fist against the wall. If it sounds hollow, it’s drywall. Not hollow? Probably plaster. Another test is to see how readily a nail goes through. If it slides right in, you’ve got drywall. If it takes a few more taps, then you’ve either got plaster or have found a wall stud (tapping around the sides of the hard area will help you determine which). Knowing the type of wall you’re working with will help you decide what kind of hardware is necessary for your project.

If you’re going to be attaching your floating shelf and bracket to a wall stud, you do not need any anchors. If you are working with plaster or drywall, however, additional support is necessary. Wall anchors, also called molly plugs, will help you build a sturdy foundation for your shelf. Regular hollow wall anchors are fine for plaster; for drywall you will need butterfly or toggle anchors. Before deciding which anchors to buy, consider what you want your shelves to hold. Anchors are rated for how much weight they can support, but to be safe, it’s best to stay on the low end of an anchor’s max weight rating.

How to Install Floating Shelves

Illustration: Gabriel Silveira for Popular Mechanics

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Shelf and bracket
Stud finder (optional)
Wall anchors
Handheld Electric Drill
Tape measure


1. Measure and mark the spaces on the wall (on both ends) of where you want the shelf to go.

2. Using a level, draw a discreet line in pencil across the wall to ensure that your shelf will sit straight.

3. Use the hand drill to drill pilot holes into the wall for the anchors.

4. Insert hollow anchors into the holes, following specific directions on the package.

5. Align your bracket with the anchor-filled pilot holes. Using a regular screw driver, attach the bracket to the wall by screwing into the anchors.

6. Slide shelf onto bracket.

How to Install Floating Shelves

Photo: Ana White

Bob Vila Radio: Home Recycling Centers

By now we all know that recycling’s the way to go, but to get your whole family on board, you need a system that’s easy to use.

Photo: rickandsusiebuildahouse.com


Listen to BOB VILA ON HOME RECYCLING CENTERS, or read text below:

Color-coding and labeling bins, with pictures if necessary, and posting instructions where everyone can read them helps avoid confusion. Offer kids the incentive of keeping the refund for washing out, organizing and redeeming the bottles and cans.

Keep the muddy curbside collection bins outside and set up a sorting or collecting center inside, as close as possible to the source of most of the waste: the kitchen. Cabinet makers now offer great pull-out drawers or carousels with plastic bins to sort and hide recyclables.

If you don’t have room in your kitchen, line up bins or baskets on a shelf in the mud room, laundry room, basement or garage. it might even be worth converting a closet into your recycling center to keep it out of sight… but easy to reach!

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

For more on recycling, consider:

Quick Tip: Creating a Recycling Center at Home
7 DIY Recycling Centers for Small Spaces
Learning to Love Recycling