August 2012 Archives - Bob Vila

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Great Grill Gear from the International Gift Fair

Charcoal or gas? Beef or chicken? Veggies or fruit? There are so many decisions to make about grilling—and best of all, there are no wrong answers!

Grilling has become a year-round national pastime. Suppliers are constantly coming up with interesting and innovative products designed to create the perfect grilling experience, and last week at the New York International Gift Fair, they unveiled a plethora of new items. Here are just a few of the functional and fun new products for the ‘grillin’ gourmet’:


Soapstone Griddle from SPRAQ Home

Denver-based SPARQ Home was a finalist in the show’s best new product competition thanks to the company’s Indoor/Outdoor Soapstone Griddle. Constructed of all-natural soapstone, the griddle absorbs and evenly distributes heat and has the added benefit of being a naturally non-stick surface. Usable on either an open flame or electric cooktop, the griddle can actually ‘super-sear’ meat, allowing it to spend less time cooking and maintain more of its juices and flavor. The Soapstone Griddle features a smooth, flat side for cooking pizza or pancakes as well as a grooved side that’s perfect for steak and chicken. Suggested retail price, $99.99.


The Hot Pot BBQ Grill/Planter from Black+Blum

For those who love to grill but are constrained by small spaces, London-based black+blum offers the Hot-Pot BBQ, a combination grill and planter. The unit is made of stainless steel and painted to look like a terra cotta pot. The top, which can be used to grow flowers or herbs, conceals a fully-functional grill beneath. “The Hot-Pot BBQ is ideal for small terraces or balconies and looks good even when not in use,” explains Dan Black, co-founder of black+blum. “It’s the perfect gift for someone with a small outdoor space and is enjoyed by grillers and gardeners alike.” Suggested retail price, $124.


The Ember BBQ tools from Picnic Plus

The latest gadgets and tools are always interesting to see, and for those who like to ‘grill on the go’, West Chester, PA-based Picnic Plus has several cool new products. The Ember set features full-length tools that store in half the space they otherwise would. Constructed of stainless steel, the set unfolds like a jackknife and includes spatula, fork, and knife. Suggested retail, $29.99.


Domistyle's manly "Will Grill For Beer" apron

Grilling is often deemed ‘man’s work’, and this year Toronto-based Domistyle launched its first collection of men’s aprons and accessories. The aprons are made of a stain-resistant cotton-polyester fabric and sport witty messages like, “Will Cook For Beer”, “Grill God”, and “Feel Like Bacon Love”. Suggested retail price, $39.


The Oil Mister from Savora

A new product from Garden City, NY-based Savora makes adding flavor and moisture to grilled foods quicker and easier. The Savora Oil Mister is a non-aerosol, non-chemical, propellant-free mister that enables users to closely control how much oil they are dispensing. Made of impact-resistant BPA-free plastic, the mister has a contoured head modeled on the easy-to-use shape of a professional bicycle pump. Suggested retail, $24.


The whimsical BBQ Sword from Luckies.

Finally, for those with a whimsical streak, British firm Luckies of London showcased the BBQ Sword, complete with mock fencing guard and musketeer mask—can anyone say en garde?

For more on grilling and outdoor living, consider:

Grill Like the Pros
How To: Care for Your Grill
Bob Vila Radio: Buying a Grill

On-Campus Living

Dorm Ideas


There’s no time like college to get acquainted with beginners’ DIY projects. In most on-campus living scenarios, you’re virtually given a blank slate (in the form of a spare or even bare dorm room). People don’t want to feel as if they’re living in borrowed space, least of all during the ‘glory days’ of college, so here are some ideas on how to make yourself at home.

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Bob Vila Radio: Locksets

Whether you choose a handle set, lever, or knob for your entry door, you also need a deadbolt for greatest security. Adding a deadbolt to your existing lock is a fairly easy job, but you’ll be using two keys unless you buy the lockset and the deadbolt together.


At Home with Bob Vila – Locksets

Listen to BOB VILA ON LOCKSETS, or read text below:

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Fresh Pastry Stand: New Business from Old Housewares

Whether making cake stands or candles, Fresh Pastry Stand’s Deva Mirel finds inspiration in the vintage kitchen and its contents.


Fresh Pastry Stand's Deva Mirel holding a vintage Rosenthal "Coins" plate

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Eco-Friendly Flooring: 5 Ways to Go Green from the Bottom Up

Eco-Friendly Flooring


60% to 70% of the homes in the U.S. contain carpeting made from nylon, polyester, or vinyl—materials dependent on non-renewable fossil fuels. So when upgrading your flooring or finishing new space, consider one of the following five alternatives:

Bamboo is the king of green building and design materials. Though bearing physical similarities to hardwoods, it is actually a tropical grass. And while hardwoods can take 25 to 125 years to fully mature, bamboo only takes 3 to 5. Usually, bamboo receives a 1350 rating on the Janka hardness test, a rating similar to red or white oak, but some manufacturing techniques can weave bamboo to a rating of nearly 3000—more than rock maple, hickory, or Brazilian cherry. Conveniently, bamboo can take a wide range of low-VOC stains and sealers, which makes it easy to integrate into any decor.

Eco-Friendly Flooring

Photo: Colorado Carpet & Flooring Inc

Cork flooring is made from stripping the bark of cork oak evergreen trees. Since the bark replenishes itself every 8 to 10 years, cork flooring is a sustainable option. Some cork flooring manufacturers have raised the material’s ‘green’ quotient by creating products from post-industrial recycled materials, such as scraps from wine-stopper production.

Eco-Friendly Flooring


Linoleum is a tile made from natural linseed oil mixed with wood fillers and resins. While most “linoleum” has been replaced on the market by PVC-based products, there are lots of high-quality, green-certified linoleums out there, which are 100% biodegradable and whose production releases zero toxins. Real linoleum, properly installed, is extremely durable and excellent for those who suffer from asthma or allergies. Though it may evoke images of school classrooms, hospitals, and bad 70s kitchens, there are a surprising number of attractive linoleum solutions available.

Eco-Friendly Flooring - Linoleum

Photo: Dabbieri Flooring

100% wool carpet is another sustainable option. Your best bet might be New Zealand sheep’s wool. According to the company Just Shorn, wool carpeting is actually more stain-resistant than synthetic fibers. The high-quality wool’s natural resistance to liquids allows you more “time to act as spills stay on top of the pile longer, rather than seeping into the base of the pile and backing.” As a result of selective breeding, New Zealand wool is ” the whitest and purest in the world, which means it has excellent dyeing characteristics. The results are carpets of remarkable hues and pastel colors.”

Eco-Friendly Flooring - Wool

Photo: Mohawk Industries

Renewable fiber carpets are LEED-certified options made from corn fibers. One example is DuPont’s Sorona renewable fiber (sold under the name SmartStrand); it’s soft, strong, and quite stain-resistant. This type of carpeting can be easily cleaned with just water, eliminating the need for additional cleansers that contain harsh chemicals.

For more on eco-friendly flooring, consider:

Green Home—Flooring
Bob Vila Radio: Bamboo Flooring
Linoleum Flooring: It’s Green & Gorgeous!

Bob Vila Radio: Tub Caulking

Even tiny gaps between your tub and the wall tiles can let enough water in to damage your walls and host mold. Since new caulking will not adhere to old, the only solution is to remove it and do over.

Tub Caulking

Photo: Popular Mechanics


Listen to BOB VILA ON TUB CAULKING, or read text below:

Latex, acrylic, or PVA caulking is water-based and can be removed with a single-sided razor blade or a utility knife. Use a heat gun or hairdryer on a low setting to help to loosen stubborn sections and pry them out.

Silicone caulking is much harder to remove, which is why pros don’t recommend it for tubs.

To apply water-based caulk, make sure the area is squeaky clean and completely dry. Use rubbing alcohol to remove old caulking residue and soap scum so you don’t compromise the new seal. Have a bucket of water and a sponge ready for your fingers and for cleaning up any excess.

Cut the tip of the caulking tube at a 45-degree angle wide enough for a 1/4″ bead. Hold the tube at a consistent angle in the corner and move at a steady pace along the whole seam, then go back and smooth it with a moistened finger if you need to.

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 bathtubs, consider:

Quick Tip: Bathtub Installation
Free-Standing Tubs: Soaking Up the Luxury
Bathroom Essentials: Tubs, Showers, and Sinks

Product Round-Up: Decor for the Great Outdoors

With all of the emphasis on outdoor living, it comes as no surprise that products to decorate gardens, patios, decks and porches are becoming more popular and ever more styled.

Leading suppliers of garden decor, decorative accessories, and outdoor furniture presented a wide variety of attractive options at last week’s New York International Gift Fair in New York City. New styles range from crisp and clean contemporary to weathered and rustic. Here’s a sampling of the latest looks:

NY International Gift Fair - Bird Feeder

Hanging Bird Feeder from Eva Solo

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5 DIY Wood Wall Treatment Ideas

Wood. It makes up so much of our homes, from the framing to the flooring we walk on. And it appears in all kinds of furnishings, too. But despite its prevalence, the wood in our homes is mostly covered by drywall or plaster, and then paint or wallpaper on top of that.

This is a real shame. Wood brings so much character, warmth, and natural beauty to interiors that it should be the finished wall treatment. The effect is part cabin and part library, and it’s all DIY-doable.

Here are five of my favorite wooden wall treatments, any of which you can accomplish in a weekend—in any room of your house:


Photo: Mom and Her Drill

Single mom Katy (a.k.a. Mom and Her Drill) installed this amazing wood wall feature, using free wood from upcycled shipping pallets. And the best part? Her pallets came from a local factory and were guaranteed not to have any harsh or unhealthy chemical treatments. See how she did it.


Photo: Wood&Faulk

My buddy Matt of Wood & Faulk recently completed this subtle wood wall in his dining room. With several coats of OSMO-brand finish in a translucent white, this relatively inexpensive accent wall warms up Matt’s dining room like nothing else could. Learn more here.


Photo: Curbly

My friend Meg, an actress and crafter living in a small NYC apartment, didn’t have many options when it came to personalizing her rented space. So she came up with this great way to use reclaimed wood to recreate the original ‘hearth’ look of her pre-war apartment kitchen—all for very, very little money. Check out the video of her DIY effort on Curbly.


Photo: Martha Stewart Living

If you really want the look of a wood wall, consider this raw branch and limb project from the staff of Martha Stewart Living. Slices of birch poles are attached to the wall and projecting sections become integrated hooks for hanging storage.


Photo: DesignSponge

And if you’re really ready to make the commitment, this bold and contemporary solution (by Sarah at Design*Sponge) used all recycled wood and was completed in a mere eight hours for only $130. That’s a lot of bang for your DIY buck. Click here for an overview of the process.

For more related content, consider:

5 Things to Do With…Shipping Pallets
Lamon Luther: Reclaiming Lumber…and Lives
Get Organized: 20 Clever Ideas for Repurposed Storage
DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build or make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.

Bob Vila Radio: Replacing a Toilet

If you’ve got an older toilet, you’re probably paying for twice the water you need for each flush. But never fear: toilet replacement is usually a simple job for the do-it-yourselfer with basic skills.

Replacing a Toilet

At Home with Bob Vila – Replacing a Toilet

Listen to BOB VILA ON TOILET REPLACEMENT, or read text below:

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Composting 101: What You Should and Shouldn’t Compost

Composting 101


The best gardeners know that compost is better than fertilizer, when it comes to providing a nutrient-rich growing environment for plants. Composting is easy and inexpensive, and anyone can do it. But for the best compost and composting experience, you need to put the best ingredients into your bin or pile. Here’s a quick list of what you should and should not compost, and why.

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