August 2012 Archives - 2/8 - Bob Vila

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Capturing Your DIY in TimeLapse



It’s a ritual that dates back to cave times—DIYers showing off their proud achievements.

‘Before and after’ shots are OK, but if you really want to chronicle start-to-finish project progress, you need timelapse photography. For an elegant, soup-to-nuts approach to that kind of recording, consider the TimelapseCam 8.0 from Wingscapes.

Half the size of a loaf of bread, the $110 TimelapseCam is almost as easy to use as an average digital camera. In fact, the two share many features and functions in common, though the TimelapseCam boasts the added benefit of being rainproof and is far sturdier than a conventional point-and-shoot.

You can attach the TimelapseCam to a tripod, strap it to a tree, or mount it to an upright. Once situated, the device will take photos (or ten-second videos) at 11 different intervals ranging from 10 seconds to 24 hours.


Photo: Wingscapes

The TimelapseCam comes with a measuring tape for gauging the distance to a photo subject. You set the lens to the distance using a knobby dial. Everything beyond eight feet is “infinity” to the lens, which suggests that it should be pretty good at capturing closer scenes. There’s a viewfinder, but you do have to manually focus the camera.

Surprisingly, there are only six controls (seven, if you count the power button) used to set shooting schedules, date and time, photo or video, image quality and everything else. A 16-character, two-line display recalls certain nightmares from the early days of computing, but hey, it works.



A victim of excess access to computers, I was a little intimidated to open the camera and take test shots. I need a keyboard the way children need the calming presence of a pacifier. Even still, I was able to go from setup to having five finely detailed photos on my laptop within 15 minutes.

If only neanderthals Koorek and Zom had had a TimelapseCam, we’d know what their cave looked like as they painted it. Surely, an opportunity missed.

For more on the TimelapseCam 8.0, visit WingScapes. For related content, consider:

Blog Stars: In the Workshop
How To: Refinish a Wood Table
Bob Vila Nation: Before & Afters

Bob Vila Radio: Impact-Resistant Windows

While shutters are the traditional line of defense against storms, break-ins, and the hot sun, unfortunately you have to be home to put them to use. Impact-resistant glass is a great built-in option for protecting your home from storm damage, theft, or even just road noise!

Impact-Resistant Windows


At Home with Bob Vila – Impact-Resistant Windows

Listen to BOB VILA ON IMPACT-RESISTANT WINDOWS, or read text below:

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So, You Want to… Build a Porch

How to Build a Porch


A porch is simply a deck with a roof on it, right? Not quite. While some porches may be as simple as that, many are more similar to an indoor room that is missing windows and walls.

Porches typically have more finished flooring than decks. And porch ceilings, while often made of wood, also have a finished look. In fact, just about every aspect of a porch is more finished than its cousin, the deck.

Related: 10 Inventive Ideas for a Perfect Porch

For instance, a porch’s supporting posts are structural as well as decorative. These posts can be columns or boxed-in 4 x 4s with bases and capitals fashioned from molding. Balustrades and knee walls are also porch design mainstays, and these are typically finished with paint, shingles, or stucco.

Another distinction between porches and decks: You can furnish a porch with pieces that wouldn’t stand up to a direct assault from the elements. Wooden tables and chairs, wicker (the real stuff), and upholstered furniture will all fare better on a porch than they would on a deck.

Choosing the Location
Porches are wonderful, so long as they do not cause problems with the rest of the house. The biggest issue homeowners run into when considering a porch addition is related to daylight. A back porch may significantly reduce daylight in the kitchen, or a front porch could cut off daylight to the living room. Take pains to ensure that adding a porch will not darken a portion of the existing house.

Building the Porch
Porches may be built in a wide variety of ways. Let the architecture of your home be your guide. If your house relates to a historical period, study examples of porch styles that were built during that time. You can do this by looking at actual houses or by researching in old magazines and architectural history books.

How to Build a Porch

Porch foundation. Illustration:

Foundations: Some porches are built upon slabs over compacted gravel. The finished floor can be stone, brick, or tile. Other porches are wood-framed and supported by piers and beams. With the latter, the floorboards are typically narrow tongue-and-groove planks that look more like interior strip floors than decking. No matter which type of flooring you choose, the pitch or slope of the floor should run away from the house so that windblown rain and snowmelt can drain before causing damage.

Stairs: Porch stairs can be built with concrete block and veneered with stone or brick, or they can be built of wood. Unlike deck steps, they often have bull nose treads and risers.

Skirting: The space around the porch should be protected with sturdy lattice skirting, or else critters will be vying to dig their burrows in the nice, dry place you’ve created. Include an access door so you can get inside as needed.

Balustrades: Balustrades, or railings, should be designed to match the style of the house. (Don’t use turned balusters on a 1960s ranch!) Solid knee walls may also be used, and these should also be finished to match the house. For example, if the house is sided with clapboard, so should the knee wall.

How to Build a Porch

HBG Porch Columns. Photo: Building Products News

Columns: On the right porch, columns can look very graceful. Be careful with proportions, though. Too narrow and the porch will look insubstantial. Too wide and the porch will look pretentious. Column bases made of wood should be raised slightly off the floor to prevent rot. (For the same reason, column shafts should be ventilated at top and bottom.) Pressure-treated posts clad with PVC boards and moldings are an alternative.

Roofs: Porch roofs, whether shed or gable-style, usually have a shallow slope. This is because they attach to the house at the top of the first floor (or maybe a bit higher on a two-story home), and because the porch eave must allow for adequate headroom. The exception, of course, is when the porch is integrated into the house design from the start, in which case there is often living space above the porch.

A porch is a wonderful place to spend time. Just be sure to spend a little extra time designing and planning for it, before you begin construction.

For more on outdoor living, consider:

Porch Style
10 “Best in Class” Patio Pavers
Get Inspired! 12 Sensational Deck Designs

Your Insurance Punch List


It’s a home improvement project. What could go wrong?

Home Improvement Insurance


Better not to think about it. That’s really a job for the agent who handles your homeowners’ insurance. Before you get going on your project, review your policy to make sure coverage includes these hope-they-don’t-happen factors:

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Bob Vila Radio: Storm-Ready Roofs

Florida might be the hurricane capital of the U.S., but every region has its perils: storms, wildfires, floods and ice. The way we build our homes and prepare for them can make all the difference when they strike.

Metal ties secure down roof in "Reviewing the Work Involved in Building a Hurricane-Resistant Home: Storm-Ready Design" Season 16 Episode 4

CM_BVNOTES-1235-7 Storm Ready Roof

Listen to BOB VILA ON STORM READY ROOFS, or read the text below:

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Bob Vila Radio: Deconstruction, Not Demolition

Deconstruction is the new demolition. 


CM_BVNOTES-1235-6 Recycled Bldg Products


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Bob Vila Radio: Mold Removal

Four out of ten American homes have a mold problem. If you’ve got an area less than 10 square feet and your household doesn’t include anyone who is very young, very old or chronically ill, you can tackle the problem yourself if you’re careful, once you’ve removed the source of the moisture.

Mold Removal


CM_BVNOTES-1235-5 Mold Removal

Listen to BOB VILA ON MOLD REMOVAL, or read text below:

Contrary to popular belief, you can’t kill mold with bleach. It might remove the appearance, but it won’t get the roots, which will re-bloom if the area stays wet. If the moisture source was clean, use a wet vac or steamer to remove wet or loose debris and double bag it in heavy trash bags. Then damp-wipe or scrub with detergent and water, but don’t soak the surface.

When it’s thoroughly dry, vacuum again with a HEPA vacuum. Double-bag the vacuum contents and thoroughly clean or replace the vacuum’s filter. You can dispose of the bags with the rest of your trash.

Seal off your work area, and never touch mold with your bare hands, get it in your eyes or breathe it. Wear protective clothing and shower well after you’ve finished. Check out for pointers, and if the job’s too big to handle, hire a pro.

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 mold, consider:

Quick Tip: DIY Mold Removal
Bob Vila Radio: Mold Problems
How To: Prevent Mold and Mildew

Zen and the Art of Weed Whacking

Weed Whacking


Since moving from the city to the ‘burbs, I’ve gotten reacquainted with one of my weekly teenage chores (for which I received a $5 allowance): mowing the lawn. Back then, my Dad did the trimming work after I finished cutting. Now as an adult and homeowner I’ve embarked on my own journey to learn the art of weed whacking. It looks very simple. (Dad made it look so easy!) But I’ve found it takes a lot of practice to be good at it. I admit to having felt overwhelmed and angsty about the task at the start of summer, but over the last few months I’ve learned a few things that help to make the job less stressful.

Regular Maintenance. If you clean your trimmer at the end of each use, it will be a cinch to get started on the next go ’round—you’ll avoid false starts and frustration. After your trimmer cools, remove any clippings or dirt around the string head with a brush and get your line out to the level you like for cutting. Before putting your trimmer away, check your fuel and oil if you have a gas model, or set it to charge if battery-powered.

Proper Dress. Outfitting yourself for the job can help ensure you don’t whack yourself along with the weeds and grass. Closed-toed shoes, long pants or high socks, garden gloves and eye protection are strongly recommended. If the loud, high-pitched whine of the average weed whacker puts you on edge, use ear protection. Or better yet, how about counter-blasting some Enya on your iPod?

Weed Whacking Technique


Good Posture. Weed whacking can be back-breaking if you don’t let your body and trimmer work together. Keep your shoulders back and your knees soft. Pick up the trimmer with your right hand on the throttle end and your left hand on the assist handle. Keep the power unit at about waist level, with the attachment and head parallel to the ground. Squat by bending your knees; resist the temptation to simply bend over. You may feel a little silly (or like a duck), but your back will thank you later.

Technique. Hold your trimmer parallel, 2 to 3 inches from the ground, and use an even, side-to-side sweeping motion. Working in the direction that your trimmer head spins will make the work easier. In other words, if your trimmer head spins clockwise, work from right to left.

By the end of summer, I plan to have perfected my weed whacking technique and ethos to the point where I can trim and edge the lawn solely with my mind. Well, OK—that might be a bit ambitious. But I will continue to stay cool and chant my mantra: trim, edge, happy, happy… trim, edge, happy, happy….

For more on landscaping, consider:

Bob Vila Radio: Lawn Care Hell
Top 5 Tips for a Greener Lawn
Landscape Edging: 10 Easy Ways to Set Your Garden Beds Apart

App Review: PaintSwatches

PaintSwatches iPhone

PaintSwatches app from Aquariform Designs. Photo:

There’s a special place in my heart for apps that help match paint colors. PaintSwatches (from Aquariform Designs) allows you to do so with a minimum of fuss.

This $1.99 iPhone app is elegant and flexible—high praise for any bit of software—and it’s relatively simple to navigate and use. In contrast with other similar tools, PaintSwatches isn’t weighed down with unnecessary functions; it’s light and quick and useful.

Most of the mandatory bases are covered, and I’ll get to those features in a minute. What I particularly like is the ability to import a photo and create a color scheme based on it. If I were so inclined, I could use this tool to create a room of colors inspired by the view I snapped at the top of a ski run in the Rockies, or by a shot of my daughters plowing through autumn leaves in the front yard.

The app enables you to pick colors from several paint makers, including C2, Sherwin-Williams, and Glidden. You can scroll through swatches, type a tint’s name and/or number, or search paint names for words like “silver”, “frost”, or “pepper”.

Chosen swatches are collected in a bar at the top of the screen, and you can pull each one down to see how they play together. You can create notes about the project or send all of the paint info (though not the swatches themselves) via email to your family, contractor, or neighbors (to tweak their noses).

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Bob Vila Radio: Energy-Saving Light Switches

Wherever lights are accidentally left on a lot, your home is leaking money. Sometimes just changing the switch can solve the problem.


CM_BVNOTES-1235-4 Energy Saving Switches

Listen to BOB VILA ON ENERGY SAVING LIGHT SWITCHES, or read text below: Read the rest of this entry »