August 2012 Archives - 3/8 - Bob Vila

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How To: Clean Walls

How to Clean Walls

Cleaning your painted walls may seem like a daunting task, but it’s actually quite simple (if somewhat time-consuming). Whether you’re doing yearly cleaning or hoping to say goodbye to a stain, how to clean walls will depend on what type of paint you’ve used to coat them. Semi-gloss and glossy enamel paints tend to stand up best to washing; flat, satin, and eggshell latex paints, on the other hand, may fade or rub off with overly abrasive cleaning.

Regardless of paint type, regular dusting is in order. Before you do any washing, run the dust brush attachment of your vacuum over ceilings and walls. Often, this is enough wall-cleaning for the year.

Related: 5 Easy Steps to a Successful Paint Makeover

Stains and smudges require a bit more elbow grease. As mentioned, how to clean painted walls hinges on choosing a wall cleaner that best addresses discoloring without diminishing the paint. To preserve the quality of your paint job, always start with the gentlest materials possible—in this case, water on a cellulose sponge. Step it up a notch, if necessary, with a mixture of warm water and mild detergent soap. If that still doesn’t seem like enough firepower, try experimenting with other homemade solutions, such as 1 cup ammonia, 1/2 cup vinegar, and 1/4 cup baking soda to one gallon of warm water.

For spot-cleaning, try a paste of baking soda and water gently rubbed over the stain, then rinsed with clean water and dried with a soft cloth.

Before diving in, test a patch of wall in an unobtrusive area with your intended wall cleaner. If the paint still looks bright and there are no water marks left after drying, you’re good to go. Otherwise proceed with caution: A sloppy attempt could make things look worse than before you started. If you know from the outset that you have flat or eggshell latex paint and the patch test doesn’t go well, consider instead a fresh coat of paint or hiring professionals to clean walls for you.


How to Clean Walls

If no water marks remain after drying and the paint holds up well, proceed. You may want to lay towels, newspaper, or another absorbent material on the floor under your workspace to catch drips as you clean walls. Also, wear rubber gloves to avoid dirty water dripping down your arms.

Begin at the top of the wall and work your way down, alternating between the wet, soapy sponge and a wet, clear sponge to rinse; each sponge should have its own bucket. Rinsing with clean water is essential to ensure that dirt and grime won’t cling to soapy residue; do not skip this step.

Rub in a gentle, circular motion to avoid damaging paint and make sure to wring out the sponges well to avoid drips. Work in sections, and once you’ve completed a section, dry the area with a clean, soft cloth.

For particularly hard-to-remove stains (e.g., grease splatters on kitchen walls), try a specialty product like Siege Premium Kitchen Degreaser, a solvent-free degreaser. The Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is a good bet to clean walls of crayon and fingerprints, making it an especially useful product for homes with children.


Have your fresh walls prompted a home-cleaning spree? Make sure you’re getting the job done right by checking out our video on eight cleaning mistakes everyone makes.

For more on house cleaning and maintenance, consider:

How To: Clean Power Tools
Top Tips for Keeping Countertops Like New
Bob Vila Radio: Maintenance Checklist

Rejuvenation’s Can Light Conversion Kit


Too many recessed lights can have you seeing stars.

Also known as “can” lights thanks to their cylindrical shape, recessed lights are inexpensive, work well with low ceilings (where clearance is an issue), and get the job done. They’re common in new construction, but there are “remodel” housings available, too. Cans offer a clean and modern look, but let’s face it, they lack personality.

What if you have a recessed can light where you’d rather see a surface-mount fixture? Changing the recessed housing to an electrical box is a situation that typically requires hiring an electrician. That could cost roughly $200 per fixture, according to New York-based general contractor Colin Campbell of Campbell Construction. Plus, the sheetrock around the fixture would need to be replaced and painted, making the project even more expensive to tackle—$200 or $300 total per fixture, depending on the surface area involved. And that’s before you add in the cost of the replacement fixture.

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Bob Vila Radio: Dog Home Safety

A dog is happy when he knows where home base is. a pet crate, a designated corner, a closet with a pet door or even a laundry or mud room with a gate will define his space and keep him out of trouble… and off the couch!… while you’re out of the house.


CM_BVNOTES-1235-3 Dog Home Safety

Listen to BOB VILA ON DOG HOME SAFETY, or read text below: Read the rest of this entry »

How To: Combat Garden Pests (Part 2)

Most people react to deer, groundhogs, and rabbits with a smile acknowledging their adorableness. But gardeners know better. Mammals might be cuter than insect, but their appetite can far more negatively impact your garden. Prevention is all about measuring the degree of damage and acting accordingly.



How to Keep Deer Out of the Garden


First steps: Turn first to natural deer deterents if the garden damage and the deer numbers are low. Failing that, rotate the use of human hair (try collecting from your local barber shop), soap (cut one bar into sections), and mothballs. Hang any of the three in open mesh bags near crops about three feet off the ground.

Final steps: If the number of deer snacking in your garden is just too high, an electric fence is the most effective choice. It can be done with fairly minimal cost, using a single wire attached to fiberglass posts with a high voltage charger. Even just temporarily electrifying a fence will make a big difference.



How to Keep Rabbits Out of the Garden


First steps: Clean your garden of any debris (excess brush, large stones, and so on) that might encourage rabbits to hide. If they don’t feel safe, the rabbits won’t take the chance. Trapping and releasing a few miles away from your garden can also be an effective deterrent. Bait the traps with fruit; I recommend apples.

Final steps: An effective fence needs to be buried at least 10 inches into the ground and sloped outward. Otherwise the rabbit can, and will, dig underneath. Creating fencing for individual plants and trees will keep anything particularly precious in your garden safe.



How to Keep Groundhogs Out of the Garden


First steps: Treating your garden with coyote urine, Tabasco sauce, or scattering about human hair can interfere with groundhog munching if you have a limited infestation.

Final steps: Laying chicken wire on the ground, then affixing another sheet perpendicular to the first that’s held up with wooden posts will create a fence that prevents the groundhog from digging underneath.

For more specific information, contact your local extension office. And don’t miss How To: Combat Garden Pests (Part 1)

Bob Vila Radio: Integrated Pest Management
Natural Fertilizers and Non-Toxic Pesticides (VIDEO)
Quick Tip: Design a “Green” Garden

Craft a Perfect Outdoor Kitchen

Outdoor Kitchen Kits

Eldorado Stone L-Shaped Outdoor Kitchen

Nothing quite beats the enjoyment of cooking and dining outdoors. Fortunately, creating a lovely open-air kitchen is now within the reach of savvy do-it-yourselfers, thanks to companies like Eldorado Stone, a California-based manufacturer of cast stone veneer products.

Related: Outdoor Kitchens: High Style and State-of-the-Art Features

Eldorado Outdoor offers a series of modular units constructed of glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC). These boast the benefits of being both lightweight and extremely strong. Similar to indoor kitchen cabinets, they’re easily combined for a customized setup to match the footprint of an outdoor area. And they can be installed over any solid surface—concrete, pavers, and brick are all options.

Outdoor Kitchen Kit

Outdoor kitchen cabinet shapes from Eldorado Stone

Eldorado’s cabinet ‘building blocks’ come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Among them are straight cabinets (30″ wide by 36″ high, 12″ to 60″ deep), 90-degree radius corner cabinets, and 135-degree angled corner cabinets. To help customers mix and match components, the company offers an online design tool for creating three-dimensional layouts.

Outdoor Kitchen Kits

L-Shaped outdoor kitchen plan from Eldorado Stone

All pieces are completely molded and fit together with metal fasteners and construction adhesive. An integrated factory scratch coat guarantees a consistent groove depth, which only makes it easier to apply the stone veneer. And because the units can be cut with a conventional diamond saw blade, any size grill may be installed on-site. The cabinets are open at the base to accommodate water lines, gas hookups, or electrical wiring.


Photo: Eldorado Stone

Eldorado offers a variety of faux stone veneers in myriad shades to go over the modular units. “Our specialty is emulating the look of natural stone,” explains Brent Spann, vice president of marketing for Eldorado Outdoor. “Each of our faux stone pieces is hand-painted, using intense layers of color, so you get the same natural variations that you get with actual stone.”

The Eldorado system saves both time and money, according to Spann. “Creating an 8-by-6-foot kitchen using conventional CMU (concrete masonry unit) concrete block would typically take three to four days; creating the same kitchen with our units would take three to four hours, at a 25 to 30 percent cost savings,” Spann asserts.

Average pricing for the Eldorado product is $150 to $175 per lineal foot, including Eldorado Outdoor Cabinets and Eldorado Stone. The price does not include the countertop surface, appliances, or installation. The products come with a 50-year warranty and are available nationwide. For more information, visit the company’s web site here.

For more on outdoor kitchens, click here:

Create an Outdoor Dream Kitchen
Outdoor Kitchens: High Style and State-of-the-Art Features
The Hardscaping Trend: Upgrade Your Outdoor Areas

Bob Vila Radio: Bamboo Flooring

A couple decades ago, no one would have considered it, but one of today’s most popular flooring products is bamboo. Anywhere you’d use tongue and groove hardwood flooring, you can use bamboo.

Bamboo Flooring


CM_BVNOTES-1235-2 Bamboo Flooring

Listen to BOB VILA ON BAMBOO FLOORING, or read text below:

It’s not recommended for really wet areas like bathrooms, since standing water can swell it like any wood, but it cleans up the way you’d clean a hardwood floor, with a damp mop. And it can cost twenty-five to fifty percent less.

The new strand-woven bamboo flooring is specially laminated to be harder and less prone to scratching and damage from, say, high heeled shoes. And carbonized bamboo flooring undergoes a coloration process that gives it a darker, more mellow color. Many brands are pre-finished with a durable aluminum oxide finish and warranted for ten to twenty-five years.

It’s beautiful and exotic, but the main reason bamboo flooring is so popular is that it’s so rapidly renewable. Bamboo grows like grass; as soon as it’s harvested, more starts growing. Where hardwood takes decades to mature, bamboo grows two feet a day: the fastest-growing plant on the planet!

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. 

5 Things to Do with… Beadboard

Beadboard is a classic wall paneling commonly associated with New England and Cape Cod-style houses and country decor. While its standard use is as wainscoting (e.g., below a chair rail), its availability in tongue-and-groove sections, or as a sheet good material, makes it perfect for a variety of DIY-friendly projects. Here are five favorites!



Beadboard DIY


Studio C came up with a DIY hack to recreate this beadboard peg shelf from Pottery Barn Teen using less than $20 in materials. Discover how they did it here.
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Should You Buy a Used Riding Mower?

Used Riding Mowers


When we moved from New York City to a beach town in Southern, DE, we suddenly went from having zero lawn to caring for a full half acre. We were incredibly grateful to have a good lawn mower passed down to us from my parents. It’s a walk-behind model, so we imagined we’d get our workouts in on the weekends using it. And we did! I actually enjoy mowing the grass, but it took us three hours to do it. We decided a riding mower was in order, and the sooner the better. But it wasn’t exactly in our summer budget. So we began researching used riding mowers.

You can save a good deal, as used riding mowers are typically worth about half of their retail price. But you need to be careful. The life expectancy on a residential riding mower is about seven years. If you’re still thinking you might like to buy a used riding mower, keep the following in mind:

1. Buy something you can see in person and test drive. And preferably buy it from someone you know. That way, you get a better sense of how well the mower has been cared for. Be sure to ask:

– When was the mower purchased?
– How often was it used?
– Why is it being sold?
– Have the purchase/maintenance receipts and user manuals been kept?

2. Don’t be put off by a mower that has a lot of hours on the engine. Typically the engines on mowers have great longevity; it’s the other stuff that ends up going kaput. Make sure to check:

– Age of belts, battery, and wiring
– Condition of tires (be wary of cracks and dry rot)
– The blades’ condition and the level of the blade deck
– Fluid levels (if low, watch out for any leaks)

3. Take it for a test drive. While you’re at the wheel, make sure:

– The engine starts within a few seconds on the first try.
– It idles smoothly.
– The brakes are working.
– It doesn’t smoke or stall.
– It cuts evenly.

Used Riding Mowers


We ended up with a 2006 Cub Cadet with a 46-inch mowing deck and less than 100 hours on it. We purchased it from the gentleman who sold us our house, so we already had a good professional relationship with him and knew he was someone we could trust. He had taken impeccably good care of the machine and had all of the purchase/maintenance receipts, user manuals, and maintenance logs to give us.

The last time we mowed the lawn, my husband and I accomplished all of the mowing, weed whacking, and clip blowing in 1 hour and 15 minutes! That’s way less time than it took just to mow the lawn with our walk-behind model. If you multiply that by the number of mowings per year we expect to do, that’s 50 hours of summer we get back! Woo-hoo, let’s hit the beach!

For more on mowers and lawn care, consider:

Bob Vila Radio: Lawn Tractors
How To: Mow Your Lawn Properly
Mower Maintenance: 5 Ways to Keep Your Machine Up and Running

Bob Vila Radio: Metal Studs

If your next home renovation requires framing new walls, think twice before you reach for those ubiquitous two-by-fours. You might want to consider steel studs.

Metal Studs in "Building Reinforced Concrete Storm-Ready Homes in Florida: Storm-Ready Design" Season 16 Episode 4

CM_BVNOTES-1235-1 Metal Studs

Listen to BOB VILA ON METAL STUDS, or read text below:

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Porch Style

Whether you’re building or remodeling this highly coveted spot, you’ll gain valuable living space and serious curb appeal.

Front Porch Designs


Americans love their porches, and for good reason. This neutral sliver of space between household tasks and yard work practically demands that you stop and relax, sip lemonade, catch up on conversation, breathe some fresh air and take in the view. For many, porches represent an idyll—promoting family time, neighborliness, outdoor living and street-side appeal. No wonder porches are a desirable architectural feature quickly gaining in popularity. Just be sure to make yours at least eight feet deep and choose a style that suits the architectural integrity of your home. For inspiration, here’s a look at four iconic American porch styles:

Front Porch Designs - Farmhouse

It doesn’t get much more inviting than the old-fashioned farmhouse porch, with its expansive wrap-around layout and unpretentious style. Initially created to help cool the home’s interior and provide a comfortable respite at day’s end, these covered porches are practical, comfortable, and simple in their trim and design.

Country-style porches generally open to the yard, and many are so low that you can safely step off the side to the ground. Raised designs typically feature wood railings and decorative lattice underneath. Screen porches are a nice farmhouse option, and these can sometimes be fashioned using salvaged screen doors. Or opt for a semi-screened look by adding trellises and railing planters between porch posts. Finish out the space with stained or painted wood floors and ceilings personalized with paint or pressed tin. Choose furnishings for comfort and personal style. Wicker is a traditional favorite, but wood, cast iron, and repurposed found objects also work well. Finally, don’t forget the nostalgic finishing touches—a porch swing and a slamming screen door.

For more on the history and architectural details of the farmhouse porch, click here.

Front Porch Designs - Colonial

America’s Colonial period brought a melting pot of home design ideas, which in turn produced Dutch Colonial, French Colonial, and other styles. Generally speaking, homes of this era were two stories and symmetrical. As settlers moved onward, however, the style was modified to suit the environment. For instance, in the steamy South, generously sized porches with bold, classical columns were added across the entire front of the house to help people beat the heat. The result? A coveted retreat for Southerners and the birth of one of America’s most beloved porch styles.

Colonial porches keep to the architecture’s overall principles of symmetry, formality, and elegant restraint. Columns accomplish much of the visual design work, from massive two-story pillars to simpler paired columns stretching across the home’s facade. If used, wood or aluminum railings typically showcase tasteful Chippendale-style fretwork or herringbone patterns. A central door with fanlight and sidelights add balance.

As for palette, crisp white, gray blues, and tans depict classic Colonial colors, as do ceilings that are brushed in haint blue. Furnishings should be gracious and plentiful, including rocking chairs, settees, planters and even lighting. Chandeliers sparkle on grand porches; period-appropriate lanterns and sconces enhance more modest and Early American houses. To ensure a pleasant breeze, you might also consider adding one or more ceiling fans overhead.

For more on the history and architectural details of the Colonial-style porch, click here.

Front Porch Designs - Queen Anne

Echoing Victorian-era tastes, Queen Anne architecture reflects a penchant for personal expressiveness and over-the-top decoration. Forget any notion that “less is more.” The ornate wraparound porches and recessed second-story retreats adorning the asymmetrical fronts of Queen Anne homes were designed to impress. Propitiously, advancements in woodworking machinery in the late 1800s made previously expensive ornate porch pieces suddenly affordable, meaning homeowners could now pile it on with eclectic abandon.

Among the fanciful options: delicately turned posts with beveled corners and attached fretwork, railings with flat-sawn balusters, elaborate spindle work, finials, spandrels, corner brackets and friezes. (Victorian millwork is still readily available, but if you want to avoid the painting upkeep of these intricate patterns, consider porch pieces made of high-density urethane instead.) Other embellishments include walls covered with fish-scale shingles or patterned masonry and doors and windows of etched or stained glass, enhanced with generous decorative trim. Bold paint palettes further the busy look.

Fortunately, all the fuss on a Queen Anne porch is put to good use, as the space is considered an important outdoor room for entertaining. Look for wrought iron and wicker pieces to seat guests with old-fashioned charm. Containers and colorful plantings add a nice finishing touch, too.

For more on the history and architectural details of the Queen Anne-style porch, click here.

Front Porch Designs - Bungalow

A notable departure from the mass-produced elements and design excess of the Queen Anne style, Bungalow architecture grew out of California’s Arts and Crafts movement. These affordable cottages with low-pitched roofs feature expansive front porches that open to the yard and garden, expanding the home’s modest living space while also encouraging a strong connection with nature and the neighborhood.

In general, Bungalow craftspersons utilize natural and handcrafted materials. The prominent oversize porch columns or pillars, for instance, are usually crafted from brick, wood, or stone (such as local river rock). Also common are battered, or tapered, posts atop a raised brick, stone, or wood pier. Concrete-capped brick knee walls or low, simple railings link the columns.

Decorated as though an extension of the adjacent living room, Bungalow porches can be fairly rustic with earthtone palettes, twig or Mission-style furniture, and artisan lighting. Floors are typically wood, plain concrete, or concrete overlaid with ceramic tile, bluestone, fieldstone or brick.

For more on the history and architectural details of the Bungalow porch, click here.