September 2012 Archives - 3/8 - Bob Vila

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Your Final Week to Win a GE Appliance


This is WEEK 4 and the final week in our month-long GE Appliances Home Improvement Give-Away.

If you weren’t lucky enough to win last week’s prize–the GE GeoSpring Hybrid Electric Water Heater, valued at $1,299–or the prior weeks’ GE Hybrid Stainless Steal Interior Dishwasher ($699) and GE Profile Slide-in Double Electric Range ($2,799), this is your last chance!

ENTER TODAY and every day (through midnight EST Friday, September 28) to be eligible to win a GE Profile SmartDispense Frontload Washer ($1,299 MSRP) and companion GE Profile Frontload Dryer ($1,099 MSRP)–now with steam technology and a laundry list of advanced features. 

GE Profile-Frontload-Washer-DryerThe Energy Star-rated 4.2 cu. ft. king-size capacity GE Profile SmartDispense Frontload Washer is designed to clean small to large loads efficiently by automatically sensing the right amount of water for each size load. The pedestal base not only stores, but also automatically dispenses, detergent and fabric softener based on each load’s size, soil level, water hardness and fabric or cycle type. The washer also boasts one of the most comprehensive stain removal systems, treating more than 40 different combinations of stains and fabric types.

The integration of steam in the overall wash and dry performance takes clothing care to the next level. For the wash, a Steam Assist option helps lift hard-to-remove stains to get clothes clean. In the dryer, a Steam Dewrinkle feature helps remove stubborn wrinkles quickly and conveniently, even from clothes left in the dryer from the day before. The 7.5 cu. ft. companion GE Profile Frontload Dryer employs both a Reverse Tumble action and a DuoDry system to ensure that clothes dry quickly and more evenly.

For Official Rules and entry, click here. And be sure to enter Bob Vila’s GE Appliances Home Improvement Give-Away daily to increase your odds of winning!

To learn more about the new GE Profile™ SmartDispense Frontload Washer and Dryer and other innovative products, visit GE Appliances.

The “Bob Vila GE Appliances Home Improvement Give-Away” sweepstakes is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia; residents of Alaska and Hawaii are not eligible. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Contest Period runs from 12:00 a.m. (EST) Saturday, September 1, 2012 through midnight (EST) Friday, September 28, 2012. One entry per household per day on 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.

Give Your Facade a Facelift: Simple, Affordable Ways to Boost Curb Appeal

Curb Appeal Ideas

Photo: Benjamin Moore

Just like windows are the eyes to the soul, the outside of a home gives viewers a first impression of what’s inside.

This fall, take the time to improve your home’s exterior entry area. The National Association of Realtors says curb appeal sells 49% of all houses, but you don’t need to have your house on the market to try out a few easy and affordable change-outs.

Slideshow: 10 Simple “Under $60” Curb Appeal Updates for Any Home

First things first, pick up a can of paint! A punch of color on the front door is sometimes all it takes to make a dramatic impact on passersby.

Benjamin Moore recently introduced their Grand Entrance line, developed specifically for front doors and trim. Sold in quarts—the perfect quantity for a project of this size—they run $43.99 each and come in a Satin or High Gloss finish.

Designer Lucianna Samu proves the difference color can make by simulating how Benjamin Moore’s Tangerine Fusion (above) would look if applied to her own front door (below).

BenjaminMoore-ColorChats-What Color


But why stop there? Click here for more “under $60” curb appeal updates that you can do this weekend.

For more on curb appeal, consider:

Bob Vila Radio: Curb Appeal 
Curb Appeal by the Block
10 Eye-Catching Options for Your Front Door

Bob Vila Radio: Replacing Faucets

If you’re looking for a quick and inexpensive way to give your kitchen a pick-me-up, replacing the sink faucet might be all you need.

Leaky Faucet



Listen to BOB VILA ON REPLACING FAUCETS, or read the text below:

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3 Essential Fall Lawn Maintenance Tasks

As you start putting your lawn to bed, you must take care of three fall lawn maintenance tasks now to secure healthy grass growth next spring.

Fall Lawn Maintenance - Overseeding


1. Fertilize
This is the most important time of year to fertilize for cool-season grasses. This last application of slow-release organic fertilizer will provide the grass with the strength it needs to make it through winter. Lay down about 1-4 pounds per 1,000 square feet of grass that gets full sun (shaded areas of your lawn don’t need quite as much). Getting your soil tested first will help you determine any nutrient deficiencies you may then correct by adapting your dosage of fertilizer. (Warm-season grasses need fertilizer in the spring.)


Fall Lawn Maintenance - Aeration


2. Aerate and Overseed
In order for cool-season grasses to establish new lawn and build up existing areas, now is the time to plant. The cooler weather helps eliminate the competition from germinating weed seeds, so the grass is able to gain a stronger foothold. Start by aerating your landscape to allow for freer nutrient and water circulation, and to help prevent thatching, then proceed with the overseeding.


Fall Lawn Maintenance - Weeding


3. Eliminate Weeds
Take down those dandelions! As broadleaf perennial weeds like dandelion and clover prepare for winter, they pull nutrients (and herbicide applications) from the soil into their roots. Treat problem spots with an herbicide or try an organic alternative, such as a vinegar-based or other acidic product.

In addition to these three tasks, continue your regular lawn care routine. Yes, the weather has cooled and your grass is no longer suffering in the same way it did over the summer. But the landscape still needs a good drink weekly to keep it moist in the drier air of fall and winter. Keep mowing as well, but with a higher setting on your mower—about 2 inches—so you are cutting the blades a little shorter than usual. Do so until you’ve noticed growth has stopped and the lawn has reached dormancy. Finally, as the trees begin to release their leaves, keep your lawn as debris-free as possible by raking often.

For more on lawn care, consider:

5 Ways to a Greener Lawn
Bob Vila Radio: Lawn Care Hell
Lawn Care Tips from Pennington Seed

Buyer’s Guide: Wood Countertops

Unsure whether wood countertops are a good fit for your home? An expert weighs in.

Wood Countertops

Photo: Texas Treads

When it comes to naturally beautiful countertops, it’s hard to beat the warmth and character of wood. Before you opt for wood as a counter surface, though, it’s helpful to know its benefits and drawbacks. To gain a deeper understanding of the material’s pros and cons, we reached out to New York architect Andrew Franz for his insight. Read on to find out if wood countertops are the right choice for you.

What woods can be used for countertops?
While maple and bamboo may be the most popular species on account of their availability and sustainability, many hardwoods are equally well-suited for countertops. A lot has to do with the look and use or regional preferences. Local woods, such as mesquite in the Southwest, can perform just as well as black walnut or cherry. Many FSC-certified or reclaimed woods are also good choices and meet LEED certification guidelines for sustainability. Softwoods like pine are generally not appropriate or high-performing.

Related: 12 Wow-Worthy Woods for Kitchen Countertops

What makes wood a good countertop material? 
It is readily available and sustainable and comes in an endless variety of colors, species, shapes and finishes. It’s warmer to the touch than any other counter surface. It can be cut, fabricated, and installed easily by a carpenter, so it may be less expensive and faster to procure than stone and solid surface alternatives. The color and character of wood countertops improve with age. And it can be sanded, refinished, and touched up with relative ease.

What are its pros?
You can cut and eat and do almost anything on wood countertops. It’s also quieter; you won’t hear banging or clinking sounds when pans or glasses are placed on it (and breakage is less likely should glasses or other items fall). Wood is not vulnerable to citrus, as some stones are, and many species are naturally heat-resistant.  When properly sealed, wood countertops also offer natural, anti-bacterial benefits. Lastly, with so many looks—striped, end-grain cubes, solid tops with “live edge” detailing—wood countertops are as comfortable in modern kitchens as they are in traditional ones.

Its cons?
The best finishes are the natural ones that require oiling 2-3 times a year—or more. Some people don’t like so-called live finishes. Wood must also be kept dry around sink areas and after spills.

What about cost?
Well-fabricated solid butcher block or wood countertops are made to order and use high-grade woods that have been dried and sorted for long wear. All surfaces must be carefully finished with multiple coats of oil or sealer prior to installation to prevent damage from water or heat. Cost of materials is in the range of $50-$100 per square foot, but this price varies depending on location and species.  Talk to a reputable installer to get more detailed information.

Click here to see a dozen examples of wood species appropriate for countertop applications.

Want more? Check out our buyer’s guide to Granite Countertops.

Mums: Hardy, Colorful, and Fall-tastic!

Fall Mums

Photo: Get More Curb Appeal

Boldly colored mums on porches or planted in garden beds are wonderful harbingers of fall, going hand in hand with that nip in the air, the turning leaves, and the children in their back-to-school clothes.

Unlike mums found in a florist’s shop, garden mums prefer cooler temperatures and continue blooming well into fall. Buyers should be aware that while mums may be on our minds right now, this time of year is not ideal for planting.

Slideshow: 10 Low-Maintenance Mums

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Bob Vila Radio: Return on Investment

Keeping up with the Joneses can actually be a good rule of thumb if you’re planning to sell your house within the next five years.

Return on Investment



Listen to BOB VILA ON REMODELING ROI, or read the text below:

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UV Filtration Water Bottle from Camelbak

Camelbak UV Filtration Water Bottle

Photo: Camelbak

There are many reasons you might be working on a project house without running water, but there are fewer reasons to go thirsty, even if the only water available is unfiltered.

Camelbak makes the All Clear, a personal ultraviolet (UV) water treatment plant in the form of a water bottle. UV light damages the microbes in untreated water, making it impossible for the bacteria to reproduce. NASA actually douses the craft it sends to Mars in UV in order to protect that planet from our germs. New York City, meanwhile, is working on the world’s largest UV-treatment plant.

And now the All Clear. It’s a fantastically sophisticated advance on Daniel Boone’s canteen, and can be too easily dismissed as overkill until you need safe water. Here’s how it works:

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5 Favorite Picture Hanging Tricks


Hanging a picture is about as DIY as many homeowners get. But although it may seem easy, hanging a picture properly is much more than a haphazard task. Here are five favorite tips for taking a one-hole approach to hanging a picture on the wall.

How to Hang a Picture

Photo: Young House Love

1. Don’t eyeball it! If you’re hanging multiple pieces of artwork, you need to figure out how they’ll work together before you start making holes. My recommendation is to make a template. Use newsprint or butcher paper to create true-scale templates of your frames, then use painter’s tape to figure out the best arrangement. Young House Love has a great walkthrough of the technique.

2. Don’t use nails—well, not JUST nails. I know every one of you has hung a picture using a simple brad nail. I’ll even admit there are several in my own home hung this way. But they are the pictures most likely to fall off the wall or require regular straightening. A single nail hammered into drywall is not stable enough to support much weight, so invest in the right hardware. My go-to options are self-tapping threaded anchors and screws, which provide a wider balance point without using wire. I’ve  also used steel, hooked wire hangers to great success.

5 Picture Hanging Tips

Photo: ReadyMade

3. Use math—really! If you purposefully stagger art so nobody can tell that your frames are not straight, fear not. A little math will enable to hang series of perfectly spaced art works. I shared my favorite technique on the ReadyMade blog. You can just plug your dimensions into the calculator and be good to go (no fancy equations required).

Tips for Hanging Pictures


4.  The best-ever picture hanging tip. Kristen from Celebrate Everyday with Me dubs this trick “the best ever”, and I think she might be right. I’ve seen all kinds of methods for marking a hole on the wall before drilling, but this one tip renders the rest unnecessary. The idea is to create a portable hanger on which to suspend your picture, so that measuring and marking drill holes becomes significantly easier. So brilliant, you should make two!

Picture Hanging Tips


5. Use a sticky note to capture dust. Since hanging artwork is usually a task done in a finished room, it can create drywall, plaster, or concrete dust on your carpet, floors, or furniture. So just use this little tip: Add a simple, folded Post-It underneath your marked hole to collect most of the dust made from your pilot hole. Genius, right?

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.

For more on fastening solutions and wall decoration, consider:

How To: Install a Drywall Anchor
Choosing the Right Screw for the Right Job
12 Affordable Ways to Bring Photography into Your Home

Bob Vila Radio: Radiant Heat

Whether you’re building a whole house or just adding a new bathroom, one of your first decisions has to be how you’re going to heat the space.

Radiant Heat



Listen to BOB VILA ON RADIANT HEAT, or read the text below:

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, radiant heat is more efficient than baseboard or forced air systems. Rather than just blowing hot air around the room in bursts, radiant systems slowly and steadily charge the floor with heat, keeping it where you want it, longer.

Hydronic, or water-circulating, radiant systems are best for new construction or large additions. They can be installed just below the subfloor between the joists, directly under tile or hardwood flooring, or even inside a concrete floor slab.

Where you only need to heat a small space like a bathroom or finished basement, electric radiant is an easy option. Electric radiant mats can be installed directly under tile and are ideal over a concrete subfloor. You don’t have to design around ductwork or baseboard units, and a small room heated this way uses less than 15 cents of electricity per day.

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 heating systems, consider:

Radiant Floor Heating 101
Geothermal Heating Systems
Installing a Preassembled Whole House Radiant Heating System