October 2012 Archives - 3/9 - Bob Vila

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Final Week: Win a Gladiator® Jumbo GearBox—ENTER TODAY!


Gladiator/GarageWorks GiveawayToday is the start of the last and FINAL WEEK in our month-long Bob Vila Gladiator®/GarageWorks “Better Garage” Give-Away.

ENTER TODAY and every day this week to be eligible to win a Gladiator® Jumbo GearBox, valued at $494.99 (MSRP).

(Entry period for WEEK 4 is from 12:00 a.m. EST Thursday, October 25, 2012 until midnight EST Thursday, November 1, 2012. See Official Rules below.)

Bob Vila's Better Garage Give-Away - Gladiator® Jumbo Gearbox

Photo: gladiatorgarageworks.com

Standing 6 feet tall and 24 inches deep, the Gladiator® Jumbo GearBox offers ample space no matter your organizational needs. With three full-width shelves and heavy-duty, steel-welded construction, the Jumbo Gearbox meets any storage challenge with ease. Adjustable leveler legs allow the cabinet to rest securely on uneven floors, while the included Wall Bracket Kit gives you the option to wall-mount the unit and free up floor space below. To top it off, locking tread doors ensure a maximum level of security for your gear.

Make sure to ENTER Bob Vila’s Gladiator®/GarageWorks “Better Garage” Give-Away every day to boost your odds of winning—and remember, this is your last week to enter!

To learn more about the complete line of products from Gladiator®/GarageWorksclick here.

The “Bob Vila’s Gladiator®/GarageWorks ‘Better Garage’ 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. Contest Period runs from 12:00 a.m. (EST) Monday, October 1, 2012 through midnight (ET) Monday, November 1, 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.

Smoke Detectors for the Design Set

Designer Smoke Detectors

Overgrown insect or smoke detector? Surprisingly, both.

The long arm of design reaches new territory with the advent of designer smoke alarms. Why shouldn’t this safety product also be stylish (as long as code is met)? Forward thinking designers in Finland and the Netherlands have applied their talents in the art of beautifying the functional.

Designer Smoke Detectors - Lento

Jalo's insect-inspired "Lento" photoelectric smoke detector

Finnish designer Paola Suhonen enters the smoke detector market with her own design from manufacturer Jalo. Suhonen introduced her “Lento” smoke detector in the form of a giant, paint-splattered fly—a surreal take on the once staid detector. The unit operates on photoelectric technology, meaning that the alarm sounds if smoke enters the sensor chamber and disturbs the angle of a light source (more info available from NFPA). This product is available online through Finnish Design Shop.


Designer Smoke Detectors - Chick-a-Dee

Chick-a-Dee Smoke Detector from Neo Utility

Australian company Chick-a-Dee takes the lead with a bird-shaped version set atop a tiny plastic branch. Dutch designer Louise van der Veld took inspiration from a bird’s propensity for warning calls as well as the traditional use of canaries in mine shafts for detecting danger. The battery-operated alarms are currently available in white or white/black at Neo-Utility for $75.


Designer Smoke Detectors - Kupu

Jalo's fabric-covered "Kupu" photoelectric smoke alarm

Another Finish designer, Harri Koskinen, is responsible for the “Kupu” detector (also from Jalo), a sleek square with rounded corners covered in five fabric options (a chrome hard-surface version is also available). Its form is soft and elegant, and yet function is also key to the design, since the entire exterior surface acts as the shut-off button in the event of a false alarm. Kupu installs with 3M tape and has a five-year battery life. Available through Finnish Design Shop.


Designer Smoke Deteors - Kupu in Green

Jalo's fabric-covered "Kupu" photoelectric smoke alarm in green

For more on home safety, consider:

Workshop Safety
Bob Vila Radio: Fire Extinguishers
9 Ways to Boost Your Fire-Preparedness

5 Plants to Divide in Fall

October is a great month to look over your property and determine which perennials are in need of dividing.

Splitting up perennials encourages growth in your current plants. Not only that, splitting also enables you to fill out your plot with plants that have already proven their worth in the garden.

During the fall season, focus on spring and summer blooming perennials that have gone dormant and whose roots have had plenty of time to get established. Fall bloomers, such as chrysanthemums and sedum, should wait until spring.

It’s time to divide when the current plants are overflowing their area or infringing your other plants. Here are five plants that will thank you if you split them up.

Dividing Plants in Fall - Astilbes

Photo: gdb.sherweb.info

Astilbes. These speedy growers are easy to separate after a deep watering. Use a sharp knife to pry through the root system. Astilbes should be kept in clumps, not as individuals. When re-planting, mix in a few inches of compost to dress the soil.

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Bob Vila Radio: Indoor Air Quality

The EPA ranks poor indoor air quality as our fourth largest environmental threat. Some of the worst polluters of the air you breathe hit right where you live.

Indoor Air Quality

Photo: shutterstock.com


Listen to BOB VILA ON INDOOR AIR QUALITY, or read the text below:

Anything that burns—a gas stove, furnace, or fireplace—produces poisonous particles and gases. Install appliances to code, vent them properly, and check your carbon monoxide detectors frequently.

Mold, animal dander, and dust mites might be natural substances, but they can become toxic if they build up, so change your air filters and vacuum regularly.

Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, have been linked to lung disease. They off-gas from a huge range of building products like engineered lumber, adhesives, carpets, paint and upholstery. They can also come from dry-cleaned clothing, synthetic fertilizers, cleaning products, air fresheners, candles and even perfume.

What’s the best way to clear the air? Use natural products whenever you can and make sure your home is ventilated properly.

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 indoor air quality, consider:

10 Indoor Air Pollutants
Quick Tip: Improve Your Home’s Air Quality
5 Nearly Kill-Proof Houseplants

How To: Make a Scarecrow

How to Make a Scarecrow - Sea Witch Festival

Photo: Jennifer Noonan

October is one of my favorite months. The air gets crisp and the leaves start to turn. My kids are getting excited to dress up for Halloween, and we are all busying ourselves with projects to decorate our house for trick-or-treaters.

The year we moved to Southern Delaware, we made one of my all-time favorite Halloween decorations at the Sea Witch Festival in Rehoboth Beach—a scarecrow. It’s a super easy thing to do, which mostly involves materials (other than a bale of straw) you probably already have around your house. Our kids absolutely love making a scarecrow every year to put on our front porch. Here’s what to do.

TOOLS AND MATERIALS Available on Amazon
– Straw (rags, leaves, or other stuffing materials are great substitutes)
Burlap sack or pillowcase (optional)
Old pantyhose
Old buttondown shirt
Old pants
Safety pins
Twine or other string
– Colored felt or other scrap fabric (or markers or paint) to make your face
– Hats, shoes, gloves, bandanas and other accessories (optional but highly recommended for the most fun results)


1. Make the head and arms. The pantyhose will become the head and arms of your scarecrow. Stuff the legs and top of the pantyhose completely and put a knot in the top at the waistband. Put the legs of the pantyhose into the arms of your shirt so that the head is coming out of the neck. You can cover the head with a burlap sack or pillowcase, but it’s not strictly necessary. Button the top button. Tie twine around the cuffs of the shirt to close off the arms.

2. Make the legs. Tie off the bottom of each pant leg with twine. Stuff the pants all the way to the top.

How to Make a Scarecrow

Photo: Jennifer Noonan

3. Put the body together. Safety-pin the bottom of the shirt into the waistband of the pants and button the bottom few buttons of the shirt. Then stuff the torso of the shirt and button up the remaining buttons.

4. Make the face. Cut felt or scrap fabric in the shape of eyes, nose, and a mouth and glue them onto the head. Alternatively, use markers or paint to make the face.

5. Finish dressing your scarecrow. Add hats, scarves, and any other accessories to make your scarecrow unique. If you’re adding gloves or boots, you can untie the ends of the shirt and pants, retying them once you’ve stuffed and put those items in place.

6. Display. Set your scarecrow out to spook and delight your neighbors!

How to Make a Scarecrow - Halloween

Photo: Jennifer Noonan

You can make scarecrows in all shapes and sizes, wearing all manner of attire. Let your imagination run wild. This is a fun and simple enough project for kids of all ages to enjoy. You can save the clothing from year to year and make an entire scarecrow gang!

For more on Halloween decor, consider:

Pumpkin Carving 101
52 Unexpected and Amazing Ways to Decorate Pumpkins
6 Pumpkin Carving Tools to Put the ‘Jack’ in Your Lantern

Bob Vila’s First Annual Pumpkin Carving Contest

Cannibal Pumpkin

Photo: flickr.com/garrisonlemasters

There’s no doubt that we are pumpkin nation. In 2008 alone, the major pumpkin-producing states in the US churned out 1.1 billion pounds of everybody’s favorite orange squash. And considering that 80% of a year’s pumpkin crop is available during October (thanks, University of Illinois), we’ve got pumpkins coming out of our ears right now!

Mario Pumpkin


So what better to do with extra pumpkins than cut, pierce, and carve them? We were wowed by these 52 Unexpected and Amazing Ways to Decorate Pumpkins, but now we’d like to see what you can do.

Get your knives, scoops, and drills ready for Bob Vila’s First Annual Pumpkin Carving Contest. Click to Enter! From classic jack o’lanterns to intricate, imaginative creations, we want to see just how creative pumpkin carving can get in your hands. To enter, simply send us a picture of your masterpiece (submission below). If the judges select your entry, you will be named “Bob Vila’s King or Queen of Carving” for the year, a glory complete with bragging rights and the satisfaction of your triumph.

You must enter by November 3rd (midnight EST) to qualify. So what are you waiting for? Click the link below, upload a photo, and see if you’re the next King or Queen of Carving.


The “Bob Vila’s First Annual Pumpkin Carving Contest”  is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Contest Period  begins at 12:00 p.m. EDT on October 23, 2012 and ends at 11:59 p.m. EDT on November 3rd, 2012 . One entry per household on BobVila.com. Contestants must submit their name, email address, and a photograph of their pumpkin, as well as a title and brief description. Winner will be chosen by the BobVila editing team based on the following criteria: creativity/originality, craftsmanship, and level of difficulty. Odds of winning are dependent on the number of eligible entries received. The Winner and winning Contestant Pictures shall be featured on the Bob Vila website as  “King” or “Queen of Carving.”  See Official Rules for details.

Bob Vila Radio: Plaster

If the idea of a freshly plastered wall does not overly excite you, it’s because the options for plaster have been fairly limited in this country until now.


Photo: lostandtaken.com


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

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Renovation Road Trip: A New Backsplash at Turtle House


In our second stop on the Renovation Road Trip we met up with Katy and Brandon from Turtle House in Ypsilanti, MI. They’re a fun couple of teachers with a mostly finished home, who felt they needed a backsplash to really set off the area behind their stove. So we helped them.

Renovation Road Trip - Turtle House

Photo: Meryl Rose Philips

After clearing the area of all obstacles and removing the outlet covers, we gave the painted surface a quick sanding with 100-grit sandpaper.

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Estimating Home Value: Whose Price Is Right?

Hooray! The housing market is bouncing back from the depths! No, wait, prices are going sideways—in some markets. Who to believe? We’ll sort it out right here.

Estimate Home Value

Photo: dexknows.com

Here’s how to filter housing market data:

• Follow the index that tracks your market

• Pay attention primarily to year-over-year results

• When in doubt, default to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) index, which covers every metropolitan area in the country

Unlike washing machines and corn flakes, housing prices are rooted in local markets. That means national indices of aggregate changes are economic crack for commentators but largely irrelevant for individual property owners. What’s important to you is what’s happening in your market.

• The monthly Case-Shiller index tracks 20 metropolitan areas, using a methodology that measures the difference in sale price for the same properties over time. That makes it accurate, but only relevant if your property is in one of the markets it follows.

• The FHFA index performs a similar calculation for over 300 metropolitan areas. But it only comes out quarterly. That’s not a big deal in a slow market, but in a faster market, it makes the FHFA a lagging indicator.

• The National Association of Realtors market report calculates the median sale price for the latest crop of homes sold. It hints at the market trend but is less authoritative about the value of a specific property.

• Local multiple listing service data also is a snapshot of the latest sales. But it might be an average—or a median—calculation. Of the two, an average is less useful for estimating the value of your house, because extremely high and extremely low prices can skew the average.

The key to estimating the value of your house is to keep track of recently sold homes that were very similar in size, location, and condition to yours. Year-over-year changes are automatially adjusted for seasonal differences and are more reliable than the dizzying ups and downs of monthly comparisons. The closer to home the more reliable the indicator.

For more on buying and selling homes, consider:

Fee for All: Keep More Equity
How To: Sleuth an Open House
3 Ways Your Neighbors Affect Your Home’s Value

Bob Vila Radio: Fire Extinguishers

Whether you live in a palace or a studio apartment, at least one fire extinguisher should be standard equiment in your home.


Photo: professionalequipment.com


Listen to BOB VILA ON FIRE EXTINGUISHERS, or read the text below:

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