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Buyer’s Guide: Weed Whackers

Looking to rid your yard of weeds? Check out these three weed whackers, which offer impressive functionality at a reasonable price.

Best Weed Wacker – Buyer's Guide

Photo: istockphoto.com

If your lawn features a lot of “interruptions”—trees, shrubbery, pavers, and pathways—odds are that you struggle with a bulky lawnmower to maneuver some of the landscaping highlights. A perfect landscaping complement to a lawn mower, the weed whacker tackles overgrown grass in hard-to-mow areas. This lawn tool, also called a “weed eater” or “string trimmer,” uses a monofilament line (a strong, flexible line made of a single fiber of plastic) rather than a blade to do just what its name implies: whack weeds. Since many variations of weed whackers exist on the market, finding one that reliably slices through the growth can be a daunting task. Keep reading to find out what to look for when shopping for one, and discover three of the best weed whacker models available today.

CUT TO THE CHASE: SHOPPING CONSIDERATIONS

To make sure that you’re selecting the best weed whacker for your yard, start by getting a grasp on the model variations available.

Pick your power. The fuel source you need often depends on the size of the yard and how long the weed whacker would need to run to get the job done. That said, you’ll also need to think about what a battery or a tank of fuel adds to the overall weight of the machine.

• Gas-powered weed whackers are powerful and untethered, giving users the freedom to move about the yard without extension cords. As exhaust emissions become a greater concern than ever before, some manufacturers have introduced gas-powered models that create less pollution without sacrificing performance. If you’re interested in buying a more environmentally friendly gas-powered weed whacker, look for the words “low emission” on the packaging. While these weed whackers can handle long weeds better than their electric-powered counterparts, but they’re also more expensive. They’re heavier as well, with many models weighing in at just under 13 pounds.

Best Weed Whacker – Buyer's Guide

Photo: istockphoto.com

• Electric-powered weed whackers tend to be even more lightweight and functional, whether a consumer chooses one with a rechargeable battery or a good old-fashioned cord. Corded versions occasionally pose problems maneuvering around a property, since the cord can get tangled or run out of length, but they’re also the most budget-friendly option. Cordless versions, on the other hand, are extremely portable and easy to maneuver, but their battery (or batteries) must be recharged between each use and they don’t perform as well as corded models in tall grasses. That said, recent technological improvements have aided corded and cordless electric weed whackers in catching up with their gas-powered counterparts in terms of performance.

Mind maneuverability. Whether or not you need a tool with wheels depends largely on the type of terrain you’ll encounter on your property. A wheeled weed whacker, sometimes called a “walk-behind,” ideal for handling large patches of rough terrain, thanks to the maneuverability provided by the wheels and typically wider cutting paths. A majority of these machines operate on a gas-powered engine similar to a lawnmower’s and run on two or four wheels. A weed whacker without wheels, though, is far more common and generally effective on even the messiest tangles of grass. Unless you live on a property with extensive weeds and rough terrain, you can likely make do with a model without wheels.

Select a shape. The bodies of weed whackers come in two shapes: curved shaft and straight shaft. Curved shaft weed whackers feature a bend at the end of the shaft, near the blades, that makes them shorter in length and—combined with a light weight—more comfortable to use. These weed whackers work best for homeowners who need to manage grass and plant growth around (but not underneath) trees and other objects, since their design won’t quite fit into hard-to-reach places. Narrow straight shaft weed whackers boast a greater reach for tall users and those who need to trim far beneath shrubbery or unique landscape features, but they tend to be tougher to use due to their heavy weight and high level of vibration.

Find the right feel. Most popular weed whackers range in weight from five to 15 pounds. Corded, curved-shaft models are typically the lightest, while gas-powered walk-behinds are the heaviest. Additionally, most weed whackers have cutting path diameters somewhere between 12 and 17 inches.

OUR TOP PICKS

After thoroughly comparing reviews from consumers and publishers alike, we’ve rounded up three of the most highly rated weed whackers available today to help you find one that fits your home’s needs and your household budget. Check out the best weed whackers below to cut your weed problem—and the shopping trip for solutions—short.

 

Best Weed Whackers - Buyer's Guide

Photo: amazon.com

EGO ST1502-S Power+ 15-Inch ($200)
The discerning pro reviewers at The Sweet Home call the EGO ST1502-S Power+ 15-inch weed whacker “the most capable cordless trimmer we found, with enough run time to cut a 1′-wide strip of grass almost two-thirds of a mile long on a single battery charge.” After testing it alongside six rival trimmers on 6,000 linear feet of overgrown terrain, the team marveled at the EGO’s ability to cut through thick bamboo without issue. The cordless model weighs in at just under 12 pounds and boasts a generous 15-inch cutting path. Once charged, the machine operates for about 40 minutes with relatively minimal noise. Available on Amazon.

 

Best Weed Whacker  – Buyer's Guide

Photo: homedepot.com

BLACK + DECKER LST136 ($150)

Another cordless straight-shaft model earning high marks is the BLACK + DECKER LST136, which received an average of 4.6 stars from more than one thousand Home Depot shoppers. This lightweight model clocks in at a mere seven pounds (even with its 40-volt lithium battery) and cuts up to 13 inches in diameter. The product easily converts from weed whacker to lawn edger, releases no emissions, and offers adjustable power for various lawn projects. Available at Home Depot.

 

Buyer's Guide – Best Weed Whacker

Photo: lowes.com

Husqvarna 28-cc, 2-cycle 128CD ($179)
Buyers in the market for a gas-powered, curved-shaft model are often pleased with the Husqvarna 28-cc, 2-cycle 128CD, which boasts a fuel-efficient 28cc 2-cycle engine. This high performer is a solid favorite among Lowe’s reviewers, who enjoy its monstrous 17-inch cutting radius and its ability to tackle up to an acre of land at a time. Some notable features include its easy start, long-term durability, and compatibility with “click on” attachments. The weed whacker weighs just under 11 pounds. Available at Lowe’s.

 

Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from BobVila.com
With fair weather having arrived finally, it’s time to turn your home improvement efforts to the backyard and your deck, porch, or patio—the parts of the home built specifically to enjoy the extra hours of sunlight. Guided by these practical pointers and inspiring ideas, you can introduce beauty, comfort, and utility to your backyard and outdoor living areas, making them as inviting and enjoyable as your home interiors.


Quick Tip: It’s Time to Toss These Household Items

Even an organized home has a few dirty secrets. Get rid of yours by clearing out the junk you don't need.

SHARES

Admit it: Your garage, pantry, and closet are full of unused items. All of that junk is just one more organizational challenge keeping you from using your space to its full potential. Whether you face a plastic bag avalanche every time you open the broom closet, or struggle to sort through outdated threads when choosing an outfit each morning, one thing’s for sure: You can cut the clutter and live better in the process. Watch and learn which things to toss for a more organized life.

For more clutter cutting tips, consider:

The Most Organized Closets We’ve Ever Seen

The 10 Best Things You Can Do for Your Garage

9 Home Organization Secret Weapons


5 Types of Screwdrivers Every DIYer Should Get to Know

Fill your toolbox with these specific sets of screwdrivers, and you'll be equipped to tackle whatever screws your household project requires.

5 Types of Screwdrivers Every DIYer Should Know

Photo: istockphoto.com

Ask any seasoned carpenter or DIYer what tools take up the most room in his or her toolbox, and the answer is probably “screwdrivers.” Since there is no single universal screw that is suitable for use in framing, decking, or woodworking, it’s imperative to have a variety of screwdrivers and screwdriver bits ready to insert or remove any type of screw you come across. And then, on top of that, odds are you’ll find the need for both manual and powered screwdrivers for around-the-house maintenance and woodworking projects. If you’re just getting started equipping your toolbox, pay close attention to the following types of screwdrivers.

Screwdriver Operation

Screwdrivers have only two purposes: to insert screws and to remove them. While types of screwdrivers are defined by tips that match the specific design of specific screw heads, you’ll find additional variation in how the screwdriver operates. Understanding these design differences will allow you to choose the best method for working with screws in any given project and with any type of screwdriver.

Manual screwdrivers—the hand tool’s most recognizable variation—consist of a thick handle and a cylindrical steel shank that ends in the working tip of the screwdriver (which, in some cases, features an interchangeable bit in order to match a number of screw head patterns). Because the handle is larger than the tip, it takes only moderate twisting force to turn a screw. When using a manual screwdriver, you’ll have to lift the screwdriver from the screw head after every turn of the screw and reposition it before the next turn.

Ratcheting screwdrivers save time and reduce the need to lift and reposition the screwdriver tip after every turn. An internal ball-bearing mechanism allows the user to make multiple turns of the screw through an easy back-and-forth wrist action. The ratcheting action can be changed from one direction to the other by switching a button on the screwdriver, so that a DIYer can both insert screws (clockwise motion) and remove screws (counter-clockwise motion).

• One specific ratcheting screwdriver called a Yankee screwdriver operates on a spring-loaded ratcheting principle. Instead of using wrist action to turn the screwdriver, you’d simply position the tip of a Yankee screwdriver in the screw head and push firmly toward the screw. The pressure causes the screwdriver shank to turn; when you release it, the tension spring inside pushes the handle back to its starting position. Yankee screwdrivers have been around since the late 1800s, but you can still find them in DIY stores.

• With the advent of the drill and the ability to swap drill bits for screwdriver bits, the converted drill screwdriver was born. Powered drill/screwdrivers greatly reduce the time it takes to insert or remove screws, which are swiftly replacing nails in many building and remodeling projects thanks to the strong hold in wood that their ribbed sides provide.

• Some power tool manufacturers have improved on the standard drill by manufacturing designated power screwdrivers, or screw-insertion tools geared to specific applications. Drywall screw guns, for example, are used only for hanging drywall, while subflooring screw guns work specifically with collated screw coils.

At the end of the day, whether you prefer a manual screwdriver or a power drill, the most important factor is to match the screwdriver tip to the screw head.

 

Types of Screwdrivers to Know - Flat or Slotted Screwdrivers

Photo: amazon.com

SCREWDRIVER TYPE: Flat/Slotted

While flat head screws aren’t used extensively in residential construction anymore, you can still find them in furniture construction, small cabinetmaking projects, and on some electrical applications—and that makes flat head screwdrivers good for more than just prying lids off paint cans. You’ll need them to install plate covers on outlets and switches and in other instances where it’s important not to over-tighten a screw.

Flat-head screwdriver bits are available for ratcheting screwdrivers and drills, but it’s a good idea to keep a handful of flat manual screwdrivers in your tool bag. They’ll come labeled by both the size of the tip and the length of the steel shank. Tip sizes vary, from fractions of millimeters (which are tiny enough to tighten eyeglass screws) up to an inch or larger (fit for industrial size screws). When matching a screwdriver to a flat screw, pick one that matches the width and depth of the slot on the screw head in question.

Best For: Tightening and loosening slotted screws. Craftsman’s 5-piece Slotted Screwdriver Set comes with five tips in varying sizes that will fit the most common slotted screws a DIYer is likely to encounter ($14.95 on Amazon). The screwdrivers feature both short and long shanks, so you’ll be able to reach screws in even tight spots.

 

Types of Screwdrivers to Know - Phillips Screwdriver

Photo: amazon.com

SCREWDRIVER TYPE: Phillips

Phillips screws, identifiable by a flared “+” on their heads, are widely used for construction and woodworking purposes. The screwdrivers and bits that fit Phillips screws are labeled “Ph,” followed by a number ranging in increasing size from 0000 up to the number 4, but the driver sizes do not correspond with Phillips screw sizes; you’ll have to physically match the driver tip to the specific screw. A manual or ratcheting screwdriver works fine for when you have just one or two screws to install, but construction projects notoriously use a number of screws. Opt for a power drill with interchangeable Phillips bits for the most efficient build.

Best For: Multipurpose building and remodeling, especially drywall installation. If you plan on hanging a lot of drywall, check out the DEWALT 6-Amp Drywall Screwdriver ($70 on Amazon). This corded power screwdriver is specifically designed to install Phillips drywall screws. Plus, it allows the user to pre-set the screw depth and eliminate chances of under- or over-inserting a drywall screw.

 

Types of Screwdrivers to Know - Allen Screwdrivers

Photo: amazon.com

SCREWDRIVER TYPE: Hex Key

Hex-head screws are typically small and commonly found in doorknobs, towel bars, faucet handles, even some mechanical installations and require a hex key screwdriver (also called an Allen screwdriver) to tighten or loosen. Screwdrivers and bits range in size to fit hex-head screw recesses from around 0.03” to 3/8”. Allen-type screwdrivers, or wrenches, are often L- or T-shaped manual screwdrivers, although Allen bits are available for both ratcheting screwdrivers and drills.

Best For: Installing small fixtures, such as towel bars. As with all manual screwdrivers, it pays to have a variety of tip sizes available so you don’t have to run to the hardware store to get a single size screwdriver. Xcelite’s 11-piece Allen Hex Screwdriver Set comes with a set of nine interchangeable Allen bits in sizes ranging from 0.050” up to 3/16”, as well as an optional extension bar for reaching into restricted spots ($47.30 on Amazon). With such a complete set, you’ll never need to buy another Allen wrench or screwdriver!

 

Types of Screwdrivers to Know - Robertson Screwdriver Bits

Photo: amazon.com

Screwdriver Type: Robertson

The Robertson screw offers the distinct advantage of reduced screwdriver slippage. Also known as the “square recess screw,” this screw head was developed in the early 1900s by a Canadian inventor who was tired of damaging slotted screws every time the screwdriver tip slipped out of the slot. Though a great improvement, it didn’t catch on in the US until power drills began being used as screwdrivers. Today, the Robertson screw, which ranges in recess size from 1/16” to 3/16”, is extensively used in construction and remodeling projects. You can find manual and ratcheting square recess screwdrivers, but the Robertson screw is most often inserted and removed using a power drill. One of the most common uses for the Robertson screw is in the installation of subflooring, which goes a lot quicker if you use a power drill and a Robertson screw bit.

Best For: Use with a power drill for woodworking and construction. If you’re looking for a good set of square recess bits to fit your power drill, try Picquic’s Robertson Bit Set ($7.49 on Amazon). It comes with four bits in graduated sizes for use with the most common size Robertson screws.

 

Types of Screwdrivers to Know - Torx Screwdrivers

Photo: amazon.com

Screwdriver Type: Torx

Quickly becoming a favorite of builders and serious DIYers, the Torx screw—sometimes called the star screw—features a 6-point recessed star tip in sizes that range from 0.031” to 0.81” and are designated by “T” numbers (from T1 to T100). Common building sizes are T15 and T25, and, whatever screw size, there’s a corresponding Torx screwdriver or screwdriver bit to fit.

Manual and ratcheting Torx screwdrivers are available but power drill users like Torx screws for the same reason they like Robertson screws, because they resist slippage with power application. Torx screws are commonly used for structural framing, finish work and even as wood-to-concrete fasteners.

Best For: Multiple DIY and building purposes. For an all-around bit set, consider Tonsiki’s 11-piece Torx Drill Screwdriver Set ($12.95 on Amazon). It features magnetic bits that assist in keeping the screws in place on the drill tip.


How To: Sharpen a Pocket Knife

Don't let a dull blade get you down—or injured! Sharpening your favorite pocket tool will ensure safer, more efficient use the next time you need it.

How to Sharpen a Pocket Knife

Photo: istockphoto.com

The handiest people advocate keeping a pocket knife within reach (if not actually in a pocket) at all times. Its foldable blades and tiny size render it useful in countless situations—whittling walking sticks, opening stubborn packaging, and cutting through twine, to name a few. With all that use, however, the blades on a pocket knife will dull, making them less efficient and ultimately more dangerous. A dull knife requires more force to work, which could cause the tool to slip and cut the user, whereas a sharp knife eases into a cut with minimal effort and maximum control. Rather than wait for an injury to happen, it’s better to be more proactive and learn how to sharpen a pocket knife.

To sharpen a pocket knife, you’ll need to acquire a few materials. While knife aficionados debate whether to sharpen the tool with a whetstone, diamond-crusted stone, ceramic stone, or a Japanese water stone, we recommend that beginners opt for a whetstone. This particular sharpening stone is easy to use and readily available at most home stores and online retailers (for under $20, even!). You’ll also want to invest in a sharpening guide, another ballpark $20 purchase which attaches to the knife and props it at a consistent angle so that you can make it through your first attempt at how to sharpen a pocket knife scathe-free.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Rubber non-slip mat
- Clean rag
- Sharpening stone
- Baby, mineral, or canola oil
- Sharpening guide
- Piece of paper
- Paper towel

STEP 1
Sit down at a table so that you can hold the knife steady at a consistent angle throughout the sharpening process. Place a non-slip mat on the work surface, and cover it with a clean rag to protect it from oil stains from the materials you’ll use in the next steps. Then put the whetstone on top of the rag within easy reach. If the blade is extremely dull, ensure that you’ve got the rough grit side of the stone facing up; use the fine side of the stone for blades that need minor sharpening.

STEP 2
Completely cover the surface of the whetstone with mineral, baby, or canola oil. The oil keeps the stone’s pores from clogging with loosened metal debris during the sharpening process, and it also prevents friction from heating up the knife blade. A hot blade can warp and become impossible to sharpen and potentially difficult to open and close the pocket knife properly.

STEP 3
Attach the sharpening guide to the top of the knife blade, which will give you a fixed angle for sharpening. Each pocket knife must be slanted exactly at its bevel angle (the angle at which the blade slants) for sharpening, so make sure to buy a sharpening guide designed for that specific angle, which you can discern from the packaging. Most knife manufacturers will list the bevel angles for individual products on their website, but you can consult a professional knife sharpening service for help if needed. The bevel angle of most pocket knife falls somewhere between 10 and 20 degrees.

With practice, you won’t always need to use a sharpening guide—even so, you should still determine the pocket knife’s bevel angle. When sharpening, you’ll have to hold the knife in a position that keeps that bevel absolutely flat at the manufacturer-recommended angle.

How to Sharpen a Pocket Knife

Photo: amazon.com

STEP 4
Hold the handle of the knife in your dominant hand at the correct bevel angle, and use one or two fingers on your free hand to gently but firmly press the blade into the stone as you guide the knife across it—as if you’re slicing a fine layer off the top of the stone. Your personal preference determines whether you draw the knife toward you or away from you along the stone to sharpen it. Either way, your knife should follow a sweeping arc across the whetstone from the corner closest to you and opposite your dominant hand across the block to the far corner; so, if you’re holding your pocket knife in your right hand, you’ll move from the near left corner to the far right and back again. This angled movement ensures that the blade’s tip through its heel (the base of the knife) come into contact with the stone. Repeat five to 10 times.

STEP 5
Flip the knife over, and repeat Step 4 to sharpen the reverse side of the blade. Continue to maintain the correct bevel angle throughout the sharpening process.

STEP 6
Determine if the pocket knife has been sufficiently sharpened. Hold up any piece of paper, position the pocket knife at a 30-degree angle to it, and slice into an edge. Does the blade go in easily and create a clean cut? If so, congratulations! You’ve successfully sharpened the pocket knife.

If the blade doesn’t slice through the paper with ease, repeat Steps 4 and 5, giving the knife another five strokes across the whetstone per side. Increase the number of strokes until you’re satisfied with the blade’s sharpness, always completing an equal number on each side of the knife.

STEP 7
Once the knife is sharpened, wipe it with the clean rag to remove all oil residue. Then use paper towels to pat the stone dry before you storing it.

Sharpen the blade of your pocket knife after every few uses. To determine if a sharpening is needed, check the dullness of the blade using the paper test described in Step 6. With proper care, your knife will remain functional for decades to come!


The Right Way to Fill Nail Holes

With the right tool and the perfect technique, you can hide all signs of the gallery wall, coat hooks, or wall-mounted shelves that once hung in your home—and regain smooth, unblemished walls.

How to Fix Nail Holes with a HYDE® 2” SuperFlexx Stainless Steel Putty Knife

Photo: hydetools.com

If you’re reluctant to rearrange the pictures on your walls because you dread dealing with the nail holes left behind, you’re in good company. Filling nail holes can be challenging, particularly if you’re trying to completely erase any trace of the fasteners. Those dimples left by well-intended spackling jobs can haunt us long after the gallery wall comes down. But take heart: With the right tools and techniques, you can have seamlessly smooth walls once more—and you’ll never again fear relocating pictures, calendars, clocks, or even wall-mounted shelves.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Spackling paste (for nail holes in drywall)
- Wood filler compound (for nail holes in wood)
- 220-grit sanding block
- HYDE® 2” SuperFlexx Stainless Steel Putty Knife

STEP 1: Sand the surface. 
Prepping properly before you even start spackling is key to removing all traces of former holes. When you hammer a nail into drywall, some of the chalky gypsum material inside the drywall panel is displaced and has a tendency to push outward, forming a small ridge around the nail hole. Wood, on the other hand, has a tendency to splinter a bit around the nail. In either case, if you simply fill the nail hole, the area might look smooth to the eye for now, but the bump will stick out like a sore thumb once you paint it.

To prepare the surface, lightly swipe a fine, 220-grit sanding block over the nail hole to sand away ridges. Work in a circular motion over drywall. When sanding wood, however, always sand in the direction of the wood grain to keep from leaving cross-sanding marks.

How to Fix Nail Holes with a HYDE® 2” SuperFlexx Stainless Steel Putty Knife

Photo: hydetools.com

STEP 2: Choose the right hand tools.
For a small-scale spackling job, you’ll need to select a putty knife with a little bit of give in its blade, like HYDE’s 2” SuperFlexx Stainless Steel Putty Knife. The slight flexibility facilitates easy spreading as you pull the spackling over the hole. The bottom section of the blade glides at an angle along the wall surface, helping to push the compound into the hole and reducing the risk of scratching the surface with the corners of the blade (which can happen if you’re using a rigid blade). Plus, the tool’s stainless steel is impervious to rust. In fact, if you neglect to wipe it down immediately after the job, simply give it a small bend, and any dried leftover compound will fall right off.

STEP 3: Select and spread the compound.
Though similar in application, different patching compounds are formulated for use on different surfaces. Make sure you select the right one for the job.

For drywall, pick up a good-quality spackling paste (your choice of either the premixed stuff, which comes in a small tub, or a dry powder that you’ll combine with water) to fill the holes.

For wood, choose a wood filler that’s formulated for the surface at hand. Basic wood filler compounds work in situations where you’re planning on painting over the surface later to hide the obviously discolored patch. For bare wood that will be stained or wood used in an exterior project, look for compounds that are specifically labeled for the intended use.

Once you’ve selected an appropriate product, scoop up a roughly dime-size dollop of spackling paste or filler, and smooth it across the nail hole using the 2″ SuperFlexx Stainless Steel Putty Knife—not your fingers, however tempting that may be. Smoothing with your hands will leave the spackled hole with a slight depression because your digits are not perfectly flat.

The best method involves two swipes: one either sideways or downward to fill the hole with compound, followed by a second swipe back in the opposite direction to wipe away the excess. If you find that your second swipe across the nail hole leaves streaks of spackling paste on the wall or wood, you’ve probably used more paste than necessary; take note and scoop up a little less the next time.

Once the spackling paste has dried completely (the time varies by brand), lightly sand the area with a fine-grit sanding block. Remember: Move in a circular pattern when sanding drywall, and follow the grain when sanding wood.

STEP 4: Apply a second layer of compound.
Some spackling and wood filler compounds shrink more than others, but it’s difficult to see the shrinkage until the wall has been painted. For that reason, it’s best to apply another thin layer even if you think the first application filled the hole completely. Follow the same two-swipe method described in Step 3, then let the compound dry for the recommended amount of time.

Note: Some spackling paste is advertised as “paintable when wet,” but it’s best to err on the side of caution. If you don’t give it a chance to dry, you can’t sand it, and without sanding, you can’t be sure the wall is completely free of leftover bumps or depressions that would draw attention to your spackling job.

STEP 5: Prepare for paint with one last sanding.
Lightly sand the area around the hole to eliminate any excess compound from your second application, and then inspect the hole itself. The paste should only fill the hole and not extend past its edges. If you see extra filler, take care of it with some spot sanding; otherwise, you’re all set! Paint the drywall or wooden surface, and forget about those holes for good.

 

This content has been brought to you by Hyde Tools. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Cool Tools: No-Sacrifice Hearing Protection for Multitasking DIYers

Stay safe and connected with an easy-to-operate wireless device that protects your hearing, lets you enjoy your favorite tunes, and gives you access to your smartphone, all in one sleek package.

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Honeywell Sync Wireless

Photo: honeywellsafety.com

It doesn’t matter what job I’m tackling. Whether I’m staining the deck, installing an appliance, or simply cleaning the bathroom, I always work faster and achieve better results—and enjoy myself more, quite frankly—if I’m listening to music. Surely, I can’t be the only one. If you’re like me and like to whistle while you work, you may even sometimes avoid pulling out power tools whose use requires hearing protection. After all, when the earplugs go in, the music stops. And let’s face it: with nothing but the muffled drone of your equipment to accompany you, repetitive tasks like sawing boards and trimming hedges quickly become, well, repetitive.

The solution? Bluetooth-equipped wireless protective earmuffs that safeguard your hearing while enabling you to listen to music or talk on the phone, all at the same time. True, the concept isn’t entirely new. But now, with the technology having grown steadily more affordable, more streamlined, and more functional, average do-it-yourself weekend warriors are starting to pay closer attention to products like the Honeywell Sync Wireless. The appeal? It’s simple: these earmuffs deliver premium hearing protection while enabling you to stream music or talk on the phone, wirelessly and totally hands-free.

True to its name, Sync Wireless syncs to any Bluetooth-enabled smartphone via radio waves, cutting out the need for any wires that could curb your mobility or pose a safety hazard. All the while, your phone stays in your pocket, the earmuff stays on your head, and you stay focused on the task at hand. Want to play, pause, or skip a song, or for that matter, accept, end, mute, or reject a call? You can do it all without missing a beat by operating the controls built right into the sleek, ergonomic body of the headset itself. And if you do have a device that plays music that’s not equipped with Bluetooth? No problem with the Sync Wireless’ built-in jack.

Photo: honeywellsafety.com

There’s plenty to love about the idea of staying fully connected while toiling away amid the din of a woodworking shop, or while sitting atop a riding lawn mower. In the end, though, connectivity is just the icing on the cake; safety should be paramount. I make it a point always to wear hearing protection because—you guessed it—I genuinely want to protect my hearing! So, I appreciate the fact that for all the functionality packed into Sync Wireless, safety never takes a back seat. Case in point: The earmuff comes equipped with Volume Management Technology. That way, when you’re in the zone and jamming out to your favorite tunes, you can be certain the volume never reaches a harmful decibel level (anywhere above 85dB).

Something else I appreciate: not having to repeat myself. Against background noise loud enough to cause hearing damage, I wouldn’t ordinarily expect a phone conversation to go smoothly. But, thanks to a design that includes a special windsock, the boom mic on the Sync Wireless manages to filter out distortion and output crystal-clear audio to the party on the other end. Another great feature worth noting: the control buttons on the earmuff are so easy to feel and manipulate that even if you’re wearing gloves, you don’t need to drop everything for a call. Instead, you can hop on or off in a matter of seconds, moving the mic into position when you need it, out of the way when you don’t.

Often, my gripe with gadgets is that for all the convenience they may offer when you’re using them, they’re wildly inconvenient to keep charged. Sync Wireless proves an exception. For starters, there’s no battery replacement to worry about, because the technology runs on a built-in, rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Second, a single charge goes a long, long way. Even with heavy usage, Sync Wireless can provide more than 16 hours of performance before it needs to be plugged in. In other words, the product works as hard as you do, helping productivity rather than hindering it, and enabling DIYers to multitask and get more done, more quickly. Now that sounds good!

Purchase the Honeywell Sync Wireless Earmuff today.

Photo: honeywellsafety.com

This article has been brought to you by Honeywell. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Solved! What to Do When Your Toilet Starts Overflowing

Quickly gain control when there’s water gushing from your commode.

Toilet Overflowing? The 3-Step Fix

Photo: istockphoto.com


Q: Help! Just as I was leaving the bathroom, I heard the unmistakable, undesirable sound of water hitting the floor. Looking back, I saw the toilet overflowing! I turned off the water—but what do I do now?
A: An overflowing toilet is a problem everyone will likely deal with at some point. When water issues from the bowl, chances are the culprit is a clogged toilet drain—usually an easy fix with some basic tools.

You’ve already done the right thing by turning off the toilet’s water supply, on the wall behind the toilet. If you can’t find the water supply to stop the toilet overflowing, take the top off the tank and lift the float ball or cup high enough to stop the water from running. Then shut off the water supply to the house with the valve or knob generally located near the water heater.

Should overflow continue once the main water supply is off, you’re dealing with sewage backup, a serious situation requiring an immediate call to a plumber. If you are on a municipal septic system, the plumber can diagnose whether the issue is on your property or something you need to call the city about. If you have a septic tank, you’ll need a plumbing company that can flush out your system.

Hopefully, though, the gushing will have stopped and you may proceed. When you’ve fixed the toilet, make sure to clean the bathroom and tools thoroughly with bleach and hot water.

How to Stop a Toilet Overflowing

Photo: istockphoto.com

Plunge a Clog. The first line of defense for a toilet clog is the standard plunger. If you don’t already own one, invest in one with a flange on the bottom that will extend into the toilet’s drain hole, creating the tight seal that will clear the clog most efficiently. But before you grab the plunger, put on some rubber gloves and remove a few inches of water from the toilet bowl into a bucket with a small container to minimize the risk of sloshing more onto the floor as you plunge. It’s also a good idea to throw a few old towels around the base of the commode to soak up any water that may come out.

Put the plunger into the toilet, inserting the flange directly into the drain hole. Tip: To ensure a tight seal, coat the rim of the flange with petroleum jelly. Keeping the handle upright, vigorously push the plunger up and down for 15 to 20 seconds, an action that forces air and water into the drain to clear the clog. Flush to ensure that the problem is, ahem, behind you!

Snake a Drain. If a plunger fails to do the trick, the next step is to use a toilet snake, also known as a toilet auger—a flexible cable designed to maneuver the twisty turns of the toilet drain. The cable, housed in a rubber hose, has a crank on one end and a coiled hook tip on the other that can snag stubborn materials deep within the drain. A toilet snake costs around $50, but you can rent one from a home improvement or hardware store for about $12 to $15 a day—even less for half a day.

Don your rubber gloves and remove excess water from the toilet into a bucket with a small container. Then place the hook end of the toilet snake into the bowl and begin turning the crank clockwise so the cable extends into the drain. Keep cranking until it won’t go any further—you’ve come to the clog. Gently pull back on the snake and, if you feel resistance, you’ve hooked the clog. Begin cranking counter-clockwise to pull the clog out of the drain back up into the toilet bowl. Dump the clogged material into the bucket and repeat the process several times to ensure that the clog is completely removed. Flush, then dump the waste back into the toilet in small amounts, flushing each time to make sure you don’t create another clog or start the toilet overflowing once more.


How To: Transplant a Tree

Do you have a poorly located tree? There's no need to chop it down! With the right tools and techniques, you can transplant a tree to another area in your yard.

How to Transplant a Tree

Photo: istockphoto.com

Whether they’re deciduous or evergreen, shade or ornamental, trees add value and curb appeal to any property. But, occasionally, a tree’s placement presents some problems. Perhaps it blocks a construction project like a home expansion or a deck addition. Maybe the tree is floundering from inadequate light, soil, or water conditions in its current location. A tree may also start growing too close to the house or surrounding landscaping, preventing healthy development. Whatever the situation, that poorly positioned tree doesn’t have to get you down or get chopped down. As long as the healthy sapling’s tree trunk isn’t larger than three inches in diameter, a homeowner can follow this guide for how to transplant a tree to another spot in the yard.

If you’re considering how to transplant a tree within your property, be sure to time it right: Trees should be moved during late fall or early spring, since the tree’s dormant state allows for speedy root growth in the new location. If transplanting in the fall, complete the task early enough for the roots to get established before the ground freezes. Even so, you should start your project much sooner than that; tree roots must be pruned several months prior to the transplant in order to help the tree thrive in its new location. Keep reading for instructions on how to prune as well as how to transplant your tree—and how to ensure it survives in its new home.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Flat spade
- Shovel
- Pruning shears
- Loppers (optional)
- Natural burlap
- Twine
- Tarp
- Mulch
- Tree stakes

FIRST, PRUNE THE ROOTS.

The process of transplanting a tree actually begins several months prior to the actual relocation with the pruning of its roots. This act encourages the growth of new feeder roots (which absorb water and nutrients) closer to the tree’s base to help the tree better adapt to its new location. If you’re planning to transplant a tree in the fall, then prune roots the previous spring. If you’re planning to transplant a tree in the spring, then prune roots the previous fall.

STEP 1
To properly prepare the tree for pruning, water it well the day before. Watering helps ensure the soil sticks to the roots, and moist soil is easier to dig into.

STEP 2
Calculate how much of the root ball—the cluster of roots at the base of your tree—you intend to prune. As a general rule of thumb, the root ball should be about one foot in diameter for every inch of trunk thickness. So, if the trunk is two inches thick, you’ll aim to prune the root ball to be two feet in diameter.

Note: If your tree’s trunk spans more than three inches in diameter, its root ball will be too heavy and fragile for a do-it-yourself landscaping job. Instead, call a professional to see about having this larger tree transplanted.

STEP 3
Cut a trench (about two feet deep and at least one foot wide) around the root ball with a flat spade, making sure to cut through the existing roots that extend past this circumference using the sharp edge of the spade.

STEP 4
Refill the trench with the uplifted soil, carefully placing subsoil underneath topsoil. When you return in two seasons for the move, you should find new feeder roots growing closer to the tree trunk and creating a strong root system.

 

How to Transplant a Tree

Photo: istockphoto.com

THEN TRANSPLANT THE TREE.

After roots are pruned, homeowners should give the tree several months to establish a new root system. Ensure the tree is healthy before removing it from the ground, since a sick or damaged plant likely won’t survive relocation. If the tree isn’t thriving (whether from disease or environmental issues), you may need to hold off until it becomes healthy again. Also, as an added measure of safety, make sure you aren’t digging near any underground utility lines during the course of the project.

STEP 1
Choose a new location carefully. Make sure the new spot has sufficient space for the tree to grow, as well as proper soil, light, and water conditions. Every type of tree has different requirements, so take the time to do your research.

STEP 2
Water the tree’s soil one day before transplanting. Moist soil is easier to dig and helps maintain the cohesiveness of the root ball.

STEP 3
In the new location, dig a hole that’s about three times as wide yet the same depth as the root ball, in order to give the lateral roots room to spread out. You won’t want to dig a hole too deep, or else rotting of the roots may occur. Take care to save the soil, separating the topsoil from the subsoil. Water the hole well to infuse some extra moisture into the soil, which will help hold the root ball together.

STEP 4
Using a shovel, remove the topsoil near the trunk and roots of the tree. Then start digging around the tree with a sharp, flat spade about six inches further than the pruned roots. Digging several inches past the trench ensures that you include most (if not all) of the new feeder roots that will help the tree adjust to its new location. If you come across any older, stubborn roots in the path of your digging that you missed while digging the trench months ago, cut them with pruning shears or—in the case of larger roots—loppers.

STEP 5
After digging all the way around the circumference of the tree, start to dig under the tree to sever the roots beneath. Remember that the diameter of the root ball as determined when pruning should be left intact; if a tree trunk is two inches in diameter, then dig a little more than two feet down in order to get the full root ball.

STEP 6
Once the tree is completely free of the ground, place a sheet of natural burlap in the hole and coax the tree roots over it. Then lift the tree from the ground with the burlap (never by the trunk) to prevent breakage. Having another person on hand to help contain the tree roots in the burlap and lift the tree from the ground will help immensely.

STEP 7
Secure the burlap together with twine to keep the soil together, and carry the tree to its new position. If it’s too heavy to carry, place its burlap-covered root ball on a tarp so you can drag it to the new location.

STEP 8
Set the tree into the fresh hole, making sure that the base of the trunk will be level with the ground once the hole has been completely filled. Add any soil necessary to achieve the proper height. Once the tree is placed in the ground, remove the burlap and twine.

STEP 9
Fill the ground around the tree with soil from the dug hole, making sure to keep the subsoil on the bottom and the topsoil on top. Tamp the soil down gently as you go. Water thoroughly, all the way out to the edge of the hole site. Then add two to three inches of mulch around the base of the tree, being careful not to push it up onto the trunk, to promote adequate moisture levels and temperature.

 

How to Transplant a Tree

Photo: istockphoto.com

MAINTAINING A TRANSPLANTED TREE

The care you give a tree after transplanting is extremely important. If the tree is smaller, planted on flat terrain, and not exposed to a lot of wind, you shouldn’t need to stake it. The roots will actually grow deeper and stronger if you don’t. But consider staking unsteady or larger trees.

After transplanting, ensure the tree gets enough water in relation to the climate, soil type, and rainfall levels. Generally, homeowners should plan to deeply water the tree every day for the first two weeks. Refrain from fertilizing the tree for at least one year; you want the tree to concentrate its energy on rebuilding its root system instead of producing new growth.

With some planning and thoughtful care, you’ll be able to enjoy your transplanted tree in its new location for many years to come.

 

Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from BobVila.com
With fair weather having arrived finally, it’s time to turn your home improvement efforts to the backyard and your deck, porch, or patio—the parts of the home built specifically to enjoy the extra hours of sunlight. Guided by these practical pointers and inspiring ideas, you can introduce beauty, comfort, and utility to your backyard and outdoor living areas, making them as inviting and enjoyable as your home interiors.


7 Ways to Tackle Spring Cleaning with Vinegar

One of the most versatile, all-natural cleaning agents in the world can be found inside the kitchen pantry, and it barely costs a thing.

6 Tips for Cleaning with Vinegar

Photo: istockphoto.com

For homeowners who appreciate all natural ingredients and saving money on household necessities, baking soda and vinegar have been longtime favorites for tackling household cleaning. But it’s a lesser-known fact that cleaning with vinegar alone can achieve sparkling results, too—no need to fret if you’ve run out of its powdery sidekick before finishing the gallon bottle. Whether your house is in need of deodorizing or descaling, just pull out the jug and refer to these seven tips the next time.

1. Erase crayon marks.

If you have children in your home, you probably know the woe of walking into a room and finding a colorful design on the walls other than your paint job. Never fear; cleaning with vinegar can clear those crayon doodles right up. Using a toothbrush and somewhere between ¼ and 1 cup of white vinegar (depending on how much “art” you need to remove), move in small, gentle circles across the crayon marks to break down the wax, and then gently wipe away.

2. Clean a shower head.

Clogged shower heads aren’t just unsightly to look at; they can also reduce your water pressure, leaving you feeling less than refreshed even after you suds off. To return your shower stream to full strength, fill a medium-sized bowl with equal parts cup vinegar and boiling water, then submerge the shower head in the solution for 10 minutes. Or, if you can’t remove it from the wall, fill a large sandwich or freezer bag halfway with just vinegar, tape or rubber-band it around the head, and leave it there for an hour. Whichever method you choose, the mineral build-up will loosen so that you can simply brush it away once time is up—and enjoy full shower power during your next soak.

3. Spruce up wood floors.

Homeowners have cleaned unwaxed wood floors with vinegar and water for centuries, and this old-fashioned method is still a favorite today. To get your own wood floors squeaky clean, combine a gallon of hot water with ½ cup vinegar in a bucket and then dip a household mop or sponge into the solution and wipe down. Just be careful to use a sparing amount of the mixture. A damp mop will clean well while still allowing the floors to dry quickly. Too much water left behind on the floors, however, can do much more harm than good, including causing the floorboards to swell and warp. If you notice any visible puddles, dry them up with a towel as you clean.

Refresh a Fridge by Cleaning with Vinegar

Photo: istockphoto.com

4. Refresh your fridge.

If your refrigerator smells a little stale, it’s likely the result of a mixture of trace amounts of food left behind over time. To get rid of less-than-fresh odors, try cleaning with vinegar. Clear your fridge of its contents, combine two parts water with one part vinegar in a spray bottle, and spritz it all over the appliance’s empty interior. Let the solution sit for 20 minutes to loosen up any dried spills before wiping everything down with a microfiber cloth. Repeat if necessary, and bid those funky smells farewell.

5. Clean your microwave.

The microwave is another appliance that’s notorious for accruing quite an odor over time, and liquid stains can stick on stubbornly no matter how much you scrub. Steaming your microwave’s interior first, though, effectively loosens up even the toughest gunk. Just place a small glass bowl of equal parts water and vinegar (½ cups to one cup each, depending on how deep a steam you think you might need) and microwave it for five to 10 minutes. To prevent the bowl of vinegar and water from boiling over, place a toothpick in the solution before hitting “start”—the wooden object will attract any bubbles that form on the boiling liquid so that they don’t rapidly rise to the top and overflow. Once machine’s timer sounds, you should be able to wipe away the grime and grease from the steamed interior with ease.

6. Get rid of litter box odors.

Cat owners know the unpleasant stench of a litter box in need of freshening up. With vinegar on hand, however, there’s a single-ingredient solution that can tackle the offending smell in three quick steps. Empty the litter box, fill it with ½ inch of vinegar for 20 minutes, and rinse with cold water. Once the box gets refilled with kitty litter, pet owners and their guests can breathe easy in well under an hour’s worth of work.

7. Descale your tea kettle.

Consistent tea-drinking habits gradually coat the interior of a kettle in limescale—unsightly and unsavory white calcium deposits left behind when hot water evaporates. Fortunately, cleaning with vinegar (a natural descaling agent) will restore your kettle to its original state. Fill it halfway with equal parts cold water and white vinegar, then either turn on the stove under the kettle or plug in your electric appliance to bring the solution to a boil. Once the water is boiling, turn off the heat and allow the vinegar-water solution to sit in the kettle for 30 minutes to an hour. Empty the kettle and rinse the interior with cold water and wipe away any lingering limescale with a clean, damp cloth (no scrubbing necessary). Then, boil clean water for your next beverage to prevent any vinegary aftertaste from seeping into future cups of tea.

 

The Dos and Don'ts of Cleaning with Vinegar

Photo: istockphoto.com

Dos and Don’ts of Cleaning with Vinegar

• Do use vinegar and water as a general cleaning agent on countertops (except for those made of natural stone), windows, and unwaxed floors. it’s a safe, biodegradable, health-friendly alternative that’s been a staple of household cleaning for generations.

Don’t use vinegar on waxed wood floors; it will strip the finish and leave you with dull, damaged planks.

Don’t use too much vinegar solution on unwaxed wood floors, since standing water can create a host of problems from warping to mildew to mold.

Don’t EVER combine vinegar with bleach or ammonia. Each of those combinations results in chloramine, a toxic vapor that’s hazardous to your health.

 

Cleaning Tips for a Spotless Home

All of the Essential Cleaning Advice from BobVila.com
There’s no way around it: Keeping the house clean demands your time, your energy, and even some of your money. Fortunately, this arsenal of cleaning tips can help you finish the housekeeping more quickly—and with fewer commercially sold products.


How To: Seal a Granite Countertop

Protect your pricey kitchen investment with the right sealant and these techniques.

How to Seal a Granite Countertop

Photo: istockphoto.com

If you’ve got a gorgeous granite countertop and want to keep it in “show home” shape, you may need to seal it. Some countertops come pre-sealed, but if yours did not (or you’re not sure) don’t delay giving it the shield it needs. Improper cleaning, neglected spills, and other issues of everyday use could easily mar the surface otherwise. The proper penetrating (or impregnating) sealer will soak into the granite, filling the porous gaps, to keep damage at bay. True, a sealant only buys you time—unattended spills will seep into sealed granite eventually—but the right one and the following steps for how to seal a granite countertop will certainly help protect your investment.

Water-based sealants are environmentally friendly, while solvent-based sealants may go deeper into the stone—though this is arguably only important on polished granite. Check water- or solvent-based sealant labels for the active ingredient “fluorocarbon aliphatic resin.” Though the product will be pricier than those containing such agents as siloxane and silicon, fluorocarbon aliphatic resin will provide five to 10 years of protection, versus six months to three years with other sealants. What’s more, fluorocarbon aliphatic resins repel oil as well as water, so your granite won’t be ruined by a salad dressing mishap. A quart of fluorocarbon aliphatic resin sealant costs about $35 and offers between 150 to 250 square feet of coverage, depending on brand. A 24-oz spray bottle of lesser solvent runs around $15 but might require reapplying every six months or so.

Ahead, you’ll find general guidance for how to seal a granite countertop with either variety, but specific directions vary according to brand and active ingredients. It’s crucial to follow label instructions on the sealant you buy in addition to these handy guidelines for the best results.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Microfiber cloths
- Spray bottle
- Liquid dishwashing detergent
- Isopropyl or rubbing alcohol
- Granite sealer
- Rubber gloves
- Soft rags

STEP 1
Determine if the countertop requires sealing. Somewhere inconspicuous, like in a corner of the counter, put a few drops of water on top, and a few inches away, put a few drops of oil. After 15 minutes, check to see if the water or oil has seeped in and darkened the granite. If so, proceed with these instructions for how to seal a granite countertop. If not, then the countertop is already sealed, and doing so again will not offer extra protection but only leave an unattractive hazy film.

STEP 2
Clean the countertop 24 hours before sealing, making sure to avoid potentially damaging vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, bleach, or harsh commercial cleansers. First, take everything off the counter and wipe it down well with a clean, dry microfiber cloth to remove all surface dust. Then, mix one teaspoon of dishwashing detergent and two tablespoons of isopropyl alcohol in a pint spray bottle and fill with cool water. Generously spray the countertop and wipe clean while polishing in a circular motion, using a microfiber cloth. Wait 24 hours before proceeding: The space occupied by the cleaning agent is the same space that the sealant will penetrate, so you must ensure that the cleaning liquid has fully evaporated.

How to Seal a Granite Countertop

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 3
Read the sealant’s label thoroughly to understand the application method. Should our instructions vary from the label, defer to the manufacturer. Open nearby windows and doors for ventilation. If it’s raining, do not open windows that could allow rain to hit the countertop; instead, open windows in other areas of the room or in adjacent rooms.

STEP 4
Put on rubber gloves and grab the rags. In an area usually covered by a small appliance, test the sealant to ensure it won’t affect the finish. Apply a small amount per manufacturer’s directions, by spraying or pouring onto a cloth and then rubbing it evenly over the test area.

STEP 5
Wait the recommended time for the sealant to absorb into the granite, usually 15 to 20 minutes, but sometimes much longer. Don’t let it sit longer than recommended, because that could discolor the stone.

STEP 6
If the sealant test area looks great, proceed to Step 7. If it has discolored, wipe up any remaining sealant with a clean rag. Then snap a few photos of the area and show them to an associate at your local home center for advice on a more appropriate product. Once you’ve acquired a new sealant, clean the counter and test the new sealant.

STEP 7
If the test was successful, apply the sealant over the entire counter, beginning at one end and working your way to the other. Apply in sections, using a circular motion, of an arm’s length in diameter, to ensure equal coverage throughout. Wait the manufacturer’s recommended time for the product to absorb into the countertop.

STEP 8
After the absorption period has passed, wipe any extra sealant off with a clean, soft, dry rag, rubbing in a circular motion. Some products require a second coat, so follow instructions to do so. If the product you use requires one coat, allow it cure, which can take between two and 48 hours. Nonetheless, granite experts recommend waiting a full 48 hours before wiping a newly sealed granite countertop with anything wet. Also, avoid returning any kitchenware to the counter until after the curing period.

STEP 9
Once the countertop has fully cured, put your kitchen back in order. Keep the spray bottle of cleaner you created around for periodic use every month or two. For daily cleaning, a dab of dish detergent and a wet rag will get the job done beautifully. Strive to wipe up spills immediately and then dry the countertop to keep your granite looking great.

 

How to Seal a Granite Countertop

Photo: istockphoto.com