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How To: Replace A Toilet Flange

Water at the base of the commode is a real red flag. Fix the plumbing problem with the guidance and techniques here.

How to Replace a Toilet Flange

Photo: istockphoto.com

The bathroom may well be the wet spot in any home, but water pooling around the base of the commode doesn’t fall in the norm. This dampness means it might be time to replace the flange, the circular pipe fitting that connects the toilet to the sewage pipe. Without a secure, solid footing on your commode, persistent leaking can damage flooring, cause mold to develop, or even emit wastewater, potentially causing hygiene and health issues for anyone in the household. Luckily, swapping in a new toilet flange is a fairly common plumbing repair that many handy homeowners can manage, saving anywhere from $100 to $200 on hiring a pro.

The keys to success are precise measurements (so that you purchase the right-sized replacement flange) and extra attention to ensure that the toilet sits flush on the floor at the end of the project. And remember to plan your DIY day accordingly: You’ll need to remove the toilet, measure the flange, and then make a run to the plumbing supply or hardware store in a short span so that you aren’t living with a nonworking toilet for long. Follow the instructions laid out in this guide on how to replace a toilet flange, and you’ll soon return to dry floors.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Newspaper
– Adjustable wrench
– Putty knife
– Multi-head screwdriver
– Disinfecting wipes (optional)
– Disposable old rag
– Plastic bags
– Measuring tape
– New flange, including correct size bolts and screws

STEP 1
Turn off the water main for the toilet by locating the knob on the wall behind it and turning clockwise. This will prevent water from refilling the tank after each flush, but won’t stop water from leaving the system. Once the water is turned off, flush the toilet, then wait for the bowl to refill, and flush again, repeating until all the water from both the bowl and reservoir has drained from the toilet.

STEP 2
While the toilet’s draining, spread newspaper over the bathroom floor. Make sure there are several sheets of paper in layers, because this is where you’ll place the toilet once you’ve removed it from the mount.

STEP 3
Disconnect the water supply from the toilet. This is a braided pipe or metal hose that runs out from the wall to the toilet, next to the valve. You should be able to twist it off by hand, but if it’s too tight, use an adjustable wrench. There’s no need to remove it from the wall unless you’re planning to replace it, too, or it’s so long that it might get in the way when your hands are full, trying to replace the toilet at the end of this project.

STEP 4
Unfasten the two nuts on bolts that hold the toilet to the flange and floor. Use the adjustable wrench if the nuts don’t loosen easily by hand. Set the nuts aside to reattach the toilet when the flange replacement is complete.

How to Replace a Toilet Flange

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 5
Prepare to remove the toilet, keeping in mind that the average commode weighs between 70 and 120 pounds. If you’re not confident in your ability to lift it on your own, enlist a helper. To avoid injury doing it yourself, straddle the unit, crouch down, and grab from under the bowl. Then engage your core and lift the unit straight up—using your leg muscles, not your back—so it that it lifts cleanly off the bolts. Set it carefully atop of the newspapers.

STEP 6
Now you’ll see the outflow or sewage pipe with the flange. Remove the old wax that sealed the toilet to the flange and pipe with a putty knife. Simply scrape it off and smear it on the newspaper until you can access the top of the flange.

STEP 7
Find the screws (up to four) on the outside of the flange, which will need to come out. Use your multi-head screwdriver fitted with the corresponding screw bit to remove the screws.

STEP 8
Lift the flange off and clean it under a faucet or with disinfecting wipes. Set it aside on the newspaper. Tuck the disposable rag into the mouth of the sewage outflow pipe to block unpleasant odors and gasses from emitting.

STEP 9
Measure the width the outflow pipe’s mouth. Double-check your measurements and make note of them. Put the old flange into a plastic bag and head to your local hardware store, plumbing supply, or home center and buy a flange of corresponding size, type, and shape. Having the old flange with you allows for a head-to-head comparison. Purchase a correct-size wax seal for the new flange too. The new flange should come with new bolts and screws; if not, buy those as well, checking for fit.

STEP 10
Once back in the bathroom, remove the rag from the outflow pipe and place it in a plastic bag for disposal. Fit the new flange into place over the outflow pipe. Double-check that the new flange is flush against the floor and fitting correctly with no gaps below. Now screw the flange into place on the mount, using the new bolts and screws. When done, you’ll have two bolts protruding up from the flange and floor, where the toilet will be remounted.

STEP 11
Turn the toilet sideways on the floor and locate the round mouth where the toilet sits atop the flange. Affix the new wax seal around the mouth by pressing firmly into place without over-handling or misshaping it.

STEP 12
Carefully lift the toilet (use your legs, not your back!). Watch for the bolts to meet up with the bolt holes on the toilet base. Lower the toilet slowly, as levelly as possible, so it slides over the bolts and returns to its rightful spot. Eyeball the base to see if it looks level on all sides. If not, wiggle it until it’s situated equally all around. Now put your weight into it and press the toilet down as firmly to engage the wax seal with the flange.

STEP 13
Replace the nuts back onto the bolts. Use your hand at first, and then tighten with the adjustable wrench to ensure the toilet won’t rock or wiggle in months to come.

STEP 14
Reattach the water supply hose to the inflow valve on the toilet. Make sure you’ve got it affixed tightly so there’ll be no dribbles or leaks later.

STEP 15
Turn the water valve back on and wait for the toilet reservoir tank to fill. Once full, flush it. Wait for the bowl to fill, then flush again. Do this two to three times to ensure proper function. If the toilet is flushing correctly, run your hand along the floor around the toilet base. Is the floor dry? Great! Clean up and congratulate yourself on doing the job like a pro!

 

How to Replace a Toilet Flange

Photo: istockphoto.com

 

DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from BobVila.com
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on BobVila.com. Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build or make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.


Solved! The Best Way to Remove Wallpaper

Whether you're stuck dealing with temporary, strippable, or vinyl wallpapers, we've got the easiest methods to bring them down and bare your walls once again.

The Best Way to Remove Wallpaper

Photo: istockphoto.com

Q. We’ve just moved into our new home, and the previous owners have left behind a wallpaper print in the bathroom that has got to go. Unfortunately, we have no idea how long it’s been in place—or what to expect when taking it down. What’s the best way to remove wallpaper?

While scraping away the glued-on paper of years past may seem daunting, it doesn’t have to be. The right tools and technique can greatly ease the amount of work you have to do. Of course, the exact tools and the best way to remove wallpaper will depend on what type of paper is up on your walls. Follow these tips to determine the wall covering your dealing with—removable, strippable, or vinyl wallpaper—and how to remove the specific style.

The Best Way to Remove Wallpaper

Photo: istockphoto.com

Before you begin, cover your floors. Protect your precious hardwood or plush carpeting with drop cloths (non-slip canvas works best) and cover the baseboards with wide painter’s tape. You’ll want to ensure that no peeled wallpaper strips or glue residue accidentally touches and sticks to these features as it comes down from the wall.

Locate a corner of the patterned paper, and give it a tug. If it’s removable wallpaper (also called temporary wallpaper), it was designed to come down easily. As long as the wall beneath the paper was painted in an eggshell, satin, or semi-gloss with a slight sheen—and then properly prepped and cleaned before installation—the paper should release from the wall with a careful pull at any of its seams. Stand on a ladder and use a putty knife to unstick the top left corner of the wall (likely the first sheet of wallpaper to be installed). Once you have enough of the perimeter lifted to grasp, take the sheet between your fingers to continue removing it. If you like the pattern enough to place it elsewhere within the house, aim to pull the wallpaper directly down rather than out from the wall in order to prevent curling and bending it. After you’ve repeated this process with each sheet, wipe the wall with a damp cloth to remove any glue marks left behind. With that, your surface is ready to be repapered or painted in any color you choose.

However, since removable wallpaper only recently emerged as a trend for homeowners and apartment renters alike, there’s a chance that this is not the type of wallpaper on your walls. If your careful attempts to peel didn’t do the trick, you may be dealing with strippable or vinyl varieties, each of which requires a different approach.

If stuck on, spray down with hot water. Strippable paper is more permanent but permeable, meaning that the water can seep through and soften the paste for easy removal when the time comes. You’ll work one section at a time, so use your first patch as an opportunity to test whether you’re working on strippable stuff. (Alternatively, if hot water alone does no good, it could be that you’re looking at water-resistant vinyl. In that case, proceed to the next method outlined below.) Simply fill a hand or pump sprayer and dampen the first panel thoroughly with hot water. After allowing it a few minutes to absorb, try peeling the panel back at its top left corner. If the paper lifts, great! Proceed one panel at a time until the wall is bare, washing the walls with warm water and a large noncellulose sponge frequently as you go to remove residual glue. Otherwise, any glue dries will require rewetting and a little extra elbow grease to remove later.

For truly stubborn vinyl wallpaper, score it and try again. To get through the water-resistant vinyl and affect the glue itself, the best way to remove wallpaper begins with rolling a scoring tool over the wall—from corner to corner and from floor to ceiling—in a random pattern. This tool’s tiny teeth create small slits that allow the liquid to seep in and loosen the glue. Then, give your supply of hot water a boost to help dissolve the glue by mixing 1/4 cup liquid fabric softener per gallon of water into your hand or pump sprayer. Heavily saturate with the solution one section of wall at a time starting at the top left and working your way down. After 10 to 15 minutes, you can start peeling back damp wallpaper where the wall meets the ceiling. You should have luck removing large pieces now that the glue has softened, but keep a wall scraper handy to shave away strips of paper that do not come off in one continuous strip. Continue spraying the hot solution onto the wall as needed, and you’ll spend less effort scraping. When you do use the scraper, take care to hold the tool so its blade is nearly parallel to the wall when you work so that you have few gouges to repair when you’re all finished.

 

The Best Way to Remove Wallpaper

Photo: istockphoto.com

Once the wallpaper is lifted, scrub away the residual glue. Removable wallpapers leave minimal residue behind, but could still use a cleaning. To tackle most other glues, you’ll need a bucket of hot water, liquid dish soap, and a table of baking soda—as well as an extra cup of vinegar for every gallon of water on standby if the adhesive is particularly stubborn. Soak a sponge and ring out most of the water before rubbing the solution into the sticky leftovers. Once the adhesive softens enough to scrape away with your fingernails, wipe as much as you can away with a clean rag and scrape the tough stuff with a putty knife. Clear the adhesive until not a speck remains—even one lump can mar the appearance of a fresh paint job—and finish with a quick and easy clean.

 

DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from BobVila.com
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on BobVila.com. Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build or make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.


Winter Comfort Starts with Spring Remodeling

If you're getting ready for a spring renovation project, this may be the perfect time to opt for a new HVAC system that will ensure wintertime comfort and help reduce your monthly heating costs.

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Radiant Heat Planning

Photo: istockphoto.com

With the cheerful arrival of spring, the frigid, finger-numbing weather we endured mere weeks ago suddenly seems like a distant memory. But don’t fool yourself: If you were uncomfortable at home last winter, it’s only a matter of time before you find yourself in the exact same spot again. That’s why, if you plan to embark on a home remodeling project in the coming months—if you’re doing a gut renovation, putting on an addition, or even building a brand-new home—you have a golden opportunity ahead. You have a chance to decide not only how your living space will look and function, but also how it will feel day to day, because this will be the perfect time for you to switch up your HVAC system. What you decide to do now will have an effect that last decades. Your system choice matters!

Contractors typically default to recommending a conventional forced-air system. This isn’t surprising. Forced air has dominated the market for decades, so it’s the HVAC system that pros—and their homeowner clients—know best. In fact, forced air has been so deeply entrenched in the industry for so long that few even consider other technologies. That’s a mistake. In recent years, a host of new technologies have leapt onto the scene, and the most intriguing of all may be radiant heating. Popular around the world but still relatively unknown here in the United States, radiant heating offers a radically different winter comfort experience, one that improves on forced air in numerous ways.

Read on to learn more about the benefits of radiant heating, and why more and more homeowners are choosing it as an alternative to the more familiar, but flawed, options.

 

RADIANT HEATING 101

Underfloor Heating

Photo: warmboard.com

Don’t be mistaken: You may be hearing about radiant heating for the first time now, in 2017, but it’s nothing new. In fact, the technology traces its beginnings back to the homes of noblemen in ancient Rome. It’s only recently, however, that after years of optimization by industry leaders like Warmboard, radiant heating has become not only a viable whole-home heating option, but a best bet, one that fuses high performance with high efficiency. The key to it all: Radiant heating doesn’t operate like any other system. Instead of distributing heat through a vent or stand-alone unit, it does so across the full square footage, from the ground up. How does it work? Boiler-heated water cycles through tubing set into radiant panels under the floor. The tubing heats the panels, and the panels then radiate heat gently into the room. The result? You get “everywhere” warmth—a very different experience from patchy, imperfect forced air.

 

EVERYWHERE WARMTH

Underfloor Heating vs. Forced Air

Photo: warmboard.com

Does this sound familiar? You hear the heating system kick on, and a rush of hot air enters the room. Comfort arrives, but it disappears just as quickly as it came. That’s a key frustration with forced air. The heat shuts off when the conditioned space gets sufficiently warm, then turns on again once the temperature cools. In this way, as a result of its on-again, off-again operation, forced air creates uncomfortable, yoyo-like conditions. The fact that warm air rises only exacerbates the problem. Put it all together, and you can see why forced air fails to create consistent comfort. Meanwhile, radiant heating excels where the older technology falls short. For one, it concentrates heat not near the ceiling, but at floor level, where you need it—and can feel it—the most. And thanks to their under-floor placement, panels provide even heat across every inch of space, both within each room and from one room, and one floor, to the next.

 

QUALITY-OF-LIFE BENEFITS

Underfloor Heating Benefits

Photo: istockphoto.com

One way or another, traditional heating attracts attention, whether through unsightly components, distracting noise, or poor indoor air quality. Radiant heating, however, goes entirely unnoticed. In part, that’s because radiant panels are literally out of view. But radiant systems are concealed not only from the eye, but also from the ear: The technology operates silently—that’s right, silently! Also, consider that while forced air circulates dust, germs, and other impurities—lowering indoor humidity in the process—radiant heating neither spreads airborne pollutants nor fosters the dry, scratchy conditions that prove a nuisance (and sometimes pose health risks) during the long winter months. Think about it this way: In a home with forced air, you can’t help but remain at least dimly aware of the heating system and its shortcomings. Radiant heating, in contrast, enables you to forget about your heating system and focus on the more important things for a change.

 

MORE COMFORT, LESS MONEY

Underfloor Heating Savings

Photo: istockphoto.com

Your utility costs drop as soon as you start relying on radiant heating for cold-weather relief. Why? The technology offers several savings benefits, none more consequential than its elimination of the main inefficiency that plagues forced air. While channeling conditioned air from the furnace to living spaces throughout the home, the ductwork in a forced-air system can leak enough heat to compromise overall efficiency by over 25 percent. To make up for the loss, the furnace must work harder, for longer, which drives up costs. But radiant heating sidesteps the issue altogether, because it doesn’t involve any ductwork. So whereas heating your home with forced air often means paying more to compensate for the system type’s fundamental flaws, radiant heating eliminates wasted energy, ensuring that you pay only for heat you and your family felt and enjoyed. Isn’t that the way it should be?

 

CHOOSE WISELY

Underfloor Heating Systems

Photo: warmboard.com

Choose your radiant system carefully. All offer compelling advantages—and all offer a minimum of 25 percent monthly savings over forced air—but only one choice maximizes homeowner savings: Warmboard. Other systems encase their tubing in gypsum concrete. The problem? Concrete takes forever to heat up and cool down. Warmboard sets itself apart by swapping concrete for a combination of wood and, more importantly, aluminum. Not only does aluminum respond much more quickly than concrete, but it also transfers heat more effectively—so much more effectively that Warmboard can heat your home with water 30 degrees cooler than other systems. As a consequence, the boiler driving a Warmboard installation can conserve enough energy to save an extra 10 to 20 percent each month. Ultimately, radiant heating means total comfort, but with Warmboard, you get comfort at the most comfortable cost.

 

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


Quick Tip: How to Find a Wall Stud

Hanging something heavy from the wall? Before you do, you may need a lesson in locating wall studs.

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There’s a reason they make stud finders. These tiny tools come in handy when you need to find a wall stud, usually when you’re hanging something heavy like a large picture frame, mirror, or shelf. If you don’t have a stud finder, you can still locate the studs in your wall but does take a little detective work. Here are a few tried and true methods for locating wall studs. Once you track down these sturdy spots in your wall, you can hang your heavy items without fear of causing unnecessary damage to your drywall.

For more tool and workshop advice, consider:

Proceed with Caution: 10 Power Tools That Can Kill You

The Best New Home Products for Under $50

15 Handy Things to Get from Home Depot for Under $15


Wood Filler: Your Secret Weapon for Fast and Easy Furniture Fixes

Learn how an easy-to-use, stainable wood filler let this satisfied homeowner sidestep a time-consuming refinishing job and still end up with a beautiful, professional-looking end result.

Wood Filler

Photo: JNoonan

In the above photo, you’re seeing what used to be a playroom for my two daughters. For years, the space contained the chaos of their picture books, art supplies, and plastic toys. But once the kids entered elementary school—and once their afternoons became dominated by endless extracurricular activities—the playroom grew quieter and quieter. Gradually, it became clear to me that the girls needed not a no-holds-barred play area, but a quiet place to concentrate and do homework. That’s when I struck upon the idea of a family office, one that would be functional both for my kids and for my husband and me.

To anchor the office, I envisioned a desk large enough to fit two (pint-size or full-grown) people comfortably. A thrift-store junkie, I didn’t even consider buying something brand new. Instead, I set off on a tour of the local secondhand stores, thinking that if I didn’t strike upon a beautiful vintage piece of the right size, then at the very least I’d be able to snag a temporary solution. In the end, though, I managed to get lucky. On my first day out hunting, for $10 apiece, I purchased a trio of Art Deco vanity cabinets, and for a couple of bucks more, an oversize laminate board to serve as a durable work surface.

Furniture Damage

Photo: JNoonan

I happen to love the Art Deco style, but the cabinets had no doubt seen better days. Most of the damage came in the form of minor, barely noticeable scratches and dings, but there were also a number of deep gouges that anyone could spot from a mile away. No problem, I thought. Eliminating those eyesores would be as simple as refinishing the cabinetry. But simple though it may be, refinishing takes time and effort, and months passed before I faced up to the fact that overhauling the cabinets would never reach the top of my to-do list. In other words, it was time for me to pursue a speedier, more pragmatic fix.

In the past, in situations roughly similar to my cabinet conundrum, I had used wood filler with tremendous success to conceal flaws in both interior and exterior wood. Of course, if the cabinets had not been structurally sound, it would have been necessary to mount a more ambitious fix. But under the circumstances, with the cabinets having suffered only superficial damage, I felt confident that wood filler would do the trick. If I was concerned about anything, it was the challenge of blending the patched areas with the existing cabinet finish. After all, you can’t stain wood filler—or so I thought.

Elmer's ProBond Wood Filler

Photo: JNoonan

At Lowe’s, I was delighted to discover the first and only wood filler on the market that you can stain—Elmer’s ProBond Wood Filler. Although wood filler typically comes in an array of colors, you would normally have no choice but to settle for one that didn’t quite match the existing finish of the wood you were patching. Any areas that you repaired would stand out as obviously having been repaired. In other words, you would have to accept an imperfect result. Stainable wood filler, meanwhile, enables you to conceal your repair work with any stain you like—whichever offers the closest color match.

Besides its ability to accept stain, Elmer’s ProBond Wood Filler also appeals to do-it-yourselfers because it’s easy to work with. In fact, you can use virtually any tool to apply the compound to damaged wood. For my project, I opted to use a putty knife, but I could have relied on a paint stirrer or a cotton ball or even my index finger. After a bit of preparation—removing dust and debris from the damaged areas and sanding down the rough edges—I proceeded to the main event: Working the wood filler into chips and gouges until each sat flush with its surroundings. All told, it took me half an hour.

Using Wood Filler

Photo: JNoonan

Note that with other wood fillers, you need to take care to account for shrinkage—that is, you must overfill your repairs in order to counteract any contraction that takes place once the compound has dried. With Elmer’s ProBond Wood Filler, however, you can ignore shrinkage altogether, and thanks to its unique formulation, you can expect that the compound will never crack. Yet another reason to like the Elmer’s product: It dries quite quickly. In my case, because I was repairing relatively shallow gouges, the filler dried in only 15 minutes, giving me the chance to proceed directly to the next step—sanding each patch until smooth.

Finally, to complete the job and erase evidence of the repair, I set about staining each patch of wood filler. In the garage, where I like to hoard paint and stain cans, I had scrounged around and found a stain pen whose color looked almost identical to the walnut cabinet finish. But rather than go full speed ahead, I first tested the stain on the least conspicuous, most out-of-the-way wood filler patch. Once I was sure that the color match would be as good as it had initially seemed to be, I went about staining the remaining patches. It took more than one coat, but eventually, any sign of my repair work had all but disappeared.

Using Stain Pen

Photo: JNoonan

True, I’d initially planned to refinish the wood, but with the desk looking as good as it does now, I see no reason to go any further. That said, considering the project in retrospect, I’d say the quality of the outcome wasn’t even the best part—it was the “no muss, no fuss” process. If I’d gone the refinishing route, I would have needed to empty the cabinets, haul them out to the garage—you get the picture. It would have been an ordeal. But Elmer’s ProBond Wood Filler enabled me to get right to it, working on the pieces just where they stood, and finishing the project in a fraction of the time it would have taken to refinish.

Having purchased an eight-ounce container of the product, I now have plenty of it left over, and I’m glad. Wood filler comes in handy, not only for furniture fix-ups, but also for a wide variety of repairs, both around the house and in the yard. Scarred flooring, rotted fence boards, nail-hole-ridden wall trim—common issues like these can lead to time-consuming, energy-sapping, and wallet-emptying repairs. Or they can be dealt with quickly, easily, and affordably with nothing more than Elmer’s ProBond Wood Filler. If you’ve never experimented with this stuff before, get excited: It could very well become your go-to home repair favorite.

Wood Filler Redux

Photo: JNoonan

 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Elmers. The opinions and text are all mine.


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.