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All You Need to Know About Landscape Fabric

If you’re fed up with weeds and considering a physical barrier to those pesky plants, learn how to make it work for you.

All You Need to Know About Working with Landscape Fabric


Whether you’re new to gardening or have been at it so long your thumb is a deep shade of green, you may have seen rolls of landscape fabric at DIY stores and gardening centers—and become intrigued. Take our crash course in this material designed to inhibit weeds and keep soil from drying out. We’ll clue you in on the pros versus cons, explain how to pick the best product, and share tips on using it most effectively.

Composition and Cost

Landscape fabric is constructed from woven fibers or manufactured as a solid sheet with perforated holes to allow water to soak through. Some brands offer UV protection to maintain the life of the fabric. It comes in rolls, typically at least 3 feet wide and anywhere from 50 feet to 200 feet, or more, in length. Cost varies from around $.45 per sq. ft., up to $.80 per sq. ft., depending on the brand and thickness (thicker fabric typically runs a bit more). Landscape pins, which sell separately for about $.10 per pin, are necessary for securing the fabric and can add another $.50 per sq. ft. to your total material cost. Virtually all landscape fabric is intended to be covered with mulch—wood chips, gravel, recycled rubber, or any other type of organic or inorganic mulch.

Basic Benefits

Most gardeners agree that the best place for landscape fabric is around shrubs and trees where it can be installed and topped with quality mulch to hopefully last for years. Because it’s intended to be left in place, it’s not recommended for vegetable gardens or annual flower beds. Landscape fabric:

• Prevents weed seeds buried in the soil beneath from sprouting.

• Limits the need to use herbicides for weed control.

• Helps retain soil moisture by reducing evaporation.

• Offers some erosion control on slopes subject to washout from heavy rains.

Notable Negatives

The quality of the landscape fabric—and good installation practices (discussed below)—will determine how long will last, but it’s not a miracle product. Some gardeners refuse to use it because:

• It discourages garden-friendly earthworms that need to reach the soil surface to survive. Earthworms aerate the soil, so, without them, the ground beneath landscape fabric can become compact and unhealthy.

• Natural organic mulch, such as fallen leaves or pine needles, cannot replenish nutrients in the soil because the fabric acts as a barrier. Without fabric, this type of organic matter would naturally biodegrade and eventually blend with the soil.

• Weed seeds can still sprout in the mulch used to cover the fabric. While the fabric blocks seeds beneath it from sprouting, new seeds can blow in and—depending on the type of fabric—their roots can adhere tightly to the perforations, making it difficult to pull them out without pulling up the fabric with them. This is especially true if you use organic mulch, such as wood chips, which will eventually degrade and become a virtual plant-growing medium on top of the fabric.

Best Tips for Using Landscape Fabric


Smart Usage Tips

If you’ve decided to try landscape fabric, the following practices will help ensure the health of your plants and the longevity of your landscape design.

• Choose professional-grade landscape fabric. Cheap stuff rips easily and might not last a single season. The weight and thickness of the fabric is a good determiner of its quality. A roll with a total of 150 square feet that weighs 20 pounds is going to have thicker, heavier fabric than a roll with the same square footage that weighs only 10 pounds. If you’re unsure, ask a reputable garden center to recommend their best landscape fabric.

• Add amendments, such as composted manure, peat moss, and other types of organic matter, to the soil before installing landscape fabric—because, obviously, you can’t add them later. If you’re unsure of what amendments to add, take a soil sample to your local extension office, a county office that provides residents with agricultural and gardening information, and performs soil and water tests (usually for a fee).

• Level the soil. After adding amendments and working them into the soil thoroughly, level the surface by breaking up hard clods and raking the surface smooth.

• Lay out the fabric with the rough side facing downward. This helps the fabric stay in place while you’re working.

Do not skimp on fabric. Overlap the edges of the landscape fabric by at least 8 inches if you need to use multiple pieces of fabric, and allow a 2-inch overhang around the edges. You can tuck it under later when the rest of the fabric has been secured. Landscaped beds typically have a border, so you can tuck the excess fabric neatly along the inside of the border. Just push it down between the soil and the border with a putty knife to conceal it.

Pin the fabric securely. Insert a landscape pin every 8 to 10 inches along the edges of the fabric and every 12 inches apart in the center of the fabric. Don’t skimp on pins or fabric could come loose in a month or two.

• Cut round holes for inserting landscape plants, using a very sharp utility knife. Make sure holes are large enough to plant the specimens you select.

• Cover the landscape fabric with 2 to 3 inches of mulch. This layer assists the pins in holding it down, protects it from UV rays, and helps the ground beneath the fabric retain moisture. Plus, mulch adds a beautiful finishing touch to the landscaping!

Considerate Care

The purpose of landscape fabric is to control weeds, and it’s bound to do its job effectively for the first year or two—but be prepared to pull weeds that may sprout on top of the fabric later.

You may wish to apply a pre-emergent herbicide to the top of the mulch, such as Preen, at the start of every new growing season to help reduce blown-in seeds from sprouting. A pre-emergent herbicide won’t harm established plants.

Add mulch as necessary. You’ll probably need to with organic mulches that degrade and thin out over time; gravel and rock mulch remain pretty much the same as when first applied.


Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from
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.

Video: These Bad Habits Could Burn Down Your House

We're here to tell you, your bad behavior is not worth the risk.


You know the basics of fire safety: Check the fire extinguisher, douse a grease fire with baking soda, never leave an open flame unattended, and, in an emergency, stop, drop and roll. Even if you’re following the cardinal rules of fire prevention, some common and seemingly minor mistakes could be putting you and your home at risk, from the way you do your laundry to your late-night Netflix binges. Watch and learn about the ways you might be unknowingly inviting disaster, then make some changes to your behavior before the unthinkable occurs.

For more home safety tips, consider:

10 Safety Essentials That Most Homes Are Missing

8 Dangerous Secrets Your Home May Be Hiding

10 Accidents Waiting to Happen—and How to Stay Safe

How To: Clean an AC Filter

With just a little regular maintenance, you'll have clean conditioned air all year round.

How To Clean An AC Filter


Though often overlooked, HVAC air filters are responsible for a mighty important job: keeping dust, dirt, and other debris out of the air we breathe indoors. As they improve your air quality, they also get clogged with all of that aforementioned gunk, which makes cleaning them throughout the year vital for the sake of your health—and your wallet. When a filter is dirty, it forces the air conditioner to work harder in order to push air through its clogged fibers, using more energy to do so and thereby shortening its lifespan. Avoid high utility bills and mechanical problems down the road with these guidelines for how to clean an AC filter. Removing your filter once a month (or twice during seasons of high use) for either a cleaning or replacement should keep quality and energy use in check.

– Screwdriver (if vent removal is required)
– Hand-held vacuum cleaner or upright model with attachment (if using reusable filter)
– Hairdryer with cool setting (if using reusable filter)
– Filter, properly sized to fit your AC unit (if using disposable filter)

Examine the condition of the AC filter to see if it needs to be cleaned. To do so, first make sure your system is turned off—you don’t want unfiltered air circulating throughout your home while the filter is removed. When it’s safe to continue, unscrew the vent cover or use the release handle to remove the filter. Gently slide it out, being careful not to damage it, and then give it a thorough look over.

The filter’s exact location will depend on your HVAC system. Most units house their filters just behind the return vent, typically found either near the ceiling or close to the floor. Some systems may have multiple return vents (particularly in very large homes), so check around to make sure you’re not overlooking any filters during this maintenance. When in doubt, call your manufacturer and ask where the AC filter can be found and if your system uses more than one.

How To Clean Air Filter


If you can see any grayness, discoloration, or visible surface dust on the AC filter, clean or replace it.

Remove the dust and dirt from a reusable filter (one with a plastic or metal frame) with a handheld vacuum cleaner or with an attachment at the end of an upright vacuum’s hose. Or, for an even deeper clean, use your bathtub faucet or handheld shower head to run warm water through the filter in the opposite direction of airflow. To do this, check to see where the dust is most visible, and then face that side downward; the water should hit the opposite side and pass through in order to rinse out the gunk without pushing it deeper into the filter.

• If your AC unit uses disposable filters (which are often framed in cardboard), simply replace the dirty disposable filter with a clean one from your local hardware store. Check the size, listed on the side for your convenience, to avoid buying one that doesn’t fit. Then, skip to Step 4.

If you’ve washed your reusable AC filter, let it dry thoroughly. Consult the manufacturer’s instructions for any special steps you might need to take, but, generally, leaning it against the side of the bathtub for a few hours and flipping it over midway through should do the trick. You can use a hairdryer set to “cool” to speed things up, but beware that too hot of temperatures can burn or otherwise damage the filter.

Reinsert either a clean, dry reusable filter or a new disposable into your AC unit. Just like the removal process, this part is easy: Simply slide the filter back into its designated slot, making sure the arrows on its frame point away from you and toward the unit.

Stay on schedule. To keep your airflow fresh all the time, set up a monthly reminder to check the AC filter’s condition. If needed, cleanse or replace the filter in your AC unit at this time. Warm climates may require more frequent checks in the summer, while cold climates may need more maintenance in the winter. Once you’ve figured out the rhythms of your particular unit, make a schedule and be sure to stick to it so you can breathe easy all throughout the year.

Official Rules: Bob Vila’s $3,000 Pick Your Prize Summer Giveaway


Bob Vila’s $3,000 Pick Your Prize Summer Giveaway (the “Sweepstakes”) is sponsored by Vila Media, LLC, Post Office Box 835, West Barnstable, MA 02668 (“Sponsor”). The Sweepstakes consists of three (3) random drawings; one (1) Winner per random drawing and one (1) prize awarded per random drawing.


Open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia who are age 18 or older. Void in all other geographic locations. Employees of Sponsor and its respective parents, affiliates, subsidiaries, and advertising and promotion agencies and any other entity involved in the development or administration of this Sweepstakes, and their immediate family members or household members are not eligible to participate in or win the Sweepstakes. Sponsor reserves the right to disqualify any person who fails to meet the eligibility requirements or any person it determines, in its sole discretion, to be sufficiently connected with the Sweepstakes such that such person’s participation could create the appearance of impropriety. Entries generated by script, macro or other automated means are void, and Sponsor expressly reserves the right to disqualify any entries that it believes in good faith are generated by an automated program or via scripts. Entries that are determined, in the sole discretion of the Sponsor to constitute advertisements, commercial messages, or “spam” will be disqualified and deleted. Void where prohibited by law. All applicable federal, state and local laws apply. No purchase is necessary to participate in the Sweepstakes.

You may enter any given Drawing one (1) time per household per day by visiting the BOB VILA website at and submitting your name and email address using the online “Bob Vila’s $3,000 Pick Your Prize Summer Giveaway” submission form. Each entry submitted in response to a Drawing and in accordance with the Official Rules will constitute an official entry. Duplicate entries submitted through either method within one day will be deemed void. If you do not have internet access, alternative means of entry for each Drawing is available by faxing your name, address and phone number to the Sponsor at 508-437-8486 during the Sweepstakes Period. One (1) alternate entry per household per day. Any additional entries submitted via fax within one day will be deemed void. Entries received after the end of the Sweepstakes Period will be deemed void. Normal time, toll, connection and usage rates, if any, charged by your Internet service provider will apply. All entries become the property of the Sponsor. By entering any Drawing during the Sweepstakes, you will be agreeing that any information collected in connection with the Sweepstakes may be used by Sponsor in accordance with Vila Media, LLC’s Privacy Policy, a current copy of which can be found here. By participating, all entrants agree to abide by these Official Rules. At the end of the Sweepstakes Period, employees or representatives of Sponsor will hold three (3) Drawings in which three (3) potential winners (“Winner”) shall be selected from all eligible entries to receive the prize designated for the respective Drawing. A limit of one (1) prize and one (1) Winner for each Drawing. Each winning entry will be chosen at random. The number of eligible entries received during the Sweepstakes Period determines the odds of winning for the Drawings. The Sweepstakes will be conducted under the supervision of the Sponsor. If the Winner is determined to be ineligible, forfeits or does not claim the prize, the prize will be re-awarded, in Sponsor’s sole discretion based on a subsequent drawing from the pool of eligible entries. Other restrictions may apply. Decisions of the Sponsor are final and binding with respect to all matters related to the Sweepstakes. All prizes (or in the event of a lost, misdirected, or otherwise unavailable prize, a prize of equivalent value) will be awarded. In no event shall the Sponsor be obligated to award more prizes than the number of prizes stated in these Official Rules. Winners shall be responsible and liable for all federal, state and local taxes on the value of their prize. Must be 18 or older to win.

To receive a complete list of winners or a copy of the Official Rules, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Prize Fulfillment, Vila Media, LLC, PO Box 835 Barnstable, MA 02668. Specify winner’s list or rules on your request. The Winner will be notified by email, or in the case of alternate entry, by phone; Sponsor reserves the right to determine the method of notification. The Winner must claim their respective prize within twenty-four (24) hours after the date of notification of their prize. A Winner’s failure to respond to the prize notification within the specified twenty-four (24) hours will be considered such Winner’s forfeiture of the prize and an alternate Winner may be selected from the pool of eligible entries. If an entrant is found to be ineligible, an alternate Winner may also be selected from the pool of eligible entries. Sponsor reserves the right to ship prizes directly to the mailing address (as applicable) provided by Winners during their entry to the Drawings. Prizes will be shipped via regular ground mail up to four (4) weeks after the official Winner is declared for each drawing.

The prizes for the Drawings held shall be from the Kenmore brand, Briggs & Stratton, and Wayfair. The winner of the Kenmore prize shall receive a Kenmore Elite 4-Burner Stainless Steel Gas Grill ($1399.99). The winner of the Briggs & Stratton prize shall receive a Poulan PRO 6-Speed Gear Gas Front-Engine Riding Mower with a Briggs & Stratton engine ($999). The winner of the Wayfair prize shall receive a $1,000 Wayfair gift card. No transfer, substitution or cash redemption will be awarded in lieu of Prize. Limit one prize per entrant. Prizes shall be delivered within 30 days after the winner is verified. An entrant or winner may be disqualified from the Sweepstakes, and his or her entry may be deleted, if he or she fails to comply with each provision of these Official Rules, as determined in the sole discretion of the Sponsor. Participation in the Sweepstakes is at entrant’s own risk. The total approximate retail value of all prizes to be awarded in this Sweepstakes is approximately $3,399. Income and all other federal, state and local taxes (if any) are the sole responsibility of each Winner.

Sponsor shall not be liable for (1) failed, returned or misdirected notifications based on inaccurate information provided by the winner on the Drawings entry forms, (2) entries and responses to winner notifications which are lost, late, incomplete, illegible, unintelligible, postage-due, misdirected, damaged or otherwise not received by the intended recipient in whole or in part or for computer or technical error of any kind, (3) any electronic miscommunications or failures, technical hardware or software failures of any kind, lost or unavailable network connections, or failed incomplete, garbled or delayed computer transmissions which may limit an entrant’s ability to participate in part or wholly in the Sweepstakes, (4) any technical malfunctions of the telephone network, computer on-line system, computer equipment, software, program malfunctions or other failures, delayed computer transactions or network connections that are human, mechanical or technical in nature, or any combination thereof, including any injury or damage to entrant’s or any other person’s computer related to or resulting from downloading any part of this Sweepstakes or (5) any warranty of fitness or merchantability of any prize or the function or operation thereof, which shall be the sole responsibility of the manufacturer of the prize. Sponsor does not make any, and hereby disclaims any and all, representations or warranties of any kind regarding any prize. Unless prohibited by applicable law, your entry constitutes your permission to use your name, photograph, likeness, voice, address (city and state) and testimonials in all media, in perpetuity, in any manner Sponsor deems appropriate for publicity purposes without any further compensation to such entrant.

By entering or accepting a prize in the Sweepstakes, the Winner agrees to be bound by these Official Rules and to conform to all federal, state and local laws and regulations. When applicable, the Winner may be required to execute and return to Sponsor within three (3) business days an Affidavit of Eligibility, a Liability and Publicity Release and relevant tax form W-9s to be eligible for the prize or an alternate winner may be selected. Winner may be required to furnish proof of identity, address and birth date in order to receive a prize. By entering, an entrant agrees to indemnify, release and hold harmless Sponsor, and each of their respective parents, subsidiaries and affiliated entities, directors, officers, employees, attorneys, agents, licensees and representatives (collectively, the “Released Parties”) from any damage, injury, death, loss, claim, action, demand, or other liability (collectively, “Claims”) that may arise from their acceptance, possession and/or use of any prize (or any part thereof) or their participation in the Sweepstakes, or from any misuse or malfunction of any prize awarded (or any part thereof), regardless of whether such Claims, or knowledge of the facts constituting such Claims, exist at the time of entry or arise at any time thereafter. Released Parties are not responsible or liable to any entrant or to any Winner or any person claiming through such Winner for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action, regulation, order or request by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action, regulations, order or request proves to be invalid), equipment failure, threatened terrorist acts, terrorist acts, air raid, blackout, act of public enemy, earthquake, war (declared or undeclared), fire, flood, epidemic, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal) labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond the Released Parties’ sole control.

The Released Parties are not responsible for: (1) any incorrect or inaccurate information, whether caused by entrants, printing, electronic or human errors or by any of the equipment or programming associated with or utilized in the Sweepstakes; (2) viruses or technical failures of any kind, including, but not limited to malfunctions, interruptions, or disconnections in phone lines or network hardware or software; failed, incorrect, incomplete, inaccurate, garbled or delayed electronic communications or entry information, any error, omission, interruption, deletion, defect, delay in operation or transmission, failures or technical malfunction of any computer online systems, servers, providers, computer equipment, software, email, players or browsers, whether on account of technical problems, traffic congestion on the Internet or at any website, or on account of any combination of the foregoing; (3) the unavailability or inaccessibility of any transmissions or telephone or Internet service; (4) unauthorized human intervention in any part of the entry process or the Sweepstakes; (5) technical or human error which may occur in the administration of the Sweepstakes or the processing of entries; (6) any injury or damage to persons or property which may be caused, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, from entrant’s participation in the Sweepstakes or receipt or use or misuse of any prize; or (7) late, lost, misdirected, illegible, incomplete or mutilated entries or for theft, destruction or unauthorized access to, or alteration of entries. These indemnification and release provisions shall survive expiration of the Sweepstakes.

Persons found tampering with, abusing, or otherwise disrupting any aspect of this Sweepstakes, or otherwise attempting to defraud Sponsor, as solely determined by Sponsor, will be disqualified and their entries will be deleted. If disqualified, Sponsor reserves the right to terminate the entrant’s eligibility to further participate in this Sweepstakes and future promotions and sweepstakes of Sponsor or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates. Any attempt by an entrant or any other individual to undermine the legitimate operation of this Sweepstakes may be a violation of criminal and civil laws. Should such an attempt be made, sponsor reserves the right to seek damages from any such person to the fullest extent permitted by law.

This Sweepstakes is strictly for promotional and entertainment purposes and may not be used in connection with any form of gambling. In the event this Sweepstakes is challenged by any legal or regulatory authority, Sponsor reserves the right to terminate the Sweepstakes, or to disqualify entrants residing in the affected geographic areas. In such event, the Sponsor shall have no liability to any entrants who are disqualified due to such an action. Sponsor reserves the right to modify these Official Rules in any way or at any time. Sponsor reserves the right, in their sole discretion, to cancel or suspend this Sweepstakes should viruses, bugs or other causes beyond their control corrupt the administration, security or proper play of the Sweepstakes. In the event any portion of this Sweepstakes is compromised by any non-authorized human intervention, actions of entrants, or other causes beyond the control of Sponsor which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, corrupt or impair the integrity, administration, security, or operation of this Sweepstakes, Sponsor reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to suspend, modify, abbreviate or terminate the Sweepstakes without further obligation. If Sponsor elects to abbreviate the Sweepstakes, Winner(s) will be determined from all eligible entries received for Drawing(s) prior to the action or compromise giving rise to the suspension or termination of this Sweepstakes. In the event of cancellation, abbreviation or suspension, Sponsor shall promptly post a notice on the Sweepstakes entry page to such effect.

This Sweepstakes shall be governed by New York law. By participating in this Sweepstakes entrants agree that New York courts shall have jurisdiction over any dispute or litigation arising from or relating to this Sweepstakes and that venue shall be only in New York City, New York. The failure to exercise or enforce any right or provision of these Official Rules shall not constitute a waiver of such right or provision. If any part of these Official Rules is held by a court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid or unenforceable, that part will be enforced to the maximum extent permitted by law, and the remainder of these Official Rules will remain fully in force.

Enter Bob Vila’s $3,000 Pick Your Prize Summer Giveaway Today!

Enter for your chance to win a gas grill from the Kenmore brand, a riding mower from Briggs & Stratton, or a $1,000 gift card to Wayfair!


With summer in full force, many homeowners spend weekends maintaining the yard, hosting neighborhood barbecues, lounging on the patio, or taking a dip in the swimming pool. To make the most of the season, you need quality outdoor accessories, which can cost hundreds of dollars. That’s why we partnered with the Kenmore brand, Briggs & Stratton, and Wayfair to give away $3,000 of prizes to use outdoors this summer!

Enter Bob Vila’s $3,000 Pick Your Prize Summer Giveaway today and every day this month, starting at 12:00 p.m. EST on July 31, 2017 through 11:59 a.m. on August 31, 2017. You could be one of three winners and receive a Kenmore Elite 4-Burner Stainless Steel Gas Grill ($1399.99), a Poulan PRO 6-Speed Gear Gas Front-Engine Riding Mower with a Briggs & Stratton engine ($999), or a $1,000 Wayfair gift card!


Kenmore Grill


Kenmore Elite 4-Burner Stainless Steel Gas Grill

Founded more than 100 years ago, the Kenmore brand is a leading provider of household appliances, including refrigerators, ovens, dishwashers, washers and dryers, grills, air conditioners, and more. The products are designed to improve daily life, allowing customers to maintain their home with ease. The Kenmore Elite 4-Burner Stainless Steel Gas Grill ($1399.99) is both stylish and functional, offering 536.25 square inches of cooking space with four burners and a cast-iron side burner. The sleek stainless steel grill also has a warming rack to maintain ideal food temperatures, a lighted control panel, and attached halogen lights that allow you to grill after the sun sets. Recently, a leading consumer magazine named the high-tech appliance a “best buy” for mid- to large-sized grills. By winning the grill, you’ll become a top-notch host for barbecues and other outdoor gatherings! To learn more about Kenmore, click here

Briggs and Stratton Mower


Poulan PRO 6-Speed Gear Gas Front-Engine Riding Mower 

Briggs & Stratton is the world’s largest manufacturer of small engines. In addition to making gasoline engines to power outdoor equipment, the company produces pressure washers, lawn mowers, generators, and more. The Poulan PRO 6-Speed Gear Gas Front-Engine Riding Mower ($999) comes equipped with a Briggs & Stratton 17.5 HP overhead valve engine for optimum power. The mower, which has a tight 16-inch turning radius, also features six-speed manual drive and a 42-inch mowing deck that can be easily adjusted to six different cutting positions with a deck lift. Homeowners will love the reverse mowing operation, which works up to 1.6 MPH. The mower can travel up to 5.1 MPH forward on nearly any terrain. To learn more about Briggs & Stratton, click here.

Wayfair Furniture


Wayfair Gift Card

Wayfair is a leading online marketplace for all things related to the home. The website offers more than eight million products, and their departments include furniture, home decor, lighting, bed and bath, kitchen, storage and organization, and home improvement. More than 10,000 suppliers have partnered with Wayfair, which contributes to its extensive selection of home goods. The winner of the $1,000 gift card can use the money for anything on – including products in their vast outdoor collection, which includes patio furniture, decor, storage solutions, lighting, heating, equipment for cooking and entertaining, garden accessories, and more. To learn more about Wayfair, click here


Enter today and every day this August to increase your odds of winning one of these three prizes!

Bob Vila’s $3,000 Pick Your Prize Summer Giveaway” is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Contest Period for Prize runs from 12:00 p.m. (EST) Monday, July 31, 2017 through 11:59 a.m. (EST) Thursday, August 31, 2017. One entry per household per day on Must submit name and email address using the online “Bob Vila’s $3,000 Pick Your Prize Summer Giveaway” submission form. Alternative means of entry for Drawing is available by faxing your name and address to 508-437-8486 during the Entry Period. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. By entering, all entrants agree to the Official Rules.

Video: How to Clean Grout

Gross grout? Bust away the stains with these helpful tips and tricks.


Stained grout ages your home and makes your kitchen and bathroom tile look dirty, even when not. If your previous attempts to whiten yellowed grout have failed, there’s hope. Take note of these tips and put them to the test during your next cleaning session. The results might just surprise you—and leave your home looking a lot cleaner.

For more cleaning ideas, consider:

7 Unusual Tricks for Your Cleanest Floors Ever

7 Surprising Alternative Uses for Clorox Bleach

12 Ways to Clean House with Citrus

Solved! What to Do When Your Lawn Mower Starts Smoking

A smoking lawn mower is never a good sign. Whether the smoke is blue, white, or black, here's how to identity and address the issue without the help of a professional.

Lawn Mower Smoking? What to Do About It


Q: Recently, my mower started billowing smoke when I powered it up, so I shut it off immediately. Why is my lawn mower smoking? And is it a fire hazard? I want to know how to proceed so I don’t harm the machine.

A: Your lawn mower can emit smoke for numerous reasons—many of which don’t require the services of an expert. A homeowner can usually identify the reason for a smoking lawn mower by gauging the color of the cloud coming around the engine, then fix it accordingly before lasting damage occurs. Keep in mind that all mowers with internal combustion engines contain the same basic parts, but the configuration of those parts varies widely, depending on manufacturer and model. Consult your owner’s manual if you’re unsure how to access a specific part of your lawn mower’s engine.

White or blue smoke may indicate an oil spill on the engine. If you’ve recently changed the oil in your mower and the engine is emitting white or blue smoke, it’s possible that some of the oil spilled onto the engine. Similarly, you could’ve spilled oil on the engine by mowing on a slope greater than 15 degrees or tipping the mower on its side. The smoke may look disconcerting, but it’s completely harmless. Solve the problem by restarting the mower and allowing the spilled oil to burn off. If you tip the mower often for cleaning or maintenance, check your owner’s manual to determine the best way to reduce the risk of oil leaks.

Lawn Mower Smoking? What to Do About It


An overfull oil reservoir may also cause white or blue smoke. Ensure you didn’t overfill the mower by checking the oil level with the dipstick located on the reservoir. To do this, remove the dipstick cap, wipe off the stick with a rag, and reinsert it into the reservoir. Then remove the dipstick once again and determine the oil level in comparison to the recommended “fill” line on the stick. If the level is too high, drain the oil (consult your owner’s manual for instructions), then refill the reservoir with it. Start checking the oil level with the dipstick after you’ve added about ¾ of the amount recommended in the manual. Continue to add small amounts of oil until the level matches the recommended “fill” line. Also note that using the wrong grade of engine oil may cause blue or white smoke. Consult the owner’s manual for the exact type of oil recommended for your mower.

Black smoke may indicate that the mower is “running rich,” or burning too much gasoline. Your lawn mower’s carburetor regulates the ratio of gasoline to air mixture. If the carburetor isn’t getting enough air, the mixture has a higher percentage of gasoline, which can create black exhaust smoke. It’s possible that a dirty or clogged air filter is preventing sufficient airflow into the carburetor. Try replacing the air filter, then running your lawn mower for a few minutes. If the black smoke still appears, the carburetor might need to be adjusted in order to increase airflow. Either take the mower to a professional or adjust the carburetor yourself with instructions in your owner’s manual.

Take your mower to a repair shop if necessary. If the previous steps don’t correct blue or white smoke, your mower could have a more serious problem, such as an air leak in the crankshaft (the cast iron or cast aluminum case that protects the moving parts of a mower’s engine). Continuing blue or white smoke could also indicate that some of the engine’s components or seals are worn out and need replacement. Similarly, if black smoking still persists after you’ve replaced the air filter and adjusted the carburetor, you could be facing a more serious mechanical issue. All of these problems require the help of a professional. If your mower is still under warranty, check with the manufacturer for the location of the nearest servicing dealer; problems stemming from a factory defect or poor workmanship may garner free repairs. If your mower is not covered under warranty, a reputable small-engine repair shop should also be sufficient to get the job done.

Summer Is the Best Time for These 6 Home Improvements

The clock is ticking! Don't let these idyllic, warm-weather days slip by without scheduling one or more of these seasonal home repair and renovation projects.

Best Summer Home Improvements


If you’ve been thinking about tackling some home improvement projects this summer, don’t delay! The dog days of summer are heading our way, and before you know it the cold weather will be coming back. These all-too-brief warmer months are ideal for outdoor projects like updating your home’s exterior, and they’re great for any work that requires a well-ventilated work space. If you let these nice days slip by, colder temperatures at the end of the season could hamper your efforts—or, in some cases, even negatively affect the quality of the improvements. Fortunately, with help from qualified professionals, you can get through your home improvement to-do list without sacrificing all your summer Fridays! Here are just a few home improvement projects that are tailor-made for summer.


Best Summer Home Improvements - Replacing Windows


1. Replacing Windows
Old, drafty windows are a major cause of heat loss during the winter months. They result in higher heating costs and lower levels of indoor comfort. If last year’s annual autumn ritual of caulking around the windows didn’t do much to stop the chill from seeping through, it’s probably time to call in the professionals for a window replacement. Dave Lincon, Director of Product Management and Business Development for Sears Home Services, says, “Our team simplifies window replacement for our customers. From the initial assessment of a homeowner’s needs to measuring, ordering, and installation, we handle it all.”

Sears Home Services offers a comprehensive selection of window styles to suit every house and budget, with good, better, and best lines of energy-efficient, low-maintenance replacement windows. Choices include, but are not limited to, double-hung windows, sliders, geometric patterns, and even transom windows. “And, our windows have some of the best warranties in the industry,” Lincon adds.


Best Summer Home Improvements - Re-Siding the House


2. Re-Siding Your Home’s Exterior
If your home’s siding is starting to flake and peel just a few years after a paint job, the siding may be past the point where a mere cover-up will suffice. Old siding is notorious for developing rot, mold, and mildew over time, all of which make it difficult for the siding to hold paint. Worse yet, loose or missing boards reduce your home’s weather resistance and contribute to higher heating and cooling costs. Fortunately, as with most exterior updates, the reliably warm weather of summer provides the best time to re-side.

Nothing increases curb appeal quite like new siding. The right style can transform a tired-looking house into the best-looking home on the block—and Sears Home Services is committed to offering styles to suit every homeowner. Customers can choose from a wide variety of colors, textures, and styles, from traditional horizontal board siding to siding that mimics wood-look shakes or even scalloped shingles. “We also offer high-quality, durable vinyl siding that comes with closed-cell foam backing for enhanced insulation,” Lincon says. “And, we warranty our siding against fading.” You can trust that a siding project completed this summer will give your home a sharper appearance and offer structural benefits to boot.


Best Summer Home Improvements - Replacing the Front Door


3. Swapping Out Your Entry Door
No matter how much time you spend pruning the hedges and mowing the yard, your home’s curb appeal will hold steady at mediocre if an eyesore of a front door detracts from the otherwise tidy appearance. Cracked, warped, or weathered entry doors not only look dismal, they often frustrate homeowners by sticking when opened or closed, or letting in drafts through a loose seal in the jamb. Sometimes, it’s a hassle just locking them! If you’re struggling with an entry door that’s seen better days, take care of it this summer so you’ll have a new door in place before the weather turns cold.

“In my experience, the best replacement doors are made from 100 percent fiberglass and composite,” Lincon claims. “And, that’s all we sell and install. Our doors are prehung and secure, they meet forced-entry standards, and they won’t warp, swell, or split like traditional wood doors can.” In addition to offering a wide variety of entry door designs that incorporate sidelights, glass patterns, and stylish accents, Sears Home Services sells a nearly infinite array of door hardware that’s both secure and decorative—the perfect complement to your curb appeal investment.


Best Summer Home Improvements - Refacing Cabinets


4. Refacing Cabinets
If you’re tired of your worn-out-looking kitchen but you like the configuration of your kitchen cabinets—and they’re in good condition—refacing might be the right choice for you. Cabinet refacing involves replacing cabinet doors and drawer fronts and installing matching veneer on the face of the cabinet bases. When the project is done, your kitchen will look fresh and new at a fraction of what it would have cost to completely replace the cabinets. The best part of scheduling these major kitchen updates in the summer is that the project will be finished before holiday cooking and entertaining starts in earnest!

Sears Home Services believes in bringing the showroom to the customer,” Lincon says. “Customers don’t have to visit a commercial kitchen showroom to see their refacing options; we show them all their choices right in the comfort of their own homes.” By being able to examine and compare a host of cabinet door styles and veneer samples against the backdrop of your own kitchen, you’ll get the best idea of how the finished job will look.


Best Summer Home Improvements - Installing New Countertops


5. Installing New Countertops
While installing new countertops seems like a project that’s fine to do any time of the year, it’s actually a smart one to schedule well before the first frost. When you consider the fact that installation professionals need to haul the old countertop out of your home and carry in the new (and often very heavy) countertop materials, you can see that icy sidewalks and frigid temperatures are not ideal for all this indoor-outdoor foot traffic.

Again, working with Sears Home Services simplifies the selection process by enabling you to choose the countertop materials that best match your kitchen design right in your own home. Sales consultants will bring samples of all the various countertop colors and materials you can choose from. “We offer solid-surface countertops in addition to quartz and granite in a wide variety of colors and edge options,” Lincon says. “We can also install a laminate countertop if that’s what the customer wants.”


Best Summer Home Improvements - Replacing Roof


6. Replacing a Roof
Contending with a leaky roof or missing shingles? The average lifespan of a roof is 15 to 20 years, according to Lincon. The warmer months are the best time for a roofing project, because new shingles require heat in order to form a weathertight seal. In fact, wintry conditions and reroofing simply don’t mix. Here again, Sears Home Services can make the process easier. Homeowners can choose from budget-friendly three-tab shingles, super-laminate shingles, or architectural shingles as well as a variety of other shingle options. Sears professionals handle everything from the initial roof assessment to permit-pulling and all installation services.

To protect homeowners from the possibility that some damaged roof areas could be overlooked, Sears Home Services installs shingles directly onto the roof deck only and does not do roof overlays, which involve adding a layer of shingles over an existing layer. “It’s just too risky,” Lincon says. “If you don’t tear off the existing layer of shingles, you can’t determine the condition of the existing roof deck.” During tear-off of the existing shingles, if any rot or damage to the roof deck is found, Sears Home Services repairs the damage before installing the new shingles to safeguard the roof’s structural integrity for years to come.


This post has been brought to you by Sears Home Services. Its facts and opinions are those of

Buyer’s Guide: Tower Fans

Want to cool down your home quickly and efficiently? Check out our guide to find the best tower fans on the market today.

Best Tower Fan – Buyer's Guide


During the summer months, many homeowners use a fan to assist in circulating indoor air and increasing the comfort level of a too-warm room. Of all of the different types of fans exist on the market—window, pedestal, box, and wall-mount varieties—tower fans often rise above the rest. Its combination of high efficiency, space-saving design, surprisingly quiet operation, and impressive features are to thank for that. If you’re looking to buy one, keep reading for the key shopping considerations and three top-rated picks for the best tower fan money can buy.


Before making a purchase, consider the following factors to choose the best tower fan for your needs.

Size: Tower fans have a tall and narrow design, allowing them to distribute airflow over a large area while taking up minimal floor space. On average, most tower fans stand 30 to 40 inches tall, and the base takes up about one square foot. Homeowners can easily position the fan in narrow spaces and corners, where it won’t interrupt a room’s foot traffic.

Best Tower Fan – Buyer's Guide


Airflow Velocity: A fan’s airflow velocity is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM), or how many cubic feet of air the fan can move per minute. Most of the time, consumers can find this information on the manufacturer’s packaging, or by researching consumer reviews of the fan. Tower fans generally produce less airflow velocity than other types of fans, since the blades on a tower fan (which are housed within the vertical unit) are much smaller, and therefore move less air. But keep in mind that a tower fan will still meet or surpass the needs of most homeowners.

Speed Settings: Most tower fans have at least three speed settings: low, medium, and high. However, many offer additional settings that allow you to finely tune the amount of air circulation in the room.

Noise: Since tower fans have smaller blades, they’re typically quieter than other types of fans. Most produce a low “humming” noise as opposed to the louder “whooshing” noise of fans with larger blades. The sound isn’t loud enough to impede on conversation, and it’s ideal for those who enjoy sleeping with white noise. On lower settings, tower fan will typically emit even less sound, leading some manufacturers to use terms like “whisper-quiet” and “calm.” If you don’t like noise, stick with a tower fan that has a lower decibel rating.

Oscillation: A majority of tower fans oscillate, or rotate from side to side, in order to direct airflow over a wider area. Consumers will typically find tower fans with an oscillating arc of 90 degrees or 95 degrees. A handful of tower fans on the market can oscillate a full 360 degrees, but unless you plan to place the fan in the center of a room, full-circle rotation is probably unnecessary. Some models also come with the ability to select the width of the oscillating arc.

Added Features: Many tower fans have added features that increase their appeal to consumers. For example, remotes allow a user to start the fan, adjust the speed, and control the oscillating function from anywhere in the room. Some tower fans come with air filters that prevent dust, pollen, and pet dander from recirculating. Additionally, some models have ionizers that purify the air as it circulates through the fan.


Looking to cool down your home with a tower fan? Here are our top three picks for the best tower fan, based on consumer reviews and expert opinions.


Buyer's Guide – Best Tower Fan


Seville Classics UltraSlimline 40” Tower Fan ($58.58)
In their own firsthand testing, The SweetHome selected Seville Classics UltraSlimline 40″ Tower Fan as “the best fan for most people.” It wasn’t one single feature that sold The SweetHome testers on the Seville tower fan, but rather a “balance of price, power, noise level, and convenience.” The Seville was significantly quieter than other fans they tested, especially on its lowest settings. Its contemporary black satin finish complements nearly all room styles, and it comes with four operating speeds: high, medium, low, and eco, which provides a gentle breeze and reduced energy consumption. The fan features a lighted control panel for easy operation at night, a programmable timer, and a 75-degree oscillation arc. With a height of 40 inches, the Seville weighs in at just under 11 pounds and takes up less than one square foot of floor space. Available on Amazon.


Best Tower Fan – Buyer's Guide


Vornado NGT33DC Energy Smart Tower Fan ($139.99)
The Vornado NGT33DC Energy Smart Tower Fan is a favorite of Amazon customers, who award it an impressive 4.6 stars. Measuring 33 inches tall, it’s slightly shorter than our other picks, and it also doesn’t oscillate. Instead, homeowners can adjust the width of the airflow to any of its 99 settings, achieving anything from a narrow direct path up to a full 90-degree span of sustained airflow coverage. The fan features a brushless motor, and the manufacturer claims that it uses up to 80 percent less energy than competitive tower fans. Additional features include a remote control, a timer that’s programmable up to 12 hours, and quiet operation. Weighing only 7.6 pounds, the Vornado can be easily moved from room to room, and like most tower fans, it takes up less than one square foot of floor space. Available on Amazon.


Best Tower Fan – Buyer's Guide


Dyson Air Multiplier AM07 Tower Fan ($397.78)
Our most expensive pick, the Dyson Air Multiplier AM07 Tower Fan, wins honors from Your Best Digs, who describe it as “the best fan if money is no object.” In testing, the Air Multiplier demonstrated “the ability to generate the most cooling power at the lowest noise levels.” The fan has innovative bladeless technology, 10 speed settings, an oscillation arc that adjusts up to 90 degrees, and a magnetized remote that attaches firmly to the unit. Other features include a timer with preset intervals and a wipe-clean surface to keep the Air Multiplier looking sleek and shiny. The fan weighs in at 12 pounds and stands 39.6 inches high. Amazon customers give the Air Multiplier an enviable 4.4-star rating, and they especially like its whisper-quiet operation. Available from Amazon.

How To: Level a Yard

Is your grass lumpy and bumpy? Learn how to level out an uneven yard with a few simple steps.

How to Level a Yard


A yard with lumps and bumps is not only unattractive, it’s also a potential safety hazard with ample opportunity to cause trips, falls, and sprained ankles. Many events can cause an uneven yard—including drainage issues, leaks in pipes lying beneath the surface, and lawn pests like grubs or moles disturbing the root structure of the turf—but none need to derail your landscaping efforts altogether. Before you start working to level your lawn’s surface, troubleshoot the underlying problem so it doesn’t reoccur in the future. Then tackle these steps for how to level a yard to turn your lawn into the smooth, lush, green landscape you’ve always wanted.

– Lawn mower
– Thatch rake
– Dethatching machine (optional)
– Sand
– Topsoil
– Compost
– Shovel
– Bow rake
– Push broom

Start by mowing your lawn. Cut it short, but not so short that you scalp it. If you cut it so that grass blades stems become visible, the grass is vulnerable to drying out.

Take a closer look at your grass roots, and determine the amount of thatch on your lawn. Thatch is the layer of decayed grass and other organic material at the base of the turf. A quarter to 1/2-inch of thatch is acceptable, but any more than that will prevent the grass from getting adequate air and water. If you have more than 1/2-inch of thatch, remove (or at least significantly loosen) it by systematically running a thatch rake over the surface to pull it up. Or, if your lawn is larger, run a dethatching machine over it. You can rent a dethatching machine from a home improvement store, and it will make the process much quicker.

How to Level a Yard


Make a top dressing mix to fill in the area beneath the grass in sunken areas of your lawn from two parts sand, two parts topsoil, and one part compost. The sand helps maintain a level yard because it doesn’t compact easily, while the soil and compost contain nutrients that your grass needs to thrive.

If you have any low spots or divots deeper than two or three inches, you should remove the grass on top of them before filling the holes. Dig up the sod by putting the blade of a shovel into it at the outside of a low spot, and sliding it down and under about two or three inches to get under the grass roots. Then pry the grass up with the shovel to expose the dirt beneath. Fill the hole with the top dressing mix, and put the grass back into place on top of it.

Once lowest patches are filled, use a shovel to disperse the top dressing mix across your entire lawn to a depth of about ¼ to ½ inches. Even if you think your grass needs more than that depth to even out, err on the side of caution and keep to a thin layer—a heavier layer could choke your grass. If necessary, you can repeat this process (see Step 7) to add a second layer.

Then, spread the top dressing mix evenly across the grass by pulling and pushing it around with the back of a bow rake. Work the mix into the gradual low spots and pockets in your lawn. If the grass blades are completely covered by the mix, the grass will suffocate from deprivation of light, so follow up with a push broom to further work the mix into the soil at the base of the turf grass and reveal the blades.

Water your lawn to help the top dressing mix settle into the grass and fill any air pockets. This step should also revitalize your lawn because it will jumpstart the infusion of nutrients from the compost in the mix.

You may need more than one application of top dressing to completely smooth out your lawn. Apply the second layer following steps 5 and 6 once you see the grass start to actively grow, or when you can no longer see the first top dressing application you put down.


Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from
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.