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All You Need to Know About Insecticidal Soap

Whether you buy it premade or whip it up at home, this non-toxic solution promises to wipe out your garden pest problem—without harming the rest of your patch.

Getting Rid of Aphids with Insecticidal Soap

Photo: istockphoto.com

Are aphids gnawing on your heirloom roses? Are spider mites munching on your tomato plants? If garden pests are bugging you but you’re not a fan of toxic pesticides, take heart; there’s a safer fix. Insecticidal soap is a low-toxicity bug control solution favored by natural and organic gardeners because, when applied regularly, it maintains the ability to protect plants without resorting harsh chemical concoctions. Keep it “green” in the garden with this complete guide on when, where, and how to benefit from insecticidal soap.

What Exactly Is Insecticidal Soap?

The active ingredients in insecticidal soap are potassium salts of fatty acids (also known as soap salts), which are created when the chemical compound alkali mixes with the fatty acids found in natural oils, including castor oil, coconut oil, and olive oil. The resulting mixture kills soft-bodied garden pests such as aphids, mites, and mealybugs on contact—not beneficial hard-bodied insects like ladybugs and other beetles—all without leaving toxic residue in the soil! The catch: Insecticidal soap only works when wet, and loses its effectiveness after it dries.

 

Getting Rid of Aphids with Insecticidal Soap

Photo: istockphoto.com

Ready-to-Use Versus DIY

A half-dozen brands of insecticidal soap can be found at your local garden center, but you also have the option to create your own solution at home from everyday products. Since both choices have their pros and cons, it’s best to weigh them before selecting the one that’s best for your needs.

What to Look for in Ready-to-Use Insecticidal Spray

Photo: amazon.com

Commercial Products
Ready-to-use insecticidal soap comes packaged in a spray bottle priced between $5 and $15 for a 32-oz. bottle depending on the brand. Many gardeners like the idea of the ready-to-use product because it’s already mixed in the correct proportions so there’s very little risk of plant damage. The bottle may be labeled as “Suitable for Organic Use,” or “Safer for Plants and Vegetables,” but if a commercial bug-killer is a true insecticidal soap, its bottle will list “potassium salts of fatty acids” or “potassium laurate” as ingredients.

Insecticidal soap also comes in a concentrated solution to be mixed with water. If you buy the concentrated solution, you’ll also need to invest in a spray bottle (or pump sprayer), but purchasing this form can save you money in the long run. A 32-oz. bottle of concentrated solution costs between $15 and $30, but it will make five or six times as much spray as a ready-to-use product.

How To Make Your Own Insecticidal Soap
If you’re interested in saving even more money, you can make your own insecticidal soap. Just be sure to follow the recipe carefully: Using too much soap can make the solution too strong, which puts your plants at risk.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– 1-gallon jug of distilled water
– Mild liquid dish soap
– Vegetable oil
– Plastic spray bottle (or pump sprayer)

Fill a 1-gallon jug with water—either distilled or tap, as long as yours is not hard water (hard water reduces the effectiveness of insecticidal soap)—and leave a couple of inches at the top. Then add 2-½ tablespoons liquid dish soap (Dawn or liquid castile soap are good choices) and 2-½ tablespoons vegetable oil. Screw on the lid and shake the solution to distribute the ingredients, and immediately pour the solution into your spray bottle. You’ll want to shake the jug each time you refill the spray bottle in order to maintain the right ratio of ingredients and not distribute a formula that’s too light or too harsh. Likewise, give the spray bottle a good shake before you apply on any leaves.

How to Make Your Own Insecticidal Soap

Photo: istockphoto.com

Before You Spray, Consider Plant Sensitivity and Environmental Safety

Although insecticidal soaps are safe for many flowers and vegetables, a few plants are sensitive to the solution and can suffer leaf damage. Among the most susceptible plants are sweet pea, begonia, impatiens, azalea, and rhododendron. If it’s the first time you’ve treated a plant and you’re unsure whether it’s safe to use insecticidal soap, err on the side of caution and do a sensitivity test first. Spray the solution on just two or three leaves of the plant, and then examine the plant after 24 hours. If the leaves have wilted, do not treat the plant with insecticidal soap. But, if the leaves look just as healthy as they did before, it’s safe to spray the rest of its limbs regularly.

When used as directed, insecticidal soap will not harm pets, birds, or wildlife. That said, it presents a slight risk of toxicity to fish, so it’s not advisable to treat aquatic plants or plants near fish ponds.

Applying Insecticidal Soap

Spray an even mist of insecticidal soap where garden pests typically hide, including under leaves and on a plant’s main stem. The goal is to cover all plant surfaces with enough spray to make the leaves wet, but you don’t have to use so much that the solution drips off the leaves. And, because this mixture is entirely eco-friendly, it’s safe to spray directly onto fruits and vegetables such as peaches, apples, tomatoes, zucchini, and pumpkin.

Repeat the application process every four to seven days, as needed. Because insecticidal soap only kills insects when it’s wet, it’s a good idea to treat plants in early morning or late evening when the solution won’t evaporate as quickly as it will in the heat of the day.

 

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.


How To: Dispose of Gasoline

Once gas ages, it loses some of the combustibility to fire up an engine, but its flammability makes it a pain when it comes time to dispose of it. Get the lowdown on how to get rid of your extra supply safely.

How to Dispose of Gasoline

Photo: istockphoto.com

From powering vehicles and generators to garden tools, gasoline makes our world go around. Leaving unused remnants of the fuel stored too long in your garage or sitting in a riding lawnmower all winter, however, risks it degrading or becoming contaminated during that time. At this point, you need to deal with it through legal disposal or reuse after dilution. Improperly and illegally disposed of gasoline—that which is poured onto land, into storm drains, or down toilets—can incur fines, damage landscape, kill animals, contaminate water sources, and even pose a serious fire risk. Read on to learn about how to dispose of gasoline safely and responsibly.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Glass containers
– Jerry can
– Fuel additives like octane boosters or injector cleaners (optional)
– Funnel
– Government-certified gasoline container
– Cooler or bin
– Cat litter (optional)
– Broom and dustpan (optional)
– Baking soda (optional)
– Liquid dish soap (optional)

STEP 1: Inspect whether the gasoline is old or contaminated.

To see if gas is old or contaminated, pour some in a glass container. In another container, pour some fresh gasoline for comparison.

If the questionable gas is darker or smells more “sour” than the fresh gas, it has likely aged to the point of losing efficacy. The addition of ethanol, which is a preservative, has made today’s gasoline more shelf-stable than fuel of years past. Still, gasoline that sits more than a couple months in storage (and an unknown length of time in the gas station’s tank before that) degrades and loses combustibility, which can ultimately inhibit its ability to fire your engine. While old gasoline won’t hurt an engine, it’ll just make it run inefficiently or fail to fire at all. You can certainly dispose of old gas, but you can also reuse it by diluting it with fresh gas (see Step 2).

However, if the leftover gasoline shows particles of rust, dirt, or discoloration, it may be contaminated. Do not reuse this fuel. Instead, skip to Step 3 to dispose of it, since those particles can clog fuel lines and carburetors.

How to Dispose of Gasoline

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 2: Use up old gasoline.

On its own, old gas has lost some of the potency that would have enabled it to fire an engine, but it’s often safe to use up by diluting with newer gas in the tank of an outdoor power tool or vehicle. Follow the right proportions, and the old gas will lower an entire gas tank’s combustion ability by so little that it’s less of a concern.

• If there’s only a half tank or less of old gasoline in your lawn mower, filling the rest up with fresh gasoline might dilute it enough to get the engine firing. You’ll burn through it pretty quickly as you work in your yard. You may choose to top it up with more fresh gas midway through use to get a little more oomph from the fuel.

• For larger quantities of gas, you can dilute it in your car or truck’s gas tank. First, check your vehicle owner’s manual or look online for its tank capacity, which ranges from 9 gallons to 16 gallons. For a small tank of 9 or 10 gallons that reads at least ¾ full, according to the fuel gauge, add a half-gallon of old gas to the tank. Use a proper “jerry can” (a gas jug with pouring spout) to slowly pour the old gas into the tank. Eyeball the gas level as you fill it, and stop when the tank is filled to just below the tank mouth’s safety flap. (That metal flap gets pushed into the tank mouth when you insert the gas nozzle; it’s designed to prevent gas from spilling into the area between the tank mouth and the gas cap, so you don’t get rude surprises when you take the cap off.) Similarly, you can add ¾ of a gallon of old gas to nearly full 12-gallon tanks, or a full gallon to 16-gallon tanks.

When adding old gas to fresh gas in a vehicle, you may also ask employees at your local automotive supplies shop whether using fuel additives would allow you to increase the ratio of old to new gas in your tank so that you could use the supply up more quickly—and, if so, which additives they recommend. Octane boosters, injector cleaners, and other products can prove useful for using old gasoline, depending on the engine in question and the kind of fuel you’ve got, which these professionals can assess.

Of course, you can choose to dispose of old gasoline. In fact, it’s wise if the fuel is an especially dark color, such as rust-brown or “milk chocolate” compared to fresh gas, so that you don’t risk gumming up your engine with deposits or impurities.

STEP 3: Research the nearest disposal center for old or contaminated gasoline.

Start with these four leads for where to take the gasoline in your area, and be sure to note when the center is open for visits. (Some are only open once a week or on certain weekends.)

• Search online for “hazardous waste disposal center” in your county, city, or state.

• Call your county or city waste management agency and ask where gasoline goes.

• Check with your local fire department. Given the flammability of gasoline, they frequently can suggest how to handle the gasoline and where it should go.

• Ask your auto repair shop if they would take the gasoline off your hands. Many will not, as it can be an expense to them to deal with it on your behalf, but it’s worth the question if you’ve already got a great relationship with an auto repair shop.

STEP 4: Transfer gasoline to a government-certified container.

Using a funnel, carefully transfer the old or contaminated gasoline from its existing container into one that is government-certified specifically to hold gasoline, like a jerry can or plastic gas jug. Many fire codes require each container store less than five gallons each. (You can pick up either at home and automotive centers or gas stations.)

Pour slowly to avoid splashing, static, or spillage, and fill no more than 95 percent of the way to leave room for the fumes. Keep your face as far away from the spout as possible to minimize the amount you inhale. Immediately after you’ve finished pouring, tightly seal the container with its lid to prevent spills or leaks.

Place the container upright in a second receptacle, such as a rubber cooler or bin, in case it should topple over as you’re driving and suffer a leak. Then wash your hands thoroughly, in case any has splashed on you.

STEP 5: Deal with any gasoline spills.

If any stains have gotten on your clothing, change your clothes and address the stained set. First, you’ll want to blot the excess off with a white cloth. Cover the affected area with baking soda to absorb whatever your cloth cannot; let it sit for a few minutes, then brush it clean. Finally, rub liquid dish soap into the stain to treat it five minutes before laundering the clothing by itself in the hottest water its fabric can take. Line dry only until you’re sure all traces of gasoline have completely been removed; otherwise, lingering gasoline can cause combustion in the dryer when exposed to heat.

If you spilled gasoline on the driveway, soak up as much of the fuel as possible with an absorbent product, such as kitty litter. It may take a few hours to absorb the spill, then sweep up the litter to dispose of with your liquid gasoline. You can address any stain that remains with our driveway cleaning tips.

STEP 6: Transport gasoline.

Drive carefully, and never, ever smoke in the vehicle while transporting gas. Fumes could be lingering or gas could have splashed on you, and it takes very little gasoline to be combustible with open flames in a small space.

Once you reach the disposal center, you should be able to empty your gasoline into their storage vessel and take the empty 5-gallon jug home for the next time you have to dispose of gasoline responsibly.

 

How to Dispose of Gasoline

Photo: istockphoto.com

Safety Tips When Dealing with Gasoline

Gasoline is highly toxic and flammable, so take precaution when transferring and disposing of the substance. Follow this advice and more from the US Government’s Medline Plus.

• It’s dangerous to inhale in large quantities, so work outdoors if you can. If you can’t, get to fresh air quickly if you notice it burning in your lungs.

• If you accidentally swallow gasoline, drink milk immediately and call the Poison Helpline at 1-800-222-1222.

• If you get gasoline on your skin or in your eyes, flush it out with lots of cool water for at least 15 minutes. See a medical professional if it continues to burn or affect you after the 15 minutes has lapsed.


How To: Choose the Right Scraper for the Job

Whether you're shopping for a tool to complete a specific project or simply stocking your toolbox, follow these pointers to pick out strong scrapers that will make short work of your next DIY job.

Choosing the Right Scraper for Any Job

Photo: hydetools.com

Removing old wallpaper, filling nail holes, and prying off hardened putty all rely on one simple and supremely handy tool: a scraper. But depending on which DIY job you’re gearing up to tackle, you’ll probably need a specific type of scraper, be it a flexible putty knife or wide-blade beveled scraper. No matter how versatile a blade may be, there’s no one-size-fits-all scraper for every task on your to-do list. Variables such as blade size and material, style, and handle design have given rise to the staggering number of scraper options that fill an aisle at your local home improvement store.

While you can find inexpensive plastic scrapers for around a buck that can handle the occasional one-off task, a scraper that gets the job done easily—and holds up for all future jobs—ranges from around $7 to more than $20, depending on its quality and purpose. Read on to learn which features are worth investing in so you can choose the best scraper for your project.

 

4 Inch Scraper Removes Paint from Larger Surfaces Faster

Photo: hydetools.com

Selecting a Blade Size

Just as the size and scope of projects differ, so do the sizes of scraper blades. Standard blade widths start at ¾ inch and run up to 4 inches; blades wider than that are typically labeled as “joint knives” and are flexible for working with drywall compound instead of scraping. Generally speaking, tasks like scraping small areas or applying dollops of putty with precision require the use of a stiff, more slender blade. A tool as slim as the HYDE 2-Inch SuperFlexx™ Stainless Steel Putty Knife works well for scraping around staircase balusters or along strips of window trim. While larger blades do the same work and can remove wider strips of paint, thereby reducing the amount of time spent scraping, they can’t fit into narrow spots. For this reason, professionals often stock their toolboxes with a variety of blades—if not nearly every width manufactured. It’s a smart idea to do the same if you frequently work on home repair projects.

Material Matters

While most metal blades may look the same, the materials’ properties and strengths will vary widely.

• Economical scraper blades are often made from carbon steel, a metal with a nice flex for filling nail holes or applying compound to drywall seams. Wash and dry these blades immediately after you finish your project, though, because carbon steel has a tendency to rust.

Stainless steel, on the other hand, combines the flexibility of carbon steel with corrosion resistance. Take the HYDE 1-1/2-Inch Flexible Black & Silver Stainless Steel Putty Knife, for example. With a cutting-edge blend of flexible steel and Rockwell hardness, this little putty knife—or even any other size blade in the Black & Silver Stainless Steel collection—has just the right amount of flexibility for smoothing spackling and putty into holes, and doesn’t require difficult cleanup. Even dried-on putty falls right off after a job, just by flexing the blade.

Brass blades are ideal for use around flammable materials, such as lacquer or chemical fumes. When scraping paint from metal in unpredictable situations, a high-quality, non-magnetic brass blade like the HYDE 1-1/4-Inch Stiff Brass Black & Silver® Putty Knife will not spark.

Variety of Quality Scrapers from Hyde Tools

Photo: hydetools.com

Deciding on a Blade Design

After you get past a blade’s material and size, you’ll notice differences in its flexibility and its edge. When you press the blade against a surface and attempt to bend it, you’ll notice that a product with a ground blade shows some give and tends to be better suited for the pulling motion used when spreading. Such flexible blades are also often called “putty knives,” because they’re primarily used for filling holes and applying compound smoothly over drywall seams. Scraper blades that remain rigid during this flexibility test have not been ground and are sturdy enough for the pushing action that removes old paint and putty.

For the most effective scraping power, choose a stiff blade with a beveled (angled) bottom edge that slips easily beneath thick layers of old paint to lift with ease. Chisel-edge scrapers like the HYDE 3-Inch Black & Silver® Stainless Steel Chisel Scraper offer an altogether different edge variation in which a slanted blade makes it easier to scrape away paint from inside corners. By positioning the longer side of the blade in the corner while scraping, you’ll get optimal paint removal without scraping up your knuckles as you go, thanks to a design that keeps your hand farther away from the wall.

Get a Grip on Handles

Though possibly the last thing you think about, the handles and grips on putty knives and scrapers are the features that offer you the greatest control over the tool. Some of the most worthwhile options are quality construction, comfortably cushioned grips, and sturdy metal endcaps.

• If you’re looking for a scraper with a wooden handle, opt for “full tang,” or “solid tang,” construction, in which the back end of the blade extends fully into the handle. This design makes the blade more secure and less likely to loosen and come apart as a result of exposure to moisture or the stress of scraping. Once a handle is loose or broken, the scraper is useless.

Overmold handles are often cushioned and contoured to fit your grip for a more comfortable and secure hold on the tool. Grips like those on the HYDE 4-Inch Stiff Pro Stainless Scraper reduce the amount of stress placed on the hand during large scraping projects. HYDE’s premium-quality Pro Stainless line comes with a lifetime guarantee, so you know the scraper will last for years. Though these tools are designed for professionals, handy homeowners who do a lot of taping, scraping, or plaster patching can’t go wrong with a few of these quality scrapers in their toolkit.

Hammer Head handles feature a small steel endcap that makes them indispensable for many DIY projects. Tap the endcap lightly with a hammer to assist in loosening stubborn putty, or use the endcap to set nails. For example, if in the middle of a paint-scraping job you run across a popped nail, you can simply flip the scraper around and use the Hammer Head to tap the nail back into place.

Of the many variations of scraper handles available, you can find options that combine the Hammer Head endcap with an overmold grip, or the Hammer Head and a full-tang design. To make sure you ultimately select a quality tool that will do the job, don’t skimp: Choose one with the benefits of two of these three quality features.

 

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


So, You Want to… Install a Doorbell

Ding-dong! Who’s there? All the info you need on buying and setting up the best bell for your entry.

How to Install a Doorbell

Photo: istockphoto.com

Ever since we’ve had doors, we’ve been re-inventing ways to be alerted to a visitor’s arrival. Hefty iron knockers gave way to tinkling bells that chimed at the turn of the handle, and today, technological advances have made doorbells more versatile than ever. Whether you’re updating your entry and want to replace an old doorbell with a more inviting model or you’re looking to upgrade to something “smart,” we’ll guide you on how to choose as well as how to install a doorbell that’s right for your home.

There are three doorbell options available today: hard-wired, wireless, and Wi-Fi-capable (which link to your home’s router, in either wired or wireless versions).

How To Install a Wired Doorbell

Three components are involved in a standard hard-wired doorbell—the button, the chimes, and the transformer—which you can purchase separately or together in a kit. Wired doorbells run anywhere from $20 to more than $200 for decorative chime units and smart technology features. Hard-wired doorbells are generally installed during the construction of a home when an electrician can easily run wires into the unfinished walls. If your home was never wired for a doorbell, installation can be costly because new wires must be “fished” through the walls, a labor-intensive process.

How to Install a Doorbell

Photo: istockphoto.com

Installation tips: The bell’s transformer reduces a home’s standard 120 volts to less than 24 volts in order to accommodate the low-voltage wires that connect to both the button unit and the chime box. Because you’re dealing with low voltage, installation can be relatively DIY friendly.

• A wired doorbell is linked to your existing electrical, so you’ll first have to shut off the power to the bell at the breaker box.

• If the transformer (generally located in your home’s utility room or attic) must be replaced, higher voltage will be involved. Unless you’re knowledgeable in home wiring techniques, it’s best to call a licensed electrician to replace it.

• If using the existing transformer, you may be able to easily replace the chimes and button yourself. Remove the existing components and attach the low-voltage wires to the new bell and chime n box per the manufacturer’s instructions. Switch the breaker back on and the bell is good to go.

How to Install a Wireless Doorbell

Going wireless is often the best option if your home doesn’t have existing doorbell wiring; it’s also a good choice if you like the idea of a portable chime box you can put in any room. Chime units often plug into standard indoor outlets, and some wireless doorbells come with multiple chime boxes that you can place in different rooms. When shopping, check the packaging to determine maximum wireless signal distance, usually between 700 and 1,200 feet, to ensure that the chime box will sound if you set it in a back room. Inexpensive units start at $15 (your basic door button and plug-in chime box) and can cost more than $200 for smart units.

Installation tips: This is super simple, though removing an old doorbell can take some expertise.

• First, attach the plate that holds the button unit to the front door casing or siding with screws.

• Then snap the button unit into place. Many wireless doorbell button units are snap-in/snap-out to simplify battery-replacement.

• After installing the button unit, plug the chime box receiver into an inside power outlet and you’re ready to receive.

• If replacing a wired doorbell with a wireless unit, you can leave the old one in place if you wish.

• To remove it, however, first shut off the breaker. Then, after removing the old button unit, you’ll see two leftover low-voltage wires. You can simply wrap the bare wire ends with electrical tape and tuck them back into the wall, or twist plastic wire nuts over each of the wires. But if you want the old transformer removed, it’s best to engage an electrician to safely terminate wires.

How to Install a Smart Doorbell

A Wi-Fi-capable doorbell connects to your home’s wireless router and allows you to monitor visitors from your smartphone or PC. Smart doorbells can be either wired (meaning you’ll need existing doorbell wiring to hook them up) or battery operated to be completely wireless. Options include cameras with or without night vision, intercom capabilities, and motion sensors that send an alert to your smartphone when someone approaches your door. Smart doorbells start around $150 and can cost more than $300 depending on the extras you select.

Setup tips: Get this one done and you’ll be able to monitor your doorbell from anywhere.

• Install the button unit for either a wired or wireless doorbell.

• Sync the button unit to your home’s Wi-Fi router and to your smartphone. This process will vary, depending on the manufacturer, and will likely require downloading and installing an app on your phone that will allow you to monitor the doorbell features remotely.

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.


All You Need to Know About Driveway Cleaning

Say goodbye to driveway stains and hello to curb appeal! We've got solutions for every unsightly mess that will ever mar your property's front entrance.

Driveway Cleaning Tips for Better Curb Appeal

Photo: istockphoto.com

Nothing is quite as aggravating as discovering that the delivery guy’s van leaked oil on your driveway, or that the dried leaves you didn’t sweep up last fall created stubborn brown stains that won’t rinse away. But your home’s curb appeal doesn’t have to suffer a setback. With the right supplies and a little elbow grease, you’ll soon have your driveway looking good again. Whatever the stain or discoloration on your driveway, we’ve got the best driveway cleaning techniques to solve it.

Driveway Cleaning Tips to Remove Oil Spots

Photo: istockphoto.com

Auto-related Oil and Solvent Spills

Motor oil, brake fluid, and gasoline spills are more visible on concrete than asphalt (asphalt’s black coloring hides the stain some), but it’s still imperative to promptly clean them off both types of driveways to prevent serious stains. What’s more, auto-related oils and solvents can interact with asphalt’s petroleum base so that it deteriorates and softens.

On either type of driveway, first soak up as much of the fresh spill as possible with an absorbent product, such as kitty litter. Give it a few hours to absorb the excess spill, then scoop up the litter and sweep the area. To remove the rest of the spill, use one of the following driveway cleaning techniques for your specific hardscape material.

• Asphalt follow-up: After absorbing the excess spill, spray a biodegradable oven cleaning product on the affected area (make sure it specifies “biodegradable,” so that you do not splash or rinse away any caustic chemicals into your lawn) and let it sit for up to 30 minutes before rinsing away with your garden hose. Just as oven cleaner dissolves tough grease in your oven, it will break down the remaining oil or solvent, allowing you to safely rinse it away.

• Concrete follow-up: Unlike asphalt, concrete’s slightly porous surface allows spills to seep into its tiny holes. The best way to remove the remaining product from concrete is to dissolve it and then draw it out. Mix enough of a powered moisture-absorbant product (we recommend corn starch for small spills or diatomaceous earth, which can be found in large bags from swimming pool–supply stores, for larger spills) into the liquid TSP to create a thick paste. Spread it over the affected area, be it a fresh spill or an old stain. Work it into the concrete surface with a stiff-bristle nylon brush. Spread an additional thin layer of the paste on top and let it dry completely. The TSP will break down the oil or solvent components and the absorbing product will bind them. The paste could take anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours, depending on outdoor temperature and humidity. Use a putty knife to scrape away the dried paste and then rinse with a hose or a power washer. Old stains may require more than one application to remove.

The Best Driveway Cleaning Tips

Photo: istockphoto.com

Dirty Driveways

After a winter of snow and slushy roads, it’s nearly impossible to keep automobile tires from tracking dirt and mud on your driveway where it hardens like a rock as it dries. If you have a power washer, this is a good time to take it out; if you don’t, you can clean away the dirt and mud with a stiff-bristle push broom and a garden hose. This driveway cleaning technique works equally well for both dirty asphalt and concrete driveways. First, sweep away loose dirt and bits, then dampen caked-on mud and let the water soak in a few minutes before scrubbing the loosened mud with the push broom to break it up. Depending on how much you have to remove, this could take a while. The trick is to use plenty of water.

Driveway Cleaning Tips for Removing Leaf Stains

Photo: istockphoto.com

Decomposing Organic Matter

If you neglect to rake up the mess of organic matter that has spilled onto your concrete driveway, piles of mulch, fallen leaves, and pine needles can leave harmless yet unattractive brown stains behind. (These only appear on concrete, since darker asphalt can mask the color.) As they decompose, they release tannin, a colorful byproduct of the natural decaying process. While the color will eventually fade from concrete, you can help hurry the process along with a little bit of driveway cleaning.

Sweep the concrete surface, then spray the stained area with a garden hose to rinse away dirt. In a large plastic bucket, mix ½ cup of liquid dish detergent into 3 gallons of hot water. (Or, for the best results on tannin stains, use a powdered laundry detergent that’s advertised as being good at removing food stains.) Slowly pour the solution onto the tannin stains and work the liquid into the concrete using a stiff-bristle nylon brush. Rinse with the garden hose and, while the concrete is still wet, sprinkle powdered laundry detergent over the stains and scrub again. Leave the detergent on for a few minutes then rinse away. Repeat if necessary.

Paint Problems

Paint splatters left behind from a furniture project you brought outdoors a nuisance on both concrete and asphalt.

• If dealing with a latex-based paint spill, you can often remove it by wetting the splatter with water, sprinkling on household scouring powder, scrubbing it with a stiff-bristle nylon brush. Rinse with a garden hose.

Oil- and acrylic-based paint splatters are tougher to remove. If you have an asphalt driveway, the best solution may be to coat the driveway (or just the paint-splattered area) with an asphalt sealer, which will renew its black surface and cover splatters. That’s because the solvent that removes oil-based paint can actually damage asphalt, making it only suitable for concrete driveways. Removing paint from concrete is similar to removing it from an old piece of furniture you’re refinishing—strip it off! Pour or brush a paint-stripping solution on the splatters, and work it into the concrete with a stiff, natural-bristle brush. Leave it on for the time specified by the manufacturer and then rinse it away. (Since you’ll be rinsing the paint stripper away, it’s a good idea to use a product that’s safe for the environment. Low-VOC strippers, such as Citristrip or SmartStrip, are good choices for the job.)

Rust Stains

While not an issue on black asphalt driveways, rust is an eyesore on concrete—and happens as quickly as overnight. Just leaving a paint can out on the driveway during a rainstorm can result in a dark rusty circle by morning. Fortunately, muriatic acid will remove rust stains without much trouble, but this harsh acid (available at most hardware stores) requires extra safety precautions when using it. Wear long rubber gloves and protective eyewear, and follow the motto you learned in high school science class: “Do how you otter (ought to), add acid to water.”

By slowly pouring ¼ cup acid into a bucket already filled with 2 cups of cold water, you’ll minimize the risk of splashes. If any solution does splash onto your skin, rinse it off promptly to avoid irritation. Then, carefully pour the mix onto the rust stain and gently scrub the surface of the concrete with a stiff-bristle nylon brush. Allow the driveway cleaning solution to remain on for a few minutes before rinsing away with a garden hose. Heavy rust stains may require two or more treatments.

 

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.


Cool Tools: A “Smart” Add-On for Faster, More Affordable Hot Water

This must-have addition to any hot water recirculation system will help you maximize the efficiency and minimize the cost of your hot water delivery.

SHARES
Hot Water Recirculation System Controls

Photo: istockphoto.com

It’s almost second nature: You turn on the shower and go off to do something else, knowing full well that it will take a while for the water to heat up. Only when you see steam rising from the stall do you finally climb into the shower. A similar dynamic plays out in the kitchen, where you routinely let the faucet run for 10 seconds, 30 seconds, or even a minute—however long it takes for the water to reach the optimal temperature. Taken together, such instances of delayed hot water delivery waste a considerable amount of time. But there’s more to it than mere inconvenience. Every second you wait also wastes a considerable amount of water and, by extension, money. In fact, the Department of Energy estimates the average household fritters away—and pays for—12,000 unnecessary gallons of water each and every year.

Under the circumstances, many eco- and cost-conscious homeowners opt to install a hot-water recirculation system, a technology that performs two separate but equally important functions to speed the delivery of hot water through the home. First, a recirculation system introduces a pump adjacent to the water heater, which helps hot water travel more quickly to the faucets, shower heads, and water-consuming appliances farthest away from the source. At the same time, the system monitors the temperature of the water in the hot water lines, and when the water dips below a preset threshold temperature the technology snaps into action, returning the cooled water back to the water heater. “It’s an ingenious solution,” according to Daniel O’Brian, a technical specialist with SupplyHouse.com. “There’s only one problem, and for some, it’s a deal breaker.”

“A typical hot-water recirculation system works around the clock,” O’Brian says. That means the system draws power and pumps water all day, every day, whether or not you even need hot water. The result? “You get the day-to-day lifestyle benefits of instant hot water,” O’Brian says, but ironically, “operating a hot-water recirculation system adds more to your electricity bill than it subtracts from the bill from your water company.” More advanced recirculation systems gain energy efficiency by operating on a timer, but even these new-and-improved models come with a downside. “You have to reprogram the timer whenever your schedule changes, or when you host a houseguest who happens to be on a different schedule, or when the clocks change.” For many, “configuration proves to be more trouble than it’s worth,” O’Brian concludes.

Hot Water Recirculation System Controls - Taco SmartPlug

Photo: supplyhouse.com

Enter the SmartPlug, a brand-new product from industry leader Taco Comfort Solutions. For homes already equipped with a corded recirculator pump, O’Brian says, “the SmartPlug is a no-brainer.” Why? It’s simple: The device improves the efficiency of the existing hot water system by as much as 94 percent and unlike a timer (or an aquastat), it requires nothing in the way of hands-on homeowner maintenance. Automatically, from one week to the next, the device records your usage patterns and allows the pump’s run cycles to activate only at those times of day when you’re likely to take a shower, wash the dishes, or perform any other domestic tasks that call for hot water. If and when your habits change, the SmartPlug adjusts automatically, all by itself. In the end, O’Brian says, “you get the best of both worlds—instant hot water and lower monthly bills.”

Note that while the SmartPlug defaults to its money-saving “smart” operation, there are two additional modes. In “pulse” mode, the SmartPlug maintains a steady, always-at-the-ready supply of hot water throughout the home—not by running the recirculation system all the time, but rather by running it intermittently (five minutes at a time with 10-minute breaks in between). Meanwhile, “vacation” mode kicks in whenever 36 hours pass without the SmartPlug detecting any hot water usage. As long as you’re away, the SmartPlug cycles the pump for 10 seconds a week to protect your pipes from corrosion. Otherwise, system stays dormant, which according to O’Brian, “goes a long way to help save energy dollars,” O’Brian points out. Upon your return, as soon as you start calling for hot water again, the SmartPlug seamlessly resumes, picking up right where it left off.

Perhaps best of all is that, according to O’Brian, “installation couldn’t be easier.” Start by plugging the device into an electrical outlet, then plug the recirculator pump into the SmartPlug. Next, attach the SmartPlug temperature sensor to the hot water supply line. That’s it. As O’Brian puts it, “Literally anyone can do it.” In part because of its no-hassle setup—but more so because the technology enables hot-water recirculation to deliver fully on its promises of convenience and cost savings—the SmartPlug has garnered more praise than you might expect for such a new product. In fact, at the 2017 International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition, SmartPlug won not only the Innovation Award, but also Product of the Year.

Purchase Taco SmartPlug Instant Hot Water Control, $125.95.

Hot Water Recirculation System Controls- Taco Diagram

Photo: taco-hvac.com

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


DIY Lite: This Curtain Rod Only Costs $12 to Make

Copper style doesn't have to cost a pretty penny. See how paint transforms wooden dowels (and few other surprising materials) into chic DIY curtain rods.

DIY Curtain Rods - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

While often initially installed for privacy, window treatments do a lot to improve a space’s interior design. Curtains help fill out an empty wall, make windows appear larger, and even draw in accent colors from elsewhere in the room. Just as important as the design and texture of the fabric panels themselves is the decision on which hardware you use to hang them. Often, curtain rods are an afterthought, purchased with whatever remains of the budget window treatment budget. Sure, cheap tension rods get the job done, but their lack of style often detracts from the drapes. Metal rods with decorative finials and tiebacks, on the other hand, enhance the fabric with their sheen. For a luxe look on a budget, you’ve got to get creative. We made these with surprisingly simple supplies from the hardware store! By styling wooden dowels to look like copper rods, the DIY curtain rods were so inexpensive (just $12 apiece!) that we had money left over to craft statement-making tiebacks to match.

 

All You Need to Make DIY Curtain Rods, Finials, and Ties

Photo: Ohoh Blog for BobVila.com

MATERIALS AND TOOLS (per window)
– 1-inch wooden dowel
– Saw
– Sandpaper
– Wooden drawer knobs (2)
– Contact adhesive
– Metal curtain rod brackets that accommodate 1-inch rods (2)
– Wooden curtain rings (2)
– Lamp sockets, ideally wooden (2)
– Plastic sheeting
– Newspaper
– Copper spray paint
– Ladder
– Cordless drill
– Drywall screws
– Curtains
– Rope (2 yards)
– Scissors
– Cup hooks (2)

 

DIY Curtain Rods - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 1
Measure your window, then cut the 1-inch wooden dowel to a length at least 5 inches longer than your window is wide. Sand it completely to remove splinters.

Create finials for your DIY curtain rods from wooden drawer knobs that are slightly larger than 1-inch in diameter. Ours are rather simple in style, but when you shop the drawer knob selection at your local hardware store, you’ll see that you have many options here and can go as fancy as you like. Then, to attach, you’ll apply contact adhesive to one end of the dowel and the end of the knob that typically screws into drawers; wait a few seconds and press them together. Once the glue has dried, repeat on the other side of the curtain rod.

 

DIY Curtain Rods - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 2
Lay the DIY curtain rod, brackets, wooden rings, and the wooden lamp sockets (without the cords) out on top of a plastic sheet or old newspaper, then spray-paint them a copper. No copper accents in the room? No problem! You can choose whatever metallic hue best fits with your interior design—silver, gold, even black metallic—to give the wooden fixtures a high-end look. Wait until the first coat is dry to flip all of the items and apply a second coat. Repeat until you’ve completely covered all pieces.

Note: If your hardware store does not carry wooden lamp sockets, take a look at the cylindrical plastic or metal options available. Focus on picking a shape you like enough to decorate your curtain tieback later on. (We chose one with minimal ridges so that it wouldn’t look like it might otherwise attach to a lightbulb.) Once you paint it, you won’t be able to tell the difference!

 

DIY Curtain Rods - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 3
Stand on a ladder and use a cordless drill to fasten the curtain brackets on the wall, one on each side of the window. Fake a larger window and a higher ceiling by positioning these brackets (and the DIY curtain rod) between 4 and 6 inches above the window.

 

DIY Curtain Rods - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 4
Hang your curtains on the rod, and place it back on its wall-mounted brackets. Depending on the type of brackets you’ve chosen, you may need to use an additional screw at each end to firmly hold the rod in place; refer to the manufacturer instructions for the bracket, if you’re not certain.

 

DIY Curtain Rods - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 5
Repeat steps 1 through 4 to make as many DIY curtain rods as there are windows in the room. After you’ve outfitted each glass pane with a set of window treatments, you can use the money you’ve saved by DIYing rather than buying to create matching curtain tiebacks for each fabric panel.

Grab a spray-painted wooden curtain ring, a wooden lamp socket in matching color, and rope. Cut 1 yard of rope, fold it in the middle, and pass its rounded end through the bottom of the socket. Knot the loose ends beneath the socket.

 

DIY Curtain Rods - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 6
Pass the looped rope through the ring, wrap it down, and then pass the socket through the loop. Pull the wooden lamp socket so that the rope tightens around the ring and the knot slides into the socket itself.

 

DIY Curtain Rods - Step 7

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 7
Screw a cup hook onto the wall next to the window about 6 inches above the windowsill with the hook facing up to hold the doubled-up rope. You can make a knot around the hook to prevent the rope from slipping.

Repeat steps 5 through 7 to make additional tiebacks for every curtain panel.

 

DIY Curtain Rods - Step 8

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 8
When you’re ready to open the curtains and let the sunshine in, simply pull back your fabric panel and wrap the two ends of the rope tieback around it so that the socket passes through the ring. The simple yet distinctively modern shapes strung around the lower third of your shower curtains balance the room’s DIY curtain rods for a completely chic window treatment.

 

DIY Curtain Rods with a Copper Glow

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

 

Ama is a DIY addict and the creative mind behind Ohoh Blog. She likes home decor, lighting, and furniture projects that may involve painting, sewing, drilling…no matter the technique! Whatever she has on hand is inspiration to create, and fodder for her serious addiction to upcycling.

 

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.


How To: Glaze Kitchen Cabinets

If your kitchen cabinets are in need of a refresh, pick glaze over paint or stain alone this time to try out a trendy vintage-inspired finish.

How to Glaze Kitchen Cabinets

Photo: Zillow Digs Home in Purchase, NY

An outdated kitchen puts a damper on daily meal prep and entertaining, but a full-on kitchen renovation is rarely in the cards. Instead of spending thousands of dollars, though, homeowners can transform the space with a simple DIY project: glazing their cabinets. Glaze is a semi-clear coating that’s often applied on top of kitchen cabinets—preferably ones that have been freshly painted or stained—to enhance architectural details like corners and molding with subtle shading. With a wide array of colors to choose from, most homeowners opt for either dark glaze on stained cabinets or white glaze on lighter-colored cabinets for a subdued rustic vibes. Dark glaze on light cabinets skews even more dramatic and antique by using extra shadows to accentuate surface details. Perhaps the best part of working with glaze is that there’s no regret. Start with subtle and work until you’re satisfied, or wipe away with paint thinner and begin again. Why delay? Learn how to glaze kitchen cabinets with these steps and achieve a trendy vintage vibe this weekend.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Screwdriver
– Drop cloth
– Painter’s tape
– Degreasing cleanser
– Sponge
– Bucket
– Deglosser
– 220-grit sandpaper
– Paint stirrer
– Cardboard
– Oil-based paint or stain (optional)
– Water-based glaze or oil-based glaze
– Latex paint
– Rags
– Natural bristle paintbrush
– Foam brush
– Paint thinner (optional)

STEP 1
Remove all cabinet doors and drawers by unscrewing the hinges, then empty the contents completely. Take off all hardware, knobs, and handles to protect them from paint splatter. Cover the surrounding areas—the floor, backsplash, and countertops—with drop cloths and painter’s tape.

STEP 2
Clean your kitchen cabinets with a degreasing cleanser to remove any residue left behind from meal prep. Then apply a deglosser (which is basically liquid sandpaper) with a rag to ensure all dirt is removed. If you’re planning to paint or stain the cabinets, sand them with a 220-grit sandpaper to smooth the surface for an even application of paint.

How to Glaze Kitchen Cabinets

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Gainesville, VA

STEP 3 (optional)
Some homeowners may want to paint or stain their kitchen cabinets before glazing, in order to achieve their desired base coat for the glaze. If that’s the case, refer to our guides on painting kitchen cabinets and staining kitchen cabinets before picking up the glaze. Always opt for an oil-based paint (since it’s more durable than latex varieties), and keep your desired look in mind when choosing the color. For example, if you like the look of a light-colored glazed finish, opt for an oil-based paint in a cream-white color. Once painted or stained, allow the cabinet doors, drawers, and cabinets to dry for at least 24 hours before moving on.

STEP 4
Glaze comes in two different formulas: oil-based and water-based. In general, oil-based glazes work better for stained cabinets and water-based glazes are ideal for painted cabinets. Keep in mind that oil-based glazes have a slower dry time, making them easier to work with.

For the easiest application, choose pre-mixed glaze (which you can find at home stores in a variety of shades) and prepare it by simply mixing once more with a paint stirrer upon opening. Of course, you can achieve a more custom shade of glaze, you can make your own by combining a store-bought glazing product with latex paint. The exact measurements will depend on the glaze manufacturer’s instructions and your personal shade preference, but four parts glaze to one part paint is a safe starting point. Blend the two components together with a paint stirrer, test on a wood scrap or cardboard, and then adjust it to your liking.

 

How to Glaze Kitchen Cabinets

Photo: Zillow Digs Home in Huntsville, AL

STEP 5
Dip a rag, natural bristle paintbrush, or foam brush into the glaze. Then, using a circular or straight motion, liberally apply a layer of glaze over one of the cabinets. Once applied, the glaze should look messy and darker than your desired outcome.

STEP 6
Using circular wiping motion, quickly wipe the cabinet with a clean rag to eliminate the excess glaze. When wiping, you’ll notice that the glaze sticks to the cabinet’s corners and surface details, making them appear darker and contributing to the vintage look. Keep thinning the glaze with the rag until you’re satisfied with the finished look.

If you’re unhappy with the outcome, use paint thinner to wipe off all the glaze with a clean rag, and then start the process anew. Remember that the glaze dries very quickly, and it appears darker when it stays on the cabinet for longer. Glazing in small sections—one cabinet at a time—gives you more leeway to correct any mistakes before the glaze dries.

STEP 7
Once you’re satisfied with the look of the cabinet, continue glazing the rest of the cupboards and drawers. Make sure to apply glaze in all crevices and corners, as well as the tops and sides of all doors and drawers. Apply a layer of glaze on the cupboard framing as well.

To achieve a more dramatic finish, apply an extra layer of glaze on any grooves or carved inset moldings along the drawers, doors, or cupboard framing. Wipe off the glaze as usual, but keep it a little darker than the rest of the surface. The accentuated grooves provide a unique contrast to the lighter cabinet faces.

 

How to Glaze Kitchen Cabinets

Photo: Zillow Digs Home in Ellicott City, MD

STEP 8
Allow the glaze to dry according to manufacturer’s instructions. Most manufacturers suggest a minimum dry time of 24 hours, but climate and humidity will affect the drying rate. Homeowners don’t need to apply sealant to freshly glazed cabinets, but a coat of urethane, varnish, or lacquer finish—either high-gloss or matte—can prevent damage and make the glaze last longer. Apply the topcoat with a brush and let it dry completely.

STEP 9
Using a rag, remove any errant spots of paint or glaze with hot water or a paint thinner. Remember not to wipe the freshly-glazed cabinets, and let them dry thoroughly before replacing the hardware. Voila! You’ve just completed a DIY kitchen transformation at the fraction of the cost of renovation!

 

How to Glaze Kitchen Cabinets

Photo: Zillow Digs Home in Norman, OK


How To: Soundproof a Wall

No more noise pollution! Enjoy the sounds of silence with these easy techniques.

How to Soundproof a Wall

Photo: istockphoto.com

Whether your teen has rock star dreams or your 8-year-old has started tap-dancing, you’ll find that a little soundproofing can go a long way toward keeping the peace—and quiet—at home. Soundproofing is most effective when done during construction, but there are several ways to put a damper on ambient and active noise after the fact. In terms of décor, cumulative use of rugs, textiles, and cloth wall panels can all help reduce the din. To minimize more serious noise, consider the two strategies for how to soundproof a wall outlined here.

Method #1: How to Soundproof a Wall with Mass-Loaded Vinyl

Mass-loaded vinyl (MLV) is a sound-dampening product used everywhere from nightclubs to recording studios to hockey rinks. It comes on a roll and is available online for around $2 per square foot, depending on weight, length, and width. The thicker the better for blocking noise and ending echoes, but thickness, ranging from 1/16 inch to ¼ inch, may not be listed in product specifications. If not, you’ll see a weight instead. Half-pound MLV weighs one-half pound per square foot of coverage, and is 1/16-inch thick; one-pound MLV is a pound per square foot of coverage and is 1/8-inch thick; two-pound MLV is ¼-inch thick.

While MLV can be hung directly on a wall, it performs best when sandwiched between sheets of drywall. Doing so also allows you aesthetic options, since the usually black, shiny MLV isn’t the most decoratively appealing surface! And keep in mind that MLV is heavy and awkward to work with—hanging it is a two-person job, so enlist a helper.

 

How to Soundproof a Wall

Photo: amazon.com

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Measuring tape
– Mass-loaded vinyl
– Heavy-duty scissors or utility knife
– Stepladder
– Drywall nails
– Hammer

STEP 1
Prior to ordering MLV, carefully measure the walls you want to soundproof. Leaving gaps in MLV will drastically compromise its effectiveness, so you’ll want to buy enough for complete coverage from wall to wall and floor to ceiling. When calculating your needs, note that MLV tends to be sold on rolls of 2-foot or 4-foot widths.

STEP 2
Measure a length of MLV that will reach floor to ceiling and then cut out a sheet with the scissors or utility knife. Cutting on top of scrap wood would be wise to protect your floor or work surface.

STEP 3
Position the stepladder and put the MLV against the wall starting at either end, working to the other corner. To install it, snug it up against the ceiling, with your helper holding it in place. Using drywall nails and a hammer, attach the MLV to the upper portion of the wall at 12-inch intervals. Then attach the bottom portion at 12-inch intervals, and finally at 12- to 24-inch intervals down the sides of the sheet.

STEP 4
Repeat Steps 2 and 3 as required until the entire wall is covered. Be sure to butt the MLV right up against the preceding sheet so there are no gaps. Feel free to overlap it for a potentially greater sound barrier, but you’ll have bumps and ridges if you do so.

STEP 5
Install a layer of drywall on top the MLV to make the soundproofing twice as effective and give you a surface for paint or other wall covering décor (go here for a how-to). Or read on for a quick solution to hiding the glossy black vinyl with curtains—a no-commitment décor project that will also enhance soundproofing.

 

Method #2: How to Soundproof a Wall with Curtains

Not for windows only, curtains can create drama on the walls of any room while offering considerable soundproofing benefits. They’re relatively inexpensive and as easy to remove as they are to install. While there are curtains specifically marketed as sound dampening or “acoustic,” blackout and thermal curtains, primarily sold to keep light out and warmth in, also offer noise reduction. Don’t let the term “blackout” fool you: These curtains come in many colors and styles—it’s the inner liner that provides the blackout/thermal effect. Even heavy fabrics like velvet provide some soundproofing.

Keep in mind that when you double the weight of the fabric, you up to triple its sound-reduction ability. Yet more important than weight is curtain construction: Pleated curtains can be three times as effective against noise as those that hang straight because the pleats not only double fabric thickness in many parts, but also act like a baffle, confounding a sound wave’s reflection and stopping it in the fabric folds.

Remember, sound dampening is the goal, so a floor-to-ceiling curtain that covers the entire wall will have the most impact. You can purchase curtains in multiple panels to fill the wall. If feeling adventurous, mix colors and patterns for a funky feature wall!

 

How to Soundproof a Wall

Photo: istockphoto.com

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Measuring tape
– Heavy curtains, preferably ceiling-to-floor length
– Bathroom scale
– Hanging system (rods, wires, or other systems rated for your curtain weight)
– Screwdriver or drill
– Screws
– Stud finder (optional)
– Weight-rated wall anchors (optional)
– Iron or steamer

STEP 1
Measure the wall prior to purchasing curtains. When shopping, check package info for the curtains’ weight; you’ll need this to choose rods or another hanging system sturdy enough to hold them. If you’re set on curtains that don’t include the weight on the packaging, weigh them on your bathroom scale at home. Tip: Keep them in the package so they’ll sit easily on the scale.

STEP 2
Purchase a hanging system weight-rated for the curtains (packaging or website marketing should tell you the weight load they can handle). If they weigh 40 pounds and the wall to be covered is 12 feet long, you’ll need a rod or hanging system that can handle roughly 3.5 pounds per foot, so keep that weight rating in mind when making your choice.

STEP 3
Before mounting the hanging system, ensure enough space above it for the top of the curtains to move freely without bunching against the ceiling—a half-inch or inch should do. Locate wall studs with a stud finder, or use proper weight-rated wall anchors, before boring into the wall with screws. Affix the rod or hanging system to the walls as recommended by the manufacturer. Check out these helpful articles to guide you through stud-finding and curtain-hanging in detail:

Three Ways to Find a Wall Stud (Without Fancy Equipment)
How To: Install Curtain Rods

STEP 4
Iron or steam curtains to remove creases and wrinkles from the packaging. Check the labels to see what temperature the manufacturers suggest and iron accordingly.

STEP 5
Hang the curtains on the rod or wire system and then “bunch” them together in equal amounts across the entire wall for a consistent look. Keep in mind that pleated, bunched fabric will absorb more sound than flat, so ample curtains are a plus.


Solved! What to Do About Water Hammer

Hear a loud banging in your pipes? The culprit is likely water hammer. Here's how to stop the racket and save your pipes along the way.

Water Hammer

Photo: istockphoto.com

Q: When the water reaches the fill level in my washing machine and the agitation cycle starts, I always hear a loud series of bangs in the pipes behind the wall. What’s causing this? Will it harm the pipes?

A: The banging racket you’re hearing is called “water hammer,” a form of hydraulic shock that occurs when the shut-off valve on a high-pressure water line suddenly closes. As your washing machine fills, water rushes quickly through the pipes in your home until—when the drum reaches capacity—the washer valve abruptly closes. With nowhere to go, the fast-moving water supply slams against the side of the pipe with an intense surge of pressure, causing the pipes to jerk and thud against wall framing or other pipes. As a result, you hear a loud series of bangs and maybe even feel the pressure shaking the house.

More than just produce an annoying clamor, water hammer can actually damage the pipe connections and joints, resulting in leaks and costly repairs. Or worse, the noise may also indicate a larger problem like excessive pressure in your water supply lines or loose piping. Fortunately, homeowners can usually eliminate water hammer inexpensively without the help of a professional. Just follow the steps below to conduct your own investigation into the matter.

Troubleshoot your air chamber. This vertical pipe located near the water valve helps alleviate water hammer by acting as a cushion. The air chamber absorbs the shock of the water once the valve closes, preventing the water from loudly slamming against the side of the pipes. Many homes have air chambers installed within their walls, but sometimes the air chamber can stop working properly if it becomes waterlogged. To fix the issue, homeowners need to drain their plumbing system: Shut off the main water valve, open the highest faucet in your home, and drain water from the lowest faucet (usually in the basement or first floor). The air chamber will fill back up with air instead of water, hopefully solving the water hammer problem. If your home doesn’t have an air chamber, consider having one installed by a professional.

How to Fix Water Hammer

Photo: amazon.com

As an alternative, install water hammer arrestors to eliminate the banging. Water hammer arrestors feature air-filled cylinders that absorb the jolt of a sudden water pressure increase when a valve shuts off. Most water hammer arrestors available today are easy to install, and they feature screw-type connectors that attach between a water-supply line and a shut-off valve. Make sure to install two: one on the hot water supply line and one on the cold water supply line. If you’re not familiar with basic plumbing connections, however, don’t hesitate to call a plumber to install the arrestors.

Adjust the water pressure reduction valve. Sometimes, excessive water pressure in your pipes causes water hammer and so emptying the air chamber of water or installing a water arrestor offers only temporary help. To regulate the pressure, homeowners should adjust their pressure-reducing valve. These valves exist in most homes nowadays, often located at the entrance point of a home’s main water supply. Depending on the manufacturer, some valves have a handle for adjustment, while others require a wrench or screwdriver. Use the proper technique to adjust your valve to a setting below 50 PSI (pounds per square inch), which is a sufficient setting for most homes. As a bonus, reducing the water pressure in your home saves energy, promotes water conservation, and potentially prolongs the life of your automatic appliances (including pricier investments like washing machines, toilets, and dishwashers).

Reduce excessive water pressure at the meter. If your home doesn’t have a pressure-reducing valve, consider asking the municipality that controls the water system in your community to check your home’s water pressure. Municipal water systems often maintain the water in their lines at pressures around 200 PSI, but residential water lines aren’t designed to safely accommodate that much pressure. The municipality will usually check your water pressure for free, and they can reduce it if necessary.

Stabilize loose water-supply lines to prevent banging. During home construction, the plumber uses U-shaped pipe straps to fasten water-supply lines to wooden joists or studs with screws. If the straps aren’t tight enough—or if a few straps are missing—the pipes can knock around and create noise. To stop the banging, tighten loose pipe straps with a screwdriver, or install additional pipe straps for added stability. Most pipe straps are molded from thin metal or plastic, but you can also find padded pipe straps that offer additional vibration reduction. Keep in mind that homeowners should never use galvanized or steel straps on copper pipes, since the combination of materials causes electrolysis and plumbing leaks.

Cushion water-supply lines with pipe insulation. Pipe insulation, available in foam tubes, is designed to fit around water supply lines to keep them from freezing. But they also work great for cushioning loose, banging pipes. The foam tubes come pre-slit from end to end, so all you need to do is run your finger down the slit to open the tube, then fit it over the water supply line. Foam pipe insulation sells in six-foot lengths and ranges from around $3 up to $8 per tube, depending on density.