Flooring & Stairs - 3/13 - Bob Vila

Category: Flooring & Stairs

How To: Make Your Own Carpet Cleaner

Whether caused by foot traffic or just long-term wear and tear, dingy carpet can really bring down the appearance of an entire room. Get your carpeted spaces looking as good as new by using this homemade solution to get rid of stains and lingering dirt.

Homemade Carpet Cleaner

Photo: fotosearch.com

The more you entertain, the more likely it is that you’ll have to deal with stains. A spilled glass of wine, a smudge of dirt—it’s frustrating to see stubborn stains on an otherwise clean carpet. But stains aren’t the only problem. You also need to worry about the effects of long-term wear and tear. Over time, it’s inevitable that carpeting will start to lose its brand-new sheen. Before you spend big bucks on a heavy-duty over-the-counter rug shampoo, try whipping up your own homemade carpet cleaner and giving dingy areas (and errant stains) a good scrub. We’ve got the perfect recipe—all you need to do is set aside a weekend to concentrate on getting your carpeting truly clean.

– 2 tablespoons liquid detergent
– 1/4 cup all-purpose cleaner (for example, Formula 409)
– 1 scoop OxiClean
– 1 teaspoon Downy fabric softener (optional)
– 1 gallon hot water
– Protective gloves
– Large bowl
– One-gallon pot
– Carpet cleaning machine

Homemade Carpet Cleaner - Clean Carpet Pile

Photo: fotosearch.com


Pour 1 gallon of water into the pot and set it to boil on the stove. While you’re waiting for the water to boil, put on your rubber gloves and combine the liquid detergent, all-purpose cleaner, OxiClean, and fabric softener (if you opt to use it) in a large bowl.


Wait a few minutes until the cleaning products have dissolved. (The OxiClean is typically in powder form, which means you may need to stir the mixture a bit.) Next, slowly add in the gallon of hot water. Be sure to pour it gently so you don’t create too many bubbles, which can lead to air pockets inside the homemade carpet cleaner.


Next, pull out your carpet cleaning machine. (There are many models on the market, but if you’re not interested in investing in one, check with your local home improvement store to see if they rent out machines.) Transfer the homemade carpet cleaner to your appliance, following the instructions for the appliance. Keep in mind that the cleaning solution you’ve made already contains a fair amount of water, so you can use it at full strength in the machine.


Before you start putting your homemade carpet cleaner to work just anywhere, test it out on a less visible portion of the flooring to make sure two things: that the machine cleans properly, and that neither the solution nor the machine damages the carpeting. Remember, carpets are made of different materials; you don’t want to worsen the stain or harm your carpet. Wait at least 24 hours for the test spot to dry to see the results.


After you’ve checked the efficacy of the machine, run it over your entire carpet with the machine, paying special attention to stains and areas that look particularly dingy. Be careful not to use too much homemade carpet cleaner, because soapy residue can harm the carpet and too much moisture can lead to mildew. Just as you did with the test spot, wait at least 24 hours for your carpeting to dry, and then you’re done!

How To: Stain Hardwood Floors

You can rejuvenate your tired, worn hardwood floors with a beautiful new finish, provided you have the right tools, sufficient elbow grease, time, patience, and a healthy attention to detail.

How to Stain Hardwood Floors

Photo: fotosearch.com

Hardwood flooring offers rich, warm, timeless beauty, and can even favorably affect the resale value of your home. Without question, wood costs more than other types of flooring, but many homeowners view the material as a wise long-term investment. Why? Because when a hardwood floor starts to show wear and tear, you can refinish it and in so doing, revitalize its look and performance. Make no mistake, however: Sanding, staining, and sealing a wood floor takes time and effort. It’s a demanding project, even for a veteran home handyman. That said, you can save a considerable sum by doing it yourself, sometimes more than half of what it would cost to hire a pro. If you’re ready and willing to take on the task, keep reading for the details on how to stain your own hardwood floors.

The weekend-long process follows these steps:

  1. Empty the room.
  2. Use a random orbital sander to sand the floor three times, using a lighter-grit abrasive with each pass.
  3. Remove dust with a heavy-duty shop vac followed by rags dampened with mineral spirits.
  4. Apply stain to the hardwood floor in one 2-foot section at a time using a lambswool applicator.
  5. Top the finish with a protective and glossy coat of polyurethane sealer.


– Shop vac
– Tack cloth
– Random orbital sander
– Protective eyewear and dust mask or respirator
– 60-, 80-, and 100- or 120-grit sandpaper
– Palm sander (or detail sander)
– Stain
– Lambswool stain applicator
– Rags
– Two-inch paintbrushes
– Polyurethane sealer
– High-density foam roller
– 320-grit sandpaper with sanding pole (optional)
– Protective gear

Before doing anything else, get the room ready. Relocate all furniture, and if the room has baseboards use a pry bar to remove the quarter-round shoe moldings that mark the transition between the baseboard and the floor. (Note: Label each piece of shoe molding with its location to ensure easy reinstallation later.) Because floor sanding creates a great deal of dust, don’t forget to cover the doorways with plastic sheeting or a set of old sheets, preventing dust from traveling beyond the work area. You may also want to cover any light fixtures or HVAC vents. In short, if there’s something you don’t want filmed by a layer of dust, now is the time to protect it.

Sanding may be the single most critical step in the process; it largely determines the quality of the end result. If you don’t sand the floor carefully and deliberately, that’s going to show once the stain dries. Adding even more stress to the task: For any room larger than a closet, you’ll need a similarly large sanding tool to get the job done—namely, a waist-height random orbital sander. The good news is that random orbital sanders are readily available for rent at your local home center. They’re also generally user-friendly and pose little risk of damaging the floor, so long as you read and adhere to the operating instructions provided with the unit.

Be prepared to sand the floor three times, using a lighter-grit abrasive with each pass. First, set up the sander with 60-grit sandpaper and, after donning protective eyewear and a dust mask, start moving the sander over the floor. The preferred technique isn’t so different from the one you’d use when mowing the lawn: Sand the floor in rows, overlapping your runs by approximately half the width of the sander. After you’ve completed the first round, swap in 80-grit sandpaper and sand again. Remember to keep the sander level, and never stop the sanding disks when they are in contact with the floor. Finally, switch to 100- or 120-grit abrasive and sand one more time. In any area where the random orbital sander is too large to reach, use a palm sander or a detail sander to achieve the desired level of smoothness.

How to Stain Hardwood Floors - Process Shot

Photo: fotosearch.com

At this point, your job is simple but painstaking: Thoroughly vacuum up the enormous quantity of dust created during the sanding stage of the project. Don’t use your regular household vacuum, though—it’s probably not up to the task. Opt instead for a heavy-duty shop vac, fitted with a brush attachment and, ideally, a new filter. Even after vacuuming every inch of the space, there’s still more to do. Using either tack cloths or rags dampened with mineral spirits, wipe down the floor until it’s clean and clear of dust and debris. Doing so may take more sweat than you anticipated, but for a quality stain finish, it’s an important and sadly unavoidable effort.

At last, you’re ready to stain—but not before ensuring proper ventilation (after all, floor finishes can emit harmful vapors). Once you’ve ensured a safe work environment, stop a moment and strategize. You need to make sure that when the floor has been freshly stained, you’ll be able to leave it without stepping all over your work. It’s usually wise to begin in one of the corners opposite the door and then work your way toward the exit. Once you’ve mapped out your path, get started. Using a lambswool applicator, apply the stain to the floor, aiming for even distribution over one two-foot section at a time. Wipe away the excess with a rag before moving on to the next section. Try not to let the “wet edge” dry. Rather, start the applicator a couple of feet away from the edge, then maneuver it to meet the previously coated section. In the corners, or where the floor meets the baseboards, a two-inch paintbrush may prove handier than the applicator. Finished? Let the stain dry, then assess whether you’d like the finish to be darker. If so, apply a second coat in the same way that you did the first.

When the stain is completely dry, it’s time for the last step—protecting the finish with polyurethane sealer. Using a high-density foam roller (and, if necessary, a two-inch brush for some parts of the room), apply a thin, even coat across the entire floor surface. Wipe up any excess, then let the coat dry to a glassy finish. If the type of sealer you’re using does not require sanding between coats, you can proceed directly to the second application of polyurethane. Otherwise, sand the floor with fine, 320-grit abrasive to ensure that the second coat properly adheres. Don’t be tempted to use the brawny random orbital sander to sand at this late stage; here, finesse is the name of the game. Instead, sand either by hand or with a sanding pole. After cleaning up the inevitable dust with your shop vac and tack cloths, apply the second, final coat of sealer, then let it dry. You typically must wait 24 hours before being able to walk safely on the floor again, and as long as 72 hours before replacing furniture in the room. The drying period is a little annoying, but for a beautiful new finish and a dramatically transformed room, the wait’s worth it.

Quick Tip: The Best Way to Remove Gum from Carpet

If you’re stuck on how to remove gunky gum from the carpet, chew on this fast, easy, and non-damaging fix!

How to  Remove Gum from Carpet - Stick of Gum

Photo: fotosearch.com

Even if you’re not a gum chewer, you can still fall victim to the sticky substance if a wad on the concrete sneaks its way onto the soles of your shoes. The gunky guest then follows you home, where it takes up permanent residence in your carpet. While you may be tempted to forcibly remove the clingy carpet dweller by pulling it by hand, this approach can cause collateral damage to the delicate fibers of your carpet. To prevent a sticky situation for getting even stickier, give lodged-in gum wads the cold shoulder—with ice cubes!

How to  Remove Gum from Carpet - With Ice Cubes

Photo: fotosearch.com

This is why it pays to always stock ice: Gather ice cubes from the freezer, then press a single cube directly into the offending gum wad. Now, the ice won’t in and of itself remove gum from the carpet. But when left on the gum for at least one minute, it will freeze and harden it—making it a cinch for you to lift it in one piece. Gently pick at and pull the stiffened gum from the carpet using your fingers, a spatula, or a butter knife. Start lifting along the edges and move toward the center of the wad, taking care not to remove the carpet fibers along with the gum! Master this technique, and you can even apply it to upholstery messes and gummed up clothes in future.

At this point, most of the gum should be out of sight and out of mind, but if stubborn residue remains, root it out with a few drops of a rub featuring Methyl salicylate (like the pain-relieving cream, Bengay). Lastly, scrub away any discoloration or carpet stains left in the gum’s wake with a mild carpet cleaning detergent. Rinse the area with warm water to send your gummy ordeal packing!

How to Remove Gum from Carpet - And Clothes

Photo: instructables.com via jessyratfink

Walk This Way: Expert Advice on 3 Top Options in Flooring

Flooring goes a long way toward defining the look of a room. But compared to a simple matter of taste like choosing a paint color, deciding on a floor material involves a host of sometimes puzzling practical considerations. Here, get the low-down on three top options from an expert with Sears Home Services.

Laminate vs. Vinyl vs. Tile Flooring

Photo: fotosearch.com

Floors are the unsung heroes of our homes, at once establishing the look of a space even while taking a beating under a daily barrage of footsteps. In return, to look its best and last a long time, your flooring demands attention—not necessarily an intensive regimen of care, but regular cleaning at the very least and perhaps the occasional repair. Without proper maintenance, according to Joe Maykut, a manager with Sears Home Services, “It’s only a matter of time before the floor fails you.” But, he continues, “that may be a blessing in disguise.” If you’re dissatisfied with either the look or performance of any floor in your home, embrace replacement flooring as an opportunity for transformation. After all, “a new floor makes a dramatic impact,” Makyut says. “It not only changes the look of a room, but also how it feels.” Of course, the end result depends on the type of flooring you choose. While many people love the look of traditional hardwood or stone, savvy homeowners keep returning to a hardworking trio of beautiful, budget-friendly materials: laminate, vinyl, and tile. Which is right for you? Like so many other questions in home improvement, the answer depends. For instance, in the kitchen or bathroom, “there are a host of special considerations,” Maykut says. Meanwhile, in the den or the bedroom, “comfort alone may be your top priority,” Maykut concludes. For help making your selection, read on to learn the pros and cons of each popular option.



Laminate vs. Vinyl vs. Tile Flooring - Laminate Option

Photo: fotosearch.com

Laminate flooring has come a long way since its introduction 20 years ago. The planks are still composed of multiple thin layers—and the material remains modestly priced—but otherwise, “it’s a whole new ball game,” says Joe Maykut of Sears Home Services. Whereas early laminate floors were designed to emulate hardwood, recent years have witnessed an explosion of new colors, patterns, and textures. To be sure, “you can still find plenty of laminates that look like real wood,” Maykut says. “And the manufacturing process has improved to the point where, unless you’re inspecting the floor up close, you can’t tell the difference.” But in addition to convincing wood-look designs, it’s now possible to get laminate floors that mimic marble, slate, travertine and many other luxurious, high-priced materials. That said, it’s important to note that looks aren’t the only point of appeal for laminate flooring. As eye-catching as it may be, laminate also tends to be exceptionally comfortable underfoot, not least because it typically installs over a soft, cushiony layer of foam. The downside: “Water and laminate floors don’t mix,” Maykut says. Therefore, it’s not recommended for any space with exposure to moisture and humidity. “That rules out bathrooms and kitchens, and any basement with a history of moisture issues.” For living and dining areas, however, laminate makes an ideal choice and, being resistant to scuffs and scratches, “it works particularly well in homes with children, pets, or both.”



Laminate vs. Vinyl vs. Tile Flooring - Vinyl Option

Photo: fotosearch.com

A low price: That used to be the one and only selling point for vinyl flooring. But in the decades since it first became popular, vinyl has undergone “a tremendous renaissance,” according to Maykut of Sears Home Services. Separate and apart from affordability, there are now several reasons to choose it. For one thing, cumbersome sheet vinyl flooring products are no longer the norm. These days, planks and tiles are more popular, in part because “these new shapes and sizes lend themselves more easily to repair,” Maykut explains. “If a sharp object gouges a section of the floor, you can simply replace the affected planks or tiles, without having to start over.” In addition, vinyl continues to earn praise for being easy to clean and low maintenance, and for standing up well to many of the everyday stresses that compromise other materials. Adding to its durability is the fact that, impervious to water, vinyl can be used in any room. Of course, if you have plans to move, you may want to think twice before putting a vinyl floor into a highly visible space like the living room. “Buyers often expect to see vinyl in certain rooms and not others,” Maykut says. In the bathroom, kitchen, and assorted utility spaces, however, it can be a cost-effective, hassle-free floor. Best of all, it’s now available in a surprisingly sophisticated range of designs, the best of which benefit from advanced embossing techniques that make modern vinyl look much more expensive that it really is.



Photo: fotosearch.com

“Tile has a timeless appeal, like hardwood,” says Makyut of Sears. That being the case—since a broad swath of homebuyers tend to look favorably upon it—tile very often “boosts home resale value,” Maykut adds. Unlike top-dollar hardwood, however, “tile often comes with a lower price tag.” Fortunately, paying less doesn’t force you to make design sacrifices. For proof, look no further than Sears Home Services, which offers and routinely installs a stunning variety of tile in all different colors and styles. Still, exciting though the options may be, Maykut urges caution: “You may be tempted to pick a bold and unique look that reflects your personality,” he says, but the wise course is to “buy not for you, but for the person you’ll eventually sell your house to.” To resist the current trends that may not stand the test of time, concentrate on neutral colors and classic patterns. Also, remember that for tile to retain its value, the installation requires regular maintenance. Tile itself may be “more or less effortless” to clean, but if you’ve ever lived with the material before, you know that grout can be a challenge to keep pristine. Further hallmarks of tile: “It’s rigid and most of the time, cold to the touch,” Maykut points out. That’s largely why, in many parts of the country, tile seldom appears beyond the bounds of the kitchen or bath. It usually works best, Maykut concludes, in those parts of the home where “its longevity, durability, and water-resistance are tested over and over, every single day.”


Still uncertain as to which type of floor most closely matches your style preferences and lifestyle needs? Seek out a local contractor to discuss the various possibilities, or go online to book a free in-home consultation with Sears Home Services. A nationwide company with a decades-long history, Sears matches you with expert coordinators to guide you through the replacement flooring process from beginning to end—from selecting a material all the way to getting it installed on time, on budget, and to your satisfaction. In fact, Sears backs up its work with a Satisfaction Guarantee, demonstrating that just as you are, Sears stands committed to the success of your project.


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

3 Easy Fixes for Carpet Dents

Use one of these three simple techniques to ensure that unsightly dents don't detract from the impression your carpet makes on your guests.

How to Get Dents Out of Carpet - After Furniture Rearrangement

Photo: Zillow Digs house in Chaska, MN

In preparation for an evening of fun, food, and merriment with family and friends, you’ve planned and cooked and cleaned. You’ve even rearranged the furniture to improve the flow of foot traffic and facilitate conversation. But just when you thought you had made a virtual dent in your hosting to-do list, you spy a set of large actual dents in the carpet. Known as divots, these dents often occur when heavy furniture compresses the delicate fibers of your carpet for an extended amount of time. They’re hardly even noticeable—until you decide to rearrange the sofas or move the buffet to a different room. Fortunately, you and your carpet can decompress by trying any one of a few simple techniques that use common household materials to erase dents.



How to Get Dents Out of Carpet - Ice Cube Tray

Photo: fotosearch.com

If you’re already on thin ice with your carpet, why not use ice cubes to melt away carpet dents and your holiday hosting troubles? The first step is to hit up your freezer’s automatic ice maker for supplies, or simply freeze a tray of ice cubes before proceeding.

Give dents the cold shoulder by placing a large ice cube (or multiple cubes, if you’re dealing with larger indentations) directly into the carpet divot. Let the ice melt for at least a few hours, and up to 12 for those deeper dents. The water will engorge the nap of the carpet, bringing it back to the height of the surrounding areas. Blot the excess water with a sponge. Then, use a coin or spoon to lift up those downtrodden carpet fibers.



How to Get Dents Out of Carpet - Using a Hair Dryer

Photo: fotosearch.com

Just as your blow dryer adds volume and body to your hair, it can do the same for your carpet, restoring its original bounce while eradicating the dents that left its fibers limp and lackluster.

Regain that spring in your step—and your carpet—by making a beeline for the bath to collect a blow dryer and spray bottle filled with water. Spritz the crushed area with enough water to saturate the carpet fibers. Then, use the handheld appliance to blow-dry the damp area. As the carpet dries, fluff up the fibers with your fingers.



How to Get Dents Out of Carpet - Using a Towel

Photo: fotosearch.com

When deeper divots threaten your carpet, you might be tempted to throw in the towel and just cover up the problem with a small rug or more furniture. (Well, we won’t try that open-space layout for this event after all.) Wait! Don’t throw in that towel just yet. Instead, use it to eliminate those pesky carpet dents altogether.

To demolish even the deepest dent, place a damp dish towel or cloth directly over it. Set an iron on medium heat or on the steam setting, and run it over the towel for about thirty seconds to a minute—but don’t let the iron touch the carpet directly, as it could burn. Then, vacuum over the spot or fluff it up to make the fibers uniform and high—and put you in high spirits for the party!

The Smarter Way to Mop Your Floors

Say goodbye to floors that seem dirty even after you've cleaned them by following these tips that will ensure squeaky-clean results every time you mop.

How to Mop a Floor

Photo: fotosearch.com

You’ve just grabbed the mop to clear up a spill or wipe away the day-to-day dirt, but will you actually make your floors dirtier by using this cleaning tool? If you’re left with dingy flooring no matter how much you clean, you may be breaking the first rule of mopping: Vacuum first, mop second. Without a clean sweep or vacuum job, mopping a floor covered in dust, dirt, and hair simply spreads the debris around. If you’ve been making this mistake all your life, there may be a couple of other areas for improvement in your cleaning routine. So, once you’ve successfully incorporated this first step, try implementing the equally crucial components that follow, and your floor will be so clean you could practically eat off of it.

The Right Cleaner for the Job
It’s a common misconception that more soap equals cleaner floors. In reality, using too many suds leaves behind a sticky residue—and that sticky residue can trap more grime. Whether you opt for a homemade or commercial cleaner, choose the one that’s best for your floor type, and use it sparingly.

How to Mop a  Floor - Mopping Wood Floors

Photo: fotosearch.com

Hardwood: Check if your floors are finished with polyurethane or wax. If your floors are sealed with polyurethane, use a mild or pH-neutral soap with water. Avoid cleaning products (natural or commercial) with acidic additives, which can damage wood over time. If your floors are waxed, use a damp (almost dry) mop once a week at most—even a small amount of water may cause warping.
Laminate: As is the case with hardwoods, less is more when it comes to water; you want to keep it from seeping underneath the laminate planks. Try damp mopping and spot cleaning, but never use a commercial floor cleaner with polish.
Vinyl: One of the best cleansers for this floor surface is a solution of apple cider vinegar and water. Due to its acidity, vinegar helps remove dirt without leaving behind a buildup, and it disinfects at the same time.
Linoleum: Not as resilient as vinyl, this floor surface requires a milder cleaner. Mix a few drops of dish soap with hot water in a spray bottle, and then spritz the surface section by section. Finish up by going over the floor with clean water from a dampened mop.
Stone tile: Mop with a pH-neutral, non-chelating cleaner that won’t react with the minerals in the stone. Skip bleach, ammonia, and vinegar, as even small amounts could damage the seal on stone tile floors.
Ceramic tile: White vinegar and water create an effective, odor-eliminating, nontoxic cleanser for this floor surface—great for households with pets and children.


Put It Through the Wringer
A string mop, or “yacht mop,” is what most people think of when they think “mop.” A sponge mop, however, is worth considering, depending on your flooring type. When choosing between the two, keep in mind that string mops absorb large amounts of water, so they require several rounds of wringing, while a sponge mop holds much less water, making it ideal for hardwoods and laminate flooring.

Once you choose your mop type, dip the mop in your cleaning solution so it’s immersed up to the top of the head. Let the mop absorb the cleaner, and then wring out as much moisture as possible. Remember, you want the mop damp, not wet. In some cases, as with hardwood floors, laminates, and linoleum, the mop needs to be wrung out numerous times until it’s almost dry.


Two Buckets Are Better Than One
Here’s a hygienic idea: Use one bucket for rinsing and one for the cleaner. By dipping the dirty mop into a separate rinse bucket, you can wring out the water without contaminating the detergent bucket with whatever debris was picked up. When the water in either bucket gets too dirty, replace it, but don’t just dump the old batch down your kitchen sink. Mop water is full of germs and dirt, so dispose of it down the toilet—not in the same vessel you’ll use to rinse off your chicken and vegetables during tonight’s meal prep.


Wipe in the Right Direction
As you would if you were painting a floor, begin mopping in one corner of the room and work your way back toward an exit to avoid stepping in the area you just cleaned. Just as important, pay attention to the pattern in which you push your mop, For hardwood floors, swipe in the direction of the wood grain; for floors with a more textured surface, wipe in small figure eights. If you come across some stubborn spots that just won’t get clean, go back over them with some cleaner and a cloth after you’ve completed a full pass on the floor.


Air It Out
To ensure a germ-free mop the next time you clean, after its hard day’s work, soak your mop head in a mixture of bleach and water to disinfect it. Wait 10 minutes, then rinse and wring out the excess water. Never leave your mop sitting in the bucket to dry, or you’ll risk the formation of bacteria and mold in the leftover moisture. The simple preventive step of squeezing out every last drop should make your cleaning routine easier and cleaner the next time you pull out the mop.

Genius! Speed-Sweep with a Remote Control Car

Chores can be a real drag. But what if we lived in a world where housework was fun and we raced home to get it done? Well, the future is now—and this surprisingly simple DIY will clean your floors while you sit back and watch from the couch!

Remote Control Mop - DIY with a Car and a Swiffer

Photo: evilmadscientist.com

Who says you can’t still be a kid if you’re paying down a mortgage? Whether you’re just starting out on your own, or settled in a two-story house, you can enjoy much of the same stuff you did when you were young—sports games, cool toys, and fistfuls of candy—as long as you can afford it. But part of growing up means accepting at least a few responsibilities, like housework. Keeping everyone’s inner child in mind, Windell Oskay, former physicist and co-founder of the electronics blog Evil Mad Scientist, set out to make everyday cleaning less of a chore. With little more than a remote control car from the toy store and a Swiffer mop head, Oskay designed a fun alternative to the broom: a battery-operated floor sweeper.

He outfitted a scaled-down Lamborghini for the job just by taking the body apart with a screwdriver and attaching a mount for the duster directly to the car frame at the front bumper. If you’re as lucky as Oskay, there may even already be screw holes in the car’s frame for easy attachment.

Remote Control Mop - How to Make It

Photo: evilmadscientist.com

For a stiff plank, Oskay repurposed a circuit board on its way into the garbage, but you can use almost any material as the connecting board—scrap wood, metal, or plastic—as long as it’s sturdy enough to support the mop. Then he aligned it with the existing screw holes and reassembled the car using screws to secure the board to the frame. Adding the final piece—the mop head—was as simple as binding its handle to the board with a few cable or zip ties.

If you’re trying to recreate the magic at home, know that every remote control car will require a slightly different strategy to attach the board. When your car mop starts picking up dust, you’re on the right track. Need to make an adjustment? Drill additional holes for screws, super-glue your heart out, or use workshop scraps to help hold the mop’s handle steady. Don’t be afraid to be flexible, either—remember, we’re not talking about an 11 o’clock curfew here!

FOR MORE: Evil Mad Scientist 

Remote Control Mop - From a Kid's Toy

Photo: evilmadscientist.com

Bob Vila Radio: Use a Hairdryer to Fix Torn Vinyl Flooring

Resilient though it may be, vinyl flooring isn't invincible. Fortunately, you don't always need to replace the installation if it gets damaged. Plenty of homeowners have fixed unsightly, trip-triggering tears with this clever, inexpensive trick.

If your vinyl flooring (or linoleum) has developed a tear, don’t despair! There’s an easy—and yes, rather unexpected fix—virtually anyone can perform. Here’s how it all works.

How to Repair Torn Vinyl Flooring

Photo: fotosearch.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON REPAIRING TORN VINYL FLOORING or read the text below:

Plug in a hair dryer and switch it to the medium setting. Using a steady back-and-forth motion, warm the damaged area until the flooring feels pliable. Next, gently stretch both sides of the tear inward to close the gap. After that, apply acrylic cement beneath both sections of the torn flooring. For the best adhesion, apply the cement directly to the wood subfloor, if it’s possible to do so. Once you’ve put down the glue—and before the stretched flooring gets the chance to cool and contract—place a heavy object (e.g., a cinder block) over the repair.

When you remove the weight, a thin gap may still appear in the material. If so, head to the local drug store and purchase some nail polish in a color that closely matches the flooring. You may need to brush on several layers of polish, but in the end, you’re likely to be the only one who knows about or notices the patch.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!

So, You Want to… Level a Concrete Floor

You don't have to live with an irregular or uneven concrete floor. In fact, if you're planning to install new flooring over the slab, then you shouldn't. To get the smooth, level surface you need, a leveling compound may be just the ticket—and we've got the basics for you right here.

Leveling a Concrete Floor

Photo: bobvila.com

There’s no disagreement here: Concrete ranks among the most durable, longest-lasting of all building materials. That said, particularly in spaces where moisture accumulates—the basement, for example, or the laundry room—it’s not uncommon for depressions to form in even the most expertly poured concrete. There are at least a couple of reasons to repair these dips early and often. First of all, doing so works to prevent such surface imperfections from becoming deeper, structural problems. Second, if you’re planning to install flooring over the slab, the concrete needs to be level if it’s going to function properly as a subfloor. Because leveling a floor is a common homeowner undertaking, industry leaders provide a number of products designed to make the process as easy as possible for do-it-yourselfers.

If you’re tackling a concrete leveling job in the future, start getting to know Concrete Leveler. A user-friendly, self-leveling compound from CTS Cement | Rapid Set, the Concrete Leveler spreads across uneven slabs, filling in low spots as it goes along and creating a new, level surface in the process. Once it begins to set, the product cures with remarkable speed and strength. In fact, assuming ideal conditions, you can expect to be walking upon—or installing a new floor over—your now freshly flat concrete surface within a matter of hours. Suitable for outdoor as well as indoor use, Concrete Leveler dramatically simplifies what could otherwise be a tricky, demanding job, making it an easy weekend project even for those with no special skills or prior experience. Keep reading to discover just how easy it can be!

Rather than jump right into the process, start by assessing the condition of the concrete surface. Your goal is to determine not only the scope of the project, but also how much Concrete Leveler you’re going to need. A key question: Are you ultimately going to install flooring over the slab, and if so, what type? Carpeting, click-and-lock vinyl planks, and engineered wood flooring tend to be forgiving of minor variations in subfloor grade. But for a successful installation of solid wood or tile flooring (particularly larger-size tiles), the slab needs to be more or less perfectly level. Here, the difference between the lowest and highest point on the floor can be no greater than a quarter inch. So, if you intend to leave the concrete exposed, or if you’ve opted for one of the forgiving floor materials, the best solution is to address just the specific problem areas with a patching compound like Cement All. Meanwhile, if you would like to prepare the slab to make way for a flooring material that requires a uniformly level base, then be sure to equip yourself with enough Concrete Leveler to cover the full square footage. At half-inch thickness, a 50-pound bag of Concrete Leveler will sufficiently cover 12 to 15 square feet. For a quarter-inch-thick application, the same size bag would cover between 24 and 30 square feet.

Having taken everything out of the room—including the baseboard moldings—clean the concrete surface as thoroughly as possible. Along the way, remove dirt and loose debris, including but not limited to flaking paint, peeling adhesive, and chipped concrete. Pay special attention to stains resulting from grease and oil spills, as their residue could compromise the bond between the existing concrete and the added leveling layer. For best results, lightly shotblast the surface to facilitate proper adhesion. CTS Cement | Rapid Set recommends shotblasting to a specific degree—Concrete Surface Preparation 3, as defined by the International Concrete Repair Institute. Note that local home centers typically rent out shotblasting equipment for reasonable half-day rates. Afterward, pin the locations of any control joints in the slab. Later, after applying the leveling layer, re-cut those control joints so as to protect the concrete from cracking due to shrinkage and temperature changes.

Leveling a Concrete Floor - Rapid Set Primer

Photo: ctscement.com

Next, with a piece of chalk, mark any obvious depressions in the surface. After that, follow up with a carpenter’s level and, working section by section, let the tool reveal any low points your naked eye may have missed. Be on the lookout for mounds as well as dips. After all, leveling out a slab with especially pronounced mounds would force you to employ an excessive quantity of leveling compound. For that reason, think about using a concrete grinder to grind down the most extreme ridges. Like shotblasting equipment, a concrete grinder can likely be rented at your local home center.

After you’ve planned your approach and prepped the surface, move on to coating the concrete with an application of Concrete Leveler Primer. Specially formulated by CTS | Rapid Set to work in tandem with the Concrete Leveler, the priming agent performs one critically important function: It seals the surface of the existing concrete, preventing water loss and making it so that neither pinholes nor bubbles end up jeopardizing the leveling layer. The primer also enhances the adhesion capabilities of the leveling compound, helping it grip and hold on to the existing concrete.

Apply Concrete Leveler Primer with a soft-bristle push broom, being careful to spread the liquid evenly across the surface without creating puddles. As you go along, make sure the primer reaches and gets down into the so-called pores of the concrete. Depending on the condition of the surface, one quart of primer can cover anywhere between 50 and 100 square feet. The gallon-size container would be the appropriate choice for larger areas up to 400 square feet. Upon application, allow the primer to dry for at least three hours, but no longer than a full day.

Leveling a Concrete Floor - Rapid Set

Photo: ctscement.com

When the primer has dried, it’s time to apply the Concrete Leveler. To do so, of course, you must first prepare the compound. In a bucket or mixing bin, combine the contents of one 50-pound bag of Leveler with four and a half or five quarts of water. Mix the two with a drill-mounted paddle-type mixer. For convenience, assuming a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit, Concrete Leveler boasts a 15-minute “flow life” and remains workable for virtually twice as long.

Using a long-handled squeegee, push and pull the Concrete Leveler compound across the concrete surface, getting all the way into the corners and along the edges. Though the process can be helped along with a squeegee, broom, or trowel, you can expect gravity to do most of the work in bringing the liquid to a level. Soon, a smooth wear surface will have formed. Within four hours, the material will have set up enough to be walked upon. And within 24 hours, it can accept rubber wheel traffic.

If you are planning to install a new floor over the now-level surface, you can do so in remarkably short order. For hard-surface flooring materials, such as tile, you can begin installation within four to six hours. For carpeting and other resilient, moisture-sensitive flooring materials, wait 16 hours before starting work. Alternatively, finish the floor with another CTS | Rapid Set offering—NewCrete Concrete Resurfacer—which provides a beautiful concrete floor surface that will last for years.

CTS | Rapid Set products are available at The Home Depot.

Photo: ctscement.com

This post has been brought to you by CTS Cement. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.

Bob Vila Radio: Is Softwood Flooring Right for Your Remodel?

Everyone knows that hardwood flooring comes with a hefty price tag attached. If you're on a budget, don't forget to consider lower-cost softwoods; in some rooms, species like pine or spruce make perfectly suitable substitutes for their denser cousins.

Think wood flooring has to strain your remodeling budget? Think again! Though hardwood flooring typically costs a pretty penny, softwood flooring—such as pine, cedar, or spruce—can be had for a lot less.

Softwood Flooring

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Listen to BOB VILA ON SOFTWOOD FLOORING or read the text below:

There’s a tradeoff, of course. The main drawback of softwood floors is that they are, well, soft. That means they’re more susceptible to scratches from foot traffic and dents from stuff you drop. However, much of that sort of damage can be minimized with a few layers of polyurethane. And besides, a lot of folks like for a floor to show signs of wear, feeling that it adds a dose of rustic charm to the home.

One other plus of opting for softwood floors: They’re generally more environmentally friendly than hardwoods. That’s because softwood trees tend to grow more quickly and thus can be sustainably farmed.

If that sounds appealing—and you don’t think you’ll mind a bit of natural “antiquing” over the years—then softwood flooring may be a good choice.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free.