How To’s & Quick Tips - Bob Vila

Category: How To’s & Quick Tips


How To: Clean a Fan

Follow these routines to ensure your oscillating fan stays spotless and works at maximum efficiency.

How to Clean a Fan

Photo: istockphoto.com

Oscillating fans are a smart choice for cool comfort thanks to a side-to-side rotating mechanism that evenly distributes air throughout a room. In the process, however, the fan grill and blades can suck in and amass a fair amount of dirt and dust, making your fan work less efficiently. Regular cleaning of your oscillating fan with inexpensive supplies is the best way to keep microscopic intruders at bay and keep your fan operating in peak condition.

How to Clean a Fan with Compressed Air

Photo: istockphoto.com

ROUTINE CLEANING

If you follow these steps for how to clean a fan on a weekly basis, you can fend off light accumulations of dust and effectively skip having to disassemble the fan altogether! For good measure, a quarterly basis or whenever the inner blades look visibly grungy, proceed with the deep cleaning routine that follows.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Vacuum cleaner with a dusting brush attachment
– Hair dryer (optional)
– Can of compressed air (optional)
– Microfiber cloth

STEP 1
With the fan off and unplugged, set the oscillation control knob on the fan motor housing to the off position. Affix the dusting brush attachment to the vacuum.

STEP 2
Vacuum the outer surface of the front and back grills of the fan, working from the top to the bottom of each grill.

STEP 3
Hold either a hair dryer or a compressed air (available at home centers and office supply stores for $3 to $10) about six inches from the fan and quickly blast away light accumulations from the front of the inner blades.

STEP 4
Move behind the fan and use the same technique to blow or spray air over the back of the fan blades and over any vents located on the motor housing (the compartment at the back of the fan that contains the fan motor).

STEP 5
Gently wipe down the surface of the fan motor housing, pole (if unit has one), and base with a microfiber cloth.

 

How to Clean a Fan

Photo: istockphoto.com

DEEP CLEANING

Before you enter deep-cleaning mode, consult the manufacturer’s instructions for specific disassembly procedures for your fan unit. For certain single-blade oscillating fan models, for example, the fan blade is accessed from the back grill rather than the front grill as described here.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Screwdriver
– Commercial all-purpose cleanser
– Liquid dish soap (optional)
– Spray bottle (optional)
– Cloth
– Showerhead

STEP 1
With the fan off and unplugged, set the oscillation control knob on the fan motor housing to the off position.

STEP 2
Loosen the screw at the bottom of the grill with a screwdriver, then remove the grill clips around the perimeter of the grill either by hand or with a screwdriver depending on your fan unit. Pull the front grill away from the back grill and set it on a clean, dry surface.

STEP 3
Unscrew the blade cap securing the fan blades to the motor housing, then remove each blade and set it down with the front grill. Finally, unscrew the rear grill mounting nut from the back grill, pull the back grill off of the motor housing, and set it down with the front grill and fan blades.

STEP 4
If not using a commercial all-purpose cleanser, mix a DIY solution of two tablespoons of dish soap diluted in three cups of warm water in a spray bottle. Shake well to distribute and generously spray the front and back grills and both sides of the fan blades. Gently scrub grills and blades with a clean cloth saturated in the solution, then rinse thoroughly under warm or cool running water in a large sink or tub to remove the suds.

STEP 5
Wipe down the rinsed grills and blades with a dry, lint-free cloth, then allow to air dry completely on a clean indoor surface. When the grills and blades are completely dry, re-attach the back grill, rear grill mounting nut, fan blades, and blade cap, to the motor housing in the reverse order in which they were removed. Secure the front grill to the back grill, then re-attach the grill clips and tighten the grill screw at the bottom of the grill with a screwdriver to complete fan reassembly.

 

KEEPING OTHER COOLING AGENTS CLEAN

Once you’ve dusted off the dirt and debris from the blades on your oscillating fan, take the extra step toward cleaner air by addressing your cooling appliances.

• The ceiling fan often works in conjunction with other fans to move breeze throughout a room and into others, and therefore collects dust just as easily. Just because it’s out of sight line doesn’t mean it should be out of mind. Turn off your overhead fan, and then you can clean those ceiling fan blades using a specialized pole duster or dampened microfiber cloth—even a pillow case, if you’d like to better keep dust contained—every week.

• Pull out your window air conditioning unit to give it a good cleaning at the beginning and end of the season to ensure peak performance and a long lifespan. This bit of AC maintenance involves wiping down the front of the unit with a slightly damp cloth, vacuuming up any dirt or debris covering the interior evaporator or condenser coils, then thoroughly drying the whole unit before plugging back in. Pro tip: Clean the AC filter even more frequently (once a month during summer) for best air quality!

 

Cleaning Tips for a Spotless Home

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


How To: Change a Shower Head

You don't need to keep showering under an outdated, cruddy shower head. Replacing it is easy—just follow this guide and go with the flow.

How To Change A Shower Head

Photo: istockphoto.com

An old and corroded shower head not only looks unattractive to shower underneath, but the outdated model can be costing you more on your monthly water bill. For a quick fix, replace the shower head with an energy-efficient low-flow model. This newer option doesn’t mean low pressure either, it just uses less water per minute, which saves resources in the long run. Follow these steps to learn how to change a shower head and install a new fixed-mount or handheld shower head with ease.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Rag or hand towel
– Slip-joint pliers
– Adjustable wrench
– Teflon tape
– Shower head (new)

STEP 1
Remove the old shower head. First, try turning it counterclockwise a few times to see if you can remove it by hand; if it won’t budge, grab the towel and tools for assistance. Wrap a cloth around the shower arm—the pipe that connects the shower head to the wall—to protect it from damage as you grip onto it with slip-joint pliers. Then, clamp the adjustable wrench around the head’s base and twist it off counterclockwise until it’s removed from the arm.

How To Change A Shower Head

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 2
As there’s likely some rust, scale, and other debris left behind from your old shower head, use the rag to clean inside and outside the arm. Not only will that clear a path for better pressure and cleaner shower water, but it will also make the installation process of your new shower head much easier.

STEP 3
Find the series of linear grooves, also called threads, at the end of the shower arm, and apply two or three passes of Teflon tape over them in a clockwise direction. Press the tape firmly into the threads with your fingers with each wrap-around so that you can start to see them through the tape. This specialty plumbing tape acts as a seal: When you twist on a new shower head, it ensures a snug fit and prevents water flow from leaking where the hardware screws together.

Keep the tape handy, since you might need it again when you check for leaks at the end of the installation.

STEP 4
Now, it’s time to install your replacement head.

• If you’re installing a fixed-mount model, you should be able to screw it on by hand. Just place the new head on the shower arm and twist it clockwise until it’s securely in place. Be sure to follow any special instructions from the manufacturer.

• If you’re installing a simple hand-held model, screw the mount from the new shower head kit to the end of the arm clockwise, then connect the end of the shower hose to the mount. As always, check to see if the manufacturer has additional instructions.

STEP 5
Before you wash your hands of this job, check for any leaks that could lead to wasted spray and high water bills. After installing the new shower head, take a step back and turn the water on for a few moments. If you see any streams of water coming from the wrong parts of the hardware, turn off the water once more so that you can disassemble the head and secure it with more Teflon tape. Then, tightly re-secure it to the arm.

Repeat steps 3 through 5 until your shower head is leak-free.

Keep It MovingTo ensure that your new hardware works properly and water flows freely in the long run, clean your shower head at first signs of clogs or lower water pressure in order to keep scaly buildup at bay. You can either use a cleaner or unscrew the head and put it in the dishwasher. Whatever maintenance approach you choose, just make sure to regularly clean it so you have a refreshing shower for years to come.


Summer Is the Best Time for These 6 Home Improvements

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

Best Summer Home Improvements

Photo: istockphoto.com

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

 

Best Summer Home Improvements - Replacing Windows

Photo: istockphoto.com

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

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

 

Best Summer Home Improvements - Re-Siding the House

Photo: istockphoto.com

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

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

 

Best Summer Home Improvements - Replacing the Front Door

Photo: istockphoto.com

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

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

 

Best Summer Home Improvements - Refacing Cabinets

Photo: istockphoto.com

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

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

 

Best Summer Home Improvements - Installing New Countertops

Photo: istockphoto.com

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

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

 

Best Summer Home Improvements - Replacing Roof

Photo: istockphoto.com

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

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

 

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






Buyer’s Guide: Tower Fans

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

Best Tower Fan – Buyer's Guide

Photo: bestbuy.com

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

FAN FEATURES AND FUNCTIONS

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

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

Best Tower Fan – Buyer's Guide

Photo: vornado.com

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

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

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

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

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

OUR TOP THREE PICKS

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

 

Buyer's Guide – Best Tower Fan

Photo: amazon.com

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

 

Best Tower Fan – Buyer's Guide

Photo: amazon.com

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

 

Best Tower Fan – Buyer's Guide

Photo: amazon.com

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


How To: Remove Sweat Stains

No matter how many times you run your shirt through the wash, a regular rinse just won’t get out unsightly armpit stains. But don't sweat it! Keep reading to learn how you can clean up your favorite shirts.

SHARES
How To Remove Sweat Stains

Photo: istockphoto.com

Yellowing on your favorite dress shirt or old tee typically suggests that it’s time to add it to your rag collection. Though it’s common to call sweat the culprit behind these unsightly stains (especially those around the armpit areas), the real reason is more than just salty water. “Those ‘sweat stains’ are made from a combination of things—not just perspiration, but also body oil, skin flakes, and any chemicals in your deodorant,” said Mary Gagliardi, also known as Dr. Laundry. Because of that, Gagliardi recommends pre-treating any affected areas with an enzyme-based stain remover before laundering them as the most effective means of how to remove sweat stains.

Alternatively, you can use a combination of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide—two all-natural powerhouse cleaners—for a homemade stain treatment that can break down the buildup and get your shirt to look new again. Follow the steps below on any clothing with dingy or even crusty yellow stains, and you may just save it from the toss pile!

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Large plastic bowl
– Gloves
– Tea kettle or microwavable liquid measuring cup
– Small bowl
– Baking soda
– Hydrogen peroxide
– Scrub brush
– Laundry detergent

How To Remove Sweat Stains

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 1
Place your shirt into the large, empty bowl inside out. Make sure the shirt is situated with the underarm stains facing up.

STEP 2
Check to see if your shirt has any spandex in it before soaking the sweat stains with water.

• If it’s made with spandex, dampen with cold water—boiling water can damage those fibers—and proceed to Step 3.

• Otherwise, hot water is most effective for removing stains: Bring water to a boil either on the stovetop or in the microwave and, wearing gloves, pour this hot water onto the yellowed spots. This should start to melt (and therefore loosen) the sweat stains.

STEP 3
In the small bowl, thoroughly mix a solution of one part baking soda, one part hydrogen peroxide, and one part water. The baking soda draws the sweat stains out and traps it, while also whitening the fabric and absorbing odors; meanwhile, the hydrogen peroxide is used as an oxidizing agent that disinfects. About 1/4 cup of each ingredient is needed for one shirt. Unlike other homemade cleaning solutions, this is not one to be made ahead and stored. Instead, keep each key ingredient handy in the laundry room for use.

STEP 4
Scoop out the liquid solution onto the stain. Let it sit for a few minutes, gently work it into the stained area with a scrub brush, then rinse it away.

STEP 5
Launder the shirt as you normally would, and check the stain. If it isn’t all the way gone, repeat Steps 1 through 4 then run it through the wash again. Otherwise, you run the risk of setting the remaining sweat stains with the heat of the dryer. Only dry once you see the yellow stains are gone.

STEP 6
Going forward, make sure you pretreat any problem areas—like the underarms or the back of the shirt—regularly before laundering. By catching the sweat stains early, you can have an easier time removing them. Another way to prevent stains is to choose a deodorant with low-aluminum, which is an ingredient that contributes to these yellow stains.


The Dos and Don’ts of Mixing Concrete

You can mix concrete like a pro if you grab the right tools and take note of these six best—and worst—practices.

SHARES
Mixing Concrete Tips with HYDE StirWhip

Photo: hydetools.com

Concrete holds a place of honor in both the professional construction and do-it-yourself worlds. When mixed correctly, this simple combination of aggregate, cement, and water becomes strong and durable enough to produce walkways, beautiful planters, walls, and even house foundations. While concrete trucks with perpetually rotating drums deliver mixed concrete for large jobs, DIY concrete projects typically operate on a smaller scale, relying on dry sack concrete mixed with water. The secret to a successful project lies in mixing the concrete correctly and knowing which tools to use. Sure, the old standbys—a wheelbarrow and hoe—are still adequate choices for mixing all-purpose concrete if you don’t have access to a portable power mixer. But when it comes to wet-cast concrete, which is rapidly growing in popularity as a material for countertops and other castings, an impressive new tool promises to speed up the job: the HYDE StirWhip. To ensure satisfying results, read on to find out what you should (and shouldn’t) do with this trusty tool when you’re mixing concrete.

Mix Concrete Easily with HYDE StirWhip

Photo: hydetools.com

DO gather all the materials and supplies you’ll need before starting.

Before you begin, run through your checklist one last time. You won’t want to have to dig out a missing item once your hands are covered in wet concrete. At the top of your list will be the dry concrete mix and a water source. The tools you’ll need for mixing will depend on your choice of concrete:

• Because the all-purpose concrete used in larger projects like sidewalks, slabs, or paver patios is quite thick and heavy—and there will be a lot of it—it’s a good idea to work with a sturdy wheelbarrow (one that won’t tip over under the weight) and a hoe. Or, consider upgrading to a portable concrete mixer, which you can rent from a big-box home improvement center for around $50 a day.

• To make countertops, balusters, or other small concrete accents with smoother finishes, you’ll want to whip up a wet-set concrete mix that consists of smaller bits of aggregate. Mix this in a large plastic bucket using a fully charged power drill and the under-$10 StirWhip drill attachment. Because the StirWhip features an 18-inch-long, 3/8-inch-thick steel shank (unlike shorter mixing paddles), you can reach all the way to the bottom of a five-gallon bucket with ease so you won’t leave any dry powder unmixed. The attachment’s multi-finger configuration helps reduce drag on your drill while slicing quickly through the mix for a smooth blend. Plus, those open fingers are easy to clean of wet or dried concrete when the job is done.

DON’T skip the protective eyewear, rubber gloves, long sleeves, and pants.

Concrete splatters can burn eyes and irritate bare skin by quickly drawing out its moisture, leaving it rough, dry, and cracked. Take steps to protect yourself by donning the appropriate gear.

DO know exactly how much concrete you need.

By calculating ahead of time the amount of concrete your project requires—and adding 10 percent to ensure that you don’t run short—you’ll avoid “cold joints,” which occur when part of your project dries before you can mix and add the concrete needed to finish a project. Not only will you probably notice a visual difference between the first and second batches of concrete, but those cold joints will be weak spots where the concrete is more likely to break later. (For reference: A standard 80-pound bag yields 0.60 cubic feet of concrete, while a 60-pound bag yields 0.45 cubic feet, and a 40-pound bag yields 0.30 cubic ft.)

 

Mixing Concrete Tips with HYDE StirWhip

Photo: hydetools.com

DON’T just dump the dry concrete mix in first.

This may come as a surprise to you if you’ve ever mixed concrete in a wheelbarrow, where you do add water to a heap of dry concrete mix. The wheelbarrow’s shape necessitates adding the mix first—the shallow sloped sides of a wheelbarrow make it too easy for water to slosh out when mix is thrown on top. But that’s not a hard-and-fast rule for mixing all concrete. When you’re working in a bucket, you’ll want to put the water in first (and you can do so without fear of losing any) in order to keep the dry concrete mix from sticking to the bottom of the bucket and making it difficult to blend. Once you’ve filled the bucket with the amount of water recommended by the concrete manufacturer, gradually trowel in the dry mix until you’re ready to blend it with your drill and HYDE StirWhip attachment.

DON’T leave any water puddles or dry bits in the concrete mixture. 

In order to set correctly, the water and the dry concrete ingredients must be thoroughly combined. A good rule of thumb: Continue mixing with a hoe or blending with a StirWhip for three minutes after you no longer see any pockets of mix that are still dry or water pooling at the top. Otherwise, you could end up with undermixed concrete that once cured could be weak and prone to crumbling and cracking.

 

Mixing Concrete with HYDE StirWhip

Photo: hydetools.com

DO test for “slump” before beginning your project.

Concrete consistency is determined by “slump,” or how much the wet concrete settles after it’s been formed into a cone shape. To test the slump on your fresh batch, you can use a professional slump cone (available from home improvement stores) or a reasonable DIY facsimile made from a sturdy plastic cup with its bottom cut off. Dampen the inside of the cone, and place it so that its larger end is on a flat, nonporous surface. Then, fill the cone through its open top with thoroughly mixed concrete, tamping it down with your hands or (if the hole is too narrow) a rod as you go. When you lift the cone away, the wet concrete should slump to about half its original height if it is all-purpose concrete or one-third of its original height if it’s a more fluid, wet-set mix. If the slump is less than it should be, churn a little more water into the batch; a larger slump than expected requires additional dry mix. Test again before casting your project, and to ensure uniformity and strength in the finished product, don’t move on until the mix has reached a desirable consistency.

And now, armed with some practical info—and a new tool—you’re ready to make your concrete dreams come true!

 

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


The Dos and Don’ts of Building a Shed

An outdoor structure offers great storage opportunities—and so much more! If you're considering erecting a shed on your property, make sure you site it correctly and choose a structure that truly suits your needs, your landscape, and your lifestyle. Learn more here!

The Dos and Don'ts of Building a Shed

Photo: lpshed.com

A backyard shed frees up your home and garage by storing cumbersome essentials like your riding mower, hedge trimmers, and other lawn care equipment. But these sturdy little buildings can serve a host of other practical functions—and hobbies too. Think chicken coop, greenhouse, screening room—the list is limitless! For a shed to live up to its potential, however, it’s crucial to avoid common building mistakes. The dos and don’ts listed here, courtesy of the LP® Outdoor Building Solutions® pros, will help ensure that your shed meets your needs for years to come, whether you’re simply using it for storage or tricking it out as your outdoor fun zone.

DO your research.

Once you decide that adding a shed will increase the enjoyment of your outdoor space, it’s time to ask pertinent questions to assess your needs. Consider exactly how you want to use your shed, what design will best suit those tasks, and how much your budget will allow. Learn what features are most popular, and why. Also research what’s really involved with building a shed yourself, as opposed to hiring a pro to do the job, and be sure you understand such important factors as warranty and delivery.

The Dos and Don'ts of Building a Shed

Photo: lpshed.com

DON’T think smallest.

The last thing you want is to build a shed only to discover that it’s too small to hold your stuff, handle your hobby, or otherwise meet your needs. By the same token, you don’t want a shed that’s so large it overwhelms your property and looks ungainly behind your house. Choosing the wrong size shed is a common homeowner error, but LP Outdoor Building Solutions’ handy tool helps you get it just right. Check it out, and you’ll see that size does matter!

DO plan properly.

Proceeding with your shed requires smart planning. For starters, you may need a permit from your local zoning authority and/or homeowners’ association to build a new structure on your property; check with the proper authorities before you even invest in the materials. Plus, there may be rules that dictate how you may use your shed, or whether you’re allowed to wire it for electricity. Once you get the go-ahead to build, you’ll want reliable guidelines. For anyone inclined to DIY rather than buy a prebuilt shed, look over a selection of free LP Outdoor Building Solutions plans based on your choice of size and roof style. Each set of plans comes with extensive material and hardware lists, detailed construction information, and tried-and-true building tips.

DON’T skimp on materials.

High-quality materials may cost a bit more, but they’ll save you time, trouble, and money in the long run. The chart here shows how LP® SmartSide® Panels compare with untreated plywood, vinyl, and galvanized metal. No wonder so many pros recommend sheds made with beautiful, durable LP products! If you want your shed to resist splitting, cracking, decay, and termite damage while duplicating the good looks of rich, real cedar, choose LP SmartSide® products.

DO prepare your site.

It’s vital to build your shed on a stable, level location—and never in a wet, low-lying area or on a downward slope. And no matter how well a shed is constructed, it won’t hold up on a weak base. A proper foundation is key, one that sets the shed slightly off the ground to aid water drainage and reduce moisture transfer. There are different foundation options, depending on where you live and the size and intended use of the shed, so bone up on the fundamentals and assess your options with this advice from the LP Outdoor Building Solutions team.

DON’T forget the details.

A few decorative touches can help your shed fit in with the architecture of your home and even convey how you use it. Some folks like to dress things up with a front porch, dormer, or gable, but simply adding barn-style doors, shuttered windows, and a bit of gingerbread trim can make all the difference. Color, of course, goes a long way too. Check out all the options at the LP Shed Gallery, where you’ll also see details on the materials used. Inspired by the seemingly endless possibilities, you’ll emerge motivated to create a shed you’ll be proud to show off!

Now that you’re aware of the best and worst practices, you’re probably eager to get started planning and building the perfect shed to enhance your property and your day-to-day life. Visit LPShed.com for the information and guidance you need to put your project in motion!

 

 

This content has been brought to you by LP Outdoor Building Solutions. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


5 Simple Fixes for Worn Concrete

Concrete surfaces are built to last, but sometimes you need to intervene to make sure they stay as good-looking as they are hardworking. Read on to learn how to tackle five common superficial concrete flaws—and which products are best for each repair.

5 Ways to Make Worn-Out Concrete Look Great

Photo: istockphoto.com

Concrete is one of the most durable construction materials around, but faulty installation, everyday wear and tear, exposure to chemicals, and even the hazards of extreme temperatures can all take a toll on concrete surfaces. If your concrete is starting to look a little rough around the edges, take heart: You can probably fix it! Whether the problem is spalling on a concrete slab, scratches on a countertop, or crumbling edges on steps, you can often restore the concrete to its former good looks using the right techniques and quality repair products. Keep reading for DIY solutions to five of the most common superficial concrete problems.

 

5 Ways to Make Worn-Out Concrete Look Great

Photo: quikrete.com

The Cure for Crumbling Concrete Steps
Crumbling or chipped step surfaces, edges, or corners can really detract from your home’s curb appeal. You don’t have to put up with the rundown look of chipped, damaged stairs. As long as the steps are structurally sound—meaning, they’re not spalling, flaking, or broken all the way through—you can repair most surface issues.

If you’re dealing with cracks and chips, count on the polymer resins in Quikrete’s Vinyl Concrete Patcher to generate a tough, durable bond with the existing concrete and even out the surface. The patcher can be spread over clean and sound chipped surfaces to a thickness of ¼ inch, and its smooth consistency makes it easy to feather out with a trowel and blend with the rest of the step’s surface. If your patch is thicker, build the vinyl concrete patcher up in ¼ inch applications. (See this handy video for the technique.)

Restoring crumbling step edges to their former crisp and sharp contour appearance requires a different product altogether: Quikrete’s Quick-Setting Cement. When mixed with Quikrete’s Acrylic Fortifier, this product yields a flexible semisolid mixture you can shape, mold, and sculpt to each step’s exact edge. If making repairs shallower than one inch, adding the acrylic fortifier to the quick-setting cement will increase bonding strength. Follow the tips in this video to prep the concrete surface and create new edges with ease.

 

5 Ways to Make Worn-Out Concrete Look Great

Photo: istockphoto.com

Resurface a Spalling Driveway
Are you finding flakes and pits in your outdoor concrete? This effect, called spalling, often occurs in concrete that was poured too wet at installation, but such factors as prolonged snow exposure, repeated use of chemical ice-melting products, or persistent dripping of water in one place (such as under a garage eave or beneath a spot that lacks gutters) can also cause this type of surface damage. Fortunately, though spalling is definitely an eyesore, it won’t actually compromise the structural integrity of your driveway, sidewalk, or patio. You can get rid of it by smoothing Quikrete’s Concrete Resurfacer over the rough, damaged surface. Concrete Resurfacer is manufactured from Portland cement and a unique blend of polymers and additives that give it extra strength and durability. And it’s tough enough to drive on, to boot!

For the best results, divide large driveways into smaller areas; working one section at a time makes it easier to apply and control the resurfacing product. Clean the existing surface with a power washer, then mix the resurfacing product using a heavy-duty drill and paddle bit, then spread it on evenly with a long-handled squeegee following these tips from the pros. You can use a utility broom to add texture that will keep the concrete slabs from becoming dangerously slick when wet.

 

5 Ways to Make Worn-Out Concrete Look Great

Photo: istockphoto.com

Eliminate Countertop Scratches and Stains
As cool to the touch as they are to look at, concrete countertops offer a trendy yet tough work surface for the kitchen—a space where the concrete will inevitably succumb to stains and scratches over time. Should any of these superficial flaws appear on your countertop, the best way to restore the surface is simply to grind it down, then restain and reseal it. Lucky for you, stains and scratches rarely penetrate deeper than the top layer of a concrete countertop, so you don’t have to remove too much of the surface to get rid of them. Wearing a respirator mask and protective eyewear to keep the airborne concrete dust at bay, sand the entire surface in several passes using a handheld grinder fitted with a series of diamond grinding pads. Work in graduated grits, beginning with a 50-grit pad to remove any stains and scratches, then move up to a pad as fine as 400 grit for an ultra-smooth, polished surface.

Next, apply a good penetrating stain like Quikrete’s Penetrating Concrete Stain to the sanded surface to enhance the natural beauty of your countertop with one of a variety of rich hues. Protect your countertop’s fresh new look with a sealer like Quikrete’s Concrete & Masonry Waterproofing Sealer, which will prevent damage from acidic spills, such as vinegar or lemon juice. (A sealed countertop is likely to develop a warm and inviting patina, which most homeowners love, over its first few months.) Finally, once the sealer is dry, get your countertop ready for meal prep by finishing with a layer of glossy, food-safe wax, such as carnauba.

 

5 Ways to Make Worn-Out Concrete Look Great

Photo: quikrete.com

Replace Worn Patio and Driveway Expansion Joints
Expansion joints are set in large expanses of concrete to prevent the surface from developing cracks as sections shift imperceptibly over time as a result of temperature fluctuations or soil movement. If, however, these joints were never sealed, or if the old sealer has since hardened, crumbled, or pulled away from the concrete in spots, the joints cannot do their jobs. Once damaged, these spaces can allow water to seep under the concrete surface, which increases the risk of soil movement and can result in cracks.

You can prolong your patio’s lifespan by removing the old sealant, cleaning the joints, and applying new sealant. As with all concrete repairs, the surface must first be cleaned of dirt, debris, and grease. For hard-to-remove stains on exterior slabs, use Quikrete’s Concrete and Asphalt Cleaner, which is applied with a stiff brush and then rinsed off with a hose. Cut away hardened sealant from expansion joints using a utility knife. If any of the expansion joints are ½ inch or wider, insert a compressible foam “backer rod” into the joint first to prevent sealant from sagging between slabs, leaving approximately ¼ inch of space above for the sealant. After the joints have been cleaned and prepped, squeeze Quikrete’s Self-Leveling Polyurethane Sealant into each joint using a standard caulk gun. When you’re ready to get started, review this video for a close look at every step in the process, from prepping the joints to applying the new sealant.

 

5 Ways to Make Worn-Out Concrete Look Great

Photo: quikrete.com

Plug Leaky Basement Walls
Lateral pressure from the soil outside can cause basement walls to develop cracks over time. More than just unsightly, these cracks also increase the risk of groundwater seeping into your basement. As long as the cracks are small (¼ inch or less) and the wall isn’t showing signs of structural failure, you can reduce the likelihood of winding up with a wet basement by sealing the cracks immediately with Quikrete’s Hydraulic Water-Stop Cement. When mixed according to the instructions and applied as shown in this video tutorial, the cement takes on a putty-like consistency that can easily be pushed and molded into the cracks. The material expands, locking it into place permanently.

So, now that you know how easy it is to make some basic concrete fixes around the house—and which products are best for each application—what’s stopping you? Get to work cleaning up small cracks, untidy edges, and rough surfaces to give your house a neater, more polished appearance.

 

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


How To: Move a Refrigerator

Follow this guide to keep things cool during a big haul.

How to Move a Refrigerator

Photo: istockphoto.com

When you’re starting out in a new home or renovating the kitchen in your current one, the time may come when you must figure out how to move a refrigerator. With fridges weighing in anywhere between 150 and 350 pounds, doing this job incorrectly can result in bodily injuries, scratched floors, even a broken fridge. So get a helper (this is absolutely a two-person job!), rent an appliance dolly from your nearest hardware store, and follow these steps—applicable to any kind of fridge, from side-by-side and French door models to those with the freezer on top or bottom—to make the move easy and safe, without any spoiling any food, straining any muscles, or losing your cool in the process.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Portable cooler
– Zip ties
– Painter’s tape
– Towel
– Bungee cords (2 or more)
– Plastic wrap
– Large appliance dolly with straps

STEP 1
First, empty the fridge. Whether it’s across the room or the country, when you’re moving a fridge from point A to point B, the last thing you’ll want is for those soda cans and pickle jars to rattle around and break open along the way. What’s more, you’ll want to avoid the spoilage that can easily occur if you leave food in an unplugged fridge. Store perishables in an insulated picnic cooler or two, and throw in a few frozen bottles of water for added peace of mind. Next, remove any ice cube trays, movable shelves and other accessories that might shift “mid-flight,” and be sure to take down those magnets and other decorative elements from the exterior.

STEP 2
Unplug the refrigerator from the wall. If you have a built-in icemaker, disconnect the fridge from its water source as well. Gather the cords up in a coil and secure them tightly with a zip tie or a few loops of painter’s tape (masking tape is also an option but may leave adhesive residue). Allow 6 to 8 hours for the interior to defrost completely; if you skip this step, you’ll run the risk of the fridge’s interior growing mold or even leaking all over the moving truck while in transit.

Tip: Unplug the night before a move or reno so everything’s ready to roll in the morning. Once the interior reaches room temperature, use a towel to wipe away any melted frost from the freezer drawer.

STEP 3
Wrap two or more all-purpose bungee cords around the appliance like belts—one around the upper half and one around the lower half—to keep the doors closed when you move the refrigerator. If you don’t have bungee cords, two long rolls of plastic wrap secured tightly around the fridge can do the trick almost as well; be sure to get a snug fit and tape off the ends to reinforce. If possible, tie the door handles together as well to make sure everything stays firmly in place during transport.

How to Move a Fridge

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 4
Roll up the dolly (typically available for rent from reputable hardware stores for about $15 a day) and gently center the tow blade under the bottom of the fridge, approaching it from the side with the fridge doors at a 90-degree angle from the back of the dolly. Note that you should never, ever lay a fridge on its side or back to move it because tipping it too far in the wrong direction can cause a coolant breach, reducing your fridge to little more than a big, broken metal box. But using an appliance dolly correctly, you’ll be able to tilt the fridge slightly sideways to move it without leaning it too far over.

For this two-person job, one person will position the dolly underneath the fridge and stay behind it with hands on handles, keeping it in place. The tow blade should just slide right underneath the appliance without having to be forced. Now, the helper uses the dolly’s straps to lock it down by encircling the refrigerator’s body like a belt, similar to the way you secured the doors closed with tape or plastic wrap. If the dolly has a ratchet mechanism (found on its back), use that to pull the strap tight and keep the fridge securely fastened to the dolly itself while it’s moving. If there’s no ratchet, tie a tight double knot, anchoring it to the steel ribs between the dolly’s handles.

STEP 5
Position yourselves so that one person is standing behind the dolly, holding it by both handles to guide the movement, and the other is standing in front of the doors, able to react quickly in case anything hasn’t been secured correctly and the fridge starts to slide or the doors begin to open.

Together, slightly tilt the fridge and dolly back between 20 and 45 degrees—just enough for the wheels to move freely when the person holding the dolly’s handles gives it a gentle push or pull, depending on whether you need to move forward or backward. When you and the fridge are steady, slowly begin work your way to the moving truck (or simply out of the way, in the case of a renovation). Be sure to keep the appliance tilted no more than 45 degrees for the entire journey and take caution as needed while navigating around corners, through doorways and up or down ramps of any kind.

Don’t Forget!
It’s critical to never lay or carry your fridge on its back or side, since doing so can create an irreparable leak in the cooling system and prevent the appliance from doing its job once you plug it back in. It’s also unsanitary to move a refrigerator while it’s still cooling down and filled with condensation, creating a playground for mold and bacteria. So do your prep, take your time, and be sure to use a large enough dolly to get the job done safely. After following these easy steps for how to move a refrigerator, you’ll be chilling in your new kitchen in no time flat.


How To: Get Rid of Ticks

Banish disease-carrying pests from your property with these smart gardening practices.

SHARES
How to Get Rid of Ticks

Photo: istockphoto.com

Ticks are a fact of outdoor life throughout the United States. These blood-feeding arachnids become active every year after the first frost. But, while every creature has its place in the food chain, you don’t want to become a link in that of a tick, which can spread diseases like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme. Finding a tick attached to a loved one (two- or four-legged!)—not to mention yourself—ends in an uncomfortable, decidedly icky removal process. Fortunately, you can lessen the likelihood of exposure to the tiny yet terrible pests. Read on for smart, simple strategies for how to get rid of ticks on your property.

Pull Plants That Deer Love
Deer ticks (also known as the blacklegged tick) are the ones most responsible for spreading Lyme disease, which has become an outright epidemic in parts of the Northeastern United States. When pondering best ways for how to get rid of ticks—especially disease-carrying—you actually should start by deterring their hosts, the deer. Discourage the hungry visitors from entering your yard by eliminating their grazing favorites: tulips, hostas, daylilies, azaleas, rhododendron, euonymus, and Indian hawthorne. And, if you’ve now got holes in your garden, consider replacing them with more deer resistant varieties like boxwood, butterfly bush, and daphne.

Add Plants That Ticks Hate, Too
Certain shrubbery, like Japanese barberry, serves as excellent questing spots for ticks looking to hitch a ride on their next host. Fortunately, various plants, thanks to their powerful scent, discourage ticks and other pests (like fleas, mosquitoes, and gnats). Herbs such as mint, rosemary, rue, pennyroyal, and wormwood, flowers like chrysanthemums, Mexican marigolds, and the aptly named flea-bane daisy—and don’t forget good old garlic—can help pull up the welcome mat and keep parasites at bay.

How to Get Rid of Ticks

Photo: istockphoto.com

Mow Often and Maintain Landscaping
While ticks can travel anywhere, they are most prevalent in tall grass and low shrubbery.  A wide swath of low grass isn’t their preference, so mow your lawn regularly, and to make it harder for ticks to hitch a ride into your yard, reduce heavy brush and ground cover bordering your property. Also keep leaves and other yard waste from accumulating around your shrubs. After feeding, a deer tick will drop off its host, and can remain dormant in leaf litter until the following spring, when it will seek another blood meal. This is when people and pets are most in danger of infection, as the ticks may have ingested disease-causing pathogens from their previous meal that they can then transmit to their next host.

Clean Up the Woodpile
Ticks generally breed while on their host, but they lay eggs on the ground, seeking out dark, moist places. If you keep a woodpile outside, elevate it off the ground and stack it neatly, so that air can flow through to keep it dry. If currently in a shaded area, relocate it to a sunny spot, away from your house, to make it less attractive to ticks. A jumbled, shaded woodpile is also a perfect habitat for mice and other small rodents that often serve as the first host to tick larvae and nymphs. The fewer hosts in your yard, the less likely ticks will survive there.

Discourage Small Host Animals
While deer are a favorite host for ticks, many small mammals and birds serve as hosts and delivery vehicles for them as well. The white-footed mouse is a particularly common host, and the rise in deer tick population is closely correlated with the prevalence of this rodent. So in addition to tidying up your woodpile, maintain any stonewalls around your property so they don’t become a breeding ground for critters. And while birds can be a joy to observe, if you have a tick problem, banish bird feeders, or locate them far from the house. Not only do birds serve as hosts for ticks, spilled seed will draw small rodent hosts.

Use the Right Insecticide
There are a number of insecticides (generally synthetic pyrethroids, which mimic the natural insecticidal properties of chrysanthemum) that can successfully help reduce tick populations. You need not treat your entire yard if it’s well kept and receives ample sun. Because ticks are most often found on the borders of a home’s property, especially if it abuts a wooded area, spray the perimeter of your place with insecticide, or try a natural alternative, like cedar oil.

 

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.