What Would Bob Do? You Asked, He Answered

Bob Vila is no stranger to offering advice—or visiting the Forums. Here, he answers 10 real-life questions from homeowners just like you.

  1. What Would Bob Do?

    Kitty Litter

    What homeowner hasn't mumbled those words after taking on a home improvement project that turned out to be more than he—or she—bargained for? Every day readers post questions in our Forums , looking for advice on everything from cleaning vinyl siding to eliminating pet odors. Here are a few of the questions that got Bob's personal response.


  2. Hanging a Heavy Mirror

    How to Hang a Heavy Mirror

    What would be the best way to hang a 40-pound mirror?  

    Your mirror is too heavy for picture hooks, but for a wall surface made of drywall or plaster, a wall anchor would likely do the trick. A variety of anchors are available these days, each with a slightly different design; all are more reliable than the old-fashioned ribbed plastic plugs. In your case, I would recommend a winged anchor... more


  3. Eliminating Cigarette Odor

    How to Get Rid of Cigarette Smell

    How do I get rid of a cigarette smoke smell in my house?

    The smell of cigarette smoke can affect virtually every part of a home, including elements that cannot be removed—or at least not easily. In the case of walls, ceilings, and floors, I recommend washing twice with a solution of TSP and water. Apply an odor-sealing primer and repaint. Hoping to save the wall-to-wall carpeting? If the odors are too deeply embedded... more


  4. Installing Beadboard

    How to Install Beadboard

    We are thinking about installing beadboard in our bathroom. How do I install it so that it looks at home in the room?

    You can install beadboard in a number of ways. One option is to install it as wainscoting, where the beadboard panel covers only a portion of the wall. Another approach—the one you’re considering—is to use beadboard as floor-to-ceiling paneling. If you are installing beadboard over drywall, choose a panel with... more


  5. Hanging Wallpaper in the Bathroom

    How to Hang Wallpaper

    Is wallpapering a bathroom difficult? Also, wouldn’t bathroom humidity, over time, cause wallpaper to blister and peel?

    Using wallpaper in a bathroom is fine, so long as you choose one that is washable and are able to prevent it from having direct contact with water. If your home is subject to dampness or high levels of humidity, avoid impermeable wallcoverings, as they can foster mold growth. Because there are so many interrupted surfaces in a bathroom, it can be a difficult space within which to... more


  6. Removing Old Bolts

    How to Remove Old Bolts

    I have an old bench outside with rotting old seat boards. The nuts and bolts holding the wood to the iron bench frame have rusted together. How do I remove those bolts so that I can add replacement boards?

    Spray the bolts with a penetrating oil, such as Liquid Wrench. Let the lubricant work its way into the threads, and once several hours have elapsed, try loosening the nut with a wrench and locking pliers. If that doesn’t work... more


  7. How to Remove Carpeting

    How to Remove Carpeting

    I am moving to a new house where the living room and dining area have wall-to-wall carpeting. Could you please tell me how to remove carpet?

    Was your carpeting installed under shoe molding? Assuming it was, the first thing to do is remove that trimwork with your putty knife and pry bar. Check the molding for damage: If it remains in good shape, save it for reuse. Now, use a utility knife or a sharpened pair of tin snips to cut the material into three- or four-foot-wide strips... more


  8. Cutting Drywall

    How to Cut Drywall

    I’ve got to remove some drywall in a room so I can nail studs behind the wall for anchoring purposes. What is the best tool for cutting the drywall?

    If for any reason you want to cut drywall that has already been installed—for a nailer (blocking), say, or recessed lighting—the name of the game is minimizing dust. The jab saw is often the tool I recommend, because it not only generates less dust than a power saw, but also allows you to closely control the cut so as not to disturb electrical work and plumbing behind the wall. Let the inside face of the stud be a guide... more


  9. Painting Raw Pine

    How to Paint Raw Pine

    I’m painting a bunk bed from IKEA that’s solid pine and unfinished. Do I still need to sand and prime if it is unfinished wood and I’m painting it white?

    Yes, before you paint unfinished furniture, it’s worth going through the process of sanding and priming. I recommend the following procedure; though a bit tedious, it ensures satisfactory results. Start with some rough sanding. After you’ve done this, wipe away all sanding dust with a tack cloth (avoid using a water-dampened rag). Now apply the... more


  10. Hardwiring a Light Fixture

    How to Hardwire a Light Fixture

    I want to purchase a swing arm lamp for my bedroom. All the ones I love are direct wire. Can I somehow add wire and a plug to the lamp so I can just plug it into a wall socket?

    I always caution do-it-yourselfers to be wary of the risks involved in electrical projects. Know your limitations and when in doubt, hire an electrician. That said, it’s actually pretty easy to modify a hardwired lighting fixture so that it plugs into a wall socket. The easiest way to proceed is with a swag conversion kit (or a plug replacement kit). Most of the time... more


  11. Replacing a Faulty Tub Spout

    How to Replace a Tub Spout

    When I turn on the water in the bathtub and pull the plunger to activate the shower, a lot of water still comes out of the faucet. I’m guessing the stopper needs replacing? Are they pretty standard and easy to find?

    It's true that replacing the component parts of plumbing fixtures can save you money, but in your case, replacing the entire faucet is probably necessary. The good news is that faucets are inexpensive and sold by hardware stores everywhere. To install your replacement, first remove the old faucet. It will be one of two types, either a set screw... more


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    For the handy home improver, few pleasures compare to the joy of a well-stocked workshop. Take a look at this roundup of some of the best and most essential tools for DIYers of every stripe, and see which items might be missing from your own home improvement headquarters.