Home improvement icon Bob Vila knows a thing or two about coping with household disasters, and with summer on the horizon, he’s teaming up with the National Pest Management Association to share valuable infestation awareness tips with homeowners around the nation. Examiner caught up with the “This Old House” and “Home Again” star on April 13 to hear his advice, to find out his thoughts on being the inspiration behind the hit ’90s sitcom “Home Improvement,” and to get the scoop on his recent encounter with a very large beehive that took up residence in his guest bedroom.
Sherry Wight: I remember my dad, who also, coincidentally, happens to be a Bob who likes home improvement projects, watching you on “This Old House” when I was a kid. What’s your standout moment from being the host of that show?
Bob Vila: There are many standout moments from being the host of that show, and when you’ve been on television for 27 seasons it’s hard to say one or the other, but one of the interesting things that happened as a result was the whole relationship with the Tim Allen “Home Improvement” sitcom series, which kind of brought my programming to a new audience. And it wasn’t just a new live ABC network audience, but it was a new audience in terms of kids. When I did that, I’d already been on the air for like 15 years and all the sudden there were all these 10 or 12 year olds who find out who I am. And now they’re grown-ups buying houses. So that’s one of the key things.
SW: What was it like to work with Tim Allen? I know you were only on a few episodes, but you were a major part of the show for him.
BV: That was the thing: the show was inspired by “This Old House” and so they realized they wanted to make sure we weren’t going to be upset and so I was invited early on to be the guest star, and they always kind of kept it through [the series’ run] and it was fine. I never had a problem with it.
SW: It was funny. Now Tim was always getting into trouble on the show and I think all of us have a little bit of Tim in us. One of the common household issues we can face at one point or another is coping with pests, especially during the spring and summer months. What do we have to do to be more careful during these seasons?
BV: Yes. Not to imply that Tim was a pest, but yeah: it’s April, it’s National Pest Management Month, and so the National Pest Management Association wants to help homeowners identify some of the common pests that you have to be aware of. One of the key things is to take a close look at the house and figure out if you need to do something to keep the pests out. Wooden houses especially sometimes develop cracks, gaps, somebody might drill a hole to put a cable through. [So] get some caulking compound and close it up so it’s nice and tight and you don’t have ants or carpenter ants or termites or other bugs getting into the house or into the side walls. So I think that’s one of the key things to keep in mind right now at the beginning of spring: have a good, tight house. That includes the screens, too. Make sure your window screens are in good repair so you don’t have issues with mosquitoes coming in later on.
SW: Yes. Where we are, it’s less of an issue with mosquitoes and more with bees. Carpenter bees, I think. Good screens are key!
BV: Yeah. An important thing to be aware of is sometimes you are just a breeding ground for all sorts of things. I think the most worrisome insect this year will be the mosquito because of the Zika virus, which everybody is becoming familiar with and which has the potential to have devastating health impact. You want to make sure that you are not harboring breeding grounds for these mosquitoes by eliminating any standing water you may have in the garden and in the yard.
Something as simple as dishes under pots that collect water — bad idea. Make sure that you water your pots regularly but don’t have any of those dishes underneath. Check the whole area of the garden to see if you have any kind of toy or pot or any kind of item that might collect water…. Some people might have old automobile tires leaning up against a shed with an inch of water in them, and that is a natural, nice dark place for them to breed. So get rid of any standing water in the garden.
SW: This year, as you said, the mosquito is probably the biggest pest to worry about. Historically, which has been the biggest one to worry about?
BV: Termites really are the biggest one from year to year in terms of the amount of damage they do to our homes and buildings; it’s in the billions. So homeowners should be aware of the possibility of having termite infestations, both terrestrial and in the house. If you bought a house recently you know the house has to come with a certificate that says that if there have been termites, they’ve been dealt with.
But if you’ve been in your house a long time and are not aware of all this, look for signs of termite damage. Tap on the woodwork on the inside of the house and if something sounds hollow and you can poke into it, it could be rot, but then again it could be termite tunnels. Look on the floor for little piles of what looks to be sawdust; it looks more like a granular sand. It is termite frass, their excrement, and it’s an indication that you have termites at work inside the house in the walls. If you find clues like that, you are better of calling in professionals.
SW: Yikes, such happy thoughts!
BV: Yeah. There are different things that you really need to consider partnering with pest control professionals for. Some of them are bigger problems than the average homeowner can handle. I myself had a beehive last year that had become quite enormous and we weren’t aware of it. And all the sudden we actually found a little puddle of honey on the floor. And this was in a guest bedroom and nobody had been in it in a while. That kind of an issue requires professionals.
SW: Now I know I need to walk around my house and make sure we’re beehive free. So Bob, what other projects do you have coming up in the future?
BV: Well, at Bob Vila dot com were are creating new content on a weekly basis, and of course we have all of the old Bob Vila TV shows, from “Home Again” etcetera, so if anybody wants to look at those.