Do You Know More About Home Improvement Than Bob Vila?


By: Bambi Turner

7 Min Quiz

Image: PBS

About This Quiz

Miami native Bob Vila majored in journalism in college before heading off to Panama to serve in the Peace Corps. After returning to the U.S. in the early '70s, he began restoring old houses and soon became so good at it that he was winning awards and capturing the attention of the media. That home repair and restoration talent led producers to recruit the charismatic handyman as host of "This Old House," a show that began in 1979. After a decade restoring charming residences on TV, Vila branched off to star in "Bob Vila's Home Again." For the next 17 years, this show remained one of the most popular series aimed at handy homeowners and weekend DIYers. America's favorite carpenter taught viewers everything from how to fix squeaky stairs to how to install solar panels on a roof!

By the 1990s, Vila was such a home repair icon that he routinely guest-starred as himself on "Tool Time," the show within a show that starred Tim Allen on "Home Improvement." Of course, he came off a whole lot more knowledgeable about pretty much every aspect of renovation and construction than the show's star!

We would put money on you outscoring Tim Allen's character on this home repair quiz, but do you think you could get more correct answers than the master himself, Bob Vila? Put down that hammer, and put your skills to the test with this quiz!

Which of these does Bob's "This Old House" partner Tom Silva describe as the perfect rise for a step?

Bob Vila and Tom Silva were a great match on "This Old House." On the show's website, Silva defines the perfect rise — or riser height — for steps as 7 inches. The run or tread depth of a step should be at least 10 inches in a home but is often even larger for safety and ease of use.


When measuring a roof, professional renovators know that you measure roof area using this dimension.

Home improvement pros like Bob Vila measure roof area in squares, where one square of roofing equals 100 square feet of area. There are 33.3 square feet in a bundle of asphalt shingles, so you need three bundles per square to replace a roof.


Do you know which of these is typically used to rate the capacity of a home heater or air conditioner?

The size of a home's heating or cooling system in the U.S. is typically rated in British Thermal Units, or BTUs. While some people like to use quick rule of thumb estimates to size equipment, pros like Bob Vila know that this isn't the best way to do it. Instead, it pays to get an energy model done to properly size your heating and cooling system for maximum comfort and efficiency.


Choose the name for a classic sloped roof design that looks like a triangle plopped on the top of a home.

If you ask a young child to draw a house, they will likely use a combination of a square and a triangle. This triangular shape, which reaches a peak known as the ridge line, is the classic gable roof design found on many homes.


In which of these locations in the home would Bob Vila be the most likely to install Type X drywall?

Fire-resistant drywall, also known as Type X, is designed to slow the spread of fire during an emergency. Many building codes require builders to use this product in place of standard drywall around the garage, or to construct walls that separate multiple dwelling units from one another.


Can you remember the dimensions of a typical sheet of drywall?

A standard sheet of drywall measures 4 feet by 8 feet. Made of gypsum sandwiched between sheets of heavy paper, this material began to replace plaster walls after WWII, and it is now used in almost every kind of residential and commercial structure imaginable.


Toilets were a lot less efficient when Bob Vila got his start on TV in the '70s. What is a typical number of gallons used for each flush of a modern toilet?

Toilets made before the early '90s used a whopping 3.5 to 5.0 gallons per flush. Federal law limits toilets to 1.6 gallons per flush, while more efficient models use 1.28 GPF or even less.


Got clothes? Here's how deep your closet should be to squeeze in a standard hanger.

It's hard to imagine anyone who would turn down more closet space, but it's important to build closets that will work. Plan to make them at least 21 inches deep to accommodate standard clothes hangers.


Tell us which of these applications would benefit the most from green board.

Most drywall has a white paper finish, but some specialty products have colored paper to help you distinguish them from other products. Green board offers moisture resistance, making it a perfect backer for bathroom tile. Blue board is designed to provide a smooth surface for plaster, while purple board is the most mildew and damage resistant of these products. It is often used on corridor walls in schools or commercial buildings.


Nobody wants to deal with a stinky bathroom, so where's the best place to vent an exhaust fan?

Old school builders used to vent a bathroom exhaust fan straight into the attic. Today's home improvement pros know that this is a bad idea, as it allows moisture to build up inside the attic. Instead, bathroom fans should always be exhausted through the roof to send moisture and stinky smells outside.


Do you know the size of the average American home as of 2018?

Even though families have gotten much smaller, American homes have grown over the past half-century or so. While a typical house measured about 1,600 square feet in the '70s, the Census Bureau estimates that today, U.S. families live in homes that are, on average, about 2,600 square. That's a whole lotta space to repair and maintain!


It always helps resale odds if you pick popular materials and finishes when renovating. What's the most common siding used in the U.S.?

Vinyl siding has grown in popularity since the '60s to become the most common siding on U.S. homes. Not only is it less expensive than aluminum, wood or fiber cement, but it's also easy to install and maintain without a lot of effort or fancy equipment.


A fresh coat of paint is one of the most affordable home improvement options out there. How large an area can one gallon of paint cover?

A gallon of paint typically covers 400 square feet. That means for the price of dinner for the family at a fast food restaurant, you can completely transform the look of a bedroom with 10-by-10 feet walls.


Every sleeping space needs an emergency exit, typically an egress window. What's the minimum net opening size for home egress windows?

Are you planning to add a basement bedroom? Better make sure that the egress window is big enough. In the U.S., egress windows must be a minimum of 5.7 square feet. They have to be at least 20 inches wide, at least 24 inches high and the bottom sill can't be more than 44 inches above the floor.


Name the roof profile that features two sloped sections on either side and is sometimes called a Dutch roof.

Gambrel roofs feature two sloped sections on either side, forming a profile like what you would see on a classic barn. If you were to put two sloped sections of roof on four sides of the structure, you would form a fancier design called a mansard roof. And yes, Bob Vila could build one with his hammering hand tied behind his back.


Select the measurement you would be most likely to see for a bedroom door in a home.

Exterior doors used in the home most often measure 3 feet by 7 feet. Those found inside may be slightly narrower, often measuring 2 feet, 6 inches to 2 feet, 8 inches wide. If you don't have the renovation skills of Bob Vila, consider buying a pre-hung unit rather than a separate door and frame.


Choose the location where you'd be most likely to find a newel post.

Do you know in "It's a Wonderful Life" where George keeps pulling that decorative ball off when he goes up and down the stairs? The support post holding that ball is known as a newel post. It can range from simple to decorative and serves as an important piece of the structural support of a staircase.


Tell us what a typical homeowner in the U.S. could expect to pay per square foot of wood flooring, including pro installation.

Consumer Reports put the price of hardwood flooring at $5 to $10 per square foot installed. If that's too much for your home improvement budget, try engineered wood, which looks about the same as solid hardwood but ranges from $4 to $9 per square foot instead.


What term do building pros use for a wall that supports a load other than its own weight?

Do you love open floor plans? Before you start opening up your space, make sure you're not dealing with any bearing walls. These walls support the structure of the house, and knocking one down or cutting through it is a really dangerous idea. If you're not sure, ask a structural engineer or pro carpenter before you swing that sledgehammer.


Can you guess how many amps of electricity the average U.S. home is designed to provide?

A typical U.S. home is designed to provide just 100 amps of power, which isn't much considering that brewing a large pot of java with your coffeemaker can require 8 amps or more on its own. If you have a larger heating or cooling system, you might need to splurge or a power upgrade during a renovation or remodel.


Choose the remodeling project that will give you the greatest return in terms of increasing home value.

Every year, "Remodeling" magazine publishes a list of the home improvement projects with the highest average returns. In 2018, a midrange kitchen remodel provided an 80% ROI, compared to 67% for adding a midrange bathroom or 59% for a high-end master suite addition.


Hey, stud! How far apart are those vertical framing members that form the wall structure in most homes?

In modern homes, studs are almost always placed at 16-inch intervals. Even in "old-school" houses, studs are usually no further apart than 24 inches.


If you hire a geotech consultant, what are they most likely to give you when they are done working on your property?

Geotechnical engineers study soil to determine how well it is able to support the load of a house. Using their soil reports, architects and builders can choose footers and foundations that will serve as the perfect base for your home or addition.


Where would you be most likely to find a transom in a house?

Transom is contractor speak for a window or opening above a door or window frame. It not only lets in extra light and air, but can also serve as a decorative element to add visual appeal to a room.


If you take a tape measure to a two-by-four, you'll find that it measures _______

Home improvement newbies might be surprised to find their measurements are sightly off when dealing with lumber. That's because a standard two-by-four actually measures 1.5 inches thick by 3.5 inches wide. The two-by-four designation is known as nominal sizing, while the smaller numbers are the actual dimensions.


Let's go back to our grade school days. What is the primary shape of a truss?

Framing a house piece by piece is cheap and easy, but if speed is your goal, you might consider investing in pre-built trusses. Made up of a series of connected triangles, trusses are structural members used to frame the roof of a home or other building.


Bob Vila knows the best color to paint your door if you want to maximize home value. Do you?

A 2018 report put together by revealed that homes with black or charcoal entry doors sold for an average of $6,000 more than those with other door paint colors. Another good way to boost value with paint is with tuxedo kitchen cabinets, where the upper cabinets are painted a contrasting color to the lower ones.


All other things being equal, you'll save big on utility costs if you choose a furnace that runs on this fuel.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration makes it easy to compare heating costs based on different fuels. The average U.S. family with a gas furnace spent just $644 in the winter of 2018-2019, while owners of electric, oil or propane furnaces paid hundreds more. If the goal of your renovation is a more comfortable and efficient home, consider whether a gas furnace might be worth the cost.


If you ask Bob Vila, he'd tell you that builders refer to the trim around a door or window as ________.

Trim can make a huge difference in not only the look of your home but also in maintenance and value. Trim around a door or window is called casing, while crown molding and cornice molding are found where walls meet the ceiling. Baseboard provides a smooth transition between walls and the floor, while chair and picture rails are found somewhere in between crown and baseboard.


Flue liners make fireplaces safer, but can you guess the most common material used to line chimney flues in the U.S.?

Flue liners significantly reduce the risk of fire while extending the life of your chimney and making your fireplace more efficient, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America. Terra cotta, a clay-based material, is the most common liner material, though more costly metal or cast-in-place cement can be used for re-lining.


Frost lines provide important information for excavation and sitework. About how deep is the frost line in central Ohio, for instance?

Ohio's state building code sets the frost line at 32 inches. That's how deep you can expect groundwater in the soil to freeze during the winter. This piece of data is crucial for builders looking to do anything from building a home addition to installing a new gas furnace in a home.


Tell us which common home improvement material is often enforced with rebar.

Metal reinforcing bars, or rebar, are often inserted into concrete to increase its strength, particularly in a foundation or driveway. The rebar increases the tensile strength of the concrete, which helps to reduce the risk of cracks or other damage down the road.


Pick the correct water heater size for a family of five whose members all enjoy daily hot showers.

Bob Vila's website provides suggested water heater sizes. While 23 gallons is enough for a couple, a family of five needs at least a 56-gallon tank, plus an extra 10 gallons of capacity for every additional family member.


Do you know which of these insulation materials offers the best thermal resistance per inch?

When space is limited, you'll almost always want to reach for sheets of insulation made from polystyrene, polyurethane or some other rigid foam. These products provide tremendous thermal resistance, measured using r-value, which can cut energy costs and keep your home cozier during winter.


Installing a floor on your own can save you money, but do you know which of these materials would most likely require a floating installation?

Traditionally, floor coverings were nailed or glued to the subfloor. Modern laminate is typically designed for a floating installation, which means no nails or glue to hold it down. Instead, planks click or lock together, which makes for surprisingly easy installation, even if your name isn't Bob Vila.


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