Requiem for Yellow Jackets

Yellow jackets had taken up residence in one of Dixie’s herb planters. So, after she got stung several times while watering them, it was time to declare war on the little critters. In an attempt to eradicate them without using chemicals, I employed a tactic I first learned about here. A couple of inches of water and some dish soap in my shop-vac, and we were ready to do battle. Watch the video to see the carnage.

 Extend A Vent For Five Bucks

If you have a room arranged in a such a way that the furnace vents are underneath your furniture, you might benefit from an Extend A Vent. But don’t buy one from Amazon, or anywhere else for that matter. It is hardly worth the $15, or $17, or $18 that most places online are charging for these two flimsy pieces of plastic that barely fit together. I bought one, and like many others who commented on Amazon’s page, I felt like I had been taken. DSC_8522When my wife saw the product, she said, “hey, that looks just like my seed trays!” She was right. The plastic is the same thickness, and same general length and shape as the Jiffy Seed Starter trays you can buy at Lowes, and Home Depot for five dollars.

The trays are 21 inches long and 10.5 inches wide, which means they won’t quite fit the entire width of a standard 12″ vent. However, one of the most common complaints in the Amazon comments is the same thing about the Extend A Vent because it’s only 11 inches wide, so it doesn’t fit either. My experience was that both products are wide enough to cover the actual slots in the vent, but I agree that it is ridiculous that the Extend A Vent, a product that was presumably designed specifically to fit a furnace vent, doesn’t actually fit all that well. By the way, the Jiffy tray lid is 2.5 inches tall (about an inch taller than the Extend A Vent), so it actually allows more airflow, but that may mean it won’t fit under certain furniture.

I have two couches in my family room that cover up both vents in the room, so I needed two of these. But even buying two Jiffy trays was only $10, still about half what I paid for one Extend A Vent. The lids are clear plastic, the trays themselves are black, but if you’re putting them under furniture where they won’t show, the trays will work just as well as the lids, so for $10, you’re actually getting enough material to make two Extend A Vents!

DSC_8526DSC_8529So I simply cut the end off of one lid, and cut both ends off of the other lid. Then I overlapped the two lids a couple of inches until the grooves lined up, and then I taped them together with clear packing tape. You can do the same thing with the trays (and the trays are slightly more rigid because they’re designed to hold soil). The finished product is about 34 inches long which should work for just about any couch or large chair. DSC_8531If you have smaller furniture, a single Jiffy tray lid will probably work for you. I slid mine under the couches and lined them up over the vents, and they work just as well as the Extend A Vent. Depending on the pressure coming out of your vents, you might find that you need a couple of small magnets to keep them aligned to the slots in the vent. So don’t buy an Extend A Vent! Make your own for cheap!

 Gutter Shelves for Ten Bucks

My son has a loft bed and he is in the habit of keeping all of the books he is reading on his bed so he doesn’t have to climb up and down the ladder. Over time, the books accumulate to the point where there’s barely room left for him. So we were looking for a way to get his books off of his bed and onto the wall, but because space is limited, there isn’t room for a conventional book shelf up there. So I went looking for a solution.

A few years back no one had ever heard of gutter shelves. Then some clever person realized that they could put their kid’s books on a wall in such a way that would make it easy for them to see all of their books at once, and now gutter shelves are everywhere. The problem with them, as some other bloggers have pointed out, is that while they sound like a cheap alternative to shelving, all that hardware is actually pretty expensive.

allen_roth_shelfYou know what else is expensive? This shelf that they sell at Lowes. Are they kidding with that? It’s only three and a half feet long, and it cost $45! That’s nuts. We really liked the look of it, though, and it would serve our purposes well since it doesn’t stick off the wall very far. I’m pretty handy, so I figured I could come up with something that looked and worked the same, but was much cheaper. Which is why I’m going to show you how I built a very similar shelf, twice as long, for about ten bucks (twelve actually).

You will need some tools, and some skills with a miter saw. You will also need some glue and some screws. Assuming you have all of that, here is the material:

  1. An 8-ft furring strip – $0.92
  2. An 8-ft piece of MDF Crown Moulding – $10.80

The MDF moulding might be a bit warped, but that shouldn’t matter. Make sure you get a furring strip that is straight – they are usually very warped, so you might have to hunt through the pile to find a straight one. The moulding will follow the contour of the furring strip, so if it isn’t straight, your shelf won’t be either.

DSC_8357DSC_8359Decide how long you want your shelf to be – you will need about a foot of the moulding to cut the ends from, so the maximum shelf length is about 7 feet. I made mine about 65 inches. I mitered the ends of the long piece, then cut end pieces to give it a clean finished look. I glued these end pieces with wood glue, and used masking tape to hold them in place while the glue dried.

DSC_8354DSC_8365DSC_8367Next I mounted the furring strip to the wall to form a cleat that I could attach the moulding to. Even though this shelf won’t be supporting a lot of weight, I marked the studs and attached the cleat using screws because I avoid drywall anchors whenever I can. Because I didn’t want to move the bed, I used this trick with duct tape to catch all of the dust from drilling – then I carefully peel the tape off the wall and roll it up trapping the dust inside! No clean up afterwards! I put a screw in one end and then leveled the cleat and put the other screws in.

DSC_8378DSC_8380Once the cleat was mounted, I just put the moulding up against it, and put a few screws through it into the cleat to hold it in place. You can also countersink the screws, putty the holes, and paint them, if you are really ambitious. The cleat and the moulding form a nice groove that will hold most books (you know, unless your kid is reading Atlas Shrugged or something). That’s it! Okay, it’s not actually a gutter shelf, but I think it looks a lot better and it doesn’t cost as much.

 The Polar Express

I’ve spent the last six months remodeling our family room. You can see the progression in my photo album. But the culmination of all of that work is a model train that runs around the perimeter of the room. Here’s a quick video showing the final product.

 Using All Of The Space

Butler's PantryIf your house has more than one floor, chances are good that there is a lot of wasted space above and below your stairs that is just crying out to be filled with stuff. Shelves underneath the stairs are easy, and something that I added when we first moved in. But after years of climbing up and down the steps and staring at all of that empty white space up there, I finally had to do something with it, so as a side project to my current family room remodel, I’ve conjured up an entirely new room right off the kitchen that I’m calling a butler’s pantry.

floorThe floor is a piece of 3/4″ plywood made just a bit beefier with some 1x4s, connected with some heavy duty hinges to a 2×4 attached to the wall with lag screws into the studs. It rests on a matching 2×4 on the opposite wall, and I cut a notch out of the wood to allow room for the handrail. This was designed to hold a single person, but we’ve already tested it with two adults (300+ pounds) and it had no trouble holding us.

stairwellOnce the floor is in place, you can assemble whatever kind of shelves or hanging storage containers you like. I used 3/4″ pine boards that will easily hold 50-100 pounds on each shelf. Add a few hooks to the underside of the shelves and you have a place to hang pots and pans, or dry herbs from your herb garden. Mmmm… smell the rosemary. For just a couple hundred bucks in lumber and hardware, maybe you should add a new pantry to your house too? Eat your heart out Pinterest!

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