Tag: home improvement

 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!

 More Basement Woodworking

Earlier this year, I started building a cabinet in my basement on the wall opposite my new bar. As usual, I used Sketchup to draw up my plans, and I neglected to post these at the outset of the project. Sketchup is a powerful tool, and fairly easy to learn. Using it to create models of things you want to build is a great way to save time and money. If you take care to make precise measurements when you draw your model, you can use it to figure out the cost of materials, and later as a blueprint to verify your measurements are accurate. I am currently working on some new plans for a major project in 2013 — stay tuned for more on that.

I did post a couple of photos back in June when the cabinet was nearing completion, but I had to take a break for a few months to work on other things. Its main purpose was to replace the hideous drywall box the previous owners had built to hide the water meter on the wall. It now serves as some extra storage space, and a decorative place for Sir-Drinks-A-Lot to stand. I am happy to announce that the cabinet is now complete!

 Garden Irrigation Project

In late April, we had a pretty impressive hailstorm, which led to us getting a new roof and new gutters. The timing was somewhat fortunate, however, since I had already started putting together a system for catching rainwater that we could use on our garden. I found a 300-gallon plastic tote on Craigslist for $100, and had the gutter company reroute the gutters on the back of the house and combined three downspouts into one that drains into the tank. I really had no idea how long it would take to fill up, and I was astonished at our first hard rain when it took less than an hour for it to fill to overflowing. Now I wish I had bought more than one.

The next phase was intended to avoid the hassle of dragging a hose out to the garden to water it everyday. So instead I buried a “perma-hose” consisting of one hundred feet of 3/4″ PVC pipe from the house to the garden, with splitters on both ends. At the house, short pieces of hose connect both the rain tank and the faucet, so we can easily switch between them depending on whether or not the rain tank is empty. At the other end, another splitter means we can leave the soaker hose in the garden attached all the time, and still have an open faucet for watering our other plants. Because our yard slopes away from the house, the garden is about six feet below the level of the tank, so we have a pretty good head of pressure — not bad for only being gravity-fed.

Stay tuned for the final phase, which is to hook up a 55-gallon rain barrel on the upper patio that we can use to water our herb garden and some other potted plants.

 Landscaping Project

This has been a busy spring. Thanks to warmer than average temperatures in February, we got a jump on our normal outdoor activities and started a couple of projects. The first was a little landscaping of the front yard, which involved giving the existing flower beds a facelift with the addition of a retaining wall. Now that the project is done, I wanted to offer a bit of advice to anyone planning something like this. If you choose to do it yourself, and not hire it done, the single most difficult task is properly estimating the amount of materials you will need. My initial estimates of the amount of bricks and top soil that I would need were off by a factor of two. So while the $60 delivery fee that Lowe’s charges is completely reasonable, to have tons of material delivered right to your driveway, it can quickly bust your budget when multiple deliveries are necessary (three in my case). As a reference, our retaining wall had about 65 linear feet, which is easy enough to compute, but it’s almost impossible to know in advance (without a landscaper’s years of experience) how many courses of bricks you will need to match the undulating topography of your yard and end up with something approaching a level wall. For ours, it took 220 bricks. That also equated to 180 40-pound bags of topsoil to fill in the space behind it.

Before and after shots

 Progress Report

latest shot of the barIt has certainly taken longer than I had planned, and it is still a ways from being complete, but I wanted to offer an update on the basement bar project. A big thank you to my wonderful wife who has allowed me the time to work on it. You can see the progression in my album, but here’s the latest shot. I still have a lot of trim to cut, some staining left to do, and then granite tile for the top, but I can conceivably be done with all of that before winter. Maybe.

 Projects Aplenty

Summer is always busy, but this month has seemed especially crazy with plenty of projects keeping me busy. Today we had our friend and concrete expert finish the patio we started two years ago by adding some steps to the face. Between that, adding the finishing touches to Josie’s play table, and working to complete my basement bar project, I don’t know if I’m ever going to have a chance to sit and relax again. Summer is going to fly by, and next thing I know it will be winter again, and I’ll have a new set of projects to work on.

 White Castle

play table almost completeJosie’s castle / play table is almost done. In just a couple of hours this morning I was able to get a coat of primer on everything and assemble it in her room. She can’t wait to start playing with it, but I think I may need to take it back apart in order to finish painting it. I attached some 1x2s to the walls in her room to support the table, so it’s actually pretty easy to take it in and out. Josie wants pink and purple on her castle, and I’m going to work that into the color scheme. I should have it painted tomorrow and I’ll post some photos in my album of the finished product.

 Josie’s Play Table

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I really like Sketchup (oh wait, I have mentioned it before). Yesterday I spent less than an hour designing a new play table for my daughter Josie, and tonight I spent about an hour cutting out the pieces. Talk about rapid prototyping! If it’s not obvious from the image, this table will sit in the corner of her room and be attached to two walls, with the castle supporting one end. This is my first time working with MDF, so we’ll see how it turns out. So far so good. Next I’ve got to do some detailing with the jigsaw, sanding, and then they will be ready for primer and paint.

 This Is The Part Where I Go To Lowes

In almost every project around our house, we invariably reach the point where this phrase is uttered. It happens so often that it’s a running joke. Today, Father’s Day, was no exception. It began with us simply wanting to swap out the hangers in both of the kids’ closets. Noah’s clothes have gotten big enough that they don’t stay on the baby hangers anymore, and if you’re going to go to the trouble of swapping them in one closet, you might as well do both of them. Josie’s room also involved moving in an antique dresser that’s been in the family for over 100 years. So it quickly devolved into a complete remodeling of her room, including plans for a play table like Noah’s, and a frantic search on Craigslist for a doll house. About an hour later, as we realized that moving Josie’s toy bins into the closet would require rearranging the modular shelving, I looked at Dixie and smiled. “This is the part where I go to Lowes,” and we both burst into laughter. Now, four hours later, the closet has been redone, her room is rearranged, and I am now working on Sketchup plans for a new doll house/play table thing. That’s how we roll.

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