Tag: home improvement


 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!

 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.

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