Build and Grow

Build and Grow

Lowe’s has a great program for kids called “Build and Grow”, where they offer FREE kids clinics every other Saturday (sign up at Each clinic, a different wooden kit is featured, and your child gets to use a mini-hammer and nails to build it. Each child is also issued there very own Lowe’s Apron (with name tag) and goggles, which they get to keep. You have the option of bringing the kit home or building it in the store, but to make it special, I strongly suggest staying in the store with all the other “little builders”. When your child completes the build, they are issued a certificate and a project patch, which can been sewn onto their apron. This is such a great program, and it is a great opportunity to get your children involved with projects at a young age.

This past weekend was our first time attending one of these clinics, and it was a blast! I was worried my 2-yr old daughter might be too young, but we decided to check it out and see for ourselves. We built a gingerbread house, complete with decorative stickers and a roof that opens up. Although my daughter couldn’t build the kit completely on her own, she was intrigued by the process, and quickly learned how to use a hammer and hit the nails. An adult’s help was necessary to get the nails to drive in completely, but it was an interactive project, involving the entire family (Grandma and Papa even joined us to see what it was all about). When we added the candy stickers at the end, the gingerbread house came to life, and my daughter’s eyes lit up. She was so proud of her build, and she carried her house as we left, showing it off to everyone we passed. I asked if she wanted to do it again next time, and she nodded her head up and down with a great big smile.

Build and grow

build and grow 2

The upcoming clinics are listed below, or you can check the website as clinics get added. If you don’t want to wait for the next clinic, you can also buy some of the Build and Grow kits at Lowe’s for $8-$10 each. I encourage all of you with kids to at least go once, after all, how often are opportunities like this offered so often and for free?




Let the Kitchen Remodel Begin!

So the last few weeks of summer “vacation” have been busy to say the least. We started out building doors for our office bookcase, painted the front door, then built a golf net over my daughter’s play area and a pergola for our neighbor, and then decided “what the heck, lets remodel the kitchen!”

Why we hated our Kitchen

My husband and I hated our kitchen from day 1, but decided we could live with it for a while when we bought our house. My husband is the primary cook in the family (and he is good at it) so I was all for a kitchen remodel, especially if it means he cooks more. Just to give you an idea, here are some of the problems our original kitchen had:

  • When we moved in, our kitchen had 2 of those big bubble ugly florescent light fixtures that catch deed bugs in the covers. We took them out almost immediately, and put up a temporary fixture, but overall our kitchen has had horrible lighting and feels like a dark hole in a very bright house.
  • The sink and dishwasher were on a 45 degree angle directly next to each other, so when you were standing at the sink washing dishes with the dishwasher was open, the door was hitting the back of your ankles.
  • We bought a refrigerator before moving into our home, and what we didn’t realize was that standard refrigerators are about 6 inches deeper than the traditional 24” countertops which made the refrigerator look very awkward (you can buy 24” deep refrigerators but you lose a lot of storage and they tend to be pricier).
  • We had a closet in our kitchen with sliding closet doors and all. Yes this was a “pantry” but it was not functional what so ever, and it looked completely ridiculous.
  • Our peninsula had a bar height back which made the kitchen look closed in, especially because the ceiling height drops from 10’ to 8’ when entering the kitchen. It also broke up what could be very usable counter space.
  • We had linoleum floors and a very ugly gold carpet to linoleum transition strip. They also made the transition a few feet into the living room instead of at the kitchen, so the strip was about 12’ long.
  • Overall, our counter space was broken up, and we didn’t really have a large work surface for cooking or baking.
  • Standard counter to upper cabinet height is 18” and ours were installed with a 16 ½” separation. An inch and a half might not sound like much, but it really made our kitchen feel dark and closed in.
  • We had outdated oak cabinets that left about a 10” gap between the top of the cabinet and the ceiling. Not enough space to add anything decorative, and just enough to look very odd and dark.
  • We hated the tile that was used on the counters, especially since it had a raised bullnose. Also, with an above counter sink, water was constantly getting trapped between the bullnose and the sink edge.
  • Appliances need room to breathe, but the openings for the stove and refrigerator were left way too wide, so food and other stuff was able to fall in those openings.

The Plan

So obviously in our new kitchen design we wanted to fix all of the problems listed above, but we also wanted something that reflected our style and would increase our home value for resale.  With a $4,000 project budget, this would be a challenge. Having a tight budget meant granite countertops, new cabinets, and new appliances were out of the question, so we had to get creative and repurpose what we could.

After going through hundreds of ideas, here is a very rough draft of what our kitchen will look like (cabinet details and lights are missing, but the idea is there).

I am sure we will make some more changes along the way (in fact we have already made some since this drawing was made), but I am so excited for our new kitchen! I will be documenting various aspects of our remodel adventure, and I encourage you to follow along on our journey. If you have recently remodeled your kitchen, please feel free to share your experiences in the comment section below.

Making a BOM

Although I might be added to the terrorist watch list for the title of this blog, knowing how to make a BOM (not bomb) is very important. For those of you not familiar with the term, BOM stands for Bill of Materials. Essentially, when you are in the design phase of a project, you want to account for the materials you will need, which helps you to better budget your project and purchase proper quantities. Being a Manufacturing Engineer, I am very familiar with BOMs, but it wasn’t until my dad made one up for our built-in office shelving unit that I realized just how useful they could be at home. Since BOMs are so simple to set up, I would encourage you to make one before starting your next DIY home improvement project.

This is a portion of the BOM my dad put together prior to starting our built-in bookshelf and murphy bed in the office.


A basic BOM needs to give you a list of materials with quantities needed and the unit cost. You then want to add the extended cost per line item (quantity * unit cost), and a project total at the bottom (sum of all extended costs). Taxes add up, so don’t forget to factor in your local tax rate for a more accurate total.

If you are purchasing materials from multiple sources, you may want to reference where each item will be purchased and add their part number (PN) for easy reference.

Shipping charges are another thing to consider, but since shipping charges aren’t typically known until you check out (or even after in some cases) I usually just leave a buffer in my budget to account for any I might have. Having a BOM will also help to reduce shipping charges, because you know what you need upfront, and can hopefully condense what needs to be ordered into as few shipments as possible.

I put together this BOM Template in Excel to help you get started.

Don’t forget the small stuff

Nails, screws, and glue add up, and if you don’t factor in at least an estimate of what you will need, you will be in for a surprise. Some stuff you just won’t know until you get started, but I suggest taking your best guess and adding it to your BOM in the design phase.

Update your BOM

As your project changes (as mine always do), don’t forget to update your BOM. Save each major update as a separate document (or separate tab in Excel), so you can reference prior versions as needed. Also, you can easily see the price impact that a mid-project change will have, helping you to decide if the change can be justified. When you finish your project, you can keep your BOM and all project receipts together for easy reference.

I hope you found this blog helpful and please feel free to leave any comments or further BOM making suggestions.


Landscaping Materials

When you only need a few bags of potting soil or decorative rock, buying individual bags from your local home and garden center might be a good option. But what if you need enough soil to fill your backyard, or enough gravel to create a solid base for your pavers? Well, you certainly don’t want to buy it by the bag if you don’t have to (we brought in around 60 yards of material to landscape our backyard). Anytime you buy materials by the bag, you are paying a premium and creating a lot of waste. In this blog I will give you some tips on where to get your landscaping materials and how to measure out what you need.

Where to Buy

Try doing a Google search for landscaping material retailers in your area (for those of you in the Reno, NV region, I strongly recommend BLT Ready Mix). If you don’t find any via search, try asking around at your local home improvement store. If you find multiple companies, compare materials, prices, and delivery charges. Unless you live close and have a pickup truck, you will probably want materials delivered, and some places offer free delivery if you order a full truck (sometimes it is worth getting a little extra just for the free delivery). If you plan to use your own truck to get materials, make sure you verify the capacity of your truck and the weight of the material (see the chart below for some weight estimates).

Measuring what you need

Landscaping materials are typically ordered by the cubic yard, and many places will let you order down to a half yard. A cubic yard is 3’x3’x3’ or 27 cu. ft. To determine how many yards you need of a given material, you need to determine the total number of cubic feet and divide by 27.

Ex: You have 5 planters that are 4’x8’x1’ each. Each planter is 32 cu. ft, for a total of 160 cu. ft. To determine the number of yards needed to fill all 5 planters, divide 160/27 which gives us 5.9 cu. yards, so you would round up and order 6 yards.

Uneven Ground

So what if you are trying to level uneven ground? Well, you can either divide the area into rectangles of the same depth (calculating the volume of each area individually), or you can use an average depth for the entire area. It really depends how critical the measurement is, but in the end it is still an approximation. I always try to overestimate when getting a delivery, and somehow even when you order too much, it always seems to fit somewhere.

The Delivery

If you are getting a large delivery, here are a few things to think about and check.

  • Do you need any permits or permission from the HOA? A large dirt mound makes it pretty obvious that you are working on something.
  • The delivery truck is extremely heavy, and most driveways are not built to withstand that kind of weight. To avoid damage to your driveway, ask the delivery driver to keep the wheels on the street when dumping the material. You should also avoid sidewalks if you have them, since if they crack, you will be responsible (our driver was familiar with our neighborhood and had never seen any problems, so we decided to risk the back wheels going on the sidewalk)
  • Is the pile going to extend into the street? Odds are that it will, especially if you don’t let the truck fully onto your driveway. Make sure you get what is in the street moved first so you don’t create a hazard or block drainage. We parked a car in front of the pile so no one would drive into it accidentally.

Dirt Mounds are Fun

It’s not every day that you have 10 yards of soil in your driveway, and kids love it. Before you haul it all away, let the kids have a little fun.


I hope this blog was helpful and let me know if you have any further questions on ordering landscaping materials.


Table Saw Jig

Have you ever tried to rip material on a table saw and had it continually pull away from the guide? Well, I have a jig just for you. Watch the video below to learn more.

Video Transcript:

Welcome back to the conclusion of jig week at Today I am going to show you one final jig that will help when ripping materials on the table saw. So what is the problem? Well, typically the material wants to pull away from the guide as you feed it into the saw, and sometimes the material even wants to kick back towards you. Not only does this cause a potential safety hazard, but it also makes for a very unclean and crooked cut. So how do you solve this? You got it, with a jig. For this jig you need a couple pieces of scrap wood. The first is just a block of wood (I used the end of a 2×4), and the second is a thin piece of wood that will bend (I used 1/4″ MDF/Hardwood that was approximately 1″x15″). Fasten them together with a couple of nails, and you have your jig. So how do you use it? Well, that is what I will show you next.

To use the jig, you first want to clamp it to the table saw as shown. You want to line up the “spring” end just before the saw blade (to avoid pinching the wood as it cuts), and about 1/2″ to an 1″ in from the edge of the wood you are cutting. To check if your jig is placed correctly, go ahead and slide your material into the saw and make sure you can push it through the jig. You’ll notice that you can’t pull the wood back out, which is due to the tension caused by the jig (this is what prevents it from kicking back and holds it snug against the guide). So now lets see how it works.

As you can hopefully see, the wood came out with a nice straight and clean cut. The best part is that this jig is so simple to setup, that you can use it anytime you have to rip material.

Well, that concludes “Jig Week” here at DIYProjectBlog. I hope I have shown you some valuable jigs that you can take home to your shop, helping to make your next DIY project more efficient. Please feel free to leave your comments or questions, and I hope that you will continue to follow the DIYProjectBlog as I continue to write about DIY tips, tools, and projects. Thank you!


Jig Week Series:


8′ Cutting Guide

Have you ever brought home that full sheet of plywood and wondered how you were going to cut it straight? Well, I have a very simple to make jig that will solve your problem. Take a look at the video below for more information.

Video Transcript:

Welcome back! Today, I will be showing you how to make an 8′ cutting guide that will allow you to cut full sheet good materials easily. This guide will cost you roughly $30 to make, but I venture to say it will be one of the most beneficial tools you’ll have in your shop, I know it has been for us. So what do you need to get started? First thing, is you need an at least 8′ long straight edge. I am using a 5/8″ preprimed MDF molding strip at 5 1/2″ wide. I also chose to buy a 10′ length instead of an 8′ length, that way I can make the guiding guide slightly longer than 8′ and I can use the excess to make a short version of the guide at a later date (this also comes in handy). Next you’ll need some form of hardboard. After sourcing different options, I found that using standard white board material was actually the least expensive option, and when you are done making your guide, you can mount the extra on your shop wall as a shop white board. Lastly, you’ll need some wood glue and some 5/8″ finishing nails or brads if you have a nail gun. So lets get started.

Start out by laying out your materials. If you are using a whiteboard, make sure that the whiteboard surface is face up. Next, if you are using a molding strip with rounded corners, make sure they are face down. At this point you want to measure the distance from the saw blade to the outside of your saw. I am using a SkilSaw which measures at 4″. Add an extra inch, and make a reference line in from the edge (5″ in my case) at the top and bottom of the white board. Now you can go ahead and glue to the straight edge. Make sure you stay away from the edges and that you go in a wave like pattern. Now we are going to lift the whiteboard on top of the straight edge, using our reference line to position it. Ahead of time, I marked up a paint stick with reference lines, so I know where the board underneath lines up for nailing. Nail your cutting guide together (put in a few to hold it in position and then fill in). I’ll go ahead and finish putting in the nails, then we’re going to let the guide sit for a little bit while the glue dries.

Now that the glue has had a chance to set up a bit, we flipped the guide over and clamped it down to our table. I’m going to cut off this one side so it matches the SkilSaw. Make sure you press down and in towards the guide so you get a nice clean cut. I’ll cut the other side with the SkilSaw as well, but feel free to use the other side for another tool, such as a router.

So now we have our cutting guide, but let me give you a few tips on how to use it. When you go to mark you material for cutting, mark each end of your material and shift the cutting guide to it “splits” the line, making sure you clamp the guide on the side of the material you wish to keep. When you go to cut, make sure you hold the saw vertical and that you push in towards the guide. This will help to prevent nicking of the guide. This may eventually happen, but at least it is a cheap guide to replace.

I hope this was helpful, and stay tuned for tomorrow’s jig here at Have a great day!


Jig Week Series:




Chop Saw Jig

Have you ever needed to cut 4 pieces of wood on the chop saw that were exactly the same length? How about 10 or 20 pieces? Well, watch the video below to see a simple jig that will allow you to make repeatable and accurate cuts on the chop saw.

Video Transcript:

Welcome back to Jig Week here at Today I am going to show you how to set up a jig that will allow you to make consistent cuts on the chop saw.

To get started find a scrap 2×4 that is fairly straight. Make sure it is long enough to support the materials you are cutting and block up the ends if it significantly overhangs the saw. Go ahead and clamp the 2×4 onto the chop saw, and make a marker cut as a reference line of where the saw blade is cutting. Now, measure your cut out from this line, mark it, and use a Swanson square to extend the line on the 2×4. Now find a scrap block of wood, and make sure the end is square (you can also cut a piece off of your 2×4 before you start). Clamp the block down on your line, and you have a jig.

Before using the jig, test your cut length on a scrap piece of wood, especially if you need a very accurate cut, or if you are using expensive materials. To make a cut, square up your wood with the saw and push it against the block you just put in place.

I hope this is a jig that you can take back and use in your home improvement shop. Come back and check out some more jigs later in the week. Thanks!


Jig Week Series: