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 lowesbuildandgrow.com). 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?

schedule

 

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.

Kitchen Trashcan

I have always had intentions of converting one of my kitchen cabinets to a pullout trashcan, but haven’t felt like spending the money for a conversion kit. After staying with my friend this last weekend, I realized that she had a brilliant idea; combine and convert 2 drawers into a pullout trashcan! It was so simple, inexpensive, and such a great solution that I just had to share it. Unfortunately it won’t work for our kitchen, but maybe it will for yours.

Convert 2 drawers to a trashcan drawer!

Step 1: Check Feasibility

In order to do this, you need drawer faces that touch each other with no cabinet fascia between the drawers. If you do have fascia between the drawers, you could always remove it and attach it to the drawer fronts to keep the basic visual, although you will notice gaps on the side.

Feasible Drawer (no fascia between drawers)

Infeasible Drawer (fascia between drawers) – although still possible if you cut out the fascia and attach it to the drawer fronts as a visual

Step 2: Remove bottom of top drawer

Take the top drawer completely out of the cabinet and remove the bottom of the drawer. Depending on how your drawer was constructed, you can cut it out or you may be able to disassemble it neatly. Note that this could weaken your drawer, so you may want to brace the drawer in a square position before removing the bottom.

Step 3: Combine the drawers

After placing the top drawer back in the cabinet, you need to combine the top and bottom drawers into one large trashcan drawer. My friend used a thin white hardboard to do this, and I think that was a perfect and inexpensive solution. You can cut the hardboard to the full drawer dimension, essentially creating one large enclosed drawer, or you can just connect the drawers with two strips at the front (the latter is what she did). Using short screws attach the hardboard and verify that your drawer opens and closes properly before adding all screws.

Combine drawers using thin hardboard

My friend absolutely loves this solution, and it was such a graceful way of using what was already there. Do you have any other thoughts on disguising kitchen trashcans? Please feel free to share them in the comment section below.

Building a Chicken Coop

The Chicken Coop is finally done and Mary and Nate have officially moved in (Ed got bullied and won’t be moving in until he feels better). This was such a fun project to work on, and I am so glad we were given the opportunity to build something so fun for the kids (and chickens).

Design and Planning

When taking on this project I didn’t know the first thing about building chicken coops. After some research I came up with a design (see Designing a Chicken Coop), but quickly realized that I didn’t know where to begin for constructing this thing. I continued to research and ended up building the chicken coop as a mini shed.

Original Sketch of the Chicken Coop

Original Design Using Google SketchUp

Since I love drawing in Google SketchUp, I decided to draw the frame out in detail so I knew exactly what I was doing. We had several 2x4s leftover from other projects, and daycare had a bunch of 4x4s that were donated, so we made use of the material available for building the frame. Once the drawing was complete, I was able to determine cut lengths from my drawing, and we were able to precut the frame pieces.

Chicken Coop Frame

Let the Construction Begin

With most of our framing material precut, the first construction phase was pretty straight forward. With high winds and kids running wild, we chose to cement the coop for added rigidity. To do this, we cut the posts to the rough dimensions, then leveled the frame itself. Once the cement was set, we used the Sawzall to trim the posts below floor board height.

Chicken Coop Foundation

With precut pieces, the frame assembled like a puzzle.

With the frame built it was time for siding, a chicken run, and a roof.

We precut the siding offsite, then used the jigsaw to cut out the windows after installation.

Securing the roof panel

Adding Trim

The details are what make a project like this come to life. With construction mostly done, it was time to add the trim. My dad had some old cedar fence panels laying around, so we were able to rip the panels down to the appropriate width and use them for the trim (we were also able to use my dad to help finish this part which I was so thankful for since time was running out). Although paint colors were still a choice to be made, the entire structure needed to be primed before color could be added, so my husband began the priming process as the trim was being finished. Having a mobile workshop was extremely helpful for this part of the process (see The Traveling Shop).

Added trim and began priming the structure

Paint

It was important that the chicken coop looked fun since it was ultimately for the kids. I chose 5 colors that were bright and worked well together, and then spent hours deciding which color should go where. I tore the paint swatches into several tiny pieces and I am pretty sure I drove my parents nuts trying to get 2nd opinions on my choices.

After tearing the paint swatches apart, I finally made a decision on paint colors.

To seal the wood properly from weathering and chicken smells, we painted the inside of the coop as well as the outside. Since we had our fun colors leftover, we chose to paint the inside these colors also.

We painted the inside of the chicken coop to seal the wood from moisture and odors.

Chicken Wire

We stretched chicken wire on all sides of the run, the gate, and the viewing window. To help prevent unwanted guests, we chose to line the bottom of the run with chicken wire as well, which we then covered with sand. I am sure there is an art to cutting and stretching chicken wire, but having never worked with it, we certainly did not have it. Chicken wire is very sharp and since it comes in a roll, it is a natural spring, making a hazardous scenario (moral of the story is to be careful). Although most of the run is free from sharp edges, we will be adding protector strips over the cut ends this week to prevent possible injuries to the kids.

Added chicken wire to the run

Final Items

After finishing the coop, we added shade screen on the far end of the chicken run so the chickens can escape the heat of the day. We also added an emergency pull string to the chicken run latch so the latch can be released from the inside (just in case the door closes while someone is inside). As winter approaches, we may add shutters to the viewing window, and we will be adding a weather strip to the step that opens to prevent water seepage into the nests.

Conclusion

I am so happy with how the chicken coop came out, and when I saw my daughter playing in it (pre-chickens), I realized how cute of a playhouse this would make (future project?). With the chickens all moved in, when I stopped by daycare today to see them, my daughter’s class was playing in the garden. The chicken coop steps were lined with kids trying to look in the window at the chickens, just as I had imagined them doing in the design process. So far it seems as though the children love the chicken coop, and I think the chickens like it too.

The Kids love the Chicken Coop

The Chickens love the Chicken Coop

Do you have any chicken coop experiences to share? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Office Organization

When remodeling our office I was determined to get away from the typical “junk drawer” (which usually turns into several “junk drawers”). I was actually so determined that I chose to have no drawers in my office at all! But with no drawers, what was I going to do with all of that “junk”? Well, since getting rid of it was not an option; the next best solution was a closet full of plastic shoes boxes. Crazy right? Well that is what I said when I saw my parents taking this approach, but read on and you can make that call yourself.

Step 1: Buy your boxes

Most big name stores such as Walmart and Target sell plastic shoe boxes for around $1-$2 each, and if this is all you have access to, these will work just fine. However, if you have a Container Store nearby, they sell the perfect shoe box (you can also buy them online). The box is pretty square so you don’t have a lot of wasted space from sloped sides, the sides and lid are clear so you can easily see what is inside, and the lids lock on really well. You can also buy the boxes by the case at a discounted price, and they sell several variations of the box in different dimensions (sweater boxes, men’s shoe boxes, and accessory boxes).

Great plastic shoe boxes from The Container Store

Step 2: Add Closet Shelving

Although you could stack a bunch of shoe boxes in your closet, it wouldn’t be the most practical approach for easily accessing each box. We have a small walk-in closet, so we chose to line two walls with brackets for adjustable shelving (you can use this shelving in a reach-in closet also). On one wall, we left the spacing large for big items, but on the other wall we added several 12” deep shelves spaced only a few inches apart. This gave us enough space for 40 shoe boxes, and should that not be enough, we can always add additional shelves. Now just imagine what you can organize into 40 shoe boxes! Sure beats a few unorganized junk drawers.

Step 3: Organize and Label

As my husband can attest, I can be somewhat obsessive when organizing and I hate getting rid of stuff. In my closet, I have a box for stickers, one for dry erase markers, another for envelopes, and you name it I probably have a box for it. To help keep me sane, I chose to label each box using an inexpensive label maker from Walmart. Although the boxes are clear, this helps to prevent cross contamination of contents, which would probably lead to “junk boxes”. Although I do have a box for Misc. Office Supplies, I try not to through stuff into existing boxes just because I don’t know what to do with it.

Label boxes for further organization

Step 4: Organize beyond the office

So once your office is organized, why not take your shoe box organization elsewhere? Try using the shoe boxes to organize medications, seasoning and spice packages, board game pieces, or whatever else you can think of. For less than $100 you can purchase 60 boxes, and organize your whole house!

 

I hope this blog helps with your Spring cleaning and organization efforts. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Golf Net

I never thought I’d be putting golf net designer or golf net builder on my resume, but after living on a golf course with hundreds of balls flying directly towards our house each week, building a new golf net was a necessity. The net that was previously installed at our house was built with treated wood 4x4s in a high wind area, and when one post snapped, the previous owners bolted another 4×4 on top of the short one, which was of course falling over when we moved in (see before picture below). Although not everyone has need for a golf net, for those that do, they are extremely expensive to have designed and built by the “professionals” (our neighbor got a quote around $3000, and they probably would have used the same treated 4x4s that our old net had). The net we built cost us around $1000, it has been regularly complemented as being the nicest net on the course, and I venture to say it will outlast most other nets because we put our money into quality materials instead of labor. We also built in a pulley system into our net, so we never had to climb a 20’ ladder, and the net itself can be easily repaired or replaced if ever damaged. In this blog I will go into the basic steps we took to build our golf net.

building and designing a golf net

The old net was improperly constructed and falling down (left). The new golf net (right) extends the property line, has clean sharp lines, and will withstand high winds.

Step 1: Prepping Post Holes

Our old golf net was placed about 2 ft in front of the fence that separated our property from the golf course. The fence was our property, so we decided to incorporate our golf net with the existing fence in order to extend our yard and give the property line a clean look. Our fence posts were approximately 8’ apart, so we wanted to replace every other one with a 20’ post to support our net. Although there are various wood choices, we decided to spend a little more for Redwood because of its strength, rot resistance, and because it matched our other fence posts (check your local lumber yard to see what is available and best for your area). We also chose to go with a 4×6 post for extra strength since we live in a high wind area.

To dig up the old posts, we rented a small jackhammer for a day to break up the old concrete. We needed holes that were at least 3’ deep to support our net, so we dug the existing post holes down to this level using a digging bar and the ShopVac .

3' Post hole

Step 2: Prepping our Posts

We wanted our golf net to be as high as possible using 20’ lumber. Since our ground wasn’t level, to determine the height of each post, we used the technique discussed in Tip #7 of The Level. We kept the total length of the post with the largest “X” equal to 20’, and cut the other posts accordingly (make sure to label your posts so you know where each one goes).

Pre-cutting your posts level

Once all posts were cut, we used Black Flag’s Copper Green wood preservative to treat the underground part of each post, helping to prevent future rot problems (even though Redwood is rot resistant, it was better to be safe). At the top of our posts we installed a pulley, a pole catch, and a post cap (before installing, we sprayed the hardware black using Rustoleum Spray-paint). Once all hardware was installed, we ran our rope through each pulley, attaching the ends together with a leader rope, forming one giant loop (the last thing you want is to lose your rope 20’ up). The main rope was just a few feet longer then the height of the net, and the leader rope was just enough so the rope loop was easily reachable from the ground.

Hardware installed at the top of each post (note: this post served as an end to our net and our neighbor's net so it has extra hardware to service both nets)

For the end posts, we needed a way to pull the net taught against the post. To do this, we installed a small pole catch near the top, so we could fasten the sides of our net to a ½” piece of conduit that would then slide into the catch and get fastened to the post in the middle and at the bottom.

At this point the posts were ready to be installed (see Installing a Fence Post for tips on this part of the process), although before concreting them we needed to sight everything. It is amazing that even with a 16’ tall golf net, your eye can pick up the slightest variances in height. You do your best to cut everything as perfect as possible, but you may still be off by an inch (also dirt in your hole can shift slightly as you drop your posts in). To sight the height, we stepped back onto the golf course and just looked. If something felt low, we added some extra gravel under the post until things felt right. Once all of the posts were good, we locked them in place and concreted them in. We then reattached our fence panels and added tie hooks near the ground directly below each pulley.

Setting the 20' posts in each hole prior to leveling and sighting them

Step 3: Prepping the Net

Although 16’ posts look pretty cool by themselves, they don’t do much to protect you from bad golfers, so it was time to prep our net. The net from our old golf net was in pretty good shape, so we chose to reuse it. If you need to buy a new net, there are tons of specialty online stores out there such as The Fish Net Company (they were recommended by a neighbor and seem to have the best prices). When buying, make sure the holes are small enough to catch a golf ball, and also make sure they have been weather and UV treated so they don’t deteriorate. The nets typically come in standard sizes, so if you build your net to one of these you can save some money, or you can have the net custom made to meet the dimensions you choose.

To hang our net, we fastened several sections of 1” conduit together until we had a solid piece matching the width of our net (make sure the connectors are not at the posts, or your poles won’t fit into the catches). We also chose to cap the ends of our pole so it didn’t become a home for insects. To install the pole, we tied the rope from each pulley to the pole in the appropriate spot using a Bowline Knot (see video below) secured with some zip ties. We then raised the pole up a few feet so we could easily attach the net. To raise the pole properly, we started at one end and worked our way down, lifting about 1-2 feet each time.

To fasten the net to our poles, we used lots and lots of zip ties. We started at one end and worked our way across, placing a black zip tie every few inches and pulling the net taught as we went along. There are other ways to secure the net, but zip ties were inexpensive, held the net taught, and if some need to be replaced in the future, we can easily pull our net down and fix it. We fastened the sides of the net in a similar fashion, but to a length of ½” conduit, which we then attached to the end posts.

We attached the net using zip ties every few inches

Step #4: Raising the Net

A mentioned before, it is important that you don’t stress the pole too much as you raise the net. Go down post by post, and raise each rope 1-2 feet at a time, then tie off the rope to the tie hook using a slip knot.  When lifting the net, if something gets stuck, don’t try to force it or you risk damaging your net. Simply back off the net slightly, evaluate what was happening, and try again. The first time we raised the net, it took some trial and error before we got into a rhythm.

Both our net and our neighbor's net 1 1/2 years after installation

Although building a golf net may seem like an intimidating project, it really isn’t much different than putting up a fence. If you are in need of a golf net, I hope this gives you some ideas on how to do it yourself. Feel free to leave any comments or questions, I’d be more than happy to give further details on any part of the process.

Crawl Space Storage

If you have a raised foundation and need extra storage space, then this is the blog for you! As my loving parents kept giving us all the Christmas decorations they no longer had room for (among lots of other stuff), we quickly realized that more storage was a necessity. I’m not big on crawling under the house myself, but my husband pointed out to me that the space under our front bedroom was completely open and ready to accept all of that stuff you only pull out once a year. The problem with the space was that we didn’t have any direct access to it, so we decided to make an additional hatch in the closet next to that room. Although this can be a great solution, there are some important things to keep in mind if you plan to do something like this. I will go into some of these precautions and also give some tips for making your crawl space storage the best it can be.

crawl space storage

Crawl Space Storage Room

Moisture and Pests

Some crawl spaces are very dry and free of rodents and insects, while others attract lots of moisture and have lots of those pests. Ours had no signs of moisture or pests, so it was a good candidate for under house storage. As a precaution, we keep everything in tote boxes, and we don’t keep any of our sentimental items in this location because you just never know. Although many homes already have this (and it is a requirement of pest inspections), adding a vapor barrier over the ground is a good idea, even if you don’t plan on using your crawl space for storage (check out this article from the Family Handyman for more information on installation). If you have a significant moisture problem under your house (or if you plan on digging the area out), you could also look into installing a sump pump system, which pumps out the water as it accumulates (check out this video from This Old House for more information on this option).

Location

When deciding on a storage space, it is important to keep in mind how you will access the space and how easy it will be to get your items in and out. The crawl space is where your plumbing and heating are typically run, so it is important to keep this as the first priority for the space. You also don’t want an access door in the middle of a room, so closets are typically the ideal location for access. If you don’t have an open area under your house with a close access point, adding crawl space storage may not be an option. In our case, the walk-in closet next to the bedroom was ideal for adding a hatch. Underneath the house thought, we had ducting running directly between the access point and the storage point, and a foundation beam with all the supports holding up our house (do not mess with foundation supports unless you really know what you are doing). The ducting was easy to move, so we bought a coupler and some extra ducting to reroute it behind our access point. Although the foundation beam was not ideal, we could still get through the beams easily, so we decided to move forward with adding our storage room.

crawl space storage foundation beam

Foundation Beam separating access point and storage room

Cutting a Hatch

If you have crawl space, then you already have an access hatch, although it might not be where you have storage space. If possible, I suggest making the space work around your existing hatch, but it you can’t, please consult a professional before moving forward with creating a new hatch. If you cut the hatch between floor joists, you will most likely be okay structurally, but if you need a larger opening, you may need to cut through a joist, which if done improperly can cause some major damage. We wanted a larger opening, so we had a professional come in to verify that what we were doing would not structurally compromise the house.

cutting a hatch for under house storage

Started with a small hole to verify location, then cut out the remainder of the hole, leaving the floor joist in place until the opening was fully framed in

Flooring

Another thing to keep in mind before cutting a hatch is that you will probably need to replace the flooring around and over the hatch. In our case, we were already in the process of changing the carpet over to wood laminate, so the flooring was not something we were concerned about. Along with the flooring, you should also think about what hardware you will use on the hatch door. You can purchase blind hinges if you want to make the door as discrete as possible (these can be pricey and are usually a special order item), or you can use traditional door hinges if you don’t mind the hinge sticking up a little when the hatch is closed. We chose to use the traditional door hinge because the hatch was in a closet and we weren’t trying to make a “secret” room. The handle is another thing to think of, and for this we used a standard pull handle, which actually gave the hatch a cool look.

hatch door for crawl space storage

Hatch door using standard door hinges and a pull handle

Lighting it all up

Now what good is a storage area if you don’t have any light? One option is to take a lantern or flashlight with you each time you go under the house; although this will probably make you much less likely to actually use your storage area. The other option is to add permanent lighting fixtures that you can turn on when you go “spelunking”. We added a fixture very similar to the one discussed in the Garage Lighting blog, although we used single fixtures and instead of running wire through conduit, we just used Romex (I believe we spent around $50 to install the lights). It is important to use low wattage light bulbs because they stay cool, and also make sure the lights are placed where you will not accidentally hit them as you move stuff around in your space (you can also buy cages for your lights to help prevent accidental breakage). Every time we go under the house to get something out or put something in storage, we simply plug in our fixture, and our storage room is as bright as day.

under house storage lighting

Crawl space lighting fixtures

It may seem like a lot of work, but if you have additional stuff to store, utilizing the space you already have under your house is probably a less expensive option then renting a small storage unit. Please feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.