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:

Introduction to Jigs

Jigs are extremely useful for many DIY projects, and since I love jigs so much, I have dedicated an entire week to them – “Jig Week”. Below is an introductory video that explains what a jig is and why you should consider using some in your DIY home improvement shop.

Video Transcript:

Welcome to Jig Week here at This week is all about jigs.

What is a jig? Jigs are typically used in manufacturing to help make processes more efficient, accurate, repeatable, easier, and sometimes safer. Why should you use them in your home shop? Because they will save you time, money, and headaches.

Let me give an example. We recently built a floor to ceiling book shelf in our home office. To do this we needed to cut 20 bookshelves that were exactly the same. We could have sat there and measured each shelf out to cut it, but that would have been pretty repetitive and wasted a lot of time. So we used some scrap wood and took 5-10 minutes to make a jig. The jig allowed us to cut all 20 shelves very quickly and it also ensured that our shelves were the same dimensions.

This week I have 3 exciting jigs to show you. The first is a jig for the chop saw that will let you make accurate and repetitive cuts. The second is an 8′ cutting guide that can be used to cut full sheet goods. Lastly I will show how to set up a jig that helps you while ripping material on the table saw.

I hope you can check out these jigs this week, and I hope that they help to improve the efficiency of your next DIY project. Thank you!


Jig Week Series:

Budgeting Projects

Before starting any home improvement project, make sure you know what those projects will cost and how much you are willing to invest. Projects have a lot of hidden costs, and things always seem to come up to make them cost more. In this blog I will give you some tips to budget your projects and to keep you on track with that budget.

Family Budget

Look at your overall family budget and determine how much money you want to use for home improvements. Do you have a lump sum that you set aside when purchasing your home? Can you spare $100/month to put towards home improvements? Make sure you don’t take away from your home maintenance budget (or other essentials), because things always come up outside of home improvement projects. Also, whatever amount of money you choose, make sure it is appropriate for the value of your home and your neighborhood. If you bought a home for $100k and the average home value in your neighborhood is $120k, it would be silly to add $100k worth of home improvements, unless you have the money and truly want to stay where you are at (in other words, you don’t care about ROI).

Project List

Start a list of projects that you want to complete. Think large and small; from remodeling the kitchen to replacing door knobs. Determine the priority of each project (I use a 1-5 scale with 1 being the highest priority); should it be done before you move in or can it wait a few years?

What is each project worth to you?

For each project determine a justifiable cost; for a kitchen remodel, would you be willing to spend $1,000 or $10,000 to have a new kitchen? This justifiable cost has nothing to do with the real project cost; this is simply about personal worth. Obviously a $1,000 and a $10,000 kitchen remodel will get you completely different results, but in the next step you may find that the $1,000 you can justify is enough to make the changes you really want.

Project Estimate

Small projects are pretty easy to estimate costs on, so go ahead and tally up what they will cost (replacing door knobs, painting, changing your blinds). Big projects are a lot harder to estimate, so I suggest creating a separate spreadsheet for each one. Start with the major costs to get a good rough number; for a kitchen remodel these would be the appliances, countertops, cabinets, etc. As you go through this process, reflect back on the justifiable cost you already set. If you have a $1,000 budget for the kitchen and want slab granite countertops, it probably won’t happen; but would you be happy with granite tile instead? Come up with these alternatives as you budget the project, listing them as Choice A, B, or C. As you budget your individual projects, always overestimate and roundup. Depending on the type of project, I tend to add on an additional 10%-50% of my original estimate, just to be safe. Screws, glue, sandpaper, and other small items really add up quickly, plus I am known to add things on mid-project.

Determine Feasible Projects

Some projects will be pretty obvious no-goes, such as the “converting attic to playroom” shown in the example below. I was so stuck on this idea for the longest time; planning out where the stairs would go, and how we could finally take back our living room from my daughter’s toys. I finally called my contractor over (aka Dad) and asked about the feasibility of the project. Yes, it was technically feasible, but with the structural changes involved, it would be over a $5,000 project. Although the extra room would be nice, I’d rather put that money towards a larger home in the future, when we really need that extra space. Although the list below is mostly fictional, I like to use highlight colors to signify where each project stands; grey = ‘no way’, green= ’active’, yellow = ‘next in line’, and red = ‘done’.

Sample Project Spreadsheet

Reviewing Your List

Once you have your project list, reflect back on it from time to time. As you live in your house or as other things come up, projects will continually change priority, their value to you will also change, and your home improvement budget may also go up and down. Due to some really bad golfers (we have a 16’ golf net that sits on a 2’ hill and they still manage to hit balls over it), my daughter’s swing set is in the “danger-zone”. We now need to build an overhead structure as soon as possible to protect her, and because it is for safety, the justifiable cost is whatever it needs to be and the priority is very high.

I hope you found these tips helpful. Please feel free to share any other budgeting tips you might have in the comment section below.