Raised beds offer a simple and effective way to create a healthy and productive garden by manipulating the growing environment for the better. And the best part is, no matter how bad the ground you’re starting with, ideal planting conditions can be created for soil structure and drainage; essential keys to success.
In this video, This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook shows how to enliven a plain fence with climbing vines and flowering plants.
1. Drill ⅛-inch-diameter holes in fence. Locate the holes about 4 feet off the ground and about 6 feet apart.
2. Use a screwdriver to turn a screw eye into each hole.
3. Twist a length of galvanized wire around one screw eye, then pull it tight and twist around the remaining screw eyes. Use pliers to snip off the excess wire.
4. Repeat the previous three steps to install a second wire at about 2 feet off the ground.
5. Take a garden rake and clear the soil along the base of the fence of all weeds, leaves and debris.
6. Loosen the soil along the fence line with a small gas-powered rotary tiller.
7. Spread 2 to 3 inches of compost over the tilled soil.
8. Sprinkle fertilizer onto the soil, then turn over the soil once more with the rotary tiller.
9. Arrange the potted plants along the fence line, separating the climbing vines with flowering plants.
10. Dig planting holes with a shovel and pull the plants from their pots.
11. Loosen compacted root balls with a three-tine garden claw.
12. Set the vines into the holes, making sure to tip them back toward the fence.
13. Backfill around the root ball with compost/soil mixture. Repeat for remaining plants.
14. Remove any bamboo support sticks from the vine plants.
15. Carefully wrap the vine tendrils around the galvanized wires, and then loosely tie them in place with jute string.
16. Thoroughly water the plants, then spread 2 inches of cedar bark mulch over the soil.
Interior hollow-core closet, bedroom, and bathroom doors are very easy to work with because they’re so light. Installing pre-hung doors takes all the guesswork out of the task because the hinges are already installed and the door is secure in the jamb. All that’s needed is plumbing, leveling, shimming and nailing. Replacement doors are a bit trickier. Both these types are easy for a person working alone. Solid-core entry doors might require a helper.
Carpentry Tools and Materials
Router with a mortising router bit
Irwin door hardware installation kit
Mallet or hammer
Corded or cordless drill with drill bit slightly narrower than the hinge screws
New hinges and door knob (optional; the existing ones may be used)
Scrap wood to shim the door off the floor
Door Hinge Mortising
New passage doors are quite inexpensive but require precise preparation because each job is likely to be slightly different. Be sure the new door is the exact dimensions as the old one. Use the old door to transfer the hinge locations with a pencil (the distance from the top hinge to the top and the distance from the bottom hinge to the bottom are usually different).
Trace out the hinge leafs on the edge of the door, being sure the swing is the same as the old one. Put the mortising bit in the router and set the depth to the exact thickness of the hinge. Mortise out the marked areas with the router.
Hang the Replacement Door
This is also called “swinging the door.” These steps are methodical and should be followed carefully because there is zero tolerance for error. First, stand the door up so that the mortised areas are up against the hinge leafs on the jamb.
Measure the height differential to determine how high to shim the door so that the jamb hinge exactly matches the mortise. Shim the door up to that height and mark where the top middle hinge screw must go on the new door.
*Note: The hinge pin offset must match on both the door and the jamb.
Pre-drill the hole and install the screw. Now repeat the process with the bottom hinge. Use the wood chisel and mallet to make any minor mortise adjustments. Now test swing the door; it should fit just like the old one did. Finally mark the remaining screws, pre-drill, and secure.
Install the Door Knob
Use the tri-square to transfer the center of the strike plate on the jamb to the door; this will be the center of the door knob. Set the Irwin door knob template tool to the proper backset and use the included hole saws to drill out the holes for the door knob and latch bolt. Mortise for the latch bolt faceplate.
Now all that’s left to do is prime, paint, and install the hardware.
Seal Porous Granite Surfaces Properly to Provide Protection
Sealing granite surfaces is vital to helping them maintain their beauty. A granite counter top that is properly sealed and protected can be reasonably expected to outlast the home it is installed in.
Not All Granite Counter Tops Require Sealing
Different colors and types of granite have varying densities. Although granite is porous, the extent to which that can cause staining varies by the type of granite that is purchased. Typically darker colors have a higher density and thus may not all require sealing.
A quick way to test if a granite counter top needs to be sealed is to conduct what is known as the “water test”. Place several drops of water on the counter top and wait 20 minutes. If that water soaks into the granite, the stone should be sealed. If, however, the water beads up and remains beaded, the density of the stone is sufficient enough to resist stains on its own and does not require sealing.
Choose the Right Sealant for Granite Surfaces
Tim Carter, of AsktheBuilder.com, recommends that all individuals take the time to properly choose their granite sealer. He compares the different types of granite sealers consumers have to choose from to used cars on a car lot and recommends that anyone preparing to seal his or her granite counter tops be prepared to pay for a high-quality sealant that will provide a good level of protection for something as expensive and beautiful as granite. Skimping on price may just mean skimping on protection.
How to Seal Granite Counter Tops
The process of sealing granite requires proper preparation. Tim Carter warns that consumers planning on sealing their counter tops should make the proper preparations prior to sealing the granite. Preparations that need to be made include:
Be prepared to seal granite before the old sealer wears off
Make sure the granite is completely free of dust
Allow the granite to dry for 24 hours or leave a fan blowing on the surface for 8 hours.
The actual sealing process that follows is simple and most homeowners should be able to tackle it on their own without the aid of a professional.
Wipe the granite sealer onto the surface with a clean, dry cloth.
Allow the sealer to soak into the surface
When the sealer is almost dry, apply a second coat of sealant.
Allow the second coat of granite sealer to dry completely
Buff the counter top with a cloth. Tim Carter recommends terrycloth but warns against consumers using electric buffers to buff a granite surface after sealing.
Homeowners who opt for granite counter tops should remember that standard granite sealer will need to be replaced every year. Although “permanent” granite sealant can be purchased, the product name can be somewhat misleading as permanent sealant will need to be replaced approximately every 10 years.
Whether installing a classic mosaic pattern on a small bathroom floor, or bringing some interest to a backsplash by layering mosaics of different colors through a larger field tile, learning how to lay tile that is mounted in sheets takes practice and a little know how. Follow these tips to ensure that the job turns out the way it’s imagined.
Learn the Difference in Mounting
Mosaic tiles can come in a few different formats. Loose tiles, which care placed individually, and those that are mounted on mesh, craft paper or contact paper.
Loose mosaics are installed like any other tile, and are typically used for accenting, or piecing together a small, but intricate design. Mounted mosaics come in full square foot increments in patterns to be pieced together, or in sheets of one color or repeating design that can be cut up.
Mesh mounted mosaics have the sheet mounted to the back of the tiles. These tiles are installed right side up, with the mesh being pressed directly into the mortar, and are among the easiest mosaics to install.
Face mounted material will have either brown craft paper, or contact paper covering the front of the material. In the case of custom mosaic patterns, there will sometimes be contact paper on both sides, the back side of which will need to be removed prior to installing. These mosaics are installed with the paper facing out and the mosaic tiles being pressed directly into the mortar.
Paper faced material is typically used with glass mosaics, where the mesh could be seen through the glass, or in materials that are uneven in thickness. Face mounted material will require extra steps during the install to ensure that the spacing between the sheets is even, thickness differences are accommodated and the paper is removed when the tiles are set.
Begin by gathering the supplies needed for installation, including a grout float, tile saw, tile nippers, sanded grout, white thinset, tile spacers to the exact size of the grout joints already set in the sheets, sponges, water and trowel. Prepare the surface to be clean and dry; mosaics are able to “flex” more than other materials, due to the many grout joints, making them ideal for floors and other surfaces that are less than flat.
Begin with a dry layout; practice piecing together the patterns, and lining up the grout joints, to ensure an even pattern without visible separation between the sheets.
Make any cuts at this time, either to the mesh or paper or to the tiles themselves with the tile nippers or saw. Lay the sheets from the center of the wall outward to the sides to ensure an even layout with cut tiles buried in corners.
Mesh mounted materials can go down in full or partial sheets much like any other material. Paper faced materials, however, should first be back buttered, or have an even coating of thinset applied to the back of the sheet to even out thickness differences and provide an even surface with no trowel marks for glass tiles. Flip the sheet upside down and sprinkle dry grout into the joints to prevent the thinset from leaking through. With the flat edge of the trowel, smooth a layer of thinset onto the back of the sheet. This is in addition to any thinset applied to the wall, and can be used to make up thickness differences between mosaic accents and field tiles as well.
When the sheets are in place, and the spacing correct, allow paper faced material to set for about an hour. Thoroughly soak the paper with water to loosen the glue and peel the paper away. Any tiles that come loose should be replaced with a small amount of thinset as quickly as possible. Make any adjustments to the grout joints at this time, and leave to dry for 24 hours. Apply the grout at this, taking care to pack it well in to the many grout joints before wiping away excess and leaving the grout to set for an additional 24 hours..
Mosaic designs can be created by cutting up and reconfiguring the sheets prior to install for a creative, custom look. Mosaics also create inexpensive and interesting borders when cut into strips.
Always be sure to remove a few tiles from paper faced material upon receipt to ensure that the correct material has been received, as it can sometimes be difficult to tell when looking at the back of the tiles.
Be sure to work slowly and carefully, and enjoy the product of effort and the beauty of the mosaics for years to come.
Use Square-End and Sash Brushes with Natural or Synthetic Bristles
No one would expect a Nascar racer to be competitive in a go-kart, or a home framer to be productive using a hand saw rather than a circular saw to cut studs. The same thing is true of professional painting contractors. High quality painting tools are essential.
Use the Right Bristle Brush
There are a wide variety of paint brushes available. Altogether too often, when a homeowner decides to tackle an interior or exterior painting job, the brush purchasing rationale is that when doing just one job, why spend the money on expensive brushes?
Nothing could be further from the truth. Buy quality products like Purdy. It will go a long way towards professional results, and with care, the brushes can be used in multiple projects in the future. These are the 2 most common types of brushes:
Sash brushes. These are the ones that have the bristles tapered from one side to the other. They’re great for getting into corners. Another basic use is cutting in edges and corners. The term sash originates from window sashes (window frames).
Square-end brushes. These are used for flat surfaces. Like their sash cousins, they come in a variety of widths.
Characteristics of a Quality Paint Brush
The best ones cost more because of the time and materials that go into their construction. There are several things to look for:
Packaging. It sounds silly, but how the brush is packaged at the store is an indication of quality. The ones that are simply laying in a bin are junk. Look for packaging that is essentially a container for the business end of the brush, with a hole at the bottom to slide the handle through. Do not throw this away. This is for storing the tool after use to keep the bristles straight.
Multiple wood spacers between bristle rows. These are located in the heel and are there to hold more paint when it’s loaded up.
Reinforced metal ferrules. This is the metal transition piece between the handle and the bristles and it holds the bristles in place. Look for a one that holds them securely; no one wants to pick loose bristles out of just-spread paint or see one encased in dry paint like a fossil.
Natural Bristles or Synthetic?
Generally speaking, use natural bristles for oil-base paint and synthetic bristles for latex-base paint. Using a natural bristle brush in water-based paint will damage it.
Other than that, the reason for using different materials in different bases has to do with how well they hold and spread the product.
Use Paint Rollers for Larger Areas
These are used for painting walls or ceilings. Always look for a uniform nap on rollers, as well as beveled edges, not square, so as not to not leave a bead at the edges. Also, use a resin tube that won’t saturate and break down when subjected to wet paint.
How long should the nap be? The general rule is the smoother the surface, the shorter the nap. For smoother walls and ceilings, use a 3/8” nap. For semi-rough surfaces like concrete, use a 1/2” – 3/4” nap. For rougher surfaces like stucco or brick, use 1” – 1 1/4”.
Every homeowner wants to avoid gutter streaks, also known as tiger stripes. These streaks on your gutter or wall just keep on appearing and you have no clue where they are coming from. So the best solution you can come up with is to call in for repairs and a new installation for your gutter. When most homeowners notice these streaks, they tend to conclude that they must install new gutter system. Before you start installing new gutters, just ensure that the streaks are not as a result of the following factors.
Accumulation of dirt and grime
In most cases, since the gutter system is exposed to the open environment, it is very possible to see lines forming on the gutter and the adjacent wall. When dust and other pollutants get in contact with water, these lines will appear. Other chemicals especially from acid rain and those that are in the air will react and form lines on the gutters as well. The lines can be a big problem as they are not easy to clean away and they are not easy to control either.
In this case, you get professional gutter cleaners to help remove these lines. Though they may seem stubborn, a professional gutter cleaner has all the necessary tools to clean gutters effectively.
Not cleaning the gutters regularly
If you see the streaks on your wall and gutter, the first thing you should is to try and clean them away. Make sure that you chose the cleaners keenly. Some stains will just come off with simple detergents that will not harm the gutter while other may require some very powerful detergent depending on the cause of the stain.
If the paint on the gutter is can easily come off if you use stronger cleaning agents then you can just clean the area more than once to get the stain off. If the option of cleaning is not making the situation better then you can ask a gutter professional to come in. In such cases, gutters experts advice that you should contact a professional gutter cleaners.
Gutter streaks can make your gutters appear ugly and in fact reduce the value of your home. Therefore, getting rid of such streaks is part of gutter cleaning exercise and should be taken seriously.
Protect Your Walls and Add Update the Look of Your Cooking Area
Install a Kitchen Backsplash
Backsplashes on the walls above kitchen countertops or cooking surfaces will add a touch of style to your food prep area and will also protect the walls and simplify cleaning chores. Backsplashes will protect the wall from water in your sink area and will also protect from grease splatters around the cooking surface. Even though you can employ a professional to install it, a do it yourself backsplash is a very doable project for any DIYer to take on.
A Variety of Backspash Materials
Prefabricated cabinets are sometimes built with a plastic laminate backsplash but adding this type of backsplash after the fact is usually not a viable choice for a DIYer project if your design includes a curve at the point where your countertop intersects your wall. But it is fine to cut a piece of laminate and attach it using contact cement. Simply run a small bead of latex or silicone caulk where the countertop meets the wall.
Stainless steel is popular in commercial settings and lately has become popular in the home market. But as an add-on it might not look quite right if it does not fit in with the kitchen’s theme.
Another popular material is granite. The benefits are its durability and elegance. It will instantly raise the equity in your property. But the downside is its high cost and even though a DIYer can install it, all cutting must be subbed out.
A Better Backsplash Choice is Ceramic Tile
A very stylish and economical type of backsplash material is tile, either glazed or glass. Tile is very reasonably priced plus it’s simple to apply. If you are looking for an ideal weekend DIY project, this is it. The smooth glazed surface of the tile ensures that it’s a breeze to clean as well as disinfect – a strong plus in your food prep area. Installing tile isn’t hard; a 3 on a scale of 1 to 10. The tile is installed the first day and then it’s grouted on the second.
A huge plus for tile is the incredible array of sizes and colors. Consider the possibilities: a solid color, a mosaic tile pattern, or a color combination. To ensure that the colors or pattern you like fit in with your kitchen’s look, purchase several pieces, take them to your kitchen, and give them a try. Also, you might want to get creative by mixing in theme tiles that are embossed with farm or fruit pictures.
Installing a Tile Backsplash
When installing glass tile, use thinset to bond it to your wall. When installing glazed tile, use a special tile mastic. Always place plastic tile spacers between the individual tiles when you are setting them. Just remove them after the mastic or thinset is dry before you grout. When you cut tile be sure to use a wet saw. You can probably find a rental at your local tool rental outlet. Don’t bother with score ‘n snap tools because you won’t get satisfactory results.
Applying grout to your backsplash is simple. All that’s needed is a float, a sponge, and a bucket of water. Choose a grout color that looks right with the colors of the tile. Remember that the lighter colors show dirt more readily.
Wait overnight for the grout to completely dry and then apply a grout sealer. Your kitchen will be wet or greasy when you prepare meals and grout that is not sealed can be a hiding place for bacteria.
Home Remodel with Domestic or Exotic Wood Planks to Add Warmth
How to Install a Hardwood Floor
Hardwood flooring continues to be popular with homeowners. Although laminate flooring has been gaining market share, the hardwood flooring manufacturers have responded by developing and distributing prefinished hardwood tongue and groove hardwood planks.
DIY homeowners who aren’t experienced with finishing wood floors should stick to the prefinished variety. But either way, this article is a step by step guide on how to install a hardwood floor.
Hardwood floor installation hint – Let the planks sit inside the home for three days after delivery to stabilize with the interior humidity level.
Subflooring for Hardwood Floors
Hardwood floors need a flat, solid subfloor to rest on. This can be a moisture-proofed, well finished concrete slab, an existing floor (excluding carpeting), or plywood on floor joists.
The first step is to remove any shoe base or quarter round on the baseboard.
Next roll out 15-pound asphalt felt. Overlap the seams by 3” and use a staple gun to attach it to the floor. The felt will keep any moisture from the wood and it provides good sound control.
Layout the Hardwood Floor
Find the center of the room by measuring from the wall.
Mark it and snap a chalk line through the marks. This is the control line.
Now strike a chalk line parallel to the control line 1/4” to 3/8” from the wall. This will be the edge of the first run of hardwood planks and allows for expansion from moisture.
Install the Hardwood Planks
Use the chalk line as a guide and nail the first run of planks down; the tongue side should be towards the center of the room.
First nail straight down close to the wall where the shoe base will cover the nail holes. Either use a hammer, finish nails, and a nail set; or use a finish nail gun. If going with the hammer, pre-drill the holes.
Now nail through the tongue at a 45 degree angle.
Next nail the next run of planks down with the tongue of the first in the groove of the second. Again, nail through the tongue. From now on, no end joint should be less than 10” from the end joint of the adjacent run.
Continue in this fashion nailing down the runs. When the opposite side of the room has been reached, it may be necessary to rip the final run at an angle if the room is out of square. Don’t forget to leave the expansion gap.
Finishing Up the Hardwood Floor Installation
If unfinished hardwood was used, this is the time to finish the wood with a floor drum sander and a finish.
Finally, finish up with baseboard installation (if none was there) and shoe base or quarter round.
Now, all that’s left is routine hardwood floor maintenance.
Hammer, Pry Bar, Screwdriver, Saw, Utility Knife, Drivers & Tin Snip
Eight Essential Tools for the Home
It doesn’t matter whether you plan to do any DIY jobs, just moved into a new home, or are newly divorced and find yourself solely responsible for all those pesky little annoyances that inevitably pop up; everyone needs a toolbox stocked with essential tools. Let’s take a look…
First Things First
The first thing to buy is a toolbox. Get a sturdy, good sized one. Something on the order of twenty inches long, twelve inches wide and twelve inches deep. They come in all shapes and sizes so these are just a ballpark figures. It needs a sturdy handle. It should have a removable top tray with compartments for all the nails, screws, washers, and picture hangers that will accumulate over time.
Hand tools are Handy
Consider the humble hammer. One of the oldest tools, it dates back to caveman days. Today the basic concept is the same, but with many different models. There are ball peen hammers, roofer’s hammers, claw hammers, framing hammers… You want versatility, the most bang for your buck. And this would be a sixteen ounce, straight claw hammer with a fiberglass handle. Heavy enough to actually drive a nail, light enough to keep you from talking dirty!
Screwdrivers. Here is another tool with a mind-numbing selection. Yes, you need a variety. Luckily, usually you can find a set that includes most of what you need. In addition, it doesn’t hurt to have a small set of jeweler’s screwdrivers for those little jobs.
Buy a small pry bar, somewhere in the eight to ten inch range. This will come in handy for a multitude of tasks; many times used in conjunction with your hammer.
Pliers are all over the map in variety and usefulness. Every dwelling should have several in box. For minor plumbing issues and other tasks demanding a wider grip, get a pair of “slip joint” or “groove joint” pliers. Needle nose pliers will come in handy for those small, tight jobs. Rounding out the family of essential pliers are locking pliers. A pair of locking pliers are at times the only thing that will remove a stubborn nut. Get a large pair and a small pair.
A small saw. As with the hammer, you want something that will be versatile. Your best bet is a hack saw. Lightweight and easy to use, it can tackle most small household jobs. Although designed to cut metal, it also does an exceptional job on wood and plastic PVC.
Throw a utility knife into that new toolbox. This is an all around, comfortable tool that will keep you from ruining your kitchen knives. We’ve all been there…
It’s always nice to have a set of nut drivers handy to speed up the job of removing nuts or bolts. Not quite as good as a full-blown socket set, but great for light jobs around the house.
A good pair of tin snips are sometimes the only tool to reach for. Not those huge ones but the ones that are six to eight inches long with plastic handles. The usual styles are right cut, left cut, and straight cut but a straight cut will handle almost any job.
The Joy of a Full Tool Box
So there you have it; the must-haves in the world of home maintenance. One caveat here; you really do get what you pay for. A cheap tool is in the end the most expensive tool. Do NOT buy one of those packages of “everything you need” for $19.95. Select individual quality tools. Happy repairs!