Monthly Archives: September 2015

  • Handyman Help: Install a Porch Swing

    A porch swing is an attractive feature for many homes – it is a symbol of leisure, and reminds us to stop and smell the roses every now and then. Installing a porch swing also gives your family an additional outdoor gathering space. Many swings come pre-assembled so it’s just a matter of the family handyman attaching it to the porch.

    Before starting the installation process, consider the features of your porch swing. Is there a one-chain mounting system or multiple? How many friends will you need to assist in order to hoist the piece into place?

    Also, gather your tools before you start the heavy lifting. You will need a level, a ladder, a socket wrench and sockets, screwdrivers, measuring tape, and a pencil.

    Next, measure your porch for the swing arc to ensure there is plenty of room for the back and forth motion. Decide where you want the swing, hold the measuring tape on that spot on the ceiling, extend the tape the length of the swing itself, and swing the tape. If it does not hit anything in the front, back, or sides, your location is good.Girl Relaxing on Porch Swing

    For single chain porch swing installation, find a stud for placement as the weight of the swing from a single point can cause damage to the structure of the home. For a double chain porch swing installation, additional measuring is required to place the chains properly to ensure the swing has a straight presentation.

    If you have a swing that is already assembled, optimize the installation process in the following way:

    • Measure the space where the swing will be placed to ensure there are no obstructions for the back and forth movement.
    • Mount the chain or chains in the proper space, taking consideration that there will be space needed on the sides for the char portion. There should be no slack in the chain.
    • Hoist the swing onto the chain and bolt it down. The swing can be removed off of the chair for adjustments if necessary. It is challenging to fix the chain holes in the ceiling, so take the time to get that step right.

    Enjoy the changing of seasons on your new porch swing, and improvise according to weather. On warmer days the whole family can enjoy relaxing afternoons drinking lemonade, while blankets and hot chocolate can be staple items on cold days.

  • Arts & Crafts: Fall Craft Projects for Kids

    Fall is a wonderful time of the year for children to harness their creativity. And they certainly have plenty of inspiration with the shift in weather, the changing colors of leaves, and Halloween around the corner. The following arts and crafts projects will bring out the artistic side of a child, while giving parents decorative pieces to display around the house.Kid Painting Handprint on Paper

    A Fall Handprint Wreath: Supplies needed include paper plates, colorful construction paper, washable paint colors, glue, fake or real fall leaves, ribbon, and scissors. You or an older child will need to assist with steps that involve cutting and gluing, depending on the age of the child. First, create the base of the wreath by cutting out the middle of the paper plate. Next, using a paintbrush and the different colored paints, the child will need to make a series of colorful handprints. (They will need to wash their hands between the different colors.) Have them press their painted hand on construction paper of various colors. In the end, there should be a mix and match of colorful handprints. Cut out the handprints and tie a ribbon around the ring to make a loop (for hanging once complete.) Glue the leaves around the wreath and then glue the handprints – arrange in any way the child prefers. Allow the wreath to dry completely and hang on the wall, a door, or over a window.

    Q-Tip Painted Fall Tree: This is an easy but fun and creative art project for children of all ages. You will need a handful of Q-tips, a white sheet of paper, autumn-inspired paint colors, and a small paintbrush. Have the child start by making the trunk of the tree with brown paint and add a few branches. They can then fill in the leaves on the tree using Q-tips and paint – the dots will start looking like a tree.

    Craft stick Scarecrows: Supplies needed include craft sticks, felt, googly eyes, tacky glue, cardstock, and markers. Before the children begin, cut out the following parts of the scarecrow – the hat, hair (7 small rectangles), and nose from felt using different colors. Get the kids started by cutting out a square from cardstock and attaching the craft sticks with glue to keep them sturdy. Glue on the hair and then the hat. Attach the googly eyes and nose to the scarecrow, before drawing a mouth with a black marker. Finally, attach a ribbon on the back to hang!

  • Handyman Help: How to Build a Secret Door Bookcase

    Building a secret door in your home is a fun way to hide a personal space, while feeling a bit like a man (or woman) of mystery. There are numerous methods that involve remote activated openings to the classic false wall-door or bookshelf door. Building a secret door bookcase with a unique locking mechanism based on a sliding book, as well as secret compartments inside the bookcase is challenging. The following steps will give you the big picture when it comes to all that must be done to complete this advanced handyman project:Antique Books

    1. Find the space in your home. It may be obvious where a secret door bookcase should be built, or you may have to alter the layout of your floor plan to create the perfect spot.
    2. Consider your design. For maximum secrecy, blend the bookcase in with the rest of the furniture.
    3. Gather your materials and tools which will definitely include sanded plywood, panels of laminated pine project board, construction lumber, a Murphy door kit, a table saw, a miter saw, router, drill, etc.
    4. Cut out your bookshelves.
    5. The outside of each bookcase will be made of about 5 pieces of wood, which must get assembled before the rest of the case.
    6. Add holes for adjustable shelving. Make more shelves than you think you need.
    7. Build horizontal members. You should end up with about 6 L-shaped shelves.
    8. Assemble the cases.
    9. Attach plywood backs – one of the easier steps in the project.
    10. Build a valance, which can be done entirely with pocket screws. Keep the top of the valance hollow if you want to make a secret compartment on top of your secret door.
    11. Sand and finish the entire bookcase.
    12. Install the lower track.
    13. Install the bookcase. You will need the help of your handyman friends for this step, as the bookcase doors can be difficult to handle alone. Attach the pivot hardware, join the 2 sides of the door with a piano hinge, stand the door upright, put the valance on top with spacers, mark the drill hole locations, remove the valance, drill the holes, and then replace the valance and lag bolt it into place. The bookcase should now be fully operational as a secret door.
    14. Additional spy-worthy features include making a secret compartment in the valance and making a secret lock that only you know about. When you push a specific book, it releases the bolt head.
  • Arts & Crafts: Turn “Junk” into Functional Items for your Home

    Parting with items that have been lying around the house for ages may be more difficult that we imagine. If tossing items in the trash for good seems like a waste of potentially good items, consider recycling them for a functional purpose in your home. Many of the ideas below may also add some edge and art appeal to your space.

    Mason Jar into Soap Dispenser: Mason jars are one of the most versatile items and may be used for projects ranging from candleholders to plant holders. For this project, you can repurpose an old Mason jar into a soap or lotion dispenser for your bathroom or vanity. Start by measuring and marking the center of the jar’s lid. Using a ½” high-speed drill bit, make a hole to fit the width of a soap dispenser pump. (You can use pumps from your old lotion bottles.) Fill the Mason jar with liquid soap (or lotion), screw the lid back on, and insert the pump. You may need to cut some of the pump length to fit inside the jar. Glass Jars

    Rake Head into Stemware Holder: If you have an empty wall space, suspend an old rake head to hang stemware. First, remove the handle by cutting it off carefully and sanding the cut end. If you do not have the tools to cut it off yourself, check with a hardware store in your neighborhood. Use a 3/16” metal drill bit to drill two holes per rake head directly into the center of the handle’s back side, about one inch apart from each other. Use either 3” toggle bolts or 3” anchor screws to screw the rake heads into the wall. Hang it upside down and make sure it is level. You can now add your stemware to this cool piece. (This project may also be done in the bedroom for a functional tie-and-belt rack, or to hang jewelry items.)

    Crates into Shelving: Old fruit crates are perfect to use as shelves to display Mason jars full of jams, books, potted plants, dishes, etc. The uses are limitless! Arrange your old crates on the floor into a pattern/layout you like. Proceed to mount the crates on an empty wall, starting with the top row, using a level, anchors, and screws. For each crate, drill holes through each the four corners and insert anchors into the holes. Holding the box in place so that the holes align, drill screws through the holes to attach the crate to the wall. Proceed to use these functional new shelves as you wish.

    Here are more ideas that will inspire you.

  • Weekend Warrior: DIY Frosted Glass Windows for More Privacy This Fall

    Large windows are great for letting natural light into a home, while also making a space appear bigger. But they can present a dilemma when it comes to maintaining a level of privacy. Those who want as much natural light as possible but still have all the privacy they need may consider frosting their windows. There are multiple ways to frost glass windows, all of which can be done in the course of a weekend. Choose one of the following methods that is most relevant to your space:

    Frosting with Static Cling Film

    To get started, measure the glass surface to be frosted. Be sure to wash your hands using soap and water to avoid transferring dirt or oil to the cling film. Roll out the cling film with the backing faced upwards on a clean surface. Outline the desired shape/size on the backing and cut it out with scissors or a utility knife. Spray the window surface with a water/dish detergent mixture to ensure it is completely clean. To install – peel the backing from the cling film and position on the glass. Use your hands to push out air bubbles, starting in the center of the window and working out the edges. Spray the front of the cling film with the soapy water and use a plastic card to press out any small bubbles. (Wetting the surface with soapy water and peeling it off can easily remove the film. Return to the original backing paper and store for later re-use, if desired.)

    Frosting Windows with Acrylic GlazeStained Glass Window

    Buy a clear/un-tinted acrylic glaze. Use a foam brush to outline the window plane with a coat of glaze. Try to keep the lines straight as this glaze shows brush strokes when it dries. Allow the coat to dry before applying a second coat – and your frosted glass windows are done! To remove the glaze, use a wet sponge and old credit card or plastic squeegee to scrape it off.

    Frosting with Spray Paint

    There is a special type of spray paint that allows you to frost glass. Clean the glass thoroughly and tape off the window or doorframe. Apply a thin coat of the spray paint and let it dry. Continue to apply additional coats until you are satisfied with the opacity. To remove this finish, simply use a glass scraper and water/soap mixture to remove stubborn paint.

    Frosting by Etching

    This method requires more equipment than the previous options. You will need to rent/borrow/buy a sandblaster. Protect the work area with a heavy canvas drop cloth, wear eye protection, work gloves, and a face mask. First, remove the window glass from the frame, wash it, and allow it to dry properly. Place the window glass in the center of the drop cloth and follow the manufacturer’s directions to etch the entire surface of the glass. Clean the window glass of excess grit, and replace the glass in the window frame.

    *Note: Etching cream is not recommended for large surface areas because of its potentially toxic fumes. This method is permanent and cannot be undone.

  • Safety and Sanitation: The Benefits of Composting at Home

    Composting at home is a natural way of recycling garden and kitchen waste for use in a garden – providing an eco-friendly alternative to peat. And best of all, composting is not just for avid gardeners or individuals with a spacious garden – anyone can do it. Among the benefits of composting at home:

    • Compost enriches the soil. It has the ability to help regenerate poor soils. It has also been shown to reduce diseases in plants, reduce or even eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers, and promote a larger amount of agricultural crops. It also increases the nutritional value of homegrown foods.
    • Composting organic materials that do not have to end up in landfills avoids the production of methane and leachate in the long run.
    • Using compost in the garden ultimately reduces the need for water, fertilizers, and pesticides – therefore providing economical benefits for those who compost.
    • Composting is environmentally friendly since preparing your own fertilizer reduces the human footprint on the planet.Wheelbarrow Filled with Compost Soil

    Anyone can compost regardless of how much space they have available – a 50-acre lot, or a 500 square foot apartment. At the most basic level, collect kitchen and yard scraps in a store-brought compost bin in your backyard, or in a plastic bin under the kitchen sink. Here are a the basics steps for composting:

    1. Choose the container: Options range from sealed bins to ones that have a door for adding organic matter. There are even barrels on a stand that allow for tumbling. Those who want a conventional compost can build a 4-sided container from scrap timber. Position the heap away from the house if it is not a sealed container.
    2. Start piling organic matter such as vegetables, fruits, paper, newspapers, small sticks, grass clippings, straw, etc.
    3. Maintain a 30-to-1 carbon to nitrogen ratio. Good sources of carbon included finely shredded cardboard, fruit, leaves, peanut shells, sawdust, ashes, etc. Nitrogen sources include vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, clover, manure, seaweed, and hay.
    4. Turn and tumble the compost regularly with a garden fork. Doing so will allow for the soil to aerate and speed up bacterial activity. The compost is ready to use when it looks like rich, healthy soil.
  • Weekend Warrior: Create an Indoor Herb Garden this Weekend

    The changing of seasons means the bounty of fresh vegetables and herbs from your garden will dwindle away upon the arrival of colder temperatures. This doesn’t mean you can’t create an indoor herb garden and enjoy the taste of homegrown herbs throughout the year. Creating an indHerbs Planted in Small Potsoor garden does not require a lot of space, nor a green thumb – and it can be done over the course of a weekend.

    An indoor herb garden will need a sunny window that receives at least five hours of sunlight per day. A home temperature between 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. Other materials required for this weekend project include: pots with drainage holes, a saucer or water catcher to hold excess water, gravel, fresh soil, herb seed packets or starter plants, and plant markers. Note that whatever container you decide on should be deep enough to promote proper root development, about 6-12 inches deep.

    Once all materials are purchased, start by filling the bottom of each pot with about ¾-inch of gravel. Pour a 2-3 inch layer of potting soil on top and place your plant/seeds gently into the container. Finish filling it with potting mix, pressing it down firmly around the plant/seeds.

    While it may be tempting to water your herbs frequently, resist watering them too often, as excess water is harmful to the roots and may cause rotting. Fertilize the plants once a month with a product labeled safe to use on edibles.

    Herbs that are great for indoor growth include:

    • Basil – simple to grow from seed but needs bright light and warm temperatures
    • Chives – A member of the onion family and best used fresh. Thrives in bright light and cool temperatures
    • Thyme – Cover the seed only lightly with soil or not at all if you are starting from scratch. Keep the plants moist until they start flourishing.

    Fun ways to display or pot your herbs:

    • Create a hanging garden by using hooks and a tension rod. Paint all the elements in one color, fix the pots to the hooks, and put the rod in the window.
    • Drill holes in an old teacup set with a jewelers drill and use them as planters. The water will be able to drain in the saucers. Thyme prefers dry soil so try putting it in a shallow container like this.
  • Safety and Sanitation: Red Flags to be Aware of When Buying a Home

    The process of house hunting for the first time is exciting – the possibility of finding a dream house with all the bells and whistles your family desires, or as an investment into your future. To ensure that a dream property does not quickly spiral into a nightmare, prospective buyers must be aware of potential red flags when house hunting. These issues may not only impact the safety and sanitation of a home, but ultimately the bottom line. Below are some red flags to keep in mind during the process.

    If there have been additions to the house that just don’t look right, there’s a possibility the property may not be up to code. Right away, that signals an investment to bring the entire property up to code. Buyers should ask the seller if work was done with or without a permit.For Sale Sign in Front of House

    Decks on a house may pose a safety concern if they look unstable, were completed years ago, or were built without a permit. A freestanding deck will be a challenge to fix, so the buyer would likely have to completely rip it down and rebuild it.

    Obvious structural problems are a huge red flag. This includes doors and windows that do not function properly, cracks on the outside of the house, and a foundation that feels unstable or is leaning in an unnatural way. Foundation issues are one of the most expensive fixes to a property.

    Water damage is another issue most new buyers don’t want to deal with. When walking through the house, confirm with the agent that water is draining away from the house and not in the basement. Moisture or visible water stains in the basement may mean drainage issues. Water damage can lead to foundation problems. Clarify whether the house has ever been flooded if it is located in a flood zone.

    Exposed electrical wires or oddities with lighting may point to faulty electrical work or old wiring. Knob and tube wiring in older homes may be very expensive to replace.

    Asbestos and mold is another issue that can be a hazardous. A thorough home inspection should be completed before the purchase of a property. An inspection will reveal if any of the above issues are a major safety, health, or financial concern for the buyer.

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