The Skilled DIYer/Woodworker’s Toolbox

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Serious enthusiasts who do many projects around the house will want to invest in more specialized tools or more power tools to do everything more efficiently.

  • Crowbar: When you need to pry apart boards, remove stubborn nails, do some heavy lifting, or otherwise break things, reach for the crowbar, a.k.a., pry bar. A medium size bar between 2 to 3 feet might be best for most projects. For larger demolition projects, get a wrecking bar.
  • Rubber Mallet: A rubber mallet lets you hammer or tap without damaging the surface. It comes in handy when installing laminate flooring or ceramic tile, as well as other uses, and you can pick up a decent mid-range mallet for under $25.
  • Staple gun: A heavy-duty staple gun doesn’t cost much (under $20) but has a broad range of applications: everything from roofing and upholstery to hobbies and crafts. It’s like your standard office stapler but more powerful, and comes in manual and electric versions.
  • Circular Saw: One of the most common power tools today, the circular saw’s toothed metal cutting disk cuts through masonry, tile, and steel. Prices range from $50 to $200. See This Old House’s article for advice on selecting and using a circular saw.
  • Automatic Nailer: If you’re going to be driving a whole lot of nails, a nail gun will help you save time and effort over using a hammer. Finish nailers are used to nail moldings and small trim boards (like baseboards), while brad nailers are for thinner or more delicate trim. Family Handyman says these two types of nail guns are complimentary, so if you can afford it, buy both a 15-gauge finish nailer and an 18-gauge brad nailer (together, they’ll cost $300 to $550), otherwise a 16-gauge nail gun is a good compromise (ranging from $200 to $300).
  • Impact Driver: To fasten a lot of screws or drill a bunch of holes with speed and ease (for deck-building and other woodwork), an impact driver is a worthy investment (yes, even if you already have a fancy drill). They range in price from $90 to $300. See Popular Mechanics’ review of 9 impact drivers for a cost/features comparison.
  • Cordless Dremel Rotary Tool: A Dremel (or other similar rotary tool) may not be a necessity, but it sure comes in handy for a great variety of applications. With different attachments, you can use the power tool for drilling, grinding, sanding, sawing, sharpening, routing, polishing, cleaning, carving, and engraving. It’s like a toolbox in itself. This kit includes 30 accessories and is $80.
  • Table Saws, Miter Saws, and More: For more precise, specific cuts and slices, there are a slew of specialty saws for the handyperson. Bob Vila’s Essential Tools for Woodworking lays out why you might want these saws and other items such as an air compressor, drill press, and table and belt sander. Expect to pay $500 to $1,500 (or much more) for the whole kit and caboodle.
  • Other: plumb bob or plumb line (a weight on a string for creating a vertical reference line), clamps to hold wood pieces together, sledgehammer, extension ladder, sawhorse or workbench

Smart Spring Yard Cleanup

Tackle a little early spring maintenance now to get your yard ready for the growth spurt to come.

It’s Cleanup Season

March is notoriously unpredictable. Shrubs can be crusty with snow on the first of the month, and then, a couple of weeks later, temperatures can warm up enough for flower and leaf buds to show signs of life.

Still, some early spring cleanup tasks are sure things this time of year. So go ahead and remove burlap from trees and shrubs as the weather warms. Prune away winter-killed branches to make room for new growth. Cut back spent perennials and pull up old annuals if you didn’t get around to it last fall. Then look around. “March is a good time to take stock of your yard and see if it’s time to thin out crowded beds and do some transplanting to fill in bare spots,” says This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook.

Here, a checklist to tackle now to give your green patch a clean start.

Trees and Shrubs

1. Prune away dead and damaged branches.

Where tree or shrub branches have been damaged by cold, snow, and wind, prune back to live stems; use a handsaw for any larger than ½ inch in diameter. Shaping hedges with hand pruners, rather than electric shears, prevents a thick outer layer of growth that prohibits sunlight and air from reaching the shrub’s center. At right, Roger neatens up a yew by pruning wayward shoots back to an intersecting branch. Prune summer-flowering shrubs, such as Rose of Sharon, before buds swell, but wait to prune spring bloomers, like forsythia, until after they flower.

Trim overgrown evergreens back to a branch whose direction you want to encourage.

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TOH Pro Tip: Roger Cook, TOH Landscape Contractor says, “Now’s the time to get some basic spring yard maintenance done. Then, as temperatures warm up, you’ll be in better shape for seeding and planting, and for enjoying the outdoors.”

Perennials and Grasses

2. Cut back and divide perennials as needed.

Prune flowering perennials to a height of 4–5 inches and ornamental grasses to 2–3 inches to allow new growth to shoot up. Where soil has thawed, dig up perennials, such as daylilies and hostas, to thin crowded beds; divide them, leaving at least three stems per clump, and transplant them to fill in sparse areas. Cut back winter-damaged rose canes to 1 inch below the blackened area. On climbers, keep younger green canes and remove older woody ones; neaten them up by bending the canes horizontally and tipping the buds downward. Use jute twine or gentle Velcro fasteners to hold the canes in place.

A pair of sharp bypass pruners makes a clean cut on both dead and living foliage.

Beds and Borders

3. Clean Up Around Plants.

Rake out fallen leaves and dead foliage (which can smother plants and foster disease), pull up spent annuals, and toss in a wheelbarrow with other organic yard waste. Once the threat of frost has passed, Roger also removes existing mulch to set the stage for a new layer once spring planting is done. Push heaved plants back into flower beds and borders, tamping them down around the base with your foot, or use a shovel to replant them. Now is a good time to spread a pelletized fertilizer tailored to existing plantings on the soil’s surface so that spring rains can carry it to the roots. Add a 5-10-10 fertilizer around bulbs as soon as they flower to maximize bloom time and feed next season’s growth. Use pins to fasten drip irrigation lines that have come loose and a square-head shovel to give beds a clean edge and keep turf grass from growing into them.

Composting

4. Compost Yard Waste.

Dump collected leaves, cuttings, spent foliage, and last season’s mulch into your compost pile, or make a simple corral by joining sections of wire fence (available at home centers) into a 3-by-3-by-3-foot cube like the one above. Shred leaves and chip branches larger than ½ inch in diameter to accelerate decomposition, or add a bagged compost starter to the pile. Keep the pile as moist as a wrung-out sponge, and aerate it with a pitchfork every two weeks. Just don’t add any early spring weeds that have gone to seed—they might not cook completely and could sprout instead.

Lawn Care

5. Prep Damaged Lawn Areas for Spring Seeding.

In colder climates grass starts growing in April, but early spring is a good time to test the soil’s pH so that you can assemble the right amendments. Remove turf damaged by salt, plows, or disease to prepare for the seeding that should follow in a few weeks. Work in a ½-inch layer of compost to keep the new seed moist, increasing the germination rate. Begin seeding once forsythia starts blooming in your area. In warmer climates, March is a good time to add the first dose of fertilizer and crabgrass treatment.

Remove dead turf with a square metal rake, then flip it over to spread compost.

Paths and Patios

6. Neaten Up Hardscape Surfaces.

Rake escaped gravel back into aggregate walkways and patios, and order more gravel to spread in large depressions, which often form near the driveway’s apron. Refill joints between flagstones by sweeping in new sand or stone dust; water with a hose to set it, then repeat. If the freeze-thaw cycle has heaved pavers out of place, remove them and replenish the base material as needed before setting pavers back in. Use a pressure washer with a low pressure tip to remove slippery algae spots or leaf stains from patios and walkways.

Fences and Trellises

7. Patch or replace and paint worn wood.

Remove badly rotted or damaged pickets, boards, or lattice, then scrub wood structures clean with a mix of 2 gallons water, 2 quarts bleach, and 1 cup liquid soap; let dry. Patch rotted sections with wood epoxy; install new wood as needed. Check wobbly fence posts to see if they need replacing (find the how-to at thisoldhouse.com. Scrape off old paint, then sand wood all over with 60 grit to prep for a new finish coat. Once temperatures go above 50° F, brush on a new coat of paint or stain.

 

Clean Out Home Clutter & Donate Household Items to Those in Need

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‘Tis the season to de-clutter and donate. No matter what time of year it is, a good thorough housecleaning lifts the spirit and lightens a dull mood. Double the good feeling by donating items gently used or no longer wanted. Learn how to safely get rid of old medicines. Properly dispose of old paint taking space in the storeroom. Check out the suggestions below for great places to donate eyeglasses, shoes and many other needed goods.

Where to Donate Household Goods and Belongings

There are plenty of places to donate gently used house items and personal belongings. Re-using something rather than throwing it away is just one of the many great ways to go green. Donations may be tax-deductible so be sure to get receipts and put them in a safe place.

Where to donate books, videos, DVDs:

  • Public library
  • School library
  • Nursing home
  • Adult or children’s daycare facility
  • Children’s home or shelter

A used bookstore may pay cash or give store credit for books in good condition. Check out the website Books for Soldiers to get information on how to send books and DVDs to men and women in the military. Boxes are free from the U.S. Post Office and shipping is a flat rate.

Agencies that Benefit from Donated Goods

Thrift stores accept almost anything donated. If there’s a public housing program in the area, there may be a resource office that collects all kinds of useful items – things like tools, sports equipment and computers. Donate to:

  • Homeless shelters
  • Domestic violence shelters
  • Churches that collect for the needy, especially Catholic Charities
  • Thrift stores, the Salvation Army and Goodwill
  • Children’s Home Society or other children’s homes
  • Red Cross and other disaster relief agencies
  • Habitat for Humanity collection center

Some agencies accept working electronics. Send used cell phones that can be recycled to Shelter Alliance. The agency earns up to $30 to benefit domestic violence shelters. Heritage for the Blind accepts vehicle, boat and RV donations. Check their website or call 1-800-Donate-Cars.

Backpacks gently used and unopened school supplies can go to shelters, a children’s home or public housing resource center. If autumn is near, then see if your community participates in Cram-the-Van or a similar program that collects school items for children in need.

  • Re-gifting items is another way to de-clutter a home space. Wrap up and pass along figurines, flower vases, jewelry, wall hangings and items in excellent condition.
  • Bring old glasses to Lenscrafters or Pearle Vision where they will be donated to Onesight, which recycles them for the needy.
  • Too many shoes cluttering the closet? Soles4souls will take them.
  • A soup kitchen is a great place to donate dishes, drinking glasses, cups, and silverware. The staff might also appreciate kitchen appliances.

Clean Out the Medicine Cabinet

Medications are hazardous waste and require proper disposal. Tossed into the trash, medications can eventually make their way into the soil, contaminating the environment. Flushing medicines down the toilet may pollute the local water filtration system with chemicals that could end up in the community water supply. What’s the best way to discard old and expired medications?

  • Bring the drugs to a pharmacy that disposes of unwanted medicines.
  • A number of states in the U.S. have started programs that recycle old and expired drugs for the poor and uninsured in America. Contact a pharmacist or doctor to see what the law allows in your state.
  • Some communities have hazardous waste disposal programs that will also accept medicines.

What’s the Best Way to Dispose of Paint and Hazardous Home Chemicals?

Properly dispose of old paint, insecticides, and other harmful materials at a hazardous waste facility. Some towns have amnesty days where residents can go to a nearby designated location and unload used motor oil, paint, and other products hazardous to the environment. Is paint really that harmful? Yes.

The website lowes.com offers detailed disposal information in the article by C. Jeanne Heida, “Safe Paint Disposal: How to Get Rid of Old Paint”. Heida writes, “The metal in the pigments and the petroleum based solvents are what make paint so harmful to the environment. Latex and oil based paint can harm wildlife and pollute food sources if dumped onto the ground or into a storm drain.”

Pouring paint down the toilet or sink is not an option. Paint can cause problems for the local sewage treatment plants where water is filtered. It can damage microbes in septic systems. Why not just throw the cans in the trash? Heida gives two good reasons: “… the solvent in oil paint is highly flammable and can be toxic if inhaled.”

De-cluttering a home is a great weekend project. Donating items no longer used and giving them to others is a fantastic way to teach children about the joy of sharing. Want to make an even bigger difference for others? Spread the word: Pass along to friends, neighbors and co-workers the list of sources and agencies that take donated items.

gutter cleaning wand

A gutter cleaning wand will make your Gutter cleaning a breeze

gutter cleaning wand

There is nothing worse than cleaning the gutter as far as cleaning tour home is concerned. Many homeowners have been known to prefer any type of cleaning than gutter cleaning since it takes a lot of time, effort and not to mention the risks involved. You may opt for professional gutter cleaning services but it will cost you depending on the type of services you have requested. In the end DIY is the best option if you can half the time you use in the process. This is where a gutter cleaning wand comes in. Though there are many sceptics when it cokes to the functionality a cleaning wand, it has proven to be useful over time.

gutter wand

A gutter cleaning wand does most of the work for you meaning that the time spent on the cleaning job is more than just reduced. You get to enjoy not just less time and effort but less risks as well. Going up a ladder to cleaning the gutter can cause accidents. Gutter cleaning wand is best suited for you since you will spend less money especially if you are the type to hire professional services.

But you must first understand how the tool is used when it comes to gutter cleaning. Learn how you can use it to remove leaves and other debris found on the gutters.

There are many stores that sell these wands but you have to be careful not to buy defective ones. You will need to do some research on the best cleaning wand before you spend your hard earned money. As for the DIY addicts its best to buy professionally made wands since you want the best in terms of functionality.

You may get all the wrong information from the skeptics but nothing will beat you tying the product yourself. So spare your roof all the potential damage by investing in a product that will keep your gutters clean in less the time you spend on cleaning it manually.

 

energy efficient home

Ideas On How To Achieve Energy Efficient Homes

energy efficient home

Climate change is not just an issue for environmentalists. Home owners should take their own initiatives to make their humble abodes as earth –friendly as possible. One of the most possible ways of being more considerate with Mother Nature is by simply practicing energy efficiency methods at home.  No matter how we argue and discuss climate change, we still need to take part on this pressing global issue.

Cutting down in energy waste is a brilliant idea regardless how opinions and point of views vary on the significance of climate change and energy efficiency practices in our daily lives. It is important that energy efficient methods are used within your household to lessen the expenses as well as lowering the environmental impacts that our energy sources would have.

If you have not personally checked your home for energy usage and waste, you should ponder on some tips below on how to achieve an energy efficient home:

Tip #1: Re-assess your laundry habits at home. You can consolidate your laundry for the entire household. Full loads are more energy efficient. Sun-dry your clothes or try line-drying them. You will save a lot from not using dryers.

full load laundry

Tip #2: Keep in mind that home appliances which are more than 10 years old are huge electricity hogs. You must invest on new ones to keep your energy consumption low.

new home appliances

Tip #3: Heating and cooling for your home should be in full gear high efficiency mode. You must get rid of older models of furnaces and air-conditioning systems. You will be delighted that you can cut down approximately 20 to 30 percent off from your electricity bill.

heating and cooling system

container water garden

Create a Container Water Garden in Three Easy Steps

container water garden

If you live in a small space, or just don’t want the hassle of caring for a large water garden, you can create a container water garden easily and inexpensively. A container water garden is a beautiful feature for a balcony, patio or terrace. A container water garden could even be sunk into the ground for a permanent feature.

Create aContainerWaterGarden– Choosing a Container

A barrel is an excellent vessel for a container water garden. Choose a barrel that is about two feet in diameter. The minimum depth for a successful container water garden would be about twelve inches. You could also use any container of this size such as an old galvanized sink. However, I’ve found that a wooden barrel is the best for a container water garden.

barrel water garden

You will also want to make sure the container is air tight. To check for leaks, first fill the container with water. Then mark the level of the water and let it sit for a few days. If the water level has dropped, you may need to waterproof the container again before continuing with the container water garden.

Also, before you begin, make sure you have the container in the place you intend for it to stay. Once it’s filled with water, it will probably be too heavy to move again.

Create a Container Water Garden– Step #1

The first step to create a container water garden is to partly fill the container with bricks. This will create different planting levels for the plants you add to your container water garden. You’ll need to make sure that the depths of the bricks are the same as the depth requirements for the plants you’ve selected for the container water garden.

Create a Container Water Garden– Step #2

The second step to create a container water garden is to plant your selected plants in aquatic planting baskets. These come in all shapes and sizes and can usually be found in home improvement stores or gardening shops. For a container water garden, it’s best to choose baskets that are curved and will fit snugly around the edges of the container.

Create a Container Water Garden– Step #3

The final step to create a container water garden is to place the baskets in the container at their recommended depths. Sprinkle loose gravel or pebbles on the baskets to keep the soil in place. Then, add any decorations you like to the container but don’t go overboard. A few strategically placed decorative rocks will be all you need for a container water garden.

Finally, gently fill the container with water and you have a beautiful, easy to care for container water garden.

 

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3 Amazing Ways Insect Exterminators Help You

As homeowners, we are tempted to try and deal with pest problems by ourselves. This may initially seem like a good idea, but you cannot beat the expertise of an expert. Remember you do not know the threat you are dealing with, so you end up making the situation worse. Exterminators play a major role in making sure that the pest is dealt with effectively. Here are three ways exterminators help you:

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1. Time savers

If you have ever tried dealing with pest as a DIY project, then you will understand what I am talking about. Pests are tricky and know where to stay out of site. You have to look for the place they are hiding before you start the extermination process. A good example is ants. They build nests outside your home, and you have to follow them to determine where it is. An exterminator will spare you from all this, and you can spend your time doing something else.

2. Save costs

This may sound like it doesn’t make sense, but it is true. Buying pesticides in a trial and error frenzy as you try to get rid of those insects that are troubling you will make you lose lots of money. The many products you buy are not guaranteed to work on the bugs. Even if you choose a more natural way to exterminate the insects, you will end up wasting money on products that are probably a scam. An exterminator will save you from spending extra on ineffective pesticides as they are more experienced in the field of extermination.

3. You are assured of success

Exterminators have years of experience and will make sure that the insect is exterminated from your home or premises. This is something you cannot assure yourself as you do not know what to the different insects that may have intruded into your home. Insects require different treatment and not all of them need to be killed or sprayed with lots of pesticides some just need to be moved to ensure total extermination. A qualified and experienced exterminator will know this.

These are but some of the major ways we benefit from exterminators. The list is endless so to say just as long as you choose an exterminator who is qualified to handle the situation you are facing. Do you research and pick from the best?

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Bog Gardens Create an Ecosystem of Beauty in your Backyard

A bog garden is based on a permanently saturated soil. Plants that grow well in this condition thrive because of the acidic nature of the soil brought about by the peat and moss that grow there. However, it is important to note that this does not mean a water logged area as drainage and aeration of the soil as important for the plants.

Plants for bog gardens

When you want to start a bog garden, you should be aware of the plants that do well in this conditions. Another factor that comes into play is the place you wish to start the garden. Is the plant you have chosen prevalent in your area?

Rodgersia pinnata

This is a plant that is known for its frothy looking flowers and thrives in areas with permanent moisture in the soil. It also has broad brown leaves.

Ligularia

This plant has vibrant flowers that are yellow in color and pointy in shape. The leaves are large and have sharp edges.

Caltha palustris

This is also known by it the much simpler name of marigold. It has green leaves and yellow flowers as well and thrives well in shaded areas that are boggy.

Geum rivale album

This is a species of the Water Avens that is usually tall with white flowers and green stems. The plant is usually found in sports that are shaded from sunlight, and the soil is boggy.

Care tips for bog gardens

Unlike most gardens, you do not have to keep watering the garden, but the soil needs to be moist all the time. Use a garden hose made specifically for this garden. Weeding is important just like other plants, keep the garden clear of weeds are remove dry leaves as well.

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Best Way to Install Half-round Seamless Copper Gutters

A lot goes into the installation of Copper Gutters. You have to get the math right to avoid any complications. Be precise and strive to get the right bracket spacing on the radius installation to get the best results.

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Summary on Installing Copper Half-Round Gutters

• First you need to set the pitch
• Next, Attach the brackets using copper screws
• You then cut downspout holes
• Now its time to hang the gutter
• Ensure you solder elbows, outlets and downspouts
• Lastly, you can now install the downspouts

As you have seen above, you ought to follow the procedures to get the right results. Setting the pitch of the gutter should come first. You should then put up a line on both ends where the gutter will be installed to assist you. This line will be used to test the leveling and the gutters height from the ground.

Recommended Measurements

• 24 – 26” for hanger spacing
• For the inside corner average between 10 – 12”
• For the end cap from the end of the shingle, work within 5 – 8”
• 5 – 7” for the outside corner
• 3 – 5”for the entire house and should be maintained for homes with a hip roof for the difference in hanger spacing between sides

Note that the measurements are recommendations and based on the site the measurements hangers will generally never be spaced at exactly 24”.

Nowadays, there are gutter machines that can be used to fabricate seamless gutters. Once the custom measures are determined, the machine can then be used to bend rolls of copper to form the seamless rain gutters.

Cutting holes for downspouts should come before you hang your gutters. You can get the measurements of the holes by measuring the distance from the end of the roof to the exact spot where you will install the downspout.

When hanging the seamless half-round gutter, you should press down the front edge using spring hooks as you put the gutter into place on the brackets. Ensure that you hook the back edge to the bracket.

From here, you can now install the downspouts. Solder the cleats to hold the brackets onto the back of the downspout. Finish by screwing them into the wood part of your roof.