A Lawnmower Home

28 03 2012

So I took some time away from the basement for a day to work out in the garage. Other than the workbench we built, there isn’t much for shelf space. I corrected that problem.

My garage has a two stall door, and then it is indented about two feet for a second, one stall sized garage door. This creates the perfect little nook for which to put a shelf. Enter the handiless homeowner!

The design sort of took form as I went. When I built the soffit in the basement, I used wooden I-beam joists, and I had two left over. I had used one of these joists to make a bench for mudding, and I figured turning it into a shelf was a proper way to allow it to forever make its mark as a part of the house.

I took these two joists and cut them each to 5 foot lengths. I then screwed them together and then fastened them to the exterior wall of the garage to act as the vertical support for the shelf. I needed room to store the lawn mower underneath, so I put in two shelves starting about two feet above the ground.

Now I really had no design plan, and I assumed I was going to have to buy some plywood for the shelf top. It just so happened that I had two squarish pieces of plywood leftover from the workbench that fit my two shelf sizes almost perfectly! It’s as if I planned it that way! So it turns out that I have indeed learned a thing or two in the last year or two of working on my house. I built a shelf from scratch that is probably stronger than anything I could buy in a store, and it was essentially free. Go me!

My Lawnmower has a little home now

I built this with no plan in mind, other than "hey, a little cabinet would be fun to build."


Will Side for Beer

18 09 2010

There comes a time when every good man will hire out his services for those that come asking.  Sometimes, this is done in exchange for future services.  But always, the payment of choice for most projects for hire is coffee in the morning and beer in the afternoon.  From this point of view and others, this job did not disappoint..

So it was that Melissa and I traveled to Hudson to help out a certain brother side his house.  Now that I have installed a few pieces of siding on my own house, I am clearly an expert, and should be the guy anyone calls with help for such a task.  My brother Christopher is in the process of doing to major renovations to his house, and the project of the day including replacing his siding with new vinyl siding.

We got up early on a Saturday, poured the coffee, and got to work.  This was my first job wearing an actual tool belt, and it made me think that I should never do a project without one again.  Not just because it looks awesome wearing it (sort of the way safety glasses make you look cool), but because I never was more than an arm’s reach away from any tool I needed, even if I was up ten feet on a ladder, which I was quite often.

That brings me to another subject.  Most people who know me know I am very skiddish about heights, and it doesn’t even need to be something very high for me to take a pass on.  Well, for some reason (perhaps it was the soft garden compost behind his garage that would have cushioned my fall) I was not affected by the heights, even when I was up on a ladder at the peak of his probably 12+ foot garage.  The funny thing was that on Saturday I was only working on the back of the garage where the ladder was on grass and I had the garden below.  On Sunday, we had moved to the front of the garage, so when I was up on the ladder I saw the brick driveway beneath me.  I made one trip up the ladder on Sunday, did what I did, got back down, and told Christopher I wasn’t going back up that ladder again.

And just so I make a point of giving credit where credit is due, Melissa was a big help too.

Vinyl siding is pretty straight forward until you get to the slanted roof of the building.  Then you have to start cutting fairly precise angles and fitting the pieces together with a little more thought.  Then, when you get close to the peak, you have to cut an angle on one side of your piece and an angle on the other side, and they have to be exact, which can create all sorts of frustrations.  Anyway, by the time I left on Sunday (at 11:00, so I had time to get back home for a 3:00 Packer game, of course) the garage was mostly finished and the marvel of a job-well-done glowed off the sunlit reflection of the newly installed vinyl siding.

The Scaping of the Land

23 08 2010

And the time did come that the man and woman did plant their shrubs and their flowers and they did spread their mulch of life onto the land they did possess.

In other words, we recently completed a pretty big landscape project at our house.

A few months ago we had our lawn seeded, and while that has been coming in nicely, our home still lacked the outdoor flair of a shrub or a flowering plant, or really any desirable plant life at all.  The house was built with a curbed off area wrapping around from the front steps to the side of the house, which until recently was our “exotic” garden — by which I mean, it was nothing but weeds.

My brother, Christopher (or Chris to some of you), is part owner of a landscaping firm, and responded to my request of coming up with a plan.  I had diagrammed the area, and he filled in the details of what plants to use where and how to go about doing it.  This is what it looked like:

The diagram of our soon to be scaped land

Late last week, I started the task of weeding the area.  Boy was that back breaking work.  I essentially ended up pulling up one-by-one 190 square feet of weeds, mostly on my hands and knees.

Our Exotic Garden

Earlier in the week, I had gone to Lowes to get a few supplies.  Among them were some weed killer, some landscaping fabric, and a whopping 25 bags of cypress mulch.  Talk about feeling important, walking out of Lowes with two of their heavy duty carts loaded to the gills with mulch bags.  The excitement was only beginning.

After I had finished weeding, and after a brief cloud burst and windstorm that I thought were going to hamper my plans, I headed down to a nursery near my house and began my shopping.  The excitement was building!  I walked in with my plan in hand and started locating the plants.  I asked one of the employees for helping finding the plants before I started loading them up.  When she saw me with this drawing and a list of plants, she spoke up, “I take it you are a contractor?”  “Uuuummm, no,” I responded.  “My brother is, and he did this for me.”  I was on top of the world.  I loaded up my RAV4 with all sorts of plants, and on the ride home, my car was a sort of crowded greenhouse on wheels.  I was almost to the point of being giddy.  This was one of the most exciting shopping trips I can remember, and it happened to fall on my birthday, which was just a bonus.  I was buying real, adult flowers for my adult house and I was going to put them in myself to enjoy for a long time!

A good day's kill, I'd say!

That was Friday, and Saturday, Melissa and I started out after the dew burned off a little bit.  The forecast had called for a clear day in the upper 70s.  What we got was an overcast, ultra humid day, with a bit of a mist for the first hour or two.  The mist actually seemed to help us stay cool, which I guess was nice.

Now, I’m not sure if this is true to the entire area, or if it was because of the fill they used when building our house, but below the three inches of top soil, we encountered some pretty thick, wet clay.  This certainly made it difficult.  In fact, it was so bad at times that we had to take breaks occasionally to scrape what literally became an inch or more of clay and mud caked to the bottom of our shoes.  That just added to the story.

Well, we kept on chugging, starting from one side and working to the other, digging our holes and filling them in with plants.  We laid out the fabric and then spread the mulch.  All-in-all, we spent about 6 hours from start to finish, and for a couple of amateurs, I’d say we did pretty well.

The house now has some character

From left to right: an arborvitae, 3 goldmound spireas, and 3 Stella de Oro Day lilies

Beyond the spireas and the day lilies, we have some anabelle hydrangea, 3 wood pink asters, and 3 may night salvias. We will plant tulip bulbs eventually as well.

As so it was done.  Unlike the lawn, I think this project looks good right away.  I can enjoy it now and for as long as I own this house.  This was a job that absolutely required Melissa’s help, and I could not have done it without her.  Despite the mud, the humidity, the bugs, and long hours, she was a good sport about the whole thing, for which I thank her.  Now I can just sit back and watch them grow — that is at least until my next project rolls around!

The House’s New Clothes

11 08 2010

This is a story about getting help from some unlikely sources.  It is about realizing that sometimes, two heads, even if neither head has a clue, are better than one.  What I found was that sometimes all it takes is for one seemingly small piece of advice to get started on something I had for which I had no idea how to start.  So went my project of finishing the siding on our house.

Our house had a few “must-do” projects that were essentially left over from the builder/previous owner.  A few involved mounting the microwave and hooking up the gas stove.  Another was the lawn project, which has received ample play on my blog recently.  The last thing we have gotten to, and also the last of the “must-do” left-over projects, is finishing up a small area of siding on the patio.

The builder apparently had intended on leaving the patio open for putting in a deck, so instead of putting the siding up all the way to the ground, he left it about 16 inches from the ground, with a 2×8 board nailed into the wall instead (I guess to give me a starter piece off of which to build to deck).

The looming task

Uecker didn't like the house being unfinished

We had to special order the siding because we couldn’t find the right color anywhere, but we eventually had the pieces we needed, and it was just a matter of getting up the will to do it.  Well, last week, I set out to get started.  After prying the board off the wall, I proceeded to assess what I had in store.  I was, shall we say, clueless.  I had never put up vinyl siding.  And neither had my dad, my primary source for all my do-it-yourself projects.  Fortunately, my brother had some experience with it, and he explained it to me to the point where the internet research started to make sense.  That being said, with this newfound knowledge, I gave it about 5 days before I started off.

The following Thursday Melissa and I had off of work, so after a morning of golfing, we were determined to get this thing going.

Here’s a little explanation about vinyl siding.  Normally you start from the bottom and work your way up.  The bottom piece locks into a metal bracket running the length of the house, and you stick some nails in the notches at the top of the piece.  Then, the next piece locks into the piece below it, and you proceed from there.  You need to take certain obstacles into consideration such as electrical outlets or steps, and cut and shape the pieces accordingly.

The part about locking the first piece into the metal bracket is where the problems started.  That’s right, step one is where it almost fell apart.  We were trying to line the piece up square and bend and maneuver  it in to the channel.  It wasn’t working.  All we had for tools for this task were a couple of flathead screwdrivers.  That’s when Melissa noticed that the metal bracket was in two pieces, with a small back in the middle.  She recommended that we try sliding the end in and then slide the rest of the piece the rest of the way.  It worked!  We indeed needed to use two pieces to cover the entire length of the house, but we got both pieces on doing just this!  I told her that if she had contributed nothing else to this project (and she did, by the way) that this piece of advice would have been worth it’s weight in gold.  We finally were able to move on.

In the picture above, I have so far been referring to the long stretch of wall on the left.  This was was relatively easy.  All I had to do was put one entire piece on each row and then cut a second piece to match.  Another problem arose when we came to the place where the siding from below met the existing siding.  How are we going to a)nail it into place, and b)lock the above piece to the below piece.  We hit a bit of a standstill here, and since I had to run to Lowes to get a corner joint anyway (since the existing corner joint didn’t go all the way down) we took a break.

At Lowes, I was introduced this this, a vinyl siding removal tool.  This little device can be used to unhook siding or to install new siding.  Well, I got home and gave it a try, and what was taking a long time before I left now took about 30 seconds.  I pried the bottom channel of the piece above got the edge into the piece below it.  Now all I had to do was slide the tool the rest of the way down the siding and it was all in place!  This little took cost about $4, and it did exactly what I needed it to do, and I will probably never use it again.  Best $4 I ever spent?  Quite possibly.

So I proceeded.  It was a fairly small amount of siding that spanned 3 days of work.  The long pieces were a piece of cake, but like I mentioned above, maneuvering around my patio step and an electrical outlet made for some time consuming measuring at cutting and remeasuring and cutting some more.  Eventually, though, I slapped the last piece on, cleaned up my mess, swept up all the crickets that had taken refuge under the shelter of my uninstalled siding pieces, and walked inside and shouted “I’m done!”

Another beautiful finish

So far, this has been the most satisfying project of my house.   There was some room for error, so unlike my drilling project each cut wasn’t a matter of life and death.  I could see qualitative results, but unlike painting, it wasn’t so mind numbing and repetitive.  Furthermore, it turned out to actually be enjoyable.  I had fun figuring this one out.  It is another example of realizing what I am capable of doing when going into the project I had new clue where to even start.  It is a situation where success breeds confidence, and confidence breeds success.

It needed a cleaning

6 06 2010

the garage, or perhaps the surface of mars

Our garage has been gathering clutter since the day we moved in.  We have a 3.5 car garage, and the third stall has been the staging area for the majority of our stuff that we either don’t want in the house or didn’t have a place for yet.  Clearly, something needed be done here.

On top of that, since the time I have lived away from my parents (basically since college) I have needed a better to organize my tools.  The “stuff everything in one of 3 tool bags” plan has always left me searching.  I could never keep screwdrivers straight, only finding a flathead when I needed a phillips and vice versa, never could find my stanley knife when I needed it, constantly finding tools in various drawers.  I don’t know how many times I’ve told Melissa that I need a pegboard.  Well, this weekend, we went out and got a white 8’x4′ pegboard!  We didn’t have an 8 foot stretch in the garage that it would fit in, so we had to have it cut in half, and I will eventually hang the other half at a later time.

So here I was, on a Sunday afternoon, from about noon to 5:30pm, in my garage cleaning up the mess that I had created.  I mounted the pegboard, hung some bike racks, and did a thorough butt-whoopin’ in our enclosed carport.  I remember my uncle once saying about the garage something to the effect of “with everthing in its place, there is a place for everything.”  Here are the results:

there WAS a garage under there!

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