Greengate Ranch Remodel
Remodeling a Daylight Ranch in Oregon

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Handy Guys Podcast

I have been listening to podcasts for a couple of years, and I finally ran across a DIY one that I think is worth checking out: The Handy Guys Podcast.

Most of the DIY / remodeling podcasts I have listened to so far are basically a bunch of product placement ads, with very little actual content (just what we all need more of). These guys do feature sponsored products, but there is also a fair amount of actual information in their shows. The hosts also do a good job at keeping it interesting with personal stories.

My favorite so far has been their basement refinishing series, which goes into quite a bit of detail on the whole process.

I have made this a sidebar link under resources both on this site and my other site, 10K Kitchen Remodel.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Home Theater #21 - Sony 7.1 Receiver

Our semi-broken Panasonic all-in-one home theater unit finally bit the dust. The DVD changer had failed about 6 months ago, then about 10 days ago the sound stopped working. It lasted about 3 years - not terrible, but not great either. I doubt I would buy another similar product.

After having the DVD failure, I decided to only buy components going forward. Most home theater sites recommend this, and it makes it easier to keep up with technology.

I ended up choosing a Sony STR-DG720, which is a Dolby 7.1 system. Almost all of the reviews were positive, and the price was $300. This is not a top of the line receiver, but a seemingly a good one for the normal home theater owner (I am not an audiophile).

It takes HDMI in from our FIOS box and pumps out RGB to our Sharp projector (1080p compliant). The sound is good, being much better that what we had in the past. There are a wide range of one-button-push sound options, and it only took a few minutes to get set up. It comes with an auto calibration microphone to set the speaker levels for your room. I need to buy the back speakers before I use this, but I am looking forward to it.

If I were more picky, I would have likely spent about $500 to $600 on a Denon or Onkyo. However, based on the reviews I read, I am not sure I would have gotten more for my money.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Garden Shed #28 - Stair Construction

I am working on the last 5% of the shed - and completing the final details of any project seem to take an extra large amount of effort...

Right now I'm building the stairs up to the smaller door while my DW finishes painting the windows. The weather is really helping out right now - only intermittent rain, with the weekends being sunny and in the high 60's.

At my DW's request I put a small landing outside the door, rather than just have the steps run right up to it. I have to admit that this was a good design decision, and probably less of a trip hazard when coming out the door.

I set two posts about 2' into the ground and built a little 3'x3' deck out of 2x4's. Here is my method for doing this:
  • Dig the holes
  • Build and attach the little deck to the shed - hold up the free end with a board and clamp.
  • Set the posts in the holes and make sure you can get level and plumb.
  • Attach the posts to the deck.
  • Put a small amount of gravel in the holes to hold the post positions, but allow a bit of adjustment
  • Tap the posts into fine position with a hammer.
  • Fill the holes 1/2 full with gravel and tamp it solid.
  • Fill the rest of the holes with dry concrete, add water and mix in the hole.

Cutting the stair supports (stringers) was easier than I thought it would be. In a timely fashion, Fine Homebuilding has an article in the current issue on the best practices for building deck stairs. I used a speed square to lay the steps out, giving them 8" rise and 12" run. Once I made one stringer, I used it as the template for the other side.

To align the stairs, I put a 16d at the top of each stringer, located at the center of the post. This makes a pivot point for adjusting the height at the bottom. I also then nailed the temporary cross piece, so I could lift the stairs up to set the blocks, then set them down to check level and square.

I could have made the stringers one step longer, then buried the ends into the dirt, with a small footing underneath. I think at some point this would rot, so I made the bottom step out of cinder block, filled with concrete. I will put a small piece of asphalt shingle under these to keep the wood off of the wet concrete surface. Little details like this only take a few minutes, but help prevent repairs in the long term.

The steps will be attached to the rebar in the blocks. My plan is to put one of the retaining walls across the front of these blocks, so the steps are integrated into the beds.

I used two 1/4" lag bolts at each corner of the small deck. They are 6" long and go in at an angle through the metal corner braces as shown. I believe this method provides way more strength than is actually required.

I need to travel on Saturday afternoon, and I am hoping to get the decking on before I take off.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Garden Shed #27 - Rain Chains and a Workbench

Hard to believe that I can have 27 posts on building a garden shed... That being said, I am going into a lot of detail to provide useful information to others. My kids think I am obsessed - and that's probably true, until I am on to the next project.

I put the rain-chains in the gutters. The first time I saw a rain-chain was about 10 years ago in Tokyo. It was a string of little cups that made sound - the shed has just a simple chain to avoid down spouts.

I cut a 2" hole in the gutter with a hole saw before mounting. I also put a gutter support directly above the hole to support the chain.

I opened up the top link of the chain and hung it from the gutter screw. I didn't want to hang it directly from the vinyl gutter, assuming it would eventually fail. I put a 2" ABS floor drain (cut to allow the chain to pass) to direct the water on to the chain.

Here is how it looks coming out of the gutter.

You obviously need a reasonable overhang (the shed has 18") to use these effectively.

What to do with the run-off? Water plants...

We are going to put terraced planting beds down the hill from the shed as shown below. The black lines are the retaining walls, and the red areas will be gravel walking paths. I will install a simple drain-field system - 4" perforated pipe behind each of the walls and gravel "spill ways" to spread the water out to all the beds.

I have a few other photos of things we have done since the last post:

My DW painted the panel areas of the sliding door the green base color of the shed. When the door was all brown, it was too much and became the focal point.

I installed the workbench for my DW. Its a pretty simple design made of 2x4's and plywood.

The lower shelf only extends 2/3 of the way across, leaving a taller, open area on the left. We will put a couple of rubber garbage cans here to store potting soils. Tomorrow, I hope to get the racks and pegs up to start putting all the garden tools away.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Garden Shed #26 - Building the Window Frames

I finished building the shed window frames as shown below. They are ready for my DW to paint when she gets the chance. As I have noted in previous posts, these are 2'x3' and will end up costing about $10 each, including glass and hardware.

All four of these will be tip-in windows - the tops will tip inwards about 8 inches to allow ventilation in the summer time. The bottoms will be hinged.

Building the window frames

The general construction of these frames is a lap design (similar to the doors). This is really simple and makes for a very strong window. This technique also makes use of some of the short cut-off ends from the trim and doors.

The following diagram should help you understand how the process works...

First, I built the "blue" parts. These are assembled with 2" brads through the cross-pieces (using an air nailer) and Titebond waterproof wood glue. The cross-pieces are cut extra long as shown. I align one side (in this case the right side), and let the other side extend over. You can cut them to exact length if you want, but I prefer to trim everything off at one time.

Then I build the "orange" parts. These are really simple - glue and 1.25" brads. The outside pieces have the support rib aligned to the edges, and for the center piece, I align it up the middle (shown). The support ribs will overlap the "blue" end pieces and make assembly easy.

I assemble the frames by gluing and nailing the "orange" center pieces to the ends. Here is a picture of the front side. Notice that the cross pieces and support ribs are long, except on the bottom, where I took the time to align everything.

Here is a picture of the back side. Where the cross-pieces and ribs overlap, I use a 1.25" deck screw instead of nails. I pre-drill the holes to avoid the wood splitting. One screw at each overlap should give plenty of strength to the frame (screws are not shown in the picture).

Once assembled, I use the table saw to clean up the edges.

Now that the frames are assembled, we will paint them, then attach the glass using a few support clips and silicone caulk. I will attach hinges to the bottom and a small bolt-latch at the top.

I'll take pictures of the installation, showing how they tip-out.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Garden Shed #25 - Gutters, Trim, Doors & Windows

I decided to put vinyl gutters on the shed. The cost difference between these and galvanized metal is negligible, and these were already painted a dark brown color. Also, more than 1/2 of the metal gutters at Home Depot were dented in some way, which was a bad omen.

I put the first side on in pieces and fully assembled the second side before attaching it. The second side was much easier, with my DW helping hold it while I drove in the screws.

Here is a picture of the pergola end of the shed with the trim complete. We are really happy with the colors and looking forward to doing these on the house in the near future.

A boy and his dog on a sunny fall day... It sure is nice to be outside well into October.

I also made the smaller door, using the same construction technique I did on the sliding one. It's basically a 1/4" Luann core, with 1x4's glued, stapled and screwed in place. This makes a lightweight, straight and rigid door - and only costs about $25 before hardware.

Finally, I cut all the pieces for the window frames:

These will get assembled into the frame pattern shown below. Its nice to use up most of the small pieces from the rest of the shed (keeping it green).

Monday, October 06, 2008

Garden Shed #24 - Mounting the Sliding Door

Well, global markets may be in chaos, but at least I got the sliding door mounted on the shed... Seriously, with all the crazy things going on in the world, it is nice to just accomplish something simple. Here is a picture of the door in place:

The first coat of paint on it is all brown. The next coat will be the darker green color in the panel areas and the trim will remain as is. I wanted to mount it this way to see if we would like it - but its too much of the dark color. Either way, I am happy with the way it has turned out so far.

Mounting the door in the box-rail track was simple, it just required a second set of hands due to the size and weight of the door. Now I need to fabricate and attached the stop-blocks at each end and the latch hardware.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Fall is here... firing up the pellet stove

I am definitely a fall person. I like the colder weather, colors, and starting the pellet stove back up again.

This is a Vistaflame stove (also call Meridian) that we have run for four years. So far it has been very reliable - no problems. We bought it from Stoves and Spas in Albany, Oregon. I found them to be friendly and informative in helping me select the right stove.

Up until this year, we have been storing the pellets in the corner of the room and outside under a tarp. Neither of these has been a very good option. As part of the basement remodel, I added a pellet storage closet near the stove.

The picture above shows the first ton in place, and the one below shows the second. We usually burn a bit more than two tons each year - this is with old leaky windows that I will be replacing in the next few months.

I haven't put the bi-fold doors on this yet, since I spent the summer working outside projects. I should be able to get them in place with all the rest of the trim (hopefully before spring!)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Garden Shed #23 - Ultimate Shed Site

I believe I found the center of the shed universe: It's a UK site that covers just about anything you can image regarding sheds, including those that live, vacation and work in them.

If you need inspiration or ideas, I think you can get all the images you would ever need here. You join, post your own shed project and become a "sheddie".
See my article library on eHow...