10 DIY New Year Projects to Tackle

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The clock is ticking down to the new year. That means many things but here are two to consider. Since spring will soon be here it’s time to start planning new year projects. After all, it is a time of new beginnings. Also, right around the temporal corner is income tax refund time to fund those new projects. This may be good news for many–under President Trump’s tax bill, the marriage penalty is mostly gone and the standard deduction is vastly improved.

With those considerations in mind, consider these 10 home improvement and personal improvement projects.

Start Exercising More

A healthy runner is a happy runner.
A healthy runner is a happy runner.

Pick your sport. For me that means running. Worried about the cold weather? Don’t. It’s not a problem with these cold weather running tips. Other activities are good candidates and one bit of good news is that many are quite inexpensive. Walking and running really only requires comfortable clothing and the right shoes. Cycling is great but requires a heavier investment. Swimming is good if you have access to a pool or open water such as a lake or a beach.

Install a Rainwater Collection Barrel

A Rainwater Harvesting Barrel
A Rainwater Harvesting Barrel

Rainwater collection or rainwater harvesting as it is sometimes called is becoming increasingly popular. The idea is simple; as you can see in the above photo, you just install the barrel under the downspout from your rain gutter. A screen on the top keeps leaves and other debris out. The black overflow tube at the top can be directed wherever you like and the spigot at the bottom is threaded to accept a garden hose. It works on the gravity feed principle and provides water for your garden or flower bed. Need more water? Link the overflow tube to another barrel. Using this water not only saves money on your water bill, but plants prefer the pH of rain as opposed to tap water.

Install an A/C Condenser Coil Misting System

Cool-N-Save A/C condenser misting paddle
Cool-N-Save A/C condenser misting paddle

This simple innovation will really save on your electrical bill during the summer heat. When the compressor kicks on, the upward breeze from the fan lifts the paddle. This opens the valve allowing cool water to flow to the four misting nozzles. This lowers the ambient air temperature which reduces the amount of work the condenser coils must do. This inexpensive tweak saves money and installation requires only about 30 minutes and some basic hand tools.

Make Needed Roofing Repairs

A new roof with a dormer
A new roof with a dormer

Having a solid, secure roof is critical. They can really take a beating during the winter. They should be inspected, and repaired if needed, twice a year. Minor repairs such as replacing individual shingles or flashing can be done on an individual DIY basis. For more extensive work, hire a roofing contractor.

Build a Walk-In Kitchen Pantry

A Walk-In Kitchen Pantry
A Walk-In Kitchen Pantry

If your home is anything like ours, there’s just not enough storage space in the kitchen. My solution? I built a walk-in kitchen pantry. As you can see in the photo, the back door in the kitchen opened into the garage. I just “stole” some space from the garage and installed the walls (with insulation), turned the existing door into a case opening, and added an energy-efficient door into the rest of the garage. If you are comfortable with framing, hanging drywall, and laying ceramic tile, this is a great weekend DIY project. Follow the link for details.

I certainly hope these DIY New Years projects have inspired you. If so, I would appreciate you sharing these pages with your friends. Have a great New Year and thanks for visiting!

See the Next 5 DIY New Year Projects Here


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How to Make Homemade Wood Putty

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Homemade Wood Putty
How to make homemade wood putty

In a perfect world our woodworking projects wouldn’t require wood putty, filler, or grain filler. But wood is a natural product so some defects are inherent and as woodworkers we are prone to small mistakes. That’s where this homemade wood putty (and wood filler) comes in.

And if you are concerned, this is a small way to build green since you already have the sawdust and you are not paying for the production and shipping of little metal putty cans.

What You Need to Make Wood Putty

This is a simple procedure and the results are more accurate and less expensive than commercial putty and filler products. Here is what you will need.

  • Sawdust from your woodworking project
  • Elmer’s glue
  • Popsicle stick or something similar to mix with
  • A piece of scrap cardboard

The Process

This short video demonstrates the process; it’s not complicated and you just have to work the mixture until you achieve the desired consistency.

I hope this woodworking tip has helped you. Feel free to leave any comments that improve the process or just prove helpful.


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Rainwater Harvesting 101

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Rainwater harcesting or rainwater collection
A typical rainwater harvesting barrel

Rainwater harvesting or rainwater collection as some call it has been gaining in popularity. There was a time when folks didn’t think much about using water. After all, it is inexpensive and flows from the tap; in our society hauling it home from a well or stream is the stuff of nostalgic folklore.

But that is not the case in many parts of the world. And since we now revel in global awareness, the availability of potable water has become a push-button issue among the green conscious folks among us.

In some parched parts of India men take on an additional spouse whose duty is to transport water from the source to the dwelling–it is a full time job. These “water wives” are often widows or single mothers wishing to “regain respect” in their communities. He notes that they usually do not share the marital bed and often live in separate apartments.

Minimizing Our Use of Potable Water

In our efforts to lower out consumption of tap water we have already trended towards the new normal; in the mid-’90s water conservation laws came into effect, creating the much-dreaded “low-flow” toilet. We also now have low-flow showers (dang it).

Still, it does seem wasteful to expend processed, fluoridated tap water to do things like water the lawn and flower beds. Besides, plants prefer the pH of rain over tap water. Win, win. That is where rainwater harvesting comes in. For residential use it is fairly straightforward. All you really need is a barrel with a screen on top. The water comes from the gutters on the roof line.

A rainwater collection barrel with a mesh filtering screen

How to Install a Water Harvesting Barrel

The good news for homeowner is that installing the system is simple and calls for few tools. The one pictured above is an Ivy 50 gallon barrel that I installed at my home this week. Online it lists for $89 but the small city that I live in teamed up with them for a bulk order for a deep discount.

The installation only took about 2 hours. The steps were as follows:

  1. Grade the ground level under the rain gutter downspout.
  2. Place 4 cinder blocks where the barrel will reside.
  3. Place the barrel on the blocks and measure up on the downspout approximately 8 inches from the lip of the barrel lid and use a square to mark a line on the front and sides of the downspout.
  4. Cut it off at this line. You can use a hacksaw but I used a small Dremel saw with a metal-cutting blade. It’s prettier and easier.
  5. Install the diverter (not included in the kit but just a few bucks at Home Depot) on the end of the now cut-off downspout. I used self-tapping screws and a cordless drill with a #2 Phillips bit.
  6. Place the barrel on the cinder blocks so that the diverter is over the lid of the barrel. Secure the lid to the barrel with zip-ties.
  7. Install the plastic cap on one side of the barrel and the overflow tube on the other side. These access ports are just under the lid sticking out from the barrel.
  8. Screw the tap into the bottom front of the barrel being careful not to cross thread it.
  9. The barrel must be secured to the exterior wall of your home or braced up somehow to prevent it from falling over. In the designer’s wisdom the barrel is wider at the top than it is at the bottom. In the image below you can see how I used Tapcon screws to secure a metal angle bracket to the brick. I had to drill the existing holes in the bracket bigger to accommodate the screw on one side and the bungee cord on the other. If we get some really bad weather (like a hurricane) I will add some heavy wire to back up the bungee cord.

Angle bracket with Tapcon screw and bungee cord

Where you live and how much collected water that you use makes a huge impact on how you set up your rainwater harvesting system. A 50 gallon barrel will do me just fine here in South Texas. But if you live in, say, the Pacific Northwest you can expand your system. Just add another barrel and connect it to the side where you placed the plastic cap on the port in step 7.


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Best Way to Install a Misaligned Sink Drain During Remodeling


Snappy Trap sink drain
Snappy Trap sink drain

During new construction installing sink drains is easy-everything is configured to work together. During a kitchen or bathroom remodeling project it can be a completely different story. You can bet that things will not line up using new components.

Case in point: in the course of re-building in the aftermath of the flood due to Hurricane Harvey we’ve got new cabinets and sinks.  I needed to match up with the existing wall drainpipe. It came as no surprise that the hook-up was not the straight shot that the original was. I needed a solution.

A Flexible Solution for Connecting Drain Lines

After looking at a number of solutions I settled on the Snappy Trap. It seemed like the easiest to install and the price was right. It comes in several configurations-single sink, double-sink, etc.

In my case I used two single-sink kits since I have two drainpipe p-traps that converge into one drain. Of course, in a situation with a double-sink and one  drainpipe, the Snappy Trap 1 1/2″ all-in-one-drain kit for double bowl kitchen sinks will give the best results.

In any case, one of the important benefits over other systems is that with this product the flexible tube has a smooth interior. This prevents build-up and excessive odor.

The System is Dishwasher-Friendly

The elbow that connects to the sink strainer tailpipe has a dishwasher drain connection nipple that points up at an angle so that there will not be any back flow up into the sink (see the picture below).

Snappy Trap sink drain with dishwasher connector
Snappy Trap sink drain with dishwasher connector

This is a convenient option but if you don’t plan on connecting a dishwasher, simply leave the cap on and you’re good to go.

Installing a misaligned sink drain during remodeling without hiring an expensive plumber is a thing of the past. If you’ve got some basic tools and some DIY common sense, dive right in. The hardest part is crawling in the cabinet.

 


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Glass, Ceramic, and Porcelain Floor and Wall Tile



A glass tile wall with an accent strip
A glass tile wall with an accent strip

Article updated on 7/9/18

Tile is a very advantageous building material. It’s durable, inexpensive (usually), available in a huge range of styles, and easy to install with a few tools. Here are a few of the most common types of wall and floor tile that you are likely to encounter.

As with any new or remodeling construction project, it is important to approach it methodically and go in with a solid plan. Consider your construction budget, the living area and of course your style and tastes.

Glass Wall Tile

Glass tile is a great solution for shower walls and counter top  back splashes. The photo above is a bathroom shower glass tile installation that I recently did during a re-build following the Great Flood of ’18 (Hurricane Harvey).

This tile is clear glass with a colored paper backing which means it’s somewhat transparent at some angles and lighting conditions if the colors or marks on the underlying wall vary. Because of this it is important to apply a suitable white primer before applying the tile. Also, use white thinset as an adhesive.

Be aware that you will also need a special glass-cutting blade for your wet saw. Glass also chips easily so if you are making a narrow cut it is not only important to make a half cut and then flip it over and cut from the other direction but cut very slowly.

Ceramic and Porcelain Tile

Porcelain and ceramic tile is suitable for floor, kitchen back splash installation and wall applications. The difference between the two is susceptibility to water absorption due to content of materials and how they are fired and boiled.

The advantage of porcelain is that it resists moisture much better than ceramic so consider your application. It is also more costly in general.

Going Beyond the Ordinary; Tile Patterns

A 3D ceramic tile pattern
A 3D ceramic tile pattern

There is no reason that your tile installation project has to be bland. The photo above shows a 3D center area with a border tile pattern that I am currently working on. It is available through Home Depot and is the Twenties collection by Merola and the pieces are Diamond (for the 3D center), Corner, and Frame. And of course for the outside I’m using matching gray tile of the same size.

In my case they didn’t carry it at my local Home Depot store so I ordered online and picked it up there in a week or so. Free shipping!


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