Nice Rack

Hey, what else could I call a post about a firewood rack? “How to DIY a Cheap, Easy, and Fast Firewood Rack?”  Nah. Too boring.

Some of you remember “Treemageddon” last spring here, here, and here.  It left us with a surprisingly large amount of free firewood which we burned last winter.

Lots of firewood...no rack

Lots of firewood…no rack

We noticed, however, that the bug population where we kept the wood exploded. This is not comforting when you have a lot of wood siding 4 feet away.  In order to stop the bugs, you only need to get the wood off of the ground.  Hence, the need for a Firewood Rack.  This was surprisingly easy.  Since most wood racks on the market are $100-$300, this is an easy way to save some cash while looking like you know what you’re doing!

Supplies:

(2) Cinder Blocks = $2.76

(2) Landscape Timbers = $7.94

(4) Mini Fence Posts = $12.68

TOTAL = $23.38

Supplies for the Wood Rack

Supplies for the Wood Rack

Step 1:

Determine where you want your rack.  Make sure you don’t have the wood touching anything except the rack or there is a greater risk of bugs eating the wood (or your siding!).  Also make sure it’s not sitting in standing water or that will defeat the purpose of building the rack in the first place!

Step 2:

Place cinder block where you want the rack and slide one end of the landscape timber into the hole of the cinder block.

Landscape Timber in Cinder Block

Landscape Timber in Cinder Block

Step 3:

Do the same thing with the other landscape timber.

Both Landscape Timbers in Cinder Block

Both Landscape Timbers in Cinder Block

Step 4:

Place the other ends of the landscape timbers in the other cinder block (did I mention this was ridiculously easy?).  It helps to have one person making sure you don’t slide the wood out the other end!

Base of the DIY Wood Rack

Base of the DIY Wood Rack

Step 5:

Hammer in a green fence post so it blocks the hole of the cinder block using a 3 lb sledgehammer if you have one…a regular hammer works but it’ll take a while.  This prevents the landscape timbers from ever sliding out and gives you something to stack your firewood against.

A 3 lb Sledge Hammer makes quick work of the fence post

A 3 lb Sledge Hammer makes quick work of the fence post

Step 6:

Repeat 3 more times on the outside of every cinder block hole.

Notice how the landscape timbers can't slide out

Notice how the landscape timbers can’t slide out

Step 7:

Stack the wood on it.  That’s it. You’re done.  It should look somewhat like this:

Cheap DIY Wood Rack

Cheap DIY Wood Rack

 

Affordable DIY Wood Rack with wood on it

Affordable DIY Wood Rack with wood on it

 

Is it pretty? No. Does it work really well? Yep. The whole thing took about 15 minutes and saved us about $100.  Can’t beat that!  Time to go find some firewood!

What do you think?  What happens when you put a lightsaber in water?  When sign makers go on strike, is anything written on their signs? Why are there interstate highways in Hawaii? If a bee is allergic to pollen would it get the hives?

Kevin the Tree Killer

Last year in the Winter Wonderland post,  we showed you how beautiful the Little House is with a 1/2″ of ice.  What we didn’t show was later that day when part of the tree by the front porch decided it didn’t like the ice as much as we enjoyed the day off work.  Unfortunately, it left a gap in the front where greenery should have been.  That tree next to the front porch looks a little off, doesn’t it?  Trust us, in real life, it looks pretty bad.

In the Beginning

In the Beginning

So, we decided the tree had to go.  Plus, we recently got a chainsaw that we’ve never used before and were excited to give it a go.  The tree had three tall remaining sprouts that had to be cut off.  The entire project took about an hour and was super easy…but we haven’t dug up the stump yet!

After Branch #1

After Branch #1

After Branch #2

After Branch #2

After Branch #3

After Branch #3

I cut the third branch down by hand to feel manly (as if using a chainsaw wasn’t enough).  This is my serious tree murdering face (#selfie):

Kevin's Serious Face

Kevin’s Serious Face

Fortunately, in Dallas the city comes around once a month and hauls off branches and bulk trash for free!  Well,  I guess we pay it in our property taxes, but it feels free.  Here was the pile:

Standing on our porch

Standing on our porch

Looking at the Little House

Looking at the Little House

 

This opened up the Little House to so much more light!  We were planning on planting another tree, but now we may just put in a couple hydrangeas and call it a day.  Here are the before and after photos to compare:

In the Beginning

Before

After

After

 

Would you plant another tree in its place?  Do you think grass will grow by where the tree was now that it’s gone?  Did you know it is NOT wise to run a chainsaw without oil (I knew I forgot something my Dad told me!)?  Alternatively, we could have used a woodchuck/beaver-like animal for this.  If you have a pet that eats wood, can we borrow it for the stump?

Handyman Wednesday: Installing a Screen Door

Hi everyone! Kevin’s here as a follow up to my last post on buying a screen door.  It is now installed in the Little House and it was a pretty painless process.  I had my awesome dad in town to help me, so that made life SO much easier (thanks Mom and Dad!)

handyman

I’m going to keep this pretty high level because every door is different.  Most importantly, read ALL the instructions before you start.  I put a couple of screws in the wrong place because I didn’t read everything first.  A couple other things to remember:

1. You can’t do this alone.  Don’t try.

me-and-my-dad

2. You need plenty of space.  Like a yard to lay the door down in.

Door in Yard

3.  Assemble all tools before starting.

More Tools for hanging a door  Tools

4. Don’t try to hang the door when a storm is coming in (we may have made this mistake).

storm_cloud

Here are the basic steps.  It’s quite easy if you have the tools and the people to help.

Step 1.  Determine if the door is right hung or left hung (see the last handyman Wednesday for this)

Step 2. Measure and cut the trim pieces for the door using a hacksaw.

Cut Trim PiecesStep 3. Hang the trim pieces using the included screws.

Hang Trim Pieces

 

Step 4. Hang door and hinges on trim pieces (there should be a diagram for this in your instructions).

Step 5. Drill holes for hardware.

Screen Door Hardware Template  Holes for screen door hardware  Drill holes for screen door hardware

 

Step 6. Install faceplates.

IMG_3673

 

Step 7. Install hardware.  This was way easier than I thought.  Basically it came in two pieces and you just have to tighten one screw to make the whole thing stay together.

Install Door Hardware

 

Step 8. Install the slower-downer-bar-thing-that-makes-the-cool-noise (yes, that’s the official terminology…trust me).

IMG_9082  IMG_0376

 

That’s it.  Test out your new door!  I would say for your first door allow about 3 hours.  The directions will inevitably be confusing and you’ll have to refer to Mr. Google for some advice (or in my lucky case Mr. Dad).

Here’s a picture of the finished product (we need to paint the trim now!!!):

 

IMG_9625

 

Let us know what you think!  We love this door because our cat and dogs can look outside without jumping on anything, and if we ever have smoke in the kitchen (cough, never happens, cough), we can lower the screen on this bad boy and air the house out.

 

If a bee is allergic to pollen would it get the hives?  Do the Alphabet song and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star have the same tune?  Why does a dog get mad at you when you blow in his face, but stick his head out the window when you take him for a car ride?

 

Handyman Wednesday: We Bought a Door

Hi everyone!  Kevin is here for a 2-part Handyman Wednesday.  Today, we are going to discuss doors.

I know, you have them, they’re very useful for keeping people out of your house.  However, if you don’t have a storm door or screen door, you can’t let the breeze blow in without letting the pets blow out.  Therefore, a door with a screen is a must.  The Little House lacked these doors.  With my parents in town this weekend (love you guys!), I had the handyman of all handymen here to help me pick out and install a door.

My Dad said there are 5 things to consider in a new door.

1. Size.  Please measure your door-frame.  Our kitchen door-frame was 32″ wide and 80″ tall.  This is the standard door size.

Door Frame Size Guide2. Decide what kind of door you want.  There are storm doors that are all glass, doors that are glass and screen, and then all screen.  With us, we wanted the screen, but couldn’t do the full screen or the Fievel would sharpen his claws on it.

Storm Doors and Combo Doors

Combo Screen/Storm, and Full Storm Doors

Screen Door

Full Screen Door

3. Make sure you know if your door is right-hand or left-hand.  This is easy.  Look at you door from the outside.  If your hinges are on the right it is right-handed.  If your hinges are on your left it’s left handed.

Hinge Side

4. Decide your budget (Doors range from $90 – $300+).

5. Have at least 4 hands available.  I would NOT install a door by myself.

We had a budget of $150 for our door which severely limited our choices of prettiness to this:

EMCO100

Then we found a clearance sticker at Home Depot.  When I see a yellow sticker at Home Depot, I get more excited than Thor at a 2-for-1 sale on hammers.

 

Did I read that right?  Is it $103 off?

Did I read that right? Is it $103 off?

Here’s our pretty door.  Come back next week for the install tips!

This is our door, except replace nickel with Brass

This is our door, except replace nickel with Brass

 

Here’s a link to Home Depot of our door:

EMCO 400 Series Door

 

 

What do you do when you see an endangered animal that is eating an endangered plant?  If you put a chameleon in a room full of mirrors, what color would it turn?  Can an ambidextrous person make an offhand remark? 

Crazy Custom Caps for Kevin

Happy Monday!  If you’re anything like me (this is Kevin), you already feel exhausted when you wake up.  One more reason to drink that extra cup of coffee when you’re heading to the office.

Today, I wanted to talk a little about one of our hobbies: Homebrewing.  We make our own beer and it’s quite easy.  Let’s save that for another time though.  This weekend, we ordered our 2014 customized bottle caps.  Here’s where you can use these:

1. Homebrewing (probably the biggest client)

2. Weddings

3. Playing Caps Drinking Game (wikipedia)

In the past, you used to have to make a large order to do this.  Now, you can order 1, 2, 100, or 10,000 using Bottlemark.

BottleMark Logo

 

You upload your own design.  A picture, a template, anything you can create in Paint or PowerPoint or PhotoShop and voila, in 2 weeks you have a finished product at your doorstep.

Now, introducing the Little House Brew Haus 2014 Bottle Caps:

Blonde Ale Bottle Cap

Blonde Ale Bottle Cap

Kolsch Ale Bottle Cap.  This is similiar to the flag of the Cologne region of Germany.

Kolsch Ale Bottle Cap. This is similiar to the flag of the Cologne region of Germany.

Red, Wit, and Blue Ale Bottle Cap

Red, Wit, and Blue Ale Bottle Cap

Belgian Strong Ale Bottle Cap

Belgian Strong Ale Bottle Cap

Do you have other things you custom order? Imagine you are in a sinking rowboat surrounded by sharks. How would you survive?  What would happen if you shot a gun in space?

Handyman Wednesday: The Roof, The Roof, The Roof Is On…No wait, it’s off!

If you’re like most people, you’ve never put a roof on a house.  That’s ok!  I’ve helped my family re-roof their houses in Illinois, but in Texas, no one wants to be on a hot roof…especially if insurance is paying.  Perhaps you remember this post.  As you can see, there was a hole in the roof of our garage!

Re-Roof_1

He’s a play by play photo log of the re-roofing process.  Let me know if you have any questions (and I’ll ask my dad or dad-in-law, who have re-roofed about 50 houses in their lives).

1. Strip the old shingles, felt, and decking off the roof

Re-Roof_32: Remove broken 2×4 braces (underneath the horizontal boards you can see they’re removing the supporting structure because it was broken when the tree fell on it)

Re-Roof_4

Re-Roof_5

3:  Replace with new 2×4 boards.

Re-Roof_7

4:  Replace horizontal support boards.

Re-Roof_8

5: Lay decking down to cover roof.  I prefer 1/2″ plywood or OSB but most code requires only 7/16″.  Something to ask your contractor when getting quotes!

Re-Roof_9

Re-Roof_10

Re-Roof_11

6:  Lay felt down for under your shingles (I like 30 lb felt paper over 15 lb.  It gives the roofers more grip on their feet and provides better protection to your roof).

Re-Roof_12

Re-Roof_13

8: Lay your shingles on your roof.  We went this GAF Timberline HD shingles on our house in January and garage here. Our color was Weathered Wood (most homes in our neighborhood have the same color!).

Re-Roof_14

If you have any questions on the process, ask here and I’ll ask my dads.  Thanks!  Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?  Whose idea was it to put an ‘S’ in the word ‘lisp’?  Why does mineral water that has “trickled through mountains for centuries” go out of date next year?  Where in the nursery rhyme does it say humpty dumpty is an egg?

Handyman Wednesday: Replacing Spark Plugs

Hi everyone, Kevin’s here giving Jess the day off and providing you with another Handyman Wednesday.

We had a sad moment this weekend.  We went to start up our power-washer, and it wouldn’t work.  It’s a really nice power washer, too.  Here’s a link to it.  We got it from Sears Outlet for $200 almost 2 years ago.  If you haven’t read this post from last summer, now’s a good time to.

Craftsman 3000 psi pressurewasher

Ok, back to the problem.  It wouldn’t start. We pulled, and pulled, and pulled.  This model doesn’t have a choke on it, so there’s not much you can do but check the oil, gas, flip the switch on, and pull (really nice when if it works).  Jess and I, after careful online research, decide to replace the spark plug.  If we could fix it ourselves, we would avoid the $89.99 fee Sears charges to fix it.  Spark plugs are also really cheap ($2-$5).

Sparkplug for Powerwasher

Signs you may need to replace spark plugs:

1.  Engine is very hard to start (or won’t start)

2. Engine will “miss” and not develop power it should

3. Backfire caused by un-exploded gasoline going through your muffler

Spark_Plug_Anatomy

Fortunately, this is a VERY easy repair.  Here’s the steps.

1. Find the spark plug.  It’s about 2″ (5 cm) long and should have a wire with a rubber head connected to it.

2. Pull off the rubber head with your hands.  It doesn’t require tools.

3. Get a deep socket and socket wrench and remove the spark plug.  This will take some turning as there are a lot of threads on a socket.

Remove Sparkplug

5. Go buy a new spark plug at your hardware store (make sure the numbers on the side of the spark-plug match).

6.  Put it on the same way you took it off.  Push the black rubber wire back on, and you’re done!

Replace Sparkplug

If it still doesn’t work, you didn’t need to replace the spark plug.  We had this happen, as we pulled and pulled to no avail.  So Jess looked at the manual and saw that it had a 2 year warranty! Hooray!  We took it to the local Sears Repair Center and dropped that puppy off.  In 10 days, we’ll get it back or get a new one for free!  I love Sears.

Sears_Outlet

Have you ever had tools fail on you?  Why do girls go to the bathroom in groups (seriously)?  If money doesn’t grow on trees, why do banks have branches?  If you cut off a glowworm’s tail would it be delighted?  If scientists were ever going to figure out how to travel through time, wouldn’t we now be seeing people from the future?  If you don’t pay your exorcist, do you get repossessed?

Handyman Wednesday: Weed and Feed (Plus Kill the Bugs)

Hi everyone, it’s the Hubs again for another edition of Handyman Wednesday.  It’s that time of year again.  Time to start paying attention to your yard, killing the bugs, and fertilizing the grass.  If you own grass and don’t fertilize, you need to definitely consider it.  The investment is relatively small (especially if you just laid $600 in sod like we just did).

Tools Required:

1. Spreader:  I like this model from Scotts.  It has an “Edge Guard” knob so I only spread fertilizer straight and left.  This way, it doesn’t get in my flower beds and kill plants.

Scotts Edge Guard2. Weed and Feed: This is simply the nutrients to help your grass thrive mixed with weed killer to kill all the bad stuff.  Don’t get it in your flower beds though, or you can kiss them goodbye.  We got a kind with Fire Ant killer mixed in too!

bonus_s_max_std

3. Old pair of shoes (you don’t want to get the fire ant killer on your feet)

4. Watering hose

How to:

1. Set the spreader pouring speed by turning the knob on the back.  If you buy Scotts weed and feed and a Scotts Spreader, it should have the recommended setting.  Our setting was 4-1/2.  Also turn on the “Edge Guard” on the front of the spreader.

Set the spreader to 4.5

2. Fill the spreader with the weed and feed.  My bag covered 5000 square feet, so I used about half a bag on my front yard.

Fill the spreader with Scotts Weed and Feed

Fill the spreader with Scotts Weed and Feed

3. Pull handle and walk around yard.  It’s that simple.

Spreading Weed and Feed on the Yard

Spreading Weed and Feed on the Yard

Spreading Weed and Feed on the Yard

4.  You’re done.  Turn your sprinkler system on for about 15 minutes, making sure to cover the entire area.

Or, if you’re like me and don’t want to waste water: wait until the evening before a rain.  I remember my dad always running outside when it started to sprinkle and fertilizing the yard.  Trust me, you want to do this if you want a pretty yard…and it’s a good excuse to add an awesome spreader to your garage.

Do you fertilize?  When one of our friends found out we were fertilizing last night and couldn’t hang out, she thought we were trying to make a baby (we are not trying yet).  If someone leads but no one follows… are they just out for a walk?  Do Lipton employees take coffee breaks?  How do you know if honesty is the best policy unless you’ve tried some of the others?  If the FBI breaks your door down do they have to pay for it?

Handyman Wednesday: Break-in, Not Again

Hi everyone, Kevin again.  Well, bad news.  If you follow us on Pinstagram (I get confused between Pinterest and Instragram so I just combine them), you know I had my car broken into Sunday night.  This is now the third time in 3 years of living in Dallas we’ve had our vehicles vandalized.  Don’t get me wrong, you’re usually pretty safe in Dallas (unless you park your car in the alley behind your house and forget about it overnight).  Then, the neighbor wakes you up and shows you this:

Kevs Window

So, now I’m thinking we don’t have enough security in the back on our house.  Currently, there are 4 garages from all the neighbors on a corner where two alleys cross (not the most secure of places).  There are three floodlights on each garage, but do lights really scare people off?  Do they help you catch people once a crime has been committed? No.  I’m thinking about alternative methods of protection now (flashback to 007 Goldeneye Proximity Mines from the Nintendo 64…ask any man, he’ll be able to explain better).

Here’s some of the cooler things I’ve found to protect the Little House.

First Awesome Idea: Cameras.  Night Vision.  Smartphone Access.  Need I say more?  Here’s a few that I’ve found on Amazon.

Security System

Next Awesome Idea: Robot Dog.  Although impractical, this little guy can move and record images.  It kind of reminds me of one of those automatic vacuums that stroll around your house and clean.

Robot Dog

Nerdy Awesome Idea: A laser trip-wire that takes a photo and tweets when it trips.  I’m seriously considering this one.

Way Over the Top Idea: Personal Drone.  Yes, when a security breach happens, put this guy into the air for live video recording.  Plus, it can go back to home base on its own and re-charge.

Personal_Drone

Serious Car Protection:  Want to get a photo of the intruder sent to you?  Buy this for only $300.  That’s barely more than I paid for my window…  Plus, you get remote start, and 10 full color images of the intruder.

scytek-vision-guard-8000-car-alarm

All of these ideas are over the top, but I want to hear any awesome ideas you have for home/car protection that I can think about doing.  Let me know below and send links so I can check them out!

Has your ever woke up to a smashed window? Did Adam and Eve have belly-buttons?  Now that Microsoft is so big, should it be called Macrosoft?  Why is the third hand on the watch called a second hand? Why is it that doctors call what they do “practice”?

Handyman Wednesday: Don’t But the Extended Warranty

Hi everyone, I’ve been plagued with bad luck lately.  In the past 6 months, our dishwasher has broken three times (bought last June), our air compressor has broken once (bought last summer), and just this past weekend, our computer lost its hard drive (bought in November).  There is one upside to this story: everything was under warranty and fixed for free.  The dishwasher required a repairman to come out 3 times (would have cost about $1000 without the warranty), we took the air compressor back for repair (would have cost $70), and the computer repairman replaced the hard drive yesterday (repair cost about $200).  That’s a grand total of $1270 that we would have had to pay if our devices weren’t under manufacturer’s warranty.

Dell_L521x samsung_dishwasher Craftsman_Air_Compressor

Wow, this sounds like a case for buying the extended warranty.  Well, time to look at the other side of the coin.

Rule #1: The extended warranty isn’t the salesperson looking out for your best interest.  This is math.  Some people that work for large retailers or manufacturers get paid a lot of money to make sure that this is a profitable business.  I love Investopedia.  Here’s what they have to say:

Investopedia

“What most consumers fail to realize is that although the price of an extended warranty often seems like a bargain to a consumer who is aware of the steep price of repairs, it has actually been carefully considered through actuarial analysis by the company that offers it. In other words, the company uses probability and statistical methods to calculate the likelihood that your new refrigerator or big-screen television, for example, will require repairs. This figure is weighed against how much those repairs would cost to arrive at the price that a company will charge consumers for a warranty on a particular item. This formula is not designed to work in your favor.”

Rule #2:  Check the manufacturer’s warranty.  Most products come with a 12 month warranty.  If most products are going to break, they do it in the first couple months of use (i.e. all of the cases we’ve experienced in the introduction).

Manufacturers_Warranty

Rule #3: Check your credit card.  My American Express and Jess’ Discover card both extend the manufacturer’s warranty for an additional 12 months for free.  That means I already have a 24 month warranty. I found an article on this exact topic (By the way, AMEX, Visa, and Mastercard don’t cover repairs to your pet…Apparently Discover does).

credit_card_extended_warranty

Rule #4: Electronics depreciate with time.  This means that yes, Best Buy will replace your computer in 3 years if it breaks, but the computer you buy today will be way cheaper in 3 years, so they won’t have to spend very much to replace your computer with the same specs.  Furthermore, if you do need a repair, it may cost less than the warranty cost in the first place…and you could have been making interest on that money (or got the benefit of buying new shoes/tools/plants).

Electronics_Depreciation

Rule #5:  I found this AWESOME table on Investopedia.  This shows how often common products need to be repaired within the first 3 years.

Repair_Rate_For_Electronics

Rule #6: There are still good extended warranties you should buy.  Namely, Apple’s mobile products.  For some reason, Apple products don’t get much cheaper with time and you can get an extended warranty for pretty cheap.  I recommend SquareTrade, but wait until they have a sale.  I’ve been able to get a 3-year iPhone warranty with drops and spills for $54.  Chances are, I’m going to drop or spill on my iPhone during that time, and replacing an iPhone 5 will cost at least $300-$400 for the next couple years.  Replacing a broken screen is at least $100, so I found this to be a decent buy.

squaretrade iphone squaretrade

Let me know if you have an opinion on this topic.  I take the stance: the math doesn’t permit me to buy an extended warranty.  However, I’ll gladly take the free one my credit card offers.

Have you ever been thankful you did buy the extended warranty? Should you believe a chronic liar if he admits that he is a chronic liar?  Many builders refuse to have a 13th floor. Why aren’t book publishers afraid to have a Chapter 11?  What was the best thing before they invented sliced bread?