Friday, October 1, 2010

The Great Wall

Decorative retaining wall installation: The area that I had previously fenced off in the back yard for the dogs sloped down about 2' and I wanted to level that area off so the fence I had put in wouldn't look so crooked. I also wanted to add a cool landscaping feature to the yard. I had been putting this project off until there was cooler weather outside. Now that fall is basically here, there has been alot of nice 60 degree days, perfect for working outside.

I started by digging down about 8-10 inches and compacting a level course of gravel for the blocks to sit on. The bottom row of blocks sit about 3 inches down into the ground, just the tops of them are visible. In the picture you can see the base course of block installed at the corner of the wall.

From there I built up the corner column. Each block is glued together with a special "landscape block adhesive". I only had to cut a couple blocks in half so things matched up, other than that it was just stacking full blocks together.

Here is the corner column completed and with the cap installed.

Side view showing the slope. I need to fill in behind the wal with dirt, then reinstall the fence.

Here's a view from the other direction, you can also see the second column. In total the wall has just over 300 blocks, and it weighs over 7500 pounds! It took me 6 or 7 trips to the store to get all the blocks home!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

1800's Pump Organ

The story goes that originally our house had a "built-in" organ underneath the front staircase, but a previous owner was tired of hearing it so he tore it out and threw it out back. Now, once again there is organ music filling the front entryway and spilling through the hall upstairs and also into the living room. After spotting this 1800's pump organ on Craigslist, we couldn't pass it up. It was refurbished a few years back by a previous owner and is still in great playable condition. The kids enjoy playing on it and have even learned a few simple songs. If you aren't familiar with a pump organ (like I wasn't up until going to look at this one), basically to play this organ, there are 2 foot pedals that you pump up and down filling the bellows with air. That's it, just pump the bellows and hit the keys... playing an actual song... now thats the hard part!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Patio Table and English Garden

The patio table is basically wrapped up. Tonight I just finished grouting it, it still hasn't dried by the time I took the pics. Lastly I have to put a sealer on the table to help protect it from the elements. The grout will dry a little lighter than it is in the pics, but then again the sealer might darken it back up. I am very happy with how it turned out for my first tile job of that complexity! Now I know I will be able to do some really fancy tile floors inside the house! I must have got my mosaic ambition from my mom, you can see some of her stuff in her shop:

Top view from the upstairs window.

Some of you may remember I had mentioned that I started planting an English Garden last fall. Here is the layout I had sketched up. The main entrance is at the lower right corner of the paper. Around the outside of the garden will be an 8' tall Arborvitae wall, putting the inside of the garden into seclusion from the rest of the yard. As you walk in, the path will split to either side and there will be planting beds along the edges and in the middle. The beds will be designated by rows of boxwood shrubs. In the very middle will be a rectangular reflecting pool, maybe I'll put some goldfish or koi in it. Off to either side of the garden will be various other plantings and some garden statues and benches. Out of the back of the garden will be a trellised exit covered with climbing roses. This exit will lead to the trail that goes through the wooded part of the yard. A second exit to the upper right will lead to an informal garden with more traditional plantings and flowers.

Keep in mind that this is just a very basic start to the garden, it is a work that will take many years to finish and grow. In this pic you are standing at the entrance. Those are a couple of the Arborvitae to the left and right, they are about 3' tall currently. Looking inward you can see the rows of boxwoods, eventually they will grow and be trimmed to be solid continuous "walls".

Here's a sideview, the purplish colored tree is a Japanese Maple. I've been having quite the battle with rabbits and deer this year. Somehow they have even been able to chew plants and trees that are fenced off!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Landscape Lighting and Bathroom Floor

I've Worked on a few different projects the last couple days, first off I put in some new landscape lighting around the house and up the side walkway. I had happened on another great deal at Lowes, they had some of the nice metal low voltage lights on clearance for 75% off! I like these inexpensive projects!

Another pic of the lights and also some of the flowers my mom came over and planted a week ago. They aren't very big yet, but should be growing pretty fast with the rain we've been getting.

Got the $5 light hung up too. I put it above the back staircase in the hallway.

This one has been a long time coming... Last year we had some water damage to the flooring in the bathroom from the tub leaking. It caused the flooring to swell and some of the wood overlay was buckling. I ended up pulling up all the oak flooring and thats how it sat for the last 6-7 months, with just the primered subfloor. As I am planning on eventually replacing the vanity and doing some nice tile work (couple years from now). I didn't want to put a lot of time or money into the floor at the moment. So for now I figured I had to at least get some sort of flooring down in there so I went with some vinyl tiles that resemble travertine. I bought 2 colors and layed it down in a checkerboard pattern. It turned out pretty nice looking.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Deal of the Year & Patio Table Update

We were at Lowe's over the weekend picking up a few things for the house, when I saw this chandelier setting on one of the clearance tables. It was marked down from $159 to 50% off, then marked to $25.00 and lastly to $5.00! At first glance it looked terrible, it had these little lampshades on each bulb adorned with a bright green ribbon and fake roses. They looked entirely out of place. It also had a nice layer of dust on it from hanging in the store as a display model. Upon closer inspection, it was easy to see that the shades were just clipped onto the light bulbs and could be taken off in 2 seconds. After removing them, it turns out its actually a nice looking chandelier that we couldn't pass up for $5.00! The funny part is now the shades we hated so much are hanging on a chandelier in my mom's house! They actually look completely different when they MATCH the light fixture!

The holiday weekend turned out to be incredibly hot and sunny. Nice weather, but standing in full sun working on the patio table turned out to be not as much fun as I had hoped. I wasn't quite able to get it finished, but I'm not too far off now. In this pic, the outside border is complete and I'm working on my layout for the slate pieces to fill in the rest of the field.

Getting some of the cuts made and piecing it all together. The little white "X"'s are plastic spacers to help me keep all my joints at 1/4" wide.

While I was working on the table, the kids were working on their "sculptures", they would barter over who got which scrap piece. On the top is Miles, Zander's is below.

I hope everyone had a good Memorial Weekend!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Patio Table

Here is yet another project I started. Fixing the patio table, actually more like rebuilding. What happened was last fall we bought a new glass top table. A couple weeks later after a really windy night, we awoke to see the deck covered in shattered glass. I had a pic of it, but can't find it now. So anyway, instead of buying a new table, I decided to just build a new top for it. I started with a sheet of 3/4" thick OSB cut to size, then added some 1"x2" edge boards.

Here's where I left off tonight, the table is covered in backer board, and I started cutting the tile and laying it out. The tan is a travertine marble, and the green is just a porcelain tile that matches the chairs. Tomorrow (maybe) I will start cutting the tile that goes around the star to cover the rest of the table, it is a darker brown slate.

Insteon Lighting Network

There's not really a whole lot I can show with pictures for this one, but its pretty cool so I thought it was worth mentioning. I set up all the lighting in the house to be on a network, as in you can turn on and off lighting from multiple places or even with the computer or an iphone (if I had one). Basically each switch is a little computer, it gives and recieves wireless and wired signals "talking" between each other. Now, from say the dining room, I can see what lights are on, and turn them on and off. From the kitchen lights to the upstairs hallway lights, they are all linked together. Likewise, from the master bedroom, I can see what lights are on downstairs, and turn them on or off.

The way I set it up was I worked from the back of the house forward, the kitchen is A, dining room B, etc.

Each button is backlit with an LED light. So in this switch here, the light is ON in the dining room, and also you can see how the A is lit up, meaning the kitchen light is on. Each light also is dimmable by holding the button down. With the computer software you can set lights to come on and off at specific times as well as set the rate at which it turns on or off. If in the morning you want the lights to slowly come on you could use it like an alarm clock. The bedroom light would slowly get brighter over say, a 5 minute time period.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Barrels of Fun!

We wanted to install some rainbarrels for a few reasons, to have a water source closer to the garden and another was of course, to conserve water. Even though we are on a private well, it is still nice to have a surplus of free water and not run the well pump to water the plants. As far as being closer to the garden, I put the rainbarrels on the back side of the shed. So the first step was to install gutters and downspouts on the shed. I had found some old plastic barrels on Craigslist for a good price, the barrels used to contain Mountain Dew and Pepsi syrup. You could definately smell it when you opened the caps.

The next step was drilling holes to connect the barrels together. After drilling the hole I heated up the plastic with a torch to soften it up some so it would conform to the threads on the brass coupler. I also put a bead of silicone around it just in case.

Next I connected a piece of scrap garden hose that was scavenged from a trash pile someone had set out to the road. I just used a standard stainless steel band clamp.

Here is 2 of the barrels connected together. You can also see the elevated platform I built to keep the barrels nice and level and up off the ground a little higher so the water would flow better. I set the whole thing up on cement blocks. It had to be heavy duty because when full, each barrel will weigh over 450lbs.

All three barrels in place. I had bought four, but it turned out that one had a crack in it, so if I pick up another one, there is enough room for it if I slide the middle one over. I still need to connect in the gutters from the other side of the shed, so there will be another downspout coming in on the right side of the pic. If you look closely you can see the outlet on the bottom left barrel. It is a standard hose connection. The last step was to put a piece of screen over the inlet opening on the barrel so it doesn't turn into a mosquito breeding haven.

Before I built the platform I had let one of the barrels fill up with rain as a test . I had to drain it, so I drilled a hole for the connector. You can see the water has a decent amount of pressure with the barrel full.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Master Bathroom Shelf

Well, I'm back to working on the bathroom again! In the master bath there was some dead space beneath the stairs up to the attic so I decided to put a shelf in above where the tub will be. It will be a good place to store towels, etc. Zander thought it was a fun place to play in.

With the arched top I had to put in a bunch of extra framing so when I drywall around the curve I will have plenty of places to screw into.

The curved opening mimics the arch of the dome in the bathroom ceiling.

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