Standing Desks: Everything You Need to Know

Standing Desk
The first thing you need to know is that there are three main types of standing desks: the fixed or traditional standing desk, the Riser and the adjustable-height desk.
  1. The fixed standing desk or rig is any setup that allows a person to stand or be upright while working but doesn’t give them the option to sit down. This is a really common configuration and is the kind of desk that really started the standing revolution. Quick side note, this is actually how I got into standing at work. I made my first standing desk for about $28 from a couple of Ikea end tables and a shelf. I made a video about it several years ago that you can check out here. After a year or two with that setup, I built a coffee table version to have a little more desktop space. This second setup, including the stool, only cost about $60. In addition to the traditional standing desk, this genre also includes some more aggressive desks designed to help you get some light exercise while you work, like treadmill desks and even elliptical desks. Besides full desks, there are also rigs that raise your computer and monitors off the desk but don’t allow for them to be quickly or easily lowered again. The price range for a fixed standing desk or rig starts at Free.99 for a simple DIY setup using books, boxes, crates or anything else you can get your hands on, and might cost as much as a few hundred dollars for a higher end DIY standing desk. On the commercially available side, traditional standing desks start at around $150 but are generally in the $250-500 price range.
  2. Next up is Risers. Risers are an addition to your existing desk that give you the option to quickly go from sitting to standing or vice versa. They come in a wide range of sizes, materials and options and are harder to make yourself but not impossible. In 2012 I set out to make my own desktop extender that I could lift up and down at will. I came up with this one and used it for several years but it required two people to lower it, so it wasn’t very effective. Fortunately, there are many commercially available options. As far as price, a DIY version of this type of desk is likely going to set you back at least $50 in supplies and parts while commercial options for these risers typically range from $200-$500. If you just need to lift a laptop, not a larger area, you can pay as little as $40.
  3. Last up is the adjustable-height desk. Much like Risers, these can quickly go from sitting to standing height but these are desks where the entire surface of the desk moves up and down, either electronically or manually. This is a great option if you either don’t have or want to replace an existing desk and want the added advantage of having a nice, large surface that moves up and down with you. Adjustable height desks, like risers, can be complex to build on your own and would likely cost $50-100 on the low end for a DIY version. The commercially available options start as low as $250 (even for an electronic, motorized version) and can cost as much as several thousands dollars.

Sitting vs Standing

Tons of research has been done on the effects of sitting vs standing. I’ve read dozens of articles on the subject and one of the best resources I’ve found on the impacts of sitting vs standing at work is a study from Cornell University on ergonomics. The study concludes the following:
  1. You shouldn’t sit all day. Sitting for more than one hour at a time leads to fat build-up and is related to heart disease risks. Sitting for 8-10 hours/day for years on end is extremely unhealthy.
  2. You shouldn’t stand all day. Extensive standing increases the risk of varicose veins and is harder on the circulatory system, particularly for the legs and feet. It fatigues us about 20% more than sitting (for me it feels more like 40%). Also, it decreases our fine motor skill abilities, which, depending on your occupation, could be problematic.
  3. Sit/Stand Desks aren’t an easy fix. People with sit/stand desks tend to spend most of their time sitting within about a month of getting their desks. Also, when people do stand, it tends to be for only 15 minutes or so.
  4. So what do they recommend? The pattern I’m about to introduce you to changed my sitting and standing behaviors at work for good because not only does it make perfect sense but it’s also very reasonable to accomplish. Here’s their advice: “Sit to do computer work. Sit using a height-adjustable, downward titling keyboard tray for the best work posture, then every 20 minutes stand for 8 minutes AND MOVE for 2 minutes.” That, my friends, is the key. Get into a habit of standing and then walking every half hour. The movement only needs to be a couple of minutes and the standing only for eight. That’s extremely doable and a sit/stand desk or riser makes this possible. Check the description or my article for links to apps that help you keep track of time intervals for this method.

Posture

Posture while standing is as important as standing itself. Here are a few tips to keep in mind while you’re standing.
  1. Your elbows should be at a 90° angle while you type. Your monitors should be within arms reach and should be at a height where you can see them easily without looking up, and they should be slightly below eye level.
  2. Alternate positions. It’s important to change your posture while you stand. Lean on different feet… don’t lean at all… put one leg up… switch legs. Keep changing to keep moving.
  3. Avoid leaning over on your desk or doing anything that would be stressful on your back or neck.

Mats are Critical

Buy a decent mat or two for work and it’ll make standing way easier. Costco sells a $20 mat that is actually pretty decent and is one of the more affordable options out there. Nicer Anti-fatigue mats are upwards of $100 but if you stand a lot, they’re worth it. Try doubling up and using two or more mats. You don’t want to be standing in a foam pit, but you definitely don’t want to be standing on a concrete floor either.

Footwear Matters

Wear comfortable shoes if you can. Choose shoes that are supportive and that won’t bother you after several intervals of standing. If wearing comfortable shoes isn’t an option, don’t wear shoes while standing. When combined with a good mat, being barefoot is really quite comfortable.

Use a tool or app to help you keep track

There are apps for desktops that help you keep track but all of the ones that I’ve tried are very manual and I found that I lost interest in using them. There are watch apps if you use a smart watch and this can be a great way to keep track. Personally I use a phone app that reminds me every twenty minutes and then again after ten minutes. None of these options seems like the perfect solution, however. I think a sensor driven device would be ideal – maybe one that would keep track of the time that I’m at my desk and if it’s raised or lowered. Better yet, a way to keep track of when I’m sitting, standing or moving throughout the entire work day. If you know of such a thing, please leave a comment and I’ll update the description.
So that’s standing desks in a nutshell. They’re a great way to be more active at work and to reduce the time you spend sitting. Of course, standing and sitting are only one part of being healthy during the work day. There’s a lot of great info out there about staying active in your office, like these 10 Office Workouts You Can Do To Boost Your Productivity, for example. Do you have any tips about standing desks or standing at work that you’d like to share? Help us all out by leaving a comment below!

The Best Way to Put Up Christmas Lights

best-way-to-hang-christmas-lights

Please note – you’ll find the links to the products from this article at the end of the text.

Putting up Christmas lights kinda sucks. It’s a pain that we have to deal with every year but I love Christmas and think it’s worth doing. After my wife and I spent about 8 hours putting up Christmas lights last year using hundreds of clips and moving the ladder around dozens of times and then not even being all that pleased with how it turned out, I decided there’s gotta be a better way.

tangled-christmas-lights

 

I’m going to show you the method I use that, once you get it set up, allows you to put up Christmas Lights in about an hour each year – and the best part? Once it’s set up, areas that are less than 25’ high don’t even require a ladder.

best-way-to-hang-christmas-lights

Here’s what’s involved:

  1. The first year you spend some time to set up your sections of lights for your house using 1/2″ PVC, zip ties and, of course, your Christmas lights
  2. You install small hooks and white clips around the house
  3. Every year after that, you use a ladder or for areas less than 25’ high, a pole to hang your section joints from the hooks at the peaks and corners of your house
  4. Once you have a section up, use a pole or ladder to snap the sections into their clips
  5. Position the lights if necessary by pushing or pulling a bit
  6. Plug it in and you’re done!
  7. Then, at the end of the season, just use a ladder or a pole with a hook on it to take them down and store them in the garage until next year.

Now let’s take a look at how you get everything set up and some of the pointers that will save you a lot of time and frustration.

the-crevier-christmas-light-system

I started out by researching what others had done and I discovered the Crevier System on YouTube and wanted to try it out but I couldn’t help but think that I could be just a bit lazier and not use a ladder at all. I live in a one-story rambler and, using my new method, was able to put all of my lights up without using a ladder at all, once the initial setup was complete.

The first step is to go around and measure all of the sections where you want to put lights up. Keep in mind that you need to measure the areas of open line, where you don’t want lights but where the line needs to extend from one section to the next, like from a horizontal roof line to an eve.

putting-up-christmas-lights

With our dimensions listed out, it’s time to cut 1/2” PVC pipe to match each section. You can cut it with any type of saw, or you can use a $12 pair of PVC pipe cutters. You can buy 1/2” PVC pipe in 10’ sections for about $2, and don’t forget to pick up a few 1/2” couplings in case you have sections that are longer than 10’. As you cut each piece, I recommend labeling them with their length and their order to make it easy to line them up later.

measuring-pvc-for-christmas-lights

Once the pipes are cut into sections, it’s time to strap the Christmas lights to them. For this project, I highly recommend getting separate lines and bulbs. By doing so you can replace the bulbs any time and you can even reconfigure the colors. It’s also to customize the lines – like if you need to split off to go up to an eve while the main line continues on, for example. You can also easily remove a light socket or two as needed. I shopped around and found a pretty decent deal on Amazon for 100ft sections of 12” spaced C9 stringers as well as Red and White C9 LED bulbs. That said, standard lights will work just fine with this method as well – including icicle lights or any other kind that lays out in a line.

attaching-stringers-to-pvc

To attach the lights, start at the end with the plug and work your way down the line, making sure to keep your pipe sections in order, and remembering to leave spaces of line where you need to. I tried using 4” zip ties at first but found that 6” ties work way better. I also really appreciated being able to use a zip tie gun as it saved my fingers from having to tighten and clip the hundreds of zip ties involved in this kind of project. It was well worth $15. At the end of the line, just cut the cord and apply a waterproof wire nut to seal it off.

the-best-way-to-put-up-christmas-lights

If you do end up with section where you just want the power line and don’t want the sockets, you actually remove the sockets pretty easily with these types of stringers. Just squeeze the back of the socket off and they should pop off, leaving the power line in tact.

removing-extra-sockets

With our sections of pipe cut and all lit up, it’s time make clips. As it turns out, 3/4” PVC makes an excellent clip for 1/2” PVC to snap into. To make the clips, we first need to remove a section of the pipe. I played around with cutting out different amounts and found that removing about 1/3 was perfect. I used my sliding mitre saw to cut two parallel lines in the pipe but you can also do this with a hand saw, hack saw, table saw, skil saw, dremel or a router – whatever you have handy. If you know someone who has a sliding mitre saw, however, it does make this job pretty easy. Once you’ve removed the section from the 3/4” pipe, you’re ready to cut it into 1” sections to turn it into clips using either a mitre saw or the PVC pipe cutters.

cutting-christmas-light-clips

The last thing we need to do before our clips are done is to predrill them a countersink screw, so that the screws don’t jut out into the clip. I recommend drilling the holes close to the open side, rather than in the middle. That way, when you attach them to the house, the opening can point downward, which makes it easier to clip the pipe sections in from the ground.

pvc-christmas-light-clips

Now it’s time to prep our eves. Get the ladder out and predrill and insert some 3-4” hooks at the peaks of the eves and on corners to hold the various sections in place. Think about how the sections will hang and place them on corners and areas that make the most sense. While you’re up there, attach the clips every 3 feet or so. Remember to point the opening downward and try to keep them nice and straight. Also, be sure to give yourself enough room around obstacles, like gutter drains and light fixtures.

installing-pvc-christmas-light-clips

The last step in our preparation is getting a pole ready with three types of endings. I used a 3/4” PVC section duct taped together for grabbing and pushing the pipes into their clips. I used another 3/4” PVC section shaped with a small opening to grab the zip ties between lines and hook them into the mounted hooks. Lastly, I fashioned a small hook out of some angle brackets to use to take the PVC sections down. For the pole, I just used a 10’ metal electrical conduit and used a second one with a coupling for the really tall areas.

huge-reach-with-conduits

With the sections wired up and the clips and hooks in place, it’s time for the fun part – putting the lights up. I find it’s easiest to have someone helping out by holding the bulk of the sections of pipe while you hook one joint at a time onto the corresponding hook on the house. You can even reach some pretty tall areas with the two poles together. I mostly focus on getting them all in place first, them I go back and use the first attachment to push the pipes into the clips. From there, I push the lights that need it into position, and we’re done!

easiest-way-to-put-up-christmas-lights

I recommend storing these in the garage or attic on some hangers. Keeping your sections no longer than about 15ft is ideal for storage.

That’s it! These lights take a little while to set up the first time but after that, putting up the Christmas lights each year will be way easier than it used to be.

pvc-christmas-light-setup

If you have a way to make this process even better or easier, leave a comment! I don’t claim to have all the answers and would love to hear what you think.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Caulk Like a Pro

How to Caulk Like a Pro

You’ve probably tried caulking before and know that it can be pretty tough to get good results. Caulking is messy, it sticks to your fingers and your clothes and it’s easy to make things look pretty bad. After years of having to caulk everything from tubs to sinks to trim, I’ve finally come across a handful of tips that make all the difference. Let’s dig in.

1 – Choosing the Right Caulk or Sealant for the Job

The first thing we need to take a look at is choosing the right caulk or sealant for the job that you’re doing. When you’re at the hardware store, you’ll see dozens and dozens of different types of caulks and sealants. It really comes down to two main categories. The first is latex-based sealants like Big Stretch. Now like it shows here, you can use this to caulk and seal your windows, your doors, or your siding, internal or external; but I love to use it on trim.

Products from this article:

Big Stretch Caulk
Big Stretch Caulk

When you’re working around areas that have excessive moisture, you’re going to want to use a silicone or silicone alternative like Lexel. This will keep the mildew and moisture away.

silicone caulk
Silicone Caulk

2 – Use a Dripless Caulking Gun

 

Dripless Caulk Gun
Dripless Caulk Gun

The next tip to get professional results is to get a dripless gun. Here’s why. When you’re using standard gun and you release the handle, the pressure stays on, it continues to squeeze the caulking out of the tube. This doesn’t put you in control, whereas with a dripless gun, when you release the trigger, it backs off just a little bit making it so that material only comes out when you want it to.

3 – Cutting the Tip Correctly

how to cut a caulk tube
How to cut a caulk tube

Our next tip is making the right cut for the gap. The size of the cut that you make in the opening of the tube should depend on the width of the gap that you’re trying to seal. I recommend using a utility knife or a sharp blade to get a nice, sharp and smooth tip. If the opening is too small, cut it again. Just about every caulking gun I’ve seen comes with a tip cutter or spout cutter in the handle. You just squeeze the trigger and you can use it to cut off the tip of the caulking tube.

cut caulking tube with spout cutter
Cut a caulking tube with spout cutter

This is convenient, but you’re not going to get as clean or sharp of an edge as you would using a utility knife. One method for cutting the tip that I prefer is to cut the tip at an angle. The reason I like this method because every time you’re doing some caulking, you’re holding the gun at an angle.

cut caulk tube at an angle
Cut caulk tube at an angle

This prevents it from stuttering and helps you get a nice smooth bead. Take a sharpie and mark the top of the angle. You can always see which direction you’re traveling in.

4 – Smooth the Bead With Your Finger

The final tip is to always use your finger to do the smoothing of the bead when you’re caulking. There are lots of different tools available. The problem is they get nicks and cracks in them, and that transfers directly to the work that you’re doing.

dont use tools to smooth caulk
Don’t use tools to smooth caulking and sealants

I’ve got a sample that I’ve set up and I run the tool along it, and there’s too much stuff left over, it’s pulling the caulking off, and leaves a jagged edge. If I dip my finger in warm water, and smooth it over the bead, it’s going to leave a nice, smooth result.

Tooling caulking with tool vs finger
Tooling caulking with tool vs finger

You can really see the difference between using a tool, and using your finger that’s been dipped in water. The goal is to smooth out what’s there- not to remove any excess.

Results of tool vs finger
Results of tool vs finger

Knowing how much material to use can be difficult. If you use too little, there won’t be enough to fill the gap, and it might pull to one side or the other as things settle. If you use too much, you’re going to ruin the contour of the trim or the two pieces that you’re joining together. Ideally, you want to end up somewhere in the middle, like you see in this diagram.

How much caulk should I apply?
How much caulk should I apply?

5 – Use Painters Tape to Get a Perfect Edge When Caulking

A bonus tip, when you’re using silicone based caulks or sealants, you can use painters tape to get a nice clean line. On this sink application, I’m applying painter’s tape about a quarter inch on the sink and on the counter itself.

Use painters tape for a perfect edge when caulking
Use painters tape for a perfect edge when caulking

For this particular application, I’m using a pretty thick bead of white Lexel. When using silicone or rubberized caulking, be sure to wet your finger in SOAPY water and run it across while the tape is still on. Silicones and silicone alternatives like Lexel are more tacky than latex-based caulks so the soap in the water helps to get a smooth finish when you drag your finger across it. As soon as I’m done with that, I can remove the tape and run my finger across one more time to smooth it all out.

Smooth out with finger while tape is on, and again after
Smooth out with finger while tape is on, and again after

Now that we’ve run through all the steps, let’s put them all together. Start by making the cut on the tip of  the tube, then use the needle that’s on the side of the gun to perforate the seal inside. Load the tube into the dripless gun, then turn the notch rod right side up. Give it a few squeezes, until you see some of the material coming out of the tip. I’d recommend trying to not caulk too large of a section at a time – probably about 3 or 4 feet. If we try to do too large of a section at a time, the material can get tacky, making it hard to smooth out. Dip your finger in warm water, and smooth it right out.

How to Caulk Like a Pro
How to Caulk Like a Pro

 

Smoothing out with finger
Smoothing out with finger

That’s it! Hopefully you find these tips helpful and feel a bit less suicidal next time you have to do some caulking. It’s really not too bad and can be super gratifying when you see it come out nicely. I highly encourage you to check out my video on YouTube that shows the entire process. Do you have any tips for caulking? Leave a comment and share so we can all learn a thing or two.

How to Caulk Like a Pro Video on YouTube
How to Caulk Like a Pro Video on YouTube

Products from this article:

How to Caulk Like a Pro
How to Caulk Like a Pro

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Sascho's Go Big or Go Back Challenge

How to Hide TV Wires for $10

How to Hide Your TV Wires
How to Hide Your TV Wires
How to hide your wall mounted TV wires

Mounting your TV to your wall makes it look great, frees up space and gives you a great view. The wires that hang down, however, look pretty ghetto. Here’s an explanation of how to hide those wires in the walls for only $10.

Caveat 1: This installation assumes you have mostly hollow walls behind and underneath your television. If you’re mounting the TV on an exterior wall, a wall with a fire block, a brick wall or other types of walls that present challenges, extra work will be required.

Caveat 2: In many areas, local code requires that high voltage wiring be installed, not fished through the wall. A separate electrical outlet should be installed behind the TV. To learn how to do this, see my video on adding an electrical outlet for your wall mounted TV.

OK, with that out of the way, let’s get started.

Tools Required: For this job, all you’ll need is

  1. A tape measure
  2. Utility knife (or drywall jab saw)
  3. Stud Finder
  4. Screwdriver
  5. (2) Low Voltage Recessed Cable Plates (I used these, but these are even less expensive)

Step 1: Behind your TV, mark the general area where you’d like the cables to come out of/go into the wall and then the lower location of the receiving receptacle. Keep in mind that the top receptacle should be (if possible) directly above where you’ll be putting the lower receptacle. The lower receptacle should be behind your entertainment center or a/v equipment.

How to Hide Your TV Wires

Step 2: Using the stud finder, check for interferences that may cause difficulty. The easiest method is to place both plates where there are no studs or fire blocks between them.

How to Hide Your TV Wires

Step 3: Use the provided template for the receptacles and draw out the two cuts that you’ll be making.

Step 4: Cut out the holes using the utility knife or jab saw.

How to Hide Your TV Wires

Step 5: Place the upper receptacle in the hole and screw it in the wall so that the tabs flip out and grab the drywall. Make sure they’re on there snug but don’t over tighten. Once in place, feed all appropriate wires from the top down to the lower hole and pull them through the hole.

How to Hide Your TV Wires

Step 6: Feed lower wires through the receptacle, then install lower receptacle in the wall as above. Connect your wires on top and bottom and you’re good to go!

Ready to see the whole thing in action? Check out my video to watch the whole process.

If you have any questions, just leave a comment below. Here are the suggested products from Amazon for this project.