$23 DIY Planter Box

$23 DIY Planter Box

This year for Mother’s Day, I told NilsyNils that I wanted a couple of planter boxes for our front walk area. I think they add a lot of charm and dimension to any area, and had pinned quite a few pictures of ones I liked. Nils and I looked at a lot of different tutorials, and naturally, he decided they were all crap and designed a new one. We spent a Saturday in the garage building these cute boxes and bonding via power tools. This is an inexpensive yet outdoor-ready planter box that can hold about 3 full bags of potting soil and has about 3 square feet of surface area.

Each box consists of 9 cedar fence pickets and one 2 x 4. You’ll also need 1 1/4″ screws, 3″ screws, an optional brad nailer, and 18 gauge brads.

CLICK TO DOWNLOAD THE PLANS

Planter-Box-Plans

 

Check out the full video at https://youtu.be/WUnFAgj_7ps

DIY Outdoor Projector Screen

DIY Outdoor Projector Screen

The projector screen we’re going to be building is made of PVC and will hold steady in windy areas like where we live. It provides a great picture and is perfect for outdoor movie nights with family and friends.

 

For this project I used a good quality screen material that I purchased from Amazon. This is Carl’s Blackout Cloth, which you can pick up for about $35. Links are in the description. While you can use a bed sheet or other material, this cloth is designed for projector screens. There is a finished side and a back – you can hear the difference. Lie the screen on your carpet, scratchy side up, and folder over each side about 3-4 inches (8-10cm). To make the pockets for the PVC you can either use StitchWitchery, which is an adhesive strip for fabric, or just sew it. I tried both and the Stitch Witchery stuff, while a great option if you don’t have access to a sewing machine, is kind of a pain. It requires you to lay it down between the fabric, put a towel under it so as not to melt your carpet, put a damp cloth over it and then iron each side for about ten seconds each, all the way along the length of it. I tried this for one side and it took a while so I headed over to the sewing machine and sewed the other three sides. Both held up equally well but the sewing machine was much faster. You don’t need to be an expert tailor or seamstress – this is what I call “functional sewing” – it just needs to get the job done.

 

When you’re done with each side, cut a square in each of the four corners so that you can push the PVC pipes through. When you’re done, you should have a screen that is approximately 16:9 ratio – it should look roughly like this.

 

Next I did a bit of man sweeping in the garage to keep my screen from getting too dirty, then laid it out and started getting my measurements. Be sure to take multiple measurements in case your sides aren’t perfectly straight.

 

For my screen, the measurements were 102” wide by 58” high. I’m using 1 ½” PVC for this bhild. Take your width measurement and start by subtracting 2” to accommodate for the 1” depth of the elbows. For the top and bottom rails, I’m going to break it into two sections so that the kit is more portable. You’ll lose about a ¼” because of the coupling, so you’ll need to subtract that as well. Lastly, divide the result by 2. You’ll need four pieces (two for the top and two for the bottom). The sides are much simpler – just subtract 2” from the height and you’re all set. You should end up with four identically sized pieces (for the top and bottom rails), and 2 slightly longer identical sized pieces for the sides.

 

You’ve got several options for cutting the PVC. The first is to use a PVC Pipe Cutter. These are pretty inexpensive (links are in the description) and super easy to use. They’re also the cleanest option. If you have a hacksaw, you can use that too, but it’s a lot of work and a lot of mess, plus you’ll have to sand every cut because it leaves them pretty rough. If you have access to a mitre saw, that’s definitely the easiest and quickest way to go. That’s what I chose to use for this project.

 

Once you’ve got your six pieces cut, lay them out for a quick test fit to make sure everything lines up and then try to fit them into the screen and see how it goes. If it’s too big, that’s ok. We want to cut the pipes down until they barely fit. That’s what keeps the tension on the screen and stretches it tight to get rid of the wrinkles and creases. Keep adjusting until you get it to fit nice and tight.

 

Once that’s squared away (see what I did there?) you can make the cuts for the legs and feet. The stand is just two feet and a leg for each side. I made my feet about 18” each and then the legs were 2 feet but feel free to adjust as needed. Put these together with one tee and two end caps each, then attach them to the screen to stand it up. Tadah! The screen is almost done!

 

Now if you want to add some tie downs for windy conditions, one way to do that is to drill a hole into each side of the vertical poles about half way up. Drill through the outside of the PVC and then slightly into the other side, but not through. You can then drive a 3” screw into each side. These act as the connector for the tie downs. Drive some stakes into the ground (or you can just use some heavy objects, like your kids) and then use paracord to tie the screen to the stakes (or the kids). Be sure to have a helper if you’re setting the screen up in very windy conditions, like you see here. You can then use a lighter to melt the ends of the paracord to prevent fraying.

 

With that, you’re all done. Exxxxcept for that you’re not. I thought I was finished but then I noticed the horizontal folds. I came up with a solution for this that works pretty well. I created a stretcher bar to fit between the top and bottom poles. I had to make a small cut in the sleeves and then I put a 3” screw in the top and bottom of a pole and spaced them just far enough apart that they stretched the two apart. With the stretcher bar in place, the wrinkles were mostly gone, and the one that was left didn’t show up when the screen was in use.

 

NOW, it’s done – and back yard movie night is on. Oh – and check out that tiny projector in the corner!

 

DIY Outdoor Projector Screen
DIY Outdoor Projector Screen

An Organized Garage in 4 Steps, plus Overhead Storage Review

Organize Your Garage in 4 Simple Steps

Everybody’s garage gets messy – especially if you do any work out there. We’re going to look at four ways to get and keep your garage organized.

Check Fleximounts overhead storage rack at: https://goo.gl/hQhuwx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 1: Get Shelves or Cabinets

Buy some used cabinets from Craigslist or other local used good sites and mount them to your walls and/or floors. You can use a label maker to keep things organized and take full advantage of the wall space in your garage. There are tons of great shelving solutions available too.

Step 2: Put It On Wheels

I like to add caster wheels to all of my larger machinery so that I can wheel it out when in use and stash it away when I’m done. This has helped me to create somewhat of a mobile workshop that I can tidy up after a project so we can still park in the garage.

Step 3: Garage Hooks FTW!

Garage hooks are seriously great. You can hang just about anything you’d store in a garage: bikes, tools, yard equipment, saws, toys, sleds, heaters, ropes, cables… you get the gist. Just be sure to drive them into a stud, not just bare drywall.

Step 4: Leverage the Overhead Space!

This is the big one. Almost everyone has storage space up on or near the ceiling. I used Fleximounts Overhead Storage racks to add tons of usable space to my garage. It’s a great way to keep things out of the way and free up valuable floor and wall space. I also built a set of simple wall mounted shelves out of 2x4s and plywood for putting up against the upper walls.

 

DIY Kitchen / Dining Table – Pottery Barn Inspired

DIY Pottery Barn Inspired Dining Farmhouse Table

Ready to learn to make a gorgeous and sturdy farmhouse table from scratch? Use the plans below to build your own.

The Triangles: I’d recommend doing the triangles however you think looks best. If you want to know what size the triangles on my table feet are, they measure 9 3/4″ on the diagonal side (the longest side) x 3 1/2″ at the bottom x 9″ tall. I used 4×6 lumber to make these.

A quick note on the end caps. I’m not sure I’d honestly recommend them. The problem is that the wood will shrink and expand more in one direction than the other, which means that while the table top may move a bit in one direction, the end cap, by virtue of being perpendicular to the rest of the top, will move in the other direction. On my table this has resulted in a bit of a lip. Nothing huge, but not what I hoped for. I’d recommend leaving the wood out for several weeks first, or possibly omitting the end cap altogether. Another option is to create an end cap (for the lip) by cutting off 1.5″ from the table top and then attaching that to the bottom of the ends – to help match up the skirts. I attached the end caps with glue and brads at first, followed up with some pocket hole screws from the bottom side. If you’re just doing the skirt method, then I’d recommend screwing them in from the bottom using 2.5″ countersunk screws. The end cap dimensions (as shown in the plans) are 3’6″ W x 3″ H x 1.5″ D.

As for the side skirts, it’s just a 2×4 ripped in half and then glued, tacked and screwed onto the table top. I countersunk all of the screws and that one worked out pretty well. The side skirts are 7’9″ W x 1.5″ H x 1.5″ D.

Several people have asked about how I attached the base of the table to the tabletop, so I wanted to address that. I used 4 1/2″ lag bolts with washers and put them in six locations under the table – one on each corner of the two main legs, plus one in the center of the 2x4s that run the length of the base. To predrill, I started with a 7/8″ forstner bit, drilling just as deep as was necessary to hide the head of the bolt. From there, I used a 7/16″ bit to drill through about two inches in, then a 9/32″ bit to drill the rest of the 4 inches or so. Be careful not to drill too deep – you don’t want to drill right through the table top.

Drive the lag bolt in and let the washer stop you when it bottoms out. I think the six heavy duty bolts are enough but if you want to put more in, it couldn’t hurt.

Farmhouse Kitchen Table Woodworking Plans
Download your free woodworking plans for this rustic farmhouse dining table

DIY Pottery Barn Inspired Dining Table Video

Watch the video to see how it’s made! ^^

 

            

 

 

How to Hide Your TV Wires in 30 Minutes

We all love our flat screen TV’s, don’t we? Such a nice, low profile up on the wall! What we don’t love, however, are those ugly wires that hang down and create an eye sore. Hiding those ugly wires is easy, so fear not.

This post is sponsored by DataComm Electronics. They provided me with a professional installation kit, all other equipment is my own.

DISCLAIMER: This installation process is for drywall only. If you have brick, concrete, or otherwise solid walls, this process will not work. I suggest using a piece of cable channeling instead to hide those wires.

The first thing you need to do is remove your TV from the wall, as well as any wires or plugs. Make sure you have a clean space to work with. Figure out where your studs are using a stud finder. Typically, studs are 16” apart, and you’ll want to work within the empty space (called a bay) between studs.

After you’ve marked where your studs are, mark with the template included in the kit where you want your top and bottom receptacles to go. The receptacles need to be in the open bay between studs, because the wings/tabs on them attach to the drywall, and the stud will get in the way of them. Also, the top and bottom receptacle should be in the same bay as one another. Use a level to make sure the template is straight.

In the middle of the piece you have marked to cut out, attach a screw and use it as a handle, so when you’ve cut all the way around the piece, it doesn’t fall into the wall. Use a jab saw to cut out the square. You can also use a utility knife; score around the square until you get all the way through. Make sure to hold onto the handle as you cut the last side of drywall!

Optional: Some people are concerned about critters getting in the walls and chewing through the wires, or you may want to just make it easier to pass new wires between the top and bottom receptacles later on. I used a 6 ft bilge and pump discharge hose for this. It’s sealed all the way around, and has sections to cut it to size with regular scissors. You can run the low voltage wires through the hose. Connect the hose to the top receptacle using white electrical tape if you’d like.

Make sure the tabs/wings are in first so the receptacle fits in the hold. Drop the electrical wire down as well as the AV tube.I would recommend feeding your A/V wires through the tube at this point. Put the bottom portion of the receptacle in first. It may be a little tight, but will swing in. Once it’s in, use a screwdriver to tighten the wings and attach to the drywall. Pull everything through the bottom hole.

Bottom receptacle: Coil the wires, and push them through the box to keep them contained; then push them with push in connectors, matching each wire with its counterpart (white/white, black/black, green/ground). Push the wires into the box, and use screws to fasten the box to the bottom receptacle. Attach pipe onto the bottom piece with tape.

To install into the wall, put the electrical side of the box into the wall first. Make sure the wings/tabs are in. Push the left side in first to make the right side fit nicely. Tighten with a screwdriver. Drop A/V cables down the tube (if you haven’t already), and plug power into outlet.

PRO TIP: The hose may get jammed when trying to fish the wires through. To help with this, just pop out the top receptacle. Even a flimsy wire will go through the tube.

When you’re done, you should end up with an outlet up top (behind the TV) and you A/V cables spanning between the top and bottom receptacles, ready to plug into the TV and you components!

It should be noted that you can perform this install in an insulated wall as well, just as easily. At a friend’s house, I used the single outlet installation kit from DataComm to do their install in an insulated wall.

 

The trick to pulling your wires through the insulated wall is to use a measuring tape and feed it from the bottom opening through to the top. Once it’s through, you can either tape your wires to the end of it and pull it back through or tape a hose/pipe to it and pull that through, which will make future wire pulling much easier.

When you’re done, you should have a sweet, clutter-free wall under your TV. W00t W00t!

I’ve done a similar install in another room in my house using simple open ended face plates and then manually installing an additional outlet. I have to say, using the kit was way easier and faster. The installation at my friend’s house took 30 minutes, including the time it took to shove one of those humungoid original XBOX A/V plugs through the receptacle (it barely fit).

Got any questions, comments or suggestions? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

Check out the video of the install here:

 

$100 DIY HD Projector Screen

 

After finishing my basement recently, we were ready to put the projector up and a screen for a little theater area. I started researching projector screens and all of the screens I saw were either smaller than what I wanted or super expensive. My projector could handle an image just over twelve feet diagonally. The total measurement was 147” so I needed a pretty big screen and wanted one with a good material.

I called a friend of mine who I had worked with in the past who runs a very successful home theater installation business. I explained to him that I needed a large screen and that I was hoping to get a motorized screen so that when I turned the projector on, the screen came down on its own. He quickly talked me out of the motorized version explaining that I’d get a lot more bang for the buck using a mounted screen and also telling me about the expense of replacing parts on a motorized screen down the road, which made sense. He then told me about using a grey material rather than white, which I had never seen. This guy knows his stuff so I took his advice and got some material on Amazon called Carl’s FlexiGray and I have to say – he was totally right. All I needed was a frame for it, which I built in a few hours and then mounted on the wall. The results? Pure awesome. The picture looks sharp, the material looks good even when the projector is off and family movie night is a regular occurrence at our house.

For the project in this article, I’m working at my buddy’s house where he’s got a projector all ready to go and he just needs a screen for it. Here are the steps we went through to build the frame with a screen.

Measure

Start out by projecting the full size of the image onto the wall where the screen is going. Make sure everything is plumb and straight so that you get a nice rectangle and then get the horizontal and the vertical measurements.

Cut

For this project all you really need as far as material are one by fours. They’ll typically come either pre-primed or unfinished but it doesn’t really matter which you get. You can usually pick these up at your local big box hardware store. Here’s how to figure out how much material you’re going to need. You’re going to have a top and bottom rail, each of which will be at the full width. Then your sides and your two supports will be at the full height minus the board width of the top and the bottom, which would be 7 inches if you’re using 1×4 material (1×4 is actually 3 ½” wide). Once you have your measurements, measure out and cut each piece.

 

Assemble

You can use either Pocket Holes or ‘L’ Braces to assemble the frame.

As far as assembly goes, you’ve got several options. The two I want to show here are using corner braces with metal braces and using a pocket hole system, which is what I’m using to build this frame. We’re going to add two pocket holes to each of the ends of the vertical pieces. We don’t need any in the top or bottom rail. Pocket hole systems start at about $40 for the simplest version. The system you see in these images is the K4 Pocket Hole system and that one runs about $95. They have a deluxe version for about $155. You’ll find links for all products below. Next take your boards to the room that you’re going to be mounting the screen in so that you don’t have to carry a fully assembled screen through the doors, which may or may not fit. Lay out each of the pieces on the floor then mark the ⅓ and ⅔ points of your top and bottom rails so that you can put your support rails in place. These don’t have to be super accurate.



The most important part on this next step is making sure the face is nice and flat. Check to be sure that the pieces you’re lining up are flush with one another so that you don’t end up with a lip where you don’t want it. Here I’m using a Kreg right angle clamp but that’s totally optional. If you’re assembling your frame with braces, make sure you’re using countersink screws and make sure they’re short enough that they don’t pierce through the other side of the material. Once the frame is assembled move it out of the way and lay out your screen material, face down. I’m using Carl’s FlexiGray projector screen material, as I mentioned before. It’s got a nice flexible backing like rubber so that when you stretch the material over the frame it’s actually pretty difficult to end up with any creases or wrinkles in the material. Lay the frame face down on the material for the next step.


To finish up the screen, use a staple gun to place staples about every 2” or so. I like to use a lot of staples so that I’m not putting a lot of tension on any one spot. There are several schools of thought on where to start and how to proceed on this part but I’ve found that it doesn’t much matter whether you start on the corner or in the middle of one of the sides, so long as you’re aware of how things are going and you make certain to keep the material taut. Choose a starting point and then work your way around the screen. When you get to the corners, just fold the material in on itself and staple it under. That way you don’t end up with any material sticking out on the side of the screen. When you get to the last section, check again to make sure the material is stretched evenly across the screen and you’re good to go.

 

Mount

Once you’ve finished assembling the screen it’s time to get ready to hang it. You can make the marks for where the corners of the projector screen ought to go to make sure that the actual image is centered on the screen. Next, use a stud finder to mark where the studs are and drive at least two screws into the top about 3 ½” down from where it needs to go. That way, when you hang the screen, it’ll sit exactly where you want it to be. Leave the screws protruding about a ½” from the wall, which is less than the thickness of the frame. Finally, hang the screen and check out what an awesome picture you’ve got!

I hope you found this info helpful. If you’ve got any tips, tricks or suggestions, leave a comment below. Thanks so much and be sure to check out my YouTube video as well!

Watch Video

 

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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