The boys new loft bed (better DIY post on this coming soon)!

February 8, 2010 by  
Filed under DIY Projects

John got this built so much faster than I thought and pretty much all that is left is for me to paint! The boys are thrilled and spent their first night up there last night after our little Super Bowl fun. I just wanted to get some pictures up but I had my 50 lens on so I couldn’t get a full shot of it. John was able to use up a lot of wood he already had so the whole thing cost under $40 and I should have paint I can use thats leftover. Ethan has the side close to the window and he set up a bunch of his animals before bed, I love how the snake hangs down.  Oh and you can see in this picture how we need to take down the ceiling fan and put up a plain light!When John was building the bed the boys hung sheets and blankets from the main board to make a stage curtain. I think I may have to make a removable curtain for the bottom (maybe with velcro or little hooks?) I don’t want the bottom to be closed off all the time but it makes a neat little hideout and we can add lights underneath. John is going to put together a simple table under there for Legos. I am hoping the majority of their Legos can live under the bed so that the rest of the floor stays clear (probably wishful thinking though since their room is really Legoland!).This is Ben’s side with the little weird wall nook, very cozy.Under Ben’s side their bookshelf didn’t even need to be moved but it does need some organizing!John is the best dad, I am glad I got added on at the bottom though! I like how the bed worked out with the chalkboard wall underneath, its like a cave but it actually isn’t dark under the bed at all. I think I will add more chalkboard paint under there so all of the walls below the bed have it.

Turn Procrastination into Dollars

February 15, 2009 by  
Filed under DIY Projects

I have a confession to make. I am a DIY impulse buyer. When I go to Lowes to pickup supplies for my current project, I sometimes bring home things for future projects. Last year when I decided to organize my tools and supplies and I labeled one box “To Do” and through all the things I’d bought, but never gotten to in there. My idea was that when I had caught up on projects and was looking for something to do I could tackle items in that box. Yeah, right.

I finally came to my senses and decided to reduce my to do list and make some money in the process. I through a bunch of stuff in my to do box into a bag and took them back to Lowes. One thing I love about Lowes is their return policy. I returned items I’d had for years, showed them my driver’s license, and they gave me a merchandise gift card with almost $60 on it.

So if you’re looking for some extra money for a project you WILL do, look round for things you bought for projects you probably WON’T do. At the very least, instead of storing your supplies for future projects in a box in the basement, get your money back and let Lowes hold onto them.

Sens Captain pays off bet with shovel

January 21, 2009 by  
Filed under Backyard Ice Rink, DIY Projects

I saw this fun story in the Ottawa Sun.

A humbled Daniel Alfredsson brought his own shovel and five-year-old son Hugo to help to pay off a debt yesterday.

The Senators captain made good on his lost bet — that would be for Sweden’s 5-1 loss to Canada in the final of the world junior championship earlier this month — to teammate Shean Donovan by making the short trek to Donovan’s house in Carp and shovelling the winger’s small backyard rink.


Make sure you click the link for the full story and watch the video to see Donovan’s backyard rink.

I still need to get some photos and then I will write a post about our rink.  I used a different design this year that I really like and plan to make further improvements over the summer.

Here is our rink from last year.

Backyard Ice Rink Liners

December 8, 2008 by  
Filed under DIY Projects

My backyard ice rink post has been getting a lot of questions and suggestions about liners.  This is the one piece of an ice rink that will likely be replaced year after year and there seems to be an ongoing search for a liner that is wide enough for a rink, strong enough to last the season, is white or clear, but as cheap as possible.  I see a lot of options online, but the shipping costs tack on another 25-50% of the cost of the liner.  Here are some suggestions.

  1. Lowes sells a 20′ x 100′ 6 mil clear plastic roll ($80).  This is what a lot of people have been using.  Perfect for a small rink, but if you want a larger rink you have to create a seam which is a PITA.  The best suggestion I’ve seen so far is using a hot glue gun to seal a 1-2 foot overlap and tape the edges down with duct tape.
  2. Lowes also sells large tarps that have a silver side ($60).  Not the best color, but I found a 30 x 50 tarp that worked great.  I was hoping it would last more than one year, but the ice stretched it enough to create thousands of microholes.  It leaks like a sieve the second year and is now covering my wood pile.
  3. Boat shrink wrap ($150-200).  This stuff is available at marine shops and comes in wide widths and lengths and usually 6+ mil thickness.  Call around for the best size/price.
  4. Silage tarps.  This is the white ‘caterpillar’ you see covering hay at farms.  Strong stuff in long lengths, but have to look around to find wide sizes.

The best advice is to open the phone book and try your local hardware stores, farm stores, and marine stores.  I’ve gotten posts from people stopping at their locally owned hardware places that supply building contractors.  Sometimes the store might have to special order it for you, but if you can find the liner locally you can avoid the steep shipping costs.

Judging from the other comments and emails I’ve gotten, most rinkers only get 1 season out of their liner.  Please take advantage of Freecycle in the spring.  There is always someone who has a warm weather project who is looking for a plastic cover or liner for a greenhouse that will be happy to take an old liner off your hands and keep it out of the landfill.

If you find any other liner solutions, please post them in the comments.  I’d also love to hear if anyone has had success with one of the liners specifically sold for ice rink and how well they hold up season after season.

How to build a backyard Zamboni

November 14, 2008 by  
Filed under DIY Projects

Now that you’ve built your backyard ice rink you need the most important tool to get the best ice…a Zamboni! Actually, the smallest Zamboni you can buy is a tow behind unit for your tractor.  For small backyard rinks the solution to getting smooth ice is much simpler and cheaper.  There are numerous hand held ice resurfacers you can buy on the internet.  After looking over the options and prices I decided I could build one myself and went to Lowes looking for parts. The entire project cost only $15 and took about 15 minutes to complete. Here’s what I did:


rink rake parts
  • 2 PVC 3/4″ x 5′ plain pipe ($1.97 each)
  • 1 PVC 3/4″ adapter ($0.27)
  • 2 PVC 3/4″ caps ($0.23 each)
  • 1 PBC 3/4″ tee ($0.37)
  • 1 plastic garden hose shutoff valve ($2.97)
  • 1 4oz PVC primer ($2.52)
  • 1 4oz PVC cement ($3.24)

NOTE: When trying my first test run I discovered I bought the wrong PVC adapter.  I bought a female unthreaded to male threaded adapter when I should have bought a female unthreaded to female threaded adapter.  I’ll need another trip to Lowes to get an adapter before I test it out.

I didn’t see any threaded PVC at Lowes so I decided to try using PVC cement for the first time. As you can see a big chunk of my sale was buying the cement and primer which I used very little of. I’ll have to think of some more PVC projects now that I have the glue :)Test fit everything at the store to make sure you have the right sizes. The adapter should be threaded on one end and fit on a garden hose. The shutoff valve is optional. At right is the picture of all the parts prior to assembly on my dirty garage floor. The PVC cement is foul stuff with lots of warnings so do this project in a well ventilated area. rink rake prior to assembly


  • Cut one of the PVC pipes in half. I also made the pieces a little shorter.
  • Start priming and cementing. Follow instructions on jars and put the pieces together.
  • Let cement cure per instructions on jar (2 hours in my case)
  • Drill 3/32″ holes along top of your T 1″ apart. Lay the T flat, drill down from ceiling towards floor, but be careful not to go all the way through.
  • Test it out!

Here are pictures of my finished Zamboni. Excuse the dirty garage floor and the sloppy purple primer. Final dimensions are 5′ wide and 5′ 6″ long.

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Under Construction!

July 1, 2008 by  
Filed under DIY Projects, Our Life

John ALWAYS has some project going and this time its a big one! He has been working hard every day after work and weekends to build our pool deck and its starting to come along very nicely. The curved angle around the pool and figuring out just how we wanted things were the big things and now he can go crazy decking and building the railings. We are really looking forward to the upcoming 3 day weekend so he can get a lot done. It will be so nice to get to the pool from the deck and I know the kids will soon be running and jumping into the pool. All 3 kids have been having fun playing on the work in progress though so they’re already happy. Ben and Jamie will have their birthday party on the 12th and the deck should be usable if not all done by then. Once this is done John is under strict orders NOT to start any more projects until further notice, like well AFTER I’ve had this baby and we are adapted to being a family of 6! He can take down some dead trees and finish up some small projects that he already started but thats it. I’ll definitely have to watch myself also so that I don’t think up any new “ideas” for him to do.

How to build a snake house

June 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Critters, DIY Projects

A few years ago I decided to make our backyard be a little more nature friendly. We don’t use any chemicals, we’ve put up bird houses, and I created a branch pile in an out of the way spot for critters to call home. I have also kept a pile of scrapwood by our back porch that was more for my own laziness than for the critters, but Spikey and his friends love to hang out there. Unfortunately, this woodpile is pretty ugly and we’ve also been concerned about climbing kids causing a collapse that could injure one of our snake friends.

While working on our porch extension I decided to make a safer house for the snake. The end result is not very pretty, but it provides a safe habitat for the snakes. Next summer we plan on doing some landscaping and at that time I will revisit the snake house and make something more pleasing to the eyes.

For now this is what we have. The top pile is the snake house, the bottom is one of our unsafe wood piles (now removed). The design is simple. I simply stacked my scrapwood making sure to create openings for snakes to hang out and put a few screws into each piece. The top I covered completely to keep rain out, but there are multiple entrances from the sides and bottom.
Pencil was the first snake to come back and check things out. He slithered right over to Ethan and then went looking for an entrance into their mansion. He didn’t at first and left, but Ben and I saw him return later and find his way inside. I was surprised by how big the fork in his tongue is. He looks big in this picture, but Pencil is no fatter than my pinky
While taking apart the pile we also found a new snake, a beautiful baby eastern milk snake. These look like something dangerous at first, but that is by design. Their pattern is similar to a copperhead, but the coloring much different. We’ve seen these around the backyard a few times (and once in the garage), but this is the one was the smallest we’ve seen. Ethan named this snake Spotty and he was about 12 inches long and as skinny as a pencil.
Of course Spikey was hanging around too. He wanted nothing to do with all the commotion so he hung out pool side. Spikey is getting pretty fat. Not sure if he’s finding a lot to eat or if Spikey is really a she.
Here’s a bottom view of the snake house. I left lots of space on the bottom level to help the pile dry out after rain. You can see how the second story has a gap in the middle. Each level has gaps like this so snake can find places to hide.
Ethan also found a snake skin. We could also see that Spikey’s eyes were getting clouded. This is a sign that he is getting ready to shed. No matter how friendly your backyard snake friends are, give them their space when they are preparing to shed. The loosening skin acts like a cataract and they can’t see very well. This makes them shy and defensive.

DIY Dad Gift Ideas

June 10, 2008 by  
Filed under DIY Projects

Here is a quick list of Father’s Day gift ideas for DIY Dad’s. Tools are great gifts because as a DIY Dad I want to use them. Which usually means I’m building something Heather wants, but I’m happy to do it because I get to use my tools. This is a list of tools I own and love and are available from Amazon for last minute ordering.

Cordless Impact Driver
I got one of these and instantly fell in love with it. After years of using a standard Dewalt drill/driver I heard about how well these impact driver work on driving screws. After seeing them being used by contractors on TV all the time I decided to try it out. Wow! Not only are they more powerful, but they do a better job of driving a screw without stripping it. They also don’t have the annoying chuck for changing bits and instead have an easy quick release making changes a breeze.
Dewalt DC330K 18V Cordless Jigsaw Kit
I bought myself a Dewalt 8 piece cordless set with some of our tax return money and really love the cordless jigsaw. I got a lot of use out of it while building the chicken coop. Being cordless makes it so much easier and fun to use and I find it just as powerful as a corded jigsaw.
DEWALT Heavy-Duty Ballictic Nylon 18 1/2-Inch Tool Bag
My Dewalt kit came with 2 of these contractor bags. I wasn’t sure if I would a soft sided bag versus the usual hard plastic case, but I’ve been using them all the time. I love being able to throw all the tools and parts I’m going to need for a project into one of the bags and taking it to the back yard. Cleaning up is easier too. No more juggling 10 things in my arms while trying to open a door.
Cat’s Paw Nail Puller
Shark Cat’s Claw Nail Puller / pry bar I had previously written about the cat’s paw, my favorite DIY remodeling tool, and it’s only fitting that I put it at the top of my list. This is a tool most people aren’t familiar with, but is a MUST for every home remodeler’s tool box. From pulling small nails, prying off molding, to lifting stubborn tile this tool does it all and will withstand whatever punishment you put it through.
Quick-Grip Clamp/Spreader
31v35ge49pl_ss500_.jpg A home handyman can never have enough clamps. My favorite are these Quick-Grip bar clamps from Irwin. They allow me to easily clamp and release items with one hand which is essential when working on projects by yourself. I use them for everything from large outdoor deck projects, small repair jobs, to simply securing a piece of wood I’m cutting. The link is for the 12″ size, but there are numerous sizes available and all are needed to handle different sized projects.
Ratcheting Wrench Set
41b63z6mm4l_ss500_.jpg I recently received a Lowes gift card and went looking for a new tool. After much browsing I decided on a ratcheting wrench set. I’d never tried them before, but was getting tired of always changing sockets on my normal ratchet set. I brought them home and immediately put them to work repairing our old tractor. Loved them!
Japanese Fine Cut Saw
71j61esy96l_ss400_gif.jpg My father was the first one to introduce me to these wonderful saws. Japanese fine cut saws are wonderful for performing flush cuts or any job were detail is important. The cuts are clean and the saw blades are flexible, cut faster, and are much easier to control.
Random Orbit Sander
416twwghvxl_ss400_.jpg A DIY gift list isn’t complete without a power tool! An orbital palm sanders is a great gift for a beginner woodworker. The sandpaper simply velcros on making changes quick and easy. Most of the dust is collected in the attached bag. Simple to use and control and produces great results.
Non-contact Voltage Tester
Non-contact voltage tester This is another item I’ve written up before. A voltage tester is a necessity for anyone planning home renovation. Even if you don’t plan on working on the electric it is always nice to know where the electric lines are located before you start taking down walls.
Mechanix Gloves
41gdu7ttfll_ss500_.jpg Several years ago I got tired of my hands getting dried out and cracking from working with drywall. Normal work gloves were too bulky so I went looking for something more form fitting. I found these Series 3 Mechanix gloves at Lowes for $25 and never regretted the purchase. They’ve held up well considering all the work I’ve done wearing them and provided me the protection I needed while still allowing me to perform the finer jobs that bulky gloves prevent you from doing. These would be a great treat for a DIYer who may not buy it for themself.

Free Project Plans

June 6, 2008 by  
Filed under DIY Projects

The latest issue of The Family Handyman included a link to download 50 of their favorite project plans.  These are only available on their site until July 11th, so check them out now and download the pdfs of any you like.  The projects are for everything from Adirondack chairs and sheds to bookcases and workbenches.

If you’re looking for something to get a DIY Dad for father’s day, I recommend Family Handyman.  I’ve been subscribing for years and really enjoy.  Lots of tips and small projects with a bigger project each month.  My favorite part is reading the goofs on the last page.  Another magazine I enjoy is Workbench.

A new addition to the playfort

April 25, 2008 by  
Filed under DIY Projects, Our Life

As if John doesn’t have enough projects to do already (chicken coop, pool deck, bathroom redo, etc…) I added another this week, but it was a very quick one. I thought it would be fun for the kids to eat lunch in their fort more so I decided John should put up some pulleys, clothes line and a bucket so I could send them their snacks direct from the porch. I’m sure they’ll use it when playing too.

John just mentioned to me that building the chicken coop (which is coming along great so far) is getting him thinking of building the kids a playhouse. So I’m not the only one thinking up the new projects and a backyard can never be too fun!

John’s instructions on building your own are below.

How To Build a Lunch Pail Pully System

This was one of those quick and easy projects that had me wishing I’d done it sooner. The parts cost roughly $15 and installation took 15 minutes.

Part List

  • 2 Pulleys (I used nice brass pulleys because I expect they will hold up better)
  • 2 Carabiners (to connect the pulley to my lag hook)
  • 2 Lag hooks (These are threaded at one end with a circle at the other)
  • Clothes line
  • Bucket
  • Clip for the bucket (optional)
  • Clothes line pincher (optional)

I bought everything at Lowes. The bucket was in one of the paint lanes, but everything else was in the rope and chain lane within 15 feet of each other. Get your bucket first and throw all the other pieces inside it to make a nice self contained project.


  • Drill pilot holes at each location. Holes should be a little smaller than your lag hook. Also make sure the holes are high since the bucket will be hanging below the clothes line.
  • Screw in lag hooks.
    TIP – Put a screwdriver through the hole and use that as a handle to turn the lag hook.
  • Clip the pulley to the hook using the carabiner.
  • Thread the clothes line through the pulleys
  • Optional – I found the clothes line pincher (my name for it) alongside the clothes lines at Lowes. It lets you pull the line tight and pinches it so it won’t pull back out. I expect the clothes line to stretch over time and this is an easier way to keep pulling it tight.
  • Optional – I bought another clip which I tied to the clothes line and clipped to the bucket. It works, but the setup is a little ugly. I might modify this later.
  • Attach bucket. You could skip the 2 optional steps and simply tied the bucket to the clothes line.

The setup works great, although it is a little bouncy. I went with a plastic bucket so it won’t rust, but a metal bucket might bounce less. The boys enjoyed helping me set up this project and especially enjoyed the first “cookie test” when it was all done.

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