Jul 19, 2016

Hiding Downspout Extensions (aka Cutting the Grass w/o Swearing)

So this is kind of exciting. Tom has volunteered to write a blog post about his solution for our eavestrough downspouts and downspout extensions that are always in the way. I'm just going to sit back with my iced tea and let him tell you all about it....

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downspout extensions

Hey there, it's Tom. Normally I’m just the guy behind the scenes - hammering things together or figuring out a way to “improve” something - for a whole lot of extra cost and effort. Barb probably thinks I'm just trying to avoid housework by always having a project on the go. Barb might be right.

Today though, I'm going to share a little story about eavestroughs. Our house is built on a steep hill - which might have drainage advantages, but sucks for lawn cutting. The 4WD tractor can climb the hill as I cut, but I can't really turn and slalom around obstacles on said hill - without tipping over, that is. And we have a wide variety of obstacles to maneuver around - tree stumps and rocks and downspouts (oh, my). Tree stumps and rocks can be removed, but I kind of need to get rainwater away from the foundation, so I’m going to have to keep the downspouts.

Right now it takes about three passes with the tractor to cut around them properly. I could use a push mower, but that adds a good hour to the job each week, and it’s not my favourite job as it is. After a couple of months of battling the pipes, I felt it was worth the effort to bury them. There is a lot of work involved to do this, so you'll want to make sure the benefits outweigh the costs, e.g. if you’re on a flat lot you don’t have gravity pulling the water away and will have to dig up a large area to make a drainage bed, plus you have to worry about water sitting in the pipes and freezing.

So now that we’ve decided it’s worth doing, what to do? It’s really pretty simple. There are two downspouts on the north side of our house, one at each corner. I started by cutting off about 4-5 feet from the bottom of each. The bottom portion is then replaced with 4" PVC sewer pipe.

downspouts
downspouts


This new pipe is large enough to slide right over the existing downspout. Bonus points for it being light and easy to work with as my usual helper went off to Nashville for an extended weekend, and the 2 spares really sucked at holding the pipes steady.


I next ran a pipe from the front downspout, nearly horizontally along the side of the house - keeping the bottom end a little lower than the top ensures that the water will keep flowing - and joined it up with the back one.

Before permanently attaching your pipes together you’ll want to lay out everything, cutting and dry-fitting all of your pieces together, making sure they run where you want them to. Keep extra pipe and pipe joints on hand because you never know what will go wrong change.

downspout extensions
downspout extensions

With the two downspouts joined together we can move on to running the pipe downhill. Since it's underground, that means digging a trench to bury the pipe. This trench will lead from the downspouts, down the hill to where the pipes split (more on that below), and then to a ditch that our neighbour dug specifically for water runoff in the bush that separates our properties. Be careful where you go with your runoff as you don't want to flood the house next door and have your neighbours mad at you.

downspout extensions
downspout extensions

We were lucky enough that the neighbor who dug the ditch in the bush was willing to come over with his excavator and dig the trench for us. I would have rented one to do it myself if he wasn't around, but there was no way I was digging it by hand. If you do decide to dig it with a shovel you can throw away your gym membership - you won't need it anymore.

Although I only have one pipe coming down the hill I put in Y fittings at the bottom to allow several branches for outlets (with one zigzagging around a stump and a rock).

downspout extensions

There are a few reasons for this:

1) Critters. If it doesn't rain for a bit, animals may decide to build a home at the end of a pipe and block it.
2) Frozen pipes. If there is a mild thaw and there is runoff from the roof, it can dam up at the outlet mouth when it hits the colder ground. Each of the outlet pipes leaves the main pipe at a slightly different angle. Water will flow to the lowest one first. Then if it does refreeze at the mouth the other two pipes will still remain open.
3) Vegetation. The outlet runs into the bush and vegetation has this crazy habit of growing wherever it wants to, possibly over the mouth of a pipe.
4) The “duh” factor. I might forget the pipe is there and throw dirt over an outlet during my next project.

Any way you look at it, having extra outlets is cheap insurance to keep the water flowing.

downspout extensions
downspout extensions

If you don’t have a convenient forest next to your property and are bringing the outlets to an end in the middle of your yard, don’t fear, a quick Google search will lead you to a wide selection of grates or pop up valves to give a finished look to the pipe. Be careful when using the pop up valves - if you live in the south they are wonderful, but if you contend with winter they can freeze in place. You may want to buy the type you can remove in the fall then put them back in place for spring and summer.

Once all the pieces are in place they are glued together with PVC cement. This is where your previous dry-fitting comes in as the cement dries very quickly and you don’t have a lot of time to play around. Apply the cement to both surfaces of the join to ensure a good seal.



The only thing left to do now is bury the pipe.  At the bottom of the hill I was able to use the skid steer to move the dirt back into place, but on the hill it was just easier to do it by hand.

downspout extensions
downspout extensions
downspout extensions

Now with the trench filled back in I can seed the ground, and eventually you won’t even know the pipe is there. Then I can go back to mowing the grass. And my next important project. Or I could clean the bathroom. Nah, it’ll probably be a project.

Jul 15, 2016

Weekly Wrap Up

It's been a crazy, busy couple of weeks - how about a little catch up while I get to finishing some meatier posts?


Our sweet Chloepants had surgery on her eyelid and foot last week. This is just a few hours after she got home. Look how sweet Sasha is, trying to comfort her. She wouldn't relax until she could be close.


Chloe was a sad and sleepy (10 year old) puppy that day, but bounced back pretty quickly. I call this one Little Bo Peep. She looks a little evil with that shaved patch though. Eeeevilllll...


One more week with the cone of shame and her stitches come out! We're looking forward to not being covered in bruises from being rammed with the thing. :-)

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It's cherry season - my favourite time of year. Even though they're super-expensive, I still treat myself to some Rainier cherries - at least once or twice. Tom doesn't really like them, so they're all mine.


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We saw Lady Antebellum at the Avalon Theatre in Niagara Falls this week. It was a great concert - only 1500 seats, so small and up-close-&-personal. Everyone in the audience sang along - the band even did some songs from other artists. One security guard looked a bit panicked trying to follow Charles Kelley as he wandered through the audience shaking hands and hugging people during the encore. :-)



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We ordered a custom-built dining room table set a couple of months ago and it was delivered on the weekend. This is the first time we've ever purchased an "investment piece". I was so stressed over making sure it was something we would like for many (MANY) years to come. But it was fun picking out the base, top, finish, chairs, fabric - everything was changeable so that it's exactly what you want. We did change our minds on the base and the chairs between the first quote and when we ordered it. I'm so glad we did - this suits us perfectly.


We chose the rustic X base with a breadboard top in wormy maple. The chairs are curved Shaker style, and the finish is "coffee bean". It has two leaves as well (you can see them in the back of the photo wrapped in pillowcases) that will extend it to 8 feet. The furniture is made by Mennonites in our area as well - keeping it local!



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I had the BEST chicken burger of my life at St. Louis Bar & Grill. Coated in wing sauce, with smoked bacon, onion straws, cheese, and garlic dill sauce. Absolutely amazing - and enough for two meals!



So there you go, my life in pictures. Food and dogs and music. Yeah, that about describes it. Have a great weekend and I'll try to have a DIY post up soon - Tom's written one on his escapades with the downspouts and I want to show off the cool gate that we designed and built.

Jun 30, 2016

One-Weekend Tool Shed


We always have lots of little projects on the go at the same time around here. Tom is even working on his very first post - showing off his solution to our drainage issues along the side of the house.

We really only get a chance to work on renovations on the weekend, and it's been pretty hot and humid lately, so to get a break Tom decided to knock out a quick project under the shade of the deck.

DIY Tool Shed

Since we don't have a garage (yet), all of our tools are stored either in the basement or out in an old metal shed that's a good 5 minute walk from the house. There's nothing like hiking out and back to get a rake or shovel, only to then realize you also need the pruning shears.  Or that you set down your gloves on a shelf and forgot them. And I'm not a huge fan of storing the grubby line trimmer and chainsaws in the basement - which is where they are now.

We have quite a bit of free space under the deck and 6+ feet of headroom, so it seemed the ideal place to put a tool shed. The logical spot for it happened to be where the previous owners had left a huge stack of bricks, so they had to be moved first. I was (conveniently) busy working on the bedroom ceiling, so Tom moved them all to the back of the property by himself. He'd load up the bucket of the skid-steer by hand, drive out back, unload, repeat. I've never seen him so tired. It definitely made up for skipping the gym that day.

Yep, these are bricks

Once the area was clear of bricks and weeds, he laid down 2 ft square patio stones to keep the shed up off the ground and away from excess moisture. He needed to cut out around the pipes for one so he chose the stone that already had a crack in it, knowing that it would probably get worse (it did). But it's at the back of the shed so it's not too obvious.

DIY Tool Shed

He built a framework of 2x4s, securing it to both the back wall and the stones. The frame slightly overhangs the stones on each side so that gravel can be added. Then if water does get into the shed it will run off through the gravel.

DIY Tool Shed

The framework for the roof is built at a slight angle - 2 inches higher at the back than at the front - so that water will run down and away from the house foundation. On top of the roof frame is a sheet of plywood, and then a corrugated roofing panel. Right now it's still open at the front, but we'll eventually add on the closure strips once they're back in stock.

DIY Tool Shed
DIY Tool Shed

For the walls, he first put up sheets of plywood, then attached fence boards over them. You could just attach the boards directly to the framework, but the plywood provides an extra layer of protection from the elements by filling the gaps between boards. Along the front he left a bit of the frame exposed so that the door has something to rest against when it's closed.

DIY Tool Shed

On the inside, he needed two shelves to store the chainsaws, with room for the generator to be stored below. At first he was going to build shelves along one side front to back, but since he wanted to keep the shed as shallow as possible the shelves wouldn't have been long enough to hold the chainsaws. So he built the shelves at an angle, from the doorway on the right hand side to the back right corner. This gives him maximum shelf length and the shelf is still deep enough to hold the chainsaw. The shelves themselves are also made from fence boards on top of a 2x4 frame.

DIY Tool Shed
DIY Tool Shed

Tom built the door much the same way as the access door for our under-deck storage at the last house. He took a sheet of plywood and attached fence boards to it to match the width of the opening. He then ran the saw along the ends so that the door would match the walls of the shed. (It's slightly shorter at the top so that it doesn't rub on the roof.) Two 2x4s are attached horizontally on the inside of the door for added strength. Note that the ends of the 2x4s are angled so that they don't bump against the frame when the door is closed.

DIY Tool Shed
DIY Tool Shed

The final step was hardware. He chose some pretty decorative gate hinges and handle that are also heavy duty. The hasp has a swivel post and a hole for the padlock.

DIY Tool Shed Hinges
DIY Tool Shed Hardware

Inside there is a 2x4 mounted horizontally to the back wall with hooks all along to hold all of our gardening tools. There is still plenty of room to add more, and to still move around.

DIY Tool Shed
DIY Tool Shed
DIY Tool Shed

One more project checked off the list!

DIY Tool Shed (and a cute dog)
DIY Tool Shed

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