Aug 8, 2016

DIY Deck Gate - Made to Match

One of the great things about our new house (I will probably call it that for years) is the back deck that runs the entire width of the house. There is more than enough room for a BBQ area, a dining area, plus a casual seating area.

The dogs love to spend time out there watching "Squirrel TV" through the glass panels. Unfortunately we couldn't leave them out there alone as the deck is open at one end with a stairway down to the side parking pad and then down to the backyard. The yard isn't fenced in and we can't trust that the dogs won't see something interesting and take off after it.

squirrel tv

What we needed was a gate, but we wanted it to blend in with the railing that's already there. The previous owners had left behind all of the extra railing pieces, so we went through them to see what we had. We found that we had top and bottom rails and enough pickets and spacers for a gate - we were just missing the hinge post and latch post (the ends that sandwich the pickets).

The company that makes our railing - Classic Railings - does have a gate kit, but you have to buy the entire kit. It also relies on you having an end or corner post on either side of the opening to mount to. We wanted to secure the gate directly to the brick of the house, so we brainstormed a few ideas, including just making a gate entirely from wood, even though it wouldn't match the railing. But Tom was confident that he could make two side pieces that, once painted, would blend in with the metal, so we decided to give it a shot. Since we had all of the materials we wouldn't be out any money if it didn't work.

The horizontal rails come in 8 foot lengths but can easily be cut down to the correct size. Normally these rails attach to brackets built into the corner and/or end posts. These brackets slide right over the rail (or more correctly, the rail slides into the brackets). But you can also buy the brackets individually, so we bought four - two tops, two bottoms - and attached them to the hinge/latch posts Tom made from planed down 2x4s.

DIY gate Classic Railings

Since a gate isn't fixed in place like a stretch of standard railing is, we wanted to make sure it wouldn't ever wobble. We ran a 1/4" threaded rod along each side of the gate, just below the top railing, and one more rod below the bottom rail.

DIY gate Classic Railings
DIY gate Classic Railings

The rods are fed through holes drilled into the wooden uprights and locked in place with hex nuts that are countersunk into the side so that they aren't visible. One day I'll fill the holes with putty and repaint to hide them, but for now it will do.

DIY gate Classic Railings

One of my fears in using lumber to square off the gate was that the raw wood would stand out and it would be an obvious DIY job. But a search of the spray paint aisle at Lowe's turned up Anodized Bronze from Tremclad. We took the gate apart (good thing the rod holes weren't filled!) and I gave the wood pieces several light coats of paint. It's a perfect match. Then it was just a matter of putting it all back together.

DIY gate Classic Railings
DIY gate Classic Railings

The gate is anchored to the side of the house with heavy duty hinges, with a standard auto-locking gate latch on the other side to secure it to the deck railing. Of course with everything the same shade now the threaded rod became more obvious, so we covered each one with a black PVC sleeve to help it blend in. The way they coordinate with the hardware it almost looks like it was planned.

DIY gate Classic Railings
DIY gate Classic Railings
DIY gate Classic Railings

Now the dogs have free rein to hang out on the deck and enjoy the fresh air. It's also great when we're out in the yard using power tools or firing the bows - the dogs don't have to stay cooped up in the house - and we don't have to worry that they're underfoot or in danger.

DIY gate Classic Railings
DIY gate Classic Railings
DIY gate Classic Railings



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.

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