Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mending the Fence

I thought I’d follow up last week’s blog post with this lovely picket fence we built.

The original fence had some nasty rot from the elements of nature especially since the posts were not in concrete.  It was one of those fences that we were legitimately scared might blow over with a bad storm since the posts were all rotted.  And actually we did have some pickets fall off during a storm.

And embarrassingly enough we had a piece of string and a steak temporarily holding up the fence.

Now onto getting rid of that monstrosity!

     1.   Demolition out the old fence.

We were happy to see the old nasty fence go!

     2.   Take a really long string and made a line where the posts were going as can be seen in the picture below (it's yellow and kind of hard to see).

     3.   Spray paint a dot on the grass/dirt at each post location spaced evenly from the corners every ~6.5 feet.

     4.   Create post holes with an auger and post hole digger to be 10-12 inches wide and 24-30 inches deep.

     5.   Place 4”x4” posts in each hole and placed concrete in the hole around the post while leveling each side of the post.  (This is best to be at least a two person job.  One person checks level and hold the post while the other inserts concrete.  I highly recommend forking up $5 for this wonderful post level even if it's a one time job.)

a.   Once each post is level, secure it with temporary wooden stakes while concrete dries.
b.   Let concrete dry for 24 hours and then remove temporary stakes.

Look how perfectly straight our fence is - not one post out of line! This is what $5 and a string will help with !

     6.   Place three rows of 2”x4” slats/cross rails as a backing to screw the pickets in place.  The first row should be 8” off the ground and the second row should be 24” above the first row and the third should be 24” above the second row as shown below.
*Hint: we made templates out of wood so we didn't have to measure each placement of each post.  Just placed the template on ground or on top of the slat, place the next slat in place, and screw.*

     7.   Start placing pickets on fence.

a.   Since we had a sloping yard (as seen in the picture below) we wanted the fence to be parallel to the slat slope.  To do this we made another template (as in step 6) and chose a height from the top of each picket to the upper slat.  This left about an inch off of the ground for most pickets.

b.   We used wood deck screws and placed two screws per slat for a total of 6 screws per picket.  This helps with any warping of pickets.
*We used these screws for everything on the fence – I know screws are more expensive than nails but our personal preference is screws since they are more forgiving with errors *

c.   Space each picket a nail width apart.

Look at cute Teddy laying in the mud.

     8.   Last, build gates (we built two).

a.   A Kreg pocket jig will be your best friend when building frames like this one!  COOLEST. TOOL. ALIVE.

b.  Place on hinge and hardware.  We chose sleek decorative black gate hinges.

     9.   We placed landscape fabric and rocks underneath the driveway side of the fence with proper drainage under the deck and away from the house.

     10.   Enjoy the beautiful new fence!

Now that the wood is completely dried out (the pre-treated chemicals need time to dry before stain or paint), we get to stain it this summer!  I personally don’t like when fences turn black due to the sun especially because it greatly reduces the life of the fence.  Any recommendations for a colored stain!?  I’m thinking about either a cedar colored stain or maybe even a white wash stain.  What does everyone think?

And Teddy hung out next to the Quikrete during our hard work while we had dirt all over our faces. #rufflife more “Mending the Fence”

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Grass is Always Greener

I'm getting super excited about the warmer weather - as I'm sure everyone else is, too! Taking care of the outside landscaping is a very important part of home ownership.  The outside of a house almost always reflects how well the inside of a house is taken care of. This is true for the front yard more than anything, but I'm going to focus on our backyard right now.

We had an awkward, unusable, overgrown side yard.  It wasn't very big, but since the backyard was already small enough, we wanted to make as much usable space as possible.

First step: Demolition!  This is essentially the biggest, most labor intensive part of landscaping.  The picture below is after we trimmed a HUGE, overgrown, evergreen tree and we were taking the root ball out.  The tree had originally covered up the entire window right above Matt.  No wildlife (trees, bushes, etc) should ever touch a house. 

This is another picture of the side yard that just shows how the landscaping was just plain awkward.

Once we removed all shrubbery and blocks, we used a tiller on the yard.  Then we raked the dirt to be at a slope away from the house and then tamped the dirt down.

Yes, I know a magical fence just appeared.  We usually have several projects going on simultaneously and our Mending the Fence project can be found here 

We decided to edge underneath the overhang of the house with rocks and Windsor stones (recycled from demolition) since grass would not live underneath the overhang and it would be impossible to mow even if the grass did live.  We placed landscape fabric underneath the rocks to prevent weeds from growing. 

Next, we laid top soil down and raked it out as a base for the new sod to take root. 

Then we started laying down sod.

All sod was now set in place.

The side yard really expanded the backyard space (aka more stomping ground for Teddy)!

Teddy absolutely loved the brand new sod!!  He immediately fell asleep on his new grassy bed. more “Grass is Always Greener”

Friday, March 13, 2015

We Need More Power, Captain

Electrical outlets are something that is easily taken for granted in a house and boy did we learn that the hard way... When I say we re-ran electrical wire in our entire house, I literally mean we re-ran electrical wire to EVERY single room in our ENTIRE house.

Basement Lights/Outlets

Now onto the basement which is not so pretty of pictures (prettier pictures are below in this post in Main House Electrical & Networking and Cable).  When we first moved in to our house, we literally had 1 outlet in our basement (for the washer and dryer) and 1 main light. The rest of the lights were on pull strings, also known as keyed fixtures. This is the case in many basements, a main light and some pull strings.  However, we wanted to have the whole basement light up with the flip of one switch since the basement has a lower ceiling which does not allow light to distribute very well.  So, we needed lots of lights!!  

But, we tackled the outlets problem first because it's easier to run temporary lighting from permanent outlets than it is to run temporary power from a well lit place.  We are very confident in our abilities to run power and add/remove breakers from our 200 Amp service electrical panel, however, we do not recommend that others do this since electricity can be very dangerous. This picture of Matt is a very common site in the Mullens Home household.  He even has Wiha insulated screwdrivers!

Since we were working in an exposed basement, we had to run all Romex inside conduit for the outlets on the walls as seen below.  Fish wire became our best friend throughout this whole process. It may be a little hard to see but we had proper clamps and grommets for the conduit.   We also always use a GFCI Receptacle Tester.  Finally, when dealing with power the easiest way to detect which breaker to turn off (instead of trying each breaker and using a hot pen) since we did not have properly labeled breakers was to use a Digital Circuit Breaker Finder. All these Klein tools can be found at Home Depot or your local hardware store.

*Hint: Once new electrical breakers are run always make sure to properly label the breaker in the breaker box!!*

Additionally, there was some old wire that was improperly just nailed to the side of a wall in the stairwell.  We properly re-ran Romex wire in conduit since we could not get in between the wall in this particular situation.  

*The good part about conduit is that individual insulated conductor wires can be run through it (instead of the bundled insulated Romex), but the bad part is it usually takes longer to fish wire through it especially in conduit that already contains wires.*  

Now that we had plenty of plugs in the basement to power our work, we moved onto the lighting problem!  There are tables you can look up to see how often you should place fixtures (and outlets), but for the most part we just put lighting where we deemed necessary since we were adding more than minimum code in our basement, anyway.  

The most tedious part about running electrical (for outlets or light fixtures) is drilling all the holes in the joists.  Once that messy job is done, it is not too difficult to run more Romex through them.  Mostly, it was easier to rip out any old wire for the lights and just add new circuits/wire for our new lights than deal with all the issues that was left by the previous person who wired our basement.  Newly ran wire can be seen in the proper electrical boxes before we hooked up the lighting below.

After putting all the lights in and connected to one switch at the top of the stairs, we still left in place 2 pull fixtures.  One over by the sump pump, in case I ever needed to work on it, and another over a small workbench area.  I will only show one picture of all new lights in our basement, since this basement lighting isn't the prettiest even though it makes me super happy .

Main House Outlets & Networking and Cable

Lighting wasn't an issue in the rest of our house but power outlets were a huge issue. 
1. There was a lack of outlets 
2. The outlets we did have were two pronged outlets (having 2 to 3 prong converters everywhere is a real pain).
3. Several plugs were retrofit into baseboards without proper boxes which is dangerous (and looks bad).

With electrical stuff it is kind of difficult to show how to do everything so the rest will mostly show pictures. 

Bedroom 1
1 outlet to 4 outlets + 1 network box

Yes, Teddy finds every single chance he can to jump on our laps and get attention.  I literally sat down for one second. #diydogproblems


Bedroom 2
2 outlets to 5 outlets + 1 network box



Bedroom 3
1 outlet to  5 outlets + 1 network box

Before & After:

Living Room
4 outlets to 8 outlets + 1 network box



Dining Room
2 outlets to 4 outlets



Matt also installed Networking and Cable throughout the whole house which means internet can easily be hard wired to every TV in every room which is much faster than wireless.  The left box below is one example of his beautiful networking and cable installation throughout the house. more “We Need More Power, Captain”