Archive for the ‘Projects’ Category


Projects (Doggie Ramp)

   Posted by: John

One of the things I made is a result of having and old and fat dog.  She can’t jump up on the bed like the other ones can.  She apparently needs to get off the bed several times per night to pee, get a drink of water, etc. I was spending all night putting her up and down and no time sleeping at all.  She’s mostly blind as well, so jumping up on a couple of things was out of the question.  Solution: build a ramp for the dog.



I went with a ramp instead of stairs so that the blind dog won’t fall down the stairs (funny to watch as that might have been).  There’s only so much width to a bed.  The ramp angle ended up being 32 degrees, but I carpeted it so the dog would not be spinning her feet trying to make it up the ramp (although that would have been funny to watch as well).

I had the sides of an old and previously dismantled wood shelf unit.  So, I got some 2×3 and dado’d out a slot in them wide enough for one of the sides.  Assembled so there’s a ramp and a small landing at the top.  I mounted these so they were on a frame.  Then I added a railing to keep the blind one from walking off the edge.

Doggie Ramp Under Construction

Doggie ramp under construction

Here’s what it looked like against the bed.

Ramp at foot of bed

Ramp at foot of bed

That was completed November 2017.  Note the open framework under the landing.  This week I added the facing to it.  It’s just cedar fencing that I ran through the planer to clean up the front of.  The material is a little damp so after a month or two I will sand and clear finish it.

Faced Ramp

Faced Ramp

So, not quite finished, but closer.  The dogs use it and I don’t have to get up several times per night to lift the pug up and down.  That makes it a success!


Color Changing Fool

   Posted by: John

Kristen wanted to have the color of her bedroom changed. It was the same brown color the rest of the house was and, while a nice color, was a bit much in a smaller bedroom. I brought home a variety of color chips and she picked out a couple she liked.

I actually did the work on the weekend of 7/25-26, but held off posting this until after she came home from California. This was supposed to be a surprise.

The goal was to give the room a brighter look and feel. It is a nice room with a vaulted ceiling. It is not a large bedroom, perhaps 11′ x 11′, with the closet of course.  Like so many other projects, I never seem to take before pictures. The after pictures, though are pretty amazing.

Note that I have not cleaned the carpet.

Closet doors and walls

Bedroom door and wall

Windows with new covering

The window originally had a pink covering over it, but pink would not have looked good in the room at all. The white sets off the window nicely and makes the darker blue trim stand out.

I do not have a picture of it, but the ceiling light fixture was originally a brown color, with some pattern on it. This would have looked awful. So, I got a can of dark semi-gloss spray paint and painted the metal parts. It turned out awesome and looks real good.


More Paint

   Posted by: John

The paint has been so successful in areas of the house that I decided to keep on going in various areas. So far it has been a lot of fun and really made a difference.

This time I decided to do something in the master bathroom. The area where the sinks are is separate from the shower/toilet area. The counter and sinks are inset into the wall so it forms a sort-of alcove.  It was painted the same dark brown the rest of the house is.  I changed just that area to the lighter color and it made a huge impact in how bright and open the sink area is.

Bathroom sink area

Bathroom sink area

I made the comment to Laura that this lighter color has not become “old” in that every place I have put this color it has enhanced the room dramatically.

As a funny side note, while we were waiting at Home Depot for some different paint to be mixed up, we were looking at colors for the outside of the house.  One of the colors we picked is this same color. We have not decided if it would be a main or a trim color, but we both like it a lot.

Anyway, there are a couple more places I am going to put this color in the house. Not big areas, but the goal is to make the rooms brighter, happier and give some character to the place. So far that goal has been met and surpassed.



   Posted by: John

Anyone who knows me knows that I despise CFL light bulbs.  I have never liked them, but ended up purchasing a bunch over the years largely because I got a bunch at Wal-Green for 50 cents each. Surprisingly, these cheapo bulbs were some of the best CFL bulbs I have had the misfortune of using. Flip the switch and they are immediately on, and bright. And the color was nice, about the same as a regular bulb. 7 watts vs. 40 watts. They did the job. 

The ones I had in the kitchen though, the 65 watt floodlight replacements, those sucked. Wait 5 minutes to see anything because it took so long for them to get bright.

I remember when CFL bulbs first came out. They were $10-$12 each and claimed to last 7 years. Some enviro-whackjob that worked in the shop started going on about how we all had to get these things because they were going to save the planet and save everyone money. The rest of us tried to talk reason to him, but you know how the religious fervor of the environmentalist is…you can’t tell them anything. I went back to my desk and fired up my spreadsheet. I determined that IF the bulbs lasted the promised 7 years, and a typical incandescent had to be replaced every 2 years, and if electricity rates went up an average of 4% per year, it would take 12 YEARS for that $10 bulb to pay for itself in money saved. I showed that to the enviro-tard and that shut him up.  I almost felt sorry for him.  OK, not really.  We all laughed at him.

I have yet to have a CFL that lasted 7 years.  Not. One.

On the other hand, LED bulbs, now that the prices have come down some, look like they are a much better option. Right now, Lowes and Home Depot have 40 and 60 watt replacement bulbs for about $2.50 each. These draw 6 or 9 watts respectively. Nice color light too. The CFL bulbs that replace a 60 watt real bulb draw 13 watts and actually cost more!  So, I now have LED bulbs throughout the house. I took out the 23 watt (100 watt replacement) CFL’s and replaced them with the 6 watt LED’s and found that there was more light, of nicer quality. The only fixture left which has CFL’s is in the master bath and the only reason those are still there is because I can’t seem to get the fixture open. I am not sure what the problem is, but I am about ready to just break the glass and replace the whole thing. 

The three CFL floods in the kitchen got replaced with three LED lights. That made all the difference in the kitchen, which always seemed dark and dreary. Not any more! 

In the garage, there were two old 8′ fluorescent fixtures in there. One of them did not work at all. The other one buzzed and flickered and generally promoted epilepsy. At 80 watts per tube (and I assume the ones that did not work were also drawing some power), they were awful for the crummy light they provided.  I determined that I would replace them, and gave some consideration to installing some pot lights. However, a better option turned out to be some LED strip lights.  These cost a few dollars, but for 20 watts per 4 feet, these fixtures put out more useable light than the fluorescents ever thought of and beats a CFL any day of the week. I only got 4 of them and need to get 2 more to finish the job, but the $80 has been needed other places.

Anyway, I can’t argue with the results. The electric bill has been lower here than it has ever been. I imagine it will take a couple years for the LED’s to pay for themselves, but after that, it’s money in the bank!


Keeping it cool

   Posted by: John

Contractor 1: “OK, furnace is mounted in the garage.”

Contractor 2: “Perfect. Laundry is in the room between the garage and the house.”

Contractor 1: “Where do we put the thermostat?”

Contractor 2: “We should put it in the middle of the house, but if we put it in the hall next to the garage and laundry room we can save $2 in wiring.”

Contractor 1: “Works for me!”

That’s the only thing that makes sense. Of course, if we didn’t have critters we could keep the laundry and garage doors shut, but we do and so we can’t. So, what happens is, the doors are open and the heat from the garage and dryer were fooling the thermostat that was only 5 feet away.  It says 76 but the house is 68 and the unit is on solid.

So, part of the painting project was to move the thermostat to a better location in the house. It now sits regally on the wall outside of the kitchen. I was able to extract the dishwasher and cut a hole in the wall behind it, feed the wire down the inside of the wall and under the house. Then it was a simple matter of going under the house (yeah, when has crawling around under a house been a simple matter?) and pulling the wire through to where it goes up and into the furnace.  Connected it up at both ends, mounted the thermostat to the wall and turned it on. Works great! Where it used to be I just pushed the old wire into the hole, patched the drywall and texture, then painted over it.

The hall still gets a little warm but that’s expected with the doors open. The rest of the house is evenly comfortable now. It cost me $18 for a spool of wire. I will probably make that back the first month in electricity saved. In the winter, we had the same issue with the furnace. Cold air from the garage kept the furnace running a lot more than it needed.

The other thing with the furnace is that it uses two air filters that sit in a trough and are angled up, like a V.  I hate that arrangement. My experience with this is that they fill up with dust and the suction pulls one or both down until there is a gap that all the air goes through.  And at $10 a pop for good filters, it takes $20 every couple of months to replace them.  My answer to this was to get one of the washable filters that could be cut down to the proper flat size. I have used these every place I have lived and they work just fine. Just take them out every month, wash them off with a hose, let them dry and back in they go. The filter cost $20, which is what two filters would have cost the first change. Every time I clean it I am saving another $20.


Past project…water heater

   Posted by: John

Our house had the original water heater in it. 40 gallons and it seemed like about 10 would be hot. It was getting difficult to take a shower without running out. I take pretty fast showers, 7 or 8 minutes tops.  The girls, of course, ran it out every time.  On top of that, it was making some real bad gurgling sounds and started leaking around the pressure relief valve.  I managed to nurse it along for a while, but finally decided it was time to replace it. It was a 6 year tank and had made it 12.  Home Depot…here we come!

The biggest issue is that our federal government has mandated higher efficiency standards for water heaters. I am all for efficiency, but every thing the feds touch ends up costing more! So, I had to get it done before the new regulations hit.  I picked a Rheem 50 gallon, 12 year unit. I decided that I might as well not have to mess with it for a very long time. This unit is 1% below the new standards so it should be fairly cheap to use. Naturally, it is 4″ bigger around and 2″ taller than the old unit. That’s OK, I had to rebuild the stand anyway as the old one was inadequate anyway.  Instead of using flake-board I constructed it out of 2×4’s. I used the air stapler and strips to hold the pieces in place and screwed the top to the horizontals.  It is a far stronger stand than the old one and should hold up the 600 pounds easily.

I got the tank for $634.  I also had to replace the pan, flexible water lines and the expansion tank. Those added another $100 to the bill.  (I am glad I did this before the regulation deadline date. The day after, the tank price jumped to $726. Same part number, higher price.)

Replacing it was pretty easy. The old tank drained without any problem, much to my surprise.  I built the new stand shorter so the water lines and vent would mate up properly. Getting it set up there was not difficult at all. Just angled it to miss the flue, connected it up and done! The whole job took less than 2 hours.

New water heater

Now the girls can stand in the shower for almost an hour before they run out of hot water!!!  (I threatened to put a 10 minute timer on the water valve. That got vetoed real fast!!)

Oh, and that extension cord that is on the floor…it is gone now. That wall had no power outlets on it. I was able to tap into the outdoor plug farther down the wall and install a 4-gang outlet on the inside. No more extension cord!!!


Painting Projects

   Posted by: John

One of the things with this house that Laura and I live in, the walls are all painted a chocolatey brown color. It’s a very nice color, but there’s a lot of it.  The kitchen and dining room are a lighter color, almost a rich tan. In areas where the lighter color is on the walls, the trim is the darker color, and vice versa. It does make the house seem dark and closed in (although the kitchen is fine).  Laura likes it though so repainting it all is out of the question.  I did manage to talk her into painting some walls in an accent color, lighter than the other two colors.

In the living room, we chose to do the West wall.  It is pretty plain in that it only has an arched doorway in the middle of it.  The peak of the vaulted ceiling side goes up to about 12 feet.  That’s not too bad, but I had to drag in the extension ladder to reach the top.  Removing the stuff on the wall was not a big deal (nor was putting it back). When I looked for the paint roller tubes, I could not find them. I was pretty sure I had some in the garage, but nope.  All I had was the edging tool that is about 3″ x 4″. I decided I was not going to let the lack of a roller stop me.  I used the tool do the edges and just for giggles started using it for the wall as well. It worked so well that I used it for everything. Maybe not as wide as a roller, but it used considerably less paint and made absolutely no mess.

Newly painted front room wall

The end result is fantastic. The room is much more inviting than it used to be, a lot warmer and lighter. In the picture the dark paint is pretty prominent, but the lighter color contrasts it beautifully.

I decided to do the back wall of the little hall through the doorway and it turned out very well. I did not originally do the wall around the bedroom door but the little bit of dark paint did not look right at all. I changed it to the lighter color and that fixed the problem completely.

Hallway and bedroom door

Everything required two coats to cover up the old dark color. At this point I had used about 60% of the gallon so I figured I had enough paint to do one wall in the other hall and one wall in the master bedroom.  The other hall is  narrow and tall. I had toyed with the idea of doing the lower part of the back wall, but decided to only do the top part. It turned out very well and makes the hall look a lot bigger and more inviting.

Other hallway

Other hallway

The master bedroom is another example of a room that is just too dark. Again, the color is nice, but it needs a little brightening. We decided to do the wall that has the window. The arched window over top of the drapes had rough cut cardboard over the opening. Yes brown, but very tacky looking. I brought home a couple of large cardboard pieces and cut a new one. This I coated with some primer and then some wall texture. Finally, I painted it in the trim color.  It needs another coat or two as it appears the cardboard sucked up some of the paint and the sheen is not even.

As for the wall itself, two coats of the light color makes all the difference. The room is brighter and looks a lot bigger.

Newly painted bedroom wall

I have to say I was very impressed with using that flat edging tool for the painting. It not only did the edges with remarkable precision, but it spread paint very evenly. It handled the texture better than any roller I have ever used.  I did the first coat vertically and the second coat horizontally. I used much less paint than a roller ever would have and the finish quality is perfect. The painted cardboard arch looks very natural and using the trim color on it really sets the wall off.

The gallon of paint cost $28. I spent about $35 on supplies, primer and wall texture material. I can use the supplies some more (I am going to repaint Kristen’s bedroom next month). I think the results make this project a full success and I did it pretty cheap. Best of all, Laura loves it.  That makes it worth it!