Staining the Decks

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We have three decks of varying sizes attached to our house.  A few years ago, the original decks had paint or stain (all not matching, of course) that were in varying stages of peeling.

Rob wanted to replace all of the decks with Trex decking.  However, the cost was SO high, he decided to stain the decks with a light gray stain.  That first job was a lot of work: Rob had to scrape down a lot of peeled paint on each deck, then stain the floors, and the rails, etc.  When spring came this year, he knew he had to re-stain the floors of the decks.  The rails looked fine, but the floors needed help.

Here’s one shot of the “before”…there were many spots even worse than this; winter and all the snow and ice can be harsh on decks:

To make the job easier, Handy Man used a roller to do most of the work.  He used a small brush to get into spots he couldn’t get to with the roller.

Front steps: all done! It only took one coat.

“During” on the back deck.

Side deck and stairs.

Do you have any decks or stairs that need maintenance?  It can be a huge job.  Has anyone used Trex before?

Linking up to: Between Naps on the Porch

New Stone Pathway; Part 2

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During the previous step, Handy Man dug about two inches of dirt out of the spot he was working on.  Then he placed a stone into that spot, and covered it with excess dirt to fill up the space between the stone and the grass.

Next, he used a small whisk broom to compress the dirt around the edges of the stone.  Then he scooped up the excess dirt, and used a push broom to further clean the stones.

Here are some of the stones that he finished.  I think it looks great already!

We have had a good amount of rain, and the grass around these stones (and in the rest of the yard) has really “greened up.”  Handy Man hopes to work on getting more of the stones in this coming weekend, since it’s supposed to be sunny and warm.  We’ll see, New England weather is so unpredictable!

See New Stone Pathway, Part 1 (posted on April 26th) for the beginning steps to this project.

New Stone Pathway: Part 1

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Over the weekend, Handy Man started work on our new stone pathway.  We bought some irregular-shaped stones at Lowe’s.  We researched online, and looked in a few stores first, to decide what type of path we wanted.  We wanted something for people to walk on, and we wanted to save some extra wear on the grass there, since it turns to muck in the spring.  We didn’t want to make it TOO symmetrical or formal, so we just went with these stones.

I’m kind of embarrassed to show you how awful this part of our lawn looks right now, but oh well!

ALL of the grass was really damaged over a very tough New England winter, and a very wet and muddy spring.  Plus, this part of the yard where we walk to the side door looks just awful, since it gets a lot of heavy foot traffic.  Handy Man laid the stones on top of the grass, and we walked on them to make sure they weren’t spaced too far apart:

Even Handy Boy had to run back and forth, testing them out:

Then Handy Man took a half moon lawn edger, and cut into the ground closely around each stone.

Then, he chopped up the dirt with the lawn edger…(nice legs!)

…and dug out about 2 inches of dirt (about the depth of the stones) with a garden trowel:

I will post more pictures of the process soon.  Some of the stones are in the ground already.  Soon, Handy Man is going to work on that area of grass, so we can get it to grow in better. Stay tuned!

New Printer Stand

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We recently bought a new printer (Handy Man is great at comparing prices online for anything and everything we are looking to buy).  The new printer we bought is a bit wider than the old one, so we started to look around for printer stands.  I hated to buy a new piece of furniture just for that, but the new printer was way too big to put on either of our desks.

Of course, Handy Man did consider building a printer stand for us, but after doing some more research, he determined that we could just buy a stand at an unfinished furniture store for less money.  It’s unfortunate that sometimes nice wood is just super expensive to buy these days.  Of course, if we need a specialty piece that we just can’t find anywhere else, Handy Man will just build it.

Here is the stand that we bought at a local unfinished furniture store.  Handy Man took it apart so it would be easier to sand and stain.

This is the top of the stand, and the bottom shelf. Handy Man said he used some 220 grit sandpaper to get a nice, smooth finish.

This is the stain that he used. Its Minwax Wood Finish, in Red Mahogany:

He used a rag to get the stain into all of the nooks and crannies:

I’m working on getting some more Handy/Crafty posts written soon. It’s just been hard here lately; we are all taking turns being sick, and the five day power outage really threw me off!

Fresh Flowers

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We don’t really “do” Valentine’s Day here, so these aren’t Valentine’s flowers. These are some flowers that Handy Man bought me over a week before Valentine’s Day, when I wasn’t feeling well. Some flowers last longer than others, and this arrangement seems to have some that last pretty well (mums, carnations and alstromeria). There are a few simple things you can do to make your flowers last a bit longer:

Before placing the flowers in water, cut the stems with some really sharp shears or a knife. It’s best to get a pair of shears for household use, as scissors are not meant for flowers, they can crush the stems. Cut the stems at an angle so they absorb more water. If your arrangement came with a packet of flower food, add some to the water. If you don’t have flower food, add a pinch of sugar to the water. Make sure the water is lukewarm.

If you use a flower preservative, you should change the water about 2-3 times per week. If you aren’t using any preservative, change the water daily. Discard any wilted blooms when you see them. Keep your flowers out of direct sunlight or a drafty area.

These flowers are in a cool spot near a window, but out of direct sunlight. I’ve been doing my best to keep these flowers looking nice, since winter is so bleak here and I want them to last. We’ll see how long I can get them to last!

Getting the House Ready for Winter

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By Handy Man

Well, it’s that time again to close the old place up for the long New England winter.  I try to hold off as long as I can.  This being  “New Hampsha”, one can never tell when it’ll hit 70 degrees in October.  Anyways, I’ll usually tackle my list either the first or second weekend in November (weather permitting).

The “list” usually only takes about a half a day to complete and ensures that we stay toasty and warm in our little cocoon.

First, and most importantly, I give the pellet stove a thorough cleaning… not just cleaning out the ashes, mind you, but cleaning the whole unit.  This includes dismantling the auger motor housing and cleaning out the sawdust and cleaning the exhaust pipe.  A clean stove is an efficient (and reliable) stove.  (Note: we’ll have other posts about our pellet stove.  Whatever heating system you have, its a good idea to get it cleaned and ready for use.  This may involve work that you do yourself, or calling in someone to clean your heating system.)

Then, I move to the windows and doors.  I go around the house, closing and locking all the windows to ensure a tight seal.  And then, I replace the screens with the glass in the storm doors.

I also drain the garden hoses and bring them inside.  If we have any deck furniture outside, I bring it into the garage for storage.

Once the house is buttoned up, I spend a couple of hours tidying up the yard by cutting down the spent flowers, using the weed whacker, and performing the final mow of the season.  After that, I put my lawn machines “to bed” for the winter and get my garage ready for use as a garage.

What sort of things do you do to get your home ready for winter?

How to Prep a Lawnmower for Winter Storage

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By Handy Man

2008 Nov 089

Before I begin, I will first say that there are many correct ways to prep your lawn and garden machinery for winter’s hibernation. But, I’ll describe the steps I use based upon my father’s advice from nearly 40 years for power equipment repair experience.

I’m sure more than one of you out there has gone to start your lawn mower for the first time, at the beginning of the mowing season and nearly pulled your arm out trying… You can admit it… It’s ok, most of us have done it at least once. Now you see that the whole idea behind this process is to prevent what I’ve just described, above.

Now, performing this process yourself is not for everyone. For those of you who are not DIY’ers, I have this advice:

Bribe a friend or relative with a case of beer to perform the service for you (just be sure to wait until the service is complete before imbibing).
-or-
Pay a mechanic for this service.

If you are going to attempt to do this yourself, here’s how to do it:

For machines which require an oil change, I like to run them for 10 minutes or so before beginning. This heats up the oil, thinning it out, allowing it to drain from the engine block a little easier.

1. Check the oil level. Always check the oil level before starting the engine. It’s a good habit.
2. Run the engine for 10 minutes or so to warm it up.
3. While warming up the machine, take a minute to gather up the waste oil drain pan, any necessary wrenches, pliers and screw drivers. And don’t forget PLENTY of rags. (It’s better to have too many and not need them than to have too few and need more than you’ve got).
4. Shut the engine off. Drain the oil and change the oil filter (if applicable).
5. Refill the engine with oil (refer to the manual for the correct amount).
6. Again, check the oil level to ensure proper level. Too much oil is just as bad as not enough.
7. Run the engine for a minute or two and check for leaks.
8. Turn it off and check the oil. Add more as needed. (A new oil filter will retain 3 to 4 ounces of oil after the first run).

Now that there is fresh oil in the engine, it’s time to drain the gas from the tank and run the machine again until it burns all of the remaining fuel out of the gas lines and carburetor.

For the machines which do not require an oil change, I still like to run them for 5 or 10 minutes before beginning, just to get them warmed up. Then drain the fuel from the tank and run the machine again until the gas in the lines is burned up.

If this seems like too much work, please keep in mind that there are fuel stabilizer products which are supposed to keep the gas from going bad over the winter. They do work, but I prefer to run the machines completely out of gas. My equipment has never failed to start on the first or second pull, come spring.

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