It was a sunny day yesterday, so I took Frugal Boy outside to get some of the wiggles out. It didn’t take him long to find a scrap piece of wood and come swaggering over with a big grin on his face.
“Let’s play swords daddy!”
I found my scrap piece of wood and we commenced playing swords. My knuckles got rapped a couple of times before I decided to upgrade my sword with a guard. Of course, as soon as Frugal Boy saw my superior sword, he wanted to be on equal footing, so I ended up making two. A few quick cuts on the miter saw and six nails later and we had a pair of excellent play swords.
Before Frugal Boy was born, I built a changing table slash dresser to store all of his clothing. That piece of furniture has served us very well for the past three years, but with the pending arrival of another child, we need more storage space. There is a little nook in the kid’s room that looked like an opportune location to place a cubby system.
Shae and I looked around the big box home improvement stores at different storage systems, but the problem was that the dimensions were never right for the space. They were also quite pricey, to the tune of $80.
It became fairly obvious that we’d need to build something ourselves.
I sketched out a rough idea based off a simple height x width measurement that I made of the space.
Then, I went to Menards and picked up:
(2) 1×12-8′ #2 Quality Board
(2) 1×2-8′ Select Board
I already had:
1 1/4 pocket screws
16 ga finish nails
1×3-4′ poplar board
After making the cuts in the garage, I brought the pieces inside to assemble where it was warm. Here it is dry fitted (note some of the face boards are not present).
Here is the exploded view that I drew prior to making cuts.
The assembled end product.
Finally, here it is in place. It looks so snug in that spot. If I get motivated I will paint it and add a seat cushion to the top.
The total cost of materials was $26 and it took me about 3 hours to put together from bringing home the material to putting it in place.
Shae and I really like our raised garden beds. They keep the rabbits out of our produce, and are dead simple to weed. Our vertically challenged son however has been missing out on the action, so last night I whipped together a simple outdoor garden stool.
The stool is just made up of scrap wood that I had lying around the garage. I made the step 14″ wide, and the legs are at a 15° angle. Pocket screws and wood glue hold the legs on.
After letting Frugal Boy try it out, I added a couple of 1x stabilizers to help prevent it from rocking back and forth. They are held on just by wood glue.
Frugal Boy can now see into things that were 7″ out of reach before. Like the car windows.
And the car mirror.
And the support strut of the garage door.
And the workbench in the garage.
He loves his little outdoor stool and it was super easy to make!
In honor of my brother buying his first house, I thought a cost of home ownership post was appropriate. Maybe this will be a spooky Halloween post for him and other new homeowners around the world or it will be a shot of encouragement.
For the past five months I have been rebuilding our front porch. The old porch had a failing foundation and was looking like it could fall down at any moment. When we bought the house we knew we would have to do something about it, and two years later we finally did. So before we get into the numbers a bit, let’s take a look at a before and after picture.
Everything from the roof down was demolished and rebuilt. While I did most of the work by myself, I did have quite a bit of guidance from our next door neighbor who is a professional carpenter. Shae helped with painting and decision making. Additionally, we hired a mason to lay new brick piers and a flooring contractor to sand the new/reused porch flooring.
With November only a week away and winter not far behind that this project is likely being shelved until next spring. There are still handrails to finish up, skirting, and a lot of touch up painting needed to officially mark the job as complete.
So you ask, what did it cost to get this far. $4235.03. Of that, raw materials was 79%, hired help was 20%, and bureaucratic fees made up the final 1%.
Our material cost was driven up by our choice to reuse the existing ipe flooring. Ipe is an extremely dense and rot resistance Brazilian hardwood. We were able to salvage about 70% of the existing flooring and reuse it, but the other 30% plus new stair treads in matching ipe accounted for 43% of our material cost at a total of $1438.66.
Another area we splurged on was the foundation work. We could have stuck a treated 6×6 into the ground and poured concrete around it and called it a day. Instead we dug huge holes to make large concrete pads to support brick piers (that were themselves filled with concrete) to support the framing.
The extra strong foundation was $1274.95 (793.95 in materials + 485 in mason labor). Our justification for spending so much on that was two fold. Firstly, if the foundation had been done properly the first time around, we wouldn’t have had to do this project. Secondly, a wood post in the ground would not match the historic nature of our house and neighborhood. It would also eventually rot out and that brings us back to our first reason.
Once you take out those two big ticket items we are left with $1521.42. That covers all of the framing lumber, painting, tools, a professional sander, permits, and misc. nickels and dimes.
Okay, I know I know. I left out the biggest cost of all in the numbers above. My time. I have been working on this on and off for the past five months and that has value. I do not know how many hours I put in, but I do know what local costs are for hiring out a job like this to a contractor. Let me just say, my time investment has been worth it. We have easily saved five figures by doing the work ourselves. All you have to do is take a look at the Labor portion of our costs and see that just two guys ate up 20% of the project cost. Imagine what a full team working for a couple of weeks would do!
Good luck with your new house bro. They are expensive and time consuming but for us, that beats the alternative of sharing a wall and roof with someone else. So roll up your sleeves and start building some sweat, blood, and tears equity!
I am 99% finished with a weekend home improvement project and it is only Thursday! Just don’t ask what weekend I started on. 😉
Shae and I have been talking for a while about building some kind of raised garden/flower bed in our backyard. I wanted something tall but affordable. Shae wanted low maintenance. Here is the almost finished product that has been erected in our backyard.
A view from the inside of the ‘L’
and a view from the alley.
From the Beginning
Every project of ours starts with a written plan. We often go through several iterations of a design before settling on ‘the one’. The first proposal was a simple rectangle and the site location for it was a completely different part of our backyard. It was only about a foot tall and made entirely from cedar.
Of course that didn’t really meet any of our specs. Cedar is an expensive wood, at least when compared to pine. The planter was only a foot tall and it wasn’t self watering. There had to be a design that would meet all of our requirements and eventually we started toying with an L shaped hybrid design that incorporated low cost treated, stained pine with galvanized sheet metal.
Several revisions later and we had our bill of materials.
Menards was running an 11% rebate sale, that we took advantage of. We also rented one of their trucks ($22.50) for 75 minutes from when you leave the outdoor yard.
We unloaded all of the material minus the dirt into our garage for the evening. I posted the below picture to Facebook and asked friends to guess what I was building. People were very creative in their guesses, although most were spot on that it had to do with gardening. That night I started building the frame in the garage.
Saturday morning, Shae helped me drag the frame out of the garage and put it next to its final resting place. It was a bit taller than either of us anticipated!
Due to its weight, we decided that I would build the rest of it in place, so we marked out where it would go on the grass.
Then dug out and leveled the ground so the planter would sit evenly.
After dragging the skeleton into place and leveling it, I started fitting the metal panels.
After fitting the first panel, I instantly knew there was a serious design flaw. My intention was to have the panel hold the dirt in, but with it only being secured at the top and bottom, it was far too ‘bendy’ and easily bowed in and out with the slightest amount of pressure. To resolve this, I bought three additional stained and treated 2x4s to brace the panels on the outside. I also had to buy an additional four regular treated 2x4s to replace the ones that had to be used for bracing.
Being able to screw the sides of each panel added much needed rigidity.
With the panels in place, I turned my attention to the inside of the planter. Instead of filling the entire planter with dirt, an expensive and back breaking proposition, we opted to instead build a raised internal floor. I secured treated 2×4 joists to the vertical 4x4s.
Treated 1x6s were cut to size and installed as planking. Frugal Boy enjoyed cruising along the inside.
Once all of the floorboards were installed, I grabbed some left over heavy duty plastic from when we lined one of our crawlspaces and carefully placed it into the planter to make a liner.
With the liner stapled to the top of the planter, I cut 3″ corrugated, perforated drainage tube to fit the bottom.
These tubes act as a water reservoir and form a critical part of the ‘self watering’ aspect of the planter. Of course, you need a way to add water to the reservoir and that is where this handy fill tube comes into play.
We also needed an overflow drainage pipe. I used a scrap piece of pvc and drilled a bunch of holes into it.
I cut a hole in the planter side just above the corrugated pipe
and inserted the overflow pipe.
The overflow is on the far side of the fill tube.
All of the piping gets wrapped in landscape fabric to prevent dirt from falling in and filling/clogging up the watering system.
Then it was time to add dirt! I started with some sand along the sides of the corrugated piping. I read somewhere that top dirt sitting in water will begin to stink as anaerobic bacteria goes to town.
With the dirt added, the only major thing left was to add the edge cap. I used treated and stained 2x6s and secured them with screws from the underside to leave an unmarred top surface.
Besides sowing seeds, something that will have to wait until it gets a bit warmer, the only big item left to complete the project is to add gravel along the perimeter like so.
I am putting down landscape fabric to keep weeds from popping up next to the planter. Holding that in place is river rock because it is cheap and attractive. I have to go back to the store for a few more bags of rock. I also need a PVC cap for the supply tube so mosquitos cannot breed in the underground reservoir.
So there you have it! Hopefully the self watering system will work by wicking moisture from the reservoir to the root systems. We should only have to water once a week even during the hottest days of summer.
Shae has been deciding what she wants to plant and already has a few ideas.
Leave a comment with what you would plant! Who knows, maybe we’ll try it out ourselves.