Archive for the ‘Construction’ Category

We built a greenhouse with cattle panels

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013
4 mil plastic on cattle panel hoop house

Greenhouse with plastic installed over cattle panels

It cost us $25. That was just for the plastic. All the pieces were salvaged or free. We used:

  • 16’ cattle panels – five of them. These are about four and a half feet wide, so they made the hoop house about 21 feet long.
  • 20’ by 25’ piece of 4 mil plastic. This will last at least three months until it is warm enough at night to take off.
  • Lumber of all sizes to build the benches for plants. The plywood came from a house that a friend of a friend tore down.
  • Plastic shelving material we got from a friend who made dog kennels for a living.

We made a rim of 2×4’s to hold the cattle panel hoops up. Then end we framed up with 3’, 4’, and 6’ scraps of 2×4 studs. We tied all the panels together with baling twine. Inside we used an old table, salvaged plywood, and plastic panels for work space. We have over forty linear feet to set out plants. If we keep this up, next year will have a winter garden under this cold frame, hoop house.

The unusual thing we did was to build this over an old swimming pool. I only know of one other person in the world who owns a cement pond like ours—it was made from a huge fuel tank, cut in half. So, you will probably not follow our model exactly, but it created an interesting situation for us.

Flooring supports in swimming pool greenhouseOur tank half is nine feet wide at the top, but since the tank was cylindrical, it tapers to a rounded bottom which is difficult to walk on. So, we took left over studs from when we remodeled our basement and laid them across from one wall to the other. We then set full pieces of salvaged plywood on top of these studs, spaced at 12 inches on center. Since the studs were about 8’ long, they dropped the floor to about 2 feet from the top of the pool. This gives us about 8 feet to the top of the cattle panel hoops. It is a little crazy sounding, but it worked out great for us.

Beneath the floor was this empty cavity of about 3 feet. I read about some people heating their greenhouses with a compost heap. That gave me an idea for the empty space under our floor. We shoveled out the cows’ and sheep’s winter manure accumulation and stashed it under the floor to compost. At first it stunk badly, but by the second day the odor was gone. Now we are just waiting for it to activate the composting and start heating the room all night.

It has been a fun experiment and we already have some starts from inside to set out in the warm sun.Plastic shelves in greenhouse Ending construction of the cattle panel hoop house

Salvage plywood shelving in coldframe greenhouse

Laying out greenhouse shelves in snow shower

How to Install Vinyl Flooring

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Most do-it-yourselfers do not know how to install flooring, especially vinyl flooring (what used be called linoleum). Vinyl flooring installation has become easier than ever now since you do not have to have to glue it down or use complicated tools to install it.

Tools you need for installing roll flooring

Utility knife (like a Stanley with a changeable blade)

Framing square (the big kind that measure 16” by 24” in an L shape)

Tape measure (a simple 25’ tape will do fine)

– Pencil (sharpened, of course)

Materials you will need

– Vinyl flooring (enough for the area you will be doing)

– Building paper (a roll of red rosin paper or sturdy construction paper)

– Masking tape (the cheap tan-colored stuff will work fine for this project)

– Double-sided flooring tape (made especially for vinyl floors)

Prepare the floor

If you are working with an old floor, consider leaving it there. If the new vinyl you are buying has a foam backing, it will cover up the bumps and grooves underneath. If the old floor has rips or holes, consider pulling it up. Unfortunately, many old vinyl floors have glued holding them to the plywood floor. This can be an exhausting removal project. On the project you see pictures from here, we started to take up the old floor but it was too heavily glued. We scraped and tapered it down around the edges, leaving the bulk of the old floor in the middle. The new floor covers it so well, you would never know.

At this point you will want to remove the commode (if in a bathroom) or refrigerator and stove (if in a kitchen) and whatever else the floor will need to go under.

Measure the floor

With your tape measure, you want to make two long measurements: one across, the other the length. For our church kitchen, the largest parts of the floor spanned 11’6” by 19’6”. So, we bought a piece of flooring 12 foot by 20 foot. At this point, you do not want to roll out the new floor and try to carve it around the cabinets. This is where most homeowners make a disaster of their project from not knowing how to install a vinyl floor best. Set the new roll of flooring in the garage or other safe place for now.

Make your flooring pattern

Bring in the construction paper, and unroll it in the area where the new flooring will go. Get it close to the wall and up under the cabinet toe areas, but it does not have to touch. In fact, try to keep the paper about an inch away from all the edges of the floor. This paper will be the pattern for when you install the vinyl flooring. On the kitchen floor in the picture, we had to run about three widths of paper, which we taped together. Cut around cabinet edges and other protrusions, keeping your cuts within an inch of all interruptions. You may have to cut strips of paper to fill in doorways or other odd spots.

Once you have laid out the paper and taped it together, cut half moon circles in the floor. Stick a piece of tape through the slice to hold down the paper to the old floor so the paper pattern does not float around while you make your marks.

Once the paper lies in place, set the long edge of your framing square against the wall or cabinets and scribe alongside with your pencil. This will put a mark exactly 2 inches from the finished edge. Keep moving your framing square, being sure to always use the long side, and trace the outline of the whole room. When you go to cut out the new flooring, you will hold this same tool on the same line and cut the outside edge with your knife. This will save you from hacking your way around walls and corners, trying to work with the flooring in place (a sure-fire disaster).

Transfer the pattern

Find a large flat surface to lay out your new flooring such as in the garage or even in the driveway. For the church kitchen, I carried the new flooring to the church gymnasium and let it lie flat there. Once that is in place, detach the paper pattern off the old floor (just loosen the tape in the moon-shape cuts). Roll it up and carry it to the new flooring (which should be showing the finished surface—do not attempt to cut it upside down). You can probably reuse the same anchoring tape (in the moon-shape holes) to stick it to the new flooring. If your new floor has a straight pattern (woodgrain, tile) line up your longest edge with one of those straight patterns. Or, hold the longest line on the pattern 2” from the edge of the roll. This will give you a perfectly straight line to start with. Unfortunately, our project did not allow us to use the factory edge in any spot.

Now, grab the same framing square you used to make your marks, and set it against the pencil mark you made. Now cut on the opposite side of the square (not the pencil mark) and this will give you a perfect finish cut that will snug right up to the wall or cabinet in the room. If you are working over another finished floor, protect it from knife marks by putting another piece of roll flooring or a few layers of construction paper under it. Do not do this over carpet unless you lay down sheets of plywood for a solid surface to cut against.

Just a few minutes of careful cutting will leave you a perfect duplicate of the room’s footprint. When finished, remove the paper and roll it up. Now, roll up the new flooring and carry it to its destination. Sweep thoroughly to be sure absolutely no dirt remains in corners or anywhere it will leave bumps in the vinyl surface.

Other considerations

If you have uneven flooring with chunks missing or knotholes, buy a flooring lever. This product works like drywall mud for the floor, but it is waterproof. Spread it smooth and evenly and let it set until has cured completely (usually 24 hours). Do not worry about cracks or shrinkage as thick vinyl flooring can span cracks as big as 1/4 inch.

You can buy flooring up to 15’ wide. Anything larger, you will have to seam down the middle. Join the two pieces of flooring with double-sided tape. First, however, make sure the pattern of your floor will match up at the joint to look like one solid piece (ask the sales clerk to help you find some that does). Wood-grain flooring works very well for a floor that needs a seam. When laying out the pattern, join the two pieces of vinyl with masking tape; only put the double-sided tape under the two pieces once you have set them in place (you do not want to have to carry two taped pieces from one room to another).

Put the flooring in place

Carefully unroll the cut flooring and jiggle it into the corners. If you have followed the instructions correctly, you will have a masterpiece floor in the easiest way possible. Pull back sections where heavy appliances will go and put an X of double-sided tape. Add a strip of double-sided tape in front of the sink or other high-traffic area. Cut out your air vent holes now by slicing an X into the hole (you can feel it through the flooring) and pop the vents into place. Where the flooring meets another floor surface (in the doorway for example) buy a flooring edger (a.k.a. floor transition plate) and tack it down. Now you can see why a floor like this does not need glue with all the vents, tack strips, and appliances holding it in place.

How to Clean Weathered Wood

Monday, October 25th, 2010
Weathered Wood

Weathered Log Walls on Southern Exposure

If the siding on you home or the planks on your deck have turned ugly gray, with weathering, you can get it beautiful and new again. People often attack weathered wood with a pressure washer. These beasts destroy wood before they clean it. A pressure washer will blast out the soft wood grains, leaving knife-like splinters sticking up. While they make the deck look good for a little while, they take down the stock and open up more surface area for mold to grow. You will have to keep pressure washing your faded deck or gray siding every year until the weather-worn boards waste away to toothpicks.

Instead, you can clean your log home, cedar shingles, board-and-batten, or clapboard siding with two simple and inexpensive ingredients. If you search online, you will think you have to buy a timber or wood cleaner around $100 for a 5-gallon bucket. These vicious chemicals might work for wood but will not do your hands any favors.

Clean your weathered wood for less than $25.
The first ingredient is an oxygenated bleach. I use OxiClean Stain Remover because my wife uses it on the laundry and it was easy for me to borrow. Mix half a cup to a gallon of hot water.
The next ingredient makes all the difference: Basic H. Shaklee products makes the hydrogen-positive product Basic H which we use for many things around our homestead (as insecticide, car wash, livestock wormer, and many more unauthorized purposes). Basic H seems to make any liquid more effective. If you are fertilizing or killing weeds, a little Basic H seems to double the strength of the product. Mix in about a tablespoonful of Basic H with your gallon of hot water and OxiClean.

Onto the Action
While the water is still hot, pour it into a garden sprayer. Get a garden hose ready and soak down the wall or deck you are attacking. Next, spray your Basic-H-and-OxiClean mixture on the weathered wood. It should foam up slightly. Only spray an area you can cover within a couple of hours. You can always spray more if you need to. Now, take a stiff-bristle, plastic scrub brush and vigorously scour every inch of the gray wood you can see. You should see it start to lighten up as you scrub. Use rubber gloves if you are doing a large area as the OxiClean may hurt your hands.
You could just dip your scrub brush into a bucket of this weathered-wood mixture, but this carries a lot of mold and dirt into the soapy water. The compound goes further if you just spray it on and scrub without carrying any junk into the source.

You will have to go over bad spots twice until the natural wood color shows through. Think of this as an aerobic workout to tone your muscles and burn fat. Do this in spring or fall as you would be miserable doing this on a hot day. Rinse off the scrubbed area when you are all done. Let it get some sunshine if possible to help it get thoroughly dry and even sun-bleach a little before you seal it. Stain and/or seal to the desired look you wish.

Say goodbye to that unsightly gray, faded, and weathered wood, and say hello to a brand new home when you use this low-cost remodeling trick.

Washed Wood

Reconditioned logs after cleaning with mixture.


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