Jul 21, 2015

Under-deck Enclosure with Access Door

We got some work done on the backyard this weekend. If you recall on my last post, I mentioned that we wanted to enclose the bottom of the deck, re-sod the lawn, and re-stain the fence. Well, the deck is now enclosed!

under-deck enclosure with access door

How about a little before and after?
under-deck enclosure with access door

It ended up being a fairly simple job - about 6 hours to enclose the sides (including set up, clearing gravel, and measurements), and then another hour to build the access door.

We chose to have the enclosure inset from the edge of the deck so that we could attach it directly to the support posts and give it more stability. There was a layer of gravel under the deck the went right out to the edge. We want the grass to eventually run right up to the enclosed part, so that meant digging up and pushing back the gravel that was in front of the posts. I was voluntold for that job as I was the one who pressed for the extra grass.

under-deck enclosure with access door

What a miserable job. I had to switch to a gardening hand cultivator to dig up the gravel because just digging with my hands wasn't getting it done. There is still some gravel left behind, but we'll dig it out when we put in the new soil and sod.

We started the enclosure by building out the posts on the left hand side with some scrap 2x4s so that the vertical boards would cover the concrete at the bottom. We decided not to do the same at the front since the amount visible was pretty small (our ground is really uneven.) Once the new dirt and sod are in the concrete will probably be covered anyway.

under-deck enclosure with access door

We ran boards horizontally from the house to the corner post to give a support framework for the vertical boards. Tom attached a length of 2x4 to the house to give a starting point for the support boards.

under-deck enclosure with access door

The vertical boards were then attached to the framework beginning at the house and working to the corner. Each board had to be measured individually because of the slope of the yard. In some spots Tom had to notch out the tops of the boards to fit around the deck beams above.

under-deck enclosure with access door

Master saw operator and her trusty sidekick:

under-deck enclosure with access door

under-deck enclosure with access door

under-deck enclosure with access door

The front was done the same way except we only went to where the under-deck access door would be.

under-deck enclosure with access door

under-deck enclosure with access door

We then skipped over to the right side to fill in the area between the upper and lower decks and continue around to the front again. The front part of the upper deck sticks out to the right a couple of feet more than the back does (as that's where the stairs joining the two decks are), so the post at the front isn't exactly centered. That means that the fencing would have to extend past the post to line up with the lower deck otherwise there would be a gap between the enclosed area and the lower deck and I didn't want anything making a home in that narrow space.

The upper deck overhangs the lower deck a little bit, so we screwed a 2x4 into the lower deck along the edge and Tom built a framework out from that 2x4 and also out from the post at the front, having it meet where we wanted the corner to be.

under-deck enclosure with access door

We could then attach the vertical boards along the side to the joists on the underside of the deck and to the 2x4. This one took a bit of work because we had to go down the steps as well as cutting out around the beams. Tom spent a fair amount of time lying under the deck, working in the near dark, with me trying to direct him from the outside. Finishing up the front right-hand side was a piece of cake after that.

under-deck enclosure with access door

under-deck enclosure with access door

The door was built nearly the same way as the sides. We attached top and bottom horizontal boards to the posts, as if we were going to enclose it all, except they were just attached with finishing nails so that they could easily be pulled out.

under-deck enclosure with access door

The vertical boards were then attached with screws to the support boards. Four barrel bolts were added - two top, two bottom - between the door and the sides. These bolts will keep the door in place when it's closed.

under-deck enclosure with access door

under-deck enclosure with access door

We then added two handles to make the door easier to lift in and out of place. Once the hardware was in, the bolts were unlocked Tom pulled the door outwards so that the nails holding it to the deck would let go. He then pulled/snipped off any nails or screw ends that were sticking out of the back. The door can then go back in place and the bolts hold it secure.

under-deck enclosure with access door

under-deck enclosure with access door

Tom was against this project initially, but even with just the first side done he admitted that the deck looked so much better. The wood we used was MicroPro Sienna, which is a new type of pressure-treated wood that is treated with a more environmentally friendly preservative than traditional green lumber.

MicroPro Sienna

I like the redwood stain colour that it comes in - I wish it had been available when we were re-building our deck a few years ago. We might have to stain the upper part now just to match!

under-deck enclosure with access door

under-deck enclosure with access door

We used 1x6x8' boards and calculated that we'd need 32, about $125 total plus $15 in hardware. We ended up taking 5 boards back, and had about 2 full boards worth of wastage - only 1 bad cut! - so all in all, not an expensive project.

under-deck enclosure with access door

The dogs are a little disappointed that they can't go under the deck, but there's still a slight overhang at the front that Sasha makes sure to use every day. And Chloe hung out under there as much as she could while we were working on it. She probably thought we were building her a doghouse.

under-deck enclosure with access door

The other one spent the day trying to figure out how to get out of the yard. Good thing she's cute 'cause those brains aren't going to take her far.

under-deck enclosure with access door

The new soil is being delivered this week and if we're lucky (ha, ha!) we might even get the sod in place by the end of the weekend.

under-deck enclosure with access door

under-deck enclosure with access door

under-deck enclosure with access door



Jul 3, 2015

Patio Makeover 2015


Back in 2011 we bought wooden deck furniture for the backyard. And we loved that furniture very much. Even the dogs loved it. But over time, the factory finish wore off, the wood started to weather, and it needed to be refinished.

wooden patio chair before

So two years ago I took a week of vacation time and spruced it up. I sanded down each of the chairs, tables, and loveseat, restained them, and gave them a few coats of varathane.

wooden patio chair after

But even with storing and covering the furniture up each winter, it started peeling again this spring. Add to that the fact that it seems to rain at least twice a week here, and we never had dry cushions to sit on. It just didn't seem worth it anymore.

wooden patio furniture

So we started to look around for something new. What we really wanted were chairs that didn't need cushions, but we couldn't find anything that was both comfortable and nice to look at.

Enter the new kids...

Hampton Bay Lynnfield patio set

We found a "conversation set" at Home Depot that we (I) really liked. Yes, I know, it has cushions. But they are made of a higher quality material than the old ones, so I was willing to give them a chance.

Hampton Bay Lynnfield patio set

I specifically looked for a patio set with only chairs. That's not so easy to find - almost everything comes with a loveseat nowadays. That's fine when you have it all to yourself, but not always so fun when there's a group and you're sharing the space.

While we were trying them out in the store, Tom mentioned we could buy tarps and I could fashion covers for the chairs for when we weren't using them. That way we wouldn't have to find a place to store them. I felt like an idiot - why didn't we think of that for the old set?

One huge difference with these new chairs is that they're made of metal, so no worries of peeling varnish and weathered wood. And if the metal gets some scratches or dings we can just give it a quick coat of spray paint and it'll be as good as new.

Hampton Bay Lynnfield patio set

Look how thick and cushy that seat is. This is a spot that is comfortable to hang out in.

Hampton Bay Lynnfield patio set

And the round centre table is big enough to hold food and drinks for everyone. There's even a shelf underneath for magazines or whatever we need to tuck away while the top is being used.

Hampton Bay Lynnfield patio set glass table


We still have our outdoor fold-down bar as well, though I'll be completely honest and show you that the top has not held up to our punishing weather. (Go ahead, zoom in, I don't mind.)

fold down backyard patio bar

It has been through 3 full years of sun, rain, and snow though, so it's to be expected I guess. I'd advise anyone building their own to hang it in a protected area if you don't want to have to refinish it.

The inside is still as good as new though. We love having this space-saver.

fold down backyard patio bar


The rest of the backyard is our big project this summer. First we're going to enclose the bottom of the deck to keep the dogs out from under there, but we'll put in a door so that we can still use the space for storage. Then we're going to pull up all of the old grass, put in new dirt, level it up, and re-sod. We've had a terrible time keeping grass growing - having dogs doesn't help - so we thought it was time to get a good solid base in first and go from there. Then maybe we can tackle that terrible, peeling fence that's in the background of all of my photos.

We always have a dozen projects on the go - hopefully we'll get time (and enough good weather) to enjoy our new patio!

Hampton Bay Lynnfield patio set

Hampton Bay Lynnfield patio set glass table

Hampton Bay Lynnfield patio set

Hampton Bay Lynnfield patio set glass table

Hampton Bay Lynnfield patio set glass table



Mar 28, 2015

Toilet Paper Roll Easter Bunny


I always have a collection of leftover toilet tissue rolls laying around. I have great plans for them - that often never come to be. Usually at Christmas time I'll dig them out to make stars/snowflakes for the tree or to tie on gifts.

toilet paper roll star

This time I was saving them up as I had a plan to make an activity for the dogs, but I'm still waffling on whether or not to do it. Instead I poked around on Pinterest and came upon this little project. Who doesn't love a bunny, right? So I dug out my scissors and my glue gun and got to work.

toilet paper roll bunny

To make this bunny you'll need to cut a toilet paper (or papertowel) tube into seven equal rings. I ended using part of a second roll to have enough rings.

toilet paper roll bunny

Start by taking one ring and pinching inwards in one spot to make a heart shape. Glue the heart upside down on a second ring, making sure to leave a bit of a point.

toilet paper roll bunny

Take two more rings and flatten them out a bit, squeezing a point at one end so that they look like ears. Glue these to the bunny's head (the bottom of the heart) any way you want. You can make them stand up or be floppy - your choice.

toilet paper roll bunny

Take two more rings and flatten them the same way as the ears, gluing them to the bottom of the body for feet. These you'll want to get as even as possible so that your bunny doesn't fall over. The flatter you can get the bottoms of the rings, the better. (Mine aren't very flat.)

toilet paper roll bunny

For the arms, you'll take one ring and do the "heart pinch" again, but this time pinch it all the way down until the center meets the other side. Glue the two sides that are pinched together to each other to keep them in place. Glue this shape to the inside of the body, right at the top, so that they hang down like paws.

toilet paper roll bunny

Take the last ring and make the same shape that you did for the arms. This will be the bunny's cheeks. Glue the ring to the inside of the head. How's your bunny looking so far?

toilet paper roll bunny

The tutorial I read calls for mini pompoms for eyes, nose, & tail, but I didn't have any, so I cut a nose and eyes out of construction paper. (My bunny is tail-less right now.)

toilet paper roll bunny

I took a piece of orange yarn and tied a bow around his neck for a little flare. You could also paint him white (before adding the eyes and nose, etc.) by hand or with spray paint. Mine's a rustic bunny so he's going to stay brown.

How's that for a quick Easter project? Even kids could help with this one if you use craft glue instead of a hot glue gun.

toilet paper roll bunny

toilet paper roll bunny

toilet paper roll bunny


Looking for more Easter projects?  Here are a couple I've done in previous years. Just click on the picture to take you directly to the post (it will open in a new window).

Yarn Eggs

yarn eggs

Bunny in a Jar

Easter bunny in a jar

Easter Wreath

Easter Wreath


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