Monthly Archives: August 2014

2 Fall Lawn Maintenance Tasks: Aerating/Plugging and Slice Seeding

Aerate & Slice Seed Your LawnYou have a beautiful, healthy lawn and you work hard to keep it that way — mowing, watering and fertilizing as part of a regular maintenance schedule. But lately, you notice that your lawn looks a little lack-luster. It was established back when your home was new, and it’s been a good number of years since then. Perhaps the homebuilder used sod, and now the soil is layered, which disrupts natural water drainage and leads to poor root development. Plus, your kids and pets are running around on it all the time, compacting the soil underneath the grass roots, and now it dries out quickly or feels sort of spongy. This indicates your lawn may have too much thatch that’s inhibiting the proper health of your beautiful lawn.

For all these reasons, aerating your lawn can help keep it beautiful. The best time for aeration is during the growing season in early fall, so grass can heal or fill in any open areas before it goes dormant in winter.

Aeration Accomplishes Several Important Things

  • Aerating perforates the soil with small holes, helping to alleviate soil compaction
  • Aerating helps air and water to penetrate lawn thatch or built-up organic debris so it doesn’t starve the roots
  • Aerating breaks up soil layering, allowing water to reach the roots
  • Aerating allows vital nutrients to reach the soil beneath the grass
  • Aerating helps the roots grow deeply, producing a stronger, more vigorous lawn

If you aerate your lawn and fertilize it at the same time, it can help the lawn breathe more easily. To learn more about this combination, read our blog post, Mark an Item Off Your Fall Checklist – Aerating and Fertilizing.

Types of Aerating Tools

Spike Aerator: pokes holes through the grass, thatch and roots and into the ground with a solid tine, or fork. This method is the least effective for soil compaction.

Aerator/Plugger: removes a patch of grass and soil from the lawn, called a plug. This method can achieve fantastic results with regard to soil compaction.

Slice Seeder: cuts vertically through existing grass and thatch, into the soil, dropping seed in the rows cut behind. Slice seeding makes direct contact with the soil for the seed to germinate quickly. The technique literally slices into the soil, creating rows for the seed to fall into, all in one motion. To learn more, read our blog post, Improve Your Existing Turf with Slice Seeding.

Tips for Aerating Your Yard

  • Aerate when the soil is moist, such as after a rain shower or a deep watering of the lawn
  • Run the aerator over the most compacted areas of your lawn several times, to make sure the compacted soil is completely treated
  • Dry excavated soil plugs and break them up, giving your lawn a uniform appearance
  • Research shows that aeration will not affect crabgrass control or weed prevention measures
  • After aerating, make sure to continue basic lawn care practices such as mowing, watering and proper fertilizing

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you make aeration part of your yearly lawn care regime. From aerator/pluggers to slice seeders to fertilizer, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-tos, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week. Plus, your beautiful lawn will thank you for helping it breathe again!

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How to Make A Custom Cobbled Vanity in 6 Simple Steps

How-To Make A DIY VanitySometimes the best DIY projects are imagined by looking at items you already own and simply morphing them into a whole new creation. That was precisely the case with this elegant wood vanity. A mirror and wall shelf came together to form this wall-mounted, full-length make-up station. And the beauty of this particular project…it was relatively simple  to execute. Follow the directions below for the step-by-step process.

What You’ll Need:

  • mirror & shelf
  • table saw & dado blade
  • screws (several small & 4 large heavy-duty)
  • 2 strips of hardwood (1″ x 4″)
  • laser level
  • drill

What To Do:

  1. First things first, the mirror had a carved design on the top edge originally, so a dado blade and table saw removed it for a nice clean line.
  2. The shelf was left as-is, but again the dado blade was used to insert the shelf into the mirror. Keep in mind that there needs to be a slight lip of the mirror over the shelf, so that it can fit on the anchored braces. Do this by creating a 45-deg slot.
  3. From there the two were lined up and screwed together.
  4. After the vanity itself was assembled, cleats were made as anchors (to hang in studs). [Note: this was a relatively heavy piece, so stud anchors were crucial.] This is where the hardwood comes in (make sure it’s strong). First, run the hardwood through a table saw to split it half. Then cut one edge of each piece at a 45-deg angle so you have two cleats. After the cleats are cut, drill two holes in each so you’re all set to screw them into the wall. Make sure these are even vertically, as well as the two cleats’ holes to each other.
  5. Once your cleats are made, find your studs, measure where you want the cleats to go (longitudinally) then latitudinally to each other. The laser level assists with this. Once you ensure it’s even, drill the holes.
  6. Finally, you can hook your vanity into place on the stud anchors, and voila, all finished!

This of course is not the only tried-and-true method for creating a custom vanity. There are so many other ways to go about this! We’d love to hear about your cobbled creations, so comment in the section below. And as always, if you need the right tools for the job, or if you have questions, please visit our website or contact us.

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12 of Our Favorite Woodworking Tips and Tricks

12 woodworking tips & tricksWhen it comes to woodworking, there’s no greater relationship than that of a carpenter and his (or her) saw. After all, a woodworker relies most on cutting machines to create works of art out of wood — even if it’s just a window frame. Woodworkers are always ready to try new ways of working faster and smarter in the shop. Great advice, tips and tricks on sawing are readily available, too. Below are 12 important ones to keep in mind during your next wood project.

  1. To crosscut safely, clamp a one-inch block of wood to the fence of your table saw before the blade, then make the cut length by setting the fence scale one-inch greater than the desired length. This way, the end of the board is free of the fence during and after the cut — and you can avoid getting a board kicked back directly at you.
  1. Stair gauges are an inexpensive way to make your own crosscut guide for circular saws. Usually used to lay out stair jacks, stair gauges are available at hardware stores or home centers and can be clamped on the same tongue of a carpenter’s square and used as notch markers. Make sure to clamp the square in place so it won’t slide around while you’re cutting.
  1. Use a drafting square for measuring accurate 2- to 3-foot squares. Drywall squares can be inaccurate and carpenter squares can be especially cumbersome because they have to be hooked onto the edge of the work piece. Drafting squares are accurate, as well as, inexpensive and can be as useful as a tape measure in the shop.
  1. If you’re always trying to find a level workspace, put your saw on a mobile base so it’s easy to move around the shop. Then find a convenient place for sawing where the floor is level and free of obstruction. Mark wheel positions on the floor with duct tape in a bright color. Now you can roll the saw to the same flat spot every time you saw. 
  1. To avoid staining wood with oozing glue along joints, clamp the pieces together using tape instead of glue. Lay the tape down on the joint, then cut the tape along the joint with a sharp blade. Separate the tape pieces, apply the glue and clamp them together again, so the glue oozes onto the tape, not the wood. Peel off the tape before the glue dries.
  1. When you have to cut, shape, file, sand or finish something small, reach for your hot glue gun and glue the piece to a pedestal stick instead of fumbling with a clamp. When you’re finished, gently pop the piece loose with a putty knife. If this doesn’t work, try sticking the work piece into the freezer for an hour or so, freezing the glue, which will usually give way with little force. A third option is to try a hair dryer or heat gun to warm the piece slowly and soften the glue for removal without scorching the wood or damaging the finish.
  1. Install saw blades so the teeth face forward, because hacksaws are designed to cut with a forward stroke. When you do a lot of cutting, the blade will heat up and expand, so check and make sure the blade is tight in the saw, tightening when needed so it won’t bend.
  1. To use your shop space economically, raise the base for your saw about 3-1/8 inches higher than the bench top, so you can slip a short length of a 4×4 under each end of your work piece for support. This way, you won’t have to devote space to a long support table and you won’t have to clear the entire bench to make a cut.
  1. Whenever you raise and lower your saw blade, save wear and tear on your saw table by taping a wooden stop-block to the column of your radial-arm saw about 1/8-inch below the surface of the table. The block prevents the blade from digging deep into the table.
  1. Build a hold-down for your radial-arm saw like those available for table saws and router tables by attaching two screw eyes to the saw’s fence about 8 inches to the right and left of the blade. Make the hold-down out of 3/4 x 3-inch stock at a length that’s equal the width from the fence to the front edge of the saw table. Fasten on a handle. Position a roundhead screw in the end of the hold-down so it sits flush with the thickness of the wood you’re cutting. Make sure the fence is securely anchored so it doesn’t pull up when you push down on the hold-down.
  1. Make your own reusable sanding blocks from scrap 3/4-inch plywood. Cut 2-1/2 x 4-3/4-inch blocks for each sandpaper grit you commonly use, spraying adhesive on both a square of cork tile and each block. Stick a block to the cork and cut the cork flush with a utility knife. Spray the adhesive on a sheet of sandpaper and stick it on each block cork side down, cutting the sandpaper flush with the cork. Label each block. 
  1. Stack your table saw or circular saw blades for storage or transport using plastic coffee can lids as spacers instead of cutting them out of hardboard or plywood. Spacers help prevent the carbide teeth from chipping each other. The lids of three-pound cans work great; simply bore a hole the size of your saw’s arbor in the center and place them between your blades.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you plan your next woodworking project. From wood saws to clamps and blades, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-tos, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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How to Make a Concrete Fire Pit or Fire Bowl in 5 Easy Steps

Adding a specialty feature like a fire pit to your backyard retreat can create a relaxing atmosphere in your landscape, not to mention, it can also help to extend the use of your outdoor space in cooler seasons, adding warmth and light. Even though a fire pit can be considered special, no special tools are required for do-it-yourselfers to make one.

How to Make a Fire Pit

How to Make a DIY Concrete FirepitIf a fire pit is more to your liking, here’s how you can make one:

Step 1. Prepare an area for the fire pit, making sure it’s a solid, level foundation with base rock or sand.

Step 2. Build a wood form for pouring concrete using wood nailed together in a square or a rectangle. The form needs an exterior box and a smaller interior box that creates a five-inch gap where the concrete goes. Build the form as high as you want the fire pit, using stakes to hold the wood in place as well as to the ground. Make the entire wood form sits level.

Step 3. Reinforce the wood form, making a grid with rebar. Drive pieces of rebar vertically into the corners and along every foot inside the form. Then run rebar horizontally between the vertical rebar and tie them together with steel metal wire. Cut wire mesh or matting pieces to fit inside the form for extra reinforcement and tie it to the rebar grid with wire.

Step 4. Pour concrete inside the form, tamping down to fill any holes. Smooth off the top with a trowel and tap the forms to release the wet concrete from the forms while drying. Let the concrete dry overnight. Once the concrete is completely dry, carefully remove the wood forms.

Step 5. Add any finishing touches to your concrete fire pit, such as a slate top or fine sanding of the concrete for smoothness. Fill with fire pit about three quarters full, placing a metal fire bowl on top, so it’s flush with the top of the concrete frame. Add decorative glass around the outside of the metal fire bowl until only the top rim of the bowl is exposed.

How to Make a Fire Bowl

How to Make a DIY Concrete Fire BowlIn fact, you can craft a modern, elegant fire bowl using nothing more than concrete, a tarp, sand, some plastic sheeting and a permanent marker.

Step 1. Lay out a 10-foot by 10-foot tarp on the ground, drawing a circle on it with the permanent marker that’s at least 36 inches wide.

Step 2. Pour out a bag of fine sand in the middle of the circle, adding enough water to make it the consistency of beach sand for building a sand castle. Begin to mound the sand into an inverted bowl shape as wide and round as the tarp circle, smoothing it out with your hands or a trowel. Continue to add wet sand to the mound, until it’s as large as you want the fire bowl to be. Cover the “sand mold” with a plastic sheet to prevent moisture evaporation.

Step 3. After preparing the concrete, take the plastic sheeting off the sand mold and cover it with the wet concrete, applying in layers until the concrete is about three inches thick. Insert several straws near the top of the concrete layer through to the sand, creating drain holes for rainwater. Cover with plastic sheeting.

Step 4. While the concrete is still wet, place a board on top of the covered concrete and use a level in north-south-east-west directions, making sure the top is level and straight for the bowl to sit on when it’s inverted. Smooth out as necessary.

Step 5. Allow the covering concrete to slow dry for at least 48 hours. Once it’s dry, lift the bowl from the sand mold and remove the straws. Lightly sand the concrete fire bowl to your preferred smoothness, if needed.

Expert Advice

Stop by our store for a full line of CTS Rapid Set concrete mixes, designed to harden and set within minutes, making your job faster and simpler and allowing you to move onto the next step of your project much sooner than with other concrete mixes. If you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-tos, our expert staff is always on hand to help you plan your next DIY project. We’re open seven days a week!

*Photo Courtesy of The DIY Network
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How to Make a DIY Wood Palette Shelf in 5 Easy Steps

How-To Build A Palette ShelfIt’s pretty incredible the amount of things you can make out of a wooden palette, one of which being a wood palette shelf. Since shabby-chic and rustic charm are two popular trends lately, this could be an ideal project for you. Not only is it inexpensive, but it is functional and makes for a unique addition to your home. Simply gather a few materials and follow the five steps below and you’ll have a wood palette shelf all your own!

Gather Your Materials:

5 Simple Steps:

  1. Sand your palette to satisfaction. First, sand your palette down to remove any chalk lines and create a nice smooth finish for a more even stain. This is where you’ll use both sanders, depending on which part of the palette you are sanding down. The micro belt sander gets between slats and in smaller spaces better, and the vibrating sander can smooth out the top surface.
  2. Liberally apply your stain. Once you’re satisfied with the sanding job — accomplishing a shabby-chic appearance — it’s time to apply the stain. This can be as liberal as you want. For a darker stain, apply as much as you want until you’re happy with it.
  3. Let the palette dry a while. Then, leave the palette be for about 15 hours so that all the stain is dry. Preferably outside if possible, otherwise it’ll really stink up a room.
  4. Spray on a few clear coats. After your palette is entirely dry, spray on the clear adhesive spray to seal in the stain and color. Two full coats are recommended.
  5. Hang your new creation. Lastly, get out your drywall screws and drill. Line up where you want your new wall feature and screw it into place (preferably into studs).

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you plan your next DIY project. From palette shelves to repurposed coffee bars, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-tos, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Keep Your Garden Happy with These End-of-Summer To-Dos

10 End-of-Summer Gardening To-DosAs the end of summer draws near, seasonal changes require do-it-yourselfers to adjust their gardening to-dos, to keep up with their harvests, maintain their full, lush flower beds and simply enjoy their favorite growing time of the year! As with any circle of life, the care of plants shifts slightly to keep them happy and healthy. With that in mind, consider the following end-of-summer to-dos this August:

  • Water deeply and well, rather than shallow and often. Light daily sprinkles of water draw a plant’s roots closer to the surface, making them more vulnerable to disease. This is especially true of tomato plants. Watering early in the day allows plants to absorb moisture before the hot sun dries the soil and ensures that the foliage dries before nightfall, which protects them from fungus. Check water needs of hanging baskets once or twice daily.
  • Change the water in bird baths or water features more regularly, so the stagnate water does not become a breeding ground for mosquito larvae and other insects.
  • Prune summer blooming shrubs for shape, after they have finished flowering.
  • Plant new evergreen trees and shrubs, so they can have several months to grow new roots, watering every week until the ground is frozen.
  • Now is also the time to plant late flowering plants and shrubs such as Rose of Sharon, Hydrangea, Butterfly Bush and shrub roses, as well as ornamental grasses such as Japanese Maiden Grass, Fountain Grass or Switch Grasses.
  • Go easy with fertilizing roses now — studies have shown that keeping your roses a little “hungry” helps them over-winter better.
  • Continue to deadhead flowers on annuals and perennials so they continue to bloom longer into the season. Apply fertilizer to annuals once every two weeks for continued flower production. If perennials need to be rejuvenated, cut them back, give them some fertilizer and enough water, and watch them re-bloom. However, let some of the flowers go to seed now, to reseed for next year.
  • Cut back and divide rhizomes by lifting the entire clump with a rake or spade and discarding the oldest, bloomed-out middle sections, then replant.
  • Sprinkle spring-flowering perennial seeds such as forget-me-nots around your garden for an attractive under planting for bulbs such as tulips in the spring.
  • Make note of blank spots in your garden, then buy late summer bloomers and plant them to add color, making sure they get the water they’ll need during the hot, dry weather to become well-established.
  • Plant fall and winter vegetables, including green onions, carrots, beets, lettuce, spinach, radishes and winter cauliflower. Toss overgrown or rotting produce on the compost heap, and remove infected plant matter to prevent attracting diseases and pests.
  • Harvest herbs and dry them in a cool, airy and shady place, or freeze.
  • Prune and fertilize Halloween pumpkins for big results. Start by taking off all but one or two pumpkins from the vine.
  • Mow your lawn more often to defend against weeds. Grass also goes dormant this time of the season, so water brown lawn regularly and deeply.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you plan your next gardening project. From landscaping tools to fertilizers tree spades, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-tos, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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