Monthly Archives: April 2015

Spring Refresh DIY Idea #2 – Building a Backyard Playset

How to Build a PlaysetWhen you think back on your childhood, you may recall playing on a rusty old metal swing set with hard plastic seats. Remember how the whole thing threatened to flip over if you swung too high? The backyard play sets of today are a far cry from those rickety contraptions. Now kids have their choice of towers and forts in addition to swings and slides. What about a rock climbing wall?! We have the technology. The choices are endless … and the cost can run in the thousands of dollars. So what’s a parent to do? Here are a few things to consider in your quest to build a better playset.

Shop Smart

Before you start shopping stores or the internet for a playset to assemble, consider this:

  • Know your audience – What’s the age of the child you are building the playset for? What interests a toddler is less engaging for a 10-year-old. Look for a playset that can be reconfigured as your child grows up. Some sets will have features that can be removed and replaced with more age appropriate ones using very little additional construction.
  • It’s going to be how big? – Determine the size of the area where you want to put the playset. It will help to narrow down the choices in design plans. Consider placing the structure off to one side of the yard rather than in the middle. That gives the kids an open space where they can play football and other games. Besides, you don’t want to step out you back door and onto the jungle gym.
  • Avoid any trips to the ER – Know the weight limit of the playset you select. If you expect a neighborhood of kids to be on it at one time then spend the money for the highest rated play set. Accidents will happen so cushion their falls with a protective surface like bark or rubberized mulch. Spread it in a dense layer and extend it around all sides of the structure. Make sure all platforms and ramps have guard rails.
  • Can I mortgage that playset? – Focus on the quality of the building materials and the inclusive safeguards more than the elaborate play features. A playset made from good hard wood like cedar or redwood is the preferred choice of most professional playset builders. Sure, you will have to clean and paint it, but if properly maintained, a set built out of this kind of wood could last 7-10 years. Pressure treated lumber is less expensive but it has been created using chemicals that you don’t want to expose your children to. Manufacturers say the toxicity levels are low but ultimately it is your call as a parent on whether the risk is worth it.
  • Stick with the classics – Forget all the fancy construction plans. Swings and slides will always be in fashion. Elaborate features like rock climbing walls or trapezes only add to the cost of the project. Remember these are the same kids that happily played with your pots and pans just a few years ago. That swinging pirate ship may fall out of fashion with them in a heartbeat, and if isn’t not easy to remove, you’re stuck with it marooned in your backyard.

A Family Project

No one knows your kids the way you do. Select the type playset that will make them want to put down the smart phone, remote or other device and run out to play on it. Make building it a family project. Even young children can hand you a hammer or help spread mulch. It is all about creating memories of childhood days spent playing with friends on a backyard playset – one they’ll remember was built just for them by you. Priceless.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your backyard projects. From circular saws and nailers/staplers to pressure washers and mulch, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Spring Refresh DIY Idea #1 – Building a Better Chicken Coop

How to Build a Chicken Coop

More and more people want to raise chickens. This trend isn’t just in rural areas but in urban ones, too. Folks want to get back to a more organic way of living and eating. If you are a would-be chicken farmer, then it’s time to get your ducks (or dare we say chickens) in a row. Your first big task is to build a chicken coop.

The Scoop on Coops

You need to ask yourself a few key questions upfront to help you refine your game plan:

  • How many chickens do you want to keep? This will determine the size of your coop. A flock of at least three hens would need a 4×8 foot screened-in run as well as a 4×4 foot critter-proofed coop where hens can lay eggs.
  • Do you know where you’ll build or place your coop? You need to place it in an area where it will have adequate shade during the hot summer months and ample sunlight during the cold winter months. Near a tree that drops its leaves in fall is perfect.
  • Do you want to build a coop from scratch or do you want to repurpose an existing building? Recycling an existing structure will save you money but it will still need to be altered to meet the needs of the flock. If you build one from scratch, you may want to purchase detailed chicken coop design plans that will take you through the project step by step. There are plenty of “free” plans out there; just remember – you get what you pay for!

Now that you have determined the size, placement and construction design of your coop, you are ready to begin. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

  • Raise it up – Make sure the floors of the nesting area are raised to help keep chicken feet dry during rainy weather. Galoshes are not an option for these “kids.”
  • Let there be light – Egg production is affected by the amount of light the flock is exposed to. This is why production is down during winter months. To counter this, install a light inside the coop. Use a warm light source and not a blue/white one.
  • Feather that nest – Give the flock warm places to nest. One idea is to use a plastic storage bin with the lid on it. Cut a hole in one end for the chicken to enter through and a second hole on the back so you can reach in for the eggs. Be sure to line the inside of the bin with hay for warmth. The plastic bin makes it easy to pull the nest out, clean it and return it back to the coop.
  • Keep the critters out – Raccoons and other predators are smart so protect your flock with metal latches that cannot be easily opened. Be sure to lock your coop up at night to keep them safe.
  • Free to roam (sort of) – Yes, you want chickens to have ample room to roam but you can’t watch over them all the time. Building a screened in run will keep them safe and provide you with peace of mind.
  • Can we vent? – Good air circulation is essential to keeping your flock in robust health. Place screened in gaps between the walls and the roof to allow heat to escape and air to enter without causing drafts.
  • You have to use the coop, too – Sure, the ladies are a little on the short side, but unless you want to crawl on your hands and knees to retrieve their eggs, you might want to consider your comfort in the design of the building. You will be entering it frequently to feed, water and clean.
  • Let’s decorate this hen house – You will be looking at this chicken coop for a long time so you might as well make it look nice. Consider painting the outside or adding hanging plants. Let your imagination run wild.

Once you are finished with your incredible chicken coop sit back and relax. Bask in the knowledge that your chickens are happy and living in a condo creation that you built. Just ignore the ugly stares you may be attracting are from your dog! (Note to self – next project: new dog house).

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your DIY yard projects. From circular saws to nailers and staplers, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Yard & Garden To-Dos Part 3: Protecting Plants from Pests

Protect Your Garden From PestsOkay … you’ve got your garden crops, flowers and trees planted. They seem to be thriving – you’ve already been harvesting peas and lettuces, you have sunny-looking flowers that greet you every morning on your way out the door, and the trees are shooting up, well, like new trees are supposed to. You’re determined to keep it this way, too. It’s time to protect your plants from pests.

Getting Comfortable with Pesticides

For some folks, just hearing the word, “pesticide” conjures chemically-induced killing fests of anything that attacks plants, causing them to whither and even die – such as insects, slugs, snails, rodents, weeds and disease. Not to mention, the environment. Can you say, DDT?

However, not all pesticides are toxic man-made chemicals. They can be natural and organically sourced, too. There are three types of pesticides to look for:

Systemic Pesticides – enter the plant through its root system and infiltrate every part of the plant. Systemic pesticides are not recommended for food crops.

Contact Pesticides – must come into contact with the pest to be effective, i.e. smother and kill the pest. Products such as insecticidal soap and horticultural oils must be sprayed directly to the affected area when the pest is present, rather than spraying in advance of an attack.

Residual Pesticides – cling to the surface of plant parts and stay viable for a certain amount of time afterward. Most pesticides are categorized as residual, meaning the offending pest that’s currently ruining your plants will die – and so will the little buggers that show up tomorrow. The length of time a residual pesticide stays active depends on the temperature, rainfall and sunlight.

Whether organic or chemical, if you’re constantly using pesticides to treat your garden –every week or two – something else is going with your garden, beyond pest attack:

  • Are your plants constantly moist?
  • Do they get enough sun?
  • Is the mulch propagating disease, unlike compost, which is oftentimes disease-preventing?
  • Can you blast the pest right off the plant with water or air?
  • Are you using harsh chemical fertilizers to feed the plants?

Bring your plant protection back to basics – consistent cleaning, limited prevention and switching to compost can help.

Organic Pesticides

All the rage now, organic pesticides have actually been used long before chemical pesticides were invented – ever since farmers have been farming, in fact. Here’s a list of inexpensive, all-natural, organic methods for protecting your plants from pests:

  • Neem – used by Native Americans, neem is a bitter tree leaf that comes in oil and juice form. The juice is considered the most powerful natural pesticide on Earth.
  • Salt Spray – great for spider mites infestations, this mixture is most potent with the use of Himalayan Crystal Salt in warm water, sprayed on infected areas.
  • Mineral Oil – dehydrates insects and their eggs.
  • Citrus Oil and Cayenne Pepper Mix – ants really dislike these two bug-busters.
  • Soap, Orange Citrus Oil and Water – effective against slugs, ants and cockroaches.
  • Eucalyptus Oil – zaps wasps, yellow jackets and other pests that fly.
  • Onion and Garlic Spray – stays potent against pests for at least a week, if stored in the ‘fridge. We hear it helps with vampires, too.
  • Chrysanthemum Flower Tea – pyrethrum is the chemical component that makes this such a killer. It infects an insect’s nervous system rendering it immobile. Can be stored for up to two months.
  • Tobacco Spray – commonly used getting rid of caterpillars and aphids. Do not use on tomato, pepper, eggplant or other plants in the solanaceous family … or humans, we’ve been told.
  • Chili pepper and Diatomaceous Earth – to rid the soil of ants and slugs.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From insect and lawn sprayers to landscaping tools, 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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Yard & Garden To-Dos Part 2: Planting A Vegetable Garden

Spring To-Do: Plant a Veggie GardenDo you know the projected date of the last frost in our area? It’s essential for determining when the spring growing season begins and will also help with creating a veggie-herb-and-flower planning schedule. Most of Indiana is in Zone 5 or 6 – and according to reliable sources (the U.S. Department of Agriculture), expect the last frost to occur between March 30 and April 30. Admittedly, it’s a large window, as it can vary from year to year. First things first: start with cool season planting.

Planting Cold Tolerant Vegetables and Fruits

On average, vegetables and fruits need between seven to eight hours of full sun on a daily basis, in order to thrive. Cool season vegetables and fruits on the other hand need only about six hours of full sun, so they can even be planted in partial shade. Although they are considered cold tolerant, they still need to be protected from any severe temperature drops. If it’s forecast, cover new crops with newspaper, old sheets or frost blankets, especially overnight, making sure to remove the cover during daylight hours.

Good to Know Basics

  1. When the soil crumbles in your hand rather than balling up, plant seedlings directly in the garden. A fabulous soil recipe is 50% existing garden soil, 25% aged manure and 25% compost or humus.
  2. Here’s a great list of cool-season veggies and fruits for our area:
  • English peas
  • Lettuce, Arugula
  • Spinach, Swiss chard, Collards, Kale
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Turnips, Parsnips
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage, Brussels sprouts, Kohlrabi
  • Radish
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Asparagus
  • Rhubarb
  • Strawberries, Raspberries
  1. Remove dead or weak limbs from grape vines
  2. Apply a pre-bloom orchard spray to fruit trees
  3. If the grass has started to green, it’s a good time to plant potatoes. If you’re stuck for space, consider using potato grow bags or outdoor containers, too
  4. Use spindly sticks for quick and easy pea supports now, when plants are young
  5. Thin carrots seedlings for good-size carrot vegetables

Meanwhile, start preparing these vegetables, fruits and herbs indoors:

  • Eggplants seeds
  • Basil seeds
  • Celery and Celeriac seeds
  • Courgette, Marrow, Squash and Pumpkin seeds
  • Cucumber and Gherkin seeds
  • Melon seeds
  • Rosemary, Sage, Thyme and Lemon Balm seeds
  • Sweet pepper seeds
  • Tomato seeds and seedlings
  • Sweet corn seeds or seedlings
  • Beans

It will seem like in no time, all of these seeds sowed indoors can be brought outside for some sun!

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your gardening projects. From fertilizer to landscaping tools, 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. Right now, check out our helpful blog, 5 Ideas to Make Your Herb Garden Grow, for more information.

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Yard & Gardening To-Dos Part 1: Fertilize and Aerate

Gardening To-Dos: Fertilizing & Aerating

Now that DIY gardeners can actually see their gardens, flower beds and lawns, it’s time to prepare the soil and ground for the growing season.

Feed Me with Fertilizer!

After long winter months languishing under the snow and ice, your garden and lawn are crying, “Feed me!” Fertilizer can help you calm those grumbling yard features because it feeds them with a potent nutrient mix, which allows them to feel calm and satiated. While they’re recovering, fertilizer can also stimulate root development and ensure plants and grass green-up quickly in the spring sunshine and rain. In the garden, fertilizer, compost and manure will strengthen the soil, helping with that hardy harvest you’ve been dreaming about all winter long.

Other benefits of fertilizing your garden, trees, flower beds and lawn include:

  • Because many fertilizers are made with earth-friendly organics, no harm is done to the water table or the environment
  • Controls crabgrass
  • Keeps weedy grasses from infiltrating the lawn
  • Protects against broadleaf weeds early in their growth cycle
  • Slow-release, stabilized nitrogen feeds and grows roots
  • Amends phosphorus-deficient soils in lawn, gardens and flower beds
  • Encourages root strength
  • Lawn, trees and plants experience steady growth throughout the growing season
  • No need to plant new grass seed for weeks
  • Many fertilizers are safe for pets and children

Let Me Breathe Fresh Air!

Aerating your lawn does wonders for the soil, allowing the grass to breathe and grow even stronger. It contains and even gets rid of lawn thatch that can strangle new growth, preventing oxygen from reaching the grass roots. Aerating will also improve soil drainage, and provides much-needed oxygen to worms, herbs and shrubs, too.

The process of aeration is much easier when done with the use of an aerator/plugger machine, which combs large areas of lawn and landscape effectively. Before you start the job, consider these helpful tips:

  • Determine whether aerator uses a spike or a core model
    • Spike aerators use wedge-shaped spikes to dig holes in the earth
    • Core aerators use tines that pluck out plugs from the soil
  • Water the lawn a day before to make sure the soil is wet enough, so a plug can be pulled
  • Do not aerate during periods of drought or high temperatures
  • Locate sprinkler heads so that they are not damaged; pitch rocks and stones from the area
  • Begin at the longest side of the lawn and make overlapping runs side-to-side
  • Make a second pass at a 30- to 40-degree angle
  • Apply fertilizer immediately after aerating
  • Water all aerated areas of the lawn or landscape after applying fertilizer

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your lawn and garden projects. From fertilizer and aerator/pluggers to landscaping tools, 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. Right now, check out our helpful handy infographic, Your Guide to Lawn Aeration: The Basics for more information.

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Structural Home Fixes Part 3: How to Repair a Sump Pump

How to Repair a Sump Pump

In part three of our series that tackles structural home fixes, we explore how to repair a sump pump, what could arguably be called the most important piece of equipment in your home … especially if you have a ground water issue underneath the building.

What is a Sump Pump?

Usually installed in the lowest part of a house, such as a basement or crawlspace, a sump pump sits in a specially constructed hole called a sump pit. As water flows into the sump pit from the ground outside or even during a heavy rain storm, the sump pump is activated by the incoming water level, and starts to push the moisture out and away from under the building to the outside, which prevents flooding and keeps the basement or crawlspace dry. Without one, ground water could flood the area or your whole house.

Typically, keep a close eye on the function of a sump pump, because the best repair is consistent maintenance.

Types of Sump Pumps

Pedestal Pumps

  • One of the most common
  • The motor is mounted on a small pedestal
  • A hose or pipe extends down to the bottom of the pit
  • Activated by a float switch

Submersible Pumps

  • Smaller unit that sits in the bottom of your sump pit
  • Water is sucked up through the bottom of the pump by an impeller
  • Activated by a float or bubble switch

Ejector Pumps

  • Good for use in crawlspaces made with a pea gravel floor
  • Capable of ejecting small debris as well as water
  • Constructed of cast iron and a larger ejector port instead of the standard size

Easy Fixes and Repairs 

Drainage Pipe Freezeswhich causes flooding. To avoid freezing at the end of the pipe, dig a hole at least a foot deep around the end of the drainage pipe and fill it to the top with fine gravel. Water will move through it without freezing.

Sump Pumps Clogs which results in flooding. Clogging depends on the ground water; if it’s full of silt, clay or debris, it will eventually gunk up the intake screen. Schedule a good cleaning of the screen and the intake area to remove any clogging matter before a clog happens – every few months or so, if these conditions exist.

Loses Electricitywhich causes flooding because the sump pump stops running. Ensure it never loses power installing a battery-powered or water-pressure backup power source for the sump pump. Basically, the backup power source charges from the AC power during normal power. If that power goes out, the backup source will kick on and operate the sump pump.

Stops Working which results in, you guessed it, flooding. This can happen if the pump burns the motor out from overwork, due to a frozen drainage pipe or it’s overwhelmed by a big flood or the equipment is just old. You can call in a professional for help, but the best thing to do here is to replace it.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with home fixes and repairs. From portable generators to dehumidifiers, ventilators and carpet fans, 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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Structural Home Fixes Part 2: How to Repair the Gutters

How to Repair Your Gutters

Taking care of home improvement projects like structural fixes or replacement before they become emergencies is one of the ways homeowners are protecting their property as well as their financial investment. In part two of our series that tackles structural home fixes, we explore how to repair the gutters.

Not only do April showers bring May flowers, they give you first-hand knowledge of how your rain gutters and downspouts hold up to moisture. Not to mention, keeping your home, garage and basement dry. Your gutters could have holes, leaky corners or are sagging or have pulled away from the house –and all of these scenarios need to be taken care of, extending their life and efficiency.

Patching Holes

Whether rust eats into a gutter, or a falling branch punctures it or a well-meaning do-it-yourselfer drills one intentionally, holes need to be patched as soon as they’re spotted, so they don’t get any bigger. Roofing cement, a sheet metal-repair patch or other patch that matches the gutter material will do perfectly. Before applying any patch, clean the area around the hole with gloved hands and a stiff-bristle wire brush. Cut out any rust with aviation snips.

Fixing Leaky Joints

Standing water will eventually seep through gutter seams. After relieving the gutter of the water and letting it dry out, brush clean and apply silicone-rubber caulking compound along the once-leaking seams both inside and out. If the gutters are showing their age, however, replace them with new.

Un-Sagging Gutters

The same standing water causing leaks can cause gutters to sag. The weight of the water causes the hangers to loosen. Gutters should drop about 1/4 inch for every 10 feet of run toward the downspouts, so check the gutter slope using a level. Some gutters are held in place with large spikes in tubular sleeves, called ferrules. To fix a sag, either replace or re-seat the hangers. Use a hammer or screwdriver to drive the long spike or long screw into solid wood. To tighten clip-style gutter hangers, lift the roofing material along the eaves and refasten the hangers to the sheathing.

Stopping an Overflow

Gutters that overflow during a heavy rain storm could be too small to handle a large volume of runoff, or more likely they could be clogged with leaves and debris. If this is the case, by all means give the gutters a good cleaning. Learn more by reading our blog, See How Easily You Can Rid Your Gutters of Dirt and Grime.

Don’t Forget About the Downspouts

Gutter downspouts are important extension of the gutter system. They could loosen away from the gutter or between sections or become clogged with debris.

When you’re cleaning the gutters, clean the downspouts, too – taking the sections apart. Refasten them by pushing the sections together fastening them with two 3/8-inch #8 galvanized sheet metal screws. Drill pilot holes if needed. The downspout anchor straps should be secure to the wall.

Avoid Runoff Water Pools

If water pools at the bottom of the downspout, it will soak into the soil and make its way right into the foundation. Direct rainwater away from the house using a downspout diverter, which fits onto the bottom of the downspout and carries water several feet away.

The downspout can also run into a dry well that’s about two to four feet wide and three feet deep. Secure underground drainage pipes that slope to the dry well, keeping moisture away from the house’s foundation. You can also modify a 55-gallon drum that’s buried at the end of a downspout and punctured with holes. Before using any one of these solutions, check local building codes.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with home fixes and repairs. From ladders to drills and other equipment, 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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