Recently in Home Improvement Category

My Nemisis

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Himalayan Blackberry is not my friend. The new backyard was completely overgrown with the stuff. Looks something like this:

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It's basically these thick thorny vines that just take over the show. Save for a specific variety of deathly toxic pesticide, it sounds like it's a several year battle. After cutting back all the vines, I busted out the shovel to pull out the roots. Check out this crown--that's the big bulb (about the size of two fists) with all the rhizomes jutting out:

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Quite an amazing little weed. I've cleared out enough now that I can actually see my property lines, though. I'll post the after picture tomorrow when I take one in the daylight. But here's an intermediary picture, for now:

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Still a long ways to go. Fencing...Terracing...Cabbage patch...

Ding Dong

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Started with this obviously bland doorbell:


Then hooked up this LED button from Seattle-based Spore known as the R2:


My night photography skills are hurting for sure...but it really does look slick in the dark.

More serious matters are to be attended to this long weekend, though. Zizou is terrorizing the neighbor's yard/Pekingese so the first step to solving this is to drop in some fence posts. Should be interesting...

Yahd Waste

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Four tarps full of vines and other weedage plus another four 32-gallon bags. Some dude from Craigslist with an Isuzu is supposed to pick it all up tomorrow.

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Currently 10 for 17 on fence posts buried in concrete. I've never played with concrete before and as you might reckon, it's really not all that fun. Well, if you had a big ol' mixing truck or something it might be. But lugging around 80lb bags (one bag/hole) manually gets a bit old. So if you're looking for a quick work-out...holla.

Traces of a Fence

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Thanks to the good people at Seattle Lumber (ironically in Renton, WA), I got a healthy dose of 2"x2"x12' lengths of clear cedar. The garage smells amazing with them sitting in there, right now.

After work, my elite fence building team congregated for Boca Burgers and wood chopping. After two hours of work, we'd exhausted the daylight and the neighbors probably wouldn't appreciate chop sawing post-9pm. We were rocking in the end and it was painful to stop...especially considering my next two weekends are being spent abroad.

But alas, there is now some semblance of the makings of a fence. And said semblance will now remain as is for two weeks...neighbors wondering if it will ever finish.

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Click on that picture for an expanded view. And yes, that gangly holly tree is a gots to go situation.

Bar Stools

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The place was hurting for some water buffalo here comes these bar stools (just ignore Zizou's stuffed enema toy (Ena-Man) that's laying on the floor):

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Photos from Easter Island are to come. I've been focusing on the trip report geared towards kids for my work. Let me say that it is incredibly difficult to write about boring stuff for tween/teen consumption. But it's going to be grand, in the end.

Good's August?

Fence Update

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I have loads of home improvement posts to go up...but this is all I have for you, now. The fence is about 90% still needs to be attached to the two sides of the house. And that can only be done after some other things are done...and so on...never-ending.

And rain is beginning to descend on Seattle...right when I was planning on staining the fence. But here's one shot to show you how it's starting to shape up.

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Terrace Club

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The fence still isn't finished, but for some reason I have moved onto the next project--terraces. I have basically been following the USDA's instructions on this one--I have faith in my government to not lead me astray.

So here's what things looked like after digging:

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And here is where things stand at the end of work today:

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The 3lb hammer you will see at the bottom of the picture above doesn't quite have what it takes to pop the steel spike through the landscape timber. I'm going to have to come up on a 20lb sledge or something. It should be about four timbers high when done--each timber is a pressure-treated 4x6 (arsenic free, of course).

The primary benefit of this project is to slow down the waterflow/erosion on the slope. The secondary benefit is it will make for easier planting. You'll notice that the soil is less than ideal--filled with rocks and blackberry roots. With this raised planter, it should be easier to manipulate the pH of the soil and whatnot to grow orchids and venus flytraps.

Ideally I will dig out another one of these right above. But I'm going to wait to see how this bad boy looks first.


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I finally finished my first project in the backyard. And no, the fence still needs work. This raised planter currently looks more like a sandbox than anything else. And Zizou is definitely treating it as such.

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After I finally figured out the right drill bits and such, it came together pretty easily. Digging the trenches is by far the worst part. If you're keeping score, it's all 4x6 landscape timbers, some 2 foot rebar banged through the base level into the ground, and 3/8"x10" steel spikes holding the rest of the timbers together.

I must admit that the words "day laborer" have danced through my head to dig the trenches for terrace dos...but there's no fun in that...


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Mother Nature has hooked me up with some dry days to get some staining in before that wet northwest winter y'all hear about kicks in. Couldn't have asked for dreamier weather going into October.

Went with Cabot Stain in the color "bark mulch". Here's some before/after to give you an idea.

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I'm not terribly pleased with my craftsmanship on the upper tier, but it'll get the job done. In the future, I might cover up the timbers with something, anyway.

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Now it's back to finishing the fence...and even more daunting is getting some plants in the ground for the fall planting season...

Deck Repair 101

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Swiped my parent's camera over Thanksgiving so I'm back in business...

The deck was rather shoddily designed with an enormous gap that your foot could fall into and your ankle in turn snap.

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So I popped out the two deck planks nearest the wall and sistered on some 2x8 pressure-treated boards to the existing joist. Then measured and cut the new deck planks and the gap was gone.

Here's what we're looking like now (I probably could have raked the leaves before taking the picture):

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I have to say that this is the project I'm quite self-congratulatory about. Plus, it only set me back about $35. And might save me a lawsuit at the next summer BBQ. And before said BBQ, the deck will be properly treated and stained.

Finally...a Gate!

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It was a long time in the coming, but I finally banged together a gate in the garage and hung it up out back.


Also put together some stairs to climb up onto the deck from the side of the house.

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Props to Artistic Iron Works in Saskatchewan where I purchased the gate frame and stringers. Unbelievably nice folks and awesome accents, to boot. I still have to mask some steel brackets and finish staining but the fence is one big step closer to being completed. There are two openings still featuring plastic temporary fencing which I'll fill in some day or another. .. ,,

Plumbing Gaffe

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After suffering through mere 3.1 surround sound for long enough, I finally went outside and ran some in-wall speaker wire for the two rear satellite channels. Basically, I ran the speaker out the wall behind the stereo receiver to outside and back into the house where I was mounting the speakers.

Several weeks pass after finishing this project and the guest bathroom toilet I never use was flushed. I was summoned from downstairs that the “speaker is raining”. Sadly, this rain might otherwise be called sewage.

I pulled out a drywall saw and uncovered just what I had done:

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The picture really does speak for itself. But after the application of some space age epoxy, the hole in the PVC was plugged. Then after the patch-up job, we come to the much prettier:

Note: this entry will be deleted when/should I decide to sell the house. Potential buyers don’t need to know about these skeletons.

House Numbers

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In my boldest home improvement project since the glowing doorbell, it was time to upgrade the house numbers. I've long admired these numbers--but if you look at the price you can see the obvious problem. Through Lowe's I was able to get some numbers that satisfied me and at a total cost of $12.

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FYI: left=old and right=new. I swear the new 4 is crooked, but my level and tape measure aren't backing me up.


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Here's the ambitious start to mask the ugly retaining wall in the backyard. Started off by hooking up some form boards out of plywood:

Check out the fine craftsmanship:

Then came 31 bags of concrete--2480 lbs! All hauled by the mighty Matrix:

My day-laborers at work:

Then some rain that wasn't explicity in the forecast started to fall and that complicated things a bit. Some massive tarps from Costco came through in a big way, though.

Now just need to let it dry without Zizou sticking his nose in it. Big props to the father-son helpers that ran/stole the show!


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To further mask the hideous concrete retaining blocks out back, the plan is to stucco the front-side to create a uniform finish. First step is to attach metal lathing. Applying stucco to concrete is a bit non-traditional--probably because it's a pain in the arse. So far I've put about 150 tapcon screws into the concrete to secure that lath. Not much fun.

The plan is to start actually applying the stucco this week...we'll see how that goes...

Time For Some Action

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