Monday, March 12, 2012

New "Re-purposed" Cedar Fence

Back in early July of 2011, I found several 8-foot sections of an old cedar fence on Craigslist. It's amazing what you can find if you look hard enough. Not that I was looking specifically for this fencing but every once in awhile, I check Craigslist for "materials" and "general" items, just to see what people are selling. Once I see something that I like that's a decent price and can be reused, I purchase it.

What I liked about this particular fence is the character of the wood. Much of it had lichen with a nice weathered look. For me, this was perfect for the rustic charm that I was hoping for in my yard. The original intent was to replace the white picket fence in my front yard with something that more closely matched the door fence.

Bubba carries all the pieces of the fence quite nicely!

As seen above, I managed to get all six sections into Bubba. Still not knowing quite what the plan was, I began to take apart the fence by using a special tool (Thanks Edd!) that pulls nails easily. If all else fails, a hammer and screwdriver work nicely, too. I picked a cool spot in the shade and began taking the fence apart, saving the nails that didn't bend. After all, they COULD be used again.

First fence section almost done!

After deconstruction of the cedar fence, construction began on a new fence. Not wanting the fence to be permanent, I decided to put in green stakes and use zip ties to hold the fence in place. You never know when a big truck might need access to the front yard! I was able to get some old railroad ties from my landlord to put the fence on top of. Because that area of my yard is lower, water tends to make it muddy. In front of the railroad ties, more gravel was placed so vehicles parking in front of the fence would be more level with the road. Railroad ties in place, I began the assembly process...

Individual pieces all stacked and ready for cutting to correct size.
(Timber has to check it out, too.)

In the above picture, the current white picket fence can be seen sitting on top of the railroad ties. I wanted the new fence to look similar to the white fence so the new pieces were cut the same length as the original fence. I purchased new 1 x 4 boards for the frame. Next, I decided how much space I wanted between each piece of cedar. 

 Not knowing exactly what I wanted, I experimented...

The first 8-foot section all done!

As seen in the above picture, once the decision was made on how far each piece of cedar should be spaced, I laid all the pieces in place and began hammering them to the frame. Of course, I measured to be sure that it was consistent. The space across the front yard only took three sections of fencing. 

The finished (well... sort of) fence!

As with many experiments, once I got the fence up, it didn't look finished. Somehow, it needed to be extended to the other side of the walkway. Smoke coming out of my ears while meditating on what to do next, I came up with an idea. Some friends had lost a large spruce tree (on their house) during a bad wind storm. They had given me several stumps to use for weight in Bubba during the winter. With muscles in action, I rolled the logs out of my truck and lined them up on the other side of the walkway and prepared more fence pieces. This time, however, I wanted the bottom of the fence to sit on TOP of the stumps. By doing this, I could put baskets of flowers in front of the fence on top of the stumps. So, I did it and this is how it turned out...

The new "look" to the left of the walkway.

When I first moved in, someone had built a rock garden on the edge of the driveway. It became the center of this section of the fence so it required that I build the fence around the rock garden. Instead of using 1 x 4 frame pieces, I used 1 x 2's since the fence was smaller. I made three sections and attached them to the logs they sit on. A basket sits on each log with annuals to add color to this part of my yard. Since my property is the first one on our street, I wanted our street entrance to be welcoming. 

After all of this, I still needed more! My friends at Elk Meadow Farms (click HERE for link) had cut down several trees, which I brought home to build a pergola on my back porch. Deciding to put the pergola on hold, I built an arbor instead.

A view of the arbor.
(Top pieces are from the ash tree in my back yard.)

The finished project!
(Well... I still need to remove the junk laying about.)

There you have it! This is the start of my front yard project. Having several cedar fence pieces left, I decided to tie in the rustic theme by using left-overs to put on the door shed...

Notice the cedar fencing above the doors?

There are still two 8-foot sections of my Craigslist cedar fence that are in search of a second home. However, I've decided to carry the stump theme down the edge of the driveway to the corner of the front shed so the neighbor dogs can't get into my front yard. There will be another arbor (with a gate also made out of cedar fencing) to ensure my front yard is secure from "doggy" gifts. The pergola? It will have to wait because I don't have enough logs to finish that project now! The white picket fence? I saved it and put it on the south side of the house. The north side will have another fence of doors!

Next on the agenda? Who knows what whim will come my way for a new project. I have several up my sleeve but we'll have to see which one pans out. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Bartop Epoxy Over Fabric on Counter

Well, in the last post, I'd mentioned that the next one would be more about fences. But, many people have continued to ask about my counter project. With that, we delve into the creation of a counter...

After searching for months on what to do for a counter top, I finally came up with a solution. I mean, if your counter top looks like this...
...It's time to replace it! I understand the need (maybe in the 80's) for a butcher block style counter, but the fake stuff doesn't quite cut it. (No pun intended.) To top it off, this counter is Formica, which I'm NOT a fan of!

After having moved to a new home in the country, I had decided eventually that the entire kitchen would need to be gutted. Thus began the quest for the perfect kitchen. The object was to spend as little money as possible and use recycled materials. However, finding recycled materials for a counter was going to be difficult so I decided to use the creative approach. Formica wasn't an option... No matter what design you choose, to me, it still looks like Formica. Granite was too expensive and tile, too difficult to keep the grout clean. That didn't leave many options.

In this day of Internet search engines, the decision making process becomes so much easier. Originally, I considered copper or concrete counters. Both appeared to take more work than I felt able to do on my own, plus, the cost was more than I was willing to pay. This is when the idea of using bar top epoxy became a possibility. If you've ever been to Lincoln's 50,000 Silver Dollar Bar in Haugan, Montana (click here for link), you will see first hand how bar top epoxy can be used over most anything. The Silver Dollar Bar's bar top is what gave me the original idea. My next step was to decide what would go underneath the epoxy.

To make a long story short, I eventually came to the conclusion that I could put fabric down and pour the epoxy over the top of the fabric. I purchased black fabric with sparkles on it from the 75% sale bin at JoAnn Fabrics. I then ordered four gallons of Kleer Kote epoxy on-line. (Click here for link)

After recycled cabinets were installed (this process will be a future post), I had a friend cut and install the plywood for the counters, along with the trim pieces.

"Kitchen Tom" (because he's a cook) cutting plywood in sub-zero temperatures

After the plywood was put into place, I applied two coats of clear polyurethane to seal it. While waiting for it to dry, I prepared the trim for the edges by priming and painting them a glossy black to match the color of fabric. Since the finished counter was going to be shiny, it only seemed appropriate for the edges to be the same sheen as the counters.

Plywood in place and trim ready for priming and painting!

The next step in the process involved applying the fabric to the plywood. After various methods of experimenting, I found that using decoupage (Mod Podge from Michael's) worked the best. At first, I tried the spray on adhesive, normally used for scrap booking, but found it to be too messy because of the "over spray." Not knowing how the fabric would look through the epoxy, I assumed the detail in the fabric would show through so I took great care to measure everything. I started by gluing down strips of a matching sparkly fabric around the edges of the plywood:

Fabric install starts with outer edges. A slight overlap is created 
so material can be tucked under the trim.

Outer edge of fabric installed. Now, onto the center pieces...

Center fabric in place and ready to glue down.

 A closer look at the detail in the fabric.

Once the fabric was glued on, I did the following: 
  • The trim was added (seen in above picture) to create a "dam" (1/4 inch above the top of the fabric) so the epoxy wouldn't run over the edges. The fabric was tucked under the trim so edges of fabric couldn't be seen. 
  • Also seen in the above picture is a back splash made of 1 x 4 pieces of lumber, painted in the same glossy black as the trim.  
  • Next, we ran a small strip of clear caulk around the edges to keep the epoxy from leaking through the trim. As a side note, for this project, it would have been better to use black caulk (if there is such a thing) so it would blend better with the color of the fabric.
After everything was in place, it was time for the pour! It's VERY important to follow the manufacturer's instructions exactly! Failure to do so will result in either the epoxy not hardening or other variable results. First, we poured the "seal coat" which seals the the materials that are set into the epoxy. In hind sight, I should have sealed the fabric with a coat of polyurethane since fabric is a porous product. Although this particular fabric appeared not to be porous, it's still fabric. The finished product looks nice but there are places where the epoxy soaked into the fabric. 

The counter after the flood coat dried. Notice that we used styrofoam lined with visqueen to 
"dam up" the sink area so no epoxy would drip over the edges.

Once the seal coat dried, the "flood coat" batch was mixed and poured on (as seen above). NOTE: For the seal coat, we used a hair dryer to get the bubbles out. Some of the manufacturers recommended a small propane torch (as seen in the above picture sitting on the stool) and others didn't. We found that the torch worked MUCH better and quicker. As the epoxy starts to set, the bubbles rise to the top and need a little assistance in popping. The torch was the perfect tool for the job! 

When pouring two gallons of epoxy at once, the job goes much quicker if two people are involved. Because the epoxy begins the drying process quickly, once it's poured, you only have about 30 minutes to spread it and work out the drying bubbles. Kitchen Tom helped again. He poured while I spread the epoxy across the counters. We both took turns popping bubbles. In my home, because I have a wood stove, the house was quite hot (which is recommended) and, the epoxy began to dry even quicker. The hotter the room temperature is, the quicker the epoxy will dry.

A very shiny outcome!

We expected the detail of the fabric to shine through...
As seen in this picture, it's the sparkles that you see!

The finished product? What is visible are the sparkles in the fabric, not the texture.  Since the fabric is black, apparently, the detail can't be seen. However, the sparkles shine through very clearly! I found it amazing that although granite would have been nice (drool!), this finished counter looks like granite! What an unexpected surprise. 

This project being my first epoxy pour, I learned some valuable lessons. The entire project took a total of four gallons of Kleer Kote epoxy. Lessons learned for the next pour? See below...
  • The recommended amounts by the manufacturer are accurate. Don't think you can cheat! I misjudged this and had to order additional epoxy for the flood coat.
  • Use a small hand propane torch to get out the bubbles. Although some manufacturers warn against this, it really does work! However, you must NOT get too close to the epoxy or you will burn it. Quick passes are enough to pop bubbles.
  • Seal any porous materials BEFORE the seal coat to ensure that no epoxy will leak into your items. Examples include newspaper, anything made of paper or cardboard, and fabric. 
  • Small pours are fine to do alone but any project that requires the use of a gallon or more at one time, find a helpful friend.
  • Make sure surfaces are completely level. Gravity will take it's force and flow to the lowest point. We did have a few "spill overs" onto the cabinets and floor. 
Now that this project is done, I plan to do both bathrooms. I've already picked the fabric and will be sure to learn from my mistakes. Final cost for these beautiful counters? About $350!

My new and improved kitchen!

We end this project with the approval of Zoe, my Maine Coon. She has decided that the counters are good enough for her...

That's all folks!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Building the Door Shed...

     I was frequently asked, "Why do you want to build a shed of doors?" Answer.... because it's cool and no one else (probably) has one like it! Even a cheesy looking used metal shed was going to cost me $500. I did the fence/shed combo for under $1,000. After being faced with boring choices, I decided to build a shed out of doors. In the spirit of recycling, a door shed could be built with at least 95% recycled materials.
     The idea was to have the door fence "morph" into a door shed. In addition, it would be hard to know which doors open or close. Just to throw people off, I added extra door knobs to several doors on the fence (and planned to do so with the shed, too).
     Let's start with doors... again, every door was set out, measured and catalogued.

"Bubba" the truck, transports a pile of doors from the Habitat Store

Shed doors... measured, labeled and catalogued!

The final drawings: floor plan and diagram of door placement

     If you're not quite sure how to do everything, find someone who can help you work through the process.... enter... my neighbor Edd. Edd's quite the guy; he seems to know how to fix just about anything! We begin with simple plans and decide to use recycled treated 4 x 4 lumber for "skids" and support poles. Just like the fence, I dug three holes for very long treated 4 x 4 posts.

 Posts in the ground and ready for skids.

     Next, we decided to take more treated 4 x 4 poles and turn them into skids. We attached a 2 x 4 across the back of the vertical poles (leveled with the ground where the front of the shed will sit) so the skid boards would all be level. The skids were then attached to the 2 x 4 and vertical poles (eventually to be made stronger with carriage bolts). On top of the skids, we placed wooden pallets that were all the same size and thickness. (Thank you for the free pallets Moscow Building Supply and J.J. Building Supply!) Next, we attached the pallets to the skids.

Skids and pallets in place... ready for the floor!

     For the next part, we had to purchase new plywood. The used plywood we'd been given was rotten. There always has to be a plan "B." We cut the plywood to fit and then started nailing... and nailing... and finally put some deck screws in to really make sure it was all secure. We all got a little "hammer crazy."

Watch out... woman with a hammer!

Nick and David take a break during plywood-attaching process.

     After the floor was finished, we attached the back doors first to the vertical poles. We chose the shortest doors (all doors are solid core) for the back wall because we planned to build a "shed roof" with a slope so rain and snow would fall off the back, not the front. Once the back doors were on, we built a frame to attach the side doors. The bottom of each door was attached to the skid below the pallet; the top of the door, to the upper frame.

Doors going on back wall!

Hold the frame still while I hammer these boards together!

     Break time! This project ended up taking two Sundays. About the time we had the frame up, it was way past lunch time... Edd needed a break so it was mocha time for all! Everyone sing now (to the tune of "Louie, Louie") Mocha, mocha.... yo baby, make my mocha, mocha... ya, ya, ya, ya, yaaaa.... (repeat).

Hey Edd... How's that mocha?

     The side doors went up next and were attached to the frame via amazing "torque" screws. Why I never discovered these before this project, I'll never know! They save sooooo much time!!! No pre-drilling really necessary. David was the man in charge of power tools, Nick helped him hold doors, Edd supervised, and I carried supplies (including very heavy doors) back and forth. 

David attaching one of the tall fire doors to the front of the shed

All doors on (with the exception of the front door)...
Wait! Don't tell anyone which is the front door!

     Did you wonder how the front doors were secured? Well, we attached a 2 x 4 across the front (on the floor) to the sides of the frame that supported the bottom of each door (via a few screws). Of course, we left an open space for the front door. Then, we attached all the top beams for the roof (see in above picture). The roof pieces were salvaged metal siding given to me by a friend. After being cleaned up and making sure the holes were all plugged up, we began the process of putting on the roof. We then took apart an old cedar fence that I found on Craigslist...

Bubba, it's amazing how much fencing you can hold!

     Nick and I did a spectacular job of taking the fence apart. I then "manned" the circular saw (watch out... woman with power tools!) while Nick and David measured and fitted the cut pieces of the cedar fence about 1 inch below the top of the doors up to the roof line. This created a very rustic look. Putting on the roof and "trim" above the doors took most of one entire day. 

Nick and Dave put the final screw in the trim!

A view of the finished product from the side!

Inside view before the trim was installed.
(Note the old bathroom cabinet being used as a counter...)

     No project is complete without the group posing for a final picture! Our cast of characters for this project included (from left to right) Edd, Nick, David, and me (Del). In the end, we used nearly 98% recycled materials. Other than the plywood, screws (even the nails were recycled) and some of the 2 x 4's, all materials  were "re-purposed" from other projects. We even had fun putting a little shelf for plants and hanging a very large wind chime off of one corner. The bench out front? Well, it came from Rosauer's. It had been thrown away (because it was broken) so one of the workers gave it to me. All fixed and ready to go, the new shed looks like a miniature home! The overall size (inside) is 10 x 12 and is large enough for my tools on one side and storage of school supplies on the other.

Watch out Nick! Edd has a crow bar!

     After the shed was complete, we had a visitor! Well, actually, we've had two visitors "of the wild kind." The first was within a few days of finishing the project...

"Manny" the praying mantis takes up residence inside...

Duh... which door do I use to get in?

     For now, that's all folks! Are you curious what I did with the rest of the cedar fence? Keep checking back for the next installment of our story! The only thing missing is a sign for the front door... "Packages accepted at back door." What's up with that? Yes, I'm trying to confuse people. At least the moose is confused...

Using recycled doors in a fence

Have a bunch of old doors you don't know what to do with? Build a fence!

     This project started out as a simple "vignette" for an outdoor space. Trying to showcase the beautiful camperdown elm (shown in the center), the idea was to frame it with doors and build a small flowerbed in front of it. The above picture shows the semi-finished product. (The flowerbed is still in need of a border.) 
     Morphing from a small vignette into a full-fledged fence (to help keep neighbor dogs out of my yard), this project took on a much larger scale. Over a period of two years, I collected approximately 50 recycled doors from the local Habitat for Humanity Store and a reclamation yard near my home (Wasankari Construction). All the while, my elm tree, that I call "Happy Camper," continued to grow into a nice bushy shape. Nestled next to a pond (that I also built), the plant life in this corner of the yard was beginning to look rather nice!
     Enter... summer 2011. I finally had enough doors to begin the project. After purchasing enough 4 x 4 treated poles, I dug 3-feet deep holes (8 feet apart) for the poles and secured them with gravel and dirt. They were tall enough to mount the doors within a frame. I then decided which order the doors would be put in the fence and lined them all up against the outside of my home:

Hmmm... how many doors does it take? That is a good question...

     When you have great friends that love to be outdoors, you invite them over to help! Thanks to Nick, Dave, and my neighbor Edd, we got this show on the road! After setting the posts myself, the fence building crew begins construction:

Waive to Dave everyone!

     Nick and David get in on the action as we build the frame. The bottom of the frame is made up of 4 x 4 treated lumber (all recycled, of course) that are attached to the posts. The doors sit on top of the 4 x 4 treated pieces.  2 x 4's run from post to post just above the treated pieces. Across the top, more 2 x 4's are attached to the posts.

Nick and Dave hard at work attaching the treated 4 x 4's on the frame

Edd, Nick, and Dave attach the top 2 x 4's

     After the frame is assembled, we begin the process of mounting the doors. Nick held them in place while Edd and Dave used decking screws to attach the doors to the frame. (This was before I discovered "torque" screws.)

This is how you hold the door, hold the door, hold the door... 
(sing along now.... to the tune of "Mary Had a Little Lamb")

Woot!  Woot! The last door goes in place!

The finished product as seen from the back!

Showing off the finished product as I give instructions to the photographer...

Winter time has come.... Mr. Moose has decided to eat the apples that I neglected to pick!

     Well, there you have it... a fence built out of doors. I get asked all the time where I came up with this idea. Being a musician lends itself to creativity. I'll start there... The rest is all about finding economical methods of doing various projects. The entire fence cost less than $500 to build (including doors). Other than the 2 x 4's that run along the top and bottom rails, the fence is entirely recycled. (Well, I also used new screws)
     So, what will we think of next? I have more doors so we're going to build a shed out of doors. I've been trying to buy or build a shed. Both, are very expensive. See how I re-purpose doors, pallets, cedar fencing and more for the shed. That will be the next blog post!

Happy recycling!