Barn repairs – Starting at the bottom

Barn

When we were looking for our farm, I think our real estate agent started to think we were buying a barn rather than a house. I love the beams and the stones and the history, and we fell in love with pretty much every barn we saw.

Fortunately, our barn is in pretty good shape. In fact, previous owners had done quite a bit of work on it–more of an investment than we would ever make.

But we had one issue come up–or down. Some time in the spring, a section of the barn foundation caved in.

Collapsed barn foundation

The stone foundation is double layered, and the outer layer under one of the windows fell down.

The inner layer stayed in place, but as I looked at the wall and thought about fixing it, I came up with a new plan. Take down the inner layer, remove the window and make a door.

The cave-in happened in the corner where I want to put our coop, so having a door would make accessing the birds a whole lot easier.

But first we had to access the barn. We’ve not done a good job of yard maintenance around the barn, and we had all kinds of trees and brush. Matt’s Dad brought his chainsaw and spent a day clearing the mess.

Clearing vegetation from around the barn

Then our mason was able to remove the stones and pour a new threshold for us.

Matt, Ellie and I all put our handprints in the cement (then Ralph and Baxter trampled all over them to add a few prints of their own. I retrowelled the cement and we smushed our hands in again). I love so much that our prints will be here, part of this farm and this beautiful old barn.

Handprints in cement

My brother and sister-in-law came for a visit, so I took advantage of the extra help and my brother and I removed the window and framed up the opening.

Building a door in a barn foundation

Then the mason returned and rebuilt the wall up to the new jamb. This is the same mason that built our fireplace, so he’s very skilled in working with stone and enjoyed the puzzle of fitting everything together. (These pictures give you an idea of the width of these fabulous walls. The jamb is a 2×10, and it’s just about half the wall.)

Repairing a stone barn foundation

Repairing a stone barn foundation

We haven’t figured out the door itself yet. The opening is blocked with plywood, which will likely stay up for the winter. Next year, we’ll build a door. I haven’t quite made up my mind whether it will be sliding or swinging. The opening is very large, so whatever door we have will be heavy.

I often feel that we are stewards of this property, and I feel the same about the barn. It existed long before we arrived at this farm. And hopefully, with a bit of care from us, it will exist long after.

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Renovation regrets in Illinois

One of my former bosses used the phrase “even better if.” As in, “We just finished this big project, and it went really well. But what are our even-better-ifs?” It was a great way of looking positively at areas for improvement.

Last week I posted one of my renovation regrets and asked other people to share theirs. Sarah in Illinois immediately thought of one at her house. But instead of calling it a regret, I’m going to call it an even-better-if. Because she and her husband Steve did make lots of improvements to their kitchen. There’s just one little spot that could be even better.

Early when Steve and I first started dating he made the decision to renovate his kitchen. Both of us worked on expanding his small galley kitchen into an existing dining room. We removed a wall, relocated all plumbing and electrical and more than doubled the counter area.

However, it wasn’t until we were really using the newly expanded kitchen that we realized we had a design flaw.

We made a small walkway to enter and exit the kitchen and although this is plenty large enough to walk in and out, we did not realize until much later that this opening was the prime “hanging out” spot. There is always someone standing at this opening.

This is the ideal section of counter top to do meal prep because it is so close to the refrigerator. If you need to enter or exit the kitchen or reach the refrigerator, you will have no choice but to squeeze by someone standing right in that spot.

We have considered re-configuring the kitchen but since we laid all of the floor tile in the room around the cabinets, this is a much much larger project than we want to tackle at this time.

This is an instance where we really should have lived and worked in the space before making final decisions. We learned our lesson and hope we have fewer renovation regrets in the future.

Argh. I’m sure that’s frustrating, Sarah. Matt gets super bugged when people are in his way when he’s cooking. Most of the family has learned to steer clear! Hopefully you can enjoy the other fixes that you did make. More counter space is always good.

Renovation regrets

As Frank says, “Regrets, I’ve had a few.” But when it comes to our renovations, they’re very few.

I think there are a few reasons for this.

One, I’m pretty decisive. I take the time to figure out our spaces and what will work best for us, and once we know what we want we go for it.

Two, I am a pretty visual thinker, so I can picture a space in my head and see what it’s going to look like. This means for the most part I’m not surprised as a project unfolds.

Three, and most importantly in my opinion, I’m not picky. Sure there are spots where the drywall could be a bit smoother or maybe the paint colour isn’t exactly what I pictured. But I can live with them because overall I’m happy with the results of our renos.

However, there’s one spot that I wish we had done differently. So while Frank’s regrets are too few to mention, I’m going to talk about one of mine today.

I wish we had insulated the ceiling of the basement TV area.

Basement TV area

The reason for this is the ceiling of that section of the basement is the floor of Ellie’s room. So every night when Mama and Daddy go off duty and sit down to relax, we’re very conscious of every little sound and how it carries through the floor and upstairs into her room.

Turquoise gender neutral nurseryTurquoise gender neutral nursery

Now I should be clear that Ellie is an excellent sleeper, and we’ve had very few issues. In fact, one night my girlfriend was over with her two rambunctious boys–both younger than 5 years old–and they played noisily downstairs while I successfully put Ellie to bed.

However, sound is something I’m very aware of and I feel like I’d be able to relax a bit more if we had better sound insulation between downstairs and upstairs.

When we renovated the basement, we were not thinking about kids, let alone what room would be the nursery.

Potlights in the open ceiling

As well, interior insulation was not on my radar. For all of the years that I worked in my Dad’s construction company, insulation was usually reserved for exterior walls. It was about temperature, not sound.

Sound separation has become more of a consideration in recent years, I feel. But it’s something I wish I’d thought about six years ago.

What about you? Do you have any sound issues at your house? Have you insulated any interior walls or ceilings? Do you have any reno regrets?

A simple deck switch in Illinois

In Illinois Sarah is enjoying outdoor living. She and her husband Steve made what turned out to be a simple change to improve their enjoyment of one of their favourite outdoor spots.

I’ve mentioned several times that Steve and I like to spend a lot of time on our deck. We designed and built it the summer of 2013. Then two years later we cleaned and sealed it.

We have gotten so much use out of it, whether it is just Steve and mefr or one of the several the birthday parties, 4th of July parties and girl’s night that we have had on the deck.

As much as we have used the deck, Steve had noticed that it could be improved. When we designed it we had two sets of steps: one directed towards a door of the house that we use often and one directed towards our garden.

However, after a few years of use Steve pointed out that we could really improve the flow if we moved the steps. What first seemed like a huge undertaking was really a quick change up. Thankfully the steps were built independently of the deck so after removing several deck screws the whole set of steps easily moved.

Then taking a few screws out of the railing and using a circular saw to cut it down we were easily able to replace it where we had removed the steps. Thankfully Steve has really good vision, because when he mentioned doing this I thought it was going to be a whole day of work and honestly it took less than an hour!

Moving the steps to a longer side did bring up a small issue. The stairs were narrower than the opening. Steve and I both felt that some tall planters would guide people towards the stairs and a railing wouldn’t be needed.

We found these planters at Lowe’s. To fill them we wanted something permanent that would look nice in the winter so we also purchased these bushes. Then we bought petunias and verbena for color during the summer. We could not be happier with how they turned out. (And yes that is Blitz’s very own baby pool in the background.)

Also I had to divide and move my mums around to fill in where the steps had been. We still need to decide what material and where we want a walkway but overall we are thrilled with the changes.

The deck just feels like it makes more sense this way and we sure like to spend time sitting out there and enjoying each other’s company.

Do you have a gathering spot at your house? Ever had a project that just wasn’t working and you made the decision to rework it? What flowers would you use to fill those big pots?

What a great switch, Sarah. I’m impressed that it was such an easy change for you. The planters are a good solution.

Solar panels four years later

Solar panel array

Four years ago on April 25, 2014, we powered up our solar panels and began feeding electricity back to the provincial grid.

Every spring, I like to look at our numbers and compare how we’ve done with past years. Here are our previous annual summaries:

We don’t track how many kilowatts we generate, so all of my calculations are financial.

Over four years, we’ve made a total of $17,469.28.

Our initial investment in the panels was $40,727.16, so I guess you could say we still have awhile before we’re truly ahead (based on this year’s numbers, our total payback period will be just under 8 1/2 years).

However, we already feel like we’re ahead every year because we consistently generate more power than we consume.

Last year, we paid $2,594.40 for electricity, and we earned $4,855.15–$2,260.75 in “profit.”

The amount of power we produce is very much determined by the weather, so we see a lot of fluctuation month-by-month and year-by-year. Last year we made more than $300 more than the year before. Here is the comparison over the last four years.

Solar panel income over the last four years

Obviously solar panels are a big investment. Knowing that we’re going to be at the farm for a long time, it’s a choice that made financial sense for us.

And now that we have Ellie, I feel even more strongly about the environmental reasons that we chose to install our solar panels. I want to do my part of create a healthy world for her and set an example of taking personal responsibility for the planet.

For all of the details on our solar panels, you can see previous posts about Going Solar here.

Looking back at Home Goals 2017

Thanks everyone for your good wishes on our new addition. We’re excited–and I will admit I’m still a bit nervous about this whole baby thing too. We had our pre-natal class this weekend, which was informative and encouraging, and I have (yet another) ultrasound this morning (this baby is going to have supersonic hearing after all of our scans). Overall, we’re feeling pretty good about where we’re at.

As you can see, 2017 was quite a year for us. Today I’m taking a minute to look back at the year that was from a personal, professional and farm point of view.

After thinking and planning for quite awhile, I took a leave of absence from my communications job at the end of August to spend some extra time with family and see if I could build my own communications consulting company. I love working from home and love working for myself. I’m still working on building my client base, but I’m so grateful to have this opportunity.

The timing for my leave turned out to be very fortunate, as at the start of July we found out we were going to have a baby and at the end of September Matt was diagnosed with an ocular melanoma. It’s been so helpful to have a more flexible schedule for appointments and most importantly to have the mental space to process and reflect on all of the changes in our lives.

Along with all of that, we’ve replaced both our cars–my 14-year-old girl finally died and Matt’s year-old car was written off after he was hit by a driver who ran a red light. Matt ended up with a broken arm courtesy of the airbag, which derailed some of my plans for projects around the farm, but was a small hardship when he could have been much more seriously hurt.

Amongst all of these changes and challenges, the farm has been our constant and our refuge. 2017 marked five years at the farm, and I can’t imagine being anywhere else. It gives both of us peace to be here, and also gives us an outlet when we need to distract ourselves with tractor therapy, digging in the dirt, painting something or just walking the property.

I have a feeling we’re going to be saying, “What a year!” for the next while (perhaps the rest of our lives?) as we watch this baby grow, adjust to our new family reality and continue with life on the farm.

As many of us do at the start of the year, I like to take a moment to look back and reflect on the year past. Beyond all of the personal changes in our lives, I also started 2017 with my usual list of Home Goals I wanted to accomplish at the farm over the year.

Looking back, we didn’t do too bad.

My office

Turquoise craft room

I was very happy to finish the final bedroom at the farm and finally unpack all of our moving boxes–only five years after moving in. Reupholstering my grandmother’s vintage slipper chair is a project I’m still very proud of. What I called my office ended up being more of a craft room and it was such a great space for creativity.

I say “was” because my office ended up seeing another makeover just a few months later when I decided to turn it into the baby’s room. I’m finding other spaces to be creative around the house, and I love how the baby’s room is coming together. I’ll be sharing all of those details soon.

Clean up the pond shore

Red sky over the pond at sunset

The pond shore was my one and only outdoor land clearing goal for the year (and we have plenty of spaces that I want to clear). Mid-year, I gave up on it happening, but then an enthusiastic nephew and a generous husband went to work over a few weekends, and we made more progress than I ever expected.

There’s still more to go, which might be difficult as I don’t think the baby will be as helpful as our teenage nephew, but Matt and I may be able to divide and conquer on this one. And regardless, every time I look out the kitchen window or walk past the pond with Baxter (which happens at least once a day), I’m grateful for the improved view and access to the water.

While I had planned to focus just on the pond shore, I did give the area right behind the house a bit of attention, and cleaned up (most of) the jungle that’s been there since we moved in.

New lawn

Vegetable garden

Green tomatoes growing in the garden

At the start of last year, I said I was going to add rhubarb (check), a second row of berries (check–ended up being blackberries) and maybe some more grapes (check). I also put in four blueberry plants to try. As usual, I’m crossing my fingers that everyone survives the winter and bears fruit this year.

My biggest goal was keeping the weeds under control. I can’t say I was successful in that. I tried to find some old hay bales for a deep mulch but didn’t have any success. And in terms of weeding by hand, most of the season, I didn’t feel like weeding, and I gave into that feeling… a lot.

We capped off the year by covering two of the quadrants with tarps, and my tentative plan for the coming year is to leave the tarps in place. This will decrease the garden size by not quite half, which might just be manageable in our new reality.

Flower gardens

Garden in bloom in June

The flower gardens got some half-hearted attention this year. I can’t say I met my goal of keeping them weeded and filled with beautiful flowers, but I did get in them a few times and they didn’t look too scraggly most of the time (I don’t think).

Basement

Uh, yeah. I still have empty picture frames leaning against the basement walls waiting for art. I didn’t get to this in the first half of the year, and, since I left my job, I’ve been careful about spending money on extras, even inexpensive posters. So we go yet another year with some unfinished areas in the basement.

However, I did finally share the transformation of the basement TV area and all of the details on how we decorated it. I love this space so much and am so proud of us for doing it ourselves.

Basement TV area

New barn cat

Our barncat Ralph

After talking to a few people, we decided not to add a new barn cat to our family. Ralph has things under control and she’s content. She doesn’t need company, and I’m not confident that expecting her to train a young cat would work. So Ralphie gets to be mistress of the barn. She can live out her years in peace, and we will take our chances with adopting a new cat when we need it and hope that the newbie lives up to Ralph’s high standard.

Extras

As always, a few extra projects sneak into every year. I can call another room completely finished–the guest room–after refinishing a vintage metal bedframe. Spoiler alert, the guest room has since seen a few more changes as it’s become guest room/sewing room as I’ve given my office over to baby.

Antique brass metal bed frame

The living room also saw a few tweaks with a new mirror on the mantel and new pillows on the couch. I’ll be sharing our new coffee table soon too.

How to mix and match throw pillows

So around the house, 2017 was a mix. Which is okay and pretty normal for us.

We had enough abnormal in the year that I’m grateful that projects and the farm are such a refuge for us.

How was 2017 for you? What was your big accomplishment for the year?

How to build a simple toolbox from scrap wood – Free plan

When I was working with my contractor father, every job, big or small, would inevitably start the same way. “You might as well go get the toolbox. Otherwise we’ll spend all our time running back and forth for tools.”

Within a few months of Matt and I moving into our first house, my Dad gifted me with a toolbox of my own.

How to build a simple toolbox

Like most DIYers, our tools are in a variety of places, and we endeavour to have hammers, wrenches, tape measures and whatever else we might need wherever we might need them. However, no matter where we’re working and how I try to spread tools around, we usually end up needing the toolbox as well.

(I might think a screwdriver and a pair of pliers will be sufficient, but the universe usually laughs at my overconfidence.)

After Sarah in Illinois got a glimpse of my toolbox in a post a few weeks ago, I thought I should share it here. It’s an indispensable part of my DIY life.

How to build a simple toolbox

The idea of this toolbox is not to hold every single one of our tools. The idea is to hold the basic tools needed for most jobs. Limiting the number means that the toolbox stays relatively light, so I can easily carry it to wherever I’m working. (When I once complained that the box was too heavy, my Dad’s helpful response was, “You’ve got too much in it, honey. You don’t need all that stuff.”)

There’s a main area that holds the bulk of the tools. (And yes, there are two hammers here, because Matt and I each have our own.)

How to build a simple toolbox

My Dad added a partition on the one side that makes a spot for blades–a couple of utility knives and a large and small hacksaw.

How to build a simple toolbox

On one end, a “pocket” holds a chisel, pencils, crayons and earplugs. How many times have you found yourself pencil-less in the middle of a job? Just me?

How to build a simple toolbox

And finally a bar on one side of the box holds screwdrivers. This bar is one of my favourite features. It keeps the screwdrivers out of the jumble of the rest of the tools in the bottom of the box and makes it easy to find the one I need.

How to build a simple toolbox

I like that this toolbox is open. I don’t have to deal with latches or trays. I can simply reach in and grab what I need. Plus, if I know I’m going to need more wrenches or sockets or another tool that doesn’t normally live in the toolbox, I can easily toss in the case, and carry it to the worksite.

Here’s what I have in my basic toolbox:

  • Hammer
  • Tape measure
  • Speed square
  • Pliers (regular, needle-nosed, side cutters, adjustable)
  • Vicegrips
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Electrical tape
  • Stubby screwdrivers (slotted, Robertson red and green, Phillips)
  • Nailsets
  • Awl
  • Screwdrivers (Robertson, Phillips and slotted in various sizes–12 in total)
  • Trowels (medium and small)
  • Chisel
  • Pencils
  • Crayons
  • Earplugs
  • Hacksaws (large and small with spare blades)
  • Utility knives (two with spare blades)

If you’re interested in a building a toolbox like this for yourself, I’ve sketched a plan that you can download. Since this is built using scrap wood, adjust it for what best meets your needs.

How do you store your tools? Anyone else have a DIY toolbox? What are your indispensable tools?

How to live with your kitchen until you’re ready to renovate

Ugh, our kitchen. Our poor, poor kitchen. I’m so excited for the day that we finally renovate this room. However, I’m a bit scared too because I feel like we’re going to uncover so many issues when we pull everything apart.

One of the hinges on our cabinet doors had come loose (not unusual, all of our cabinets are falling apart).

Cabinet hinge with stripped screws

Repairing a stripped screw hole with toothpicks and glue

As I was putting it back together last week (wood glue + toothpicks = repaired), I was thinking about how we’ve lived with this kitchen for 5 years and will continue to do so for awhile yet.

Kitchens are important rooms. We spend a lot of time in them, so we want them to look nice and work well. But they’re also expensive and disruptive to renovate.

As a result, many of us live with lackluster kitchens, waiting until that magical day when we pull out the sledgehammer and start to forge the kitchen of our dreams.

For me, I hate to invest time or money into a space that I know I’m going to gut, even if that gut isn’t going to happen for 5 years or more. However, there are a few things that we’ve done in our kitchen that have made it more liveable, more functional and more attractive.

I thought I’d share them today in case they help someone else living in a similar kitchen situation. And I’d love to hear your ideas too for making a less than ideal kitchen work for you.

Paint

Between cabinets and appliances, wall space in a kitchen is often minimal, so giving your walls a fresh coat of paint is quick and inexpensive. With our open concept main floor, painting the kitchen, living room and hall the same colour made the spaces cohesive and the light colour that we chose brightened up the rooms a bit.

Painting cabinets is another update that can have a big impact. I did this in our first house and it was a great transformation. However, it was also a bigger job than I expected, so I was in no hurry to do it again–especially since our cabinets are falling apart and I feel like paint will not help the situation.

Hardware

Updating cabinet hardware can be another quick way to inject some style and personality into your kitchen. I spray painted our hardware for a mini update. The results have been mixed. The paint has chipped off some of the handles, but others have held up pretty well.

What is this?

The nice thing about a hardware update is if you truly love the handles or knobs that you choose, you can easily reinstall them in a new kitchen down the road.

Lighting

Just because you don’t have your dream kitchen doesn’t mean you can’t have your dream lights. I loved the idea of a pair of schoolhouse style pendants over the island, so I went and bought them.

We only had one light fixture in the kitchen and it wasn’t positioned quite right, but I didn’t let that stop me. I put up one of the lights anyway. Maybe a single, randomly located pendant looked a bit weird, but it made me happier than the boob light that was there before.

A year or so later when we had an electrician in for some other work, I had him move the first light and install a second. The electrician’s labour was relatively inexpensive.

School house pendant lights over the kitchen island

Even if you’re planning on reconfiguring your kitchen down the road and will need to move lights again, the investment in an electrician is not that significant. And assuming you still love your lights, you can reuse them.

Island

The biggest addition to our kitchen has been the island. I bought the doors at Habitat for Humanity and we DIYed the countertop. Having a cabinet maker build the boxes was still a bit of an investment, but worth it for us for the storage and prep space we gained.

Kitchen island painted white with wood countertop

I can’t imagine working in the kitchen without having this extra space. And I’m hoping that we can reuse the island in our future kitchen.

Accessories

Just because a kitchen is a utilitarian space doesn’t mean you can’t decorate it. Accessories can add function to the room as well as style. A long towel bar on the end of the island gives us a space to hang oven mitts and towels within easy reach. Plus pretty towels inject some personality and colour. We also removed a wine rack that was above the fridge (we don’t drink much wine and I can’t reach the space anyways) and put a fun country rooster and our kitchen scale on display.

Organization

No matter what your kitchen looks like or how large it is, keeping things organized can dramatically improve how you feel about the space.

In adding the island we were able to add storage for a few key things: cookie sheets, cutting boards and cookbooks. Our kitchen is lacking in drawers, so we also added hidden drawer to the island.

The few drawers that we do have are too small for most organizers, but I found a plastic organizer that I could cut to size with a utility knife, so I was able to keep our cutlery sorted.

Narrow cookie sheet shelves in island

Making a kitchen work until you can do a full reno is about trade offs. What can you live with and what can’t you? How many repairs are you willing to do? How much money are you comfortable spending, knowing that whatever you add may end up in a dumpster? For us DIYers, how much time and effort are you willing to invest knowing that you may be ripping out your hard work down the road?

For me, I think I’ve found a balance that is tolerable.

What are your tips for holding a kitchen together? How do you feel about mini renovations to tide you over until the big one? Have you made any improvements to your kitchen that have made a difference in how it works or looks?

Denise at Happy Haute Home (who often comments on my posts) recently renovated her kitchen for the One Room Challenge. While it’s a much grander space than ours, she embraced a very similar philosophy to mine. She shared her tips for how to update a kitchen on various budgets in her reveal post.

Looking for sander suggestions

Attention. Vicarious tool shopping opportunity ahead. Sarah in Illinois needs your help selecting her new sander. Our sander is one of the few tools that I’ve bought for myself, rather than getting a hand-me-down. Like Sarah’s last sander, I bought it quickly without much research. But it’s also one of my most used tools, so I’m very interested to hear your suggestions of what sander or brand you recommend.

Since most of my summer has been spent out in the yard and garden, I was really excited the other day to have a chance to spend a few minutes on a project in the wood shop. I actually have to admit I am looking forward to cold winter months because I will have more time to spend out there.

However, when I grabbed one of my most used tools and found it had finally died, I decided it was time to do a little research and add a replacement to my Christmas wish list.

I need a new electric hand sander.

(Honesty here: I am not being sponsored by anyone to write this. The following is my opinion on my experiences. And a note from Julia: Links are not affiliate links.)

For years I had a DeWalt hand sander. Actually I had two: a 1/4 sheet palm sander and a random orbit sander. I used them and used them until they literally fell apart in my hands. I found this picture from years ago when I was sanding wood siding on my old house.

At some point, I needed a sander and ran to town and found something inexpensive to use to get me by. That’s how I ended up with a Skil.

This sander lasted much longer than I ever expected, but I was never happy with the hook and loop attachment for the sandpaper. Many times it flung the paper off in the middle of use. I know that hook and loop attachment seems to common with most sanders, but I actually prefer using adhesive backed paper.

Steve and I have had very good luck with Hitachi brand tools. We now have a compound miter saw, portable chop saw, cordless drill and 9 inch grinder all Hitachi brand, and we couldn’t be happier with the longevity and strength of these tools. So naturally I looked first at Hitachi. I was thrilled to see they still make a 1/4 sheet hand sander. They also have two options for orbital sanders that both have hook and loop attachment. DeWalt has a similar option.

So here is the reason for this post: I want to hear from other people with actual experience. What hand sander do you use? What brands have you had luck with? Which ones would you not recommend? How do you feel about hook and loop attachment versus adhesive back versus 1/4 sheet that is held on with clamps?

Finally, the reason I was out in the wood shop the other day: Our small town is having a scarecrow contest. There are many scarecrows all over town and I decided to add one at work. (The sander was needed for that mega-wrench he is holding!)

I was late getting him ready, so I didn’t get to enter the contest, but it is still fun to decorate and join the fall spirit around town. Here is the link to the contest entries if you would like to see the fantastic scarecrows.

I am so glad to live in a town that is so friendly and has such great community spirit.

What a great community building project, Sarah. I love seeing people’s creativity with their scarecrows.

We have a random orbit sander made by Mastercraft (I think it’s Canadian Tire’s brand). I bought it very much like you bought your Skil–quickly and cheaply. But I’ve been pretty happy with it. It is hook and loop, and I’ve had no issues with the pads staying attached. The sawdust bag sometimes slips off, which can be a bit annoying, but usually I just leave it off and accept the dust. It’s a bit big for my hands–usually I’m for gender equality, but tools made for smaller hands would be a very good thing. Just don’t make them pink.

Now over to everyone else. What sander(s) do you recommend?

How to rescreen a screen door

Fresh country air is one of the best parts of summer living on the farm. But summer on the farm also means bugs, so screens are an absolute necessity. Sarah in Illinois is here today to share how she fixed her screen door after it had a few too many encounters with a puppy who was enthusiastic to enjoy the country air in person dog.

I don’t think you can live in the country without a screen door. Unfortunately screen doors and young energetic dogs don’t mix. Blitz gets so excited to head outside that he pushes the door open with his big paws.

The screen became damaged enough that I decided that it was time to try my hand at re-screening a door.

I started with buying a screen replacement kit at our closest home improvement store. It comes with a large roll of screen, a roll of spline and a spline tool. The only other tools that I needed were a utility knife and pick.

I started by removing the damaged screen and using the pick I pried all of the old spline out of the grooves.

I compared my old spline to the new spline. My only concern was making sure that they were the same diameter. If the newer spline was too large it wouldn’t fit in the groove, if it was too small, it wouldn’t stay in place. Thankfully, it was close enough to work well.

After all of the spline was removed and I cleaned the door, I was ready to start putting the new screen in place.

I carefully centered the screen over the opening and laid the spline over the groove. Working with just one side I used the spline tool, which is basically a handle and a roller, and pushed the spline down into the groove. It was a tight fit, but not too tight, just enough that I knew that it wasn’t coming out.

I worked my way around all four sides pulling slightly on the screen to keep it taut.

At the corners I had to use the pick again to squish the spline down tight where the spline tool couldn’t reach.

Once I felt that the screen was in securely and pulled tight, I trimmed the excess screen off with a razor blade.

In the case of our door, there were two separate screen areas so I repeated everything on the second half of the door.

I was then ready to rehang the door.

I was nervous tackling this project because I was worried that it would never look like it did when the door was new. But honestly, this was such an easy project and cost me less than $10 for the kit.

Now we’re ready for this guy’s next adventure.

Well done, Sarah. It looks really professional. We love having the windows open in the summer, but I’m realizing a few of our screens are in need of repairs. We’ve found ourselves chasing moths or even the occasional mosquito in the house. In the past, I’ve patched a hole. Rescreening sounds pretty easy and straightforward. Plus I’m ensured of not missing any holes.