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Outside and Decks
Outdoor Q's and A's

Drainage Pipes | Playgrounds | Clothesline
Drywell | Pool | Treehouse | Bridges | Window Box | Dog Run | Flooring | Gutters | Porches | Yard Erosion | Basketball | Shutters
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Drainage Pipes

Drainage Pipe Installation

How do I go about installing drainage pipe in my back yard to cure the wetness that results from rain. What ends up happening is the puddles accumulate in the edge of the mulch beds and the ground seems saturated. My property is downslope from the neighbors. There are numerous trees in the beds so I anticipate root problems when digging the hole. I will probably rent a trencher to lay out the hole. Any particular tips I should know about when installing drainpipe? Secondly, is this the best way to eliminate the problem?

Yes, if you want to drain a swamp, you can use drainage pipe, so eliminating the soggy areas can also be done that way. Backfilling around the pipe with gravel will help too. A slope of 1 inch for every 10 feet will be sufficient, since you are not going to be removing a lot of water fast.

Playgrounds

Playground Border

I'm currently putting a 2x12 border around a play structure.The treated wood that I want to use has a greenish color. Can this be painted? I also want to put a 2x4 on top of the borders so that kids can sit on it. But I'm afraid that if I use the treated would, kids my get splinters. Using Redwood is costly. Can I use Green Douglas Fir? Another question is I'm planning to build an overhead (trellis). I'm using a 4x4x10' common redwood post. Can I use the Green Douglas Fir as the overhead trellis (1x1x8). I'm planning to paint this white.  Please advise on other types of wood that can be used.

You can definitely paint this wood. (The Pressure treated wood). Use quality paints, an alkyd/oil primer followed by a Latex topcoat.

As for what other wood you can use, the pressure treated wood will hold up to rot better, but if the boards you are using are not in contact with the ground, and are kept painted, then the douglas fir or any wood can be used. When you say "green" douglas fir, I take it you mean it not kiln dried? Typically douglas fir is sold kiln dried.

Personally, I would go with pressure treated wood for outside projects. (unless you are going to a more expensive wood like redwood, cedar or even teak) If you keep the wood painted, it won't check and splinter.

 

Swingset/junglegym  

I NEED PLANS FOR A COOL BACKYARD PLAYSET FOR MY KIDS. ANY IDEAS?

Do what I did. Take your tape measure, and a pad and go to the places that sell this stuff. If they have free brochures take those too. Then go home and make your own.

The one I made, I used pressure treated wood and it outlasted the kids. But just barely. I would say it is about 14 years old now, and starting to show its age. But they aren't using it any more.

I made it by copying the picture from an ad. They were good enough to boast about all the sizes and dimensions and I improved where I wanted.

One thing to watch for, often the height of the swings is not good for when the kids get older. Check the ones you are looking at. 8 feet is a minimum I think. 10 feet is ideal.





Outdoor playset

We are in the process of buying an outdoor playset for our children and would like a few pointers such as - I am assuming that they are not freestanding. How deep should the supports be inserted in the ground? - What's the best ground covering - sand or mulch? Any other safety issues we should be concerned about...

Check with the maker of your set. Many actually don't require any supports sunk in the ground. (The one I made lasted 3 kids and rested on the ground, using a wide base as support). Others do need a sort of twist stake that is twisted into the ground to secure it. As for around the playset, I believe pea stone is actually the best to prevent injury. The small stones have plenty of give and maintain it for years. This is what I have used and what our schools have used. 6 inches deep makes a real cushion.


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A Swing from a tree


This may be a stupid question, but I want to hang a swing from a tree branch that is about 30 feet above the ground. I live in New Hampshire and am concerned over the rope eroding over the winter. How would you suggest building a single swing for this tree? Do I just throw a rope over the branch? Do I put some hose around the rope where it goes around the branch to prevent it from eroding, then have an attachment for the rope to go down to the seat? What kind of wood would you suggest for the seat? Treatment?

No such thing as a stupid question..
My kids hung a piece of rope over a tree limb a few years ago.. at least 3.. and it is still hanging there and swung on. It is a heavy brown braided hemp (?) rope. It has held up well with the weather. Nylon I know lasts a long time in the sun and rain too. The hose idea sounds good, more from the stand point of protecting the tree, though. As for the seat.. pressure treated wood will last longer than you. You can paint it, stain it, or leave it bare.

 

Generator Enclosure 

I would like plans on how to build a generator enclosure for (permanent) camper use. We have a Homelite, and it's VERY loud, so we would like it to be as sound-proof as possible, but also with ventilation in mind (so it doesn't over heat).

To muffle the sound build it so you can use a sound absorber in the walls. Insulation works well to absorb sound. For ventilation and cooling provide vents along the bottom and at the top. It will get warm in there, so I would recommend making the inside air space twice the volume of the generator itself at a minimum, with at least 2 feet of clearance above and in the direction of the exhaust. Make sure it is not big enough for someone to be in there with it. If you build it with removable side/top panels you can make access for maintenance easier. I would not attach it to any living quarters either.. kept well away for both fire hazard and exhaust gas.

 

Clothesline

Clotheslines

My wife and I just bought our first home. It is everything we wanted, but it doesn't have a clothesline. The only manufactured ones available that I have found are the round ones that sit in a pipe in the ground. Any one have any plans for 1 that is a standard "T" style? And sturdy too?

I build one for us 18 years ago.. it still is as sturdy and functional as the first day.

Just buy pressure treated 4x4s two 8 footers for the posts and one 12 footer or two 6 footers for the arms.

Cut a notch in the top. (half way through and 3 1/2 inch long) on the vertical posts. Cut a notch in the center of the arms. (half way in .. 1 3/4" deep... and 3 1/2 inches wide) This will give the arm/post a support to hold them in. (more in a sec on how to cut those notches)

Then bury the post about 2 feet deep and fill around the hole with cement. I wouldn't go shallower or skip the cement since they will have a lot of weight on them over the years.

Buy several large eye bolts.. about 12.. and screw them in the arms.. about 1 ft apart. Then run the clothesline through them tying it at each end. I like to keep only the knot at either end.. since the rope tends to stretch, and you can tighten it all in one shot this way.

To cut the notches.. just mark the post with a line 3 1/2 inches from the top.. and cut as many 1 3/4 in deep cuts from the end to the line as you can squeeze in. (leave about 1/4 inch between cuts) and then hit the grooves with a hammer.. the pieces will all just break right off leaving the notch. This same approach use on the arms.. only you mark to lines on each in the center. 1 3/4 inches from the center line in each direction.. and then again make the cuts 1 3/4 inches deep and smack them with your hammer.

 

Drywell

Putting in a dry well for sump pump

Our sump pump runs nonstop and the water flows into our front yard. I would like to put in a dry well to catch the water but I'm not sure what I need to do.

You have a river out there now, huh? Well a drywell is simply a hole in the ground that allows water to flow out into the surrounding ground. They sell plastic ones (like at home depot) and concrete ones (bigger and more expensive) or you can use a 55 gal drum (free if you can find them one)

In any case the thing is drilled full of holes and has its bottom cut out. (In the case of the concrete ones, they are cast this way) A large hole is dug the drywell placed inside and then you back fill around it will gravel. The sump pump is piped to it underground.

It is a do-it-yourself sort of project if you can dig a big enough hole. Some soil types would discourage anyone.

There is one thing to consider too. You must have a fairly high groundwater table. The drywell should be placed above that, or you will just dig yourself a shallow well. (know what I mean?) SO you should place it on a high spot in your yard where it is definitely dry.

There is another option too. You can dig a long trench and put drain tile in it. (Pipe with holes in it). Surround the pipe with gravel and cover it with dirt. This will allow the water to leach into the ground above the water table. You can also leave the end of the pipe open finishing up above ground incase the water doesn't leach out by the end. The pipe can have a very small slope or be level. The sump pump would pump out to this drain tile.

 

Dry well construction

I need to construct a dry well. Too much water collects from the hill near the back door. Where can I find dry well construction plans?

Either you can use a pre-cast type of various sizes, and line the outside with stone, or you can build your own with concrete blocks, using an appropriate cover.

There are many sites with pictures and diagrams. Use a search engine and type in Dry Wells.

Something we did at work(golf course) that worked really well was, we dug a trench along the base of the hill, one end deeper than the other, lined the low end with heavy mil plastic, and filled the trench with stone. The plastic kept the water contained within the trench while it ran off on the low end. This was 7 years ago and the area below the hill still remains stable after a rain.

Pool

Above ground pool installation

Can anyone give me instructions for installing an above ground pool?

I found the directions to be quite straight forward that came with our pool. The FIRST thing though, is to make sure your spot is as level as possible. The posts rest on cement blocks which all should be set as closely as possible the exact same elevation.

Another hint, is to make sure you get ALL the wrinkles out you can before adding any water. You can't get any out once the water is in.

To suck the liner to the pool's metal outside, use a shop vac and suck the air out. This will help when you get the wrinkles out.

Other things... I remember.. use about 3-4 inches of sand underneath.. and angle it up near the edges to form a curve at the point where the base meets the wall.

If you are buying this new from a pool dealer ... pick their brains.

I've installed 1 in ground pool 16X32 and 2 above ground pools, 1 that was 12' dia. and 1 that was oval with a variable depth. I strongly recommend a water level, which is basically a clear hose filled with water. Use this for leveling your "pads" usually 12" square cement stones about 1" thick. This is what you place the upright posts on. Any sharp corners. or joints use

"duct tape" to smooth them out. When you remove your sod, check for rocks, sticks, tree roots, or any other sharp objects and remove them before putting your sand in. Once you have put the sand in, erect the wall. I used a shovel and stiff rake to throw the sand around. Then use a trowel just like you use with cement and smooth the sand out. Have someone lightly spray water on the sand, with a fine mist, as you trowel the sand. I used a 6' stepladder 1/2 inside, 1/2 outside the pool area, to get out of the pool area, then after removing the ladder use a corn broom to smooth over your tracks and fill in where the ladder was. I'm not sure if your pool will have a variable depth or not, but if it does, trowel the sand in the deep end working your way back to the shallow end, Now comes the liner. Hold the liner tight in the open position so to speak, then raise the liner high enough to clear the walls while moving over the pool area, using several people. Try to not let the liner drag across the sand floor. You should have enough liner to cover the pool opening naturally, plus 6-8 inches extra overhang. Keep the overhang consistent all the way around the walls. Now start filling with water. Sure helps if you know somebody on the fire dept. if you know what I mean. Once it's fill 2-3 foot deep, you can stop filling and cut the openings for your skimmer and water return openings. I always

cut mine smaller than actual size, then once I've hooked inside pieces to outside pieces, then I'll trim them to the actual size. Remember it's easier to take it off, but it's hard to put it back on once you've already cut it.

When every thing is hooked up, filling with water. Make sure your electric pump is on a G. F. I. and turn it on. Also check with your insurance company, about their requirements for locking the access to the pool for "little people."




 

Treehouse

Treehouse

Anyone having tips on building a treehouse?

I can offer a few pointers that may help from tree stand building experience.

Make sure you use treated lumber, and I would stay away from using plywood, particularly on the floors. It may come unlaminated and weakened. If you use it for the roof, be sure to put shingles and roofing felt on it so it will last. Also. make sure the roof has a pitch to it.

In the places where you use nails, be sure to use galvanized nails so they won't rust and discolor the wood or even break.

Each hunting season, we inspect our stands for weathering and wear. A winter's worth of bad weather can render them really unsafe.

Be sure to pick a steady tree that's not dead or dying.

Stay out of it during thunderstorms.

Let me add, that I think it is a good idea to allow for the tree to move. In the one my son and I built, we attached a support to one side and the joists sort of just rest on it with overhang, that way, as the branches sway, the floor doesn't try to hold the main branches together. It allows movement being attached to only one side, not the other.

 

Bridges

Replacing a worn-out bridge

We have a 50 ft. by 10 ft. wooden bridge which crosses a creek in our yard. The bridge is no longer safe for driving because the supports are broken. The main supports are telephone poles and cross beams. The bridge decking is treated wood but has rotted over time because of dampness.

We would like to replace the bridge with a walking bridge which would be 50 ft. long but only 4 to 6 feet wide. We have had advice from several people. Among this advice use two steel beams as a base and concrete into either side of the existing driveway; allow the creek to flow through a large pipe and cover with dirt to the height of the existing driveway. We don't want to spend a lot of money but we would like to have any advice.

Fifty feet is a pretty long span. I think you probably will need to bring in an engineer on this project, because it's very difficult for the average homeowner to span that length without having several support posts along the way. If you can install support posts, the job becomes somewhat easier, though you still have a pretty ambitions project on your hands.

You should be very careful about installing a culvert (the long pipe you mentioned). Culverts can certainly be inexpensive ways to bridge small streams, but if the stream is small enough for a culvert, I don't know why the bridge has to be 50 feet long. Anyway, if a culvert is not sized properly (i.e. too small), it can clog with debris during times of high water flow, and then you suddenly have a dam. The area above the culvert fills with water, which can cause flooding. The pressure from the impounded water can also cause a catastrophic washout, which is a pretty ugly scene, too. If properly designed, culverts can be very effective, but you have to size it to accommodate flood conditions.

I know you want to keep your costs down, having an engineer look at this situation may cost a lot less than cleaning up after a culvert. Perhaps the local Extension agent, or your local office of the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service, formerly known as the Soil Conservation Service) can assist for little or no charge. Good luck!


Window Box

Mounting a Window Box

I want to mount a window flower box onto lap siding. The brackets that came with the box are for mounting on a flat wall. I am considering screwing the brackets into the wooden lap siding and then filling the gap between the back of the bracket and the siding with a polyurethane type of foam. Is there a better way to make this mounting? Do you know of any way to form a flat, vertical, supporting surface over lap siding other than through the use of foam?

You can mount it with your bracket even though it doesn't make contact over its whole length. Or you can cut small wedges of wood to fit in there.

 

Deck planter boxes  

I am building a large deck (2300 sq. feet) which I plan to trim out with TREX plastic lumber. I want to build large planter boxes (2'x 2'x 10') on a portion of this deck.  What should line the insides of these boxes to prevent rot? What should the bottom be made out of?  How should drainage be dealt with? Should the boxes sit directly on the TREX decking ?

Build the boxes out of pressure treated lumber. the bottoms included. The trex should not have a problem with the water draining on to it. With the normal gaps in the decking, the water from the planter should drain right through gaps.

 

Brick planter against wood siding

I am in the process of putting in a brick planter on the outside of my home. But I'm unsure of the code requirements and the procedure for laying a brick planter against my wood siding. Any guidelines would be appreciated.

My guess is... unless you live in a REALLY restrictive town, there are no code requirements.

But call the town building inspector. He would know. There could be something because of the need for protection against termites, which often require so much exposed cement between the dirt and the wood. You may be able to meet that by not filling the planter all the way up with dirt.


Dog Run

Dog Run

Need advice in building a dog run. What sort of materials would be best for the base?I've been told to use landscape fabric, lime, then cover with gravel then concrete pads. Anyone have any other suggestions?

Pea gravel for the top layer as it is soft on the pups paws.


Flooring

Linoleum for outdoor use?


I would like to cover my outdoor wood deck with some kind of sheeting. to reduce maintenance and to keep the deck below out of direct rain from above. Is there a type of linoleum suitable for this?

Anything placed OVER your decking will increase maintenance rather then prevent it since it will trap moisture and create a lot more problems. You are best to apply a deck stain OR sealer instead to
help with preserving the decking properly. You will be just asking for some trouble by covering it.


Gutters

Gutters

I live in Tidewater Virginia, where it gets quite rainy in the summer. We need to replace the gutters on oursingle story house. We currently have aluminum gutters and I was told that continuous vinyl may crack in cold weather. Which brand and material should I choose?

I personally like the aluminum better, but don't believe that Virginia is too cold for vinyl. I have installed vinyl here (in New England) with no cracking, and I have seen it used in upstate NY also with no cracking. So.. choose based on cost and appearance (to you) and don't worry about the cracking.


Choosing new gutters


I live in Northern California, so the weather's not to severe. We need to replace gutter on our 50-yr.-old ranch style single story 1700 sq. ft. house. What types of gutters/styles/materials are recommended? Anything new in gutter products/design/materials in recent years? I don't want to use continuous aluminum just because that was THE things 10 years ago....

Well.. now THE thing is continuous vinyl. This isn't for the do-it-yourself but you can get them done professionally done that way. If you are going to do it yourself, you can get easy to use vinyl stuff, and it holds up well, and is no problem even for a novice. (my opinion)


Moving Down Spouting Away from House


Just recently a friend bought a duplex home in the city. The existing down spouting is fine but the drainage pipe (cast iron) was crushed by near by tree roots and therefore doesn't drain properly. The previous home owners decided it best just to redirect the drain but in doing this the drain is now too close to the house. This is an older home and there are some problems keeping the basement dry. We would like to extend or move the drain further away from the house but yet keep it pleasing to the eye.


You can bury the pipe.. they make PVC connections for a downspout to go into a 4 inch pipe and you can redirect the water away from the house to where the old pipe took it.

RAIN GUTTER DOWNSPOUTS TOO SMALL

The downspouts on the aluminum rain gutters on my house are too small to drain away all the rainwater fast enough. As a result the gutters fill up and overflow. I've tried to install larger downspouts, but found it difficult to enlarge the holes in the gutters to accommodate the larger fittings. Does anyone have a suggestion how I can enlarge these openings to accommodate the larger downspouts?

You mean the standard sized ones do not handle the water flow?? Is your roof exceptionally large or are you trying to drain your whole roof thorough just one downspout? Perhaps you could add another downspout at the opposite end of the house, so half the water will drain the other way.

How do I enlarge the downspout holes in my rain gutters?

I want to replace the downspouts on my aluminum rain gutters with larger ones. However, I'm unable to enlarge the existing holes in the gutters to accommodate the larger adapter fittings. The cutting tools I'm using will not fit or maneuver inside the gutters, or if I try from underneath, the fascia board (which extends below the bottom edge of the gutters) restricts the tool movement. Any suggestions on the type of tools or techniques I might try?

You could consider unhinging the gutter near the end so you can pull it away from the fascia enough to allow your snips to move around the cut. (Gutter holes are cut from the bottom side normally with snips).

Or you might want to invest in a set of offset airplane snips for about $20. They have handles, which offset the cutting blades so when you cut, the handles go at about a 90-degree angle to the blades rather than parallel to them...They allow you to get into tight spaces.... You could also maybe use a roto-zip or a dremmel set with a metal cutting attachment.

Moving a downspout

Is there any problem in moving a down spout? Its located about 6 ft from the corner of the garage and creates a huge pool next to the garage (which is attached to the house). There isn't enough of a downgrade to run a drain to the street, but since the driveway slopes down and away I wanted to move the downspout to the corner of the garage so that it would run down the driveway. The majority of the puddle is created by the water flow from the downspout, and I think I can back fill the area with rock and dirt control the natural rainfall.

Add an elbow and a piece of pipe and just redirect it.

Rain gutters

I have a large apartment complex and some of the gutter spikes are pulling loose. What is the cause of this and how should I fix it? They are 6" gutters and are spikes about every 2ft. thought about a longer nail or using a screw. Is the some kind of epoxy that can be used back in the same hole and reinstall a new screw or nail?

It's normal to have loose gutter nails at times if your gutter system is older and/or has lots of rain/snow etc.

I think replacing the spikes with larger ones, or preferably, larger screws would help reinforce the system. You can prefill the holes with any exterior wood filler or bonding agent before you proceed.

If you use screws make note of this for the future in case you have your gutters replaced. The company you hire will appreciate knowing.

Porches

Three Season Room (or Screened Porch)


We are about to start building one, as soon as the foundation is excavated and poured by professionals. A basic room with 3 windows front & back (12'), 3 windows & a door on the side (15'), and the our existing house on the other side. I'm okay with the floor & the walls (no insulation nor heat -- save on building costs AND town taxes). But as for the roof...
We're planning a cathedral ceiling, with a 6"/ft pitch to match the house (11' high in the center, 7' at the ends). We know we'll need "exposed beams" holding the 2x6 rafter sides together (every 4' means 2 such beams). What holds the rest of the rafters?
We also want a ceiling fan, and a gable vent at the peak. We're on the south side, so this room will be warm even in our New England winters. Are soffet vents a concern?



You have several options for a cathedral ceiling.
One, is to place collar ties (cross members that are placed between each pair of rafters, not just every 4'). This will give you a sturdy rafter structure and provide you with a flat cathedral surface to mount ceiling fans to. Another, is to use no collar ties, but mount beams on top of the wall plates that go parallel to the rafters about every 4 feet. This will give you a peaked cathedral yet hold the opposing bearing walls together. These beams will be 7 ft AFF.
The third is to use 'scissors trusses' which essentially gives you the 6/12 pitch on the outside with a slightly less pitch on the inside, perhaps a 5/12 or 4/12. This is the most structurally sound method but results in a peaked rather than flat cathedral. But you could always add collar ties if you desire a flat peak. Soffit and ridge vent is a must. Big moisture problems can occur that can damage roof sheathing, rafters, and any finished wood products you might use on the ceiling if not applied properly. In addition to the ridge and soffit vents, you must use rafter space vents as well (unless you are using scissors trusses). These are called 'pro-vents' or 'proper vents' or other depending on where you live. They go between the roof sheathing and the insulation (from eave to peak) to make sure air flow is not cut off to the ridge vent by packed in insulation.



Yard Erosion

Landscaping timbers to control yard erosion

My back yard begins sloping as you approach the back fence. It drops down about 1-2 feet and continues sloping past the fence beyond my yard. I am thinking about stacking landscaping timbers or railroad ties to help hold back the soil and keep it from eroding away down this slope. I will probably dig a trench so the timbers will lay level. Do I need to make allowances for drainage? Any other items of consideration?



It depends on how high the tiers will be. But even if they are only one timber's width high, I would dig down deep enough to bury one completely under the other. Then drive spikes through the top one into the buried one. often with out a foundation, the timber will push out from the frost and the rain, etc. this will help keep it in place. make sense?



Basketball

Dimensions of the Basketball Board

Could you please tell me the dimensions of the Basketball board? Kindly indicate the size of the square that is marked just above the basket.

The backboard is 72 inches wide by 42 inches high. The square just above the hoop? I am thinking 18" square because the hoop is 18 inches in diameter, but I am guessing on the square. I do have the dimensions of the rest of the court in the article at the URL below.

Basketball Court Dimensions!

Shutters

Plantation Shutter Repair

I have plantation shutters throughout my house and some of the horizontal slats have come lose from the vertical arm (sorry I could not come up with the right term). It appears that they are fastened to the vertical arm by staples.

Where could I purchase a staple gun to repair these (or is there any easier way? Some of these are SO BAD, that the vertical arm is holding on by one staple.

Where do you get your plantation shutters from? I can't find any in the Midwest, without paying about $1800 per window!!!! I do have them in one room, and this is my goofy way of fixing the problem. The panel/slat that came out should have a dowel coming out of the end of it. If that is broken, you can easily drill out the hole and put a new one in. This is what the slat rotates on. I actually drilled and chiseled out from the back of the shutter on the 'vertical arm' and slid the slat with the dowel rod attached into place from the backside. Then I covered up my "chiseling" with wood putty and sanded and painted to match. I did this with about four broken pieces, and painted the whole shutter at once so it looked new.




Click here for our Window Box Plans Article
Click here for our Sand Box Plans Article
Click here for our Picnic Table Plans Article
Click here for our Basketball Court Article
Click here for our Plans For A Brick Patio Or Walkway Article
Click here for our Detailed Play Systems Article
Click here for our Outside Tips Article




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