Exterior Projects

Build this Cabin for Under $5,000

When I came across this article/guide, I knew that I had to share it.  Most of you probably don’t have a chunk of land to build something like this on, but for those who do, you will love this simple cabin plan.  The plans come for free from Mother Earth News.  I am not sure of the year that the $5,000 figure comes from, but hey, a simple cabin plan is always worth a look.  cabin assembly diagram

There are some construction techniques that are a little more old school that what you would typically see in new construction today.  The floor is tongue and groove (T&G) instead of plywood and many of the joints call for techniques that add a lot of strength, but can probably be sidestepped.  The top of the porch posts are notched, mitered, and lag bolted, the sill framework has a half lap joint at the corners and there are rafter supports that are notched in where you might see simple blocking today.{01269B31-2863-4866-913E-7147CF196A34}

The plan includes a complete material list that you can utilize to price your items and see how close you are able to get to the $5,000 figure.  There are areas where you can probably replace the material with other items to save a bit.  These areas will give you an opportunity to make this your own.

Good luck with this project should you choose to move forward.  If you don’t build with this, it couldn’t hurt to review the plans for future consideration.  A technique picked up here and there will often lead to a better project in the future and might even give you the knowledge to build something properly when the time comes.


Buffalo Real Estate Bargains

Cottage on Rushford Lake – Real Estate Bargains

From time to time I will point out some real estate bargains around WNY.  As someone who searched for a cottage for about 5 years, I came across a number of properties in many different price ranges and in doing so, gained a sense of where things should fall (in terms of price).  When I saw this cottage listing on Craigslist, it stood out as a possible bargain property.  There are some negatives that include the fact that the home is not directly on a lakefront lot, but that is remedied by the fact that you do have your own swath of lakefront along with a deck and the all important boat dock.

As of this writing, the property is priced at $64,900.  $64,900 doesn’t usually get your much let alone lake front.  I like the fact that the dock is not part of a community dock, but is actually your own.  This provides much more privacy on a small lake.

If you are seeking a cottage getaway on a beautiful lake, take a look for yourself.

Listing on Zillow:

Link to Bing Bird’s Eye Map:

How To's

Defy The Cable Company With A DIY HDTV Antenna | Popular Science

This might not be your typical “Handyman” project, but for those cord cutting DIY types, this is right up your alley.  If you are tired of paying for cable just to receive your local news channel, consider an HDTV antenna that you can make yourself.   This is a simple antenna and I expect that many of you will be able come up with something a bit more attractive, but at least this “How-To” will help you to understand the how and why of an HDTV antenna.

DIY hdtv antenna

Defy The Cable Company With A DIY HDTV Antenna

General Improvment Tools and Reviews

Nest Products for Your Home

We have referred a lot of folks to replacement units for their faulty Kidde smoke detectors over the past few years.  We ran into an issue with our Kidde 1275 units and were forced to replace the units. Providing a plug and play alternative for folks has been a help to many.  If you are like most, you don’t want to deal with household wiring. But, if you can replace a ceiling fan, or light fixture, you can replace your some detectors.  A few wire nuts and  you are all set.  I have an example of the Nest Protect installation instructions linked at the bottom of this post.  As you can see, a few wire nuts (much like a ceiling fan) and you are all set.  If you have a lot of units to replace, you are looking at quite a few dollars ($99/unit as of this writing), but some of the features are invaluable.

One of the primary pluses with the Nest Protect is that it has to be the ability to communicate with a nest thermostat and stop the furnace from running during a CO alarm.  CO would continue to be generated if you had a faulty furnace or, hot water tank, and the combination of the Nest Protect and the Nest Thermostat would aid in preventing a more dangerous situation. There are far too many carbon monoxide related deaths.  If the Nest Protect could help to prevent those, it could really make a difference.

For those who haven’t heard of the company, Nest was created by some former Apple iPod folks and then purchased by Google. The company appears to be building an entire suite of products for the “wired home” that currently include the Nest Learning Thermostat, the Nest Protect Smoke Plus Carbon Monoxide, Battery S2001BW and the Dropcam Pro Wi-Fi Wireless Video Monitoring Camera. Expect more to come from this Google subsidiary.

We have been using the Nest thermostat for the past couple of months now. It has the “cool” factor and is supposedly able to pay for itself over time, but my favorite feature has got to be the ability to alter the setting without having to go upstairs or downstairs to do so. If you have a smartphone or a tablet near, you can simply make your changes from where you are.

Nest Protect Wiring Instructions

Nest protect wiring


How To's Interior Projects

DIY Concrete Countertop Guide – The Easy Way

The following is a guide to create your own concrete countertop.  The nice part about this tutorial is that you don’t need to order expensive product and build your own form.  This is an additive process that is often referred to as “faux crete” since it is a cement top layer and not a counter that is complete concrete.  The process allows you to essentially build your counter with a wood frame along with some plywood and cement board. Once that portion is built, you can layer on a cement based product called “Feather Finish” from Ardex.  When I needed a bag of this product for a project that I had, my local flooring installation supply store had it in stock and it was reasonably priced at around $12/bag.  I used this product to skim coat / encapsulate a floor adhesive in the past. It is a fantastic product to use.


This tutorial comes from Sarah’s Big Idea and is described well with plenty of photos along the way. Each step of the project is very logical and the final steps give you the opportunity to bring in some customization with finishes and texture.  The terrific part is that you could experiment, decide you don’t like it, and then simply add another layer to cover the prior.  When building a “true” concrete countertop, the material is expensive and your form work results in a lot of wasted material.  Let’s not even talk about what you would be  faced with should you make a mistake when measuring/reversing your form (trust me, I mean my brother, it happens!).


If you are looking to build some custom concrete countertops on your own, take a look at this how to.  Good luck.


How To's Tools and Reviews

Make a New Top with an Accurate Fence for a Cheap Table Saw

If you are like me, you might have an inexpensive (“cheap”) table saw that you use as a job site or backyard saw.  If you don’t, you can pick one up for about $100 from most big box hardware stores.  If you do have one, you will also know that these are not very well made.  The deck of the saw is just fine and the motor will get the job done, but the fence system is another story.  In addition to that, the size of the deck will limit the ability to cut pieces of any significant size.

Well, this clever handyman (Wooden Tool Man) came up with a simple design for a new table top along with a very simple, yet functional fence system that can’t help but stay square to your saw blade.  As most of you know, a fence that is out of square does not lend itself to a nice looking finished project.  I know that a few of you have probably developed techniques with the poor quality of the fence.  How many reading this cut things a little proud since they know they will have some rather large swirl marks to remove?  Hands down.

The following video runs through the building technique for the tabletop and fence.  This is one that I will have to build myself.  Thanks “Wooden Tool Man“.