Archive for the ‘DIY’ Category

Comparing Deck Cleaners for Ipe and other Hardwood Decks

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

What kind of Deck Cleaner should I use on Ipe or other exotic hardwood decks and just how hard is cleaning a deck? This year, I decided to compare a locally available deck cleaner to a brand recommended on the Internet for my Ipe deck front porch. This Ipe deck is 8 years old. The Ipe porch is cleaned once a year with a local deck cleaner from Lowe’s, usually Olympic or Cabots. Restore-A-Deck 2 Step Deck Cleaner was recommended on an Internet site so I compared this to Olympic Premium Deck Cleaner. Based on my efforts last Saturday, I recommend Restore-A-Deck 2 Step Deck Cleaner. This porch is 12’ wide by 36’ long. The Ipe porch is on the east side of the home, receives heavy morning sun and is exposed to rain and dirt from five kids and one large, Wire-haired Griffon dog. I bought two Restore-A-Deck packages for $88.99 off the internet and one gallon of Olympic for $16.87 at Lowe’s. Due to column spacing, I used almost the entire gallon of Olympic on 1/3 of the porch. Just one fourth of the Restore-A-Deck purchase was needed to clean 2/3 of the Ipe porch. I estimate that $22.25 of the Restore-A-Deck at $22.25 is about the same as two gallons of the Olympic for $33.74. I started with the Olympic Premium Deck cleaner and followed its instructions. Olympic instructs to wet the Ipe porch first with a water hose. I then applied the Olympic with an inexpensive garden sprayer. Olympic appeared to be a strong bleach mixture and one can immediately see cleaning results. To get most dirt up, however, a push broom/brush with medium coarseness is needed. A second application of Olympic got the porch completely clean. Several rinses of the porch with the hose and a lighter push brush removed all cleaner. Restore-A-Deck is a two step process. I mixed the solid cleaner with warm water in the same garden sprayer. Apparently, the solid did not completely dissolve as the mixture tended to clog the sprayer, but it worked well enough with additional air pressure. Restore-A-Deck cleaned deeper into the wood grain and picked up more dirt and grime. The push brush was needed to scrub in certain areas. As the Restore-A-Deck cleaned, the dirt residue and cleaner created a slippery deck surface so I had to be careful. Rinsing the cleaner off with a water hose took several tries with the push broom. I then mixed the brightener second step in the same garden sprayer and applied the brightener to the porch. The entire process took about 2 1/2 hours with some assistance during the washing phase. Restore-A-Deck is the better cleaner. While the 2-step process took longer and was slippery, the end result is a perfectly clean, almost like-new, appearance. All bleach-based cleaners tend to leave a white sheen on the Ipe. Here are some before and after pictures of the cleaning.

restore a deck

2 part cleaner used

brush clean

Push broom used as scrub brush

foaming action

Restore-a-Deck 2 part cleaner has a foaming action

strips stains

Restore-a-Deck cleaner appeared to strip all old stains and oils off

half cleaned

Top portion of porch has been cleaned, bottom has not. Both are wet in photo.

deck cleaning side by side (1280x426)

Before Cleaning (LEFT) After Cleaning (Right)

Deck cleaning before and after (1280x426)

Before Cleaning (Left) After Cleaning (Right)

After letting the porch dry thoroughly for 48 hours, I applied a coat of Penofin Penetrating Oil Finish to the Ipe porch. ~ Guest Blogger

…Follow along with OHC to see results of Penofin Treatment on this Ipe porch…

Scrap Wood Bottle Opener

Friday, July 26th, 2013

Perhaps the most useful tool ever constructed out of scrap wood and a nail. Its a very simple concept, works well and can be built by anyone. I am quite certain this is going to be a trending concept and it brings an answer to so many who have been stuck, angry and thirsty, with out a bottle opener. The images below depict the entire concept.

scrap wood bottle opener

Need I say more?

Must Have Deck Accessories

Friday, April 5th, 2013

That new outdoor deck needs something. It’s already been stained or sealed. The rails are perfect. Steps leading up from the yard are sturdy, strong. Yet, as you peer-out the back sliding glass doors, something seems to be missing.

As anyone in the fashion industry would tell you, the deck lacks that sense of completeness. Because of a simple flat surface, their advice would be that it’s time to accessorize. A way to make the home addition seem more than just a place to stand and survey the territory.

Some Suggestions

Since your deck is an extension of your home, you want to make it, well, homey. We’ve got a few suggestions that will spruce things up without costing you an arm-and-a-leg

  • Places to sit, relax and enjoy a meal.
    Think about outdoor furniture. Not just any old semi-weather resistant stuff. Be wise and do it right. Take a look at these suggestions:

    • Ipe (EE-pay) outdoor dining sets
    • Ipe relaxing chairs, like an outdoor chaise
    • Ipe benches for when you throw a party
    • Ipe coffee and side tables
    • Ipe chairs

All of these functional pieces of furniture, because they’re made from nearly the hardest lumber on Earth will withstand anything that falls from the skies or from an accidentally dropped glass of your favorite beverage.

  • Deck lights and LED’s for the steps.
    Whether it’s a tasteful string of colored, low-watt, efficient outdoor lights or an all weather lamp, you’ve made your outdoor paradise into a peaceful evening place. Likewise, by putting some illumination on the steps, you’ve just made a major safety improvement to your deck’s backyard entrance. For those who don’t want to go electric, think about candles that keep insects away. Or maybe a UL-approved outdoor lantern than you carry inside when it’s time to leave the Eden you’ve created on your deck.
  • A sturdy wrought iron or cedar trellis.
    These accents were made for vines and crawling plants. It’s also functional. If there’s something in your line-of-sight that’s quite an eyesore — problem solved. Think of it as a green screen shutting out rather unsightly stuff. Another advantage is that if you use the right types of plants, you’ll attract hummingbirds. While cedar is generally rot-resistant, rust-proofed iron will last without any fear of mold or mildew invading the scene.

  • A self-standing hammock.
    Who needs two carefully positioned trees to enjoy a nap on a blue sky day in a hammock? You can choose your own fabric to coordinate the mood you’ve already set with that fine ipe furniture.
  • Water features and wind chimes.
    When you want to relax and not listen to the game on the radio, wind chimes are perfect to add ambiance as you lay back and read a juicy novel. Same goes for water features. The sounds from both of these accessories are soothing. With water features, you’ll also attract butterflies and the like. Isn’t that why you built the deck to begin with — to get a little nature into your life?

Original Source:

Installing Flooring – Jatoba Hardwood

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Anytime you decide to do something on your own plan to spend some time getting acquainted with the project. Rent a movie you’d think it would like. Cook it a favorite dish. Maybe take it on a Sunday drive.

With Jatoba flooring this might be difficult. But the least you can do is let it sit around your house for about a week. Let it get used to the place where it will be spending the remainder of its life. It’s not only courteous, it’s also necessary to let Brazilian cherry jatoba wood acclimate to the indoor environment.

Not Hard But Not a Snap

This is one of those projects that you can’t work around all the items sitting on the floor. You could, but you’re just being stubborn. That’s why you want to take all the furniture, the floor trim and the baseboards out to another area of the house.

You may find that there are nail heads that are projecting out of the surface of the floor. You’re going to want to countersink them. Once done, take the rosin paper and back up to one end to the wall. You’ll want to go in the direction at a 90-degree angle to the floor joists. Staple it as you go along. Let the paper overlap 3-or-4 inches. And make sure you pencil-in where the floor joists are as you go along.

Here’s where you need to be totally exact: To ensure that the first row of jatoba is straight, you’re going to need to use a chalk line. Measure twice to be completely sure that it’s as perfect as you can get it. Begin by laying the first row, keeping the edge ½-inch from the wall. Note: the wood should be bottom-side up. Keep going row-after-row. Be forewarned, this is merely a practice run.

Making it Stick

Go back to the first plank and begin slathering on the glue. Do this to that one anchor board. Give it a chance to dry. Turning every board over, schlep them into place. Remember, lay them in such a way that you stagger the edges.

Take out your drill and grind holes where the baseboards and trim will conceal the head of the nail. Use 1½-inch finishing nails. At the tongue of the main floorboard, drill holes at a 45-degree angle, hammer ‘em in place and countersink the heads.

Puzzle all the planks together. When you get to the last row, you’ll want to likewise keep the edge ½-inch from the wall. Unless you’re really lucky, you’ll end up measuring and cutting the wood before you put the final piece in place. If you don’t have to do this, stop the project immediately, rush out to the gas station and buy a lottery ticket before you continue.

Let’s assume that the jatoba is prefinished. That being the case, you’re done.

Unfinished? Scrutinize the floor, taking inventory of any nail heads that need to be countersunk. Get a broom and sweep-up anything that’s cluttering the surface.

You’re going to need to rent a drum sander with 120-grit sandpaper. Be careful not to stop once the machine gets rolling or you’ll end up with your own private Crater Lake. Wear a respirator and goggles. If there are any places the device misses, use some elbow grease and DIY. Suck the dust into the vacuum. Change the grit to 180. Repeat. Finally, crank the sandpaper to 220-grit.

Once again, get rid of all the sawdust, first with a vac, then with a tact cloth. It will need to sparkle before you apply whatever finish you’ve chosen.

Once completely dried, move all the stuff back into the room. Check the lottery ticket. You may already be a winner.

Settee Creation With Wood

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

Great-gramma and her beau used to do some serious clutching on her parents settee. That is when the old Puritans were in the kitchen churning butter. The small sofa is not all that conducive to spooning, but if you do things right …

The whole idea of what the Canadian’s call a Davenport originated in the early 1300’s, when some French-guy came up with a piece of furniture he called a “couche.” At that time, you could spoon on one of these things. As a matter of fact, in Frog-speak “coucher” actually means “to lie down.” The one big difference between a couch and the economy-sized model is best posed as a question:

Have you ever heard of a settee potato?


You can get all stylish; adding cushions, padded armrests and rocket engines, but we’re going to stay truly mission-style with the one below. The bulk of a settee consists of three pieces: Where you set your butt, rest your back and the legs to lift it from the floor. It’s somewhat like a park bench if the coach hid the steroids.

Arms are optional, as is the length of the unit. This one will accommodate two square pillows, but if you want a third cushion, measure and cut for the extra length. While oak will work, if you want to make one that will take on extra girth, go with an ipe wood or jatoba.


The cut of the pieces of the wood, again, is for a pair of peeps. Go get:

  • 4 posts that are 2¼-inches square by 34½-inches
  • 3 rails that are 1-by-4-inches that are 52¼-inches long
  • 13 slats, ½-inch-by-21¼-inches-by 5-inches
  • A pair of cleats 51-inches long by 1-inch square
  • 4 1-by-4’s that are 24¼-inches long

Get It Together

Set-out the slats and the rails, mortising all of them 5/8th of an inch deep. As you see above, you’ve got the precise dimensions for this part. While you’re slicing-out the mortises, get them as square as you can.

Also, be aware, we’ve added an extra ½-inch to the posts so the corners can be sloped on the top ends.

Purchase some super-durable stainless steel nails to hammer into the posts where they criss-cross the rail tenons. Use standard wood glue to schlep the joints together. Clamp, let dry and finish it off with paint or stain. However, you can refrain from this if you use ipé. It ages much better than your great-gramma without an inch of rouge on her cheeks.

Let’s Build a Mission Style Library Table

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

It almost seems as if Frank Lloyd Wright invented the mission style library table. His simplicity of structure in his furniture makes it an ideal piece for any interior. But guess again. This type of inside furnishing actually came about before America turned into a country. Invented between 1735–45, it was most likely put together using white oak.

So, what ya say we try our hands at making one of these undemanding, functional pieces of pre-Constitution furniture?

Stuff You’ll Need

You want to buy lumber that’s un-warped. Obviously. Take down this inventory of things you’ll need to order (then cut once you have whatever material you decide to use at home). While hardwoods can be rough on the tools, rest assured, the final product will last well-over 300-years by picking something high on the Janka Hardness Scale. The super wood known as ipe is about as tough as you can get. Be informed though, the table will be heavy if you employ ipe.

Table Saw Time

  • The top will need to be 1-1/8th-inches thick. Cut it down to a rectangle measuring 34-inches wide by 46-inches long.
  • The shelf will need to be 7/8th-of-an-inch thick. Cut it 42-inches by 22-inches.
  • The side rails require a plank that’s 7/8th-of-an-inch thick. All four of the pieces need to be cut 6-inches wide. Here’s the twist: Two should be 37-inches long, the other two need to be just 25-inches.
  • The 2 stretchers, where the tenons of the shelf will be inserted, should be 1-1/8th inches thick, 3-and-¾ inches wide and 25 inches long.
  • The slats; you’re going to need to slice-up 10 of these. Their dimensions should be 5/8th-of-an-inch thick. You’ll chop them to be 17-inches long and 1½-inches wide.
  • The four keys need to be a ¾ of an inch thick, 2-and-7/8th-inches long and 1¼ inches wide.

What it Will All Look Like

A lot of us are visual by nature. We want to see where everything goes. Well, there you have it. We’ll start first with the side view:

See, all of the measurements are right there. Now, we move to the front view which could likewise be the back view:

Details, Details

Glue the mission style table’s ends together right off-the-bat. Let the goo harden before inserting the tenons of the shelf. Place the side rails where they belong. Make sure you cut the mortise leaning toward perfection.

For the keyed tenons, the length of mortise should have be about 1/8th of an inch more on the top. You’re doing this so the tenons can’t shift sideways. When it ages it shrinks and that shrinkage will rupture the shelf. You can always fill the gap with some flexible wood filler which will adjust for slippage.

Fasten the top in one of two ways: Hardware or wooden dowels. Your choice.

Staining it is also up to you. A water stain works well. Let it dry, give ‘er a soft sand-job and do it again if you haven’t gotten the right shade to your liking.

Lastly, it needs a good shellacking. Let it dry to the touch, do another light sanding number then take some thick, pasty car wax to polish it up. You probably will have to add the wax a few times.

Bingo! All done. Now if you could only show it to Frank Lloyd Wright. Actually, probably not him. He was known to be extremely cranky.

Happy Holidays!

Overview – Making a Wood Porch Swing

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Wood porch swings aren’t just for geezers. Romantic types will spend the early evening making googly-eyes at each other and even kids enjoy a good rock-and-forth on a wood porch swing.

You can buy one from you’re favorite Big Box hardware store, but unless you and anyone that joins you are over 150-pounds apiece, you’re probably purchasing an invitation to a trip on your bum when the seat has had enough of your weight.

Getting Underfoot

Our suggestion is to first see if the overhang on your porch can handle the weight. Test it up-to 1-thousand pounds. That way you can use some nice hardwood that may have put on a few pounds because of its grade.

And building it you want to create one that’s wide enough to comfortably seat 3-folks. Not a trio of string beans, people that have some meat on their bones.

You can buy some ready-made plans when you pick-up the wood, but you may need to make some modifications along the way.

Wood? What Kind?

The most imperishable wood is ipe wood. This stuff would survive an alien invasion. Other types could be jatoba or tigerwood. All three are stronger than Mighty Mouse.


Square straight up-and down, side-to-side wood porch swings might work well for the purple guys from another galaxy, but us humans enjoy a touch of rounding where our knees hang over the seat. How long you make the butt-part is easy. Ask a few buddies and the spouse to sit in a kitchen chair. Measure the distance from their knees to their back.

The back support is key. You want it to roll gently from your shoulders to your bottom.

The pair of armrests should be the absolute correct height and length. Take out the tape measure and head over to your favorite chair in the house. Measure the armrests, making sure you add 4-inches to the final numbers. This way you have extra room to attach it to the back and seat of the swing. Once again, remember not to assemble the armrests in such a way that where your wrist sharply hangs-over the edge. Round and smooth is in.

For the frame, you’re using stainless steel bolts. For the slats, stainless steel nails. And why would you spring for the best? Because stainless steel will not cause discoloration of the wood.

Before assembling anything, stain and seal first. It’s a pain to do this once it’s finished. Any nicks or scratches can get a simple touch-up after the thing is put together.

Hanging it in the Heavens

You need help here. Mighty Mouse is off fighting Oil Can Harry. Just grab two of your neighbors.

Mark the spots that can take the additional weight. On the bench itself, you need to install 4 swing supports. Buy some heavy-duty chain that can handle a thousand pounds or more of stress.

Attach the chain to the swing first. It should be fastened securely on the back and front of the swing. Put ‘em in places where they’re a little out of the way,

Use enough of the metal so that when it’s folded in half, it’s going to hold the project. Measure and cut so that the bottom part is around 3½ to 4½ feet from the ground. Climb the ladder and measure with surgeon-like precision where the supporting hooks will be punched into the super-strong rafters.

You stay on the top rung. Have your buddies’ lift the swing while you fasten it in place on both sides.

Lunge toward the fridge, grab three cold ones and one at a time take your position on you new wood porch swing – watching the clouds as they pass over.

Making a Piece of Furniture Look Old

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Ever get something from an Amish furniture store? You know the place. All of the handcrafted pieces are usually unfinished. Some are quite elaborate. A lot of them are simple, though. But, again what separates these homey furnishings from your basic showroom is they are not stained.

Once you get the table, chair, hutch or horse-drawn carriage back to your place, it’s obvious that it doesn’t fit in with all the stuff you’ve already collected. It needs a touch of vintage-isity.

Not only will this article apply to the Amish-made purchase. It could help you age-up a treasure you carted into your house from a Yard sale or Garage sale.

100 Years from Now – Today

The unfinished pieces from Amish-land will require some widespread sanding. Every nook-and-cranny has to feel the touch of tough love. Got a palm sander? Schlep some 120-grade paper in it. By doing this you’re opening the pores of the areas that are about to get a touch of antiquing. Finished with that part, dust it all with a tack rag.

On the other hand, with that sparkling new-old piece of hardwood furniture that you copped at the yard sale no wholesale sanding is required. No need to tear-off the surface on the Yard sale thang. You just want to make a few imperfections.

Let’s say what you have is already kinda old. It’s time for some dinging and denting the surfaces. Make it look natural and not as if you went crazy with a screwdriver or hammer. You can also do this on the unfinished wood. Just do it after you’ve first stained the piece.

Other suggestions to distress the surface:

  • A heavy vase twisted a few times on the wood.
  • A cast-iron pan slam.
  • The tip of a warm iron.
  • An old key.

Water rings are pretty easy. Just take that empty can of spinach you threw away last night and spritz some brown paint on the bottom. The lip should make a nice mark. Do a practice run on some scrap lumber to perfect your artistry. You can also let a cigarette make a burn mark on an edge.

Stains Make the Age Stick

All the abuse you’ve performed on that piece of furniture (that did nothing to deserve it) will pop once you apply some stain. If the unit has paint on it, still rub a coat of the substance on it. The shade is up to you. Amish-style – nude wood – as we mentioned earlier, stain the beast all over first. Wherever the future treasure came from let it fluid soak-in for a couple minutes before wiping-off the excess. Give it an overnight dry.

Next day, carefully dab some more stain on the imperfections. You might even opt for a small tin of a darker shade. Stay inside the lines, dents or whatever you’ve done to the surface. Have a rag on-hand to wipe up any goof-ups. You don’t want the imperfections to look as if it were lipstick applied to your mouth as you’re off-roading on your ATV.

Now that everything has had a few days to settle-in, give the furniture a tung-oil rubdown. It will protect the surface. It will not make it all shiny like a varnish would. After the wood has sponged-in the tung-oil, take some superfine steel wool, dipping it in some pasty car wax. After that part dries, buff it with a totally soft piece of natural fabric.

Decking and Exterior Painting: Compliments of Outdoor Furniture

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

One of the best ways to customize your patio decor is by taking the color and stain of your wooden deck furniture into your own hands. Instead of using wooden deck furniture as-is, you can upgrade basic wood furniture with a different stain or paint selection.

Match Wooden Deck Furniture to Your Exterior Paint

One popular option in repainting wooden deck furniture recommended by residential painters is the trend of matching deck furniture paint to a home’s exterior paint job. This is one smart way to tie a uniform color scheme together, providing balance between the color of your house and the color scheme used on your deck.

The DIY task of repainting wooden deck furniture is a simple project that you can finish in a weekend. The first step in the process is to lay down a plastic tarp outdoors to protect your deck as a top priority.

From there, it’s time to get the hard work out of the way and remove old paint from the furniture so that you have a clean, smooth surface to begin working with. After the furniture has been adequately prepped, the fun can begin by adding several coats of enamel paint in the color of your choice.

When painting outdoor furniture, latex paint is not recommended since it can be easily corrupted by moisture in an open-air environment. Enamel paint is preferred since it will dry with a hard finish to resist moisture for long-term durability in an outdoor setting.

As a final tip, if you’ve had your house professionally painted by a painting company, make sure to contact your painters before embarking on this DIY project. They should be able to provide you with a swatch of the paint color that was used on the exterior of your home so that you can better match the shade to your outdoor furniture.

Stain Wooden Patio Furniture for a Natural Finish

If painted wooden furniture isn’t what you’re looking for to complete your outdoor deck, a wood stain may be the next best thing. Staining wooden furniture can match the natural wood color to the materials used in your outdoor deck. A wood stain can also revive old, dull patio furniture that may have seen better days.

In order to properly stain outdoor furniture, the old stain needs to be sanded off first. This can be done with a medium grit sandpaper to remove varnish and finished with a finer grit sandpaper. After the old stain has been removed completely, you can start on the task of staining the furniture with the stain color of your choice.

With light wood furniture, it’s often an attractive option to stain darker to better match your deck materials and any wood siding on your home.

Ipe Outdoor Furniture and Decking for Outdoor Fun and Durability

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

It is summer time and there is no better place to spend a good portion of it than with your family in the back yard.  In order to do that, every year people all over the country look for the perfect outdoor furniture.  While it may have proven elusive in the past, the hunt is over.  If you are looking for beautiful, durable and weather proof, then look no further.  Outdoor furniture made from Ipe wood delivers all of this and more.

This tropical hardwood is widespread throughout South America and Central America.  It is found in a variety of places from ridge tops to riverbanks and is also easily grown in managed forests as well.  This commercially valuable tree is not an endangered species and most of the stock that arrives in the United States originates from forests, which bare the Forest Stewardship Council certification.  Stock receiving this certification helps encourage sustainable forestry practices and offers the best remedy to exploitive deforestation.

Dark brown in color, the heartwood of Ipe is often beautifully striped with alternating light and dark striping.  This natural dark color can be retained by applying a treatment of deck oil that contains UV protection.  If preferred however traditional weathering will gradually change the color of the wood to handsome gray patina.

The incredibly dense cell structure of this tree is what conveys some of its most valuable properties.  With a natural resistance to insect infestation, fungi, water damage and warping, this wood makes an ideal material with which to build outdoor projects.  Tests conducted during construction of the Panama by the United States Naval Research Laboratory the United States Forest Products Laboratory found that wood left in the ground for 15 years was still without any termite infestation.  Ipe was also tested by the United States Forest Products Laboratory which gave the wood its highest rating as well and found that the heartwood is very resistant to attack by decay fungi and mold, lasting as long as 40 years without any treatment and up to 100 years with just a single treatment of deck oil applied to the surface.

It is not only the durability of the wood that is so incredible; this wood also has amazing safety features.  When used for decking around pools and hot tubs, it is incredibly slip resistant when wet.  This hardwood exceeds the Americans with Disabilities act requirements for Static Coefficient of friction in a wet environment, providing an extra layer of protection in areas where falls can be dangerous.  In addition to slip resistance, decking made from the heartwood of this tree is also very resistant to splintering which is a plus for using in seating and flooring.

With so many items today considered disposable, it is a refreshing change to find a product that can be expected to last a lifetime with such little maintenance.  Ipe furniture is affordable as well and cost much less than other tropical hardwoods.  When compared to the amount of money it will take if less durable furniture is bought and replaced over the course of a lifetime, furniture made from this incredible hardwood is a deal.