What I’ve Been Up to

Posted by John on March 16th, 2015

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last blog post and although I haven’t been doing any home improvement work, I’ve been super busy with a different kind of project that I think you’ll appreciate.  Last spring, I started work on my first book!

Over the past few weeks I’ve been lucky enough to find some free time to really wrap that work up and I’m happy to report that I’m just about finished.  I’m expecting to make the book widely available for purchase before May.

Here’s a look at the new cover.

Here’s the details…

The book is a guide on remodeling kitchens and it’s aimed at the handy and the not so handy alike.  If you’ve been a regular reader for the past couple of years you know that I try to explain the detailed process of home improvement whenever possible.  I try to put myself in the shoes of someone who is just starting out.  I’ve tried to take that approach with this book and layout the kitchen renovation process from start to finish.   It reads more like a conversation with me about your kitchen project and that was my intention.

Before you get too excited, it’s not going to be available at Barnes and Nobles or any other store.  I’ve decided to self-publish it and make it available as en ebook.  I’m going to be setting up a separate website for it and I’ll let everyone know when it’s available.  I’m not going to publish it on Amazon either, although I may make it available in the Kindle format.

I plan on giving away several copies in advance to some email subscribers and then launch with an initial discount for a few days.  So if you’re interested in this book, make sure you sign up for the newsletter if you want the discount code when it’s released.

Later this spring I plan on putting together a second book as a companion to this one so stay tuned for that one as well.

It’s been really challenging writing a book with three young children, one of which is a newborn.  Finding time to write a 300 word blog post is one thing.  Finding time to work on a 30,000 word ebook is quite another.

Here’s what else is going on…

I’ve started a Facebook Group where you can post, comment, ask questions and share photos of your projects.  It’s exactly like our Forum Page, but it’s open to everyone.  You just need to click the Join button and as soon as I approve you, you’re good to go.  It’s a bit more user friendly than our Forums Page so I thought I’d give it a try.  If you have any home improvement projects you’re currently working on, I’d love to read about it over on the Group Pages!

Thanks and have a great week!

Posted in Blogging. Tagged in ,, ,

Video: How to Build a Medicine Cabinet

Posted by John on February 26th, 2015

In this post, you’ll learn:
– How to build a medicine cabinet

How to Build a Medicine Cabinet

Well I wanted to show you this medicine cabinet completely finished and painted, but I think it may be a little while longer before it gets warm enough to spray paint it.  Maybe I’ll just brush paint it with a few coats instead.  We’ll see.  In any case, I was able to capture the build process for an instructional video.

Here are the tools and resources I used to build this cabinet.

1.  The mirror and glass shelf were from One Day Glass.
2.  The door hinges.
3.  The door latch.
4.  The router bit is a pattern plunge bit.
5.  The shelf pins.

Any questions?

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects. Tagged in ,,

5 Tips for Dealing with Project Burn Out

Posted by John on February 15th, 2015

Happy Sunday everybody!  We finally got started with our new medicine cabinet project and I’m hoping to show you the video next week.  The build is going very fast.  I’ve only put in around 2 hours of work and I’m nearly finished.  Ideally, I’ll be painting it later this week.  That’s going to be a challenge in this bitterly cold weather, but I’ll figure it out.

finish a project

In today’s post, I wanted to talk about project burn-out.  Project burn-out comes in all forms.  It’s not just mental or physical exhaustion.  Often times for me, it’s just a general lack of motivation.   During the week it’s especially hard to overcome.  After work, I get home and eat dinner with the wife and kids, have some family time and then after the kids are in bed, I maybe have an hour or two for projects or writing.  So that means I can either do some DIY work or skip it and do something else, but I can’t do a ton of stuff.  That small window of time makes it really, really easy for me to blow off a home improvement project.

When I’m in the middle of a huge project, like when we were remodeling our home office, taking a couple nights a week off can drag that project on for a longer time than I’d like.  In fact, sometimes with the larger projects it can feel like you’re never going to finish them.

I know what that’s like.  It’s no fun.  Home improvement projects are hard enough technically.  Add to that the stress of working on your house for several weeks and months and it can get to you.

Here are 5 tips for dealing with project fatigue that will help get you through those DIY doldrums.  These tips are strategies I use when I’m knee deep in  drywall dust and still have weeks and weeks more work ahead of me.

1.  Take a Break.  Intentionally take some time off.  In fact, plan those breaks ahead of time.  Taking some time off away from the project space is probably the best way to recharge your mental batteries.  If you’re physically tired or just tired of working, taking a night or two off from a project is supremely helpful.  After a long day at work, sometimes you just need to skip the project and relax.  Catch a movie or go to bed extra early are a couple options.  This  is especially true if you are stuck.  Go clear your head for a while.

2. Get Ready for the Next Work Day Ahead of Time.  Often times when I’m starting day two or three of a multi-day job, I’ll waste maybe 30 minutes or more just setting up my tools and materials.  So instead of doing your setup for day two during day two, setup for day two at the very end of day one.  After a couple hours of work on day one, you’ll probably be in a groove and setting up for the next day will be easier than doing it later.  You can even leave a note for yourself reminding you of where you stopped last time.  This technique can be effective since it makes it easier for you to start the project again and get busy working right away.  Some examples of prep work you can do the day before include setting up the table saw with the right blade, adjusting the fence setting and blade height or putting the router bit in the router.

3.  Smaller Tasks and Smaller Time.  If you really need to work on your projects, but don’t want to take on any big power tool work, you can always concentrate on some smaller maintenance tasks.  These smaller tasks include cleaning up your work space, putting away tools you’re finished using and doing some of those minor chores that slow you down.  If you have two hours to work before bed time you can always just do these smaller tasks for just an hour and take the other hour off.  It will feel like you kept working and moving the project along even if you didn’t do a whole hell of a lot.

4.  Motivate Yourself.  What pumps you up?  Heavy metal music?  A coffee?  Whatever it is, try to incorporate it into your work schedule to keep yourself moving.  For me, I love putting on some AC/DC to keep my blood pumping and I try to have a little bit of caffeine with dinner if I want to avoid fatigue.  Just don’t go crazy.  If you’re going to be using power tools, you still want to be calm and careful.

5.  Ask for Help.  A great way to break up the monotony of a big project is to enlist the help of a friend or family member for a night.  Obviously having another set of hands will help move the project along, but it will also get you talking about the project.  Talking about the project can be motivational.  I know it is for me.

I hope this tips help you get through your next long project!  If you found this post helpful, please share it.

What techniques do you use to use to stay motivated and avoid project burn out?

Posted in Lessons Learned. Tagged in ,, ,

Child Safety and Your Home

Posted by John on February 5th, 2015

In this post you’ll learn:

- How to keep your furniture from tipping 
– About other child safety devices for your home

As a Philadelphia Eagles fan (womp womp), I’m usually not rooting for a team actually playing in the Super Bowl.  I’m more a fan of the spectacle and of course the commercials.  This year was sort of a downer in terms of the tone of the commercials, especially the Nationwide Insurance spot with the dead kid.  Yikes.  Where’s Paul Harvey when you need him?

Years ago, before I had kids, those sorts of messages never resonated with me.  I never thought they were depressing.  At. All.  Wouldn’t of bothered me one bit.  After I had my first daughter (I now have three), something inside me flipped like a switch and now that stuff will stick with me for days on end.  My wife and I are pretty careful parents, so we take extra measures to make sure our kids are safe in our house.  However, no matter how safe I think our home is, seeing images of overturned clothes dressers or flat screen televisions on the floor is pretty disturbing.

The next day or so, I added some more safety devices around our place and I want to show you what we did in hopes of gently reminding you to add your own gear if you have little kids in your house.

The first is the flat screen TV in our family room.  It’s not mounted to the wall and even though it’s got a pretty wide base making it hard to tip over, we figured better safe than sorry.  We installed these two anti-tipping straps to the back.  The get secured to the top of the TV stand.  Here’s an Amazon link to the straps if you need them.  (affiliate)

anti tipping straps

If you look closely, you’ll also notice a bracket on the wall.  There’s a matching bracket on the stand and between them is a plastic zip tie that keeps the base from tipping over as well.  If I ever need to move the stand away from the wall, I just need to take a pair of scissors and cut the zip tie.  No big deal.  We also used the same bracket setup for all of our girls’ dressers.

Here’s a picture of one installed on the back of a Hemnes:

metal bracket on hemnes

You need to make sure it gets screwed into the thick part of dresser structure and not just the thin back plane.  From the front you can see the thicker wooden strip.

hemnes dresser inside

Other than those pieces, we have the standard compliment of baby/toddler proofing devices throughout the home.  You can read about that stuff in an earlier post here.

Here’s the basic rundown of the rest of our kid-proofing gear:

1.  Cabinet Locks (multiple kinds)
2.  Door Knob Covers (great for bathrooms, bedrooms and pantry doors)
3.  Gate at the top of the stairs.  Gates near the bottom

Our setup has evolved somewhat as they’ve gotten older and it’s still a challenge.  It’s just something we need to stay on top of.

If you have any small children in your home, I hope you’re using the necessary safety hardware.

That’s all I have for this week.  This weekend I’m going to get started on the medicine cabinet!  Thanks!

Posted in DIY Projects. Tagged in ,, ,


Posted by John on February 1st, 2015

Posted in Banner Images,home. Tagged in

Let’s Build a Medicine Cabinet Part 1

Posted by John on January 28th, 2015

In this post you’ll learn:

- The first steps to build a medicine cabinet

For a few years now I’ve been itching to build a medicine cabinet.  I’m not really sure why.  I guess I never liked the idea of paying a couple hundred bucks for a small painted box.  They’re pretty simple after all.  I had thought about building one for my first house, but I never got around to it.  So when I noticed my sister and her husband were making some upgrades around their house I offered to build them one, especially since they had already ripped their old one out.  They have a 1950’s bathroom with most of the original features and it’s in pretty good condition.  When I was over for the holidays they were using the space where the old medicine cabinet had been.

medicine cabinet hole

For this project, I pitched a few different designs to them.  They settled on a variation of a Restoration Hardware cabinet, more specifically, the Cartwright model.  We’re going to keep the overall scale and hardware, but skip the crown molding.  It’ll be a little more plain, but should blend in better with the existing decor.

cartwright medicine cabinet

(via Restoration Hardware)

This is how this project is going to work.  In this post we’re going to discuss the design, dimensioning, material and some of the other critical elements.  Then in our next medicine cabinet post, we’ll show a video on how to actually build the cabinet.  I would like to keep this series down to two or three posts at most.  If you’d like to read a more in-depth cabinet building series, you can check out our work on the TV stand we did a while ago.

Allright?  Ready to get started?  Let’s build a medicine cabinet!

Let’s start with the existing space.  There’s obviously a hole in the wall.  The medicine cabinet we’re going to build will recess into that hole.  A recessed cabinet will be a big space saver and they won’t need to patch the walls.  All I need to get started dimensioning the cabinet now are the dimensions of the hole in the wall.  I marked up the photo of the room and emailed it to my sister for her to take some measurements.

Here’s what I emailed her:


I asked her to provide me a dimension for each one of those letters.  For the opening width and height, which are letters A and B, I asked her to take measurements at three locations: the left, right and middle (or top, middle and bottom).  I want the smallest of those three dimensions.  If I asked her for just the width and it turns out that the hole is slightly wider at the top than the bottom, then I could end up building the cabinet too large.  I want to make sure it will fit so we’ll build to the smallest width and the smallest height.

Since the wall is plaster and has some left over markings from the previous cabinet, I’d like the new cabinet to hide those markings.  So by asking for dimensions E and F, I can figure out how big the frame needs to be to cover that stuff.  The measurement at point D is the distance to the top of the wall tile.  I want to make sure the cabinet doesn’t touch it.

My sister took all those measurements and emailed them back to me.

At this point, I can start figuring out what the design will look like, how it will be built and how big each piece should be.  If you’re comfortable drawing this out on paper, you could use that approach.  Personally, I’m a big fan of SketchUp, so I prefer to draw my cabinets in that program.  While it’s fairly easy to use, it also has the added advantage of allowing me to show you nice rendered images of the design.

I started the drawing by sketching out a plain wall with a hole in it.  Then I gave the wall some thickness.  With that part out of the way, I drew a basic four sided box, which will be the insides of the medicine cabinet.


You can see I left some space around all four sides of the box; about a 1/4″.  The depth of the box is also 1/4″ shorter than the depth of the hole.  Too small is probably OK.  Too big is going to be a problem.  You can see from the illustration that the box bottom and top will be assembled together using grooves in the box sides.  I didn’t draw a back piece, but you can just figure out its dimensions from these four pieces.  SketchUp has a tape measure tool, so after I had all four pieces drawn I could measure the dimensions of each one and write them down.

After the box parts were drawn and dimensioned, I turned my attention to the face frame.  The face frame will be attached to the box and will cover the open area around the box and also part of the wall.  Here’s what that frame looks like attached to the box.


The frame consists of a top and bottom rail board and two stile (aka side) boards.  The face frame will be assembled using pocket screws and it’ll be probably be attached to the box using pocket screws as well.  Pretty straight forward construction.

Now onto the door.  The door will be inset into the frame of the door, just like in the Restoration Hardware design.  Inset screams custom and it’s pretty much the only doors I like to build!!  They’re also pretty easy to make.  I’m going to draw the doors with a 1/8″ gap all the way around, just for the sake of the image, but in reality, I’ll make them the same size as the opening and then gently trim them down to their final size.

For the sake of clarity, I’ve dressed up the SketchUp drawing with a tile lip and some pink walls to match the photo.  I didn’t draw any hardware or a beveled mirror, although I’m sure you could do that if you wanted to.


With the door drawn, I’ll write down the dimensions.  I’ll need to order a mirror and glass shelves as well, but I’ll get more into that in the next video post.  It’s also important to think about what sort of hinges or latch hardware will be required and to order it all in advance.  The box material will be birch plywood and the frame and door will be made from poplar.  While there are a lot of material options to choose from, I happen to have a lot of poplar and birch plywood laying around my shop.  Should be able to build most of it with scrap wood!

That’s it for this post. Hopefully you have a solid understanding of how I sized the cabinet and where we’re going from here.

Thanks and stay tuned.

Feel free to ask any questions in the comments and please share this post if you enjoyed it.

Posted in Carpentry,Design,DIY Projects. Tagged in ,, , , ,

How to Fix a Door That Won’t Shut

Posted by John on January 25th, 2015

Since we just wrapped up the biggest home improvement project we’ve had in years, we decided to keep the next few jobs more low key.  There’s a laundry list of little things I need to fix around the house.  The most annoying one by far involves a couple of our interior doors.

**But if you like our furniture builds, you’ll be happy to hear we’re starting another smaller build later this week.**

But let’s get back to the doors.  We have two interior doors that have a problem.  They don’t stay shut.  One of them is our first floor powder room door.  So when we have company, somebody invariably gets a door opened on them by accident.  No fun.

To get the door to close you have to lift the door by the handle to get the lock to engage the strike plate.  It’s gotten pretty annoying.

Now if you’ve been a reader for a while, you may remember we fixed this problem before on one of our closet doors.  I’ll reuse one of the images from that post to explain how this works.  We’re going to fix it differently this time around though.

door sag

Basically, the weight of the door over time can cause a gap at the top hinge to open up and will also close the gap at the bottom most hinge.  When this shift happens, the lock no longer lines up with the strike plate.  So to fix it, you need to lift the door back up.

So how do we fix it?

Well, the first time we wrote about this we used a piece of cardboard and stuffed it behind the hinge.  That worked for a little while, but over time the door sag returned.

Here’s how we fixed it this time and for good.

How to Fix a Door that Won’t Shut

We’ll start by taking a quick look at our bathroom door jamb.  You can see the gap between the door and the jamb is pretty tight at the bottom.  It’s pretty much touching at the bottom of the door.

door jamb bottom

The gap at the top is pretty wide open.

jamb top

Alright.  So, the goal is to open up the gap at the bottom and close the gap at the top.  We can do that by taking off the bottom hinge from the door jamb and shimming it out.

Here’s the bottom hinge.

door hinge before

We’ll remove the three screws on the jamb side.

hinge removed

Then I’m going to take some stainless steel washers and set one over each of the screw holes.  If they won’t stay put for you, you’ll have to rest them on the screws.

washers behind hinge

Now I’m going to use some 1″ long stainless steel screws that I bought separately and I’ll reattach the hinge to the jamb.  I’m not reusing the original screws since now they’re probably not long enough anymore.

longer hinge screws

With the hinge back in place, I’m all done.  The door closes and latches normally.  Success!

door jamb fixed


You can even see the bottom gap has opened up, which is why the door lock has lifted.  We actually had to use two washers behind each hinge screw for our upstairs closet door.

I hope this post will help you fix any sagging door issues in your home!  If you think this post is helpful, please share it!


Posted in Repairs. Tagged in ,,

Shoe Organizer Projects on Hometalk

Posted by John on January 23rd, 2015

Happy Friday!

In today’s post I wanted to share with you a collection of shoe organizer projects I’ve curated on Hometalk.com.  Each of these projects are available for viewing on my Shoe Organizer Clipboard on Hometalk.

If you don’t already have a free user account at Hometalk, I’d recommend you sign up for one.  You’ll be able to post your own projects or questions and comments to other user’s work.  It’s a great resource for DIYers.

Here’s the shoe organizer project collection:

shoe organizer projects


Have a great weekend and we’ll be back next weekend with more shop work!!


Posted in Closets,Garage and Tools. Tagged in ,, , ,

A Post About Me

Posted by John on January 21st, 2015

If anyone asked me what the biggest perk of running a blog is I’d have to tell them that interacting with readers and other blog writers is tremendously satisfying.  You end up networking with those folks and it’s a lot of fun.  Just recently one of my blog-friends, John from AZ DIY Guy, included me on a chain post where you are given a bunch of questions and you are asked to write a post explaining your answers.  The questions are all personal, which is a fun change of pace.

I’d really like to hear YOUR responses to some of these questions so pick one or two of them and answer them yourself.

So thank you to John and here are my answers.

A Post about me

A Post About Me

Why do you blog?

I started blogging back in 2011 because I believed that I had a voice and a perspective different than what I was reading online.  Back when I was working on my first house and years before I started blogging, there were a lot of projects that I had started and finished and I’d regularly consult Google or YouTube for help with questions that I had.  I noticed that there were large knowledge gaps or instructional gaps in the home improvement niche that I had to learn on my own.  For example, I had no idea where I was supposed to find a window sill for the bay window in my first house.  Was that something you just goto the store and buy?  I spent some time online and couldn’t find anything.  I went to Home Depot one day and was chatting with the cashier who was an older retired fellow and he thought I was crazy that I was trying to buy a window sill.  He said “Just buy a piece of wood and route an edge on it and that’s your window sill” (tutorial here!) OHHH.  Duh.  Today, that’s supremely obvious to me, but when I was first starting out, I had all these questions of that sort.  So, I started blogging and I envisioned my audience as being people like me, but ten years ago.  People who want to do the work themselves, but they really want to see the whole process laid out for them.  So I’m here to write about the whole process of all my projects.

What advice to you have for new bloggers?

You either have to write about something you really, really enjoy or you have to have a passion for writing in general.  I’d also recommend new bloggers take the time and learn HTML and CSS.  If you can control the code on your site even in small ways, it helps tremendously.  Start an email newsletter.  Always think about what value your writing gives your readers.  Respect your readers and they’ll respect you back.

What is your favorite social media to support your blog and why?

I like Facebook for chatting and discussions.  I like Instagram for sharing sneak peeks of projects.  I like Twitter for sharing posts and tutorials.  I probably spend most of blog related social media time on Twitter although I read more than I post.  I always respond to tweets though.

outfeed table

What are your favorite tools?

My favorite tool is the table saw.  I wasn’t a huge fan of it until I upgraded the table around it.  Now it’s much easier to cut larger sheet goods and the Biesemeyer fence is just great.  I recommend anyone using a contractor grade saw upgrade their setup to include a large out feed table and an expanded side table.

What is the oldest tool you still use?

The oldest tools I own are my grandfather’s radial arm saw and drill press from the 1950s.  I’m in the middle of cleaning up and reorganizing my basement workshop so I’m hoping to get those two tools running again.  At the moment they’re still disassembled.

What was your biggest DIY success?

This BIGGEST DIY success to date for me has to be the kitchen cabinets in my first house.  I was able to build a custom looking set of cabinets with inset doors (similar to most of my current projects).  The project probably only cost around $2000 for what a carpenter or cabinet shop would’ve probably charged closer to $15,000.  I’m convinced that those cabinets really helped sell that house quickly.

What was your biggest DIY failure?

Right now my biggest failure is my concrete planters.  I tried making these a couple of times, but I had trouble with the molds.  We actually have the first planter sitting in the front of the house.  It has our last name’s initial in it and it looks pretty cool, but it didn’t come out as nicely as I would’ve liked.

What are my favorite books?

I don’t read too many books nowadays unless I have a long work trip.  Life is just too busy with the kids, work and the blog stuff.  I recently read the $100 Startup by Chris Guillbeau, which I’d recommend to anyone interested in earning money online or rethinking their career.

Although I tend to prefer non-fiction books, I’d like to read more Hemingway when I get the opportunity.  I enjoy his writing style.

Light Sabers, Hobbits, Defense Against the Dark Arts or the fortune and glory of beating the Nazis to supernatural antiquities?

I’m not a big Star Wars fan so light sabers don’t interest me.  Star Trek is WAY better, in my opinion.  Lord of the Rings was a great trilogy and it’s actually my wife’s favorite movie series, but I’m not a giant Tolkien fan.  That leaves Harry Potter or beating Nazi’s.  I choose beating Nazi’s.

What are your three favorite movie quotes?

This is a tough one.

1.  “We don’t need no stinking badgers” – UHF

2.  “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” – Jaws

3.  “You’re killing me Smalls.” – The Sandlot



Posted in Blogging. Tagged in ,

Video: What’s a Jointer ?

Posted by John on January 11th, 2015

In this post, you’ll learn:

- About jointers
– How to use a jointer for tighter seams in your projects


If you’re just getting started with some basic woodworking projects, you may have heard about or seen a jointer. While it’s not terribly common for DIYers to own one, it’s a pretty useful tool to have in your shop.  You can pick one up used fairly inexpensively or opt for a bench top model.  You can see the models I recommend on our Tools Page.

Here’s a quick video I put together that demonstrates how a jointer works.

(Direct link to the video)

I’ve personally used my jointer sparingly, but it was vital on a few projects.  If you ever want to use rough cut wood from a lumber yard instead of the local hardware store, then you’ll definitely need one.

Here are some larger shots of the reclaimed pine boards I jointed.   In the first photo, you can see the joint between the two boards is fairly visible.


After a few passes through the jointer, that edge gets cleaned up enough that it’s virtually invisible.  The only way you can tell where one board meets the next is by the grain pattern.


I hope this post and video helps you get a better idea of how to use this tool.

Any jointer questions?

Posted in Garage and Tools,Videos. Tagged in ,, , ,

Popular Post