Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Category: DIY Built Page 1 of 8

Home Stay + Patio Planter Build

My personal life has always been driven by getting rid of stuff. I was Marie Kondo loooong before I even knew her existence. This Spring the urge of purging came stronger than ever, probably because I am stuck home with a husband and two messy dogs. But I am also cheap, led by my Chinese heritage. So I refuse to throw away anything that I can juice value out of. Balancing between saving things that can be used to create and getting stuff out of the house is the delicate dance I perform.

All this is to say that please imagine the extraordinary joy and relief I had when I turned leftover lumber from our horizontal fence build into a set of planter/seating combo for our patio. We used exclusively 1″x 6″ planks for our fence. But we did purchase fifty pieces of 1″ x 4″ planks for creating a decorative pattern, an idea was nixed quickly. Since returning these planks cost a restocking fee, my Chinese side decided to keep all the lumber in the garden shed for “future use”. Then my Kondo side blamed myself for the next 16 months every time I walked into the shed and saw this giant pile of wood.

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But not anymore. They are now my new planter/seating for our patio and for strawberries we will immensely enjoy over the summer months. Allow me to brag to you how I executed this perfect plan intersecting home organization, building projects, and garden planning. And feel free to admire along the way.

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A light bulb went off (on, actually…English is weird) moment

I’ve been wanting a planter/trellis combo on the north end of our patio. Our northern neighbor’s house sits lower than ours. Even though there is a 6′ fence between our properties, our patio is completely exposed to their eyes.

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We did plant some privacy trees along the fence but it will take years for them to grow into a sizable hedge. We need something to stop neighbor’s curious eyes now and for all four seasons. After some research, I decided on this design of planter box with tall climbing trellis.

Planter Boxes with Climbing Trellis

It does not only offer privacy, but also function for growing herbs and flowers near the kitchen. I also like how the simple look of this planter box echoes our horizontal fence. Lastly, it is easy to build with the 1″ x 4″ cedar planks I intended to use up.

The cedar I had on hand could build more than one planter. For the second one, I landed on a bench planter design. This planter will be facing our backyard, where we do not need tall trellis for privacy. Rather, we need more seating that can be utilized from both side. Compared to having individual chairs on the patio, integrated seating reduces visual clutter while offering seating for multiple guests when needed.

One big advance of DIY is personalization. Slav has some snowboards than he could ride. But just like me, he has a hard time to throw them away. I planned to use one of them to create an unique seating bench – a good way to incorporate things that reflect our interests and taste into this build.

Cut list: the Basic Design and Dimension of the Planter

The first step was to decide the dimension of the planter. The picture below shows the northeast corner of the patio, where the two planters will be placed. The trellis planter will be set on the short edge, to the right in the picture, whereas the long side of the patio will be boxed in with the bench planter. Our patio is 6″~8″ above the soil at this corner, so I decided the planters should be 32″ tall, with 24″ above the patio when placed next to it.

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I also decided on this dimension because the 2″x 4″s we would use for vertical support for the planters are 96″ long. So there will be no waste when I cut them to three 32″ pieces. In addition, the 32″ height happens to accommodate nine of the 1″ x 4″ boards when arranged horizontally with minimal gaps in between. It is a fairly polished look I like.

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To minimize the scraps with 6′ long planks, I decided to make the width 2′ (24″) for both planters. In this way each dog ear plank will produce three side pieces without any waste.

Planter 1: Design the carcasses

With the plans in place I got to work. First I transported all 50 pieces of 1″ x 4″ x 6″ boards and some 2″ x 4″s left from the gate build to our newly organized garage. It was so nice to have plenty of room and all the right tools in place.

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I started with the planter bench and built the side panels first (32″ tall and 24″ wide).

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Next was to decided where the planter ends and where the bench starts. I like the look of square planters, so I kept the length of the planters equal with the width (24″).

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I used a couple of the full length 1″ x 4″ planks to link the two side panels together. They also kept everything straight and square. Then, I built the third side panel (furthest to the right) as the side of the snowboard bench. It does not only offer support for the snowboard, but also creates a side table on each end of the seating.

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The picture below offers a better view of the third/inner side panel. The snowboard/seating surface will be inserted into it and on both sides.

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The next step is to add planks onto the carcasses. I decided to cover the back of the planter+ table area completely, but leave the under the table area open to the patio side for additional storage.

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Above is a top view of the 2′ x 2′ planter box on one end. The pictures below show how the snowboard seating would be positioned into the inner side panel.

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Planter 1: Complete the Other End

It took a while to build the first end of the planter. But once I figured out exactly the style I wanted and the dimension, the other end was fast to build.

First the far end panel:

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Then the middle panel with half of the table top incorporated. To save the 1″ x 4″ I used only the dog ear portion and one piece of leftover 1″ x 6″ at the bottom. This panel will be mostly hidden anyway.

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Last was the inner side panel. I left out one horizontal board to accommodate the snowboard.

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After all three side panel were built, I connected them with horizontal planks:

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it is worth while to line up the screws. For any horizontal build, this step really elevates the look:

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Now we could get a good idea on what the final planter bench looks like.

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I made sure that the height of the snowboard works as seating for our patio. The table top part was not in the initial design – it was created to accommodate the curvy ends of the snowboard. But I like it now. It offers a nice separation between the soil and seating, and serves as a great spot to set drinks.

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The Second Planter Build

was a lot more straightforward as it is just a big box. We will get a already-made trellis once the stay-at-home order is over.

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The height and width of this planter remains the same, 32″ and 24″, respectively. After building the sides we have only 18 1″ x 4″ planks left, and I decided to use all of them and make the most of them too. Since taking the dog ear portion off the 6″ planks results in 70″ of straight planks, these planters are set to be 70″ long.

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Being this long it needs additional vertical support. I added another two pieces of 2″ x 4″s to link the planks from the middle. I also linked the two middle vertical supports with scraped 2″ x 4″s at the bottom, so the pressure of the soil is less likely to cause blowout in the middle of the planter.

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Out of 50 pieces of 1″ x 4″ x 6′ material I was only short for two 24″ horizontal boards – soooo impressed! I did have shorter scraps so two were jointed together on each end to create the top boards.

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With the supporting blocks they looked pretty good from the outside. I was pleased.

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Placing the Planters on the Patio

It took me two days to design/build these planters. Before sunset on Sunday, the planters were set onto the patio. They looked sharp! And I think they balanced out the visual weight of our fire pit + seating on the other side of the patio just right. I left the long boards at the bottom – they will come in handy to ensure everything is at the right level when we set the planters in place. Of course after all the snow melts. 🙂

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I am extremely pleased to have these new planters on our patio. The current plan is to move our strawberry plants, which are currently in ground, into these planters. We got beautiful and delicious strawberries from them last summer but had to fight bunnies for the fruit. But not this summer!

More importantly (to me), now the shed is empty again! Crowded by these boards our poor garden shed has become so dusty and disorganized. I can see my next project in the horizon…

How are you doing in quarantine? Are you managing to work on some fun projects? Or just enjoying life? Be good and be well, everyone!

3 Doors Down

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Long time no see! I am finally getting around to show you what’s going on in the ranch. And I am excited to tell you about our progress.

Since moving into the bedroom we have been just tackling small projects – caulking, paint touch-ups, hanging art, and just settling into our new basement living routine. We like the master suite as much as the day we moved in. The closets function perfectly. The NuCore flooring is holding up to the “dog nail test”. And the glass shower door has survived the first two months of usage (did time fly!). I used to worry that one of us will slip and break the glass panels, but it turns out to be very solid and can take some impact. Let me tell you, living through January without making drywall dust was an absolutely joy.

After the holidays I started feeling like decorating. Hanging a couple pictures here and there, adding art to the bathroom, and bring in a much-needed clock to better get ready in the mornings. You know, the little things. One of the fun projects I did was dressing up the egress window well.

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The window well update

was a perfect Sunday morning project. Slav had been complaining how bare the window well looked, so I grabbed a bunch of faux plants from IKEA without telling him what they were for. Let me tell you, these plants are not cheap! What I got barely covered the front side of the window well, which we see everyday. But the hope is that they last a few years being out of the strong Colorado sun.

One Sunday Slav went skiing, I took the opportunity to setting up all the faux plants as a surprise:

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Much better from this, right?

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I documented the process with Instagram stories, hence the lack of pictures. Still debating if I should add a layer of white rocks to the bottom of the well. But for now, it is a killer upgrade that makes us smile every morning opening the curtains.

 

Installing prehung doors for the media room

The biggest progress we made lately was installing basement doors – 3 out of 4 to be exact. You might have noticed some of them in our last post:

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These two doors are the basement entry door and the bedroom door, we chose solid core doors for their soundproofing properties. We are happy with the JELD-WEN window in the main floor living room, so choosing their doors was a no-brainer. The style is “the Craftsman” in Espresso color.

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The bedroom door was discarded during the renovation, so there was just one opening left.

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We ordered pre-hung door for the opening and it was pretty straight forward to put on. We chose left-hand opening so it opens into the bedroom.

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The doors did not come with knobs or lock. We picked some satin nickel lock from Lowe’s to match the finishes of the hinges:

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We also ordered a pre-hung door for the basement entry. The old jamb was in bad shape and the hinge side had started to separate from the foundation.

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We took the door and the door jamb off, and Slav secured the framing to the concrete wall properly.

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And the new door was on!

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We added the same lock on this door and it looked amazing:

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Much better than the old one. 🙂

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Even Roxie was amazed. 🙂

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Customizing a door for the bath

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While the DIY momentum continued, we installed a bathroom door. Our bathroom has two door opening, one being a pocket door to our bedroom, and one to the media room. These bathroom doors brought bigger challenges. Both of the openings are only 77″ tall, which requires customization. The task is so intimidating that we had been procrastinating as long as we could.

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Until I found this door from a local resale store – it is 76 1/2″ tall, so it fits perfectly under the short doorway. It also sports a big panel of glass which lets in the morning sun from the bathroom into the media room. This door is made with real wood and very steady.

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As you can see, the top of the door opening is already at the height of the ceiling. The space is tight! The doorway was actually a few more inches too wide for the door, so we started by adding a 2″ x 4″ on one side of the doorway framing:

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We decided to narrow the doorway from the toilet side, so we would see less of the toilet from the media room.

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To further narrow the doorway we installed another piece of 1″ board on top of the 2″ x 4″. Then we proceeded to making new door jambs for the glass panel door:

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Besides getting the height right (you want to leave 1/8″ gap on all sides between the door and the jamb), it is important to get the hinges installed at the right spot. Slav used a router to carve into the jamb so hinges could sit flush with the wood.

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We also cut a notch at the bottom of the door jamb to accommodate the height of the tile.

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With all the pieces cut to size, we assembled the door jambs on the floor, then attached the whole assembly and the door to the opening:

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The last step was to add door stops at the proper location. Then…Ta-dah!

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We used matching hardware as those on the pre-hung doors. A narrow strip of drywall will be added to cover the 2″ x 4″ and the  1″ board, then the gap between the new drywall and the door jamb will be covered by trim.

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This is the view from the media room looking into the bath. We may obscure the glass in the future somehow. But for now, we are just happy to finally have a door on the bathroom!

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And finally be able to keep the dogs out of the bedroom – or in.

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Getting one of the bathroom door installed really lifted a lot of weight off our shoulders. I do not know if you are the same, but when I face too grand of a to-do list, I have a hard time taking the first step. Now with only one pocket door to install, it started feeling fun again.

On a separate note – I knew what I’ve been posting lots of in-progress photos. Any successful blogger will wait until they can get the perfect “after” shots, which means  after the drywall and finished trims are all in. But this pretty “after” may take weeks to come in our hands. I figured it is better to update you what we’ve been up to now. Gotta keep it real! After all, this blog is more of a diary of this house to me, even during the slow days. More and more so, I found myself relying on the in-progress pictures I posted before to remember how we did certain steps, or what product we used. In a way, the blog will remember for us what went behind the walls, and the sweat and tears we shed along the way. So, no shame on posting in-progress photos for me!

Now most of the doors are in, we can finally consider door trims. (Pocket doors are trimmed differently so we are not gonna worry about it now.) All of our basement doors are located really close to a neighboring wall, which means we can only install the most narrow trims. Narrow trims = ugly looking. So I would have to figure out something creative. Another thing I would like to do is refinishing the glass panel door with stains matching the color of other basement doors. The color of the prehung doors is labeled as “Espresso”, but it reads lighter and reddish compared to most of the Espresso stains you can find on the market. So there will be some mixing and trials to get the color right.

Here you have it, our slow, but steady progress in the basement. I will work on the stains and trims next. What are you up to?

Create a Walk-through Closet Space with IKEA PAX

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Growing up, Slav and I both stored clothes and linens in wardrobes and armoires. We like that they give more structure elements to a room, and prefer their furniture-like look to bi-fold or sliding doors commonly used on built-in closets. Not surprisingly, when the time came to design our master bedroom storage, the only request from Slav was using free-standing wardrobes.

Aside from this request, the rest of the decision was left completely to me – what kind of wardrobe system to use, the style/color, where to put them in the room, the overall dimension, and the interior design. Having to make all these decisions were stressful to say the least – although Slav does not like to make decisions, he does have preferences and high standard. After a few weeks of research and price comparison, I decided to give IKEA PAX a try.

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Why PAX

The reason of choosing PAX is three-fold. First, the ceiling in our basement is only 90″ tall and hard to accommodate pre-assembled wardrobes. Second, we have two windows and one doorway in the closet room. Their location greatly limits the layout of wardrobe. Only IKEA PAX, whose frames come in different width and depth can enable maximum storage around these obstacles.

The first picture below shows the two basement windows, which we have to get around. I planned one of the closets be at the corner in between the windows, and another on the right side of the window on the right.

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This picture shows the same corner from another angle. The second closet would locate between the right window and the soffit, which can be seen at the right upper corner of the picture.

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The third closet would be on this short wall, on the other side of the bedroom. It needs to fit between the vertical column/soffit and the light switch.

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The last and the most important reason of choosing PAX is its highly customizable interior. Slav and I have very different needs regarding clothes storage. He has a lot more clothes and much more hanging items, whereas most of my stuff are folded. Therefore, the same pre-assembled closets will not meet our separate needs as well as the PAX.

Purchasing and getting the PAX home

was part of my responsibility too. Usually Slav is very helpful with anything requiring heavy lifting, but this time he was really out of commission due to the busy work schedule. I ended up making three separate trips to our local IKEA, which is 45 minutes away from my house to get the materials home with my mini-SUV.

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One note for myself if I were ever doing this again, will be to have the PAX delivered. These flat boxes are heavy and frankly speaking, hard to drive with. Our whole order contained 43 flat boxes: 7 frames, 9 doors (including three mirrored glass doors), 19 drawers, and 8 dividers. In addition there were bags of metal hinges, clothes rails, pulls, etc. Consider the driving time spent on three trips, as well as the manpower consumed to move the heavy boxes through the warehouse, load them onto and unload them from the car, the delivery fee is simply worth it.

Look at these boxes on the floor, which are just for my side of the closet – about 1/4 of the entire order…

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The assembly

Assembling individual elements of the PAX, such as drawers and frames, was surprisingly simple. Basic tools including a power drill, a handheld screwdriver and a hammer were all I’ve used. It does take time though: the material handling, including unpacking, transporting parts, and taking the packaging out took surprisingly long time compared to the actually assembly.

For frames, I laid the parts for each frame on the floor and followed the simple instructions. Roxie was around for emotional support and slowing down the process by kicking the hardware around:

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Below are a series of pictures I took while assembling one of the frames – I assembled 7 total! I usually lay everything out on a the cardboard first:

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Then put in the screws, dowels, and corner pieces in place according to the instruction:

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From this point the whole thing just came together like a Lego. Do not forget to tighten the connections:

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The last step of the assembly was to put on the back panel, which not only closed up the frame, but also kept the frame square.

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Standing the frames up was a real struggle. They got so heavy after assembly, which was unexpected. I definitely recommend two people for this part. You do have the option of assemble the frames standing up, but this also requires two people in order to keep the frame square.

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Compared to the frames, assembling drawers was easy and quick. All the PAX drawers are put together in the same way, regardless which width, depth, or what kind of front panel they employ.

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I assembled the first drawer by itself and then started to tackle multiple drawers at a time. The progress was quick and very satisfying.

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Secure and link the closets

All three of our closets are composed of multiple frames. To make sure that the frames were align with each other, we linked the neighboring framed as well as secured them onto the wall behind. If you wish to do the same, make sure you get to this step before installing interior organizers such as drawers or shelves.

Using my side of the closet as an example, it is made up by two frames and should go onto a short wall pictured below. We cleaned and vacuumed the spot before putting two frames here side by side:

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Notice that we did not install any baseboard prior. Unlike the BILLY bookcase, the back of the PAX frames is straight and does not have any cutout to allow existing baseboards.

As you can see, there are three vertical lines of holes on the sides of each frame. Putting bolts (included in the purchase) through the corresponding holes between the two neighboring frames could align and secure them to each other.

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Each frame also came with two adjustable feet, which help the frame to stay level. After the two neighboring frames were linked and leveled, we used designated hardware (also included in purchase) to attach them to the wall. Now this whole closet was solid and not going anywhere.

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Interior Organization

After securing the frames to the wall, it was time to install drawers and shelves. I used the IKEA design tool to plan our PAX closets. When printing out the design, it included very clear instruction on where exactly the interior organizers should go. Remember the vertical lines of holes on the sides of the frame? The drawer slides, shelf supports, and door hinges were instructed to go into specific holes (numbered on the instruction). This is to make sure that each part operate smoothly without interfering with the operation of others.

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With the help of instruction, the installation went pretty fast. For electrical outlets behind the closet, Slav exposed them by cutting open the back panel of the frames.

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For my side,I chose to have two hanging bars and two sets of drawers. It is a relative simple design, which allows for maximum storage.

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I also added a pull-out hanger for scarves, as well as a hanging clip for hanging bath robe and nightgown. Again, the customization feature is the No. 1 reason we chose PAX.

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Slav’s closets

After learning from my mistakes during assembling my side of the closets, I got a lot smarter putting together Slav’s side. His side includes two standing units: a corner unit, and a straight unit. The straight unit is basically a replica of mine; the only difference is that his is made of two narrower frames:

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Before securing the straight unit, I built the corner unit to ensure the same space was left on each side of the window:

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The corner unit is composed of three parts: one deep frame next to the window (pictured above and below), one add-on frame which sits 90 degree next to the deep frame, and one single-frame addition. The add-on frame and the single frame are shallower than all the other frames to save the floor space.

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The picture below was taken from the bedroom doorway. Using deeper frames on the left side would have blocked too much of the view while entering the bedroom. I prefer the lighter visual effect offered by shallower closet, to the storage we lost by not using deeper frames.

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After everything was positioned correctly, we linked all the neighboring frames and secured them onto the wall. Then the drawers went in:

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Slav’s straight closet contains 8 (!) deep and wide drawers and two hanging bars. This guy has lots of shirts!

The straight closets will get sliding doors eventually, and I chose mirrored doors for the corner closet. The mirrors certainly made the dark closets to feel lighter and the basement bedroom brighter.

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The (almost) final product!

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Here are a few shots I took in the morning after installation. All three closets were leveled, secured, and completed with all the interior organizers. The corner closet received its mirrored doors. The only work put on halt was the sliding doors, which will go in after we are 100% happy with the interior organization.

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The space under the window will be filled with a bench or some kind. We are also on look out for a new laundry basket. Slav’s college pop-up laundry hamper will finally retire from our master bedroom!

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We put the closets together around Thanksgiving. A week has passed since then, and we are generally happy with the quality, the layout, and the interior design. Lining the closets on both side of the room did not make the room feel narrow, and the storage they provide was more generous than we expected.

Costwise, I think we spent ~$2600 on all three closets (not including our time and gas to transport them). Our order includes 7 frames, 19 drawers, 3 pull-out trays (they are more expensive then fixed shelves), and several additional shelves for the add-on frame.

Timewise, it took me four days in total, from the design to installation. Around 8 hours were spent in local IKEA store to research the internal organization, design the closets with the help of IKEA employee, and collect/purchase all the items. This 8-hour period does not include the driving time. At home, I spent three solid days on assembly and installation, including one 8-hour day for my side (with fair amount of mistakes made along the way), and ~12 hours for Slav’s side.

Thoughts on PAX

Looking back, I think the most time-saving approach to PAX purchasing, will be to design the PAX in store with an expert’s help, then have the parts delivered to the room in which you want them to be installed.

Another good service to consider is the Click and Collect service. With this service, instead of pulling the items off the shelves yourself, you pay for the whole shipping list either in the store or online, wait for the whole order to be collected (usually next day), and pick up the whole order at the main lobby. It only costs $5 per order, which will be given back to you in the form of a gift card to use in the store (so it is virtually free).

The advantage of the Click and Collect service is that you are guaranteed to get the entire order without missing pieces. Let me tell you, there is nothing more annoying than buying a whole closet but being told that the store was one drawer short for your dream closet, and have to come back again just for that drawer!

Okay! This concludes a long post for a looooong PAX journey. If you are still reading, I am impressed. You deserve a hug. Here is a hug. And if you are hugging me back, I could use some massages on my back too. As a return to your kindness, I will be uploading pictures of these PAX loaded with our stuff and the whole master bedroom really soon. See you in a few days, friends!

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