Tag Archives: thegreenworkbench

Doors, Wheels, and Headboards

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What do you do when you have a box spring and mattress and no bed set? Why, you make one of course. Bed sets are expensive and then you have to worry about getting matching furniture, a dresser, end tables, dressing table, etc. Who wants to shop through huge department stores offering no interest for five years and the best deals in town? Not me!

Instead of barn wood, this time I am going to use an old five panel door. It was a free door we got from a friend. They got it off of Craigslist. If you are looking for one, I would suggest Craigslist, garage sales, swap meets, or construction areas. People tear down old houses and the stuff is just going to the dump, They are often glad for someone to take it off their hands.

One side of the door I had was covered in a seventies era wavy panel, which much to my glee, came off easily and uncovered that side of the door was unpainted. Therefore, it was easy to sand the edges and prep for finish. After two coats of polyurethane, it was ready to go. I used 2x4s to create legs that could easily be adjusted for height and screwed to any standard bed frame.

Now for the fun stuff. I purchased an old iron wheel on Craigslist which I used for the play Oklahoma. It is a great piece, but what in the world was I going to do with it afterwords? Using the door knob hole, I inserted the axle of the wheel and wired the socket from an an old lamp through the hole. I attached the wheel securely with a bolt and plugged that baby in. We have a headboard with a lamp all ready to go. Check out the video below!

 

Cords Cords, and More Cords

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Flat screen televisions are great. You can hang them on the wall, above the mantle, or use the stand to put them on a cabinet. They don’t take up too much room, but their picture quality is excellent. Plasma, LCD, or LED, each has their pros and cons. It used to be if you wanted a big screen tv you needed a large room because the bigger the screen, the bigger the tv. Rear projection tvs were big, but the picture quality was bad and it seemed like you constantly had to adjust them to get the best color mix and sharpness. Tube tvs are rarely seen anymore. Flat panel tvs are light, easy to move, and easy to adjust.

But they still require lots of cords. One day someone will come up with a working high quality way to transmit HD video wirelessly, but until then, we are stuck wiring up all components. If the owners of the house were forward thinking or you own the house, you can hide the wires inside the wall. Many new houses come with an outlet and cable jack high up on the wall where most people would put the tv. You can buy boxes to easily install and run cords through the walls behind the drywall.

But what do you do when you are renting or decide to hang a tv in an unusual place? You can’t or don’t want to run the cords through the wall. What can you do? You can use cable runners, which stick on the wall. They usually come in white and are paintable to match the wall color. If you can run them on top of some molding or chair rail, you may be able to camouflage the runner from a casual glance. But at the end of the day, it is still visible. Also, what are you going to do at the end of the run? The cords have to come out somewhere. Do you have a media cabinet or shelf to put them on? Is that hidden from view? If you have a good system, you may have everything running through a receiver and only one HDMI cable going to your tv. You still want to hide that cord. My receiver is old, so it doesn’t have a way to run HDMI.

What components do you have running to your tv: Apple TV, Xbox, Playstation, Fire TV, DVD player, Bluray player, cable box? I have some components onside an old antique radio under the tv and some on shelves hidden by a privacy screen. So I had a lot of cords running all over the place.

To solve the problem of the cord nest in a stylish and designer approved way, I turned to my stash of barn wood I still had from taking down the barn. I made a frame out of 1×2 boards to start. I took the barn wood, cleaned the boards with a power washer, and ripped them to the same width. I then nailed them to the frame at an angle. I took my circular saw and cut them to the frame, then cleaned the line with a flush cut bit on my router. I nailed some perpendicular pieces across the boards on the back to strengthen it up and cut out some channels in the frame where the cords drop from the tv and out the sides.

Using a level and a stud finder, I prepped the piece to hang on the wall. It took three people to hang, two to hold and one to run the cords. I pushed it up against the tv and screwed it to the wall. It created four screw holes in the wall, but that’s no different than hanging pictures on the wall and can be easily patched. Now I have I great decorative piece on the wall that also hides all of my cords. Mission accomplished. Check out the video below and try it out for your house.

 

 

Santa’s Workshop

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When you enjoy DIY or have some skills, there is no better gift than a homemade gift right? It's more personal, carries more meaning. But at what cost? It has been awhile since my last post, and that is because I have been busy in Santa's workshop. In my case, that's my garage, or to be more accurate, half my garage. The other half is storage. I've never had a car in my garage, at any house. One day when I have a separate workshop and a basement for storage, I might park cars in the garage. But until that day, the cars are relegated to the driveway. At our house, the garage is the main point of entry. It leads into the mud room/hallway where shoes, bags and jackets can be deposited. But when Santa's Workshop is open for business, the garage is closed. All traffic must go through the front door. That also means that I have to get anything that is needed from the garage. This year's present was much too large to just cover with a tarp. It required complete exclusion from garage access.

You know from my previous post that I have a whole stack of barnwood harvested from a local barn. Well, that wood won't do me any good just sitting there will it? Combine a stack of barn wood with Christmas and I have my work cut out for me. When we were first married, I made a kitchen table with a folding butterfly leaf. Our family grew quickly so we never really had the leaf closed up. The table just fit the six of us with no room to spare. It was time to grow and get a table more fitting for our family size. Also, I was never really happy with the previous table top. The table was maple and cherry and I really liked how the legs turned out, but for the top I tried to save money by layering maple on top of plywood. It just never worked out right. I refinished it a few years ago which helped some, but it still bugged me every time I sat down to eat.

Barn wood is great because it is aged and dried. You know there will be no more warping. But that also means the pieces are already warped and misshapened. If I had a planer and jointer, that wouldn't be a problem, but alas I do not. The edges were already rabbeted so using pipe clamps I glued the table top together. No matter how many clamps I used, I couldn't quite get every board to lay flush, but with some cross pieces screwed in from underneath, I could pull all of the boards securely together.

The apron required ripping the boards to width so I used the table saw as sort of a poor man's jointer. The legs are made from a 2×6 board from the barn secured to the apron with corner braces and bolts. It all went together square, but did not keep the table from rocking back and forth. I needed some angled braces for that. One end of the braces is bolted to the legs with a hex bolt going all the way through the leg. For the apron end, I chiseled out an insert for the brace so the actual apron would keep it from sliding or moving. It was then attached by a straight metal brace. It looks great and works really well.

I also decided to build a bench for one side of the table. We always seem to be pulling the piano bench in when we are feeding the neighbor kids or friends so why not just build one up front? You can cram more kids onto a bench than you can individual chairs. I used the same method for the top of the bench and then cut two pieces of a beam for the legs. A 2×6 support goes length wise down the center of the bench and rests on the legs in a cut out notch. I had to use my reciprocating saw to cut the beam for the legs, but just cut the notch on the table saw and cleaned it up with a chisel. The beam is secured to the support brace by a long hex bolt going all the way through.

 

With the table and bench built and ready for finishing I proceeded to blanket the entire garage in fine sanding dust. Every box, shoes, tools, bikes, everything had a fine coat of dust. I didn't sand everything perfectly smooth except for the top. I still want it to look a bit rough like barn wood should. I used a satin polyurethane finish sprayed onto the underside of the table top, the apron, legs, and the bench. Three coats were enough to provide a good solid finish. Then came the adventure of the tabletop.

I wanted a thick finish that filled in all holes and cracks and could also smooth out any uneven spots of the tabletop. You don't want to be sliding a glass of milk across your table just to have it crash when hitting a seam in the wood. And you don't want liquid spills drying in the cracks between boards. Using an epoxy resin, which is very expensive, I coated the table top. I had to take over one of the kid's rooms because it is too cold out in the garage for the epoxy to cure completely. I set up a tarp and a folding table in the room. Come to find out there were lots of seams in the table top not necessarily visible to the naked eye. I ended up having to buy another box of epoxy for the second coat because so much was running through the cracks and off the edges. Once the first coat dried and sealed things up, I applied the second smoothing coat and let that dry.

The following morning when I attempted to lift the new table top off the folding table, I found it was stuck, completely epoxied to the table! I tried prying it off with a pry bar, tried to saw through it, and tried a chisel. Nothing worked. The two tables had become one. I ended up having to use my Dremel to cut out holes in the folding table and then cutting down the edges to match the perpendicular supports. The epoxy and top layer of the folding table are there to stay, adding some great strength to my tabletop. The folding table on the other hand has two giant gaping holes in it and will have to be resurfaced with plywood or something. You should have seen my wife's face when she saw the folding table!

I woke up early Christmas morning as I always do and hefted the tabletop downstairs to assemble everything in the dining area. When everyone came downstairs, it took a moment for her to notice a new table just sitting there, but when she did it was a huge hit! The barn wood looks great and the table fits our family much better. However, Santa's Workshop will be closed for the foreseeable future. It's time to spend my evenings inside rather than out in the garage.

Keep checking my YouTube channel for the how to video. I am still working on editing and putting it together.

Update. Here is the video! It's a little long, but it was a big project. Enjoy!

 

 

The Good Old-Fashioned Barn Razing

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I have mentioned in previous posts the use of barn wood from my grandpa's barn. There is some extra meaning in all of those projects because everytime I look at the finished product I remember days spent playing in the hay loft, mucking stalls, feeding the cows, stepping in manure, and playing in the corral. Unfortunately, I am out of that wood, but I still have lots of projects I want to complete using barn wood. How could I find more? The price of barn wood is super high when you try to buy it from reclaimed materials stores. Once in a blue moon something may pop up on Craigslist, but is gone almost immediately. Without knowing the land owner, it's almost impossible to get to a barn in time to harvest the wood before the whole thing is gone.

But recently my luck changed. A friend mentioned to my wife some small projects he built out of wood from an old barn on the property where he works that the owners are planning to tear down. It is no longer needed as a barn and the land is more valuable than the building. She immediately became interested, knowing I am always on the lookout. The discussion involved getting me to help build a stable for the church Christmas party live nativity, and know she knew they had a hook to get me to say yes.

And of course she was absolutely right. The time it will take to build a simple outline of a stable is well worth all of the free wood I can harvest! The company has already contracted someone to tear town the barn, so it was only a matter of weeks until my chance was gone. The contractor just had one other job to finish first. We set up a time with my friend and we met him at the barn to take a look. It was fantastic! There is wood of different dimensions, doors, and windows. So with a hammer and crowbar we set out to work. I took out a window that is still mostly intact and started in on some wall boards and doors. The giving was slow and the sun went down before we could really get all we wanted.

Every day was one day closer to the bulldozer, so I had to hurry back before it was too late. I decided the job needed to go faster, so I got a reciprocal saw for the return trip. Man, did that make a difference! Instead of trying to pull out multiple nails on multiple studs for each board, I ripped down one side inside the stud and then could just pry the board off the wall. I took down an entire wall, and then the walls of two pens. With another van load cut down, my garage now has a huge stack of barn wood ready to go.

I would talk about my plans for the wood, but that would ruin Christmas now wouldn't it? You will just have to wait and see with everyone else!

 

Playing the Host Game

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I'm not talking about having people over for dinner party or serving up a better spread than the next guy. I'm not talking about making the most creative Martha Stewart center pieces. I'm talking about your website or blog. For bloggers, the two most common choices are Blogger and WordPress. There is always the option to go completely free on those services, but that means your domain name will have “.wordpress.com” or “.blogspot.com” which lets the entire world know you are too cheap to purchase a domain and don't take your blog seriously. The free option is for people who want to share cute stories and photos with the grandparents.

Your first step is to purchase a domain name. I did some research and followed the recommendation of other bloggers in choosing to acquire my domain from godaddy.com. It was a very simple process and not too expensive. Once you find a domain name that no one else has registered and that is descriptive of your website identity and content, pull the plug and make the purchase. Now you have to pick a service to host your site. Godaddy offers hosting as well. I chose to go with bluehost, based on recommendations from other bloggers. They offer multiple plans and the price gets cheaper the more time you buy at once. Seeing as this was my first experience in creating a site, I decided to go month to month until I decided this whole blog thing was going to become, well, a thing. It started out at 9.99 a month, but was quickly jacked up to 11.99 a month. That is crazy expensive!! Bluehost was very easy. I installed WordPress, changed the name servers at godaddy, and I was off and running.

After a few months, I went in to bluehost to look at what it would cost to change my plan to one or two years, but there wasn't an option to do it. It said I had to call customer service. I hate calling customer service! In bluehost's defense, the one time that I did have to call them, they were very friendly and fixed my problem right away. I just don't like having to call in as a general rule.

So I started to look at other hosting services and found one with a coupon that would allow me to purchase three years of hosting for around $65! That is a great price. I googled the company and didn't find any negative reviews, so at that price, I went for it. My new hosting service is through hostmetro.com. I couldn't even get one year of bluehost for that price.

Then began the headache. I am not a software engineer or website designer. I have no idea how to design and build a website. It is my goal to someday learn. I am a pretty quick study and fairly technical, but have never had the time to really delve in. After switching to hostmetro, I decided to try and transfer my site from bluehost by myself. That was a mistake! First off, I changed the name servers prematurely, so I effectively took my site down before it was ready. When I realized that mistake, I switched them back to bluehost to give me time to make the transfer. I downloaded my site from bluehost and uploaded it into hostmetro, but I had no idea what folder to put it in or what to do with it afterward. I had a scare when I loaded a new version of WordPress on hostmetro, and it appeared I had lost all of my articles to date. That was a bad feeling!

Finally I decided to ask for help. Every time I tried to google how to do something on hostmetro, I only got results for host gator. Apparently hostmetro is new enough that there isn't much written on the web. Hostmetro has the option to chat, call in, or submit a support ticket. I decided to submit a ticket and got a response within an hour or so. I provided my bluehost login because hostmetro advertised they could transfer my site for me. Unfortunately they came back and said bluehost requires everything to be downloaded to the local machine, so I had to go and download my site from bluehost and then upload it to hostmetro via cpanel. Then hostmetro went ahead and did the rest, building out my wordpress site. They informed me when it was done and I went into godaddy to change the name servers again. It takes a couple of days for the domain to resolve to the new host, so I waited.

Finally, after two more days I started trying to access my website. I could access it via some browsers, but not with others. When it did load, it would load very slowly. I could access it on my phone, but not my tablet or laptop. Arggghhhhhh!!! I could log into WordPress, but couldn't access the admin panel. I went back to hostmetro, and was told I needed to clear my browser cache. I did, but no dice. I wrote back to complain and then suddenly everything started to work. It's quick, responsive, and works in every browser.

The saga of switching hosts lasted over a week, but in the end everything worked out. For the price, you can't beat it. Hostmetro was responsive and helpful and figured out whatever issues I was having for me, even though I probably created most of them. And now I know that I really need to find the time to buckle down and learn how to build a website and use cpanel. In the meantime, I'll keep writing. I have three years before I have to think about changing. Tell me what hosting service you use and why in the comments.

 

What’s a Bay Window Without a Bench?

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Our house has a wide open space flowing from the kitchen to the family room at the back of the house. The formal dining room is actually in the front living room, but we never use it as such because it is carpeted, and no one in their right mind with kids eats over carpet. The kitchen has enough space for a table in a sort of breakfast nook, so we eat there. It has a sliding door to the back patio so it is a little tight, but it works.

The family room is naturally divided into two separate spaces. The middle space is deeper and has a bay window. The far side has the fireplace at the end with shelves on both sides and a large window to the backyard. Since a family room is the less formal space in the house where good friends and family can hang out, lets be honest and admit it revolves around comfortable couches and the tv.

So our first dilemma was where to put the tv. The first option was on a stand in the bay window, but it is never a good idea to backlight the tv with large windows. It would be good spot because we would be able to see the tv while working in the kitchen, but we just couldn't waste a bay window like that.

The second choice was above the fireplace. Our fireplace is up off the ground with a concrete bench, so the tv would be way too high. You would need a recliner just to watch tv without straining your neck. The final option was on the inside wall of the fireplace room. You can't see the tv from the kitchen, but we could live with that. So now the tv is placed, the couches naturally went around the tv. This left the middle area open and empty. The room had no built in lighting apart from one pot light aimed at the fireplace so it was both dark and empty.

Remember, this is a rental, so I can't build anything permanent. With that in mind, one of my first projects in the house was a window bench for the bay window. I did it in one evening with a 2×4 frame and plywood base and seat. I framed it in pine and painted the whole thing. The original idea was to get foam and fabric and make a cushion for the top. Of course, this never happened, so I had an ugly plywood bench. I left the front open, which is great for books and storage, but the top needed some serious help.

I have a friend who bought an older home and they had to redo some of the hardwood floor. He let me take all of the solid oak pieces that they tore out. It was all sitting in a pile in my garage and I decided the oak would look great on my bench.

After many hours of pulling nails and sanding, I had a pile large enough to cover the top of the bench. But just covering it in oak isn't enough for me. Oh no. I wanted the bench to be a unique reading nook, so with that in mind I decided to incorporate hard bound books into the top. I went to the thrift store and found hard bound books with interesting covers.

I also couldn't just put plain old oak down either. I wanted it to be multicolored without having to buy a bunch of stain, so I made my own vinegar based stains. I'll talk more about that process in a later post. With the boards stained and prepped, I began the installation. There was a lot of mixing and matching and cutting, but in the end it came together great. Three coats of varnish later, the top was done.

Now for the face. I couldn't just leave it white. To get the books to fit on the top I had to take out extra pages until they were the right thickness. So I decided to use the extra pages and decoupage glue to cover the face of the bench. I think the hardest part was to avoid getting glue on the carpet!

In the end, I had a great looking bay window bench that is completely removable from the room. Will I take it with me? I don't know. Maybe I'll ask the next tenants if they want it, maybe I'll take it. It will be hard to let it go, but when will I ever live in a house with a bay window of the same dimensions? In the meantime, we will enjoy it. Finally, that middle room has an identity. Let me know what you think in the comments.

 

Hey, Do We Have Any Basil? Why Yes, We Do!

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A mediocre meal becomes a masterpiece with the right balance of herbs and spices. Every herb has certain properties and flavor that when used properly, really makes the dish. Of course, on the flip side, you can't just throw in herbs willy nilly and hope they work. You can ruin a meal that way. I know lemon isn't a spice, but it used for flavoring, so I'm going to use it to make my point. Our kids were cooking spaghetti and were trying to follow our example of adding some flavoring to the canned sauce. Instead of peppers (which they don't like), onions and some select herbs, they decided to add lemon juice. They've seen me add lemon to flavor other dishes and figured, what the heck!? Commence vomiting! It was nasty!!

You can buy whatever herbs you want in expensive little bottles. The herbs are decent, but not great. It seems the bottled herbs lose a lot of flavor in the processing and packaging. If you really want to wow the dining table, you've gotta use fresh herbs. There is no comparison. You don't have enough room in your yard for a garden you say? You don't know how to manage soil ph levels, compost, bugs, watering, and fertilizer. Lame. That's right, lame. Stop being a whiner and build yourself this hanging herb planter.

I used some more of my grandpas's barn wood and some of the other materials I talked about in my barn wood mason jar wall sconce post to include the large hose clamps and mason jars. With your board hanging vertical decide how far apart you want the mason jars to hang. Nail the hose clamps on and start to prep your mason jars. Use potting soil you can get ready mixed in a bag and pick the herbs you use most. I decided to grow basil, cilantro, and chives. Plant the seeds in your jars and then secure the jars in the clamps. Figure out a way to hang your little herb garden. I used an eye bolt as you can see in the video below. Turn your jars at an angle toward the sun and all you have to do is water when it gets dry.

One note about using mason jars has to do with the watering. There is no drainage, so if you overwater or don't have a good sunny spot, you may start to get some moss and/or mold growth in the jar. You have to keep an eye on the dampness of the soil. But if your garden is hanging on your front porch anyway, you'll see it every time you walk into your house. That's so much easier than trying to remember to go into the backyard to water!

When your plants start to get too big for their britches, no problem. Go ahead and trim your plants and prep a spot in your kitchen to hang them upside down to dry. Home dried herbs can be saved and used during the cold winter months when nothing is growing, making your garden a year round affair. And home dried herbs retain much more flavor than those store bought bottled ones. As an added bonus, hanging drying herbs looks cool in your kitchen.

So check out the how to video below and make your own mason jar herb garden. Don't worry if you don't have barn wood. You can find a cool piece of driftwood at the beach or just use a nice looking board. No excuses!

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

 

Lazy Summer Days on the Porch

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The front porch, a place to sit with a glass of lemonade, talk to the neighbors, and watch the kids zoom up and down the street on their bikes. It's a perfect place to watch a summer lightning storm or read a good book. If you are lucky, you have a large wrap around porch complete with a porch swing. If you have spent a little time creating the perfect porch, maybe you have a cooler and some speakers to blast summer hits from the Beach Boys.

Shift scenes to a city park. You have all seen the iconic pictures of old men playing checkers or chess in the park right? Ringers sit and wait for unsuspecting challengers. Old men while away the hours until their wives call them home to supper, talking about the good ole days and swapping stories and jokes. People walking their dogs stop to watch the action and say hello to the regulars. Runners wave as they pass and skateboarders zoom by with headphones blasting deep bass beats.

How about combining the scene at the park with the relaxing atmosphere of the front porch? Create an outdoor checkerboard the perfect size for your front porch and discover the secrets of lazy days shouting “King me!” and scoring multiple jumps. For this checkerboard, all you need are pieces of scrap wood, preferably a 4×4, some paint, and some patience. Don't worry about your board being perfectly level or smooth. You are going for the outdoor homemade look. You want something that would sell for big bucks at a folk art store and would be the upscale envy of any Cracker Barrel customer. A steady hand and some paint complete the board.

So what, pray tell, would you use for pieces? You could always steal pieces from your game closet, but what fun is that? Instead, collect some bottle caps of your favorite beverages. We went with the epic battle of cola vs root beer. You could do Coke vs Pepsi or even use caps from something a little stronger. The best thing about it? Someone just has to drink the sodas so you can use the caps. Tough life eh?

Check out my how to video below and then fire up the saw. Summer's half gone!!

 

 

 

The Magic Floating Book Shelf

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I love books. I love reading. I love bookstores and libraries and covet homes with big floor to ceiling book shelves with a rolling ladder. One of the first things I do when I move to a new place is to sign up for a library card. I especially love old books. I love the smell of books and the feel of books. But books are heavy and books take up a lot of space. Books are hard to move around from place to place, especially if they are not being read regularly.

Then came e-readers. E-readers like the Kindle and Nook are awesome. You can fit thousands of books on a single device and the battery lasts forever. You can use a tablet, but the e-ink on an e-reader is easy on the eyes and can be read in bright sunlight just like a real book. I used to have the problem when I traveled for work of loading down my suitcase with books. If I was going to be away for a week I would have to pack four or five books in my suitcase. I couldn't afford to just buy new books, especially when there is a library full of free books at home. Now I can pack one device, smaller than the average paperback, and carry more books than I'll ever read on one trip. You lose the feel, smell, and experience of holding and reading a real book, but I can live with the trade off in convenience and size. I can check out e-books from the library even easier than going and checking out real books.

I'm also a big fan of the audiobook. Download a book from the library on your phone or MP3 player via the Overdrive app and you can make your commute enjoyable and educational. I'll get to the end of a long road trip and want to keep going because the book isn't done yet!

So how do I incorporate books into my home design and decorations? There are a certain number of antique books that I will never get rid of. Some were passed down from my parents or grandparents. Others are just cool books I have found at garage sales or thrift stores. They need to be displayed for others to see and enjoy. I can't keep good books hidden away on a shelf or in a closet. I also had some books that I knew I would never read again in paper format. If I do decide to revisit them, I'll load them onto my e-reader. Instead of throwing them away or recycling them, I decided to use them to build shelves. This design uses a hard back book and an “L” bracket to create a floating shelf. When other books are stacked on top, it creates the illusion that the books are floating on the wall. It is a great effect and has been a huge talking point for friends and neighbors visiting the house. It is a simple project requiring only the purchase of the bracket, a book, some glue, and some screws and can be made for well under $5.

 

Renting and DIY

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Due to the nature of my employment, we don't stay around in one place too long. And with the current nature of the economy and our other investments, it does not make sense for us to buy a new house every time we move. Not to mention it would be a huge headache to buy, finance, and sell every three or four years. We could keep the house and rent it out, but that brings up a whole slew of other problems. Having a successful lucrative rental also requires certain market conditions to even make it worth it. We have another huge issue keeping us from buying: we don't know where in the world we will finally settle down. So the common practice among my peers of buying your retirement home early and renting it out won't work. We have some ideas and we know where we don't want, but we haven't decided where we do want. What do they say about proving a negative?

I'm a DIY guy. When something breaks, I don't call someone. I fix it myself unless it is beyond my skill set. I always have plans on what I want to do in a house and it really sucks to be in a rental where I can't do anything without permission first. It is the major drawback to renting. In a previous house, the dishwasher was in horrible condition. We got the impression from the property manager that the owner was not interested in spending money replacing something that still worked (even if barely). We were not going to live in a house with an unworkable dishwasher for multiple years, so I went out and bought a new one and installed it. When the property manager came in and saw it, she freaked out! “He didn't agree to pay for that!” she cried.

I calmly tried to explain that I didn't care if he paid us back. I didn't buy it expecting to be paid back. If he chose to, awesome, but I was going to do it anyway. It was quite amusing. She couldn't wrap her head around the fact that someone would put money into a house he didn't own and expect nothing in return. From my perspective, even though I'm only there for a few years, it is still my home where my kids were going to grow up and where I would escape to after work. What man wants an inoperable dishwasher in his castle?? Not this one. In the end, the landlord ended up paying us back for the unit and our property manager trusted us implicitly from there on out.

I firmly believe that when you rent a place, you should leave it in better shape than you found it. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it ensures that you get good referrals when you move on and can always stay in higher end places. It also motivates the landlord to not raise your rent, because he doesn't want to lose such great tenants. It is worth a couple of hundred a month for the piece of mind that things will be taken care of and will be kept in good condition. If the biggest fear for landlords are horrible tenants, then the best way to allay those fears and make fast friends is to be an awesome tenant.

So how do I get my DIY fix in a home I don't own? My first rule is to not do anything that wouldn't have wide appeal. Only do things that are easily reversible. If the landlord doesn't like it, you can take it down or switch it back no problem. There is a project I will detail later on for a bay window bench. It is made to fit in that room, but can be removed easily if required. I also tend to make pieces that accent a room, but aren't a permanent part of the room. Use furniture, colors, and design to decorate a room when you can't use paint or wallpaper. If done properly, no one will even notice the room is painted the generic egg shell every landlord seems to use. Pillows, window treatments, shelves, and rugs can all be used to great advantage. And if you do get permission to paint, don't use wild colors that you will have to paint over before you leave. Use earth tones and other mild colors. You may get away with leaving it when you go.

Renting doesn't mean you can't have a “home”, only that you have to invest a little more thought into how you decorate the house to make it a home. Earn your landlord's trust and make wise design decisions and any rental can feel just as personalized as a house you own.

And a note to landlords everywhere: no more carpet!!! And if you insist on carpet, be prepared to re-carpet every 5-7 years. The worst is a landlord too cheap to install good carpet or replace bad carpet damaged by previous tenants or just from normal wear and tear. Part of owning a rental is putting money into it for upkeep. If you want good tenants, show you care about your property, because most tenants will only treat it as well as you do. And if we come knocking, fight for us; you will be glad you did!!