Shoe Rack from Salvage Doug Fir

There was a recent job with some vertical grain Doug Fir 1×4 base & trim that had to be thrown away.  I hate seeing good wood wasted.  I had originally thought about reusing some of it for baseboard and casing but then decided against wanting to keeping thing consistent throughout the house.  My wife had been requesting a shoe rack which gave me the idea.  I quickly measured the width from the wall to the furthest point out on the fireplace and deducted for the baseboard.  I then selected a height and began to measure and cut the boards as necessary. On the right side there is a wedge slightly larger than the baseboard to lock it in place while the fireplace buttress it against leaning. It is slight shorter than the fireplace as I decided against doubling up the top.

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Garage Climbing Wall

My son and I took up climbing and bouldering as a hobby about a year ago. Just like most people, I want to get in better shape. I’d hope to overcome the gym climbing challenges and step it up a bit. I get bored of typical workouts, so I decided to build a small home climbing wall that would work for both my son and I. The cost of the project is between $250-350 depending on the holds as they are the most expensive part but it could be done for less if you’re creative and make your own. A set of 5 hold can cost about $35 and a bag of chips is about the same. I purchased (1) 4×8 sheet of 3/4″ Plywood and ripped off a 1 foot section for foot holds which are chips. It’s nice that my stem wall sticks out just slightly providing the perfect ledge to traverse back and forth. I installed a 2×10 ledger at both the back wall and ceiling screwing it into the existing wall studs and ceiling joists; it’s always important to use the correct size screws for the job. I then installed equally spaced cross braces between the ledgers doubling up on the outer cross braces. Last I mounted the plywood face. Be sure to layout, pre-drill your holds and place the fasteners on the back of the plywood before installing as this will make for an easier installation of the holds later. I also installed a strap just for added peace of mind. As you’ll see the face of the wall is at about 20 degrees which allows a little bit of resistance from gravity to provide for a nice work out. Obviously this is scalable and can be sized to fit just about any garage. Be sure to have a clear space and proper padding in case of a short fall while exercising. I will note that the holds will need to be checked every once in awhile and tightened. I had one hold loosen up and spin on me which sent me to the ground; that’s why we have the padding. Most of all have fun!

Some additional links for climbing walls:
Womens Adventure Magazine – Yes You Can – Building Your Own Climbing Wall

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Compost Box from Old Fence Boards

Old Fence Boards

Old Fence Boards

Ever take down a fence and have a pile of old fence boards?
I recently bought a house with such a pile. Most of the wood had dryrot at the ends but it would be a waste to throw out the redwood fencing. With a little labor, a day or less depending on skill and craftsmanship, and a five dollar box of screws it’s easy to make a compost box with old fencing. I decided to make the following compost box as shown in the pictures below. The box was 4′ wide x 3′ deep x about 3′ tall. I built it rather crude and quick, but then again it’s holding expired vegetables. By next year, I should have some great compost for the garden.
Compost Box

Compost Box

Inside the Compost Box

Inside the Compost Box

Compost Box in Use

Compost Box in Use

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Rain Water Capturing

Rain Filter

Rain Filter

I recently installed the following rain barrel system in an effort to conserve water which was fairly simple and inexpensive. First I wanted to filter the water before it enter the rain barrel. At Costco I picked up 32 linear feet of Rain Filter to fill my stretch of gutter which was about $40 for the box. There is a slight concern with this product as it does contain biocides in order to reduce microorganisms which might have adverse effects for watering and isn’t suitable for pets or people. I’m always interested in new effective filtration systems that mitigate for harmful effects. One of my favorite gutter guards is Leaf Guard as it uses a different approach from the screens that tend to catch debris.
I removed and saved my old downspout and picked up a new one. I went with PVC downspout which is easier to cut and also helps to reduce the cost. With the downspout along with a few other items such as screws for about $15-20. I then purchase a Fiskars 58 Gallon Rain Barrel for $99; afterword I found that Home Depot sells the 48 Gallon for about $56. Follow the instruction that comes with the Fiskars and in time you’ll have a simple water capture barrel.
58 Gal Rain Barrel

58 Gal Rain Barrel

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Healthy Living for a Better World: Water

Over the years there have been many discussions in regards to toxic or hazardous building products. We’ve seen disclosures resulting from asbestos, mold, and lead but we often fail to look at the simple things like our water. In the Green movement there is a lot of discussion about energy efficiency, but what about human efficiency? What about our water?

I loved the story in the recent kids movie Rango. In case you missed it, the movie was essentially about water being stolen from the commoners for the purpose of development. I personally loved how water rations seemed to be the banks currency which is a scary thought. Our water is our life source and thus makes a vital component of who we are. It’s said that, “you are what you eat” and the same goes for what you drink. People are often oblivious to the fact that public water is often treated with numerous chemicals particularly chlorine. Try testing glass of tap water with simple pool chlorine test kit and check the results. Rinse out the cup and test it again but swish your finger around in the water for about a minute and you’ll get some radical changes in the chlorine test results. Chlorine is great for killing bacteria, but it’s scary once you realize that your body is like a sponge and soaks up all of those chemicals which can’t be good. LifeSource whole house water systems ( make an awesome activated carbon filter system which helps to remove the chlorine and other chemicals but keep the taste of the water. This is typically one of my first recommendations in regards to water filters. For information on water filters visit:

Water is a major issue throughout most of the world and whether people want to realize it or not, water is going to be a big issue in California in the next 15-20 years as the price of water steadily goes up at the meter. The sad part is that we are way behind doing anything about California’s water issues. Although not always practical during our drought periods there are some products out there that can help when there is a pinch on the water supply. First is the Water Hog ( and next which I recent purchased at an affordable price is the Fiskars Rain Barrel ( both of which are cool solutions to capturing and storing rain water right from your downspout. It’s also been shown that gardens typically benefit from the natural rain water as it excludes the additional chemicals which are in the public water. The expression, “you are what you eat,” goes all the way along the food chain. Feed your plants well and you’ll eat well.

Another issue is that I’ve seen dozens of french drains system capture ground water around the house to simply dump it out on the street. Why not capture the water for future use? If you’re demolishing a pool, why not cap it and turn in into a large water cistern? Rain water capture systems and gray water systems are still not widely accepted but will need to eventually be part of our conservation plan.
If you are interested in talking further please give us a call.

Rain Water Capture Tanks
Fiskars Rain Water Barrel Video
Rain Water Hog Video

Educational Water Videos
Blue Gold: Water Wars –
Tapped the Movie –

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Passive Solar: Porch, Portico, and Veranda

"Passive Solar Concept"

Over the last century the cost of energy has been relatively cheap and abundant which helped in spurring the growth of our economy. Unfortunately the growth has made us somewhat lackadaisical causing us to forget some basics principals. Ironically during period of our amnesia over the last century we produced mass housing in a grid block format. Although the grid is effective for maximize lot usage this method can be counter productive toward concepts like passive solar design. Unfortunately most production builders have focused on profits over function and efficiency.

In historical times the Greeks built housing ensuring that everyone had access to the sun for solar heat gain purposes through the use of portico or also known as a covered porch. In the attached diagrams I’ve provided illustrations using Sketchup showing the use of a portico facing the South. In the winter months the portico would allow the sun to enter the structure through windows or an open door way do heat up the home while the opposite side would be protected by the northern winds. In the summer months when its hotter outside the portico would shelter the windows and doors preventing the direct sun light from entering the house and thus keeping it cooler.

In the last decade people have been coming to their senses realizing that we may soon be reaching a point of peak oil and may very well already be there. Because of this there is a movement towards being more energy efficient. In the building industry along with other industries this is known as the “Green” movement. Builders are now looking at the possibility of making Net-zero or energy efficient buildings. It would seem that we still have a ways to go but hopefully we’ll continue on this path of progress and correct for some of our mistakes and make for a better future.

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Why does my new shower fixture still drip?

Every once in a while there is that client who wants the spotless shower or tub. No matter how much effort is taken in drying the tub after its use, there always seems to be a few drips. No, it’s not the plumbers or new fixtures fault. One must realize that many materials such as metal, plastic, or rubber expand varying degrees when heated. Within most modern shower fixtures there are rubber gaskets and plastic cartridges. These modern fixtures with plastic and rubber parts tend to suffer more from expansion and contraction than their earlier counterparts that were entirely metal.
After a shower has been taken water typically resides in the line. In most cases the shower is usually taken with hot water and it takes time for the fixture components and the residing water to cool down to room temperature. During the time period the components will slowly cool and contract. It is this contraction that forces any remain water residing in the fixture to slowly drip out over time during the cooling process. The best measure to reduce this effect would be to run cold water through the line before shutting the shower off.

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How are your concept drawings?

Hand Drawn Plan

Need suggestions. Do you have ideas but don’t know where to start. Are you a little behind and simply not getting anywhere on your project. Are you looking for something tangible in order to obtain costs. We have a solution! It is time to visualize with real conceptual drawings. We can provide conceptual drawings and can also produce a set of plans for your Kitchen, Bathroom or Outdoor BBQ! See our special 595 Plan in the menu under Quick Plans.

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Balance between being Efficient and Practical…

Over the last few years there has been a movement towards being more energy efficient or GREEN. An abundance of product entering the world of GREEN materials. But not all materials are created equal and each has a specific use. As with any material one needs to know when and where it becomes applicable. What might be good in one area might not work well in other areas.

Sometimes materials are used to complete the wrong objective. The goal of efficiency should not kill off practical concepts nor should it break the bank. In reaching the goals of efficiency, building effort have been working towards reducing energy loss. In doing so they have been making newer homes nearly air tight. Although this might create an efficient system, efficiency isn’t always good if it not properly managed.

Recently in a local gardening shop I was reminded of an experiment from my elementary school days. At the shop there was a plant growing in spongy like substance within a plastic dome, just like a miniature greenhouse. When one completely seals up their home to obtain peak efficiency they create a very similar environment which gives cause for concern unless properly ventilated. Because of this efficiency sometimes needs to be handled from multiple angles similarly to a delicate ecosystem.

Some say that GREEN misses the point and is just a marketing ploy. The new concept that we’ll most likely see more of is eMergy efficiency. Emergy is the total embodied energy that going into a product including but not limited to manufacturing process, resources needed, transportation, and installation of the product. A GREEN product doesn’t make sense if one must waste more money and energy to actually make the product, especially if it might end up being recycled in another 15 years. There is more to products than just a label and some countries have already figured this out. Efficiency and durability sometimes go hand in hand similar to your grandfather’s old tools or that old piece of oak furniture that gets passed around the family. In our disposable economy we’ve become accustomed to and tolerant of short product life cycles. Sometimes being GREEN and energy efficient is really about spending the money for quality that will last whether it has a label or not.

Architects are currently working on Net-Zero homes which are houses that produce all of the energy which they use thus creating a net zero effect on the grid. These home tend to be a little more expensive but lesson the impact on old public infrastructure and save on increasing utility costs. One Architect used smart design principals in creating a dumb building. Instead of the modern air conditioning he used the structure of the building to create air flow for ventilation and thus eliminated the cost of mechanical.

No matter whether it’s GREEN, a dumb building, a Net-Zero house, or eMergy efficient saving energy and reducing cost without forgoing quality is always a worthwhile goal. There needs to be a fine balance between efficiency and practicality when designing, building or remodeling any home.

Posted in Design | Leave a comment
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