decks design a deck DIY Uncategorized

DIY Patio and Deck Layout Idea

If you’re planning to expand the outdoor living space of your home with a new deck or patio consider our low tech, really, it’s no tech solution to planning its design and layout. Create a simulation of the size of the new addition so you can visualize the space before actually building it. The first time we did this was at a friends’ house and we found their table and 4 chairs barely fit on the deck they planned, let alone allow space for the planter boxes they wanted.

You can create a make believe layout of the new deck or patio with a string of garden hoses, rope, rakes and shovels, heavy-duty extension cords (or whatever you have that’s long and easy to move around) to outline the dimensions you’re considering. Leave it in place for a few days to see how it looks and feels.

Is the addition in scale with the size of your house? Is it the right dimensions for furniture you plan to use there? To find out, make a template with newspaper and masking tape of the footprint for each piece of furniture you want to use. If you have the furniture put it in place and see how it fits. Remember a chair tucked under a table takes up less space than when it’s pushed away and someone is moving around it.

If a BBQ grill is part of the plan, where will it be located so there’s room for a cook to prepare food comfortably and not be in the way. If you entertain outdoors you’ll need additional seating, maybe a table for more serving space, or extra seating. If you have a toddler a small plastic wading pool is a nice addition.

Create a plan for the addition of a deck or patio that fits your needs and your budget with this simple simulation of its layout and it’s a good bet you’re more likely to build one that’s just right for your home.

To get an idea of how much a deck or patio will cost go to the Outdoor Projects section of and learn how much it costs to build one yourself compared with hiring a contractor. There you’ll also find the costs of hundreds of home repair, decorating and remodeling projects.


Build Something for Your Dog in the Dog Days of Summer

Some of the most popular home improvement projects on our website have nothing to do with upgrades for the people who live in their home, but everything to do with improvements for the dog of the house. That says a lot about how much we value our favorite family member. Sure, the people in a household are important but they all have a special bond with their dog who is waiting for them when they come home. A dog is usually their best friend so it’s no surprise that building a dog house, a dog kennel and a dog door is something to consider.

At you’ll find the cost of hundreds of home improvement jobs. When it comes to the price tag for three popular dog projects, here’s what you’ll find. You can buy a doghouse kit made of cedar components with a raised panel floor for about $110 and assemble it, or you can pay a handyman an additional $199 to put it together. The kits come with all parts cut to size and all the fasteners required for assembly.

Thinking about a nice dog kennel where your Buster can move around outdoors? A fence contractor will charge $493 to install a 6-by-12-foot gated kennel that’s 6 feet high. You can buy a kennel kit of similar size for $330 and install it and pocket a 33 percent saving.

What about making a dog door so your pet can go out and come in without having someone open and close a door? A pet door is the solution. A handyman will charge $78 to install a good quality-medium size pet door in a wooden door, but you can make the installation for $35, the cost of the unit. It’s a good first-time project for a budding do-it-yourselfer because the tools required are basic and it’s an easy job to accomplish.

If you want to compare the cost of doing a project yourself with hiring a contractor we hope you’ll visit us at and on your smartphone.


Energy Saving Ideas

Make your house more of an energy mizer instead of a guzzler when the hot weather hits. You don’t have to buy an expensive new heating and cooling unit or replace all the windows. Granted, those are two ways to lower cooling costs, but there are some simple no-cost changes you can make to the way you live. From our discussions with homeowners there’s more than one way to keep an air conditioning unit working as little as possible while maintaining a comfortable climate inside. Here’s our takeaways from what we learned. It’s not so much about being thrifty as it is about being thoughtful and replacing old habits with new ones.
• Operate heat generating appliances like a dishwasher, washing machine and clothes dryer in the evening when energy costs are lower instead of during peak time. Instead of using an oven to prepare dinner cook outside on a grill.
• Change the filters in a cooling system once a month so it operates efficiently.
• Move furniture off of and away from floor ducts so it doesn’t block the flow of cool air coming from a cooling unit.
• Close doors to seldom used rooms so you don’t pay to cool an unused room.
• If you have a fireplace, close the damper to prevent cool air from escaping.
• Turn off computers and electronics or use the “sleep feature” when they’re not in use.

For more energy saving ideas visit us at where you’ll also find the cost of hundreds of home improvement projects. On your smart phone go to


DIY Trending on Main and Mobile Sites

A look at last month’s most viewed job costs on and its mobile sidekick indicates different audience interests.  The popular job costs on the main site include bathroom upgrades like tiling a tub surround, and installing wainscoting, nice improvements to the interior of the house. The only how-to project to make the list is replacing drawer glides, somewhat of a surprise to us since we didn’t know it was such a issue with so many visitors.

The mobile audience appears more interested in outdoor jobs like building a deck and pergola, staining a wood fence and maintenance jobs like pressure washing siding and decks. 

Since the first of the year there’s one job costs that’s always at the top of the list of both sites and that’s installing  a suspended (drop) ceiling.  We think that’s due to the interest in finishing basements to take advantage of often under-utilized space.  A suspended ceiling has always been a great coverup to conceal the maze of exposed wires and pipes to create a pleasant bonus room in a house. Two more top views on both sites are removing a wall often required in a remodeling job and repairing broken window glass, a life skill every homeowner with kids should be able to accomplish.

These trends change each month, and tell us we have diverse homeowner interest in job costs whether they access the information on their laptop or smartphone.