Building Your Own Fire Pit

Fire pits can be fancy or plain, complicated or easy.  If you’re on a tight budget, it’s still possible to create an attractive and functional fire pit that adds charm and warmth to your yard or patio in a few relatively simple steps on your own.

This method doesn’t require setting the pavers in concrete or pouring a permanent base, so it’s a quick and easy project.  With no messy concrete to mix and therefore not having to wait for the cement to dry and cure, it’s possible to build your fire pit on Saturday and use it for a party on Sunday.

Materials And Tools

  • Concrete Wall Stones
  • Cap Stones (Optional)
  • Masonry Adhesive (Optional)
  • Sand
  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Level
  • Tamper

Before beginning your project, make sure to check your community’s building code for restrictions and regulations. Make sure to choose an area that is not near any buildings or low-hanging structures, trees or bushes. Ensure that you will not be digging near any underground utility lines, water or gas pipes.

Your fire pit should be approximately 36 to 44 inches in diameter. Lay out your stones in a test circle and mark the outside perimeter. You can use spray paint to mark grass, or use a shovel to cut the turf around the perimeter.

Remove your test circle and dig down 12 inches to create your pit. Make the walls of the hole as vertical as possible. Dig out the bottom so that it is flat and level. Pour several inches of sand in the bottom of the hole and tamp it to maintain a level surface.

Lay the wall stones just inside the perimeter of your hole. Make sure that they are resting snugly against the walls of the hole and against each other. Continue adding staggered courses until the wall is approximately 12 inches above ground.

Add another layer of sand in your stone ring, approximately four inches deep. The sand should cover the first course of stones.

At this point, your fire pit is ready to use. However if you wish to give your pit a more finished appearance, you can add a row of decorative capstones.  Set your capstones temporarily in place to get a smooth, continuous fit. Once you’re pleased with the spacing, pick up a capstone and use a dollop or two of masonry adhesive to set it in place. Continue around the circle and remove one piece at a time to apply the adhesive and reposition the stone. Press down firmly to spread the adhesive evenly and to make solid contact between the capstone and the stone wall.

Your fire pit is complete, looks great and is ready for a party or a leisurely get-together. Now it’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy your new outdoor living space.

If you are wanting a more elaborate fire pit or barbecue set-up than this or if you simply do not have time to do the work yourself, call 1-866-FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code above to find the Handyman Matters location closest to your home.  Expert craftsmen are happy to consult with you in order to create the customized barbecue/firepit that will best serve your individual needs.



Undercabinet Lighting

Do you have areas in your home that seem to be lacking something but you can’t quite figure out what it is? It could be that those areas simply need a little more light or a type of lighting that is more functional. The installation of under cabinet lighting may be just what you need to transform a dull space into a functional and  more attractive area.

It can be very frustrating trying to prepare meals in a kitchen with insufficient lighting. Adding lighting under the cabinets will instantly illuminate your meal preparation area making it a more enjoyable place to work. To brighten up your kitchen, you might want to explore and compare the different lighting options such as strip lights, puck lights or linear under cabinet lighting.

In addition to making your kitchen a more functional space, under cabinet lights can enhance the aesthetics of your kitchen decor. Puck lights are a good example of mood setting under cabinet lighting. Under cabinet lighting can be installed inside of a glass front or open-front cabinet. This gives you an opportunity to draw attention to collectibles or showcase your glassware or dishes.

The functionality of a craft room or workshop can also be increased with the addition of under the cabinet lighting. Other forms of lighting simply cannot provide the direction-specific illumination that lighting placed under a cabinet can.

Once you begin installing lighting that fits neatly under your kitchen cabinets or the cabinet in your craft room or workshop, you may begin seeing other areas of your home that would benefit from the installation of under cabinet lighting. One of those locations might be your bathroom. Here, the lighting would probably serve more as a nighttime illumination option or as a mood-enhancing element of decor. Rope lighting placed at the base of your bathroom cabinets could be considered a safety feature.

Under cabinet lighting can be used on a bookcase to make it a more impressive accent piece in your living room, bedroom or office. It can actually be added to almost any shelf in any area of your home to create a more dramatic space.

When you begin shopping for under cabinet lighting, you will have choices such as LED, fluorescent or halogen lights to consider. You’ll also need to take notice of the installation process. Some under cabinet lighting can be done as a DIY project and some require the expertise of a professional.

If DIY isn’t the right choice for your project, a Handyman Matters professional craftsman is always one call away at 1-866-FIX-MY-HOME or, you can enter your zip code above to find a location in your area.

Tile Installation Tips

Ceramic tile is easy for even someone who is not a regular do-it-yourselfer to install, whether on the floor, the walls, or a tub surround.  Its popularity stems from the fact that tile is very hard, water-resistant and easy to clean.  It does take a bit of patience and diligence and a fair amount of measuring.  So, keep in mind the traditional credo of carpenters:  Measure twice, cut once.

Here are some other tips for tile installation:

  • There’s a difference between floor and wall tiles.  Wall tiles are thinner and smoother than floor tiles.
  • An installation job will need two types of tile. One is filler tile, which will take up most of the surface, and the other is trim tile which goes around the edges of the room and around the corners.
  • Shower stall walls or a tub surround should be prepared with a cement backboard or a waterproofed drywall before the tiling begins.  Make sure to take out any old material at the point where the tile will touch the top of the tub or the base of the shower.  Leave a quarter-inch space for caulking.
  • Be sure to lay out the job precisely.  Ideally, tiling should start in the center of the wall or in the center of the floor.
  • Must-have tools for a tiling job include a tile cutter, a notched trowel, a notched spreader, a level, a rubber float, nippers, roofing felt and roof cement, a stapler and staples, silicone caulk, soap dishes or other accessories, painter’s tape, mastic, grout and grout float, grout saw, hammer and cold chisel, shims, drop cloths, a rod cutter, a sponge and a glass cutter.  A rented wet saw is optional.   You should use some of the tools to experiment on some old tiles, perhaps the ones taken off the wall to make way for the new ones, before the real job begins.
  • Apply adhesive in sections of small squares until you feel comfortable setting the tile.  Keep the room as well-ventilated while you work, to prevent over-exposure to the fumes of the adhesive.
  • If a tub surround or shower stall has been freshly tiled, neither the tub nor the shower should be used for at least two weeks.  If the tiles have been put on the floor, they shouldn’t be stepped on until the mortar is hardened.  If you decide you need to adjust a floor tile that’s too far to reach, find a sturdy piece of plywood to step on.

And, of course, if any of this just seems too overwhelming to tackle, you can always contact Handyman Matters to have a professional complete the work for you, call 1-866-FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code above to find the location nearest you!

Maintenance Tips: Home Fixes for Fall

Fall is just around the corner, and with it comes home maintenance that needs to be done to prepare for colder weather. To make sure that your home is ready to handle the change in climate that the autumn months bring, take advantage of these 18 helpful and important tips for preparing your home.

Fall Maintenance Tips:

  1. Seal and patch any blacktop driveways.
  2. Check, tighten and adjust outdoor fences, gates and doors.
  3. Fill all of your sinks, drain them, and then check for leaks.
  4. Check your toilets for leaks.
  5. Change your indoor air filters.
  6. Check and tighten all of the light fixtures, wall plugs and wall switches.
  7. Align and adjust all cabinet doors.
  8. Check trim and woodwork for scratches, cracks or areas that are pulling away.
  9. Flush your hot water heater and then refill it.
  10. Check any crawlspaces for moisture and leaks.
  11. Check and clean air registers and grills.
  12. Double check any fire extinguishers.
  13. Clean out dryer vents and exhaust vents.
  14. Inspect your roof for missing shingles and gaps around the pipes and corners.
  15. Check linoleum flooring for rips, tears and curling.
  16. Check for erosion or shifting around your house.
  17. Bury any exposed sprinkler, wiring, or cable lines.
  18. Wash all of your home’s windows.

By following these 18 useful  tips, you’ll be well on your way to getting your home in top shape for fall. Just make sure that any specialty work, such as roofing, patching blacktop, or fixing flooring, is taken care of properly and professionally.

For additional tips on how to take care of your home and property all year long, call Handyman Matters at 1-866-FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code above to schedule an appointment today. We’ll make sure that your home is well taken care of and prepared for fall.

Tips for Cooling the Air in Your Home

Air conditioning is the first and most popular method for cooling your home on a warm day, but there are additional ways, and most of these do not require any extra purchases or outside assistance. Let’s take a look at some of the best tips for cooling down your home.

Keep the Sun Out of the House

One of the best ways to cool your home without cranking up the AC is by keeping the sun’s warming rays outside. Shield your windows with shades, draperies, or other heat-filtering materials can reduce the temperature by a considerable number of degrees. Just make sure to block east-facing windows in the mornings and western-facing ones in the afternoons!

Change the Filter on Your AC Unit

When a filter is dirty, it is hard for that cool air to get into your home. Cleaning the filter in your AC unit is not difficult, and can be accomplished by looking through the manual that goes with your particular system.

Ceiling Fans

While fans don’t provide quite the immediate or intense cooling that air conditioning provides, they do go a long way towards reducing a room’s temperature and stirring up the stagnant, warm air. And they are much more energy efficient, besides.

Sealing Those Poorly-Insulated Areas

A poorly-insulated home allows both warm air to escape in winter and cooler air to exit in summer. A quick check of your home will determine if there are doors that aren’t closing tightly or windows allowing air to escape around the casings. Plugging these holes makes a remarkable difference in cool air retention. You can also put in weather stripping to keep cold air inside the house in the summer and warm air inside your home in winter.

If you feel like there is a problem with your air conditioning system or you want to be more effective with cooling the air in your home, contact Handyman Matters. We can help you save money and keep your home cool during the summer. Enter your zip code above or call 1-866-FIX-MY-HOME today to contact a Handyman Matters near you.

Senior Safety Fixes for the Home

Are your elderly parents still safe living at home? Even though they may be mentally sharp, their reaction times and physical abilities are most likely deteriorating over time.  If you are concerned about the safety of your parents in their current home, rest assured that there are relatively inexpensive measures you can take to keep them safe and independent for years to come.

As might be expected, elderly people want to stay independent for as long as they can. The last thing they want to feel like is a burden on their families. But according to the National Safety Council, falls are the leading cause of injury death among people 65 and older. Removing potential hazards in your parent’s home will not only give you and them peace of mind, but it will also save money if the alternative is placing them in assisted living.

The bathroom

The bathroom is one of the more hazardous places in the house. More accidents occur there for people of all ages than in the rest of the house. It is especially important to keep the bathroom safe for our elderly parents. Thankfully this can be done without a large expense.

Grab bars should be installed where ever support is needed. When proper support is not available, the elderly will use towel bars or the toilet paper holder, appliances not suitable for such use. Instead, grab bars should be securely placed both inside and outside the bathtub and within reach of the toilet.

As parents age they will find it increasingly difficult to stand up from a low toilet. If replacing the toilet with a higher model is not an option, then replacing the current seat with an elevated one complete with armrests will help them considerably.  Another solution is to attach stand-alone armrests that attach to the floor and wall. These are very stable and won’t wobble as some toilet seat models tend to do. Bath and shower safety devices can be purchased at most home improvement stores or online.

If the bathtub has shower doors, removing these and replacing them with a shower curtain will allow more space to enter and exit the tub. It is also helpful to use non-slip mats or tape in the tub along with non-slip rugs. Additionally, replace the faucet handles with knobs for those with levers. Also place a nightlight in the bathroom.  For added safety, make sure the bathroom doors open out. If your loved one were to collapse against the closed door inside the bathroom, then you or rescue personnel would have a hard time getting to them.

The rest of the house

Make sure the water heater temperature is adjusted to prevent accidental scalding. Replace the home thermostat with a backlit model with a large display. Remove raised thresholds in doorways. Put extra lighting switches in areas where they would be beneficial. The addition of extra outlets may be necessary if power cords on the floor are a tripping hazard.  Replace doorknobs with levers.

In the kitchen, replace cabinet hardware if your parent has trouble grabbing them. The same should be done for kitchen faucets. Make sure the kitchen and rest of the house are free of plumbing leaks. Not only can these pose a serious slip hazard, but they may breed mold in the crawlspace or basement.

If you’re looking to add some additional senior safety to your home, enter your zip code above to find your local Handyman Matters location or call 866-FIX-MY-HOME.  

Frank Nielson is a retired medical researcher who now spends his days writing and attempting to tie the perfect fly. Through this writing, he is keen on helping consumers find the best medical supplies at an affordable price.