Posted by Ash
This post may contain affiliate links to products we personally use and love.
I’ve had garage ventilation on my mind for some time now. Between Eileen and I always doing projects in the garage, we produce a lot of fumes from painting and staining.
Cutting wood in there also throws a lot of sawdust into the air. Even when I work on the mower and other small engines in there, the smell of gasoline lingers.
On nice days when it’s not raining, we leave the garage door open and sometimes even put a fan to help exhaust the air.
However, this is not the ideal solution.
Many painting and staining projects would sit in the garage overnight filling the air with fumes, just to be aired out when the sun came up and we could open the garage doors.
Aside from the noxious odors sitting in the garage the next morning, it would also delay the completion of these projects.
A better solution had to be devised.
To add to the pressure, I recently acquired a snow blower for the upcoming winter snow storms, and that was bound to leave the garage filled with gasoline odors after usage.
So I put my thinking cap on and wandered around the garage looking for ideas.
I knew I wanted to set up some type of fan that would exhaust the air, so I was looking for areas in the garage that would be an ideal location.
In my previous home, I used to run a lot of computer equipment in the garage that would produce a lot of heat. I had researched garage venting options back then and settled on a small fan and vent that could be installed directly in the garage door (via a small hole that you cut).
This solved my problem of exhausting the heat, but had an unfortunate side effect. During the winter, the vent would let all the cold air in and drop the garage temperature below the freezing point, wreaking havoc on my paints and other liquids that were not meant to be frozen.
The garage door exhaust option left a bad taste in my mouth ever since, and I was determined not to pursue that direction again. Also, to properly exhaust the size of my current garage, I would need a much larger fan and hole to make the job worthwhile.
I finally settled on a plan. I would find an ideal venting location in the garage, and cut a large square hole in the wall (roughly 14”x14” in between the wall studs).
Then I would install self-closing shutter vents on both the interior and exterior of the wall. Finally, on the inside, I would install a powerful fan to exhaust the garage. The double shutter vents were going to be key in helping to keep the cold air outside during the winter.
I did a lot of research on exhaust fans and decided on one with built-in shutters. I purchased a 14” diameter fan capable of 800 CFM.
No wiring was needed with this particular model because it just plugs into an outlet. I already had a wireless switch ready for it too, so I could activate it from the other side of the garage. For the exterior wall, I went a 14” aluminum shutter vent.
With the hardware identified, I looked for an ideal location for the vent. The best location would have been above one of the garage doors, but for aesthetics, I didn’t want the vent to be visible from the street.
So I went with a wall that faced the rear of the house. It would be practically invisible but still serve its purpose.
Here’s the location I chose inside:
Here’s where the vent would exhaust outside:
Now to start cutting the hole. I used my stud finder to identify the location of the studs. Then using a jab saw (a special saw meant for cutting drywall) and a reciprocating saw, I worked on a hole for the vent. Here’s a picture showing my progress:
Above, you’ll the first layer I went through was the drywall. Then I had 2 layers of insulating foam. The came the white vinyl siding.
I left the siding intact for now while I awaited shipment of the exterior vent.
The cutout got a little rough at some of the edges, but it was not a big deal. The fan would cover all the edges, and hide any irregularities in my cut.
Next, I had to seal the top and bottom edges of the hole.
This was a necessary step to prevent the fan from venting air into the wall. I simply cut two pieces of 2x4s, inserted them in the top and bottom, and attached to the wall studs using some pocket hole screws (with the help of my Kreg Pocket Hole jig).
I put temporary hooks into the 2x4s to make it easier to maneuver them.
Here’s one of the 2x4s ready to be inserted:
Here’s a picture of the bottom of the hole, sealed in with the 2x4:
Next I inserted the fan to make sure it fit properly:
A few days later, the exterior shutter vent arrived and I resumed work on the project.
Cutting a hole through the wall meant that I had to be careful to make the exterior side water proof. I couldn’t just cut a hole in the siding, insert the vent, and call it a day.
To keep water from penetrating the siding, I needed to use J channel. This would allow me to create a frame around the vent that would overlap the siding and shield the rough cut edges from water.
Here is a picture showing 4 pieces of J channel cut to make the vent frame:
This was actually my first time working with J channel, so I had to do some research online to see how to make the cuts on the ends (important to prevent water from seeping in). I followed some great instructions on FamilyHandyMan.com (under the section “Install J-channel around the window”).
Here’s a picture showing the assembled J channel pieces wrapping around the vent:
Now came the fun task of working with the siding.
To properly install the exterior vent, I needed access to the wall underneath the siding, which meant removing several pieces of siding. This was a learning process as I went along (I did all my research, so I was confident in the task at hand).
With the help of a siding removal tool, I was able to easily detach some siding, and pull it away from the wall.
With enough of the siding out of the way, I was able to continue work on the hole.
To help with the waterproofing, I used some flashing tape (left over from my shed project) to seal in the edges of the hole.
Here’s a picture showing the flashing tape in action:
In the event that water did make its way through the siding, the flashing tape would ensure that the water couldn’t seep behind the exposed edges of the foam insulation.
Next, I inserted the shutter vent and nailed it in the wall studs. Here’s a picture showing some progress:
With the vent in place, I attached the J channel frame, overlapping the rough cut edges of the vinyl siding.
Here’s a close-up showing the finished outside wall with J channel:
Looks very professional, doesn’t it? It should be very water tight too.
Here’s a picture showing the vent from the inside:
I was nearing the end of the project.
I inserted the fan in the hole and was getting ready to screw it into the studs.
Then, I decided to check the vents on the fan to make sure they opened and closed properly.
They opened fine. Unfortunately, they had trouble closing. They would stick on the way down and not close all the way. This was bothersome because a partially open vent meant cold drafts coming in.
After some fiddling, I discovered that the hole I cut was too snug of a fit for the fan frame.
It was distorting the frame ever so slightly to cause the shutters to not close properly. If I pulled the fan about 2 inches out from the wall, the shutters worked fine.
So the solution was simple.
I would built a 2x4 wooden frame between the wall and the fan, to give the fan enough distance from the hole for the shutters to operate properly.
I literally spent only 10 minutes on this task. I chopped some 2x4s to length with the miter saw.
Then I attached them to each other with pocket hole screws to form a frame.
Finally, I used some lag bolts (countersunk with a forstner bit) to attach the frame to the wall studs. Here's a picture of the frame (the pocket holes are hidden on the other side):
At last, the fan could be bolted to the wall.
I pressed the fan against the 2x4 frame and made sure the shutters opened and closed freely. Then I attached the fan to the 2x4s with some heavy duty screws.
My garage vent was now completed. I stood back, admired my handiwork and then fired up the fan with my wireless switch.
As the fan speed increased to full, both the inside and outside shutters opened to exhaust the garage. The fan was not that loud either (it was barely audible outside the garage).
Here’s a picture of the mounted fan (powered on) from the inside:
Here’s a picture of the outside showing the vents open with the fan on:
I’m very excited about our new garage vent. I already used it this past weekend with great success.
We had a mild snow shower (about 4 inches), and so I broke out the snowblower to try it out.
As predicted, when I finished clearing out the snow from the driveway, and put away the snowblower in the garage, the still warm engine started to stink up the garage.
I engaged the new exhaust fan for a few hours, and the garage was back to normal.
I can’t wait to see what the fan does when the garage is full of sawdust in the air.
Total cost of this project was around $150 and was collectively about a day’s worth of work.
Want to see more? Check out our similar projects.
Posted by Ash
This post may contain affiliate links to products we personally use and love.
I was 15 years old when I first saw snow, and I was captivated.
I loved being out in the snow, playing snow sports, and even shoveling. To this day, I still love snow.
I've always wanted a snowblower, but we've never had a strong need.
After moving into our new house with a massive driveway, the snow last winter was too much. After a major snowstorm, my neighbor lent me his snow blower, and I was enthralled.
It was so much fun to use, and even though I enjoy a good shoveling workout, it freed up a lot of time to play with my son in the snow.
So I was determined to get my own snow blower for next winter.
I started my search early fall. I wanted a good machine without spending a lot. I already had a lot of experience maintaining my mower - a 20-year old Craftsman riding mower. From simple oil changes to fuel pump replacements to carburetor rebuilds, I have the old mower running like new.
So, I decided to look for a used snow blower. Due to my experience with the Craftsman brand, I know that their replacement parts are plentiful and cheap online. They also provide manuals and parts diagrams for almost every model equipment they make (just enter the model number on SearsPartsDirect.com).
I found an amazing deal - $125 for a Craftsman 5HP two stage snow blower with electric start. Comparable ones were selling used for around $275.
For such a low price, i knew it wasn't going to be in perfect condition, so I kept my expectations low. Upon my inspection, it was missing the pull starter rope for manual startup, and the carburetor would leak fuel every now and then. It was also missing the control knob for the choke.
The guy selling it said the machine would start making surging sounds after some time, until you fiddled with the carburetor fuel release screws. He started it up though and it ran great.
I checked out all the forward/reverse gears. I inspected the impeller to make sure it was in good shape. The auger had no structural damage. I was excited. For around $40 more in parts, I could get this snow blower in top shape.
I happily accepted the offer of $125 and loaded it into my SUV. I had brought a pair of ramps I made a few weeks ago with two 2x8 wood planks and ramp supports.
This helped me load the heavy machine in the back of the car. I did have to take out a few screws to fold the push handle in half to fit properly though. I also wrapped the carburetor in a plastic bag to catch any fuel that was leaking (didn't need the car smelling like gas for days).
Here's a picture of my new machine:
When I got home, I grabbed the model number off the back and went online to order some parts:
Based on my assessment of the machine, I put through an order for the following parts:
The price came up around $40 as I predicted. I considered rebuilding the carb (the leaking was probably from a deteriorated rubber seal), but new carbs for this model were so cheap (around $15).
I actually just replaced my neighbor's snow blower carb with the exact same one a few weeks ago too.
All my parts came about a week later and I went to work restoring the machine to tip top shape.
Here's a walk-through of what I did:
I located the carburetor housing:
I removed the housing to expose the carburetor:
I disconnected the yellow priming hose seen above (used to pump air from the priming bulb into the carb to force fuel out for a cold start), followed by the main fuel hose below:
It was important to clamp off the main fuel hose or fuel would immediately pour out once disconnected.
I used a vice grip, taking care not to squeeze so tightly that the hose would get damaged.
Fuel hoses are sometimes tough to disconnect, so I used special curved nose pliers to grip the hose and twist:
I had a plastic cup underneath the hose while disconnecting it, in case my vice grip clamp didn't do a good job. A word to the wise however - don't use cheap plastic cups to hold gasolene. I didn't think it was a big deal because I used a plastic cup the other day to catch some excess gas from my neighbor's carburetor. However, this time, a few minutes after collecting some gas, I noticed a small puddle on the garage floor. Apparently the gasolene had eaten through my plastic cup! I looked it up online, and discovered that some plastic cups are not friendly to gasolene, and most likely my plastic cup this time was made from a corn based product, which would be dissolved by the gasolene.
Next, I unhooked a metal link wire connecting the throttle control lever to the carb, and attempted to remove two bolts holding the carb to the engine block.
The bolts were on extremely tight and I could not remove with a screw driver. The screw heads actually started stripping.
So, I brought out my impact drill and it did the job with ease:
Here's a picture of the removed carburetor:
The removed piece actually consisted of more than just the core carb, so I had to strip it down to extract the carb (seen in the center of the picture below):
The piece on the right is called the intake pipe and connects the carb to the engine block.
Unfortunately, when I pulled it off the engine, a gasket in between the two ripped from old age. My new carb didn't come with this gasket (since it's not technically part of the carb), so I had to order a replacement.
This meant I had to wait a few days to actually fire up the machine with the new carb. I could still proceed with the installation though, and just insert the gasket when it arrived.
Here's a picture showing where the gasket would go:
To install the new carb, I just reversed the steps above with the new piece. I loosely connected it back to the engine block, awaiting the gasket for completion.
Next I replaced the spark plug:
Next I proceeded to fix the missing pull starter and handle. The original rope most likely broke from old age.
Here’s where the fix was to be done:
Here's a picture showing the new rope and handle to be installed:
Here's the pull starter housing removed showing the old frayed rope:
I simply removed old rope remains and threaded in the new rope, coiling it around the starter. Here's a picture showing the repaired starter:
The rope remained secured to the starter and handle with knots on both ends. To keep the knots from undoing, I used a lighter to melt the end of the polyester rope slightly (also a necessary step when cutting polyester rope to keep the ends from fraying):
When the intake pipe gasket arrived in the mail a few days later, I resumed work on the snow blower. I installed the gasket and secured the carburetor tightly to the engine block.
The blower was ready to be fired up. I rolled it outside and hooked up an extension cord for the electric start.
The engine started up right away with the new carburetor and there were no more leaks. I also tested the pull starter with the new rope. The engine started up just as easily as the electric start.
Next I was going to change the oil. I let the engine run for a few minutes to warm up the engine oil (warm oil flows more freely when draining it).
Then I shut it off and proceeded with the oil change.
After remove the oil dip stick, I used a small funnel with a hose and an oil storage reservoir and drained the warm oil:
After all the oil was drained, I closed back the drain port and began filling 5W-30 motor oil into the dipstick hole:
While filling the oil, I took breaks regularly to check the level with the dipstick.
I learned the hard way that when you overfill the engine with oil that it's going to come out of the engine one way or another, and not in a nice way.
The snow blower revamp was nearly done. I replaced the missing choke knob.
Also, the carburetor housing was vibrating excessively due so some missing screws, producing a lot of noise with the engine running. I dug through my garage screw collection until a found a fit.
Finally, to prepare the snow blower for the upcoming winter season, I applied some non-stick ice and snow coating to the auger blades and impeller chute.
This would greatly help prevent the chute from clogging up during use, and allow the augers to cut through the snow like butter.
Here's the spray that I used:
In total, I spent around $165 for my snow blower and put in less than 3 hours of work to get it in prime condition.
I'm eagerly looking forward to this upcoming winter and the next major snowstorm.
Want to see more? Check out our similar projects.
Posted by Eileen
This post may contain affiliate links to products we personally use and love.
With the cooler weather coming in, it’s the perfect time for weekend DIY projects. There’s something about the crisp, clean air that motivates me to accomplish more.
If you are anything like us, you are probably looking to get a few fall projects under your belt too. The best projects are weekend ones, as I also love a project that only spans two days! Plus, you can start and finish something amazing before the Monday morning blues set in.
From garage storage to backyard updates to kitchen upgrades, we are sharing quite a few home projects that only span a couple of days. My personal favorite is the outdoor picnic table - it turned out so beautiful and we saved hundreds! So, without further ado, here are six projects that you can complete over the course of the weekend.
Ash built this picnic table in just one day! Imagine my surprise and delight:) It was simple to make, and the results were beautiful. We especially love the composite decking on the tabletop and the seats, as it involved no staining or sealing – and provides a nice safe material to have meals on.
As for cost, this was a steal ($160!) compared to the cost of this type of outdoor furniture at the landscaping and home improvement stores, and it looks just as wonderful. For a step-by-step tutorial, read, Building a Picnic Table in One Day.
In our old house, we had an eyesore of a pantry. It was nothing more than a nook of shelves with drawn curtains. It was nothing short of awful. In sprucing up our house for our move, I was looking for ways to make our kitchen look less dated, without updating the counters and cabinets. The idea of putting French doors then hit me. Ash agreed – he loves my design decisions…:)
We found a reasonable pair, installed them, and painted them white. I couldn’t have been happier to see those awful curtains go – it was definitely a rags to riches moment! It took a mere weekend of work, and I’m sure the nice folks who bought our house are enjoying them. Check out the before and after along, with all the nitty gritty details in, From Rags to Riches: Updating the Pantry.
This project was one of Ash’s favorites because he checked an item off his bucket list, as he finally built his own functional workbench. It’s definitely a fan favorite, as it’s been featured on quite a few sites, including Life Hacker and Make.
In his post, Constructing a Folding Workbench with Storage, Ash shares his plans (it’s an Ash original!) and explains not only this thought process, but all the necessary steps for you to build your own. It only took two days, and Ash has been reaping its benefits ever since!
Ash and I are a little storage-obsessed. I'll admit that I have a little Christmas stuff addiction, although I won’t even admit how many trees I have. And, Ash, well he never throws anything away. In his defense, he creates some really cool things from his hoard collection – including a built-in pantry shelf made from a CD shelf (post coming soon). Thus, we could never have too much storage.
In our garage, we had a 20-foot corner of space between the wall and the fridge, and Ash turned this into 70 feet of space with stacked, slide-out storage shelves. These shelves are awesome, storing some of our holiday decorations. The slide-out feature provides easy access to boxes in the back, along with easy steps up to the top. Not to mention, Ash created bonus shelving with the leftover wood. If you love storage space as much as we do, check out, Creating More Garage Storage. In just a weekend, you could have yourself your very sliding storage shelves, just in time for the holidays.
Inspired by a trip to the strawberry fields, Ash had his mind set on building a trailer for his riding mower. He figured he could haul yard waste to the curb more easily and even take the family on a few tractor rides. His vision became a reality with this custom-built wagon. When he finished the wagon, no one but Zeus was around – so he got the first ride. :)
Ash gives all the details, from basic construction to assembling the axles to hooking up the hitch connection in his post, How to Build a Wagon for a Riding Mower. After using it all summer, Ash found it more helpful than he originally thought, and he’ll continue to use it this fall bagging up all of the leaves.
Thinking about tackling a wooden pathway project? It’s easier than you think. With just a few hours of work, Ash created a perfect path from our patio into our backyard.
Prior to this boardwalk, there was a narrow pathway with a few uneven rocks, so this was quite an upgrade. It took a little digging, but it was completed in a just a weekend. After a year, it gets used each and every day and is holding up great. Looking for a boardwalk solution, read, A Wooden Pathway for the Backyard.
All of these awesome projects were tackled in just one weekend. Make your Monday a little happier next week, knowing you created something awesome during your two day break.
We love hearing from you! Let us know what projects you worked on over the weekend or what projects you would like to see!
Posted by Ash
This post may contain affiliate links to products we personally use and love.
With so many things taking up my garage wall space, any empty area was prime real estate, no matter how small.
The other day, some wall space caught my eye - a little gap between the two garage doors. Right away I thought that it would be an excellent place for some narrow shelves.
Strange that it took me a year to spot the little gem between my garage doors.
The project I was working on at the time (the built-in bookcase with window seat) produced a lot of scrap birch plywood.
This was expensive stuff - 4x8 sheets sell for $50 at Home Depot. So I wasn't wasting any cut offs (believe me, I was quite inventive in the different ways I reused those scraps).
My shelving idea between the garage doors would be a perfect little project for some of the plywood scraps.
Simple flat shelves wouldn't suffice though. With so little space, the shelves would be small, and things could fall off easily.
So instead of shelves, I started visualizing little boxes on the wall.
How nice would it be to walk in wearing yard gloves, and have a box to toss them into as soon as I enter the garage?
I took the box idea a step further and considered using French cleats for them. This would allow each box shelf to be removed by simply lifting it. It would lead to a very modular design where the boxes could be swapped with other ones on the fly.
Rather than digging through a box on the wall to find what I need, or make repeated trips to the wall, why not just take the box shelf with me?
Now that's some clever thinking, if I do say so myself.
I came up with this simple box design below:
Here’s another view of the box design, resting on the wall via the French cleats:
Here's a TinkerCAD exploded diagram showing in detail how it was constructed:
In the diagram above, the orange piece on the far right is mounted to the wall (to allow the box shelf to drop into and secure to the wall). The rest of the pieces form the box itself.
The wall mounted piece and the other angled cut directly above it (attached to the box) form the French cleat system. I used scrap ¾” birch plywood for the box and French cleats.
For the floor of the box, I used ⅛” thick scrap plywood. I cut all the pieces to size quickly using my table saw, and then miter cut the side pieces for that nice angled profile.
For the French cleat 45 degree lengthwise cuts, I used the table saw again.
Then I used construction adhesive, some bar clamps and my 16 gauge finishing nail gun to assemble the wood pieces into a functional French cleat box shelf.
Technically, I built the first shelf without the nail gun. I just used regular finishing nails and a hammer.
With these types of shelves, the strength comes mostly from the construction adhesive (that stuff is really strong when completely dry). The nails really just hold the pieces in place for the glue to set. So that's why I used finishing nails.
Also, I didn't want to risk splitting the plywood scraps, so finishing nails were a good choice due to their thin profile.
As I mentioned earlier, I was in the middle of a bookcase/window seat project at the time. Part of this project involved installing crown molding and baseboard.
I remembered installing crown molding in my previous home, and having an incredibly hard time doing it with finishing nails and a hammer.
I ended up borrowing my neighbor’s cordless finishing nail gun, and the installation was such a breeze. I just held the crown molding in place, then tap tap tap, and the nails (technically brads) were countersunk, securing the molding to the wall.
So purchasing my own finishing nail gun had long been on my wish list.
I finally bit the bullet and purchased one for my birthday to use on the bookcase project. I also got some angled finishing nails to go along with it.
They arrived in the middle of these French cleat shelves.
So the shelves were the perfect opportunity to hone my skills with the gun.
Here's a picture of me using the finishing nail gun for one of the box shelves:
I originally purchased an 18-gauge finishing nail gun (keep reading to see why I returned it).
For those not familiar with finishing nail gun terminology, the gauge represents the thickness of the nail. I'm using the word ‘nail’ loosely because these nail guns actually fire brads, which are strips of thick wire with a very fine head.
They are great for finishing applications (like securing trim) because the heads make a very small hole and require little work to conceal. The thinness of the brads also reduce the likelihood of splitting the wood when they are driven in.
Finishing nail guns are not to be confused with framing nail guns, which fire actual nails and use substantially more power to drive them (hence also more dangerous). I used a gas powered framing nail gun in my shed project if you are interested.
Anyway, I was saying earlier how I purchased an 18-gauge finishing nail gun. Unfortunately, I was not having a good experience using it with the birch plywood.
Most of the nails would fire in straight, but then bend half way and stick out the side of the wood. It was very annoying.
I did some research online and found out that 18-gauge nails don't work well in hardwoods (like birch) and will do exactly what they were doing with me (changing direction as they are driven into the hardwood).
So I decided to return the nail gun and get a 16-gauge version instead. The new nails were noticeablely thicker and worked perfectly for me. The gun is now a permanent addition to my top 12 list of must-have tools.
The 16-gauge version is also an ideal compromise for the average home DIY’er. Depending on the type of woodworking project you're doing, sometimes you'll need a thinner nail (higher gauge) and sometimes you'll need a thicker nail (lower gauge).
Unfortunately finishing nail guns can only fire a single gauge, so you'd need multiple guns to accommodate different nail gauges. This is obviously very expensive, and may not make financial sense for you unless you're a dedicated contractor.
So, 16-gauge is a good compromise because a majority of the projects a typical DIY’er works on can be satisfied with that sized nail gauge.
This has held true for me ever since purchasing the nail gun too. I've used it for everything from crown molding to shelves to quickly tacking on temporary supports for concreting wooden posts. It's also my favorite tool, and well-worth the investment.
With the finishing nail gun, construction of 5 box shelves went by very quickly. I only made 5 because I ran out of scrap wood large enough for box shelves. The remaining smaller scraps had another destiny.
Five boxes were perfectly adequate for the space allocated though.
Here's a picture of the completed boxes resting on the wall (they are empty below, but filled today will all sorts of goodies):
After this was completed, some of the remaining birch plywood scraps got used for another project.
I was going finishing nail gun crazy and just wanted to keep tap-tap-tapping brads, so I ended up making an incredibly useful battery charging station for my cordless tool batteries.
The station consisted of four L shaped shelves fixed to the wall, with two triangular supports each.
Here's a picture of the empty shelves on the walls so you can get an idea of the design:
Here’s what the shelves look like actually being used:
The shelves provide enough space for 4+ battery chargers, extra batteries and a host of accessories.
I got creative and tacked on an empty plastic nail box to store stationary-like pencils, markers and scissors.
I’m most proud of my measuring tape holder though.
I was always looking for my measuring tape and needed a dedicated location for it, so I mounted a metal strip to one of the shelves, and the measuring tape just clips onto it.
It's in the perfect location too. Whenever I need a measuring tape, I just open the garage door and grab the tape off the holder. When done, I just snap it back on the holder and it’s there for future use.
Here's a picture showing my measuring tape holder:
So that's it for this round of garage shelving.
I completed everything on a Saturday with no additional cost to me. I used all scrap wood, and although I benefited a great deal from the finishing nail gun I purchased around the same time, it could have been done with just regular finishing nails and a hammer.
Stay tuned for future shelving ideas as inspiration strikes.
Want to see more? Check out our similar posts.
Hi! We're Ash and Eileen, and we are sharing our home project stories with you. From crafty projects to home maintenance to more ambitious DIY endeavors, we hope our stories inspire you to check a few things off your project list! :)