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Outdoor Fire Pit Ideas for S’more Campfire Memories

May 29, 2015

Looking to improve your backyard?  Consider adding a fire pit.  Adding a fire pit to your backyard will create a dramatic focal point that can be used for enjoyment year round. Many options are available to you when it comes to choosing the right fire pit.  You can have a built in fire pit or purchase a portable one from a variety of stores.  Either way fire pits become a natural gathering spot for socializing and relaxation.

If you decide to build your own fire pit choose an area that is on flat ground that is away from any low hanging branches.  Next, use spray paint on the ground to mark the size and shape of your fire pit. The recommended size for a fire pit is 36 and 44 inches. Then excavate the ground in the shape that you have drawn and then dig approximately 8 inches into the ground.  Once you have done that you can add sand to the bottom of the hole and add then add your retaining wall made of fire brick and fire-proof mortar. Tips:

  • Keep in mind the amount of space you have to work with. Make sure that if you have a large family you have a big enough fire pit for everyone to gather around it.
  • Check the building codes in your area.  This may impact where you can or cannot place your fire pit and also what type of wood you can burn.
  • Choose the right material.  Make sure that your fire pit is built out of material that is both decorative and heat absorbent.

Ideas:

  • Think beyond the basic circle.  Fire pits can be square, L-shape and even triangular.  Pick the shape and size that works best for you.  Make it a focal point and don’t be afraid to be creative.
  • Add your fire pit underneath a gazeebo so you can still enjoy a warm fire even when it is raining.
  • Create a serene setting by adding plants, flowers or even a water feature to your fire pit area.
  • Don’t forget the seating.  Make your fire pit an extension of your home by adding comfortable seating, pillows and even a place to rest a few snacks.
Fire pit 1024x736 Outdoor Fire Pit Ideas for Smore Campfire Memories

Photo Credit: Prayitno on Flickr

If you are looking to add a fire pit to your outdoor living space check out our fire pit advice page and give Mr. Handyman a call.  Mr. Handyman can maintain your home to save you money. One call really does take care of everything on your to-do list. All Mr. Handyman franchises are Fully Insured with General Liability and Workers Compensation. Some services are subject to state and local licensing and may not be available in all locations. Make sure to stay on top of all your household repairs, improvements and maintenance needs and request service in your area.

How to Clean a Grill for Epic Cookouts

May 22, 2015

Get Your Grill Looking ‘Grate’ for BBQ Season

Sometimes it feels like it takes your grill hours to heat up – especially when you’re hungry! Rest assured there’s an easy way to prevent hangry mobs at your next cookout: A good, thorough cleaning can help your grill heat up quicker, prevent flare-ups and may even increase its lifespan. (Hanger = hunger induced anger).

05212015 asparagus How to Clean a Grill for Epic Cookouts

Photo Credit: weedleywonderworks on Flickr

Follow these quick and easy steps for how to a clean grill:

What You’ll Need:

  • Medium-size bucket
  • Dish soap & water
  • Rubber gloves
  • Rags or paper towel
  • Wire brush (or aluminum foil)
  • Flashlight

Step 1: Before cleaning a grill, whether it is gas or charcoal, put on some gloves and old clothes – you will get dirty!
Step 2: Make sure that your grill is not on. If cleaning a gas grill, disconnect the propane tank for safety.
Step 3: Grab a bucket and fill it with some warm water and dish soap. If your grates are too large for your bucket, try using a facility sink. Otherwise, use a soapy rag to wipe down the grates, leaving the suds on the grate. Let the grates sit with the soapy water for a few minutes and hose them off.
Step 4: Remove the grates and let them soak in the bucket for the remainder of your time cleaning. This helps loosen some of the crusted soot.
Step 5: Using your flashlight, inspect the interior of the grill and make sure you can still see the burners. If they look blocked, use your wire brush to scratch off any soot.
Pro tip: If you don’t have a wire brush, grab some aluminum foil and crumple it into a ball.
Step 6: Remove your grates from the bucket and scrape them down using your wire brush.
Step 7: Using a damp rag, wipe down the grates one last time, making sure to get in the corners if possible.
Step 8: Replace the grates in the grill and reconnect the propane tank (if removed).

Now you’re ready to grill! At Mr. Handyman, it’s our goal to get your house – inside and outside – in shape for summer fun and entertaining. From installing decks to backyard fire pits, call your local Mr. Handyman about your next home improvement project. Big or small, we do it all!

Pick the Perfect Picnic Table for Your Backyard

May 20, 2015

As summer approaches, thoughts of outdoor entertaining on warm summer nights flood in. When block parties, evening drinks on the patio, and family barbecues fill your calendar, you know summer is in full swing. So before things get crazy, now is the best time to prep your outdoor space so it can be put to good use in the coming months. Outdoor seating is a crucial element that makes or breaks a great outdoor entertaining space. Picnic tables are durable, practical and reasonable for any family that spends time outdoors. Consider a new picnic table to pull your backyard together this season.

Jeremy Levine Designs Pick the Perfect Picnic Table for Your Backyard

Photo cred: Jeremy Levine Designs on Flickr.

Before making a picnic table purchase, consider the following:

Portability: How often do you plan to host outdoor dining? Would you prefer to have a table you can store during the winter? If you think your table will only get occasional use, consider purchasing a folding picnic table. We love the fun, colorful foldable picnic table found here. The lightweight steel legs and wood table top make for a practical, compact and extremely portable solution to outdoor dining. The table looks like a high-quality picnic table, but when you’re finished, it gets folded up and placed in a storage closet until your next event!

Choosing the Right Material: There are a few different materials used to make picnic tables. Depending on the amount of use, duration of exposure to the elements, and style preference, your needs will vary.

Metal: Steel or aluminum picnic tables require very little maintenance, and have an extremely long life. They are the most durable type of picnic table, and will stand up to extreme temperatures and intense sunlight. The table found here has ultra-durable steel legs and a faux wood tabletop made of plastic. We recommend a table similar to this if you’re looking for a durable option with virtually no maintenance.

Wood: Picnic tables made of wood are the most classic option. There are endless options for wood tables: including cedar, pine, reclaimed wood and more. For a variety of options, check out Amazon’s extensive offerings here . Reclaimed wood furniture is becoming increasingly popular for both indoor and outdoor decorating. For a stylish and affordable (and even custom) wood table, check out Urban Mining Company.

 DIY option: If you’re feeling handy, you can also build your own DIY picnic table. For tips and step-by-step instructions, check out Popular Mechanic‘s DIY “perfect picnic table.”

Whichever picnic table you ultimately choose, you’ll now feel comfortable hosting family and friends for any summer extravaganza!

Mr. Handyman can maintain your home to save you money. One call really does take care of everything on your to-do list. All Mr. Handyman franchises are Fully Insured with General Liability and Workers Compensation. Some services are subject to state and local licensing and may not be available in all locations. Make sure to stay on top of all your household repairs, improvements and maintenance needs and request service in your area.

 

Playsets Aren’t Always Easy to Assemble

May 14, 2015

What is better than being a kid and playing outside with friends?  Life doesn’t get much better than that.  Sometimes the simple things in life make it all worthwhile.  In today’s world of technology and video games, it is a great idea to entice kids to be outside exercising.  One great way to do that is with a playset.  If you don’t already have one, maybe you should.

Benefits of outdoor playsets include:

• Increased creativity and use of problem solving techniques
• Increased physical activity and self-confidence
• Increased social skills from communicating with other children

Shopping around for a playset can be both fun and expensive. Smaller playsets can be made out of plastic but larger playsets are generally made out of wood and can come with swings, a slide, rope, a sandbox and even a climbing wall.  Try to keep in mind that when choosing a playset it is important for parents to choose high quality materials that are safe and durable.

Outdoor Playset Playsets Arent Always Easy to Assemble

Photo Credit: WalkingGeek on Flickr

Once you have made the commitment to install a playset and have found the right one you will need to find the right spot too.  Make sure that you place your playset on level ground away from low trees or branches.

Next, read your instructions and layout all of the pieces to your playset.  Remember that not all playsets are the same and you don’t want to cut any corners that may cause it to be unsafe for children.

When you are ready to start the assembly process, start with the main tower and then add the additional accessories like the swings, slide, and anything else that same with your playset.  Once you are done with that you can anchor down your playset and secure it to the ground. If your playset is not on the soft grass you can also add the final touch of rubberized mulch below the playset. Now your backyard has become your kid’s personal playground.

Wanting a playset but don’t want to assemble it? Don’t worry that’s what we are here for.  Contact your local Mr. Handyman for help. We’ll make sure your kids have somewhere to play where they can be both happy and safe!

Fort Washington Resident Receives Christmas in April

May 8, 2015
Dowlings Christmas in April 300x225 Fort Washington Resident Receives Christmas in April

Mr. Handyman of Ft. Washington and Clinton volunteers with the recipient of their Christmas in April community involvement event.

Mr. Handyman of Ft. Washington and Clinton franchise owners Race and Joyce Dowling have only been in business for six months, yet they have already given back to their community in a big way. As residents of the area for more than 30 years, the Dowlings were eager to participate in the community’s Christmas in April event and donated their time and two service technicians’ talents to a Fort Washington resident.

The Gazette showcased the project, which included the following To Do list, all free of charge:

1. Replace the gutters and downspouts

2. Install a new storm door

3. Fix leaky faucets and toilets

4. Replace a shower wall

5. Weatherized windows to help make the home more energy efficient

The recipient of their good deed was just released from the hospital, has limited mobility and eyesight, and she has her children and grandchildren living with her. The Dowlings partnered with Top Ladies of Distinction, Inc. Prince George’s County Chapter who cleaned and organized several rooms, completed landscaping and fed all the volunteers.

 

How To Build the Ultimate DIY Patio

April 30, 2015

Nothing says outdoor living like spending time on the patio grilling and drinking lemonade.  But what if you don’t have a patio?  Don’t worry we have a solution for that.  Follow these DIY steps to build your own patio and you’ll be relaxing with a glass of lemonade in no time!

  1. First thing is first. Call your local building department to see a permit is required before you start.  Then decide where you want your patio to be.  Determine the size and dimensions carefully.  Since you’ll be spending a lot of time on your patio you want to make sure to choose the perfect location.
  2.  Use wood stakes to determine the corners of the patio and place additional wood stakes approximately 2 feet apart to outline the perimeter of the patio.  Then use rope to connect the stakes to provide a visual outline.
  3. Remove grass and weeds from the outlined area then add a thin layer of gravel.  Make sure this area is level and not covered with any debris. Once this is complete place 2×4’s around the perimeter of the patio as forms to frame in your patio.  Cut the 2×4’s so that the inside dimensions of the forms equal the patio area, otherwise your patio will be smaller than intended. Provide extra stability to your forms and nail them to the wood sakes along the perimeter.
  4. Now you are ready for the concrete. Depending on the size of your patio you may want to consider renting a mixer or ordering a concrete truck.  Mix the concrete according to the directions on the bag. Also, make sure to wear long sleeves, protective eyewear and gloves before you start mixing.
  5. Pour the concrete and make sure to spread evenly within the forms. Since concrete is heavy use a shovel or rake to help move the concrete in hard to reach areas and corners.  For added stability you may want to embed steel mesh in the concrete as well.
  6. Next, you need to use a process called screeding.  Level the top of the concrete by dragging a straight 2×4 over the top using a back and forth sawing motion.
  7. Now, create a smooth finish on your concrete with a bull float.  Once you complete this process water will sit on the surface, don’t be alarmed.  Simply wait until the water disappears before moving to the next step.
  8. When the concrete can support your weight you will want to add grooves to the slab every 8 feet.  This will help the concrete shift over time with the ground and reduce the likelihood of cracking.
  9. Allow concrete to cure and harden for at least 48 hours before you remove the forms.
  10.  Enjoy!  Now that the hard work is done you can sit back and relax on your new patio.

Patio copy 1024x768 How To Build the Ultimate DIY Patio

 

If a DIY patio is not for you, give Mr. Handyman a call. Mr. Handyman can maintain your home to save you money. One call really does take care of everything on your to-do list. All Mr. Handyman franchises are Fully Insured with General Liability and Workers Compensation. Some services are subject to state and local licensing and may not be available in all locations. Make sure to stay on top of all your household repairs, improvements and maintenance needs and request service in your area.

Build a Firewood Storage Rack Fit For a Lumberjack

April 28, 2015

Firewood Storage Fit For a Lumberjack

Ask any lumberjack you know: Late spring is the time to be splitting and stacking firewood.

Lumber should be harvested late in the winter season when the trees have the lowest moisture content. A couple months later, the wood is ready for the chopping block. But where are you going to stack and store all that firewood?

Here are a few options, varying by price, size and style.

DIY Firewood Rack

Building your own firewood rack is a relatively inexpensive project. All you really need are some 2x4s, a table saw and some screws. You can even have the 2x4s cut to size right there at the lumber store. A skilled handyman could probably build this simple design in a couple hours. Just beware that since there is no rain cover, you’ll want to buy one separately or place your rack in a sheltered area. You can find rack designs all over the Internet. We like this one!

Difficulty: 3/5

Firewood Storage Shed

04282015 Firewood Shed Build a Firewood Storage Rack Fit For a Lumberjack

Photo Credit: Rebecca Siegel on Flickr

The shed features a roof to keep your firewood dry and ready-to-burn though the seasons. This is great for frequent burners or anybody with a wood-burning stove. It’s bigger and much more attractive than the simple firewood rack.

If you’re not a skilled builder, contract the work to someone who can get the job right. We like to say that a poorly built firewood shed might as well be … firewood.

Difficulty 4/5

Store-bought Firewood Rack

04282015 Store bought firewood rack Build a Firewood Storage Rack Fit For a Lumberjack

Photo Credit: Rebecca Siegel on Flickr

For a less rustic look, check out some store-bought options. We found some really sleek and modern designs on Pinterest (check them out here! ) that are great if you plan on keeping your rack on your porch, patio or even inside your home. We especially like the racks that feature a separate compartment for kindling. But beware; store-bought racks are not always easy to assemble.

Difficulty: 1/5

Whether you want to have a firewood storage rack built or just need help assembling a store-bought rack, contact your local Mr. Handyman for help. We’ll make sure you have somewhere to stack and store all that chopped wood. Until then, happy lumberjacking!

Deck Waterproofing: Is It Worth It?

April 15, 2015

Investing in an outdoor deck is an extremely smart investment. In fact, according to the North American Deck and Railing Association, decks have an average return on investment of 100%.

Taking proper care of your wood deck is extremely important. Because decks have direct contact with the outdoor elements, wood decks need to be properly sealed and waterproofed. If you haven’t sealed and waterproofed your deck, we highly recommend you invest. If you have waterproofed your deck in the past, we have a few tips to help you gauge whether or not you’re due for some deck maintenance. Keeping up with the proper care required for your deck will lengthen its life significantly.

B0jangles Deck Waterproofing: Is It Worth It?

Photo cred: B0jangles on Flickr.

 

The standard rule for resealing your deck is once every year. However, the degree of wear and tear your deck gets can affect how soon you need to reseal. Not only that, but if your deck gets direct sunlight year round, you may need to reseal more often to prevent it from becoming washed-out or discolored. To test whether your deck is due for a new coat of waterproof sealant, pour a few drops of water directly on the wood. If the water droplets bead up, your deck is still protected from the elements. If it soaks into the wood, you are due for a fresh coat of sealant.

Once you’re ready to begin your waterproofing project, you will need to wash and prep your deck thoroughly — sand down any uneven or splitting wood, fill in any holes or imperfections and replace rotting planks. Then, with a scrub brush and bleach solution (3 parts water / 1 part bleach), scrub your deck in its entirety. After you’ve scrubbed out as much dirt as possible, power wash your deck to rinse away the chemicals Note: If you have plants nearby or are worried about using harsh chemicals, you can forgo using bleach and scrub with warm water alone.

Apply waterproof sealant one coat at a time. Apply a thin coat of waterproof sealant (with UV protection) sealant with a stain brush. Make sure to stain in the same direction of the grain (and plank). Apply a second thin coat of sealant after the first has had some time to dry. Make sure your deck has at least 48 hours to dry before walking or arranging furniture on it.

You now have a perfectly prepped wood deck ready for spring showers Mother Nature might throw at you!

Mr. Handyman can maintain your home to save you money. One call really does take care of everything on your to-do list. All Mr. Handyman franchises are Fully Insured with General Liability and Workers Compensation. Some services are subject to state and local licensing and may not be available in all locations. Make sure to stay on top of all your household repairs, improvements and maintenance needs and request service in your area.

 

Get a Leg Up On Concrete Step Repair

April 9, 2015

Concrete is known for its durability and strong exterior.  However, like all things it is not invincible.  Overtime moisture and climate changes take their toll and may damage your concrete steps causing them to be unsafe and unappealing.  Luckily with a little hard work you can make a few simple repairs that will provide a great reward.

Step 1
Before you get started you will want to remove any loose concrete or damaged concrete from the stairs.
Step 2
Clean the concrete stairs with a wire brush and use a broom to clean up any dust or loose debris from the surrounding area.
Step 3
Fill fine or small cracks with a vinyl concrete patching compound.  The easiest and most efficient way to apply this compound is to use a putty knife.
Step 4
To repair the surface or edges of stairs a quick setting cement should be used.  First you will want to dampen the area with water without oversaturating it. Mix a quick setting cement as directed by the manufacturer and trowel into the damaged area. If needed as a guide, use a single piece of wood as a form for applying concrete to the top of stairs or two pieces of wood forms to repair a corner.  Once this is complete you are then ready to smooth the mixture with a trowel to match the other stairs and let set.

Concrete Stairs Get a Leg Up On Concrete Step Repair

Photo Credit: Decorative Concrete Kingdom on Flickr

When handling on home renovation projects it is always important to be safe.  For this project we would recommend wearing a long sleeved shirt, safety glasses and gloves.  Need help with this project? Mr. Handyman can maintain your home to save you money. One call really does take care of everything on your to-do list. All Mr. Handyman franchises are Fully Insured with General Liability and Workers Compensation. Some services are subject to state and local licensing and may not be available in all locations. Make sure to stay on top of all your household repairs, improvements and maintenance needs and request service in your area.

Chain Link Fence Repair & Installation

April 7, 2015

Chain link fences are a great way to keep your property contained and your children and pets enclosed – any parent and/or dog owner can attest to this. So when there is a “break in the chain” and little Fido can get out (or unwanted people/animals/etc. can get in) it’s time to consider getting your chain link fence repaired.

04072015 Chain Link Fence Repair Chain Link Fence Repair & Installation

Photo Credit: Dan4th Nicholas on Flickr

Chain link fences are relatively low cost, easier to install than other types of fencing, and are transparent – you can see through them! But it’s important to follow some basic fence maintenance beyond simply getting it repaired when it’s busted. Mr. Handyman recommends these tips for your chain link fence maintenance:

  • Clear/Remove Debris. Chain link fences oftentimes get leaves, sticks, trash, and other debris caught within its wiring. Every spring we recommend clearing out this debris, especially near gates and hinges, if applicable.
  • Prevent Rust. Chain link fences are usually made out of galvanized steel, which can rust and corrode over time. To prevent this from happening, you should consider applying chain link fence paint. If your fence is already rusty, you’ll want to to try and remove as much rust as possible (try steel wool or a wire brush) before applying the paint.

If you prefer the DIY approach, here are some tips for repairing a chain link fence. If that is out of your area of expertise, consider calling Mr. Handyman. We’re experienced, trained, and fully insured fence contractors. Just give us a call!

Mr. Handyman can maintain your home to save you money. One call really does take care of everything on your to-do list. All Mr. Handyman franchises are Fully Insured with General Liability and Workers Compensation. Some services are subject to state and local licensing and may not be available in all locations. Make sure to stay on top of all your household repairs, improvements and maintenance needs and request service in your area.

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