Archive for May, 2010

Design a Deck


A deck is a popular home improvement that not only adds to the value of your home, but provides a focal point for enjoying the outdoors. You’ll want to carefully consider the design elements that go into your deck-it should include the features that match your lifestyle and complement the design of your house. Planning is the most important part of building a deck because, chances are, you’ll be living with your design for a long time.

There are three main considerations when planning a deck. Several questions must be answered in each topic. This document explains each topic and provides the background information you’ll need to make informed choices.

How You Plan to Use Your Deck-The most important consideration in deck design is how you will use it. Do you entertain frequently, and if so, how large a group will you need space for? What kind of seating will you need-would you or your guests be more comfortable on built-in benches or patio furniture? Do you want the space arranged to accommodate conversations between small groups or in one large common area? Will you need adequate lighting to entertain at night?
Try to imagine all the ways you’d like to use your deck, because most design elements will be based on those kinds of preferences.

Location-Chances are, the size and orientation of your property and house limit you to one or two deck locations. But within those limits, you may have more choices than you think. You may be able to add a door, build a walkway or incorporate a privacy screen that will allow you to locate your deck so it is most convenient for your intended uses.
The climate in your area and the views you’ll see are the major factors to consider when deciding where to place your deck. A northside deck will probably be the coolest location. Southern or western orientations may be too warm in the middle of the summer, unless you include an overhead screen or build the deck around an existing shade tree.
You may be able to avoid prevailing winds by locating your deck where the house will provide some protection. Likewise, careful placement can minimize traffic noise, eliminate unwanted views or provide additional privacy. If you plan to include a hot tub or swimming pool in your plans, privacy considerations for you and your guests may be very important.

Legal Considerations-Before you decide on a location, first check local zoning ordinances. They will limit the overall size of your deck, height of any privacy screens and the minimum distance from your deck to your lot lines. Neighborhood or subdivision covenants may restrict the appearance of the structure, and you’ll have to get approval for your design.
Also, check with the local building department to find out whether you’ll be required to have a building permit and what kind of plans you’ll have to submit. Finally, be sure to check with your local utility companies to make sure you won’t run afoul of utility rights-of-way and to locate buried pipes and utility lines.

Size-You can build any size deck you want within legal limits. But even within those limits, a deck can be either too big or too small. The most important consideration (aside from cost) is use, but a huge deck can look out of place next to a small house, just as a tiny deck looks wrong with a big house. If you think your dream deck is too large for your house, break up the expanse by building smaller sections on multiple levels.
To test your ideas, measure the size you want on your lawn. Drive 4′ stakes at the approximate corners, then tie string between them at about the height of the railings. Set your lawn furniture in the area to get an idea of how the space will work. The most common mistake people make is building a deck too small. The diference in cost between a deck that is a little too small and one that is the right size usually isn’t that much.
One tip: If possible, size your deck in 2′ or 4′ increments. You’ll have to buy standard lumber lengths anyway, and there’s no point in wasting that material when you could have a larger deck for the same amount of money.


Shape and Decking Patterns-A deck can be any shape you want, and in fact, simple changes like an angled corner or a 45-degree decking pattern can dress up a house with a long, plain wall. Of course, a more complicated deck is more difficult to build and may require more materials. You can also add visual interest by wrapping the deck around a corner, adding built-in benches, integrating a fence or screen on one side or even adding an overhead screen.

Height-Usually, the decking should come to within 2 ” of the bottom of the access door from the house, with steps leading from the deck to the ground. On sloped ground, you may want to build your deck in multiple levels to follow the slope. Typically, wherever the deck is more than 48″ off the ground, codes require that the posts be braced to prevent swaying and racking.

Cutouts-A spa or hot tub can be set on the deck if the structure is reinforced to carry the weight of the water, or it can be set directly on a concrete slab on the ground with the deck built around it. Existing trees and rocks can also be integrated into the deck by framing around them; then either cap the ends of the decking or contour the decking to the shape of the obstacle. If you work around a tree, leave at least 3″ on all sides to allow for growth. Around a stationary object such as a boulder, leave about 1/4″ so the decking can expand and contract with temperature and moisture changes.
Railings-Railings are the most prominent visual element in a deck and offer great opportunity to use your imagination and creativity. They may be fastened to posts that run all the way to the ground, along the sides of the rim joists or attached to the decking itself. They may include wood, metal or even rope-nearly anything that satisfies structural requirements.
Your railing design will be limited primarily by building code regulations that are designed to ensure safety. Typically, those codes state that support posts may be no more than 6′ apart, and that the railing may have no spaces larger than 4″ x 4″. The durability of your railing will also be affected by the design. For example, the ends of the railing posts should be covered or cut at an angle to shed water, to minimize cracking and splitting.
Steps and Stairs-Step and stair construction is closely regulated by building codes. As a rule, steps and stairs should be at least 36″ wide-60″ if you want two people to be able to pass each other comfortably. The rise (vertical distance between steps) should be no more than 7-1/2″ and the width of a tread at least 10″. The slope should not be too steep-a 7″ riser with a 10-1/2″ tread is a common combination. Building codes will also govern how the stair is supported and attached and whether or not you need a railing.
Structural Components-There are five basic components of a typical deck:
Vertical posts are set in concrete or on piers set on a concrete footing. They are typically spaced 4′ to 8′ apart.
Horizontal beams are set on the posts parallel to the decking to carry the weight of the deck.
Joists are run between the beams, typically 16″ or 24″ apart. They distribute the weight of the deck and allow you to use decking boards that wouldn’t be strong enough to span the distance between the beams.
Decking is laid over the joists to form the “floor” of the deck.
Railings are usually 36″ to 42″ high, designed so no spaces between balusters are greater than 4″.
The materials used, and the size and spacing of these components, are specified by local building codes.
Materials-Deck materials must not only be resistant to decay and insect damage but also withstand the effects of water and sun. Standard construction lumber such as fir, pine or spruce may be treated to protect it from rot, but it won’t hold up under extreme weather conditions or the ultraviolet rays in sunlight.

You’ll get much better durability by using pressure-treated pine, redwood or cedar. Pressure-treated material is the least expensive and can be stained to nearly any color you want. Redwood and cedar offer an added advantage in that they are soft, fine-grained woods that will resist splintering. If you use redwood or cedar, remember that only the heartwood-the reddish-colored portion of redwood or the dark brownish-orange part of a cedar board-is decay-resistant. The lighter-colored sapwood will deteriorate just as quickly as pine or spruce.

Once you have a rough idea of what you want, draw two sketches-one of your lot, showing the deck as part of your landscaping plan, and one of your design. Use graph paper, making each square equal a given dimension (for example, each square may equal 1′ on your lot plan, or 3″ on your design) to get all the components roughly to scale. Take the sketch to your local home center or lumberyard and ask a salesperson to estimate and price the materials you’ll need.

TOOL AND MATERIAL CHECKLIST 100′ Measuring Tape 25′ Measuring Tape
Graph Paper Ruler
4′ Wood Stakes Hammer
Mason’s String

Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

Beautiful Yard Basics

EARLY SPRING Repair winter damage. Treat with pre-emergence crabgrass killer, insecticides; fertilize and reseed if necessary.

LATE SPRING Kill broadleaf weeds; fertilize lawn and flowers.

EARLY SUMMER Water generously and often; fertilize and apply post-emergence herbicides and insecticides as needed.

LATE SUMMER Watch for sod webworms and other insects. Fertilize and water heavily.

EARLY FALL Seed and fertilize, prepare for winter by mulching and pruning various shrubs and trees.

Follow these guides and your yard will be the envy of the neighborhood.

Build a kids’ clubhouse

How to Build The Ace Clubhouse

Every child dreams of having their very own special hideaway. With assistance from the helpful hardware folks at Ace Hardware you can make this dream come true! Just follow these step-by-step instructions to build the coolest clubhouse in the neighborhood!

This is a great opportunity to share your carpentry skills with your child or to learn along with him. With that in mind, we have designed a clubhouse that the two of you can build together. Keep in mind that there are a few stages (such as raising the walls and roof) that require a second adult. This clubhouse is Deluxe with a capital D. It will take a few days to build, so its best to begin when you have a three- or four-day weekend available. This way you can complete the final steps of roofing and painting, without having to worry too much about the weather. If you think you’ ll be spreading the project over a few weekends, you’ ll need a 15′ x 15′ plastic tarp to cover your progress.

A variety of tools can be used for this project, but we found a few especially helpful. Our table saw came in handy for making the angle cuts for the studs and rafters (but you can use a circular saw if that’s what you have). Also a portable jigsaw and cordless drill make things a lot easier.

The tools and hardware you need are available at your local Ace Hardware store. And if you have any questions, just ask one of the helpful hardware folks while you’re there.


(4) 4’x5/8″ plywood sheets
(4) sheets of 5/8″ paneling plywood (grooves)
(34) 2×3″x8′-0″ wall studs
(30) 1″x3″x8′-0″ common pine boards
(2) 1″x4″x8′-0″ common pine boards
(6) 2″x6″x8′-0″ studs
(1) 2″x6″x8′-0″ wood stud
(4) 3″ door hinge
1 gallon Ace white latex outdoor house paint
1 gallon Ace yellow latex outdoor house paint
2 boxes of 2″ wood screws
1 box of 3″ wood screws
(8) galvanized rafter hangers
1 box #8 galvanized nails
2 door hooks
10 outdoor deck spindles
3 flats asphalt roofing shingles
(1) roll 15 lb. roofing felt
(2) 3″ ball fence post finials
Paint brushes
Circular or hand saw
Cordless drill or screwdriver
Step One: Floor

Your clubhouse will have an 8′ x 4′ “footprint”; find a site this size that is level. If you need to, level a slight grade with a rake. Next start framing out the floor. Make a box on the ground using two of the 8′ 2″ x 3″ s set on edge and two 2″ x 3″s cut to 3′ 9″. Fasten these together at each corner with two 3″ screws. This will give you a box exactly 8′ x4′ , the same size as your plywood flooring. Evenly space six additional 3′ 9″ 2″x3″s and fasten with 3″ screws to complete the flooring framework (see photo 1). Place a sheet of plywood on top of the framework and fasten in place with 2″ screws.

Step Two: Framing the Walls

The easiest way to do this is to begin with the plywood paneling, and use this as a guide for the placement of the studs. The front and back walls (with the door openings) are exactly the same, as are the two side walls. Begin with one of the front walls. Cut two pieces of paneling at 4’x2’x6″. These will be used on either side of the doorway, so remember to have the panel grooves running horizontally. (You will also want the tongue of the paneling at the top so that it will accept the groove of the piece that will run above the door for the entire length of the house.) Next, use your jigsaw to cut the window holes. This will leave you with two approximately U-shaped pieces of paneling. Now, rip another piece of paneling 8′ long and 1′ 3-1/4″ wide, parallel with the panel grooves, for the top of the wall. Before going any further, it’s a good idea to cut the notches for the four rafters into this top piece. Each notch is 1-1/2″ wide and 5-1/4″ deep. The two end notches have centers 12″ from each end. The two center notches have centers 2′ from the end notches.

Now it’s time for the studs. There are six 2″ x 3″ studs. Each is cut to a 35 degree angle so that the longest side is 5′ 1-7/8″ Place an uncut 2″ x 3″ x 8′ on the ground on edge. This will be the footer running the length of the wall. Then place four studs perpendicular to the footer, and space them out so that when you cover them with the two pieces of side paneling, you have a stud in either corner and one on either side of the doorway. Screw the paneling to the studs using 2″ screws, and attach the studs to the footer using the 3″ screws. We’ve chosen to double the corner studs for added strength. Stand the wall upright and screw a second stud beside each corner stud. While the wall is still upright, finish framing out the windows and the door header as seen in photo 2. Repeat this for the rear wall.

The side walls will be overlapped by the front and back walls. Because our floor is 4′ wide in total, you must cut your first piece of paneling to 3′ 6″ wide. Again, use your jigsaw to cut a window notch, leaving you with a U-shaped panel 4′ tall. The side wall studs are a little trickier because they have to be cut to fit into the gable of the roof peak. This means that the two corner studs will have to be shorter than the two in the center. Again, the top of each stud should be cut at a 35° angle, but this time the angle should run left to right across the 2″ side. A footer will run all the way across the side walls, 3′ 6″. As with the front wall, arrange your footer and studs on the ground, and place your piece of paneling over them. (Note: because you must allow room for the front and rear wall studs, you must set your corner studs 3″ in from each edge.) Screw your footer, studs and paneling together.

To save on paneling, we took the leftover piece cut from the front wall to make the upper portion of the side wall. There is an aesthetic benefit to this as well since the panel grooves will run vertically above the window, giving the clubhouse a barn-like appearance on each end. This piece should be cut to the same 3′ 6″ width. Now you must cut the peak. Although it is all one piece, you can picture this as a triangle sitting on top of a rectangle to make the measurements easier. Cut the panel and attach to the studs above the window. Finish framing out the window as shown in photo 3. Repeat for the other side wall.

You will need the help of another adult to assemble the four walls on the flooring. Stand the front wall upright on the floor and bring one of the side walls into place. Using 3″ screws, attach the walls to each other as well as the flooring. Continue this process with the rear wall and the remaining side wall.

Step 3: Building the roof

Various portions of the roof will require two adults to complete. The center roof beam is made from an uncut 2″ x 6″ x 8′ . You must attach the roof beam from the peak of one side wall to the other. Raise it as high as it will go without protruding above the side walls, and screw it into place through the side wall paneling on both sides. Next, attach the eight angled joist hangers to the roof beam in an arrangement corresponding to the notches you cut in the front and rear walls (as described above).

The rafters are also 2″ x 6″s, each with an end cut to 60 degrees in order to meet the roof beam. We chose to cut our rafters so they would be more or less even with the edge of the roof at 3′ 1-1/2″ Using the jigsaw, we cut a simple scroll curve to the end for decorative effect (See photo 4). You may want your rafters to extend beyond the edge of the roof, or you may want them hidden short of the roof. Therefore the length of the rafters can vary depending on your taste. Once you have the 8 rafters cut, slip them into the joist hangers and through the notches you cut in the front and rear walls. Before you screw it into place, you should check to see that the rafter is flush with the top of the wall where it passes through the notch. If the rafter sits too high, there will be a gap between the roof and the wall. If you need to, you can cut the notch a little deeper with a hand saw. When all the rafters fit flush, screw them into the joist hangers (See photo 5). This is a good time to remind you not to worry if a few things don’t fit perfectly. Regardless of your skill level, it’s pretty common for there to be gaps here and there with all these angle cuts, and after all, that’s why they invented trim.

For added support, we attached 2″ x 6″ pieces to the inside walls between the studs. You can attach the rafters to these using the L-brackets (See photo 6).

Now you are ready for the roof. As with the rafters, the extent of roof overhang is a matter of taste. You’ll need a second adult for this part anyway, so you might want to experiment with different looks by sliding a piece of plywood back and forth on the rafters. Your child is the ultimate foreman on this job, so once he or she approves, simply cut the plywood to fit, and attach to the rafters using 2″ screws.

Step 4: Shingles, Trim and Paint

To protect the roof before shingling, it is important to cover it with roofing felt. Cut one piece for the bottom of each side and staple them into place. Use another sheet to cover the peak, overlapping the two side pieces. Shingling is relatively easy; just make sure you have a ladder tall enough to allow you to reach the peak without having to lean too far out. Shingles come in various styles, so follow the manufacturers instructions on the package. In general, you will want to allow enough overlap to keep rain from getting under them to the plywood (See photo 7). Once you have nailed all the shingles in place, check to make sure none of the nails are protruding through to the inside. Any nail points coming through should be carefully hammered over, or cut off using a portable grinder.

Shingling Instructions

Starting at one of the bottom corners, attach a shingle with two roofing nails. Then work your way across the bottom edge of the roof, butting each new shingle evenly against the last. You will need to cut the last one to make it even with the side edge of the roof. Just score it with a utility knife and snap it. The second row overlaps the first. The felt has lines running across to let you know how far to overlap each row. Just make sure you stagger the shingles so the seams don’t line up and allow water to penetrate to your roof. (Like laying bricks). Do this for both sides up to the peak. For the peak itself, we cut our shingles in three pieces (at the slots). Fold them across the peak and nail at the corners. You can start at each end, overlapping toward the center, or just work from one end across to the other. Another option is a pre-fabricated peak cover.

We chose plain 1″ x 3″ boards for the trim around the windows and doors. With plain boards, you can simply cut the pieces to long enough to overlap on the top and bottom. For something a little more decorative, you might want to try your hand at one of the various molding styles available. If you decide to use molding, just make sure you have a miter box, or a chop saw that can be set to 45° for the corners. You can also dress up the corners of the clubhouse in this same way.

The foreman on our job (Stuart, age 8-1/2) wanted a few extra touches to his clubhouse to give it a special look. We used the jigsaw to cut a simple scallop pattern into the 1″ x 4″ boards, and screwed them under the gable end of the roof on each side (See photo 8). The gates on each door were created by making a box from the leftover 1″ x 3″ trim pieces, then cutting and fitting the deck spindles. When measuring your gate size, make sure you allow enough roof for the door to swing open without rubbing the jam. Hang each gate using two 3″ hinges, and attach one of the hooks to the other side. Two wooden ball finials attached to the roof peak finished things off.

All that is left is painting. This is where a foreman of any age can really get to work. The clubhouse will be outside in the weather for many years, so be sure to cover all exposed wood surfaces thoroughly with two coats of latex outdoor house paint. And try not to drip too much on each other!

Ace hardware is happy to provide these instructions. Use them as a guide to get started, and feel free to embellish them with any touches your carpentry skills permit. Just remember to be safe, have fun, and stop by the friendly hardware folks at Ace for all the tools, supplies and know-how you need to build the ultimate dream clubhouse!

Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

Sprinkler Systems

An underground sprinkler system is not only a convenient way to water your lawn, it also makes the most efficient use of water. This brochure will give you an overview of the steps involved in designing and installing a sprinkler system.

In this document you will find information about:

Types of Sprinkler Systems
Planning Your Sprinkler System
Installing Your Sprinkler System
Connecting PVC Pipe


The water pressure in most residential systems isn’t great enough to water an entire lawn at once. As a result, most systems are divided into circuits, each with its own control valve. Control valves are operated by an electronic controller that turns each circuit on and off according to the schedule you set.
The system consists of standard PVC pipe running from your existing water supply line. At each sprinkler, the pipe connects to a riser that feeds the sprinkler head. Sprinkler heads are designed to throw water in a full circle, a half circle or a quarter circle. There are two types: rotary sprinkler heads extend above the ground permanently, and pop-up heads are designed to be flush with the ground when off so you can mow over them.


The first step in planning your system is to check with your local building department and get any permits you may need. Then make a sketch of your property, showing the locations of all structures, walkways and driveways and trees and shrubs (see image below). Call your local utility companies and have them come out and mark the location of buried gas, electrical and telephone lines. Note those locations on your sketch.
Next, determine your water pressure and flow rate. Borrow or rent a water pressure gauge and attach it to a hose bibb. Turn the water on full (with all other water in the house off) to find the pressure. Systems vary, but you’ll probably need a minimum of 20 pounds per square inch (psi) pressure to install sprinklers.
Check the flow rate by placing a 1 gallon bucket under a hose bibb, turning the water on full (with all other water in the house off) and time how long it takes to fill the bucket. Divide the number of seconds by 60 to find the gallons per minute (gpm) capacity of your line. The result of this test will determine the size of each sprinkler circuit.
Then plot the locations of sprinkler heads on your sketch. Multiply the throw distance of the heads (usually 15′) by 1.4 to find the spacing between sprinkler heads so the areas covered by each head overlap. In windy areas, space the sprinkler heads the same as the throw rating.
Finally, divide the system into circuits. The manufacturer’s instructions will include an output chart that gives you a gpm rating for each sprinkler head. Divide the gpm capacity of your water line by the rating of each head to find the number of sprinkler heads that you can put on each circuit. Never combine different types of sprinkler heads (e.g., lawn sprinklers with low-shrub sprinklers) on the same circuit.
As a rule, you’ll use 3/4″ PVC pipe to lay a system with circuits that are less than 100′ long, or 1″ pipe for circuits over 100′. In any case, your system pipe will be no larger than the supply line you tap into.


The first step in installing the system is to build a manifold. A manifold is a group of control valves connected to a length of PVC pipe, spaced 3″ to 6″ apart. Water comes to the manifold from the supply line, then is routed through the proper control valve to the circuit by the controller. The manifold can be mounted above ground or buried (with the control valves projecting above ground), then covered with a box.
Next, dig V-shaped trenches at least 8″ deep for the pipe. The trenches should be straight and reasonably level. To tunnel under a sidewalk, connect a piece of galvanized pipe to a garden hose and turn the water on full force to wash away the soil. Then cap a length of PVC pipe with duct tape and drive it through the hole.
Tap into the water supply line (see three images below) by installing a tee at one of three locations: 1) just past the water meter in the basement; 2) just behind an outside hose bibb; or 3) along the main supply line before it enters the house, but past the outside meter (if there is one). Install a stop-and-waste valve as an emergency shutoff and to be able to drain the system for the winter. Install the shutoff valve just past the connection to the supply line, then run pipe to the manifold. Once the PVC connections are cured, turn the water on for a minute or two to flush the system.

Install antisiphon valves onto the control valves to prevent contaminated water from getting back into your home’s supply lines (see first image below).
Lay the pipe in the trenches, then begin making connections. Before you install each threaded riser tee, screw the riser in place temporarily. As you install the riser tees, hold a carpenter’s square against the riser to make sure the tee is set so each riser will be at a 90-degree angle to the ground.
Once the pipes are assembled and the connections cured, install the risers (see second image below). Cut them carefully to make sure the sprinkler heads will be at the correct height. Once the risers are in place, attach the sprinkler heads (see third image below).
Finally, mount the controller (typically, the controller goes in the garage) and run low-voltage wires to the control valves. Set the watering controls for each circuit, then test the system by opening and shutting each circuit. Backfill the trenches, then water the soil down thoroughly to compact it. Add more soil until each trench is slightly raised, then replace the sod or reseed.


The type of material you use to install your sprinkler system will depend on the manufacturer’s recommendations. Some systems use flexible pipe, plastic or metal inserts and clamps. Other systems use PVC pipe and fittings. This sprinkler system requires PVC pipe. Be sure to use PVC cleaner on any PVC pipe project. This image illustrates how to connect the PVC pipe.
Step 1-Cut the pipe to length, then remove any burrs with a pocket knife. The cut should be as square as possible to insure a leak-free installation.
Step 2-Take the gloss off both ends of the connection (the end of the pipe and the inside of the fitting) with a piece of emery paper, then wipe both ends with PVC cleaner.
Step 3-If necessary (e.g., for riser tees), fit the pieces together dry and mark the alignment with a felt tip pen.
Steps 4 and 5-Finally, coat both surfaces with PVC solvent, connect the pieces together as far as you can and then give the pipe a 1/4 turn to spread the solvent. Wait two hours before running water through the pipe.

TOOL AND MATERIAL CHECKLIST 100′ Measuring Tape Steep Tape Measure
Hacksaw Level
String Shovel
PVC Pipe Pipe Fittings
Risers Sprinkler Heads
Pocket Knife Emery Paper
PVC Cleaner PVC Solvent
Stop-and-Waste Valve Controller
Control Valves Antisiphon Valves
Graph Paper Pencil, Felt Tip Pen

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Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.


It was once something those overzealous, health conscious, everything-natural freaks did.

But now it’s something even mainstream America might be doing. It’s called composting.

An ever-increasing number of local governments are banning the disposal of yard wastes-grass clipping and leaves-in landfills. Most localities have forbidden leaf burning for years. So where are the grass clippings and leaves to go?

Into your compost heap, of course.

Whether you begin composting out of necessity or a sincere desire to improve the environment, it is extremely easy to do.


Composting is considered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be a part of recycling. It reduces the amount of trash generated. It can be reused in your yard and it recycles nutrients back into the soil and plant life.

Composting experts will argue the merits of an open-air system versus a closed-air system, the merits of layering the compost material versus mixing it together, or even whether to turn the pile.

But if all you are interested in is getting rid of your yard waste, you can rest assured that there is very little that can go wrong with composting.

Whether you choose an open or closed system, carefully layer the materials or mix the ingredients. Let it sit or turn every few days and it will become compost within a certain period of time.

Where to Locate

The ideal location for your compost pile is under a tree. The partial shade will keep the pile from drying out too fast. However, it should not be a tree that is highly acidic such as pine, black walnut, juniper, eucalyptus or cypress.

A location near the kitchen is helpful, but more important is a location that has good drainage. It also is useful to have an area near the pile to store materials that will be added to the pile later.

To Contain or Not Contain

The simplest and least expensive way to begin composting is to start a compost heap. The pile should be at least 6′ x 6′ and about 5′ to 6′ high in the middle. Anything smaller will maintain low temperatures and will take longer to decompose. As the pile deteriorates, it will tend to sprawl and shrink. Compost heaps can be untidy and displeasing to look at, especially in urban areas. Compost heaps are what sometimes give composting its bad reputation.

Containers keep the compost materials neat and tidy. They can be inexpensively built from discarded shipping pallets, fencing or chicken wire or leftover treated lumber from another building project.

Four shipping pallets tied together with rope, wire or chain with an optional fifth pallet at the bottom for increased air circulation will make an adequate container for your composting materials.

A wire bin can be made by tying together 2″x4″x36″ wire fencing into a hoop shape.

An elaborate three-bin system can be built from purchased materials. With the three-bin system, each bin is approximately 36″ square and shares a common lid and internal sides. In a three-bin composting system, one bin is the active compost pile, one is left empty to make turning easier, and the third is used as a holding bin for materials to be composted.

Composting can also be done in a plastic trash can which has had the bottom cut off and 24 to 48 holes drilled into the sides to increase air flow.

Many different types of composting bins are also available for purchase. There are wooden open-air bins, plastic open-air bins, plastic closed-air bins and rotating drums. The rotating drums are the most expensive but are convenient because they make turning the compost easy.

Other Tool of the Trade

Accessory tools for composting could include a long-handled pitch fork for easy turning, a special aerating tool to keep the pile aerated and a compost thermometer, which has a long probe to accurately determine the internal temperature of the pile.


Like any good recipe, the compost recipe is subject to variation by the cook. The more greens/nitrogen (fresh grass clippings, food scraps) in the pile, the “hotter” the mixture and the faster it will decompose. The brown ingredients (dry leaves, dry grass, wood shavings) add carbon to the mixture and help keep the pile cool.

An ideal mixture would be 50% greens and 50% brown, but this can vary from one-quarter to one-half green and one-half tp three-quarters brown.

Other items that can be added to the pile to help the “brew” but are not necessary include:

garden soil (1/2 shovelful)
finished compost (1/2 shovelful)
bonemeal (1/2 shovelful)
bloodmeal (1/2 shovelful)
fireplace ashes (shovelfuls)
crushed fertilizer rock dust (shovelfuls)
compost starter (see manufacturer directions)
Your Yard Waste

Just about any of the yard waste that you would bag up and set out on the curb for the trash haulers to carry away can be used in your compost heap. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind:

Wet grass clipping should be mixed thoroughly to prevent odors.
Any woody material larger than 1/4″ in diameter should be cut and bruised to provide more surface area for it to break down.
Weeds must go into a “hot” pile (140 degrees to 150 degrees) to destroy the seeds.
To keep more consistent weeds, such as Bermuda grass, from coming back after the compost is harvested, place them in a black plastic bag in direct sunlight for several weeks, then chop them up and place them in the compost bin.
Plants infected with insect eggs should not be added because even a “hot” pile may not kill the eggs and the insects could re-infest your yard when the compost is harvested.
Highly acidic or poisonous plants should be added in very small quantities or nor at all.
Ivy and succulent plants should be chopped or shredded before adding to the compost pile because they may regrow when the compost is harvested or may even begin growing in the compost pile.
Other Ingredients

Food wastes such as vegetable and fruit scraps, breads, pastas, coffee grounds, egg shells, and tea bags are all acceptable nitrogen sources for your compost bin.
Do not put meats or fats in your compost pile. These food wastes will attract animals and rodents to your bin.
Manures from cows, horses, chickens and any non-meat eating animals are excellent nitrogen sources for starting the decomposition process.
Paper towels, toilet paper tubes and other shredded paper products can also be added to your compost bin.


Some people have concerns about compost heaps fearing they will attract insects, rodents and other pests as well as produce undesirable odors. Most of these worries are unfounded, especially with a properly maintained pile.

A good, healthy pile should present no problems. As a general rule of thumb, if it smells like soil, then everything is working like it should.

Odors in your compost bin are usually caused by too many greens or a proper amount of greens not adequately stirred into the mixture. If odor problems start, try mixing in more brown materials such as dried leaves, straw, compost or garden soil.
Flies should not be attracted to your compost pile if food scraps are buried 6″ to 12″ in the center of the pile. Just dumping food waste on the top of the pile is what causes flies to seek out your compost bin.
Rodents should not be attracted to your compost pile if you do not add meats or fatty foods. Should rodents become a problem, try turning the pile and purchasing rodent repellent at your hardware store or home center.
Moisture, too much or not enough, can also be a problem. If it is too wet, the pile will rot rather than decompose. If it is too dry, nothing will happen. A cover will help keep it from getting too wet during rainy seasons. A garden hose can be used to add any necessary moisture. The pile should have the wetness of a squeezed-out sponge.
Cold, winter weather will slow down the decomposition process. Make the pile larger and/or cover it, and it will maintain its heat and do a slow simmer during the colder months.

TOOL AND MATERIAL CHECKLIST Long-handled pitch fork Wire staples
Compost aerating tool Power stapler
Compost thermometer Nails
Compost starter Nuts and bolts
2″x4″x36″ wire fencing Hardware cloth
Trash can Zinc-plated hinges
Pre-made compost bin Corner and T-braces
Treated lumber Hand or circular saw
Rope or chain Drill and drill bits hammer
Bone meal Tin snips
Leaf blower/vac Tape measure
Chipper/shredder Safety glasses
Lawn cart Screwdriver

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Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

Maintaining your Yard

Here are some ideas that will help you to have a more attractive lawn. Take the time to read them thoroughly-you can save time, money and effort. An attractive lawn can also help to increase the value of you home.


It’s best to seed your lawn in the fall, if possible. Of course, lawn seed can be sown at other times of the year. But fall is the ideal time for seeding to rejuvenate an existing lawn or to start a new one.
In most parts of the United States, an existing lawn should be reseeded in late August or early September. This gives the new grass seed time to grow during the cool fall days.
Before reseeding thin or bare spots, rake the lawn thoroughly with a broom rake. Use a heavy-duty broom rake with looped spring braces between the handle bar and spacer bar for this type of lawn raking. Broom rakes are available with either flat steel or wire teeth.
A multi-purpose rake – sometimes called a double-duty rake – may be ideal for removing a heavy build-up of thatch on your lawn (see image above). The rake’s sharp teeth on one side will easily remove the thatch. The flanged teeth on the other side make it easy to pulverize the soil in preparation for reseeding.
After the lawn has been thoroughly thatched and raked, the thin and bare spots will be more easily visible. Loosen the soil in any of the bare spots to a depth of about 1″ or more with a speedy cultivator or some other type of handy soil-loosening tool (see image).
After loosening and pulverizing the soil in the bare spots, sprinkle the newly prepared area with the proper amount and type of lawn fertilizer. Then, rake it level.
If the bare spots have been compacted by heavy traffic, loosen the soil to a depth of about 6″. Then, pulverize the soil and add a small amount of peat moss or gypsum to help keep it loose after the reseeding.
When the soil is thoroughly loosened and leveled, reseed with a top-quality seed. Select a grass seed mixture that is specially prepared for the type of location you are reseeding. For example, some seed mixtures work well in shady areas, while other mixtures are made for reseeding sunny areas. Ask a salesman in your local retailer’s lawn and garden department to help you select the correct seed.
Reseed the bare spots by hand (see image). Reseed the area sparingly – only about six seeds per square inch will survive. Sowing the seed too thickly simply wastes seed and money. After the seeds are sown, spray the area with a ligh mist of water.
Your new grass will get off to a much faster start if you cover the reseeded areas with clear sheets of polyethylene plastic. This covering keeps the moisture in the soil and eliminates the need for constant sprinkling. Secure the edges of the plastic sheet with small rocks, dirt or stakes (see image).
Take care to remove the polyethylene cover when the first seedlings appear. The cover helps the seeds until they germinate, but it will kill all seeds quickly unless it is removed when you see seedlings. After removing the cover, keep the soil moist by spraying it with a light mist two or three times a day until the grass is about 1″ high. Continue to water newly seeded areas about once a week until the new grass is about 3″ tall.


Sometimes it’s necessary to start a totally new lawn or to completely rebuild large areas of an existing lawn. In these cases, prepare the seed bed with a rotary tiller or some other type of digging equipment (see image). Take time to prepare the soil thoroughly to a depth of about 6″. If the soil is compacted, mix in peat moss or gypsum to keep it loose. This will help the roots of the new grass to survive.
Prepare the seed bed by raking it thoroughly and removing all stones, sticks, etc. Break up all dirt clods so the new seed will have a good chance to grow (see first image below).
Reseed the area with a mechanical seed spreader (see second image below). Reseed at the rate recommended on the package of seed you’re using. In most cases, no raking is required after seeding, although certain types of seed need a light raking.
Lightly sprinkle the reseeded area two or three times a day if the reseeding is done in hot weather (see third image below). Repeat this daily watering until the new seedlings are about 1″ tall. After the new grass has reached this height, water it thoroughly about once each week until it’s ready for the first mowing.


Good grass is important, but it is only one element in a beautiful lawn. Grass can be enhanced by attractive trees, shrubs, flowers, etc. Although trees and shrubs are hearty plants, they must be planted correctly to survive.
The first step in planting trees and shrubs is to give them plenty of room (see image). Make the hole in which the tree or shrub is to be planted wide enough for the longest root to be laid into it without crowding. A rule of thumb is to make the hole in which the tree or shrub is to be set one-half again as large as the diameter of the roots of the plant.
You can save yourself considerable cleanup time by piling the soil dug from the hole onto canvas or plastic sheets. This also prevents the piled dirt from killing or damaging the grass around the hole.
It’s a good idea to mix some peat moss into the soil when replacing it around the newly set plant or tree.
If the shrub or tree is in a container, dig the hole at least 2″ deeper than the root in the container (see image). Loosen the soil below the root and add a small amount of plant food.
Remove the shrub or tree from the container and lower it into the hole. Refill the hole with thoroughly loosened soil. Then, form a mound with additional soil around the edge of the newly dug hole. This provides a basin to hold water until the plant is thoroughly rooted in the new location.
If the tree or shrub is a bare-root plant, unwrap the roots of the tree after the hole is dug and place it in position. Hold the plant upright with a spading fork while you tamp the loose dirt around the roots (see image). Always set the shrub or tree about 2″ lower in the ground than it was originally set before replanting.
Use plenty of water when resetting balled or bare-root plants. Fill the basin around the tree and let the water soak in thoroughly. After one complete soaking, resoak it again.
Water is essential to a new shrub or tree in the first few days after replanting. Keep the hole wet during this period. Be sure to build up a basin arrangement to keep water on the plant for several days. Water your newly planted shrub or tree every week to 10 days during a dry spell.
After replanting the tree or shrub, trim it to the shape and size desired. Pruned limbs will heal faster if you make slanting cuts just above the bud (see image). Spray pruned areas with special pruning spray immediately after trimming to deter insects and disease organisms.
Protect the new plant against injury and disease by covering the lower part of the tree trunck with a tree wrap. Start the wrap just above the roots and a little below soil level. Continue wrapping to just below the lowest limb (see first image below). Hold them in position with cords.
Keep the soil loosened around the new plant and give it a good start by feeding it lightly with plant food. Soak the food into the soil by watering (see second image below). Feed any new plant with plant food in the spring and fall until it reaches maturity.
You can create interesting clumps of trees by tying different varieties together and setting them out in bunches (see third image below). Hold them in position with cords. The cords will rot away quickly after they are placed in the ground. Follow all other planting instuctions when trees or shrubs are planted in clumps.


Plant your rose bushes in an area that receives a minimum of six hours of sunshine each day. Dig the hole for planting large enough to give the roots plenty of room (see image).
It may be wise to add peat moss or some form of compost to the dirt in the hole before planting the rose. Sand should also be added if the soil is extremely moist.

Examine the roots carefully after the plant is placed in the hole (see image). Trim back dead or broken roots with a hand pruner.
Use top soil to form a cone in the bottom of the hole where the rose bush is to be planted. Spread the rose roots evenly over this cone. Again, make sure the hole is large enough to provide adequate room for all rose roots.
Set the rose bush at the proper depth. Most healthy rose bushes have three strong shoots coming up from the root system (see first image below). Cover the knot just below these three shoots to a depth of 1″.
Pack the soil firmly around the roots of the rose bush (see second image below). Fill the hole with water and allow it to soak in. Then, refill the hole again.
Prune the rose bush after planting (see third image below). Prune hybrid tea roses back to lengths of about 6″ to 8″. Trim floribundas to lengths of approximately 4″ to 6″. Spray all pruned areas with a special pruning paint to prevent damage from insects and disease.
Build a mound around the newly planted rose bush with loose soil of top grade.

TOOL AND MATERIAL CHECKLIST Polyethylene Sheets Rotary Tiller
Pruning Shears Garden Hose
Tree Wrapping Materials Peat Moss or Gypsum
Speedy Cultivator Pruning Spray
Fertilizer Work Gloves
Spading Fork Broom Rake
Hand Cleaner Lawn Rake
Double-Duty Rake Garden Hose Nozzle
Lawn Seed Garden Cart or Wheelbarrow

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Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

Jump Start Your Garden

If your green thumb is sprouting a bit early, why not begin your vegetable garden indoors and get a jump on the season?

As any good gardener knows, sunlight is key. So before you begin, make sure there is plenty of sunlight. If that’s not available, cool white fluorescent bulbs are a good substitute. Seeds can be started in any type of container such as trays, flats, pots, egg cartons or paper cups.

The container size will depend on the plant you’re growing. Punch a hole in the bottom for drainage. Fiber or peat pots need to be soaked well before adding soil.

Soil is the second part of the equation. To ensure your seeds have a good start, the soil should be sterile. You can buy a good commercial medium or you can sterilize soil from your garden by adding equal parts of soil, peat moss or compost, sand, vermiculite or perlite.

Bake the mixture in the oven for two hours at 170 to 180 degrees. Then fill the mixture to within 1/4″ of the container top and level off. Soak the soil thoroughly and allow to drain.

Now you’re ready to sow the seeds. Make a hole four times as deep as the seed is wide with your finger or pencil.

Plant two or three seeds per compartment and water lightly. A thin layer of soil should cover seeds that are fine. Water the plants as they grow but avoid over watering. Some gardeners cover the containers with plastic wrap or plastic bags to promote germination, but those should be removed once you see the sprouts or the seedlings will suffocate. Choose a spot that is 60 degrees at night and between 70 and 75 degrees during the day. Once the seedlings emerge, thin to one per pot by pinching off or carefully pulling out the excess plants.

Place the seedlings in a window facing south or southwest and have the fluorescent bulb 6 inches above the plants. These sprouts need 12 to 16 hours of light a day. Check the seedlings regularly so they donÂ’t dry out. After three weeks, begin applying fertilizer once a week at the rate of one tablespoon per gallon of water.

The vegetables are ready for transplant when they sprout two new leaves. A few days before transplanting the seedlings to your garden, harden them by gradually exposing them to outside conditions. Keep them outdoors for a few hours each day, extending the time as moving day approaches. Water both the ground and seedlings to prevent transplant shock, then enjoy a bountiful harvest.

Ground Ready

How soon can you begin prepping your plants? Here’s a guideline, by week, of how long it takes to go from seed to ground:

From Seed to Ground
Broccoli 5-7 weeks
Brussel Sprouts 5-7 weeks
Cabbage 5-7 weeks
Cauliflower 5-7 weeks
Celery 7-12 weeks
Lettuce 5-7 weeks
Onion 8-10 weeks
Parsley 8-10 weeks
Peppers 6-8 weeks
Tomato 6-8 weeks
Cantaloupe 3-4 weeks
Cucumbers 3-4 weks
Squash 3-4 weeks

How to Paint



Latex paints can be thinned with water and are easily applied. Compared to oil-based paints, the advantages of latex paints are:

Less odor
Water cleanup … Very easy
Rapid drying
Easy touchup
Easy application, even on damp surfaces
Better gloss and color retention (less fading) on exterior surfaces
No yellowing on interior surfaces
Remains more flexible and less brittle, which makes them less likely to crack and peel.

The disadvantage, especially of some lower-quality or promotional products, are poorer adhesion to blistered, peeling or chalking surfaces, and, in some cases, less-effective hiding qualities.

Latex paint films on wood allow moisture to evaporate through the film, reducing blistering.


Oil-based paints consist of a pigment in a vehicle made up of resins and thinners. When thinners evaporate, the resins form a hard coating while the pigment forms the color.

Major advantages of oil-based paint are:

Better penetration of the surface
Better adhesion
Better flow and leveling
Dry to a smoother finish with fewer brush or roller marks.

The disadvantages of oil-based paints are the odor, cleanup with solvents or thinners and longer drying time. Also, oil-based paints cannot be applied to moist surfaces. Oil based paint can not be applied over Latex paint, but you can apply Latex over Oil based.


Interior paints are available in flat (no shine), satin, semigloss and gloss (high shine).

Enamels provide a high-gloss washable finish for hard-wear areas or for rooms such as the bath and kitchen that require a high resistance to moisture, dirt and grease. Today, companies not only sell high-gloss, but eggshell or even flat enamels. Interior paints are sold in various formulations-oil based, alkyd based or synthetic based, latex, etc.

Interior paints are sold in various formulations-oil based, alkyd based or synthetic based, latex, etc.

Flat paints usually have an alkyd- base that thins with turpentine or mineral spirits, or a latex base that thins with water. Latex paints are usually vinyl or acrylic based or a combination of the two.

Alkyd flat paints may hide better with one coat than will comparable latex flats, but brushes and other tools must be washed with turpentine or a similar solvent. Latex flats spread easily, especially on porous surfaces, and seldom require a primer. Tools clean with water.

Flat wall paints are usually applied to ceilings and walls, except in kitchens and baths. Semigloss or gloss paints withstand the frequent washings required in these two rooms.

For windows, doors, wood trim and other woodwork, satin, semigloss or gloss enamels are recommended. These surfaces get more wear than walls, more fingerprints and soil. Because glossier enamels wash more readily, they are more desirable.

Semigloss latex paints serve well as finishes for wood-trim areas. They have the advantage of water cleanup.

Because enamels and gloss paints dry rapidly, more care must be exercised in application because they tend to brushmark, especially on hot, dry days. Preparation of interior surfaces is vital to good end results. Surfaces must be free from grease, dirt, mildew, chalking, etc., washed well, thoroughly rinsed with clear water and allowed to dry before repainting. Cracks and holes must be repaired and patched areas spot primed.

If surfaces are badly soiled, a trisodium-phosphate (TSP) cleaner may be necessary. However, phosphates are a recognized pollutant and TSP is more prone to deposit crystals that impair adhesion than do some other products.

When repainting glossy surfaces, sufficient cleaning materials must be used to dull surfaces, or they should be lightly sanded. An alternative to sanding is the use of a liquid cleaning/dulling solvent. High-gloss surfaces typically do not provide good adhesion for new coats of paint.

Painting over wallpaper is not recommended; the old covering should be removed. Once painted, wallpaper is extremely difficult to remove.
Wash all grease and dirt off walls and woodwork.
Don’t expect good results on dirty surfaces.
Patch cracks in walls and ceilings before painting.
Don’t paint over a damp surface with oil-base paints.
Seal all new surfaces with a primer.
Don’t apply the second coat of paint until the first coat has dried properly.
Scrape off all loose paint and sand the surface to a smooth finish.
Don’t sand woodwork across the grain.
Stir paint thoroughly before any applications.
Don’t change cans of paint in the middle of a wall area. If you need more than one can of paint to do the job mix the new can with the last 1/4 – 1/2 of the old can and continue. All paints can be a slight bit different in tint.
Allow new plaster to dry before painting.
Don’t add thinner to the product unless directions call for it.
Properly ventilate area to be painted.



Latex- and oil-based house paints are formulated to withstand wear and exposure to severe weather conditions. Many manufacturers offer specific formulations for regional climates.

Surface preparation is critically important for good adhesion. Proper preparation includes scraping as much old paint as possible from the surface, sanding to feather edges of scraped areas, washing the surface with a good detergent solution, repairing chips, cracks, splinters, etc., cleaning and sealing nail heads.

Major problems encountered with house paints are generally due to:

Failure to completely clean surface of dirt, grease, old paint, etc.
Excessive moisture
Painting damp surfaces
Painting under adverse weather conditions
Failure to use proper primer coat
Failure to follow manufacturer’s directions

Any of these conditions can cause blistering, peeling, early fading or other similar problems.


Trim paints are bright colors, chosen to contrast with the house color. They dry quickly to a hard finish; they are primarily for use on window frames, shutters, railings, etc. and are not recommended for large surfaces.


Masonry surfaces include stucco, concrete, cement, asbestos shingles, etc. Most masonry paints are latex based; some are acrylic based. Oil-based paint is not recommended for masonry because of the residual alkalinity in the masonry.

Latex-based masonry paints require a special pretreatment or bonding primer to “tie down” old chalk and dust before application. They dry to a flat finish.

Rough surfaces should first receive a coat of block filler. Acrylic elastomeric coatings bridge cracks and pinholes to provide the best waterproofing.

Powdered cement paints, which have a shorter exterior life than latex coatings, must be mixed with water. They can be applied only over a porous masonry surface such as brick, stucco or concrete, or over surfaces that have been previously coated with this same kind of paint. For proper adhesion, the old surface must be wetted down thoroughly and the paint applied to the damp surface.

Masonry paint can be waterproof as well as decorative. For best color retention, coat with a good acrylic-latex paint 30 days after application of a waterproof masonry paint.


Both latex- and oil-based paints adhere well to galvanized steel and aluminum gutters. Oil based works better on tin gutters.

Galvanized gutters require priming both inside and out and should be cleaned with coarse cloth dampened with paint thinner before they are painted, or should be left unpainted for three to six months so the weather can etch the surface for better paint adhesion.

Oil-based paints should never be applied directly to unpainted galvanized metal. They will eventually peel off. A galvanized metal primer must be applied first. Acrylic-latex paint can be applied directly to unpainted galvanized as long as it has been cleaned thoroughly.


Many shingle paints (really stains) are low in pigment content, leave light color on the surface, and are used primarily to provide surface protection for wood shingles.

In some instances, shingle paints may be applied without a primer. Where the surface is badly weathered, recommendations may call for a companion primer, undercoater or two finish coats.

Most shingle paints have oil or alkyd-resin base, which thins with turpentine or similar solvent.


Floor paints, also called deck enamels, are for “walk-on “surfaces. Ordinary high-gloss enamel is not suitable. Floor enamels are formulated to withstand weather and wear on wood and concrete. Available in both oil based and latex, the latter dries to a flat finish while most oil-based products dry with a medium- or high-gloss finish.

Oil-based paints are not recommended for many concrete surfaces, especially those in contact with round moisture, such as basements and patios, because they will not adhere to damp surfaces. The alkali in concrete may combine with the oil to form a soap, resulting in poor adhesion, peeling and paint lifting from the surface.

Concrete floors which have been penetrated by oils, gasoline, etc., are virtually impossible to paint because it is extremely difficult to clean these surfaces well enough to make paint adhere.

A final advantage of latex floor paints: The homeowner can lay resilient floor tile without removing the old paint. This is not possible with other floor paints.

Conventional floor paints work poorly on garage floors. Car tires get hot as the car is driven, and when the hot tires come in contact with the floor paint, the paints sticks to the tires and is lifted off.

Many gloss floor paints are slippery when wet and a nonskid additive should be considered.



Special acoustical ceiling paint forms a porous film which will not harm noise-reducing properties of acoustical tile.

Its consistency is much like regular wall paint so it can be applied with a brush, roller or sprayer.


High-quality aluminum paint is aluminum blended with a resin base. It works equally well on almost any surface and may be brushed or sprayed. Colors become more intense with age.

Aluminum paint can be used on all interior and exterior metal or wood surfaces, or applied to metal flashing, gutters, downspouts, tools, tool sheds, patio furniture, pipes, mailboxes, fences, etc.

Do not apply aluminum paint during freezing temperatures; paint should dry at least overnight before re-coating.


Texture paint is a good answer to problem walls and ceilings; it is thick bodied enough to seal most minor imperfections (large holes and cracks must be filled) and leave a decorator finish. It is available as a liquid base with tinting colors or as a powder in several colors.

Texture paints come in several consistencies, ranging from smooth formulas to larger-texture particles in sandy textures, all the way to coarse stucco finishes, which create the deepest texture.

Depending upon the desired visual effect and the specific coarseness of the paint, brushes and rollers, putty knives, trowels and other applicators can be used to create a variety of patterns or designs such as swirls and deep-texture finishes.

After these finishes have been applied and allowed to dry, the surfaces can be painted any color. Texture paint also may be tinted prior to application.


Lacquers, the fastest drying of all finishes, are available in clear or colors. Because of fast-drying characteristics, they are usually difficult to apply by brush. However, some manufacturers do offer specially formulated “brushing”-type lacquers that apply more easily with a brush. Lacquer thinners are required to clean tools.

The secret to successful application is to work fast, not going over same spot twice. For beginners, use a 50/50 mixture of lacquer and lacquer thinner, preferably made by the same manufacturer.

Lacquers are hazardous to handle. Fumes are noxious and in a closed room can be dangerous to the user; furthermore, fire and explosion hazards are much greater than with ordinary paints and varnishes.

Lacquers cannot be used over old paint or varnish because the solvents will lift old finishes. Lacquers should be applied to new wood only or over previously lacquered surfaces.


Epoxy finishes are primarily for bare or previously finished wood floors, and eliminate “dusting” when applied to concrete floors. They do not darken or change the color of wood to any degree. They penetrate rapidly and can be applied with a brush or mop.

An epoxy finish adheres to most surfaces and is especially good for doors, cabinets, trim and furniture: any interior wood surface where a clear-gloss, easy-to-clean finish is desired. Resists detergent, oil and alkali, but may lose gloss under exposure to sun and weather.

Finishes are formulated in one- or two-part systems. Two-part epoxies come in kits containing equal-sized cans and contents are mixed; epoxies can be tinted. They are more chemical and abrasion resistant than one-component epoxies.


Conditioners are added to oil-based or latex paints to keep edges wet longer, prevent lapping, make paint cover better and lessen drag on the paint applicator. Conditioners also lessen paint clogging in spraying systems.

Insecticides are added to paint for outdoor use only, to eliminate pests nesting on painted surfaces. Insecticide paints contain chloropyrifos, a poison that insects absorb through their feet. The insecticide is poured into the paint which is applied as usual. Insects susceptible to the poison include spiders, ants, silverfish, ticks, roaches and earwigs.

Some manufacturers warn that additives may not do what they claim. They may also have adverse effects, such as increasing mildew growth. They may also void paint warranties.


Primer/sealers work to eliminate stains (including stains from water and fire damage), cover wood imperfections, hide wallpaper designs and serve as a foundation coat on metals over which a finish coat is applied. They also seal the surface evenly so a topcoat will have uniform gloss.

There are three basic types: alkyd based, latex based and shellac based. The alkyd and latex types work well as stain killers and general-purpose primers on both interiors and exteriors.

The shellac-based type blocks out the widest variety of stains, including knots and sap streaks in new wood, and adheres to slick surfaces such as glass and tile. This type is recommended for general-purpose priming on all interior surfaces, but should only be used for spot priming on exterior surfaces.

Acrylic or vinyl-acrylic latexes are the most frequently sold latex-based primers, but vinyl-based types are available. The term “latex-based” includes vinyl, acrylic and vinyl-acrylic copolymer types.



Wood sealer is used on soft woods to help tame wild grain patterns and even-out stain absorbency. The sealer penetrates the wood, slowing stain absorbency for a more even color appearance and grain pattern.


Stains accent grain without hiding it and protect the wood surface. There are two types of stain: semitransparent and semisolid. Semitransparent stains can be applied over bare wood or previously semitransparent stained (but not sealed) wood. Solid color stains can be applied over bare wood, previously stained and even painted surfaces in sound condition.

Exterior stains are used primarily on wood siding and shingles, decks, outdoor structures and furniture. They are available in latex and oil-based formulas. Latex stains do not typically fade as rapidly as oil stains. Latex stains are often recommended for redo over previously oil-based stained or painted surfaces due to their excellent adhesion properties.

Latex is recommended for woods such as cedar, redwood and cypress that have natural resistance to rotting. However, putting a light-colored stain on these woods can result in brown discoloration of the stain. Oil-based stains also take more abuse than latex types.

When staining exterior wood decks, only semitransparent oil-based stains should be used. If the deck is made of pressure-treated wood, it should be stained two to five months after installation.

Water-repellent preservative stains contain a fungicide and a water repellent, protecting against decay, mildew, warping, splitting and cracking, as well as wood deterioration. They can be oil- or latex-based stains in semitransparent and transparent finishes.

Interior stains, used for furniture and woodwork, come in either pigmented or dye categories. Both can have oil or synthetic bases.

Pigmented stains color the wood with the same type of pigments used in paint. They range in color from almost clear to semitransparent. They are easy to apply, usually brushed on or wiped on with a rag, and then wiped off to control the depth of the stain. They leave no brush or lap marks if applied properly.

Stains are generally used to enhance the grain of the wood and emphasize grain contrasts. They may or may not protect the wood; check manufacturers’ labels. An oil or polyurethane finish is generally mixed with the stain, so the do-it-yourselfer can complete the staining and finishing job in one step.

Dye stains are more difficult to use and are more frequently used by professionals. Most come in powders, to be mixed in a solvent. Most are highly flammable. Premixed dyes are most often used by the d-i-y-er.

Dye stains offer deeper penetration of wood surfaces and less grain hiding. However, they also fade more quickly than pigmented stains and require more effort to prepare the wood.

Water-based dyes tend to raise the grain on many woods because the water penetrates the wood and raises the tiny fibers. Wood should be wetted first, then sanded down, before applying water-based dyes.

Nongrain-raising (NGR) dyes are dissolved in a NGR solvent. They dry faster than water-based counterparts, so application must be faster to avoid lap marks.

Colored oil finishes, such as Danish oil, tung oil or Swedish oil, provide coloring and protection in one step. However, oil finishes do not stand up to alcohol or water the way polyurethanes do, so they are not recommended for high-traffic, abuse-prone applications.

But oils make nice, low-luster finishes for furniture and other fine pieces. Waxing can provide water resistance with these finishes.


Varnish is a blend of oils and resins that coats the surface of wood and gives a transparent, protective coating, allowing the beauty of the wood to show through. Depending on its formulation, it can leave a gloss, semigloss or satin finish.

All varnishes must be applied to a clean, dust-free surface in a dirt-free area with a clean brush. Dust can damage the wet surface.

Varnishes fall into four groups, divided by their base: alkyd, polyurethane, latex, or phenolic. Varnishes are typically mixed with a tung oil or linseed oil.

Phenolic varnishes of modified phenolic oils are the most expensive of the varnishes but deliver the best performance in terms of durability, especially in exterior uses. They absorb ultraviolet light and neutralize oxidation. The downside of phenoics is that they tend to yellow faster than other varnishes.

Alkyd varnishes offer flexibility and hardness in both interior and exterior uses, but they oxidize more quickly in exterior use. However, they do not yellow as much as phenolics.

Polyurethanes are not generally recommended for outdoor use. They yellow and crack when exposed to ultraviolet light unless ultraviolet light absorbers are added to make the polyurethanes more durable for outdoor use. Check manufacturer specifications.

Polyurethanes are highly recommended for interior use because of their superior protection. For interior use, phenolic or polyurethane stains are better for water resistance and hard use, but customers may object to the plastic appearance they produce. Alkyds offer a natural-looking gloss for furniture and indoor architectural trim and doors.

There are varnishes that offer the cleanup convenience of water-based latex coatings. These varnishes combine polymers with urethane or acrylic polymers. These water-based products offer the advantages of oil-based coatings and the cleanup convenience of water. The acrylic coatings take from one-half hour to 1 1/2 hours to dry and do not yellow the wood. Some acrylic-based varnishes are durable enough for use on floors.

Except for two-package or moisture-cured urethanes, exterior clear finishes do not last as long as pigmented stains or paints.


Shellac provides a fast, hard-drying, durable finish for furniture, woodwork, hardwood floors and other wood-finishing applications. It also functions as a sealer and stain killer on drywall, cured plaster and new wood. Shellac is widely compatible with other coatings, and it can be applied over old shellac, varnish or lacquer finishes that are adhering well.

Most shellac is sold in a “3-lb. cut,” the consistency recommended for most uses. The 3-lb. cut can be thinned to a 1-lb. cut for applications such as wood sealer before staining by thinning one quart of shellac with three pints of alcohol.

For applications where water spotting may be a problem, protect shellacked surfaces with paste wax or varnish.

Shellac may be applied with a brush, foam brush or from an aerosol can. When brushing, flow on the shellac from a full brush with minimum brushing, and do not re-brush areas, since shellac’s alcohol-based solvent dries quickly. Shellac offers convenient cleanup in ammonia and warm water.


All wood preservatives must contain an EPA-registered fungicide to classify as wood preservatives. Pressure-treated wood, with lifetime warranties, does not require a brush-on preservative coating. Brush-on preservatives are used for untreated wood and should be reapplied periodically.

They are generally classified as one of three types. A clear alkyd or oil-based type without fungicide is sometimes called log oil or log-cabin finish. The second type has the same base with fungicide additives of penta, cuprinol or a preservative. The third type consists of a non-paintable preservative containing wax or creosote oil, primarily for farm use.

Wood preservatives for the d-i-y-er generally should be paintable.

Wood preservatives by themselves provide no protection against moisture or water. Water repellency must be formulated into the product. The preservative chemical used varies according to need and type of exposure.

Waterborne, water-repellent preservatives for wood offer lower environmental hazards and convenient water cleanup. They provide an alternative to conventional solvent-based water-repellent preservatives while retaining effectiveness, rapid drying qualities and excellent paintability. Another preservative, 3-iodo-2-propynyl butyl carbamate, is offered in some of these waterborne preservatives.


A water repellent helps minimize water damage on pressure-treated and untreated wood. Some water repellents also contain a mildewcide to help control mold and mildew growth. It’s best to use a water repellent that is formulated for immediate application to pressure-treated wood to avoid premature cracking, splitting, splintering and warping. Periodic re-applications help prevent water damage as wood ages.


Wood toners are water repellents that add color to highlight wood grain. Although toners are not to be considered a stain, adding color to a water repellent gives wood the benefit of ultraviolet light protection. Most toners on the market are designed for use on pressure-treated wood. Not all repellents contain ingredients that cause water to bead.

About two thirds of the homes built before 1940 and one-half of the homes built from 1940 to 1960 contain heavily leaded paint. Some homes built after 1960 also contain heavily leaded paint. The sale of lead-based paint for residential use was banned in 1978. Lead can be on the walls, the woodwork and on the outside of houses.
Lead paint in good condition is not usually a problem except in places where painted surfaces rub against one another and create dust. For example, when you open a window, the painted surfaces rub against one another. In older buildings where the paint is not in good condition, lead paint can chip off or wear off. Lead dust and chips can also be created during preparation of surfaces for painting and during renovating or remodeling. The dust and chips are especially hazardous to small children.
Lead can be harmful even at Iow levels. Even children who appear healthy may have high levels of lead in their blood. You can’t tell if a child has lead poisoning unless you have him or her tested. In many cases, the harm lead causes cannot be reversed.
Being exposed to lead can affect a child’s mental growth. Lead interferes with nervous system development, which can cause learning disabilities and impaired hearing. Children with lead poisoning may complain of headaches or stomach aches or become very grouchy, but they often show no symptoms of lead poisoning.
Adults can get lead poisoning through occupational exposure as well as through home renovation and remodeling activities. In adults, lead’s health effects include high blood pressure. In extreme cases, lead poisoning can cause comas, kidney or brain damage, or death.
If you are remodeling, test for lead paint first. Some local health departments offer a lead testing service. If this service is not available, you should hire a qualified inspector
If high levels of lead are detected, you should not attempt to remove the lead paint yourself. Instead, you should hire a person who is specially trained to correct lead paint problems, who knows how to do the work safely and has the proper equipment to clean up thoroughly. Improper removal of heavily leaded paint can endanger the health and lives of the entire family.
Contact the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-LEAD-FYI for information. The purpose of this federally funded service is to provide information to the public on lead.

Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

Building Your Deck

Once you have determined the basic design of your deck, the next step is to choose your materials. The most common choices are pressure-treated (P/T) lumber (usually Southern pine), redwood, or cedar. As a rule, pressure-treated lumber is the best choice for the substructure; the species you use for the visible parts of the deck will depend on your budget and the look you want.

The span tables in this document will help you determine how much material you need, based on the species you choose. Although there is no such thing as an “average” deck, these instructions assume that your deck is attached to the house, is no more than 6″ off the ground, and has no special load requirements. All design recommendations below are suggestions only, for estimating purposes. Always check local building codes before determining the final design.

Inside this document you will find information about:

  • Choosing Materials
  • Preparation and Layout
  • Building the Substructure
  • Decking and Railings



  • Decking-If you choose pressure-treated lumber, you’ll have a choice between 5/4 x 6 decking (1×5-1/2 actual size) or 2″ material (typically 2×4 through 2×8, all 1-1/2″ thick). The size and species of the decking you choose will determine the spacing between your joists. Recommended spacing for common decking boards is as follows:
Decking Joist Spacing
5/4×6 PT Southern pine 16″ maximum
2 inch thick redwood, western red cedar, S-P-F, Hem-fir, Northern white cedar 24″ maximum, 16″ preferred
2-inch Southern pine 24″ maximum
  • Determining Joist Size-2x6s through 2x10s are the most common sizes used for joists. The beams that carry them are typically 4×6 through 4×10, often “built up” from doubled 2-inch lumber. Pressure-treated lumber is generally less expensive than redwood or cedar, and can be used for the substructure even when the decking and railing will be other species.
  • In most cases, you’ll want to determine the spacing between beams first, then use a joist size appropriate to that spacing. If the deck will be no more than 6′ off the ground, a common recommendation is to space the support beams no more than 12′ apart. As a rule, you’ll only need one beam along the outer edge of the deck (a ledger bolted to the house supports the other end of the deck).
Beam Spacing Joist Size (joists 16″ o.c.)
Up to 8 feet 2×6 (Southern pine, Douglas fir, Western red cedar, S-P-F, or Hem-Fir)2×8 (redwood, Northern white cedar)
8 to 10 feet 2×8 (all species listed above)
10 to 12 feet 2×8 (Southern pine, Douglas fir, Western red cedar, S-P-F, or Hem-fir)2 x 10 (redwood, Northern white cedar)
Beam Spacing Joist Size (joists 24″ o.c.)
Up to 8 feet 2×6 (Southern pine, or Douglas fir)2×8 (Western red cedar, S-P-F, Hem-Fir, redwood, or Northern white cedar)
8 to 10 feet 2×8 (all species listed above)
10 to 12 feet 2×8 (Southern pine, or Douglas fir)2×10 (Western red cedar, S-P-F, or Hem-Fir, redwood, or Northern white cedar)
  • Determining Beam Size-Since support posts are often run through the decking to serve as railing posts, the specifications below are given for posts that will be spaced no more than 6′ apart, with beams that are no more than 12′ apart. With these spacing specifications, 4×4 posts are adequate for any deck less than 6′ off the ground.
Beam Spacing (round down to nearest foot) Min. Beam Size (double 2″ material may be used in place of 4″ thickness)
Up to 6 feet 4×6 (Southern pine or Douglas fir)4×8 (Western red cedar, S-P-F, Hem-Fir, redwood, or Northern white cedar)
Up to 7 feet 4×8 (all species listed above)
Up to 9 feet 4×8 (Southern pine, Douglas fir, Western red cedar, S-P-F, or Hem-Fir)4×10 (redwood, Northern white cedar)
Up to 11 feet 4×8 (Southern pine or Douglas fir)4×10 (Western red cedar, S-P-F, Hem-Fir, redwood or Northern white cedar)
Up to 12 feet 4×10 (all species listed above)


  • Preparation-First, prepare the ground under the deck by removing the sod. Slope the ground away from the house a minimum of 1″ every 15′ to provide drainage. Once the deck is finished, the ground should be covered with 6 mil. black polyethylene to keep weeds from growing.
  • Measure and mark the position of the ledger along the wall. The height of the ledger should be 1″ below the bottom of the door plus the thickness of the decking, plus the depth of the joists if you plan to set the joists on the ledger and beams rather than using joist hangers. It makes no difference which way you set the joists, as long as your layout is consistent.
  • Mount a 2×6 ledger to the wall with 1/2″ lag screws. The ledger must be level, and the lag screws should be long enough to penetrate the studs at least 3″. Use two lag screws at each end, and one at each wall stud (typically 16″ on center) in between. Install a “Z”-shaped flashing above the ledger to shed water, or space the ledger away from the wall with washers (see image).

  • Layout-To establish the outside perimeter of the deck, measure out from each end of the ledger about 18″ beyond the outside edge of the deck. Set up batterboards (see image) as shown, then run taut strings from each end of the ledger to the batterboards to establish the sides of the deck.
  • Run a third string between the batterboards to establish the outside edge of the deck. Square the layout by measuring the opposite diagonals, then adjusting the ledger-to-batterboard strings until both measurements are equal. Take care to maintain the correct distance between the strings.


  • Footing and Piers (see image) – Use a plumb bob from the string to establish the location of the footings. The holes for the footings must be deeper than the maximum frost penetration in your area, and deep enough to rest on undisturbed soil. It’s a good idea to dig 6″ deeper and fill the bottom of the hole with gravel to allow drainage.
  • Mix concrete and pour the footings. To find the number of 90# bags of ready-mixed concrete you’ll need for each 12×12 footing, measure the depth of the footing in inches and divide by 8. As you finish each pour, set a precast pier on the footing so it extends about 6″ above the ground level. Use a thin cement mix to bond the piers to the footings.
  • Posts-After the concrete has set, stand the posts on the piers. Use temporary braces and a level to plumb the posts. Once the posts are set, run a mason’s line from the top of the ledger to each post and use a line level to mark it for cutting. The height of the post should be equal to the height of the ledger minus the depth of the beam that will be set on it.

  • Beams-Fasten post-to-beam connectors on top of the posts with nails and 1/2″x5-1/2″ hex bolts, then set the beams into the connector. Plumb and square the assembly, then secure the beams as you did the posts. If local building codes require it, install 2×6 diagonal cross braces and secure them with 1/2″x4-1/2″ lag screws (see image).
  • Joists (see first image below) – Mark the joist locations on both the beams and ledger, either 16″ or 24″ o.c., as per your design. Set the joists in place with the crowns up. If the deck is wide enough that you need two sets of joists (and if you set the joists over the beams rather than hanging them from joist hangers), splice the connections by overlapping each pair of joists at least 1′ and nailing them together with 8d galvanized nails (see second image below). Install blocking between the joists wherever required (see third image below). Blocking requirements are determined by your local building codes. Finally, nail the rim joist across the ends of the joists.
  • Stairs-Build any stairs you will need. Instructions for building outdoor stairs are covered in an accompanying brochure.


  • Decking-Deck boards should be laid with the bark side up, and with both ends centered over a joist. Stagger the joints of side-by-side deck boards so they don’t line up. Notch the boards around posts or other obstructions, leaving 1/8″ space for drainage.
  • 2″-thick deck boards should be spaced approximately 1/8″; most builders set a 16d nail between the boards as they fasten them. 5/4″‘x6″ pressure-treated decking may be placed with each board flush against the next; natural shrinkage will provide the proper spacing.
  • Fasten the deck boards at each joist (see image). Use two fasteners per support point for decking up to 6″ wide, or three fasteners for wider boards. Deck screws or clips are generally better than nails, but all fasteners must be hot-dipped galvanized, aluminum, or stainless steel (see image below). If you use nails, blunt the points by tapping them with your hammer, to avoid splitting the decking.

  • Let the decking run over the edge of the structure, then saw the ends off after all boards are laid.
  • Railings-Secure the railing posts at each corner of the deck, and on each side of the stairs. Then secure the field posts, spaced equally between the corners but no farther apart than allowed by local building codes (typically 6′). Nail the sub-railings and cap rail in place, then add the balusters.
Level and Line Level Plumb Bob
Mason’s Line 2x2s and 1x4s for Batter Boards
Ready-mixed Concrete, Gravel Wheelbarrow
Shovel Concrete Piers
Structural Connectors Lag Screws, Hex Bolts w/ Nuts and Washers
Adjustable Wrench Hammer
Chalk Line Measuring Tape
8d and 16d Galvanized Common/Box Nails Screws
Lumber for Posts, Ledger, Beams and Joists Deck Boards
Railing Material Framing Square
Stain Brushes and Thinner
6 mil. Black Polyethylene  

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Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

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