DIY

Do-it-yourself projects and plans for anyone who can swing a hammer.

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6/15/2016

Mouse pad on desk

From an outsider’s perspective, at first it may seem that technology and sustainability are mutually exclusive concepts. But, in fact, the two worlds are inexorably linked. The use of technology allows us to accurately measure and assess our impact on the environment as well as create and execute intricate plans for improvement. So it only seems natural that computer accessories should be eco-friendly, too, right?

This Father’s Day, you can surprise the tech-loving dad in your life with a fancy homemade mouse pad that you created especially for him from upcycled wood scrap and a DIY eco-friendly wood sealant. A project like this is a fantastic way to help older kids learn to use a few simple power tools while younger kids can get involved with the decoration process. So, let’s get started!

Materials

First you’ll need to rifle around in the garage for a suitable piece of wood. Each type of wood will have different characteristics so keep that in mind while you search. The right piece will be thin and somewhat smooth.

My best option was quarter-inch thin plywood, which is not the most beautiful wood in the world, but seeing as the point is to give purpose to something otherwise destined for the trash, it’s just perfect. Other supplies you’ll need:

• Power sander
• Pencil
• Jigsaw
• Permanent marker or paint pens (optional for decoration)
• ½ cup beeswax pastilles or grated beeswax
• 1 ½ cups olive oil
• A glass jar (a standard Mason jar is the perfect size)
• Stovetop double boiler (or two pots that could be used as such)
• Clean rags
• Adhesive rubber feet (optional)

Materials needed for project

Directions

Step 1: Create your wood sealant. Fill the bottom of the double boiler with water and bring to a boil. In the top of the boiler, pour in ½ cup of beeswax. When that has mostly melted, add 1½ cups of olive oil and stir until all of the beeswax has combined with the oil.

Wood sealant in mason jar

Step 2: Pour sealant carefully into your glass jar and let it cool while you work on the rest of the project. Little ones might enjoy watching the liquid change color and harden as it cools. Monitoring the progress might also keep them entertained while you manage the power tools. Just make sure they don’t touch—it’s hot!

Step 3: Mark the area of wood that you would like to become the mouse pad. I thought my husband would like a unique circular shape, so I traced a plate that was just the right size (8 3/4" in diameter). Be aware of any knots or other imperfections in the wood that won’t allow the mouse to glide uninterrupted.

 Marking the area of wood

Step 4: Using the jigsaw, carefully cut out your shape. If you have teenagers, they may be ready to try using this tool with your careful instruction and supervision. Be sure to use goggles and take other safety precautions.

Sand down the wood

Step 5: Now it’s time to sand down the wood so the surface and edges are smooth. This may be a good opportunity to teach older children to use a power sander! If you have patient kids, you could even try having them sand by hand to avoid electricity usage.

Step 6: Wipe your mouse pad down with a damp lint-free cloth to remove dust from sanding and let it dry completely.

 Enjoy decorating your project! 

Step 7: Decorate! My husband is a bit of a minimalist, so I thought I would keep it simple for him with a quick monochromatic drawing. I used a regular black permanent marker for this (after drawing my illustration on with a pencil to get the correct layout). There’s a slight bleed into the wood from the marker, so you could try paint pens instead if you wanted to. This is a fun step as decoration offers the perfect opportunity for younger kids to get involved so the gift can be a full family effort.

Add the sealant to wood

Step 8: Make sure the sealant has cooled to a solid and isn’t too hot to handle. Then, apply it to the wood in a circular motion with a clean lint-free rag. Let the wood drink in the sealant for at least a few hours before buffing it into the wood in the direction of the grain. The wood I used isn’t anything super special, but this magical concoction of ours will help to polish wood and bring out its rich hues which can be a really neat transformation for fancier types of wood.

Step 9: (Optional) Add some adhesive rubber feet to the bottom of your mouse pad to keep it from sliding around. This step may be unnecessary depending on the surface upon which it will rest. I usually try to make do with what I have (i.e. going without little feet) to avoid buying new products that come with a carbon footprint and, usually, plenty of unnecessary packaging. Thus the need for a DIY mouse pad in the first place!

 Enjoy your handmade present!

This customized project is perfect for Father’s Day for many reasons: You’re helping Dad clean up a little scrap from his workshop, creating something by hand (and as a family!) specifically for him and you’ll have plenty of natural wood sealant left over for him to use in the future! Enjoy the family time and the look on Dad’s face this Father’s Day when you give him a newly upcycled addition to his computer desk.

Julia Marchand is a DIY and upcycling expert who loves developing unique and sustainable projects, especially if they’re a gift for her husband or son. She writes about her different creations, including this father’s day gaming gift, for eBay.com. Read all of Julia's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



6/10/2016

Father's Day Gift Mugshot

The coffee mug pictured above was created nearly 20 years ago by my children (and me) for their father (my husband). I took these photos just the other day. I’d say their precious gift has survived rather well, though it’s been used as a pencil holder rather than a drinking mug. The main drawback of the paints I picture below is that they tend to fade with wear and washing. As decoration, they obviously fare rather well.

To make this gift really special, I had each of our children create a drawing on paper for me to recreate on the mug. The kids were then 8, 5, and 11 years old (in order, left to right, according to the art above).

I didn’t want them working directly on the mug for reasons of both health and esthetics. I felt fairly strongly that we could transfer their art, because I’m really good at copying. If you don’t choose to take this same route, there are places online that will reproduce your photo on a mug (or other products). In fact, one year we gave dad a mug with a photo of the four of us in our Halloween regalia. I’m sure you could also scan a drawing and send that in for your mug.

What continues to make this such a wonderful gift is that it truly is a snapshot of time. I can clearly grasp the period each child was in when they drew their pictures — Catyana was all vibrant colors and graphic movement, Khymba was into puzzles and shapes, Kellin was creating islands and planets with complex storylines. I am also drawn back to the years when I was painting on glass and ceramics, because it fit in with my otherwise full-time homeschooling and parenting schedule.

How to Make a Hand-Painted Mug

All you need to complete this project is a plain glass or ceramic container, some Pebeo Porcelaine paints (or another similar craft brand), brushes, water, and a regular oven. You’ll also need paper and pens if your children aren’t old enough to paint the gift themselves.

This could be a great project to do with church, a homeschool group, scouts, or some other gathering. The cost would also be spread out more broadly that way.

paints for glass and ceramics

Have the children help you clean the containers if you like. This makes them more a part of the process. Paint the mug/s. Once the containers are painted, they set for a day or so. Then you simply follow the instructions on the bottle and bake in the oven for 40 minutes. I always let mine cool in the oven with the door open — that way, there isn’t as great a danger of breaking the container or smearing the paint.

Note: it’s best if you paint below the lip line — or where someone would touch with their mouth when using.

An added layer to this gift would be framing the original artwork so dad (or whomever — this would be a terrific gift for so many other occasions) can hang it somewhere else, or one parent could keep the artwork and the other the mug. Grandparents could also receive the artwork instead.

More DIY Project Ideas

We have painted neckties, though those were only worn once or twice. In my experience, the more utilitarian the gift the better. Our overly “creative” ties didn’t quite go with the more sedate atmosphere of my husband’s place of business.

I’ve made a number of gifts and commissioned pieces using this medium. Below is just one of the many iterations I created. This particular project was a gift from the commissioner to her beau at the time. He liked birds (parrots in particular) and wine (along with other drinks).

I painted a wooden matryoshka bottle container and repeated the birds that were on the bottle holder on the glasses. I also put the names of the birds on the glasses so those less knowledgeable could see what they were.

I created a series of irises on drinking glasses for a wedding gift, farm animals for various friends and relatives, and a couple of collage glasses for my in-laws that depicted the farm they lived on.

I also painted our Santa set — plate for cookies and glass for milk. My children and I have painted mosaic-style shapes and other abstracts on glasses and mugs. We still use many of these.

The important thing, in my mind, is to have fun creating a useful, eye-catching gift that dad will treasure for years to come. If dad doesn’t drink coffee, color a beer stein or water glass. (When painting on glass, paint a background of white first so the colors pop once they’re applied.)

I hope this post gives you ideas to play with for an upcoming holiday or special occasion. It rarely hurts to bring more beauty and smiles to the world.

gift set of parrots

Photos by Blythe Pelham

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


6/10/2016

Stretching A Hat Out

 

Hats off! That was my adage, but not anymore! Hats prevent UV rays from harming sensitive head and neck areas and can safeguard kids from the sun and wind as they have fun outside. But what if your favorite hat is too small?

 

While cleaning my closet of clothes no longer needed, I saw two garden hats on the upper shelf. I’ve had these hats for a while but got tired of pulling and squeezing them onto my head, so there they sat. I used to think I just need to put up with the squeezing, the headache, and the smashed hair. There’s got to be a better way.

 

While sharing my challenge with my husband, he suggested we stretch the hats somehow. After talking about possible solutions, we settled on one that seems to work nicely. It takes time and it’s not possible to stretch all hats, but I’m thrilled to be able to wear hats again.

 

Can Your Hat Be Wet?

 

Grab the hat you need to stretch and figure out what components or fabric forms your hat. Determine if these materials can be submersed in water without damaging the hat. That means it needs to be colorfast, with colors that cannot fade or be washed out, so you don’t end up with a runny mess of dye ruining the hat forever.

 

If your hat can be soaked in water in a large washtub or bucket for 30 minutes, this remedy may be just what you’ve been looking for.

 

Soaking

 

With enough cool water in a tub or bathtub to cover your hat, soak your hat for 30 minutes. This will prepare the fibers to enable them to stretch.

 

Remove the hat from the water and position on a flat surface with a towel to absorb any excess water.

 

Determine the Desired Size

 

Measure around the widest part of your head and decide if you want your hat to fit snug on your head or a bit loose.

 

Locate an inflatable sports ball as close to your desired circumference as possible. We discovered a volley ball is just a touch larger around than the circumference of my head. So, a volley ball works perfect for my hats.

 

You’ll also need an air-pump, a bicycle-pump works well, and pump-needle for this project.

 

Inflate the Ball

 

Place the ball on a table or other firm surface. Without the pump attached, put the pump needle into the ball to deflate it.

 

Making sure the valve on the ball is facing out of the hat, deflate the ball enough to slide the ball into the hat so it touches inside to the top of the hat. Attach the pump to the pump needle and begin inflating the ball.

 

Carefully inflate the ball until it is very firm and visibly stretching the hat. Remove the pump with pump needle. Store your hat, with the inflated ball inside, in a warm area to dry for a week. (Your hat needs to be thoroughly dry before you remove the ball or all these stretching efforts will fail.)

 

After a week, when your hat is completely dry, insert the pump needle, without the pump, into the valve to let enough air out of the ball to easily remove the ball from the hat. Try on the newly stretched hat and be delighted!

Mary Ann Reese is a certified mentor in designing, building, and operating food bank farms. She has also been certified to teach cooking classes to low-income families. As an organic grower, Mary has owned a mini-farm, greenhouse, chickens, ducks, and geese raised from eggs in an incubator and is happy to share years of wiser living advice with her readers.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


6/10/2016

Installing a lock-top chimney damper is a common project among do-it-yourself homeowners. As fireplaces and chimneys age they tend to deteriorate from use, foundation shifting, and weather. This causes the original throat damper not to seal as well as it once may have.

Many times, the fireplace throat damper rusts apart and is non-functional, allowing heat and air from your home to escape through the chimney and vice versa.

In today's chimney industry, we have top locking chimney dampers that are easy to install, made of stainless steel, and completely seal the chimney flue when not in use. The lock-top chimney damper is a great way to reduce heat and air loss from your home and to keep animals, weather, and debris out.

 Clay Flue Tile

Before

Lock Top Damper Installed

After

Steps to Installing a Lock-Top Chimney Damper

Follow the steps below and watch Rockford Chimney Supply's do-it-yourself installation video below to learn how to install a Lock-Top Chimney Damper.

1. For this installation you will need a hammer, high powered drill, 1/4-inch masonry bit, and wire cutters along with the damper and hardware pack.

2. Start by spreading a bead of silicone cement around the top of the clay chimney flue. Make sure that the bead of silicone is about 1/4-inch thick.

3. Once the silicone cement is spread onto the top of the clay tile, feed the wire cable down the chimney flue.

4. Firmly place the damper centered on the clay tile flue. Spread silicone along the side of the damper to fill in any gaps.

5. Locate the mounting bracket that was included in the damper hardware pack. Position the mounting bracket inside the firebox approximately 20 inches from the floor of the firebox.

6. Using your drill and 1/4-inch masonry bit, drill the holes for the anchor nails.

7. Drive the nails through the mounting bracket and into the wall of the firebox using your hammer.

8. Thread the chain and gable through the hole in the mounting bracket until all slack is out of the wire.

9. Loosen the brass adjustment clamp with the wrench included in the hardware package. Pull the cable until the damper is completely closed and sealed.

10. Position the adjustment clamp at the mounting bracket and tighten the adjustment clamp with the wrench until it is tight.

11. Cut off the excess cable with your wire cutters.

12. Congratulations, you are done installing your Lock Top Chimney Damper! Now you will be keeping the heat & air inside your home all while saving money.

You can learn more about the Lock Top Chimney Damper here. If you have technical questions, we're here to help you do-it-yourself and save.

Photo Credit & Video Credit: Rockford Chimney Supply

Jaquelin White is a Web marketer near Ann Arbor, Michigan. From helping local businesses increase their web presence to working for Rockford Chimney Supply serving the U.S. and Canada, Jaquelin loves the always-changing ways of the web, because there is always something new to learn and try. Read all of Jaquelin’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


5/16/2016

For the past 7 months I have been collecting food waste from Reno restaurants by bike and trailer which then gets turned into compost at local gardens.  The Reno Rot Riders, our name for this effort, has so far been a great success and a lot of fun.

Not a day goes by during my pick-ups when I don’t get a thumbs-up, a “thank you” from across the road, or questions from interested passersby. Most of the questions have been about the first trailer I built – a very functional though cumbersome contraption I put together at the Generator, a Reno makerspace which evolved out of the annual Burning Man festival just to our north.

 

Daisy, the First Trailer

First Attempt Building a Bike Trailer

I am not a welder, so for the first trailer, I used a salvaged steel rectangle for a base, ¾-inch conduit for the tongue and wheel wells, 20-inch bike tires, and a lot of wood for the frame. The wood was fence slats painted schoolbus yellow, which I salvaged from someone’s Burning Man camp. All of this was attached using lots of bolts and lock nuts.

It could carry two full bins of food waste (we use these nifty 21 gallon bins with wheels) and got the job done transporting over 13,000 pounds of food waste in 6 months.

However, as we expanded and I learned a thing or two about transporting heavy bins, I decided it was time to for a new-and-improved trailer.

The finished Trailer

Ursula, the Second Trailer 

Lessons Learned and the Second Trailer

I started out by doing extensive online research on trailer design. There are lots of forums with people comparing notes on DIY projects, several small bike trailer building operations, and scores of individual blog entries chronicling bike cargo trailer construction projects. There are trailers made from shopping carts, ladders, wood, steel, bamboo — you name it and it’s out there. 

Most folks who build their own trailers are carrying smaller loads like groceries or gear for camping. There are a few who go for weight including Bike Compost, a small operation spun off from a bike-powered compost service in Florida, and Surly, a serious bike and trailer fabricator whose “Bill” model trailer I borrowed from. A “Bill” would be have been great but my sense of adventure coupled with its $1,200 price tag put us on the DIY track.

As I continued researching, I debated whether to go for an axle or seat-post mounted design. I had no experience with seat-post mounted trailers but had for years been lugging my kids around in axle-mounted Burly and Chariot trailers (“Daisy” is also axle-mounted and uses an old Burley hitch).

They seemed to do great but both Bike Compost and a friend with Oak Park Soil (another bike composting operation outside Sacramento) use the seat-post mounting. I came across some good online debates about the merits and drawbacks of each but decided on the seat-post mounting in the end.

Once that decision was clear, I needed to figure out how to actually connect the trailer to the post using some sort of hitch. Again, there were tons of examples online but I put that on the back burner, thinking I’d figure it out as I went along.

The other major change for this second trailer was that it would be welded together. Enter John Jesse: John is a friend who is a true craftsman cut from a cloth reminiscent of a Renaissance guildsman. He is a fabricator and designer extraordinaire who also happens to be an avid cyclist and all-around bicycle enthusiast. He was an immediate “yes” to helping make this trailer and the main reason I feel ok claiming it as the best bike cargo trailer...ever.

Cargo Trailer Design

We got to work using a mix of salvaged and new steel.  he deck is ¾-inch expanded steel (the stuff with the diamond pattern) welded to parts of an old bed frame.  We used four crossbars underneath for support – one at each end and two in the middle. I wanted to minimize height of the sides because they don’t need to be very tall to hold the bins.  Their height is also just under the tops of another type of plastic bin we may use in the future.

I was very intentional about designing the trailer for the exact dimensions of the bins we’d be using. This customization makes it leaner, meaner, and uber functional.

We decided to use 16-inch wheels with independent axles for several reasons. First, they made for a lower trailer that would be easier to load and very stable. Second, we assumed the independent axles would be strong enough to support a 400-pound max load and didn’t have to bother with an axle spanning the width of the bed. Fortunately, I had a pair of old In-Step trailer wheels lying around that fit the bill.

The body of the trailer is a combination of salvaged metal (including parts of a bed frame) and leftover 1/16th-inch thick square steel tubing that John had in his shop. Although I am a big fan of using salvaged materials, all of the metal I found had a powder coating which we had to grind off so the welds would stick well and which still gave off some nasty, noxious fumes. If we ever make another we’d likely use all new steel tubing.

The Hitch

As the build progressed we had not solved the hitch challenge or even given it much thought. When the time came I posed the issue to John and in about 30 seconds he had an answer – rubber heater hose.

Heater hose is used in cars and is super strong, flexible, cheap, and easy to work with. It took all of 15 minutes to drill a hole through the hose and tubing and thread a grade 5 hardened bolt through it all: a simple and elegant universal hitch better than anything I’ve found online.

 

We chose to just keep the seat and seat-post with the trailer and change out for another seat when I just want to cruise on my bike without the trailer. We also added a bit of steel cable tied around the seat to prevent the heater hose from sliding down the post.

All told I think we spent about 10 hours putting it all together – welding, cutting, grinding and problem-solving. Total cost for materials was around $250 including $50 for a fresh tank of Argon gas for the welder.

Performance

After several weeks in use, Ursula is incredible! She turns on a dime, rides great, is quiet, holds four bins easily, and looks awesome! I am also able to stay in the middle chain ring for probably 60% of the time – even when loaded with bins.

Kyle Chandler-Isacksen is a tinkerer, natural builder, and community organizer in Reno, Nevada. He and his family run the Be the Change Project, a fossil fuel, car, and electricity-free urban homestead and learning space dedicated to service and simplicity. They were honored as one of MOTHER’s Homesteaders of the Year in 2013. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



5/9/2016

Handbag Upcycled To Hanging Planter

When trying to leave as little impact on the Earth as possible, discarding one’s belongings becomes a creative conundrum. We know that simply tossing a handbag into the landfill, for example, will cause problems down the road — so what are our other options?

If the condition of the bag is still good enough to be used for its original function, donating it to Goodwill or giving it to someone else to use are great options.

What about a purse, though, that has an irreparable hole or an unsightly permanent stain? Try upcycling it instead! Here are some ideas for giving new life to your old handbags.

Hanging Planter

Houseplants improve the quality of your air by filtering toxins and turning carbon dioxide into oxygen. A frequent problem for parents and pet owners, though, is keeping plants out of reach of little hands or paws. Rather than seeing potted plants spilled across the floor or having toxic leaves ingested, hanging them up high allows a dwelling to benefit from the advantages of greenery without posing a risk.

Any shoulder or cross-body bag will work wonderfully for this purpose. Simply settle an already potted plant into a bag of the same size and hang it where kids and pets can’t reach.

Using a bag instead of a flimsy plastic planter brings added texture and longevity to your arrangement — plus, you don’t have to go out and buy a new hanging planter!

Outbox

For any small, strapped handbag, draping it on your front door handle will create the perfect space for an outbox. Slip in anything you need to remember to bring with you the next time you leave the house.

Bills paid on a Sunday that will go out Monday morning — check! Things you’ve borrowed that need to go back to their owner — check! Even daily necessities like your keys and wallet can find a new home here, and since it’s right on the doorknob, you won’t forget to peek in when you leave.

Large clutches can work for this purpose, too, if you add your own strap. Grab an old belt, sturdy ribbon, or anything else you can turn into a strap and affix it securely inside the bag. Now you’ve saved your clutch from the trash, and you’ve rescued another timeworn item, too.

Purse Upcycling Outbox Bag 

Pillow Cover

Do you have a soft purse with a broken strap? Remove the strap altogether and turn the bag into a pillow cover instead.

Leather sofas are coming back in vogue, so one easy way to get that look without contributing to the industry would be to turn a faux leather handbag like this one into a pillow.

Any frumpy-style purse will do. Just search for a pillow insert to fit or, better yet, create your own pillow stuffing from fabric scraps of discarded clothing, towels, sheets, etc. Not only are you improving your space, but you’re extending the use of your belongings and keeping them out of the landfill, too. Just settle your pillow onto the couch with the zipper/closure side down and no one will know about its secret double life.

Leather Purse Pillow Case 

Since the functionality of bags is so versatile, they can really be used for a bevy of purposes even after they’ve been retired from their lives as a fashion accessory. Try one of these three ideas or come up with your own.

Do you need a kindling caddy? A dingy old purse will be perfect. A garden tool carrier? Use a bag with lots of big pockets. The possibilities are endless when you put your imagination to work.

Julia Marchand loves inspiring others to embrace an eco-friendly lifestyle, especially when it involves sharing upcycling tips. She writes about sustainable habits for eBay.com, where you can find second-hand handbags to repurpose.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



5/8/2016

Building A Garden Path 

Why pay for someone to come and install an outdoor patio when you could do it yourself? Outdoor patios are perfect for people who love to entertain. They don’t require a lot of maintenance and they can be completed within a single weekend.

So, if you’re thinking about building your own concrete patio, check out this list of things you need to consider before you start. What’s stopping you?

Location and Design

Location is everything! Draw up a rough blueprint of your patio plans on graph paper so you can get an accurate idea of placement. Be sure you include important structures in your yard like your house or shed, and don’t forget about trees and gardens.

Also keep in mind what’s underground. You don’t want to affect wells and you don’t want to run into large tree roots. The roots could ruin your plans, or your patio could ruin the tree.

What you use the patio for will determine where you want to place it. If you want to use it for entertaining and barbequing, you may want to keep the patio close to your house for easy cleanup and serving.

A patio surrounding a pool would need to be properly placed and planned out. Walkways and garden patios are great additions to your backyard, as well!

Also, consider the design of your patio. The shape of your patio, along with the paver style and color, is up to you. Make sure whatever you choose matches or complements the aesthetics of your house.

You can color a concrete patio through several different methods: stains, integral pigments, color hardeners and dyes. However, not every option is available for old concrete and dyes tend to fade in the sunlight. Keep this in mind as you consider coloring your patio.

Sizing a Patio

As you begin the planning stages of a DIY patio, size is an important aspect to consider. Of course, the function of the patio will help determine the size.

If you plan on hosting large gatherings of friends and family, you will probably need a large patio. If you want to be able to set up a dining area on your patio, look into the dimensions of the table set you will buy.

For example, a five-foot by three-foot rectangular table will require a patio size of about 15 feet by 13 feet.

If you are planning on creating a walkway, you will need to think about how wide you want it made. A width of 2 feet can comfortably accommodate one person walking on a path. Add 2 more feet if you want two people to be able to walk together. If your walkway needs to accommodate a wheelchair or a walker, 3 feet is the minimum width.

Patio Building Materials

When you decide on the location, size, shape and design of your patio, you need to figure out the amount of material you need for your project. The tools and materials you need for this project will vary depending on the size of your patio, design and shape.

Some basic materials you’ll need are pavers, a shovel, paver sand, paver base, 2-by-4 wooden boards and gloves. However, you can find a comprehensive list of tools and materials, depending on the type of patio you want.

The first thing you need to do as you look into buying materials, is decide on the total number of square feet your patio will use in your yard. This number determines the amount of pavers, paver sand and paver base you will need.

Next, measure the square footage of the pavers you decide on. This will help you determine the number of pavers you actually need to complete your project.

Decide if you want a raised or level patio in your yard. For a raised patio, use your shovel to dig 4 inches into the earth. For a level patio, dig down 8 inches.

Pour the paver base. The paver base is a layer of gravel that should be 4 inches deep when compacted into the ground you dug up. This helps with draining and maintaining a solid base for your patio.

Next, calculate the amount of paver sand you need. Paver sand is what holds your pavers in place. This layer should be about 1 inch deep.

Determine the perimeter measurement of your patio. This will help you decide the number of paver restraints you need. Paver restraints allow you to stay within your designated work area and keep grass out of your project.

Put your work gloves on and lay down your pavers. Decide on the pattern you want to create and keep the pavers flush against each other. You can use a rubber mallet to move and adjust the pavers once you lay them down. When you finish laying down the pavers, frame your patio with the paver restraints.

After your patio surface is dry and ready, follow the instructions on your bag of joint sand and spread it over the surface to fill in holes between pavers and finish off your patio.

Pouring Cement Down A Chute 

Other Tips and Tricks

Remember to make safety a priority on your worksite. Keep the worksite visually clear to eliminate any unnecessary dangers like falling, tripping or slipping.

Also, consider checking with your homeowner’s association and local building codes before you start the process of building your patio. You don’t want to start a project that you won’t be able to complete.

To add a nice finish to your patio, think about the landscaping surrounding the area. Plant flowers and bushes or even add some lighting to the walkway you made.

You don’t need to spend a ton of money on hiring someone to build your patio. Keep these things in mind as you prepare to DIY your own outdoor patio!

Megan Wild improves homes by focusing on increasing their sustainability and finding new ways to repurpose old materials. When she’s not holding a hammer, you can find her writing up her ideas and thoughts for her blog, Your Wild Home.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.








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