How to Install a Home Elevator

Time: Several days

Cost: $25,000 – 35,000

Shopping List:
Hydraulic home elevator lift
Home elevator enclosure

1. Pour concrete pad for the base of the elevator.
2. Hoist the tower section with a chain pull and level it in place with a level.
3. Stabilize the tower by attaching the legs with bolts and washers using a drill/driver.
4. Hoist the second section of the tower on top of the first portion with a chain pull.
5. The first and second sections of the tower are combined using bolts and washers.
6. Fill the reservoir for the hydraulics with transmission fluid.
7. Place platform base on top of the legs.
8. Secure the platform with bolts and washers using a drill/driver.
9. Place the floor on top of the platform and secure it with fasteners.
10. Secure 42-inch panels on three sides of the platform.
11. Install enclosure around the lift to keep out rain, snow and wind.

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How to Add Electrical Outlets to a Room

Cost: $20-100

Skill Level: Medium

Tools List for Adding Outlets to a Room:
Jigsaw or router
Wire stripper

Shopping List:
Insulation rod
Outlet boxes.
Electrical wires.

1. Turn off all power to working area at main electrical panel.
2. Trace out cut area for each elecrical box.
3. Drill corner holes to pilot saw blade.
4. If necessary, drill into framing for wiring
5. Run electrical wires from outlet box holes to electrical panel, pulling 4 feet through the wall.
6. Strip insulation from electrical wires and attach to electrical box
7. Attach white wires to silver screws and black wires to brass screws and then the ground wire.
8. Use electrical tape to tape around the box.
9. Attach box to the wall and cover with outlet plate.
10. Repeat for each outlet needed.
11. De-energize the whole electrical panel by shutting off the house’s main breaker.
12. Install and arc volt breaker by attaching white and black wire to the breaker.
13. Attach white wire from the new breaker directly onto the electrical panel’s neutral bar.
14. Turn the main breaker back on.
15. Electricity is not a hobby, if you don’t feel comfortable with any of these steps, call an electrician.

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How to Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Steps for How to Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors:
1. Mark the location of each smoke detector on the ceiling.
2. Use a drill and long, stiff wire to bore a small-diameter hole through the ceiling and into the attic.
3. Go into the attic and check for obstructions around the small holes. If necessary, use a circular saw to cut open the attic floor.
4. At each smoke detector location, use a drill and a 4-inch-diameter hole saw with dust shield to cut a hole through the ceiling for a round old-work electrical box.
5. Run nonmetallic electrical cable from an existing outlet in the attic to each of the smoke detector locations.
6. Cut the cable and pull it through an old-work electrical box. Push the box into the ceiling hole and tighten the screws to lock the box to the ceiling. Repeat for each ceiling hole.
7. Screw the smoke detector’s mounting plate to the box, then make the wire connections: black to black, white to white, red to orange.
8. Gently tuck the wires into the box, then twist and lock the smoke detector onto the mounting plate.
9. Install a combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector on each level of the home and within 10 feet of the bedrooms.
10. Pull a new electrical cable down from the attic into the basement.
11. In the basement, install a standard hardwired combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector, and a two-piece wireless smoke and carbon monoxide detector. Mount the battery-powered wireless half of the detector on the first-floor ceiling.
12. Make the final wire connections in the attic, then test each detector to make sure all of them are operating properly.

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How to Install a Storm Door with a Dog Door

Time: 1-2 hours

Cost: $250

Skill Level: Moderate

Tools List for Installing a Storm Door with a Dog Door:
Caulking Gun
1/8” drill bit
3/8” drill bit
3/32” drill bit

Shopping List:
Storm Door with Dog Door

1. Measure the door where the storm door will go and be sure to get the right size. In this case, the door is 80” x 36.”
2. Measure to ensure the door is square before you install the storm door. Use the 3-4-5 method to help. The jamb is three feet wide at the top. Use a tape measure to measure down 4 feet. Hold the tape measure at that point and measure at an angle to the top of the jamb. If the measurement is 5 feet, the door jamb is square.
3. The hinge can go on either side, but conventionally the hinge will match the hinge on the current door.
4. Match up the primer hole in the hinge to the hole in the storm door. Use a drill/driver to fasten the first screw in along the hinge.
5. The rest of the holes will need to be drilled first. Use a 1/8” drill bit on a drill/driver to make the holes. Use drill/driver to fasten the remainder of the screws along the hinge.
6. To attach the hinge to the door jamb, push the storm door up flush with the frame and drop it just a touch. Then drill one screw in the middle to fasten the hinge on the outside of the frame and a second on the inside of the jamb.
7. Close the storm door and check to see if it fits.
8. Finish off the screws on the interior of the hinge jamb using a drill/driver.
9. Extend the extension piece at the base of the storm door to ensure it is flush with the threshold.
10. Drill in the remainder of the screws on the exterior of the hinge jamb into the casing.
11. Run a thin bead of caulk along the drip cap for the storm door.
12. Place the drip cap along the top of the storm door and push it flush to the casing.
13. Move the drip cap up just slightly to create an even gap along the top of the storm door.
14. Use a drill/driver to fasten screws along the drip cap.
15. Run a bead of caulking across the top of the drip cap following installation as an added weather barrier.
16. Line up striker side of the storm door jamb to the casing and use a drill/driver to fasten in the screws.
17. Line up hardware so it will not butt up against current hardware on the current door.
18. Line up template with predetermined placement of hardware. Use a 3/8” drill bit to bore out the center hole for the hardware using a drill/driver. Use 1/8” drill bit for the two remaining holes.
19. Attach the hardware using screws and drill/driver.
20. Line up the latch on the jamb to the hardware and use screws and drill/driver to fasten.
21. Attach compressor to either the top or the bottom of the door. Use a drill/driver to fasten the hook to the jamb.
22. Use a 3/32” drill bit to bore out holes in the base or top of the door. Use these holes to attach the compressor to the storm door with a drill/driver and screws.
Install the adjustable sweep at the bottom to keep drafts out.

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How to Install a Robotic Lawnmower

Robots are the wave of the future. Find out how to install and configure a robotic lawn mower.

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How To Build An End Grain Cutting Board From Scrap Wood

4-5 hours

$20 (if scrap wood is used)

Skill Level:

Tools List:
Surface planer
Table saw
Miter saw
Cutting track
Circular saw
Round over router bit
Cove router bit
Power sander

Shopping List:
Wood glue
Paint brush
Mineral Oil

1. Choose scrap wood that’s at least 2×12. You may end up using 2-3 pieces of scrap wood.
2. Use a surface planer to ensure all pieces are a consistent thickness. This is a loud machine, so wear hearing protection.
3. Use the table saw to rip the board into 2” strips.
4. Realign the boards back together for gluing. Before gluing, flip the boards to alternate the grain, avoiding warping.
5. Flip the boards once and use wood glue to make a line across each board.
6. Use a paint brush to fully coat the board with the wood glue.
7. Flip each board back and push the glued surfaces together. Clamp the boards together to allow the glue to set up. Wipe down any excess glue on the surface. Let it dry for at least two hours.
8. Unclamp the boards.
9. Run the glued assembly through the surface planer again to make sure each board is even and flat. It may take several passes on each side.
10. Put a stop on a miter saw 2” from the blade to ensure each cut is exactly the same.
11. Square up the end of the assembly with a thin cut using a miter saw, then make the 2” cuts using the stop.
12. Flip the boards so the end grain is visible.
13. Realign the boards and mix up the end grain pieces so it’s not a uniform pattern. The joints should also be staggered.
14. Flip each board on its side and put on another layer of wood glue. Once again, use a paint brush to even out the coat of glue.
15. Flip each board back to ensure the end grain is on top.
16. Clamp all of the boards together along with two scrap pieces of 2” x 4” on each end. These scrap pieces will prevent chipping on the suface planer later.
17. Wipe away any excess glue. Let it dry for at least two hours.
18. To square up one side, use a cutting track and a circular saw.
19. With one side straight, true up the opposite side with a table saw.
20. Run the board back through the surface planer, taking off just a small amount each time to flatten out the board. The 2” x 4” on the ends will prevent chip out.
21. Using a miter saw to cut off the extra 2” x 4” attached to the edges.
22. Using a router and a round over bit, round off the four edges of the board.
23. Using a router and a cove bit, add an edge detail around the entire top and bottom portion of the board.
24. Sand all sides using a power sander until smooth.
25. Use a food grade oil such as mineral oil to coat the board. It will take several coats of oil to fully penetrate the grain, and the oil should be reapplied occasionally as needed.

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How to Build a Bluestone Walkway

Time: 7-8 hours

Cost: Varies

Skill Level:

Gas Powered Plate Compacter
Rubber hammer
Electric Jack hammer
Spade shovels

Shopping List:
¾-inch stone
Stone dust
Portland Cement
Mason’s Line

1. Start the process by removing the existing walkway with an electric powered jackhammer. Be sure to wear eye and ear protection.
2. Determine the width of the walkway (in this instance, referencing the the width of the front stairs). Spray paint marks six inches wider than the finished walkway to allow working space.
3. Excavate the area between the sprayed lines about 6 to 8 inches below grade.
4. Before backfilling, place a PVC pipe horizontally across the walkway using your height as a reference. This pipe can serve as a future chase for electrical or irrigation lines without disturbing the walkway.
5. Rake the surface smooth and then use a gas powered plate compacter to compact the subsoil.
6. Next, add a mix of stone dust and ¾-inch stone to a depth of 2-3” and run the plate compactor over that layer. Continually add the mix 2-3” at a time, compacting between layers, to ensure a solid base, until you are 3” from finished grade.
7. Set a mason’s line of 3 inches to match the height of the walkway and place it at a 90-degree angle to the front steps. To ensure the line is perpendicular, use the 3-4-5 method. Measure three feet horizontally and four feet vertically and the diagonal measurement in between the two points should be five feet if the lines are truly perpendicular.
8. To fill the uneven underside of the bluestone, use a 12:1 mix of stone dust and Portland cement and hammer the bluestone down on top of it, filling any voids. If the stone still rocks, you may need to add more mix and hammer again.
9. Once the stones are set and the stone surface is completely dry, spread polymeric sand into the joints, then carefully sweep or blow it off the stone surface. Wet the sand in the joints to lock the bluestone into place and minimize weeds and insects.

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How to Fix a Patchy, Weedy and Dry Lawn

Shopping List for Fixing a Patchy, Weedy Lawn:
– compost
– 9-3-4 fertilizer
– blended grass seed

Tools for Fixing a Patchy, Weedy Lawn:
– lawnmower
– de-thatching machine
– leaf rake
– wheelbarrow
– core aerator
– shovel
– walk-behind broadcast spreader
– hand-crank broadcast spreader

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How to Retrofit a Home for Accessibility

Steps for How to Retrofit a Home for Accessibility:
1. Meet with the homeowner and his or her physical therapist to determine which rooms need to be altered to make the home accessible.
2. Identify the best entryway into the house. A two-car garage offers ample room to enter and exit a vehicle, and maneuver a wheelchair, especially during inclement weather.
3. Walk through the house and look for steps and other obstructions that lead from one room to another.
4. Check for obstructions and steps on both sides of the thresholds at patio doors.
5. To provide safe access to the second floor, without paying the exorbitant cost of an elevator, consider an automated stair chair.
6. Measure all doorways and make note of any that need to be widened to accommodate a wheelchair.
7. When evaluating the bathroom, take into account all wheelchair obstacles, including tubs, showers, vanities, and partition walls.
8. Install a battery-powered stair chair along the staircase leading from the main living area up to the second floor.
9. Build wood ramps or install steel ramps to provide access at all steps. Wheelchair ramps must be 1 foot long for each inch in height, so a 9-inch-high step would require a 9-foot-long ramp.
10. Replace a standard tub with a curbless, barrier-free shower stall.
11. Nail solid-wood blocking between the wall studs in the bathroom to provide support for grab bars.
12. Replace the existing bathroom floor with slip-resistant porcelain tile.
13. Install a slide-bar showerhead with handheld sprayer, and an adjustable fixed showerhead, to accommodate people of all physical abilities.
14. Mount two or three standard grab bars in the shower stall.
15. Double-duty grab bars are also available, including ones that serve as a towel rack, soap dish, and toilet-paper holder.
16. Modify the existing vanity to allow the wheelchair to roll beneath the bath sink.
17. Mount offset hinges onto the bath door to provide additional clearance into the bathroom.

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How to Diagnose Plumbing Drain Problems

Time: 1-2 hours

Cost: $10,000 in tools

Skill Level: Advanced

Tools List:
Drain Camera
Drain Locator Tool

1. Use a drain camera to look for possible obstructions in the main drain line of the house. Ensure the distance meter is reset before entering the drain to give an accurate measurement of where in the pipe a clog may be located.
2. Use a line locator to confirm the location of the camera under the floor.

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