Tuesday, 30 June 2009

All Hands On Deck. Ing.

All Hands On Decking

It’s traditional in the British Early Summertime to get a little too carried away with DIY projects and I’m no exception.

We’ve lived in our new home for just about a year. Long enough, we feel, to know where the sun lingers longest and therefore where we should be planning to eat outdoors. I’m so glad we didn’t go with our instinct last year, because it would’ve been wrong. The awful picture shows how we get the sun and why I stuck the deck at the furthest point from the main doors to our garden. The huge blue circle is our kids’ trampoline and the little green one is my beloved water butt

I bought the decking from
www.diydeals.com via their eBay shop. To put it in a nutshell, they were two-thirds of the Argos price, for superior timber, delivered free to our back garden. The assembly instructions are on the website too, along with phone numbers and everything you should need, except a couple of good drills and some time. The timber: 4x2 joists and decking boards, is all treated to last 15 years, even installed sat on the dirt as a ground deck like mine.

In my case, I had to cut down 2 joists of 5m and one of 3m, to make 5 x 2.5m joists. The 30cm waste piece comes in handy later! Altogether I now had 2 x 3m joists, plus my 5 x 2.5m ones.

The most difficult part of the whole job was making the frame. I positioned the two 3m joists at either end of a 2.5 m joist, 5cm in from the edge. Supplied corner brackets took care of the joints, with the help of one drill making pilot holes and a second drill driving in the supplied screws. A further 2.5m joist was joined 5cm from the other end in exactly the same way. Next the last 3 of the 2.5m joists were joined at equal distances, in my case 69cm apart allowing the 50mm (2”) thickness of each joist. When it was finished, I measured diagonally from corner to corner each way, the distances were equal so I knew I’d got good 90 degree corners.

The kit I bought came with 18 decking boards of 3m each to run the full length of the deck, enough to cover the deck with just one board left over. I used this one to tidy up the front edge of the deck, simply screwing it to the ends of the 3m joists and trimming it to fit – I left a slight overhang to meet my path when the deck was sited. Next I attached 3 boards: one at each end and one right down the centre. This gave the frame rigidity for moving into position.

No lawn in Christendom is dead flat, especially not in new-build developments, so I had to get some earth dug out to make the decking level enough. This wasn’t easy. That’s why I was glad I had help!

We marked out the frame by simply lifting it into position (it’s here you’re glad you didn’t screw all the boards on. The thing’s already pretty hefty!), marking out the frame with a lawn edger or spade, then taking the frame away and digging. Check how level your new deck is with a spirit level, and use the leftover 30cm piece of joist as a chock to hold the thing clear of the ground while you’re shifting soil around. Once we were happy about the level, we put weed control fabric down and laid the deck.

Then, it’s really all about tidying up and placing your bits & pieces how you like them!

We’ve eaten our evening meals outside every day it’s not rained since installing it, and we love it to bits. If you’re thinking of installing a deck, just go ahead and do it!

Tell ‘em Phill sent you. Again!

Monday, 8 June 2009

The Water Butt Of The Jokes

I Like Big (Water) Butts and I Cannot Lie

I’m employed to help businesses see the sense in saving energy, and the conservation message rubs off on me as I market it to the manufacturers of the UK. With this tree-hugging attitude, I set off to Argos recently to get myself a Water Butt. ... It’s at this point that those of you who were expecting different Butts rapidly become part of my Bounce Rate stats :)

Installing Your Water butt

I’d set aside an hour or more to get this job done, so I was amazed and delighted when the job was done in about 20 minutes. You won’t need much, but it’s good to get set things out before you begin.

- A 450mm x 450mm square, or larger, level surface
- A 25mm hole saw (I used 26mm, not problems)
- A saw, suitable for your downspout which is usually made of plastic these days

Get a level surface to site the water butt, somewhere near a main downspout (obvious? maybe!) and where the thing’s not going to get knocked over. I used a little gravel and a basic 450mm flag which was about £4 from B&Q. A little shovelling and a spirit level later and that's the site ready.

Put the water butt on its stand on your level site. Then, measure a level from the spot where the filling pipe will be attached, to determine the same height on your downspout. Move the water butt out of the way or you'll end up falling over the damn thing.

Saw your downspout right through at the level you measured. Keep the cut horizontal or the diverter (the little device that fills your butt up) will look wonky. Saw again, 30mm below the first cut. You should have a nice 30mm deep gap and a correspondingly nice 30mm length of downspout. I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t think of use for this, so I threw it away. It’s too flimsy to poach eggs with, too short to propogate seeds in… just throw the damn thing away!

Loosen any brackets that keep your downspout attached to the house - just for a couple of minutes. Slide the rain diverter into the gap by moving the downspout bits to the side, then straighten the spout up again, with the diverter attached. There’s a nice little cover to make it look pretty and to stop random insects or leaves falling in, too: make sure this is put in place. Re-attach the brackets to keep everything in place.

In the picure, I’ve attached the fill-pipe, but you don’t have to, I just wanted to see if I could get a tune out of it. I did, I’m considering entering Britain’s Got Talent with my Houseaphone next year if I can get it on stage at the Lowry.

Now, back to the water butt itself… Put it back on its stand where it’s going to live. Work out how to align it so that the filling pipe (from the diverter to the butt) will be level and fairly short. Then drill your 25mm hole in the side of the butt. There is a flat circular guidance bit to give you a clue, but you don’t necessarily have to use this. Drill your 25mm hole and attach the pipe-holder provided, which will seal the hole by screwing tight to the inside & outside of the butt.

Attach your fill-pipe to the pipe holder in the water butt, cut the pipe to the right length and attach the other end to the rain diverter in your downspout. The pipe must be horizontal, or your water butt either won’t fill, or might overflow.

There, you’ve done it. How easy is that? Let me answer that, it’s amazingly easy. I should know: I’m rubbish at DIY.

How Good Is This Water Butt Anyway?

I thought that this £25-worth of rotomoulded plastic might save me a few trips to the tap to fill watering cans, and that having one in the garden send out the right signal to my kids about conserving water. I didn’t actually expect to be impressed.

I put a couple of pans of water into the thing at first, to stop it blowing away. We had a dry few days. Then as you’ll know if you’re in the UK, it rained like, well like a rainy thing, for a day and a half solid. I came home from a morning's karting (what a great trip - another blog, perhaps!) and checked my new toy. It was full, to just under the brim!

I was gobsmacked. That one and half days of rain will keep my strawberries, sweet peas, raspberries and hanging basket happy for weeks! That’s thanks to a roofspace about 15 feet by 15 feet – basically the back half of my average-area home. 100 litres of saved water.

Just imagine how much chemical-free rainwater runs away down your drains: it’s amazing how much we waste free resources that fall straight from the sky.
I can’t recommend this bit of kit
highly enough. It’s the right thing to do, and for £25 it’s a bargain.

Save the planet, one garden at a time. Tell them Phill sent you… Again! ;o)