Entrance Makeover 

Entrance Makeover After

I’m a big fan of a lot of home decorating blogs. I like when they do a room makeover and there’s lots of before and after pictures. Those are always pretty fun. So I thought why not give it a try. I’m already doing a lot of DIY projects. Why not pick a spot in our house that needs an update and get it done and then blog about it. Well that’s what I’ve done. This post is going to be about my Entrance Makeover. 

Here’s the before picture

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Widening a Doorway Quickly – The New Fridge That Didn’t Fit

Delivery will be on Thursday sometime between 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm. That’s what we were told when we purchased our new Samsung French Door refrigerator at Best Buy.  But let’s just say there were some complications.

Our old refrigerator was white and our stove, microwave and dishwasher are stainless steel. That’s what happens when you do a kitchen renovation yourself. You see buying a new fridge that matches all of your other appliances just wasn’t in the budget at the end of that project. So the white fridge was an eyesore for a few years but at least it worked. Well it worked until it didn’t.
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Closing The Pool

I have a nice pool. Its a remnant from a more civilized age when I have a great job. My wife and I bought a house with a pool in 2000 then totally renovated the pool and surrounding hardscape in 2006. Big home equity loans were all the rage back then so we didn’t even flinch when the contractors told us how much it would cost to put in dry stone stacked retaining walls, paver patio, new steel pool walls and a new pool liner. We were like, “Where do we sign?” Now in 2017, times are tough. No more contractors or pool guys coming over to our house anymore. If I want some work done on the house its DIY or nothing. And to save about 4-5 hundred dollars every fall, you’ll fine me closing the pool myself.

swimming pool

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Solar Powered Outdoor String Lights

Solar Powered Outdoor String Lights

Solar Powered Outdoor String LightsI’ve wanted string lights for a few years now and this summer I finally made that happen. There’s something about outdoor string lights that really liven up a yard. It’s makes it feel like you’re having a party every single night. And in fact, I think my kids goal for the summer is to have a party every single night. But lets get back to the string lights. To make the set up much easier I bought solar powered outdoor string lights. No need for outlets or worrying about where to hang them. I just put these solar powered outdoor string lights where I wanted and whammy, instant party atmosphere.

It’s July already and I’m usually knee deep in my yard chores at this point of the summer. But this year is a little different. We actually hired a landscaping company to mow the lawn. That saves me about 6 hours a weekend to work on other projects. The mowing the lawn part only took about an hour but the edging and using the leaf blower and picking up the leaves or other stuff that falls from the trees always took a lot of time.

72 Feet Solar Powered Outdoor String Lights
3 sets of 72 Feet Solar Powered Outdoor String Lights

These are the NJ Burbs so you’ve got to have a nice looking yard. It always seemed like I was working on yard maintenance for hours and hours every weekend instead of working on cool projects. Well now these landscaping guys swarm my yard every week with their high powered jet pack blowers and standing lawn mowers. And they’re out of there is less than 20 minutes. Good for them.

Anyway, one of the projects that I now had some time to work on was the string lights. We live on a little bit more than a 1/2 acre on a corner lot. It’s an odd setup because the side yard is where all the property is. That’s where the pool is and in a better distant time long ago, that’s where we spent thousands of dollars to make it beautiful. We had the pool redone and got pavers and stone walls installed.

cable for Solar Powered Outdoor String Lights
Here’s the supplies needed for hanging the string lights

Our actual backyard is small and neglected. There’s an old concrete patio and overgrown bushes back there. But it’s shady and not a bad place to eat BBQ. I was going to put the string lights in the backyard. Another one of those projects that I haven’t had enough time to do was to build a giant picnic table about 14 feet long. Perfect spot to hang string lights over.

Well I still haven’t built the picnic table and my son said why not put the lights over the pool

Whoa mind blown. What a great idea!

ferrule and stop set
You can use a Ferrule and Stop Set or cable clamps

The backyard span would have only been 25 feet and I could have made three back and forth passes with the solar powered outdoor string lights that I wanted. But the pool area is much bigger. And you can’t hang something made of plastic across a span of 70 plus feet and expect it to stay up. You need a metal cable to attach it to.

So I finally pulled the trigger and I purchased these lights from Amazon. They are LED, solar powered outdoor string lights. No need to worry about putting them near an outlet or installing a new outlet. Another good thing is that they’re always on. The solar panels absorb energy from the sun during the day and when it gets dark they come on automatically. Even when we’ve had overcast days where the sun doesn’t make an appearance these light still come on for a few hours. With a sunny day the lights stay on for longer than I’m outside. And that’s good enough for me.

Solar Powered Outdoor String Lights closeup
Here’s a close up view

The galvanized steel cable is 1/16”. Strong enough to hold up the lights but thin enough not to need any special tools or equipment to hang.

To attach the cables to a wall or tree or whatever you choose you’ll need a way to make a loop at the end. Either use with a cable clamp that you screw to the wire or with a ferrule and stop set that you crimp. These clamps cost $6 each so I opted for the $2/pair for the ferrule and stop set. A special crimping tool is used to affix them to the wire but that tool cost like $20 so I just hit them with a hammer and it did the trick.

Solar Powered Outdoor String Lights At Dusk
Here they are at dusk

I also got some big eye hooks and screwed them into a tree, my house and I put up a 4×4 post too. I’m hanging 3 sets of lights so I needed a few different places to work with. When putting in a post you should dig down at least 2 feet and pour a bag of cement into the hole when setting the post. Let it set for a day before you start screwing into it or hanging the lights. I also painted the post black so it doesn’t attract your eye and kind of blends in. It’s also right behind a giant Diablo Nine Bark bush that’s about 8 feet tall. So it totally blends in.

Here’s my tips for hanging solar powered outdoor string lights:

  • Measure the span carefully and make sure you cut the correct length
  • Test fit the cable and then take them down and attach to something low and stationary (I used some metal patio benches)
  • Wrap the lights around the cable and use zip ties to make sure they stay in place
  • Carefully hang them back up

I have to admit that I am completely psyched that I’m finally getting some cool projects done this summer. And these solar powered outdoor string lights have really made the yard look like there’s a party going on all the time. Now if I can just convince my kids to stop inviting their friends over every night, I’ll get a change to enjoy them myself.

DIY Wine Bottle Tiki Torch

DIY Wine Bottle Tiki Torch
DIY Wine Bottle Tiki Torch
DIY Wine Bottle Tiki Torch

I think the bugs in my yard have some sort of alarm system that let’s them know when I’m outside. Within a few minutes they swarm me and leave me with tons of little red bites all over my legs and arms. It really isn’t fun to be munched on by insects. Seriously, sometimes when I go to the mailbox and then go right back inside, I’m covered with bites. Citronella torches definitely help the bug situation but I’m not a fan of the Gilligan’s Island looking tiki torches. So taking inspiration from The Professor, I set out to make a DIY wine bottle tiki torch.

You’ve probably seen bottle torches pinned all over your friend’s boards on Pinterest but how many people do you know who have actually made one of these wine bottle tiki torches?  I’ve made a bunch from Patron XO Cafe bottles and they work great. Put one on a picnic table or the bar and the bugs stop annoying you. But I have two black metal tiki torch stands that have been sitting empty around my pool for years. Every time I see them it’s a constant reminder of an unfinished project. So it was time that I filled those stands with something. And luckily enough, an empty wine bottle fit in there perfectly.

The first thing I did was paint two wine bottles red to match my patio umbrellas. Definitely not required but I took a guess that I’d like the way they looked. And I guessed right. The red is a nice pop of color and as I said before, they match the umbrellas.

Next I needed some wicks. They sell these as refills for other torches at most big box home improvement stores. You get two in a pack for like five bucks. The wicks are around 8” long and are 1/4” thick. Perfect for a DIY Wine Bottle Tiki Torch.

Now it was time to visit the plumbing department. I needed copper plumbing pieces and started  searching through all the boxes for the right sized couplings. One end needs to fit inside the wine bottle and the other end should snuggly hold a torch wick. Depending on your bottle you might need a regular coupling but I needed a reduction coupling. The end that fits inside the wine bottle should not fit tightly. It needs to be smaller so that you can wrap it with silicon tape. This rubbery tape creates a seal so that you aren’t leaking citronella torch juice all over the patio. We’re not making molotov cocktails, we’re just trying to repel some bugs.

Wrap the silicon tape around the copper fitting until it’s thick enough to fit snuggly in the bottle.

Most people will tell you that you should use teflon tape but I prefer silicon tape. It’s black and I think it would hold up better near the flame. They make pot holders, bbq gloves and stove to oven pot handles out of silicone now. And I have never ever seen a teflon pot holder. So there you go.

To keep the wick from going into the bottle and to save on torch fuel, use some pea gravel in the bottom of the bottle.

If you plan on leaving your wine bottle torches outside even when it rains then you’ll need some caps. Rain will soak through the wick and dilute the fuel until it eventually won’t light anymore. I drilled some small holes in plumbing end caps and ran a wire though it. The wire is so that I can connect the cap to the bottle and not worry about losing it. Wrap the wire around the bottle and leave enough slack so that you can easily take it on and off.

And that’s how I made some a DIY Wine Bottle Tiki Torch. They repel bugs like regular tiki torches but in my opinion they look much cooler.