June 13, 2021

Destruction Contractor

Destruction Contractor

 By John R. Greenwood

I’m on to my next home improvement project. It has slowly risen to the top of my original retirement to-do list. We have an exterior door on the east side of the house, leading to a small pressure-treated deck. That door is seldom used, so the deck does not get a lot of attention. I built it many years ago, years before YouTube, and long before acquiring the battery-operated-tool-arsenal, I have at my disposal today. Back then, I relied on Family Handyman Magazine, DIY books purchased at mall bookstores, and my years of experience as dad’s tool-gopher. Our two boys were as small as the budget, so I worked with what I had. Electrician taped lead cords, hammers with loose handles, and buckets of old bent nails were the norm. Despite the condition of my tools, the deck performed as designed, and in all honesty, was still rock solid. The reason for the overhaul is one of aesthetics and ease of maintenance. The look and easy care of the composite I used on the front porch in 2019 persuaded me to tackle his smaller and less complicated little brother. 

The high price and scarcity of lumber nudged me to buy the materials in early spring when I saw it and a month before the summer deck surge kicked in. Big Orange’s rack of composite boards was full one day, so I did what any red-blooded American DIY’er would do—I emptied it. Now the time has come to use it. Before I do, I had to take off the old pressure-treated boards. When I built this deck, I had no idea what 5/4 decking boards were. All I knew about was 2x6’s, so that’s what I bought. That’s why the deck is still as solid as it is.

Another thing I didn’t know pre-YouTube was that painting wet pressure-treated wood doesn’t work well. To be more precise, it doesn’t work at all unless it’s dry as a scone and has more primer than a 1980 F-150. My knowledge and skill level have not always paired well with my ambition. This deck was a prime example.

With the material on-premises, the lawn mowed, and weeds whacked, I began the destruction of ‘my’ deck. I say, ‘my’ deck because most of my remodeling projects have been on someone else’s work. We’ve lived here so long now that I’m starting to revisit projects I did 15-20 years ago. I was vividly aware of that when I went to pull off the first 2x6. I’d nailed that puppy with enough galvanized 16d’s to build Fort Northern Pines. I really didn’t want to unleash the reciprocating saw right off the bat. I was hoping to remove the 2x6’s without doing any damage to the stringers underneath. As long as they were still in good shape, I would be putting the new composite decking on them. I would remove the nails from the 2x6’s in hopes they could be repurposed. One board in, and I realized it was time for Big Hammer and Big Pry. A few hours and a sore back later, I had the “deck cleared.” I had all the nails pulled and the boards stacked. The Daddy Longlegs would have to find temporary quarters until the new decking was installed, and the chipmunks from hell had one less place to hide.

There is no point to this story other than sharing that I am much better suited to destruct than I am to construct. I feel more confident in my ability to take things apart than I do in my skills to put them together. One saving grace has been the addition of YouTube to my repertoire. The other is having an iPhone and Google in my tool belt.

If I don’t see something shiny in the next week or so, I will do my best to share an update on this latest project. 

Like the warranty on my work, there are no guarantees. 

* Disclaimer - Yeah, yeah, I ran the stringers the wrong way in 1989. It's going to stay that way. I choose to be different...

June 04, 2021

I'm No Wheelbarrow Mechanic

I’m No Wheelbarrow Mechanic
By John R. Greenwood

I’m no wheelbarrow mechanic. Although I am capable of fixing all sorts of things around my house, the probability that it's done correctly runs around 38%. Today’s wheelbarrow revival was no exception. Also, I’m not known for my ROI when it comes to repair versus replace either. To further that point, today’s wheelbarrow rebirth would be a great example to use in a course titled, Homeowner #101, Episode #1, Take your time.

To be clear, this particular wheelbarrow is not my go-to means of transporting yard debris around my property. The mover of choice is the Cadillac of dirt haulers; my indestructible Rubbermaid Commercial 7.5 cu. ft. Plastic Yard Cart. It was the best $150 investment I ever made. Buy one, and it will be yours too. Today’s fixer-upper is a 4 cu. ft. Craftsman that I purchased from an old store you may remember called Sears. I paid $39 over 15 years ago. You can buy the very same wheelbarrow from Lowes today with the name BlueHawk on the side and the cost—you guessed it, $39.

I like having the ‘4cuber’ for small jobs like planting a shrub. Mrs. G likes the nimble little guy for moving a flat of petunias from the backyard to the front yard. (By the way—why is backyard one word and front yard two?) Let’s just say if you own more than a half-acre, you can never have enough dirt movers leaning against the side of the garage.


When the tire on the ‘4cuber’ kept going flat, I decided to replace the tube. Like all my repairs go, they never have the size, shape, or model I need when I need it. This repair adventure was rolling down the same path. Instead of replacing just the tube, I forked out $30 for a new wheel with the tire already mounted.

Easy peasy, right?

Well, yes and no.

The first time I loaded the ‘4cuber’ with the spanking new $30 wheel/tire combo, one of the handles crumbled like a milk-soaked cookie and left my feather-lite load in a heap in the middle of the side-yard. (side-yard requires a hyphen. Geez, even our yards can't agree on anything?) The plot thickens. Do I replace one of the handles? Do I buy a new ‘4cuber’? Do I really need a ‘4Cuber’? What will I do with a brand new wheel/tire combo that doesn’t fit anything else I own? Is anyone on Facebook Market Place going to pay full price for a lightly, slightly, barely used wheel/tire combo? Don’t answer that one. A closer look reveals that the remaining handle looks worse than the one that actually broke. Now my head hurts. I summon my inner adult and decide to buy two new handles and paint the barrow portion of the ‘4cuber.’ She’ll be like a brand new $39 ‘4cuber’ and last another 15 years! How much can two replacement handles possibly cost—$18 apiece plus tax and mileage, to be exact. 

Here’s where the intelligence portion of the story really kicks in. How hard can it be to replace two wheelbarrow handles? For anyone with a better than 38% repair accuracy, it’s probably not hard. To a “How hard can it be knucklehead,” it was obviously over my pay grade. As I drilled the last four holes through the handles to attach them to the barrow, I realized that the handles I thought were square were actually rectangular. I had drilled the holes through the wrong sides. It wasn’t a life-altering mistake, but it did have me standing in the middle of my garage, LOL’ing myself. It also makes you look at the ‘4cuber’ with your head slightly askew like a curious canine. You know there’s something not quite right, but you just can’t put your paw on it. It reminded me of when I upcycled a few old boards and four porch railing posts into a “chic” side-table. That table was in my living room for a year or two before realizing I had installed one of the legs upside down and opposite the other three. I remember the day I sold that table to an unknowing garage-sale’r. I often wondered if she ever caught my construction snafu.

The moral of the story is this. Don’t take life too seriously. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Most importantly, don’t spend $66 repairing a 15-year-old $39 ‘4cuber’.

But, if you do, enjoy the ride…

'4 Cuber' Before Paint

'4 Cuber' After Paint

'7.5 Cuber' 
Best Yard Implement In The Arsenal

"6 Cuber'
2018 Dumpster Rescue
($38 Wheel/Tire Added)