Easy projects for back to school

It’s back to school time! Remember the thrill of seeing fresh school supplies laid out neatly on the table, trying out that cool backpack for the first time, and wondering who your new classmates would be?

As a fun-loving parent, you can add to that excitement by creating DIY projects that will enhance study time and encourage them to keep things neat. They’re fast, too, which is perfect for the back to school rush. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

1. Build a new bookshelf

One of the most exciting parts of back to school are all the new textbooks a student will receive. Even though they might not be able to take the books home, you can provide supplemental tomes that will encourage them to study, as well as fiction and non-fiction books appropriate for their age and grade level. But where will all those new books go?

That’s where your DIY bookshelf comes into play. Though you could make a simple bookshelf of sturdy plywood, where’s the fun in that? Create a floating bookshelf instead. Simply install sturdy L-brackets on the wall at regular intervals, creating either a vertical or horizontal shelf area, depending upon your available space. Then stack books directly on those L-brackets to create what appears to be books that float against the wall.

It’s such an easy DIY that even little kids can do it — with some help from you, of course.

2. Give them a “new to you” desk

Is there a desk in your home that is really comfortable, has been around for ages and fits just right in that perfect corner? This is the right time to make that ‘old’ desk new again with a fresh coat of paint and a few little embellishments.

For maximum fun and minimal mess, drag the desk outside for painting. Allow your kids to choose the colors, give them a paintbrush and let them work their magic. To make things seem even newer, add little details like a pencil rail (held down with double-sided tape), drawer organizers made of small strips of wood (painted in complementary colors, of course), and side folders attached with small strips of Velcro. The result is a desk the kids will be proud to call theirs.

And if you don’t like the colors they choose? You can always paint over it when they go off to college.

3. Explore new storage options

If your kids have a habit of dropping their backpacks on the floor, followed by shoes, outerwear, and anything else they might have been carrying, you could wind up with a hefty pile of school stuff right inside the front door.

Corral all of that with dedicated cubbies and hooks. The hooks can fit neatly almost anywhere, but if you don’t have enough hanging space, a colorful coat tree will suffice. For cubbies, create simple wood boxes of plywood, paint them in your child’s favorite colors, and stack them in a nearby corner. For the youngest kids, make sure all those boxes are clearly labeled, so they know exactly where things are supposed to go.

Of course, how often they actually put things in those proper places is another story…

4. Create a snack crate or two

Kids usually burst through the door with food on their minds. The refrigerator is probably the first place they go after getting home — and they might dig through it until nothing is where you left it. Remedy that problem by creating a dedicated space just for their snack craving.

This DIY is two-fold: Start with a sturdy plastic crate that will fit nicely in the fridge, and stock it with things the kids love, such as bite-size veggies or cheese in individual containers and juice boxes. Then turn your attention to a favored spot on the table or counter, where you can place a handsome wooden crate for non-perishables, such as granola bars or handfuls of nuts in single-serving containers.

Turn the kids loose on both crates with paints of their choice to help them get excited about having space of their ‘own’ to use after school. The more ownership they feel over the crates, the more likely they will be to eat the good things inside them.

These projects will make back to school a much more exciting time for them — and a more organized time for you!

Fix your window at the weekend

Unless a baseball comes through your window, you probably tolerate but ignore most common window problems around your house that need repairing. If you’re installing replacement windows soon, you’re off the hook. If not, you eventually need to fix your windows or have a qualified professional do it for you. You can tackle any of the following window repairs yourself in a weekend with the proper tools and materials for each.

Repair stuck windows

Stuck windows are not just a nuisance; they are a safety hazard in the event of fire.

If your wood window won’t open or operate properly, there can be several reasons. One of the most common window problems, however, is a window that’s been painted shut.

Note: If your home was built prior to 1978, assume the paint is lead-based. Take special precautions before scraping, sanding or otherwise unleashing flakes of lead paint into your home environment. Follow lead-safe practices for do-it-yourselfers as outlined at epa.gov.

For non-lead-based paint, here’s what to do for a window painted shut:

Tools and materials you may need:

  • Utility knife
  • Hammer and paint scraper
  • Pry bar
  • Sandpaper
  • Lubricant such as paraffin or bar of soap
  • All-purpose cleaner or paint stripper
  • Paint, stain or other wood finish or sealer

Run your utility knife along the paint between the window sash and the frame to separate the dried paint cleanly without damaging the wood. Insert the paint scraper between the sash and the stool, which most people refer to incorrectly as the sill. (The sill is actually the corresponding ledge on the outside of the window.) Give the top of the scraper’s handle a whack with the hammer. Do that all along the bottom of the sash, taking care not to hit the glass with the hammer or gouge the sash.

If the window is still not loose enough to open, you may need to use the pry bar on the exterior of the window. To protect the sash from coming apart, insert the pry bar between the sill and the sash under the stile, which is the vertical part on either side of the sash framework. Carefully pry up the sash to loosen it; then, sand the rough edges of paint.

If the window still does not move freely, you may need to clean the channels and weather stripping of dirt or dried paint with an all-purpose cleaner or paint thinner, taking care not to get paint thinner on the frame and sash. Once you have the sash moving again, lubricate the channels of the frame with the paraffin, candle wax or a bar of soap.

If your wood windows are not painted or finished and they get stuck from time to time, your problem could be humidity causing them to swell. Wait until the weather is dry for several days and the windows are able to once again move with ease. Then sand and stain, paint or seal the wood to prevent it from swelling again.

Install weather stripping

Worn out weather stripping no longer effectively stops air leaks. It’s not doing its job of keeping your home as energy-efficient as it could be.

Tools and materials you may need:

  • Self-adhesive weather stripping
  • Tape measure
  • Scissors

Many different types of weather stripping are available. Be sure to buy a type designed for operable windows if you plan to open them.

Measure and add together the measurements of all windows for which you plan to install weather stripping; then, add 5% to 10% to account for waste. When purchasing, take into consideration the varying depths and lengths of each type of weather stripping and how difficult they are to install. One of the easiest types to install is self-stick vinyl that folds into a V-shape to install in the channels on either side of the window frame and on the top and bottom of the window jamb.

Install when the temperature is above 20°F. or above. Clean and dry the surfaces to which the weather stripping will adhere. Measure twice before cutting. Apply the weather stripping in one continuous strip, making sure it adheres tightly. Check each window after installation to make sure it opens and closes easily.

Seal gaps around windows to stop air and water leaks

Exterior gaps between your window frames can cause air and water leaks. Air leaks decrease your home’s energy efficiency. Water leaks can lead to wood rot, mold and drywall damage.

Tools and materials you may need:

  • Caulking
  • Caulking gun
  • Foam backer rod
  • Spray expandable foam
  • Utility knife
  • Putty knife

Cut a 1/4″ off the tip of the caulking tube at a 45° angle and load the tube into the caulking gun. Push the plunger to the end of the tube. Apply caulk to any gaps narrower than 1/4″ around the exterior of your windows.

Use a putty knife to fill slightly larger gaps with the foam backer rod and cover with caulking. For gaps too large to fill with the foam backer rod, use expandable spray foam. Let it dry completely; seal it with caulking and trim the excess off with the utility knife.

Ways to Repair a Sunroof


Sunroofs are designed to let fresh air into the car for passengers or to allow sunlight into the car. A majority of cars these days come with a sunroof. They can be either manual or automatic, depending upon the car model. If your car does not have a sunroof, you can even get one installed later on.

Normally, a leakage or crack on the sunroof calls for a repair job. In case of cracks, it is advisable to replace the sunroof, as repairing will still not make it perfect. On the other hand, leakages are mostly caused by accumulation of dirt or debris around the seals, or water clogging in the drain pipe.

Broken Sunroof

There are two major problems commonly faced by cars having sunroof. This could either be a broken sunroof or a leaky one. In case of the former, it is better to replace the sunroof rather than repairing it.

Tools Required

  • Hammer
  • Screwdrivers
  • Hand gloves
  • Wrench
  • Sunroof installation kit
  • Utility Knife
  • Cordless frill machine


Instructions

Step 1
There are a variety of sunroof models available in the market. You need to pick the one which is suitable for your car. Once you purchase the sunroof of your choice, check whether all parts in the sunroof repair kit are provided by the manufacturer or not.

Step 2
Keep the template you have received in the repair kit on the outside your car roof. It should exactly match with the hole on the sunroof already present. This will help you get a rough picture for your work. Remove the sunroof panel from your car. Examine each part and see whether it is in working condition or not. Look through the roof cautiously to find any faulty part which may require repair or replacement.

Step 3
Crank the roof open using a 4mm hex socket, to properly inspect the fault in your broken sunroof. As it is not possible to open the sunroof completely after pushing the headliner behind, decide in advance if it is necessary or not.

Step 4
Take out the broken sunroof after you have found the parts which require replacement. Fix all broken parts without any restrictions. To reinstall the repaired sunroof, you may need to make slight alterations so that it fits well. Check the seal for any leakage.

Leaky Sunroof

Tools Required

  • Thin wire cable
  • Cleaner
  • Piece of wet cloth
  • Coat hanger
  • Thin tube
  • Water


Instructions

Step 1
Clean the glass panel on the outside the car using a non-abrasive cleaner and a piece of cloth. Now, open the ventilation shade first and then open the sunroof. If you notice any dirt which does not allow the sunroof to close tightly at the seal, clean the area with a wet cloth.

Step 2
Examine the seal properly and see if you are able to spot any cracks on it. You will have to replace the seal if there are cracks, as it is the cause of leakage. Also, inspect drainage tubes. Check for clogging or stagnant water in there. In case you notice water clogging in these tubes, clear it using either a coat hanger or a thin wire cable.

Step 3
To ascertain the fact that there is no more clogging in the drainage tubes, try inserting a wire in and then pulling it out after a few seconds. You can also pour a little bit of water in these tubes to confirm it has been unclogged.

Average Repair Cost

The cost or repairing a sunroof depends on the type and car model. Not all car manufacturers install the same kind of sunroof, and hence, there is a variation in prices. The cost would also depend on the price of the part you are replacing. In case you do not do the repair job yourself, and rather get it done from somewhere else, you will also have to pay labor charges also. The cost could be anywhere between USD 250 to 500. It is advisable to buy original and genuine parts for replacement.

Ways to Winterize a House

Be it a vacant home or an occupied one, getting your house geared for the winter is crucial to avoid the damage that extreme temperatures may inflict on it. This task is not an overnight one and may require a week or two, depending on how extensive the work cut out is. Before starting off, it is important to make a list of all the things that you’re planning to undertake. This will make it easier to form a checklist and work on the tasks in an organized manner, ensuring that nothing is left out.

Task 1
Insulation is one of the crucial things you will need to carry out before winter. For the insulation of exterior outlets and switch plates, use an inexpensive foam sealing gasket. The hot water tank can be insulated using an insulating blanket available readily at hardware stores. For getting your fireplace in order, cut a piece of fiberglass insulation and then stuff it in the fireplace behind the glass doors–this will block the cold air descending from the chimney. Attic insulation will keep the heat inside the house and prevent the heat from leaving the house. Carefully check each designated attic insulation location and make sure it is properly fixed.

Task 2
The heating and cooling systems is another factor which is instrumental in maintaining the temperature of the house. Make sure that your home heating system is in order with the help of the following –

  • Furnace maintenance
  • Thermostat checking

Check for the condition of the air filter, fuel in the furnace, heating vents, and carbon monoxide leaks. Hire a professional to do these things for you. Likewise, check for the old air conditioner as well–cover the condensing unit and make sure that it is free of debris. Check if the chimney is free of any debris and unwanted material as well, and check the chimney draft.

Task 3
Using a rope caulk is the best way to seal the windows. Install storm doors and windows for blocking the cold draft and increasing the energy efficiency by as much as 45%. You can even choose to tape plastic on the windows. Installing weatherstripping on the doors in areas of leakage will be sufficient for the same.

Task 4
Make sure that the exposed piping on the exterior section of the house is well protected and insulated. You can install a foam insulation for better protection. If possible, wrap these with electrical heating tape before insulating the same. This becomes important in case of crawlspace, attics, and outside walls–places where pipes are usually not insulated. For the exposed faucets, drain the water before insulating. Do not forget to disconnect the garden hoses and the like. Another thing you can do is add an anti freeze to the toilet tank, toilet bowl, and all the drains. You will also need to know about how to winterize a sprinkler system.

In addition to this, while winterizing a house, you can check all the heating and air conditioning ducts, and the basement waterproofing as well. Doing all these things will help make yours an energy efficient home as well keep your house warm.