Garage Cabinets 2

In the first installment, I made the simple statement “I bought some lumber.” That is true, but, of course, it’s never that simple. I ordered everything online from Home Depot but never saw any place to say that I want it delivered. I have no vehicle in which I can carry 4×8 sheets of OSB. In the end, I was asked for a shipping address, so I supplied it. It turns out that the two smallest items on my order (the only things I could fit in the Lotus) would be shipped to me, but not the rest.

I called the store to say that I need my order delivered. I got a bit of a run-around. Eventually, they said that when I got a text message saying my order was ready for pick-up, I should call and tell them I want it delivered instead. I got an email, not a text message. And it said my order was only partially ready. I called them anyway.

After some more run-around, the solution was that a clerk there in the store would delete my order and re-enter it, specifying that it’s for delivery. I’d have guessed it would be much easier for them to simply add a line-item for the delivery charge and be done with it, but what makes me think anything should be simple?

They told me to expect delivery on Friday (the 13th). I asked if they could give me an approximate time. “Give us a call on Friday morning and we’ll let you know.” So I called promptly at their opening time. I was told that it might arrive sometime around 12:30. At about nine I see a forklift dropping my lumber in my driveway. I ran out and talked to the guy, hoping there was a way to get it into the back yard. No deal on that. And when I told him the store said he’d be here at 12:30 he just laughed. “They have no idea when I’m going to deliver anything.” Why should I expect anything different?

I managed to get it all moved to the back yard by myself. It was a bit of a struggle with the big sheets of OSB, but I managed.

Here is my lumber, mostly out of the weather on the back deck, along with the carcass of the drawer section of the old workbench. I’ve covered the lumber with a tarp for when it snows, but the tarp is slightly too small and has a few holes in it. So it goes. I’m sure everything will survive.

The critical part of these new cabinets, I think, is the base. The weak base was certainly the Achilles heel of the old cabinets. The challenge here is dealing with the uneven floor. I figured out how to scribe the shape onto the lumber so I could make a reasonable stab at cutting them. I guess I finally get some real-world benefit from watching all those This Old House episodes!

The next issue I had to deal with was how to cut up my OSB. The biggest challenge is to rip two 4×8 sheets into four 2×8 sheets for the walls. Then, for the shelves, I’d need a bunch of sheets two feet by not quite four feet. I’m lucky to cut a 2×4 straight. I decided the way to go was to get the Kreg rip cut guide. Run it along the milled edge and even I can get a nice, straight cut.

I don’t have any sawhorses, and even if I did, I’m not sure I’m capable of doing an eight-foot long rip on them, so I figured the way to go was to get a big sheet of solid foam insulation and do all the cuts on my deck. I can kneel on it, I can walk on it, and it’s two inches thick so there’s no way I’ll accidentally cut all the way through it. This combination worked like a charm. You’ll spot that sheet of foam lurking in many of my pictures.

Rather than putting the cabinets together and then painting them, I figured it would be better to cut all the wood to the proper size and paint it before putting it together. This assumes some skills that I may not actually possess. The good thing is, I’m building garage cabinets instead of kitchen cabinets. Nobody wants me to build kitchen cabinets! If I’m a bit off on my cuts, my mistakes should be well hidden by all the junk I’ll be storing.

The color coat went on easier than the primer, for two reasons. First, I learned from my mistakes on the primer coat. The big pieces of OSB were no problem, but the sticks of 2×2 demanded a proper procedure. By the time I was done with priming those, I came up with what I think is the most efficient methodology. Second, the color coat dried a lot faster than the primer.

Here I am holding up the first assembled side wall. It’s pretty much square, plumb, and level. And I’m reasonably certain I have the hinges in the correct places. The challenge was in getting it secured. It’s not lined up with a stud, so I can’t just screw it to the wall. I need to mount the cleats for the top, bottom, and shelves first, then fasten the wall to the cleats. With Michael’s help, I managed to get the left side cabinet walls put up. And, because everything is easier the second time, I was able to get the right side done on my own when Michael was at work.

Here we are with some shelves in, to make sure everything is still square. In order to get the shelves in, I needed to take off one of the hinge mounts on each cabinet. And, yes, they have a different number of shelves on purpose. This mimics how I had the prior ones set up. Those shelves were adjustable, but I had them set up like this and never moved them in twelve years.

The clever observer will note that the doors are too wide. And they’re not gray, like everything else. It took me a while, but I figured out how to adjust the hinges to get the doors to hang straight. They’re too wide because the cabinets are about an inch narrower than the old ones, and the walls are thicker by an inch and a half. So the hinges are about four inches closer together than they were before. The plan is to rip the doors to size, then sand the faux wood grain laminate finish enough to take paint.

I still have quite a bit of work left to do. The drawers will fit between the left cabinet and the wall and I’ll put a small cabinet above them. And above the pegboard in the center will be a shallower cabinet, sixteen inches rather than twenty-four. Finally, I’ll build a workbench in the center. It’ll be a bit deeper than the one I’m replacing, and stout enough to handle a nice vice.

Before I began, I guessed that I would be able to complete this project in 32 hours, not counting the demolition. Up to the point in that last photograph, I’ve logged 25 hours and I’m maybe halfway done. It should be no surprise that I’m not much better at estimating carpentry projects than software projects.

Garage Cabinets 1

When we bought this house I made the decision almost immediately to do some upgrades in the garage. Like most Americans, I have a bunch of junk and I decided that one way to deal with that junk was to store it out of sight in some cabinets in the garage. I also thought it would be a nice upgrade to get some sort of epoxy paint on the garage floor as it would look somewhat nicer and be easier to keep clean.

It has been twelve years since all this work was done. Over the last few years it became clear that there was a problem with the cabinets, as the doors didn’t line up any longer and the door in the corner wouldn’t open. (I managed to take that door off before things got locked in forever.) More recently, it was obvious that the whole thing was coming separated from the wall. And in the last weeks, I was concerned that the center cabinet over the workbench was about to fall off completely. Something needed to be done.

But first, let’s take a look at how we got here.

This is what it looked like when we bought the place. My neighbors tell me that the previous owner did a lot of woodworking in the garage. He certainly didn’t put much effort into shelves or workbench. This stuff is all particle board. Not enough shelving and not very deep. Certainly insufficient to deal with the amount of junk I have.

Here’s the machine they used to prepare my garage floor for the epoxy. It doesn’t have anything to do with the cabinets, but what the heck. They ground a thin layer off the floor to make it smoother and provide a better surface for the paint. Note the cracks the previous owner filled up with … something. I’d forgotten these cracks are there.

This is the best picture I have of the finished product. It’s not quite done: there is no hardware in the doors and they haven’t installed the pegboard above the “workbench”. I’m putting that in quotes now, because it didn’t take me long to realize that it’s not so much a bench for doing work as a tabletop for stacking more junk on.

All this work set me back $2,500. That’s all the cabinets in this photo, the grinding and coating of the garage floor, a somewhat upgraded step into the house, and a set of shelves in the pantry. The previous owner’s pantry shelves were very similar to the shelves in the garage. What we ended up with was a big improvement. I may have a detailed invoice in the archives, but I’m not curious enough to go looking for it. I’ll just guess that the garage cabinets were $1800 and it was $700 for the floor, pantry shelves, and sales tax.

As I said, it has been twelve years. That’s almost to the day between the last picture above and when I started taking them down. So figure the cabinets cost me $150 a year or twelve and a half bucks a month.

I recall being somewhat concerned that I was spending a bunch of money on this project, and I knew it was being built out of particle board and fastened with staples. But I was assured they’d be robust. When it all started coming down, I was sure that it was because of the materials, even though none of the shelves showed any sagging. Not even the ones holding the heavy stuff.

This picture shows most of the issues. Note that the doors on the left cabinet neither line up nor stay closed. The cabinet above the “workbench” is looking quite precarious and if you look closely you will note that the left cabinet has developed a big gap from the wall. The clock is hanging on the pegboard and the face of the trim piece around the pegboard is not quite two inches from the wall, so there’s quite a gap there. The cleat that was holding the top of the center cabinet not only came apart from the cabinet, but about six inches of it broke off each end.

The plan is to have an improved workbench in the middle, under the pegboard. It won’t have any drawers and will be six inches deeper. I have a nice vice that I’ll mount on it. If I’m ambitious, it’ll have a steel top. On each side of that, I’ll have cabinets that are essentially the same size as the ones I took down. I’ll also replace the shallower center cabinet above the bench. I won’t do a cabinet in the corner. Maybe I’ll do a small top cabinet. I salvaged the carcass that held the drawers. That might fit in the corner. This means I’ll be losing 15-20% of my storage space. I’ll have to get rid of some junk. (The cabinets on the side walls will stay.)

I spent an hour and a half each day for three days emptying the cabinets and disassembling them. I now know why the cabinets failed. It wasn’t because they were made from particle board fastened by staples. All the wood stacks up nicely; only a couple of the shelves are slightly bowed. The problem was the foundation.

The garage floor is sort of pan shaped. A careful look at the above picture shows the issue. The foundation that the walls sit on is level. The garage floor is higher in the corner on the left and right than in the center. And it’s higher in the back of the garage than at the doors. This is well done. It’s a garage and there will be water that comes off the cars, and a well-laid floor will allow the water to flow out.

The kickboards on the cabinets aren’t structural. They’re just for show. What’s actually holding the cabinets up (other than the wholly inadequate cleats) are a couple of little 4″x4″ pieces of particle board stapled to the base of the cabinet sides. A couple of these are laying on the floor next to the “workbench” in the picture of the partly assembled cabinets.

I couldn’t know this was the problem until I had everything taken apart, and even if I had known, I don’t think I’m capable of rectifying the problem. I think things were too far gone.

Now that I’ve demolished the old cabinets and all my junk is stacked up on the floor of the garage, there’s no turning back. I made some plans. I bought some lumber and some new tools. I’m about to find out if I can build a better set of garage cabinets.


It was somehow important to me to have a big yard. I do enjoy it, even though it’s quite a bit more work than a small yard. Another downside of the big yard is the corresponding big water consumption.

My irrigation system is seven zones. Zone seven is the triangular area north of my driveway. Not long after I bought the Elise we shut that zone down, capped all the sprinkler heads. I park the Chrysler there now. Shortly after that, I quit trying to plant anything in the vegetable garden, so we wanted to shut that off, too. Turned out we were able to cap all the heads but one. Still, between the two zones we cut our irrigation by about a quarter.

We have low water pressure as well. Because of the layout, this affects zone two more than the others. There’s one sprinkler that just keeps an arc of grass green. I had to run my crawler sprinkler to keep the grass green in August. So I need to do something.

In addition, the flower gardens are getting out of control. I’m not a gardener. The previous owner did a great job of planting perennials throughout the property. There’s a great mix of color and the blooms show up at different times. I was able to keep most of the weeds out for several years, with the exception of the morning glory. I never stood a chance against that stuff. The purple bee balm are very nice, until the morning glory tears it down. So I need to do something.

Last spring we lost the three mature arbor vitae we had along the back fence. A heavy snow peeled them like bananas. They were nice screening from the neighbors and I miss them. I need to plant some replacements. Also, while the raspberries in the northeast corner are doing great, the ones I planted later near the shed haven’t done anything. I know what I did wrong, and it can be fixed.

So here’s the plan. First, convert zone two to a drip system. Cap off all the heads but one, and run a line along the east and south fences. Tear out the overgrown weedy flower beds, replace a good section of lawn with stone. Cut some “windows” in the stone around the raspberries by the shed. Plant three small arbor vitae, a bit closer together than the old ones, but slightly better located. And run stone along the back fence to the big raspberry patch.

First, then, the easy part: have Ben come out and do the sprinkler work. He and a helper capped all the heads off, put a pressure reducer on the one working head, and run the hose. They also placed the weed barrier fabric over the lawn. They were done in about two hours.

I had paced out the proposed contour and decided I have plenty of blocks; I wouldn’t have to buy any more, just rearrange them. But once we had the fabric laid down, it became obvious I needed a slight change in plan. I should put a ring around the locust tree, not as big as the existing one, but proportional to it’s space. After laying out this change, I was ten blocks short.

The shopping list then is something like this:

  • 3 arbor vitae (5 gal)
  • 10 blocks
  • 2 more rolls of weed barrier
  • 6 perennials
  • 3 bags of topsoil
  • 4 bags of red mulch
  • 18 tons 1-1½ inch local river rock

The big expense on this project is the stone, obviously. That’s true in dollar terms and the amount of time and physical effort involved. I’ve done this a few times before. I put seven and a half tons of stone in the side yard when I replaced the fence I share with Jeff. And another eleven and a half tons when I took the grass out next to the driveway. In Gilbert I did both front and back yards, two different kinds of stone. I want to say twenty tons of one and fifteen of the other, but that’s probably wrong.

The driver who brought the stone told me he couldn’t bring more than fifteen tons at a time, so it took two trips. First he dropped twelve tons and an hour later the remaining six, right on top of the first load. I asked him what the conversion was between volume and weight. I knew rock this size would be more than a ton per cubic yard. He told me a ton was about two and a half feet cubed. I asked how many wheelbarrows he thought would make the ton; he said six or seven. I told him it would be more than ten for me. Making the prediction pretty much meant I’d have to count.

While I was spreading this rock it was inevitable I’d have a number of stray thoughts.


What’s the definition of work? Force times distance. That was too much work for me to figure out. I knew mass and distance, but force was beyond me. How can I verify the truck driver’s estimate of the volume? The pile is roughly cone-shaped, about fifteen feet in diameter and five feet high. But it’s a bit elongated, and bulges a bit. What’s the formula for the volume of a cone?

I was unable to do the math in my head as I was working. And I had the wrong formula for the volume. With the correct formula and a calculator, we find that at 2.5 feet cubed per ton works out to 281.3 cubic feet while the cone is 294.5. So my eyeball guesstimate of the size of the pile wasn’t too bad.


It took me three weekends (and a few days in between) to move it all. I hauled 211 wheelbarrows full of stone an average of about 180 feet. It turns out I could have done with only fifteen tons. My neighbor took seven wheelbarrows and I spread about 30 loads where I already had good coverage. So that’s a total of 218 wheelbarrows which makes it a tad over 12 loads per ton.

Somebody told me it should take forty-five minutes to move each ton, but they didn’t ask how far I was moving it, so it could take more or less. I was taking a short break every five loads. With breaks, I averaged about five minutes per load. So that’s an hour a ton. Chad and Tim pitched in the last two days, so the last four and a half tons went a bit faster.

I’m hoping this is the last pile of stone I’ll ever have to deal with.

I didn’t do a very good job of taking “before” pictures, and I didn’t make great notes on how long it took to do the other tasks.

It was about an hour to rearrange the blocks and another hour to move several wheelbarrows of soil from the vegetable garden to the new ring around the locust tree. Each window for the raspberries by the shed took an hour, and routing the drip line under the brick path was another hour or so. Two hours to plant the new plants. Roughly four hours to dig up the overgrown flower gardens and two more hours removing shrub and rose stumps. Another couple hours laying down the weed fabric.

So eighteen hours to move the stone and fifteen for everything else. Thirty three spread over about three weeks elapsed time.


I got the flowers planted just in time for a big hail storm, which was followed by a wet, heavy snow a week later. Being under the tree, they weren’t too shredded by the hail and I used the 5 gallon containers the arbor vitae came in to cover them when it snowed. They survived, and appear to be thriving.

The transplanted irises may be a different story. I know it’s not a good time to replant irises, but I figured I’d try to save some. If they die, they die, what do I have to lose? I only moved a few. They’re looking limp and are changing color. But they’re not totally dead. Yet.

This Old House: Shower Tile

And now for something completely different – it’s not about hiking or cars!

I’ve been wanting to have the tile redone in my shower for quite a while. I finally pulled the trigger.


The house was built in 1973 and I’m pretty sure this shower is original. The valve is shot and there’s been a constant slow drip for several weeks now, making it impossible to keep clean.


Two guys did the demolition. They laid out a giant strip of adhesive tape up the stairs, through the bedroom, into the water closet. Pretty clever stuff, except that it prevented me from closing the bedroom door. At night, I had to pull it back, lay it sticky side up and be careful not to step on it. Then lay it back down in the morning.

It’s impossible to get a decent photo, the room is so small. During the demolition it pretty much looked like a bomb went off. Even though they tented everything off, dust was everywhere.

Demo complete

They poked a hole through the drywall into the other bathroom, and the plaster popped off of some nail heads on the opposite wall, so they had to do some drywall repairs and texturing.

Making the new pan

The pan was laid in three layers, with curing time between. Then he laid the floor tiles (sliced stones on a square foot of mesh) and that had to cure before he could stand on it to do the walls.

Floor done


The walls are tile – a weathered wood look that’s made with an ink-jet process. Each piece is unique. There are even knots. I think it looks good with the pebble floor.

Now I have some painting to do.