Posted: September 11, 2017
by: Shelby Lentz
This week’s post was written by Josh Lentz.
This spring I decided to build an outdoor playhouse for my twins’ fifth birthday. My wife is Simpson Strong-Tie’s Director of Communications, and she sent me a link to a blog by one of Simpson’s Brand Ambassadors, Jen Woodhouse. Jen built a playhouse a year ago using Simpson Strong-Tie connectors. Then she blogged about it and included a set of easy-to-follow plans with a detailed cut list.
You’ll notice she calls it the Easy Kids Indoor Playhouse. The materials aren’t suited for outdoor exposure, particularly here in western Washington. So at her suggestion, I made some modifications to help it survive the rainy season. More on that later.
The inspiration to build the playhouse came in several forms. First and foremost, my wife told me do it. Having received my orders, I gave myself free rein in the tool department at The Home Depot. I wanted to build some shelves in the garage anyway, so I bought a circular saw, a jig saw, a brad nailer and a Sawzall. The Sawzall was just for fun.
The other inspiration was that I eventually want a shed to store my lawn mower and wheelbarrow. When the kids get tired of their playhouse in a few years, I’ll board up the windows and move it to the side of the house. Which brings me to a point about using Simpson Strong-Tie connectors – the four wall panels on the playhouse are connected using only the company’s A21Z angles. That makes the panels easy to take apart so when I need to move the structure, it’ll be simple enough to take down and reassemble.
It took me twice as long as Jen to build the playhouse, in part because I made a couple of silly mistakes (I attached the plates on the wrong side of the first frame I assembled; I took the cut list too literally – this is wood framing after all – and learned it’s a better strategy to measure and cut as you go rather than cut each piece ahead of time). I also lost 10 lb. in three days and gave myself elbow tendinitis in a desperate effort to complete the project before the kids’ birthday party. (By the way, use a scrap board for aligning the tongue-and-groove siding, not the palm of your hand.)
To make this an outdoor playhouse, I used marine-grade plywood for the floor and roof. I stuck with the pine tongue-and-groove siding and trim boards, but I used three coats of exterior-grade polyurethane. I also shingled the roof and attached a drip edge. And the “Z” on the Simpson parts means they have a ZMAX® (galvanized zinc) coating, for corrosion resistance.
Now the kids have their own outdoor escape, I have a bunch of fun toys (tools) and leftover scraps for making planter boxes, and my wife is happy.
Posted: July 10, 2017
by: Shelby Lentz
If you follow our weekly blog, you may have wondered where we have been. Well, we’re officially on our summer schedule, which means we’ll be posting a couple times each month instead of our regular weekly posts. But don’t fret; we’ve got some great new projects coming up, including a backyard wood fence project by Jaime Costiglio from That’s My Letter.
We’re also very excited to be exhibiting at Haven in Atlanta next week. Whether this is your first time attending the conference or you’re a “Haven Maven,” we hope to see you at the Simpson Strong-Tie booth. We’re giving away some great prizes and sponsoring a class where you can build your own wooden drink caddy. You’ll be hearing more about Haven in a future post.
We hope you’re enjoying summer and working through your list of DIY projects.
Posted: October 13, 2014
by: Shelby Lentz
Picking up power tools for the first time is intimidating (at least it was for me). Fortunately, I was with a group of women who knew what they were doing and made sure I didn’t drill a hole through my finger. A few weeks ago, I attended my first Do-It-Herself workshop at my local Home Depot store. I decided to sign up after seeing the class featured an Ana White design – her rolling storage cart.
For those of you who do not know Ana White, she’s probably one of the most famous DIY woodworkers in the blogosphere, and she’s a mom who lives in Alaska, which is pretty cool too. Her website and blog feature all types of projects, and she includes the plans on how to build them. Her storage cart project didn’t look too complicated, so I thought it would be a good one to try for someone new to woodworking. Home Depot offers these “DIH” classes for free (yay for free), which is great for beginners as well as more experienced DIYers who want to pick up some new skills or hone their existing ones by working on a project.
When I signed up for the class, I actually didn’t know if it would be hands-on or not. Part of me secretly hoped I could just hide in the back row and observe from afar. The thought of using a saw that actually plugs into an outlet made my hands sweat combined with the fact that I can’t cut a straight line with a pair of scissors. But as it turned out, there was no place to hide – the class was small – just four of us plus the instructor.
Perhaps fate stepped in, because after several attempts and jiggering, the miter saw did not work properly. Thank goodness! I mean, darn it. However, not all was lost, as we did get to use a drill/screwdriver and an air nailer. Luckily, the instructor had most of the lumber pre-cut, so we could get started on the project. One neat thing I learned is that Home Depot rents out power tools, which is great if you don’t do a lot of woodworking, or if you want to try out some tools before investing in your own set. Another tip is if you just need a few lumber cuts made, most home improvement stores will do courtesy cuts for free (especially if they’re not busy).
So I’m happy to report that we successfully built the cart (with no injuries) and that getting my hands a little dirty was empowering. The class definitely made me more appreciative of the amount of time and effort that goes into building something yourself, and how important it is to be precise when cutting lumber – an 1/8 of inch off can throw off your entire project. So, really, measure twice and cut once.