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DIY Eco-Friendly Cleaners for Your Home’s Exterior

Spring cleaning is here! Daylight savings has officially started, which means we get just a little more sunlight in the evenings. I don’t know about you, but that usually motivates me to get some deep cleaning done and check in on everything now that winter is a not-so-distant memory.

Here at S&K, we are always trying to find the best, eco-friendly ways to keep our homes nice. While our energy efficient window options are a great way to do that, there are so many other ways that a home can stay eco-friendly, like cleaning supplies. Outdoor cleaning supplies tend to be harsh and heavy in chemicals since we don’t have to live with the fumes or worry about sleeping in the same room as the solution, but those chemicals can affect the environment. Check out some easy DIY cleaning solutions that will let you do your spring cleaning with a clean conscience.

Window Cleaner:

  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 10 drops essential oil of lemon

Mix the ingredients in a glass spray bottle to avoid the oils breaking down. To use, spray on a glass surface and use a microfiber cloth to polish.

All-Purpose Cleaner:

  • 15 drops of essential oil of lemon
  • 5 drops essential oil of sweet orange
  • 5 drops essential oil of rosemary
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1-½ cups water

Mix ingredients together in a glass spray bottle (a funnel helps with this step). The vinegar scent will dissipate after use and leave a nice fresh scent behind. Lemon oil is a natural disinfectant, orange oil busts grease, and rosemary oil has some antibacterial and antiseptic qualities. This concoction is great for wiping down patio furniture.

Patio Cleaner:

  • ½ cup baking soda
  • 1 gallon of water
  • ⅛ cup natural liquid dish detergent – I’m a fan of Dr. Bronners.

Mix ingredients and spray onto patio surface. Let the solution sit for 30 minutes, then scrub and rinse with your garden hose.

Image via The Greatist

Interested in creating your own cleaning solutions? Once you have an understanding of what natural options work well together, you can play with different essential oils that are heavy lifters in the cleaning department, or simply smell nice, to make a solution that is all your own.

Not only are these a great way to help the environment, these cleaners are a fraction of the cost of commercial cleaners. Happy cleaning!

Upcycle Your Old Windows: 8 DIY Projects

You’ve finally done it. You’ve committed to getting new windows installed by S&K and now you have old window panes and shutters to worry about. First off, congratulations on your new windows! Secondly, why not upcycle your old windows to create new and fun decor in your home? We’re all about finding creative ways to recycle old goods, so check out these 12 do-it-yourself projects that transform your previous windows into something new:

Divided Chalkboard:

 

Great for decor and even better for communicating with your family, this chalkboard window is a perfect way to use an old window frame. It may look complicated, but all you need to do is clean the glass, tape off the frame, and spray with chalkboard paint! Easy as one, two, three. Check out a tutorial here.

Accented Mirror:

A mirror like this can be used in an entryway, restroom, or even as a piece of decor in a living room. Simply remove the glass frames and replace them with mirrors (or potentially one large mirror). You can learn more in this tutorial.

Fireplace Screen:


Image via DIYnCrafts

An unexpected and innovative way to reuse your old window, this fireplace screen is easy to make. Follow this tutorial for a step-by-step guide.

Family Picture Frames:


These rustic window frames are perfect to transition into a picture frame. You can paint the wood however you’d like to match your decor the add family photos. Learn how to do it here.

Box Planter:

Image via 1001Gardens

Take your DIY projects outside with this converted window to box planter. This is a great project for spring and adds just the right amount of rustic flair. Find a brief tutorial here.

Pot Rack:

Talk about a functional use of an old object! This upcycled pot rack is a great way to use you old windows and save space in the kitchen. Achieve this look by following the tutorial.

Gallery Wall:


Perhaps the easiest way to upcycle your old windows, especially if you have a bunch of different sizes and shapes. Clean off your old windows and hang them in a gallery wall. Add a pop of color, like the wreath in the photo above, to brighten up the look.

Advent Calendar:

Expand your holiday decor by transforming an old window frame into an advent calendar. This would be a great addition to any mantle or living room during the holiday season. Follow a tutorial here.

There are tons of other things you can use your old windows for, like shelving, making a small greenhouse, and more. What do you plan on doing with your old windows?

 

 

How to: Make a DIY Modern Concrete Fire Pit from Scratch

How to: Make a DIY Modern Concrete Fire Pit from Scratch

 

There’s nothing better than enjoying your outdoor living space with the glow of a fire pit. Now that the weather is getting nicer for late night hang outs lets check out this simple DIY project.

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This version is cast of affordable, weather-resistant concrete that creates a sleek, modern look. It’s portable but sturdy, and uses gel fuel, making it possible to have a quick 30-minute post grill session fire. It take a bit of care and proper prep, but this could be made in just a few hours for well under $50 in materials.

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Tools and Materials: 

 

CASTING THE BOWL

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Creating this project is all about two components: finding the right materials and working safely. For the main fire bowl, we used the largest mixing bowls we could find. Check your local restaurant or party supply store for extra-large options. I opted for a plastic punch bowl for the outside because I liked the profile shape, and a stainless steel mixing bowl for the inside.

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Working with concrete isn’t difficult, but it does require some finesse. First, it’s fairly heavy and can be difficult to mix in large batches by hand. Secondly, it’s extra important to use the proper safety gear to prep and execute your project. Work outside or in a well-ventilated area, and cover your work surface with plastic. I covered my bench in a plastic drop cloth, and taped everything down with ScotchBlue™ tape.

 

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Also, be sure to wear proper safety gear to protect your eyes, skin, and respiratory system. For this, I consulted with 3MDIY.comfor their suggestions of the best products from their 3M Tekk Protectionline. I went with an N95 valved dust mask for sanding and grinding, and long sleeves and refinishing gloves to protect my arms and hands. For my eyes, I opted for these Walter White-style safety goggles, which not only protect from debris but also dust and irritants. Plus, I prefer them when wearing a respirator or dust mask, since they seal tightly and don’t fog up.

 

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1. Once you’re all prepped, spray your molds with non-stick spray. This will help release the concrete once it’s dry. A thin, even layer over the inside of the outer mold/outside of the inner mold will do.

 

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2. Then, mix up your concrete. It’s hard to determine how much you’ll need, but it’s better to mix up more as you start than to rush to create more in the middle. I used about 1/3 of a bag for this project, adding water a little at a time until the mix formed a thick, cookie batter-like consistency. Make sure you’re wearing your safety gear here; this is the time when most of the particulates and irritants are flying around.

 

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3. Then, use the trowel to add the concrete mix to the outer mold. Fill it about half full, then check the inner mold to see how high the concrete comes up to the side. It’s okay to take the inner mold in and out a few times, just make sure you don’t lose all your non-stick spray. (You can wipe it clean and reapply). A friend or extra pair of hands is helpful here. Then, use weights or rocks to keep it in place. Some things to watch out for:

  • As you place the inner mold, make sure that it’s centered so your bowl will have an even thickness all the way around
  • Keep the lips of the bowls coplanar for an even, symmetrical finished product
  • Adjust the weights so that you have the biggest inner bowl as possible while keeping the structure thick enough to be strong. You’ll want to be sure that there’s enough space on the inside to place your gel canisters beneath the lip of the bowl.

 

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4. For a super smooth finished surface, try this tip (I picked this up years ago from an episode of This Old House, I think): use something with a motor to vibrate the bowl to remove any air bubbles inside the mold. Here, I’m using my reciprocating saw without a blade, but anything will work: a powered sander, an oscillating or rotary tool, even an immersion blender.

One it’s settled and things are no longer moving, allow the concrete to cure according to the package directions. (48 hours-ish)

 

FINISHING THE BOWL

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5. When your concrete has cured, carefully remove it from the mold. I lightly tapped on mine with a rubber mallet, first removing the inner bowl, then freeing the outer. It’s solid at this point, so don’t be afraid, but do be careful since it’s quite heavy.

 

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6. Use a coarse sanding pad (60-80 grit) to clean up the top lip, and give everything a nice rounded profile. Again, since you’ll be generating a lot of fine particulate dust, wear your safety glasses, gloves, and dust mask.

 

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Wipe away the debris, then give the whole thing a round of fine grit (220) sandpaper. Since concrete doesn’t have any fibers or grain like wood, you don’t have to work your way up. Any sanding is just the removal of irregularities or smoothing things up.

 

ASSEMBLING THE FIRE PIT

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7. Lastly, take it outside, and place the gel fuel canisters inside. I found mine at a local fireplace/swimming pool/outdoor recreation store, but you can find them in some hardware or home improvement stores or online.

 

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8. Place the grill grate in the bowl. The one I used was a 14.5″ bottom grate (for the charcoal, not the cooking surface) for a Weber kettle grill. It rested perfectly about 1/2″ from the surface of my 15″ internal diameter bowl. If you can’t find one, you can cut a larger one to size with a hacksaw or grinder, or create your own from hardware cloth or steel mesh.

9. Then, cover the grate with a layer of rocks. I’m using “Mexican beach pebbles” that I found at a garden center. These are commonly used with fire, so I can be sure they’ll stand up to the heat and won’t explode into flaming shrapnel with extended use. So, just be sure that whatever rocks you’re using are appropriate for the purpose.

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LIGHT IT UP!

While the flames on these aren’t bonfire-sized, the gel canisters put out quite a bit of heat, and all kinds of fun ambiance. At some point, I’d like to make a few of these and place them around my patio or deck. (At some point, I’d also like to have a patio or deck). But, for about $40 in materials (many of which I can reuse), I have a great, easy-to-use backyard fire solution, that requires nearly zero work to start or snuff out, and can keep our outdoor hangouts going well past sundown.

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source: manmadediy