Category: How To’s & Quick Tips

Quick Tip: Getting a Bird Out of the House

Feathered friends make for great window watching, but when they come too close, things can get chaotic. If a bird swoops in through an open window and gets stuck in your home, try this trick to shoo it back outdoors using a common household item.

How To Get a Bird Out of Your House - Bird at Window


Cracking the windows is an effective way to air out your house in the summer—but an open window can also be an open invitation to any number of unwanted visitors. Occasionally, a bird may fly in through this entrance and trap itself indoors, fluttering about looking for an exit. If one makes its way into your house this season, keep calm and just head to the linen closet for the only thing you need for assistance: a flat sheet.

How To Get a Bird Out of Your House - Bird Indoors


Start by opening one window as wide as possible to give the bird a way out. Then, close all blinds and drapes over the rest of the windows, and switch off all lights inside the house so that the open window shines brightly like an exit sign. Your feathered intruder will associate the light with the open air and will, we hope, fly toward it. If the bird still hasn’t made any moves after some time, get ready to guide it. Take your large bedsheet in both hands, and hold it up at eye level or higher, arms extended so that it makes a large, flat surface. Check that the bird is between you and the exit, then slowly walk toward the bird. By creating a “wall” closing in on it, you can better direct the bird out through the window. Once it leaves, close the window, send your sheet through the wash, and call it a day.

Additional notes: If you’re still stuck with a bird in the house even after following these suggestions, then it is time to call in the professionals. Look up wildlife groups or bird sanctuaries in your local area to see whether they will come and deal with your feathery nuisance. Wildlife experts know how to handle a bird without causing injury, and they have equipment to help the process along.

Genius! Turn Your Phone into a Movie Projector

If you love a big screen but don't want to sacrifice space to accommodate a TV, set up your smartphone instead! Given that it uses only a few recycled materials, how can you afford NOT to make this DIY?

DIY Movie Projector


Having a TV is great—except when you’re not using it. Then the box just sits in your living room, idle and unappealing, upsetting the room’s feng shui. The average American may binge on five hours of television a day, but what good is a big screen if you’re part of the minority that tunes in only once a week? When we show you this smartphone hack that lets you eliminate the need for a screen and still enjoy your favorite programming, you’ll definitely consider downsizing.

To turn your phone into a projector, all you need are a handful of leftover household supplies—an empty shoebox, duct tape, magnifying glass, construction paper, and a paper clip—and an unused white wall. First, cut a hole the size of your magnifying glass lens in the side of the shoebox, pop in the lens, and secure it with tape. Then, cover up the inside of the box with black construction paper to frame the magnified image better. Once your casing is assembled, just bend a paper clip into a stand to hold your smartphone upright inside the box. Finally, open your video-playing app of choice, turn the brightness all the way up, and slide your phone closer or farther away from the lens to focus the picture. All that’s missing in this tutorial from Photojojo is how to make movie-theater-quality buttered popcorn.

FOR MORE: Photojojo

DIY Movie Projector - Cardboard Box


3 Fixes for Smelly Footwear

Embarrassed by your shoes' lingering scent? Give your favorite pair that new-shoe smell again with these solutions for banishing bad odors.

3 Fixes for Smelly Shoes - Smelly Shoes


With the kickoff of summer comes sunshine, warm temperatures, backyard games—and sweat, lots of sweat, from head to toe. And those balmy feet quickly lead to stinky shoes. Bacteria on your feet feed off of sweat and produce a byproduct with a pungent scent that’s hard to erase once it’s there. Luckily, easy solutions for avoiding the stench are within reach. Open wide your pantry and rummage through your closet to mix up one of these concoctions that will eliminate smelly-shoe shame for good.



How to Clean Smelly Shoes - Baking Soda


Baking soda has many superpowers, neutralizing unpleasant odors chief among them. Simply pour some into your shoes and let them sit overnight. The powder will soak up excess moisture while you sleep, leaving your kicks clean and dry in the morning. For a fresher scent, consider mixing in few drops of an essential oil with the baking soda before filling your shoes. Just don’t forget to empty the baking soda into the trash the next day—the only thing worse than smelly feet is leaving a powdery trail in your wake!

Once you’ve sopped up the extra moisture, craft a pair of homemade deodorizers to slip into your shoes between uses. Fill a pair of socks (or feet cut from nylon stockings) with baking soda, and knot the ends of each. You can even stuff the socks with kitty litter; made to tackle far more offending scents, it’ll work wonders for your shoes.



How to Clean Smelly Shoes - Newspaper


Surprisingly, your morning paper can work overtime as an effective way to squash shoe odor. Stuff a generous amount of crumpled newspaper into each shoe—it will help your shoes dry even faster by absorbing extra moisture, thus eliminating any bacteria that comes with it. For a dose of sweet-smelling goodness, sprinkle a few drops of vanilla onto the newspaper first; come morning, your go-to loafers will not only be rid of their funky scent, but they’ll actually smell fresh.



How to Clean Smelly Shoes - Washing Machine


For heavier-duty stinks, head to the laundry room. Pull out your sneakers’ insoles and run them through the washing machine with a load of towels. If you want to wash the entire shoe, remove the laces and put the shoes in a pillowcase before throwing them in the washer. Let them air-dry for a day or so before wearing again. Still smell? Soak just the insoles in a water-vinegar solution for a few hours, then air-dry under a heater or in a sunny spot.

As you implement any (or all) of these measures, also limit wearing your favorite pair of shoes to every other day—even just once every few days. This will ensure that they have time to dry out fully, which will cut down on bacteria buildup. Start working these solutions into your everyday routine, and you’ll be amazed at the difference they’ll make in keeping your shoes fresh and clean.

How To: Get Rid of Woodpeckers

While woodpeckers may be attractive additions to your backyard, their eating habits can be a hindrance to your home. Try these solutions to ward off the noisy birds.

How to Get Rid of Woodpeckers - Woodpeckers


As pretty as woodpeckers are to observe in your backyard or garden, these noisy birds can cause major damage to your trees and wooden structures if left unattended—not to mention, their constant drumming can be extremely disruptive to the peace and quiet you need to be productive around the house. Prevent woodpeckers from taking over your outdoor space with these tips for handling the winged troublemakers.

How to Get Rid of Woodpeckers - Read Headed Woodpecker


You’re most likely to hear woodpeckers in the spring, during their mating season. That’s when the medium-size birds are usually most active—and noisy—drumming to attract mates and mark their territories. The hallmark pecking will aid you in locating where a bird’s nest might be and therefore usher them out of your backyard.

To get rid of woodpeckers that have already made themselves at home in your yard, it’s best to use a technique that will scare them off. Always avoid solutions that could harm woodpeckers, such as sticky substances that trap the birds. Instead, use one of these four ideas that have been proven to help ward off woodpeckers safely.

1. Hang up a shiny object. A mirror (or aluminum foil if you’re in a pinch) near the spot where a woodpecker has made its home will show the bird its reflection when it returns, startling it and potentially scaring it away from the area.

2. Set up a wind chime or a pinwheel near the spot. The noise or motion these objects make in the wind may fool your woodpecker into thinking a predator is near and deter them from coming any closer.

3. Set up a pretend predator. Because owls prey on woodpeckers, you can purchase a decoy owl from a home improvement or garden store to place in your yard. Opt for one with reflective eyes, which look more realistic.

4. Spook them with noise. This last simple deterrent (no purchase necessary!) only requires you to clap your hands, whoop, or make another loud noise to frighten the bird off if you’re outdoors and you see one.

Prevent the Woodpeckers’ Return
Even if you successfully scare the woodpeckers away, the fact that these birds are frequent visitors to your yard could be an indicator of a bigger problem: an insect infestation. Do some investigating to see if carpenter ants, carpenter bees, or termites are present in your yard. If so, treat the infested trees with an insecticide that is specifically made to kill pests without affecting other animals or the trees themselves. Stay inside while the insecticide goes to work, as the chemicals can be harmful to children and pets. Then, plug up any hole made by wood-boring insects. This will trap them deep inside the tree so they will die off, and other members of the colony will not be able to enter the structure easily. Not only will this process rid your property of unwanted insects, it will also keep woodpeckers from returning to your yard and causing any further damage to your home.

Quick Tip: Neutralize Paint Fumes with an Onion

Get rid of leftover paint smell—and the nausea that comes with it—when you slice open this surprising grocery store purchase.

How to Get Rid of Paint Smell - Painting a Room


Few things in life are guaranteed. That short list includes death, taxes, and the fact that freshly painted rooms will retain some lingering odor until you give them adequate drying time. While low-VOC paints can minimize the fumes, sometimes they aren’t the most affordable option—and other times, you have already fallen in love with a swatch for a paint that isn’t manufactured in a low- or no-VOC formula. No matter the reason, if you have plans to paint anywhere inside your home this summer, save yourself from falling victim to that slightly nauseous post-paint-job feeling with an unusual grocery store grab: the onion.

How to Get Rid of Paint Smell - Halved Onions


Though it might make you cry while you’re chopping it, a cut onion can absorb and neutralize fresh paint odors. To try this on your next paint job, simply take a medium or large onion, peel it, and slice it in half. Then, place each half in its own shallow dish, cut side up, at opposite ends of the room. You may need more onion if you’re painting a space that’s larger than a master bedroom or small living room; start with one, and add more if necessary. Also, keep pets or small children out of the room as you work—you don’t want them discovering the onion halves and accidentally ingesting them! When you’re done, simply toss the remains into your home’s compost bin, and enjoy the rest of your evening in odor-free peace.

5 Things to Do with… Newspaper

When you've finished catching up on current events and op-eds at breakfast, save your newspaper pages to craft one of these 5 equally useful around-the-house projects.

Besides keeping you up on all the need-to-know current events, a hefty newspaper is downright useful to have around the house—whether you’re using it to cushion easy-to-break items or to line your garden beds. While you can probably rattle off the most common ways to recycle newspaper, why not take a crack at a few ingenious project ideas that you’ve never considered? You can’t do these with a digital subscription. Viva la paper!



Newspaper Crafts - Paper Gift Bags


We’ve all had those moments where we’re running late to a birthday party and desperately searching for a gift bag—only to realize that we forgot to buy one. You can avoid the last-minute scramble out to the store when you try your hand at the user-friendly directions from How About Orange for making your own newsprint gift bags. A few quick cuts, some strategic folds, and a glue stick all help to get the job done in no time flat.



Newspaper Crafts - DIY Fort


Move over kids’ tepees, because this newspaper jungle gym will be the next indoor play area to sweep the nation. Brainchild of Modern Parents Messy Kids, the shape only looks like complex construction. All it takes are rolled newspaper pages taped and stapled to form triangles, all linked together in a geometric shape of your and your child’s choosing. Voilà, instant place to play!



Newspaper Crafts - Seedling Starter Containers

Photo:, via toffutibreak

There’s no need to spend the time and money to pick up seed starter trays when you have last week’s newspaper lying around. Simply follow the step-by-step from Instructables, and grab a can to fold your paper into tiny biodegradable pots for seedlings. Just remember to make sure your fold is thick enough to support the soil you’ll be pouring in!



Newspaper Crafts - DIY Paper Baskets

Photo:, via Muhaiminah Faiz

What home doesn’t need catchalls for life’s miscellany—the craft supplies, tiny toys, spare change, you name it—that always seems to be floating around? Weave a sturdy, recyclable basket to store and organize any size collection with strips of folded paper in this craft from Instructables. While newspaper is great for this, you can even upgrade to glossy magazine pages or bright patterned paper for a dose of color.



Newspaper Crafts - Light Switch Cover


For a quick and quirky room update, add some reading material to a switch plate with this sweet idea from Josie Jones & Company. Simply remove your standard plate from the wall, cut a rectangle of newspaper to fit, and tape it so that it wraps around the back. A finishing coat of decoupage paste will both add sheen and keep newsprint from rubbing off on you every time you turn on the lights.

Rustic Craft Room Island

This bright island adds a fun pop of color and much-needed extra storage space in this blogger's craft room.

Rustic Craft Room Island

Addicted 2 DIY mastermind, Katie, reimagined DIY island plans to create a focal-point storage spot for her craft room, ideal for stashing unwieldy items like her sewing machine. Discover how she put her personal stamp on this bright-colored beauty. 

(Gathered from Ana White’s plans here):

-1 – 3/4″ thick top 24″ x 52″ (recommend a premade project panel)
-5 – 2×4 @ 8 feet long
-3 – 2×2 @ 8 feet long
-1 – 1×12 @ 8 feet long (cut the 31 1/2″ long pieces from this board)
-1 – 1×12 @ 4 feet long (cut the shelves from this board)
-3 – 1×3 @ 8 feet long
-3 – 1×2 @ 8 feet long
-1 – 1×6 @ 10 feet long
-1 – 1×8 @ 4 feet long
-4′ 1×10 board for the drawer stops
-2 – 10″x18″ 1/2″ plywood pieces for drawer bottoms (can be scraps or purchase a 1/4″ sheet)
-4 caster wheels that can be mounted on bottom of 2×4
-2 inch screws
-1 1/4 inch finish nails
-2 inch finish nails
-1-1/4″ Pocket Hole Screws
-2-1/2″ Pocket Hole Screws
-Elmer’s Wood Glue
-Measuring tape
-Safety glasses
-Hearing protection
-Kreg Jig
-Circular Saw
-Miter Saw
-Brad Nailer
-Random Orbital Sander


Rustic Craft Room Island Step 1
I pre-cut all of my wood before beginning the project and used my orbital sander to sand all of my pieces with 150 and 220 grit sandpaper before attaching them together. There are a lot of nooks and crannies on this project and pre-sanding makes life a lot easier.

The plans don’t show exactly where to drill your pocket holes with the Kreg Jig, so I wanted to show where I placed mine. In the plans, it was recommended to also drill 3/4″ pocket holes in the top brace to attach the table top. I found later that after drilling the holes, only one ended up being exposed because of the 1×12 drawer/shelf sides.


Rustic Craft Room Island Step 2
I wanted to have the middle of the tabletop secured to the base, so I drilled 3/4″ pocket holes into the center divider. I drilled these same holes into the drawer/shelf sides on each end of the base.


Rustic Craft Room Island Step 3
I attached the drawer/shelf sides with 2″ screws and the drawer stops with 1 1/4″ pocket screws. I also used wood glue on all of my pieces prior to screwing them together. I’ve found with projects like this that you can never have too many clamps.


Rustic Craft Room Island Step 4
It was a little tough trying to find that perfect gap between the slats that would make them even all of the way across. I tried different pieces of scrap wood, measuring the distance between, etc. I finally grabbed one of my younger son’s old board books and it happened to be the perfect width! I set my gap on one end, glued and nailed it, then moved the book to the other end of the slat and did the same thing.


Rustic Craft Room Island Step 5
The drawers were really easy to assemble. I bought a 2’x4′ sheet of 1/4″ plywood for the bottoms of the drawers and ripped those down to size after making the box. I glued and nailed the plywood to the drawer bottoms and sanded any edges that weren’t perfectly flush.


Rustic Craft Room Island Step 6
The original plans call for 2×2 pieces to use as a brace to hold the drawers in. I added a second 2×2 above each brace to give the drawers some extra support, so that the drawers don’t fall out when you open them. Since the slides on the sides of the drawers are 1x2s, I cut a small piece of scrap wood an 1/8″ longer than the thickness of the drawer slides and used that as my guide when screwing in the top support.


Rustic Craft Room Island Step 7
I glued, clamped, and nailed the 1×2 trim to the top of the base and let that set up for a bit.


Rustic Craft Room Island Step 8
Since the bookcases in my craft room are a very dark color, it took me a while to decide how to finish the island. I finally decided to step way outside of my comfort zone and paint it a turquoise color. I chose Valspar Rushing Stream as the paint color in a satin finish. I knew I wanted to give the island a rustic patina, and this color was exactly what I envisioned.

Rustic Craft Room Island Final

 Thanks, Katie! For more colorful projects, visit Addicted 2 DIY.

DIY Outdoor Chaise

Made from little more than a few 2x4s and a bit elbow grease, this multifunctional outdoor chaise is a stunning style statement on any porch or patio.

Thumbs Up 2 x 4

DIY Outdoor Chaise

Inspired by a DIY conference, Amy of Her Tool Belt decided to try her hand at custom outdoor seating. After shopping smart for budget cushions and building a bench using altered plans from Ana White, Amy decided to up the ante and fashion a stylish, customizable chaise from 2x4s. Keep reading to see how her project became the perfect complement to her outdoor bench and small-space deck.

- Self-tapping screws (such as Kregg or Deck brand)
- Pocket screws
- Wood glue
- Sand paper
Cut the following lengths from 2×4’s:
- 2 – 25 1/2″
- 2 – 25″
- 2 – 23 1/2″
- 1 – 22″
- 1 – 18″
- 2 – 12 1/2″
Cut the following lengths from 1×4’s (furring strips)
- 4 – 25″


DIY Outdoor Chaise

Join the two 12 1/2″ legs with the 18″ piece using pocket holes,  2 1/2″ self-tapping screws, and wood glue.


DIY Outdoor Chaise
Next, assemble the back legs. With glue and 2 1/2″ pocket screws, join the 22″ piece to the two 25 1/2″ pieces at 12 1/2″ from the bottom. Attach a 25″ piece to the top of the 25 1/2″ legs.


DIY Outdoor Chaise
Attach the two 23 1/2″ pieces between the front and back legs. Secure with glue and 2 1/2″ pocket screws.


DIY Outdoor Chaise
Attach the 1 x 4’s to the top of the seat. The picture shows five 1 x 4’s but four are good enough. I used wood glue and 2″ brad nails. If you need extra back support add a 25″ board to the top with 2 1/2″ screws. After all of the glue dries, lightly sand and seal with Thompson’s WaterSeal. If you want to stain your project, Thompson’s also has all-in-one waterproofing stain in an either an aerosol can or by the gallon.

DIY Outdoor Chaise

 Thanks, Amy! To explore more DIY building projects, visit Her Tool Belt.

Pro Tips: A Tiny House Dweller Shares 7 Lessons Learned

Extra-small abodes—which can be had for a song—are becoming a big deal all across America. A builder and his wife who have embraced the movement offer advice on downsizing your load and designing your miniature dream house.

Tiny Home Living - Wind River Tiny Homes


The average American spends a third to half of his or her income just putting a roof overhead, so it’s no surprise that the tiny house movement has caught on in a big way. It sure did with Travis and Brittany Pyke of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Opposed to pouring thousands down the drain in rent, Travis—a carpenter and construction worker—built the couple a pint-size bungalow in 2013. “What other young newlyweds can own their own home without a mortgage?” wife Brittany enthuses. About a year later, Travis and two friends partnered up to launch Wind River Tiny Homes, creating downsized dwellings for others for prices starting at $40K. So exactly how tiny is tiny? Between 100 and 300 square feet for a trailer-ready home and 500 to 600 square feet for one with a permanent foundation. Because living large in a little space does require adjustment, we asked the Pykes to share their strategies for happily ever after in an itty-bitty abode.

Tiny Home Living - Travis & Brittany Pyke


Have Your Reasons
Tiny home living obviously demands dependence on a lot less stuff, but don’t think of it as giving things up. “Write a list of your life goals,” says Brittany. “Mine included being debt free by age 30 and having the freedom to travel. Knowing what your ‘big picture’ dreams are can help in the process of downsizing.”

Cut Back in Categories
You know you need to live with less, but where do you even begin? “Downsize in stages to prepare for a move into a tiny house,” says Travis, advising that you learn to live with less by cutting back on one type of item at a time. “For me, it was easiest to start with clothes; for you it may be kitchenware or office supplies,” he says. Starting with the easiest category will get you in a positive mindset when you succeed. “Take stock of each item, considering how important it truly is. If you haven’t used it in the past month, you don’t need it,” Travis says. “You will find living with less actually feels like more because you’ll actually use and love every item you own. No more junk. No more clutter.”

Tailor Your Home to Your Life
As with building any house—but particularly when you design a tiny home—every nook and corner, material, and design needs to work for you. The two most crucial considerations: lifestyle and location. “Where do you spend most of your time?” Travis asks. “Do you cook and entertain a lot? Do you want storage for a certain hobby or collection?” Knowing your needs and desires will let you allot appropriate space in your home. Location then dictates things like insulation, windows, utilities, and overall materials used. “For example, a tiny home in Vermont could have closed-cell spray foam insulation, strategically placed windows that allow heat from the sun to come in, durable siding, and fixtures like a wood stove,” Travis says. “A tiny home in Florida could have lighter-toned siding to reduce heat, solar panel installment, and more outdoor living space.”

Tiny Home Living - Lofted Bed


Stay Space-Smart
The key to designing a tiny house is to eliminate dead space. Almost every nook and cranny can squeeze in some sort of cubby storage or a shelf. “You can also get creative with functional shelving, such as a bookcase that also doubles as a ladder to the loft,” Travis explains, “or a shelf-table that hinges down against the wall to provide space for entertaining. And as long as you don’t compromise your insulation, you can even build things like a spice cabinet or a drop-down ironing board between wall studs.”

Understand Your Utilities
Most tiny house plumbing operates just like that of a typical home, minus how the water hooks up and goes out. “The hookup can be as simple as attaching an RV hose to an external spigot and screwing it into your tiny house,” Travis says. “A composting toilet eliminates ‘black water’ or, if your zoning allows, you could make your own gray and black water leach field.”

HVAC options vary and tend to depend on climate. “Propane and gas heaters are very efficient, and you can find aesthetically pleasing units, such as those made for sailboat cabins,” says Travis. “For cooling, you could have a typical window air conditioner, a mini-split system, or simply strategically placed screens and fans to keep a nice airflow going.”

And speaking of small stuff, the average utility bill for a tiny home ranges from $30 to $50—electric, water, sewage, just about everything but your cable and Internet.  “I wouldn’t have been able to start this company from its bootstraps if I didn’t have minimal financial obligation each month,” Travis says.

Find a Place to Call Home
One of the big hurdles in the tiny house movement is—literally—where to live. “Zoning in some places is completely against it, yet in some cities there are ways around the zoning to make it legal,” Travis says. “What’s exciting is that smaller towns and cities—including Spur, Texas, and Walsenburg, Colorado—are restructuring zoning codes and labeling themselves tiny-house friendly.” Wind River Tiny Homes is also working to establish tiny home communities in both urban settings and rural settings. “We are passionate about creating legal spaces where ‘tiny housers’ can park their dream homes and live in a like-minded community,” Travis says.

Enjoy the Closeness
Tiny home enthusiasts find privacy overrated: “I believe our marriage is richer because we can’t hide in another area or floor of our home,” Brittany says. “We face small disagreements as they come, and our communication is enhanced. And although we both value ‘me space,’ mine is simply a chair in a corner of our tiny home, where I can curl up under my favorite blanket with a good book.”

Tiny Home Living - Small Kitchen


How To: Build a Cinder Block Wall

A well-constructed cinder-block wall can bring privacy, security, and visual interest to your landscaping. Although building a wall is a challenging project, it's one a determined and conscientious DIYer can tackle—if armed with these detailed instructions.

How to Build a Cinder Block Wall


Privacy, safety, security—these are only a few of the reasons that homeowners build solid, durable garden walls. Although it’s immensely satisfying to construct one, it’s certainly no easy feat. If the average do-it-yourself project takes only part of a day and minimal heavy lifting, then, well, this isn’t your average job. That said, with careful planning the process can be straightforward, and the project is certainly within reach—provided you have the strength to lift and place 30-pound cinder blocks. Of all the skills involved, working with mortar may be the most challenging, as doing so calls for some technique and finesse. But no matter your skill level or experience, these step-by-step instructions from QUIKRETE® can help you transform a pile of cinder blocks into an attractive, lasting element of your hardscape. Before reading any further, however, it’s critical to note that every block wall, structural or not, requires a solid footing. As there are varying definitions of what constitutes a building code-compliant footing, the following instructions assume that an inspection-ready foundation already exists. If you need help understanding the relevant building codes in your municipality, be sure to contact a contractor, inspector, or code enforcement specialist.



How to Build a Cinder Block Wall - Mortar Mix


- QUIKRETE® Mason Mix Type S
- Cinder blocks
- Line chalk
- Plastic mixing tub or wheelbarrow
- Mixing hoe (or electric drill with paddle mixer)
- Masonry brick trowel
- Mason’s line
- 4′ level
- Measuring tape
- Jointing tool



How to Build a Cinder Block Wall - Prep Layout


Start by simply laying out the cinder blocks for the first course of your wall. The goal here is simple: You’re determining the number of blocks necessary for the desired wall size. As you place the blocks, remember to leave a 3/8-inch gap between each one. These gaps are stand-ins for the 3/8-inch mortar joints that will appear in the finished wall (not only between each block, but also between each course). You may already know that cinder blocks are sold in nominal dimensions that assume the presence of, and take into account, a 3/8-inch mortar joint. So, though the standard block may be billed as 8″ x 8″ x 16″, it actually measures 7-5/8″ x 7-5/8″ x 15-5/8″. As a result, as you’re figuring out the number of blocks you’ll need for the base course, it’s essential to accommodate for the space to be filled in with mortar. A 3/8-inch-thick plywood scrap can help you make each gap precise and uniform. Once you are satisfied with the dry fit of your base run, snap a chalk line on either side of the blocks to serve as a reference. Then, once you have removed the blocks from the footing, you are ready to begin in earnest.



How to Build a Cinder Block Wall - Mortaring


It’s time to prepare the mortar. For cinder-block walls (and brick walls too), choose QUIKRETE® Mason Mix Type S. Forgiving to those who are not experts in masonry projects, the QUIKRETE® preblended mix remains workable for a long period of time, with no sacrifice of the high-bond strength that yields a successful project. In preparing the mortar, pay close attention to the instructions printed on the package. There are only two ingredients—mortar mix and water; the trick is to strike the appropriate ratio between the two. After adding both ingredients to a wheelbarrow or mixing bin, mix them using either a mixing hoe or an electric drill with a paddle-type mixing attachment. Continue mixing until you obtain a consistency that can be easily troweled. Once the mortar is ready—and once you’ve dampened the surface of the footing—lay down a 1-inch bed of mortar along the chalk lines you snapped in Step 1. Finally, use your trowel to run a V-shaped furrow down the center of the bed of mortar; when you set the blocks onto the mortar, this furrow helps distribute the mortar evenly, forcing it to the edges of the blocks.



How to Make a Cinder Block Wall - Initial Corner


Now that you’ve applied the mortar bed to the footing, move on to laying down the first course of cinder blocks. Start at one end of the chalk outline you snapped in Step 1. Press the first block, a corner block, into the mortar. Be careful to create a 3/8-inch mortar joint on its underside. Don’t let the block slide out of place, as that could displace the mortar and upset the joint. Generally speaking, though, there’s no need to be gentle or painstaking when handling cinder blocks. Simply grab each by the sides and, looking down through the hollow cores, set the block in position. Because the corner block defines the vertical and horizontal level for succeeding blocks in the course, do take the time to double-check that the first block is both level and properly aligned. Once you’re satisfied, trim and remove excess mortar. Next, walk on over to the opposite end of the planned wall and, using the same technique as before, set down another corner block. Check its level and alignment, then trim away the excess mortar. Now, run a mason’s string between the two blocks to help you maintain uniform alignment as you add the rest of the course.



How to Make a Cinder Block Wall - Fill Blocks


With a block set at each corner, your next step is to fill in the middle. While for the corner blocks you applied mortar only to the footing, you’ll need to “butter” one end of each of the middle blocks to adhere it to the adjacent block. Do this by adding mortar to the flanges—the edges that jut out from the block’s body. Here’s how to do the buttering: Stand the block upright on one end. Then, with a loaded-up trowel, swipe down to leave a bead of mortar along each flange. (The mortar may not stick every time. If it falls off, start over with fresh mortar and try to push the material down on the inside flange edge.) You need to mortar only one end of the block, and you can ignore the web—the partitions between the hollow cores. But don’t forget to slice a V into the applied mortar with the tip of your trowel. Once you’ve done that, press the block into the mortar bed on the footing. As you do so, angle the block’s buttered end up against the flanges of the previously laid block. Check to make sure the block is level and flush with its neighbor. If so, proceed. Continue adding blocks in this way to complete the remainder of the course.



How to Build a Cinder Block Wall - Second Course


To begin the second course, apply a 1-inch-thick mortar bed along the top edges of the first. At each end of the wall, set an 8″ x 8″ x 8″ cinder block, smooth side facing out. Known as half blocks, these smaller blocks are used to create a running bond pattern that lends strength to the wall. (To continue the pattern, begin alternate courses with half blocks.) Once both corners are in place, run a mason’s line between them to serve as a height guide for the blocks to be added in the middle. As in the first course, butter the flanges on one end of each block you add to the middle. As you make progress and the wall begins to take shape, don’t forget to turn the mortar occasionally. This will help keep it workable for a longer period of time. Also, remember that all the mortar joints—beneath the blocks and between the blocks—must be 3/8-inch thick. When you reach the final course, rather than using standard or half blocks, consider using smooth-topped cap blocks for a finished look. Cap blocks are laid like any other block. Apply mortar along the top edges of the last course and then, after setting the corners, lay in all the side-buttered middle blocks.



How to Make a Cinder Block Wall - Jointing


At this point, even though the wall may appear complete, there’s still some work left to do. Inspect the mortar joints; once they have set up to the point at which you can leave a slight thumbprint in the material, proceed to “strike” them. To do so, run a concave jointing tool along each joint, compressing and smoothing the mortar, while removing the excess. Address the horizontal joints first, followed by the vertical joints. Working in that order allows any residual water to run freely down the wall. For best results, strike all the joints twice and keep the jointer wet as you work, dampening the tool if and when necessary.


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How to Build a Cinder Block Wall


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