Show Notes: Rub Some Dirt In It
Thank you for tuning in Get A Little Dirty! And check in next week for more cool tips!
Missed our live show? Don’t worry! Because we have a podcast of the show. It’s the same thing we aired on the radio, but ready for you whenever and wherever you are! Check it out here.
Christina Woerner Mcinnis, CEO and Founder of SoilKit, joined us to talk about the importance (and ease!) of soil testing. Take a listen to the whole interview below!
Steps to Simple Soil Testing:
- SoilKit provides all the supplies needed for a quick and easy soil collection.
- Your soil will be tested by one of the nation’s leading agricultural labs.
- We will process the lab report and provide easy-to-understand results with soil treatment recommendations to keep your lawn and garden healthy.
Why Do A Soil Test?
Like a blood test, a lab-based soil test measures nutrient levels in your soil and, based on decades of research on crop nutrient requirements, determines the exact amount of each your specific crop needs for optimal growth. The total amount of each nutrient you need depends on the size of your growing area.
SoilKit tests for:
- Buffer pH
- potassium (K)
- magnesium (Mg)
- calcium (Ca)
- boron (B)
- zinc (Zn)
- manganese (Mn)
- iron (Fe)
- organic matter
You’ve got questions, we’ve got SoilKit answers!
- What sort of recommendations do they make?
- SoilKit test results will make lime, sulfur, fertilizer, and other nutrient recommendations.
- How large of an area is the test valid for?
- SoilKit is valid for up to 10,000 square feet. Larger areas may require more than one test kit, and problem areas should be tested separately from otherwise healthy areas.
- Why is SoilKit different than a local extension office?
- After years of listening to customers in our partners’ landscape stores describe their experiences with extension office testing programs, we understand the frustration customers endure when they don’t know where to find their local extension office, don’t have the time to drive to the office, and are surprised with all the fees for what was supposed to be a “free” test. On top of all that, when test results finally arrive, they don’t make sense to the average homeowner or gardener.
- We created SoilKit to alleviate these frustrations. The kits can be procured online or in many lawn and garden stores. The registration process is all automated using scanning and satellite technology and processed online on desktop or mobile device. The postage-paid mailer can be dropped into your mailbox. The results arrive digitally via email within 48 hours of receipt at our lab. The report includes easy-to-understand recommendations distilled down the products and bag quantities needed for your crop, size of growing area, and type of crop.
Use code GOODSOIL at soilkit.com for $5 off your purchase!
7 Minutes, 7 Point Inspection and 7 Easy Repairs For Your Deck
Make your deck stronger and safer. Fix the 7 most common problems—missing lag screws, missing joist nails, rotting posts, weak joints, excessive wobble, missing flashing and weak railings.
It only takes a few minutes to check your deck for these problems and the fixes are usually pretty easy.
We’ll tell you the warning signs of a dangerous deck—and how to fix the problems. If you’re still not sure whether your deck is safe, have it inspected by your local building inspector.
Problem 1: No lag screws in ledger board
- The ledger board holds up the end of the deck that’s against the house. If the ledger isn’t well fastened, the deck can simply fall off the house. A building inspector we talked with said the most common problem with DIY decks is ledger boards not properly fastened to the house. For a strong connection, a ledger needs 1/2-in. x 3-in. lag screws (or lag bolts if you have access from the inside to fasten the washers and nuts) driven every 16 in. This ledger board was fastened mostly with nails instead of lag screws (and no washers).
- Starting at one end of the ledger board, drill two 1/4-in. pilot holes. Offset the holes so the top isn’t aligned with the bottom hole. Then drive the lag screws (with washers) using a drill and an impact socket (you’ll need a socket adapter that fits in your drill). Don’t countersink the screws—that only weakens the ledger board.
Problem 2: Missing nails in joist hangers
- Granted there are a lot of nail holes in a joist hanger—but they all need to be filled. Otherwise, the hangers can pull loose from the ledger board or rim joist. Deck builders sometimes drive a couple of nails into the hangers to hold them in place, then forget to add the rest later. This deck had only a single nail in some joist hangers. In other areas, it had the wrong nails. Joist hanger nails are the only nails acceptable. These short, fat, galvanized nails are specially designed to hold the hangers in place under heavy loads and resist corrosion from treated lumber.
Problem 3: Rotted posts
- Deck posts that rest directly on footings soak up water and then they rot, especially posts that aren’t pressure treated (like this one, which is cedar). As the post rots, it loses its strength and can’t support the deck’s weight. Newer decks keep the concrete footings a few inches above ground and use a special base bracket to keep the posts dry. Replacing a rotted post is the best solution. Before removing the post, be sure you have everything you need for the replacement, including a wedge anchor.
- Clear grass or stone away from the bottom of the deck post. Prod along the bottom of the post with a screwdriver or an awl. If the wood is spongy or pieces easily peel away, you’ll need to replace the post. Start by nailing 2x4s or 2x6s together to use as temporary braces. Place scrap wood on the ground for a pad within 3 ft. of the post being replaced, then set a hydraulic jack over it. Cut the brace to size, set one end on the jack and place the other end under the rim joist. Slowly jack up the brace until it’s wedged tight. Be careful not to overdo it. You’re just bracing the deck, not raising it. If you hear the joist boards creak, then stop. Then place a second brace on the other side of the post. (If you don’t have jacks, you can rent them.) Or you can set your temporary braces directly on the pads and drive shims between the posts and the rim joist.
- Mark the post location on the footing, then remove the post by cutting through the fasteners that tie it to the rim joist. Use a metal blade in a reciprocating saw (or knock out the post with a hammer). If there’s already a bolt sticking out of the footing, use it to install a new post base. If not, you’ll need to add a 3/8- by 4-in. wedge anchor. Do this by placing the post base at the marks where the old post sat, and then mark the center. Remove the post base and drill the center mark with a 3/8-in. masonry bit. Drill down 3 in., then blow the dust out of the hole.
- Tap the anchor into the hole with a hammer. Install the post base over the anchor. As you tighten the nut on the anchor, the clip expands and wedges tight against the hole’s walls to hold itself in place.
- Cut a treated post to fit between the post base and the top of the rim joist. Set the post into place and tack it to the post base with 8d or 10d galvanized nails. Place a level alongside the post. When it’s plumb (straight), tack it in place to the rim joist. Then install a connector and drive carriage bolts through the rim joist.
Problem 4: Wimpy post connections
- Ideally, posts should sit directly under the beam or rim joist to support the deck. If the posts are fastened to the side of the beam or rim joist, like the one shown here, the weight is put on the fasteners that connect the post to the deck. This deck had only three nails in the post—a recipe for collapse. Nails alone aren’t strong enough for this job, no matter how many you use. For a strong connection, you need 1/2-in.-diameter galvanized carriage bolts.
- Add two of these bolts by drilling 1/2- in. holes through the rim joist and post. An 8-in.-long 1/2-in. drill bit costs $10. The length of the bolts depends on the size of your post and the thickness of the rim joist (add them and buy bolts at least 1 in. longer than your measurement). We used 8-in. bolts, which went through two 1-1/2- in. rim joists and a 3-1/2-in. post. Tap the bolts through with a hammer, then add a washer and nut on the other side.
Problem 5: Wobbly deck syndrome
- If your deck gets a case of the shakes when you walk across it, there’s probably no reason for concern. Still, in some cases, the deck movement puts extra stress on the fasteners and connectors. Over time, the joists can pull away from the rim joist or ledger board and twist out of their vertical position, which weakens them. Fastening angle bracing under the deck will stiffen it and take out the sway. The braces are mostly hidden from view and let you walk on your deck without feeling like it’s going to fall down at any moment.
- Run a treated 2×4 diagonally from corner to corner, under the deck. Drive two 16d galvanized nails through the brace into each joist. If a single board won’t span the distance, use two, overlapping the braces by at least two joists. Cut the bracing flush with the outside edge of the deck,
Problem 6: Missing ledger flashing
- The area around the ledger board should be watertight. Even small leaks can lead to mold inside the walls of the house and, even worse, the house rim joist (which supports the ledger) will rot and the ledger will fall off. Stand or crawl under the deck and look at the ledger board. If you don’t see a metal or plastic lip over the top of the ledger board, add the flashing. Flashing was completely missing from this deck.
- To add flashing, first remove the deck board that runs alongside the house. If the boards run diagonally, snap a chalk line 5-1/2 in. from the house, then set the blade in a circular saw to the depth of the decking boards and cut off the board ends. (Replace the cutouts at the end of the job with a 5-1/2-in.-wide board installed parallel to the house.)
- For vinyl, wood or other lap siding, work a flat bar under the siding and gently pull out the nails. Insert the flashing behind the siding. If you have a brick or stucco house, you probably won’t see any flashing because the ledgers are often installed directly over brick or stucco.
- We used vinyl flashing, but you can also use galvanized metal or aluminum flashing. At each joist location, make a small cut in the flashing lip with a utility knife so it’ll lie flat over the joists. The rest of the lip should fit over the top edge of the ledger board.
- You should have flashing under the bottom edge of the ledger too. But since there’s no way to add it without removing the ledger board, run a bead of acrylic caulk along the bottom of the ledger board to seal out water.
Problem 7: Rickety railing posts
- Loose railings won’t lead to your deck falling down, but you could tumble off your deck. Railing posts attached only with nails are bound to come loose, and no matter how many new nails you drive into them, you won’t solve the problem. Instead, add carriage bolts. Measure the thickness of the post and rim joist, then buy 1/2-in.- diameter galvanized carriage bolts that length plus 1 in. Also get a nut and washer for each. Drill two 1/2-in. holes through the post and rim joist. Offset the holes, keeping one about 1-1/2 in. from the top of the joist and the other the same distance from the bottom (make sure to avoid drilling where a joist abuts the rim joist). Tap the carriage bolts through the holes, then tighten the nuts until the bolt heads are set flush with the post.
Guide to Buying USB Electrical Outlets
Now that you know you want to upgrade to USB outlets in certain areas in your home, here are some tips to take with you to your local hardware store when you’re ready to buy them:
Price and Quality
- Don’t go cheap on any electrical upgrades! Among the other more obvious negatives to opposing that rule, cheaper products typically consume more energy. Low-quality electrical products are simply never worth the risk, so don’t be overly swayed by saving $10 on a new USB receptacle.
- Avoid uncertified products. All electrical wall outlets, including USB, should be both UL certified and compliant with NEC code.
- Buy Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) products. (In a nutshell, this means: buy equipment that is designed for use with your device.) OEM products can also provide an added level of protection against a surge when your device is charging.
- USB receptacles come in two general designs: either they combine a120-volt outlets with two or more USB ports, or they have only multiple USB ports. Buy USB-only receptacles for a home office when the desk is near a regular outlet. For bedrooms, the combo USB outlet is more convenient for overnight charging.
- Look for USB outlets with sliding shutters that cover USB ports to keep out pet hair, dirt, and dust. Some covers are even designed so that the shutter trips a switch when you open it to power the USB outlet.
- USB outlets with on-off switches are also good ideas for areas in your home where they will be less often in use. You can save energy by turning off power to the outlet until it’s needed.
- Amperage is king, especially for newer devices; the higher the amperage, the faster your device can charge. Note: “amperage” is the strength of an electric current in amperes (or amps).
- The two ports you see in most USB outlets have different amperage. The port with 2.1 or 2.4 amps can more quickly charge newer devices (often, the other port is 1 amp; most devices will take longer to charge using this port, so it’s best used for overnight charging and for older devices).
- Be aware that USB-C is a new port standard that many of the latest devices now use.
- USB-C supports the faster USB 3.1 spec, so you may want to purchase a USB receptacle with ports for both the older standard (USB-A) and USB-C, and be ready for the future.
- USB-A supports up to 2.4 ampere (12 watts); USB-C supports 3 amps (15 watts), but this newer standard was designed with room to grow as bandwidth increases.
Keep in mind that most receptacles with multiple USB ports will have a total charging capacity of 5 amps max. Consider upgrading more than one outlet to USB if you need to charge more than one tablet in addition to phones. Many USB outlets cannot charge two tablets at the same time, for example, so adding multiple USB outlets in your home to handle the heavier charging load of different devices will make life easier for everyone in your busy household.
Get Those Bugs Gone!
Termites in garden soil, among other potential pests, don’t just impose a structural threat to your house. It also brings damage to the foliage not to mention the fact that your yard might be the place fueling the infestation. Since this part is exposed to natural elements, both harsh and friendly, a variety of pests can seek sustenance on the thick foliage or hidden crevices. So how can you prevent this from happening?
- Always trim the foliage
- Mow the grass
- Remove the trash from your garden
- Reduce the possible food source
- Let the natural enemies grow
- Use physical barriers
- Choose the right plants
- Consider using pesticides
- Coffee grounds are the best alternative
- Install baits
- Act on the first sign of infestation
April is National Digging Month
Spring provides a time when many people begin outdoor projects, including landscaping, and we want you and your family to take these important safety steps. National Safe Digging Month reminds us that calling 81l before any digging project is the safest way to avoid damaging your underground utility lines, which could lead to an inconvenient outage.”
A recent survey revealed that 19.5 million U.S. homeowners plan to dig this year for projects like gardening, installing a mailbox, and building a fence or deck, and 63 percent of those homeowners use the free Call 811 service before starting an excavation project. That leaves a significant opportunity to educate the remaining 37 percent who put themselves and their communities at risk by digging without contacting 811 beforehand to mark the approximate location of underground utilities.
Buried beneath the ground is an extensive network of more than 7 million miles of pipes, wires, and cables needed to transport natural gas, electricity, telecommunications, water, and sewage. When severe weather hits, underground natural gas distribution pipelines and other utility lines can be damaged by uprooted trees and shifted foundations. After the storm, call 811 to have the location of underground utility lines marked, as gas lines could become tangled.
Every day and especially during National Safe Digging Month, local utility companies encourage homeowners to take the following steps before any type of digging begins:
- Always call 811 a few days before digging, regardless of the depth or familiarity with a property.
- Plan ahead. Call on Monday or Tuesday for work planned for an upcoming weekend, providing ample time for the approximate location of lines to be marked.
- Confirm that all lines have been marked.
- Consider moving the location of your project if it is near utility line markings.
- If a contractor has been hired, confirm that the contractor has called 811. Do not allow work to begin if the lines aren’t marked.
- Visit www.call811.com for complete info.
~ Thank you~
A very special thank you to all of our callers! We live to answer your questions, so keep them coming!
Thank you to our Technical Support:
- Danny Bringer – Chief Engineer
- Carol “Remodeling Babe” Carey – Executive Producer
- Sam Reed – Associate Producer
- Rico Figliolini – Digital Master
“Rub Some Dirt On It” Show Notes for On The House with the Carey Brothers aired April 10, 2021.
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