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Wood works: 5 carpentry projects that will make your life a little better

Laura Firszt Networx.com
Telegram & Gazette

Who else loves to hear about carpentry projects and other home improvements that are life-changing in some small way?

Much as I enjoy stories of full-on renovations like kitchen remodels, I have a special fondness for simple improvements that make living in your home easier, neater and more comfortable. And carpentry projects seem to head this list.

Here is a perfect example: My neighbor had been bothered for years by a dining table which was just too cramped to accommodate her extended family. Purchasing the supersize table that she dreamt of was beyond her budget, though. So finally, she asked a local carpenter to come up with a solution. The ingenious result brought a little ease - and yes, joy - into her home.

Read all about her experience, plus four more carpentry projects. Whether you tackle them yourself or hire a professional carpenter as my friend did, they will make your home - and your life - a little better.

1. Tabletop. There’s no need to spend a fortune on a pricey new dining table when for a fraction of the price, you can build a new tabletop that fits right onto your existing table. This affordable, hardworking multitasker will provide you with extra space for seating dinner guests, cutting yards of fabric (any other sewing fans out there?) or putting together gigantic multi-piece jigsaw puzzles.

2. Mudroom Lockers. Setting up a mudroom is a fantastic first step toward taming the clutter monster that haunts many American homes. But next, you’ve got to find a solution to keep it organized. How about building handsome wooden lockers sized to fit your mudroom or foyer? Give each household member their own personal storage space to stash, coats, bags and boots out of sight.

3. Drop-down counter. Okay, you’ll find a lot of solutions online for a shortage of storage, but let’s address too-skimpy counters. While adding an island is one possibility, it won’t work when your room is seriously cramped for space. Instead, craft a drop-down counter (using foldable shelf brackets) to give you the extra surface you need to prep holiday meals, sort clean laundry or set up a mini work-from-home office. Fold back up against the wall when not in use.

4. Deck gate. Protect small children and pets on your deck without sacrificing outdoor style. Install a latched safety gate at the top of the deck stairs, custom-designed to coordinate with the railings of your deck. (If you space the crossbars extra closely, this type of gate is also good for keeping pesky neighborhood cats and raccoons out.)

5. Roll-able privacy screen. Building a privacy screen is a practical carpentry project that can also be a lot of fun, mainly because there is such a plethora of possibilities. Buy new lumber or upcycle old pallets and secondhand doors ... be creative! Then mount the results on wheels, if you will, for a movable privacy screen that you can roll to the spot that, well, hits the spot.

Tips for DIY carpentry projects:

- Start simple. Wall shelves are a great beginner woodworking project; so is the fold-down counter described in No. 3, above.)

- When natural wood is out of your price range, purchase less expensive MDF. Or pick environmentally-friendly reclaimed wood.

- If you do decide to go ahead with natural wood, incorporate a live edge where feasible. The result will be modern and distinctive.

- Be careful to use the proper grit when sanding. It saves time and makes for a perfect finish.

- Fasten with screws rather than nails (or glue). If you make a mistake, screws are easier to remove and won’t damage the surrounding wood.

- Use a good pair of clamps rather than just your hand to hold pieces together while bonding.

- Stain or paint your finished product to blend in with its surroundings.

- Make sure to seal any project that will be exposed to moisture.

Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.