3 outdoor projects you can start...and finish...this weekend


Replacing porch decking is not a challenging task for any homeowner who's used a circular saw and a table saw, particularly if you have replacement boards milled to the same width as the originals. Just resist the temptation to cut out only the damaged areas. Short patches leave obvious and unsightly seams. Instead, follow the steps of This Old House technical editor Mark Powers, who installed only full-length boards on Brown's porch. The new vertical-grain Douglas fir blends perfectly with the old wood and, if given a coat of paint regularly, should survive at least another hundred years. Go to thisoldhouse.com for all the steps, shopping list, and tools list.


Ever since colonial-era homesteaders wove wattle garden structures from unbranched shoots of willow or hazel and set their peas to clamber over rows of tiny-twigged birch limbs, countless generations have used sticks to prop up their plants. Today, homeowners who want to combine beauty and ­utility can do the same. "Metal stakes and hoops may be practical," says Connecticut gardener Thyrza Whittemore, "but ­aesthetics are important, even in the vegetable garden." So she reaches for branches pruned in early spring-close at hand, easy to fashion to the right size, biodegradable, and free-to bring order to her beds. Read on to learn how she does it.


Dan Gibbon may have spent the last three and a half decades around Wisconsin's flat farmlands, but the lapping waters of Lake Superior, where he grew up, were always on his mind. So recently he got out the shovel and started making a pond. His wife, Gloria, had her doubts ("I wasn't that excited with the idea of digging up the backyard," she says). But her hesitance melted away when she saw the fruits of Dan's labor.

Dan's pond attracts birds, frogs, butterflies, and crickets (no mosquitoes, though, thanks to the moving water). It also attracts Dan and Gloria. The couple often sip their coffee there while watching the sunrise, and lounge by the gurgling water after dark. "My wife is actually really glad I did this," says Dan. "And so am I-it's so relaxing."

Now, we figure if a retired schoolteacher can build a pond in a weekend, so can you. So we asked This Old House senior technical editor Mark Powers to show you how to make the one you see here-just like Dan's. All you need is a shovel and a few materials, and before you know it, you'll have your own little "great lake" to enjoy. Here's how to do it.