The Outdoor Florida Aviary

If you’ve read any of this site you’ll know I have birds. I love birds. I have 10 as of this writing and will probably get more. I find they’re happier in groups. So I decided it was time for an outdoor aviary. Two main reasons- the indoor aviary is just a regular room and they’re destroying things that they originally didn’t touch.

If you’ve read any of this site you’ll know I have birds. I love birds. I have 10 as of this writing and will probably get more. I find they’re happier in groups. So I decided it was time for an outdoor aviary. Two main reasons- the indoor aviary is just a regular room and they’re destroying things that they originally didn’t touch.

A couple of notes before I show you what I’ve done-

Outdoor aviaries can be dangerous for the birds. Why? They are now exposed to bird eating animals and/or animals that want the bird’s food. As such, security should be high on your list. Since I am doing a dirt bottomed aviary (so I can plant plants more naturally), there is the threat of predators digging into the aviary, so the floor must be secured.

Because some birds are always in escape mode, a single door in the aviary can be a great way for escape. Most big aviaries have an intermediate door after the main door to provide a catch zone for any escapees. My intermediate area will be integrated in to my house since space is limited (at some point…).

Ok so here goes- I removed my hot tub from it’s deck and put up 4 4x4x8 posts to start and began excavating the ground to just below the deck supports. After this I laid down 1/2″ welded/galvanized screen on the bottom and secured it all the way around the base. This will prevent the birds from digging out and any predators from digging in.

Next I covered the screen and started on the “walls”. Because certain home improvement stores decided to stop carrying the good 4ft wide screen after I bought the last one I had to adjust the plan so that there were two panels on each side with a door between them and two panels on the end.

All the stages are below. The roof is built up with 2x6s with chip board on top and galvanized metal roof panels on that. Probably overkill, but we get some nasty hurricanes around here!

I added some rather tacky blinds to the outside for the winter. This helped keep the wind down and will help keep the sun from cooking them in the summers.

As always if you have questions please feel free to email me!

UPDATE! 2007-12-17

Rats found a way into the aviary! The house caught fire in April 2007 and I was not there regularly until November. After evacuating the remaining birds, I found holes in the floor (the 1/2″ metal mesh floor). I found and killed the offenders, but have not had time to fully explore the floor to see how they got in.

Recessed Shelving

I saw this idea in a wood working magazine. They were making use of the space under a stair case by making shelves and recessing them into the space under the stairs.I adapted the idea to put shelves into regular walls. The original reason for this was to cover a massively messed up wall patch job. We had a wall heater in the wall from the 60’s that had to go. Unfortunately to get it out required the drywall to be removed. This left a huge hole. The patch job that was done on it really sucked so I had to do something.

The first phase of the shelves is done, now I just need to get the actual shelves made.

Below are pictures of what I did:

Since the first hole was ‘pre cut’ I’ll show the second one that I did from scratch.

The first step is to get the drywall cut out. I matched the first hole from the heater. I kind of cheated by making the shelf only as wide as the space between studs. This has the benefit of being easier…

So after the drywall is gone I needed a 2×4 at the top and bottom in order to have something to attach the veneer to. I ended up with a cross brace in the middle so I cut the nails and used it as the bottom 2×4.

The next step is to prepare/cut/stain the veneer. I purchased 2 4×8 sheets of veneer that’s about 1/4 inch thick. I assembled the veneer from the back to the front. The back piece had to be held in by the sides and top because it’s against the drywall of another room. Nailing through it would ruin the wall on the other side.

I used brads for attaching the sides. The final pieces were the borders, they were attached with brads too.  The final step was filling gaps and putting quarter round trim in the back corners. Overall I think it came out rather well!

The Pond v1

Everyone needs a little pond in their yard. It doesn’t have to be big to take up a lot of your time but it can really add something to your yard. We built ours in ~2001.It’s about 4×8 and as you can see below pretty nice. It’s not as professional as one might like, but for quick and dirty it suits our needs.

We added the small stones and border about 1 year after the main pond. It all started with a kit that had a liner and crappy pump. I’ve since added a 1200gph pump to run the waterfall.

We added lillys to the main water and reeds to the waterfall. As you can see below we had a bloom. What a great looking flower!

Shortly after the lilly bloom we had some late night visitors. I came out one morning to find the pond water filled with what looked like, well, lets call them frog eggs. Shortly after we had hundreds if not thousands of tadpoles in the pond. We fed them for a while and they eventually turned into little frogs that took over the back yard.

See if you can find all the frogs in this picture:

These are some closeups of some of the babies while they still had tails and one of a juvenile that looks like a small version of the adult.

We found out that spashing water around the rocks isn’t necessarily a good thing. This is the pond in the fall of 2003. See the rocks? Yuck!!

We were able to get most of the crud off the rocks with a pressure washer. Well worth the effort to return the rocks to normal.

Above Ground Pool Plumbing

I had an above ground pool many years ago. It was a really nice 18′ round setup. The pump/cleaning setup however wasn’t real ideal. In fact it was cumbersome and a lot of times when setting up to clean the pool got you wet in the process. The first thing you’ll notice is that I’m *not* a plumber…

I decided to hard plumb the pump and filter. The stock setup they give you is cheap flex hose that really isn’t all that flexible and tends to restrict the flow a bit.

The hard piping was done to with the following goals in mind:

  • attach the vacuum hose without using the skimmer
  • be able to direct the water output through the vacuum hose to clear out any air in it
  • be able to hook all this up without turning off the pump (if you can turn two valves together so as not to block the water flow completely…)

What I came up with was 5 valves and a really cool solution.

Heres what they do:

Under the skimmer is a valve that turns off the skimmer.

After the pump is a valve to cut off water to the sand-filter from the pump (inconjunction with the skimmer valve this also prevents water from draining from the filter if you remove the pumps filter basket).

These valves together allow you to clean the in-line/in-pump filter without the water draining from the skimmer side or the sand filter side– essentially blocking all water to/from the pump.

The two valves to the right of the skimmer allow you to switch the cleaning hose (the pipe that goes to the right from the middle of the two valves) to either get water from the pool or put water in the pool from the sand-filter.

The valve at the top right of the picture cuts off the water flow to the water return (from the filter normally)

With this setup all of the original design goals were met.  A year or so after this was done I added some unions (the grey things on the pipes) to allow the easy disconnection of the pump from the system for maintenance.

Other views are below:

UPDATE! 7-8-09  Thanks to the many readers who have asked very good questions!  I have created the diagrams below to help clarify the plumbing/ water flow.  Let me know if I can be of any help!

tpoolschem tclearvacuumhose tusevacuumhose

Rolling Hot Tub

It all started one day at my brother-in-laws house….
ME: So, where’d you get the hot tub man?
B-I-L: From a neighbor
ME: What’d it cost ya?
B-I-L: Nothing, just had to roll it down here.
ME: You gonna set it up?
B-I-L: Na, too much work, the cabinet is rotted. You want it?
ME: (duh) YEAH!

So my wife and I commenced to hauling it sans the cabinet to our place for installation. My brother-in-law hasn’t seen it installed at my place yet, but I bet he’ll want it back….

This was a rather short installation process given that I did 99% of everything alone. It took me an evening to the tub hung and 4 days to plumb and do the whole deck.

Below is what I did. You can skip to the notes section here.

Here’s what I did:
I documented EVERYTHING mechanical on the old setup. Pix here:

It’s mine so now I have to move it… don’t have pix, but needless to say doing it in the dark with four people, my brand new-never-scratched-not-even-hauled-anything-yet-Truck didn’t help any. Again- I left the old cabinet behind and took the tub and all the plumbing/electrical.

Next you have to put it some where. I had an unused corner of the house that was perfect for it. Pix here:

The Actual Install…

I decided to “hang” the tub against the house. It really doesn’t hang, but it looks like it. It has support on the absolute bottom and lots of support on the sides. The bare frame looks like this:

Keep in mind, at this point things are VERY rough. I decided to use two of those “foundation blocks” to hold up a set of 4x4s. They handle the weight like a champ and there really wasn’t much prep for putting them down.

I did a temporary plumb-as-it-is water test to see where the leaks were and how bad the plumbing was. The leak was were where I expected it- the spot where I took out a jet…

Notice when I did the plumb-it-as-it-is test, the plumbing wasn’t very good. In fact it was SO bad that I had to replace the heater unit. The idiot that installed it GLUED joints DIRECTLY to the heater. I’m talking joints on joints on joints, no threaded joints in case you ever have to remove it!!! DUH! Cut one and you can’t get anything back together. Not to mention the fact that the inside of the heater was in horrible condition. Check the pix:

Now look at this one, you can really see how bad the heater was, look in the middle of the pic and look at all the turns the pipe made from the filter to the heater!!!!

So that was the original plumb job…geez. Now that the plumbing is setup for a basic test, one must do a temporary electrical next….So out comes the computer power cable, some wire nuts and some wire stripping.

Ok, so it all works now we have to do version 1 of the plumbing, finish the real-to-local-code wiring and finish up the deck.

The final electrical is in conduit, has a dedicated circuit out of the main panel (not a sub panel) and is covered:

I decided to do a two part deck, one around the tub at tub level and one on the ground around the tub and up to the back door. Deck one looks like this:

The bottom deck actually sits on the ground (using pressure treated wood). Pictures tell this part of the story, they are pretty much in construction order from left to right.

Now with an awesome deck, we need a hot tub. Since I replaced the heater I got a new controller too, this handles making sure the heater isn’t on when the pump isn’t etc. Well, the first heat up has taken over 48 hours and hasn’t made it above 90 degrees. I even put my 500 watt fish tank heater in there. Without that it wouldn’t have made it that far! See the heater:

So, a call the manufacturer is warranted. I already opened everything, checked voltages, checked to see that the switches that handle the heating element are working, making sure none of the safety switches are off etc, etc. I really think the only reason we got to 90 degrees was the fish tank heater!!!

After receiving a new heater via over night shipment (Thanks Spa Babes!), the new heater was installed and heating. 24 hours later we had a 105 degree hot tub- no fish heater needed!

Final Pictures!!


  • This one sounds like common sense, but don’t believe it. I had a really nice cordless drill with a DIY super amped battery for when the other two die. Dropping a cordless drill on accident or otherwise into water is BAD. While I was able to save it with some WD40, it only worked for a week after that and then totally shorted out- smoke and all. I did get a nicer drill, but dang it I liked my old drill!
  • It helps to have a somewhat portable saw mill. Mine is a radial arm saw. I prefer this for some reason over table saws for certain cutting.
  • Put valves and unions before and after the pump, heater and filter equipment!!!! If you need to change anything this will keep most of your water in the tub and allow you to disconnect the equipment without cutting the pipe! Unfortunately I was in such a rush to get this working I remembered to put threaded fittings on everything, but not valves or unions….(update: I finally put in unions and on/off valves, it took the replacement of the filter unit before I cared enough to do it, but maintenance is so much easier!)
  • Chemicals– I have never ever used chlorine in my pool or hot tub. It smells funny, bleaches your clothes and hurts your eyes. There are three alternatives that I know of right now. Bacquacil, SoftSwim (by BioGuard) and Clear Comfort by Omni. I am a Bacquacil defectee only because the dealer in the area is a total ass and has no concept of customer service (take note Bacquacil folks!!). So I switched to SoftSwim. SoftSwim like the other two is based on Biguanide. It is very similar to what is used to clean contact lenses. It is extremely easy on your skin, won’t bleach your clothes and won’t hurt your eyes. It has the same components as you’d find in chlorine pools: sanitizer, algicide and a clarifier/shock. It may cost a little more, but you’ll appriciate it I promise- especially if you have an above ground pool and or PVC piping- chlorine will eat your liner and dry out our pipes over time- Biguanide doesn’t harm plastics!

Economics of CFL

CFL- Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb. What is it? Basically it’s a fluorescent light, but much smaller and it includes the ballast for starting the bulb.

All the hub-bub about these new lights is totally deserved I think. They save energy and last longer. For example, you probably use mostly 40, 60 and 100 watt lights in your house right? Some burn for hours at a time (like the front portch). What if you could use 14, 20 and 32 watt bulbs respectivly and get the same amount of light? Think it would save you some money on your power bill?

The truth is that many folks are turned off by one thing- the initial investment of the bulb. I just went out and bought 9 CFL lights for my house. It cost me $82. Sound like a lot? Well, it is, but only up front. Over time they will save me money and not just from the power they use.

Did you know that in incandescent lights 90% of the power they use turns into heat? That means that only 10% of the energy is light. Why waste 90% of your lighting cost heating your house??? The CFLs will save you money on cooling because they’re generating less heat.

Most CFLs also put out more lumens (overall light) than standard lights. I don’t have the numbers off hand, but the quality of light in our bathroom where we had 4 60 watt bulbs was very yellow. We put in 4 16 watt decorative CFLs and not only is the bathroom brighter, but it’s a white light.

How long do CFLs last? A LONG time. Look at this table:

Hours 7,500 to 10,000

This table is typical for a 60 watt bulb. You’d need to replace that incandescent light 13 times to get the same life as 1 CFL. Keep in mind these numbers are optimistic and will vary. But even if you cut them in half, CFL is still on top.

Lets do some math. There is definitly a break even point for cost vs. savings. We’re not talking about saving hundreds of dollars, maybe just a few dollars a month plus the hassel of changing lights. Personally, I like keeping money out of the power companies hands…As for break even points- the more you use the CFL the more savings you’ll see. If you only use a light one hour a day, over the course of the year, you won’t see a savings…

For this VERY simplified example, we’ll use my front portch light. It runs about 12 hours a day and is on a light sensor. Power costs in my area are about 7.9 cents a KWh. (That’s adding the fuel and energy costs together.) So running it 12 hours a day, 364 days a year costs about $11.04 per year to run or .0303 cents a day. If I used a standard 100 watt bulb, it would cost $34.51 per year or .0948 cents a day. Ok, so there seems to be an energy savings. But that’s not the whole story. We still had to pay for the bulb. So, at about .37 cents for the standard bulb and $8 for the CFL we have some savings shifts. Keep in mind that you’ll need about 6 of the standard bulbs over the year. So, lets adjust the costs of the bulbs- $2.22 for the standard bulbs and $8 for the CFL. Next we’ll add the bulb cost to the energy costs and come up with $36.73 for the standard bulb and $19.04 for the CFL bulb. The savings by using the CFL turns out to be $17.69. Not too bad.

Now lets look at the bigger picture. Below is a table of more detailed info. Because of my kids, many of our lights run much longer than necessary. Because of this, the savings goes up. Basically, the more you use the lights, the more the savings. I figured this based on 10 lights (5 in the dining area, 4 in the bathroom and at least one in the kids room).

Incandescent Lights CFL
# of lights 10 10
Watts per light 60 16
Watts per hour 600 160
Operation Hours per day 6 6
Watts per day 3,600 960
Watts per 30 day month 108,000 28,800
KW per year 1,310 349
Power Cost to Operate Per Year $103.52 $27.61
0.2844 0.0758
Expected Hourly Life Per Unit 750 10,000
Cost Per Unit $0.37 $8.00
Expected # of Days of Operation 125 1,667
Number of incandescen lights needed to = 1 CFl 13 1
Total # of incandescent lights needed to = # of CFLs 133 10
Cost of light bulbs $49.33 $80.00
Total Cost Per Year $152.85 $107.61
Yearly Savings $45.25
Monthly Savings $3.77

NOTES ON TABLE- The table assumes that all the lights run for the same amount of time per day, every day all year long and is based on a 364 day year. The Power Cost to Operate Per Year is for all the bulbs combined. The Expected # of Days of Operation is for one bulb (and because we are assuming that they all run the same amount of time per day this should be the same for all of them…)

All of my examples up to this point have been centered around the cost savings over a one year period based on a certain amount of usage. The fact is that CFLs last much longer than that. If you ran one 24/7 it would last over 400 days, use it less and it lasts even longer!! So lets look at the same example as above not over a year, but over the 10,000 some odd hours that the light really lasts (or should anyway…).

Incandescent Lights CFL
# of lights 10 10
Watts per light 60 16
Operation Hours per day 6 6
Cost to operate for life of bulb $474.00 $126.40
Expected Hourly Life Per Unit 750 10,000
Cost Per Unit $0.37 $8.00
Expected # of Days of Operation 125 1,667
Number of incandescent lights needed to = 1 CFL 13 1
Total # of incandescent lights needed to = # of CFLs 133 10
Cost of light bulbs $49.33 $80.00
Total Cost per 10,000 hours $523.33 $206.40
Savings $316.93

You’ll notice here that the CFL should last around 1,667 days at 6 hours usage per day. Let see that’s about 4.5 years…and over that amount of time, you’d save $316.93.

If you’re trying to prove my math wrong, please try. Keep in mind that these two examples are based on two different methods, one on a years time frame and one strictly on hours. The cost differences you may see are because of this. For example, to run a CFL for 10,000 hours the total cost of the bulb and power is about $20.64. If you look at the cost of running a CFL for just one year plus the bulb cost it’s going to depend on the total number of hours you use it. If the hours used is 6 per day, the cost to use the CFL over a 364 day year is $19.04. Keep that in mind when you write me to tell me I can’t add….

Hopefully you can see that CFL lights do offer some savings, not just monetary. I know the up front cost is much higher (especially if you get the decorative or dimmable CFLs). But there are so many other things to consider. Most importantly you’ve got the numbers now so that you can decide what you want to do.

UPDATE- I did a cost justification write up for my former employer to see if replacing 73 incandescent lights that run 24 hours a day would produce savings they were willing to invest in….Here’s what I found out:

Incandescent Lights CFL
# of lights 73 73
Watts per light 100 27
Operation Hours per day 24 24
Watts Per Dat 175,200 47,304
Watts per 30 Day Month 5,256,000 1,419,120
KW per year 63,773 17,219
Energy Cost Per Year $3,75112 $1,012.80
Expected Hourly Life of Unit 750 10,000
Replacement bulbs needed 12 0.88
Capital Cost Per Unit $0.40 $8.99
Capital Cost of bulbs for 1 year $4.67 $7.88
Total Cost Per Year $4,092.17 $1,587.69
Savings Yearly $2,504.48

For a small business this stuff adds up! Hope you learned a little!