Angle Grinder Uses

An angle grinder is actually a very useful home improvement too. Below are some things you can do with an angle grinder.


  • Use a wire cup brush to remove rust and caked-on cement and dirt from tools.
  • Use a wire wheel to remove paint

Cut bars, rods and bolts

  • Use a metal cutoff wheel to cut bars, rods and bolts
  • Use a metal cutoff wheel to cut off frozen bolts or screws

Cut tile, stone and concrete

  • Use a diamond wheel to cut through tile

Restore cutting edges

  • Use a grinding wheel to sharpen dull blades

Cutting out old mortar

  • Use a diamond tuckpointing wheel to grind out old, loose mortar

Straighten a Fence Post Using a Ratchet Strap

One of my fence posts on a rental property was leaning over due to the previous owner not securing it correctly in the ground. To make matters worse, I use the fence post to secure a ratchet strap attached to one of 4 corners of a sun shade. Since I didn’t feel like redoing the fence post, and since the back of my property is empty, government land beside a slough, I decided to just pull the fence post back into position using a ratchet strap. It was quick and easy and worked perfectly.

If you don’t feel like redoing a leaning fence post or need a temporary fix, here’s what you can do.


The steel stakes are actually designed for concrete forms.


  1. Using a sledge hammer, hammer the steel stake into the ground
  2. Screw the piece of 2×4 into the steel stake
  3. Drill a hole through the 2×4 and secure the eye bolt to it

  1. Screw the anchor point to the fence post
  2. Use the ratchet strap as shown in the picture above to pull the fence post so that it’s straight

Easy Ways to Cut and Patch Drywall

Let’s say you want to install a bath exhaust fan in a bathroom that doesn’t have one. You’ll need to cut the wall or ceiling where the fan will go and you’ll also likely need to make holes in the wall or ceiling to run electrical wiring.

In the photo above, you can see that I made two types of openings:

  • Circular opening
  • Square opening

Making a Circular Opening

For the circular opening, I just used a hole saw attached to a drill. The benefit of this is it creates a clean, perfectly circular hole and you can reuse the cut drywall later to patch the hole. This type of hole can be made anywhere – it doesn’t need to be near or over a stud or joist.

Patching a Circular Opening

To patch a circular opening, I use a 1″x3″ piece of furring strip wood.

Partially drill a long screw in the middle of a piece of furring strip that is about 3 inches longer than the diameter of the hole. Insert the wood into the hole as pictured below. Then, drill 2 screws while pulling the long center screw so that the wood doesn’t move around. Now you’ve created a backing for the drywall to be screwed into.

Remove the center screw and screw the drywall into the wood.

Making a Square Opening

For the square opening, I like to use a reciprocating saw – specifically, the Milwaukee 12V mini cordless saw because it’s small and lightweight. Use a stud finder to find the studs or joists and draw an outline of the square you want to make such that the square (or rectangle) goes to each stud or joist. Then, try to make a clean rectangular cut so that you can reuse the drywall.

UPDATE: With a reciprocating saw, you may accidentally cut some wires. An easier and safer way is to use a jigsaw with a shortened blade. Insert a blade into your jigsaw, extend the stroke as far as possible, mark 1/2″ or 5/8″ from the jigsaw shoe (bottom part), then, using a bolt cutter, cut to shorten the blade. Now, you can use your jigsaw to safely and easily cut drywall.

Patching a Square Opening

To patch a square opening, I use a 2×4 piece of wood to fur out the studs or joists to create a backing for the drywall will be screwed into. Pre-drive the screws into the wood a little bit and then clamp the wood to the joists to make fastening the wood piece easier. The 2×4 should be longer than the opening so you can position it such that the cut drywall will be level with the existing drywall when you go put it back in.

When you put the cut piece of drywall in the opening, if the four edges are not level with the four edges of the existing drywall, then you either must

For example, in the picture below, I folded the shims 3 times for a 3-layer thick shim.

If the edges aren’t level, the results will be very bad and you will have a hard time creating an imperceivable patch.

If you must eyeball the position of a 2×4, drill pilot holes first. If you don’t, the 2×4 would likely move a little when screwing a screw into it.

How to Build a Fence Frame

I recently had to rebuild a bunch of fences on a new rental property. As you may already know, the hardest part is digging the holes and building the frame. This article explains step by step how to quickly and correctly build a fence frame.

1. Run string from one end of new fence to the other end near the ground

In order for the fence to be straight, we need to make a straight line from both ends. Since we haven’t dug holes yet, we put the string near the ground so we can mark where we want the holes for the fence posts to go.

Nylon Mason’s line is thin and can easily break. Instead, you can use paracord.

2. Mark post hole locations

Depending on the existence of neighboring fences, we may or may not need posts at the ends. Mark where the post holes will go. Each fence panel between posts will be 8′ long. For marking the locations, you can use a wood stake, metal stake, flag stake, or spray paint. I prefer using flag stakes.

3. Dig fence post holes

Post type

Normally, people use 8′ long 4×4 pressure-treated wood for fence posts. If you do that, then the horizontal 2x4s (rails) will have to be toenailed into it or secured using metal brackets.

Toenailing 2×4 rail to fence post
Fence rail bracket

Either way, that’s a lot of work, especially if you later decide to make adjustments. Also, the wood can rot,weaken, and become warped over time. For these reasons, I just spend the extra money and buy steel fence posts.

The Postmaster 1-3/4 in. x 3-1/2 in. x 7-1/2 ft. Galvanized Steel Fence Post is $30 at Home Depot. These posts have holes along them for securing the rails.

Post hole diameter

The post hole diameter should be about 3 times the width of the post. Since the steel posts are 3.5″ wide, then the hole should be about 10.5″ in diameter.

Post hole depth

The post hole depth should be 1/3 to 1/2 the post height above the ground. Since we want our fence to be the standard 6′ tall, and the steel posts are 7.5′ long, we’ll make our holes 2.5′ deep.

Top of fence

The height of the fence post and the top rail above ground will be 5′. Therefore, the top one foot of the 6′ tall vertical fence boards will be above the top rail. The problem with this is the top one-foot portion of the fence boards can warp.

To fix this, you can screw a horizontal piece of wood (2×3 or 2×4) at or near the top of the fence boards on the side where the fence rails are.

Soak the ground

Before digging holes, you’ll want to soak the ground, preferably overnight. This will make it much easier come time to dig. The deeper you dig, the harder the soil. You can dig a small hole first using a hand digger.

Or, preferably, you can just use a jackhammer with a spade bit.

Digging tool

To dig holes, the easiest and cleanest way is to use a gas-powered earth auger. You can rent one from the Home Depot ($55 for 4 hours). You can choose from a variety of auger bit diameters. Choose a 10″ or 12″ diameter auger bit.

When you are digging, if you can’t dig any deeper, then stop and pour water into the hole and let the water drain. You can then dig again.

You may run into roots and rocks while digging with the auger. In this case, you’ll need to cut the roots using a reciprocating saw or break up the rocks using a jack hammer.

4. Tie a string to both end posts

Now that you have 2.5′-deep holes, you can insert the steel posts at each end. Tie string or paracord from one end post to the other both near the bottom and top of each post. In the photo below, there are a total of 3 posts and 2 string lines connected to each end post.

5. Plumb and brace the posts

Adjust the position of each post using a fence post level and check for plumb.

To hold the posts in place, if the surrounding ground is dirt, brace them using stakes. I prefer hitting a 2′ long steel stake straight into the ground and then screwing a piece of wood horizontally between the steel stake and the post. The steel stakes are pre-drilled. There should be two braces perpendicular to each other to hold the post plumb.

6. Mix and pour concrete

Buy fence post concrete.

Pour half the bag of concrete in a 5-gallon bucket, add water, and mix using a special mixer for concrete.

The mixer I use is a 2-gear mixer shown below. The first / low gear is for mixing concrete. It has high torque and low speed which is what you want. If you use a high-speed mixer, the concrete mix gets everywhere, creates a mess, and can crack the bucket. I find this particular mixer to be perfect for mixing concrete.

The consistency of the mix should be watery but not too watery. You should be able to pour the concrete mix straight out of the bucket. If you can’t pour the concrete mix, then you need to add water.

7. Add concrete to the middle posts

Now that the 2 end posts are done, add concrete to the middle posts. If you haven’t braced the middle posts, that’s fine. Once you add some concrete, you can position the posts while the concrete is still wet. Make sure the middle posts touch the top and bottom string lines to ensure a straight fence.

8. Add horizontal fence rails between posts

Once the posts are secure and the concrete is dry, measure how high you want the horizontal rails to be. Then, add clamps to the posts. The clamps will hold the rails in place before you’ve had a chance to screw them to the posts. Secure a level to the top fence rail

9. Cut posts

Cut the top portion of each post using a reciprocating saw with metal blade.

10. Screw rails into the fence posts

Improve Internet / Wifi Throughout House Using Existing Coaxial Cable (MoCA)

So, in my 2 story house my internet modem is in the family room in the back of the house. The internet comes over coaxial cable by Comcast xFinity 1Gbps. There is a security camera at the front of the house facing the driveway. Every now and then, the security camera would go offline. To spread wifi all over the house, I have the tp-link deco M9 plus AC2200 mesh wifi router (3 wifi access points). The backhaul between access points is wifi, unfortunately. I can’t have a wired ethernet backhaul between access points because running ethernet cable would require opening up walls which is a lot of work. Fortunately, however, there is existing coaxial cabling throughout the house. So, I can use MoCA (Multimedia over Coax Alliance) adapters to bridge ethernet over coax so I can have a wired coax backhaul between access points. This allows the wifi signal at each access point to be much stronger than with a wifi backhaul. There are many diagrams and tutorials online but none that I found were clear enough hence this blog post. Below is my setup with a diagram which should make it clear what goes where.

Now, if you don’t know whether some cables are connected or not, you can trace them using a continuity tester. I used the Klein Tools VDV512-101 Explorer 2 Coax Tester Kit, Includes Cable Tester / Wire Tracer / Coax Mapper with Remotes to Test up to 4 Locations ($27 on Amazon)

The continuity tester doesn’t work through splitters. Once you’ve tested all cables, you can label them in your junction box like I did below. As you can see, there is a 1 – 2 splitter where the one input is the coax cable from xfinity. The two outputs each go to the master bedroom and family room.

I added a new coax cable to go to the garage but it’s not connected in the picture because I need to add another splitter or replace the existing splitter with a 1-3 (or more) splitter. For MoCA to work, you need a splitter that

  • is not amplified
  • goes up to at least 1.5 Ghz (1500 Mhz)
GE Digital 4-Way Coaxial Cable Splitter, 2.5 GHz 5-2500 MHz

Before and After



Powerline Adapters

You can also bridge ethernet over your home’s existing electrical wiring using Powerline adapters, e.g.

TP-Link AV600 Powerline Ethernet Adapter(TL-PA4010 KIT)

However, these adapters don’t work if there’s a surge suppressor. Also, there’s a lot more activity in your home electrical wiring that could interfere with the signal, e.g. from the refrigerator, hair dryers, air conditioners, washing machines, and other appliances.

Replace Ugly Grass With Concrete

At one of my rental properties, I had some really ugly grass on the on both sides of the property and a jungle of weeds in the back. The space was wasted because not could or wanted to use it.

The previous owners (investors) didn’t want to / know how to maintain the property so I was able to buy it from them at a discount.

I decided to replace most of the grass (weeds) with concrete indicated in neon green below. I wanted the grass at the remaining areas indicated in dark green to be removed at a depth of 3 inches to place 3/4″ Ginger rock / Sonoma Gold rock. I also wanted to plant ten 15 gallon Italian Cypress trees along the eastern fence.

Here’s how the project went from start to finish.

Day 1: Hauling and Dumping Garbage

Loading debris into trailer using a wheelbarrow
Cutting old fence with a chainsaw
Preparing to cover the trailer before going to the dump
On the way to the dump
At the Lovelace dump in Manteca

Day 2: Removing Grass and Dirt

Before removing grass and dirt
Removing grass and dirt
Removing grass and dirt
Moving grass and dirt to trailer
After removing grass and dirt
Loading dirt in the back of the house into a power wheelbarrow
Moving dirt from the back to the front
Moving dirt from the back to the front
Loading dirt into trailer
Loading dirt into trailer
Loading dirt into trailer

Day 3: Removing Grass, Dirt, and Old Concrete Slabs

Removing old concrete walkway
Loading trailer with pieces of old concrete

Day 4: Installing Wood Boundaries

Hammering in wood stake into ground

Day 5: Pouring and Spreading Gravel

Pouring gravel (side yard)
Spreading gravel (side yard)
After spreading gravel (side yard)
Dumping gravel (front yard)
Spreading gravel (front yard)

Day 6: Compacting Gravel and Installing Rebar and Weed Fabric

Compacting the gravel
The wood form in which the concrete will be poured
Laying down rebar (not done yet)
Added weed fabric under wood borders so that weeds won’t grow along perimeter of concrete slab

Day 7: Finishing Rebar Installation & Watering Yard

Installing rebar in the front yard
Installing rebar in the side yard
Watering the yard

Day 8: Pouring & Finishing Concrete

Garage Organization

Let’s face it. Garages have been storage spaces rather than places to park your car. Here’s one approach to organizing your garage so that you can still fit your car in it.

1. Build a shelf

You can buy shelving, including heavy duty restaurant-grade ones with wheels which are expensive, or you can just follow the instructions at this YouTube video on how to make a simple set of shelves out of 2x4s.

2. Buy transparent plastic containers

These clear boxes from IKEA are great. They’re also cheap. You don’t need to buy the lid.

3. Buy zip loc slider bags

Slider bags are better because they are more secure. I use a few different sizes.

2.5 gallon
1 gallon
1 quart
12″ x 12″ bag – 6 mil thickness

Available on Amazon

4″ x 6″ bags 4 mil thickness

Available on Amazon

3″ x 4″ bags

Available at Walmart

4. Buy twist ties

Twist ties are very useful for tying up cables. Available on Amazon.

5. Place related items together

For example, the picture below is of a bin labeled “Fasteners” which includes nails, screws, bolts, etc. Loose items are placed in appropriately-sized bags. Others are just placed directly in the bin unless their box or plastic container is mostly empty in which case I’d transfer the contents to a bag to not waste space.

In the photo below, the bin is label “Plumbing”. Not everything needs to be in a bag, like the PVC glue. Loose items or small parts that go together with larger parts are bagged so they don’t get lost.

6. Label bins

You can label bins using a label maker. I wanted larger labels so I printed category names on white paper, laminated it, and bolted it to the bins.

By now, your garage should feel a lot bigger and you won’t keep buying things you already have and you won’t spend forever looking for things.

UPDATE: July 29, 2021

Instead of laminating printed sheets of paper, I found a simpler, more flexible solution. Just buy clear sheet protectors for 3 ring binders. $5.00 on Amazon for thin ones. $20 on Amazon for thick, 5.5 mil vinyl ones (preferred). Just drill two holes in the plastic bins where the 2 outer sleeve holes are and fasten using a small bolt with a washer. Then, print your labels and insert them from the side.

Dwarf vs Regular Italian Cypress Trees

I’m bad with plants, and you probably are too. Whatever I plant just seems to die. And even with Home Depot’s 1 year return return policy, who’s gonna wanna dig up and return a plant with its roots and all and dirty up their car to take it to the Home Depot for $50.

There is one plant (or tree, actually) that anyone (in California) can plant without worry of it dying. This set-it-and-forget-it tree is the Italian Cypress. There are so many great things about this tree, it’s no wonder it adds value to your property.

  • Fast Growing
    Tall trees are expensive. You can buy this tree short and the regular Italian Cypress tree will grow up to 3 feet per year.
  • Very Hardy
    The Italian Cypress tree is hardy (will survive) down to 10° F. Obviously not a problem in California where it seems to just get hotter and hotter every year.
  • Drought Tolerant
    With increasing temperatures and less rain in California by the year, water is becoming less available and more expensive. Some locations may even prohibit watering your lawn or garden during certain periods. This is not a problem with the Italian Cypress tree. I stopped watering mine and they still look alive and green.
  • Evergreen, Non-deciduous
    The Italian Cypress tree is an evergreen tree meaning that it’s green forever (all year long). It is non-deciduous meaning that it doesn’t lose its leaves for part of the year. This is great because it’s low maintenance. My neighbor’s trees are deciduous and every winter, their leaves dirty up my front yard and I have to clean it up. With the Italian Cypress tree, there’s nothing to clean up and it looks alive all year long – no temporary death!
  • Fertilizer
    The Italian Cypress tree doesn’t even need fertilizer. Just dig a hole, put the tree ball in, back fill, give it some water, and you’re done.
  • Readily Available
    The Italian Cypress tree is readily available at the Home Depot all year long. It’s also available at Costco for about half the price but Costco only has it in early Spring 🙁

Most places sell the regular Italian Cypress tree but there’s also a dwarf version. Here are the specs for each.

Dwarf Italian CypressItalian Cypress
Botanical NameCupressus sempervirens CompactaCupressus sempervirens
Deer ResistantYesYes
Drought TolerantYesYes
Mature Height7-9 ft. in 10 years
25-30 ft. at maturity
35-40 ft. in 10 years or
Trim to Desired Height
Mature Width2 ft.5 ft.
SunlightFull SunFull Sun
Growth Rate:SlowFast
Grows Well In Zones:7-10 outdoors7-11 outdoors
HardyDown to 10° FDown to 10° F

Planting and Care for Dwarf Italian Cypress Trees

1. Planting: First, select a location with well-drained soil and full sun – any area with 6 to 8 hours of sunlight is ideal.

When you’re ready to plant, dig a hole that’s about one and a half to two times the size of your plant’s root ball, place the Dwarf Italian Cypress in the hole, back fill the soil and water to settle the roots.

2. Watering: Once established, your Dwarf Italian Cypress is moderately drought tolerant, but it’s important to have a regular watering schedule for the first couple of growing seasons. Water about once weekly or check the surrounding soil near your Cypress – if the surrounding soil is dry about 2 or 3 inches down, it’s time to water.

3. Fertilizing: Apply a well-balanced, general purpose fertilizer to your Dwarf Italian Cypress in early spring, before new growth begins.

Planting and Care for Regular Italian Cypress Trees

1. Planting: Italian Cypress Trees are drought tolerant and like to be on the dry side, so choose a location with full to partial sun (4 to 8 hours of sunlight daily) in well-drained soil.

Then, dig a hole that is just as deep but twice as wide as the root ball of the plant. Place the plant in the hole to check the depth. If the soil of the root ball is below the level of the soil of the surrounding ground, pick up the tree and add more soil to the hole. Fill in the hole with the same native soil you removed then water the tree by counting to 20 or by giving it five full watering cans full of water.

2. Watering: Irrigate your newly-planted tree twice a week for the first month, once a week for the next two months and every two weeks after the first three months. Water your Italian Cypress if you have warm, dry, and windy weather during the winter in your area.

3. Fertilizing: This tree isn’t fussy about soil. It grows equally well in clay, loam, or sandy soils. It also does not need routine fertilizing.

Pictures of Dwarf Italian Cypress Trees

Pictures of Regular Italian Cypress Trees

Tool Portability and Organization

Let’s say you want to do some home improvement somewhere besides your, e.g. at one of your rental properties. You may be tempted to just bring a few tools related to the job you’re going to work on. What often happens, though, is you end up realizing you need another tool that you didn’t expect to need. Once you do that a few times, you then realize you need a way to just bring ALL your tools so you don’t waste time going back and forth. But how can you bring all your tools? Below is how I bring most tools to a remote worksite. I find this setup works very well.

Heavy Duty Stackable Tool Boxes with Wheels

There are many toolboxes on the market but some are overpriced. I went with the Ridgid ones below.

In the photo above, I have stacked four boxes. The problem, though, is the handle is below the top-most box and it tends to hit your hand which is painful. So, I just stack 3 boxes and the small parts box is lightweight enough to carry by hand.

Following is a description of each box.

Small Parts Box

Unlike other small parts boxes, this one has a robust locking mechanism so when you carry it around, the latch doesn’t accidentally open and spill all your parts everywhere.

I only put the parts I use the most like

  • screws in various lengths (T-25 star head in lengths 1-1/4″, 1-5/8″, 2″, 2-1/2″, 3″)
  • drywall screws
  • various metal screws shorter than 1-1/4″
  • zip ties
  • metal washers
  • Wago wire connectors (better than wire nuts)
  • plastic wire clamps in 3 different sizes
  • plastic ribbed drywall anchors
  • rubber bands
  • etc

For small or few items, I put them in 4 mil 4″ x 6″ clear zip lock bags.

Using a label maker, I label the screws by length.

For the plastic basket, I use this for long items like the 2′ long level and for items specific to a particular task, e.g. if I’m building a new fence, I put string, plumb level tool, knee pads, etc.

In the toolbox below, I put various small tools grouped by category in 12″ x 12″ 6 Mil Zip Lock clear bags. These are relatively thick plastic bags so they don’t puncture easily. In the tray, I put things that don’t fit into the other categories, e.g. because they are too long. The categories of items are

  • electrical (wire stripper, multimeter, outlet tester, voltage sensor, voltage tester, small pliers)
  • reciprocating saw blades
  • writing (pencils, markers, pencil sharpener, eraser, pen)
  • cutting (scissors, tin snips, utility knife, pvc pipe cutter)
  • gloves
  • various sizes of flathead screwdrivers
  • various sizes of philips screwdrivers
  • socket set and socket adapters
  • various sizes of chisels
  • various sizes of hex keys
  • measuring tools (hard tape measure, laser distance measure, angle measuring tool, soft tape measure)
  • various drill / driver specialty bits
  • various angle grinder blades and attachments
  • various mini circular saw blades
  • stud finders (magnetic, electrical)
  • various oscillating tool attachments
  • various wrenches

The bottom-most box that has the wheels is used for power tools and a few other tools.

  • hammer
  • sledge hammer
  • rubber mallet
  • paint stirrer
  • drill
  • driver
  • reciprocating saw
  • oscillating tool
  • angle grinder
  • orbital sander
  • mini circular saw
  • jig saw
  • clamps

Easily Add Exterior Outlets To Your Home

Many homes come with one or, if you’re lucky, two exterior outlets. Depending on the shape and layout of your house, this may not be enough. You can pay someone to add exterior outlets but that could be pricey. Instead, here’s a simple way to add exterior outlets using components rated for outdoors.


Leviton 15 Amp 125-Volt Duplex Self-Test Tamper Resistant/Weather Resistant GFCI Outlet – $19

Cantex 1-Gang FSE Electrical Box – $7

Note that this plastic electrical box only has an opening on one side unlike others that have a open on the top and bottom. Since we don’t water to get in, we use this single hole box and install it such that the hole is at the bottom.

1-Gang Extra Duty Non-Metallic While-In-Use Weatherproof Horizontal/Vertical Receptacle Cover with Wasp Guard – $9

Gardner Bender 3/8 in. 1-Hole Plastic Cable Clamps – (15-Pack) – $1

HDX 50 ft. 16/3 Indoor/Outdoor Landscape Extension Cord, Green – $15


One exterior outlet

  1. Cut off the female end of the extension cord,
  2. strip about 3 inches of the green outer jacket to expose the 3 wires (green, white, black) inside,
  3. strip 1/2″ of the 3 wires and screw them into the appropriate terminals on the outlet.
  4. screw the outlet into the electrical box
  5. screw on the outlet cover
  6. if you have an existing exterior outlet, you can simply plug the other end (male end) into that outlet. Otherwise, you can cut off the male end, drill a hole through the exterior wall where an interior outlet is and connect the wires to the interior outlet. WARNING: Turn off power to the interior outlet before doing this to avoid electrocution and a short circuit.
  7. Secure the extension cord to the exterior of the building using the cable clamps. Or, bury the extension cord under dirt or rocks. Or, put the cord into a gray outdoor-rated PVC pipe and clamp the pipe using the gray plastic clamps.

Two exterior outlets in series

In this case, one of the electrical boxes will have two extension cords coming into it as shown in the picture below.

In this case, strip the wires again and connect them as usual. The outlet I’m using supports two wires for each black and white terminal so that was straightforward. The green (ground) terminal, however, only support one wire so I made a jumper wire, connected it to the green terminal, then connected the 3 open green wire ends to a 3-terminal Wago connector as shown below.