Mosaic Garden Table

I made this mosaic coffee table for my terrace out of an old cable reel and some bathroom tiles.

First I made sure the reel was free of dirt and dust.

Then I started laying out the pattern. It took quite a few attempts until I was happy with the final design. I took picture, emailed it to myself and had it on my PC screen, so I would remember the pattern. Then I took all tiles off again and started glueing the tiles one by one, starting from the inside and working my way to the outside.

Once the glue was dry, I mixed up the grouting according to the instructions and applied it all over the mosaic. I just used my hand instead of a sponge or scraper, as I found it easier to get the grouting in all the gaps (make sure to wear a rubber glove as the grouting is very abrasive).

After 5-10 minutes, wipe off any excess grouting with a damp sponge. Especially between the smaller tiles, so that the whole tile comes out nicely.

After another 5 minutes you can wipe away all dust from the tiles with a dry soft cloth.

After 24h give the table a good clean with glass cleaner or bathroom cleaner to bring out the shine of the tiles.

Palett Garden

For this project I used an old shipping palett and turned it into a vertical garden. I planted mainly evergreens, succulents and shrub, but you can also turn this into a flowering garden or even a vegetable patch. If you are planting edibles, just make sure the palett has not been pressure treated and use only eco-friendly varnish. The reason why I chose mainly perennials is that I want to use the palett garden as a feature all year round. In the top row I planted some herbs as they can be easily removed and replaced.

There are a lot of very useful intructional videos on YouTube, but here is how I built my garden :-)

For this project you need:

  • old shipping palett
  • sandpaper
  • varnish
  • a roll of membrane (the ones to keep out weed - it’s important that it lets the water through)
  • staple gun and staples OR hammer and nails
  • plastic sheet (I used a bin bag)
  • plants 

First you need to check the palett for any damage. If you don’t mind it looking rustic, you don’t need to over-fix it. Just make made sure all the planks are securely attached and hammer in any loose ones.

Then sand it down with rough sandpaper to get rid of any splinters or small bits of wood sticking out. 

Apply your varnish according to the instructions. I used linseed oil, but you can use any varnish suitable for outside use (for example for a fence). 

This step is optional: some people will prefer to leave the front open and plant the palett tightly with plants. I preferred to add membrane over the openings in the front. I would later cut small holes in it and feed though the roots of the plants. That way the soil will not fall out so much.

When you add the membrane make sure you secure it very tightly! 

Then do the same for the back, sides and bottom of the palett. Again, secure the membrane very tightly to keep the soil in place. For this step, use two layers of membrane.

After that, I added a piece of plastic (I used a bin bag) to the back, as I wanted to lean it against the wall (to protect the wall from any water that may leak through the membrane).

Once you have prepared your palett, you should chose its ideal position and think about how you want to fix it. It will be too heavy to manouvre around once it is full of soil, so think about this step carefully.

The next step is to fill the bottom with some small rocks or pebbles to facilitate drainage. I also put some small stones under the palett just to slightly lift it off the ground.

Now you are ready to add your plants :-) Add soil and really pack it in - this is very important! I used an empty bottle to reach the bottom of the palett for the first layer. Then cut a small hole in the membrane and feed through the roots of your plant. Add soil, pack it in and continue like this.

Make sure you place plants that need a lot of water towards the top.

To water my garden I just spray the plants with the hose.

Old Fire Extinguisher Restoration

I found this old copper fire extinguisher in my uncle’s garage. It had been sent to him by his brother from New York. It was used by the New York fire department in the 1940’s. It was pretty dirty when I found it, as it had been in his garage for over 10 years. The lid was pretty much black!

I decided to try the “lemon and salt” technique on it first. Basically, you cut a lemon in wedges and dip it in fine grained salt (don’t use coarse salt as it will scratch the copper), and then just rub item with the lemon.

The dirt was coming off quite nicely and soon the copper was shining through.

The process was of course quite slow, so I decided to rub the whole fire extinguisher with the lemon juice and let it sit for a little while (about 30 minutes).  A lot of the dirt just ran off with the lemon juice. However, the result was quite streaky. 

In the end I packed the fire extinguisher in the bathtub (putting an old towel under it so the bath wouldn’t scratch). I filled it with enough warm water to cover the fire extinguisher about half. Then I used one of my grandma’s “secret weapons” for stain removal: ox-gall soap! I just used a normal washing up sponge and the soap and washed away the remaining dirt. 

In the end I dried and polished it with a clean cotton cloth.

Winecrate Planters

I was given two wooden wine crates and decided to turn them into planters for my terrace. 

For this project you need:

  • wine crates
  • a drill
  • wood stain to weatherproof the boxes (not essential, but will improve the life of the boxes)
  • small pieces of wood or stones to stand the boxes on 
  • foil
  • staple gun and staples or hammer and nails
  • pebbles
  • soil
  • plants
  • (bamboo sticks)

First I removed all dirt and dust from the boxes, as they had been stored in a cellar for quite some time. Then I applied some wood varnish to weatherproof them. I used a clear varnish for wooden fences, as I didn’t want to alter the colour of the boxes.

Once the varnish was dry, I drilled several drainage holes in the bottom of the boxes.

In order to prevent the wooden box from rotting too easily I decided to apply a layer of waterproof foil. I’m not sure if it is neccesary but I wanted to make sure the planter will last me a few years. For the foil I just used the packaging of the soil I was going to put in the planter. I cut it to size and stapled it in place with a staple gun. If you don’t have a staple gun, you can also use small nails. Just make sure they are suitable for outdoor use, otherwise they will rust.

I cut some holes in the foil where I drilled the holes, so they are not covered. Then I added some pebbles to facilitate drainage.

Then you add the soil and plant your plants. For the small planter I went with strawberries and mint. For the big planter I chose a honeysuckle, a snapdragon and two smaller flowers (I don’t recall what they are called). For the honeysuckle I I also built a climbing frame from bamboo sticks. 

Make sure your boxes are raised from the ground so that the water can drain, I used some small wooden batons, but you can also use some stones.

Peppers and Chillies

In this project I’m trying to grow chillies and peppers from seeds. I just dried the seeds of some peppers and chillies I had for dinner one night and put them in some soil. I left them inside next to the window for a few weeks.

Once the chillies and peppers started sprouting I re-potted them in some old flower pots. I planted one to two plants per pot. During the day I put them outside, but at night I take them in. I put the pots on an old strawberry box, so I can just grab the whole tray.

Once they are big enough to be outside full-time, I will have to think about suitable containers for them.

I decided to go for some simple fruit/veggie storage boxes that you can get at any garden center. I varnished them and lined them with membrane. I planted 6 peppers/chilli plants per box and they seem to be quite happy :-)

The idea of Rooftop Projects is to create new things from items I either found or had lying around the house unused. With my projects I’m trying to keep costs to an absolute minimum by only using tools and materials that I already have at home. And where this is not possible, I buy materials from second hand shops.

How To....

……Cut Glass.

This YouTube video explains different ways of cutting glass bottles.

Brick Candle Holder

This is a candle holder I made for my terrace. It consists of an old brick that I found on a walk and some left-over candles I had at home. Since my terrace is quite exposed to the elements, I decided to also build a glass surround for it. You could easily use an old fish tank or similar if you have one. 

This project is pretty self-explanatory. You just need to make sure the holes in the brick are big enough for the candles, as there are different types of brick. 

If you want to build the glass case, just get four sheets of glass and glue them together with glass glue. In order to hold the pieces in place, rest them against a straight piece of timber or a wall and secure with tape. Once the glue is dry, you can remove the tape.

If you’re planning to use the candle holder outside, just make sure you keep it out of the sun during the day, as the candles will melt :-)

Bottle Candle Holder

I made this candle holder from a piece of timber that I found in the yard, as well as some empty wine bottles I had lying around in my recycling bin.

For this project you will need:

  • empty wine bottles
  • glass cutter
  • candle
  • piece of timber
  • sanding paper
  • drill
  • wood drill bits (hole saw)
  • chissel

Cutting The Bottles

Score the empty wine bottles with your glass cutter. Heat the score over the candle flame and then “shock” the glass under cold water. The top should now break off quite easily. 

This YouTube Video explains quite nicely how to cut the bottles. If you are cutting glass bottles for the first time, don’t expect it to work out the first time! You may need quite a few bottles for practicing until you find a method that works for you.

After you cut the tops of your bottles, you should smoothen the sharp edges with your sanding paper.

Drilling Holes In The Timber

Stand your wine bottles on the timber and draw a line around them with a pencil. That way you will know where you want your holes. 

Add the wood drill bit to your drill. You will get the cleanest results by making the holes with a hole saw that is just a bit wider in diameter than your bottle. However, these are quite expensive to buy, so I just used a regular timber drill bit, and drilled lots of smaller holes along the line. Then I chiseled out the “edges” with a wood chisel. 

Finishing Touches

Once you drilled all your holes, you can smoothen the timber with sanding paper and insert your glass bottles. I used a small electric hand sander, and also sanded along the edges of the holes, just to soften them a bit and make them appear a bit less rough. Then just insert your bottles and - voila!

All Lit Up :-)