Every year, when Sirius, the "Dog Star," appears in the night sky, it signals the official start of the "dog days of summer"-- 40 of the hottest, stickiest days of the year. They occur from July 3 through Aug. 15.
While we humans scurry indoors for relief from the heat during this time, pets don't always get to follow suit. If you have a pooch that could use a little protection from the elements, including rain and cold, as well as sweltering heat, consider giving him a true home of his own. Here's how to construct "Chateau Bow-Wow":
As with any construction project, the more preplanning and pre-approval, the better. Be sure to check local codes and rules before you begin.
Carefully plan the location -- considering things like natural shading (to reduce heat) and water runoff (to prevent flooding) -- and make a drawing to work from. This blueprint of sorts should also include the number and position of framing members. As rough as it might be, this sketch will serve as a helpful planning tool and shopping list at the hardware store.
Pre-construction pointers: Style the doghouse to mirror your home's basic look and design and overbuy by at least 10 percent quantities of materials you think you'll need. If you don't, inevitably you'll be making return trips mid-project.
A typical size for a doghouse is 4-feet by 4-feet. This size allows for dividing standard lumber and panels into equal pieces, without waste. A tiny dog or massive hound will require scaling up or down, but 4X4 will suit most.
For all framing, pressure-treated lumber should be used. It resists moisture damage and insects. The 48-inch-square floor structure needs two cross support joists at 16-inch intervals. It should be both level and elevated above ground at least 2 inches on bricks or concrete blocks, and can be erected over a same-size concrete pad. The actual decking should be half-inch plywood.
For the four walls, 2X2 framing can be used without problems -- again pressure-treated. Overall height and the entrance opening should be scaled specifically to your dog's size, allowing plenty of clearance for comfort.
All four walls should be assembled separately, using galvanized L-brackets, construction screws and-or nails. At this point and from now on, the help of a second person makes assembly much easier to manage. Fasten the four pre-assembled wall sections to the plywood-covered floor frame with screws (preferred) and-or nails. Tie the four wall frames to each other with more brackets, screws and nails.
The roof is the most difficult part. We suggest designing the pitch-and-gable "look" somewhat parallel to that of your home. Make one roof joist "V" and use it as a template for the remaining two. Once made, also plan some roof overhang (2 to 4 inches per side) for water runoff. Carefully measure and mark the "notches" where roof joists cross and rest atop the wall framing.
Once the three joists are constructed -- which is all you should need (vs. four in the floor to support your dog's weight) -- they should be tied together with a cross-member "spine" running below the peak to maintain equal spacing and notches, and attached to the wall framing with screws and-or nails.
Once the framework is complete, cover the four sidewalls and roof sections with 3/8-inch plywood. Always measure carefully before cutting your panels and -- for the two tricky triangle end gable roof cuts -- save yourself a big measuring-and-planning headache by first making a paper or cardboard template with a perfect fit. Then transfer its shape to your wood.
Use shingles or roofing that matches that of your home. Remember, lighter colors also draw less solar heat (for your home and theirs). Basic roof application techniques for whatever you choose can be learned by asking a few questions at your source of supply.
Finishing touches can be as spartan or lavish as you wish. We suggest adding wood trim around the entrance and painting the doghouse to match that of your own home. Inside, a few strategically placed drain holes are a good idea -- both for inclement weather and occasional "accidents."
Good ventilation up near the roof is necessary. If joints are tight, create a way for rising heat to escape freely. We've seen small operative windows, artificial turf carpeting and even a "porch" light. It's your call.
For more home improvement tips and information visit our Web site at www.onthehouse.com.
Readers can mail questions to: On the House, APNewsFeatures, 50 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10020, or e-mail Careybro@onthehouse.com. To receive a copy of On the House booklets on plumbing, painting, heating/cooling or decks/patios, send a check or money order payable to The Associated Press for $6.95 per booklet and mail to: On the House, P.O. Box 1562, New York, NY 10016-1562, or through these online sites: www.onthehouse.com or apbookstore.com.
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