Category Archives: How-to

Installing a top of stairs baby gate without drilling into wood trim or banister post

The challenge: in an old house with nice woodwork, mount a baby gate at the top of the stairs such that it’s secure – without damaging the wood.

baby gate at top of stairs
The final product

This was a fun project.  Got some ideas from YouTube videos (a learning format I usually dislike) and improvised a little.  This is built from scrap parts I had on hand, plus a baby gate I had installed at our previous home.

The uneven surfaces presented by the trim on both sides pose the creative challenge.

On both sides, it was a matter of:

  • Trimming a 2×4 to match the protruding trim
  • Mounting the 2×4 to the surface (harder on the wood post side)
  • The final step is just a regular baby gate installation, screwing into the 2x4s.

Post side

(I think the post is called a “newel”?)

I first cut out two channels in the 2×4 to match the protruding trim on each side.  I used a jigsaw, freehand cutting one side, then the other (the blade was only long enough to cut halfway through).  This ended up looking less shoddy than I suspected it would.

Top of the 2×4 attached to newel post – see cuts to make room for trim

I then mounted the 2×4 to the newel post by drilling through the 2×4 , then running zip ties through the 2×4 and around the newel post, pulling them tight.  I had to connect two ties in series to attain sufficient length.  Under the zip ties are webbing straps, to protect the wood surface from the zip ties.  I’d originally planned to secure the webbing tightly, but the zip ties are strong enough that I just left the webbing loose as a protective layer.

Lower zip tie pass-through

This neatly secured the 2×4 flat with the post.  Between the post and 2×4 I added a layer of non-slip shelf liner, to reduce slippage and protect the post surface.

Wall side

Here I could drill into the wall, but faced the challenge of tall baseboard moulding at the base of the wall, where I needed to mount the bottom of the gate.  I didn’t want to drill into it, and even if I did, it was uneven, protruding from the wall.

I again cut away a curved portion of the 2×4 to make room for the moulding.  And again I was pleasantly surprised at how well it turned out, freehanding it with a jigsaw on both sides and meeting in the middle.

From there I screwed the 2×4 into the wall (with a layer of shelf liner sandwiched between to protect the paint) and mounted the gate as normal.

Wall side – cutaway for moulding

It’s strong, operates well, and looks acceptable (I didn’t bother finishing the 2x4s).  When the gate comes down in a few years, I’ll keep these 2x4s to pass along with the house someday, in case a future resident needs to mount a baby gate here.

What I care about vs. what I write about

I’m disappointed with the misalignment between what’s important to me and what I write about here.  Here, I acknowledge and explore that.

What I care about: meaningful, exciting, or useful ideas

I have a list of substantial, interesting topics I’ve meant to write about.  Some are still relevant, others have drifted behind me as missed opportunities (e.g., I meant to discuss the August 2018 Ann Arbor Democratic primary elections).  Some are years old, others freshly sparked from recently conversations.

Some of these topics are explored in abandoned drafts.  Others manifest on paper as just a single bullet point, albeit with hours of associated reflection and many references ready to go in my head.

These more meaningful topics demand focus and time, which I have in only limited supply.  Such posts are also probably better when well-researched, which requires more time – though I’m growing suspicious that the burden of assembling links may not be worth it if it paralyzes me.  And I question whether it’s my place to write on them. Is my opinion valid? Do I know what I’m talking about?

What I then write about: trivial, dull matters.

Meanwhile, as these ideas languish, look at some of the blog posts I did manage to write in 2018.  I ranted against the TrailKeg, a thneed.  I wondered if old yard sign frames could be welded into a Papasan chair.  I wrote a how-to based on what I learned when configuring a specific model of solar panel monitoring gateway.

Continue reading What I care about vs. what I write about

Configuring Enphase Envoy for wifi without ethernet cord

This is a how-to for connecting your Enphase Envoy (the oval one with the LCD screen) to connect to a home Wi-Fi network, without using an ethernet cable or the Enphase Installer Toolkit app.

Enphase’s how-to guides give you about 80% of the information you need to do this, below are notes on things I figured out to fill in the other 20%.  Their guidance is geared toward installers, while this post is for homeowners who want to connect their Envoy to the home Wi-Fi network and don’t have a WPS button on their router or need to use another option.

Continue reading Configuring Enphase Envoy for wifi without ethernet cord