Question: We just purchased an outdoor swing set with fort, slide, monkey bars and fireman’s pole that is due for delivery next week and it needs to be assembled. Our kids are so excited and can barely wait to start playing on it!

How much time do you think the assembly will take, and is this something that my husband will be able to do by himself on a Saturday?

Your Handyman: We receive many calls from homeowners and business people who have purchased all types of items requiring assembly, including swing sets, executive desks, exercise equipment, IKEA cabinets, closet organizing systems, all types of home furniture, mobile filing systems, storage cabinets and more.

The good news is that so much of what we buy in the way of furniture and most home accessories is considerably less expensive now than in the past, but most all of it is made overseas, and the bad news is that it is usually shipped completely unassembled.

A friend of mine in the office furniture business tells me that the price of the typical office chair and desk has fallen 75% or more in the past 15 years since the advent of contract manufacturing in China.

Assembly usually takes a lot more time than the typical homeowner expects and, in many cases, the assembly can be quite a project.

Last year, we assembled a very large swing set purchased from a Goleta big box center that had a delivery weight of 500-plus pounds, the parts had minimum labeling, it was completely unassembled and required 16 hours by experienced assemblers using power tools before any swinging, climbing or sliding could take place.

Possibly the most involved assembly project for us yet was for an office full of executive desks with hutches purchased online, also at a big box office supply store.

Each individual desk unit was shipped in five cartons with a total of 15 bags of fasteners, and instructions with more than 75 steps — all adding up to five hours assembly per unit.

When shopping for items like furniture that require assembly, keep in mind that drawers and doors add significantly to assembly time, and if you decide to tackle the job yourself, the best advice I can give is to patiently read and follow the directions closely.

If you find yourself at step 47 and realize that the wrong part was used in step 17 when your favorite song was on the radio, there is no choice but to undo the last 30 steps and start again.

Examine the parts closely, looking for the slight differences between the left and right side, use a power screwdriver, and don’t force any parts that don’t willingly want to join together.

It would be unlikely for a large play structure like the one you describe to take less than 4-6 hours for two strong people to assemble and, depending on the brand, it could take much longer.

My advice is for your husband to line up a helper for all day Saturday, unpack and lay out all the parts in advance, read the instructions completely also in advance, and your backyard will soon be the envy of all the neighborhood kids.

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Question: We recently purchased an older home where the garage has been converted into an extra room and the garage door opening was filled with two sets of French doors.

Overall, the work was done nicely, and it looks nice.

However, the seller disclosed in the escrow documents that there has been an ongoing issue with rainwater seeping under the doors and there is noticeable water damage to the oak thresholds, side window bases and the interior carpet.

The driveway in not is good shape, it has a good slope to the street overall but, unfortunately, it slopes the wrong way slightly for a few feet where the asphalt meets the French doors and rainwater pools there.

Can we seal the thresholds with some type of caulking to keep water out?

Your Handyman: Whenever you have rainwater standing or pooling against the threshold of an exterior door you will eventually have water damage to the threshold and possibly to the interior flooring.

Once the oak threshold gets wet from the standing rainwater, dry rot can get started and continue to slowly damage the wood, even after the weather has dried out.

Caulking may help keep some water out as a temporary fix, but until the drainage issue is solved it really doesn’t make sense to try to repair or replace the thresholds, doors or flooring.

You need to either install a trough style drain with a steel grate along the front of what used to be the garage door, or this could be justification for a beautiful new driveway.

If you install the drain, it will be a little unsightly and someone in the family will need to take on the new chore of making sure the drain is kept clear of leaves during the winter. If the drain is clogged with leaves, it will be of little value in solving the drainage issue. 

A paving contractor can remove the old driveway, correct your drainage problem by sloping the entire driveway to the street and install a beautiful new driveway of pavers or stamped concrete that can really enhance the whole look of your home.

If you do go the route of a new driveway, it would be wise to check the condition of your sewer, gas and water lines if they run under the driveway and, if they are in poor condition, the time to replace them would be when the old driveway is out.

It would be a shame to have to cut a section out of your new driveway sometime in the future due to your sewer line being collapsed by tree roots or your water line springing a pinhole leak.

Have a plumber take a look at these pipes when the old driveway is out and before the new driveway goes in.

After the new driveway is installed and rainwater naturally drains away from your French doors, then it will be time to start work on repairing or replacing the water-damaged doors and oak thresholds.

Santa Barbara general contractor Mark Baird is a UC Santa Barbara alumnus, a multigenerational handyman and a longtime DIYer. He is the owner/manager of Your Handyman, a family-run company that has been helping local homeowners since 2006. Email your questions about your homes to The opinions expressed are his own.