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homeowners a way to visually discover the different design options they like best for personalizing a deck. The Deck Visualizer allows the user to set the virtual deck environment to a lake or backyard view and then change the deck accessories for limitless combinations. Users can select the color or grain of composite or wood decking, select the style of metal or even glass balusters, add baluster infill centerpieces, change railing colors, and add post caps, lighting options and even stone. “This deck design program is fun for homeowners to use and is a great tool for deck planning,” says Preble. “We work with hundreds of deck builders, and they appreciate having this when working with clients. It allows both consumers and deck builders to visualize different options and choose deck products prior to constructing a deck.” The North American Deck and Railing Association website (nadra.org) is another good place for consumers to start when gathering information for a deck build. The organization has a large gallery of photographs of decks that have received national awards for design or construction. Michael Beaudry, executive vice president of NADRA, says consumers are definitely hungry for deck design ideas and information on new products. NADRA offers resources to help consumers with deck and rail design and deck safety. The organization’s website also provides access to more than 1,750 different building products companies. Homeowners who want to build or who are renovating an existing deck will find new trends for 2011. One material making its move onto decks is stone. Deckorators cast stone Postcovers, which install over rail posts, are one new product in high demand. The postcovers provide the same look and feel as natural stone columns, but are designed to install over basic wood posts. Postcovers are hand-painted to look like cobblestone, fieldstone or stacked stone. The simulated product costs far less than real masonry work and makes it possible for do-it-yourselfers or contractors to add simulated stone columns to a deck. “Stone or simulated stone on a deck has become possible with new products, and it’s another example of interior design trends and the mixing of various elements making their way to outdoor living areas,” Preble says. Experts agree that putting the time into planning your deck up front and knowing what your product options are is the best way to ensure you end up with a space your family will embrace as a true outdoor living room.
COAST NEWS GROUP — SPRING HOME & GARDEN GUIDE
MARCH 11, 2011
Tips for better remodeling or landscaping (ARA) — For many homeowners, the return of warm weather signals that time of year to launch the long-awaited home remodeling or backyard patio project. With the typical major kitchen remodel topping $58,000 and the cost of a new roof topping $21,000, according to the National Association of Realtors 2009 Cost vs. Value Report, taking on even a minor remodel calls for careful attention to detail. It’s even more important if you’re not a do-it-yourselfer and want to hire a contractor to perform some or all of the work, says FindLaw.com, the world’s leading online legal resource. Doing your homework upfront and being crystal clear in your dealings with a home remodeling or landscaping contractor will reduce miscommunication, frustration and expensive errors. If you’re ready to take the plunge, here are some timetested tips from FindLaw.com for a better remodeling or landscaping project: 1. Ask yourself: Does it make sense? Before you move too quickly, it’s critical to determine if it makes sense to remodel.The first place to look is your neighborhood. Are other neighbors improving their homes and enhancing the exteriors of their homes,as well as their yards? Is your city or town properly maintaining streets and public areas? Are you committed to staying in your home at least five years? Remodeling and landscaping can be expensive and, in many cases, you will not fully recoup your investment. While it’s important to do it for yourself, be careful not to over invest either. 2. Do your homework. Before you call a contractor, do your homework to get a good idea of what you want from your remodeling or landscaping project. Visit showrooms, talk to friends and neighbors
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your plants and good for the earth.
The move to de-lawn large tracks of turf and transform lawns into sustainable landscapes is achievable with the right plants that use less water and pesticides. Beautiful native plants like Solidago “Solar Cascade,” exclusively available from North Creek Nurseries, part of The American Beauties Native Plant collection, are lowmaintenance plants that attract wildlife and beneficial pollinators like butterflies, bees and birds. Proceeds benefit the National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Wildlife Habitat Program.
For small space gardens, growing food in containers makes sense. Blended containers with herbs and veggies provide a one-two combo for freshness and convenience. And, containers blooming with natives, rebloomers and ornamental
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who have recently remodeled, read home and landscaping magazines, and visit open houses and showcase homes to see what’s hot in home remodeling and landscaping projects. Start a notebook to collect your ideas, product information and product samples. 3. Build a budget. As you do your homework, start piecing together a budget of what various products and materials may cost. Keep in mind, especially when remodeling an older home,there may be unexpected surprises (such as plumbing or electrical) that could drive up the costs of your remodeling project. To be on the safe side,always add 20 percent to the generally recommended costs of a remodeling project. 4.Listen to word-of-mouth. If you hire a contractor, make sure that any contractor that you consider is licensed, bonded and insured. Word-of-mouth is the most reliable method to finding a contractor. Ask your friends, neighbors or family members for the names of contractors or landscapers with whom they’ve worked. 5. Get multiple bids. Always get at least three proposals when selecting a contractor to handle your remodel-
ing or landscaping project. Always meet the contractor in person and never agree to hire a contractor after your first meeting. Obtain all estimates in writing and carefully compare the details that each contractor has spelled out in his or her proposal. 6. Check your permits. Be wary of the contractor who says you don’t need to pull a permit from city hall for your remodeling or landscaping project. A permit typically represents the minimum construction standard set by a local community. In other words, a permit actually protects you as the homeowner from shoddy construction or landscaping practices. If you live in a historic neighborhood, there may be more restrictive guidelines that you must follow that have been set by a neighborhood council. 7. Get references. Before you say “yes” to a contractor’s proposal, get at least three to five references from a contractor. Call the contractor’s references and ask about the experience of working with him or her — did the contractor complete the project on time and on budget? Was the contractor responsive to making changes throughout the project and the completion of the punch list
grasses beautify spaces and affordable, colorful plants that look as comfortable in benefit the environment. 21st century homes as they Succulents did in Victorian days. To learn Dry gardening using less more about the health benewater is bubbling across the fits of indoor houseplants, nation. Attractive and low- check out www.O2forYou.org. maintenance succulents have showy flowers and thick, Growing up with verfleshy foliage that stores tical gardening water like a camel’s hump. “Vertical gardens are Drought-tolerant and becoming increasingly popuable to thrive in a variety of lar and will grow far beyond conditions, succulents look anything we can envision,” great in small gardens and says Joe Zazzera, with Plant large landscapes. Get ideas Solutions, Inc. and Green from Costa Farms on varieties Plants for Green Buildings that you can mix with peren- (GPGB.org). “Businesses are nials, containers and stand- seeing the productivity, envialone or in roof gardens. ronmental quality and return on investment that indoor Indoor gardening plantings and vertical living From “steampunk” walls are bringing to their Victorian hipster decor rock- projects.” ing among young urbanites to From containers with upscale suburban homes, dec- climbing vines, flowers and orating with houseplants like veggies to vertical walls orchids, ferns and palms is blooming with edibles, plants hot. are growing up. Chic and easy to grow, orchids add a lavish touch to Urban farming and any room. Plus these hard- CSAs working beauties clean In step with the move to indoor air of volatile organic reinvigorate communities, compounds and provide oxy- urban farming and gen. Community Supported Phalaenopsis (moth) Agriculture farms (CSAs) are orchids as well as other vari- springing up nationwide. eties are perfect choices for Urban farming “micro-farms”
(all of the final details to wrap up a project)? Contact your local Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed about the contractor. And, contact building suppliers and subcontractors (electricians, plumbers, etc.) to see if your contractor pays his or her bills on time. 8. Get it in writing. Never, ever agree to hire a contractor, even if it’s your brother-in-law, on a handshake. Always insist on a contract, says FindLaw.com. Be precise about exactly what services will be performed and by when. Specify exactly what products and materials will be used. Spell out when payments will be made to the contractor and clarify what recourse you have if the work is not completed to your satisfaction. If need be, contact an attorney specializing in contracts to review the document before signing. 9. Do a gut check. You need to feel good about having someone come into your home every day for weeks or possibly several months.Working with a contractor should be fun, but more importantly, you need a contractor who listens and responds to you. Check your gut reaction. If in any way you feel uncomfortable with a contractor, don’t sign the contract. And if you have to, move quickly to cancel it. Many states allow a consumer to cancel a contract within three business days after signing it. 10. Be completely satisfied. Never pay for the entire remodeling project or landscaping project up front, before construction begins. In most cases, you’ll put down 25 percent of the total project amount to get the work started. After that, you’ll pay portions at certain milestones up until the completion of the project. Don’t make the final payment until you are completely satisfied. It’s one of your last defenses for ensuring that work is completed to your satisfaction. are converting small spaces in blighted areas into thriving farms that grow fresh produce for inner city communities. CSAs offer fresh produce and provide the chance to learn about varieties, maintaining plants and sharing experiences.
Sustainable urban communities that offer spots to enjoy an outdoor lifestyle are on the rise. Planting water-wise plants, collecting rainwater, building walkable streets, and fostering diversity of shops, homes and apartments with less turf and more plants encourages better stewardship of the earth, and reconnects everyone as fellow stewards of resources and communities. “We had trouble wrapping our heads around saving the rain forests,” says McCoy, “But we clearly can wrap our arms around saving our own backyards. Digging and planting gardens brings awareness that we’re all earth’s caretakers.” For a complete look at the Garden Media Group 2011 Garden Trends visit www.gardenmediagroup.com.
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covers need sun, while others thrive only in shade. Some prefer dry locations. Others require moist soil. • Assess the soil at the site. Is it sandy and dry? A lovely loam? Or wet, soggy clay? There’s a ground cover for every soil condition, but you’ll also need to test the acidity level of the soil. You may need to amend your soil to raise or lower its pH content, or add organic matter to modify its texture. • Hardy as they are, ground covers still require proper fertilizing, watering and weed control to maintain their attractiveness — just like any other plant. Newly planted areas will need special attention until they’re well established. • Seed is the least expensive way to start ground cover. And planting ground cover seeds is some of the easiest sowing you’ll ever do in your yard or garden. Ground cover seeds are typically much smaller and lighter than other plant seeds; often you’ll get as many as 175,000 seeds in just 1 ounce. One way to make sowing even easier is to use a pre-mix of seeds and lime, like those offered by Outsidepride.com. The mix comes in a shaker bottle and you simply sprinkle the seeds on the planting site.The lime in the mix improves the pH of acidic soils, adds valuable micronutrients and helps break down organic matter. The lime is also white, so it’s easy to tell where you’ve spread the seed. You can find a ground cover for virtually every soil situation — and to suit every landscaping preference. Outsidepride.com offers more than 50 different types of ground cover seed, from the luminous lavender and red of Magic Carpet creeping thyme and the baby blue of Forget-Me-Not to the gorgeous greens of Irish Moss and Kenilworth Ivy. Best-sellers like creeping thyme offer homeowners a vibrant, versatile way to solve problems and accent their landscaping. Creeping thyme is a favorite for its tolerance of dry soil,low maintenance needs and ability to self-seed season after season. To get ground covers started off on the right foot, plant them in spring so they have a chance to root well. Before long, your barren, weedy trouble spots will be gone, covered by wondrous waves of flowers and foliage.
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protect tootsies from cold floors? It makes sense not to skimp when it comes to choosing towels, area rugs and other accessories for your bath. Even top-quality accessories cost less than major renovations, and they can go a long way toward making your bathroom feel polished, put-together and posh. From good bath linens to a towel-warmer that can make them feel extra cozy, accessories are an economical, effective way to add luxurious touches to your bathroom.
The March 11, 2011 edition of The Coast News, including the Home & Garden Guide