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2 • Community Advocate • Spring Home Improvement • Friday, April 12, 2013

Tidy children’s rooms Five organizing tips

By Sharon Naylor Kids’ rooms are often a chaos of clothing, colors and craft items. Parents strive to keep some sense of order in their little ones’ rooms, often experiencing aggravation when youngsters don’t follow clean-up directions. One way to reduce the struggle, and give kids an organized, clean living space where they can play in peace, is to create a new organizing plan for the room’s biggest opportunity for order: the closet. Robert Guerin, owner of the professional closet design company Hang It Up Closets, says that “when a child grows up in an organized, neat room, good skills are developed for later in life.” As kids learn their new organizing system, they’re also learning their colors, matching items and thinking about item function - lessons that may help them in school and stick with them to create a foundation of order in their adult lives. Right now, their belongings will find easily accessed storage spots and bins in that closet, getting all of

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the clutter off the floor, desks and dressers. Kids will also get pride of accomplishment when they clean their rooms more easily - and enjoy the perk of praise from you. A key to organizing kids’ closets is formulating a plan that can be easily and inexpensively adjusted as they grow. “There’s a big difference between baby hangers, kids’ toys and a teenager’s more grownup collections,” says Guerin. “[You need] closets designed to grow and adjust for your child’s changing needs.” At the start, decide if you want to hire a professional closet organizer to construct the ideal layout of bars for hanging clothes, floor-to-ceiling cubbies and higher shelving features. An expert knows exactly how to take a small closet and maximize the storage space within, using perfectly measured shelves, bins and other features. When two or more children are sharing one closet, the expert can create a sector for each. Or you might wish to tackle your closet-organizing plan on your own, using these five top suggestions: - Start by pulling everything out. Have four bins nearby, marked “Current,” “Donate,” “Hand-Me-Downs” and

“Trash.” “Current” is for clothing, shoes, accessories, toys and other items the child uses now. “Donate” is for items to be donated to a charity.“Hand-Me-Downs” is for outgrown items that can be offered to siblings or friends’ children. And, of course, trash is for ripped, stained and otherwise unwearable items, broken toys and other discardables. If items can be recycled, have a bin for those, as well. With an entirely empty space before you, and items in their bins, thoroughly clean the closet walls, ceilings and floor, and consider painting the closet interior. Kids can help choose their desired color, and stencils and wall clings can add a fun, decorative flair to parts of the wall visible beneath hanging clothes or on the side walls. - Install double bars for kids’ clothes, set low enough for your child to be able to hang his or her own clothing. Since kids’ clothing is short and thin, hang one rod higher and further back in the closet, with the second rod lower and toward the front. Kids can then hang up their clothes with more space between each item, for easier viewing - or your older child can claim the back bar, while your smaller child gets the front bar. Spring tension rods can be used for narrow closets, so you don’t need to drill holes and screw in the bars. As kids age, the tension bars can be raised to the heights needed. Make hanging up clothing easier and more fun for kids by investing in colorful plastic hangers. As a rainy day project, kids can affix small stickers of their choice to the center point of the hanger just below the hook.This gives kids ownership of their hanger collection, which may inspire better use of them. - Set colorful fabric bins on the closet floor, such as bright pinks or apple greens, with pictures on the front for pre-readers or large letter identification labels for older kids. These labels identify what’s to be placed in these lidless bins. Laundry is more easily deposited, especially when you teach kids to stand a few feet away and score “baskets” with their dirty socks and shirts. Another bin might be for stuffed animals, giving beloved Teddy bear collections a cozy home “where they can all be together.” When storage bins have lids, kids are less likely to take the extra step Children’s rooms page 3

Community Advocate • Friday, April 12, 2013 • Spring Home Improvement • 3

Some help picking a remodeling contractor Do your homework when researching companies By Eric Figueiredo, owner Power Home Remodeling Group It’s that time of year when many homeowners consider investing back in their homes. Whether it’s a project you’ve

been meaning to do or you’re trying to be proactive after taxes, springtime is when many remodeling projects are scheduled so the summer can be enjoyed to the fullest. When tackling an interior or exterior project, there are

Tidy children’s rooms Five organizing tips

Children’s room Continued from page 2

of pulling out the bin, opening a snap top and closing it again. The open-top of a fabric bin inspires more use. - Plan tall enough shelves in built-ins. Meryl Starr, professional organizer and author of “The Organizing Workbook,” suggests shelving heights that allow for a 6- to 12-inch pile of folded clothes to still have room on top for airier storage that cuts down on any mold or mildew. When cubbies or shelves have room on top, it’s easier for kids to retrieve the shirt they want without the entire pile of shirts


falling to the floor (and staying there). --Use hanging organizers for smaller items. A hanging fabric shoe rack can be used for shoes and also for kids’ little purses and dress-up items like tiaras. A hanging travel organizer intended for toiletries can hold jewelry, craft items, small toys and other tiny things. When organizing bins and items are colorful and inviting, offering easy access, kids will use them. And on those days when kids are resistant to stowing the Teddy bears in their bin, it’s very easy for you to deposit them there and call it a day.

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When tackling an interior or exterior project, there are many vital things to keep it mind to make sure the project gets done right the first time. One of the most important things is picking the right company. many vital things to keep it mind to make sure the project gets done right the first time. One of the most important things is picking the right company. Finding a company that suits your needs and can solve your problems is what everyone wants. Unfortunately, the remodeling industry has an unforgiving complaint rate. Simply put, many homeowners will find a genuine company, one that promises the world, and when the project begins it doesn’t turn out how they thought. A few suggestions to consider in preparation are: Go to the company website and do a little research

before you get an estimate. Read about the company’s background, how they started, what they’ve accomplished and then view recent customer reviews. All of these things, next lead into having questions prepared for your consultant or salesperson to maximize your time and leave you with the most knowledge. Other questions to be asking are: Is the company insured? Can you see proof of their policy? How much coverage do they have? What else will they be covering, like dumpsters/permits? How are their installers trained and what certifications do they hold? Have they done work in your


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town? All of these questions will help protect you and lead you to your ultimate goal of getting the project done right the first time. A vast majority of homeowners do not mind spending a little bit extra to ensure a stress-free installation and peace of mind, whereas spending a little bit less can be something you will regret and remember. Companies who are legitimate and successful should not be hiding any facts from you. Everything should be put on the table for you to make the best decision and make you feel 100% confident. So this spring, whether it is a bathroom renovation, a roofing project or porch/patio addition, my recommendation is to do your homework before getting the quote; therefore you’re not wasting your time. Eric Figueiredo currently works for Power Home Remodeling Group. He can be reached with any questions at eric.figueiredo@powerhrg. com.

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4 • Community Advocate • Spring Home Improvement • Friday, April 12, 2013

Composting made simple What are the benefits, and how do you start?

By Simone Slykhous Although the vast amount of available information on composting is helpful, that same vastness can be overwhelming. For the beginner composter, this is an introductory look at the world of wiggly worms, soil enrichment and carbon footprint reduction.

Compost is made from an equal mixture of brown and green organic matter, e.g., dead plants, table scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds and even lint. What is compost? Compost is made from an equal

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mixture of brown and green organic matter, e.g., dead plants, table scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds and even lint. With the proper combination of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and water, helpful microorganisms will feast on this pile of unwanted materials and produce useful fertilizer. Compost even retains soil moisture in the heat of the summer and protects roots from the cold in the winter. “Any way you use it is beneficial,” says Sonya Harper of Peter’s Garden Center. “Regardless of the problem facing your plants, adding organic matter is the ... best healer.” There are many different options for storing your compost outside. The easiest of these may be the f reestanding pile. To begin your pile, start with yard waste - including dry leaves, lawn clippings and pulled weeds - and then layer kitchen scraps on top. As the pile begins to decompose, helped along by you turning the pile and adding moisture as needed, beneficial bacteria will be released, and you will be left with a dark, nutrient-rich pile of compost. Other ways of storing your compost include static bins (new materials are added to the top, and a door on the bottom allows easy access to the most nutrient-rich compost), tumblers (easyto-turn manufactured containers that let in oxygen to speed up the composting process) and wire cylinders (using chicken wire to house the compost pile). However, not everyone has the means for traditional outdoor composting. Spacious yards with lots of soil can be hard, if not impossible, to come by in larger cities. For those eco-f riendly city dwellers who still want to churn out compost, there are some easy alternatives. Vermicomposting, or

composting with worms, is perhaps the most common. Inside a ventilated container, place your red wiggler worms on bedding materials - such as dampened, shredded paper or leaves - and then add your kitchen scraps. It is important to keep in mind that bones, pet waste, dairy products, meat scraps, diseased plants and pernicious weeds should not be included in any composting venture, according to the S unset Western Garden Book. As the weeks and months go by, replace the depleting bedding with new leaves or paper waste, and be sure to keep the bin at the dampness of a wrung-out sponge; your worms will die otherwise. Knowing there are worms wriggling, flourishing and banqueting in your home is not always an easy thought to bear. However, as Harper explains, “they don’t smell. T h e y n e ve r n e e d t o b e cleaned. And if you use commercial composting bins, they can’t escape.” The benefits of these squirmy worms far outweigh the possible ick factor. You even can use the collected liquid as a fertilizer “tea.” Adding a “50-50 mixture of the liquid and water

to your garden acts like an extra dose of vitamins for plants,” Harper says. If dealing with your compostable waste yourself is too much to bear, look into whether your municipality has the means of collecting the waste. In San Francisco, for example, the Mandatory Recycling and Composting Ordinance went into effect in 2009, and according to a city press release, the residents and businesses there are “required to separate and put their recycling, composting and trash in the right place.” The city even goes as far as providing residents with a kitchen compost pail if they are unable to obtain one themselves. Seattle and New York City have similar composting strategies, as do many other cities around the nation. If your municipality does not have a means to collect compost, ask your local government to start a program. Whether you have acres to spare and are using compost as mulch or are tending to a tiny windowsill garden, using compost will heal soil, help retain moisture and add nutritional value for your plants to grow to their fullest potential.

Community Advocate • Friday, April 12, 2013 • Spring Home Improvement • 5

Drought-friendly landscaping Saving money and water

By Kristen Castillo

Dollars and cents Drought-friendly landscaping, which often is called xeriscaping because it’s about reducing water use, also can cut your water bill. Landscape architect Chad Kennedy says savings will be dependent on local water costs and the size of your landscape. “A retrofit from a traditional lawn to low-water-use shrubs with an efficient system and smart controller can reduce water use by up to 75 percent,” he says. Denis McCausland of Green Mountain Enterprise estimates, “[Depending on location, a]... yard of 2,500 square feet can save about $500 per year in water savings.” He says you also can expect to save maintenance time, including mowing grass, weeding and fertilizing, as well as not having to do maintenance on your irrigation system as often. Getting started The Professional Landcare Network (PLANET), which is the national association of landscape professionals, recommends getting an irrigation audit. “An irrigation system may need repair or adjustment, and a professional can also check for water distribution uniformity and make sure irrigation systems are installed and maintained properly,” says PLANET member Kurt Bland of Bland Landscaping. Plant smartly “Drought-tolerant landscapes do not have to be boring, and with proper plant selection, they can be as interesting as any other landscape,”

What to avoid When xeriscaping, there are also things to avoid. For example, don’t use too much rock. “This can cause heat buildup,” McCausland says. “Instead, combine rock with wood mulches and/or low-water-use lawn grass.” Although sloped landscape might be pretty, it can be wasteful. Here’s why: “The more ups and downs you have in a landscape, the more water runs away f rom the plants and to the surrounding gutters or storm drains,” Kennedy explains. “If you


A great-looking yard takes lots of time and effort. It can also take a lot of money and water. To save cash and the environment, you may want to consider drought-friendly landscaping. “I strongly suggest using the phrase ‘drought tolerance’ over ‘drought resistance,’” says Jay Popko, a research associate at the University of Massachusetts Stockbridge School of Agriculture. “Drought conditions are not something that can be overcome completely.”

says Bland, explaining that most of the United States has a “mesic climate” rather than a “xeric climate,” which means drought comes in cycles instead of being constantly present. “’Drought-friendly’ doesn’t necessarily mean concrete, rock and no plants,” says Kennedy, who suggests choosing plants with low water requirements. “It is more about wise use and application of water and the correct choice of plant species.” He advises choosing plants that grow within the space available. “Plants that get too large for the space in which they are planted require more resources - water, etc. - than a smaller plant,” says Kennedy, who also recommends spacing plants far apart because the plants will “compete less for available water.” PLANET suggests conserving water by “hydrozoning,” which clusters plants that have similar water requirements together, noting that plant water requirements typically range from very low to low to medium. Another drought-friendly idea is to limit grass in your landscaping. “Turf grass uses most of the water in a landscape,” Kennedy says. “The less lawn to water, the more water can be saved.” Don’t forget to use two to three inches of organic or inert mulch. “These mulches keep the soil underneath moist by minimizing evaporation … and minimizing the heat of the soil,” Kennedy says. “An organic mulch can actually hold on to moisture and will add nutrients to the soil.”

Hydrozoning clusters plants that have similar water requirements together.

need height in the landscape, do it with boulders, walls and vegetation rather than sloped landscape.” PLANET suggests avoiding watering on windy days to reduce evaporation, and being careful not to overwater plants, which can damage them.

When to water Maximize your water use by irrigating before sunrise. “By irrigating during the coolest time of the day, you avoid excessive evaporation of the valuable water being applied, and the surface will dry up as the sun comes up,” Kennedy says. “Avoid irrigat-

ing just after sundown, as you may cause the soil surface to be wet for too long, allowing fungus and molds to grow.” PLANET advises watering your garden with rainwater stored in rain barrels. Be mindful that good watering helps plants and trees get established. “Water new plantings throughout the first year,” Popko says. “Proper establishment relies on making sure new plantings adjust to their new surroundings and develop healthy root systems. On larger trees, watering may be needed for more than the first year.” Drought resources As you’re preparing your landscape, know your area’s drought conditions, soil types, plant hardiness and ideal planting schedules. The following websites can be great drought resources: http:// PHZMWeb, http://drought. and

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6 • Community Advocate • Spring Home Improvement • Friday, April 12, 2013

Shower spruce-ups Wake up your oasis By Sharon Naylor


Shower curtain rod You may have experienced the airy, roomier shower in a luxury hotel, with an arched curtain rod moving the curtain liner further away from

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Your shower is your oasis. It may be where you begin your day, waking up with the scents of your shampoo and body cleanser, but it’s also where you go after a tough workout or a day of grueling yard work to soothe your muscles and get squeaky-clean again. It’s where you might sing and scrub, so make your shower a place of pure relaxation and rejuvenation with a few easy refurbishing projects that don’t require a pricey remodeling project. The goal is to create a de-stressing place, not create stress with the hassle, noise and a mess of contractors, nor the scary codes and budget-killing plumbing upgrades to be sure your pipes and water heater can handle multiple shower stream jets and the addition of a steam bath. Here are eight easy additions to spruce up your shower into a place you love to be.

your body so that you can move freely without bumping into that liner. It’s an easy installation project requiring just a screwdriver in most cases, and your new, arched rod can then be dressed up with new, easy-slide metal ball or disk curtain rings holding your new, luxe shower curtain. While you’re at it, get a fluffy, curtain-matching bath rug to step onto after your relaxing shower. Choose the color that says “spa” to you. It could be white or sage green - a soft, neutral shade that creates a natural scene.

Sensational showerhead A new showerhead is easy to install, using manufacturer instructions and the installation videos found on some manufacturer websites. You can change your old-fashioned spray showerhead into an indulgent waterfall showerhead, and with a twist of the wide circular disk, choose f rom gentle rainfall-type spray to a more massaging shiatsu-style stream. Angle the showerhead to give you the direction of spray that’s right for your height, and taller homeowners can even choose a new showerhead with an extender arm to raise the showerhead up above their heads, something they might not have gotten to enjoy with a standard shower placement in an older home or apartment.

Easy shower fix-ups create a calming oasis without a major remodel.

Fixtures A little bit more plumbing talent is often required for this task, or you could have a plumber come in to install your new, non-rusted shower handles or single shower pull. Plumbing experts say that older turnstile shower knobs can sometimes rust inside the connection, which can cost expensive leaks inside your wall down to the level Shower spruce ups page 9

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Community Advocate • Friday, April 12, 2013 • Spring Home Improvement • 7

Benefits of a hot tub

Key considerations when buying and installing a hot tub


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508.351.9883 By Mark J. Donovan What better way to relieve the stress of a long, hard day than soaking in a hot tub? Whether in your bathroom or on your deck, little can beat the warmth and relaxing benefits of a hot tub. It simply has a way of shedding the hassles of a hectic day. If you’re considering buying and installing a hot tub, it’s smart to have some idea of what is available on the market and how you plan to use one prior to making your purchase. The installation of a hot tub is significantly more complicated than that of your standard bathtub. So, if your bathroom remodeling plans include a hot tub, talk with your framing contractor, plumber and electrician prior to purchasing one. A hot tub requires additional framing, and the extra weight of it when filled with water may require strengthening of the floor. In addition, a hot tub typically requires larger plumbing supply lines and electricity to drive the necessary electrical system. Another key consideration is the size and shape of the tub. Hot tubs come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Prior to shopping, write down the measurements for the area you have reserved for it. Some hot tubs fit a rectangular footprint similar to that of a standard tub and are perfect for mounting on walls, whereas others are oval or circular

in shape. There are even hot tubs that are designed to fit into corners to conserve floor space. Although most large home improvement centers sell hot tubs, you may find a wider selection and more options by shopping at a specialty store. A specialty store often offers installation services, as well, and no doubt the people there will know more about hot tubs than the average employee working at a home improvement center. Also, they will likely have better access to replacement parts when the time comes for making repairs to your hot tub which inevitably will happen. Pumps and motors are moveable parts that over time wear

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8 • Community Advocate • Spring Home Improvement • Friday, April 12, 2013

Plants for privacy

Plan properly when planting for privacy By Eric Christensen Homeowners too close to a neighbor’s windows or a loud highway often plant privacy screens. But hedges and trees can vary not only in shape and price, but they can also take months or years to grow. Homeowners who rush to solve their screening problems can accidentally create unsightly privacy screens or run afoul of homeowner associations. Replacing or repairing a privacy planting is expensive. Instead, take the time to consider a few details so that you can be confident in the long-term success of their privacy planting. Clare Siegel, president and owner of Land Art Design Inc., and Kelly Smith Trimble, an editor for HGTV Gardens, agree that homeowners should begin by considering what they do and do not want to screen. Trimble says, “Do you want to make a patio more private for outdoor dining? A lattice enclosure trained with jasmine, roses or another flowering vine could be a nice solution.” Simi-

larly, Siegel says, “It could just be the neighbor’s car or their kids’ play set, in which case they don’t need to plant a tree that will grow 75 feet tall and block out their horizon.” Let your needs and limitations dictate

the ultimate shape and form of the privacy planting. But do not consider just your needs,Trimble and Siegel warn. Consider your neighbors and any homeowner associations. Trimble says, “You should think

about property lines and … consider how planting just on your side of the line could affect your neighbor. For example, would planting a shade tree end up shading out your neighbor’s vegetable garden in a few years

or completely block their view of the sunset?” Homeowner associations vary dramatically, so make sure your planned privacy planting satisfies any rules regarding plantings. Siegel also suggests thinking about when to screen.“If you are screening an area that you only use during the summer time (for example if you won’t go out on your patio during the winter), you can use a deciduous tree to screen above you, leaving your patio in shade from May until October.” Once you have decided on the type of plants, don’t run to the nursery and buy the first plant they try to sell you, Siegel warns. Inexpensive plants are often young and not as pestresistant as the more expensive trees. Ask questions about how tall and wide the plants will grow, and how long it will take to reach that size. And ask about whether the plants root structure. These sorts of questions will help you purchase the correct plants for their needs and plant them properly. Privacy page 9

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Community Advocate • Friday, April 12, 2013 • Spring Home Improvement • 9

Shower spruce-ups: Wake up your oasis Showe spruce ups Continued from page 6

your showerhead, think about colored light options in your overhead shower light fixture.

below. So changing out your shower knob fixtures could wind up saving you hundreds or thousands of dollars down the road. A new, more modern style of fixtures adds to the luxury of your shower.

Fix that grout It can be a do-it-yourself project, using the grout-eliminating attachment in your Dremel tool and a practiced hand with fresh caulking application, or you can hire a pro to knock this job out for you in a fraction of the time. Your local home improvement store might have a free grout-fixing seminar to help you perfect your caulking skills and help you avoid damaging your shower stall tiles. Whichever method you choose, fresh, white grout and caulk create the impression of a new shower and add value to your home.

Chromatherapy It sounds space age, but some top shower supply companies now offer showerheads that project relaxing colors of light, such as purple, blue or green in a relaxing pattern meant to stimulate the de-stressing sensors of the brain. HGTV recently showcased this holistic feature via the Ondine Electric Light Shower, or ELS, which “pours light and water” from each of its large number of nozzles, “in a combination of fiber optics and halogen lights.” Also in the holistic realm - and pricey - is the “healing power of crystals via Ondine’s Krystal ELS, boasting Swarovski crystals around the perimeter.” If you don’t have the budget for crystals in

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Plants Freshen up the air in your bathroom with live plants chosen for their love of a steamy environment and also the amount of light you get in your shower room. Having healthy, shiny green plants in

Sound As great as your shower singing voice might be, it can be immensely relaxing to set your iPod in a dock on your bathroom countertop - safely distanced from water - and play calming instrumental

spa music or the sounds of a rainforest to create a soothing experience before and after your shower. Some of these shower spruce-ups are f ree, some cost less than $30, and some might cost $200 or so, but the improved experience of your shower oasis will be worth it.

Plants for privacy: Plan properly Privacy Continued from page 8

Planting is as important as selecting the plants. Trimble suggests planting the trees or shrubs no closer together than the recommended spacing. “Planting too closely can also result in disease spread and a not-so-pleasant patchwork of green and brown plants.” Otherwise, she says, “They’ll compete for water and nutrients and end up dwarfed and/or more susceptible to problems.” Siegel says one of the most common errors is planting in a straight row. “What happens,” she says, “is that in five years, the plants

become unhealthy … If you stagger the plants slightly - it doesn’t need to be a lot, depending on the size of the tree - then the tree will be healthy and your investment will pay off.” Also when planting, ensure that your plants won’t interfere with power lines. If your space is large enough, layering your privacy planting might be an option. Trimble says, “Layers and plant combinations are preferable for a more natural style. A good design might place taller evergreens in the background and stagger deciduous plants, such as smaller trees and shrubs and perennials toward the front of the bed.”

But Sigel suggests homeowners layer with restraint. Otherwise, she warns that it might end up looking like a mismatched mess. Planting for privacy can help homeowners define the spaces within their property, improve ugly sightlines, and introduce new shapes and color into their landscape. But many homeowners underestimate the difficulties. Consequently, they make expensive mistakes. “Do your homework,” Siegel says. “Go online; look at the habit of trees; and read about how they will age.” This should help protect your investment and ensure you will enjoy it for years to come.

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10 • Community Advocate • Spring Home Improvement • Friday, April 12, 2013

Maximizing space in your home Research and planning is a necessary and informative first step

Today, many homeowners are making the decision to remain in their existing homes rather than buying new, creating the need to maximize their current spaces. If you are among this group, you are not alone. These updates can range from simple reorganization of cupboards and closets to full bathroom renovations. Maximizing space in your home allows you to go about your day-to-day living in a more organized manner. Improvements can be made in an area such as a mudroom by installing storage units for boots, hooks for outerwear, and new flooring for an easier cleanup in what can be a heavily trafficked catch-all space. Kitchen and bathroom renovations are a popular choice for homeowners looking to increase the value of their home while creating a more cohesive living environment. Re-design of kitchens and baths typically stems from issues with the layout of the current space and lack of function. For example, those who find they seldom sit down to eat dinner at a dining table can format the new space

The research and planning of your project is a necessary and informative first step in the process. Thoughtful consideration of cabinet style versus storage needs and the aesthetics of a finish material as compared to recommended use are examples of compromises that will be necessary throughout the decision-making process. With all of the virtual design inspiration available through online resources such as www. and www.pinterest. com, homeowners are finding inspiring new ways to re-invent their existing spaces to maximize use and impact. These electronic “idea books” and “boards” allow you to save project visions in a central location. Having these design ideas gathered is a great

to include a large island in an open kitchen, allowing for a casual location for the family to gather while incorporating a large workspace. Many people find that they no longer use oversized master bathtubs,

way to share your visions with your designers, vendors and installers prior to beginning a project. This information is provided by Rooms With A View, a full-service design showroom and authorized Schluter Dealer, showcasing and specializing in tile and natural stone. Various other offerings include hardwood, cork, plumbing fixtures, countertops, cabinet hardware, a wide array of interior finish materials, and a continued focus on personalized customer service. We invite you to visit our showroom to discuss your spring projects with us. We are located in Colonial Plaza in Westborough. You may also find us online at

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Organic fertilizers, pesticides best for spring yard work Believe it or not, it is spring. For most of us it’s been months since we have caught a glimpse of our lawns. As you all know it has been quite a snowy winter and our beloved lawns are thriving below the “white stuff ” ready to spring into action. It’s safe to say a little care goes a long way when preparing your lawn to look its best for the season. For starters (and of course after the snow disappears), walk your property and remove all broken limbs that have fallen onto your lawn. Removing the branches makes it easier to hand-rake the entire lawn. It is important to start the season with a lawn free of debris to get the best results for the season. We suggest using an organic approach for your lawn and landscape needs this year. In years past we all applied chemical-based fertilizers and pesticides to obtain the nicest lawn in the neighborhood. However, you have to ask yourselves at what cost do you need to have the

Organic treatments are not only good for us; they are good for the environment. By using organics, we are reducing our own carbon footprint , leaving more resources for the children of the future.

nicest lawn? Fortunately, you can still obtain the perfect lawn by using an organic approach to fertilizing and pest control. The goal with organics is to treat the soil and unlock the nutrients that lie within it subsequently neutralizing the soils PH level. I recommend

gathering a soil sample and having it tested for the PH level before beginning the organic fertilization process. This will provide a starting point for your treatments. Neutral soil will produce a healthy lawn, which is your best defense against weeds, insects and disease.

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Forever flowers The staying power of flowers

By Julia Price Keeping up with what’s trending in the world is nearly a full-time job. Take a look at fashion: One minute, bellbottoms are back in and the whole Flower Power movement feels as if it’s come back to life. But just as you’re weaving daisies through your hair, you open a magazine and see that sleek black-on-black is now the hottest look. The fashion world isn’t the only place where change is constant. In fact, florists experience waves of different tastes depending on the year and season. Pete’s Flowers, a family-owned and -operated flower shop, has been in the flower business since the ‘70s. Since they opened in 1977, the owner says their top-selling flower has consistently been the same as most flower shops across the country: roses. Red roses are the fashion equivalent of the little black dress. They’re classic, and everyone knows they symbolize romance. On Valentine’s

Day, you’d better believe that they’re the No. 1 seller. But while red roses are always in style, the latest fad consists of orange, yellow and even hot-pink roses ready to be wrapped in a bouquet. The brighter, the better, when it comes to roses. If red roses are the little black dress of the flower world, then white lilies are your favorite cozy sweater that you just can’t live without. Lilies are known for their soothing power and rank just behind roses as the most desirable type of flower. Purple and lavender lilies are extremely popular right now, and many florists are finding that white lilies are also in high demand. In fact, full arrangements of all white flowers are requested more often now than ever before. It’s common to see pearl-colored roses, white daisies and off-white gardenias bunched together. White flowers used to symbolize weddings, but now they’re accepted for nearly every occasion.

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Wildflowers are the rebel of the classic floral world. You may attend a wedding where the bridesmaids are holding bouquets of wildflowers tied together with lace, cloth, straw or hemp. Wildflowers induce a country feel - as if you just walked into your very own backyard and picked them. However, if you purchase them from a florist, the colors will be much more vibrant than anything you would find on your own outdoors. To complete the rustic country feel, display wildflowers in a tall Mason jar filled with water, and embrace your inner freedom. Often confused as a flower themselves, orchids (which Pete’s Flowers staff explain are in fact plants) are everywhere. As they would say in the “Zoolander” movie that relentlessly pokes at the fashion industry, orchids are “so hot right now!” But just as it goes with anything in demand, if you want what’s hot, you have to pay for it. While you can Flowers page 14



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Planting fruit trees Expanding your home-gardening horizons stake, “use at least a 5- or 6-foot garden stake hammered about 2 feet into the bottom of the hole, a little off center on the southern side, if possible,” says a Bay Laurel Nursery staff member. Driving in a stake after the tree has been planted can damage roots. - Make a soil mound. Use the soil you dug for the hole to

create a mound a few inches high in the center of the hole, and pat it down gently. -Place your tree. Carefully place your loose-roots tree in the hole, centered on the mound, and spread its roots gently. “The tree has a graft union (sometimes called a bud union) visible where the root stock is grafted to the trunk.

As more home gardeners seek to expand their harvests - having enjoyed the delicious freshness of their herbs and vegetables, and saved a bundle in grocery money – there is a growing trend for planting fruit trees, as well. The tartness of freshly picked limes, the sweetness of oranges and peaches, the excitement of kids who get to pluck fruit from the trees - the allure is strong for new fruit tree and bush plantings. Also enticing gardeners to plant fruit trees is the vast list of expected and surprising fruits that can be grown in a home garden: apples, apricots, blueberries, cherries, figs, jujubes, lemons, limes, mulberries, nectarines, oranges, peaches, pears, persimmons, plums, pomegranates and quinces. Your local nursery or home-supply store will stock popular hardy fruit trees, and you can also order online specialty fruit trees, such as variations of Asian fruit trees that are popular now. Horticulturists work magic with fruit fusions, such as pluots (plum-apricot hybrids) and similar plumcots and apriplums, resulting in new gourmet flavors recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. First: chill Before selecting any fruit trees online, though, it’s important to know which fruit trees are best for your region. “The possibilities vary dramatically depending on where you are,” says Ellen Evans, sales clerk at Bay Laurel Nursery, a top source for ordering bare-root fruit trees for plant-

ing. “You have to know how many ‘chill hours’ your region gets, since that’s an important factor for each fruit tree.” “Chill hours” is the term for how many hours the temperature reaches below 45 degrees F, and many fruit trees NEED exposure to these chilly temperatures. “If you pick a tree that doesn’t get enough chill hours, you won’t get fruit,” says Evans. To find out how many chill hours your area gets, Evans suggests calling your local nursery or state agricultural office for the current numbers they measure. You can also check the interactive USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map at You plug in your ZIP code, and it tells you which zone you’re in. The Bay Laurel Nursery website lists the number of chill hours needed by each variety of fruit tree (and lists low-chill fruit trees) to help you identify which trees would thrive in your yard. How to plant fruit trees Bay Laurel Nursery suggests the following steps: - Dig a hole. In a location that gets the amount of sun prescribed on the fruit tree label, dig a hole that is at least wide enough for the roots of the tree so that none of them is bent. A wider hole is ideal, to give roots the room to extend and grow. For depth, again, follow the label directions, being sure that all roots will be covered. Then use your shovel to loosen the soil around the outside edges of the hole so that roots can continue to grow. -Drive in a stake. If your chosen tree requires a sturdy

Fruit trees page 14


Just one planted fruit tree can deliver a large bounty of fresh, ripe fruit.

By Sharon Naylor

This should be placed slightly above the existing ground level. It is better to plant a little high than low, since trees often settle,” say the nursery’s instructions. - Fill the hole with soil. Check with your garden center for the recommended nutrients and organic additives

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14 • Community Advocate • Spring Home Improvement • Friday, April 12, 2013

Extend your living space with a screened-in porch Extend your living space to the outdoors with a screenedin porch and you’ll have hours of carefree, mosquito-free and fresh-air living. Whether you are screening in an existing deck or porch or building one from scratch, here are a few tips from the pros on how to do it. David L. Businelli of Studio 16 Architecture, in New York, reminds folks to check their local ordinances regard-


ing design and new structures. “In many towns and cities, an owner needs to engage an architect to design the structure and prepare documents for filing and to secure permits,” he said. Even if you don’t require an architect, you may have to submit drawings and obtain required permits. Key issues municipalities consider include placement, safety, engineering, setbacks (distances to neigh-

boring properties) and overall aesthetics. Check with your local municipality and ask to see the building codes; many towns have these available online. “I think professional help is more needed in the design and documentation of the project,” suggested architect Paul Buum of SALA Architects. “The porch has to be ‘programmed,’ and how it will Porch page 15






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Flowers Continued from page 12

certainly expect to shell out some cash for orchids, they also tend to last longer than other flower arrangements. Orchids have seen a steady rise to the top, and based on sales, it’s unlikely anyone’s ready to call them just another fad anytime soon. Flowers are unique because they symbolize so many different emotions, feelings or messages intended for the receiver or the home of the person buying them. They represent love, friendship, beauty and strength and are typically present at every momentous

life event. So while the language of each specific flower is open to interpretation by both the giver and the receiver, the meaning for each individual will never go out of style. Maybe in five years we will look back and wonder how anyone could ever have thought that brightly colored roses were attractive. But have you ever kept a flower long after it dried out? Just as an old pair of jeans can take you back to your teenage years and the way you felt wearing them, classic flowers like red roses can take you back to something that will never go out of style: the way you felt when you first received them.

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over soil to build a raised circle around the tree, about 4 feet in diameter, to keep water in. “Placing organic material such as leaves, mulch or bark inside the circle can help protect the tree’s roots and help water retention. Make sure that you keep any mulch away from the trunk of the tree,” says Evans, because mulch in contact with the trunk can create harmful rot or disease to the tree, lessening or eliminating your fruit harvest.

Community Advocate • Friday, April 12, 2013 • Spring Home Improvement • 15

Extend your living space with a screened-in porch Porch Continued from page 14

be used has to be determined first,” to help decide placement. Think of using the screened-in porch as an extended room. If you want easy warm-weather entertaining, the porch might be set off of the living room or den; if you are looking for comfortable “outdoor” dining without the bugs, place the porch off your kitchen. Buum feels there is a lot of leeway in choosing materials for your porch. “If natural wood, then cedar or Douglas fir is often used,” he said. “If not, treated structural lumber can be used and covered or cased with a composite board or a cement board, such as hardy board. Screens can be aluminum, copper, bronze or fiberglass.” Screening in the area can be easy. “The simplest method is to staple screen directly to the structure and cover it with the finish wood,” Buum said. “More detailed construction methods include building screen sashes, like individual window frames, and stop-

Extend your living space to the outdoors with a screened-in porch and you’ll have hours of carefree, mosquito-free and fresh-air living.

ping them into the structure like windows. Finally, another method is to use pre-made screen doors and jamb them side by side, fixing all the ones that need not operate.” Even though the area is screened in, it still will be subject to

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Mosaic basically added a whole new living room to the house,” he said. You can add months or even full seasons to the “livability” of your porch or deck, Buum said. “Extending the season means controlling the temperature. Fireplaces, wood stoves or temporary electric heat can add to the months spent outside. Also, extended rooflines or overhangs can help keep the water out of the porch (remember that this is an exterior space, even though it’s screened in) while providing a great place to sit during a warm rainstorm.” Part of the planning, though, should consider the effect of outdoor elements. “I would say watch the water. As I mentioned, this is a room on the outside and is subject to rain and snow,” Buum said. “Water will get in during driving rains, so floors should be sloped for drainage, and a means for the water to get out should be planned for. Also, all materials, even on the inside of the porch, should be weatherresistant.”


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Spring Home Improvement Guide  
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Spring Home Improvement Guide - April 12, 2013