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2 • March 17, 2018 | The Vermont Eagle

The basics of mulching

Mulch is available in various forms. Like other land and garden products, mulch can go a long way toward helping plants thrive. Mulch comprises just about any material that is spread over the surface of soil. Its purpose is primarily to help soil retain moisture. In addition, mulch can staunch weed growth, keep soil cool, improve the aesthetics of garden beds, and even improve soil nutrient composition. When the right mulch is chosen, it can reduce the amount of time homeowners spend watering and weeding their gardens and insulate plants from dramatic changes in weather. Gardeners may not realize that mulch also can prevent garden soil from becoming overly compacted, according to HGTV. This can mean beneficial earthworms can move easily through the soil, creating channels for water and depositing their nutrient-rich waste products. Gardeners can choose organic or inorganic mulch. Organic mulches are derived from natural materials that will decompose over time, lending organic matter as well as various nutrients to the soil. Organic mulches also may contain beneficial microorganisms that can fight against plant diseases. Inorganic mulches may be made of stones, landscape fabrics and plastic. Both types will need to be amended or replaced as they degrade. Those who want the most environmentally-friendly mulching materials can choose allnatural mulches instead of synthetic alternatives. To work effectively, mulch should be applied in a two- to three-inch layer of material, state the experts at Old World Garden Farms. This is the ideal amount to retain soil moisture and suppress weed growth without choking plants. Also, mulch that is too thick may make it impossible for water to penetrate, or it may prevent the soil from airing out, causing continuously wet conditions that lead to root and stem rot. The University of Connecticut Home & Garden Education Center says mulch should not be placed directly against plant crowns or tree bases, as this can promote the development of disease. It may also serve as a habitat for barkand stem-eating rodents. The center also suggests watering newly installed bark or wood mulches to prevent fungi from colonizing in dry mulch and causing problems like a waterrepellent surface on the mulch.

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Home landscapers considering mulch types may find that compost, manure and grass clippings (from nonpesticidetreated lawns) can be inexpensive and versatile in garden beds. The home advice site The Spruce notes that newspaper may also be effective. Many newspapers have switched over to organic dyes, especially for


their black and white sections. Newspapers are an inexpensive way to suppress weeds and act like organic mulch in beds. They can be covered with other organic mulch, like shredded bark, for more visual appeal. Mulch can be a versatile asset when doing gardening proj-

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The Vermont Eagle | March 17, 2018 • 3

Millwork can add appeal and a classic feel Homeowners are discovering that architectural accents can go a long way toward improving both the look and value of their homes. When renovating a space, the term “millwork” may be mentioned by designers and contractors. While it might be a mystery to some, millwork can give rooms unique looks. Millwork refers to items traditionally made from raw lumber in a sawmill. Examples of millwork include crown molding, base trims, door frames, window casings, chair rails, and paneling. Cabinets may also classify as millwork. Used for both decoration and to increase the functionality of buildings, millwork comes in various types. Generally, millwork is fabricated in two ways. Stock millwork tends to be mass-produced commercial items. These low-cost items are interchangeable and may be widely available at retailers, including home improvement centers. Custom millwork is a product that is custom designed and produced for individuals and special building projects. Sometimes referred to as “architectural millwork,” these pieces may be more ornate and made-to-order. Homeowners who want to match a focal point of a home or an existing style often turn to custom millwork. Between the 15th and 18th centuries, ornate millwork was largely reserved for royalty or the very wealthy. Skilled carpenters would hand carve each piece, taking weeks to finish most projects. Eventually, millwork became more common-

place. Distinguishing one property from another today could mean turning back to the more distinctive designs of the past. Homeowners looking for ways to enhance their properties can embrace millwork to achieve a luxury feel without a sizable investment. The first step is to choose millwork that will coordinate with the era and style of a home’s existing decor. Ornate millwork in an overly modern house may seem out of place. The millwork should match the architectural theme of the home. Although some do-it-yourselfers can successfully install prefabricated millwork, for custom designs and a truly seamless look, it is important to have millwork professionally installed. Individuals should research carpenters who specialize in millwork and verify their license and reputation through a consumer protection agency. Popular types of millwork include crown molding, corbels, wainscotting, and custom bookcases. Homeowners may not realize that millwork can be added to spaces of all sizes to give them an air of sophistication. Although millwork was traditionally formed from hardwoods, eco-friendly homeowners can now find millwork crafted from synthetic materials and even reclaimed woods. Millwork can add that special touch to the interior or exterior of a home. Learn more by visiting ■

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4 • March 17, 2018 | The Vermont Eagle

Published by New Market Press, Inc.

Ergonomic gardening techniques can make gardening less taxing Gardening is a popular activity that seems to be gaining even more supporters. Statistica reports that the number of people who gardened within the last 12 months in the United States rose from around 105 million in 2008 to 118 million in 2017. Gardening can be relaxing yet physically demanding work. Gardeners who find themselves battling aches and pains after spending time in the garden may need to make a greater effort to reduce injuries and improve comfort when tilling, weeding or installing new landscape features. Ergonomic gardening techniques and tools can help gardeners reduce their risk of injury and make gardening more comfortable.


Just as novice athletes wouldn’t dive right into a strenuous workout at the gym, nor should novice gardeners immediately pick up a shovel and jump into digging a hole for their new tree. Gardening requires bending, stooping, lifting, twisting, and other movements that work the entire body. Spending 10 or more minutes stretching, walking and doing a few back and arm rotations can limber the body up for the physical activity to come.


Think about the mechanics of lifting weights during a workout, as home and garden tasks may mimic movements made when exercising. The occupational therapists at Bend Spinal Care say that strain on the lower back can be reduced by positioning objects close to the body and its center of gravity when lifting them. Furthermore, people can contract their abdominal (core) muscles when lifting and bending to support the back. When lifting

heavy objects, power should be derived from the legs and buttocks rather than the back.


Keeping work closer to the body will reduce the need for stooping, leaning or reaching, which should cut down on pulled muscles. Long-handled tools can help minimize reaching. Use step ladders to reach high areas or get down on padded cushions to work closer to the ground. This alleviates

strain to the neck from having to look up or down for extended periods of time. Raised garden beds can bring plants to a person’s level. The therapists at ProCare Physical Therapy say that working below shoulder level whenever possible can prevent shoulder strains; otherwise, perform tasks for no more than five minutes at a time.


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prevent wrist fatigue, as can hand tools that keep wrists straight to improve strength and reduce repetitive motion injuries. Longhandled tools and push mowers should be as tall as the person using them. Seek out tools that keep the body in natural positions to maximize efficiency. Even though gardening is viewed as a relaxing pastime, the work involved can be taxing on the body. Ergonomic tools and proper form can keep injuries at bay. ■



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The Vermont Eagle | March 17, 2018 • 5

The benefits of child-safe home improvements All family members should be considered when home improvements are being planned, especially the youngest household residents who may not be responsible enough to avoid accidents and injuries. According to a recent Vital Signs report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accidental injuries are a leading cause of death among the country’s youth — with one fatality occurring every hour from something entirely preventable. The CDC notes that the leading causes of child injury include suffocation, drowning, poisoning, fires, and falls. More can be done to keep children safe, and many strategies start at home.


A security system can be just as effective at keeping little ones inside as it is at keeping unwanted guests outside. Alarms can be set to sound anytime a window or door is

breached, which can deter curious children from trying to leave the house without permission. Pair the alarm system with secure locks and high latches that can also stop children in their tracks.


Safety devices installed on windows that are above ground level can keep children safe. Stair rails should be secure and in good working order. Temporary gates can block kids from getting on stairways. Improve lighting around staircases to help children and adults avoid falls, and remove any obstacles.

Install fencing around pools to keep children from wandering close to the water’s edge. Towns and cities may require certain fence heights or self-latching gates to keep little ones safe. Young children should never be left to their own devices around any source of water, whether it’s a pool, tub or toilet.



The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission warns that unanchored televisions and top-heavy furniture can tip over onto children and cause severe injuries and even death. Everyday furniture can be tempting to climb; therefore, using anchors to secure furniture to walls for security is a must.

Locking cabinets can keep medications, household chemicals, home improvement paints and solvents, and other potential poisons out of reach.



Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are only useful if they are functional. Homeowners should inspect such devices regularly to ensure proper operation and promptly replace old or faulty detectors to improve safety. ■

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6 • March 17, 2018 | The Vermont Eagle

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Tools of the home renovator’s trade

Home renovation projects can be both exciting and tricky. Do-it-yourselfers are inspired by designs showcased in magazines, websites and their own communities. When DIY enthusiasts see a design they like, it’s understandable that they may want to emulate these looks at home. Remodeling is one of the larger DIY undertakings, and it goes beyond simple car-

pentry. Considering demolition, reconstruction, electrical, plumbing, and masonry work may be part of the DIY package, homeowners who are thinking about renovations must first stock up on the tools and other supplies of the trade. Having the right tools can mean the difference between a job well done and a job that needs to be redone. • Crowbar or prybar: Before you can put in

new construction, you might have to get your hands dirty with some demolition. Crowbars or prybars can be used to pry up wood slats, remove nails or remove old decking. • Tool pouch: A tool and fastener pouch gives DIYers a place other than their pockets to store fasteners and hand tools. Pouches can be attached to tool belts for added storage capacity.

• Stud finder: Invest in a more fool-proof method of locating studs behind drywall then knocking on the wall. Stud finders can provide a picture of studs, pipes and other hidden items inside an entire length of wall. This is essential to driving nails where they belong and can also prevent sending fasteners into wires or nearby plumbing. • Level: A level is an essential tool for everyone from casual decorators to more involved renovators. Whether hanging pictures or ensuring molding is parallel, levels are must-have tools for DIYers. • Safety glasses: Invest in a pair of safety glasses so no one working on a project deals with obstructed vision. Safety glasses also provide ample eye protection. • Extension cords: If power tools are part of the renovation picture, extension cords can safely extend power where it is needed. Be sure to invest in a gauge that is large enough to handle the amperage of your most powerful tool. • Measuring tape: The “measure twice, cut once” mantra is key to home improvements. To measure accurately each and every time, no tool chest is complete without a sturdy measuring tape. • Ladder varieties: Home improvements aren’t always at ground level. Purchase ladders of various heights so you can safely reach various areas of the home and avoid injury. Step stools, a step ladder and an extension ladder all have their purposes on the job. • Digital inspection scope: A scope lets you see inside walls, floors and ceilings to find the exact location of pipes, wires and joists. It also can be used to seek out the source of clogged drains or anywhere you desire sight into hard-to-maneuver areas. In addition to these tools, brooms, shopvacs, hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches and pliers can complete a DIYer’s basic toolbox. ■

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The Vermont Eagle | March 17, 2018 • 7

Home security for the do-it-yourselfer Feeling secure at home is a priority for many people. Many people consider installing security systems in their homes to improve their sense of well-being. Whether one owns or rents, individuals may be surprised to learn that do-it-yourself security systems can be savvy investments. The right system can help people protect their belongings and their families, but sorting through the various security systems on the market can be a daunting task. While full-service setups that include professional installation and monitoring are available, some homeowners may want to investigate the highly customizable DIY kits now available. Some include personal monitoring, while others are selfinstall technologies with professional monitoring. Before getting started, homeowners and renters can ask themselves a few questions to help narrow down their options. • What is your budget? Professional installation and monitoring will likely cost more than DIY kits. • How large is the home? • Are you tech-savvy? • How frequently are you out of the home on vacation or extended trips? • Do you desire emergency response? • Do you want an entire package or just some deterrent devices? Once men and women have answered these questions, it’s time to start shopping. Here are some DIY security system items that may be of interest.

be paired with cloud storage for recording video.


Residents who are away from home frequently or are too busy to constantly monitor security systems may like the peace of mind of professionally monitored kits. Services like Frontpoint®, Link Interactive® and Scout® are just three that have affordable starter kits and video monitoring. Monitored alarm systems can be set to call the police or other emergency services if necessary.


Entry-level systems typically include a few door and window sensors, a motion detector and a hub that communicates with these sensors. This may be enough for someone in an apartment or small house. More extensive systems may include additional sensors, door locks, garage door openers, surveillance cameras, lights, sirens, and even water and smoke detectors. Do-it-yourself security systems represent a new wave to safeguard one’s belongings and family. Kits continue to evolve and have become more seamless than ever. ■


These home security systems connect to a home’s Wi-Fi network so they can be monitored and controlled using a smartphone app. Others may be accessed through an application on the internet. It is important to look for a system that has the extra security of technology that is not easily hacked.


Some people may only want to watch the inside and outside of their residences. It can take mere minutes to set up wireless security cameras around the house. These devices connect to a Wi-Fi network and give customers free access to a constant stream of video. Some systems make it easy for homeowners to listen in on what’s going on at home and even talk to anyone within the camera’s range. Others can


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The Vermont Eagle | March 17, 2018 • 9

Must-have kitchen remodel features Homeowners looking to renovate often see room for improvement in their kitchens and bathrooms. The National Association of Home Builder’s Remodeling Market Index Survey, which measures conditions in the remodeling market, indicates that, in 2015, the two most common remodeling jobs were bathroom remodels (81 percent) and kitchen remodels (79 percent). According to HGTV and Statistics Brain, a new kitchen remodel for a kitchen measuring 12 by 12 feet may cost homeowners anywhere from $17,000 to $37,000. Before investing so much into their remodeling projects, homeowners should think carefully about the features that will improve their time spent at home. When planning a kitchen renovation, homeowners may want to consider the following upgrades to make the room more enjoyable while improving its functionality.


Although high-efficiency dishwashers are popular, deep sinks to soak soup pots or woks are still useful. Deep sinks may be preferable to double sinks, especially for homeowners who use lots of kitchen tools when preparing meals.


When replacing cabinets (or just the hardware), consider installing soft-closing hinges and slides on doors and drawers. These devices eliminate slamming and caught fingers, reducing noise and injuries in the kitchen.


When outfitting a sink, think about foot controls, which are popular in doctors’ offices and hospitals. Turning on the water with the tap of a foot can reduce the transfer of pathogens to faucets from hands during food preparation. These pedals also free up hands for other tasks.


People likely spend more time raiding the refrigerator than the freezer on any given day. Rather than having to bend down to seek out that favorite flavor of Greek yogurt, choose a model with the fridge on top and freezer on the bottom, especially if anyone in the household has mobility issues. When shopping for refrigerators, French-door style units may offer even more access, making it easy for homeowners to slide fruit trays, sheet cakes and other large items into the fridge.


A kitchen should be a balance of form and function. A

combination of overhead lighting, decorative lighting and task lighting can illuminate all areas of the space effectively.


Architectural and design resource Houzz says that appliance garages are popular kitchen additions, too. Set at

countertop level, these cabinets allow people to keep small appliances plugged in but tucked neatly behind closed doors. Kitchen remodels are a sizable investment, and renovations can be customized to make the kitchen more hospitable for all in residence. ■



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10 • March 17, 2018 | The Vermont Eagle

Published by New Market Press, Inc.

Composite decking can be a smart choice

Composite decking can mimic the look of wood, but requires much less maintenance. Decks add character and functionality to a home, increasing outdoor entertaining space and oftentimes improving the resale value of a home. Homeowners have various options when choosing decking materials, but one such option, composite decking, is growing in popularity. Decks used to primarily be made from pressure-treated lumber. While lumber remains a

popular material, more and more homeowners are opting for composite decking products. As anyone who has pressure-washed, stained and sealed wood decks can attest, such spaces require lots of upkeep to look new year after year. Composite decks require much less maintenance, making them highly attractive to homeowners who would rather spend time using their decks instead of maintaining them.

Stock photo

Composite decking is any type of decking material that is formulated from different recycled materials. The majority of these materials include hard plastic and wood shavings of pulp. Unlike wood, which can fade, crack and rot, composite decking, which has been available for roughly a decade, does not degrade quickly and requires very little upkeep. Available in a variety of wood colors to

match outdoor decor, composite decks also can feature artificial wood grains to make them look similar to wood planks. Although composite decks are not completely impervious to the elements, with some occasional washing to impede mold growth and new technology that has improved stain-resistance, many of the pitfalls of other materials can be avoided with composite decks. Composite decking fits in with eco-friendly lifestyles. The planks are made from recycled materials that would normally end up in landfills. Products from Trex, a popular composite decking manufacturer, are made from 1.5 million shopping bags and wood mill waste. As composite decks do not rot away and are long-lasting, they will not need to be replaced frequently, which is another eco-friendly benefit. When comparing composite decking brands, look mainly at the colors, materials used in the composition and the fastening systems. Many are fastened with regular deck screws, offers This Old House. The newer systems have channels for hidden fastening, and the composite deck tiles snap into place. Composite decks do have a few drawbacks. They can be expensive — nearly double the initial cost of wood decks. And although they don’t rot, composite planks can scratch. Without refinishing, damaged boards will need to be replaced. Harsh chemicals may fade color and damage the composite materials, so caution is needed. Composite decking remains an in-demand choice for outdoor spaces. Low-maintenance and long-lasting, these decks have quickly become favorites among homeowners. ■

How to make existing windows more energy efficient Drafty windows make homes less comfortable by allowing cold air in during the winter and warm air in when temperatures rise. But comfort is not the only concern associated with leaky windows, as such fixtures also can have a negative impact on the environment. Leaky windows require heating and cooling systems to work harder to keep home interiors comfortable during times of the year when temperatures can be extreme. In the dead of winter, a leaky window will force a home’s inhabitants to turn up the thermostat, which only increases energy consumption and energy bills. The same scenario plays out in summer, when leaky windows allow hot air in, leading homeowners to lower the temperature of air conditioning units so everyone inside is cool and comfortable.

Thankfully, making windows more energy efficient does not necessarily require homeowners to replace existing windows. Before going that potentially expensive route, homeowners can consider the following strategies to improve the energy efficiency of their windows. • Hang curtains. Curtains can help homeowners cut down on heating and cooling costs. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, properly hung draperies can reduce heat loss by as much as 25 percent. In the summer, curtains can block the hot rays from the sun from entering a home, reducing the need to turn up air conditioning units. While curtains won’t fix leaks or block hot or cold air from entering a home, they can serve as a buffer between a home’s inhabitants and the air seeping in through leaks.

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• Caulk or add weatherstripping. Small cracks and gaps around windows, which are most often found around windows in older buildings, might not seem like a big deal, but such breaches can lead to considerable energy loss. The DOE recommends using caulk to seal cracks that are less than 1 ⁄4inch wide on the parts of the window that do not move (i.e., frames and where the trim meets the wall). Caulk might be less effective at fixing leaks larger than 1 ⁄4 inch in width. Employ weatherstripping to address leaks on movable parts of the window. Properly applied weatherstripping should adequately seal windows when they are closed without making it difficult to open or close them later on. Weatherstripping is available in various materials, and homeowners can visit to find the material that’s most suitable for their situation. • Install windows films. Plastic window films are another option for homeowners looking to improve the energy efficiency of their windows. Heat shrink film can be cut to fit each individual leaky window in a home and then attached to windows using double-sided tape. A hair dryer can then be used to shrink the film and remove any wrinkles. Lowemissivity, or Low-E, coatings are a more expensive alternative to heat shrink film, and they can be equally effective at improving energy efficiency. Installation of Low-E coatings can be more difficult, as they do not provide as much leeway for mistakes during application as heat shrink film. Leaky windows are bad for homeowners’ energy bills and the environment. But homeowners have options other than full window replacements to fix leaks and improve efficiency. ■

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The Vermont Eagle | March 17, 2018 • 11

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12 â&#x20AC;˘ March 17, 2018 | The Vermont Eagle

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Published by New Market Press, Inc.

Thiswasa veryrewarding experience whichbeganwitha goalof wantingto makeourhomefullyrenewably poweredby workingwitha localteamandculminated withmeetinggreatmembers of our community, keepingourdollarslocal whilealsosupporting otherAmerican renewable technology manufacturers. We foundkindredspiritsat BEandwecan't recommend themhighlyenough! - MeganNedzinski andJoshuaFaulkner SouthStarksboro, VT

BristolElectronics is thebest!They scheduled anon-sitevisitwithindays of mycall,hada pricea weeklater andstartedworka weekafterthat. Theywerefinishedin a matterof daysandsinceI hada freestanding arraytheyevenrakedandseeded theareaaroundthepanels.They gettopmarksin everything andtheir customer serviceis beyondexcellent. I highlyrecommend themif youwant thebestjobfor thebestprice! - LaniNichols Goshen,VT

BristolElectronics installedour20 panels If wehadanotherhome,I'dwantthemto quickly,efficiently, coureously andjustthe putthesolarpanelsonthatonetoo!We solarandBristolElectronics waywewantedthem.Ourroofis a difficult recommend onedueto ourpost-and-beam construction,withoutreservation! butnevertheless, thecrewwasfriendly, - Lawrence & CynthiaJones informative andjustgreatpeople. SouthStarksboro, VT Thenin thecloudcover,we began immediately to generate electricity! Furthermore (andmostimportantly for othersdecidingto installsolar),theprice wasfair,competitive andhonest.

802. 453. 2500




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