2021 Spring Home Improvement

Page 1



A supplement to East Bay Newspapers • April 14-15, 2021

Page 2 Spring Home Improvement 2021


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Secret to a healthy lawn? No surprise, it’s water and fertilizer A lush, green lawn is a sight to behold. Many variables are involved in growing and maintaining grass, and water and fertilizer are among the most important components. Knowing how much water and fertilizer to apply and when to apply it can make a big difference in the appearance and health of a lawn. That’s because a well-fed and watered lawn will develop a better root system, which makes the lawn less vulnerable to stressors like drought, mowing, foot traffic, and heat, according to the Scotts® company.

Fertilize There is no magic formula governing when to fertilize a lawn. The type of grass and how well-established a lawn is must be considered. Experts suggest having the soil tested to determine its pH levels and if any nutrients are lacking. A fertilizing schedule can then be developed after testing. Keep in mind that overfeeding a lawn will not make it grow any better and actually can damage the turf. Several small applications of fertilizer during the lawn’s most active growing period may be helpful, advises the

One test of a lawn’s health is to step on the grass. If footprints disappear quickly, the grass blades have enough moisture to spring back. home improvement resource Tools Around the House. An annual application (late spring for warm-season grass or fall for cool-season grass) may be all that’s needed. Certain fertilizers need to be applied and watered in. Others may be com-

bined with weed-control products and must be set on top of damp grass. Read packaging to determine the right application.

Water The right watering schedule and

techniques can help a lawn thrive. Scotts® says adjusting for climate and nature can help grass to grow strongly. A lawn that has a grayish cast or appears dull green is telling an owner that it needs water. Another test is to step on the lawn. If footprints disappear quickly, the grass blades have enough moisture to spring back. Water the lawn in the morning before 10 a.m. when it’s cooler and the winds tend to be calm so that the water can soak in. For those who must water at night, do so in early evening so that the water can dry before nightfall and will not contribute to disease. Scotts® says to water an established lawn until the top six to eight inches of soil is wet. Most lawns need one to 1.5 inches of water per week from rain or a hose to soak the soil that deeply. Newly established lawns may require more water to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Visit a lawn care center for more information on watering the type of lawn for your area or visit www.scotts. com for additional tips.

Page 4 Spring Home Improvement 2021

Techniques to revitalize a lawn after a long winter Pristine, snow-covered landscapes can be wonders to behold. While that blanket of white is idyllic, a lawn’s delicate blades may be paying a hefty price beneath the cold, heavy piles of snow. Snow plows push salt and sand up on the grass while subterranean animals like mice and moles dig burrows beneath piles of snow as they try to find food and stay warm. Such conditions are not favorable for thriving landscapes. When the spring thaw arrives, lawns may be in dire need of some TLC. The following techniques can mitigate winterrelated lawn damage.

Remove any debris from the lawn to see what you’re working with.

Clear out debris Remove any scattered leaves, branches and other debris that has been strewn across the property due to storms or snow-laden trees. This will give you a clean canvas to work on.

Dry out snow mold The Family Handyman says snow mold is a cold-season fungus that causes gray-colored circles or patches on the lawn where there has been

snow. To alleviate snow mold, rake the lawn to loosen matted grass and facilitate the drying-out process.

De-thatch the lawn Heavy snow can compress the grass and cause some of it to die off. Dethatching helps to remove dead grass

blades and separate any matting. This enables water, nutrients and air to


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Spring Home Improvement 2021 Page 5

Shade trees that can make yards more comfortable Various factors motivate the decisions homeowners make when designing their landscapes. Some may be motivated by the ways additions will affect the resale value of their homes, while others may be guided by a love for a particular type of plant. Comfort is yet another motivator, and shade trees can make yards more comfortable as the mercury rises. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, the following are some popular shade trees that can add beauty to a landscape and make it more comfortable come the dog days of summer. n Quaking aspen: The quaking aspen has the widest natural range of any tree in North America, spanning 47 degrees of latitude, 110 degrees of longitude (nine time zones) and elevations from sea level to timberline. That impressive range is no doubt why the United States Forest Service notes that the quaking aspen can grow in greatly diverse regions, environments and communities. n Northern catalpa: The Arbor Day Foundation notes that the northern catalpa is easily identifiable thanks to its heart-shaped leaves and twisting trunks and branches. Nature enthusiasts, and particularly those who enjoy birdwatching, may be happy to learn that the flowers of the catalpa are frequently visited by hummingbirds. n Red sunset maple: Its name alone

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makes many people think of lazy summer days spent lounging in the yard. The red sunset maple provides ample shade and comes with the added ben  efit of producing an awe-inspiring blend of red and orange leaves come the fall. Red sunset maples can survive in a range of habitats and their adaptable roots means they can thrive in various soil types. n Northern red oak: The state tree of New Jersey, the northern red oak is, according to the Arbor Day Foundation, both beloved for its aesthetic appeal and valued for its adaptability and usefulness. Northern red oaks can tolerate urban conditions, but they do not do well in hot climates. n Sawtooth oak: Another tree that produces some awe-inspiring color, VERMONT VERMONTCASTINGS CASTINGS the sawtooth oak is a durable, adaptRADIANCE GAS STOVE RADIANCE GAS STOVE able shade tree. Golden yellow leaves in the spring will give way to dark green in summer, only to turn yellow and golden brown in the fall. The Tree Center Plant Supply Co. notes that the thefireplaceshowcase.com thefireplaceshowcase.com thefireplaceshowcase.com sawtooth oak can thrive in warmer climates where shade trees that can coexist with high temperatures can be hard to find. Shade trees can add beauty to a property and make a yard more comfortable. Homeowners are urged to discuss shade trees with a local lawn and garden professional prior to plantCOMMERCIAL ing.


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LAWNS: Weed, seed and fertilize From FACING PAGE

reach the lawn’s roots more effectively. Thinning out old organic matter also helps encourage new growth.

Aerate the soil Coupled with dethatching, aeration involves loosening the soil or poking holes to allow nutrients to move freely to the roots.

Kill weeds before they spread Weeds may be the first to start growing when the weather begins to warm. Address them promptly by manually pulling them or applying an herbicide.

Overseed the lawn Chances are there are some bare spots that have formed over the winter.

Overseeding can help to fill in the lawn. Make sure that frosts are largely a thing of the past and soil temperature is around 50 F to 60 F before seeding. Water daily until grass fills in.

Apply nutrients Fertilizer and compost can restore nutrients to the lawn that may have been used up over winter. A soil test at a nearby horticultural center can tell you which nutrients are needed, according to the Chemistry Cachet, a guide to using chemistry secrets for healthy living, beauty, cleaning, and gardening. Lawns can be restored to their prewinter glory after some sweat equity and about five to six weeks of consistent sunshine and warm weather.

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Page 6 Spring Home Improvement 2021

Consider these low-maintenance lawn alternatives A traditional lawn may not be right for every property nor desired by every homeowner. There is no denying that lawns take time and effort to establish and daily or weekly maintenance to thrive. Homeowners who find that a traditional lawn is not practical can explore some low-maintenance alternatives.

mental grasses grow in tufts or sprays and will not require mowing. However, they are not ideal for areas that get foot traffic.

Moss Moss can thrive in shady areas and ones where the soil tends to stay a bit damp. Moss is velvety soft and green, so it can mimic the look of a traditional lawn but won’t require mowing and other upkeep. Because it spreads quickly, moss can take over quite rapidly. You will need to protect areas where you do not want moss by creating barriers to stop spread.

Wildflower meadow Homeowners with wide swaths of property may discover meadows are cost- and time-efficient. Stores sell special wildflower meadow mixes of seeds or homeowners can use wildflower plug plants throughout areas where grasses are left to grow longer. This natural area can be a home to wildlife and an idyllic backdrop to a

Gravel For some properties, a wildflower meadow can be cost- and time-efficient.

Find more stories & photos at eastbayri.com 24/7

home. Most meadows only require a spring or summer and autumn cut to thrive and look good.

Ornamental grasses Partition areas of the property for

ornamental grasses to grow. The gardening resource Elemental Green says ornamental grasses tend to be droughtresistant and low-maintenance. They won’t need much fertilizer and are often resistant to pests as well. Orna-

Stone and gravel areas can reduce maintenance in the landscape and require very little upkeep. When gravel is installed correctly, weeds may not grow readily. Gravel installation may include laying heavyduty, semi-permeable landscape fabric, which is available in home improvement centers. Gravel is cheaper than pavers and can be just as beautiful.

Spring Home Improvement 2021 Page 7

Consider these swimming pool landscaping ideas Backyard pools provide a way to cool off and enjoy a taste of luxury without having to travel. Backyard pools provided even more convenience and a welcome respite in 2020, as many public pools were closed in response to social distancing restrictions put in place during the pandemic. After installing pools, many homeowners realize that touching up the landscaping around the pool can provide the finishing touch to their backyard retreats. Not all landscaping is the same, and homeowners should choose plants that look beautiful, are tolerant to pool splash-out and won’t outgrow the area. The home and garden resource The Spruce notes that a plant that is attractive at two feet tall can grow rapidly and drop leaves or other debris into the pool. When selecting options for pool landscaping, there are some considerations to keep in mind: n Choose plants that will provide privacy. n Know which kind of climate a plant needs prior to purchasing it. Tropical plants may be fitting poolside, but will they endure when the season is over? n Design according to the theme of the home, as plants should complement the existing style. Modern foliage may not blend well with a home styled after a traditional English cottage. n Decide whether you can accept spreading or trailing plants that can cascade over retaining walls and other infrastructure. n Look at trees that won’t drop too many leaves, flowers or fruit into the water. n Think about having layers of plants to soften the landscape,

Choose plants that provide privacy, yet won’t litter the pool with leaves and debris. which can make a small pool seem bigger and more luxurious, indicates the landscaping company Earth Development, Inc. n Don’t overlook the possibility of a lawn abutting pavers or concrete surrounding a pool, as it can soften the edges and keep spaces open and inviting. n Incorporate herbs or fragrant plants, which can transform a pool day into a spa experience. Consider low-maintenance lavender as an option.

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Pool landscaping must marry a variety of different features and plant requirements. As a result, a professional consultation may be the route to take. Landscape architects will have the know-how to select plant varieties that will be tolerant, beautiful and fulfill homeowners’ wishes. Backyard pools can make a backyard retreat that much more enjoyable. Landscaping offers the softness and beauty that adds a finishing touch to poolside retreats.

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Page 8 Spring Home Improvement 2021

Don’t miss a beat during a power outage Short-term power outages can be a minor inconvenience. A long-term power outage can cause a major disruption to daily life. The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Annual Electric Power Industry Report says interruptions in electric service vary by frequency and duration across the many electric distribution systems that serve the country. In 2016, the most recent year for data, customers experienced an average of 1.3 interruptions and went without power for around four hours. When a storm strikes or an accident knocks out electric power lines or other infrastructure, it may take much longer for power to be restored. During Superstorm Sandy in 2012, more than eight million people lost power and outages lasted for days in some major cities. Outlying areas were without power for weeks, according to National Geographic. It’s important to know how to handle a power outage to keep everyone safe and comfortable until power can be restored.

Invest in a generator If you live in an area that is affected by

With strong storms and power outages seemingly more frequent, many homeowners are investing in generators.

frequent power outages, a power generator may prove a worthwhile investment. Generators come in two basic types. A portable generator can be rolled into place and uses gasoline as fuel. Plug in a set number of household items, depending on the amount of power the appliance can accommodate. A whole-house generator can be hard-wired to a home’s electrical system and automatically engage should a power outage occur.


Prepare in advance In anticipation of a power outage, stock up on battery-powered devices like flashlights, lanterns and radios. Charge mobile phones and other devices so they’re at 100 percent power. Keep a cache of nonperishable food available and plan to use any perishable items that are in the refrigerator first. A refrigerator can keep food cold for about four hours after power has ceased, states Ready.gov, while a freezer

can keep the temperature for about 48 hours if full. Packing these appliances with ice or frozen bottles of water can help. Purchase books, board games and puzzles to have activities to pass the time until power resumes.

During a power outage Report the power outage to the power company if it seems localized; otherwise, wait for updates to see who is affected. Try to remain cool or warm if the HVAC system is not functioning. Pool resources by having everyone in the family gather in one room of the house. Older adults and children are especially vulnerable to extreme temperatures. Maintain food supplies that do not require refrigeration, including two gallons of bottled water per individual. People who take refrigerated medications should only ingest drugs that have been at room temperature until a new supply is available, advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Power outages routinely occur and require planning and safety precautions until power is restored.

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Renovation trends that figure to be popular in the year ahead Home renovation trends are everchanging. Renovations that might have been de rigueur 20 years ago may seem dated now. Recognizing the potentially popular trends of tomorrow is a great way for homeowners to give their homes a fresh new look and put themselves in position to capitalize on popular trends when they put their homes on the market. That’s especially so after 2020, a year when millions of people spent more time at home than ever before. All that time working from home and relaxing at home gave millions of homeowners ideas about what they like about their homes and what they hope to change. The following are some renovation trends that various experts suspect could emerge in 2021.

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Large windows, clean spaces and versatile living From FACING PAGE technology, and fashion, predicts that eco-friendly living solutions figure to be hot commodities in 2021. Ecofriendly appliances, furniture and designs can help to conserve energy and reduce waste, which environmentalists and government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency note are two critical components in the fight against climate change.

A popular design trend this year will be minimalist, simple spaces, with more big windows and natural light.

Large windows Large windows can provide stunning views of the outdoors and allow ample natural light into a home. It may not be a coincidence if large windows prove to be a hot trend in 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic that dominated much of 2020 forced many people to spend considerably more time at home. Darker homes without much natural light can adversely affect mood, especially when people are spending more time at home. HGTV predicts that homeowners will seek ways to bring more natural light into their homes in 2021, and large windows naturally brighten homes while making rooms appear bigger, helping




people feel less cramped. That’s an especially beneficial characteristic when spending more time indoors at home.

Minimalism The anticipated popularity of minimalism in 2021 may also be connected to the pandemic. As professionals were forced to work from home and many




families spent more time together inside their homes than ever before, they may have recognized a need to cut back on clutter, including extra furniture. A minimalist approach is both simple and clean, which can make homes feel less claustrophobic.

Multi-functional spaces Homeowners asked a lot of their

homes in 2020, as rooms were transformed into multi-functional spaces seemingly overnight. HGTV notes that spending more time at home showed homeowners that it may not make sense to dedicate entire rooms of a home to a single purpose. Renovations that can help homeowners transform rooms into multi-functional spaces figure to be hot commodities in the years ahead

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The powerful impact of outdoor lighting The value of the right lighting in a home is undeniable. Lighting can instantly transform a room and create the ambiance homeowners are looking to establish. Though it might be mostly seen as a way to create mood inside a home, lighting also can do much for lawns and gardens. Backyards have come a long way over the last several decades. Once reserved as play areas for children and stomping grounds for the family dog, backyards have become oases for homeowners and their families. Outdoor living areas are wildly popular, and no such area is complete without exterior lighting. In fact, a recent report from the National Association of Home Builders found that 85 percent of home buyers want exterior lighting, making it the second most desired outdoor feature (patios topped that list). Exterior lighting can have a dramatic effect on landscaping, and estimates from the online financial resource Kiplinger.com suggest such lighting is inexpensive, with installation averaging roughly $67 per fixture. Lighting both subtle or bold can have a dramatic effect on outdoor spaces.


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Hanging lights bring a festive atmosphere to any outdoor space.

Consider lighting up trees and using uplights From FACING PAGE

Opt for warm light

When installing exterior lighting around their landscapes, homeowners can keep various tips in mind to create a relaxing, awe-inspiring mood on their properties at night. Uplights are installed in the ground and direct light up at a tree, focusing on its trunk or canopy. This creates a dramatic effect that makes it possible to enjoy majestic trees at night just like you might when spending time in the yard during the day.

Warm white light creates an inviting feel around the property. The exterior lighting experts at Utah Lights acknowledge that choice of lighting is up to homeowners but also note that, in situations with lower levels of ambient light, such as in exterior lights around a property, people typically prefer warmer light. That’s because warm light tends to be easier on the eyes and directs attention to the features of the landscape, which is many homeowners’ goal when installing exterior lighting in their yards.

Focus on trees

Utilize a timer

Many homeowners already have exterior lighting lining their walkways and patios, but focusing on trees can create an entirely different look. Though it’s possible to install exterior tree lighting on your own, landscaping professionals with lighting experience know which fixtures will pair most effectively with the trees around your property and how to arrange them for maximum effect.

Modern exterior lighting timers make it easier than ever to control the lights outside a home. Many such timers even adjust for the changing seasons and the shifting hours of daylight. That means homeowners shouldn’t have to tinker with the timer once it’s set. Exterior lighting can add significant appeal to a property without breaking the bank.

Consider uplights

Did you know? Leaves that fall from trees can be a marvel to behold. But leaves can stain exterior surfaces when they eventually settle on vehicles, concrete driveways, patios, and other surfaces, become wet and/or are not cleaned away in a timely fashion. Leaf stains are caused by tannins in the leaves. The pigments can be absorbed by porous materials like concrete and leave stains behind. While these stains may wash away

over time, homeowners may prefer a faster way to get rid of unsightly stains. To remove moderate leaf stains, mix oxygen bleach with hot water and apply to stains using a scrub brush. Dark stains may require a tougher cleanser, such as one that contains trisodium phosphate. Some homeowners find success using a pressure washer to clean away leaf stains, while others rely on commercial leaf-stain removers.


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The average timelines for popular renovation projects Home renovation projects are significant undertakings. Working with skilled and experienced contractors can ensure projects go smoothly and are completed promptly. Timing is a big consideration for homeowners as they begin renovating their homes, and the home improvement experts at HomeAdvisor note that the following are some general timelines for popular renovation projects.

Home addition Short of a full-scale demolition and rebuild, home additions are the most time-consuming projects homeowners can undertake. HomeAdvisor notes that its survey of customers who recently completed home addition projects reported that the average time from start to finish was between three and four months. Certain variables, including the scale of the project and the local permits process, can extend the time it takes to complete a home addition.


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Kitchen remodel

Homeowners who want to replace all the windows in their home can expect such a project to take roughly three weeks. HomeAdvisor notes that such a timeline need not concern homeowners worried that they will be forced to brave the elements during the length of the project. Much of a contractors’ time during a window replacement project will be spent on upfront measuring and then ensuring a tight fit once the windows have been installed.

Scale is a big factor to consider when estimating the time it takes to complete various home improvement projects, and kitchen remodels are no exception. Some HomeAdvisor users reported projects taking as long as four months, though the average time reported was roughly six weeks. Projects that require major overhauls like rearranging the plumbing and moving walls will likely take longer than more cosmetic projects that are limited to replacing cabinets and countertops.


Bathroom remodel More than 1,000 homeowners surveyed by HomeAdvisor reported that bathroom remodels took about 4.5 weeks from start to finish. Smallscale remodels that focus on painting the walls a fresh color and replacing existing tiles can be completed in less than two weeks. But like with kitchen remodels, bathroom remodels that involve replacing plumbing

Expect a bathroom remodeling project to take at least a month.

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