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Spring

HOME IMPROVEMENT

A supplement to East Bay Newspapers • May 13-14, 2020


Page 2 Spring Home Improvement 2020

Decor ideas to give homes a fresh look this spring Spring is a season of rejuvenation, and that spirit of renewal can take hold inside a home. Warm weather and longer hours of daylight make spring a perfect time to imagine a home’s interior design in a new light. The following are a handful of decor ideas that may inspire homeowners to give their homes an entirely new look this spring.

Wallpaper Wallpaper fell out of favor years ago, but new styles that aren’t so heavily patterned can make for wonderful additions to any room. Large-scale prints can give a room a whole new feel without giving homeowners or their guests the impression that they have stepped back in time. A simple, mural-style floral wallpaper on the walls surrounding a table in a breakfast nook can bring nature inside.

ored accent furniture to rooms that could use a lift.

Declutter

open space in entertaining areas by mounting the television and getting rid of a bulky entertainment center. Create even more space by replacing rarely used end tables with a storage ottoman where books and magazines can be stored to give a room a fresh, clean look.

impression. Replace dated accents like vases and table lamps with newer items that reflect the latest styles and trends. Such adjustments won’t break the bank, and they can give rooms a whole new feel. Spring is a great time to reconsider home interiors. This spring homeowners can embrace various strategies, both big and small, to give their homes a whole new feel.

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Nothing embodies the spring quite like pastel colors. If colorful, bright flowers dot the garden in the backyard, homeowners can bring those uplifting pastels inside by painting an accent wall or even adding some brightly col-

Clutter is often conquered during spring cleaning sessions, but homeowners who want to create more freeflowing interior spaces can downsize their furniture and/or look for multipurpose features that make it hard for clutter to take over a room. Create more

Accent features

Sometimes the smallest changes to an interior space make the biggest

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Page 4 Spring Home Improvement 2020

Want to grow your own? Container gardening tips Gardening is beneficial in various ways. The AARP states that some of the health perks associated with gardening include improved mood, increased vitamin D levels (which benefits bones and immune system) and reduced risk of dementia. In addition, if gardening efforts include growing herbs, fruits and vegetables, it can be a cost-effective way to eat healthy. For gardeners without sufficient space or for those with mobility issues, container gardening can be an ideal way to grow everything from flowers to vegetables. Better Homes & Gardens says most plants are not fussy about the containers in which they grow so long as some of their basic needs are met. This means watering correctly for the type of plant, and ensuring sufficient drainage. The following are some other ways container gardening efforts can prove successful.

Watch water

Planet Natural Research Center says plants with thin leaves typically need ample water, and plants with thick leaves need less. Use this as a guideline to gauge water needs.

Size correctly Plants should be sized to the container. Consider dwarf varieties of certain plants if your containers are small.

Choose the right soil Fill containers with a commercial potting soil rather than soil from the garden. Garden soil can dry into a solid mass, while commercial mixtures have amendments like peat moss, vermiculite, compost, and other ingredients to help with soil texture and moisture retention.

Mix it up When planting containers of flowers and other greenery,

Good Housekeeping says to include “a thriller, a spiller and a filler” as a good rule of thumb. The thriller is the focal point, the spiller a trailing plant, and a filler has smaller leaves or flowers to add bulk and color.

Poke holes Drainage holes are essential so that soil will not become waterlogged. Holes don’t need to be large, but there should be enough of them so that excess water can drain out readily.

Select the right container material Container materials may be affected by gardeners’ budgets, personal taste and other factors. For those who live in hot climates, selecting a light-colored container can help prevent further soil heat absorption. Container gardening is a healthy and enjoyable activity that can pay dividends in various ways.

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Spring Home Improvement 2020 Page 5

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A fire pit is considered a good investment — so long as your local ordinances allow outdoor burning.

5 outdoor projects that add value Exterior renovations can enhance the appearance of a property and make it more enjoyable for homeowners. Certain renovations have the potential to add value to a home, while others may do the opposite. Learning which one has the largest return on investment can help homeowners select features that will have the most positive impact. Curb appeal goes a long way toward attracting potential buyers. According to the National Association of Realtors, first impressions of a property have a strong influence on buyers. Landscaping and external features can do much to influence such impressions.

Lawn care program Investing in a lawn care program that consists of fertilizer and weed control application and can be transferred over to a subsequent home owner is an attractive feature. NAR says such a care program can recover $1,000 in value of the $330 average cost, or a 303 percent ROI.

Low-maintenance lifestyle When choosing materials for projects, those that offer low-maintenance benefits can be preferential. These include low-maintenance patio materials, composite decking, vinyl fencing, and inorganic mulched beds.

Fire pit A fire pit can be used for much of the year. In the spring and summer, the firepit is a great place to congregate to roast marshmallows or sip wine and gaze into the fire. In the fall, the fire pit can make for a cozy retreat. A fire pit that has a gas burner is low-maintenance, and the National Association of Landscape Professionals says that most can recoup about $4,000 of their $6,000 average price tag.

Softscaping Hardscaping refers to structures like outdoor kitchens or decks. Softscaping involves the living elements of the landscape. Hiring a landscape designer to install trees, shrubs, natural edging, and rock elements can do wonders toward improving the look and value of a home.

Pool or water feature In certain markets, particularly hot climates, a pool or another water feature is a must-have. However, in other areas where outdoor time is limited, a pool or water feature can actually lower the value of a home. Speaking with a real estate professional can give homeowners an idea of how a pool will fare in a given neighborhood. Outdoor improvements can improve the marketability of a home, as well as enhance its appearance and function.

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Page 6 Spring Home Improvement 2020

Consider these essentials for a bathroom remodel What began as a utilitarian space for personal sanitation has, in modern times, transformed into one of the most coveted rooms in the house. Bathrooms have become a place to relax and unwind, and new bathrooms are on the tops of many homeowners’ wishlists. Bathrooms can be as lavish as budgets allow. Wish lists can include everything from luxurious soaking tubs to rainfall showerheads to chaise lounges to televisions or home entertainment systems contained in the space. Those contemplating their own bathroom renovations may draw inspiration from the following features.

Hot water recirculation system Few things can be as disappointing as desiring a hot bath or shower only to find that the hot water tank has been drained. New water recirculation systems provide on-demand hot water. In such systems, hot water may continuously run through the pipes or there may be a pump underneath a sink. Either way, one needn’t wait for the water to warm up any longer.

Double undermount sinks Bathroom time is at a premium,

especially when people must prepare and leave the house together. Rather than jockeying for position around a single sink, dual sinks enable more breathing room and time efficiency.

Undermount sinks are easy to clean because there is no lip around where the sink meets the vanity, preventing the accumulation of grime and gunk.

Glass-free shower Soap scum and water deposits can form on shower doors, even for homeowners who are diligent with cleaning. A sizable shower prevents water spray and affords the ability to forgo glass doors or curtains, thereby cutting down on cleaning and making the room feel more modern.

Multihead shower When redoing the shower, account for various shower heads so that the water can cascade across the body more completely. This provides a spa experience at home.

Touchless faucets and soap dispensers These aren’t just for public bathrooms anymore. Touchless faucets and dispensers are more sanitary and convenient.

Separate toilet room A shared bath almost necessitates this type of set-up. The toilet is housed inside its own small space and closed away from the rest of the bathroom. It’s more private and convenient this way.

Heated flooring You need not worry about stepping out of a warm shower onto a cold floor when heated flooring is part of the equation. This option is available in various flooring materials as well. Remodeling a bathroom can really set a space apart.

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Spring Home Improvement 2020 Page 7

A lesson in building a backyard retaining wall Flat, even landscapes are often coveted in backyards. However, flat backyards are not always so easy to find. Fortunately, varied terrain does not mean that certain landscaping plans are entirely off limits, especially for homeowners willing to build retaining walls. Retaining walls help turn steep slopes in a yard into terraced focal points. They also can reduce soil erosion in hilly areas and can be used for aesthetic purposes, like raised planters, or to create more usable space within the yard. When an inground pool or pond is cut into a backyard hill, a retaining wall helps keep the remaining portion of that hill from collapsing into the cut-away area. When contemplating retaining wall projects, a lesson in physics and engineering may be needed. A sturdy and long-lasting retaining wall needs to be built in a way that will take into consideration the force of the soil and the point at which the soil will begin to slide away, advises the experts at The Family Handyman. If these calculations seem beyond the scope of your ability, installation of a retaining wall is a job best left to a professional. If you are ready to forge ahead, these tips can get you started. However, it’s important to note the potential benefits of working with others who have already built a retaining wall.

Safety first Call to have underground utilities plotted and marked before beginning any excavation.

Map out your trench and begin to dig The trench should have a level, compacted base as it will be the foundation for which the retaining wall materials, be they blocks, bricks or wood, sit in. A crushed stone base will help anchor the courses and serve to promote drainage. The Family Handyman says to bury the first course of the retaining wall one-tenth the height of the wall to prevent soil behind it from pushing the bottom out.

Check for level When placing blocks or timbers, make sure they are even with the first and periodically check for level as you go, advises the home improvement retailer Lowes®.

Stagger and set back The next row of blocks or material

should be positioned so that the joints are staggered for blocks, bricks or wood. A masonry blade will be needed to cut the harder materials; a circular saw will cut timber. Also, work against gravity by setting the second course slightly back from the first to help push back against the soil that is trying so hard to push forward. Repeat the process as each level is placed. Many retaining wall products are made with a lip to create this set back.

Go with the grade For especially steep slopes, a gradual step-up design may be more secure and more appealing than a very tall retaining wall. Each level of a stepped design should be done like the first.

Backfill with stone for drainage Using a layer of stone behind the retaining wall can help successfully direct water away so it will not increase the weight of the soil behind the wall and push against the retaining wall, advises The Home Depot. Retaining walls serve different purposes in a yard. Building such a wall requires planning and careful execution to ensure the job is done correctly.

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Page 8 Spring Home Improvement 2020

Tips when planting shade trees Beautiful landscaping can add instant curb appeal to a property. But beauty isn’t the only thing that makes idyllic landscaping attractive to homeowners. Some landscaping features, such as shade trees, save homeowners money while adding aesthetic appeal. The U.S. Department of Energy notes that shading is the most cost-effective way to reduce solar heat gain in a home. Shading also cuts air conditioning costs, which tend to be expensive in areas with warm, humid climates. In fact, the DOE notes that well-planned landscapes can reduce unshaded homes’ air conditioning costs by anywhere from 15 to 50 percent. When planting shade trees, one of the first decisions homeowners will need to make is which type of tree, deciduous or evergreen, they want to plant. Deciduous trees are those that seasonally shed their leaves, while evergreens are trees that keep their leaves throughout the year. Deciduous trees can help keep homes cool in the summer by blocking sun, and those same trees can be beneficial in winter after they shed their leaves by letting the sun in and keeping homes warm. But ever-

greens also can be beneficial in winter by blocking wind, potentially preventing cold air from making its way into a home through cracks in walls or around windows. When planting shade trees, techniques vary depending on which type of tree homeowners ultimately choose to plant.

Planting deciduous trees The DOE says that deciduous trees that are between six and eight feet tall when planted will begin shading the windows of a home within a year of being planted. Depending on the species of the plant and the home, those same deciduous trees may begin shading the roof within five to 10 years of being planted. When planting deciduous trees, homeowners should keep these tips in mind. n Plant trees to the south of the home. When planted to the south of the home, deciduous trees can screen between 70 and 90 percent of the summer sun while still allowing residents to feel summer breezes. n Consider sun angles. Homeowners who want to shade their homes from

Deciduous trees can help keep homes cool in the summer by blocking sun, and those same trees can be beneficial in winter after they shed their leaves by letting the sun in and keeping homes warm. low afternoon sun angles should plant trees with crowns that are lower to the ground on the west side of their homes. n Cool air before it reaches your home. Shrubs and groundcover plants can be planted to cool air before it reaches a home.

Evergreen trees Planting evergreens to block wind is known as “windbreaking,” which lowers the wind chill near a home. Wind also can be used to cool a home in summer. But these benefits can only be realized when evergreens are strategically planted.

n Location, location, location: The DOE advises planting evergreen trees to the north and northwest of the home to stop wind. In addition, to get the most bang for your windbreaking buck, the distance between the home and windbreak should be two to five times the height of the mature tree. n Plant trees on either side of the house. Planting trees on either side of the house will direct cooling winds toward the home in the summer. Shade trees can help homeowners reduce their energy bills, making them valuable and attractive additions to any landscape.

More than ever, people want to ‘live’ outdoors Outdoor living is wildly popular, as more and more homeowners are bringing elements once reserved for home interiors into their backyards. When designing outdoor living spaces, homeowners may learn about biophilic design, an architectural concept that aims to incorporate natural elements into outdoor living spaces. Proponents of biophilic design say it satisfies an innate human need to affiliate with nature, thereby helping to reduce stress that people may experience after being stuck indoors for much of their days. Biophilic design is often part of a home interior design, but many homeowners also embrace it when designing their outdoor living spaces. For example, surrounding outdoor living areas with noninvasive plants, flowers and trees and using natural materials like wood and stone when building such spaces are great ways to embrace biophilic design and create a tension-free ambiance in outdoor living spaces.


Spring Home Improvement 2020 Page 9

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Avoid these common mulching mistakes Landscape features vary significantly from house to house. Some homeowners may prefer water features on their properties, while others focus on flowers that would be the envy of a botanical garden. Regardless of those preferences, lawn and garden enthusiasts who want to make their properties as idyllic as possible may eventually look to mulch to help them accomplish that goal. Mulch helps soil retain moisture, which promotes strong, healthy flowers, plants, trees, and shrubs. And because soil beneath mulch retains more moisture than soil that’s not protected by mulch, homeowners won’t have to spend as much time watering mulched landscapes. That saves time and conserves water, which can be a big benefit in areas prone to drought and/or especially hot summers. Mulch also helps to suppress weed growth, which can ensure all that hard work needed to create an eye-catching garden won’t be compromised by the presence of unsightly, thirsty weeds. Mulching seems like a simple task, and it can be. But that does not mean homeowners cannot make mistakes when mulching. The following are some common mulching mistakes to avoid as lawn and garden season hits full swing.

Not enough mulch Mulch is ineffective when spread too thin. The Virginia Cooperative Exten-

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Poorly located mulch

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Mulch should not be placed too close to plant stems or tree trunks. When it is, tissue is so wet that it makes for a perfect environment for disease and insect infestation.

Failing to mulch to the drip line The drip line of a tree refers to the outermost circumference of the tree’s canopy from which water drips onto the ground. The VCE recommends mulching to the drip line of a plant or tree, which ensures the plant or tree will get the most out of the mulch. Mulching to the drip line also minimizes competition from the grass, leading to stronger plants and trees.

Failing to weed before mulching Weeds should be removed prior to mulching. If they’re not, the mulch can provide the same growing environment for weeds that you’re trying to create for your plants and trees. Mulching benefits a landscape in myriad ways, especially when homeowners avoid some common mulching mistakes.

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Local garden centers can be excellent resources for gardeners planting perennial gardens for the first time.

Looking for home projects? Three perennial gardening pointers Gardening is an engaging hobby that can provide a host of benefits, some of which may surprise even the most devoted gardeners. For example, the Harvard Medical School notes that just 30 minutes of gardening activities burns 135 calories, making gardening a fun and simple way to incorporate more exercise into your daily routine. In addition, scientists have long proven that gardening releases the hormones serotonin and dopamine in the brain, each of which are associated with improved mood. Perennial gardens can be especially attractive to seasoned gardeners and novices. Perennials are plants that come back year after year, and committing to a perennial garden can ensure people stick with gardening for the long haul, reaping all of the rewards that come with making such a commitment. Before planting a perennial garden, those new to gardening may want to consider these three tips.

Make a plan. A perennial garden comes back year after year, which means any mistakes you make when planting are likely to haunt you year after year as well. Factors like space and location must be considered before planting. Many gardeners utilize garden planning applications like GrowVeg to

make the process of planning a garden simpler and more organized. Such applications can be especially useful for novices.

Consider aesthetics. Gardens can be awe-inspiring, especially when gardeners consider aesthetics prior to planting. The DIY Network advises gardeners to consider scale before choosing which perennials to plant. Tall plants and wide beds tend to look best outside large homes, while short plants in small beds tend to look better outside small homes.

Work with a professional. Local garden centers can be excellent resources when planning perennial gardens. Representatives at such businesses can offer tips on native plants, which will be more likely to thrive year after year than nonnatives. Such representatives also can help you choose the right plants based on the amount of sunlight the plants will likely get after being planted. Each of these factors can be easily overlooked by people without much gardening experience. Perennial gardens can provide years of joy and inspiration, especially when gardeners give ample attention to certain details prior to planting.


Spring Home Improvement 2020 Page 11

Arrange furniture and design rooms more easily

Sophisticated apps can allow you to create a three-dimensional model of your room.

Redesigning a room can involve several steps, from choosing a paint palette to taking down walls to buying new furniture. When it comes time to put the space back together, finding an appealing furniture arrangement or layout renovation that maximizes space efficiently can be challenging if it requires moving heavy pieces of furniture around. To make such tasks easier, homeowners can rely on a bevy of room-designing apps that enable one to manipulate a room in the digital realm. Some people have great spatial reasoning and can work out designs in their head or by plotting items on graph paper. But many homeowners may need a little extra help. By figuring out a floor plan, anyone can start laying out their furniture and other design elements. Room planners come in various forms, from free downloads available through popular furniture companies to pay-for-use, third-party software. The following are some the more popular room planners homeowners can utilize. n Amikasa: This app enables users to create room layouts using furniture and more from real brands. It features a walk-through mode so you can take a virtual tour afterwards. n Autodesk Homestyler: Brought to you by the company that produces professional design programs for archi-

tects and designers, like AutoCAD, Autodesk and Revit, this user-friendly technology allows you to create 3D renderings and move around furniture, decorative items, appliances, and other elements right in the app. n Floor Plan Creator: Start with the basics by plotting out precise and accurate floor plans. This app enables you to create multiple floor rooms in 3D and get automatic figures for perimeters, walls and more. n Ikea Home Planner Tools: The free, easy-to-use home planner tool from the popular furniture giant enables you to see how items from the store can look in your space — before you bring it home. The Kitchen Planner from the company also makes it simple to enter Ikea components and see how much the proposed kitchen design may cost. n Magic Plan: This is another popular feature-filled app for planning designs. The technology even allows you to take a picture of your existing room and create floor plans. n Planner 5D: This is an extensive room-design tool that helps you design rooms down to the smallest architectural details. It also can be taken outdoors for landscaping and pools, utilizing 3D graphics. n Room Scan Pro: This app draws floor plans simply by having you hold the phone up to a wall. The software will then scan the circumference and plot out the requisite measurements.

These are just a few of the room planners that can make it easier to see what

a finished design product may one day look like.

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