Friday, September 9, 2011
THE DAILY DISPATCH
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2011
Keeping your home exterior in Protecting your lawn top shape should be top priority against winter’s chill (MS) — Feel like cheating? Forget what the inside of your home looks like for just a bit and focus on your home’s exterior. “The exterior of your home makes a lasting and daily impression on your friends and family, along with your neighbors,” says Mark Clement, professional contractor and host of MyFixItUpLife home improvement radio show. “While the weather is good, my advice is to get outside and fix up problem areas, work on the landscaping and invest in products that make your home’s exterior not only look great, but work great.” Clement, who is in the middle of an ongoing renovation of his 100-yearold home in Pennsylvania, recommends assessing your needs and then diving in on projects. “On the exterior of the home there are three big, critical areas I recommend people evaluate every year — the roof, the windows and the entry door,” he said. “Those are key areas because, along with being visual focal points of the home, they help protect a house from severe weather. And, if you have problems with older windows, doors or roofing tiles, you’re looking at higher energy bills and growing problems that can affect your wallet longterm.” Clement offers these recommendations for keeping your home exterior in top shape:
Roofing 1) Check your roof yearly (from a ladder or from a neighbor’s home with binoculars) to determine the condition of your roof. Look for problem areas, such as missing or broken shingles, along with roofing tiles that may be “flapping” in the wind. These are all indications that a new roof may be in your future. 2) Don’t forget to check the sides of your roof. The southern exposure weathers significantly faster than the other sides of the roof, so make sure to carefully examine this one. Also, shallower pitches weather faster than steeper pitches. So again, if your roof has a shallow pitch — like a shed dormer — make certain you can
Raking the leaves will keep your yard looking good during the autumns months. But to make sure your lawn thrivess come spring time, more thorough steps should be taken. Contractor Mark Clement installs polymer tiles on his home. clearly see it to get a true indication of the condition of your roof. 3) If you’re in the market for a new roof, investigate polymer roofing tiles as a good option. These impact-resistant slate and shake tiles are man-made in a wide variety of colors. 4) Since the installation of a new roof exceeds the capabilities of most homeowners, make sure to research and hire a professional roofer. Check to make sure your roofer is insured, licensed and certified. Ask for a written job estimate and references along with warranty information for both the roof you select and his installation services.
Entry doors 1) If you can see light around your main entry door from the inside, the door is hard to close or lock, or the door itself is warped, it’s time to consider a new door. 2) Even if you can’t see light, air may be moving through gaps in the weather stripping at a surprising rate. On a very cold or hot day, hold the back of your hand an inch or so away from the bottom and perimeter of your door. If you can feel air moving or a significant cold spot, that’s a signal your existing door could benefit from better sealing. 3) Determine what role you would like an entry door to play on your home’s exterior. Do you want it to be a focal point with a splash of color?
Is it important that you have decorative glass in the door system? Will you need vented sidelites to allow more light and air into your home? Search the web for “Door Designer” and “My Saved Door” online tools to help visualize how a new door will look on your home. 4) Think about the weather conditions your home’s door faces along with your energy bills. If either run to the extreme, consider replacing your entryway with a highperformance fiberglass door (which has four times more insulation than wood doors).
Windows 1) Evaluate the functionality and decorative appeal of your current windows. If you have condensation between glass panes, the windows are hard to open or close, your energy bills are soaring or if there are drafts coming in around the window units, then it’s time to seriously consider replacement windows. 2) Vinyl framed windows are the category of windows with the highest growth rate in the country. Why? These frames are extremely energy-efficient and some of the best have fusion-welded corners and multi-chambered construction. Plus, maintenance hassles are so low you’ll forget the horrors of rotting frames, scraping and repainting that come with wood windows. 3) Investigate your window options and stick with
a national manufacturer that can stand behind a long-term warranty. 4) Remember that a thermally-efficient window is sealed tightest when it’s locked. So, to keep your energy bills lowers, don’t just close your windows, make sure to lock them.
Trim 1) If you have the opportunity to replace your entry door or windows, make sure to finish off the job with stylish window and door trim. Lightweight and easy to install, weather-resistant synthetic mouldings, shutters and entryway surrounds are a definite do-it-yourself project for any homeowner. 2) Take an eagle’s eye look at your home. Most houses have louvers placed high above the attic or garage space to allow ventilation in those areas. And, most houses have wooden louvers that can rot with time. Replacing louvers with insect-resistant and rot-resistant synthetic louvers can improve the home’s appearance and functionality. 3) Wrap it up. Clement recommends that if you have unsightly porch posts you can easily transform them into showpiece parts of your home by using Column Wrap Kits. The decorative synthetic pieces can be installed in less than 15 minutes around existing structural posts and columns to give an upgraded look to any home. For more home improvement tips, visit www. myfixituplife.com.
Ceiling fans are good at circulating warm air as well Though ceiling fans are most associated with warmweather seasons, most can be effective throughout the winter months as well, helping circulate warm air throughout a room in much the same way they circulate cool air during the warmer weather.
Most of today’s fans have a switch near the motor housing that alters the direction in which the fan’s blades turn. When a ceiling fan is used in the summer, its blades push the air downward, moving cool air around the room. The air blowing around the room is
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what cools people within the room. When the blades’ direction is altered, the blades then push the air upward toward the ceiling. This drives the hot air, which typically rises to the top, down toward the edges of the room. This helps circulate warm
air throughout a room, making for more even heating. What’s more, this improved heat circulation helps combat window sweating that results from condensation on the glass when hot air is not effectively circulated throughout a home.
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Warm-weather days will soon be a thing of the past and that means prepping the home and landscape for the arrival of winter weather. Even though it may be blanketed first by leaves and snow, lawns need treatment now to be sure they overwinter successfully. In fact, lawn experts say there is significant root growth that takes place during the winter — growth homeowners won’t necessarily see. People should continue to water their lawns throughout the autumn if there isn’t significant rain and to aerate it as well. Applying a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen can help foster strong root growth. Also, keep up on removing leaves that have fallen. Not only will they stifle the lawn, but they may cause excessive moisture and mold to grow while inhibiting sunlight from reaching the grass as well. Before winter arrives, take the time to sow some grass seeds into the bald patches, if any. By late fall the lawn will stop taking up nutrients in preparation for winter.
How to hire lawncare professionals Many homeowners hire a lawncare professional to tend to their lawns and gardens. To hire a quality service or individual, homeowners need to do a little homework. • Compare prices. Professional landscapers offer an array of services and, as a result, those services vary in cost. Ask neighbors and friends what they pay for routine maintenance and any other special services. Get recommendations for companies that do work you admire. • Interview prospective companies. Set up appointments or price quotes from three different lawncare services. Compare the offerings and the prices. Ask questions about whether pricing is “per week” or “per cut.” Determine if services such as edging, blowing away debris, trimming, and clean-up are included. • Find out about extras. Some services will offer packages for spring and fall clean-up, and homeowners should inquire about any special offers during the initial comparison stage. • Who does the work? A company may farm out work to other landscapers. Figure out who will be arriving each week and base decisions accordingly.
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THE DAILY DISPATCH
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2011
Autumn’s the perfect time of year to fall into a hammock (MS) — It’s a mildly blustery fall day. The sun is shining, the temperature pleasant, just a touch on the cool side. The light breeze gently rustling your backyard trees lifts loose colorful leaves, crafting a swirling rain of reds, yellows, oranges and browns. It is, in a word, lovely. So wouldn’t it be perfect to be stretched out in a hammock, lazily soaking it all in? The only problem: You’ve already packed away your own rope hammock until next Memorial Day. Because that’s what you’re supposed to do, right? You take your hammock down during long bouts of bad weather, and you store it in a dry place each summer’s end. Anyway, everyone knows hammocks are just for summer. You don’t see other people lounging around in theirs the rest of the year, do you? Maybe not, but that’s their loss! Recent textile advancements mean
that, increasingly, quality hammocks are designed with all-year in mind, top manufacturers say. “The only limit to how much of the year you now can enjoy a hammock is your own imagination,” commented Walter R. Perkins III, CEO of The Hammock Source, home to such trendsetting brands as Hatteras Hammocks and The Original Pawleys Island Rope Hammock. Traditionally, hammock rope has been woven from cotton — and cotton, no matter the quality, eventually rots from prolonged weather exposure. But with many top hammock-crafters having switched to weather-tough synthetics, consumers needn’t settle anymore for products they have to baby, or even stow away at summer’s end. Several new-generation rope and fabric fibers are not only incredibly strong and surprisingly soft, but also resistant to rot, mold, mildew, fading, and staining.
“The only limit to how much of the year you now can enjoy a hammock is your own imagination,” said Walter R. Perkins III, CEO of The Hammock Source. “If something as laidback as a hammock can possibly undergo a revolution, then these new synthetics are it,” observed
Bill Rosso, president of Nags Head Hammocks, one of the world’s leading producers and retailers of hand-woven hammocks.
But all this heightened durability still won’t keep you warm should a cold wind whip up. The rope hammock was designed,
after all, so that air could reach you from all sides. Besides dressing yourself appropriately for the weather, the best way to avoid the bulk of cold drafts is to opt for a fabric hammock instead of a rope model. That way, the only air directly hitting you is from above. But if you already own a good all-weather rope hammock, replacing it right now probably seems extravagant. There is, said Perkins, an economical alternative. “Tying a quality fabric hammock-pad onto your rope hammock will boost warmth tremendously,” he explained. “Actually, even laying an old blanket inside the hammock will do wonders. “Of course, if it’s the dead of winter, you’ll definitely want a blanket to put on top of you, too!” Even better, invite someone special to join you. You’ll both be the warmer, and happier, for it.
Climate a key factor when choosing the right grass Choosing a new grass for a lawn depends on more than just aesthetic appeal. Where a person lives and the type of lawn he or she has should carry more weight than how a lawn looks upon its initial installation. Climate is often the ultimate determining factor if a grass will thrive or wilt in a given region. Because climate plays such a big role, grasses are often categorized as “cool-climate” or “warm-climate.”
Cool-climate grasses • Kentucky bluegrass: The most popular coolclimate grass, Kentucky bluegrass is ideal for lawns that get lots of sun. Because it has shallow roots, Kentucky blue grass is not very
drought-tolerant. If planting Kentucky bluegrass, it’s best to do so in fall or spring. Kentucky bluegrass is medium-textured with green to dark green turf. • Perennial ryegrass: Perennial ryegrass is generally easy to find and grows quickly from seed. Commonly mixed with Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrasses are shiny with a medium to dark green turn and a fine or medium texture. It’s best to plant perennial ryegrass in the fall. • Creeping bentgrass: Very low and very fine in texture, creeping bentgrass, like all bent grasses, is susceptible to a variety of fungal diseases, making it one of the more high-maintenance grasses. Homeowners who plant creeping bentgrass should expect to
mow it frequently. • Shade tolerant fescues: As their name suggests, shade tolerant fescues handle shade very well. These fescues, which include fine fescues and red fescues, typically have very fine blades and can survive extreme cold as well as withstand hot summers. Shade tolerant fescues are typically medium to dark green and perform best when planted in the fall or during spring.
Warm-climate grasses • Bermuda grass: Bermuda grass is a very popular warm-climate grass as it’s capable of withstanding the heat but does not do nearly as well in the shade.
Ready your home for the months ahead (MS) — As the seasons change once again, homeowners across the country are preparing their homes for the days that lie ahead. Though spring cleaning gets the glory, homeowners must now make a similar effort when the warm weather draws to a close. With indoor seasons on the horizon, a clean and healthy home is essential to making it through the coming months safe and sound. The following cleaning tips can help homeowners get their homes ready for the cooler weather and days spent indoors away from the elements.
Clean indoors, too
Bring it all in
‘Au revoir’ to odor
Before the colder weather arrives, homeowners must move all those remnants from the summer into the house or garage. Lawn and garden equipment, patio furniture and, of course, the grill can’t withstand harsh winter weather. Before storing such items for the winter, be sure to clean them thoroughly. A heavy-duty degreaser is ideal for removing the grease and dirt that typically builds up on patio furniture and lawn and garden equipment over the course of summer. Homeowners should look for one that can be used on stainless steel and chrome surfaces, including those on the grill and the grill grates, before ultimately packing items away for the winter.
Spring cleaning is all about opening the windows and letting fresh air in after a season spent locked indoors. But come the fall, when it’s time to button up for the winter, it’s best to first give the home a thorough cleaning. Airborne allergens can stick to ducts, vents and filters, leaving a home’s residents susceptible to allergy attacks even after the warm weather has become a distant memory. Clean ducts, vents and filters in the fall to make the home healthier throughout the winter.
Readying a home for the indoor seasons also entails ridding its interior of odor. Homeowners should eliminate odors in their kitchens, carpets and even their musty basements, ensuring the home is odor-free for the long winter months ahead.
Keep a tight ship When the colder weather arrives, homeowners often use the garage or a utility closet inside the home to store paints, oils, solvents, and other potentially toxic supplies. When doing so, be sure to tighten the lids on any such items before storing them away. If not closed tightly, the lids might leak potentially harmful chemicals into the air, a dangerous prospect made even more dangerous
Common Bermuda grass can be somewhat coarse and establishes itself rapidly. Golfers would likely recognize Bermuda grass, as it’s commonly used on golfing greens. When planting Bermuda grass, it’s best to do so in spring. • Zoysia grass: Zoysia grass grows slower than most warm-climate grasses, but some Zoysia species also have a much greater cold tolerance. Zoysia grass
has a medium green color and the texture is medium. The deep root system of Zoysia grass enables it to withstand most difficult droughts. Best planted in early summer, Zoysia grass is resistant to insect problems and disease. • Centipede grass: Light to medium green in color, centipede grass is generally low-maintenance and performs better in shade than most of its
warm-weather counterparts. Shallow roots make centipede grass susceptible to drought, but those shallow roots also make it perform better in poor soil. Centipede grass is best planted during the spring. • St. Augustine grass: St. Augustine grass requires at least six hours of direct sun per day. Best planted in early summer, St. Augustine grass is fastgrowing.
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in the colder months when the windows are closed and there’s little or no fresh air circulating throughout the home.
Go on the defensive Part of readying a home for the winter includes protecting the home and its inhabitants from viruses and bacteria. So it’s a good idea to use a disinfectant that pulls double duty, simultaneously cleaning the home while protecting its residents as well. Look for a product that can be used on countertops, stoves, refrigerators, sinks, and many other surfaces around the home. Also keep in mind that certain fungi, mold and mildew like to move indoors during the winter.
Fix up the fireplace Few areas of the home are as popular as the fireplace come the colder months. A gathering spot for family and friends when the weather outside is frightful, the fireplace will need some attention before the colder weather arrives. Remove any papers, magazines or other items that might have accumulated around the fireplace during the summer when it was out of commission. Then employ a fireplace or wood stove cleaner to remove any smoke residue, ash, soot, dust, creosote build-up, and burned on carbon deposits left over from last season.
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The Daily Dispatch
Friday, September 9, 2011
Gardening is a rewarding hobby that can be done on a small or large scale.
Gardening is possible in any sized space Embracing color on your home Brick red vinyl window frames provide the perfect accent color on this home.
Believe you need an acre of property to start gardening? Think again. Individuals can grow their own patch of greenery in just about any space they have on hand. When it comes time to get your hands dirty, it doesn’t matter if there are rolling hills or a single container filled with soil on which to plant. Although many gardening professionals present plans for larger-scale gardens, it’s possible to create smallerscale options that require a great deal less maintenance and upkeep. To get started, homeowners or apartment dwellers need to first look at the space they have. Perhaps this is a few flower pots or a small square of exposed dirt in an otherwise concrete jungle. Others may have an expansive backyard in which to toil in the soil. Either way, knowing what you have to work with can help home gardeners map out a more successful plan of action.
Next, it’s important to consider the climate and the soil conditions. Soil can be amended to a point, but plants that require a lot of water may not do well in an area plagued by drought. Color is another thing to consider. Gardeners with smaller spaces may want to think about keeping gardens mainly monochromatic, which will look more cohesive. Cool-colored flowers and plants will help make a garden look larger. Warm-colored flowers will add impact and could create a cozier feel. Hanging baskets and raised containers can add height and free up more floor space for gardens. They’re particularly helpful when space is at a premium. Keep in mind that baskets and containers tend to dry out easily, so using peat moss, vermiculite and other products that tend to hold onto water will help keep the soil moist. These containers also may need to be watered more frequently.
Containers also can be used to plant small trees or shrubs. Use them for vegetable plants as well. The advantage to containers is they can be moved elsewhere if a plant is not thriving in a particular area. People who have an extremely small space with which to work may be limited to a few flower pots in the window, but they can easily grow herbs or annual flowers. Those who have a large space may want to consider breaking the landscape down into smaller quadrants; otherwise, the garden can seem unruly. Use hardscape materials, such as mulch, rocks, boulders, and slate to break up the greenery (and also cut down on items that need pruning and watering). Individuals who don’t know where to start can page through gardening magazines for ideas. Alternatively, they can consult with an area landscaper to find out which plants will do well.
(MS) — The growing trend of homeowners staying in their existing houses longer due to economic challenges has had a colorful effect on homes. People are taking the opportunity to personalize their homes more with colorful exterior accents and they’re not stopping with just a splash of paint. According to national color expert Kate Smith, homeowners are taking steps to express their personalities by adding color to everything from their roofs to their entry doors to their window frames. “Today’s homeowners are looking beyond variations of whites and beiges to set off the key accent points of their homes, such as louvers, trim and window frames,” says Smith, president of Sensational Colors. “With the realization that they’re going to be staying in their current
houses longer comes the commitment by people to truly personalize their homes. This has resulted in eye-catching neighborhoods. “As homeowners replace major components of their homes they place greater value on finding products with a long life span, lower maintenance and style. They are seeking out both a noticeable change and an improvement from existing products on the home. The ability to add a creative element, personal touch or signature color tends to ‘bond’ homeowners even more closely with their living spaces.” According to Smith, one of the hottest trends for exterior enhancements is to select vinyl windows with exterior color frames that complement the overall look of the home. “With their minds on sustainability and their eye on good design, many
homeowners are investing in color as a way to express themselves and reinvent their current homes,” says Smith. For exterior window frames, he points out colors such as “brick red, pine green, bronze, driftwood and chocolate that perfectly match up with the earthy colors homeowners gravitate to for their home exteriors. These same colors can be drawn out further on trim elements of the home along with being component colors of the roof and entry door.” “A window is like a two-sided canvas,” says Smith. “The colors on the frame exteriors enhance the home’s overall appearance from the street. And then when you get inside and select stylish woodgrain frame interiors and premium hardware finishes, you’re adding beauty to the room settings. That’s a ‘win-win’ experience for any homeowner.”
Converting that empty nest
Gardening when the climate turns cool
Homeowners who have spent many years in one home likely raised a family and shared many memories inside of those walls. When the kids grow and move on it can be somewhat bittersweet. Being left with vacated rooms — especially ones still decked out in children’s decor — can cause the house to feel more empty than it has to be. Now is the time to turn those empty rooms into adult spaces. Homeowners shouldn’t feel guilty about taking down band posters and packing away Little League baseball caps. Chances are the children made good use of their rooms and now it’s time for the adults to reclaim the spaces for their very own. There are easy ways to turn children’s bedrooms into spaces adults can enjoy. With a few fixes, the room can be a man’s space, a woman’s retreat, or a room both can enjoy. Because the room will reflect the adult homeowners’ interests, it should be designed with their needs in mind. Comfortable furniture and items that please
A home garden doesn’t have to go into hibernation just because the cooler weather has arrived. Plant lovers can ensure their yards are full of life even when the mercury drops. There are a number of plants that thrive in the cooler weather. With proper shelter, some others can do quite well, too. • Ornamental cabbage • Ornamental kale • Snapdragons • Dusty Miller • Asters • Calendulas • Larkspur • Chrysanthemum • Dianthus • Coral Bells • Licorice Plant • Ivy • Pansies • Violas • Hens-and-Chicks • Strawflower • Primrose • Forget-Me-Not • Shirley Poppies Moreover, there are a number of off-season produce plants
the residents should be incorporated. Lighting should be used to set the mood. If the room will be used for television watching, have dimmer switches so that the brightness can be tuned down. For reading or office work, have overhead lights and task lighting, such as a desk lamp. For the “man cave” the room can reflect interests, such as sports or fishing, but be decorated in a subtle way to complement the rest of the home’s decor. For example, if a guy likes a sports team, he can paint the walls in a subdued shade of the team colors instead of hanging pennants or player jerseys on the walls. Homeowners should remember to include extra seating and space so that they can entertain friends or family in their newly adapted specialized rooms. A table for snacks or even a small refrigerator hidden within a decorative piece of furniture can keep snacks and beverages available.
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THE DAILY DISPATCH
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2011
Ready your lawn for winter
Routinely cleaning gutters throughout the fall and early winter can help reduce the risk of roof damage caused by winter weather.
Some easy ways to winterize your home When summer draws to a close and autumn arrives, homeowners must place a precedent on readying their homes for the winter months. Often referred to as “winterizing,” the process is meant to ensure a home can withstand harsh winter weather while proving a safe haven from the elements. As autumn arrives, homeowners can take several steps to get their homes ready for whatever winter has to offer with the following tasks. • Fix the leaks. A leaky home will prove an expensive home during the winter months. A home with many leaks will be much colder to inhabit, and homeowners typically turn up the heat to counter drafts that can make a home feel like a meat locker. But turning up the thermostat isn’t the answer. Instead, fix leaks in the fall before the cold weather arrives. Leaks should not be very hard to find. On the first breezy autumn afternoon, walk around the house in search of any drafty areas. These drafts will be noticeable and often occur around doors and window frames, electrical outlets and even recessed lighting. Homeowners have a host of options at their disposal to plug leaks, be it door sweeps that block air from entering under exterior doors to caulk applied around leaky windows. When using caulk outdoors, be sure to use a weather-resistant caulk or, if sealing brick, use masonry sealer. • Add insulation upstairs. Homeowners who have an attic in their homes might want to
consider adding some insulation up there. Experts recommend a minimum of 12 inches of insulation in the attic. That might prove costly, but a poorly insulated attic is akin to opening the front door and letting the heat out. It might be best for less-than-handy homeowners to hire a professional to insulate the attic. But do-it-yourselfers might find it good to know that if the ceiling joists, which are often 11 inches or less, are visible, then the attic is in need of additional insulation. Such joists won’t be visible in an adequately insulated attic. • Put up the storm windows. It’s nice to open the windows in the spring and summer and let the warm air waft in through the screens. But when summer is over, it’s time to put up the storm windows once again. Storm windows add an extra layer of protection from the elements and are especially valuable in homes with single-pane glass windows. Homeowners who don’t have storm windows should consider upgrading their existing windows. Such a project isn’t cheap, but newer windows will almost certainly lead to lower heating costs, meaning the project will essentially pay for itself over time. Homeowners who can’t afford to replace all of their windows don’t have to replace them all at once. Instead, replace them a few at a time and make the rooms where you spend the most time each winter the first on the list to receive new windows. • Be diligent with the gutters. Leaves falling
from trees is an idyllic image associated primarily with autumn. Unfortunately, when leaves fall they often fall into the gutters. Routinely clean the gutters once the leaves start to fall. Clean gutters will allow snow and rain to effectively drain through the gutters. If the gutters are clogged, snow might have nowhere to go when it begins to melt, and roof damage might result. Such damage is costly but preventable in most instances. One of the easier preventive measures to take is to routinely clean the gutters of leaves and other debris that accumulate during the fall. When cleaning the gutters, make sure they are properly aligned. Poorly aligned gutters can lead to a host of problems. One such problem is flooding. If downspouts are not properly aligned with the rest of the gutters, then water might not be directed away from the home as it’s intended. Instead, water might be directed toward the home, resulting in flooding or additional water damage. • Have the furnace cleaned. Experts recommend annual furnace cleanings. Before cold weather arrives, turn the furnace on to make sure it’s still working. An unpleasant odor should appear when first turning on the furnace, but it shouldn’t last very long. If the odor sticks around, turn the furnace off and call a professional. Once winter arrives, routinely replace the filters. This makes the furnace operate more efficiently and can also reduce the risk of fire.
Though spring and summer are often seen as the primary seasons for lawn care, fall is a great time to ready a lawn for winter weather. The following tips can help a lawn withstand winter weather and might even make spring lawn care that much easier once the warm weather returns. • Fertilize. Fertilizing in the fall actually helps the lawn come the early spring. Nutrients remain in the soil throughout the winter months, and the lawn will utilize those nutrients once the snow melts and the sun and warmer weather return.
• Aerate. Lawns typically become compacted by late summer, making it difficult for the grass to thrive. When fall arrives, aerating the lawn can relieve that compaction by removing plugs or cores of soil from the lawn. Once a law is aerated, the grass roots can spread out and thicken the lawn. It’s good to aerate in the fall when grass roots grow. • Edge the property. Homeowners who live in areas that experience heavy snowfall in the winter might want to edge their lawns in the fall. Edging can eliminate the risk of damaging grass
that hangs over curbs and sidewalks when shoveling snow. What’s more, an edged lawn adds aesthetic appeal to the property. • Seed. Fall can be a great time to seed a lawn as well. Overseeding a warm season lawn in the fall can help a lawn resist diseases throughout the winter. • Rake the leaves promptly. Don’t allow leaves to accumulate on the grass before finally dusting off the rake. If you allow leaves to sit on the lawn too long, they can smother the grass. Don’t allow leaves to reach ankle length.
How to create an outdoor living space Many homeowners think an outdoor living space is one that can only be used during the warm-weather months. However, if done right, individuals can enjoy outdoor rooms for much of the year. Starting the project first requires determining where the outdoor space will be situated. Most people prefer to keep it close to the house for easy access. It’s also important to consider how many seasons will be enjoyed outdoors. This will determine the accessories needed. For example, those who want to stretch outdoor living into the late autumn may want to invest in a chiminea or outdoor fireplace to provide a focal point and warm place to converge when the weather is brisk. Those who only desire a summer area may want an arbor or pergola to keep the area
cooler when the sun is scorching. Keep in mind that this area of the outdoors should be private; otherwise it probably won’t be used much. Plants, trellis, garden structures, and other elements can help to keep the area blocked off from prying eyes. Bamboo is a fast-growing grass that will make an effective privacy screen. Next, consider plants that provide aesthetic appeal. If the outdoor room will be used for three seasons, use a variety of plants that will ensure blooms all year long. Consider plants that will feed wildlife and attract butterflies and birds. Greenery tends to create a relaxing space. Don’t forget a few evergreen shrubs or trees if the space will be enjoyed past the summer. Think about comfortable furniture to add to the space. Stores sell so
many different varieties of outdoor furniture, from traditional patio sets to chaises and sofas that rival ones that would normally be found indoors. Accessorize as one would inside, adding side tables, throw pillows (in weatherresistant fabrics) and ottomans. The goal is comfort and convenience. Don’t forget lighting. While there’s bound to be plenty of sunlight during the day, individuals who want to sit outdoors at night should think about wired or solar lighting. Candles or a fire in a fire pit also can provide ample illumination. Homeowners can shield the outdoor room from the elements even further by building a screened-in outdoor space. This will help keep bugs at bay and provide shelter if it rains. Use curtains or shutters to give the area a cozy appeal.
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Not all vegetables are year-round Vegetable gardens make great additions to any home garden, but home gardeners should know that not all vegetables should be planted year-round. Vegetables vary as to their optimal growing conditions, which often hinge on climate. For example, tomatoes are popular among home gardeners. For the best tomatoes, the soil
should be warm and the sun above should be hot. If planted in the winter, tomatoes aren’t likely to ripen and they could very well attract harmful garden pests. Some vegetables, however, actually prefer colder climates. Cauliflower, for instance, is not comforted by hot summer sun and will likely wilt before reach-
ing maturity if planted in the summertime. Instead, cauliflower often thrives with colder soil and steady rainfall. When planting vegetables in a home garden, homeowners should always consider seasonal changes. Such changes enable gardeners to have fresh vegetables at their disposal almost year-round.
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Renters need some options too Renters may feel they carpeting is in bad shape, have a set list of contrachave limited options when it may be able to be steam- tors or repair persons it comes to making changes cleaned or replaced. The contracted to provide the around their apartment. In renter may do so at his or work. The changing of light many cases, modifications her expense, or a portion fixtures may be allowed, to the space are governed of the renovation may be while removal of walls, by what the landlord will covered by the landlord. changing countertops or allow and what is stated in It is always advisecabinets, or other largethe tenant’s lease. able to consult with the scale renovations are likely Renters may be able to landlord before beginning off limits. make minor renovations any project. He or she Accessorizing the space and changes to the space. may handle the repair or with bold colors in draperThis can include patching change or set the ground ies, furniture and throw Our To Our Customersto And That’s Best.” and“SERVICE...That’s painting walls in a Commitment rules for modifications rugsWhat can We helpDopersonalize neutral color, or white if the space. an apartment where renothe landlord prefers. If the The landlord also may vations are limited.
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The Daily Dispatch
Friday, September 9, 2011
A grass-free landscape is a viable alternative to a lush lawn Many homeowners equate a beautiful landscape to rolling acres of pristine lawn. But changes in the climate and widespread seasonal restrictions on water use each year could change the way people think about outfitting their yards. There are many reasons people choose to forgo grass and opt for different ornamental elements in their yards. Cost is one factor. While grass seed is relatively inexpensive, the upkeep, including mowing, fertilizing, re-seeding, and watering, requires a significant investment of both time and money. Many homeowners choose to lay down sod to create a beautiful lawn, an expensive option for homeowners with vast landscapes. The environment is another reason homeowners look for grass alternatives. Grass requires a lot of upkeep, much of which is not environmentally friendly. For example, maintaining a pristine lawn requires the use of a gas-powered mower and oftentimes the application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Seeking alternatives to grass can be friendly on both the wallet and the environment.
Some alternatives For those who are ready to say goodbye to grass, there are many alternatives.
A room with a fireplace is a welcome retreat on a cold, windy day. Do the necessary maintenance beforehand to enjoy it worry-free.
Grass-free alternatives, such as ground cover mixed with patio stones, can be an option for homeowners looking for less upkeep. • Ground cover: Homeowners who still desire the look of green can choose among different types of ground cover that will quickly fill in the landscape. Clover, low-growing evergreen plants and ivy are some of the more popular ground cover alternatives. • Rocks: Decorative rocks intermingled with native plants can add dimension and color to the yard. Once rocks are placed, there is little upkeep except for pulling the errant weeds. • Mulch: A less expensive alternative to rocks is mulch. Mulch is available in different colors and types and can even be created by
a homeowner by chipping trimmed branches from trees in the yard. It helps lock water into landscaping beds, decreasing the need for frequent watering. • Water features: Think about installing a pond in the yard that can be bordered with stones and mulch. This will take up a good amount of space and can create a natural habitat for wildlife and even some low-maintenance pond fish. • Concrete or patio stones: Although they’re not all-natural materials, patios can take up areas normally consumed by the lawn and create expansive outdoor entertaining
areas. It will require an initial investment of the patio material, but once installed, patios don’t require significant maintenance. Homeowners can offset the concrete jungle feel by placing plenty of potted plants and container foliage around the perimeter. • Decking: Another alternative to concrete and stones is a wood or composite material deck. Again, this structure will increase outdoor living space and won’t require the level of routine maintenance needed to keep a lush lawn.
Weighing paving stones against concrete Homeowners have a variety of needs around the landscape that call for pavers or concrete, including driveways, patios and walkways. Deciding on a material means assessing needs and desired features as well as the cost of the project. In general, pavers are interlocking tiles of stone, brick or molded concrete. Concrete is poured in large, solid blocks with flexible spacers to allow for contraction and expansion depending on the weather.
Pavers Pavers allow flexibility in color and pattern. They can also be dug up and moved around at a later time. Different types of blocks can be interwoven to create a unique pattern. Because pavers are individual pieces, homeowners may find that installation is a do-it-yourself project. There are many different price ranges for pavers, depending on the size and material. Some range from a few dollars a block to much more than that. Many home-improvement stores sell an array of pavers, or homeowners can order from a specialty retailer. Pavers are often individually set with sand and leveling gravel. This means that over time they can settle and become uneven. Furthermore, because there is only sand in between, weeds may grow through the pavers over time, requiring added maintenance.
Concrete Poured concrete is a permanent addition to the landscape. It cannot be poured and then reconfigured without major demolition. Also, because concrete requires precision and
Paving stones are one option for homeowners looking to transform areas of their landscapes. mastery, it is not something easily done by a doit-yourselfer. This means that a hired mason will have to be called to pour concrete features. This may make concrete a more expensive purchase than individual pavers. Concrete is a continuous, poured substance. This means that weeds will not grow through so there is less maintenance involved. But it’s important to know that even concrete that has been properly laid may shift or crack over time from the settling of the ground. Thanks to innovations in concrete, homeowners who like the look of pavers without the work can investigate stamped concrete options, where a pattern is embossed into the concrete before it dries. Colors, stains and etching procedures are also available. There are a few other distinctions between these two materials that may also influence a homeowner’s decision. Pavers provide immediate gratification in that they can be enjoyed shortly after installation. Concrete, on the other hand, will require days to dry and cure. Some town codes re-
quire a permit for pouring concrete because it is a permanent change to the home. Pavers may not require a permit because they are not permanent and can be removed. When choosing among pavers or concrete around a pool or water source, it is important to select a
texture that will not be slippery when wet. Otherwise accidents may occur. The choice between concrete and pavers is largely one of personal preference. Each material has its advantages and disadvantages to consider.
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Preparing the fireplace for the coming season People looking to embrace the cold-weather season often find snuggling up in front of a roaring fire is both relaxing and warming. Fireplaces are popular components of homes across the country. Ensuring fireplaces are prepared for a season of use is important from a safety standpoint and for personal comfort as well. The U.S. Fire Administration states that heating fires account for 36 percent of residential home fires in rural areas every year. Often these fires are due to creosote buildup in chimneys and stovepipes. All home heating systems require regular maintenance to function safely and efficiently. One of the most important steps to fireplace maintenance and preparation is having the entire thing cleaned by a professional. A chimney sweep provides a variety of services. According to Ace Chimney Sweeps of Maryland, a chimney sweep will clean out the entire chimney. Many use a high-powered vacuum so that there is no soot or dust entering the home. Depending on the range of services, some sweeps also offer a series of inspections of the chimney, interior flue and checks of attic spaces for any damaged areas that will need repair. The next step will be securing your source of fuel. Many homeowners contract with a provider of seasoned firewood. A delivery of one or two cords of wood may take the average fireplace user through the season. Wood can also be purchased at supermarkets or picked up free in different areas. It’s not adviseable to use wood that has just been cut down. It likely contains high levels of moisture that will result in more smoke than burn power, and could lead to deposits forming on
the inside of the chimney. Synthetic logs are also available, but use caution because they may burn unevenly and put out higher levels of carbon monoxide. Follow directions on the packages of these products carefully. It is important to inspect a fireplace screen or guard to ensure it can safely protect against embers escaping the fireplace. In homes where there are young children, an added barrier may be needed in front of the fireplace to prevent little hands from touching the hot screen. It is vital to open up the chimney flue before starting any fire. This allows fresh air to feed the fire and will enable smoke to exit the home. Failure to open the flue can result in smothering, dirty smoke filling the home quite quickly. The flue should be closed after the fire is completely extinguished so that animals and outside debris don’t enter the home via the opening. Be sure to have a metal container for removing and storing hot ashes handy. Embers and ashes can stay hot for quite some time, so they should be placed outdoors, ideally far from the home so they don’t set anything ablaze. Educate household members about the rules of fireplace use. They should be aware that no items should be discarded into the fire to avoid the emission of toxic fumes or dangerous embers. All it takes is one stray ember to start a huge fire. Also, improper fuel materials may lead to the buildup of flammable creosote on the chimney. A fireplace can be a focal point, a source of home heating and just a nice place to which to retire when the weather is cold. Preparing the fireplace for use and maintaining it properly are the keys to a safe season of use.
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