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Mainline Newspapers - Thursday, May 29, 2014

may feed on garden plants.

Outdoor entertaining is one of the joys of nicer weather. People routinely gather on the patio or around the pool when the weather warms up, and such recreational activities can foster companionship and reduce stress. However, if nuisance animals and insects are sharing entertaining spaces, these pests can quickly put a damper on the festivities.

Pests attracted to food can be kept at bay with frequent sweeping or hosing down of the patio. In addition, maintain a clean grill and store trash in tightly secured receptacles.

Consider more traditional alternatives

While it may seem impossible to keep an outdoor entertaining area completely pest-free, there are ways to keep such unwanted intrusions manageable.

Identify common pests

Yard pests vary depending on geography, so the first step is to figure out which pests are native to your area. Mosquitoes can be found in many locales, but certain insects may be exclusive to specific regions. For example, palmetto bugs are native to moist, tropical areas, such as the southeastern United States.

In addition to insects, squirrels, moles, raccoons, and other rodents may also descend on a property. Neighborhoods that abut natural ecosystems or infringe on wild animals’ habitats may see a wider array of animals encroaching on entertaining spaces. Deer, bears, coyotes, and certain bird species can present their own brands of trouble. Homeowners new to an area may have to experience a learning curve to determine which pests are common to a certain area, as well as which seasons bring which creatures.


Embracing an eco-friendly lifestyle is more than just recycling cans and newspapers or campaigning for endangered species. Smart environmental living also extends to our homes and offices. In recognition of that, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design system, often referred to as “LEED,� was established to exemplify green building, maintenance and operation in offices, homes and neighborhoods.

LEED is essentially a rating system for the building and maintenance industry. Established by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED has become an internationally recognized mark of excellence. According to the USGBC, LEED provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations, and maintenance solutions. Since the system was created in 1998, LEED ratings standards have been applied to more than 7,000 projects in the United States, as well as 30 additional countries, and more than a billion square feet of developed area has been LEED classified. Various parameters must be met before a building can receive LEED certification. LEED requires a set of prerequisites and credits. Prerequisites include required elements or strategies that must be included in all LEEDcertified projects. Credits are extra See LEED, page 4

Make entertaining areas comfortable and safe by keeping pests at bay. Try natural repellents first

To minimize damage to the environment and to protect local wildlife, homeowners should exhaust natural ways to repel pests before resorting to less eco-friendly methods. Animals can be kept out of a yard with fences and other barriers, such as thorny bushes. Many pests are deterred by smells or certain structures in a lawn or garden. For example, inserting

chicken wire into a garden bed may be enough to repel burrowing animals. Certain insects, such as flies and mosquitoes, find the aromas of citronella grass, basil and marigold offensive. Surrounding a property with these plants can create a natural bug repellent. Lavender and rosemary are other aromatics that may deter pests. Blood meal and soap solutions can repel deer and other wildlife that

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If natural repellents do not work, you may need to rely on more traditional products to repel insects and other pests. Beetle traps lure beetles with an inviting scent before the beetle gets trapped in a bag and cannot exit. Traps for wasps and flies follow a similar premise. Bug zappers are largely viewed as an inhumane option but can be highly effective. Unfortunately, these zappers also

attract and kill beneficial insects, such as bees and butterflies.

Chemical repellents also are available. Stores stock pesticides that will rid plants of damaging insects. These repellents also may be used around the patio to make the area inhospitable to insects and other pests.

Contact an exterminator

If the problem is simply too difficult to manage on your own, then you might need to contact an exterminator, who can spray the perimeter of the home for bugs and can also be called in to safely trap and remove nuisance animals. An exterminator may also have detailed knowledge of protected species and which habitats can and cannot be disturbed.

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Thursday, May 29, 2014 - Mainline Newspapers


There are one million acres of lawn across the country. Many homeowners aspire to having a lush, green lawn as the showcase of their properties. The front lawn can make a statement and indicate to passersby the property owners’ personalities and design preferences.

Lawn care takes some dedication and hard work, but there are certain ways to cut down on the amount of effort required to maintain a landscape. By employing a few different shortcuts, you can have a healthy, lush lawn without spending all of your free time cutting the grass or pruning the trees.

• Stop weeds at the start. Weeding is one of the most time-consuming parts of maintaining a lawn. Weeds can proliferate throughout the lawn if not addressed in a timely manner. Once weeds take root they can become a nuisance, so it’s best to treat weeds before they even have a chance to sprout. Apply a preemergent weed control product as soon as possible in the spring and then reapply it about three months later to ensure weeds are eradicated. That equates to much less tedious lawn maintenance during the season. • Plant a urine-resistant grass. Having a dog and maintaining a lush lawn has always been a particular conundrum for homeowners. Dog urine is high in nitrogen. While nitrogen, when applied in the correct ratio, can be a lawn-growth stimulant, in the large concentration that occurs in pet urine, it causes the grass to dry up and burn, resulting in bare spots. Replanting with urine-



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resistant grasses can help cut down on the level of damage to the lawn from your own pet or pets that happen to make potty stops on your property. The grasses most resistant to urine tend to be perennial ryegrasses and fescues. • Wake up and water. Watering in the early mornings saves time and energy in the long run by fostering a tougher, more drought-resistant lawn. If you water early in the day, less water will be lost to evaporation. Limit watering to a few times per week, and less if you have had adequate rain. Avoid watering at night, which can expose the lawn to bacteria and attract insects.

• Mow when the lawn is dry. It’s not adviseable to mow the lawn when it is wet. Slippery conditions can not only make it more dangerous to push a mower, but also slow down the time it can take to tackle the chore. The mower blades can become clogged and coated with wet grass clippings, necessitating


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stopping and starting the task. Another thing to consider is lawn diseases spread more readily through wet clippings. Stick to mowing when the lawn is completely dry. • Let clippings fly. Mulching mowers, or those that just distribute clippings on the lawn as you go, can be healthier for the grass. They will serve as fertilizer and redistribute nutrients to the lawn as they breakdown into the soil. According to See Lawn, page 6

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Mainline Newspapers - Thursday, May 29, 2014

Storage sheds can be invaluable for people who do not have a garage or basement in which to store their outdoor tools and equipment. Sheds also can be a boon to anyone looking to increase the storage space they have at home.

the municipal building and learn the building codes about erecting a shed. In order to protect the safety and integrity of the area, many towns and cities have specific zoning and building laws that need to be followed. A shed of a certain size may require a permit to be built, and knowing this information in advance can save you from taking down the shed and redoing the work at a later date.

Prefabricated and made-toorder sheds are available for all different budgets and storage needs. Buyers also can choose among build-to-suit kits that can be ordered online or from various retailers. One of the first decisions homeowners need to make when shopping for a storage shed is how much space they need. Think about what you need to house in the shed. Will it hold shovels and the patio umbrella, or will it need to be larger to accommodate a lawn mower? Knowing what you intend to use the shed for will enable you to pick the appropriate size.

Another thing to consider is how long you plan to use the shed. If this is merely a transitional storage building to bide your time until your garage renovation is complete, you may not need an expensive structure


Continued from page 2

incentives that can be included in projects to work toward LEED certification. The ratings system generally uses a numeric scale of 110 points for buildings, while LEED for Homes has a scale based on 131 points. Credits are allocated based on the environmental impacts and human benefits of the buildings and operations. Projects can receive basic certification between 40 to 49 points, and Platinum status is reached at 80-plus points. LEED v4 is the next incarnation of the rating system and will focus even more on increasing the lengths to which projects go to employ green goals.

While the rating system was developed through an open, consensus-based process that involved USGBC volunteers and working groups, third parties are responsible for verifying that a building, home or community was created using strategies aimed at high performance in environmental health. These include, but are not limited to, water savings, energy efficiency, sustainable site development, and indoor environmental quality. USGBC says LEED is flexible enough to apply to all project types. Examples of LEED-certified structures include the Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, Penn., which has multiple LEED certifications, including the world’s only Platinum-Certified greenhouse. Shearer’s Foods plant in Ohio is the first food manufacturing plant to receive LEED Platinum status. Since 2011, Taipei 101 has been the tallest and largest green LEED Platinum-certified building in the world. Individuals can visit and search the USGBC directory of more than 64,000 registered and certified LEED projects to see how each achieved their certification.

made of top-of-the-line materials. If you have a long lifetime planned for this shed, you will want a durable structure and might want to increase your budget.

Before buying a shed, find out if your town, city or province has any zoning rules about sheds. You may need to plan a trip to

Once you know the building codes, you can begin to shop around for a shed. Sheds can vary widely in price. A small, vertical lean-to shed may start out around $350, while a larger, more intricate structure can cost between $2,000 and $3,000. Cost may play a role in the shed you ultimately choose, especially if you are on a fixed budget. Available materials also should be studied when buying a shed. While an aluminum shed may not be the most aesthetically appealing option, aluminum sheds tend to be affordable and durable. Wood sheds are available in all different styles and can be very attractive. However, they will have to be maintained to prevent rot and insect infesta-

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tion. Wood sheds also can be expensive. Vinyl sheds may be the best of both worlds, as they are often durable and require little maintenance. Some sheds even enable you to build or add on different components at a later date, so you don’t need to start out with the elite model at the outset. When shopping, consider if you have the skillset to assemble the shed yourself. You can save a considerable amount of money when buying a kit and assem-

bling the shed yourself. Having a shed built off-site and then delivered, or hiring a carpenter to come and build a shed, may cost you just as much in labor as in materials. Keep in mind that sheds displayed in a warehouse store or outside at a home improvement retailer may seem smaller than they will when erected in your yard. Measure your space carefully to ensure that the shed will See Shed, page 6



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Thursday, May 29, 2014 - Mainline Newspapers

Few people might think of potential safety hazards when planning to paint the interiors of their homes. Though every home improvement project can lead to injury if safety measures are not taken seriously, painting is widely considered a project where do-ityourselfers are at minimal risk of injury. But in addition to the injury risks associated with climbing up and down ladders to paint ceilings or out-of-reach corners, there are some health and safety concerns that painters must consider before beginning their projects.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the majority of paints contain chemicals that evaporate in the air, and these chemicals can adversely affect human health. Problems associated with chemicals found in some paints include eye and throat or lung irritation, headaches, dizziness, and vision trouble. Professional painters exposed to paint vapors over long periods of time can develop problems with their nervous systems, liver and kidneys, and some chemicals found in paint have been linked to elevated cancer risk. Though painting is often an enjoyable home improvement

time of year. Spring and fall make ideal seasons to paint, as the weather outside during these seasons is typically pleasant, allowing painters to open all of the windows without making conditions inside the home unfavorable. Open all of the windows and doors. While it’s especially important to open all of the windows and the door in the room

project, painters still must take the following precautions to ensure their safety when painting the interior of their homes.

Read product labels carefully. Paints vary considerably with regard to how hazardous they can potentially be, so it’s best to read paint can labels thoroughly regardless of how experienced you are at painting. Labels provide safety instructions specific to that particular paint, including suggestions to reduce hazards and advice on what to do should users develop any adverse health effects.

It also helps to reread labels once the painting project has been completed. Labels often include instructions on how to clean or discard products and tools after use, as well as suggestions on where to store paints or other products used during the project that may be flammable. Paint during the right time of year. Exposure to chemicals found in paint can be reduced considerably if you paint during the right


where you will be painting, it’s even better to open as many windows and doors throughout the home, making sure to push curtains and blinds back to let the fresh air pour in. Keeping all windows and doors (use screen doors if you are worried about animals or insects entering the home) open promotes ventilation throughout the home, allowing for constant See Painting, page 7







Home improvements are typically made to improve the functionality and look of a home, but renovations also can increase the value of a home. Certain changes to a home can make it more attractive to prospective buyers, while other renovations may make a home less appealing. For example, a complete overhaul of an outdated kitchen is often a smart financial move, while installing a pool or hot tub may not be worth the cost to homeowners. Separating the good from the bad renovations makes smart financial sense, and homeowners looking to improve their homes’ resale values may want to avoid the following projects. • Bedroom and garage conversions: Changing a room’s traditional function often turns off buyers. For example, turning a garage into a home gym might seem like a great idea for you, but it may not be so appealing to prospective buyers. Buyers can certainly reconvert the space, but


Continued from page 4

blend in and not be an eyesore in the yard. Shrubbery can be planted around the shed to help camouflage it, and the shed also can be color-coordinated with the house to make it appear more cohesive.

Though luxuries, pools or hot tubs are not always attractive to prospective home buyers.

they would consider the costs of such a conversion when making their offers on the home. • Stylized colors on trims and

rooms: Painting over unappealing colors is a project many homeowners can handle. However, some may be discouraged by a home that has too many bright colors or textures on the walls and trims. Buyers often want homes that are move-in ready, meaning they can get settled in before undertaking large projects. A living room painted in purple or zebra print may not fit the design scheme of many buyers. Dark colors do not easily disappear, and taping off and painting trimwork or changing it entirely can be equally time-consuming. Stick with neutral colors when selling a home, even if this means giving rooms a new coat of paint before putting your house on the market. • Outdoor hot tubs and indoor spa tubs: Many people find soak-



Mainline Newspapers - Thursday, May 29, 2014


Continued from page 3

“The Organic Lawn Care Manual,â€? leaving clippings on the lawn will fulfill about 25 percent of fertilizer requirements. Plus, you save time bagging up clippings. • Mow less often. Raise the mower’s blade so that the grass is longer in between cuttings. The taller grass will shade the soil and block weeds from germinating. It also helps improve soil’s moisture


• Don’t cut corners. Adjusting a landscape design to have arches and curves can reduce the time it takes to mow and edge a property. Hard corners in a landscape will require more time to keep straight and pristine. Caring for a lawn can take less time and effort than you think.




See Value, page 8





The foundation of the shed also needs to be considered. Sheds can rest on cinder blocks, poured concrete or crushed stone. Check with the shed manufacturer as to the best foundation material, and factor that expense into your purchase. An attractive, functional and affordable shed can be an asset to a home. It provides extra storage space for outdoor equipment, which can free up room in a garage or basement.





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Thursday, May 29, 2014 - Mainline Newspapers


SIGNS OF A HEALTHY GARDEN & SOIL Upon first glance, a garden may appear to be the picture of health. However, further examination may reveal that the garden isn’t all that it seems, and perhaps that healthy facade is artificially manufactured.

healthy plants because they aerate the soil by channeling through it. These channels enable rain to soak into the soil and air to reach roots. Earthworms, through their castings, also add important nutrients to soil. Dig a few inches into the garden. If you find an abundance of earthworms, it is a good indication that all is well.

Chemical fertilizers and an abundance of water may temporarily boost the appearance of a garden, but gardens need more than a quick fix to maintain long-term health. The following are a handful of indicators that a garden has established itself and is likely to maintain its health for years to come.

Water infiltration: Take a glass of

Earthworms: The presence of earthworms in the garden and surrounding soil indicates a healthy garden. Earthworms are essential to


Continued from page 5

airflow that will usher any potentially harmful chemicals out of your home. If necessary, place a box fan within a window frame to promote cross-ventilation. Never turn on the air conditioner as a substitute for fans and open windows, as that will not be pushing any air out of the home.

Seal paint cans tightly once the project has been completed. At the end of the project, you may or may not have leftover paint. If you have a small amount of paint leftover that you do not intend to keep, contact your local government to determine the best way to dispose of the paint. You also can do this if you have empty paint cans but are uncertain if they can be discarded with normal household trash and recycling. If you have a substantial amount of paint left, be sure the lid is closed as tightly as possible, as vapors can leak through poorly sealed containers, putting the health of residents at risk. Once again, read the label to determine the best place to store leftover paint. Painting is widely considered a

fun home improvement project. But if certain safety measures are not taken when painting the interi-

water and pour it onto the soil of the garden. If it takes five seconds or less for the soil to absorb the water, then that soil is probably doing well. However, soil that can’t soak up that water may be having problems, or there may be problems on the horizon. Those problems will likely manifest themselves when the temperatures begin to rise. See Garden, page 8



             or of a home, these projects can put the health of residents at risk.


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Understanding the terminology used in the home improvement and construction industries can help homeowners be better informed and involved in projects around their homes. The following are some common industry terms.

Estimate: The anticipated cost of materials and labor for a project.

Ampacity: The amount of current a wire can safely carry.

Footing: Widened ground base of a foundation to support foundations or piers.

Aggregate: Crushed rock used in many asphalt applications.

Asbestos: A fibrous material that was once used widely in building materials but is linked to cancers of the lung and lung cavity. Backfill: Soil or gravel used to fill in against a foundation.

Beam: Horizontal framing member designed to carry a load from joists or a roof. Butt joint: Lumber pieces joined at the ends.

Casement window: A window with hinges on one of the vertical sides making it swing open like a door.

Caulking: Flexible material used to seal a gap between two surfaces.

Code: Rules set forth by a government institution to determine fair and safe trade practices. Curing: A process that brings paint or masonry materials to their final, durable form.

Drywall: A wall finish made from gypsum plaster encased in a thin cardboard.

Fixed price contract: A contract with a set price for the work. Flashing: Sheet metal or roll roofing pieces fit to the joint of any roof intersection or projection.

Framing: The structural wooden elements of most homes.

GFI: A ground fault current interrupter, which is an electrical device used to prevent injury from contact with electrical appliances. Jamb: The exposed upright part on each side of a window frame or door frame.

Level: A tool to check for level or plumb surfaces.

Permit: A legal authorization to begin a work project. Pitch: The slope of incline on a roof.

Rebar: Steel rods that are imbedded in concrete for stability. Shim: A tapered piece of wood used to level and secure a structure.

Stud: Vertical parts of framing placed 16 or 24 inches apart. Watt: A measure of the electrical requirement of an appliance.


Continued from page 7

Foliage color and growth: A plant leaf can tell a lot about the health of a plant. Shriveled or pale leaves could be indicative of a problem. If the plant looks sickly, soil might need to be modified or the problem may lie inside of the plant itself. Take a clipping of a poorly growing plant and place it in a glass of water. If the water becomes cloudy or milky, there may be a bacterial problem. If the water remains clear, the plant may have a virus. The presence of fuzz or hairs growing on leaves could indicate the presence of a fungus.

Plant residue: The presence of stubble or leftover plant particles from previous plantings helps the soil retain moisture and suppress weeds. This material also can prevent erosion. It’s good to have some residual plant matter in your soil. If the soil is too “clean,” it may not be as healthy as you think.


Flowers: Certainly there are low-maintenance plants that do not produce flowers, but relying only on these plants in your garden can

Continued from page 6

ing in a bubbling brew of hot water quite inviting. But buyers often do not want to inherit a used hot tub. Although hot tubs are cleaned and maintained with sanitizing chemicals, some people may view them as unsanitary. Removing a hot tub can be labor-intensive. And much like a pool, a hot tub may not be appealing to buyers with young children.

• Removing closets: Closet space is often high on buyers’ priority lists. Turning closet space into an office or removing a closet to make a room bigger may be fine for those who are staying put. But these modifications can be a turn-off to prospective buyers.

prove troublesome over the long haul. Bees, birds and butterflies are attracted to sweet, flowering plants. These animals and insects are essential to pollination, and without them the garden cannot procreate. A thriving garden is one that has a mix of plants, including some flowering varieties that will keep birds, butterflies and bees coming back again and again.

Minimal weeds: If the only thing you’re growing is weeds, then there is a problem in the garden. Weeds tend to be more tolerant of poor soil conditions and can quickly take over and force other plants out. Planting ground cover and using mulch is a natural way to keep weeds at bay. You may need to do some manual work on your hands and knees and pull out weeds as well. The fewer the weeds, the more likely your plants will grow tall and full. Signs of a healthy garden include the presence of beneficial insects and good color and plant growth.

• Too many features: In an effort to “keep up with the Joneses,” some homeowners will over-improve their home to the point that it outshines all others on the street. There is a case for having nice things, but homeowners may struggle to sell a home that is disproportionate to other homes in the area. Practice moderation when making improvements to attract more buyers. These suggestions are merely guidelines and should not replace the advice of a reputable real estate agent when marketing a home. Housing features and what buyers are interested in vary across the country. Some items may be desireable in specific areas but undesireable elsewhere. Making informed choices before renovating can help homeowners recoup the largest share of their investments.

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