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Spring Home

Improvement Morning Star Publications Inc. Š2012


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Spring Home Improvement | Morning Star Publications 2012


inside 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . What to look for in outdoor furniture 5 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . How to hide the TV when it’s not in use 6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The basics of property taxes

Spring Home

Improvement Morning Star Publications Inc. Š2012

8 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Succulents for low-maintenance landscape 12 . . . . . . . . . . . What comes first, the landscaping or the fence? 13 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Projects that might require a building permit 14 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Things to know before building a deck 16 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tips when creating an outdoor living space 18 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Is it time to add a half-bathroom? 19 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . How to prevent lawn damage

Spring Home Improvement | Morning Star Publications 2012

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What to look for in outdoor furniture Outdoor entertaining areas have always been popular among homeowners. The ability to entertain friends and family or simply relax by yourself is something homeowners cherish, particularly during the warm weather seasons. Finding the right furniture to match your outdoor area, be it a deck, patio or poolside lounging area, is essential to making the most of this special area of the home. When shopping for outdoor furniture, consider the following. • Weight: Unlike furniture inside the home, outdoor furniture will be moved around quite frequently, such as to protect it from inclement weather or changing seasons. As a result, the weight of the furniture bears importance. While you don't want furniture that's too lightweight and will blow away any time a strong gust of wind comes along, it's a good idea to choose furniture that isn't too heavy. This makes it easier to move should a storm suddenly appear and it won't require the entire household to help move the furniture into and out of the garage when inclement weather arrives. • Comfort: The whole idea behind an outdoor entertaining area is to have a relaxing place to spend time outside. So be sure to choose furniture that's comfortable and can handle the elements. Metal furniture, for example, might be durable, but such furniture can also get very hot if out in the sun. • Versatility: Many homeowners enjoy changing their

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According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor, the average consumer spends about $630 each year on household supplies. In fact, a recent study reveals that many Americans are letting their money go down the drain - literally - by spending too much on items like laundry detergent. In these tough economic times, families are looking for smart, new ways to save money without sacrificing quality, and the laundry room is a great place to start. Here are some ways to keep clothes, floors and household surfaces in tip-top shape, without breaking the bank. Keep it Cool Save on energy costs by using cold water whenever possible. Most detergents are powerful enough to get a deep-down clean regardless of the water temperature. Whether running the dish washer or loading the laundry machine, turn the dial to cold for savings. 4

home's interior decor from time to time, and it can be just as enjoyable to do the same to a home's exterior decor. That said, look for furniture that can be accented with a variety of accessories, so you can change the look of your outdoor entertaining area easily. • Protection: Protecting exterior furniture from the elements should be a priority. When shopping for outdoor furniture, figure out if protective covering is available or if it will need to be custom made. The latter alternative can be quite expensive, so you might want to consider more generic furniture that comes with standard protective coverings to make it more affordable. Use, Wash, Repeat Laundry rooms are often dubbed mud rooms. When cleaning these floors and surfaces, use reusable products like cloth towels whenever possible. In addition to being a green option, you'll save money by not going through rolls and rolls of pricey paper towels. Turn to Homemade Solutions Forego costly cleaners and reduce cupboard clutter by making your own products with common household ingredients. A simple mix of baking soda and water creates a useful all-purpose cleaner; lemon juice cuts through grease; and an old toothbrush is perfect for scrubbing hard-to-reach places. Stock Up on Essentials Everyone should have one go-to product that addresses a multitude of messy situations at home. For instance, Arm & Hammer Baking Soda has countless cleaning and deodorizing uses, and costs less than one dollar a box. Baking soda freshens carpets, cleans tiles and walls, polishes silver, deodorizes diaper pails, boosts laundry, and much more.

Spring Home Improvement | Morning Star Publications 2012


How to hide the TV when it's not in use People have a love affair with their electronics, which play an integral role at households across the globe. Statistics from Nielsen's Television Audience Report indicate that the average American household has 2.86 television sets, despite having just 2.5 people. It is also estimated that those in the U.S. will have watched the equivalent of 9 years' worth of TV by the age of 65. Canadians spend 1,500 hours each year watching TV, and 128,000 Canadians have a TV in the bathroom. Though TVs are located throughout the typical household, homeowners don't always appreciate the look of a TV and how it fits in with their design scheme. That is why many seek ways to camouflage a television when it is not in use. There are many ways to mask a television when not in use. Homeowners can explore different options, depending on their particular budget and the available space. Furniture: Television armoires and cabinetry are some of the most basic ways to hide a TV. The unit is housed behind doors that are closed when the TV is not on and can be opened and recessed when it’s time to watch a show. These pieces of furniture can match other items in the room and create a flawless appeal. • Cover up: Wall-hung flat screen televisions can be camouflaged with a piece of artwork or another wall decoration. Many times the TV is recessed into the wall,

and the canvas or mirror is mounted on a device that can move it out of the way to reveal the screen. • On the move: There are mechanisms that can lower or raise a TV from a hidden location, whether in the floor or ceiling. The TV can descend or ascend vertically, or a hinged device can flip the TV up or down, depending on need, much like a small LCD television that mounts on the underside of a kitchen cabinet. • Under the bed: People have long embraced the under-the-bed storage options, but what about using that space for a TV? Homeowners who have $10,000 lying around can purchase a mounting device that stores the TV under the bed, and then raises it into position at the foot of the bed with the touch of a remote control. • Track TV: With a system of trackwork, a television can swivel out of a hiding spot in a closet, cabinet or soffit and move into position on a pole connected to the track. Both manual and motorized tracks can be installed for a few hundred dollars. • Canvas cover: A less expensive option than some of the motorized devices available, a shade or tapestry on a manual device (think the window shades that you tug and the shade rolls up onto itself) can also conceal a television. Lower or raise the shade as needed. • Smaller scale: Smaller TVs are easier to camouflage. Think scale when placing a TV in a bedroom, bathroom or kitchen. Simple decor accessories may do the trick of hiding the TV from view. Although most people can’t get enough of their television viewing, the caveat is they don’t want the television to be an eyesore when not in use. Different concealment strategies can help mask a TVwhen it is not in use.

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The basics of property taxes

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aying property taxes is a necessary side effect of home ownership. Across the United States and Canada, residents are required to pay property taxes based on an assessment of their homes' value. Taxes on land and the buildings on it are one of the biggest sources of revenue for local governments. In the United States, property taxes are not imposed by the states, but by the smaller governing bodies in cities, towns, townships, counties, and other jurisdictions. In Canada, property taxes, or milliage taxes, are levied by the jurisdiction in which the property is located. They may be paid to a federated state or a municipality or the national government. Sometimes multiple jurisdictions may tax the same property. Although the taxes are mandated by a higher governing power, the rate at which you pay taxes could be based on a very local assessment of the area in which your house is located and the current market conditions. An assessor will visit a home -usually prior to purchase -- and make a determination on the percentage of tax to be paid depending on the condition of the home, the improvements that have been made and the climate of the economy in your particular town or city. Property taxes are usually calculated by taking the assessed value of your home and multiplying it by the tax rate that has been determined by your local government.

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While no one can "legally" escape paying property taxes, there are several ways to have them lowered. Getting your home re-assessed is one such way. Individuals who have reached a certain age may be eligible for certain discounts on property taxes. But this may require a very low income to qualify. There are also some tax credits or homestead exemptions that may qualify you for a limited assessed value on the property. According to data from the Tax Foundation and Forbes, areas of New Jersey, New York and Illinois boast some of the highest property taxes. Residents of Hunterdon County, New Jersey paid on average $8,600 a year between 2005 and 2009. Those in Lake County, Illinois pay around $6,500. People living in Westchester County, New York can plan on spending $8,400 per year. Statistics indicate that homes located in Ontario cities in central Canada have the highest property taxes. Toronto residents, for example, pay an average of $3,900. In this tough economy, lowering property taxes (which are generally rolled into the mortgage amount for ease of payment) could substantially reduce bills. As many as 60 percent of properties across the United States are overassessed, according to the National Taxpayers Union, a nonprofit group that promotes lower taxes. If you suspect your property taxes

are high, here are the steps to take. * Get a copy of your property tax assessment from the local assessor's office and double-check all the information contained to see if it is correct. * Check the assessments of five comparable homes that have sold in your neighborhood in the last three years. * An independent appraiser can also provide you accurate information at a cost. Make sure he or she is licensed with the National Association of Independent Fee Appraisers or by the American Society of Appraisers. * It's not possible to lower the property tax rate, just the assessed value of the home through an official appeal. There may be fees associated with this appeal, however. Some home improvements will increase the value of your home and, in turn, your property taxes. Here are some of the most common culprits: - extra stories to the home - outhouses, like a guest house - sports courts, like tennis - installation of an inground pool - improvements to fencing - addition of a garage or another room on the home A change in the status of a neighborhood can also give rise to higher property taxes. An influx of new residents or new construction of stores and homes can have a major effect on the assessed value of your home.

Spring Home Improvement | Morning Star Publications 2012


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Plant succulents for a low-maintenance landscape

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ow is the time of year to focus on outdoor landscaping projects. One popular project involves redesigning the front yard or backyard to include an array of different flowers and foliage. While many people gravitate to the flashy and colorful annuals on display at nurseries and home centers, you may want to consider adding some succulents to your home landscape. Succulent plants can be a boon to a homeowner without the time or resources to maintain plants. Succulents get their name from their primary function, which is drawing up and storing water. Succulents are able to thrive in arid conditions, and there are more than 300 different types, including some exotic species. The advantages to planting succulents are many. Because they store

water in their stems, roots and leaves, this reduces the number of times an owner must water them. Succulents can go several days between waterings. Succulents, like cacti, that have few if any leaves, are perhaps best at managing water because they lose little to evaporation through the foliage. Succulents are particularly good to have in areas prone to arid temperatures or where water restrictions are often in place. They can be environmentally friendly because of their ability to conserve water. Succulents treat water as a precious resource, and their entire makeup is designed to minimize consumption of water. Because they thrive in sunlight, succulents can be the ideal plants to put in extremely sunny and hot locations. They will not wither and dry

out due to extreme heat. For particularly dry areas of landscape or where soil is subpar, consider the placement of different varieties of succulents to create a varied and eye-catching display. There are many other advantages to planting succulents; some of which include: • Succulents offer contrasts in shape, texture and colors. With the many varieties, you're bound to find something interesting and different to add to the landscape. • Whether you have ample acreage in the yard or simply some containers available for planting, succulents will thrive. They grow just as well in containers as they do in the ground. • Succulents don't tend to require pruning or cutting back of the plant.

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With this in mind, you can expect them to grow large. Therefore, space the plants adequately to allow for growth. • Succulents are perennials. So once you plant them, they should last for years and years without the hassle and expense you can expect from planting annuals every year. • Indoor greenhouses or sunrooms can be another good place for succulents. They prefer not to get chilled, which makes a controlled environment advantageous. When considering a spot for your succulents, choose areas that get plenty of sun. Think about pruning back or removing trees that would create too much shade on the succulents. Space the succulents widely apart -- more so than you would with other plants -- to allow them to spread. Pebbles or

gravel make good mulching material around succulents so that drainage will be adequate. It will also set the succulents apart from other plants by

contextualizing them in your garden. Visit a gardening center or home improvement store to learn more about the myriad types of succulents

Spring Home Improvement | Morning Star Publications 2012

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How to improve your landscape before selling

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elling a house is seldom easy, and homeowners are often willing to do whatever it takes to make their home more attractive to prospective buyers. One of the areas sellers typically focus on is the home's landscaping. A well-maintained lawn and garden increases a property's curb appeal considerably, increasing the chances a buyer will have a strong first impression of the home. But homeowners don't need to have a green thumb to ensure their lawn improves curb appeal. The following are a few tricks of the trade savvy sellers can employ to make their home an instant hit when buyers pull up to the curb. • Color the landscape. The plants outside a home shouldn't stick out

like a sore thumb, but a few splashes of color can make a home more appealing. For the cost of some annuals, which are typically inexpensive, homeowners can turn a drab flower bed into a colorful spot bound to catch a buyer's eye. • Lay down new layers of mulch. Mulch is not only good for plants, helping them to retain moisture while inhibiting weed germination and growth, but a fresh layer of mulch also adds to a yard's aesthetic appeal. Mulch made of wood or bark chips is also slow to decay, so apply a new batch right before the "For Sale" sign is erected and you might not have to apply another batch before selling the home. • Prune trees and shrubs. Pruning trees and shrubs is one of the easiest

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and most effective ways to improve a landscape. Dead branches in shrubs and trees might suggest to buyers that the homeowners weren't terribly preoccupied with maintenance, and this might cause them to think twice about making an offer. Stay on top of pruning regardless of what season it is, and be sure to remove any fallen branches from the yard on a regular basis. • Clean bird baths and other water features. Water features create a peaceful atmosphere around a property if they're well maintained. If not, buyers won't see the yard as a sanctuary but rather a place where mosquitoes congregate and odors emanate from algae-filled water. Remove any debris from water features, including leaves and algae, and clean the filters

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Spring Home Improvement | Morning Star Publications 2012


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so water is always clear. • Invest in a power washer. Buying a power washer might be a tad over the top, but homeowners whose yards are filled with grimy surfaces might find a power washer can work wonders at restoring a home's external appeal. If plants are in pots that are covered in years-old dirt and grime, a power washer can restore the pot's luster in a matter of minutes. Spray down walkways and even home siding that has fallen victim to dirt and grime over the years. • If planting trees, don't go too big. Especially large trees are not always attractive to prospective buyers, who likely won't want sight lines obstructed or won't want to worry about a tree falling and destroying their home during a storm. • Address issues with weeds. A prevalent problem with weeds around the property is another situation that some buyers might feel is indicative of neglect. Weeds are a pretty simple problem to remedy, so buyers might be correct to assume weeds around the property are there because the homeowner was not concerned with maintenance. Lay mulch around flower beds and gardens to reduce weed growth, and pull any weeds from sidewalks and the driveway. Once weeds are pulled, spray areas that were infested with a weed-treatment product to ensure weeds don't grow back. A well-maintained landscape is a great way for men and women hoping to sell their homes to make a strong first impression.

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A planting time question

the chicken or the egg

Thresa Allen at Nanticoke Fence says that every year around this time they get asked these two questions which are similar to that old question of which came first – the chicken or the egg.

Q: I am planning to landscape around my future fence. Should the landscaping go in before the fence or can I have the landscaping go in and the fence be installed last? A: If you have the ability to put your landscaper off - always do the fence first. Remember that for installers to install your fence they have to be able to walk in the area, dig holes (which can produce a lot of excess dirt), place the post in, and fill the hole with concrete. It would be im-

possible to guarantee that there will be no plant damage. Whether an installer accidentally steps on a flower, or possibly a post hole is going right into your prized tulips - these are things that are often not avoidable for the installer or do it your-selfer. Always arrange your fence before the landscapers. It will ensure a much more pleasant installation for you, and your landscaper.

Q: I've already landscaped my area – my plantings have been in for years and I've decided to add a fence. How will that affect my newly planted flowers? A: Most installers and homeowners do their very best to not leave a mess in yards or landscape beds. It's important, though, to be realistic. If

installers are setting posts and nailing fence in the middle of a bunch of flowers - there will probably be some flowers that get stepped on. They can and will make every attempt to avoid damage, but it's very difficult because posts will need to be set in the midst of the flowers. Some flowers will be necessary casualties simply due to digging a hole, and pouring in the concrete. Remember to set your posts at even widths apart. It makes the panels all the same length, and is considerably more attractive.

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Projects that might require a building permit All too many homeowners have experienced the joy of completing a home improvement project only to learn upon completion that the project is not in adherence with local laws. That realization, while heartbreaking, is often the result of a homeowner's failure to secure a building permit prior to starting the project. Homeowners who secure a permit before the onset of a project will know what they can and can't do and can rest easy knowing that an approved plan complies with engineering principles and local laws. Another disadvantage to forgoing the permit process is the potential perils such a decision cause when homeowners want to sell their homes. Projects completed without a permit might hurt a home's resale value, and such projects are not often covered by homeowner's insurance

policies, meaning damage to areas of the home where an illegal project was conducted won't be covered. While homeowners should always check with their local municipality before starting a project, it might help to know the following are a few of the many home improvement projects that typically require a permit before they can go forward. • Above-ground pool • Attached storage shed • Awnings • Carports • Deck installation • Demolition project, interior or exterior • Fireplace addition • Garage conversion • Handicap ramp • Handicap restroom

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Things to know before building a deck

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tatistics from the U.S. Census Bureau Housing Survey indicate that homeowners annually spend billions of dollars improving outdoor living areas. One of the most popular ways to do just that is to add a deck to a home. Decks are beneficial in many ways. Grillmasters love decks because they make the perfect place to set up a grill and a table and cook for family and friends. Those who simply love being outdoors find decks the perfect place to relax and soak up some sun or idle away the evening hours. But homeowners who want to build a deck should know a few things before that process begins. • Permits are necessary. Unless the deck is going to be especially small, you will likely need a permit to build it. Before buying any materi-

als or consulting any contractors, make certain you know which permits you need and how to get them. If the proper permits are not secured before the project begins, you might have to tear down the whole project and start all over again. • Decks don't have to go on the back of the house. If the back of your house sits in the blazing sun all day, then it's probably best to build the deck elsewhere, and that's perfectly alright. So long as the property and permits allow, decks can be built on the side of a home as well, and putting a deck on the side might be more comfortable. • Decks don't have to be made of wood. It's easy to assume all decks are made of plain wood. However, decks can be made out of a wide variety of materials, natural or synthet-

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ic. Pressure treated wood is perhaps the most popular material for decking because it's not very expensive. But manmade materials that are a mixture of recycled plastic and wood bits or sawdust are also popular because they require no maintenance. But homeowners should know that manmade materials can get hot in the sun, which will require those enjoying the deck to wear shoes. • Expect to do some digging. If you're going to build your own deck, expect to do some serious digging. Local building codes will dictate how deep you will need to dig for the pier footings, which support the deck's weight. Just how deep you'll dig depends on your climate's specific frost line, but it's safe to assume you'll get a workout in when digging. • The deck can have multiple

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levels. Though many people associate decks with one level, it's possible to have a multi-level deck if you simply don't have enough room to build a deck that will be big enough to meet all of your needs. A multi-level deck can break up those long flights of stairs while ensuring you will always have somewhere to go to escape the sun on a hot day. • You will want to protect the deck. Decks are a costly investment, and you will want to protect that investment. If you're building a wood deck, keep in mind the sun will beat down on the deck for most of the year. You can protect the deck by painting it. Paint provides sunscreen for the deck, stopping the sun from breaking down the material. Once you've finished painting, apply sealant, whether it's oil- or water-based. • Don't forget fasteners. Fasteners will hide the screws for aesthetic appeal. But not all woods and fasteners are the right fit, as certain woods are only compatible with certain fasteners. Find out which fasteners make the right fit ahead of time. Because fasteners conceal the screws, they also make it possible to go barefoot on the deck. A deck makes a great addition to many homes, but homeowners should learn as much as possible about decks and what goes into building them before making any decking decisions.

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Tips when creating an outdoor living space

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utdoor living spaces have become increasingly popular over the last several years. The home improvement boom has shown many homeowners just how easy it can be to transform a home into a private sanctuary that caters to the personalities of the home's residents. Outdoor living areas have become an extension of the home's interior, with many homeowners creating outdoor living rooms and dining areas so they can relax and eat meals outside just as they do indoors. But homeowners thinking of creating outdoor living spaces should consider a few tricks of the trade before beginning their projects.

• Strategically place the space.

Property often dictates where the outdoor living space will go, but it helps to keep in mind that the outdoor space is more likely to be used if it's easily accessible from the inside of the home. For instance, if residents need to walk out the front door to access an outdoor living space in the backyard, then residents might find the area is too inconveniently located and they won't make the most of the space. Whenever possible, plan the outdoor living space so it's easily accessible from the home's interior, preferably from the kitchen so it will be easier to carry meals outdoors when dining outside.

• Emphasize comfort. Many

homeowners look at their outdoor

living areas as places to kick their feet up and relax, so comfort should take precedence when planning the space. Forgo the plastic patio chairs of yesteryear for furniture that's more sturdy and roomy so you won't feel cramped or sweaty on warm summer evenings and afternoons. In addition, don't forget to shade the area. Some homeowners choose to build pergolas, but oftentimes an umbrella or two can do the trick at a fraction of the cost. If the outdoor living area is near trees, they might provide sufficient shade from the often blistering summer sun. But keep a few umbrellas in the garage just in case.

• Illuminate the area. Summer nights spent relaxing in the outdoor living area make for great memories.

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But such nights are nearly impossible if the area doesn't have some lighting. Tiki torches might do the trick for some, while others who want to avoid giving their outdoor area a luau feel might prefer solar-powered accent lights, which won't require any wiring. If your backyard attracts its fair share of insects, look for insectrepelling lights or lamps. Whatever your preference, don't forget to have some lighting so those summer evenings spent under the sky don't have to end when the sun goes down.

• Keep the design consistent with your home. In addition to providing an outdoor respite from the daily grind, an outdoor living space can also increase a home's resale value. However, homeowners who have one eye on R&R and the other on resale value should keep the design of their outdoor living space consistent with their home. One of the goals when designing an outdoor living space should be to create a seamless transition from the home's interior to its exterior. The best way to do that is to keep the designs of both living

spaces consistent. • Don't forget the fire pit. A fire pit provides a great focal point for an outdoor living area. Instead of sitting at the dinner table, families and friends can gather around the fire pit and relax with some s'mores and share stories. But even when guests aren't coming over, a fire pit makes for a great place to relax and let the

CUSTOM HOMES

time go by. With more and more homeowners transforming their homes into their own private sanctuaries, outdoor living spaces continue to grow in popularity. By employing a few simple tricks of the trade, homeowners can create the outdoor areas of their dreams.

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Spring Home Improvement | Morning Star Publications 2012

17


Is it time to add a half-bathroom?

W

hen it comes to renovating a home, homeowners expect to spend money. No home renovation or home improvement project is free, but some are less costly than others. The addition of a halfbathroom is a popular project among homeowners, and it won't necessarily break the bank. If converting existing floor space into a half-bathroom, such a renovation can cost as little as a few thousand dollars, making the addition of a powder room one of the few home improvement projects where the value added to the home exceeds the cost of the renovation. Before deciding to add a halfbathroom, it helps to consider some of the pros and cons of the project. Pros

• Convenience: A half-bathroom is often added on the home's main floor or in the basement or attic. This makes it more convenient for guests to use the restroom during a dinner party or when coming over to watch the big game in a basement home-theater area. • Problem-free: Half-bathrooms are smaller because they don't have a shower or bathtub. That means common bathroom problems like mold and mildew are not as big a concern as they are for full bathrooms. • More choices: Because mold and mildew aren't likely to present a problem in a half-bathroom, homeowners have more options at their disposal when choosing floors and countertops. Cons • Space: As their name implies, half-bathrooms are much smaller than full bathrooms. As a result, they tend to feel cramped.

• Value: Though an inexpensive half-bathroom addition might recoup its value and then some at resale, the project won't add as much resale value to a home as a full bathroom addition might. • Loss of storage: If storage around the house is sparse, homeowners might be better off keeping the area designated for the half-bathroom as a storage closet instead of a bathroom. Once the pros and cons have been weighed, homeowners who want to go forward with the project should then check with their local municipality to ensure the codes and requirements won't restrict their project. Size or window restrictions might curtail the project or limit what homeowners can do, which might change their minds on the project altogether. The addition of a half-bathroom often makes practical and financial sense. But before making any addition, homeowners must weigh the pros and cons to make the best decision possible.

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Spring Home Improvement | Morning Star Publications 2012


How to prevent lawn damage Many homeowners aspire toward a pristine and lush lawn. For some a nice lawn gives them feelings of pride. Others believe a perfect lawn enables them to have the best-looking house in the neighborhood. Many homeowners spend hours outdoors perfecting their lawns or spend a good deal of money hiring professionals to make their lawn more appealing. But just because a lawn looks good now doesn't mean it will look good later. That's because delicate grass can be damaged by a number of different factors.

Grubs Grubs are not very lawn-friendly. Grubs are actually the larval stage of different types of large beetles. These worm-like creatures feed on the roots of grass and are able to kill large sections of the lawn in a relatively short amount of time. It can sometimes be difficult to discern whether grubs, drought or another other pest has damaged a lawn. One way to check is to grab a portion of the damaged lawn and attempt to peel it back. If it comes back easily like a piece of carpet, it's likely grubs. Spotting grubs underneath is a sure sign these larvae are killing the lawn. Using an insecticide for grub control in July can help kill off grubs that start hatching in August through September. Grub eggs do well in sunny patches of lawn that are well

watered. More shade may deter them. There's also the option of letting the lawn go dormant and not watering it, but you will be left with a brown, unappealing lawn. Pet Urine Pets can also damage a lawn. Pet urine can create burnt patches and significant discoloration on the lawn, particularly if the dog or cat uses one area consistently as their potty zone. The best way to prevent urine damage is to walk your dog so that he or she will not have free reign of the yard. However, sometimes dogs get out or stray cats and dogs visit your yard and relieve themselves without your knowledge. So this method is not foolproof. Therefore, you should take added action to maintain a lush lawn. First, make sure that soil and lawn is in good health by fertilizing and taking care of it properly. Second, water can dilute urine and neutralize its corrosive properties. Some have found that diluted urine can often act as a fertilizer to grass. You may have noticed that the outside ring of a urine-burned spot is often greener than the healthy lawn. Try to dilute the urine prior to 8 hours having elapsed for the best effect.

Burrowing animals Moles and voles are among the

SLAUGHTER

more common lawn damage culprits. Voles are small rodents that resemble mice but have stouter bodies, shorter tails and rounder heads. They feast on everything from bulbs, succulent roots, ground cover, and even dead animals in their paths. Their burrows enable them to move around relatively undetected, typically until the damage has already been done. Moles, although they have a similar-sounding name, are not related to voles and look very different. They have a cylindrical body shape with velvety fur, very small or invisible ears and large paws for digging. Moles often feed on earthworms and other small invertebrates found in the soil. The burrows they create are essentially traps for the worms, who fall into the burrows, where moles easily access them. Moles often stockpile worms for later consumption in underground larders. Voles can be kept away with natural vole predators, such as cats, hawks, owls and snakes. Mouse traps can also capture voles when baited. You may also dig sharp materials or chicken wire into your soil around planting beds to make it uncomfortable for voles and moles to tunnel through. Moles can also be controlled with traps. Finding active mole tunnels will help you place the traps effectively to either kill or simply contain the mole. The live animal can be relocated to a site where they won't cause trouble.

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Spring Home Improvement 2012