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Fall Home Improvement | Saturday, September 18, 2021 The Berkshire Eagle | BerkshireEagle.com

A special advertising publication of The Berkshire Eagle

Saturday, September 18, 2021

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Pruning perennials in fall can be the first step toward creating an awe-inspiring spring garden Foliage and football might be two things people instantly associate with fall, but there's more to this beloved season than brightly colored leaves and action on the gridiron. Gardeners know that spring is an ideal time to plan and plant their favorite flowers and most flavorful fruits and vegetables. However, seasoned gardeners know that gardening is a yearround commitment. Pruning is one of the keys to keeping perennials coming back for years to come, and fall is an ideal time to take on this important task. Pruning perennials in the fall is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, some perennials can be cut down after the first killing frost, while others can be left to benefit wildlife, including birds and insects. Understanding pruning and when to do it

this fall can help gardeners lay a strong foundation for their gardens that will benefit them next spring.

Why should some perennials be pruned? The College of Agricultural Sciences at Pennsylvania State University notes that perennials that have become diseased or infested with insects are pruned to prevent those problems from resurfacing in the spring. In addition, according to the Old Farmer's Almanac, many herbaceous perennials have old foliage and dying stems after several hard frosts. If dead foliage or dying stems aren't pruned, disease, slugs and other pests can overwinter in the plants. Cutting these plants down to the ground after several hard frosts allows the base of the plant to remain

dormant over the winter but makes the plant less hospitable to disease and insects.

Which perennials should I prune? The first step to pruning perennials is to recognize which need to be pruned and which can be left intact for the winter. The Old Farmer's Almanac notes that bee balm and phlox are prone to powdery mildew and should be cut back once they're gone. Hostas harbor slug eggs, so they, too, should be pruned after a hard frost. Hosta leaves that have fallen on the ground should be removed as well. There's no need to cut back certain perennials if they're healthy. For example, hardy geraniums do not require pruning in the fall, and Penn State Extension notes that hardy perennials like garden mums are more likely to

survive a cold winter if they're left intact. That's because the tops of such plants will collect leaves and snow for insulation and moisture over the course of winter. Gardeners who are unsure about fall pruning can speak with their local gardening center for additional advice regarding which plants to cut back before winter.

When to prune perennials Gardeners need not rush to prune perennials in the fall. Diseased or infested plants can be pruned at the first sight of disease or infestation, but gardeners can wait until several hard frosts have occurred before they prune healthy perennials. In gardening parlance, a hard frost refers to when temperatures drop below 28 F. Several hard frosts kill the uppermost growth of most perennials, making this an ideal time to prune them.

Fall Home Improvement | Saturday, September 18, 2021

Pre-winter perennial pruning pointers

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Houseplants may need some extra attention in winter As fall gradually gives way to winter, gardeners expend ample energy preparing their flowers and plants for the months ahead. Plants may be pruned to increase the likelihood that they will return in full bloom come the spring, while lawns may be aerated so cool-season grasses can get the nutrients, water and oxygen they need when the temperatures dip. But what about houseplants? Do indoor houseplants need the same type of pre-winter TLC that outdoor plants need before winter arrives? As the seasons change, so, too, do the conditions outside. And those conditions affect indoor houseplants much like they do lawns, gardens and trees. So it’s vital that people with houseplants do not overlook the need to keep houseplants going strong as fall gives way to winter.

Location

Watering Watering needs also may change when the temperatures drop. The indoor plant experts at Pistils Nursery in Oregon note that all houseplants need less water in winter. In fact, overwatering in

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winter can be especially harmful to indoor plants. Plant owners can try decreasing the frequency of their watering by half each winter and see how the plants respond.

Cleaning Cleaning plants is another way to help them survive a long winter. Dust settles in many homes in winter, when windows tend to remain closed for months on end and fresh air isn’t circulating around the house as much as it is in spring and summer. Pistil’s Nursery notes that dust inhibits a plant’s ability to photosynthesize, thus compromising its ability to make it through a winter unscathed. Better Homes & Gardens recommends using a soft-bristle paintbrush, a toothbrush or pipe cleaner to remove dust from African violets and other fuzzy-leafed plants. Gently washing plants with a paper towel or cloth that’s been moistened with water can remove the dust. Oils and polishes should not be used to make leaves shine, as these substances can block pores on the plant.

Fresh veggies are not exclusive to spring and summer Spring and summer may be the seasons most often associated with gardening. But people who love to grow their own vegetables can do so even when the weather outside is frightful. Various vegetables thrive in cool temperatures. The home and garden experts at HGTV note that some winter vegetables are hardy. That means they can handle frosts in temperatures as low as 25 F without being damaged. Others are even sturdier in the face of all that winter can throw at them, capable of tolerating temperatures that dip into the high teens. Growing vegetables in winter requires a different approach than growing in spring and summer, as gardeners must be ready to prevent damage from frost if temperatures get especially chilly. For example, the experts at Michigan State University Extension note

that gardeners may need to utilize floating row covers to protect sensitive crops from frost. Gardeners interested in planting winter vegetables can speak with a local garden center professional about which crops to plant and what to do if temperatures push winter vegetable gardens to the brink. Though it’s up to gardeners what they want to plant, the following are some popular winter vegetables that can make for wonderful, fresh additions to any dinner table even after the traditional gardening season has come and gone. • Arugula

• Parsley

• Broccoli

• Parsnips

• Brussel sprouts • Kale • Cabbage

• Radishes

• Carrots

• Rutabagas

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Hours of daylight shorten in winter, which means some houseplants won’t get as much sun as they were accustomed to over the last several months. That means plants may need to be relocated closer to windows where they can make the most of each day’s sunlight. However, it’s important that there’s ample distance between the plant and the window, especially when winter temperatures get especially cold. If the plants are too close to a window on cold days, they could freeze. Keep them close enough to the windows to get ample sunlight but far enough away so they don’t get too cold. In addition, keep plants away from drafty windows as well as heating vents, as extreme temperatures are not conducive to healthy houseplants.

Fall Home Improvement | Saturday, September 18, 2021

How to help houseplants survive a long winter

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Saturday, September 18, 2021 | Fall Home Improvement

Signs your HVAC unit could be fading A day outdoors soaking up the sun’s rays is many people’s idea of the perfect way to spend a summer afternoon. On such days, a periodic retreat indoors into an air conditioned home can offer some much-needed relief from the heat. HVAC systems are worth their weight in gold during the dog days of summer. Of course, such systems must be replaced from time to time. Learning to recognize the signs of a fading HVAC system can help homeowners replace their units before they cease working, saving everyone the uncomfortable ordeal of being stuck at home without cool air on hot summer days.

Weak air flow

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An HVAC unit operating at peak capacity produces a strong flow of air through the vents of a home. The experts at Select Home Warranty note that when the air flow from the vent is weak, this could be a warning sign of a dam-

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aged AC compressor or blocked or damaged vents. Damaged vents might be replaceable, but issues with the AC unit might require a replacement. That’s especially so if the unit is old. Repairs might be possible, but it might be more cost-effective to replace an aging unit rather than commit to costly repairs.

Interior temperature If your home is not quite the respite from summer heat that it once was, despite the AC being on and running, then this could be indicative of a fading system that may need to be replaced. However, the home warranty firm American Home Shield® notes that hot interior temperatures also may be indicative of clogged ductwork. Qualified HVAC technicians may be able to fix clogged ductwork without replacing the AC unit. If the issue persists even after ducts have been cleaned and unclogged, then a new unit might be homeowners’ best bet.

Excessive moisture around the unit Excessive moisture around the unit may indicate that its refrigerant is leaking. In addition, Home Select Warranty notes that large pools of water around the unit could contribute to mold growth and floor damage. Homeowners are urged to contact a qualified HVAC technician immediately if they notice any leakage or moisture issues around their units.

Foul odor Sometimes the nose knows best when an AC unit needs to be replaced. Unusual odors emanating from the vents when the AC is on suggest that the unit is distributing mold or mildew throughout the home. The Florida-based heating, cooling, plumbing, and electrical experts at Cool Today note that a moldy or mildew-like smell coming from the vents could indicate a host of issues, including

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a dirty evaporator coil, a clogged drain line or leaky air ducts. Each of these issues can be fixed, but homeowners must weigh the cost of fixing them versus the cost of replacing an aging unit. Come the dog days of summer, homeowners want a reliable AC unit to cool their homes. Recognizing signs of a malfunctioning AC unit is a good first step toward ensuring homes remain cool, relaxing respites from the heat this summer.


Kitchen renovations can add instant appeal and help address issues that tend to plague outdated rooms Remodeling a kitchen adds value to a home. Remodeling Magazine’s “Cost vs. Value Report” indicates mid-range kitchen remodels cost about $66,000, and homeowners can expect to recover about 60 to 80 percent of that cost at resale. Homeowners may wonder if remodeling their kitchens is worth the investment. But homeowners should not just consider cost, but also the current conditions of their kitchens when deciding if a renovation project is the right move to make. These signs indicate it may be time to renovate a kitchen.

Breakers are triggered If the lights go dark from a tripped circuit breaker every time you try to microwave and run the toaster oven at the same time, your wiring is likely not up to the task of handling the work-

load and could be out of date. A kitchen remodel will assess wiring load needs and an electric overhaul may be necessary.

are only expected to last around 10 to 15 years. If appliances have become unsafe or energy hogs, it could be time for a remodel.

Lack of storage

Family is expanding (or shrinking)

One of the biggest hassles homeowners encounter in their kitchens is a lack of storage space. If making a meal involves a Jenga-like stacking and rearranging of kitchen tools, or if an avalanche occurs whenever you search for an item, you might need more storage. A carefully planned redesign can achieve this, even in a smaller kitchen.

Outdated appliances Even if your appliances are not avocado green or mustard yellow relics of the 1970s, they might still need to be replaced. According to CRD Design, appliances

Kitchens often are the heart of a home. They need to meet the needs of the family that resides in that home. A remodel can add space as needed. On the flip side, when a couple becomes empty nesters, kitchens can be redesigned and downsized to reflect their new needs and desires, such as the addition of a wine chiller or espresso station.

it’s most needed. A carefully designed remodel can improve lighting with under-cabinet lights, pendants, overhead lighting, and even natural light to make the space attractive and more functional.

Frequent run-ins The notion that you can have too many cooks in the kitchen refers to having too many people trying to pitch in or offer their opinions. However, it also can apply to when too many people are gathering in a small space. Redesigning a kitchen can improve the efficiency of a space and make the room feel larger.

Fall Home Improvement | Saturday, September 18, 2021

Signs it is time to overhaul your kitchen

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Poor lighting Task lighting is essential in a kitchen, but older homes may not be equipped with lighting where

Many kitchen remodels have been inspired by unsightly kitchens. Cosmetic changes can lead to big improvements.

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Some simple renovations can help homeowners with a fondness for farmhouse style bring this classic look into their homes Farmhouse style homes are having a moment. A 2020 survey from Homes.com asked more than 5,000 adults across the United States about their favorite house style from a list that included bohemian craftsman, midcentury modern ranch, French chateau, and Tudor, among others. Modern farmhouse was the runaway winner, as participants in 42 of the 50 states indicated this simple, cozy style was their favorite. Home renovation projects can help homeowners put their own unique stamp on their homes, and such projects can be both aesthetic and functional in nature. The following are some farmhouse design elements homeowners can consider as they look to transform their home interiors with this popular style in mind.

Fall Home Improvement | Saturday, September 18, 2021

Design ideas to give your home a farmhouse feel

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Exposed beam

Distressed wood finishe Distressing is designed to make something look less than perfect. Distressed wood finishes can be found throughout many farmhouse style homes. Furniture and picture frames can provide the distressed look farmhouse fans are looking for. This is a relatively inexpensive project that many homeowners can tackle on their own after watching some online tutorials that recommend

Kitchen sink Many components combine to create a truly classic farmhouse kitchen. But perhaps no component is more essential than the classic farmhouse sink. The renovation experts at HGTV note that a classic farmhouse sink features a deep, wide basin. Farmhouse sinks are large enough to handle all the dishes that come after a big family meal. Old-fashioned porcelain sinks are worth consideration by homeowners who want their kitchen sinks to evoke a traditional farmhouse feel.

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Countertops HGTV recommends butcher block countertops for homeowners who favor European farmhouse style. Homeowners overhauling their kitchens to create a farmhouse feel should consider installing a large island with a walnut butcher block countertop for an authentic farmhouse feel.

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Exposed beams instantly evoke images of a farmhouse. The home improvement experts at BobVila.com note that this rustic renovation project can utilize real wood or faux beams that look like the real thing. Decorative beams that have nothing to do with a home’s structural integrity can be installed by skilled do-it-yourselfers. However, even faux beams are heavy, and BobVila.com recommends homeowners have an engineer assess their existing structure prior to installation.

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Saturday, September 18, 2021 | Fall Home Improvement

Must-have features in your bathroom remodel Veteran homeowners recognize the value of remodeling their kitchens and bathrooms. Kitchens and baths tend to appear dated more quickly than other spaces, such as living rooms and bedrooms, which can always be revamped with some fresh paint and new furnishings. The home improvement pricing resource Home Guide indicates an average bathroom remodel costs anywhere from $5,500 to $15,000 depending on the size and scope of the renovation. However, a bath redo can increase a home’s resale value and can return as much as 68 percent of homeowners’ investments. As homeowners plan their bathroom renovations, it’s a good time to consider improvements that will improve function and add design appeal for years to come. METRO CREATIVE CONNECTION

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Add an airy feeling to the room by creating space between the vanity and the floor. A floating vanity can be a counter with a vessel sink or even have cabinets, as long as the vanity doesn’t extend to the floor.

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Dual sinks and vanities With a double vanity, two people can share the space and easily use the bathroom without getting in each other’s way. One vanity

with two sinks works, but homeowners can create even more personal space by dividing vanities and mirrors.

Freestanding traditional sink or tub There’s something elegant about a freestanding tub or pedestal sink. Such features can lend a classic vibe to a space. However, freestanding fixtures also come in modern or eclectic forms, so there are options for any design style.

Small textured tile on shower floors Small textures are appealing and add safety. The added texture and grouting will keep feet from slipping on wet floors. Also, opt for mold-resistant grout to make cleanup even easier.

Special shower heads Invest in shower heads that can run the gamut from creating steam showers to rainfall effects. Some showers will have multiple shower jets to offer an invigorating experience.

Improve drainage Increase the diameter of the drain pipe in the bathroom from the standard to a two-inch drain pipe. This will reduce the risk of clogs and overflow leaks.

Install a window Natural light and air flow can reduce the risk for mold and mildew growth, and windows add some aesthetic appeal to a space. Just be sure to choose frosted privacy glass. Additional considerations for a bath remodel include heated floors, well-placed and attractive storage options and a toilet enclosure (water closet) for added privacy. These and other bathroom renovation ideas can add value and improve the appeal of the room.


Smart homes can make life at home more convenient, especially for remote workers. However, a recent report suggests many smart homes are vulnerable to cyberattacks. In its “Smart Home Report 2019,” the cybersecurity firm Avast revealed that just under 41 percent of the 16 million smart homes surveyed across the globe contained at least one vulnerable connected device. The Avast report found that 69 percent of vulnerable devices in smart homes were determined to be susceptible to attacks due to simple passwords or one-factor authentication. Two- or multi-factor authentication provides an extra layer of security and is a simple way to safeguard smart homes from cyberattacks. Two-factor authentica-

tion is a security process that requires users to provide two different factors to verify their identities. A password to log in to an account is typically the first factor users utilize. The second factor may be a cell phone number that users provide. In such instances, a code is instantly texted to the number provided when users attempt to log in. Once that code is entered, users can then access their programs and accounts. Two-factor authentication is not time-consuming, and users can typically expect to access files, accounts and apps within seconds of verifying their identities a second time. That makes two-factor authentication a simple and highly effective way to make smart homes less vulnerable to cyberattacks.

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Many components combine to define a home’s interior. Some homeowners may be partial to certain styles, such as ultra modern or farmhouse, while others may opt for a more traditional look that cannot necessarily be categorized as one style or another. Though many homeowners may spend considerable time and devote a lot of energy to making their home embody a certain style, those who aren’t willing to commit to a particular look can lean on one component to make a stylish statement all their own: paint. Color can be a part of every homeowner’s design arsenal. Bold colors can be used to create a stunning accent wall, while homes with open concepts often utilize color to define rooms. Homeowners who want to revitalize their home interiors can do so with paint, and this approach doesn’t require homeowners to commit to a whole new design style. Though paint may seem simple to novices, homeowners who have painted home interiors in the past recognize how complicated the process of picking paint can be. Paint retailers have a seemingly endless swatch of paint colors to choose from, and before long homeowners heads

may be spinning as they try to narrow down their options. The following tips can help homeowners pick the perfect paint for their home interiors.

Take stock, and photographs, of your current furnishings Many interior designers rely on a simple technique when recommending color schemes to their clients. Choose a standout color from existing furnishings, such as the dominant color from a patterned decorative pillow or piece of furniture, and then look for the same shade to paint the walls. A photograph of the item can be handy when visiting the paint store.

Lighten colors as you go up The home renovation and design experts at HGTV recommend picking darker color values for the floor, medium color values for the walls and light values for the ceiling. This approach mimics the look of the great outdoors, where the ground tends to be darker than the trees, and the trees are darker than the blue sky.

Fall Home Improvement | Saturday, September 18, 2021

How to pick paint for home interiors Utilize paint to create the vibe you want The home renovation experts at This Old House note that colors evoke an emotional response. Cool colors like blue and green give off a relaxing vibe, which makes them ideal for bedrooms and bathrooms. Red is an intense color that can up the energy ante in any room, which can make it an option for homeowners who want to spark debate around their dinner tables.

Give personal preference its place at the table Though interior designers may have years of experience picking paint colors for a home and researchers may have determined how certain colors can be utilized to create a desired ambiance in a given room, ultimately homeowners are the ones who will be living in the home. So it’s important that homeowners pick colors they like for their home interiors Paint is an inexpensive way to transform a room. Homeowners can rely on a combination of color strategies and their personal preferences as they try to decide which colors they want on their interior walls.

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Saturday, September 18, 2021 | Fall Home Improvement

How to maintain hardwood floors months. Waxing wood floors does not need to be done as frequently, and most can benefit from a fresh coat of wax every 12 to 18 months.

What can I do on a daily basis? Some simple tricks and daily maintenance can help wood floors maintain their impressive look.

Utilize floor mats The HDA notes that floor mats near entryways can reduce the time it takes to clean hardwood floors and reduce the wear and tear they endure. For example, tiny particles like dirt can scratch the floor and contribute to the kind of minor damage that adds up to significant scarring over time. Floor mats near entryways ensures that most of that dirt never makes it to the wood floors.

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Hardwood floors look even more stunning, and last much longer, when homeowners make an effort to maintain them Hardwood floors have long been sought after by home buyers. In its 2019 “Remodeling Impact Report,” the National Association of Realtors® revealed that new wood flooring was the fourth most popular project to attract buyers. Of course, hardwood floors aren’t just for buyers. Homeowners who already have hardwood floors know just how impressive these floors can be, especially when they’re well maintained. Maintaining wood floors is not necessarily as straightforward as it may seem, and homeowners may benefit from a tutorial on how too keep the floors under their feet looking good.

To polish or not to polish? Polishing floors is an inexpensive way to keep them looking good. But the home improvement experts at BobVila.com note that not all floors can be polished, and determining which ones can depends on the finish. Floors with waterproof barriers such as urethane will benefit from routine polishing. However, floors with penetrating finishes like tung oil will need to be waxed rather than polished.

What finish is on the floor? The Hardwood Distributor’s Association recommends

a simple way for homeowners to determine which type of finish is on their hardwood floors. Homeowners are advised to rub a finger across the floor. If no smudge appears, then the floor is surface sealed. If a smudge is created, then the floor has been treated with a penetrating seal. The HDA also notes that recently installed wood floors are likely surface sealed.

How often should floors be polished or waxed? Wood flooring professionals recommend polishing floors that can be polished once every few

Some vacuums contain beater bars, which are designed to pick up human hair, dog hair and other things that conventional vacuums may not be able to pick up. The HDA advises vacuuming without the beater bar, as it can contribute to small scratches in the floor. Sweeping with a highquality broom or microfiber cloth is another way to pick up dirt without damaging floors.

Use manufacturerrecommended cleaning products Local home improvement stores sell a host of hardwood floor cleaning products, but the HDA notes that many flooring manufacturers now sell their own hardwood floor cleaners designed specifically for their floors. These products are likely homeowners’ best bets. Homeowners who can’t find them can seek recommendations from a local flooring retailer.


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Fall Home Improvement 2021  

The annual guide to preparing your home for the coming New England winter.

Fall Home Improvement 2021  

The annual guide to preparing your home for the coming New England winter.

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