Fall Home Improvement 2022

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Fall Home Improvement A special publication of The Berkshire Eagle, Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Wednesday, September 21, 2022 | Fall Home Improvement 2022

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Spring and summer are perhaps the busiest times of year for gardeners. However, fall also is a prime time to tend to gardens. The tree and bare root retailer Bower & Branch advises that soil temperatures in many regions of the country may still be warm enough to encourage root growth well into the start of winter. Furthermore, fall is often the ideal time to plant, fertilize and keep a garden going or to get a head start on next year’s bounty. Here are some tips to make the most of the fall gardening season.

Think about fall annuals and bulb planting

Sow salad seeds Lettuce, spinach, radishes, and arugula tolerate cooler temperatures. Try new and interesting lettuce varieties and enjoy salads well into the fall season.

Take inventory of the sun Positioning a garden carefully means maximizing hours of sunlight, which begin to dwindle in the fall. Experts say gardens grow best in sunny locations that receive six hours of direct sunlight each day. This is where container gardens can be help-

ful, as they allow gardeners to move plants into spots that will get ample sunlight.

Fill in landscaping gaps Some fall plants can add color around the landscape and brighten up homes to add curb appeal. In addition to pansies and violas, asters, kale and chrysanthemums are fall blooms. Keep in mind that mums can come back year after year. So take them out of those flower pots and get them into the ground. They can be enjoyed next year as well, sprouting in early spring and developing leaves and buds through late summer.

Clean up unwanted growth Fall is an ideal time to cut back spent vegetable plants and get rid of errant weeds. Rather than bagging leaves, mow them with a grass catcher and then add the mix to a vegetable garden as an excellent soil insulator. The nitrogen and carbon will fertilize the soil, enhancing growing possibilities and limiting weed growth.


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Propagate plants in the fall As temperatures gradually begin to cool, start taking cuttings from perennials, gathering seed pods from azaleas and rhododendrons and dividing hardwood cuttings, says the resource Gardening Know How. Consult with a garden center or horticulturist on the proper ways to propagate stems using rooting hormone and other techniques.

Continue to water plants Water is essential in the fall and winter as roots can still be growing. Gradually reduce watering duration as plants go dormant.

Gardening enthusiasts recognize that fall is not a time to rest on their laurels. In fact, fall is a great season to spend time in the yard. The Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment at the University of Massachusetts Amherst indicates fall is the ideal time to improve the soil for next season. Amending the soil in the fall allows it to react accordingly over time and reap the benefits in spring. UMass suggests getting an accurate soil test to see what is needed in the garden. Samples should be taken from various areas. Avoid doing so when the soil is very wet. At-home kits can test for nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous and determine the soil’s pH. Gardeners should till the soil and add compost or manure, which will counteract many nutritional deficiencies. Worm castings also are good to add, particularly for summer vegetable gardens. The gardening company Park Seed says that worm castings are high in minerals and effective at holding water — so much so that they even can be used alone in place of potting soil. Crushed egg shells, coffee grounds and banana peels also can be added in the fall, even if they are not part of a compost pile. The nutrients will break down throughout the fall and winter, and be available just in time for summer plantings.

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Near the end of September, start planting cool-weather-loving pansies and violas for pops of color as summer flowers fade. Also, it’s a good idea to stock up on bulbs that will bloom in the months to come before they sell out in stores. Wait until the temperatures really cool down before planting them in desired spots for spring sprouts.

Fall Home Improvement 2022 | Wednesday, September 21, 2022

A beginner’s guide to fall planting and maintenance


Wednesday, September 21, 2022 | Fall Home Improvement 2022

Wood floor installation dos and don’ts Jaw-dropping features can sell a home in a heartbeat. A penthouse apartment with floorto-ceiling windows and a panoramic view of a city skyline likely won’t prove a hard sell, nor will a home with an infinity pool overlooking a landscape of rolling hills. As awe-inspiring as such features can be, some more subtle components, such as authentic hardwood floors, also can do much to make a home more appealing to prospective buyers. Hardwood flooring is a sought-after commodity. Data from the National Association of Realtors indicates that 54 percent of home buyers are willing to pay more for hardwood floors. In fact, NAR figures indicate that 28 percent of buyers between the ages of 35 and 54 consider hardwood floors “very important” when looking for a home. Homeowners who are consider-


ing selling their homes, or those who simply want to upgrade their existing flooring, may want to consider installing hardwood flooring. Though it’s a project best left to professionals, hardwood flooring can be installed by skilled DIYers. In such instances, homeowners may want to keep these dos and don’ts in mind.

DO hire a professional if you have limited or no DIY flooring experience. Hardwood flooring installation is not generally a project for novice DIYers. Hardwood flooring projects may present some common challenges, but no two homes are the same. So unless they have prior experience installing floors in multiple rooms or homes, homeowners may save themselves time, trouble and a significant amount of money hiring a professional to do the job.

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DON’T ignore the subfloor.

New hardwoods won’t erase the problem of subfloors in poor condition. According to the home renovation experts at BobVila.com, squeaky floors could be an indication that the subfloor has begun to warp or twist. Sinking floors are another indicator of deteriorating subfloors. SubHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH floors should be somewhat level before new hardwoods are installed, so DIYers should inspect and address subfloor issues before installing new flooring.

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DO expose wood flooring to the elements in your home prior to installation. The home improvement resource BuildDirect recommends acclimating hardwoods to the space where they will be

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installed. Skipping this important step could result in gaps during the winter and cupping over the summer. To acclimate hardwoods, open the boxes and spread them out for about a week while running the air conditioner or heater at normal levels. When storing hardwoods prior to installation, avoid keeping them in potentially moist areas like a basement.

DON’T skimp on tools. A DIY hardwood flooring installation might be less expensive than hiring a professional, but homeowners should resist any temptation to increase those savings further by purchasing less costly tools or fewer tools than is necessary to complete the job. BuildDirect notes that DIYers will need at least a miter saw, table saw, cleat-nailer or stapler, finish nailer, compressor, jamb saw, chalk line, nail set, and tape measurer when installing hardwood floors. Purchase all necessary tools and read product reviews to ensure each tool is up to the task. Wood floors can be awe-inspiring. Some homeowners can install such flooring on their own, and the project can be much easier if they learn as much about installation as possible prior to beginning the project.


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Wednesday, September 21, 2022 | Fall Home Improvement 2022

How to furnish your dining area


Modern homes look a bit different than those of generations past. Rather than several small rooms divided by walls, modern homes offer open-concept floor plans. That means the boundaries between spaces are not so defined, allowing rooms and activities to blend into one another. Formal dining rooms may or may not be part of the current home layout with regard to new construction. Many homeowners now gravitate toward kitchens with adjacent breakfast nooks that utilize large islands with stool seating that open up to family rooms. These layouts can make it more challenging for homeowners to figure out how to furnish their dining areas — however casual or formal they may be. Individuals can use these tips as a springboard for selecting the right pieces in their homes, no matter where they enjoy their meals.

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Consider the scope of the room

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Is it a dining room or a dining area? This will help determine decor and the formality of the pieces of furniture needed to outfit the room, according to The Spruce, a home renovation resource. If the room is a multi-purpose space, consider furniture that can serve different purposes, such as a table that has fold-down portions to change its size depending on the number of people dining at a particular time. You may want to include an armoire to store linens and stash away pens and note pads for making shopping lists.

Dining table The dining table is the foundation of a dining area. After all, people need to have somewhere to sit and eat. Remember to mea-

sure the dimensions of the room carefully, as furniture can look much smaller in warehouse stores or furniture showrooms than in a home. Consider a round or square dining table, which tend fit into rooms more easily than rectangular tables. Plus, these shapes are more conducive to conversation. Rectangular tables often leave people at the ends out of the chat.

Seating Seating can affect the ability to move around the room. If space is at a premium, some narrow-profile chairs are a better option than larger, upholstered wingbacks. Homeowners may consider a wooden or upholstered bench on one side of the dining table to maximize seating during family events.

Lighting Pottery Barn suggests using a mix of lighting sources to create the right lighting needs in the space. Floor lamps, an overhead chandelier, wall fixtures, and natural light need to blend and be adjusted as needed. Also, choose an overhead chandelier that complements the shape of the dining table. For example, a round fixture will look best above a round table.

Rug An area rug can help define the dining space and set it apart from other areas in an open-concept home. An area rug also adds warmth and color when a wood table meets a wood floor; otherwise, it may look too stark. Homeowners must take various factors into consideration when decorating a dining room. Size, purpose and style are just some of the things that merit ample consideration before furnishing a dining space.

The kitchen may be the heart of a home, but when it comes to entertaining, a dining room — if one is present in a house — tends to be the prime gathering spot for meals. Dining rooms may not be top on the list of spaces to renovate, as they tend to be used infrequently. But a dining room makeover may still be a worthy endeavor. Here are some simple ways to make the dining room more elegant and functional.

Clear out the clutter The first step toward improving a dining room eating area is to remove any extraneous items from the space. If the dining room table is not used very often, it likely has become a catchall for other items, such as bills, newspapers or kids’ homework. Rather than using the dining space as a makeshift office or homework station, invest in a

table cloth or table runner coupled with cloth napkins and placemats helps to set the scene of the dinner party.

Add a piece of artwork


rolling cart to store those papers and other items. Simply roll it into a closet or another room when it’s time to host a party.

Hang a statement light Few decorative items add as much drama and ambiance to a dining space as a new overhead light. People hear chandelier and think a bejeweled or crystal design. But various chandelier

styles can fit the aesthetic of a home. The light will be a focal point and instantly make the dining area more elegant. Install the light on a dimmer to adjust the illumination as needed to set the mood.

Invest in new linens Purchase coordinating table linens that will be used for special occasions. A decorative

Many modern homeowners have eschewed the China cabinet that once was standard in dining rooms. Rather than a bulky piece of furniture, a large piece of statement-making artwork or framed photos over a more minimalistic buffet table or small service bar is preferable. Choose artwork that complements the colors in the space.

Include a centerpiece Centerpieces add sophistication to the table and tie into the event. Floral arrangements, a bowl or basket of fruit, pine cones or greens from outdoors, or collectibles like shells in a tall canister can serve as centerpieces.

Fall Home Improvement 2022 | Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Make a dining room more elegant for entertaining

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Wednesday, September 21, 2022 | Fall Home Improvement 2022

Protect landscapes from wildlife and more over the winter Winter can place landscapes in peril. A few strategies can provide protection. Landscapes are vulnerable to the elements during the cold weather months. Everything from de-icing products to hungry animals to the weight of snow can affect trees, shrubs and other plants. Just because certain greenery will go dormant during the winter doesn’t mean landscape maintenance ends when the mercury dips. Homeowners can take certain actions to winterproof their properties and safeguard landscapes so they recover more readily when spring arrives.

Utilize barriers and deterrents METRO CREATIVE CONNECTION

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When resources are scarce, animals will be on the hunt for anything that’s edible, and that includes whatever greenery is growing on a landscape. Physical barriers in garden beds and around trees can help prevent damage caused by moles, voles and deer. Line the bottom and sides of garden beds with garden cloth to prevent ground-burrowing animals from getting in from beneath, suggests the gardening resource I Must Garden. Wrapping shrubs in burlap or covering them in temporary netting can deter deer, who will seek accessible food sources over the winter. Erect fencing around new trees to keep deer away from the bark and lower branches. Make the yard less attractive to deer and burrowers by opting for fat-based suet cakes to feed birds rather than loose seeds and berries in feeders, which herbivores will enjoy. Also, don’t overwater or mulch landscapes too early. The loose soil and warmth of the mulch may entice moles and voles and other

rodents to stick around in those areas and feed on plants.

Use a safer melting product Investigate options in snowmelt products, as traditional rock salt can injure buds and branches and kill lawns. In addition, avoid piling salted snow in one area of the landscape, as it will concentrate the salt in that spot. Spread out snow piles to help minimize the damage to delicate plants.

Secure saplings and juvenile plants Harsh winds and battering snow can damage young plants. Use stakes and lattices to secure them so they’ll be better able to withstand the weather, suggests Total Landscape Management, a commercial and residential landscaping company. Promptly remove snow from branches to help trees and shrubs; otherwise, the weight of ice and snow can break off branches and cause irreparable damage.

Erect a snow barrier Prior observation tends to educate homeowners about which areas of the landscape are most vulnerable to snow drifts and blustery winds. During the winter, winds often blow in from a northeasterly direction, but each homeowner can make his or her own assessment. Put up a tarp between two stakes to serve as a “snow fence” that protects vulnerable areas of the landscape from blowing snow.

Keep plants cozy Wrap plants in burlap, garden blankets and plant domes to insulate them from cold weather and some animals. Move container plants into a garage or shielded area for the winter.

Modern homes showcase many dazzling features, but perhaps none draw as much as instant attention as floor-to-ceiling windows. Often seen in high-rise apartments that boast panoramic city views, floor-to-ceiling windows also are right at home in single-family dwellings. Homeowners considering floorto-ceiling windows may have lots of questions. The following rundown can provide some basic information that can help homeowners decide if floor-to-ceiling windows are right for their homes.

Cost Cost is often the primary consideration when mulling a home renovation, and that’s even more significant as the world confronts the rising costs associated with inflation. The cost

of installing floor-to-ceiling windows depends on a host of variables, including how many windows will be needed and where homeowners live. According to Modernize®, a service that facilitates connections between renovation-minded homeowners and local contractors, a floor-toceiling window wall costs somewhere between $700 to $1,600 per linear foot. Framing and glazing will add to those costs. Homeowners considering floor-to-ceiling windows are urged to receive several estimates for the project prior to choosing a contractor.

Lighting and energy efficiency One of the more appealing aspects of floor-to-ceiling windows is all the natural light they allow in. Of course, all that light also can drive up energy costs on sunny summer days. One way around that is to install energy efficient windows. Such windows include extra insulation to prevent cool air from escaping the home on summer days, which can reduce the need to lower the thermostat

on your air conditioning. A wall of glass also can provide less insulation against the cold. The extra insulation in energy efficient windows also helps keep warm air from escaping a home in the winter. Energy efficient windows may cost more than less efficient alternatives. However, over the long haul, a wall of less efficient floor-to-ceiling windows will likely cost more due to excess energy consumption.

project. Smart window tinting is another way to improve privacy and reduce fading, but this feature also will drive up the cost. Floor-to-ceiling windows can be awe-inspiring. Homeowners considering such windows for their homes are urged to do their homework to ensure their homes are well-suited to this unique feature.

Privacy and fading It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the view floor-to-ceiling windows provide, especially in homes surrounded by serene natural settings like woods or properties that abut waterways. But that view outward also provides a view in, potentially compromising privacy. All that extra exposure to sunlight also can cause fabrics to fade over time. Floor-to-ceiling blinds and shades can protect homeowners’ privacy and reduce fading on furniture, but this extra feature will add to the final cost of the


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Fall Home Improvement 2022 | Wednesday, September 21, 2022

What to know about floor-toceiling windows


Wednesday, September 21, 2022 | Fall Home Improvement 2022

How to spot mold in your home Homes are safe havens and relaxing spaces for their residents. No one wants to imagine the place they call home putting their health in jeopardy, but that’s precisely the case for people who live in homes where mold is present. The United States Environmental Protection Agency notes that molds are not usually a problem indoors. However, when they are, molds produce allergens, irritants and potentially toxic substances. Molds can become problematic when spores land on wet or damp surfaces and begin growing. If inhaled, those spores can cause allergic reactions in people with asthma who have mold allergies. Even people without such allergies may suffer from irritated eyes, skin, nose, throat, or lungs due to exposure to mold. Mold also can affect the home itself, as the EPA

notes that mold gradually destroys the things it grows on, potentially leading to costly remediation and renovation expenses. Mold is sometimes visible in parts of a home. For example, mold problems in a bathroom may be recognizable when tiny black spots are present on surfaces that frequently get wet. Those areas may gradually expand from small spots and cover larger areas, such as windowsills and areas around the bathtub. Other signs indicating the presence of mold may be less recognizable though potentially just as harmful. That’s one reason why it makes sense for everyone to learn how to spot mold in a home.

Learn what mold looks like Not all molds are black. Some are white and look like thread, but they also can have a gray-brown


or gray-green tint. When peeling old wallpaper, some people may notice orange, pink or purple growth on the newly exposed walls, and that’s likely mold.

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Despite its reputation as the most formidable type of mold individuals can find in their homes, black mold is similar to other indoor molds in regard to its effects on human health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black mold, or stachybotrys chartarum, isn’t any more harmful than other types of mold, including cladosporium, penicillium, aspergillus, and alternaria. The reputation of black mold, which can look black or greenish-black, likely has something to do with its appearance. But homeowners still have reason to be fearful of mold in their homes, regardless of what color the mold may be. That’s because mold can lead to a host of unwelcome health problems, including stuffy nose, sore throat, coughing or wheezing, burning eyes, or skin rash. Symptoms may be even worse for people with asthma and mold allergies.

Identify problems with paint If paint is peeling, bubbling or cracking, it’s likely indicative of a mold issue. In such instances, contact a mold remediation specialist rather than simply painting over the affected areas with a fresh coat of paint.

Conduct a smell test Most molds will emit a damp, musty odor. However, a lack of this distinct and unpleasant smell should not lead individuals to conclude they don’t have a mold issue, as some molds do not produce an odor. In addition, the EPA notes that the smell of indoor molds can differ depending on the type of mold present in the home. Homeowners who have experienced mold issues in the past should not ignore a foul odor simply because it smells different from a previous infestation. Contact a mold remediation professional if you suspect an unpleasant smell could be a byproduct of mold. Mold can be harmful to homes and humans. Anyone who suspects their home has a mold problem is urged to contact a remediation specialist as soon as possible.

Fall Home Improvement 2022 | Wednesday, September 21, 2022

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Wednesday, September 21, 2022 | Fall Home Improvement 2022

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