Fall Home Improvement 2019

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Fall Home Improvement A special publication of the Brattleboro Reformer | Saturday, September 28, 2019

House & Barn Restoration ★ Structural Restoration-Repair and/or Replacement of ★ New Foundations Constructed under Existing Damaged Foundations, Sills, Joists, Framing Timbers Buildings ★ Recycling & Dismantling of Old Barns & Re-Assembly ★ Barn Frames, Timbers, Barn Board & Antique Wood For Sale ★ Tasteful Remodeling of and Additions to Period Homes


Chris Parker

(802) 257-4610 • (802) 579-5163

Saturday, September 28, 2019 | Fall Home Improvement The Brattleboro Reformer | Reformer.com

Protect your plants from winter weather Winterizing may mark the end of gardening season, but it’s an important task that can ensure a healthy, beautiful garden next spring, summer and fall. For the majority of gardening enthusiasts, gardening is a warm weather activity. While some people live in climates that make it possible to enjoy gardening year-round, those who don't often lament the end of the gardening season. Winter might not be conducive to gardening, but the arrival of cold weather does not necessarily mean a gardener's work is done until the following spring. Taking steps to protect plants from winter weather is an important part of maintaining a healthy garden that thrives from year to year. Timing is of the essence when winterizing a garden. The online gardening resource Get Busy Gardening!TM advises gardeners that the best time to winterize is after the first hard freeze in the fall. A hard freeze occurs when temperatures dip below freezing overnight. When that occurs, annual plants and vegetables are killed off and perennial plants, which grow back year after year, begin going dormant. Better Homes and Gardens notes that perennials are the easiest plants to prepare for winter, as they require just a little cutting back and mulching to be safe from cold weather. But no two perennials are alike, so homeowners should consult their local gardening center for advice on how to prepare their particular perennials for the coming months. The steps necessary to winterize annuals depends on which type of annuals, cool- or warm-climate, you

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have. Cool-climate annuals should be covered with polyspun garden fabric when light frost is in the forecast. In addition, Better Homes and Gardens recommends pulling dead annuals and adding them to a compost pile after a killing frost. Any annuals that developed fungal disease should be discarded. Mulch annual beds with

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of cold-hardy annuals can be planted for extended winter bloom, while gardeners also can collect seeds of warm-weather plants that will breed true to type. Even though you're winterizing, Better Homes and Gardens recommends that gardeners continue to weed and water their plant beds and plants while also keeping an eye out for pests. If organic mulch has decomposed or thinned out, replace it with a new layer. Get Busy Gardening!TM notes that the bulbs of tender plants like dahlias and tuberous begonias can be dug up and overwintered in their dormant state. All dead foliage should be removed after the bulbs have been dug up, and the bulbs should be allowed to dry out a little before being stored. Container gardeners can overwinter their tender bulbs in their pots inside, but be sure to remove their foliage and store them in a dark, cool place that maintains temperatures above freezing.

Homeowners often take steps to winterize the interior of their homes in the weeks before winter's arrival, but such efforts should extend to the outside of a home as well. Decks make for great gathering places when the weather permits. Decks are where many people spend their free time and eat their meals come spring and summer, when the temperatures climb and the sun sets well into the evening. But as summer turns to fall, homeowners must take measures to protect their decks from potentially harsh winter weather.

Inspect the deck for problems. Decks tend to be used more often in summer than any other time of year. That makes fall and early winter an ideal time to inspect for wear and tear and any additional issues that may have cropped up throughout the summer. Damaged boards and loose handrails should be fixed before winter arrives, especially for homeowners who plan to use their decks in winter. Fixing such issues in winter and even into spring may be difficult thanks to

Clear the deck of potted plants.


Even homeowners who intend to use their decks in winter should remove potted plants from the deck in the fall. The home improvement experts at HGTV note that moisture can get trapped between deck boards and plastic, wood or ceramic containers in cold weather, and that can contribute to mildew, discoloration or decay.

Store unnecessary furniture. Homeowners who like to sit on their decks in winter will no doubt want to leave some furniture out over the winter. But those with lots of furniture for entertaining guests can likely move the majority of that furniture into a garage or shed for the winter. HGTV notes that doing so will prevent the potential formation of blemishes on the deck that can result from inconsistent weathering.

Fall Home Improvement | Saturday, September 28, 2019

Prepare your deck for winter

harsh conditions, so make good use of the relatively calm autumn weather to fix any issues on the deck.

Remove snow, but do so carefully. Prolonged contact with snow and ice can damage a deck. As a result, homeowners should clear snow from their decks when accumulation is significant. HGTV recommends using a snow blower on the deck to avoid scarring. If a shovel must be used, push snow with the planks to reduce the risk of damaging the deck.

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Saturday, September 28, 2019 | Fall Home Improvement

Container gardening for beginners

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Container gardening can bring gardening to any home, whether it’s a light-filled private home or an apartment where sunlight is sparse. Gardening is a rewarding activity that gardening enthusiasts can't wait to get back to once the weather warms up. Many gardeners find getting their hands dirty while tending to a garden can be a great form of escapism. In addition, growing one's own fruits and vegetables can be great for the environment. Though it's easy to assume gardening is an activity exclusive to homeowners with their own yards, that's not the case at all. Container gardening can make it possible for anyone to garden regardless of where they live. The benefits of container gardening go beyond making gardening acces-

sible to everyone. Many plants grown in containers are less susceptible to disease than plants grown in the soil, which can reduce reliance on potentially harmful pesticides. Container gardens also tend to be easier to maintain than traditional gardens, making gardening more doable for people with especially hectic schedules. Container gardening can be simple, and novices can consider these tips when planning and ultimately tending to their first gardens.

Conduct a light audit. Walk around your home to determine where your plant can be placed

so it gets as much light as it needs to thrive. Some plants need a lot of light, while others can thrive with a lot less. By conducting a light audit before choosing plants, you can determine if your home is most conducive to plants that require a lot of a light or those that need little light to get by.

Don't forget to feed your plants. Potting soil won't necessarily have nutrients that plants can access, so many container gardeners must fertilize the soil so plants can thrive. Good Housekeeping notes that watering with diluted fish emulsion, seaweed extract or compost tea can help plants thrive. Feed once every two weeks to start, adjusting the schedule thereafter depending on how the plants respond.

Make sure containers have ample drainage. The gardening experts at Good Housekeeping note that drainage holes are essential when choosing containers. Waterlogged soil can be fatal for plants, so there must be ample drainage in the container. Don’t focus too much on the size of the holes, just make sure that they allow excess water to drain out from the pot.

Seek advice. Local gardening centers can be great resources for novice container gardeners. Such centers can recommend plants with a history of thriving in the area as well as plants that might be more compatible when containers are placed next to one another.

House plants can bring a welcome touch of life to the home during the winter months. Many even serve as natural air purifiers, filtering out toxins and providing some much-needed oxygen to stuffy rooms. Water: Weekly Light: Medium, indirect

1. ZZ Plant

2. Snake Plant

4. Calathea

Zamioculcas zamiifolia is a nearindestructible plant evolved to thrive in arid climates. Its long, shiny leaves are both sturdy and attractive — the perfect house plant for non-gardeners. Water: Every other week Light: Low to medium, indirect

A member of the succulent family, snake plants are particularly good at improving air quality. The snake plant grows up more than out, so it won’t take up too much sill space. Water: Every other week Light: Bright to medium, indirect

This elegantly colored plant features dark green leaves with contrasting purple undersides. They’re often referred to as “prayer plants,” due to their habit of lowering their leaves (“praying”) each night. Choose from the brood-leaved medallion, narrow rattlesnake and intricatelypatterned pinstripe varieties. Water: Weekly Light: Medium

With a higher tolerance for moisture than many popular “easy” house plants, the bird’s nest fern is ideal for over-eager caretakers and humid environments. The plant’s curly, crinkly leaves give it plenty of character. Water: Weekly Light: Medium, indirect

4. Monstera (pictured at left)

6. Zebra Haworthia

Also known as the “swiss cheese plant” thanks to the distinctive holes in its broad leaves, monstera deliciosa brings plenty of visual drama to a room. Monstera does best when given plenty of room to grow, and will happily climb if given adequate support.

This spiky succulent, also known as the zebra plant, gets its name from its distinctive white stripes. It is closely related to the aloe plant, and offers the same hardiness in a flashier package. Water: Every two to three weeks Light: Bright to medium, indirect

5. Bird’s Nest Fern


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Fall Home Improvement | Saturday, September 28, 2019

Six easy indoor plants


Saturday, September 28, 2019 | Fall Home Improvement

Things to consider before warming up next to your first fire this winter Before nestling up to a fireplace this winter, homeowners should consider a host of factors and safety measures to ensure their fireplaces are safe and ready for the season ahead. A warm fire can make even the coldest winter day more enjoyable. Fireplaces may not get much use in spring or summer, but come late fall and throughout the winter, the fireplace can be a great place for families to gather. Before fireplace season hits full swing, homeowners might want to brush up on a few fireplace facts so they can safely enjoy nights spent sitting by the crackling flames. The Chimney Safety Institute of America advises homeowners with fireplaces to hire a CSIA-certified chimney sweep to clean their fireplac-

es. After a lengthly period of non-use, various issues could be affecting the chimney, many of which might not be noticeable to an untrained eye. Professional, certified chimney sweeps have extensive knowledge of fireplaces, making them valuable resources who can let homeowners know if any safety issues developed since fireplaces were last used. The National Protection Agency recommends that chimneys be swept at least once per year. A full inspection of the chimney might be in order as well. Chimney service technicians will conduct thor-

ough examinations of readily accessible portions of the chimney exterior and interior and accessible portions of the appliance and the chimney connection. The CSIA recommends that homeowners who plan to use their chimneys as they have in the past request a Level 1 inspection, which will examine the soundness of the chimney structure and flue as well as the basic appliance installation and connections. Technicians also will verify if the chimney is free of obstruction and combustible deposits. Homeowners also should inspect their chimney dampers before lighting their first fires of the season. Dampers should open and close smoothly. If not, a service technician can help fix or replace the damper. Firewood is another thing homeowners must consider before lighting their first fires of the season. The CSIA says that well-seasoned fire-

wood works best, noting that wood that is not well-seasoned will produce more smoke than heat. In addition, the home improvement resource This Old House recommends using dense wood that's been split and stored in a high and dry place for at least six months. Oak is an example of dense wood that, when stored properly, can make for an enjoyable fireplace experience. Avoid softwoods like pine. Pine can produce a lot of creosote, which is a byproduct of wood combustion. Creosote is highly flammable, and as it builds up in a chimney, the risk for a chimney fire increases. Choosing the right wood, making sure it's well-seasoned and having a chimney professionally cleaned can reduce the risk of a creosote-related chimney fire. A Level 1 inspection should determine if there are potentially dangerous levels of creosote deposits in the chimney.


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Fueling a fireplace for the season may require homeowners with woodburning units to keep an ample supply of wood at the ready. How that wood is stored is important.


flow behind the stack. Stick to organized rows of wood no more than four feet high. Log racks and pallets and posts will keep the wood up and off of the ground where moisture and rotting can develop. Placing the logs in an unorganized pile will impede air flow and cause the wood to rot rather than continue to dry and season even more. Homeowners also should use a cover to protect seasoned firewood from the elements. Position a tarp or plastic sheeting so it blankets the top of the stack and extends a few inches down the sides. Keep the sides mostly exposed to air. Others prefer to stack it in a barn or shed or under an overhang. Green wood is less expensive than seasoned wood. Those who prefer this method should do so in the early spring and let it season over the next several months. Bankrate says that the cost of a cord of wood varies across the country, but in general one can expect to pay between $120 and $180 for a cord of hardwood that is split and seasoned. This price may be higher in mid-winter when demand increases.

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A fireplace is a cozy and warm spot around which a family can gather. The home and real estate resource HomeGuides.com indicates that 60 percent of new homes have a fireplace, which is up from 36 percent in the 1970s. Naturally, fueling a fireplace for the season may require homeowners with wood-burning units to keep an ample supply of wood at the ready. How that wood is stored is important, as properly stored firewood can prevent waste and other issues around the house. Wood that is freshly cut has a water content of 60 percent or more. Yet, for best burning ability, wood should be near 20 percent in water content. Green wood is hard to ignite and will not burn nearly as well or efficiently as seasoned wood. Another concern associated with green wood is that it can contribute more to creosote accumulation in the flue of a fireplace. Creosote is a combustible material that may lead to fires if left unchecked. According to BioAdvanced®, a science-based lawn, garden and home improvement innovator, seasoning wood typically takes six months to a year. Homeowners may opt to purchase seasoned wood that already has sat and dried. Homeowners who have an abundance of firewood have to store it somewhere. Log Splitters Direct suggests choosing a dry, breezy area of the property that is about 20 feet from the nearest door to the house. This helps avoid hitchhiker pests from coming inside with the wood, such as termites, ants, spiders, and mice. Do not stack the wood flush against a structure. It should be at least a few inches away to allow air-

Fall Home Improvement | Saturday, September 28, 2019

How to store firewood the right way


Saturday, September 28, 2019 | Fall Home Improvement The Brattleboro Reformer | Reformer.com

5 secrets to making your home look like you hired a design pro

1. Accessorize Finish the room with accessories and flowers. When placing and hanging knickknacks and wall art, odd-numbered groupings often look the most cohesive and interesting. Experiment with different scales and heights for even more dimension.

When inspiration hits, take some cues from interior design pros to make spaces look like they belong on the pages of your favorite magazines.


2. Embrace texture The colors used in a home can add impact, but designers often utilize various textures to create aesthetic appeal. A single color scheme can be enhanced by various fabrics. Consider a leather sofa made more cozy with chenille pillows next to a rustic side table. Figure out ways to incorporate a few different textures to add depth to the room.

Photo spreads in home design magazines can be awe-inspiring. Quite often homeowners wish they could lift the looks right off the pages of magazines and transform their own homes into picture-perfect retreats. It takes an eye for design to pull a room together - even with inspiration - and make it both functional and attractive. While hiring an interior designer is one way to go, homeowners can use some of the tricks and techniques the designers employ to do a remarkably good job of improving the interiors of their homes without such help. DEVON JANSE VAN RENSBURG/UNSPLASH

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Many homeowners make the mistake of filling a room with several small pieces of furniture that only contribute to clutter. Instead, look for a statement piece, which can be a cabinet, armoire or chaise. Mix and match large and small elements for a sense of balance.

Fall Home Improvement | Saturday, September 28, 2019

4. Choose a big statement piece


3. Add a bit of bling Glittery items and metallics can add a touch of luxury feel to any space. A shiny table lamp, mirrors, a sparkling chandelier, and the like are easy ways to produce a high-end feel. Reflective surfaces also will cast light around the room, giving the illusion of a larger space.


5. Be careful with color Many high-end homes showcase neutral shades that are enhanced by pops of color. If you like a rich, royal purple, leave room for other colors as well. Add touches of purple in vases, throw pillows and other accessories.


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Also, many designers work in shades of three for room colors. There may be one main color for walls, another color for larger accents, such as couches and chairs, and then a third color that pops in accessories such as flowers, pillows and collectibles. These can be any colors, but the most muted tends to be the more abundant shade.

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Saturday, September 28, 2019 | Fall Home Improvement

Prevent growth of mold/ mildew in colder months !! "!# !# $!% Mold and mildew are problematic, but with diligence they can be kept at bay. Mold and mildew are not only unsightly, but unhealthy. These fungi grow readily in damp areas and are found in the air breathed both indoors and outside. If left unaddressed, mold and mildew can threaten the health of a home's inhabitants. Mildew is a type of mold that remains relatively flush with the surface it grows on. Other molds can grow puffy in appearance. Molds serve the purpose of destroying organic materials, but in high amounts, these microorganisms can cause respiratory problems, sinus congestion, throat irritation, headaches, and other issues, particularly when mold

grows unchecked indoors, says Better Homes and Gardens. As a result, it is essential to address mold before it becomes problematic. According to Polygon, a drying technology and temporary climate solutions company, the wet season in winter is when molds often grow and expand. Mold can break down the integrity and strength of the surfaces where it grows. Homeowners can employ the following strategies to prevent mold growth. • Keep all surfaces clean, using proper cleaning products. Diluted bleach solutions are highly effective at killing microscopic fungi, viruses and bacteria. • Reduce moisture and humidity by ensuring sufficient air circulation in rooms, particularly bathrooms and kitchens. An exhaust fan will help remove moisture quickly.

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• Fabrics covered in mildew that can be laundered should be carefully removed and washed in chlorine bleach and hot water. An oxygen bleach product also can be effective. • Invest in a dehumidifier that can reduce moisture in the home in problem areas, such as damp basements or garages.

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• Fix plumbing leaks as soon as possible.

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• Remove damp leaves and snow from areas around the foundation of the home. Ensure that gutters and downspouts are clear of debris and can shuttle water away from the house effectively.


• Replace cracked or defective mortar in basements. • Make sure all seals on windows and doors are not compromised and are in good working condition. • Be sure an HVAC in-line humidifier is adjusted to the right setting and isn't pumping too much moisture into the heated air; otherwise, the added humidity can contribute to mold.


• If there is a flood or water infiltrates a home in other ways, hire a professional service to help clean and dry the home effectively.

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