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Revitalize your lawn after a long winter lawn if need be. For lawns that took a particularly harsh beating over the winter, consider seeding the lawn to help revitalize it. When seeding a lawn, be sure you choose the right seeds. Different regions respond better to different types of grass. But don’t be intimidated if you don’t know the correct grass to choose. Simply ask a landscaper or consult a lawn care specialist at a nearby home improvement center as to which type of grass is the best fit your region and

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very spring, homeowners head outside to take stock of how the winter treated their lawn. Homeowners in areas that experience heavy snow or rainfall each winter likely do not look forward to this inventory, fearful of what another harsh winter did to their property. Fallen t re e b r a n ch e s, f ro z e n ground and winter wind storms can do a number on even the most well-manicured lawns, turning a summertime labor of love into a nightmare. While homeowners might not be able to do anything about the weather, there are ways to revitalize T2

a lawn each spring. And you don’t have to be an accomplished landscaper to handle the task. The following tips can help bring your luscious lawn back to life, helping make winter a distant memory. • Remove all debris from your yard. Debris includes any trash in the yard, wood, large roots, fallen branches, and even stones. The presence of trash such as broken glass or even faded paper products such as cups or bags is not only unsafe for the environment, but it can prove harmful to anyone who might be out in the yard once your grass grows, especially if you have children. Oftentimes, winter winds can blow trash from

nearby garbage cans across the yard, no matter how neatly homeowners put out their trash. • Smooth the soil. Once all debris been removed, examine the soil for any abnormalities that might need to be smoothed out. Use a spade or rake to smooth any areas that aren’t up to par. Next you’ll want to loosen the soil as well, something that can be done with a garden rake. Any unsightly areas, such as humps or ditches, should either be smoothed out or filled in, depending on which is appropriate. This can be done with some soil and should not prove too costly. • Consider seeding the

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your yard. When you’re read to seed, the seed can be scattered by hand for smaller yards, or with a drop spreader for larger lawns. When spreading with a drop spreader, use the suggested amount of seed on the bag (even a little less seed should do the trick) and make sure you spread out the rows evenly in the s a m e d i re c t i o n . O n c e you’ve sowed the first part of your lawn in one direction, you can crisscross back over that part at a 90-

degree angle, making sure you keep equal distance and calibrate your spreader at the same speed. • Add mulch for aesthetic and practical appeal. Moist helps the soil, and can also add aesthetic appeal to a lawn. Moist helps the soil by allowing it to retain moisture, making it more conducive to g rowing healthy grass. When laying mulch down, keep the mulch at roughly a quarterinch to ensure your lawn will grow in nicely.


Home Depot chief says consumers tackling smaller projects BY ELANA ASHANTI JEFFERSON THE DENVER POST

DENVER — Joe McFarland eats, breathes and sleeps home improvement. One might think that McFarland, western division president for The Home Depot and the guy in charge of 440 stores and 78,800 employees, would have a home-improvement to-do list as long as his arm. But in fact, McFarland says, he spends most of his time in those stores. And this year, his job also demands that he strategize ways to lure back consumer dollars lost during the recession. Earlier this week, McFarland took time out to talk about who shops the big-box home-improvement stores these days, and what they’re buying. QUESTION: The common wisdom has been that the recent decline in home sales would translate into a boost for home improvement stores, because homeowners are fixing up rather than moving. Did that happen for The Home Depot? ANSWER: Home improvement (retailing) has seen a very steady decline over the

past few years. A lot of it has been from our professional customer, the small to moderate builder doing the home addition or the major remodel. We’ve seen a big shift in what those individuals are working on and the types of products they’re buying. In the past, we’d see them buying things like dimensional lumber and drywall — new-construction products. Today, those same individuals are really focused on renovation products, things like flooring, water heaters, assembled kitchen cabinets and paint. Q: How has that buying shift impacted the kinds of products stocked at The Home Depot? A: That trend — (toward) the renovation and not the big addition — is going to continue for a while. We continue to see homes going into foreclosure. We continue to see excessive supply of existing homes on the market. As home prices begin to come back, I think you’ll see people invest more and upgrade things. ... But that could be 18 months from now. So we continue to do new lower prices and offer consumers better value for

their money. We’ve done a really good job of bringing in new products, new water heaters, different paint and floor (products), different types of cabinets and vanities and toilets to really cover the needs of the value-minded consumer. Q: Going forward into spring and summer, how has the company adjusted its outdoor living selection? A: A big trend shift this spring, and it started last year, is the decline in the number of homeowners that have a professional landscape service. Those consumers have shifted to cutting the grass and doing the planting themselves, and a lot of them are buying their first lawn mower or weed whacker or edger. So we have exclusives with Toro and Honda, and our own brand of Ryobi cordless products with lithium ion batteries. We’ve also seen a big jump in (green gardening products like) natural fertilizers. Just four years ago, an estimated 5 million households used environmentally friendly lawn and garden products. This year, that estimate is 12 million households.

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h e n t i m e s a re t o u g h , wo m e n who can’t afford a new dress often purchase a new accessory or lipstick to recharge their wardrobes. Known as the “lipstick effect,” the tendency applies to homeowners too. Barry Culkin, CEO of Questech Corp., a tile manufacturer in Rutland, Vt., noticed sales of his $5 cast stone and marble switch plate covers rose whenever the economy faltered. Last year, sales of their covers at major retailers were up 15 to 20 percent.

As homeowners rein in spending, more opt for small indulgences and postpone major renovations. Whether the goal is a new look for a worn kitchen or simply an injection of color in a room, here’s a list of some of the best ways to give a space a quick uplift. Many cost much less than a designer lipstick and a few don’t require any financial outlay. “I am seeing quite a bit of Yankee ingenuity in my customers. They are getting pretty smart about using and repurposing items to add some zip to their living spaces,” says Shirley Walsh, owner of Kalembar Dune, a vintage home decor shop in

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Boston. Simply moving furniture and accessories around and borrowing from other areas of the home can give a room a whole new look. If you want to splurge, consider hiring a designer who specializes in redesign. The instant gratification of having it all accomplished in a day is hard to resist but “it’s also low stress because it uses familiar furnishings,” observes Pam Faulkner, owner of Faulkner House Redesign in Oak Hill, Va. The cost to have Faulkner make over a room ranges from $400 and $700 depending on the

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Save money on home improvements this season T

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he warmer temperatures make it a great time to tackle much needed home improvement projects. And contrary to popular belief, these adjustments don’t need to be expensive or exhausting. There are many costef fective, eco-friendly design and renovation projects you can undertake that will spruce up your home and positively impact the environment. “Simply put, environmentally-friendly home renovation projects create a healthy home and save energy and money,” s ay s To ve A n d e r s o n , principal of Tove Anderson Architecture and the past chair of The American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment DC Chapter. “Whether it is reusing what is in your home or incorporating new materials, there are a variety o f e nv i r o n m e n t a l l y friendly design options that can fit anyone’s taste and budget.” To start, consider the following practices: FIND HIDDEN GEMS Before shopping for costly new pieces of furniture, take a second look at unused pieces in your basement, garage or guest rooms. In many cases, long-ignored decor can be refurbished with a new coat of paint, reupholstering or another creative makeover. If you can’t fight the urge to splurge, shop locally first or visit a high-end, secT4

o n d - h a n d s t o r e. T h i s eliminates manufacturing and transportation costs and is a more sustainable approach to furnishing your home. You might also browse online stores for environmentally - f r i e n d ly f u r n i t u re, paint or artwork. USE WHAT YOU HAVE Enlist an architect to h e l p yo u r e c o n f i g u r e existing space in your home, rather than make costly structural modifications or additions on your own. These profess i o n a l s c a n h e l p yo u assess how you can creat e t h e h o m e o f yo u r dreams by working with already existing space. For example, if you’ve always wanted more sunlight or an open floor

plan, an architect can help you make the needed adjustments -- such as new window treatments, adding windows and skylights, or knocking down walls. To find an architect in your area, visit architectfinder.aia.org. SAY IT WITH COLOR A new coat of paint can do wonders in changing a room’s look. Make sure to choose low-VOC (volatile organic chemicals) paint, which uses water instead of oil, thereby reducing toxins and limiting the impact on your home and the environment. Be Energy Efficient Insulation leaks and cracks can exist in both new and old homes, leading to energy waste and inflated bills. A free home

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energy audit can provide ways to save money and energy. Your local energy p r ov i d e r u s u a l l y c a n assist in setting up an appointment. Reseal windows, walls, ceilings and attic to start making a sizable, positive impact. Additionally, if you are looking to purchase a new appliance, consider Energy-Star qualified appliances, which use 2540 percent less energ y than conventional options and can result in savings of up to $100 (or more) a year on energy bills. If your water heater is more than 10 years old, it

might be time to purchase a new one. If that’s not possible, cover your old one with a water heater jacket, which can eliminate heat loss by 25-40 percent. And remember to shut off and unplug electrical devices when not in use. “By making the decision to adopt sustainable renovation practices that are eco-friendly, homeowners will help the environment and be rewarded with extra money savings, in the shor t and long term,” says Anderson.

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Home-improvement projects that pay for themselves MAE ANDERSON AP RETAIL WRITER

NEW YORK — As the housing market keeps sputtering and it becomes clear you may need to stay in the same home for a long time to recover your equity, it is increasingly important to maintain it properly — at minimum cost. Many homeowners have put off home improvements during the recession, but that’s not always wise. Here are six free or inexpensive projects that could save you hundreds of dollars or more in the long run. 1. ANNUAL CHECKS: Every home’s appliances, electrical panel and ventilation systems should be checked each year to make sure they’re functioning properly. Also replace or clean each system’s filter and vents at least as often as the manufacturer recommends. “It’s always less expensive to maintain than it is to repair,” said Bob Mehl, a maintenance and repair expert and handyman on Sears’ ServiceLive marketplace. “Practicing good home maintenance management will save people money in the long run. That might cost me business, but I still try to educate people.” A check by an expert can also reveal if your furnace or air conditioner is leaking gas, gathering condensation or getting clogged, all of which can interfere with its effectiveness, Mehl said.

— BONUS: By washing appliance filters and vacuuming the spaces where they sit, you will lower your energy costs and help your appliances last longer. 2. FOLLOW THE WATER: Similarly, it’s important to inspect your plumbing regularly for leaks. Look under cabinets to make sure connections aren’t dripping, and turn all valves off and on to ensure the system is operating properly. Repair or replace dripping faucets right away because addressing leaks and other plumbing problems when they start is much cheaper than repairing the damage leaks can cause over time. — BONUS: Major savings on your water bill. A single faucet dripping six times a minute can waste 29 gallons of water per month, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. 3. TURN DOWN THE HEAT: One of the simplest ways homeowners can save money is to improve a home’s efficiency by installing a programmable thermostat, according to Ron Jarvis, vice president of environmental innovation at Home Depot Inc. A programmable thermostat can also prolong the life of your heating and ventilation system by letting it work only when needed. They cost around $50 but can save you $180 a year by more closely regulating home temperature during different parts of the day. — BONUS: You can set the system to warm up the

house in winter (or cool it down in summer) just in time for your return in the evening. 4. CLEAN OUT THE GUTTERS: Regularly scooping accumulated leaves and other material from gutters is the best way to avoid water and weather damage to your home’s roof and walls. It also makes the gutters last longer. And by doing it yourself, you can save the $200 or so you would spend hiring a service. Just make sure you have a tall enough ladder and tools to clean the gutters safely, such as gloves, a garden trowel or plumbers snake and a hose. — BONUS: No unpredictable downpours from the spots where overflowing gutters are leaking. 5. BRIGHT IDEA: Install dimmers in the rooms you use most, suggests Lowe’s spokeswoman Abby Buford. Beyond the dining room, each dimmer in a bedroom, kitchen or living room can save a customer about $30 per year compared with a standard switch. That’s because dimming lights 25 percent cuts electricity costs about 20 percent. — BONUS: The option of setting a calming (or romantic) mood in almost any room. 6. GET INSULATED: Add insulation to your attic and walls, and recaulk doors and windows this spring when you want to have them open for a while anyway. In addition to saving most home

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Please see PROJECTS, page 7 The Progress-Index, Petersburg, VA Sunday, April 11, 2010

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Low-cost: Shop thrift or Choosing the right decking material consignment stores Continued from page 3 space. A little elbow grease also can go a long way. Sparkling windows bring in light and make the entire house shine. Often, all carpets and rugs need is a thorough cleaning and they will feel almost new. The same holds true for wood floors and trim. Nothing is a better quickchange artist than paint. But you don’t have to go all out. Rather than entire room, paint an accent wall, trim or piece of furniture. “Never underestimate the power of paint and pillows, always the best lipstick for your home in any shade,” advises Marcia Richards, a Phoenix, Ariz., interior designer. Give a living room or bedroom a facelift by shifting the color scheme. Pillows add instant color, but to complete the look, mix in color keyed accessories, such as a throw and new lamp or lampshade. If your budget allows, go a step further and add a rug and/or slipcovers. Orders for fabric by the yard are up, says David Petersen owner of Maine Cottage Fur niture in Yar mouth, Maine. He notes that more consumers are re-covering rather than replacing worn furnishings. Small luxuries can have a big impact on our moods and our homes. Flowers and new plants inject new life and color to any space. Try replacing regular lightbulbs with full spectrum bulbs which are more like sunlight. Sometimes all it takes to spark up an entire room is a unique accessory or piece of individual art. New hardware is traditionally a quick fix for dated kitchen cabinets. But elsewhere, exchanging old doorknobs for polished bronze or nickel can give an entire house an up-todate look. Using levered handles also increases a home’s

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universal design quotient. And maybe you can’t afford to change the tub or the tiles, but a dated bath can get a quick uplift simply by altering a few elements. Instead of remodeling, Michelle Samuels spent about $150 to give a bath in her Mill Valley, Calif., home an update. She replaced her antique gold towel racks and faucets with updated brushed silver versions. She painted the frame around the mirror a soft silver with craft paint and completed the effect with new door handles. Removing old fluorescent lights and replacing them with pendants or a more contemporary fixture also has a big impact. Don’t wait until you can renovate to give your kitchen a new look. Sometimes changing only one facet can refocus the entire space. New hardware and light fixtures are quick and inexpensive. Don’t forget refacing or painting cabinets if new is beyond your budget. If the countertops are in good shape, consider tiling the backsplash. Reorganize cabinets so the space works better. Add new accessories or update countertop appliances so they coordinate. Increasing curb appeal is traditional advice for anyone selling their home. But nothing is more akin to applying lipstick than revamping the entry. Replace a worn front door if the budget permits. Otherwise give the old door a new look with paint. Seasonal plants, new house numbers, a new doormat and trimmed walkway will make you feel like you are coming to a new house. Shop thrift and consignment stores for some unique finds; then polish and paint. Also think about creating your own artwork in colors that will make a room pop. You will save a bundle and possibly discover an inner artist you didn’t know existed.

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illed as low-maintenance and attractive solutions for the yard, vinyl or composite decks have become the materials of choice for more homeowners in recent years. They’re supposed to last longer and require less maintenance than wood counterparts -- perfect for homeowners who would rather enjoy their outdoor spaces, rather than spend hours each season maintaining them. But how do composite materials really stack up against wood? Before you choose your decking material, consider the pros and cons of any available options.

Resistance

No decking product is completely indestructible. Both composite and wood decks can warp, fade or be scratched and dinged. Wood decks may have the advantage over composite materials in this arena simply because of their ability to be refinished. Therefore, if an area is damaged or faded it can be repaired. The same options are not available with composite materials.

Durability

Continued from page 6

damage better. However, a relatively high rate of expansion and contraction can cause composite decks to warp and hardware to loosen. Composite decks also are not as easy to repair as wood decks -- they must be replaced. Therefore their longevity could be compromised by this fact.

Maintenance

Composite decks will require considerably less seasonal maintenance than wood decks. Manufacturers recommend certain cleaning and tightening of joint spacing to avoid sagging. However, certain building codes require composite decks be built upon wood structural supports, so a composite deck could have some wood material after all. Wood decks require routine staining, cleaning, sanding, etc. This can be time-

Composite decks, those made of vinyl,

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Wood or composite? The choice of decking material is really up to the homeowner and how much maintenance he or she can handle.

Please see WOOD, page 7

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plastic, polypropylene, polyethylene, or a combination of plastic and wood pulp would seem to be more durable than wood decks. It’s true that composite products resist weather-related

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Projects: Could save you hundreds of dollars or more Continued from page 5

ow n e r s b i g m o n e y o n energ y, insulation also can reduce wear on heating and cooling systems because it kee ps the home at a more constant temperature. — BONUS: Constant temperatures throughout the house — no drafts. 7. BUY ENERGY SAVERS: Whenever you need to replace an appliance, make sure to choose from the most energy-efficient options. For instance, in a large household, a highefficiency clothes washer can pay for itself in a year or two. And replacing a single toilet installed in the 1 9 8 0 s o r e a rl i e r w i t h high-efficiency low-flow m o d e l ( $ 3 0 0 a n d u p, including labor) can cut your water bill by hunAP PHOTO dreds of dollars over sevIn this June 9, 2009 file photo, Tim Longua shines a flashlight on a thermal coupler he recently replaced on the eral years. (In new confurnace at his home in Chicago. As the housing market keeps sputtering and it becomes clear you may need struction, they’ve been to stay in the same home for a long time, it is increasingly important to maintain it properly _ at minimum mandatory nationwide

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Wood: One of two options Continued from page 6 consuming, which is why

many homeowners seek options in composite decking. ‘Green’ Factor There are supporters and detractors to both wood and composite decks in terms of environmental impact. Wood decks seemingly are harmful to the environment because of the harvesting of wood and depletion of forests, but forests can be replanted. Composite decks are made from plastics, which do not decompose easily when disposed of. Both wood and composite decks require many chemicals for cleaning and other maintenance, which can seep into the ground and

since 1995.) — BONUS: Federally funded rebates on many energ y-ef ficient household appliances are part of the economic stimulus p r o g r a m . Fo r d e t a i l s, check http://www.energ y s ave r s. g ov / f i n a n cial/70020.html. “It’s a good year look into appliances and furnaces,” because of the rebates, Mehl said. “If yo u r f u r n a c e i s m o r e than 15 years old, it is a good time to inspect it and take advantage of a n ew h i g h e r- e f f i c i e n cy one.” For tips on performing an energy audit of your home to figure out which improvements would pay off first, check the federal Department of Energy Web site at http://www. energysavers.gov/your_ home/energy_audits/ i n d e x . c f m / mytopic(equalsign)11160.

leach into water supplies. Heat Factor Homeowners placing a deck around a swimming pool or in a sunny location may be concerned with how hot the building material will be underfoot. Wood tends to reflect the sunlight more readily than composite materials, particularly if the wood is light in color. Therefore it could be more comfortable to walk upon. Appearance Many composite materials come close to looking like wood, but they may still appear plastic. It’s hard to improve upon the timeless and cozy appearance of wood environmental landscaping items.

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