2021 Fall Home Improvement Guide

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Wenatchee World’s Fall Home Improvement Guide Table of Contents DIY Potpourri..................................................................................................................Page 4 Caring for your Fruit Trees through the Fall and Winter............................................Page 7 The Art of Xeriscaping................................................................................................Page 10 A Great Time to Renovate........................................................................................Page 12 How to Start a Project Right .....................................................................................Page 15 Finding a Local Contractor.......................................................................................Page 16 Questions to Ask ........................................................................................................Page 17 How to Review a Contract .......................................................................................Page 18 Post-Disaster Renovation Tips ...................................................................................Page 20 Protecting Plants from Frost.......................................................................................Page 21 Winterize your Home..................................................................................................Page 22 Decorating for Fall......................................................................................................Page 24 Learn to Love the Leaves..........................................................................................Page 28 Gutter Maintenance..................................................................................................Page 29 Attracting Birds to Your Garden................................................................................Page 32 Get Your HVAC Ready for Fall...................................................................................Page 33 Putting Away the Patio..............................................................................................Page 36 Rejuvenate Exterior Lighting......................................................................................Page 37 Snow Shoveling Alternatives.....................................................................................Page 38

Welcome to the Fall Home Improvement Guide Whether you own your home or rent, there is something in here for you. We will help you navigate hiring a professional to do those projects that are bigger than you. Or, if you're more of the do-it-yourself type, we've got tips for you from landscaping to decorating and lead right into preparing for winter.


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DIY Potpourri

Bouquets are a wonderful way to brighten up your home. When they begin to lose their

freshness often they are simply thrown out. However, there is a much better way to repurpose

them by turning them into potpourri. This do-it-yourself project is easier than you may think

and only takes a few simple steps. You can use a variety of fillers such as fresh citrus slices and

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FALL HOME IMPROVEMENT GUIDE  |  WENATCHEE WORLD 2021 dried herbs for the filler. It is likely you may already have everything you will need right at home. Creating a homemade sachet of potpourri to freshen clothing by placing into your drawers, or keeping a bowl out in the open can fill your home with an aroma tailored just for you. Potpourri also makes a lovely gift which is something to keep in mind as the holidays fast approach. The best part is, potpourri is reusable, and all you need to do is refresh it every so

often with a spritz of your scent of choice. You will need a sheet pan, a spray bottle, parchment paper, flowers, your favorite essential oils, scissors, and fillers such as citrus, whole spices, or fresh herbs. Begin by gathering the flowers you would like to use, whole flower heads or individual petals work for this project. The stronger the scent of the flower, the better it will work for your potpourri. Next you will preheat your oven to 200 °F. Use your parchment paper

to line the baking sheet, and place the flowers onto the tray. Be sure to remove any stems or stray leaves. Spread the flowers into a single layer. Now you will add the sliced citrus, dried herbs such as basil, thyme, and lavender along with your whole spices such as cinnamon sticks, clove, or caraway seeds. Adding pine cones can also bring a festive look to your potpourri. Mix one tablespoon of water with 12-15 drops of the essential oil and spray the mixture onto your


potpourri spread. You will then place the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 2 hours. You do not want the flowers to burn but rather become delicate and crisp. Once you remove the potpourri from your oven, you will give the mixture another spray of essential oils. When the ingredients have cooled to room temperature you can place it into a bowl or sachet, and refresh with the essential oil mixture any time you want to liven it up.



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Caring for your Fruit Trees through the Fall and Winter As you’re sitting out in your backyard on a brisk sunny evening, you notice the leaves on your apple trees start to wither and fall and one thing becomes clear, winter is quickly approaching. You would like next year’s harvest to be just as good, if not better, so you have to make sure your trees are ready to endure the colder weather.



Be sure to rake up the fallen leaves to prevent leaf-borne diseases and mice from becoming a problem. Then, you’ll want to replenish lost nutrients in the soil to allow for proper growth next year. Fishmeal can be a great source of nitrogen and phosphorus which helps promote the development of tree roots and essential microbes in the soil.


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Compost tea is another popular plant booster that helps provide trees with nutrients that were exhausted from the most recent harvest. Compost tea is a mixture that is made by extracting microorganisms from compost that are beneficial to plants via a brewing process. The best compost tea contains all the original microorganisms that were present in the compost. For a majority of fruit trees, the best

time for pruning is when they are still in a state of dormancy toward the end of winter. During this time, the tree is more susceptible to disease so it is important to prune after the deep freezes have passed. Pruning is meant to eliminate branches that would otherwise restrict the amount of sunlight that comes into the center of the tree and to strengthen the branches that bear the weight

of the fruit. Most fruit trees only need maintenance pruning once they have fully grown. If you’re pruning apple trees you’ll want to wait until temperatures stay at least 20°F outside. There are two types of cuts when you are pruning. Thinning is where you cut out entire branches to allow more light into the center, while heading is where you cut off the ends of branches.

When you headcut a branch, branches will grow adjacent to the cut, and depending on the age of the branch, the younger it is, the faster new branches will grow. You’ll want to start pruning any branches that are dead or have become diseased. Lastly, you’ll need to trim off any narrow crotch angle branches and branches that could restrict light from reaching the branches below.





The Art of Xeriscaping

Lush, green gardens may be beautiful, but they aren’t always practical, especially in dry habitats like Eastern Washington. Fortunately, gardens don’t need to run the well dry to be aesthetically pleasing. How? By using the principles found in xeriscaping. The term xeriscape may sound vaguely alien, but the reality is much closer to home. “Xeriscaping is landscaping with water conservation in mind,” according to a pamphlet put out by the Benton Conservation District. It is a style of landscaping that seeks to create gardens that aren’t dependent on irrigation. Xeriscaping is a perfect choice for anyone who lives in an arid environment or wants to cut down on their water use -- but doesn’t want to sacrifice beauty in the process. This doesn’t mean that irrigation is avoided entirely. Instead, plants are grouped and planted into hydra zones -- areas that require similar amounts of water. “One of the most common misconceptions is that you cannot have lawn as a component of a water conservation oriented landscape,” according to the Benton Conservation District. “Areas that are intended for children can and should be planted with grass.” Still, reducing the use of lawns and other water-intensive landscaping elements is an important ten-

ant of xeriscaping. According to the Chelan County PUD, “In the western United States, more than half of residential water goes on landscapes and lawns.” In contrast, xeriscape can reduce water usage by up to 80 percent. Instead of draping your outdoor space in lawns, consider using non-living landscape elements in place of grass for much of your yard. Non-plant elements can include boulders, sculptures, pathways and decks or patios. Drought-resistant plants are another great choice for xeriscaped yards. While the use of native plants isn’t one of the official components of xeriscaping, when choosing native over non-native species, the former has a distinct advantage. Native plants are generally hardier than their non-native counterparts because they have evolved to grow in your yard’s exact ecosystem. This means they will need less water and maintenance overall and will be more resistant to disease. There are, of course, other

components of xeriscaping as well. Perhaps the most important principle is careful consideration of your yard’s design. This means more than simply creating a plan for how you would like your garden to look. With xeriscaping, you need to take into account every element of your yard’s existing topography: the amount of sun, shade and slope are all important factors. “Appropriate soil will do more than anything else to help a plant consume all the moisture available to it,” according to the Chelan PUD. “Soil improvement may mean changing the physical structure with decomposed organic matter.” Mulching with bark, gravel or crushed rock will also help the soil to retain moisture. When it comes down to it, xeriscaping is about more than just reducing the irrigation needs of your yard -it is an aesthetic and a philosophy. It is both science and art. Xeriscape thrives on careful design -- but it also recognizes that sometimes the best design strategy of all is to take a step back and let nature have its way.




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A Great Time to Renovate Have you noticed your neighbors adding pools, outdoor entertainment areas and extra square footage? If so, you’re not alone. Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies estimates that Americans’ total spend on home remodeling projects will rise from $332 billion in the third quarter of 2020 to $337 billion in the second half of 2021. Check out these statistics from a 2020 CNBC report: • Houzz, an online home remodeling platform, reported a 58% annual increase in project leads for home professionals in June. • Poolcorp, an international distributor of swim-

ming pool supplies, parts and outdoor living products, saw a 54% increase in the summer of 2020. • Kitchen and bath remodels jumped 40% in June 2020 compared to June 2019. • Home extensions and additions jumped 52% in 2020. • Security and privacy also saw much greater demand with interest in fence installation and repairs up 166%. Stimulus payments are driving many of these decisions to renovate, as is the increased equity in homes. Home prices continue to gain, despite the economic

downturn, as demand for housing is hitting new levels. WHY NOW? Even as vaccinations continue to roll out and travel is experiencing an uptick, it’s not too late to take advantage of some of the incentives related to renovating your space. In fact, you may have saved some money by waiting for lumber and materials production to return back to normal after many industries related to the construction industry saw major shortages during the pandemic’s earliest days. This could be a good time to take advantage of lower


costs while also being able to add value back into your home, should you ultimately decide to sell. WHAT TO RENOVATE Outside of the traditional bathroom and kitchen remodels, many Americans are feeling the need for extra square footage. More parents are working from

home than ever before. More kids are working on school projects remotely. And while that may change as we return to some sort of normalcy, there is good reason to believe that more space will remain a top need for families moving forward. Finishing a basement could be a great answer to a space shortage in

your home. This project will run you $18,400 on average, but can cost up to $34,000, depending on your square footage. The project involves installing drywall, flooring, and paint but can recoup up to 70% of the cost, according to HomeAdvisor. Another way to increase the value of your home is to focus on the out-


side. Consider hiring a company to handle the maintenance of your exterior. To mow the lawn, prune shrubs, apply mulch and plant about 60 perennials or annuals over about 2,800 square feet costs about $3,000 but can net a 100% return on investment, according to the National Association of Realtors.



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How to Start a Project Right There are many important things to consider when looking to improve your home. Many questions may be rolling around in your head as you consider taking on a home renovation project. Some of these questions may be related to cost. Others may be focused on quality and return on your investment. According to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, you need to have a good idea of what you’re looking for, how much you have to spend and what kind of timeline you’re considering. The beginning of a project is the most

critical component to make sure you’re clear on. The good news? A helpful local home services professional is right around the corner ready to help turn your plan into a reality. WHAT’S YOUR GOAL? Are you adding an extra bedroom this summer? Building a barn? Laying down a new hardwood floor? No matter what type of project you’re starting, it’s critical that you build a plan and stick with it. One of the easiest ways to break your budget is to add smaller projects on top of your original one. By adding

more work, you’re adding to the cost of materials and labor if you’re using a home services professional. Work with your contractors to set realistic expectations before breaking ground on your project. This will help you earmark a specific amount to keep any extra spending to a minimum. It will also help keep you and your contractors on the same page from a timing standpoint. MAKING BIG CHANGES? Revamping your home’s structure in any substantial way requires more design and engineering work. This

means it will likely cost more money and take more time, according to NARI. Before committing to a major project that will alter the structure of your home, ask yourself the following questions: • Can I afford such a large project? • How old is my home? • Will the changes add to the overall value of the home? • Do I have the right contractors picked out for the multiple phases of the 
project? Once you understand what type of cost, contractors and timeline you’re looking at, you can feel more confident in moving forward with your project.



Finding a Local Contractor Once you know the scope of your project, it’s time to find the person who can make your dreams come true. A quality professional contractor can build, renovate or add to your properties. Finding the right contractor can be an overwhelming task. There are the contracts, the timelines and all of the decisions that go along with taking on a home project. Read on for some tips designed to help you find a great local contractor. DETERMINE 
YOUR PROJECT Contractors can specialize, while handymen and women may be focused on smaller

projects. The size and scope of your project will determine what type of professional you need to hire for the job. According to the Federal Trade Commission, general contractors manage all aspects of a project, including obtaining building permits, scheduling inspections, the actual work and hiring, and overseeing and paying subcontractors. Specialty contractors perform particular services, such as electricians, plumbers, carpenters or roofers. Architects design homes’ additions or major renovations, but don’t do the building work. And design contractors can create the plans

and oversee all of the construction work. Understand your goals before finalizing who is going to do the work for you. ASK AROUND Check with friends and neighbors to see who they have used and would recommend for your project. Ask your prospective contractors for photos or videos of their work. Any good contractor should be able to back up their work with quality testimonials and customer success stories. Check websites and review social media profiles to make sure you get a good sense of the contractor’s abilities and past

work. If your state requires contractors to be licensed, ensure the contractor’s license is current. GET SEVERAL QUOTES Cost is important to any project but it shouldn’t be your only defining factor. Low bids are great, but an estimate that comes in substantially lower than others should be looked at closely. Why the variance? Will the materials come be high quality? Is professional able to give you an itemized list of how their bid breaks down? These are the types of things to consider when hiring anyone for a job around your home.



Questions to Ask If this is your first home improvement project for which you are hiring outside help, there are many questions you should be prepared to ask. Any time you plan to bring someone into your home, you should do your research beforehand to ensure a successful project. Depending on the size of the project, experts recommend you securing at least three quotes from prospective home services professionals before moving forward. This may not be realistic, especially if you’re facing some sort of plumbing or electrical issue that requires quick, emergency service. Here are some questions you should ask any contractor before they start, according to the Federal Trade Commission. WHAT SIMILAR PROJECTS HAVE 
YOU COMPLETED RECENTLY? You want to make sure

you hire a contractor with experience that relates to what you need. For example, you wouldn’t hire a local plumber to install a pool, even if he or she tells you they could probably handle it. Be smart about who you are sourcing for your project and look for ways to ensure a warranty with their 
services. CAN YOU SHARE REFERENCES? Get names, addresses and phone numbers for recent customers served by the contractor. Be ready to ask these customers about their costs, timeline and overall satisfaction of the job completed. WHAT PERMITS WILL BE NEEDED? Any good local contractor will be familiar with the permitting process and laws in your community. Subcontractors may need permits and licenses as well, so do your research ahead of time

to see if your state requires them. WHAT INSURANCE 
COVERAGE DO YOU HAVE? Ask for copies of insurance certificates. According to the FTC, contractors should have personal liability, worker’s compensation and property damage coverage. If not, you could be liable for injuries and damages that happen during the project. WHAT IS THE TIMELINE 
FOR COMPLETION? It’s best to set realistic expectations from the beginning when it comes to a target completion date. Leaving this open ended can lead to frustration and confusion once the project gets under way. Be open with your home services professional and ask for continuous updates. This will help keep the project on track and on time.



How to Review a Contract When you’ve found 
 a contractor you like, the next step is to enter into a formal agreement. This contract will spell out what exactly is required of the contractor, as well as payment schedules and other details critical to the project. The key to a great home improvement contract is both sides being crystal clear on the contents. Once there is a mutual understanding and acceptance, it’s time to start the work. WHAT’S IN A CONTRACT? The home services website Angie’s List recommends these 10 items to be included in any home improvement agreement you enter into: 1. Job description that spells out the project. 2. Start and completion dates that give a reasonable project timeline. 3. Payment terms that tie payment draws to job completion milestones.

4. Local authorization that specifies that your contractor is responsible for securing necessary regulatory permits. 5. Penalties for missed completion dates. 6. Procedure for work orders/changes to initial agreement. 7. Detailed outline of costs and materials. 8. Proof of licensure, insurance and bonding. 9. Termination clause that describes how a homeowner or contractor can leave the deal without penalty. 10. Other protection, which can include a lien release that protects you from liability should the contractor fail to pay their workers. DEFINING 
PAYMENT TERMS There is no steadfast rule to how much your contractor may charge as a down payment. Research your state laws to determine if there’s a limit, and aim to

start the project with as low a down payment as possible. This will incentivize your contractor to start and finish your project in an expedited fashion. ALWAYS WRITE IT OUT Even if your state doesn’t require a written contract, request one from your contractor. This ensures your project and the contractor’s work are defined and the work is measurable. Follow the list of aforementioned contract items, and keep key timelines in mind to ensure project efficiency. Try to be home when possible to make sure you can keep an eye on the progress of your contractor and set up regular meetings to drive productivity. The more involved you can be as a homeowner, the fewer surprises you’ll find when the project comes to a close.


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Post-Disaster Renovation Tips Depending on where you live, natural disasters can be a major cause of significant damage to your home. Earthquakes, floods and fires require home and business owners to rebuild all or parts of their structures. This process can be even more complex than when deciding to complete a normal renovation because money from insurance companies and the Federal Emergency Management Agency can come into play. Depending on whether or not you’ve been through a situation like this, you can become overwhelmed very quickly regarding all of the logistics involved. Knowing the right way to go about rebuilding is your key to successfully navigating a post-natural disaster 
renovation. SAFETY FIRST Before jumping right into assessing the damage done to your home or business, it’s important to or ensure the safety of you, your family or your employees. The Federal Trade Commission advises checking the outside of the building for cracks in the foundation or chimney or sagging in the roof. Here are a few more tips: • Never force open any doors that are jammed. • Be careful going inside if the structure appears unstable. • Avoid going near downed power lines. • Do not enter the building if you smell natural gas.

If your home or business has undergone significant damage, your best bet is waiting for utilities and cleanup professionals to assess the situation. HIRING THE RIGHT REBUILDERS Unfortunately, scammers have been known to prey on natural disaster victims to swindle them out of money. According to the FTC, a down payment of one-third the total price when paying a contractor is standard. Pay by check or credit card — never cash. This way there is a paper trail of what you paid and still owe the contractor. When possible, hire a contractor who has been previously used by people you trust.

UTILIZE GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE The federal government could be a great source of funding or support for your unexpected renovation. FEMA has a disaster housing program that provides grants to homeowners for minor but necessary repairs related to weather disasters. You can reach FEMA’s helpline at (800) 621FEMA. The U.S. Small Business Administration offers low-interest loans of up to $200,000 to homeowners to help repair or replace buildings that have been damaged or destroyed. Remember to explore all options during the rebuilding process.



Protecting Plants from Frost Suppose you spend most of the warm weather nurturing and perfecting your outdoor landscaping. In that case, winter’s entry can cause considerable damage to exposed greenery. RECOGNIZING FROST CONDITIONS Paying attention to your local meteorologist can provide a heads up of incoming frost alerts. The Farmer’s Almanac offers helpful tips to recognize its approach.

• Clear sky: Falling afternoon temperatures and cloud-free skies create the perfect conditions for frost development. Once the sun sets, the heat radiates upwards, lowering the temperatures near the ground. However, when clouds are present, they trap the heat and keep warmer conditions lower. • Wind: Even a gentle breeze can prevent cold air from settling near the ground and plants. When your

region faces freezing conditions on a windless day, frost will likely be an issue. • Humidity and moisture: Humidity is a beneficial condition that may protect your plants. When the air is dry,

the soil’s moisture is evaporated, creating a warmth that provides greenery security. Once frost is imminent in your area, it’s crucial to provide your plants with extra levels of protection.

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Winterize your Home Once the temperatures start dropping and the winds pick up, it’s time to start thinking about how to keep your home as cozy as you can during the cooler months. The good news is that the Family Handyman says that winterization is a job that can be done in a single weekend with just a few easy steps. FURNACE If your home has a furnace, you should call your HVAC professional for a tuneup before it’s time for it to start putting in work. This will keep your furnace running efficiently, meaning your bill

stays lower, and it may extend the life of your HVAC system. ADD INSULATION Speaking of keeping those utility bills low, the fall is a great time to check on your insulation and make sure it’s not too packed or broken down. Adding an extra layer of modern insulation is easy to do in attics and crawl spaces, and the protection it gives your home can pay off bigtime. CLEAN GUTTERS The leaves are falling — and that means in your gutters, too. Clean them out before fall’s rains (or snows) hit

so that water flows neatly away from your home. CHECK YOUR PLUMBING While you’re putting in that new insulation, check on your plumbing, particularly any pipes that run through basements or unheated spaces. Wrap your pipes with pipe insulation or, if it gets really cold at your house, run a heat cable under the insulation to avoid burst pipes when the temperatures dip below freezing. RUN SNOWBLOWERS After the first snow fall is not the

time to find out your snow blower isn’t working. Check on it before the season starts and perform any of the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance. If you shovel, check your shovel to make sure it’s free from rust and in good working order. STOCK UP ON SALT AND SAND The time to buy these simple ice-fighters is before the temperatures drop before freezing the first time. Keep plenty of salt and sand on hand to keep your feet firmly on the ground in even the worst of winter weather.


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Decorating for Fall

Fall is one of our favorite seasons for decorating. This year, though, go beyond the traditional orange gourds and dried cornstalks. Here’s how you can pump up your pumpkins this year. PORCH LOOKS If you’re lucky enough to have an open porch, fall is its time to shine. The weather is gorgeous, making porch-sitting a prime autumn idea. And you can deco-

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Pruning? Look up and Live! Ladders and electric lines don’t mix. Increasing the electric load in your home with a new hot tub? Call Douglas PUD to determine if your current transformer can supply your needs. Installing a generator in case of a winter storm? Please consult a professional to ensure proper installation and safety to our lineworkers. Adding some outdoor lighting? Consider fixtures that direct the light towards the ground and minimize light trespass into the night sky. Looking to save money? Sign up for SmartHub paperless billing and auto pay and receive a $10 account credit! More information can be found at douglaspud.org or by calling 509-884-7191


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rate your new outdoor room just for the occasion. Make it memorable by selecting a color scheme that accentuates your existing palette, but don’t be afraid to kick it up with bright colors. Think a punch of orange and fiery red heirloom pumpkins. Don’t be afraid of bright yellows, either, as Pantone picked a sunny yellow as one of the top colors for this fall. GOOD GOURDS Speaking of pumpkins, let’s get out of the or-

ange pumpkin rut. Pumpkins come in a huge variety of colors, including neutral creams and whites, deep jewel greens, blazing reds and hot yellows. Group your pumpkins in complementary colors and pick a variety of shapes so that your pumpkin patch really shines. Bonus points: Decoupage or paint faux pumpkins in any color scheme you like for a personalized peck of pumpkins. COZY UP Come fall, there’s literally no space

that couldn’t use an extra blanket. Elevate your cozy game by displaying throw blankets in a variety of textures and colors that compliment your existing decor. Also consider using blankets in new ways, such as draped over tables as table cloths. TERRIFIC TARTANS Plaid is back this fall, and look for it on throw pillows, blankets, tableware and more. Go beyond the traditional buffalo check, though, and hit plaid patterns in warm jewel tones. Don’t be afraid to

play with pattern and mix and match, using neutral plaids as your base and working up from there. FORAGED FOLIAGE Create gorgeous centerpieces, posies and other arrangements by going nor further than your front yard. Sprays of limbs festooned with colorful leaves, fall grasses and seasonal blooms are all perfect for bringing the outside in this season. Also look for seasonal fruits in jewel tones, such as pears and apples, to dress your table and kitchen.


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Learn to Love the Leaves Fall leaves are lots of fun, unless you’re the one that has to rake them. The good news is you don’t have to rake them this year. Leaves are an important part of the ecosystem, providing fall and winter homes for overwintering insects, including butterflies and other valuable pollinators. MULCHING If you must keep the leaves off your lawn, instead of raking or, even worse, blowing the leaves away, try mulching the leaves into fertilizer for a greener spring. Leave your leaves in the flowerbeds and in other

places that are away from the grass as a home for helpful insects and other pollinators to keep your gardens happy next year. HOW TO MULCH YOUR LEAVES You can mulch your leaves with a lawnmower or a leaf shredder. Mulching the leaves chops them into fine pieces so they don’t smother your grass and so that they break down more quickly into a nutrient-rich fertilizer for your yard. Your lawnmower may have its own mulch setting, or you can buy inexpensive mulching

kits to put on your mower instead of mower blades. Follow the manufacturer’s instruction for those kits, but generally, they are used on the mower’s highest setting. Deep drifts of leaves may require multiple passes, or you can rake the mulched debris so that it’s evenly distributed across your yard. COMPOST Another idea for your leaves is to pile them up or bag them and move them to a safe place in your yard where you can compost them. Leaves can also be piled into flower beds to act

as insulation during the colder winter months. If the leaf litter is too deep and doesn’t break down by spring, just remove them to the compost bin. USING LEAVES FOR WEED PREVENTION Remember how leaves can smother your yard and kill your grass? It also works for weeds. You can spread leaves over patches of weeds to kill them during the fall and winter. More importantly, you can spread leaves or mulched leaves over bare spots in your yard to keep weeds from setting up shop.



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Gutter Maintenance Those gorgeous colored leaves that drop every fall don’t just fall on your yards and flower beds. They also drop on your roofs and gutters, keeping precipitation from moving efficiently and safely away from your home. You can prevent costly roof and home repairs with a little simple maintenance done every fall. STEP 1: TIME TO CLIMB The first step in maintaining your gutters properly is to grab a ladder and safely ascend to the gutter height. Using your hands or any number of available tools, clean all the leaves, debris, dirt and assorted crud from your gutter. STEP 2: CHECK FASTENERS The next thing you want to do is to check the gutter spikes to make sure they pass

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through the gutter, fascia board and into the rafters of your roof. Over time, these spikes can work their way out or they may have never been properly fastened at all. If needed, invest in new gutter spikes to keep your gutters safely secured to your home. While you’re up there, look for holes in the gutters themselves or in the caulking in the seams.

STEP 3: ATTEND TO DOWNSPOUTS While you’re cleaning out the gutters, don’t forget to also clean the downspouts. If these spouts are clogged, it can cause backups that will pull your gutters down from your house. You also want to check the rivets on your downspouts. If the rivets are loose or have dropped out, head the hardware store and get a set of new rivets and a rivet gun

to make quick repairs. At the bottom of the downspout, there may be a splash guard to prevent the water from eroding the earth near your home. Make sure these are routinely replaced to keep your foundations secure. STEP 4: PRESSURE WASH Once you’ve got everything securely fastened, you can then break out the big guns. Pressure

washers are powerful tools, and it’s important that you use them according to the manufacturer’s specific instructions, especially while you’re working up high, such as on ladders cleaning your gutters. Also be careful with positioning the stream from the pressure washer so that it doesn’t hit the roof shingles at the wrong angle and blow them off the roof.



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Attracting Birds to Your Garden Just because winter is rolling in doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to the welcome sights and sounds provided by birds in your backyard. By understanding which foods attract your native fowls and why feeder location matters, you can be treated to their presence throughout the cold. While some birds spend their winters migrating to warmer climates, many use cold-weather tactics to survive. According to the National Audubon Society, they rely on feathers and gain fat to supply insulation. You can help the wildlife in

your area thrive by providing nutritious meals that boost their ability to endure the winter. FILLING FEEDERS The American Horticultural Society suggests that birds lose about seven to 15% of their body fat just trying to keep warm. Like humans, when their body temperature lowers, they use shivering to heat up. This takes a toll on their small stature. Ensure your feeders are filled with healthy berries and favorable seeds to attract numerous species to your backyard. If possible, allow spent flowers to remain until season end so

seeds can mature and provide nutrients for local wildlife. In addition to using a delectable menu, you should also remember to place your feeders one to three feet above the ground. This tactic will invite a wide variety of fowl, including tray and ground feeders. You can also use tube or hopper feeders to welcome more species like finches and cardinals. WATERING Supplying water for backyard birds for winter is just as crucial as during the hot summer months. Follow these tips

from the National Wildlife Federation to ensure the fowls in your area have a fresh source for drinking. • Place baths in a sunny area to make them more visible. • Clean the basin regularly to ensure quality. • Consider installing an immersion-style heater. • Avoid using glycerin for antifreeze as it can be dangerous. In addition to providing food and water, birds also require protection from winter elements and predators. A long-term plan is to plant evergreens in your landscape to create safe havens.



Get Your HVAC Ready for Fall For many parts of the country, fall is a golden season where the air conditioners and heaters aren’t working overtime to keep us comfortable in our homes. It’s also a great time to do routine maintenance on our heating and air conditioning systems to make sure they’re running at peak efficiency. This maintenance can also extend the life of your unit. CLEAN IT UP Clean off the outside unit and keep it clear of debris and dirt, such as falling leaves. If you’re going to use a water hose or pressure washer, make sure you switch off the power at the

circuit first. Take out any branches, tall grass or brush in a four-foot perimeter around the outside unit so that it can get adequate airflow for heating and cooling. Inside, vacuum your vents and register covers to keep your system free of dust and debris. PROTECT IT Insulate any exterior pipes with foam pipe covers wrapped in duct tape and, if you’d like, cover the condenser unit with a plastic or vinyl cover secured well with bungee cords and tape. Take this step only if you know you aren’t going to be running the outside unit. You also want to

regularly change the filter to make sure the system is working easily and efficiently. If you have allergies, you may want to change your filters more frequently than the manufacturer recommends. CALL IN PROFESSIONALS There are some tasks best left to the HVAC professionals. These include clearing drain lines and pipes, cleaning the coils, check the refrigerant charge, belts and ductwork, and performing any needed maintenance. Also have them check your thermostat to make sure it’s properly calibrated for your system. Climate control systems are



complicated and it’s all to easy to mess it up and trigger a bigger repair bill

than you may have had in the first place. For any task you have questions about, call

in the pros first. You may also be able to set up a regular maintenance plan

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Putting Away the Patio Believe it or not, there’s a proper way to put away the patio furniture that stands up to the elements all summer so that they live to entertain again next summer. Winter is often more harsh on summery outdoor furniture, so it’s a good idea to put it away in the fall if you’re not going to be using it during the winter months. Keep reading to learn how to put away all types of patio furniture.

ter, any absorbed moisture can freeze and crack the furniture, so make sure it’s thoroughly dry before sealing it, covering it and putting it away. Begin by washing it thoroughly with a water and detergent and bleach solution and a gentle sponge. Rinse it well and let it dry completely before applying a sealant according to the manufacturer’s instructions, covering it and storing it for the winter.

WOOD FURNITURE Wood can absorb moisture, so wooden outdoor furniture needs to be regularly sealed to keep it protected. During the win-

PLASTIC FURNITURE This material doesn’t absorb moisture, but it does get brittle enough to break, especially if the temperatures

drop below freezing. Store plastic furniture indoors or somewhere where the temperature will stay above freezing. Wash it down with a detergent solution, rinse and allow it to dry before putting it away. METAL FURNITURE The downfall of metal furniture is rust caused by moisture, including winter snows and freezing rain. Before you store metal patio furniture, closely examine it for any rust spots. If you find any, treat it with a rust-neutralizing primer. Smooth the area and then paint it with a paint that matches the original surface. To keep

it in the best shape, coat it with automotive wax and then put it away. CUSHIONS AND FABRICS Mold and mildew will ravage your patio cushions and fabrics during the winter months. Before putting them away, vacuum your cushions and wash them with a bleach-detergent mix or soap and water, depending on your manufacturer’s instructions. Keep fabric patio accessories in a covered shed or storage box and bring them indoors when it rains. Wrap them in tarps and set out traps to keep them safe from rodents.



Rejuvenate Exterior Lighting If you think you would benefit from more illumination, consider upgrading your setup or installing new fixtures. Freezing temperatures are rough on old-fashioned halogen bulbs and can significantly decrease their lifetime and cause performance issues. If you haven’t already, upgrading your lighting systems to LED components can save money on your utility bills while promoting more prolonged use.

According to the Environmental Working Group, LED bulbs are an excellent option for multiple reasons: • They are difficult to break. • LED bulbs do not include mercury, which contains neurotoxins that can damage

the brain, liver, kidneys and the central nervous system. • They are not sensitive to cold climates. • While these highly durable bulbs may cost more than their traditional counterparts, the benefits and savings in ener-

gy use make them a worthy investment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about one million Americans are injured from falls because of these elements. Of these accidents, about 17,000 people die annually.

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Snow Shoveling Alternatives If you live in a region that experiences heavy snow, you likely spend time clearing your driveway. Sure, using a shovel for removal is an excellent form of exercise. Still, it creates a risk for injury or other cold-related illnesses. This winter, avoid extended periods outside with efficient methods to remove snow-covered driveways and sidewalks. The National Safety Council reports that snow shoveling is responsible for thousands of injuries and about 100 deaths each year across the country. While mortality is rare, the risks increase for sedentary people who suddenly exert themselves with heart-straining physical activity. Other factors include the cold weather raising blood pressure and heart rate. The chilly temperatures can also make blood clot easily while restricting arteries. PLOW ATTACHMENTS Suppose you already rely on the power of a tractor, ATV or pickup truck for your daily routine. In that case, you can find attachable plows for the front of these vehicles. When choosing the type of implement to purchase, consider how often you plan to use it and the amount of space you must clear. For smaller areas in regions that don’t see treacherous snowstorms, homeowners can benefit from affordable manual attachments. However, when you

are regularly clearing your driveway, a hydraulic-
powered system may be more appropriate. Be sure to choose a plow that is compatible with your vehicle.

time fee to acquire their services for the season. Consider how often snow falls in your area to determine if the investment is worth the cost.

PROFESSIONAL SERVICE If getting out in the cold and eliminating snow isn’t possible, consider hiring a professional service to remove it for you. When choosing a reputable provider, be sure to ask for references and if they primarily serve residential customers or commercial lots. You must be able to rely on the business to respond to your needs promptly. Keep in mind, some companies require customers to pay a one-

HEATED ASPHALT To eliminate the need for snow removal, research the local costs for installing a heated driveway system. They work by pumping heated water and antifreeze into convoluted tubing that melts any snow collected on the surface. According to Home Advisor, factors like the time of year, soil compaction and nearby trees may require a new driveway to be installed rather than fitting a system to an existing setup.



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