Decorative Gardening Items You DON’T Have To Water

backyard items you don't have to waterGardening relieves you of accumulated stress and brings relaxation to mind. It is an art, and you can gather knowledge from various sources to attain mastery in the field. And when the earth-tilling, planting and weeding are done, here are some ways you can sit back and enjoy the “fruits” of your efforts:

Backyard benches

Benches and swings are a great way to add delight to your garden set-up. Situated within the natural environment, these provide solace, a great view, and a good way to simply sit back and take in the results of your hard work.

You’ll want to consider the climactic conditions of your region before selecting the bench that works best for you, however. Wooden garden benches fit nicely into the natural garden set-up, but bad weather will take its toll on outdoor furniture. People living in extreme weather conditions may opt for cast aluminum benches which come in a wide variety of styles and can provide enjoyment for many years. They are available with cushioned seating and luxurious finishing that are comfortable and fit nicely with the garden surroundings.

Garden swings

These swings aren’t just for kids anymore! Adults can find equal delight in the ability to sway back and forth gently in natural surroundings. There are many varieties of ready-made swings available in the market, both wooden and metal. You can also consider swinging benches, which are a little more controlled and subdued, but still provide a pleasant rocking sensation.

Additional decorating ideas

And don’t stop there. What type of garden do you have in mind? A rock garden? A Japanese style layout? Various stone sculptures and water wheels can add to the overall effect. Also consider fountains, small pools, fencing ideas and birdhouses, which can add an entirely new element of charm to your backyard haven.

Proper attention and a wide imagination can transform your back yard in any number of charming ways, and most can be achieved on a modest budget. A quick trip to your local nursery or a gardening outlet will bring a wealth of ideas you can carry home and implement on your own.

Don’t Let That Kitchen Remodel Budget Get Away From You!

spending too much money on your kitchen remodel?A kitchen remodel can be quite the undertaking.  You may only be updating a few things or taking on the entire room, floor to ceiling. Either way, you’ll agree it’s a time investment. But it can also be a colossal money investment, especially if you don’t plan before you start knocking down walls. Budgeting in general is not easy, and remodels have a way of running over your apportioned amount. But with some careful planning, you can avoid the dilemma of a runaway budget. Here are some things to help you keep things under control:

How Much To Spend on Your Remodel

First, you need to know how much you have to spend on the remodel. You can find a helpful budget worksheet on The National Association of the Remodeling Industry website. Ask yourself: How long do I plan to live in the house? What debts do I have?  What is my gross monthly income? These things will largely determine what you put into your remodel. Having the overall number you have to work with will help you move onto what you can reasonably and realistically remodel.

Where to Spend Your Budget

What means the most to you? Granite countertops? Stainless steel appliances? Focus on the priority and compromise or scale back on the things that are of lesser importance.  Think about the things that are more permanent (cabinets and tile) that you won’t be replacing soon, if ever. It may be worth investing a little more in those things.

Allocate about one-third of your budget for labor costs. Of course, you may be able to save in this department by enlisting the skills of family and friends. Even if it’s just the demolition phase (removing old countertops, for instance), you might be able to save money to put towards other features.

Always leave a financial pillow. Expect the unexpected. Especially with older homes, problems may arise during demolition or you may have to make changes in what you plan to buy.

These are just a few simple things to keep in mind before you begin the renovations. A little careful planning will go a long way toward a smoother kitchen remodel and also make those unexpected surprises a little less ugly than they might be otherwise.

Design A Room Around Your Favorite Item

design a room around your favorite itemA great way to find inspiration for room design is to find a piece of furniture or art that you love, and build off of it.  For example, you find a beautiful red leather chair with chocolate brown legs that you have to have.  From that one item, you could easily build your entire room design around it.

A popular trend in current design is to use monochromatic colors—different shades of the same color—to add subtle differences that will give your room depth and accent without being jarring.  Additionally, adding white to a darker room will make things “pop” against the darker colors.  Imagine, for example, a white table or floor lamp to create contrast.  And of course, the opposite works if you are dealing with a lighter colored room.

Remember that red leather chair with the chocolate brown legs?  Take a closer look at those legs; perhaps you can find a side table or coffee table with a wood-style or color that will complement the chair.  Conversely, you can also select lighter shades of brown or tan to provide contrast.

The most important thing to remember when designing your room is to do what makes you happy.  Find that one piece you absolutely love, and the rest of the room will fall into place.  Just remember that no room will ever be perfect to everyone, so do what you love.  After all, the odds are that you’ll be spending more time there than anyone else!

How To Save Water At Home

how to save water at homeIn this precarious economy, people are always looking for additional ways to save some money.  And with summer upon us, there’s an automatic increased water usage.  Here are a few simple tips for reducing water-waste around the house.

TURN OFF THE TAPS

About nine liters of water are wasted if the tap is left open while you brush your teeth or while you wash fruits and vegetables.

–       Save the cold water that comes through before a tap runs hot, and use it to water plants.

–       Keep a jug of water in the fridge instead of waiting for the tap to run cold.

–       Turn off the tap when you’re shaving or brushing your teeth.

–       Wash fruits and vegetables in a bowl full of water rather than under a running tap.

FLUSH LESS WATER DOWN THE TOILET

Flushing is responsible for almost a third of a home’s water usage.  You likely flush away as much water in a day as you drink in an entire week.

–       Install a water saving device—a bag or brick in the cistern of a higher flush toilet.

–       When buying a new toilet, choose a water-saving low-flush or dual-flush version.

–       Fit a variable flushing device to an existing higher-flush toilet.

–       Throw cotton wool, sanitary products and other waste in the wastebasket, not the toilet.

TAKE SHORTER SHOWERS

Most commercial showers are not water efficient; they’ll consume more water than a bath if they last more than five minutes.  One minute off in your shower time for a family of five will save 15,000 liters of water a year.

FIX DRIPPING TAPS AND LEAKS

A dripping tap wastes 16 liters of water a day.  A new washer costs pennies, can be fitted in minutes, and saves both water and money.

Put lagging on your outside pipes to help avoid burst pipes and leaks in winter.

USE WATERLESS CAR WASH

Waterless car wash allows you to clean your car without using copious amount of H20.  According to The Environmental Protection Association, traditional car washing with conventional soap and a hose can waste up to 116 gallons of water per wash.

Browse the Internet to discover a variety of waterless car wash products.  Utilizing one of these will save you not just water, but time, money and effort, as well!

Learn How To Clean Concrete (And Keep It Clean)

how to keep your concrete cleanIt’s a fair bet that keeping your sidewalks and concrete driveway clean isn’t high on your maintenance list. But it’s something you shouldn’t let slide for too long.

Concrete is a porous material and accumulates dust and grime quickly, among other substances. Regular cleaning and maintenance helps keep these surfaces pristine and the space healthy. And it comes as no surprise that the longer a stain has been there, the more difficult it will be to remove it.

For starters, sealing your walks and driveway with a quality concrete sealer not only makes subsequent cleaning much easier, but it also extends the life and quality of these surfaces.

As with any area of your home, regular cleaning and maintenance of the concrete helps to avoid longer-term problems. This involves simple steps and materials—brooms, mops and cleansers. Develop a regular schedule for keeping the surface looking good, and you’re already ahead of the game.

Keep it simple. Don’t go for complicated procedures when simpler options are available.  Standard degreasers containing concentrated citrus juice, mild detergent and soda can remove most stains. Apply these to the stains and allow them to settle for a period of time.  Kitty litter and sawdust are good for absorbing grease stains. Mildew can be removed with the application of ice or aerosol freezing agents.

Power washing helps to dislodge stubborn dirt, but be sure you’ve swept away all loose debris first.

Over time, fungal and bacterial growth will occur, and you may reach a point where the most efficient and speediest means for cleaning the concrete will be to hire professionals.  They have the right equipment and training to remove those stains that have eluded your best efforts.

Whatever method you chose, once you’ve finished cleaning, then arrange for the application of a concrete sealer before dirt and other things have the opportunity to return and mar your clean and healthy looking sidewalks, steps and other surfaces!

The Art Of Landscape And Garden Edging

Garden edging for your gardenThere are a variety of reasons for incorporating landscape edging into your yard’s design.  Consider it for something as simple as cutting down on the amount of mowing you’ll have to do, to prevent weed and grass “migration,” or as an easy and quick way to add visual interest to your yard.

There are a variety of edging options available to you, depending on your taste, the layout of your property, and the overall look you want to achieve.

Plastic edging is a popular choice because it’s inexpensive, flexible and easy to install.  However, this type rests partially above ground and is easily damaged by a lawn mower or trimmer.  Also plastic edging is susceptible to frost and often requires readjustment after cold seasons.

Steel edging is durable and low-maintenance.  It’s also flexible and installed in the same way as plastic edging.  It holds up well in cold weather, but is more expensive than plastic edging.

Brick concrete pavers or natural stone come in a wide variety of colors, shapes and styles and requires little maintenance, as well.  Brick and paver edgings can function as a mowing strip, simplifying cutting grass.  However, they require more space and more work to install:  You’ll need to put down landscape fabric first as well as an inch or so of coarse sand to create a level surface.

If you are using edging to create a separate flower bed, make a scale drawing first.  Experiment with different types of plants to see what works best in your designated space, taking into consideration size, amount of sunlight/shade and moisture.  Don’t forget the plan for the additional space plants will need when they reach their mature size.

Narrow your planting selection to a few complementary species and repeat those plants in groups of three-five, seven or more. When it comes to design, odd numbers are more aesthetically pleasing.

Consider types of mulch, as well.  Mulch helps to protect plants and limit weeds in a landscape bed.  Chipped mulch consists of bark and wood chips, but won’t hold together well on slopes.  Shredded mulch holds together, but is more expensive and needs replenishing more often.  Stone mulch is low-maintenance, but can become hot and even burn plants during warm seasons.  Also consider winter mulch such as straw or hay.  It will insulate plans during cold seasons and prevents thawing and refreezing, as well as winter dying.

Edging—whether simply to keep your grass or weeds from spreading, or as a design element to partition off flowerbeds—is attractive, tidy and helps to define your yard and gardens.

Benefits Of Priming Before You Paint

Painting is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to change the look of your home. It’s also a project that even the most inexperienced do-it-yourselfer can do with confidence. With thousands of colors from which to choose, it’s the perfect way to express your unique style and personality at a fraction of the cost of other home improvement projects. Yet even experienced do-it-yourselfers sometimes neglect the first and most important step in achieving the perfect paint job: priming.

how to paint the interior of your homeProfessional Handyman Matters Craftsmen know that the key to a beautiful paint job isn’t buying the most expensive paint.

They know that one coat of primer and one coat of paint will give them a better, longer-lasting paint job than two coats of paint. That’s why they prime first, then paint.

Paint is formulated with more pigment than resin to provide rich, beautiful color. Primers are resin-rich to provide the ideal foundation for paint. You can’t expect a paint, or a paint-and-primer-in-one product to do the job of a high-quality stain-blocking primer.

our recommended primer before you paint

Having a sealed, stain-free surface is the key to getting the best paint job possible, and this is accomplished by using one coat of primer and one coat of paint.

Here are just some of the benefits of priming before you paint:

  • Priming saves you time and money. Primers are formulated to seal the surface – and when the surface is sealed, you use less paint. No more multiple coats of paint to get an even, consistent finish. If you tint a quality primer, one coat of primer and one coat of paint is usually all you need for a great-looking paint job. Just ask the paint desk to tint your primer toward the color of your paint. Since a gallon of primer is less expensive than a gallon of paint, you’ll save money too.
  • Priming makes paint colors richer. Primers hide previous colors – even the darkest blues and deepest reds – and prevent them from showing through and changing the color of your paint. Your paint colors will be more vibrant and beautiful if you prime first.
  • Primers block stains. Most stains – water stains, crayon and marker, lipstick or nicotine – will bleed right through paint. This is where primers earn their reputation: they seal in stains and prevent them from ruining your paint job. New advanced technology water-based primers take the guesswork out of primer selection because they block all stains – even water stains – so you start your paint job with a clean canvas.
  • You can paint anything if you prime first. If you’ve ever tried to paint a slick surface like vinyl or plastic with paint alone, chances are it just didn’t stick. Primers are formulated for tenacious paint adhesion to all surfaces, so you can paint anything – even ceramic tile and Formica cabinets – when you use a primer as your first coat.
  • Primers make your paint job last longer. Primers prevent common paint problems like cracking, peeling and blistering and your paint will retain its original color longer, so you’ll have to paint less often.

Handyman Matters craftsmen are available to provide a helping hand giving your home interior a fresh new look – whether painting a room or a complete make over.  The professionals at Handyman Matters can help take care of all of your interior projects – no matter how small! Find a location near you or call 866-FIX MY HOME, today.

10 Ways To Save Money On Home Improvement Tips

This post is from Rob Jones, chief blogger and marketer at online flooring and other building materials company, BuildDirect. Rob writes about how to save money and stay within budget during a tough economy.

save money on home improvementThe simple fact is this. Sometimes, home improvements still need to be done, even in a struggling economy.

Sometimes this is because recessions tend to make selling properties harder, which creates a need to spruce up a property to make it more salable. Or, a home improvement project could be about necessary maintenance when you plan to stay in a property, which seems a more common trend these days. And the tendency for things to wear down over time doesn’t heed a recession.

So, what do you do when saving money on these kinds of projects isn’t just a nice-to-have? Well, here are 10 ways to make the most of your home improvement budget, whether you’re looking to do it yourself, to hire a professional, or some combination of the two.

1. Research, Knowledge, and Planning.
OK, I suppose these are really three items here. But, they’re related. And maybe this is an obvious one you’ve already taken into account. But, that’s how important this aspect of things is. Spending the time in getting a base of knowledge about building materials, budget concerns, and reputable contractors is your best bet to outlining where best to spend your money with the most return on your investment. Simply put, planning ahead and getting a bird’s eye view can help you avoid costly oversights at all stages of your project.

2. Hire A Reputable Contractor
When it comes to hiring credible contractors, it is smarter to pay more to get things right the first time, than it is to continually pay more later to address errors. And when interviewing prospects for home improvement contracts, don’t forget to ask your contractor the right questions. In the end, the right person for the job works out to be much cheaper.

3. Be a Savvy Negotiator
Part of keeping within budget is all in the negotiation skills. When you’ve engaged a contractor (see above), make sure that you have control of the pricing, especially when it comes to payment upon satisfactory completion of a job. Even when shopping for materials, your negotiation skills can make all of the difference to staying within your budget. But, more on that in a second.

4. Shop For Your Own Materials
Maintaining control over your own budget is important, once you’ve done your research. If you can cut down on the time a contractor will spend on research and shopping for you can also cut down on your bill when the job is done. And you can ensure that the materials used are top quality, and that no corners are cut to preserve your contractor’s fee.

5. Buy Online
OK, disclosure time. If you haven’t noticed, I work for a company that sells building materials online. So, this may look kind of self-serving. But, the simple fact is this; when companies don’t have the overhead costs of bricks-and-mortar locations, there are savings to be had. And (in our case) the demands of getting building materials in large quantities directly from the place they’re made and into your hands when you need them will cost you less without sacrificing on quality. When in the position where a large scale project is an absolute requirement, buying online with these conditions in place is your best option.

6. Get Those Manufacturer Rebates!
In this age of green building, and in heavy competition between manufacturers for your consumer dollar, it makes sense to see where you can leverage offered rebates and incentives related to energy savings after a purchase. This is the part where your research can allow you to see who has the most compelling rebate program. Make it one of the first things you ask , particularly when buying tools or appliances.

7. Concentrate On The Smaller Projects
As the Good Book, and 60s folk-rockers the Byrds (via Pete Seeger), tell us: for everything, there is a season (turn, turn, turn, if you will). Sometimes, those big jobs, as important as they are, can wait while a recession rages. In the meantime, there are often smaller, and therefore less costly, projects that can make a big difference to how comfortable your are in your home. Completed smaller projects can make an unexpected difference not only to the look of your space, but to how you experience it, too.

8. Use Re-Purposed Materials
You’d be surprised what people will give away for free or sell very cheaply, including materials that you can re-purpose for your home improvement projects. Check out Craigslist to see about things like mirrors, or used lumber, or extra tiles leftover from someone else’s project. Otherwise, if there’s a rebuilding center nearby, investigate it to find what you’re looking for. Not only is it a smarter use of your resources, it’s a smarter use of everyone’s resources.

9. Invest in Efficiency
Maybe it seems counter-intuitive, but when it comes to things like new, Energy Star appliances, an upfront costs can make all the difference to a long term expense. This is what I mean by investing in efficiency. Energy Star appliances, new windows, and even bigger ticket items like skylights which reduce your need for lighting during daylight hours, can take a chunk right out of your energy bills. And if you’re looking to re-sell at some point, it can add to the sale price too.

10. Do-It-Yourself
In the end, this is a great question to ask: can I do that job myself? As mentioned, sometimes hiring a professional is absolutely the more inexpensive thing to do in terms of avoiding costly errors, and saving on the time spent. But, depending on your skills and experience, sometimes taking care of that key project yourself is just the ticket. Seek out seminars on things like flooring installation, or tile setting. Lowes and Home Depot regularly host them for free. And then, go for it! The pride of accomplishment can be a significant benefit to go along with the money you can save.

Rob authors the BuildDirect blog and the BuildDirect Green Building blog, too. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuildDirect.

June Home Maintenance Tips

June is here! Here is a short home repair checklist to help you avoid expensive repairs later and keep your home safe and efficient.

  • Tighten Loose Screws & Nails on Porches & Fences – Wood expands and contracts with changing temperatures and weather.  Boards will loosen and warp if not maintained.  To ensure your porch or fence lasts, tighten screws and hammer protruding nails carefully to make sure you don’t cause the wood to crack by over tightening.
  • Test & Adjust Gates – The bottom boards can break and gates can sag as they get older.  Boards may need to be replaced and sagging can be fixed by adding diagonal cross bars of woven metal or wood to straighten.  Gates can also sag if they do not have enough hinges.  To save money, many fences are built with 2’ x 3’s instead of 2’ x 4’s and 2 or 3 hinges are used instead of 4.  If a sagging gate has less than 4 hinges, adding hinges will prevent future sagging.
  • Clean & Seal Fence and Porch Area – Do this once each year to extend fence and porch life.  Make sure that once you use one kind of product for this that you continue to only use the same type product every year in the future to prevent any incompatibility problems.
  • Fill Up All Sinks & Check Drains for Leaks – Visually check for leaks and check drain speed by filling up sinks and watching how fast they drain.  If you’ve noticed water build up in the sink, while using it, it’s at least partially clogged.  Use a natural product like Bio-Clean to unclog your drainpipes.
  • Change Furnace Air Filters – Filter out allergens and keep your furnace running efficiently by changing your air filters.  We recommend microbial type filters. Change monthly or as recommended by manufacturer.
  • Test All Smoke or CO Detectors Push the button on the unit to check it – a few minutes doing this each month could save your family’s life in a fire.
  • Have Air Ducts Cleaned Every Other Year – It’s important to make sure the service you choose uses equipment that sucks and scrapes anything inside the ducts out to their truck or at least outside your house.  Make sure to use a service that provides video of the before and after and that any seams that need to be patched are patched with metal tape, not fabric.