Outdoor Rug Buying Guide

outdoor-rugsRugs can do for outdoors spaces what they’ve been doing for indoor spaces for years—define an area and add color, style and texture. Today’s outdoor rugs are so good-looking, durable and affordable that many of them look great as indoor rugs, too.

Here’s a handful of tips to keep in mind when buying or replacing an outdoor rug:

  • Some are more durable than others, but you can expect to replace an outdoor rug every couple of years if you leave it exposed to the elements year round. They will last longer if you put them in a covered area.
  • Sometimes a good shake and spot clean is all an outdoor rug needs. You can also vacuum it. But for a good cleaning, hang it up, hose it off, and let it dry completely before putting it back.
  • When buying, look for a label that says 100 percent polypropylene. The tag should also say that the rug is UV-stabilized to resist fading, mold and mildew.
  • Because outdoor rugs are made of synthetic, durable, all-weather materials, they’re a good option for indoors, too, especially in high-traffic areas and mudrooms.
  • If you are trying to decide between a hand-made or a machine-made rug, consider this: Machine-made rugs are lighter, they dry faster, and they are better for exposed areas. Handmade may have a higher pile and feel softer, but they hold water and will stay soggy longer.
  • Add a mesh pad under the rug if it’s slipping. A pad will also make it look thicker.
  • When picking an outdoor rug, determine the size. In a seating area, at least all front legs of furniture should be on the rug. In a dining area, all legs should be on the rug even when chairs are scooted out.
  • Current popular designs include bold colors and patterns, particularly florals, botanicals, and geometrics.

Outdoor Lighting Tops The List Of Easy Weekend Projects

outdoor lightingSummer is a great time for outdoor home improvement projects, but it’s also supposed to be a time to relax and have fun with family and friends. That makes quick-to-do projects that add to the “family fun factor” appealing to homeowners, who also need to spend their limited home improvement dollars wisely.

If you are looking for an easy project that will make an immediate difference in your summertime quality of life, add outdoor lights to your deck or patio. Lighting can turn your outdoor space into an entertaining place and a favorite new spot for hanging out on warm summer evenings.

Deck lighting offers immediate pay-back in terms of style, comfort and safety. The professional craftsmen at Handyman Matters can come to your home and help install outdoor lighting on your deck or patio, in your yard, on your house or wherever you would like.

Recessed lighting along a deck, porch or stairs not only adds a festive and cheery appearance, but provides an increased safety factor, as well.  This year, there are many new lighting products available, offering a wide variety of solutions for illuminating your deck and yard to its best effect, and most types are easy to install.  Handyman Matter professionals can provide helpful tips, or if this type of do-it-yourself seems too intimidating, call your local Handyman Matters office and they can yield quick results for you.

No matter what type of deck, patio, or back yard arrangement you have, there are lighting opportunities that will best accent your specific set-up. Our craftsmen are experts at outdoor lighting installation, giving decks and porches a quick and impressive facelift while providing a welcoming place for entertaining guests or simply enjoying your back yard on balmy summer evenings.

Check out www.HandymanMatters.com for more information on both lighting and deck and patio remodeling tips. And click here to find a location near you or call 866-FIX-MY-HOME (866-349-6946).

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Ten Simple Ways To Make Your Home Safe For Every Generation Who Lives In It

Most of us start life depending on our parents to take care of us. But as they age, chances are the roles will reverse. And, whether you provide additional help in their own homes – or move aging parents into your home – how do you prepare to meet the new needs of aging adults? Luckily many simple, quick, affordable – and even stylish and savvy – updates can  make homes safer and more enjoyable for you, your family and your parents. Here are some tips from Handyman Matters:

De-clutter: Both kids and older adults have reduced reflexes and balance. Spruce up the look of your home – and avoid tripping hazards – by removing clutter and items you no longer use (especially obstacles in walkways).

safe shower for seniorsSafe shower: Showers can be an enjoyable and luxurious part of anyone’s day – if they are safe. While you probably don’t want to renovate the shower, simple additions of bath safety products can make it safer and more enjoyable. Start by adding rubber grips to the bottom of the shower to avoid slick surfaces. Next, take a seat with a comfortable shower chair and enjoy a shower massage with a multi-function hand held shower head. You might also want to consider adding some grab bars around the shower to ensure entry and exit from the shower are safe.

Save resources, save money: Eco-friendly adjustments not only can make you feel good about preserving natural resources for your family, they can also help lower energy costs (ideal for tight budgets). Simple steps can include replacing standard light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, insulating doors and windows and swapping faucets and shower heads with new water-saving models.

Handy handles: In the course of a day, you grip many objects – from cups and pens, to door knobs and faucet handles. Swapping out door knobs or faucets with knobs for lever-handle models can make these everyday tasks a bit easier – especially for smaller or arthritic hands.

Get a grip: For any age, stairs are a falling hazard in homes – whether it’s one step or 20. To increase safety, add hand rails or decorative hand grips in high-traffic doorways where there may be a step, such as the garage or front entry.

Let there be light: Did you also know that by age 60 the average person requires 15 times more lighting than when they were 10 years old? Brighten up the home with additional reading lamps in bedrooms and family rooms, under-cabinet task lighting in the kitchen, motion-sensor lights near entrances and night lights in hallways.

Safe and secure: Your home is your safe haven … so make sure it is protected. In the bathroom where slick surfaces can be falling hazards, add functional – yet fashionable – grab bars. And, in case of unforeseen falls or other home accidents, home security systems can give you peace of mind to know that fire-, medical- or emergency-response is available for you and your loved ones at the touch of a button.

Flat flooring: According to the Home Safety Council, falls are the leading cause (66 percent) of all nonfatal home injuries. To help you – or your loved ones – avoid becoming a statistic, remove throw rugs or ensure that they have a non-slip backing to provide more firm footing.

Low-maintenance lawns: With busy lifestyles, it’s tough to keep up landscaping. Making a few modifications to the yard can help ease the burden. Replace large grassy areas that require frequent mowing with rock gardens or mulch beds. Additionally, choose drought-resistant perennial plants and shrubs to save time and money on watering – and ensure you don’t have to plant new each spring.

Be prepared: Are the washer and dryer in the basement? Are the bedroom and bathroom upstairs? Since stairs can be difficult to navigate for children or aging parents, having all the necessities on one floor is ideal. While it may not be in the budget to move everything to the main floor now, gradually start getting ready by wiring a closet or small room for the laundry – or planning to expand a half bath to a full bath.

With a few minor updates, you can breathe easier knowing your home is safer for your loved ones – both young and old. For more information on safety products and other helpful tips or assistance in  “safe-proofing” your home, contact your local Handyman Matters location today. Click here to find a location near you or call 866-FIX-MY-HOME (866-349-6946).

Wood Or Synthetic? Selecting The Right Type Of Decking

Selecting the right kind of deckingDecks have traditionally been made from wood, and even now, the vast majority of decks are built from lumber. But in the last several years, there has been a shift to synthetics, including composite and PVC decking. The chief reason for this has been homeowners’ desire for low-maintenance.

Improved technology has led to reliable synthetic products that look just like wood, and the increased popularity of these is due chiefly to the fact that composite and PVD decks need only simple cleaning to keep their brand-new look. Wood requires periodic repainting or re-staining to retain its color and prevent rot.

From a cost standpoint, wood remains significantly cheaper than composite, however.

The current trend is toward smaller decks, as well as customized decking and a greater variety in choices for balusters and railings. There are additional options, as well: multi-levels, design insets, built-in benches and glass with deck boards as a top rail.

Many homeowners are now specifying newer tropical or exotic synthetic decking that emulates the look of tropical hardwood without the upkeep. Those who want real tropical hardwood but who have environmental concerns can select wood species that originate from well-managed and sustainable forest which operate under strict government guidelines.

Pressure treated wood has had preservative chemicals forced into the wood under pressure. This treatment extends the life of wood against decay and termite attack. It is available in a wide species including southern yellow pine, red pine, Douglas fir, eastern hemlock and sub-alpine fir, to name just a few. It is important to note, though, that because of the chemicals that pressure treated wood contain, they must be disposed of properly and never burned.

Whether to install synthetic deck materials or wood decking depends on the homeowner’s budget, how the deck will be used, and personal preference. As when you undertake any remodeling or repair job, a little up-front research will produce the best long-term results.

(with information gleaned from “Inside Out,” by Jean Feingold, in Professional Remodeler Magazine)

Inspecting Your Home And Business For Water Damage

Water Damage RepairMost home or business owners assume that water damage prevention is much more difficult than it really is. Fortunately, all it really takes is regular inspections and maintenance of both the exterior and interior of a home or business to greatly reduce any chances of costly water damage. For additional help or information with water damage prevention, any qualified contractor or local water utility personnel should be able to provide you with assistance.

For the Exterior

• A professional roofing contractor should be employed to repair any and all deteriorated or damaged roofing materials.

• Soffits, siding, trim or flash should be checked for deterioration.

• Eaves, gutters, and downspouts should be free of debris to allow water to drain freely. They should also point away from your home or business’s foundation.

• Inspect attic insulation and ventilation to help extend the life of your roof.

• Basements or crawl spaces should be inspected for any signs of dampness or stagnant water. This could be a sign of a plumbing leak or improper damage.

• Keep water pipes that are exposed to freezing temperatures or drafts well insulated to reduce the possibility of leaks.

• Disconnect outside hose connections during the fall and winter to avoid burst pipes due to freezing.

For the Interior

• Check your home or business thoroughly for any signs of leaks on ceilings, walls, floors and near appliances that use water.

• Double check water hose connections that run to washing machines, icemakers, dishwashers, and other appliances that might use water.

• Sinks, showers and tubs should be re-caulked or re-grouted to prevent moisture from seeping into tight spaces and creating mold.

• Washing machine hoses should be checked and replaced regularly, especially when there are signs of cracking, bulging or other deterioration.

• All water oriented appliances and equipment should be inspected and well maintained.

• Contain small hot water heater leaks by placing small pans under the leak area to catch water.

It’s important to stay on top of home or business maintenance when it comes to preventing costly water damage. Water damage can lead to the need of mold remediation and even general construction. Contacting a professional can help you prevent water damage in your home or business. It’s an “easy fix,” as long as you stay on top of the situation!

Common Outdoor Lighting Mistakes

By Melinda Cayetano

outdoor lighting ideas for your homeUpgrading your home’s exterior lighting is a surefire way to increase your home’s curb appeal and resell value. And a well-lit front lawn can also deter would-be burglars. Most of all, the outdoor lighting of one’s home adds a welcoming touch for family and guests.

It’s important to give a considerable amount of thought to the placement of your outdoor lights. Just as you would not place several lighting fixtures like table lamps or wall sconces in a single area of your living room, you don’t want to place exterior fixtures too close together, either. This is a common problem when integrating pathlights into your outdoor lighting solution. Too many pathlights, too close together can make your walkway look more like the runway at an airport. Instead of placing the lights directly opposite one another on either end, try a staggered approach. The light will flow less harshly.

Another common mistake in selecting outdoor lights is in finding the proper lighting direction; you’ll want to curtail “light pollution.” Outdoor lights should not obstruct one’s vision or interfere with one being able to see the entire landscape of a yard or area clearly. On a similar note, the lights should not shine directly into the road or a neighboring yard either. To avoid such issues, look for spotlights with glare guards.

Just as it would be boring to find the same exact lamp in every room of one’s home, it’s boring to see the same outdoor lighting fixture repeated throughout the yard. It can make the home appear institutional as opposed to personal. Use a wide variety of fixtures to light your yard; it will enhance the character and charm of your home.

Be sure to balance your home’s exterior lighting. Another common mistake in outdoor lighting placement, is to inadvertently divide the yard by placing too many lights in one area and too little in another. You want to evenly distribute light throughout the canvas of your home. You don’t want your yard looking like a parking lot.

Finally, like most things in home décor, less is more. Outdoor lighting should call attention to the beautiful and unique features of your home. It should not be intrusive. Proper outdoor lighting calls attention to various parts of your home’s exterior, not the entire surface area.

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.

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.

How To Keep Your Yard and Garden Primed Throughout The Growing Season


spring flower gardenEven though spring is upon us, there are still a variety of things you can do to keep your garden and yard primed for the growing season and into the summer. Your house isn’t the only place that needs a good spring cleaning; the exterior of your home could use it as well. Grab a notepad and take a walk through the vicinity, making notes here and there. Not only is this a great way to organize your “attack” on the ground, but it’s an opportunity to get out in the fresh air, get a little exercise, and anticipate the summer days ahead.

Here are some things you can tackle right now:

Shrubs and Trees

Prune off broken or cracked branches damaged in winter. You can tackle damaged twigs with pruners, but those branches that are 2 inches in diameter or larger need to be removed in sections so that the weight doesn’t tear the bark as they fall.

Perennials

Dig up and divide perennials that were getting too large last year. Signs that these had “outgrown” their livings space include reduced flowering, pale, off-color leaves, or smaller, puny stems. Break apart root-clumps using a knife or shovel blade and then replant smaller, healthy sections. If these are spring bloomers (tulips, iris, etc.), wait until they’ve finished flowering. Late summer bloomers can be divided and replanted by April.

Seed Heads

Snip the stalks and dried seed heads from plants left from last autumn. Remove these and dead leaves so that overwintering insects and disease aren’t a problem. Clip the stalks about two inches above the sleeping foliage.

Roses

Rose bushes are a class unto themselves, and they aren’t “one size fits all.”  All need pruning, but know your rose-types. Keep in mind that the timing is crucial, because trimming will stimulate new growth, leaving the plants vulnerable to subsequent frosts. If your rose flowers just once a year, then it’s best to wait until the blooming is done to do your pruning. Clip the branches at a 30- to 45-degree angle, and do so a quarter of an inch above a live bud.

Ornamental Grasses

Use caution when cutting these down. Wear eye protection, long sleeves and gloves. Most ornamental grass leaves are finely toothed and readily able to cut unprotected hands and fingers. A good technique for trimming is to wrap a bungee cords tightly around the grass so that it lifts the leaves up high, resembling a sheaf of wheat. Then prune by lopping the grasses about six inches from the ground. Hand pruners or a small saw will work well for this.

Lawn

Corn gluten can be an effective pre-emergent weed killer and also serves as a nitrogen fertilizer for your grass. Apply this two to four weeks ahead of  the typical weed-emergent dates in your area. Use a core aerator to punch 3-inch deep holes in the lawn to fill in bare spots in the grass and reduce thatch, then use a drop spreader to spread grass seed immeidately after the aerating. Sprinkle your lawn with water every day for several weeks until the seeds sprout.

These are a few handy tips for “pre-preparing” your yard and garden for the spading, tilling and planting that will follow, and will make those steps of the process easier for having paved the way with some organized spring cleaning first. And of course, if yardwork and gardening isn’t exactly your thing, keep in mind your local Handyman Matters location. We’re happy to help out.