Author Archives: Tempe Thompson

About Tempe Thompson

Tempe Thompson is a sales and inventory expert at Runyon Equipment Rental. She has over 35 years of experience and has accumulated a tremendous amount of knowledge and expertise. She could talk for hours about how to use all of Runyon's tools and equipment, in addition to suggesting which type corresponds to a certain application.

They’re Coming! Take Steps Now to Battle the Bugs

They’re Coming! Take Steps Now to Battle the BugsMany bugs are dormant over the Winter months. Once Spring arrives, they are back in full force. While you are working on Spring yard projects, remember to practice some preventative pest control. Head pests off at the pass before they can invade your home and garden.

Boost Pest Control Effectiveness

Taking steps now will keep you bug-free in the Summer months ahead. Whether you choose chemical or natural pest control, you can take steps to boost their effectiveness around your home. Here are a few suggestions on where to begin.

7 Proactive Steps for Battling Bugs

  1. Remove standing water and fix leaks – Don’t give mosquitos a place to breed. If you have a water fountain, treat it with drop-in mosquito pellets. Keep your pump working because moving water does not allow them to lay eggs.
  2. Clean gutters – Avoid letting leaves block downspouts by cleaning them twice a year.
  3. Remove yard debris – Fallen piles of leaves and tree branches are prime hiding places for mosquitos and other pests. They also spread mold and fungus throughout your garden.
  4. Seal your home – Look for cracks in your foundation, around windows and exterior pipes. Bugs can use these to enter the home. Replace old door seals as well.
  5. Deny access to food – Hang bird feeders away from the house, keep pet food in airtight containers and make sure garbage cans have properly fitting lids.
  6. Fence your garden – Install a wire fence around your vegetable garden.
  7. Cover large openings – Use wire mesh or hardwire cloth to cover openings like attic fans and roof vents. This will keep squirrels out. Check chimney caps to see if they need to be replaced.

Leaks and Moisture Encourage Pest Problems

Pests are attracted to moisture. By eliminating leaks or other moisture issues you can solve the majority your insect problems. Start by inspecting your crawlspace and foundation for moisture seepage. Seal any cracks with caulk or compound cement. If you have a drainage problem around your foundation, consider re-grading the landscaping to drain water away. Channel downspouts in a new direction.

Be Careful Using Insecticides Around Pets and Children

Treating around the perimeter of your home with insecticide is one way to stop bugs from entering your home. Though many products claim to be safe for humans and pets, use caution when applying. Keep children and pets inside while spraying and then for a couple hours afterward to allow the chemicals to dry.

Go Natural with Your Pest Protection

If you are worried about harmful toxins in chemical pesticides, try some natural alternatives. Insecticide soaps are made from organic products and are quite effective. If you want to avoid spraying chemicals of any sort, here are a few ideas:

  • Plant Lavender or Rosemary near your patio or deck to ward off mosquitos.
  • Sprinkle Cinnamon in a child’s sandbox to keep ants out.
  • Mix white vinegar and water to spray on spiders and their webs.
  • Carry dryer sheets in your pocket to keep mosquitos and gnats away.
  • Sprinkle citrus peels around plants infested with mites or spiders.
  • Grapefruit rinds attract slugs; once they take hold you can throw them in trash.
  • Crushed Basil in your cabinets will deter cockroaches.
  • Use Ladybugs to get rid of aphids on your roses.

Welcome Natural Insect Predators to Your Garden

If you want to up the ante, invite natural predators like swallows, finches or even bats to share your garden. Install a bat house in a tree away from your home. Bats sleep during the day and hunt for insects at night. You will probably never see them, although you may notice a decrease in the number of mosquito bites you endure.

Don’t Let Insects Ruin Your Day

Be proactive in fighting pests this year. A few changes around the house can make all the difference. Take the time to treat for bugs now and keep them in check. Enjoy this Summer pest-free. This is your home, show those bugs who’s boss.

Expert Advice

From sprayer tanks and insect foggers to ladders and bobcats, our expert staff is ready to help you protect your home from pests. Looking for a natural way to battle bugs? Our blog, Keeping Critters at Bay Part 3 – No Poison Pest Control, has plenty of helpful, non-toxic suggestions for preventing bugs. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Categories: DIY Projects, Gardening and Lawn Care, How-To's, spring checklist | Leave a comment

Get Those Trimmers Out! Get Your Yard Back in Shape!

Get Those Trimmers Out! Get Your Yard Back in Shape!Now that Spring is here, many of you are diligently working time to reclaim your yard. Getting out those trimmers to cut back early flowering trees, shrubs and ornamental grasses will go a long way to improving the look of your garden.

To Prune or Not to Prune

Pruning isn’t just done in the fall. Some plants benefit from having their dead foliage left attached over the winter. This protects their tender roots. Still, pruning stresses plants. Wait until they have flowered and gone dormant before attempting it. Pruning a plant while it is actively growing invites pests, diseases and fungus to enter through the wound.

Plants to Trim Back Now:

  • Woody perennials – Plants like Artemisia, Buddleia and Lavender bloom on new growth. Pruning now encourages them to send out new foliage.
  • Evergreens – Some species don’t go dormant but do turn brown. Trim off these wilted leaves and apply some fertilizer.
  • Flowering trees – Most early blooming trees set their buds last fall so you are safe to prune now. Avoid taking more than a third off the branches.
  • Roses – Prune after flowering. Even species like repeat bloomers can benefit from tidying up. Remove dead or weak growth.

Ornamental Grasses – Adding Interest All Year Long

Ornamental grasses add beauty to the landscape year-round. If you left yours up over the winter (the birds thank you for that!), now may be the time to cut it back. It depends on the type of grass you have. Cutting your grasses back exposes the crown or base to sunlight and rain.

Two types of grasses:

  • Cool season – Varieties like Fescue, Ribbon grass, Feather grass and Tufted Hair-grass produce new shoots in the early Spring and flower by early Summer. Cut the dead growth back before new sprouts get too high. Avoid damaging the crown or base. This can kill the plant.
  • Warm season – Species like Japanese Blood grass, Maiden grass, Fountain grass and Pampas grass produce new growth in late Spring/early Summer and flower in late Fall. Since these grasses send up new stalks later, you have more time to cut them back. Rake out dead foliage from the base to allow the sun to penetrate.

Prepare for Battle When Cutting Ornamental Grasses

Cutting ornamental grasses can be a bit of a challenge, as these plants like to fight back. Many species have sharp-edged leaves, so be sure to wear heavy gloves, long sleeves and protective eyewear when tackling them. Bind the stalks with rope in a couple of places to make for easier clean-up. With a hedge trimmer, cut the grass back by a third. Now is also the time to divide your plantings. Use a sharp-edged shovel to portion off root sections to transplant.

Give Your Garden a Little TLC

Pruning and freshening up your landscape will get your garden back in shape. Take the opportunity to inspect your plants and determine the ones that need a little extra TLC or fertilizer. Spring clean-up is a daunting job. Never fear, soon your hard work will pay off and the garden you missed all winter long will be a reality.

Expert Advice

Not sure what tool to use for a tough gardening job? Whether it is hedge trimmers and weed eaters or tree pruners and wheelbarrows, our expert staff is ready to recommend the best tool for the job. If you still need help organizing your gardening to-do list, Tackle Spring Clean Up in Your Yard With this Handy Checklist gives helpful tips. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

Categories: DIY Projects, Gardening and Lawn Care, How-To's, spring checklist | Leave a comment

Get Your Outdoor Furniture Ready for Summer Entertaining

Get Your Outdoor Furniture Ready for Summer EntertainingGetting your deck or patio ready for summer entertaining is a chore most people are looking forward to. If you stored your furniture and cushions over the winter, you are ahead of the game. If you didn’t, we have some simple tips to help get your outdoor furniture ready to go.

Energize Your Old Stuff

The first step is to clean and inspect your furniture. See what needs to be re-painted or repaired. Don’t toss your old furniture. Energize it with a splash of color or vibrant new fabrics on the cushions. You’d be surprised what a thorough cleaning and a fresh coat of paint can do!

5 Tips for Cleaning Your Outdoor Furniture

  1. Sweep or vacuum off dust and dirt – Covering your furniture while in storage will cut down on some cleaning but it does not eliminate it. Dust can build up. There may also be a few unwanted guests tucked inside.
  2. Give it a gentle cleaning – Don’t power wash them. The harsh spray can wear down any protective coating on the furniture or fabric.
  3. Avoid harsh cleaners – Start with mild dish soap and warm water. Some cushion fabrics are machine washable but use the gentle cycle. Never put them in the dryer.
  4. Fight mold – Sometimes mild soap alone will not remove stains. Use oxygen bleach and a soft scrub brush first. If you use chlorine bleach, test a small hidden section. Chlorine will kill the mold but it can break down your fabrics. Wear protective glasses and mask when working around mold.
  5. Dry in the sun – Allow your furniture to air dry completely. If you clean your umbrellas or hammocks, stretch them out to help retain their shape.

A Gentler Approach to Cleaning Outdoor Furniture

The material your outdoor furniture is made of will determine how you clean it. As tempting as it may be to power wash everything and be done with it, a gentler approach keeps your décor looking better longer.

How Do I Clean This? 

  • Wood: Use mild soap and a soft scrub brush to wash the dirt off. If the furniture is badly stained, try an oxygen bleach cleaner. You can also lightly sand it and clean with a wood brightener. After your furniture is completely dry, apply a clear sealant to protect the wood from UV rays, dirt and mildew. Do this every 1-3 years.
  • Metal: Most metals except aluminum rust. Catching it early is key. Clean with mild soap and water and allow to dry completely. Sand rust spots and touch up with paint. Apply a clear sealant when dry to protect from sun and moisture. A good coat of car wax helps repel dirt. Spray silicone lubricant on any hinges, joints or springs. Inspect your umbrella pole and stand for rust damage, too.
  • Fabric: Outdoor fabric resists moisture but it can get dirty and develop mold. Use a mild soap and let them air dry. Re-treat the cushion covers with fabric protector every year to keep them looking like new. Checked the foam inserts for mold. If badly soiled, freshen things up with new ones!

Did I Miss Something?

When getting your deck or patio ready, don’t focus only on your furniture. There are plenty of items that get overlooked and can use a good scrubbing. Here is a list of things to check out:

  • The grill – Even if you used it all winter, give it a clean start for the summer. Use a wire brush to scrub the grill and the inside elements.
  • Umbrellas – Remove the fabric and wash on the gentle cycle. Dry it outside. (Don’t fold them up wet! Mold will grow.) If the fabric gets wrinkled, iron on a low setting.
  • Storage bins – No one wants to pull a pool float out with spiders on it. Take everything out and vacuum the interior. Rinse down the pool floats, too.
  • Plastic deck chairs – Use mild soap and a scrub brush to clean them. For aging, discolored chairs, consider spray painting them in a bold new color.
  • Outdoor ceiling fans – If your outdoor dining area or porch has an overhead fan, wash the blades and oil the motor.

Save Money by Maintaining Your Outdoor Furniture

Why buy new tables and chairs every year? By taking the time to clean and inspect your outdoor furniture, you extend its life. Spend a weekend whipping your outdoor space into shape. Summer is right around the corner and you’ll be entertaining family and friends before you know it.

Expert Advice

From orbital sanders and grinders to paint sprayers and pressure washers, our expert staff is ready to help you find the right tool to clean and repair your outdoor furniture. Planning ahead? Want to make sure you stow your outdoor furniture the right way at summer’s end? Check out our blog, Outdoor Entertaining Storage Made Easy in 8 Steps, for tips on the best way to pack things away. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

Categories: How-To's, Restore and Renovate, spring checklist | Leave a comment

Planting Your Summer Garden – We Can’t Wait to Eat Our Veggies!

Planting Your Summer Garden – We Can’t Wait to Eat Our Veggies!Does the fluctuating Spring weather delay your completion of a vegetable or flower garden? If so, there is still plenty of time to add new plants you’ll can enjoy this Summer. We have a few suggestions on what to plant in your garden.

Know Your Zone, Indiana

Before you start your garden or supplement an existing one, know your plant hardiness zone. This will help you determine when to start planting and when to wrap things up. The frost-free growing season for Indiana is tentatively 163 days (April 27 – October 7).

The Plant Hardiness Zones for Indiana are:

  • Zone 5b – Upstate (Lafayette)
  • Zone 6a – Central (Indianapolis)
  • Zone 6b – South (Evansville)

Vegetables for All Seasons

Vegetables are either cool-season or warm-season plants. Cool-season plants have a growth cycle from early Spring to early Summer and then again in the Fall. Warm-season vegetables have only one cycle, from late Spring to late Summer. Generally, plants grown from seeds are started indoors and transplanted at the appropriate time. This gives them a strong start in the garden.

Spring Vegetables on the Way Out

Cool-season vegetables are wrapping up now. Asparagus, cabbage and spinach are beginning to fade as temperatures rise. Some cool-season varieties can carry over into Summer but they will eventually be affected by the heat. Radishes turn fibrous and develop a sharp taste when subjected to the sizzling summer sun.

Plant Warm-Season Vegetables Now

If you couldn’t start your seeds for warm-season vegetables in early Spring, buy established plants at your local garden shop. Many warm-season varieties take too long to mature to grow from seeds now. For example, watermelon takes three months to mature from seed to harvest. You wouldn’t be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor before the Fall.

10 Vegetables & Herbs to Start in Your Summer Garden

  • Basil and Oregano
  • Beans
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Okra
  • Peppers
  • Summer squash
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon

Honey, Have You Seen My Pruner?

Planting vegetables isn’t the only gardening activity this Summer. Flowers, shrubs and trees all demand our attention. Whether it is adding new plants to your landscape or remembering where you left your pruner, there is plenty to do. Here’s a quick rundown.

Summer Gardening To-Do List

  • Trim Spring flowering shrubs and trees – Once they stop blooming, cut them back.
  • Fertilize roses – Check for pests and diseases. Start fertilizing your roses throughout the Summer.
  • Attach supports to tall perennials – Keep leggy plants from toppling over with plant supports or stakes.
  • Pinch chrysanthemums – Trim the tips to keep them bushy.
  • Sow seeds – Plan to have ornamental kale and flowering cabbage in Fall.
  • Divide plants – Thin daffodil bulbs every three years. Divide irises, primroses and arabis.
  • Share cuttings – If you want to get rid of the plants you divide, share with friends and neighbors.
  • Add compost – Spread a layer over your beds and work into the soil.
  • Mulch – Add fresh mulch to supplement what you already have in your beds.
  • Set out birdfeeders – If you haven’t done this already, the birds are waiting!

Enjoy Your Garden This Summer

Spending time outdoors in your garden is one of the most relaxing activities you can do. It has been found to lower stress and improve physical health. Whether you grow vegetables in containers or in raised beds, treat every new plant or technique as a learning opportunity. The best thing you can do for your garden is to enjoy it.

Expert Advice

From tree pruners and Honda tillers to wheelbarrows and shovels, our expert staff can help you take care of your gardening needs. Are you more interested in herb gardening than vegetable gardening? Our blog, A Message to the Beginner of Herb Gardening, can get you started in the right direction. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Give Your Yard a Greener Lawn

Give Your Yard a Greener LawnDo you love to mow grass? Do you take the appearance of weeds as a personal insult? Then you are suffering from Lawn Addictive Disorder (LAD). As a part of an ever-growing (but silent) community of lawn obsessed homeowners, you are chomping at the bit to fire up your lawn mower. We are here to help you manage these impulses and get ready for your favorite pastime. Forget baseball season, it’s mowing season!

Don’t Stress Over Your Grass

If you are a lifelong LAD sufferer, you spend a great deal of time stressing over the condition of your lawn. Grass doesn’t have to be a source of anxiety. If managed correctly, you will be cutting patterns across your lush sod soon enough.

Prepare for Mowing Season

  • Let the soil dry out – If your area receives a lot of rain and snow, let the soil dry completely before working it to avoid further compaction.
  • Test the soil – This helps determine the best fertilizer to add to soil. For more on the different supplements available, Get a Head Start on Spring Gardening with Fertilizer gives helpful suggestions.
  • Find the right time – Avoid rushing out to mow your grass right away. Allow it to grow to at least two inches before cutting it back by a third of the desired height.
  • Use a mulching mower – Adding grass clipping back to your lawn provides it with 25% of the nitrogen it needs. Don’t leave large clumps of clippings in your yard. It will kill the grass underneath and invite pests.
  • Sharpen mower blade – A dull blade will stress the grass and encourage disease.

Give Your Grass What It Needs – Nitrogen

Nitrogen helps grass build strong roots and lush leaves. Apply a nitrogen-rich fertilizer in early Spring to encourage growth and then again later to help sustain it through the Summer heat. Water at least one or two days following an application to make sure it gets to the roots.

Practice Good Lawn Maintenance

If obtaining a beautiful-looking lawn is keeping you up at nights, stop stressing. Practice good lawn management and you, too, can have a gorgeous green yard. Here are a few things you should do yearly to keep your turf true to form:

  • Remove thatch – This layer of dead grass and weeds can choke the root system. Rent a dethatching machine to remove it and rake up the debris. If your grass shows signs of disease, don’t add the clippings to your compost pile to avoid spreading them.
  • Aerate or plug Aeration machines pull plugs of grass and soil up allowing air, moisture and fertilizer to get to the roots. This helps soil that has been compacted during Winter.
  • Evaluate your soil – What your grass is planted in matters. Enhance your soil’s health by feeding it a layer of compost after you aerate. Work the organic matter into the plug holes with the back of a rake or stiff broom.
  • Water regularly – Allow your grass to dry out (almost wilt) between each watering. It will encourage the roots to grow deeper and tolerate drought better. Give grass at least one inch of water weekly.

The Best Weed Control is a Healthy Lawn

Face it, weeds happen. The best defense is keeping your grass healthy. A strong root system crowds out weeds. This is the best time to tackle weed issues, before they take over. Different weeds require different products. Ask your garden center for advice. Some herbicides like Round-up will kill everything (grass, flowers, even pets) so be careful when using.

Tackle Those Pesky Weeds

  • Spot treatments – Apply herbicide to broadleaf weeds. Spray dead spots with a fungicide early before it spreads. Thatching will help prevent this.
  • Dial sprayer – When the weed problem is widespread, add a dial sprayer to your hose to administer the herbicide over a wide area. Protect flowers and shrubs with plastic when you apply.
  • Broadcast spreader – Prevent crabgrass by applying a granular weed killer early in the Spring.
  • Dig them out – Sometimes the old ways are best! Use a garden knife to dig dandelions and creeping buttercups up by the roots. 

Obsess Less and Enjoy Your Lawn More

Living with your lawn obsession is possible, if you practice good grass maintenance. Make it your objective to enjoy your yard, not stress over it. Set your sights on loftier goals like cutting the pattern of your favorite baseball team into your front lawn. Your homeowner’s association will love it!

Expert Advice

From rakes and Honda mowers to dethatchers and aerator/pluggers, our expert staff is ready to help you with your lawn obsession. Do you need to re-seed your grass but are not sure how? Our blog, 3 Options for How to Replant Grass in Your Yard, has helpful DIY tips on the best method for you. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

Categories: DIY Projects, Gardening and Lawn Care, How-To's, spring checklist | Leave a comment

Springtime Fertilizer for a Hungry Lawn and Garden

Springtime Fertilizer for a Hungry Lawn and GardenIs your garden calling you? If so, it is probably saying “Feed me, feed me”. In Spring, when everything is coming back to life, feed your lawn and garden. Finding the right time is the tricky part. Apply fertilizers after the last frost but not too early. Spring rains cause nutrients to leech away into the soil before your plants can see any benefit. Wait until you see the green popping through!

Why Fertilize?

If you have supplemented your soil with compost and organic matter over the Fall, you are ahead of the game. If not, no worries. Test your soil’s Ph level to determine what nutrients are needed. Don’t guess, it is easy to over-fertilize when using commercial chemical products.

When Do I Fertilize?

Are you giving your garden a good start or are you trying to increase the number of blooms and fruit you produce? Giving your garden what it needs depends on what stage of growth it is in. Established plants need less attention.

The two approaches to fertilizing:

  • Long-term – To replenish nutrients to the soil throughout the year.
  • Short-term – To feed plants now to promote growth.

Give Your Lawn a Nitrogen Rich Supplement

If you are wanting your grass to put on a show for you this summer, make sure the soil is rich in nitrogen. Winter weather can compact your soil and strangle your grass. Aeration allows for better drainage, improved oxygen levels and easier absorption of fertilizers. If you are laying new sod, give the soil a good dose of organic matter first.

Fertilizers Can Be a Mixed Bag

Choosing the right fertilizer is a chore all by itself. There are so many to pick from at the garden center. A good rule of thumb – organic fertilizers won’t contaminate the ground water and are less likely to cause damage if overused.

Types of Fertilizers

  • Compost – Use an aged mix to avoid plant burn. Work it into the top six inches of soil.
  • Manure – Avoid using fresh manure. It gives off heat and ammonia as it breaks down that can harm tender plants.
  • Chemical fertilizers – Use the right NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium) blend depending on your needs. Add before planting to allow it to dissipate into the soil and not burn the roots.
  • Organic fertilizers – Consider trying bio-stimulants like liquid seaweed or kelp that you can spray directly on plants or soil and use monthly.

Show Your Garden Some Love

Supplement your garden’s soil before planting with bone, blood or fish meal. These are good options beyond the usual compost and manure. Vegetables will also need a slow-release fertilizer throughout the growing season. Start adding it after your plants have established and re-apply it every few weeks. You can also plant green fertilizers like clover, which will deter weeds and enrich the soil when it dies back.

Your Garden Will Thank You

Help your garden and lawn get off to a great start with fertilizer. Like you, it is ready for Winter to be behind it. Feed your lawn and plants the nutrients they need to grow strong and healthy. Now, when you hear garden calling, it is probably saying thank you!

Expert Advice

From shovels and wheelbarrows to aerator/pluggers and Honda tillers, our expert staff is ready to help get your Spring yard projects started. Want more tips on growing the perfect lawn? Our blog, Planning for a Green Spring – Feed Your Lawn, will get you off to a great start. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

Categories: DIY Projects, Gardening and Lawn Care, How-To's, spring checklist | Leave a comment

Gardening Season is Here! Time to Play in the Dirt

spring gardening checklistIf you are chomping at the bit to get outside and play in the dirt, your chance is almost here. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, our last Spring frost should be around April 18. After that, you should be good to go to get plants in the ground. Getting your Spring garden and yard checklist done means rolling up your sleeves and cleaning out those flower beds. Get busy, you have a lot to do!

Find Your Hardiness Zone

If you need reminding which hardiness zone you live in, you are not alone. Our state seems to be laid out like a jigsaw puzzle. Still, they say we are looking at 182 days of great gardening weather ahead, so bring it on!

Here are the hardiness zones for Indiana:

  • Zone 5B – Northern Indiana
  • Zone 6A – Central Indiana (and pockets of N. Indiana) including Indianapolis
  • Zone 6B – Southern Indiana

Top 10 Tasks for Your Spring Gardening Checklist

Get your Spring gardening checklist in order. Tackling some of the list now will give you more time to focus on planting new varieties once the last frost has passed. 

  1. Remove dead plants – If you didn’t do this during the Fall/early Winter, do it now.
  2. Test the soil – Harsh winters can deplete nutrients. Testing will let you know how to amend it before planting.
  3. Weeding and composting – Pull early weeds now before they take hold. Amend your soil with compost, manure or new top soil.
  4. Prune perennials – Many die back to the ground in the Winter. If you have dead growth stalks, don’t cut them until you see green at the base.
  5. Cut back ornamental grasses – Get rid of old growth.
  6. Roses – Inspect them for diseases and remove dead limbs.
  7. Trees and shrubs – Prune spring flowering plants after they have lost their blooms.
  8. Evergreens – Fertilize them with specially formulated food.
  9. Divide and transplant – Separate perennials to prevent overcrowding. Start a new bed or share the extra plants with friends.
  10. Mulching and edging – Give seedlings an opportunity to peek through before covering them up. Let the soil warm up and dry out slightly before adding mulch to avoid encouraging mildew. Edge your beds to keep grass at bay.

Outdoor To-do List Includes Repairs and Cleaning

Spring gardening projects are not limited to planting and mulching. Inspect your landscape for any basic repairs that are needed like dead tree removal or broken branches. Retaining walls may need shoring up or replacing. Bird feeders and chicken coops need cleaning. If you don’t have a compost bin, now is a great time to build one.

If you are as excited about the warm weather as we are, you won’t mind having a list of things to do. Are you ready to play in the dirt?

Expert Advice

Need a few more outdoor projects? This handy list, 11 Lawn and Gardening Tips for Spring, will round out your DIY to-do list. From Honda tillers and trimmers to edgers and wheelbarrows, we have what you need to tackle all of your Springtime gardening checklist. Let our expert staff help you find the right equipment for your DIY projects. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

Categories: DIY Projects, Gardening and Lawn Care, spring checklist | Leave a comment

From Plain to Polished – Molding and Faux Beams Add Interest

DIY Project: How to Install Crown MoldingLooking for a weekend project that can quickly transform a room? Consider adding molding or faux ceiling beams. These decorative touches add architectural interest while giving any area a polished look. If you have a plain Jane room screaming for something more, decorative moldings and beams are just the ticket.

An Extra Set of Hands Always Helps

Decorative molding adds detail while making a room appear larger or taller. It can help you creatively transition from one material to another. With accurate measurements, precise cutting and an extra set of hands, installation is easy. Some molding materials like plaster require a skilled technique, which is why leaving it to the professional is the best option.

10 Types of Decorative Molding

  1. Casing – Covers the gap where a door frame or window meets the wall.
  2. Baseboard – This molding is used in addition to quarter-round to blend where the floor meets the wall.
  3. Crown – Also called cornice molding, it is used to blend where the walls meet the ceiling. Can give the illusion of height to a room.
  4. Chair rail – Originally meant to protect walls from furniture bumping them, the chair rail is often used to transition between two different wall coverings (for example, paint and wallpaper).
  5. Picture rail – If you don’t want to damage your walls with nails or hanging brackets, install a picture rail to display your artwork.
  6. Cove – This concave shaped molding is used like crown molding and is less ornate.
  7. Dentil – A style of crown molding with a pattern of evenly spaced blocks resembling teeth. Used in historical homes.
  8. Egg and dart – A pattern of crown molding that has oval egg shapes alternating with V-like darts. Styled after the facades of Greek temples.
  9. Batten – Also known as Board & Batten, this is used to hide the joints between wall panels.
  10. Bead and pearl – This crown molding style has a row of symmetrical spheres or pearls running along it. Often combined with other crown molding design elements like leaves, darts or spindles to form elaborate combinations.

New Materials Make Installation a Breeze

Molding is no longer just made from wood. In the past, trimming a curved wall would have been tricky. With today’s bendable substances, like flexible polyurethane, installation is a breeze. It cuts and mounts like wood molding yet conforms easily to whatever angle you need.

Most Common Materials Used for Molding:

  • Wood – The most popular material used, wood is affected by humidity, which will cause it to expand and contract. Use a flexible caulk on the joints to avoid gaps later.
  • Plaster – Beautiful, elegant and tricky to install. Leave this job for the professionals. Can run $25-50 per foot installed.
  • Flexible polyurethane – This lightweight, limber material cuts and installs like wood. It can also be painted or stained.
  • Lightweight polyurethane – Unlike wood, this product will not split or crack during installation.
  • Metal – Used with a metal tile ceiling, this crown molding comes pre-finished but can be painted. Pre-formed corners make installation easier.
  • Hollow PVC – Great for running cables or wires around a room so you don’t have to cut into your walls. Comes in 8 foot sections.

Faux Beams Create Visual Interest on Your Ceiling

Things are literally looking up for decorative molding. Designers are adding intricate molding designs on ceilings to give rooms a visual flare the way artwork does. Need more of a statement? Add drama with faux beams on your ceiling. Fashioned from wood or plaster, these beams can create a grid-like pattern or separate different spaces in an open floor plan.

Show Buyers You Have an Eye for Detail

Consider installing decorative molding or faux beams as your next DIY project. Finishing a room with these design features lets potential buyers know you have an eye for detail. Boost your home’s value by adding these decorative items today and reap the rewards at closing.

Expert Advice

From nail guns and miter saws to ladders and paint sprayers, our expert staff is ready to help you decide on your next DIY project. Need some additional design ideas for your home? Our blog, Tried and True Interior Decorating Tips, has great suggestions to get you fired up for your next project. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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How to Reap the Rewards of Backyard Farming

backyard farmingFamilies question where their food comes from and why it costs so much. To stay on budget, many turn to backyard farming, which helps stretch their dollars. Urban agriculture is a booming business and many first-time farmers are taking the challenge. If you have been considering starting a garden or raising some chickens or bees, we’re here to help.

5 Things to Know Before You Start Backyard Farming

  1. Know Local Laws – Communities may restrict the size and placement of gardens and what animals you can raise.
  2. Start Small – If you are new to growing vegetables or herbs, consider planting containers first. The next year, if you want more, do plots or raised beds.
  3. Talk to Your Neighbors – You may love chickens but your next-door neighbor may not appreciate your rooster’s wake up call. Consider sharing a portion of your yield.
  4. Do Your Homework – Raising chickens, bees or goats takes routine care. Research online to determine which breed to buy and how to build their shelters.
  5. Join a Co-op – Find a community garden club or organization to join. You’ll gain helpful information while making new friends.

Invite Some Chickens to Your Home to Roost

Many people think raising chickens is a complicated undertaking but far from it. If you love fresh eggs and how cute these feathery critters are, start building a roost. Designs range from the simplest wood and wire structures to elaborate two-story creations. It is entirely up to you.

When raising chickens, keep in mind:

  • Choosing the Right Breed –Do you want chickens for the eggs, to eat or both? There are many different breeds. Your climate makes a difference, too. Hearty breeds like Silkies that have lots of fur-like feathers are best suited for colder climates. Some breeds are aggressive so select ones that are compatible.
  • Daily Care Requirements – Chickens eat bugs, worms and seeds but they still need a balanced diet of high protein chicken feed. Fresh water is a must.
  • Protecting Your Flock – Build an attached wire enclosed run onto your coop for your birds to exercise. Never allow them to roam unsupervised. Even in urban areas, there are still plenty of predators (cats, coyotes and hawks) that can injure or kill your chickens.
  • Interacting with the Birds – Chickens are social animals and need interaction. They consider you part of their flock so get to know them.
  • Life Span of Chickens – Hens live from eight to 10 years and their egg production drops off after three to five years. Decide whether you want to keep them as pets, or (you know) ask them to dinner.

The Buzz About Bees

Despite their stinging reputation, bees can peacefully co-exist with animals like chickens. The birds instinctually don’t go near the entrance to the hive and bees appreciate having the chickens eat the pests that can destroy their hives.

Benefits of Adding Bees to Your Backyard Farm

  • Nutrition – One hive can produce 40 plus pounds of honey depending on the climate.
  • Pollination – Having bees in your garden boosts the volume of flowers and vegetables you produce.
  • Ecosystem – By increasing small local colonies of beehives, you help support the overall bee population. Our world depends on bees to pollinate food sources and keep them growing.
  • Commerce – Not only will you have ample honey to sell, you can harvest the beeswax to make candles.

Goats Get the Job Done

Another animal to consider is the goat. Turn these four-legged lawn mowers loose and no weed is safe. Corporate America is even on-board! Google uses them for “landscape management” at their headquarters in Mountain View, CA. Besides the lawn service, you will have an ample supply of goat’s milk for cheese or bath soap plus all the cuteness you can stand. Just check to see if your community allows them before falling in love.

Reap the Rewards of Backyard Farming

There are so many benefits to be gained from backyard farming. Providing healthier food for your family, improving the environment and experiencing the joy of tending to some amazing creatures are just a few. Take the challenge to become more self-sufficient and live a greener lifestyle. You’ll be happy you did.

Expert Advice

Ready to tackle this year’s vegetable garden? Our blog, Yard/Garden To-Do’s Part 2: Planting a Vegetable Garden, will help you decide what you need to get started. Whether it’s tillers and wheelbarrows or nail guns and circular saws, our helpful staff can help you choose the right tools for your next DIY gardening project. Don’t hesitate to contact us or stop by our store if you have questions about pricing or how to’s — we’re open seven days a week.

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Light ‘Em Up! – Your Outdoor Space Needs a New Grill

Light ‘Em Up! – Your Outdoor Space Needs a New GrillAdmit it. Like a runner on the starting blocks, you are waiting for grilling season to start! While some folks grill year-round, the majority of us hate standing out in the cold, waiting for steaks to finish. If you are considering kicking your outdoor kitchen up a notch or just buying a new cooker, now is the time to start planning.

Move That Idea Off the Back Burner

If you want to build an outdoor kitchen or redesign your deck area for better dining, work up your plans now. Decide what you want to do, how much professional help you might need, and your total budget. Once you decide, keep an eye out for pre-Spring sales.

Some things to consider for your outdoor cooking plans:

  • What type of grill or cooker to buy?
  • What fuel source (gas, charcoal, electric) do you want?
  • Do you need add-ons like burners (warming or cooking) or deep fryers?
  • What material do you want? Ceramic, steel, cast iron?
  • Does it need to be stationary or portable?

Choose a Grill for Every Cooking Style

  • Direct Heat – This is the typical charcoal or gas grill. The heat/flame is directed at the food, cooking it. It is prone to flare ups from grease dripping on flames.
  • Indirect Heat – Same concept as the direct heat grill but a ceramic device is placed between the heat source and food to prevent charring.
  • Ceramic – These insulated cookers (like Big Green Egg or Primo brands) are 400% more efficient at using charcoal, heat evenly and are safer than standard grills. They are also much more expensive compared to standard gas/charcoal grills.
  • Flat Top Griddle – A solid metal surface like most commercial kitchens allows you to cook a variety of foods. The downside? It does not grill the food.
  • Infrared Grills – Heats evenly with high temperatures. Cooking is not affected by wind or rain.
  • Electric – Portable units are quick and easy to use but should not be left outside.
  • Smokers – Primarily pellet fueled, they are good for low, slow cooking. Some do come with a wider range of cooking temperatures.

Find a Clean Source of Fuel

Before you buy another bag of the traditional charcoal, check out some eco-friendly fuel sources for your grill. Cheap charcoal emits cancer-causing toxins when burned that wind up on your food. Like you do with food, read the labels. Here is a rundown of some different materials to burn in your grill:

  • Natural Lump Charcoal – Contents should be hardwood material and any binders (to make the briquettes) should be free of glues and toxic chemicals.
  • Coconut Shell Charcoal – Chemical free, they use recycled waste shells as the main source. Burns just like traditional briquettes.
  • Propane and Natural Gas – A cleaner, more economical option but grilling purists say the taste is not the same.
  • Electricity – Unless you have ready access to an outdoor outlet, you will be running extension cords. Most are portable table-top grills that can be used indoors and outdoors.
  • Flame Disk – A disk made of ethanol biofuels that lights quickly. The ash produced can be recycled.

Design Around Your Family

If your family loves eating outdoors, create an area where you can relax. Consider hiring an outdoor design consultant to help with your plans. They can advise on the right materials and layout to use on your DIY project. Include modern conveniences like refrigerators and ice makers to make dining outside even easier.

Grilling Season is Almost Here!

Warm weather is fast approaching so get ready for grilling season! Whether your specialty is steaks and burgers or smoked turkeys, there are some incredible grill options available to you. You may have a hard time choosing, but no one says you have to buy just one!

Expert Advice

Need to re-design your outdoor dining area to accommodate a new grill? Our blog, Boost Outdoor Entertaining Potential with New Design Elements, has some great ideas on how to add pizzazz to your patio. Whether you need nail guns, ladders or pressure washers, our helpful staff can help you choose the right tools for your next home project. Don’t hesitate to contact us or stop by our store if you have questions about pricing or how to’s — we’re open seven days a week.

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Expert Tips: Size Doesn’t Matter with Gardening

Expert Tips: Size Doesn’t Matter with GardeningIf you live in an apartment or condo and are envious of your homeowner friends’ large gardens, it’s time to accept the gardening challenge. Whether you want to plant flowers or grow vegetables, no area is too small for Mother Nature to take hold. Don’t let your lack of outdoor space keep you from enjoying the popular hobby of gardening.

Bountiful Benefits Grow from Gardens

Gardening offers lots of benefits. Not only is it a great way to grow your own food and enjoy the outdoors, it is a gentle form of exercise. Many find weeding and watering their plants a way to relax and clear the mind. Even with limited space, you can create your own quiet retreat while making your garden grow.

Here are a few tips on getting started:

  • Find the best location – You need at least 3-4 hours of direct sunlight.
  • Know your zone – Where you live affects when you start planting.
  • Get approval – Some apartment complexes and condo HOAs may have restrictions.
  • Start small – You’ll be tempted to overindulge but start with a few plants first.
  • Prepare your beds or containers properly – Good soil starts things off right.
  • Space them out – Give your plants room to grow.
  • Study growing habits – Native plants are the easiest to grow.
  • Don’t overwater or over-fertilize – Not all plants need the same care.
  • Beware of invasive plants – If the ad says fast growing, beware. Do your research.
  • Not all bugs are bad – Don’t overuse insecticides. Bees and ladybugs are beneficial.
  • Weed, weed, weed – Make it a habit. They sap nutrients from your plants.

Look for Planting Potential

Your imagination is the only limitation you face when gardening in a small space. Try thinking outside of the planter to create your own special oasis. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Containers – Don’t limit yourself to flower pots. Anything that holds soil can be a planter including boots, buckets, tin cans, a child’s wagon or even a hat.
  • Window boxes – There are some that do not have to be permanently mounted. Ones that attach to deck railings can blow over in windy conditions.
  • Standing planters – If bending over is a problem for you, consider raised garden beds. They are easy to construct out of pressure treated lumber.
  • Vertical gardens – An old wooden pallet or window shutter attached to a wall provides lots of planting potential.

As Urban Living Expands So Will the Need for Gardening

Many experts have predicted that by the year 2030 nearly 50% of the world’s population will live in urban areas. Adapting where our food sources originate and how we view our role in producing it is an issue facing our world today. Your little veggie garden isn’t as insignificant as you thought.

Veggies for Everyone!

If you have your heart set on planting a vegetable garden, start small. Ask your local garden shop which plants work well in containers. There are many tomato, lettuce, onion, kale and herb varieties that do well in compact spaces. If you share a balcony with a neighbor and you want to grow vines of beans, ask if they’d mind and then offer to share the harvest.

Reap the Benefits of Gardening

Gardening isn’t limited to those with large expanses of land. Growing flowers and vegetables in small plots or containers can be just as rewarding. Add some greenery to your life by starting a garden today. Join your local garden club or volunteer to work in a community garden. Let Mother Nature show you how to reap the benefits of planting a garden.

Expert Advice

From shovels and rakes to tillers and wheelbarrows, our expert staff is always on hand to assist gardeners with their next DIY project. If you are interested in growing herbs, check out our previous blog, A Message to the Beginner of Herb Gardening, to learn great tips on selecting and planting the right varieties in your garden. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

Photo Credit: HGTV.com
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Make Your Home a Smart Home with These Electrical Updates

If you’ve always envisioned living in a house where a computerized voice fulfills your every want or whim, then the future is here. Today’s technology is finally making life a little easier in the one place we need it, our homes. We’ve put together a list of easy DIY updates you can do around your abode to bring it into the 21st century.

Smart Home Electrical Updates

10 Wireless Devices for Your Smart Home

  • Smart Thermostat – They are as easy to install as the old thermostats and the control screens walk you through the set up.
  • Doorbell with Motion Sensor – Automatically know when a person is at your door and respond to them with your phone.
  • Accent Lighting – Some systems work with existing lamps and allow you to program them to shut on and off via your smartphone. You can also adjust brightness and color.
  • Irrigation Controller – You are no longer at the mercy of an old-fashioned timer, you can now use an app to control when the system runs and change it with weather conditions.
  • Garage Door Opener – Motion sensors automatically turn on lights and a timer will put the door down if you forget.
  • Security System – Most offer cameras and motion sensors. Decide if you want to monitor the system on your phone or have professional monitoring.
  • Home Electricity Monitor – This wireless device attaches to your breaker box and gives real time stats on your home’s energy usage.
  • Smoke & CO2 Detectors – They look like the old versions but these notify you on your phone if there is a problem.
  • Outdoor Lighting – Individual light fixtures now come with wireless features and an app to set timers from any device.
  • Electrical Outlets – These wireless plug-in devices allow you to control everything from the coffee maker to the TV from your phone. Some come with UPS outlets for charging that very busy smart phone of yours.

Consider a Controller Hub

Wireless devices can make life easier and save money but too many can be chaotic. Consider buying devices that work off a computerized voice controlled hub like the Amazon Echo or Google Home. These systems allow you to add on individual gadgets instead of buying single devices that you must control through multiple apps.

Upgrades Aren’t Just High Tech

Though it may not be high tech, consider upgrading your home’s basic electrical system. Every year over 51,000 residential fires are caused by electrical malfunctions. Install Arc Fault Circuit Interruption Outlets (AFCI), which shut off when an electrical arc or discharge is detected.

If you aren’t prepared to tackle electrical DIY jobs, do the prep work like running cables and installing wall boxes. Bring in a professional electrician to do the final power hook-ups and to make sure you are up to code.

Come Out of the Dark – Make Your Home a Smart Home

Modernizing your house is always a wise move. Advancements in technology can help make your home safer and more efficient. One last gizmo to mention may end many arguments around your house – it’s the motion-sensor toilet seat light. It lets you know the status of the seat with different colored night lights. Now that’s a device we can all get behind. Isn’t technology great?!

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help find the right equipment for your next DIY home update. Looking to address some outdoor lighting issues? You can find plenty of handy DIY tips in our blog, 9 Easy Steps to Keep Outdoor Lighting Bright. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

Photo Credit: Hardware Journal
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Plumbing Upgrades Can Save Water and Money

Plumbing Upgrades Save Money & WaterWith several states experiencing years of severe drought, most notably California, water conservation is fresh on the minds of homeowners and elected officials. In 2016, stiffer Federal regulations on the flow rate for residential water usage went into effect. To reduce your water usage and save money, consider making some quick DIY upgrades to your home’s plumbing.

Stop Running the Water

Before getting into what to fix first, think about the gallons of water flowing down the drain while you run the water as you brush your teeth, wash your hands or do the dishes. The average person in the U.S uses 80-100 gallons of water per day. Consider turning facets off while the tooth brush is working in your mouth or you’re lathering up your hands or scrubbing grease from pots and pans. We also lose 10 gallons of water a day to just to plumbing leaks.

What to Fix

  • Change out kitchen and bathroom faucets with newer, aerated models
  • replace older shower-heads
  • replace an older toilet with a new, low flow model
  • add a water displacement element to your old toilet’s tank
  • check the seals on your dishwasher for leaks

New Faucets are More Efficient

If your bathroom or kitchen faucets are looking old, why not replace them? Newer, more efficient models have built-in filters called aerators that reduce the flow rate. To add a separate aerator to an old fixture, unscrew the existing nozzle filter and screw in the new one. Many will come with new housing in case the old one is damaged when removing it.

New Shower-Heads for Even the Pickiest Bather

By simply changing your shower-head you can lower your water usage 25-60%. Older, low flow shower-heads have a flow rate of 5.5 GPM (gallons per minute). Today’s fixtures have a 2.5 GPM and provide a steady stream of water that will please even the pickiest bather.

2 Types of Shower-Heads:

  1. Laminar flow – emits individual streams of water
  2. Aerator – mixes air into the water stream for a softer spray

The Lowdown on Low Flow Toilets

Discussing low flow toilets used to be a dirty topic with homeowners due to the toilet’s lack of follow through. Today’s toilets aren’t your grandmother’s loo. They now use as little as 1.6 GPF (gallons per flush) compared to the old ones, which used 7 gallons.

4 Varieties of Toilets:

  1. Gravity assisted – based on the original design but are more efficient
  2. Pressure assisted – pressurized air in the tank forces water out through bowl
  3. Motor assisted – small 0.2 horsepower motor helps flush the system
  4. Dual-flush – 2 GPF selections; one low (0.8 GPF) and one high (1.6 GPF)

All these different toilets come in standard styles and require the same mounting materials as the old-fashioned ones, with one exception: motor assisted toilets require electrical power for the small motor.

Add a Water Displacement Element to Your Old Toilet

Not ready to replace your old toilet just yet? Consider adding a water displacement element to your tank. Before you go out and buy something, try putting a small half gallon plastic bottle filled with sand into the tank instead. The theory is to use less water in the tank but to keep enough for it to flush.

Save on Your Water Bill with Plumbing Upgrade

Sometimes, the littlest changes bring about the biggest results. You can save water around your home by upgrading your plumbing to more efficient fixtures. These quick, easy DIY projects will help cut your water bill and reduce your overall consumption. Happy flushing.

Expert Advice

From cordless flashlights and wet/dry vacuums to caulk cutting saws and right-angle wrenches, our expert staff is always on hand to help find the right equipment for your next DIY plumbing project. Need to know how to replace a faucet? Our blog, Two Quick and Easy In-Home Plumbing Repairs, has helpful tips that will make the installation a breeze. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Get a Jump on New Year Cleaning with These Tips

Get a Jump on New Year Cleaning with These TipsThe company has gone and your home is settling back into its regular routine. While straightening up after your guests, get a jump start on your New Year cleaning. This is the perfect time to deal with the things you noticed during the holidays but had no time to address. If the snow and cold weather is keeping you inside, put your time to good use and tackle some.

Basic Cleaning After the Holidays:

  • Carpet – Spot shampoo the heaviest soiled areas in your home. Save a full room cleaning for the Spring when floors can dry out completely.
  • Oven – Now that the cooking is done, give the oven and stove top a thorough scrubbing.
  • Kitchen – Steam clean your tile floors in kitchens to get up ground in food from grout.
  • Refrigerator– Take out leftovers and wipe down shelves and drawers.
  • Bathrooms – Scrub showers, tubs and sinks. Use a brush to clean tile grout. Clean the drains of hair and soap scum.
  • Front door – Replace your holiday wreath with one that’s appropriate until Spring. Colorful berries, foliage or chrysanthemums are favorite choices.

Declutter by Donating

Like many of us, collecting more things than we actually use is a stifling habit. The New Year is the perfect time to rectify that. Declutter your home by donating things that have overstayed their welcome. Many charities can put them to good use.

Items to Purge Following the Holidays:

  • Clothing – Go through your closets and get rid of clothes you seldom wear.
  • Bed linens and blankets – Inspect your sheets, blankets and towels for wear and donate.
  • Throw rugs – Local branches of the Humane Society appreciate old rugs for their rescue animals.
  • Plastic containers – Recycle the ones with no lids or that are stained. Once a year, purge your total collection by half.
  • Christmas decorations – Before you pack them back up, donate the ones you rarely use.
  • Kitchen appliances – If you received newer versions for Christmas, give away the old ones.
  • Old Christmas cards – Add the names and addresses to your contacts and recycle the cards. Keep only those with special meaning.

Time to Map Out Your 2017 Plans

While your mind is focused on cleaning, decide what your next DIY projects will be. Add them to your calendar as a reminder of the things you wish to accomplish in the New Year. Give yourself time to research how to do the projects and the best materials to use. Then keep an eye out for sales long before you need them.

Here’s to Bigger and Bolder DIY Projects in the New Year!

The New Year brings lots of promise for great things ahead. By cleaning out the old and welcoming in the new, we continue to grow and enrich our lives. Challenge yourself in 2017 to attempt bigger and bolder DIY projects around your home. You’ll be glad you did.

Expert Advice

From vacuums and carpet cleaners to steam cleaners and floor polishers, our expert staff is always on hand to help find the right cleaning equipment to make your New Year bright and shiny. Want more tips on how to declutter your home? Our blog, Post Holiday Clean Up – 7 Ways to Bring It On, is full of information to help tackle all your unwanted stuff. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Plan Your Way to a Successful Holiday Gathering

Plan Your Way to a Successful Holiday GatheringChristmas is getting awfully close and panic has set in. If you are wondering how you’ll feed all your guests coming for Christmas dinner, worry not. With a little pre-planning, this holiday gathering promises to be a total success.

Schedule Your To-do List

Use your calendar to determine when to schedule items on your to-do list. Map out when to grocery shop, set the table and when to start cooking. Avoid burn-out by accomplishing several items each day. If you did a thorough cleaning of your kitchen prior to Thanksgiving, you are ahead of the game and only need to spot clean now. Do last minute touch ups like vacuuming and bathroom cleanups on the day before the event.

Be a Stress-Free Chef

Pre-planning is key to pulling off a less stressful holiday meal. Don’t leave cooking until the last minute. Here are some suggestions of things to do ahead of time:

  • Plan your menu – Keep it simple. Don’t try to cook everyone’s favorites. Have the main course and a few sides. If guests insist on helping invite them to bring their favorite dishes. Extra ice is always needed.
  • Generate a shopping list – By planning the meal, appetizers and beverages ahead, you know exactly what to get from the grocery store, which minimizes overspending.
  • Keep a stocked pantry – Having staples on hand during the holiday season keeps you from constantly running to the store. Many of these items go on sale for the holidays, so stock up.
  • Cook ahead – By mixing, chopping or cooking portions of a recipe a few days ahead, you can quickly combine them to finish the dish. Try to leave only a few dishes to prepare the day of the event.
  • Set the table – Table cloths, napkins and silverware can be put out days earlier but keep the plates and glasses until closer to the date. Have your serving pieces washed and ready for use.
  • Rearrange furniture – Open space for people to mingle and have conversations.
  • Rent extra tables and chairs – Give your guests ample seating for the big event.
  • Fire up the heaters – Don’t let outdoor spaces go unused. Rent propane heaters to increase overflow space.

Prepare for Controlled Christmas Chaos

If you don’t leave too many things to finish last minute, you can enjoy the joyful chaos of Christmas Day. Go over your checklist the day before to see if anything has been left undone. Let your Christmas helpers attend to these often-overlooked items:

  • Parking – Make sure you let your guests know where to park. Clear your driveways and sidewalks of snow. Salt or put sand down to avoid falls. If raining, have extra umbrellas handy.
  • Lighting – If your festivities are at night, put out additional outdoor lighting to help guide your guests.
  • Pets – Depending on how your animal responds to strangers, you may want to put them in a quiet room to celebrate in peace. Don’t forget to treat them to some holiday cheer with treats or a new toy.

Get Organized Early – There’s Still Time

By planning ahead, you can make your holiday gathering enjoyable for family and guests (while less stressful for you). There’s still time to get organized. This holiday have a smile on your face and a beverage in your hand as you greet your company. Your family may not recognize this relaxed version of you!

Expert Advice

From banquet tables and folding chairs to portable heaters and generators, our expert staff is always on hand to help you throw the best holiday gathering ever. Need to thoroughly clean your kitchen for the holidays? Our blog, Pre-Holiday Cleaning Tips for the Kitchen, will get you ready for the big day. As always, if you have any questions about pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Tried and True Interior Decorating Tips

Tried and True Interior Decorating TipsAre you envious of the interior designers on television and how easily they take a room from dull to dazzling? Never fear, by following a few tried and true design rules, you too can make your home décor stand out. Now roll up your sleeves, we have work to do.

5 Ways to Decorate Like a Pro

  1. Choose a color palette – Decide on the colors you want to feature throughout your house. Next, review each room to see how to best utilize your chosen color scheme in that space and formulate a plan.
  2. Create a focal point – When you walk into a room what catches your eye? It could be anything – a fireplace, artwork or an area rug. Use this item as your centerpiece and create your design around it.
  3. Assess your room’s lighting – Install different fixtures around a room like recessed ceiling lights, spotlights and under cabinet puck lights, which add warmth and showcase your décor.
  4. Add interest to a room – Not everything needs to be matchy matchy. Use a variety of different textures and shades from your color scheme to paint the walls and furnish the room. Look for interesting ways to arrange your furniture.
  5. Use paint to stage a room – Don’t be afraid to add a pop of color to help display artwork or photographs on an accent wall. Painting the inside of a bookcase will help it stand out and not blend in. Paint the ceiling, crown molding, even floors a variation of wall color or a complimentary color.

Reinvigorate Your Kitchen with a New Backsplash

If you want to reinvigorate your kitchen without totally remodeling, consider installing a new backsplash. Use inexpensive tin ceiling tiles, wooden bead board, wallpaper, stainless steel, chalkboard or magnetic paint to give the busiest room in the house a new look.

Ready to get those tools out?

Here are some easy decorating ideas for you to try:

  • Install a new bathroom faucet
  • Change the hardware on kitchen cabinets
  • Add a chair rail or wainscoting to a room
  • Hang a chandelier in your laundry room
  • Install crown molding
  • Use wallpaper on an accent wall
  • Turn a closet into a home office or craft space

Before Buying, Repurpose Old Stuff

Unless you just prefer to start from scratch with new furnishings, find creative ways to repurpose items you already have. An old armoire can double as a china cabinet once you remove the doors and add glass shelves. A dresser can be turned into a bathroom vanity by mounting a sink on top. Build a new headboard using old doors, shutters or wooden fencing to create a one-of-a-kind bed.

Stay Focused and Express Your Style

Interior decorating is about expressing your style. As a DIYer, you have the added advantage of cutting out the middle man (the contractor) and doing the work yourself, thus saving money. Come up with a plan of attack and work on one room at a time. Write down your design goals to help you stay focused. Forget those TV experts, you have the best designer working on your house already – you.

Expert Advice

From circular saws and drills to nail guns and paint sprayers, our expert staff is always on hand to help with your next DIY home decorating project. Still wondering if painting will make a difference? Our blog, Give New Life to Your Walls with a Quick and Easy Paint Job, will convince you to get the roller and brushes out. As always, if you have any questions about pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Change Up Décor for Winter in 5 Simple Steps

Change Up Décor for Winter in 5 Simple StepsAre you ready to change the interior design in your home? If you want to mix things up (and don’t want to break the bank) consider doing small tweaks to your existing style. Many people like to change their décor with the seasons or the holidays so if you want to try something different, we’re here to help.

1. Let Your Fireplace be the Focus

Switching out your décor is simple. Decide which rooms you want to change and focus on how you want to convey the Winter season. One way to change the design is through the furniture layout. Grouping your chairs and sofa around a fireplace communicates a cozy relaxed feeling. Before you start moving furniture, remember to save your back and use a dolly for the heavy items.

2. Introduce Seasonal Colors into Your Design

Bring the colors of the season into your design. Fall colors of golden yellow, burnt orange and rich forest green are all great options. Want more of a change? Work Winter hues of white, gray and steel blue into your existing décor by adding pillows, throws and rugs. If your original couch color is not working with your new design direction, buy a slipcover.

3. Bring on the Warm and Fuzzy

Creating a cozy atmosphere is the main decorating theme for Winter. Colder temperatures make you want to curl up in bed with a good book. Think layers and textured for you new additions. Here are a few suggestions for how to make your bedroom more warm and fuzzy:

  • Switch out linens – go for soft cottons or flannel
  • Layer your blankets and quilts – plush, fur lined throws are perfect for keeping the chill away.
  • Add some colorful pillows – Pops of color keep things interesting.
  • Place new rugs around – Try layering rugs over your hardwood floors to provide warmth and interest.
  • Hang new drapes – Choose thicker fabric to help insulate the windows. You can hang them over the existing shades or sheers.
  • Include seasonal scents – Cinnamon, evergreen, or apple spice are all smells we associate with the Fall and Winter months. Burn candles or use essential oils in a humidifier.

4. Don’t Leave Out the Bathroom

The bathroom is one of the easiest to redecorate. Change out the towels, rugs and shower curtain and voilà, you have a whole new look. Lay out scented soaps and body washes for guests to use. A new soap dish, trash can and laundry hamper can help tie the look together. If you don’t want to buy new ones, try spray painting your existing ones to coordinate.

5. Cozy Up to Your Winter Décor

Soon the chilly temperatures will have us staying inside more and more. Why not freshen up your living space by changing your décor. It is an easy, inexpensive way to breathe life into a tired design and it’s fun, too. Break out of your rut and get cozy with your Winter décor.

Expert Advice

From drills and air nailers to ladders and dollies, our expert staff is always on hand to help you accomplish your home decorating ideas. Want to focus on sprucing up the house for the holidays? There are some great ideas in our blog, 9 DIY Projects That Inspire Holiday Decorating and Entertaining, to help get you into the spirit of the season. As always, if you have any questions about pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Give Them What They Want – The Best Gifts for Your DIYer

Every Christmas, you struggle to figure out what to buy the DIYer in your family. Worry no more. Give them something you know they will use! We’ve come up with a few suggestions that can help you select the right present.

Gifts Your Gardener Will Dig

If you know someone who loves to work in the yard, give them a gift that will have them counting the days until Spring. These tools will lessen the toil and free up their time to actually stop and smell the roses.

Give Them What They Want – The Best Gifts for Your DIYer

Gifts That Make Home DIY Jobs Easier

Is your DIYer planning to do some work inside the house this winter? Gift them with tools that make the job easier. Even small items like paint brushes, roller refills and various sizes of sand paper will not go unused.

  • Cordless drills and screwdrivers
  • Compact flood lights
  • Voltage tester with flashlight
  • Cordless table saw
  • Hydraulic driver
  • Air inflator
  • Drill bit set

Gifts for Winter Outdoor Projects

Cleaning sidewalks and driveways during the winter is a tough job. Your DIYer will appreciate having the right equipment on hand during the next big storm.

Top Honda Christmas Gift Ideas

Gifts for Stuffing in DIYers’ Stockings

Already have your gift and need some stocking stuffer suggestions? Ask us about ordering these stuffers that so ingenious, you might want to order one for yourself!

  • Stanley 4-in-1 pocket screwdriver – The size of a Sharpie pen, this is a great tool to keep in the kitchen or the glove compartment of the car.
  • Portable knife sharpener – Find one that accommodates different types and sizes of blades (steel, ceramic). Most are compact and can be stashed away easily.
  • MagnoGrip magnetic wristband – Getting up on a ladder and realizing you left the nails elsewhere is the worst! This handy invention wraps around your wrist and holds nails, drill bits, or whatever you might need.
  • Sanding sticks – Crafters and DIYers will appreciate these handy pencil thin sanding sticks to work on those hard to reach areas.

DIYers Love Tools and Gadgets for Christmas

DIYers love practical gifts like tools and gadgets because it shows you understand what makes them happy. So, set your little handyman or woman loose in their workshops to play with their special toys. You can relax and picture how great your home will look once they get finished with their projects.

Expert Advice

From circular saws and miter saws to drills and air nailers, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right tool for your DIYer. Are you just starting out as a DIYer? Our blog, Plan Out Your DIY Projects with These 5 Essential Tools, explains the basic equipment that will help you tackle any job. As always, if you have any questions about pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Outdoor Winter Preparations – Don’t Let Old Man Winter Catch You Napping

Outdoor Winter Preparations – Don’t Let Old Man Winter Catch You NappingIt seems like Fall is getting shorter and shorter every year, so take advantage of the weather while you can and get a few items checked off your Winter prep list. Making sure your home and yard are properly prepared for cold temperatures will give you peace of mind later.

Goodbye Garden

It’s sad when we say goodbye to our gardens but prudent preparations now will make things a lot easier come Spring. Winter can wreak havoc on your outdoor space so store items now that can be affected by freezing temperatures. Here are a few things to add to your to-do list:

  • Trim trees and shrubs
  • Aerate your grass
  • Till garden beds
  • Compost leaves
  • Clean soil out of flower pots and store them
  • Dig up bulbs, place in dry place
  • Divide your perennials
  • Winterize garden power tools
  • Store clean rakes, hoes, trimmers

Think Compost Bin This Year

Make this year the one where you start a compost bin. They are easy to build and you will reap lots of rewards from the black gold it generates. If you want to learn more about composting, check out our blog, 10 Good Sense Tips for Building a Compost Bin, and find out how it can help your garden and the environment.

Prepare Outside Your Home for Dropping Temperatures

Cold weather likes to remind us of the little things we forget to address before the needle drops – like water spigots and hot tubs. List all the small stuff outside that needs to be readied before Old Man Winter arrives – and get ‘re done. We’ve listed a few items to get you started.

  • Pressure wash and store lawn furniture
  • Cover outside water faucets
  • Inspect and clean your gutters
  • Winterize outdoor sprinkler systems, pools and hot tubs
  • Cover or remove window A/C units
  • Put up storm doors and windows
  • Have HVAC system serviced
  • Drain and store garden hoses
  • Inspect driveway for crack and seal
  • Remove wind chimes, yard art and flags that can be damaged in storms
  • Winterize hot tub

Start Winterizing Your Garden and Home Now

Avoid the problems cold temperatures bring by preparing for harsh Winter weather now. A list of DIY projects to do this Fall is an easy way to make sure things get accomplished. By winterizing your garden and the outside of your home, you are protecting them and saving yourself from costly repairs. It’s a win-win for a DIYer like you.

Expert Advice

From rakes and ladders to pressure washers and tillers, our expert staff is always on hand to help you get ready for the cold weather. Not sure what else you need to do to close out your garden?

Our blog, Fall Checklist Pt. 1: Garden Clean Up – Winterization, has tips on making sure your perennials survive until Spring. As always, if you have any questions about pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Pre-Holiday Cleaning Tips for the Kitchen

Pre-Holiday Cleaning Tips for the KitchenIn the coming weeks, your kitchen is going to get a real workout. Before your holiday cooking marathon begins, take time to give it a thorough cleaning so you can focus on what’s important – family and friends.

The Big Chill Gets a Big Purge

First thing on the agenda is cleaning out the refrigerator. Make room for your holiday dishes by purging expired containers and leftovers. Wipe the shelves with soapy water and add a new box of baking soda. Clean the condenser coils on the back of the refrigerator to help it run more efficiently. First, turn the power off before pulling it out (be careful not to disconnect the water line from the ice maker). Vacuum the dust off the coils, then slide it back and turn the power back on. Wipe down the front, sides and top of your refrigerator to finish.

A Clean Oven is a Happy Oven

You are about to use your oven non-stop. Starting with a clean one will make final clean-up easier – plus it will likely run more efficiently, too. Clean the inside of the oven by using the self-cleaning feature or by using a little elbow grease. Wipe down the wire racks as well as the outside. Depending on the kind of stovetop you have, clean out the burners or polish the cooking surface.

Stuff to Help Your Kitchen Clean-up Shine 

  • Donate mismatched dishes and glassware – A beautifully set table will impress your guests.
  • Get rid of old appliances – If your toaster oven has seen better days, now is the time get a new one.
  • Dust ceiling fans and light fixtures – Clean the ceiling fan blades by using an old pillow case. Put the blade inside the case to catch the dirt. Use a ladder when vacuuming light fixtures.
  • Clean the microwave – Put a bowl of water with lemon slices inside to heat for 3 minutes. The steam will loosen food particles and the lemons get rid of odors.
  • Restock the pantry – Don’t wait until you start cooking to find you are missing something. Take an inventory to see what you need. Replace anything that looks old or has an expired freshness date.
  • Sharpen your knives – Have a professional do this or purchase a whetstone and learn how.
  • Round up serving utensils – Do you have what you need? Purchase any ladles, slotted spoons, tongs or cake servers you might need. Don’t forget a wine opener.
  • Check the fire extinguisher – Accidents do happen so be prepared. Make sure you have a first aid kit handy. Are your smoke and CO2 detectors working properly?
  • Polish the silver – If you are planning to use Grandma’s silverware, wash and polish the pieces ahead of time.
  • Childproof your home – Are you expecting small children to be at your house over the holidays? Look for any potential trouble spots in the kitchen and your home. Safety plugs and bumpers for sharp corners are always helpful.
  • Clean trash cans – A big dinner creates a lot of garbage so disinfect your cans ahead of time and have a stash of extra bags ready for the event.

Check the Dishwasher Drain and Door Seals

There is no good time to discover that the dishwasher leaks but with a little preventative maintenance you can keep your holidays dry. Check the drain for any food that might clog it. Clean the door gasket and check to see if the seals have deteriorated. Fill the detergent cup with white vinegar and run a cycle to clean the inside.

Create a Bright, Shiny Work Space for the Holidays

Giving your kitchen a massive cleaning before the holidays might seem counterproductive since it is going to get messed up anyway. There is a method to our madness. Going into this busy time with a bright and shiny work space allows you to focus on your recipes and your company. A spotless, fully stocked kitchen is less stressful for you and makes cleaning up after guests leave a lot easier. So, scrub now, relax later. Happy Holidays!

Expert Advice

From ladders and vacuums to banquet tables and folding chairs, our expert staff is always on hand to help with your holiday preparations. Worried about how to put your house back together after everyone leaves? Our blog, Turn Post Holiday Clean-up into a Fresh Start for Your Home, is the perfect game plan for the New Year. As always, if you have any questions about pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Pre-Holiday Cleaning Doesn’t Have to Be a Chore

Cleaning for the Holidays Doesn't Have to be a ChoreGetting ready for the holidays can be chaotic but we’re here to help you hold onto your sanity. Don’t get overwhelmed, get prepared. Pre-holiday cleaning doesn’t have to be a chore if you develop a game plan and stick to it. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you will check things off your list.

Divide and Conquer Your Tasks

Your first order of business is to stop procrastinating. By spreading the tasks out over a week, you won’t wear yourself out before the guests arrive. Do a walk-through of your home, find everything you’d like to get accomplished and list them in the order of importance. Be realistic with the time you have or you may not get through the entire list.

Round Up Your Elves to Help

Some items can be done several weeks ahead like cleaning carpets, washing windows or having your air vents and ducts vacuumed out. Recruit helpers for these larger jobs. Round up the elves in your family to help move furniture and vacuum or hang decorations.

Start with the Kitchen

Everyone congregates in the kitchen during the holidays, so start your cleaning there. Remove and store unused small appliances (waffle irons, toaster ovens, blenders) so you will have room for serving trays and platters. Give larger appliances a thorough cleaning and wipe down your cabinets. Don’t forget to clean out the refrigerator to make room for the food you are preparing.

Clean, Don’t Stress

Hit the basics first and then move on to smaller jobs if you have time. The point of a pre-holiday cleaning is to get your house ready for company but not to stress you out. Here is a short list of some of the essential items to focus on.

Pre-Holiday Cleaning Checklist:

  • Dust from the top down – Vacuum the cob webs from ceiling fans and light fixtures first and then dust from the tops of book shelves and cabinets, working your way down. Finish one room before moving onto the next.
  • Deep clean bathrooms – Give it a good scrubbing so you only need to touch it up before the big day. Put out fresh guest towels and soap. A basket of toiletries (toothbrushes, mouthwash and hand cream) is also a nice touch.
  • Straighten bedrooms – De-clutter the room and add fresh linens to beds. Give guests room in the closet to hang up clothes.
  • Clean or polish the dining room table – Have clean dinnerware, glassware and table linens ready and waiting. Set the table when you are closer to the event.
  • Stage your entryway – Make your front doorway welcoming by cleaning your door and stoop, adding holiday decorations and replacing worn out a welcome mat with a new one.

Plan to Touch Up

Focus on the rooms that will be used the most. Once you clean a room, don’t fence it off from use. Come back and touch it up if needed. (Elves have a way of keeping it clean if they know they must help re-clean it). Make a rundown sheet to help you remember.

Last Minute Items to Cover:

  • Vacuum high traffic areas.
  • Mop kitchen floor.
  • Clean toilets and sinks.
  • Take out trash and add fresh liners.
  • Put out fresh throw rugs.
  • Add fresh flowers or burn holiday scented candles.

Your Company Will Appreciate Your Efforts

Remember, even though you want your house to be in tip top shape, the holidays are a time to get together and have fun. Formulate a pre-holiday cleaning plan and stick to it. Your company will appreciate your efforts but they are coming to see you, not inspect the baseboards. As the saying goes, don’t sweat the small stuff.

Expert Advice

From banquet tables and folding chairs to portable heaters and generators, our expert staff is always on hand to help with your holiday party plans. Looking for ways to make your home more festive this season? Our blog, 9 DIY Projects That Inspire Holiday Decorating & Entertaining, is sure to fire up your creative juices. As always, if you have any questions about pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Go Green – Plant a Living Privacy Fence

how and why to plant a privacy hedgeWe’ve all experienced it. The horrible view from our kitchen window staring straight at a neighbor’s hot tub. While they may be nice people, do you really want to intrude on their private time? Go green! Plant your privacy fence rather than building one. We’ve got a few suggestions to help you make it happen.

Hedges Add Interest and Privacy

If you want more privacy or to add interest to your landscape, a privacy hedge is the ticket. A living fence does much more than just shelter you from prying eyes.

A Privacy Hedge:

  • blocks noise coming from the street and neighborhood.
  • acts as a natural windbreak.
  • can be a snow fence, reducing snow build up around your house.
  • turns your garden into a secluded retreat.

Location Dictates Plants to Use

Starting a privacy hedge will take patience. While there are fast growing varieties of trees, shrubs and vines, none will reach the height or thickness you desire quickly. The location of your fence dictates the size and type of trees and shrubs to use.

Avoid Excessive Maintenance

An important consideration is how much time you want to devote to maintaining your hedge. In formal gardens boxwoods and other shrubs need to be regularly groomed to maintain their precise shapes. If this is not for you then select plants that give you the natural shapes you desire.

How to Plant a Privacy Hedge

  • Select the type of tree or shrub that works best for the location – Do you want it to provide a screen all year long (go with an evergreen)? Or do you want it to flower and give you privacy during certain times of the year?
  • Decide on the height – Set up a ladder to help visualize the approximate height of the plants needed. If you want a 6-foot tall fence, then planting a tree that grows 10-15 feet is only going mean more maintenance.
  • Determine the width – If you have limited space, select trees and shrubs that can be planted closer together. Some species need more room for roots to spread in order to thrive.
  • Density – If you want a thick hedge, plant several staggered rows, which will allow them to fill in.
  • Map it out – Don’t eyeball your planting. Mark off a row with paint or wooden stakes and string to keep your hedge straight.
  • Train your plants – Trim the tops and sides a few times a year after they establish. Keep the shape wider at the bottom than the top to allow sunlight to reach lower leaves.

Fast Growing Plants Can Often Be Invasive

There are many popular plants to use in making a privacy hedge. Most will take one or two seasons to fully establish. Be careful when selecting fast growing plants like bamboo and Japanese Barberry. Some varieties are considered invasive and may not be approved for use in your community.

Best Trees and Shrubs for Hedges 

  • Arborvitae
  • Boxwood
  • Flowering Quince
  • Sawara False Cypress
  • Japanese Euonymus
  • Holly
  • Juniper
  • Privet
  • Oleander
  • Variegated False Holly
  • Korean Lilac
  • Hybrid Yew
  • Canadian Hemlock
  • Rose of Sharon

Vines Good Option for Privacy Screens

Use wire fences or screens that serve as supports for vines like Ivy, Clematis or Hops. Privacy hedges can also be used to hide compost bins or those large green power boxes.

Skip the Bland Privacy Fence and Go Green!

A living privacy hedge is a great way to add color and texture to your garden while providing the privacy you crave. Before you get out the post hole digger and invest in a bland white fence, think about the eco-friendlier option. Soon the sight of your Speedo clad neighbor stepping into his hot tub will be a distant memory.

Expert Advice

From wheelbarrows and shovels to trimmers and tillers, our expert staff is always on hand to help with your next DIY home project. Looking for other Fall gardening projects? Our blog, Landscaping Ideas to Create a Fabulous Fall Yard, has some great suggestions for ways to spruce things up around your home. As always, if you have any questions about pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Protect Your Trees: Learn How & When to Prune

How and When to Prune Your TreesTrees add beauty, interest and much needed shade to your yard. Replacing trees is a big investment, which is why properly pruning and maintaining them is essential. Not sure what kind of trees you have?

Who You Gonna Call? An Arborist, Of Course

An arborist is professionally trained in identifying the species and determining the health of individual trees, in the name of safety -for the trees and for your family. They can diagnose diseases, insect problems and soil health. Consult an arborist to find out what trees are best for your landscape and where to plant them. Many are certified by the International Society of Arboriculture.

5 Reasons to Prune a Tree

  1. To remove dead or diseased branches
  2. To thin the crown, permit new growth and promote better air circulation
  3. To reduce tree height
  4. To remove obstructing lower branches
  5. To shape a tree for aesthetic purposes

There’s a Right Time to Prune Your Trees

Prune your trees during their dormant season (late fall, early winter) to minimize sap loss and stress to the tree. This will reduce the risk of fungus infection and insect infestation.

Helpful Tips on Pruning

  • Know what kind of trees you have – some flowering trees like to issue buds on old growth in the winter and then bloom in early spring. If you prune one of these trees in the winter, you may not have any blossoms come spring.
  • Avoid pruning a newly planted tree – give it time to establish.
  • Prune when the leaves have fallen – it makes it easier to see what needs to be cut.
  • Never cut more than 25% off of your tree at one time.
  • Don’t trim branches near electrical lines – call a professional or the power company.
  • Never cut the top off a tree – this can cause the tree to die. Thin branches out instead. If it is too tall, consider removing the tree completely.

Tree Surgery is … Surgery

Always use clean, sharp tools for pruning; you wouldn’t want anyone cutting on you with a dull blade, right? When removing diseased branches, wipe your cutters with disinfecting wipes between each cut. This will keep disease from spreading as you cut other branches. You can also use a solution of 1-part bleach to 9-parts water and dip the cutters in as you work.

Handy Tools for Pruning

  • Anvil hand pruners – for small branches up to a ½-inch in diameter.
  • Long-handled loppers – for medium sized branches up to 2.5 inches in diameter.
  • Pruning saw – for larger branches, use a pole extender to reach the higher branches.

Where to Cut and Why

If you would like a detailed how-to on pruning techniques, read our blog, Getting Ready for Fall Part 1: Tree Trimming a Seasonal Sport or visit the Arbor Day Foundation’s webpage for more information.

Let a Professional Handle the Tough Stuff

There are times when every DIY’er needs to step back and let a professional take over. If the limbs you want to cut down require the use of a chain saw and a ladder, then maybe this is one of those times. There’s no shame in playing it safe! 

Take Care of Your Trees

Trees are the crowning glory of any yard, so take care of them. At the end of a long day of pruning, sit down in the shade of your trees, relax and remember the words of John Muir (father of our National Parks): Allow nature’s peace to flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.

Congratulations! Another job well done. Now, go hug a tree!

Expert Advice

From tree pruners and chain saws to wood chippers and wheelbarrows our expert staff is always on hand to help with your next DIY gardening project. As always, if you have any questions about pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Use the Ombré Technique on Accent Walls

How to Paint an Ombre Accent WallThinking of painting an accent wall? Consider trying the ombré painting technique. This easy method of blending similar colors from light to dark adds interest to any room. Get your paint brush ready. It’s time to channel your inner artist!

Keep Your Paint Choices Simple – But Have Fun

Selecting the colors to use is always a tough decision. Keep your choices simple. Pick a main color and two other shades from the same paint sample strip. If you want to be adventurous, try an analogous color scheme where each hue is similar but slightly different. Pick up an artist’s color wheel to help you select the best companion colors (those side by side on the wheel). Select at least three colors – one light, medium and dark.

Supplies You Need

  • 3-inch or 4-inch paint brushes: have several on hand to blend the different sections
  • Paint sprayer: to use for the primer base color
  • Rollers: for the three major segments
  • Paint trays: one for each main color and the colors you mix for blending
  • Bucket of water
  • Sea sponge (optional)
  • Painters tape, drop cloth, paper towels

Make it Easy – Use a Base Paint with Primer

Prep work is key so tape or cover all molding, fixtures and floor. Make sure the wall is clean. Cut down on your workload by selecting a paint that contains primer. Paint the entire wall with the lightest color. You can use a paint sprayer for this step but switch to a roller to paint the different bands. Once dry, mark off three sections leaving a six-inch space in between each area.

5 Steps for Painting an Ombré Accent Wall

  1. Paint each section. The darkest color is on the bottom, the medium shade in the middle and the lightest on top. Blend the colors into the buffer areas but do not completely paint inside the six-inch spaces.
  2. Mix transitional colors. Mix the dark color with the medium color until you get the shade you want. Mix a second color from the medium and light colors.
  3. Add a slow-drying agent. It will give you more time to blend the paint.
  4. Apply mixed colors. Paint the six-inch segment with the dark/medium shade and blend into the other colors. With a clean brush, do the same with the light/medium mix.
  5. Blend. Using a clean, dry brush, continue to blend the different shades on the wall until you get the look you want.

No Mistakes in Art, So Go for It!

There really isn’t a way to mess up this technique. Release your inner artist and play around with your wall. The colors should bleed into each other. If you want, use a damp sponge to thin out and blend the paint further or mix a darker shade to add small dabs of contrast throughout. Remember, this is your masterpiece. Once you’ve mastered the ombré technique, murals and portraits can’t be too far behind.

Expert Advice

From painter sprayers and fans to ladders and nail guns, our expert staff is always on hand to help with your next DIY painting project. Want to know more about how to paint your home?

Our blog, Paint Like a Pro – Tips for Painting Your Ceiling and Walls, will help you get started. As always, if you have any questions about pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Team Up with a Landscape Professional for Amazing Results

Sometimes getting your landscape exactly how you want it takes a team effort. Asking for help is not going against the DIYer’s code, it just makes sense. When in doubt on how to deal with a problem area of your yard or how to execute a specific design, call in a landscaping professional to help get you back on track.

Do You Call a Landscape Designer or Landscape Architect?

Say you want to create a backyard Zen garden, who would you call? A landscape designer has a horticulture background and can blend the right plants and materials together for your dream garden. A professionally trained landscape architect can also design your oasis but they know how to alter the lay of the land to appropriately deal with issues like bad drainage problems and soil erosion.

The Benefits of Working with a Landscape Designer or Architect

  • Ideas – They may see options you haven’t considered.
  • Wealth of knowledge – They know the best types of plants, hardscapes or water features that will work well for your landscape.
  • Resources –They have the business contacts and inside knowledge on the different materials and companies you may want to use.

The scope of work you want to undertake will determine which of these professionals you use. (Architects tend to work on larger scale projects.) Decide on your budget and how far you want to take your partnership. Whether you want a design plan or someone to handle the bigger tasks, let these professionals supplement your landscaping needs in whatever way you desire.

Tips for a Productive Landscape Consultation

Your consultation appointment is a meet and greet when the designer or architect assesses the landscape. It is handy to have a site or plat map of your property – a map drawn to scale, that shows the land divisions in your neighborhood – so you can clearly define the area to be renovated.

  1. Give a brief overview of your landscaping plans – You will meet again to go over details. Focus on the desired look and feel you want in your garden.
  2. Tell them your budget – They will be able to tell you if your budget is feasible. You may need to do the work in stages as you can afford it.
  3. Discuss what you want from them – Do you just want a design plan or do you intend for them to build elements? Define your role and where you want to use your DIY skills.
  4. Find out how do they charge for services – This could be hourly or a lump sum quote. The standard request is to pay the cost of permits and some materials upfront. You should get an itemized quote within a reasonable time after your consultation.
  5. Ask for references and to see a portfolio – Most professionals will have a list available and their website should have photos of finished work. Ask them if you can contact their other clients.
  6. Discuss whether they are licensed and bonded – If they are doing some of the work then they should have insurance to cover their employees.

Why Go Through a Major Landscaping Project Alone?

A landscape designer or architect can resolve issues you have in your yard or help you formulate a game plan for that total makeover. Seek out the expertise you need and you may find it is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Here’s looking at you, DIYer.

Expert Advice

From bobcats and backhoes to wheelbarrows and shovels our expert staff is always on hand to help with your next DIY landscaping project. Does your landscaping design include a retaining wall? You’ll find lots of helpful tips in our blog, Summer Garden Update #1: Building a Retaining Wall. As always, if you have any questions about pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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10 Ways to Boost Your Home’s Curb Appeal Now

10 Wasy to Improve Curb AppealIf you watch home improvement shows, you’ve heard about the importance of curb appeal for your home. Is it really that vital? We are here to tell you that working on your curb appeal should be on your to-do list, even if you aren’t listing your home in the immediate future.

Good First Impression

“First impressions are lasting” is something your mom drilled into your head about your appearance, so why wouldn’t the same apply to your home? Buyers judge a house first from the outside – whether in person or online. Most realtors will tell you that your home’s curb appeal can make or break a sale.

The Right Curb Appeal Can:

  • Increase the sale price of a home
  • Attract more potential buyers
  • Boost the overall value of your home

Curb Appeal’s Immediate Benefits

If you think of your house as a work in progress, you will recognize that working on DIY projects now will not only let you take your time and spread the cost of home improvements out, but you and your family will have a chance to enjoy your home’s new look before you’re ready to sell.

10 Boosts for Curb Appeal

  • Pressure wash everything – Clean the exterior of the house, the driveway and the garage door. Wash your lawn furniture as well.
  • Paint the front door and trim – Freshening up the entry way gives the home an inviting feeling.
  • Invigorate your landscaping – If your grass is thinning out, install sod. If your shrubs are overgrown, trim them. Plant flowers to give a pop of color to the front.
  • Check the roof – If your roof has seen better days, then replace it. Realtors say that a recently replaced roof can boost the sale price and you should be able to recoup your cost.
  • Clean gutters – Nothing ages a home more than overgrown gutters, so get out the ladder.
  • Fix driveway cracks – Like the roof, this is an immediate turn off for buyers who don’t want to deal with big repairs right off the bat. Seal cracks or consider resurfacing.
  • De-clutter the exterior – Walk around your house and look for ways to clean up. Stash lawn equipment, hoses, extra lawn furniture and toys.
  • Clean and fix windows – Wash them inside and out to let the light in. Buyers are attracted to homes with bright interiors. Fix any windows that may be cracked or do not open.
  • Organize the garage – Clean in and around it, and install an organizational system. If your garage doors do not open properly then repair or replace them.
  • Stage your home – Just as you do on the inside, plan how to make your home shine on the outside. Ask a realtor or friend to come and give you their opinion.

Killer Curb Appeal Improves the Neighborhood

Whether you are listing your home now or not, getting a jump on boosting your home’s curb appeal is just prudent planning. Walk around the exterior and take notes on what you need to do. Figure out your plan of attack and go for it. Give the outside of your home the same attention to detail you do on the inside. Everyone will soon know where you live – it’s the house with the killer curb appeal.

Expert Advice

From circular saws and ladders to pressure washers and paint sprayers our expert staff is always on hand to help with your next DIY home project. Worried about how to improve your cracked driveway? Our blog – 4 Steps to Renew an Aging Concrete Driveway – has helpful tips to get you started. As always, if you have any questions about pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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8 Ways to Kick Your Backyard Up a Notch

create your perfect backyard entertaining areaWith summer in full swing, you want to entertain outdoors in a backyard that is something special. We’ve put together a list of what we think makes for a perfect outdoor entertaining area, including links to some of our past articles – see if you can’t find your next DIY project!

Big or Small, Utilize It

Whether your backyard is big or small really doesn’t matter, it’s how you utilize your space that counts. Your first task is to determine how you’ll use the entertainment area and what kind of budget you have to work with. Do you want to use your entertainment space:

  • for the kid’s pool parties?
  • for grilling with friends?
  • for relaxing with your family?
  • all of the above? 

Create Entertainment Zones

Just like rooms in your house, divide your yard up into zones – dining, entertainment, and conversation areas. See where they best fit in your landscape and tie them together into a cohesive design. Your backyard may just need tweaking in order to have it just the way you want it.

8 Elements for a Perfect Outdoor Entertaining Area

  • Water – This could be in the form of an in ground pool or maybe a backyard pond but a water feature will boost the value of your home and provide plenty of enjoyable days outside with friends and family.
  • Covered dining area – Consider installing an awning or roof to protect your mealtime from bad weather. It would extend the usability of your backyard. A covering like a pergola or fabric curtains will give the space a romantic feeling.
  • Grill – Whether it is charcoal or gas, summertime is grilling time so incorporate one into your entertainment area. Remember to give yourself storage space nearby to stash all your grilling accoutrement. Treat it like an outdoor kitchen, add a small refrigerator.
  • Deck – It moves you out of the house and into the yard. Your deck can be where your grill is located and where your dining area is. You can have different levels of a deck to include space for dining and conversation.
  • Outdoor lighting and sound system – Trying to dine by the light of an outdoor flood light can kill the mood in a hurry. Consider lights for your deck, grilling area and walkways. Add speakers to your space so everyone can enjoy the music or the big game.
  • Poolside Bar – If pool parties are your thing then having a convenient snack area close to the pool is a perfect way to extend the outdoor fun and keep wet feet out of your house.
  • Lawn and garden – Having a section of lush grass for kids to play on or a beautifully scented garden to stroll through extends your entertaining possibilities into the far reaches of your yard. Scatter conversation areas throughout your garden by adding benches and lawn furniture.
  • Outdoor fire pit – Summer always goes by so fast and installing an outdoor fire pit or fireplace can help extend your outdoor entertaining season into the fall.

Personalize Your Space with Decorations

Use decorative design elements like colorful cushions, pillows, planters and garden art to help tie your entertainment zones together. Come up with an outdoor theme that reflects you and your family’s interests – favorite sports teams, places, travel dreams or heritage, for instance.

Create the Perfect Entertainment Area for You!

Your backyard is a blank canvas for you to create the perfect entertainment area. Hopefully we have given you some ideas on how to kick your space up a notch. So get busy! Summer is calling and that grill isn’t going to light itself.

Expert Advice

From circular saws and nail guns to orbital sanders and drills our expert staff is always on hand to help with your next DIY backyard project. As always, if you have any questions about pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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How-To Transform Your Walls with Texture

how to give your walls textureWant to try something different to upgrade the look of your walls? Express your creative side with textured paints and techniques, and transform your space into a Tuscan villa with stucco walls or a rich marbled hall. Let the walls be your canvas and add some texture to your life.

Be Adventurous with Brushes, Sponges and Paper

Decide on the look you want and start experimenting. Ready-made products are always easy to use, but be adventurous and try brushes, sponges or tissue paper to create unique looks. Good results depend on good preparation so clean, patch and sand your walls before painting. If your walls already have texture on them, remove it before adding a new one.

4 Products That Add Texture to Walls:

  • Textured paint – Comes in grades ranging from very fine to coarse. Easy to use but may be limited in color selection.
  • Texture additives – Mix it with regular paint and adjust the amount of grit for your desired look.
  • Joint compound – Apply to a wall and then use a texturing tool to make the pattern you want. Allow it to dry completely before sanding or painting.
  • Textured wallpaper – Add this to your wall with strong adhesive, prime and paint.

A Paint Sprayer Makes Texturing a Breeze

If you decide to use a textured paint but can’t find the color you want, use it as a base coat. Apply a top coat in the color of your choice with a paint sprayer to finish off your look. Textured paint can be thick (to give you time to work with it) so allow plenty of drying time.

Spackle Your Way to a Beautiful Design

Joint compound or spackle is easy to use and slow drying, which gives you plenty of time to craft your design. Practice your texturing method first and perfect your technique. Once dry, use fine grit sandpaper to smooth out mistakes or to allow more of your base coat to come through.

Methods to Texture Walls:

  • Combing – Pull a whisk broom, thick bristled brush or a comb through the paint or compound to create ridges or patterns. Use vertical and horizontal strokes to create a woven look similar to rice paper.
  • Rag Rolling – An old rag, dipped in paint and rolled over a wall, creates a dappled effect. Add multiple layers and shades of paint for visual depth.
  • Smooshing – Apply a coat of paint, press a piece of plastic into it and then gently remove it to achieve a marbled look.
  • Sponging – Create irregular patterns by dipping a sponge (natural or synthetic) in paint and smudging walls.
  • Patterned roller – Pre-cut rollers make tackling larger areas easier and help keep patterns uniform. Try dipping one end in one color and the other in a second color for a unique look.
  • Wood grain tool – Pull through wet paint to simulate the layered look of wood.
  • Venetian plaster paint – A two-toned paint process that gives the look of marble or stone and lets your underlying color show through.

The Sky’s The Limit with Textured Paint

Be inventive, use different materials like cheese cloth, lace and or wadded up tissue paper to achieve interesting patterns and textures. Stencil a pattern using textured paint to give a 3D effect. There is no wrong way of texturing, so go for it! This is one DIY project where the sky is the limit, so let your creative flag fly.

Expert Advice

From ladders and paint sprayers to orbital sanders and wet/dry vacuums our expert staff is always on hand to help with your next DIY painting project. Worried about using a paint sprayer for the first time? Learn the Proper Techniques for Painting with a Paint Sprayer by reading our blog. As always, if you have any questions about pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Paint It, Don’t Replace It! Tips for Painting Tile

how to paint tileUgly, outdated tile is something many DIY homeowners want to fix. Replacing it is always an option, although this may be the costlier expense. You won’t have to live with it any longer, however. Paint it, don’t replace it! While not a permanent fix, painting your tile can freshen the look of a room and give you more time to make future renovations.

Preparation and Product Selection Are Key

The keys to successfully painting tile are preparing the surface properly and using the right type of paint. Preparing tile is a little more involved than painting drywall but the time you spend doing it right will help the paint look better and last longer.

3 Steps to Preparing Tile for Painting:

  • Clean it – Remove all the soap scum, dirt and mildew from the tiles and grout. Use an abrasive bathroom cleaner and rinse well.
  • Sand it – Rough up the surface using a 180/220 grit sandpaper (synthetic grit paper like silicon carbide or aluminum oxide work well) to remove the gloss off of the glazed surface. An orbital sander will do this quicker and more evenly than hand sanding.
  • Dust it – Wipe the tiles down with a damp cloth to remove any loose debris or grit. It can show through the paint.

Repair Tile and Grout Before Starting

Your tile and grout need to be in good shape. Paint amplifies any imperfection so make any repairs to cracked, chipped or broken tiles before starting. Re-do your grout if it is too dry and cracking. Remove all caulk from around tubs and counters. It is best to re-apply a fresh bead when your painting is finished. Tape off all fixtures, faucets and mirrors to avoid getting paint on them.

Tips for Painting Your Tile

  • Use an epoxy bonding primer to help the paint adhere properly.
  • For the best color selection use a latex paint (semi-gloss or high gloss) and apply 2 coats.
  • A paint sprayer will give you the smoothest results.
  • If you use a sponge brush, work in one direction to minimize streaks.
  • Lightly sand in between coats to help the paint stick.
  • Finish with several coats of sealant and allow 2-3 days to dry completely.

Painted Tiles Can Last 5 Years

This easy DIY project is a great way to freshen up outdated tile until you’re ready to redecorate or renovate. Painted tiles can last up to five years if you avoid harsh cleaners or scrub brushes. Stop living with ugly tile and get out the paint sprayer. That icky avocado green is going down!

Expert Advice

Wanting to try your hand at installing tile? Our blog, How to Install a Kitchen Tile Backsplash, has some great tips to get you started. From ladders and paint sprayers to grout cutting saws and orbital sanders, our expert staff is always on hand to help with your next home DIY project. As always, if you have any questions about pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Hummingbird Feeders Liven Up Your Garden

bird feeders liven up a gardenYour garden is not just a random combination of plants and flowers, but an environment for the wildlife that lives there. One of the most entertaining creatures to watch is the Hummingbird as it flits, flies and hovers in search of nectar. Adding a feeder (or two) will attract these tiny birds, providing hours of delight for you and your family.

Fascinating Facts About Hummingbirds

  • According to The Hummingbird Society, 34 of the 342 known Hummingbird species are at risk of extinction.
  • They can hover and fly backwards.
  • They lap up their food with a long thin tongue.
  • Bugs are their primary food source and sugar (that comes from natural or manmade nectar) is the fuel that energizes them.
  • They are voracious eaters, starting to feed as early as 45 minutes before sunrise and continue throughout the day.
  • They are attracted to the color red, although they have no need for red food (forget food dyes!)
  • Leaving a feeder out all year will not entice them to stay. Some birds migrate up to 3,000 miles annually. Bring your feeder in when you haven’t seen a Hummer in three to four weeks.
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are territorial so place feeders in different locations so other varieties such as Rufous, Black-chinned and Calliope will feed.

Flowers First, Feeder Next

Placing your feeder near flowering plants is the best way to attract Hummingbirds. Some of their favorite garden plants are Azaleas, Butterfly Bush, Cardinal Flower and Coral-bells; Flowering Crabtree, Fuchsias, Honeysuckle, Impatiens, Lantana and Weigela. Don’t worry if you don’t see birds while your garden is in bloom, they are too distracted by your gorgeous flowers and will return to the feeder soon.

Hummingbirds Like It Clean

As long as they are kept clean, Hummingbirds have no preference on plastic, glass or homemade feeders. Look for one with feeding ports above the liquid (dripless), that have perches and are easy to clean. Start small until you attract a steady number of birds, then add more feeders.

Fresh Food is Good

Hummingbirds actively avoid a spoiled food source, so changing your feeder every four to five days is essential. Spoiled liquid will look cloudy and may have black mold spots floating in it. Throw away old nectar rather than topping it off.

The Best Nectar Recipe

Because Hummers get their nutrients primarily from flower nectar and insects, skip buying supplemented commercial nectar. Also, avoid using honey, Jell-O, raw (turbinado) or brown sugar, fruit or red dye. Here’s the best nectar recipe:

  • Mix 1-part sugar to 4-parts water
  • Boil for 1-2 minutes
  • Cool and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks

Prevent Feeder Mold

Use a mild detergent, bottle brush and hot water to clean your feeder before changing the food. Once a month, use a mixture of ¼ cup of bleach to a gallon of water to prevent mold. Full strength vinegar instead of bleach is also a good option, just rinse well.

Bees and Wasps Can Ruin Your Feeder

When Hummingbirds feed they often spill nectar onto surrounding surfaces, which attracts bees and wasps. To discourage them, wipe the feeder ports or dilute the sugar mixture in the nectar recipe. Moving the food source to a new location can help, too – the birds will follow it, but the bees won’t.

Sticky Situation for Ants

Nectar also attracts ants, which is why many feeders come with an ant barrier or water moat. Still, ants can be determined creatures, so try applying a very sticky goo called Tanglefoot to the bottom of the moat tray. Flip the tray upside down on the feeder to keep it out of contact with the birds.

Become a Dedicated Hummingbird Caretaker Today

These delicate aerial acrobats bring zip to your garden and are fun to watch. Become a dedicated caretaker of a Hummingbird feeder today and help save these beautiful creatures for another generation to enjoy.

Expert Advice

Our companion blog, How to Attract Birds and Butterflies for a Livelier Yard, is filled with helpful tips on how to bring more wildlife into your garden. From ladders and drills to shovels and wheel barrows, our expert staff is always on hand to help with your next gardening DIY project. As always, if you have any questions about pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Not Sure What DIY Project to Do Next? Ask a Professional

realtor tips for home improvementsTrying to decide which home improvement project to tackle next? When in doubt, ask people in the know. A professional realtor, interior designer or home inspector can steer you in the right direction on DIY projects that will add more value to your home.

How Professionals Show You the Way

Want to know how much money to spend on renovating your house? A realtor can help you decide on projects that will bring in buyers. An interior designer can advise you on the latest trends and colors to use while a home inspector will flag potential problems for you, like leaks, electrical issues, termite damage and building code violations. These professionals can help you separate what is an important improvement from a personal preference.

Focus Your Efforts on these 7 Areas:

  • Curb appeal – Sprucing up the landscape and front entry boosts the value of your home. Some of the ways you can do this are to:
    • clean up the grounds, edge and prune bushes
    • plant new flowers and shrubs for color
    • update lawn furniture, especially on porches
    • replace an old doormat
    • paint or re-stain the front door
  • Floors – Dirty old carpets are a turn off to buyers and are bothersome for allergy sufferers. Consider replacing it with engineered hardwoods or laminate. At the very least, have your carpets cleaned professionally.
  • Windows and Doors – Energy efficient windows and doors will help cut your power bills and provide a big selling point when you do decide to sell.
  • Paint – This is a great way to freshen up your entire house. Realtors will encourage you to use neutral colors to help buyers envision how their furniture and artwork will fit in the space.
  • Clean up – If you aren’t going to paint them, then scrub your walls. Make sure there are no dings or scuff marks. Don’t forget to clean the window blinds, baseboards and trim.
  • Cabinets – Even if you aren’t selling right now, declutter. It will save you time and effort, especially when it comes time to pack and move:
    • Add drawer and cabinet organizers
    • Fix loose drawers and hardware
    • Dust and clean out drawers and cabinets, especially in bathroom
    • Wipe down the outside of kitchen cabinets to remove grease from cooking
    • Paint or re-stain
  • Lighting – Like fashion, lighting fixtures go out of style. Update them and use new energy efficient bulbs. Natural light sells a house so consider installing a skylight or sun tube in dark, small rooms.

Small Fixes Bring Big Returns

You don’t have to take on a big renovation. Small do-it-yourself projects can make a big impact on the value of your home so don’t discount them. Just changing out an old vanity and the sink fixtures can revive the look of a bathroom. Focus your efforts on projects that will boost your home’s selling potential while adding to your family’s enjoyment. So ask a professional for their opinion, you’ll be glad you did.

Expert Advice

A fresh coat of paint is an inexpensive way to liven up any home – inside or out. Check out our blog, Paint Like a Pro – Tips for Painting Your Ceilings and Walls for the helpful hints you need to get started. From floor sanders and drills to paint sprayers and carpet cleaners, our expert staff is always on hand to help you get ready for your next home improvement job. As always, if you have any questions about pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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8 DIY Projects That Boost the Value of Your Home

diy home improvement projectsThinking of selling your home or just wanting to update your surroundings? Before you start an expensive kitchen remodel, consider how a few DIY projects could not only add value to your home, they can make your house more appealing to potential buyers.

Home Improvements Increase Real Estate Value

First, make a list of all the improvements you would like to accomplish. Talk with or a realtor or an interior designer for ideas on how to enhance your home’s appeal. Keep renovations in line with the sales value of your home and neighborhood. Your goal is to get a good return on your investment.

Fix Essentials First

Buyers typically look for existing houses where the basics like the roof, foundation and plumbing are in good shape. A remodeled kitchen cannot make up for a leaky roof; however, replacing a worn out roof can return as much as 80 percent of its cost at resale.

8 DIY Projects That Boost the Value of Your Home

  • First impressions – The front entryway is your first an opportunity to make a good impression. A freshly painted door, an awning and a working doorbell go a long way.
  • Address the basics – Add insulation, repair leaks, clean windows, rugs and wood floors. In addition, have the furnace and septic tank (if applicable) inspected.
  • Let in the light – Dark rooms are uninviting. Add new light fixtures and consider a sun tube or skylight to bring in natural light.
  • Improve the landscape – Curb appeal gets buyers in the door. Unkempt bushes and trees obstruct views. Mow the lawn, prune and plant shade trees and drought tolerant plants.
  • Go green – Use energy efficient appliances if replacements are needed.
  • Don’t forget your floors – Repair cracked tiles and squeaky floor boards. If you do replace the floors, consider engineered hardwoods or tile as an allergy free alternatives.
  • Paint – Neutral wall colors help buyers visualize their belongings in a room.
  • Declutter – Purge and organize clutter to help rooms look larger.

Add More Space for a Future Pay Off

If you’re simply looking to make improvements that will pay off down the road, consider building an addition. Every 1,000 feet increase of space can boost the sales price as much as 30 percent, especially when you keep the total square footage in line with the houses available in your neighborhood.

Quick and Easy Bathroom Fixes

Renovations don’t have to be overwhelming. Tackle one room at a time. If you can’t afford a major bathroom redesign, try some of these easy repairs:

  • Clean the grout
  • Apply fresh caulk
  • Replace the faucets
  • Add a new toilet seat
  • Update the vanity
  • Install a low flush toilet

Your DIY Efforts Will Show Big Results

Home improvements can help sell your home faster as well as make your life more enjoyable. Come up with a game plan, do your research and go for it. Take things one step at a time and soon your efforts will show big results.

Expert Advice

Still not sure what DIY project to start first? Our blog, Check These 10 Indoor and Outdoor Improvements Off Your Spring Checklist has helpful tips to get your house in awesome shape.

From circular saws and drills to paint sprayers and pressure washers, our expert staff is always on hand to help you get ready for your next home improvement job. As always, if you have any questions about pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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A Message to the Beginner of Herb Gardening

Lavender Farm in Sequim, Washington, USADear, Runyon Equipment Rental: Well, well, well! I am not a gardener! My husband has had a vegetable garden for years and does the flower garden for us. I want to try my hand with an herb garden. I stumbled across your website and liked what I saw. I have rosemary in the front of my house and mint on the side. You gave some great ideas on the fragrances and colors. Any suggestion that you can give to get this beginner started would be great! Thank you! – Darlene, Hatfield, PA

Dear, Darlene: First of all, since you are a beginner, I recommend you purchase herbs at Lowe’s and keep your receipt! If the plant dies, you are able to receive a new one as long as you bring in your receipt with the dead plant. This policy was a lifesaver when I first began growing my own herbs. Bonnie plants come in a pot that you can plant in the ground. I think they are the best to buy, but I always cut the plant out of the pot prior to planting.

Some do’s and don’ts:

  • Avoid planting mint or lemongrass in the ground since these plants are known to be invasive and will literally overtake your garden. Plant these in containers!
  • Sage is lovely and grows into a beautiful bush, after about 10 years, though it starts to get leggy. Oregano is another perennial that tends to grow large and will need to be trimmed. I have mine in my English Garden surrounding the bird bath.
  • I love lavender too. I love to cook and make my own herbes de provence which is great on pork and chicken. There are many varieties of lavender, which is in the mint family. If you are using for culinary, buy lavandula augustifolia. Use the purple flower for cooking. I plant rosemary and thyme around lavender since they contrast so nicely.
  • Chives, which are a cross between garlic and onion in taste, add beautiful contrast because of their long green stems. They flower pinkish purple on top. Make sure the stem is not used when adding this herb to food. The texture is tough, and it would be like chewing on a stick. Chives also tend to be spreaders, so I have mine cornered with the patio and paver blocks.

All the above come back year after year and grow with great scent and with vibrant color. All herbs need a lot of sunlight, so  ensure these are planted in areas that receive sufficient sun. I always plant around Mother’s Day, which is right around the corner! Some words of advice – make your hole twice the size of your pot, remove the plant from the pot gently, and rub around the bottom and the sides so the roots are loosened, and then plant in such a position that their little heads poke out of the ground. I use top soil to fill in the hole surrounding the plant.

herbsThe next herbs are annuals. Unfortunately, they wither away at the end of the summer into fall. I always buy dill, basil, and Italian parsley. For eating basil, you will want to pinch off the tops so they won’t flower and make the leaf bitter.  In the summer, you have to pinch daily.

When picking them, grab from the top since it encourages growth. Pick after the dew has dried. I use juice size glasses, filled with water and put them in the fridge in separate glasses. They last about a week or two as readily available ingredients to flavor your cooking.

When drying herbs for winter’s use, I grab my colander and cut what I want, rinse from the hose and rubber band the stems together and hang upside down.  It takes about a week for them to dry out, remove the leaves from the stem over wax paper and dryingherbsthrow into the coffee mill.  I use little box tins from Michael’s and give as gifts too.

Plant citronella and lavender near your patio or seating areas since they are a known mosquito repellent. Herbs are super easy to grow – just water in the morning with a watering can or pump and be sure to water the dirt, not the plant. Feel the dirt, and if it’s not moist – the plant needs water. You’ll want pots that have a hole in the bottom and water until a small stream comes through. When your herbs are in the ground, again, just water the dirt.

Hopefully, you will have a wonderful herb garden that makes you happy like mine does for me. The food tastes so much better with fresh herbs!

From aerators and lawn mowers to wheelbarrows and tillers , our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment for your next outdoor DIY project. Looking for additional information on gardening? Check out our infographic on growing vegetables for more helpful tips. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Refinishing – How to Breathe New Life into an Old Deck

Is your deck looking a little shabby? Is it in need of a makeover? Battling the elements can take a toll on your decking which is why regular maintenance is a must. Refinishing is an easy DIY project that will help extend the life of your outdoor space. After a good scrubbing and a fresh coat of stain, your deck will look like new.

Go Beyond Clean with a Pressure Washer

Remember, you aren’t just cleaning your deck but prepping it for a new coat of stain and protectant. You need to remove as much dirt, grime and old stains as possible. A pressure washer
with a fan nozzle works great for this. Use caution when trying to remove tough stains, the force of the water can gouge wood if focused in one spot too long. So keep it moving!

portland-pressure-washing.jpg

5 Tips for Cleaning Your Deck:

  • Cover your plants with plastic – This will help prevent chemicals from getting on them. Rinse the foliage off afterwards as an added measure.
  • Pressure wash – Use a cleanser that is specially formulated to clean decking materials. This keeps the wood from drying out. The most commonly used cleaners have TSP (Trisodium phosphate) in them but may be too harsh to use around plants.
  • Apply some elbow grease – Instead of trying to get tough stains up with the pressure washer, use a scrub brush.
  • Clean between boards – Use an old broom or brush to loosen debris from cracks and crevices.
  • Scrub railings and overhangs – All decking surfaces should be cleaned and refinished to protect them too.

Look for Needed Repairs

Now that you’ve finished washing the deck, allow it to dry for 24 hours. Use this time to inspect and replace any damaged boards. Look for popped nail heads and hammer them back in place.

Once your deck is completely dry, you can sand down rough spots and get ready for the stain.

There are four basic types of stain finishes:

  •  Clear – No tint or color but serves as a protectant for the wood.
  • Tinted – Wood colored tints allow for a uniform, natural appearance.
  • Semi-transparent – Gives some color but still allows for wood grain to show through.
  • Solid colors – Opaque paints hide the wood grain and provide ample color.

deck_refinish.jpg

Protect Your Deck from the Elements

Some new exterior paints/ stains can actually fill in small cracks and splits. Due to the thickness of these products, you will need a larger amount to cover your deck but multiple coats won’t be necessary. You can also find stains that contain skid resistant materials (like fine grit/sand) for added safety and still remain comfortable on bare feet.

Advice on applying stain to a deck:

  • Use a roller for larger areas – Paint brushes are great for railings and recesses.
  • Keep your color uniform – For a large area, mix all of your stain together to keep it consistent. Color may vary slightly from can to can.
  • Paint sprayers can clog – Read the label on the product you are using. Some stains are too thick for sprayers.
  • Avoid overlap marks – Work on a few deck boards at a time and paint lengthwise.
  • Let dry at least 24 hours – Test the surface before putting furniture back out. If it is tacky to the touch, give it more time to dry.

Give Your Deck a Makeover

If you’ve been thinking you need a new deck but can’t afford it, try refinishing first. A perfectly good entertainment space may be hidden beneath all that dirt and grime. All it needs is a little do-it-yourself TLC. Let’s face it, we can all use a little makeover from time to time.

refinished deck.jpeg

Expert Advice

From pressure washers and paint sprayers to sanders and nail guns, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment for your next outdoor DIY project. Looking for additional information on maintaining your deck? Check out our previous blog “Seal and Stain Your Deck in 3 Easy Steps” for more helpful tips. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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We’ve Got the 4-1-1 on the War Against Weeds

dandelionsStop Weeds Before They Start

It’s springtime and those pesky weeds have been lying dormant all winter just waiting to burst forth. Never fear, we have the 4-1-1 on how to cut them off at the start; saving you time and money. Effective weed control is easier than you think.

Weed Worries Got You Down?

Weeds are sneaky little buggers. They sleep all winter long and pop their heads above ground at the first sign of warm weather. Weed seeds are in virtually everything from potting soil to grass seed. In fact, the more you disturb the soil the more seeds you are exposing to moisture and sunlight needed for germination. So what are you to do?

Efficiently controlling weed growth is possible when you follow these 8 simple rules:

  • Minimize disturbing the soil – When maintaining your garden avoid digging or hoeing below the top 1-2 inches of dirt to limit the amount of seeds exposed. When planting be sure to cover the freshly turned soil with thick layer of mulch.
  • Mulch – Keep the seeds in the dark! Cover areas around plants with at least 2 inches of mulch. Organic mulches contain weed eating crickets and beetles that devour seeds.
  • Make weeding easy – The old saying “pull when wet, hoe when dry” still applies. Pulling weeds in the early morning when the ground is damp will make the job go faster.
  • Deadhead – This practice isn’t just for flowering plants. By pulling the tops off weeds you are eliminating the seed pods that could drop and germinate.
  • Limit gaps between plantings – Too much space encourages weeds to grow. Consider mass plantings or tightly spaced beds to leave no room for weeds to appear.
  • Keep your tools sharp – Dull hoes can spread weed seeds instead of eliminating them. You want to slice through the weed’s root to kill it.
  • Water plants, not weeds – Burying your soaker hose beneath mulch can reduce seed germination by 50 -70 percent because your plant is building strong roots and crowding out the weeds.
  • Maintain a healthy soil – Fresh infusions of organic matter or compost into the soil will help keep it healthy and keep seeds from sprouting.

Weeds are Everywhere!

Isn’t it amazing just how invasive weeds can be? These annoying sprouts are everywhere. They even find their way up through the cracks in driveways, walks and patios. Yes, you can walk around repeatedly spraying them with a toxic weed killer or try one of these simple methods:

  • Self-leveling sealant – Fill cracks in concrete with this expanding filler to block weeds. Sealing cracks will extend the life of your surface.weeds.jpg
  • White vinegar, salt and dish soap – Combine these with water and spray it on weeds shooting up through cracks. It will cause them to wilt.
  • Salt – Spread left-over rock salt on weeds and watch them dry up. Avoid runoff into your grass and garden because salt will totally kill vegetation.
  • Polymeric sand – Used to fill between bricks and pavers, you can also use this to fill concrete cracks. It has a cement-like quality once wet so work it into the cracks and sweep excess away.
  • Burn weeds away – Use a propane powered weed scorcher or handheld blow torch to run the flame over the weeds to shrivel them up. You are not setting them on fire but depriving them of moisture. Be careful in drought stricken areas.

Stop and Smell the Roses for a Change

Weeds are a fact of life but they don’t have to ruin your gardening experience. By taking these simple steps you will cut your weeding workload down to a manageable level and finally have more time to actually stop and smell the roses. pinkroses.jpg

Expert Advice

From wheelbarrows and shovels to weed eaters and bark blowers, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment for your next DIY landscape project. Learn how to improve your garden and flowers with organic compost in our previous blog “10 Good Sense Tips for Building a Compost Bin”. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

 

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Bring New Life to Your Garden with a Chandelier Bird feeder

chandelier bird feederff

Bring New Life to Your Garden with a Chandelier Bird feeder

Ever wondered what to do with an outdated old chandelier? Renovations often leave us with items we have no clue what to do with. Do you donate them or throw them away? Many times they lay forgotten and unused in the attic, just waiting on a second chance. Give your old chandelier a new lease on life by turning it into an elegant bird feeder.

Add Whimsy and Fun to Your Garden with Yard Art

Yard art can add interest and fill in blank areas of your garden where plants have a tough time growing. Repurposed items like chandeliers add a sense of whimsy and fun to formal gardens and are great conversation pieces.

Express Your Artistic Side

This DIY project is quick, easy and gives you an opportunity to express your artistic side. Here is what you’ll need:chandelier bird feeder

  • An old chandelier
  • Saucers, bowls or cups (one for each arm)
  • Outdoor spray paint
  • Wire cutters
  • Plyers
  • Waterproof glue
  • Plumber’s epoxy putty
  • Ladder
  • “S” hook and chain for hanging

A Stripped Down Chandelier Finds New Life

Start by taking the electrical elements out of the chandelier. Remove the light fixtures and wires.

Next apply waterproof glue to the bottom of a bowl and place one on each arm. Allow the glue to dry overnight before attempting to paint.

Branch Out with Your Paint Choices

Break out of your comfort zone and use bright, fun paint colors (the birds won’t mind). Hang the chandelier from a low tree branch so you can easily cover all sides at once. If you prefer, paint one side, allow time to dry and then flip it over to paint the other side. Paint hides imperfections like excess glue or rough spots. Once dry it is ready to hang from your favorite tree with the “S” hook and chain.

Bling Out Your Birdfeeder

You don’t have to hang your bird feeder from a tree, instead mount it on a painted wooden spindle to create a candelabra feeder or place it on a fence post. Add some “bling” to your chandelier by hanging colored crystals from the arms. Mismatched forks and spoons can act as wind chimes. Set your imagination free and decorate your feeder to reflect your personality.

Re-inventing Old Items is Addicting

Repurposing old items is addicting. Don’t stop with just your birdfeeder. A chandelier can also make a beautiful planter. Substitute terra cotta pots for the bowls and you are ready for planting.

Some other easy DIY garden art projects:

  • Old lamp bases with china platters added on top make unique bird baths.
  • Wheelbarrows make great planters or bird baths.
  • An old sink or bath tub can make convenient raised garden beds.
  • Add bird houses to your chandelier instead of seed bowls.

Turn Trash to Garden Treasures

Reusing old items keeps them out of our landfills and gives you an inexpensive way to add color and creativity to your garden. Get busy and convert some of your would-be trash into outdoor treasures. Your guests will be impressed by the clever, artistic touches in your yard.

Expert Advice

From drills and saws to ladders and paint sprayers, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment for your next garden DIY project. Want to make your garden an inviting habitat for wildlife? Find inspiration and helpful tips in our previous blog, “How to Attract Birds and Butterflies for a Livelier Yard”. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

Categories: DIY Projects, How-To's, Renovate, Restore and Renovate, spring checklist | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DIY Outdoor Couch to Enjoy All Summer Long

Everybody’s thinking about how they’re going to furnish their outdoor rooms right now. The sales are everywhere! Why buy expensive furniture when you can create a stylish custom outdoor couch out of concrete blocks and treated lumber? It’s an easy and inexpensive DIY project you can do in an afternoon and enjoy all summer long!

Why Didn’t I Do This Sooner?

If you constantly worry what harsh weather is doing to your new lawn furniture, maybe you should look into more sturdy options. A super cute couch made from concrete blocks and pressure treated boards is virtually maintenance free. This project is so simple you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

Here’s what you need:6cdbbc793a01f2b017be8fa2d0ce6a1e

(4) 4 x 4 x 12 pieces of pressure treated wood

(12) Concrete blocks (Pre-painted or natural)

(1) Tube Concrete Adhesive

 Find the Right Design for You

Lay out how you want your couch to look. Move your blocks around until you find a design you like. Build it with or without a back or arms. Consider pre-painting the blocks and the ends of the wood if you want a finished look. Painting before construction is quicker.

6 Steps for Building a Concrete Block Bench:

  • Create two stacks of blocks – Decide how high you want your couch; you may need to bury your first row of blocks into the dirt to lower it to the right height.
  • Row 1 – Stand three blocks on their end, holes to the center.
  • Row 2 – Lay two blocks on their sides, holes to the center.
  • Row 3 – Stand one block on end, holes to the center, to form back.
  • Slide (3) wood poles through the blocks on the second row to form the seat.
  • Slide (1) wood pole through the blocks on the third row to create the back.

Concrete Adhesive Locks Blocks in Place

Once you have found the design you want, disassemble your practice layout and start again. This time apply concrete adhesive in between the layers of blocks to hold them in place. Allow the couch to dry overnight before attempting to sit on it. You can also bond the wood to the concrete if you want to restrict them from moving.

Have Fun Decorating Your Couch9c62cc497eb49cf932099fbfa00726d9

With your concrete couch complete, it’s time to decorate. Add long cushions to the seat and back. Keep them in place by attaching a strip of Velcro to the poles and the pillows. Tying the pads to the wood poles also works. You can decorate as little or as much as you’d like. Apply decorative tiles to the seat and back to give the couch a Mediterranean feel.

Endless Design Possibilities with Concrete Blocks

Place the couch up against a wall or use them as stand-alone pieces. The possibilities are endless. Concrete blocks can be used to build chairs, picnic tables or potting benches. You only have to cut the wood down to size and away you go.

Great Looking and Weather-proof

These inexpensive creations are perfect for any garden. They stand up to harsh weather and look great. No need to worry about expensive furniture any longer. Focus on important things like finding the perfect pillows for your new couch!

Expert Advice

From wheelbarrows and shovels to saws and paint sprayers, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment for your next DIY deck or patio project. Want to make something else for your yard? Try building this easy poolside bar featured in our blog, How to Construct a Poolside Bar. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

 

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Kitchen Backsplashes with Pizazz – Creative Remodeling Project Idea #3

Remodeling Project #3 - Update Your BacksplashYou want to add a little pizazz to your kitchen – how about starting with that often overlooked area called the backsplash? It’s a design opportunity just waiting for an inspired DIY’er like yourself. Get those creative juices flowing, we’ve got work to do.

Make it Take the Heat and the Mess

There is a wide range of materials available for your backsplash. Choose a material that will complement countertops or add overall warmth to the kitchen. Keep in mind the product you choose needs to be able to withstand heat, greasy splatters and frequent cleanings. A few popular options are:

  • Ceramic tile – Widely available and affordable
  • Metals – Stainless steel, copper, tin
  • Glass – Tiles or solid panels
  • Stone – Granite, marble, soapstone, quartz
  • Metallic penny tiles
  • Wood
  • Laminate

Subway Tiles: An Elegant, Affordable Choice

One of the most popular (and affordable) options is subway tiles. They come in a variety of colors and sizes and are easy to install. Give your backsplash additional interest by laying the tile at an angle or in a pattern. Here are a few tips on installing tile:

  • Prepare your work area – remove outlet covers and any fixtures, cover your countertops and tape off around cabinets.
  • Use cement backer board – this is actually a thin layer of concrete with fiberglass weave on both sides, which gives the tile something firm to sit on.
  • Apply tile mastic to small section of wall – this is a ready-to-use adhesive that has better adhesive properties on vertical surfaces than thin set.
  • Cut and place tiles – work in small areas so the mastic does not dry. Use spacers.
  • Apply grout – allow tiles to set overnight before applying grout. You can use tinted grout if you don’t want white.
  • Clean and caulk – wait at least 30-40 minutes for the grout to set before wiping the tiles clean with damp sponge. Caulk where the tiles meet the countertop.

Personalize Your Kitchen Backsplash

If tile and traditional materials aren’t what you are looking for, then consider non-traditional DIY options that add personality:

  • Customized wallpaper – Photographs, quotes or textured fabrics applied to the walls with adhesive and covered with glass.
  • Install a mirror – A reflective surface can open up a small space and show off countertops.
  • Paint – If you already have a tile backsplash, give it a pop of color with paint.
  • Ceiling tiles – Laminated thermoplastic panels can be glued to walls to give an old world feel.
  • Repurposed wood – Reuse old wood flooring, apply varnish and seal to make for easy clean-up.
  • Cork – Glue squares of this on the walls for a handy recipe/reminder board for the whole family. Seal it for easy wipe downs.

Spice Up Your Kitchen with A New Backsplash

Whatever material you choose, updating your backsplash is an easy, economical way to breathe life back into your kitchen. Get creative and spice up your galley this weekend. It’s a little change that reaps big results.

Expert Advice

From masonry saws to tile nippers and cutters, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment for your next kitchen update. Is this your first time installing tile? Learn helpful tips from our blogs, How to Install a Kitchen Tile Backsplash and How to Cut Tile for Do-it-Yourself Tiling Jobs. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Invigorate Your Kitchen for Less – Creative Remodeling Project Idea #1

Remodeling Project #1 - Update Your CountertopsOne of the most popular remodeling projects is renovating the kitchen, a project that can also easily become the most expensive. Forbes magazine lists the average kitchen makeover budget at close to $54,000. Wow, good thing we’re into home DIY projects! Let’s look at ways to invigorate your kitchen for less.

Create a Remodeling Plan

Think about why you are remodeling. Are you updating the kitchen to resell your home? Or are you looking for a change? Answering these questions can help you establish a realistic plan and avoid the expensive pitfalls of kitchen renovations. Determine which projects you want to do yourself and which ones you want to leave to the professionals.

Decide What You Want Done the Most

If you just want to freshen up the look of the most popular room in the house, what in your kitchen stays – the cabinets, the countertops or the appliances? If you want all new stainless steel appliances, then start your budget there and build on that. Decide what you want done the most and what you can exclude.

Popular Materials for Countertops

Determined to have granite installed in your kitchen? Expect to spend 10-15% of your overall kitchen remodel budget just on the countertops. Granite, marble and engineered stones are popular. They do come at a price.

  • Granite – Scratch and heat resistant; can stain if not sealed properly
  • Marble – Carrara is popular, can stain and scratch
  • Soapstone – Bacteria, acid and stain resistant; can chip on edges
  • Natural and Engineered Quartz (Silestone, CaesarStone) – Heat and stain resistant
  • Wood – Popular with many chefs; inexpensive
  • Glass – Recycled or mosaic; can chip and show scratches
  • Concrete – Can be tinted and textured for aesthetics
  • Laminate – Inexpensive; wide range of colors available
  • Solid Surfaces (Corian, Wilsonart, Avonart) – Stain and bacteria resistant; not heat tolerant.
  • Stainless Steel – Durable; heat resistant and easy to clean

Money-Saving Countertop Ideas

Save money by getting creative with your countertops. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Paint laminate surfaces – Be sure to cover your paint choice with several protective coatings of polyurethane (matte or high gloss finish).
  • Tile – Mix it up. Select different types of tile for the countertop and the backsplash.
  • Wood – Re-purpose old wood doors. Use old countertops as a template to cut out the wood. Sand, stain and coat them with polyurethane.
  • Concrete – Apply it right over your old surfaces or buy it in slabs built to your exact measurements.
  • Stainless Steel – To get a seamless countertop, order materials cut to specific measurements.

Many of these countertop options require 24 hrs. drying time between coats, so be patient. Good things come to those who wait (and do it themselves).

Dream Kitchens for Less

You can have the dream kitchen you want by rolling up your sleeves and creatively re-inventing an old space. By saving money and redoing the countertops yourself, you can use the extra cash to buy new appliances or redo the cabinets and floors. Even grilled cheese sandwiches will taste better made in your newly remodeled kitchen! As Emeril Lagasse says, “Bam!” – what a kitchen.

Expert Advice

From orbital sanders and drills to concrete mixers and paint sprayers, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment for kitchen remodels and more. Learn more tips from our blog, Install a Tile Backsplash in Your Kitchen for a Fresh New Look. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Paint Like a Pro – Tips for Painting Your Ceilings and Walls

DIY Project - How to Paint Your WallsOne way to re-invigorate a room without breaking the budget is with a fresh coat of paint. With so many great paint choices out there, painting is a weekend DIY project that creates immediate results. Go ahead, let your imagination run wild and choose a bold new color to breathe life back into your home. We’ve got the painting 4-1-1 to help you paint like a pro.

What Room Needs a Paint Lift?

Before starting your project, think about how your room is used. Is it a high traffic area like a kitchen? You may want to be able to scrub stains and scuff marks off walls. Or is the room a little quieter like a bedroom? The type room you are painting will determine what type finish you select.

6 Paint Finishes for Interior Walls:

  1. Matte or Flat – Has no shine. Covers imperfections well but it scuffs easily. Good for ceilings.
  2. Matte Enamel – More durable, can be cleaned easily. Good for kitchens and kid’s rooms.
  3. Satin – Low sheen, can be cleaned often, shows imperfections. Works well on hallways and other high traffic areas.
  4. Eggshell – Subtle shine, cleans easy and can cover more surface area with less paint.
  5. Semi-gloss – Used mainly on trim, easy to clean.
  6. Gloss – High shine, shows imperfections but easy to clean. Takes longer to dry.

Ceiling First, Walls Next

Give yourself room to work by clearing as much furniture out as possible. Cover remaining items as well as the floor with drop clothes. Clean the surface of the walls and ceiling to remove any dirt or dust. If you spackle holes, paint them with primer to help them blend in when painted. Paint the ceiling first then the walls.

Paint Loves Loose Fuzz

Use a 2-inch angle brush and 9-inch roller and shallow roller pan. If you have a smooth ceiling use a roller with a smooth or medium nap. For rough ceilings use one with a thicker nap. Wrap new rollers in masking tape then remove to eliminate any loose fuzz.

8 Proper Techniques for Painting Ceilings & Walls

  1. Cut in  Paint a 3-inch strip around the perimeter where the walls meet the ceiling.
  2. Work in small sections  Lap marks result if you allow the strip to dry before the roller can go over it.
  3. Use primer paint – It will help cover up stains and imperfections.
  4. Roll paint on in “W” pattern  Work across the body from left to right to avoid neck and shoulder strain.
  5. Fill in the pattern  Apply paint in even vertical strokes, overlapping the 3-inch strips to blend in paint.
  6. Outline corners, windows, outlets and finally baseboards – Don’t get too far ahead so the outline remains wet for the roller.
  7. Paint from top to bottom – Roll paint on from the ceiling to the floor to cover any drips that may happen.
  8. Paint molding last – After the walls and ceiling have dried, apply painter’s tape to the wall or ceiling and paint the molding.

Is a Paint Sprayer More Your Speed?

If a roller and brush are slow for you, try using a paint sprayer. Just make sure to completely cover anything you don’t want to get paint mist on (including yourself). For more helpful hints check out our past blog on how to properly use a paint sprayer.

Fresh Paint Can Brighten the Spirits

After the paint has dried and the furniture is re-arranged, take a step back and look at your new creation. Fresh paint can brighten the spirits as well as a room. You’ll be able to brag about this until your next DIY project. Take a load off, you deserve a break.

Expert Advice

Whether you need ladders, vacuums or paint sprayers, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment to handle your home painting projects. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Give Kitchen Cabinets a Face-lift in 10 Steps with New Stain

How to Restain Your Kitchen CabinetsWhile pondering your next home DIY project over a morning cup of coffee, you suddenly realize that it is staring you right in the face. Your kitchen cabinets could use a face-lift! Re-staining wood cabinets is an easy and economical way to perk up the busiest room in the house. If yours are looking a little lackluster, all you need is some wood stain and a little sweat equity.

What you will need:

  • Drill
  • Orbital sander
  • 220 grit sand paper and sanding block
  • Mineral spirits
  • Gel or spray stripping solvent
  • Putty knife
  • Tack cloth
  • Paint sprayer
  • Wood stain
  • Polyurethane coating

Do you have fiberboard cabinets?

Determine if your cabinets are hardwood or fiberboard. Test an out-of-the-way spot by sanding off the finish or paint. Fiberboard will not stain so you may have to re-paint them. If you have hardwood cabinets, then you’re ready to start.

10 Steps to Reinvigorate Kitchen Cabinets with Stain

  1. Remove the doors from the cabinets – Clean out all cabinets and drawers. Label the doors and cabinets so that you can re-assemble them in the correct order at the end of project.
  2. Unscrew all hardware and hinges – If you are keeping existing hardware, label them to match where they came from.
  3. Clean the surfaces – Use mineral spirits to clean dirt and grease from the wood. It may take several passes.
  4. Apply gel stripper – Spread the solvent onto your cabinets and allow it to bubble up old finishes or paint. Scrape it off with a putty knife. These chemicals are very corrosive and toxic so wear a mask, gloves and safety googles.
  5. Use wood putty to fill holes and gouges – To install new hardware, cover the old holes with wood filler and let dry 24 hours.
  6. Sand all surfaces – An orbital sander with 220 grit sandpaper will smooth the wood and remove any old paint or finish. For any trim or hard to reach places, it is best to sand by hand. Wipe with tack cloth to remove dust and debris.
  7. Apply stain – Work with the wood grain and apply light, even coats. Wipe excess off with a cloth. To get a deeper color, apply several coats not thicker ones. Allow wood to dry completely between each pass.
  8. Add a polyurethane coating – This will help protect the wood and allow for easier cleaning. A paint sprayer will make it easier to do a large number of cabinets and will help prevent streaks.
  9. Re-assemble the cabinets – Match the numbered doors to corresponding cabinets.
  10. Install new hardware – Drill new holes to add new knobs, pulls and hinges.

You are on a roll!

Staining the existing wood cabinets is not only a great way to freshen up the look of your kitchen without spending a lot of money, recycling the cabinets is also eco-friendly. Now that you’ve done such a great job on the cabinets maybe it’s time to tackle the backsplash. Looks like you’ve found your next DIY project without even trying. You are on a roll!

Expert Advice

Whether orbital sanders, drills or paint sprayers, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment to handle your home DIY project. If re-staining the cabinets isn’t enough of a change for your kitchen, check out our blog, How to Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets to Perfection for some excellent tips on doing it like a pro. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Winterizing Checklist for Garden Tools & Equipment

Winterizing Garden ToolsIf you’ve been working hard to get all your lawn equipment stored away for winter, have you been checking all those DIY to-do’s off the list, too? Just in case you’ve overlooked a step or something else, let’s review what’s recommended you do.

When Winterizing Lawn Equipment:

  • Remove fuel – Gas breaks down after 30 days and will clog fuel lines if you leave gas in your lawn mower, weed eater, leaf blower or any other gardening equipment.
  • Use a fuel stabilizer – If you’re not going to remove the gas, then add a fuel stabilizer. It will keep the gas usable for up to 12 months.
  • Change the oil – Removing old oil and replacing it will keep the engine components lubricated and corrosion free.
  • Do an overall inspection – Make sure that spark plugs, seals and filters are clean and ready for use next spring.
  • Clean – Don’t store your lawn mower with grass clippings still in the undercarriage. Use a pressure washer to remove debris and then wipe the metal down with oil or lubricating product.
  • Store properly – Keep your equipment inside out of the elements, if possible. If not, then make sure to cover them with a heavy-duty tarp to keep them dry and rust free.

Service Equipment Now

Winter is a good time to have your equipment serviced by a professional. Why wait for spring when there is likely a long line of people waiting to get their lawn mower blades sharpened? Replace any part that may be starting to crack or dry out. A professional will help you keep your equipment in top shape for next summer.

Garden Hand Tools Need TLC, Too

We often forget about our small garden hand tools. These need to be winterized as well. Clean and treat them with an oil or lubricant to keep them from rusting. If your tools are already showing signs of rust, create an abrasive paste from table salt and lemon juice to remove the corrosion. Rinse the paste off thoroughly and dry. Coat tools with oil before storing.

Keep Sharp Tools Sharp

Sharpening your tools is easy. All you need is a small file or whetstone. Run the file along the edge of blades at a 45-degree angle to remove any nicks or rough spots, so they will be ready for the next growing season. Remember, sharp tools need to be properly stored away from curious hands.

Disinfect Pruners Before Storing

Because you use your pruners to remove diseased growth from plants, they may be harboring bacteria. Wiping the blades down with alcohol or similar disinfectant will help avoid cross contaminating other plants come springtime. Do this before treating them with oil before storing.

Improve Storage Space

Now that it’s time to get your lawn equipment taken care of, we also see a DIY garage organizational project on your horizon. Install some peg boards along garage walls to hang your weed eater, blower and garden tools. Unused space in the rafters is great to store lawn furniture. With storage space at a premium (especially in a garage), think outside the box – literally. You’ll be surprised how storage-efficient your garage can be.

Expert Advice

From pressure washers to lubricating products like Lube-a-Boom Clear Spray, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right tools and equipment for your home projects. For more helpful tips on how to get ready for the cold weather, check our blog post – Winterize and Maintain Your Outdoor Power Equipment. We also service a wide variety of Honda Power Equipment including mowers and tillers. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Need Hot Water & Heat? Best Practices for Maintaining Your Systems

winterize hot water heater and furnaceIt is easy to forget about your hot water heater and heating system until they stop working. With a little preventative maintenance you can avoid impromptu cold showers and costly repair bills. Make sure to add draining your hot water heater and servicing your HVAC system to you winter preparations.

Flush your hot water heater once a year

Draining your hot water heater once a year will help keep that blessed hot water flowing. Sediment from minerals in the water, or sand and grit coming in through the municipal water lines, can settle at the bottom of the tank and hinder its efficiency. It will cause cracking and popping noises during the heating process. Flushing the tank will help extend its life.

How to drain your hot water heater:

  • Read the manufacturer recommended instructions on the side of the tank for your specific model
  • Turn water supply off
  • Turn off power – if you have a gas water heater, put it on the “pilot” setting, and if you have an electric tank make sure to turn it off at the circuit breaker
  • Let water cool overnight or use extreme caution when removing scalding water
  • Attach hose to drain valve at base of unit, extend hose outside house or into a bucket (use a good quality hose since hot water can cause worn hoses to leak)
  • Open a hot water tap in the house (preferably one on the floor above)
  • Open drain valve and drain some water into a bucket to determine the amount of sediment to be flushed out
  • Turn water supply on briefly to stir up remaining sediment, repeat until water draining out hose is clear
  • Close drain valve, refill tank, and turn on power/ gas to hot water heater (be sure to close the hot water tap you left open)
  • Check the valve opening at bottom of tank to make sure it is closed and there are no leaks

Extend the life of your furnace

The HVAC system in a home accounts for over 50% of total energy costs. Having your unit serviced before winter sets in will help to extend the furnace life, reduce energy bills and improve indoor air quality. The cost of a professionally done system tune-up will run between $70 -$100. Included in this service should be:

  • A check of all electrical connections
  • An examination the unit for fire hazards
  • A test for carbon monoxide leakage
  • An inspection and calibration of the thermostat
  • Lubrication of any moving parts
  • Inspection of the condensation drain to make sure it isn’t blocked

Beware of carbon monoxide leaks

Carbon monoxide leaks from a faulty furnace is dangerous. An estimated 500 people die and 15,000 are taken to the emergency room each year from exposure to this invisible gas. Symptoms are headaches, dizziness and nausea. Installing carbon monoxide and fire detectors in your home could help keep you and your family safe.

Change air filter every month

You can keep your HVAC running efficiently by changing the air filters once a month. It will keep the unit from overheating. Dirty filters worsen air quality and exacerbate allergies and asthma symptoms. Pet dander can also accumulate in dirty filters and spread allergens throughout your home.

Programmable thermostats really save

One way you can help extend the life of your unit (and lower heating bills) is to install a programmable thermostat. It can help save you up to 10% on your energy bills. By setting your thermostat a few degrees lower in the winter and higher in the summer, you can see a noticeable difference in your bills. Check with your power company to see if there are any rebates available for upgrading your thermostat.

A little preventative maintenance goes a long way

Waking up to a cold house or stepping into a cold shower is no one’s idea of a great way to start to the day. Draining your hot water heater, getting your HVAC serviced, and changing that dirty air filter can help you avoid unwanted repair bills. The goal is to stay warm this winter and with a little preventative maintenance you can do just that. For more helpful DIY tips check out our blog on preparing your home for winter.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your DIY winterizing projects. From wet/dry vacuums and garden hoses to heaters, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Winterize Your Pool and Sprinkler System in 10 Steps

winterize your pool and sprinkler systemWith the weather getting cooler, the first fall frost won’t be far behind. Your lawn is slowing its growth and your pool is likely doing nothing but collecting leaves. Winterizing your pool and sprinkler system should be at the top of your to-do list.

1. Drain Irrigation Lines

Shutting off the water to your sprinkler system is the first step. Your main shut-off valve should be located in your basement or crawlspace. There are three different methods for draining the lines:

  • Manual drain
  • Auto drain
  • Blowout

2. Blowing Out is Best

To insure that you have removed all the water from your pipes, blowing out the lines is the most effective. Determine what type of lines you have – black polyethylene pipes or white PVC piping. The type line you have will determine how much pressure you can use to remove the water.

3. Too Much Pressure = Damage

Polyethylene pipes can withstand up to 50 PSI (pounds per square inch) while PVC can take up to 80 PSI. You will need to check your air compressor’s rating before you start. Too much pressure in your lines and you can seriously damage your pipes and valves.

4. Watch for Flying Debris

Connect the air compressor to the mainline just after the backflow device. Always keep at least one control valve open to avoid damaging the system. Start with the furthest sprinkler location and blow-out each line. Be careful of flying debris coming out of your lines. Wear safety goggles and keep clear of the valve during a blowout.

5. Insulate Exposed Equipment

Besides blowing out the lines, make sure you protect any equipment that may be exposed to the elements. The backflow prevention device is usually located outside near the foundation. The “bonnet” and “poppet assembly” inside this device can freeze and burst, causing costly damage. Wrap it with insulation and cover with a plastic bag. Duct tape the bag shut to keep out moisture.

6. Remember the Controller

Don’t forget to address your automated controller. Put it into “rain” mode, which will allow the timer to continue to run (saving your programmed settings) but shut off all the valves. If your controller connects to a pump, you may want to disconnect the power to it. You will lose your settings but the pump motor will not burn out from continuous use.

7. Preparing Your Pool for Winter

Winterizing your pool is a definite must-do. Clean all the debris from around and out of the pool. It’s important to leave water in your pool. Without the weight of the water, frozen ground can expand and cause a pool to rise up, cracking it. Lower the water level just below the mouth of your skimmer.

8. Cover Pool for Safety

Make sure the water chemistry is balanced to protect against staining and etching. Add a winterizing chemical kit to the water to keep it clear of algae. Cover the pool to keep out debris, inspecting the cover for any tears. To keep water off of the cover (and children safe), you may want to invest in an automated pump. Store all of your pool equipment (ladders and slides) to protect them from harmful weather damage.

9. Winterization Plugs Keep Water Out

As with your irrigation system, you need to drain all plumbing lines associated with your pool. After blowing the water out of the pipes, seal the line on the pool end to keep water from getting back into it. Many pools come with plugs specifically for winterization.

10. Winterize Filter, Too

Don’t forget about your filter. There is a plug at the bottom that will allow water to drain out. Open the air relief valve if you have one. Put the multiport valve in the “closed” position and remove the pressure gauge. Cover any exposed equipment with insulation and a plastic bag to keep moisture out.

Winterizing your pool and irrigation system keeps you from experiencing the headaches of ruptured water pipes and costly repairs. While ice sculptures created by a burst pipe might appear beautiful, your wallet will not think it is so spectacular. Save your money for more important things like suntan lotion and a new pair of shades.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your DIY winterizing projects. From leaf blowers and wet/dry vacuums to air compressors, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Fall Yard Clean-Up: Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental Grasses Fall Clean-UpOrnamental grasses add texture, form and movement to any garden design. Easy to grow, these versatile plants can be found everywhere from flower beds to borders. With just a little maintenance you can keep them adding interest to you garden for years to come.

3 Types of Ornamental Grasses

  1. Cool Season Grasses – Varieties like Fescue, Purple Moor and Blue Oak like the cooler temps of spring and fall. They go dormant during the summer heat. Plant them in the early spring.
  2. Warm Season Grasses – These plants prosper in summer and early fall. Hardy Pampas and Fountain Grasses can grow all the way until the first snow. Plant these in the late spring or early summer.
  3. Evergreen Grasses – These “grasses” actually have many grass-like traits. Sedges and Rushes are in this class. Because these varieties are never dormant, your best bet is to plant them in the spring to allow for stronger root development.

Which Grass Do You Have?

Ornamental grasses are either clumping or running (rhizome forming). Clumping grasses keep to themselves in nice mounds but do need to be divided to stay healthy. Running or rhizome grasses send out growth below the soil surface. They, too benefit from dividing. Some varieties can be very aggressive and will take over a flower bed if left unchecked.

Ornamental Grasses Add Interest to Winter Gardens

Depending on how neat you like your winter garden, ornamental grasses can offer interest to your yard, so consider leaving the foliage. Birds are attracted to the seeds, and frost can turn stalks into icy sculptures. The dead foliage helps to insulate the crown of the plant. Cut the plant back to about 4-6” in the early spring to encourage and speed up new growth. Avoid drastically cutting back the plants to avoid wounding them.

Watch Out for Sharp-Edged Leaves

Still wanting to trim your grasses back in the fall and winter? Be warned – maintaining ornamental grasses can be both easy and treacherous. Many species have very sharp foliage, so we recommend wearing a pair of sturdy leather gloves when attempting to cut them back. If the grass mound is large and established, then bundle the stalks together before cutting them. You will need a hedge trimmer or even a chain saw depending on the size of the plant. Deposit the handy dandy bundle of debris in your compost pile.

Divide and Conquer Your Ornamental Grass

When your grass has outgrown its current home, then it is time to divide your plant. Prepare yourself, this can be a workout depending on the size of your plant. The best time to do this is when you’ve just cut the stalks back. It will allow access to the crown. Here are some tips for successfully dividing your grass:

  • Lift and separate – For large clumps take a small ax or a sharp shovel and partition the crown of the plant into sections. You may need a crow bar to pry apart the pieces you have cut. Leave roots on each of the pieces, but plant them before roots dry out.
  • Shape it up – If you just want to rein in a mound from getting too large, trim around the outside of the plant. You can insert a sharp spade or shovel along the edges and separate sections of the grass away from the parent plant. Be sure to cover up the exposed edges with fresh dirt and mulch.
  • When the center dies – Older plants tend to die off in the center. One method is to break up the entire mound and re-plant some of the divided sections back in the original spot. Another is to “core out” the center of the plant and allow the surrounding healthy growth to fill in the bald spot.

A Little TLC Goes a Long Way

Ornamental grasses can break up the monotony in any garden. Just remember when tackling your fall yard cleanup, a little TLC can go a long way in helping your plants stay healthy and ready to put on a show next spring. 

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your lawn and garden projects. From hedgers and chain saws to shovels and wheelbarrows, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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[Part 3] Planning for a Green Spring: Feed Your Lawn

Feed Your Lawn in FallDo you know the condition of your grass? Looking out over the yard at all your hard work, it is easy to miss what’s right under your nose (or should we say feet). The long hot summer was likely brutal on your lawn. A good feeding of fertilizer will give you a head start on greener, healthier grass come spring.

Examine Grass & Soil

Before you apply fertilizer to your lawn, it is always good to take a closer look at your grass and soil. (By closer we really mean dig out a small section of your grass and look at the root system.) How deep are the roots? Is there a layer of dead organic matter (thatch) thicker than a half inch below the surface? Is the soil hard and compacted? All of these conditions can be solved by following a simple fall lawn checklist to improve your grass.

  • Keep Mowing – Your grass is still growing and storing nutrients, so don’t put the lawn mower away yet. Adjust the height on the mower to cut the grass shorter. This allows more sun to reach the crown of the grass. Be careful not to trim off more than a third of the blade, which could expose the roots to disease and pests.
  • Keep Watering – Grass is gathering nutrients and moisture to channel into root growth. Cutting back on watering now will cause the roots to remain shallow. A good deep watering of an inch every few days will work.
  • Aerate – Aerating machines extract plugs of soil from you lawn, allowing water and organic material to get to where it is needed. It will improve compacted soil and bring beneficial microbes to the surface. They love to munch on thatch! Our article on aerating has more helpful tips to get you started.
  • Dethatching – If aerating doesn’t completely eliminate the thatch, then rent a dethatching machine, which will pull it up from the soil. Rake up the thatch debris and deposit it into your compost pile. For more information, check out our article on dethatching.
  • Fertilize – After aerating, spread a layer of compost and fertilizer over your lawn. In the past, many advised applying a fertilizer high in phosphorous. Today that practice is discouraged and fertilizer companies are working to eliminate chemical phosphates due to the harmful effects on our environment. Opt for organic phosphorous sources like fish or cattle bone meal, animal manure or bat guano to help give your grass strong roots.

Test the Soil

Many lawn problems begin with the condition of the soil. Have your soil (the soil sample you dug up from your grass) professionally tested for PH levels. A healthy lawn will have a PH level between 6.0-7.0. Weeds thrive in acidic soil. A thin layer of lime applied to your lawn should take care of them.

Good Top Soil – Good Gardening

Go back to where you dug up your soil sample. Can you see how deep the good top soil is?

A 4-inch layer of top soil will give you a good lawn, while an 8-inch layer of top soil will provide you with a great lawn. Good gardening begins with good top soil. Compost and other organic matter worked into your grass with a rake will improve the dirt beneath.

Organic vs Synthetic Fertilizers

Know the difference between organic and synthetic fertilizers. Organic fertilizers are less concentrated, but remain in the soil longer. They release nutrients over time. Synthetic fertilizers are more concentrated and get into the plant faster. They are water-soluble and have a tendency to leach out of the soil quickly. While synthetics get the job done fast, they can burn the plant and get into the groundwater.

Fertilizer Boost for Health

Help your grass store up the moisture and nutrients it needs to make it through winter. Giving it a boost with fertilizer now will help establish a strong root system and crowd out those pesky weeds. Investing a little time now will pay off big come spring next year. 

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your lawn and landscape projects. From aerators and dethatchers to rakes, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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[Part 2] Planning for a Green Spring: Leaf Management

Planning for a Green Spring - Leaf ManagementAutumn brings to mind crisp clear evenings, warm apple cider, beautifully colored trees … and raking all those leaves, the quintessential fall to-do. We’ve got some creative solutions for your leaf management that will help green up your landscape for the spring.

“Leaf” Them Alone?

Closing your eyes and wishing the wind will blow them away will not work. If left on your grass, leaves will literally smother your turf. Diseases will take root. Realize that dead leaves are actually manna from heaven for your lawn. Eighty to ninety percent of a plant’s nutrients are stored in the leaves. When they decay, the nutrients return to the soil. Ah, that got you thinking! 

Landfill Lament

Every year, more and more, yard waste ends up in American landfills, and that includes leaf matter. The fortunate fact is, this can be alleviated with leaf management. Its goal is to repurpose leaves in a way that benefit your lawn, flower beds or vegetable garden. Learn The Secret to Easily Attaining a Healthy, Leafless Lawn in our recent article.

Ways to Manage Leaves

  • Blow them – If you are totally allergic to raking leaves, then try blowing them into your flower beds and around trees. You can also blow them onto a tarp to make them easier to bag or even better – add to your compost pile.
  • Vacuum them – Consider renting a vacuum machine with a shredding feature. You can use a bag attachment and easily distribute the shredded leaves around your yard. Vacuum machines are fairly quiet, too.
  • Mow them – Instead of bagging leaves and putting them to the curb, mow over them with a mulching mower. The mulched leaves can be left on your lawn to absorb back into the soil. You should see roughly 50% of the grass through the mulched pieces of leaves.
  • Mulch them – Add a bag attachment to your mulching mower and presto, you have mulch that you can spread throughout your landscape. Apply a 3-6” layer around trees and shrubs and a 2-3” layer in annual and perennial beds.
  • Compost them – You can also add your leaves to your compost bin. Mulched leaves will decompose faster than whole leaves.
  • Till them – Blow all your leaves into your vegetable garden area and then till the leaves into your soil. For heavy clay soils, till a 6-8” layer of leaves into the dirt to improve aeration and drainage.
  • Eat them – Not you, but a rent-a-goat. Yes, there is such a thing. A goat herder will bring their herd to your yard and turn those little eating machines loose. Soon, no leaves. You won’t wake the neighbors up with these guys. Win-win.

Time That Saves Money

Why go and buy bags of compost when you have plenty falling from your trees every fall day? It only takes a little creative leaf management to recycle them into usable nutrients for your lawn and gardens. Think of how green and healthy your lawn and plants will be thanks to all your fall leaves. Now go ask your neighbor for his bagged leaves. We have mulch to make!

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your fall clean-up and winter preparation projects. From blowers and leaf vacuums to mulching mowers and tillers, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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[Part 1] Planning for a Green Spring: Let Your Grass Breathe

Planning for a Green Spring - Let Your Lawn Breathe

Your grass is stressed out! When you’re a little frazzled and stressed out, the phrase “just breathe” comes to mind. A calming, deep breath does wonders for making things feel so much better. That same principle can work for your tender grass. After a long, hot summer and plenty of foot traffic, it needs a good dose of oxygen to prepare it for next spring. Aeration is just the solution.

Aerating literally breathes life back into your lawn, which soothes it in so many ways:

  • Delivers oxygen to the roots and soil
  • Breaks up compacted soil
  • Allows water and fertilizer to penetrate soil
  • Helps to break up thatch
  • Helps to prevent pests by encouraging good root growth

Does your lawn need aeration?

Not all lawns need aeration especially if you have seeded or re-sod in the last year. Do a visual inspection of your grass and look for brown, thinning patches. You can also dig up a square sample of grass. If the roots are less than two inches deep then you need to aerate. The more matted the root system the better your lawn can fight off weeds and pests.

Where to start?

First, get a soil sample done on your lawn. It’s inexpensive and will tell you some of the underlying problems troubling your soil. Next rent a good, core plugging aerator. These aerators work better because they extract the soil plugs from your lawn, leaving behind a small hole.

Prepare your lawn first

Before you begin the aerating process, deeply water your grass one or two days prior. Apply at least one inch of water, which will help the aerator penetrate the soil deeply. The core plugs will also pull up easier.

When do I need to aerate?

The time for aerating really depends on the type of grass you have. For cool season grasses like fescue, bluegrass and rye, August through October is when you should aerate. Warm season grasses like Bermuda, Zoysia and St. Augustine should be done April through June. Depending on the type of grass you are growing, you may want to consider slice seeding your lawn to help the existing grass become denser. You can learn more by reading our article about slice seeding.

Aerating is easy

A residential aerator is as easy to use as your lawn mower. You simply push it over your grass and the cores are extracted. Be sure to run the aerator in two different directions to guarantee that you’ve covered the lawn sufficiently.

Be sure to supplement the soil

After you have finished aerating, you can leave the core plugs on your grass to decompose, or you can rake them up and add them to your compost pile. Spread compost over your grass and fill in the holes made by the aerator. Our article on aerating and fertilizing your lawn will teach you more.

Breathe a little life into your lawn

Aeration is an easy way to help your grass improve its overall health. Giving the root system a good old shot of O2 will set you on the course for a greener lawn come spring. Next time you take a deep cleansing breath, remember your grass. After the long hot summer we’ve had, everyone deserves to relax and breathe a little easier.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From aerators and slice seeders to grass seed, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Winterize & Store Your Lawn Mower in 8 Simple Steps

How to Winterize Your Lawn MowerProperly maintained yard equipment can extend the life of your tools. Winterizing your lawn mower takes only minutes and will pay off tenfold come spring. Next year, at the first sign of warmer weather, you will be ready to venture out and tackle that unruly lawn.

8 Easy Steps to Winterize & Store a Lawn Mower

  • Empty the gas tank – Unused gas can become stale and gum up the carburetor. If you prefer to leave gas in the tank, you should fill it up completely to avoid moisture accumulation and add a fuel stabilizer. This will prevent the gas from degrading. Be sure to run the mower long enough to let the stabilizer get into the carburetor.
  • Disconnect the spark plug – This will allow you to work underneath the lawn mower safely. When you remove the plug, pour an ounce of motor oil into the cylinders and crank the engine a few times. This will help lubricate the engine. Another helpful tip: spark plugs should be replaced after every 100 hours of operation.
  • Remove the blade – By removing the blade from underneath, you are able to clean out any remaining grass or mud, as well as have easier access for changing the oil.
  • Sharpen the blade – Lawn professionals recommend that you sharpen your blade monthly during mowing season to avoid damaging the grass with a dull edge. Learn more by reading our blog on how to sharpen your mower blade.
  • Drain and change the oil – Routine oil changes will help extend the life of your motor. You can dispose of the old oil by taking it to a service station or to a repair center.
  • Clean the undercarriage – This will help prevent rust and clear any blockages from the chute. After cleaning, spray it with a silicone spray like Lube-a-Boom Clear to help prevent future build-ups.
  • Change the air filter – A dirty air filter keeps the engine from burning gas efficiently. Follow the instructions in your owner’s manual on how to clean or replace your filter.
  • Charge the battery – If you have a battery-powered starter on your mower then you will want to charge it periodically over the winter. This will help the battery retain a full charge come spring.

Find the Perfect Spot for Your Mower

Store your lawn mower in a dry, well-vented area (especially if you are leaving gas in the tank). Keep it away from heaters or furnaces. Consider removing the newly sharpened blade and storing it separately to avoid injuries. Finally, if you are going to charge your battery over the winter, either remove it for easier access or store the mower near an outlet.

To Cover or Not to Cover – Your Choice

Covering your mower is a matter of personal preference. Putting a tarp over it will keep it clean, but it can also attract some unwanted guests. Sprinkle a few moth balls around the outside of the motor to ward off any rodents that might want to build a nest inside.

A Little TLC Goes a Long Way

With a little TLC in the fall, you and your favorite lawn companion can rest easy over the cold months. Caring for your lawn mower now will allow you to hit the grass running come spring. Once again man and mower will be ready to tackle the green monster that is your lawn. Long live the mower!

Expert Advice

From pressure washers to jacks, our expert staff is always on hand to help you with winterizing your lawn and garden equipment. We service a wide variety of Honda Power Equipment including mowers and tillers. For more helpful tips on how to get ready for the cold weather, check out this post: Winterize and Maintain Your Outdoor Power Equipment. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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[DIY How-To] Repurpose Your Dead Trees Into Mulch & Firewood

how to repurpose dead and fallen tree limbs

Are your trees healthy? Even though fall is typically not the season to prune your trees, which encourages growth or flowering next spring (this is usually done after the coldest winter weather has passed), it is a perfect time to assess the health of the trees on your property. Removing dead limbs won’t encourage growth, and will help eliminate potential problems brought on by inclement weather. It will also provide you with ample mulch and firewood for the long cold months ahead.

Remove Tree Limbs

  • to get rid of diseased parts and save the tree
  • to avoid personal injury or property damage
  • to cut back overgrowth

Start at the Top

Look for tree hazards by scanning the tree from top to bottom. Use binoculars if needed and check how vigorously the tree is growing. Compare its growth to others around it. Vigor is reflected in the amount of leaf cover, leaf size, color and condition. If the tree seems to be thinning or experiencing stunted growth, then it may not be flourishing as robustly as it should.

How Does the Trunk Look?

Continue your examination down the trunk of the tree. Look for forked trunks, which indicate potential weaknesses. Signs of decay may also be evident. These present themselves as cavities, cankers or conks (fruiting bodies of fungi) on the trunk itself.

Getting to the Bottom

Finally, check root zone of the tree. Look for mushrooms and other fungi that might be growing around the base of the tree. This is a sign the tree roots may be decaying. Construction and trenching are often causes of root damage, so protect your trees when work is done near them.

Make Your Cut Count

Pruning dead limbs is necessary to keep you and your property safe and it needs to be done properly. Make clean cuts with sharpened tools. Look for the “collar” or swollen tree flesh that develops where the dead limb joins the healthy section of tree. This is the tree’s natural defense system. Make your cut using a pruner or a chain saw just outside the collar, leaving as little stub as possible. Do not remove the collar because it is needed to fight any remaining disease.

Making Mulch and Firewood

Once you have examined your trees and removed the dead limbs, recycle the debris into mulch or firewood. Using a wood chipper, you can make easy work of breaking it all down. The size of the tree limbs determines the size of the chipper you will need. You can mix grass clippings in with your grind or even run the mixture through the chipper twice to get a finer mix. For larger tree limbs or stumps use a log splitter to cut the debris down to a usable size for the fireplace.

“Snag” a Place for Wildlife to Live

Food for thought – if a dead or dying tree does not pose a hazard to people or property – why not leave it as part of your landscape? “Snags” or wildlife trees are excellent habitats for a variety of species of animals. Birds and small mammals use snags for nests or storage areas. Woodpeckers feed off the insects in them and hawks use them as perches for hunting. Snags can also be created from living trees. An arborist would be able to help you select a good candidate for a snag in your yard. Snags provide hours of wildlife watching.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with all of your landscape projects. Check out some of our blog posts on how to remove a dead tree for more information on tree cutting, as well as a list of tools you might want to use in getting rid of tree limbs and trunks. If you have any other questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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