DIY Pergola – Just What Your Patio has been Missing

outdoor backyard pergolaWant to add some architectural interest to your deck or yard? Add a pergola. Often called an arbor or trellis, these canopy-like structures will provide shade to an otherwise fully exposed area, among other advantages. Building one is an easy DIY project that requires an extra set of hands. Ready to raise the roof on your new pergola?

A Structure with a Purpose

What is the function of your pergola? Is it to provide a quiet secluded oasis for you in the garden or to act as a privacy screen for your outdoor dining area? Will it be free-standing or attached to the house? These are some of the considerations that will affect your design.

5 Things to Consider When Designing Your Pergola

  1. Style of your home – Whether French country or contemporary, Tuscan villa or mid-century modern, keeping your pergola design in the same style as your home gives you cohesive curb appeal.
  2. Ambiance – What kind of experience are you trying to create? Romantic, rustic, relaxing?
  3. Play up your property’s best features – Use the view you’ll see from under your canopy (river, stream, skyline, garden, etc.) to locate the pergola accordingly.
  4. Privacy – Adding additional lattice screens will offer seclusion.
  5. Think outside the box – Pergolas are often square or rectangle, although they can be round, octagonal or multi-leveled. Get creative.

Protect Your Pergola from the Elements

A pergola, like a deck, will need to be protected from the elements. Decide on the amount of maintenance you want to do on a yearly basis when selecting your materials. If you want to add lights or a ceiling fan, be sure to account for the added weight your structure will have to support. Electrical wiring will also need to be installed and hidden from view.

Materials to Use for a Pergola

  • Pressure treated wood – The least expensive option and can last a long time with weatherproofing.
  • Cedar – Can be costly but its naturally beauty is hard to beat.
  • Brick – Build the support pillars with brick and attach beams across the top for a sturdy structure.
  • Natural stones – Creates a rustic feel, especially when including a fireplace.
  • Wrought iron – Classic arched metal offers superior support for large plant coverings like roses or material such as canvas.

A Solid Foundation is Key

Whether you are adding a pergola canopy to a concrete patio or building a stand-alone structure, make sure your foundation isn’t going to shift. Use 6×6 posts to give you solid support. Always use stainless steel nuts, bolts and brackets that won’t corrode and give way.

To Build a Free-standing Pergola:

  1. Bury the support poles – Dig down at least 24-48 inches.
  2. Pack the dirt – Tamp it down firmly or pour concrete to stabilize the supports. Check posts to see if they are plumb.
  3. Cut pillars to same height.
  4. Place crossbeams on top – You’ll need help from those two extra hands for this stage.
  5. Cut lap joints – These interlocking notches connect posts and crossbeams. (Use stainless steel brackets if you prefer).
  6. Add optional lattice panels – Put these down the sides of the structure for privacy.
  7. Stain or paint – Protecting the wood will help it last longer.

Time to Decorate

After your pergola is built, decorate with climbing plants that may look delicate at first, but they can become heavy over time. Clematis, Passion flower, Wisteria, grape vines and of course, climbing roses are all good choices. Other decorations include a canvas ribbon awning or flowing outdoor curtains, which add sun protection and a bit of color, too.

Wow Factor

A pergola can add drama to a blah patio or create a quiet retreat in your garden. It is simple to build and will give your landscape the added “wow” factor it may have been missing. Beware, pergolas are like peanuts, you can’t stop at just one. Happy building!

Expert Advice

From jigsaws and hammer drills to post hole diggers and chop saws, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment for your next DIY building project. Want more ideas on how to spice up your patio or deck? Learn how to Boost Outdoor Entertaining Potential with New Design Elements in our recent blog. 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 | 1 Comment

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.

Categories: DIY Projects, Gardening and Lawn Care, How-To's, Restore and Renovate, spring checklist | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Light It Up – Add a DIY Bonfire to Your Backyard

fireThere is nothing better than a roaring fire on a cool spring evening. By adding a fire pit or heater you will extend the time you use your outdoor space for entertaining. Stop waiting for warmer weather! Building a fire pit is a simple, inexpensive project and one hot idea to add value to your home.

Let There Be Fire!

First, ask yourself a few questions about how you plan to use your fire pit or heater?

  • Do I want a heat source or ambience? – To heat a deck, a propane heater works well. If you want to roast marshmallows, nothing beats an open flame.
  • Do I want to burn wood or gas? – Consider the cost of logs and propane tanks when trying to decide. Electric heaters are also an option.
  • How much maintenance do I want? You will have to clean out ash and debris from a wood burning fire pit. Gas heaters will just need tanks replaced.

Watch Out for Flying Embersbonfire snacks

Got your heart set on an open flame fire pit? Constructing one is an easy weekend project. You can make yours as simple or elaborate as you wish.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Check local ordinances – Do they allow open fire pits in your area?
  • Locate your pit away from trees and buildings – Flying embers can ignite roofs and mulch.
  • Use fireproof materials – If you decide to use mortar make sure it is for use on fireplaces.
  • Scout out the desired location – Is it level and dry? Determine if wind direction will blow smoke back toward house. Too much wind will make it hard to keep your fire going.
  • Have a fire extinguisher handy – A bucket of water will work too.
  • Keep the area around pit clear – If building the pit on bare ground, lay gravel around it and make sure there is no vegetation or roots to burn.

Easy to Build, Easy to Enjoy

Above ground fire pits are easy to build. First determine the materials you want to use (concrete pavers, fire bricks, stones). You can dry fit the blocks or use mortar. Consider buying a removable metal fire pit bowl for easy clean-ups of ash. Also a wire cover will help catch flying embers.

Steps for Building a Fire Pit:

  • Use the diameter of the wire cover to determine the outline of your pit.
  • Lay the first layer of blocks around the outside edge of the cover.
  • Remove the cover and continue building layers up to desired height – Stagger blocks.
  • Use a level as you go.
  • Install a fire pit bowl – It can lift out and make clean-ups easier.
  • Install grate – To allow air to get to the logs.
  • Place your logs inside, light, and enjoy

Fire Bowls – Keep it Moving

Want something a little less permanent? Portable fire bowls are an inexpensive way to dress up your patio and can be moved into storage over the winter months. Be sure to cover them when not in use to help prevent rust.

Relax with a Blazing Fire

Watching a blazing fire under the stars is a great way to relax. Don’t let the crisp evenings of spring and fall keep you from enjoying the great outdoors. Move the party outside with a new fire pit, fire bowl or heater. Now it’s time to add another log to the fire and get ready for the S’mores. As the caveman once said – “Fire good!”.

Expert Advice

From shovels and wheelbarrows to tampers and concrete mixers, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment for your next outdoor DIY project. Want more information on how to build your own fire pit? Check out our previous blog “How to Make a Concrete Fire Pit or Fire Bowl in 5 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.

Categories: DIY Projects, Fall Checklist, How-To's, Renovate, Restore and Renovate, spring checklist | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

From Trash to Treasure – Making a Bucket Table with Storage

What do you do if you need a patio table and it’s just not in the budget to buy one? No problem for a DIY-er like yourself: make one! Repurpose an old metal wash tub into a fabulous outdoor coffee table. We’ll show you how.

Build the Perfect Patio Table

If you don’t have an old metal tub laying around, you can find them at farm supply stores and hardware stores. Round or oblong, these tubs are usually low enough to make the perfect table or even a foot stool. Smaller buckets make great side tables or ottomans.

What You’ll Needdiy-patio-coffee-table-from-a-bucket.jpg

  • 1/2 – 3/4-inch plywood
  • 2 x 6 inch boards
  • Drill
  • Jigsaw
  • Sander
  • Liquid nails glue
  • Outdoor silicone caulk
  • Stain and polyurethane protectant

Need Extra Storage? This Table Has It

Decide how large you want the table top to be. A good size is three inches wider than the diameter of the bucket. The inside of the tub makes great storage space, so consider whether you want to permanently attach the table top to the bucket or build it so you can lift it off for easy access.

diy-metal-bucket-patio-table.jpg

Make a Bucket Storage Table in 9 Steps

  • Trace the outside diameter of bucket onto the plywood – Mark 3-inches outside of that line for where you will cut.
  • (Optional) Make the top a lid – Draw a second circle and cut 1-inch inside the diameter of the circle.
  • Cut the circles with the jigsaw.
  • Glue the smaller circle onto the larger one – The smaller one will fit inside the bucket and hold the lid in place.
  • Add liquid nails glue to the larger circle – Add the boards to plywood. Allow 24 hours to dry.
  • Cut the boards in the shape of the larger circle.
  • (Optional) Screw the boards to the larger circle – This will keep them from shifting if glue fails.
  • Sand the top and edges of the table top.
  • Stain or paint and coat with a polyurethane protectant.

Keep Your Table from Blowing Around

If you don’t want to use the inside for storage, consider adding sand or a concrete block to give the table weight so it won’t blow around. You can permanently add the table top onto the bucket by flipping the bucket over and applying liquid nails to the edge. Place the plywood on top and allow to dry. Caulk between the plywood and the bucket to protect against moisture.

Extra Seating Optionsbuckset seats

Create an ottoman with a smaller bucket. Glue 2-inch foam padding to a small plywood circle and cover with outdoor fabric. Keep the fabric taunt and staple it on the underside. The covered circle fits inside the opening of the bucket. If you want the ottoman as additional seating, then be sure to place a concrete block inside the bucket to support the covered seat.

Save Money with Repurposed Furniture

Repurposing old items into useful patio furniture is a fun weekend project. It is a great way to save money, while unleashing your inner creative side. So next time the wind blows your patio furniture off the deck, leaving it in tatters, don’t sweat it. Just laugh and head to the garage, surely you have a few extra buckets laying around. Take that wind!

Expert Advice

From jigsaws and drills to sanders and staplers, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment for your next outdoor DIY project. Want to create more repurposed outdoor furniture? Check out our blog on building a DIY Outdoor Couch to Enjoy All Summer Long. 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, Renovate, Restore and Renovate, spring checklist | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Categories: Choosing Equipment, DIY Projects, Featured Products, How-To's, Renovate, Restore and Renovate | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Get Decked Out for Entertaining with a New Deck!

Get Decked Out for Entertaining with a New DeckDetatched

 Do you never have enough room to entertain family and friends? Consider adding a new deck. Having the extra space to cook out or enjoy a quiet summer evening is one reason why building a deck is such a popular DIY project. It adds to the beauty of your home and increases the overall value of your property.

Deck Materials – Maintenance Free versus Natural Beauty

With so many materials to choose from, the decision really comes down to what is important to you – maintenance free, natural beauty, or cost? Budget and personal preference are what usually determines the materials used. Do your research though. Some wood materials are beautiful but dense and difficult to drill. You will need special equipment.

Here are five of the most commonly used decking materials:

  • Pressured treated lumber – The most popular, this material is inexpensive, pest resistant, and easy to install. It can split and crack if not treated every 1-2 years. Yearly power washing is recommended.
  • Redwood and cedar – More expensive than pressure treated lumber, they resist decay and pests. To keep their natural color, a preservative will need to be applied every 2-3 years. Left untreated, the wood turns a soft shade of gray.
  • Tropical woods – These exotic materials (massaranduba, ipe, and tigerwood) are durable and beautiful but pricey. They are dense hardwoods which makes them difficult to cut and drill so special installation is required. They also do not accept stains well.
  • Composite – This material is made from wood fibers and recycled plastics. Though more expensive than pressure treated lumber, it comes in a variety of colors, is weather and stain resistant, and very low maintenance. Prone to mold and mildew, a yearly power wash is a must.
  • Plastic – Since it contains no wood, this material is virtually maintenance free. It does not have the look of real wood but it also doesn’t have the upkeep.

Who Says a Deck Has to be Square?

Think outside the box, don’t limit your design. No one said you had to build a square deck. Opt for a multi-leveled deck that flow out from your home and into your garden. Consider wrapping the deck around your house to allow other rooms to open out onto your new space.

Plan Wisely and Keep Your Guests Safe

Whatever your design, remember to check local building codes. Depending on the size of your deck, you may need to apply for a building permit. If you plan to entertain a large number of people on your deck, invest in additional supports and make sure the substructure can handle the excess weight. Keep your guests safe.

Don’t Skimp on Materials That Matter

Will your deck be attached to the house or freestanding? To build the safest, most durable structure possible, avoid the temptation to skimp on fasteners, nails or screws. Buy a high quality, non-corrosive material like stainless steel. Inferior screws and nails will corrode, discolor and shorten the life of your deck.

Things to remember when building your deck:

  • Wood materials have imperfections – Sort through your lumber, choosing the best boards for highly visible areas. Keep pieces with defects for out of the way sections.
  • Create a solid base for your deck – Set your foundation posts in concrete and allow them to set before continuing your construction.
  • Make sure your deck is level – If attaching a deck to your house, make sure the ledger or board you secure to the outside wall is securely fastened and level.
  • Space your boards – Lay boards 1/8” apart to allow for expansion and contraction.
  • Protect it – Applying a weather-proofing finish will guard your wood against the elements and keep it looking great.

Company’s Coming – Time to Get Decked Out

Once you have your deck completed, go wild and decorate! Don’t be afraid of adding color. Deck stains now come in a wide assortment of colors. Add a pergola for some additional shade, install outdoor speakers or hang flower boxes from the railings. The sky is the limit so get out there and fire up that grill. Your company is coming.

deck

Expert Advice

From circular saws and drills to augers and concrete mixers, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment for your next DIY building project. A new deck needs some pizzazz! Learn how to add decorative outdoor lighting in our previous blog “Outdoor Refreshers – Install Decorative Outdoor Lighting”. 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.

glossy deck

Categories: DIY Projects, How-To's, Restore and Renovate | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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.

 

Categories: Gardening and Lawn Care, Restore and Renovate, spring checklist | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

[INFOGRAPHIC] Guide to Growing a Vegetable and Fruit Garden in Indiana

Finally, the long-awaited spring season is here, along with its warmer weather, sunshine, and rainy days! With that said, now is the time to start designing and planning for the garden of your dreams. Liven up your outdoor space by creating a garden of beautiful, fragranced flowers. Or perhaps you would like to take that extra step toward self-sufficiency this year and home-grow your produce. Well, if so, you are in luck! We have put together an easy-to-follow beginner’s guide for growing a productive vegetable and fruit garden, and best of all, we have tailored it for the Indiana harvesters. Enjoy local, healthier, home-grown food straight from your backyard by following this simple guide! Please remember that we have a variety of gardening tools for rent and purchase here to help you accomplish any gardening task headed your way– from aerators and lawn mowers to wheelbarrows and tillers – we got you covered!

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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.

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Easy Ideas to Use Stepping Stones in the Garden

Amazing-garden-designAre you excited about Spring? We sure are! Like you, we can’t wait to start working on our gardens. Time to get a game plan together and decide which DIY project to start on first.

Why not create a captivating garden path using stepping stones? Simply trail them throughout your landscape and lead visitors on a magical tour.

Secret Gardens, Hidden Treasures

Garden paths are used to draw interest to out-of-the-way sections of a landscape or to highlight features like ponds, trellises, or gazebos. The style of your home and grounds should dictate the location type of path to create – formal or informal.

Keep a few things in mind when installing a new path:

  • Use – Heavy foot traffic will need sturdy materials like stone that won’t break easily.
  • Cost – Come up with a budget and then shop for materials. A lengthy path will require a lot of materials.
  • Shape – Consider curving paths as well as straight-lined walkways, which can reveal your garden as you walk.
  • Mix it up – Combine materials (pavers/concrete or stones/mulch) to add interest. Create contrasting borders or patterns.
  • Sun or Shade – Dark stones absorb heat, which could make them too hot for bare feet. Smooth stones often remain slippery if in damp areas. Lighter colors and textures are neutral and may be your best option.
  • Hard work – Moving pavers, gravel, or stones around is exhausting so recruit volunteers to help or spread the job out of time.

Choosing Materials

Once you’ve decided where you want your path, pick your materials. For formal paths, many choose brick pavers or flagstone. Informal trails will give you more options, from gravel and stepping stones to turf, decomposed granite, or mulch. With budget in mind, make your selection and set your creativity free.

Peaceful Retreat for Guests

Give visitors a secluded niche along your path where they can relax and unwind. Install a decorative garden fence, gazebo, or bench, creating a peaceful retreat. Fragrant flowers planted along the path will add to their enjoyment. Don’t forget to hang some twinkling lights for those moonlit strolls.

Stepping Stones in the Garden

A great way to create a meandering trail through your flower beds is with stepping stones. An informal design works with a wide variety of materials. No matter what type of stones you choose or filler you opt for, the process is generally the same:

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  • Boundaries – Determine the width and length of your path and mark it off.
  • Clear– Remove all grass and debris. Put down landscape material.
  • Level – Put down a layer of sand and level it out.
  • Position – Decide if you want the stones in a random placement or a checkerboard pattern.
  • Press – Stones should be pushed into the sand and leveled.
  • Fill – Add gravel, mulch, or planting soil to grow ground covers like Scotch moss.

Discover the Wonders of Nature

Your wonderful landscape reflects all your hard work and love of gardening. Help others enjoy the fruits of your labor by tying it all together with a relaxing stepping stone path. Lead them on a relaxing journey around your property to discover the wonders Nature has to offer. You’ll surely have a number of repeat guests.

Expert Advice

From wheelbarrows and shovels to saws and drills, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment for your next DIY landscape project. Now that you have your garden path planned out, are you ready for Spring planting? Our blog, Get Started on Your Spring Gardening To-do List, may have the ideas you need. 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 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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Boost Outdoor Entertaining Potential with New Design Elements

extraordinary outdoor

Want to improve your home’s outdoor entertaining potential? Consider re-designing your porch or patio. Take advantage of the additional space right outside your door with a few inexpensive DIY touches. Friends and family will clamor for an invite.

Start with a Redesign Plan

Revving up a lackluster porch or patio doesn’t need to be a budget buster. Simple changes can create cozy dining and lounging spaces or much needed privacy. Once you make three basic decisions, you’re well on your way to creating a kick butt game plan for your re-design:

  • Purpose – How do you want your space to function? An outdoor dining area, a relaxing retreat, or a place for kids to play?
  • Budget – How much do you want to spend? There are plenty of DIY projects to help stretch money well spent.
  • Design – Do you want a Mediterranean terrace or a rustic retreat? Your personal design style will determine this.

Expand Entertaining Spaces

If your porch or patio is small, “expand” the space. Start by creating a sitting area on your existing porch and expand outward onto a brick patio or additional deck to form a separate dining space. Have your outdoor living spaces flow into each other like they do inside your home. Incorporate your garden into the design to provide additional conversation areas for your guests.

Easy Maintenance Depends on Choice of Materials

Upkeep should be factored into your design. Keep maintenance needs to a minimum with your choice of materials (composite decking, pressure treated lumber). Clean up and repairs should be the least of your worries. You want a relaxing space where you can enjoy family and friends.

Add Drama to Delightpatio

Sprucing up your existing porch or patio doesn’t require much in the way of expensive construction. You can add new elements in only a weekend. These design ideas will get you thinking of ways to spice things up:

  • Install a snow cone machine – that plugs into an outdoor wall socket and ramps up your kids’ playtime
  • Add a pergola – for a hint of shade and visual interest.
  • Use privacy screens – such as trellises, lattice fences or Asian inspired panels that will keep looky-loos at bay.
  • Hang curtains – to give a luxurious feel to the space and to divide areas.
  • Paint the porch floor – using bright stain colors or paint a pattern for interest.
  • Bring in a vertical garden – with flower boxes mounted on bare outside walls.
  • Add unusual lighting – such as work lighting for the grill, a candle-filled chandelier for a romantic touch or tiki torches for a tropical touch.
  • Install a built-in bench – and add seating plus storage, all in one.
  • Use a two-in-one table – that converts into a fire pit when dining is done.
  • Decorate with bright pillows and cushions – use mildew resistant fabric for easy cleaning and durability.

Make Your Yard into an Inviting Oasis

Your outdoor space is an extension of your home. Envision how you would like your style to flow from the inside all the way to the outside. Avoid blocking inside views by looking out a window or sliding glass door at the porch or patio. With a fresh facelift, your porch or patio can become an inviting oasis for your guests and possibly your favorite room of your home!

Expert Advice

From circular saws and drills to shovels and ladders, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment for your next home DIY project. Adding a new patio but not sure how to go about it? Read How to Build a Patio for helpful tips on what tools and materials you will need. 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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6 Easy Steps for Installing a Hammock

hammock

Dreaming of tropical vacations? Those lazy warm weather days don’t have to be a figment of your imagination any longer. Install a hammock in your backyard and get ready to relax.

Tropical Splendor in Your Own Backyard

Custom hammocks like the ones made at Pawleys Island Hammock Shop on Pawleys Island, South Carolina conjure images of white sandy beaches and fruity drinks sporting umbrellas. Capture the feel of the tropics right in your own backyard by installing one of these lazy day body slings. No matter which hammock you choose, it’s a simple weekend project with big benefits.

Hammocks Like Peace and Quiet

If you don’t have two trees close enough to hang a hammock, then you will need to install a couple of support posts. To help select a good spot, ask yourself a few questions:

  • What type soil do I have? – The firmer the better to properly install the posts. (You don’t want the leaning tower of Pisa experience when you get in the hammock)
  • How deep of a hole can I dig? – If the ground is full of tree roots or rocks, you might collapse from exhaustion before you dig deep enough to properly plant the posts. Or, you’ll need special equipment.
  • Do I really need that shade? – Some trees drop lots of leaves so you may not want your spot directly under a tree.
  • Where is the most relaxing location? – Avoid the tendency to put the hammock next to a pool or other gathering spots. Look for a secluded area.

Once you’ve found the perfect spot, here is what you will need:

  • (2) pressure treated 4×4 posts
  • Shovel
  • Post hole digger or an auger attachment
  • Drill
  • Level
  • Screw driver
  • Bag of quick set concrete
  • Gravel

Place Post Holes Properly

Measure the hammock lying flat from ring to ring, then add an additional 24 inches. This will tell you how far apart to position the posts. Dig the holes 8-12 inches in diameter and at least 24 inches deep (30 inches if your soil is sandy or loose).

Hammock Hardware First

Putting the hardware on first before planting the posts in the ground is much easier. Decide how high off the ground you’d like your hammock. Installation instructions should have precise measurements on where to place the hardware. Measuring down from the top of the posts, drill holes and install the hook screws by hand (tighten with a screw driver inserted through the eye to give a better grip).

Now you are ready to install the posts:

  1. Pour 6 inches of gravel in the bottom of each hole.
  2. Mix up your bag of quick set concrete.
  3. Place a post in each hole with hardware facing the opposite pole.
  4. Use a level to make sure the posts are plumb.
  5. Pour the concrete around each post and allow 24 hours to dry.
  6. Attach the hammock to hook screws.

A New Hammock Adds to the Perfect Backyard Oasis

Warmer weather is almost here, and now you are ready for it. Clip in your hammock, close your eyes, picture a peaceful island oasis, and let the rocking lull you to sleep. Sometimes the simplest breaks are the best vacations. Yard work can wait another day!

Expert Advice

From augers and shovels to concrete mixers and drills, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment for your next DIY backyard project. Want to create an even more elaborate backyard retreat? Find your Zen by adding a soothing water feature. Our blog, How to Build a Backyard Pond in 10 Simple Steps may inspire 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.

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Reorganize Your Home Office and Make Tax Time a Breeze

Every year at tax time you promise to be better organized. We’re here to help you make that resolution a reality. Getting ready for the tax deadline (April 18 this year) isn’t about rounding up receipts and files. It’s about embracing a different way to approach the piles of paperwork we all have. Creating a well-organized home office is the first step in eliminating the clutter from our lives.office area

Think about how your office or work space is laid out. Do you have enough room to work on your desk? Can you easily find documents and files? Decluttering your office is the best way to get organized. Purge your papers by dividing them into three categories:

Shred, File or Review

  • Items to Shred – Junk mail or papers containing personal info.
  • Items to File – Papers to keep for taxes or that relate to your house or car.
  • Items to Review – Papers that need a response like bills to be paid.

Establish Work Zones

Once you get your papers under control, think about how you use your office. Often the layout can promote clutter build-up as soon as it is cleared. Establish work zones – desk, files, supplies, and electronics. Give items a specific place where they are kept.

Improve Your Work Flow with DIY Projects

Being the handy DIYer that you are, here are a few ideas that might improve your work flow and free up space:

  • Clear your desk – Keep only what you use regularly on it.
  • Box it up – Storage boxes and stackable trays keep supplies and files out of sight until needed.
  • Build shelves – Organize materials up and away from desk with containers that are clearly labeled.
  • Think peg board – Mount it on the wall to hold pockets and containers for supplies and papers.
  • Invest in a label maker – Keep files and bins clearly marked for easy retrieval.
  • Use a fold down desk – If your office is in an open area, a fold down desk will allow you to shut it away from sight.
  • Closet it away – Convert a small closet into a supply/ storage area. Hide printers and other electronics in there.
  • Build a mail center – Stop clutter as soon as it arrives. Hang files as you enter the room to sort mail into. Place a trash can, shredder, and recycle bin close by. Go through each hanging file weekly.
  • Paint – Brightly colored walls energize an office and help stimulate your creative juices. Coordinate your filing cabinets with a new fun color.

Go Green with Electronic Bill Pay and Storage

Think about revising your filing system. By going green and keeping copies of your bills and important papers electronically, you eliminate the hassle of filing papers. You will still need to back up your computer files monthly, to a separate hard drive for security or possibly to a cloud storage.

Designate a Tax Area in Your Office

Get in the habit of putting all tax papers in an ongoing file bin as they come in. You will only have to sort through them when you are ready to begin tax preparation. Designate an area in your office for tax file storage, either in its own filing drawer or a hanging file box.

No Stress Tax Time

Say goodbye to those endless searches for lost tax forms! A fully functioning office saves you time and money. Reorganizing your home office will keep you prepared for tax time and make April another glorious spring month on the calendar.

Expert Advice

From drills and circular saws to nail guns and belt sanders, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment to reorganize and redesign your home office. Want to build some unique shelves for your office? Here is a project from our blog, How to Make a DIY Wood Palette Shelf in 5 Easy Steps,that you may want to try. 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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Reorganize Your Attic and Reclaim Needed Space

custom installed closet 3

Afraid to look in your attic these days? Spring is the perfect time to purge items that are just taking up space and collecting dust. Organizing your attic will boost your storage capacity and make finding items you use once a year (like holiday decorations) much easier.

Sort Your Stuff

Tackle the attic using the same principles you apply to reorganizing your closets. Sort everything into these three categories:

  1. Keep it – stuff to put back into the attic in its own section
  2. Donate it – items to give to charity
  3. Toss it – things that will be trashed or recycled

Divide and Conquer with a Little Help

Organizing the attic doesn’t have to be a dreary job. Work always goes faster if you divide and conquer; round up family and friends to help go through stuff. Set up a table and chair (if space allows) to make sorting through boxes and papers easier. Make sure you have good lighting, access to additional garbage bags or boxes, permanent markers and labels.

Keep Only What You Need or Use

Edit your “Keep” pile further by labeling items into subcategories like “tax papers”, “holiday decorations”, or “sports equipment”. This will also give you another chance to whittle down these items so you keep only what you really need or use.

Six tips to help get your attic organization underway:

  1. Use clear plastic bins rather than cardboard boxes – They make seeing what’s inside easier and protect contents better.
  2. Label each bin clearly – You want to be able to determine what it is at first glance.
  3. Install shelves or cubicles – Sectioning off parts of the attic for each category will help you find items faster.
  4. Don’t forget to go up! – Use hooks or pegs to hang items from the walls or ceiling.
  5. Keep a large trash can available – Instead of dragging one in and out of attic, leave one up there and just remove the bag.
  6. Be safe – If working alone, have your cell phone with you. Accidents can happen and you may need to call for help.

Keep Your Newly Organized Attic Neat

Once you have your attic set up the way you want it, keep it neat by putting things back into their sections. Dust and vacuum regularly to keep the cobwebs at bay. Leave an old clock radio up in the attic so you can enjoy music while you work and keep track of time. (Why waste your cell battery!). Post a map of the different sections in the attic as you enter to let others know where things are kept.

Be Careful What You Store Up There

When storing items in the attic remember that the temperature can get 40 degrees hotter than the rest of your home in the summer and a lot colder in the winter. Electronics, delicate fabrics, photos, or other temperature-sensitive items will not fare well in the attic.

Reclaim Needed Storage Space by Organizing the Attic

Don’t just see the attic as a black hole, sucking up all unwanted items from your house. This is unclaimed space that you have now put to good use. Organizing an attic is an easy weekend project that can free up space and eliminate clutter. You may even discover a few “attic finds” hiding up there once you do!

Expert Advice

From drills and miter saws to staplers and wet/dry vacuums, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment to tackle your attic reorganization. Didn’t organize your holiday decorations before stashing them in the attic? No worries, our blog, Post-Holiday Cleanup – 7 Ways to Bring It On! will help with that. 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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Winter’s Almost Over! Get That Spring Cleaning Checklist Ready

Bouquet colorful tulips at home

No matter what the groundhog may have predicted on Groundhog Day, spring is almost here!

That means getting things in order. A checklist is the perfect first step because it helps you organize what you want to accomplish and allows you to plan projects to be done over several days (avoiding the inevitable “spring cleaning burnout”).

10 Clicks for Your Spring Cleaning Checklist:

  • Check for loose or leaky gutters – These can cause damage during spring rains.
  • Fill in low areas in your yard – Look for ground that may have washed away from the house foundation or other structures on your property by a winter storm and snow runoff.
  • Inspect the wood trim on windows and doors – Replace any rotted wood and prevent further damage.
  • Visually check roof shingles – Missing shingles due to storms can be easily replaced.
  • Examine the chimney – Do you notice any excess smoke stains? You might want to get a professional chimney sweep out to inspect.
  • Walk your driveway and look for cracks – Fill any cracks with concrete filler. You can winter it later in the spring and apply a sealant.
  • Remove firewood stored near the house – Be careful of unwanted house guests taking up residence in the wood over the winter.
  • Give your house a good dusting – Don’t overlook the ceiling fans, tops of cabinets, air returns and vents. A shop vacuum will help this process.
  • Get your AC system professionally serviced – Doing it early allows you to avoid the rush later when warm weather arrives.
  • Inspect your lawn equipment – If you winterized it, then you are ahead of the game. If not, now is a good time to get oil changed and mower blades sharpened.

Inspect Your Yard for Damaged Trees and Shrubs

Walk around and inspect your landscape. If you have lost trees or shrubs due to the cold weather, cut them down. Note how many plants you need to replace them. (You may be able to catch them on sale!). Always use caution when cutting down large limbs; it is best to have a second pair of hands available for safety.

Plan Your Storm Window Removal

We may have a few more weeks of winter weather ahead, so plan when you want to take your storm windows down. Give your windows a thorough cleaning inside and out, once you do. (You may want to use a pressure washer outside). Don’t forget to clean the blinds or curtains, too.

Assess Your Home’s Condition with Spring Cleaning

Winter can be rough on our homes. A good spring cleaning is one way to assess the condition of your property and to welcome the return of warmer weather. Showing your house a little TLC now may save you from costly repairs down the road. That’s got to warm your heart (and your pocketbook).

Expert Advice

From ladders and pressure washers to nail guns and chain saws, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment to tackle your spring cleaning checklist. Looking for a few more indoor spring projects? Another one of our blogs, DIY Projects – Spring Cleaning Ideas and Inspiration, will help get those organizational ideas going. 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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Finish a Kitchen Update with New Hardware – Creative Remodeling Project Idea #4

Your Guide to Installing New Kitchen HardwareFirst you paint the cabinets, then you update the floors and install a new backsplash. Everything looks great – with finishing final touch: complete your picture perfect kitchen update with new cabinet knobs, pulls or a sink faucet.

Express Kitchen Personality

Not sure what type of kitchen hardware would work with your design style? Decide if you want your knobs and pulls to coordinate with your appliances (like stainless steel), to add touches of color, or to reflect your personality. Most hardware comes in polished, brushed and satin finishes and are readily available. This is an inexpensive way to set your creativity free.

Why Not Upgrade Your Faucet, Too?

Retire your old sink faucet when making hardware upgrades. Replace it with a new high-neck style. Just as with cabinet fixtures, faucets come in a variety of metals. We’ve listed a few options:

  • Polished Brass – Easy to clean, durable, expensive.
  • Satin Brass – Matte, brushed gold look, doesn’t show fingerprints. Can be hard to find.
  • Oil Rubbed Bronze – Gives a traditional feel, colors vary from light bronze to almost black.
  • Satin Bronze – A lighter option than oil rubbed bronze, expensive.
  • Copper – Gives a rich feel and has antibacterial properties, not as durable as nickel or chrome.
  • Polished Nickel – Smooth, shiny and works well with many styles
  • Brushed Nickel – One of the most durable finishes. Doesn’t show wear, fingerprints or water spots.
  • Chrome – Works with multiple styles, does show water spots and fingerprints, inexpensive.
  • Stainless Steel – Often a logical choice for a stainless steel sink.
  • Non-metallic options – Enamel or epoxy coated faucet in matte black, white or tan have a modern look, prone to chipping.

9 Easy Steps to Faucet Replacement

DIY installation of a faucet is fairly straightforward. You will need an adjustable basin wrench, slip joint pliers, safety glasses and a bucket. The toughest part may be cleaning out the area under the sink to give you room to work.

  • Turn off both hot and cold water supplies – place hoses in bucket to collect excess water.
  • Unscrew mounting nuts – these hold the faucet to sink.
  • Remove the old faucet – clean the area around sink hole before installing the new one.
  • Place rubber gasket around hole – if your faucet did not come with one apply a sealant before installing.
  • Slip faucet supply lines through hole.
  • Secure new faucet to sink – avoid tightening screws too much on porcelain faucets because they will chip.
  • Reattach water lines – test the lines to check the water pressure. Make adjustment if necessary.
  • Cap all unused holes with covers – If you are switching to a single handle then cover up the old holes for the water knobs with universal caps that match your sink.
  • Think accessories – Add a soap dispenser or water filter to the leftover holes where water handles were.

Match Fixtures

Consider buying any additional accessories (soap dispenser, water filter, sprayer) from the same manufacturer. Many finishes vary from company to company so keep your look consistent.

Hard Work Pays Off

Putting the finishing touches on your kitchen upgrade is easy and exhilarating. All your hard work definitely pays off. DIY projects are fun, save money and give you a sense of accomplishment that hiring outside help doesn’t provide. Try not to rest on those laurels for long; plenty of other home improvement projects need your attention!

Expert Advice

From a right angle drill and battery powered work light to a basin wrench, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment for your next kitchen DIY project. Looking to upgrade your own kitchen? Review our blogs in this series for helpful tips on where to begin – How to Reinvigorate Your Kitchen for Less, Show Off Your DIY Skills with Flooring, and Kitchen Backsplashes with Pizzazz. 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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Show Off Your DIY Skills with Flooring – Creative Remodeling Project Idea #2

Remodeling Project #2 - Update Your FlooringOne of the best places to show off your DIY skills is in the kitchen where the floor takes a daily beating. No room gets more spills, splatters and stains. Finding an inexpensive flooring option is very doable and we’re here to help you find the perfect one.

Don’t Let So Many Choices Floor You

If you’re getting overwhelmed by the vast array of flooring choices and are not sure which material is right for you, let your budget and the style of your kitchen narrow down your options. Here are a few possibilities to consider:

  • Hardwoods
  • Tiles – Terra Cotta, ceramic
  • Concrete
  • Marble
  • Travertine tiles
  • Cork
  • Bamboo
  • Vinyl
  • Laminated hardwood

Hardwoods Add Warmth to a Room

Hardwoods are very popular in kitchen design right now. Wood adds warmth to a room and comes in a multitude of widths, colors and textures. Today’s pre-finished hardwoods have an average of eight coats of finish baked on, so it can take wear and tear.

Easy Hardwood Installation

Tongue and groove hardwood flooring is easy to install using the right equipment. Rent a flooring nail gun so the nails go in at the proper angle. Hardwoods like Teak require special nails due to their hardness. The wrong nails can bounce off and damage the flooring.

Laminates Install in a Snap

Laminates also come in a tongue and groove system that snaps together. These floating floor installations can go in over your existing flooring or subfloor. A vapor barrier or underlay put down first will help protect against moisture.

Tile Floors – A Great High Traffic Solution

Tiles are easy to clean, scratch resistant and great for high traffic areas. To install make sure your subfloor is level by using a self-leveling compound. Tiles will crack if the subfloor moves or is un-level, so choose a tile size that can help you avoid this. Depending on your choice of tiles, you will need to seal it once a year to avoid staining.

Think Outside the Box for Your Floor Update

Hardwoods, laminates or tiles not what you’re looking for? Try thinking outside the box and consider one of these ideas:

  • Rubber Flooring – If you do a lot of cooking you’ll love these pliable floors. They are durable and are available in custom colors.
  • Painted Laminate Floors – Use painter’s tape to block off a chevron pattern or stripes and apply your favorite colors. Seal with polyurethane when dry.
  • Concrete – Rehab your concrete subfloor with a thin layer of concrete. Treat it with an acid stain to get a permanent, non-fading color.
  • Epoxy Coating – Coat your concrete subfloor with epoxy resin and add color flakes to match your décor. It’s hard as nails and easy to clean.
  • Brick Pavers – Add an old-world ambiance to your kitchen with pavers. Practically indestructible, you will need to seal them once a year to keep them from staining and to protect the grout.

Your DIY Project Will Be a Snap

Today’s flooring options are tough, beautiful and easy to install, which makes your DIY project a snap. The toughest thing you’ll have to do is decide what type of flooring you want. But that will be our little secret.

Expert Advice

From flooring nail guns and rollers to concrete mixers and tile cutters, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment to handle your flooring projects. If you’re considering a floor refinishing, learn helpful tips from our blog, How to Re-Finish Your Hardwood Floors to Perfection. 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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Give Old Chairs New Life with Fresh Paint & Upholstery

How to Reupholster ChairsWhile cleaning out the attic (a New Year’s resolution, perhaps?) you come across a pair of your grandmother’s old chairs. You realize that with a fresh coat of paint and new fabric, you can breathe life back into them – and they would be perfect for your home. Congratulations, you have just found your next DIY project!

Good Bones Are Good Bones

Furniture left languishing in attics and storage closets just needs a little TLC to bring out its beautiful essence, not to mention, to make it functional once more. Repurposing well-made old chairs with new paint and upholstery is an easy, inexpensive weekend project. Let’s get started.

To repaint a wood chair, you will need the following:

  • Drop cloth – to keep your floors drip free
  • Tack cloths – to wipe off dust and debris (paper towels/rags leave lint!)
  • Mineral spirits or dish soap – the wood needs a good cleaning
  • Sandpaper – 120 and 220 grit
  • Sanding block – to work in those hard to reach areas
  • Orbital sander – makes easy work of large areas
  • Paint – buy one that can take frequent cleanings
  • Foam roller and brush – these will give you a smoother finish
  • Water based polyurethane – protects your paint and make clean ups easier
  • Wood blocks – to position chair off floor

Tips for Successfully Painting Wood Chairs 

  1. Prep work is key – Start by removing the seat cover. Inspect the chair’s paint condition, if it is chipped or cracked, strip it off to give the paint a smooth surface to stick to. Use a chemical stripper to bubble up the old paint and a putty knife to remove it. A heat gun can also help remove old paint. Be careful not to scrape too hard or you can damage the wood.
  1. Give wood a good cleaning – Clean the surface of the chair using dish soap or mineral spirits to remove any dirt or grease. Why? Contaminants cause paint not to adhere to the wood. Fill cracks and gouges with wood filler, which comes in a variety of color tints so they blend in. Let filler dry 24 hours before painting.
  1. When painting, go with the grain – Use 120 grit sandpaper to smooth off excess filler and to rough up the wood surface. Place the chair on the wood blocks to get it up off floor. Apply your first coat of paint, working from the top down. Paint with the grain of the wood. Allow it to dry, then use the 220 grit fine sandpaper to smooth any remaining rough spots or paint drips. Wipe the chair down completely to remove dust or debris before applying a second coat.
  1. Seal and protect with polyurethane – Seal the chair’s paint with polyurethane. Apply slowly and carefully, using a mini foam roller, to avoid forming air bubbles in the coating. If using a paint sprayer, hold it at least 8-12 inches away from the wood surface. Aim for multiple thin layers instead of doing one or two thick layers. When finished allow 72 hours for the chair to dry completely before using.

7 Steps for Reupholstering

  1. What you’ll need – cotton material for a liner and fabric for the cover.
  2. Remove old material and inspect the foam cushion. This may need to be replaced if too old.
  3. Iron out creases in both the new liner and fabric.
  4. Put the seat frame on the liner and trace 3 inches from the edge. Cut along this line.
  5. Cover the frame and cushion with the liner. Attach on the bottom at the center of each side, pulling the material tightly as you go. Work your way around, going from center to corner on each side. Fold excess material on corners, avoiding creases on the cushion top. Think hospital corners and use that staple gun!
  6. Once the liner is in place, repeat the same procedure with your fabric. If your material contains a pattern, place it the way you want it to be seen on top first, then flip it over to mark your lines. Pull the material tightly. Remember, staples can be removed and fabric re-adjusted.
  7. Once complete, you can attach the cushion back onto the chair frame.

Granny Would Be So Proud!

Now, your chair looks like a million bucks but you know the truth. Over a weekend you have managed to repurpose clutter from your attic into a serviceable piece of furniture. Feel free to take a load off and sit on your new designer chair. Granny would be SO proud!

Expert Advice

From orbital sanders and drills to heat guns and paint sprayers, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment to handle your home DIY project. Looking for more ideas on how to freshen up old furniture? Check out our previous blog. 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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8 Essential Best Practices for Efficient Heating This Winter

Attic Insulation InstallationHow many times have you looked at the heating bill and almost fell out of your chair from shock? Energy prices are nothing to sneeze at, which is why improving your home’s insulation will go a long way in keeping your family and your wallet comfortable this winter.

  1. Do an Energy Audit

The power company will conduct an energy audit on your home to detect the areas with the most heat loss. Generally, a home loses half of its heating and cooling through the walls, windows, floors and roof. Determining where to insulate is the first step. You’ll likely find that insulating the attic is one of the simplest and smartest ways to lower your heating bill.

  1. Determine Best R-Value for Your Home

Each area of your home requires a different R-value of insulation. The R-Value determines a material’s resistance to heat flow. The higher the number, the better it is at stopping loss. A typical Indiana attic needs insulation with an R-value of R49. Exterior walls require R13-21 and floors between R25-30.

  1. Blanket or Blown Insulation?

Two popular types of insulation are the rolled blanket insulation and the loose cellulose variety that is blown into place. Insulation comes in a variety of materials like fiberglass, cellulose and mineral wool. Fiberglass tends to settle so thicker layers have to be put down. Insect and fire resistant cellulose is the most common. Mineral wool is made from molten slag, which is spun into fiber. It is more expensive but totally fire resistant. Whichever you choose, remove old insulation and make sure to seal any possible air leaks before installing the new material. Apply a thick enough layer that covers floor joists. For blown insulation, a sprayer makes easy work of distributing cellulose around beams and other obstructions.

  1. Eliminate Drafts with Window Insulation

If you live in an older home and don’t have double pane windows, you may want to look into installing storm windows. These can be added externally or internally and will help keep cold at bay. Window insulation kits are another option. They contain large sheets of plastic that is taped around windows to eliminate drafts.

  1. Keep Heat in with Weather Seal

Foam weather-stripping can help seal around windows and doors, keeping weather out and heat in. Even if you have double pane windows, check the trim around them to make sure it’s sealed tight. Blinds, shades and window treatments such as insulated curtains can also provide an additional buffer against the cold.

  1. Check for Air Leaks and Seal Them

Check for air leaks around pipes, exhaust fans, ducts and chimneys. You’d be surprised how much heat is lost around the dryer vent. Seal them tight with spray foam. Purchase insulating foam plates for electrical outlets on exterior walls. They install behind the plastic outlet cover and block air flow.

  1. Blanket Hot Water Heater

Another source of heat loss occurs around the hot water heater, which accounts for 19% of your total home energy bill. Today’s models are well-insulated; however, if you place your hand on the side and it feels warm, then there’s heat loss. For $30, wrap the hot water heater with a blanket and save 10% on your yearly power usage.

  1. Wrap Hot Water Pipes for Additional Savings

Wrap all hot water pipes within three feet of the water heater. Polyethylene and neoprene wraps help keep the water hot longer and you can turn down the temperature setting. Be sure to keep the insulation at least six inches away from a gas hot water heater’s flue.

You Can Never Have Enough Insulation

This winter, don’t let your home’s warmth go out the window. Whether you roll it out or blow it in, you can never have enough insulation! Wrap your humble abode in a nice thick layer of warmth and you’ll never have to fear those energy bills again.

Expert Advice

From insulation vacuums and blowers to caulk cutting saws and electric heaters, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment for your DIY home improvement projects. To learn how to install attic insulation, read How to Efficiently and Easily Insulate Your Attic. Another post, 4 Cold Weather Basics – Insulating Your Home, offers additional info on improving your home’s energy efficiency. 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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Post-Holiday Clean Up? 7 Ways to Bring It On!

Post-Holiday Clean-UpAs the New Year begins, it’s an exciting time, packing away the old to make room for the new. Rather than being overwhelmed with post-holiday clean up, think of it as a new start for you and your home.

  1. The Big Clean – The Japanese New Year tradition called Oosouji means, “The Big Clean” and everyone in Japan takes it to heart. During the final week of the year, they spend time cleaning, decluttering and organizing their homes, offices and schools in order to start the new year with a fresh outlook. This approach seems to work far better than rarely kept resolutions, so give it a try.
  1. Re-Organize Decorations Before Storing – Start your big clean by re-organizing Christmas decorations before packing them away. Look at everything and eliminate the items you didn’t use. Roll up strings of lights onto wrapping paper tubes to keep them from tangling. Organize decorations in see-through plastic bins and label them according to where they are used.
  1. Organize Storage Areas – Now that you’ve packed away decorations, why not organize the storage space in the attic? Building shelves that fit into the rafters is an easy DIY project. A variety of plans are available online and all you need is some lumber, a circular saw, a drill, maybe a hammer and nails, too. Soon those storage bins will be neatly tucked away until next year.
  1. Mulch Christmas Trees – Recycle the Christmas tree into mulch rather than contributing to landfill overload. Many cities offer curbside tree pick-up or rent a chipper/ shredder and do it yourself. If the tree left a trail of needles on its way out the door, vacuum them up so they won’t burrow deep down into rugs and carpets. Tape lint rollers are great for picking up stubborn needles off of furniture and rugs.
  1. Freshen the Carpet – During the holidays your carpet can take a beating from muddy foot traffic and other unfortunate messes. For wine stains, sprinkle a few drops of white vinegar onto the stain and blot with a damp cloth. If your rugs are really dirty, consider renting a carpet cleaner and freshen them up.
  1. Clear Out the Clutter – Is your house filled with piles of new gifts and toys? Now is the perfect time to clear out the clutter. Make it a new motto – for every new item, get rid of two old items. Other clutter-reducing ideas include:
    • The holiday mailing box challenge – fill old mailing boxes with items like clothing, books and toys to donate to charity. See how many you can fill!
    • Sort through holiday cards, make a note of who sent them (for next year’s list) and cut gift tags out of the cards you like.
    • Swap already read books online at sites like Paperback Swap and Book Mooch.
    • The White Elephant Super Bowl exchange party – re-gift those “special” presents while getting your football face on.
  1. Get Tax Paperwork in Order – The end of the year is also a great time to organize what you need for filing taxes. Set up a special file to deposit all incoming tax forms. Be sure to add receipts from charitable donations. Sort through and shred papers that are no longer needed. Go paperless whenever possible to help reduce the paper clutter.

The holidays are a wonderful time to enjoy our friends and family and to usher in the new year. You’d be surprised how decluttering your surroundings will lighten your mood and lift your spirit – start the New Year with a fresh outlook and an organized house!

Expert Advice

From circular saws and drills to carpet cleaners and wood chippers, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment to handle your home DIY project. Looking for more ideas on how to make a fresh start in your home after the holidays? Check out our previous blog. 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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Easy Advice for Installing Storm Windows = Big Energy Savings This Winter

How to Install Storm WindowsWorried about winter heating bills? Or just wishing your home wasn’t so drafty? We’ve already covered the perfect DIY solution #1: installing storm doors. What’s the perfect DIY solution #2? Installing storm windows. They alone can save you between 12 and 33 percent on your heating costs and are much cheaper than replacement windows. Plus, installing storm windows is easy, with our expert how-to advice.

Make Your Choice – Interior or Exterior Storm Windows

Determine what type of storm windows you’d like – interior or exterior. Exterior models come with solid windows and screens in frames that attach directly to an existing window. Interior storm windows are usually seasonal products that you install every winter. They snap or clip into your interior windowsill but do not have adjustable glass panes or screens.

Exterior storm windows are the most common. Frames are made from wood, aluminum or vinyl and offer extra protection to your existing windows. They help them last longer and require less maintenance to the paint and caulk. Most have low emissivity glass (Low-E), which keeps thermal heat in during the winter and infrared heat out during the summer.

Installation is a simple DIY home project that you can tackle in a weekend (depending on the number of windows you have). To start, you will need the following:

Measure, Measure, Measure

Take a series of measurements of the inside of your existing window, at the bottom, top and middle of the frame. Why? The window frame may not be straight. Use the smallest measurement to order your storm windows. Measure the height of the frame from the outside of your window.

Consider ordering your windows with some of the following features:

  • Multiple positioning stops so you can raise or lower the panes to where you want.
  • Quality weather stripping to help stop heating/cooling loss.
  • Pre-drilled holes for quicker installation.
  • Easy-to-clean removable half pane glass and screens to make spring cleaning easier.

Drill Weep Holes then Paint

Storm windows come with weep holes installed at the bottom. Drill matching holes in the bottom exterior windowsill. This will allow condensation to escape. Next, scrap and paint the exterior frame before installing the new window.

Seal Your Storm Windows

Manufacturers recommend applying Butyl caulk, a rubber-based sealant that is good for outdoor installations like siding and gutters. It is a little uncooperative to work with, but it seals better than a silicone caulk. Apply it to the back of the storm window before installing to the exterior frame.

An Extra Set of Hands Comes in – Handy

You may need an extra set of hands to help hold the storm window while you mount it. First center the window then screw it in at top. Close the bottom sash and then screw the sides to the exterior frame. There will be an adjustable expander at the bottom of your storm windows. Tap it down tight against the windowsill and you are done.

Look for Condensation and Fix Air Leaks

Be sure to check your storm windows for condensation during the next cold snap. Leaks from your interior windows can cause moisture build up. This is no problem since the storm window has weep holes, but you may want to follow up with new weather stripping on your interior sill to plug possible air leaks.

Take a Bite Out of Your Next Power Bill

Cutting down on heating bills is always a challenge. Improving your home’s insulation, plugging air leaks and installing storm windows will go a long way to take a bite out of that next bill. Next time the cold wind blows and you sit warm inside, remember to thank your storm windows. Everyone likes a nice pat on the back from time to time.

Expert Advice

From ladders and drills to caulking saws, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment to tackle your next DIY project. For more helpful tips on how to keep things warm at your house check out our blog, 3 Easy Economical Ways to Winterize Your Home. 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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8 Ways to Get Ready for Winter Snow Removal

Winter Snow RemovalBring on the snow! The official start of winter is almost upon us (the season starts in our area on Monday, December 21, 2015 at 11:49 PM EST). Do you have the proper snow removal equipment? Are you stocked up with de-icer and sand? Can your power equipment handle what winter storms deliver? We have some answers right here.

  1. Have a variety of tools to help remove snow: Keep shovels, scoops, scrapers and roof rakes on hand to help you tackle the white stuff and ice build-up. Every storm brings different conditions to your neighborhood, so having a variety of tools handy allows you to roll with the punches. You’ll want something to help melt the ice, like rock salt or de-icer, and something to provide traction on those slippery driveways and sidewalks.
  1. Find the right shovel for you: Looking for a new shovel this season? Find one that fits you. You don’t want one that causes you to bend down to use it. Steel shovels are the most durable and the heaviest. Plastic is lightweight and will likely make it through just one winter. Aluminum shovels are lightweight, somewhat durable and have a tendency to bend if they hit a hard chunk of ice. Pay attention to the handle. Look for one made of wood, aluminum or fiberglass and that fits your hand size.
  1. Try pushing the snow, not lifting it: When shoveling, think push not lift. “Bulldozing” the snow off is easier on your back. When you do have to toss snow, lift with your legs. Don’t try to pick up a large amount of snow in the spade. Walk over and deposit the snow where it needs to go rather than tossing it. Repetitive movements like throwing snow in one direction can cause injuries to the shoulders, arms and back. Mix up your techniques – push, deposit, toss.
  1. Prepare for outdoor chores: Dress in layers, hydrate and take frequent breaks while doing outdoor winter chores. Contrary to popular belief, it’s actually easier on your body to tackle light layers of snow a couple of times rather than one deep layer after all the snow has fallen. Stretch your muscles prior to and after shoveling. Most importantly, know your limit. It’s driveway snow not Mount Everest.
  1. Take stock of your equipment: Prefer a snow blower to shoveling? Just remember your power equipment has been sitting dormant for a while so crank it up prior to a big snowfall. Give it a good cleaning and tune up. If last winter was too much for old faithful, consider an upgrade. Keep in mind what kind of surfaces (driveways, walkways) you will be cleaning and how much snow your area typically gets. There are two types of snow blowers:
    1. Single stage: lightweight and easy to use, handles up to a foot of snow
    2. Two stage: can handle up to 18 inches of snow, many come with power driven wheels to help with steep inclines
  1. Use de-icer to help with icy surfaces – Keep a good de-icer on hand to help loosen up ice build-up on your surfaces. A de-icer is not meant to totally melt your driveway clean but it will make it easier for you to shovel off. Rock salt is a cheaper option but it can be harmful to pets and the runoff can change the PH balance of your landscape.
  1. Sand helps you get a grip: Once you have cleared the driveway, spread sand or birdseed, which provides better traction for foot traffic. Clay kitty litter is also an option but it can damage floors and carpets if tracked into the house.
  1. Humidifiers help with dry indoor air: After a long day of shoveling outside in the cold, wet snow, it’s great to come inside where it is warm and dry. Furnaces and fireplaces make interior air perhaps too dry, causing everything from sinus issues to cracked skin. Running a humidifier will add moisture to the air and help family members stay healthier and more comfortable.

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

Don’t be left out in the cold this year. Preparing for winter weather now will help you manage whatever Mother Nature throws at you. So let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Expert Advice

From snow blowers and shovels to de-icers and humidifiers, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment to manage the winter weather. Runyon Equipment Rental is a proud dealer of Honda snow blowers. To learn what to look for in a snow blower, read How to Choose a Snow Blower That’s Right for You. Another post, Cold Weather Basics – Your Guide to Snow Removal, offers additional info on how to safely remove snow.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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3 Methods for Inspecting & Cleaning a Fireplace

cleaning your fireplace and chimney in 3 simple stepsSitting in front of a blazing fire during the winter is one of life’s joys. A fireplace that offers warmth and comfort must be properly maintained, so it doesn’t pose a hazard to your family. Give yourself peace of mind by having your both your fireplace and chimney inspected and cleaned.

4 Types of Chimney Soot

  • A light, dull dusting of gray, brown or black soot
  • Black granular accumulation
  • A black, gummy, road-tar-like coating
  • A shiny, glaze-like coating, which is very combustible

Creosote Buildup Causes Fires

Chimney fires are caused by a buildup of creosote, which is the byproduct of unburnt wood. It adheres to the inside of the chimney or flue and can ignite with a spark. An inspection will determine the amount of soot and creosote coating the interior of the chimney. If the layer is over 1/8-inch thick, then avoid using the fireplace until it can be cleaned.

3 Basic Methods for Cleaning a Chimney & Fireplace

  • From the top down – You would use the chimney brush and extenders down into the chimney from the roof, scrubbing the sides to loosen debris.
  • From the bottom up – You extend the brush up into the chimney and flue to remove the soot and creosote.
  • Tag team method – With a rope pulley system, one person is on the roof and the other is at the base of the fireplace. Together they pull the chimney brush back and forth on the pulley, cleaning the sides.

Successful cleaning is all in the preparation – Inspecting and cleaning a chimney and fireplace will take preparation and some tools you may or may not have on hand, such as:

  • Chimney brush and extension pipes
  • Stiff wire brush
  • Drop cloth and tarps to cover floor and furniture
  • Flash light
  • Safety goggles
  • Dust mask
  • Ladder
  • Broom and dust pan
  • Shop Vac (optional)

If you are not sure, call a professional chimney sweep  Determining the type and thickness of the soot is important. Simply scrape some off the side of the chimney to ascertain what kind of cleaning is needed. If you are unsure about tackling the job yourself then call in a professional. A reputable chimney sweep is licensed by the Chimney Safety Institute of America and the cost is estimated at $150-$200.

Soot can get everywhere, so cover up  This DIY project can be messy so be sure to cover your floors and furniture with drop cloths. Wear old clothes, a dust mask and safety goggles. Place a drop cloth in the bottom of the fireplace. You may even want to create a “tent” around the fireplace if you worry about covering your house in soot.

Your chimney may have houseguests  Lay on your back and look up into the chimney and flue with a flash light. Don’t be surprised to find animals like birds and squirrels nesting in there. If you do you will need to remove them before continuing.

Glazed, hardened creosote may need a professional touch to remove  Whichever method appeals to you, be sure to get as much soot and creosote off the walls as possible. Use a shop vacuum to gather the falling debris as you work. If the creosote on the walls has hardened into a glaze you may need to seek professional help in getting it off. Scrubbing will not remove this type layer.

Don’t forget to trim back tree limbs  Inspect the outside of your chimney. Look for any loose or cracked bricks and deteriorating mortar. If you have tree limbs that are covering your chimney now is the time to trim them back.

Make sure the damper is working properly – From the fireplace, shine your flashlight upward to make sure the damper is working properly. Be sure to wear your safety goggles since debris will often float back down and land on the damper ledge. Use your chimney brush to clean this area.

Get out the shop vac for clean-up  After getting as much soot and creosote off the walls, vacuum the fireplace and drop cloths. Be careful to clean up any debris that may have escaped the hearth before removing the tarps on your furniture.

Keep Safe and Warm this Winter

By inspecting and cleaning your chimney and fireplace once a year in addition to burning well-seasoned wood, you can greatly reduce the chances of having an accidental fire in your home. Keeping your family safe and warm this winter only takes a little elbow grease and a good chimney brush. You can even whistle tunes from Mary Poppins while you work … if this helps!

Expert Advice

From ladders and chain saws to shop vacs, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment for your home projects. For more helpful tips on how to get your home ready for the cold temps, check our blog, 3 More Ways to Prepare Your Home for Winter. 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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Improve Your Home’s Heating This Winter with Storm Doors & Ceiling Fans

Installing Winter Storm Doors & WindowsThis winter, with the high cost of heating on everyone’s mind, improve your home’s heating efficiency by finding ways to stop heat loss and to better distribute the warm air coming out of your furnace and fireplace. Some of these solutions are right in front of you.

Shut the Front Door

Even though today’s fiberglass and steel front doors are more energy efficient, switching a screen door to a storm door could help cut down on energy bills, just not the way they used to. However, storm doors can help:

  • Protect the Front Door – Entryway doors can be costly and storm doors keep rain and snow off of them, extending their life.
  • Add Security – A locked storm door can add protection when you open your front door to a stranger.
  • Protect Visitors – There’s nothing worse than opening the front door and getting a face full of rain or snow. It’s nice to have a buffer before venturing out.

Avoid Trapped Heat

Some front door manufacturers will recommend not using a storm door, especially if it will be receiving several hours of daily direct sunlight. Heat can build up between the two doors. Install a storm door with vents to allow the heat to escape. Add UV protective tinting to all glass storm doors.

Swap Panels for Different Seasons

During the spring and summer, storm door screens keep pests out and cool breezes coming in. In the fall and winter, swap out the screen for the glass panel. Just remove the plastic clips on the top, bottom and sides of the screen and gently pop it out. The glass insert slides in and you finish by replacing the clips around all sides. Clean the screen and store it to await the swap out in the spring.

Ceiling Fans Help Keep Rooms Warmer

Most ceiling fans have a switch on the motor assembly that you flip to change the turning direction. In the summer, blades that turn counter-clockwise produce a cool breeze that blows directly down. In the winter, blades that turn clockwise draw air up and out, helping to recirculate the warmer air sitting at the ceiling.

  • Spread Warm Air Around – Hot air rises and often leaves pockets of cold air throughout rooms. Ceiling fans redistribute the warm air from a central source, such as a fireplace or wood stove, to reach other areas of the house.
  • It’s Hot Upstairs and Cold Downstairs – If you own a two story home with a central open staircase, you know how warm it can get upstairs while the rooms downstairs remain cold. Install a ceiling fan at the top of the stairs. It can help redirect some of the heat rising upstairs back to the ground floors.

Try Insulated Drapes

Check for air drafts around windows and doors. Caulk around windows to help seal them. Weather stripping can help eliminate leaks as well. For drafty patio and French doors – and also for windows – try installing insulated drapes that you close at night to keep the heat from escaping.

Stay Warm and Toasty This Winter

The goal is to stay warm and toasty this winter. Look for anything around your home that can eat into your energy efficiency. Every little bit helps. These simple DIY repairs will help you focus on more important things like how many marshmallows are going to go into your hot chocolate.

Expert Advice

From ladders to insulation blowers, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right tools and equipment for your home improvements. For more helpful tips on how to keep the cold out, check our blog, Cold Weather Basics: Winterizing Window, Doors and Vents. 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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DIY Project: How to Install a Sump Pump

How to Install a Sump PumpHaving a flooded basement is one of the worst fears a homeowner has and it’s a costly one. It only takes a heavy rainfall or a broken water pipe to ruin everything in the lower level of your home. One item that can alleviate this anxiety is a sump pump.

Water Problems are Not Uncommon

Sixty percent of American homes suffer from below-ground wetness. Water problems can be caused by:

  • Excessive water, i.e. over-saturating the ground around the foundation
  • Improperly installed or maintained gutters
  • Patios, decks or walkways sloping back toward the home’s foundation

Which Type of Sump Pump Do You Need?

Installing a sump pump in your basement is an easy do-it-yourself project. A sump pump’s main function is to channel water out of your basement and away from your foundation. There are three different types of pumps:

  • Pedestal – This type has the motor mounted above the sump pit and is less expensive. They can last 25-30 years but take up more room and cannot handle debris.
  • Submersible – The motor is submerged in the sump pit, which makes it less accessible. These pumps last 5-15 years, are best for tight spaces and can take up debris without clogging the pump.
  • Ejector – These are good for crawlspaces with pea gravel floors. Constructed from cast iron, these pumps last between 5-10 years and can eject small debris as well as water.

Installing a Sump Pump is Easy

Before you begin to dig the sump pit (the hole in which the pump sits), know where your main water and power lines are. It is recommended that you buy your sump pump and the heavy plastic pit liner together to assure proper fit. Once you determine the lowest point in your basement, we are ready to begin.

  1. Place the pit at least 8” away from outside walls, but close to a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) electrical outlet. You need to plug directly into outlet. No extension cords please!
  2. Dig a hole that is 3” wider than the liner and 6” deeper. You will need to jack hammer the foundation floor in order to clear the way for digging.
  3. Line the pit with gravel at the bottom and tamp. Place and level the liner inside the pit and fill around it with more gravel.
  4. Attach the discharge pipe to the pump and place it in the pit, making sure to keep it level. The discharge pipe is usually made of PVC pipe and will run from the pit to the outside of the house. A common method of getting the pipe outside is to drill into the rim joist.
  5. Dry fit all pipes together and then cement. Discharge pipes should have a small vent hole to prevent an air lock from forming. Be sure to caulk around the pipe, exiting through the rim joist.
  6. Dig a hole about a foot deep for the discharge line to exit through. Fill the hole completely with gravel to keep the line from freezing.
  7. Support the PVC pipes by attaching them to walls or other joists.
  8. Adjust the float valve on the pump and test. Pour water into the pit until the pump is submerged. Plug the pump in and voilà! Water is exiting the building.
  9. Put a cover or lid over the pit to help keep debris from getting into the pump or it becomes a hazard.

Consider Buying an Alarm and Battery Back-Up

You should consider buying a pump that has an alarm and a battery back-up. Both would come in handy during storms when water is likely to be a problem. For frequent flooding problems, you may want to consider having two separate sump pumps just to cover you in the event the first one fails.

Inspect and Test Your Pump Regularly

It is a good practice to test your sump pump twice a year. Just fill the pit with water and turn the pump on. Regular inspection of the pump will help you avoid any issues. To learn more about some of the potential problems you can face check out our blog on repairing sump pumps.

Keep Your Home Safe and Dry

You no longer have to worry about a flooded basement with a sump pump. This simple DIY project will help keep your home safe and dry. So sleep easy and listen to the rain. You’re in good hands.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on-hand to help you with your DIY projects. From jack hammers and drills to shovels and tamps, 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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Outdoor Entertaining Storage Made Easy in 8 Steps

prepare your patio for winterCooler temperatures signal that winter is on the way, reminding us to safely store all the accoutrements that make our decks, patios, porches and outdoor entertainment areas so enjoyable. The work you do now will make re-creating your outdoor living space a breeze come next season.

1. Wipe it all down

Get your lawn furniture ready to store by wiping it down to remove dirt, dust and debris. If you see that it has mildew on it, then wash it with soap, water and a soft bristled brush. Allow the furniture to dry completely before moving it to storage.

2. Clean and freshen up furniture

If you have metal tables and chairs, look for signs of rust while cleaning. You can remove rust with a wire brush before applying touch up paint. Once dry, add a coat of auto car wax for extra protection. This will make cleaning the furniture for a return engagement on the deck a snap.

3. Plastic needs protection, too

Plastic is susceptible to temperature changes. After sitting all summer in the blazing sun, letting plastic furniture languish in harsh winter weather may cause it to become brittle. Keep your plastic furniture looking nice by storing it indoors. If you don’t have the space, secure a plastic cover or tarp over the furniture outside.

4. Clean cushions

Vacuum or brush off your cushions to eliminate storing them with any unwanted pests. Acrylic fabric is made to deter mildew but if it remains dirty it can harbor mold. If you notice black stains, wipe the cushion down with mild soap and water and allow it to dry before placing them in a plastic bag. Store them in a dry area.

5. Remember the grill

If you don’t use your grill during the winter months (some brave souls do!), then you need to prepare it for storage.

  • Fire it up – Burn off any residue on the grates.
  • Scrape it off – Use a wire brush to remove stubborn bits of burnt food.
  • Remove grease tray – If you don’t do this after each use then give it a good scrubbing now to avoid mold forming while in storage.
  • Remove propane tank – Never store a tank indoors. Keep it outside and covered.
  • Cover it securely – If you aren’t going to store it, then cover the grill. Investing in a sturdy cover with ties will extend the life of your grill.

6. Protect garden accessories

Garden ornaments and accessories are easy to overlook, but some of these fragile items may not survive a harsh winter storm. Wind chimes, decorative bird houses and glass globes should all be cleaned and stored indoors. Water features should be drained so they will not freeze. If you can move them, storing them will help keep the seals and gaskets safe from deteriorating.

7. Roll up the garden hose

When you don’t need your garden hose anymore, untangle it, roll it up and store it. No sense buying a new one every year! And while you’re at it, tend to your potted plants. If you don’t have room for them to stay alive indoors, then contribute them to your compost pile. Turn all of your empty pots and containers upside down so they do not collect water.

8. Come spring – instant party!

For some, closing up outdoor entertaining for the winter is a somber chore. However, you can feel accomplished – you just saved yourself a lot of work in the spring by taking care of it now. Once it is warm again, just dust everything off and you are ready to go. Instant party! You’ll be the host with the most. Meanwhile, all the good times are now moving inside where it’s warm. You might want to enjoy those this winter.

Expert Advice

From pressure washers to ladders, our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden clean-up. For more helpful tips on how to get ready for the cold weather, check our blog, 3 Easy, Economical Ways to Winterize Your Home. 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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Clean Up Your Garden for Colder Months

clean up your garden in preparation for the colder months

While it may still feel like summer, fall is quickly approaching. Organizing your autumn garden to-do list now will help you plan for all the things you want to accomplish before Old Man Winter shows his frosty face. Focus on clean-up and cover-up when coming up with your projects.

Here are some suggestions for things to do:

  • Remove spent blooms and foliage – This will help prevent diseases and pests from overwintering in your garden. If you detect that a problem has already developed be sure to remove the affected debris from the area.
  • Dig up bulbs and tender plants – If they cannot survive the cold temperatures, dig them up and move them indoors. Let your bulbs dry out on newspaper for a couple of days before putting them in paper bags to store in a cool, dry area.
  • Mulch, mulch, mulch – Your summer mulch has started to decompose. Add a fresh layer of mulch to your beds now to keep weeds at bay. Replenish with another layer before harsh weather sets in to give you a thick protective covering for plants and soil.
  • Rake up fallen leaves – Mulch the leaves with your lawn mower and spread them onto your beds or add the leaves to your compost pile.
  • Continue watering trees and shrubs – Keep giving them deep soakings until right before the first frost. They need to build up moisture for the long winter months.
  • Cut back perennials – Remove the dead portion of the plants to eliminate pests and mulch. Divide plants that have outgrown their spot in the garden.
  • Till up beds – If your plants are all done for the season, remove the plant debris and till up your beds. When your vegetable garden has finished producing, till the plants into the soil.
  • Add compost to beds – While tilling up your flower beds and garden, work some compost into the soil to help next spring.
  • Maintain compost pile – Make sure your bins are ready to withstand the winter weather and that your pile has been amended so it will continue to decompose. Cover the compost pile to keep it from getting too much rain and developing mold.
  • Cover future flower beds – If you have an area you want to plant in the spring, till it up now, add organic materials and cover it with either a thick layer of mulch or plastic to discourage emergent growth.
  • Hold off on trimming trees – Wait until your trees are dormant before you cut them back to avoid having any new growth appear before the first frost.

Clean Garden Tools

While you are in the cleaning mood, don’t forget to clean your gardening tools before you store them for the winter. After washing them with soap and water, you may want to wipe them lightly with vegetable oil or WD40 to help keep them from corroding. Nothing beats a shiny new spade to work with in the spring!

Be Ready for Old Man Winter

You’ll always be able to find a DIY project to do, which is why organizing your fall garden projects makes sense. It will help cut down on the workload in the spring. Be ready for Old Man Winter this year. Your garden will thank you for it.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your fall clean-up and maintenance projects. From rakes and shovels to wheel barrows and mulch, 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. Check out our blog, Fall Checklist Part1- Garden Clean-up and Winterization for more helpful tips on getting ready for that lovely season we call winter.

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Top 10 Most Popular Runyon Equipment Rentals for Fall

Top 10 Fall Rentals from RunyonThe first day of fall is about a week away (September 23 this year), and it may seem like finishing all the things on your DIY-do list seems impossible. We’ve put together a list of our most popular equipment rentals for fall – “fan favorites” that’ll help you complete those projects in no time (in no particular order).

  1. Aerator/ Plugger – Fall is prime time for treating your lawn to a little TLC. By aerating, you help keep the soil from compacting and strangling the grass roots. Our blog on fall lawn care will show you why an aerator is a lawn’s best friend.
  2. Slice Seeder – If your lawn has thinned over the summer, then a slice seeder will help you bring it back to its “greener” self. As its name suggests, a slice seeder slices through the turf, creating furrows for seeds. The dirt that it kicks up buries the seeds, eliminating a need for straw or top soil. Learn more about this effective machine in our article, Improve Your Existing Turf with Slice Seeding.
  3. Tiller – Now that you are wrapping up your summer garden and flower beds, don’t forget to give back to your soil. Tilling helps to oxygenate the soil and mix in organic materials. Our post, Time to Till it Up, can help you decide if a tiller is in your future.
  4. Chainsaw – A chainsaw can make easy work of trimming trees or removing any that have died. We run through some handy tips on cutting down trees and using a chainsaw in this blog.
  5. Chipper – When removing a tree, what to do with the debris is always a consideration. We suggest using a chipper. You will eliminate the yard waste and get back mulch in return. We review different types of chippers in this article. Check it out.
  6. Log Splitter – While a chainsaw is handy for taking down a tree, a splitter will cut up the larger sections of a downed tree into usable pieces for your fireplace. Our blog post on repurposing yard debris for your fireplace may light a fire under you to rent one of these.
  7. Stump Cutter – Cutting a tree down and grinding up the debris is usually step one of the process. There is always a stump left to deal with. A stump cutter will break up the tree base and roots so that they are easier to remove. That’s why this piece of equipment is listed as one of the Essential Yard Tools for Your Fall Maintenance.
  8. Auger – Fall is an ideal season to plant trees and shrubs. In our post, Garden To-Dos Pt 3 – Planting Trees and Shrubs, we discuss how augers make digging holes for planting trees and other plants so much easier.
  9. Bobcat/ Dingo – Ever had to transport endless loads of dirt, gravel or mulch from your driveway to the back of your house with a wheelbarrow? You swore never again. What you need is a bobcat. From hauling to excavating, this is the “Swiss Army knife” of maintenance tools due to all the attachments available. We outlined how to use a Bobcat in our blog, How to Safely Operate and Maneuver a Bobcat.
  10. Boom Lift – For jobs that are too high or too dangerous for traditional ladders, the boom lift should be your choice. It will safely deliver you and your materials to the height you need. See how one of these can help on your projects in the article, Versatile Uses of Boom Lifts.

By selecting the right tools and equipment to do the job, your to-do lists don’t have to be so overwhelming – they can actually help you tackle your projects in record time. You may be able to add even more items to your list! On further reflection, taking one’s time while doing home improvements can also be seen as a virtuous endeavor. Food for thought, folks, food for thought.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with all of your DIY home improvement projects. 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 Insulate Your Garage for Winter

insulate your garage for winterWhen planning projects to do around your house to get ready for the long winter to come, remember to include your garage. This often overlooked area is one of the main sources of heat loss in your home. Garages often share a wall with a kitchen or den. Keeping the garage warm will help keep your house toasty and more energy efficient.

The Higher the R-Value the Better

R-Value refers to an insulation material’s ability to resist heat flow. When insulating, the higher the R-Value, the better. Normally for walls, look for an R-Value of R11-R15 and for an attic space, look for R38- R49. Foam board only has an R-Value of R3-R6, but is a good option for insulating garage doors.

Look for Storage Opportunities

Assess your garage, and while you’re at it, why not organize and purge items that have accumulated over the summer. Look for any missed opportunities for storage in the rafters or along the walls. Work these features into your plan of attack for winterizing the garage. Cabinets along walls can do double duty, keeping the cold away from indoor rooms, as well as store items.

Eliminate Cold Air From Entering Your House

Insulating your garage will help protect your car, eliminate cold air from entering your house, and provide you with additional workspace during the winter. Here are some ideas on where to start in your garage:

  • Fix and insulate your garage door. Add foam board to the inside of your garage door. If you have an older door, consider investing in a modern insulated door.
  • Replace weather stripping around your garage door and any outside doors.
  • Insulate the garage walls. Garages are shells and have little if any insulation in the walls.
  • Seal switches and outlets on outside walls. Cold air can seep in through these openings.
  • Cover exposed pipes. It is easy to overlook these pipes, but treat them as if they are outdoors and wrap them.
  • Caulk around any windows, doors and the garage door.

Use Weather Seal

The garage door is a big culprit for letting cold air in even when it is in place. Consider installing a weather seal where the door meets the ground. This will not only keep the frigid air out, but it will help keep rain and insects out, too.

Durable, Protective Epoxy Floors

Waterproofing the floor of a garage will not only seal it to keep the dampness out, but it will also go a long way towards improving the appearance of your garage. Epoxy combines a resin and a hardener to form a rigid plastic material. These floors are easy to install. They are durable, repel stains and can stand up to heavy traffic. Epoxy is an affordable and stylish way to protect your concrete floors.

No More Working in a Cold Garage

Adding a heater may seem like a luxury, but it can help keep the fluids in your car’s engine from “gelling up”. A gas system will cost more to install but is cheaper to run. An electric unit will be cheaper to install but you will have higher operating costs. You’ll also be able to use your garage more in the winter using a heater, so you can work in a comfortable setting.

Keep Your Heating Costs Down

Insulating your garage now will help keep your heating costs down this winter. It will protect your car and other items in the garage from extreme temperature changes. Just think how nice it will be to get into your car without having to walk out into a cold garage. Bring on old man winter!

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your home improvement projects. From an insulation blower and epoxy mixer to a circular saw and drill, 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. Learn more insulation tips by reading our blogs, Increase the Energy Efficiency of Your Home by Insulating the Garage and Find Air Leaks in Your House and Plug ‘Em Up Fast.

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Get a Head Start on Spring Gardening with Fertilizer

fertilize your garden this fallThe kids are headed back to school, the summer flowers are fading and – here’s the big news  it’s no longer taboo to fertilize your plants in the fall. Now that we know more about the year-round development cycle of plants, giving them a boost in the fall with fertilizer may be just what they need to survive the harsh winter.

Fertilize to protect plants from the elements

Once it was thought that fertilizing in late summer and fall would cause a plant to develop new growth that would be damaged in the first cold snap. Scientists now believe that in the fall plants store food and nutrients in their root systems to help them survive until spring. Fall fertilizing can help strengthen a plant.

A soil test shows what’s missing

Not all plants will need an extra boost of nutrients in the fall. Do a soil test to see what nutrients and minerals may be missing from the area you would like to treat. Many testing facilities will analyze the soil and give you their recommendations for the type of fertilizer to use.

More is not always better

A common mistake with fertilizing is to assume that every plant will benefit from a dose. If the soil is healthy, then the plant may not need extra nutrients. Soil testing also helps to determine if an area has been over-planted. Remember – more is not better. Just replenish what is missing from your soil. Too much fertilizer can kill your plants or grass.

It’s all in the numbers

All fertilizers have a three-numbered code or NPK code on the bag. This corresponds to the amount of Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K) in the fertilizer.

  • Nitrogen promotes foliage growth
  • Phosphorous stimulates root growth
  • Potassium is important for proper cell function and overall plant health

The right mix will work wonders

In September apply a 20-8-8 mix fertilizer to your grass to help it recover from the summer heat and drought. Apply a 13-25-12 mix at the end of October to encourage root growth. For perennials, a high phosphate/low nitrogen mix will strengthen the plants and produce more blooms in the spring. Adding a phosphate mix when you plant bulbs this fall will help roots establish.

There’s a lot going on

Scientists have discovered that a garden is a year round living organism. Even though plants are dying above ground in the fall, there is a lot of activity going on beneath the soil surface. Roots continue to grow, storing nutrients from the soil. These nutrients help a plant fight off disease and strengthen the roots. When the temperatures drop to around 40 degrees, plants also release amino acids and sugars that help them withstand freezing.

2 Types of Fertilizers

Organic Fertilizers:

  • Made from natural plant and animal sources, such as manure, wood, fish and bone meal and seaweed
  • Not water soluble
  • Usually in granular form and take time to release nutrients into soil
  • Remain in the soil for an extended period
  • Stimulate beneficial microbes, which help break down the organic material and release soluble nutrients
  • Help improve the quality and structure of the soil
  • Best if applied in the fall so nutrients are released to soil over the winter months, making them available for plants in spring

Synthetic Fertilizers:

  • Manufactured chemical compounds
  • Water soluble
  • Make nutrients immediately available to plants
  • Can “burn” foliage and damage plants if too much is applied
  • Leach out of the soil quickly
  • Can contaminate ground water, streams and ponds due to runoff
  • Do not improve soil quality
  • Best when applied in the spring when ground is cold and microbes are inactive

Keep your plants happy – fertilize!

Good soil preparation, mulching and adding fertilizer where needed will keep your plants happy, healthy and thriving. Your garden feeds your body and your soul. Return the favor. Your plants will love you for it. 

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your lawn and garden projects. From a rake and a shovel to a wheel barrow and mulch, 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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Groundcovers – Make Sweet Spots in Your Yard

GroundcoverDo you have an area in your yard where grass will not grow? Or a slope that seems to be eroding with every rainfall? If so, then a groundcover may be the solution. These low-lying plants can grow where grass and other more delicate plants cannot.

Low Growing, Spreads Easy

The definition of a groundcover is a low growing plant (less than 24 inches) that spreads easily by producing rhizomes or stolons. These plants form dense vegetation, which chokes out weeds and makes them virtually maintenance free.

Why are groundcovers so useful in your yard?

  • They help prevent soil erosion. Root systems mat together and hold soil in place.
  • They help prevent weeds. Their matted roots and dense growth patterns keep weeds from taking hold.
  • They define a space. They also provide a transition between lawn and flower beds.
  • They soften hardscapes. Walkways, steps and driveways look less severe.
  • They fill awkward spaces. They are great to place between pavers or rocks.
  • They grow where grass will not. Many groundcover plants can survive in poor soil conditions and shady areas.
  • They are drought tolerant. They need less water than traditional grasses.
  • They mostly withstand foot traffic. Groundcovers such as moss, thyme and turfgrass don’t mind a little walking.

5 Types of Commonly Used Groundcover Plants

  • Vines – woody plants with slender spreading stems
  • Herbaceous – non-woody plants
  • Shrubs – low-growing varieties
  • Moss – the larger, coarser types
  • Ornamental Grasses

Pick Your Spot – Make Your Selection

Determine the area you want to plant groundcover. Is it shady or in full sun? Does the ground drain well or stay moist? This will help you decide what types of plants to select. Herbaceous plants will lose their leaves in the winter so if you are trying to cover a bare area then go with evergreen plants.

Creeper, Carpeter or Clumper

Ground covering plants can be creepers (vines and fast spreading plants), carpeters (like moss or turfgrass) or clumpers like Hostas. If you are trying to fill in a large area quickly, then maybe a creeper type is what you need. For variety, try mixing together all three types. Just determine each plant’s maximum growth range and space them out accordingly.

Stagger Your Plants

As with all plantings, starting with good healthy soil is important. Prepare the bed by adding compost or organic material. Arrange the plants you’ve selected in a staggered or diamond pattern to allow them to fill in faster. Space out your plants. Give creepers more room to spread out than the clumping types. Remember that a fast spreading creeper may become invasive if not kept in check. Just keep an eye on them.

Mulch for Protection

After planting be sure to cover with a thick layer of mulch to keep the weeds under control until the groundcover can fill in. The mulch will also provide protection during the winter months. Groundcover plants will take a couple of growing seasons to establish and completely fill in the area.

Most Popular Groundcovers

  • Ajuga
  • Bishop’s Weed (good for slopes)
  • Brass Buttons (evergreen)
  • Creeping Speedwell
  • Dead Nettle
  • Hakone Grass
  • Hen & Chicks
  • Irish Moss
  • Juniper
  • Lamb’s Ear (evergreen)
  • Lamium
  • Lily-of-the-Valley
  • Mondo Grass (evergreen)
  • Periwinkle
  • Scotch Moss
  • Sedum
  • Spurge
  • Sweet Woodruff (loves shade)
  • Thyme

Let Your Imagination Run Wild

Groundcovers are an easy solution to most landscape challenges. They can also be used to create some very interesting focal points in your yard. Mother Nature has provided you with every texture and color you can think up for your garden palette. Let your imagination run wild.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From tillers and shovels to wheel barrows and mulch, 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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Getting Ready for Fall Part 3: Pampering the Grass

Prep Your Garden for Fall - Dethatching, Overseeding and AeratingHas your lawn had its share of foot traffic this summer? With outdoor activities in full swing, it’s a sure bet your grass is a little stressed. It may be a toss-up as to which of you is more excited about the kids going back to school – you or your lawn! A little lawn pampering may be just the ticket. It will love you for it (and you will love how it looks next year).

Adjust Your Mower Height

Once the summer heat is gone, lower your lawn mower to a regular height of about two inches. Cutting your grass shorter will help prevent matting under leaves and snow. Avoid cutting it too short though, otherwise weeds can take over if the grass thins out too much.

Continue Watering Schedule

Don’t slack on watering just yet. Until temperatures really begin to cool, continue to water your lawn as you have been. A general rule is to give your lawn about an inch to an inch and half of water a week. This will vary depending on where you live, the condition of your soil and the type of grass you have.

Check for Thatch

Check your lawn for thatch – a thick layer of dead organic matter mixed with living plant parts that builds up at the surface of your grass. Over-fertilizing and watering too frequently can cause thatch and lead to disease and insect problems. A dethatcher has powerful blades that pull the thatch to the surface. After using the dethatcher, rake up the thatch debris and compost it.

Pesky Weeds Be Gone

Fall is also a great time to attack those pesky weeds like dandelions, clover and other broadleaf weeds. Applying an herbicide spray that contains glyphosate, 2 4-D or MCPP is best. The weeds take these chemicals down into their root system, effectively stopping their chances of returning in the spring. The herbicide needs to be applied when temperatures are more moderate and the soil is moist.

Fall Lawn To-do List

Now that you have thatched your lawn and treated for weeds, improve the condition of your soil and grass using these to-do’s.

  1. Aerate the soil. This reduces thatch, improves drainage and loosens the soil. Using a plug type aerator is best since there is less chance of compacting the soil.
  2. Apply a top dressing. This is a mixture of loam, sand and peat, which will help amend the soil. Put a thin layer over the grass and plug holes. Avoid smothering the grass.
  3. Work the top dressing into plugs. Use a stiff brush to push the mixture into the plugs.
  4. Repair dead patches in grass. Reseed any thin spots. Use a mulch product that is embedded with seeds and fertilizer to help fill in these areas. Keep spots moist to allow seeds to germinate.

I See Dead Patches

If your grass has too many dead patches, try over seeding the entire lawn. Many over-seed warm season grasses with ryegrass to help thicken up thin or patchy yards. Cisco seeds has a variety of different types of seeds available. One is sure to do the trick for your lawn.

Quick Fix with Sod

Sometimes starting from scratch is the best option. Sod is the quickest way to bring your yard back to life. Now that summer heat is on its way out, it is the perfect time to install a new lawn of cool season grass. Keep the new sod moist for a quick start. It will have plenty of time over the winter months to build a strong root system.

Fertilize Cool Season Grasses

Finish up your yard work by fertilizing your grass. For cool season grasses like bluegrass, fescue and ryegrass, a late summer feeding in September and then again in October/November will help them green up earlier and look better in the spring. Don’t fertilize warm season grasses in the fall because they are dormant. Only fertilize them if they have been over-seeded with ryegrass. You fertilize these types of grasses in the spring.

Mulch those Leaves

Be sure to remove any fallen leaves from your yard before they can mat down and smother the grass. Using a mulching mower will help with this. Also, don’t forget to drain your irrigation lines before the first frost. Shut off the water to the system and then drain each zone separately to make sure there is nothing left to freeze.

A little lawn pampering may be just the thing to improve your stressed out grass. Your hard work will pay off when your grass comes back greener and healthier next spring. Now, if we can just figure out a way to keep the kids and dog off your beautiful green lawn…

Want more information on fall lawn preparations? Check out our blogs, What Everyone Ought to Know About Lawn Aeration, Aerating/Plugging and Slice Seeding and Essential Fall Tools for Your Lawn & Garden.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From detachers and aerators to mulching mowers and over-seeders, 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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Getting Ready for Fall Part 2: Time to Till It Up!

Prep Your Garden for Fall - TillingThe school year is just beginning, summer flowers are dying off and vegetable gardens are winding down. Signs that summer is drawing to a close are everywhere. With fall on our minds, what needs to be done in our yards and gardens before temperatures cool down?

Start Improving on Next Year

The first thing you should do is assess your yard and garden. Take stock of all the plants that didn’t succeed this summer and why. Check out your lawn and determine if you need to re-seed or plant new sod. Think of ways to improve things for next year, such as:

  • Identify plants that are overgrown. They may need to be divided.
  • Check for diseases on your plants. Treat or remove them so they do not infect plants around them.
  • Replace summer annuals. Add fall color with plants like Chrysanthemums.
  • Dig up bulbs. Unearth bulbs that may not be able to survive the winter in your zone and store them.
  • Fertilize turf grass. Add a slow release, all-natural fertilizer to your turf grass.

Soil Preparation is Key

Preparing your garden for next year is easy. The more work you put in now, the easier your task will be in the spring. The key to a successful garden is soil preparation, and fall is the perfect time to do this, since the ground is still warm.

  1. Clean up dead plants and remove debris – Make sure you remove weeds so they are not tilled back into the soil where they can spread their seeds.
  2. Work compost into the soil – Tilling the compost into the soil helps distribute the nutrients throughout. It will also oxygenate the soil and help keep diseases at bay.
  3. Protect the soil – If you aren’t going to plant in this area until next year, cover the ground with straw to protect it from harsh winter weather.
  4. Mulch – If you are planting fall flowers or if you just want to protect your evergreens, then mulch. Mulch will help keep plant roots protected and the soil healthy.

Fall Tilling is Easier

Because the ground is warmer in the fall, it is much easier to till deep enough to provide a good medium for root growth in the spring. Tilling is a great way to get your soil ready for next year.

  • It opens up the soil allowing oxygen to reach the deeper layers of the ground.
  • It relieves compaction – plant roots have to work too hard to get through packed soil.
  • It allows for amendments to be distributed through the soil.
  • It improves drainage.

Give Soil Time to Develop

By tilling compost into your soil in the fall, you are giving it all winter and spring to become biologically active. Organic amendments take time to interact with the earth and render their benefits to plants. It can take weeks or months for amended soil to work at peak levels, which is why fall tilling is so much better than waiting until spring. The soil has time to develop.

Rough it Up

If you are not planting in your garden until spring, rough till your soil in each direction and leave it. The ground will flatten out before spring when you can go back and fine till it. Some of the amendments you can add to your soil now are bone meal (for nitrogen) and rock phosphate (for phosphorous). Add a complete organic fertilizer in pellet or granular form when you till. This is an easy way to add nutrients and will cut down on the amount of compost you need in the spring.

Leave Something for Pests

For your vegetable gardens, consider letting some of the plants linger. Plants like spent cabbage, kale, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, broccoli and radishes act as pest magnets. In the spring, these plants release a cyanide compound when decomposing that can kill nuisance pests like wireworms. Just till the decaying plants into the soil before planting next spring. Instant compost!

A Gardener’s Work is Never Done

Fall is when you should think about ways to enjoy your garden during the cooler weather. If you enjoy bird watching then leave a few flowering plant stalks in your beds to attract birds. The birds will feast on the seeds and use the stalk as a perch. Remember, garden life is year round and a gardener’s work is never done.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From tillers and shovels to wheel barrows and mulch, 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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Getting Ready for Fall Part 1: Tree Trimming – A Seasonal Sport

Prepare for Fall - Tree Trimming

Lying in your lawn chair, you look up and realize, “Man, my trees need a little shaping up.” Before you end your relaxation and start cutting away at your trees, take a deep breath. As with all things, timing is important. We have the how, when and whys of tree trimming to help you plan for the months ahead.

Why trim a tree?

  • To promote plant health – cut dead or diseased branches keeps it from spreading
  • To maintain a plant’s shape for landscaping purposes – like hedges or topiaries
  • To improve a plant’s appearance – control the plant’s size, shape and thickness
  • To protect people or property – remove branches that fall and injure people or property
  • To improve security around a property – remove unwanted growth blocking the view of entries or windows

Keep Your Trees Healthy and Looking Great

A little year-round maintenance (light shaping) is fine to keep your trees healthy and looking great. If you want to really prune a tree back, be sure to do it at the appropriate time during their yearly growth cycle. This way, you can encourage the plant to grow fuller and produce more flowers and fruit. An arborist can help you make the right decision on which branches to cut and which to save.

Trimming Promotes New Growth in Spring

So when is the best time to trim a tree? Winter months are when the tree is dormant. Pruning during this time will promote a generous burst of new growth come spring. Just wait until the coldest weather has passed and you should be fine.

Corrective Pruning

If you want to do some corrective pruning to a tree then do this in the summer months. By cutting a tree limb back during the summer part of their growth cycle, you are helping to slow the development of new branches. This is the time to take out low lying limbs so they will not readily return.

Fall – Enjoy Football Instead

Wait until after the fall to do any tree trimming. Because fungi spread their spores profusely during the fall, cutting a tree limb in the fall will make them susceptible to these diseases. Trees also heal slower during these months. Enjoy some football and wait.

Save Major Pruning for Winter

Winter is the time when you should do the most drastic trimming if needed. It is when you should cut branches that overhang your home or fence. The best rules of thumb are the 1/4 and 1/3 rules:

  • Never remove more than 1/4 of the tree’s crown in a season
  • Don’t prune more than 1/3 of the way up from the bottom on deciduous trees

Trimming Flowering Trees

For flowering trees, if they bloom in the spring then you should prune them after they finish blooming. If they bloom mid to late summer then trim them back in the winter or early spring. This will help you avoid trimming off any buds that the tree is forming for next year.

Use Sharp Tools

Some good tips for pruning any time of the year is to always use sharp tools. They will make cleaner cuts on the trees and will help the tree heal faster. If you have high branches use a pole pruner instead of trying to climb on a ladder. It is too easy to tip over when sawing a limb. Chain saws can help you take down many of your branches, but for large overhead branches play it safe and call in a professional. Check out our blog, How to Cut down a Tree, for more helpful suggestions on using chain saws.

Stress-Free Tree Trimming

As summer winds down, don’t stress over trimming back your trees. Make small adjustments here and there and save any major trim work for the winter months. Enjoy the dog days of summer and the wonderful shade your trees provide.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From tree pruners and nippers to chain saws and wood chippers, 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 Build a Backyard Pond in 10 Simple Steps

how-to build a backyard pondOne sure way to add a beautiful focal point to any landscape is to introduce a water feature. What about building a backyard pond? It will not only add diversity, it attracts beneficial wildlife. Adding a small pond with trickling water is an easy weekend project, plus you and your family will enjoy it for years to come.

Keep it Close

To get the maximum enjoyment from your pond, keep it close to your home. You want to see and hear it from your windows or patio area. Because you need electricity for the pump, keep the pond within close proximity to an outdoor outlet. Most pumps come with a 24-foot power cord; any further than that and you will need to extend your power lines.

Not Too Much Sunlight, Please

Ponds need sunlight to support beneficial wildlife and they prefer partial daily exposure. Too much sun can warm the water too much and allow algae to thrive. Avoid positioning your pond near large trees. Roots can damage your lining in their quest for moisture. Besides, fishing leaves out of your pond all the time is no fun.

Habitat for Fish?

Do you want a fish pond? You and your family may enjoy taking care of fish. However, they will need to be fed daily and the pond filter will need to be cleaned or changed regularly. It’s a decision to make before committing to be “fish parents.” If you commit, build in water depth to the pond, which is more critical than circumference. You need to dig a minimum of 18 inches for goldfish and three feet for koi in order for them to survive the winter.

The Soothing Sounds of a Waterfall

Consider adding a waterfall to your pond. Keeping the water moving and aerated helps keep algae in check and prevents mosquitoes from laying eggs. Flowing water also attracts birds and other interesting wildlife. Plus you benefit from the soothing sounds yourself.

Time to Start Digging

Now that you’ve decided where and how large of a pond you want, it’s time to call 811 to have someone come out and determine where underground gas and electrical lines might be. Once you’re clear of that, it’s time to start digging.

  • Mark the outline – form the shape you want with twine or landscape paint.
  • Excavate the area – if you are going for a lovely large water feature you may want to consider using a Bobcat or an excavator to make your digging easier.
  • Terrace the pond
  • Create a 3-inch wide area around the outside of your outline for the stone border.
  • Create a 1-foot wide shelf around the inside of the outline for aquatic plants. It should be about 8 inches deep from the edge of the pond.
  • Dig the bed of the pond a minimum of 18 inches deep, sloping slightly in creating the walls.

4) Dig a trench back to the power supply – this should be close to the deepest part of the pond since that is where the pump will go.

5)   Add an overflow trench at one end of pond – It should be about 6 inches wide and 1 inch deep to help channel overflow caused by heavy rains away from your pond.

6)   Prepare the Base – Add a 1 inch layer of sand followed by a 1/2” layer of newspapers around the entire base of the pond and terrace areas. The newspaper will help protect the liner from punctures.

7)   Line the Pond – Use a polypropylene flexible liner that can withstand UV rays, freezing temps, and is rated “fish friendly”. Cut the liner about 4 feet wider and longer than the pond dimensions. Center the liner in the pond and press it down, pushing tightly into the crevices.

8)   Fill the Pond – Begin adding water to the pond using a garden hose. While the pond is filling up pull the liner tightly to help remove creases. Get someone to help with this so that the extra liner you’ve left over the pond edge will not shift.

9)   Install the pump – Thread the power cord through a PVC pipe and place it in the trench leading back to exterior outlet and backfill. Place the pump in the deepest section of the pond while holding onto the other end of the hose.

10) Create a Rock Border – To hide the liner edge place rocks around the perimeter. The rocks need to interlock so they will not be loose and cause a safety hazard. Create easy access for wildlife by extending some of the rocks into the shallow water.

Jump Start Your Pond’s Ecosystem

Landscaping inside and around your pond is important for completely the look of your water feature. It helps to attract wildlife like birds and butterflies, and looks pretty to the human eye, too. To jump start your pond’s ecosystem add a bucket of water from a nearby natural water source. It will introduce millions of organisms and help keep your pond’s health in balance with nature.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your landscaping projects. From Bobcats and excavators to shovels and wheel barrows, 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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Another Fresh Garden Idea – Gardening for the Smell of It

Fragrant Flowers in Your BackyardAre you always looking for ways to make your garden interesting? Are you a little bored just coordinating colors and textures to make it visually appealing? Time to take your garden to a new level. Add aroma-filled “perfume” plants into the mix and you’ll soon find your family spending a lot more time outdoors.

Pick-A-Scent for a Pick-Me-Up

Gardens are not only soothing to the eye, they can be a delight to your sense of smell as well. Start by designing your landscape with aroma in mind. Notice the places that could use a little “scent” pick-me-up.

Here are some of the ways you can enjoy the fragrance of “perfume” plants around your house:

  • Position them around gathering places like patios or pool areas
  • Cover a pergola or walled courtyard with plants like Wisteria, Honeysuckle or Jasmine
  • Line a driveway or walkway with plants like Lavender, Pelargonium and Alyssum
  • Plant beside gates or entryways to the yard or house
  • Add hanging baskets to porches
  • Add window boxes with colorful, scented flowers
  • Plant trees like Plumeria or Magnolia so that the fragrance will reach a second story window
  • Plant scented herbs like Thyme and Mint between pavers to give you a burst of aroma when you step on them.

Spread the Fragrance Around

Planning is the key to successfully distributing “perfume” plants throughout your garden. Avoid creating a flower bed in one area for all your new scented plants because they will overpower each other. You will wind up with something akin to the perfume counter at Macy’s with all of the plants competing for your attention. Determine the fragrance level (strong to subtle) and the times the plants are the most aromatic (day or night) before planting them.

A Scented Garden – Spring to Fall

Your goal is to have a scented garden from spring to fall and during both daylight and evening hours. Once you’ve selected where you want the plants, determine which “perfume” plants you want. Even though a particular plant is most fragrant at night it may need plenty of sun during the day to prosper, so placement is important. Consider using a mix of flowering plants, shrubs, herbs and trees to enhance the perfume of your garden.

“Perfume” Plants to Consider:

  • Basil
  • Butterfly Bush
  • Dianthus
  • Gardenia
  • Garden Phlox
  • Honeysuckle
  • Hydrangea
  • Jasmine
  • Lavender
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Lilac
  • Lily-of-the-Valley
  • Mint
  • Mock Orange
  • Moonflower – (night time scents)
  • Nicotiana – (night time scents)
  • Oriental Lily (Start Gazer Lily)
  • Peony
  • Plumeria – (small tree)
  • Rosemary
  • Roses
  • Scented Geraniums
  • Southern Magnolia – (tree)
  • Spirea
  • Thyme
  • Viburnum
  • Wisteria

Be Adventurous

Select some of the new hybrid “perfume” plants that are available at your local nursery. Maybe what your garden needs is a little “Pink Zazzle” Gomphrena (Globe Amaranth), “Vermillionaire” Cuphea or “Bounce” Impatiens, which bring some heavenly fragrance to your abode. These hybrids are typically easy to grow and hardy until the first frost.

Stagger Your Scent Makers

When it’s time to plant your scent makers, break up the soil and add organic matter or compost to help enrich it. Remember to stagger them throughout the area to create the most enjoyment. Add a generous covering of mulch to help the new plants retain moisture and get them off to a good start.

Stop and Smell the Roses

Scientists say that the sense of smell is one of our most powerful senses. Humans associate memories and emotions with particular fragrances. Just a whiff of a particular aroma can send your mouth watering or your heart soaring. So next time you take a moonlight stroll in the garden, take a deep breath and remember what you’re feeling at that moment. There’s a safe bet that when you encounter that fragrance again, you’ll think back to that nighttime walk. Maybe that’s why they tell you to stop and smell the roses.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your garden projects. From small tillers and wheel barrows to shovels and mulch, 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: Gardening and Lawn Care, How-To's | 1 Comment

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