Home Improvements – Lawn Maintenance

How To Dethatch & Aerate A Lawn

Tools needed:

Garden hose, wooden matchsticks, iron rake, thatch rake, dethatching machine, garden fork, hand or machine aerator and leaf rake.

The lawn must be dethatched if the thatch is more than 1/2″ thick and compacted. To assess the level of compaction of the soil, water the lawn and note how quickly the water is absorbed in various areas of the lawn. The soil is compacted if the water does not absorb quickly. If a wooden matchstick cannot be easily inserted into the soil, then it is compacted.

If the lawn needs to be dethatched, use an iron rake or thatch rake to cut through and rake off thatch. Rent a walk behind dethatching machine for larger lawns. Dethatching should only be done in the fall.

Use a garden fork to prick holes, 2-3″ apart and 1-2″ deep into a moderately compacted area. Use an aerator for larger areas to spike the lawn holes. Aerating is easier to do when the soil is wet. Rent aerating equipment at your local rental outlet.

In sandy soil and small areas, a garden fork will create holes in the lawn. However, for severely compacted soil, the fork must be inserted into the ground 3-4″ deep and moved back and forth to create larger holes. A hollow-tine fork will pop out multiple plugs of sod and soil at one time. Use a gas-powered plugging aerator to create larger holes in medium to large areas of severely compacted soil.

NOTE: Professional services will take care of all your lawn care needs. Look for a local contractor to hire if you didn’t want to do it yourself.

How To Re-turf A Bare Spot On A Lawn

Tools needed:

Edger or spade, measuring tape, garden fork, cutting tool, tamper or garden roller, garden hose and nozzle, pointer masons trowel or kitchen knife.

Using an edger or spade, cut a 2 inch deep square around the damaged area. Remove the sod from the damaged area. Make the new cut-out of the sod equal to or a multiple number of the width of the damaged strip of sod.

Use a garden fork to loosen the soil under the removed strip of sod. Rake the area until it is level and then tamp it with the head of the rake to remove any air pockets.

Use a pointed mason’s trowel or kitchen knife to cut one or more lengths of sod. Lay the sod into the cut-out area. Fit the edge of the new sod against the existing sod around the cut-out. Fill the gaps with loose topsoil. Walk on the new sod or use a tamp or garden roller filled 1/3 with water to press the area into the ground.

Water the sod regularly for 2-3 weeks and limit the amount of walking on the new area.


Tips for Increasing Your Home’s Value

A home renovation is a major decision that cannot be done without some very serious planning. Renovations are a great way to increase your home’s value. Whether it is a big or a small renovation, it can definitely add a significant value to your property.

To successfully increase the value of your home, here are some tips that you may use as a guide as you begin with your home renovation:

Repair, Replace, and Fix

Before planning on a fancy upgrade on your home, you must first deal with the basics. Inspect every area of your home that needs to be repaired, replaced, and or fixed. Inspect the roofs for outdated electrical systems and hidden water leaks. Check out every area of the house that you don’t normally see to discover hidden problems that could impact your home’s value.

Sometimes, people think that to increase the value of a house, additional fixtures and major renovations are needed, but in fact, small fixes and repairs could go a long way to increase its value by a few thousand dollars as well. You do not need to spend a lot of money to see a big difference in the value of your house.

Invest on Energy-Efficient Appliances

Energy efficient appliances do not only look good but they are also better for the environment. Replace your old appliances with energy-efficient models to help you save more money as these appliances use less energy. Having an energy-efficient house is a more valuable and more marketable asset if you decide to sell your house in the future.

Consider Adding an Outdoor Living Space

The addition of an outdoor living space is one of the simplest ways to increase the value of your home. Not only will it increase your home’s value, but it can also make your house more appealing to potential buyers when you decide to sell your house in the future. An outdoor space is ideal for entertaining guests and even potential buyers when they come to inspect your property.


The Hidden Room

I’ve always had a fascination with the concept of hidden rooms. Many of the books I’ve read told of secret passageways or a library that, if you knew of its existence, and you knew where it was located and how to use it, you would press something in a panel and the panel would slide open, allowing you to go downstairs to a hidden room.

I’ve never had a need for a hidden room because my privacy was always respected. If I wanted to escape, I just went into my bedroom and closed the door. The message to everyone in the house was don’t disturb her, don’t knock on her door, don’t call her name. She’ll come out when she’s ready.

Too bad I didn’t realize that I had been sending out that message, and it had been accepted, or I might not have been so intrigued with the concept of a hidden room that no one else knew about. I kept imagining that I would be the only one who knew where the piece in the panel was located, and who knew how to push it in the right place to get the panel to move so that I could go downstairs to my hidden room.

I just came across an article about hidden rooms behind bookcases and it showed a lot of photos of how these rooms were undetected by others. Most of them looked too easy to discover but there were a couple of them that looked like great hideaways for kids.

One of them had ceiling to floor bookcases, filled with books that looked like they never moved. In fact, when you looked at it, it looked like the kind of bookcases that you see in the offices of doctors and dentists for their patient files. But when you moved this bookcase, and it didn’t tell where the movable panel was, there was this delightful room behind it for kids.

Some of the books I read told about using these secret rooms for nefarious purposes, others told about the man of the house getting away from rooms that were overflowing with unwanted guests. Some of the rooms were used as war rooms where spies put maps on the table to plot how to get information or rescue hostages. And some of the secret rooms were used for men who wanted a place to drink port and play cards. No one ever said if there was anyone who was allowed to clean these hidden rooms.

Even though I’ve never had a reason to have my own hidden room with secret panels to access them, they still hold a fascination for me. I guess some things you never outgrow, no matter how old you are.

Connie H. Deutsch is an internationally known business consultant and personal advisor who has a keen understanding of human nature and is a natural problem-solver.


Tips In Choosing Steel Windows And Doors

There are a lot of items homeowners need to deal with when building houses. For one, homeowners need to ensure that the foundations are constructed properly. The walls must be sturdy to ensure strength and durability. Finally, you need to make sure that the features of the house like windows and doors can complement the structure. Steel windows and doors are the ideal option.

Of course, wooden doors are appealing and wonderful. Windows created from wood also provide amazing looks in your house. However, steel windows and doors are the most common options these days. Listed below are some of the benefits it provides.

Stronger – Steel is more durable and stronger than any other material used in constructing houses. Therefore, when used to create windows and doors, you are sure that these items are stronger. As a result, you are sure that these items can withstand unstable weather conditions.

Safer – Making use of steel windows and doors also increase your safety. This is possible since these items cannot be destroyed easily by thieves or intruders. Houses are also safer since steel is fire-resistant.

Better Designs – When using steel, you can also create better designs since you can easily bend or form shapes unlike other materials like wood. In addition, its durability also helps ensure that the designs are strong and appealing at the same time. One of the best designs making use of steel is the narrow sightlines. These designs can make houses more luxurious.

Easy to replace or repair – When it comes to replacements, homeowners can easily replace steel windows and doors. Homeowners only need to replace destroyed parts rather than replacing the whole item. Not to mention, repairs are easier since you can fix windows or doors even if they are installed.

Easy to clean – Cleaning steel windows and doors is also more efficient since most steel items are coated. With this, dust can be removed easily by wiping. You can also make use of water to get rid of stains to make windows and doors look new once more.

Reduce expenses – Opting for steel windows and doors is expensive. However, in the long run, it can also help you reduce expenses. For instance, you are sure that the doors and windows will last longer than wooden ones, which means you do not need to worry about replacements for a long time.


The Dangers of Mold in Your Home

If your home has been impacted by a flood or other water emergency, you may be at risk for mold growth. Mold can grow quite quickly in damp, moist environments as a result of a large amount of standing water. In just a matter of hours, mold can begin forming, causing a myriad of potential health risks for you and your family. If you attempt to come into contact with mold to remove it on your own, it can be a hazardous undertaking. Specialized heavy-duty water extraction and mold removal equipment is needed, not to mention proper safety gear and masks. There are certified mold removal contractors in your area that can do the job safely and efficiently. Do a little research, and find one that is customer top rated, as well as certified, insured, and licensed. Make sure they are an IICRC certified restoration contractor, an important industry distinction that lets you know they are credible and reputable.

If you are unsure of the presence of mold in your home, a licensed home restoration contractor can perform a thorough residential inspection to look for mold, mildew, and other bacterial organism growth with high-tech mold detecting systems. It is never a wise or safe idea to attempt mold removal on your own. What are some of the dangers of mold in your home? Here are a few, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

– Mold can be hazardous especially to individuals with upper respiratory illnesses such as asthma and chronic lung disease.

– Some types of molds can cause memory loss, lethargy, and other adverse effects.

– Mold can grow in wet environments inside of wallpaper, dust, insulation, paints, fabric, upholstery, drywall, and carpeting.

Prevention is the best line of attack, and here are a few tips:

· Make sure humidity levels are not too high

· Carefully monitor and repair leaky pipes, windows, and roofs

· Ensure proper ventilation in areas such as laundry rooms, bathrooms, and kitchens

· Thoroughly dry, clean, and sanitize any areas affected by a flood or plumbing emergency (a certified contractor is highly recommended for this procedure)

By hiring a licensed, certified mold removal company, you will be protecting the health and well-being of you and your family, as well as protecting the value and integrity of your home. Contact a company that has positive customer reviews on its website, and can provide you with a few references.


A Guide to Popular Architectural Styles for New Homes

Building new homes is a contractor’s dream. The prospective homeowners can facilitate that dream by doing a little homework. Knowing all of the amenities and features is always the easy part, but selecting a specific architectural style first can really help. Here is a guide to some popular choices.


This style is typically a small, 1 or 1-1/2 story structure. It is very economical to build, and it is perfect among new homes for couples starting out. The bungalow became popular in the United States, particularly in California, in the early 1900s. It has a low-pitched roof, broad eaves, and a large front porch.


Settlers in the American colonies inspired this popular style during the 1700s. It is 2 or 3 stories and built from wood or brick. The front door entrance is usually centered and accented. Many plans include columned porticoes, and the most common feature among them is the multi-pane, double-hung windows with shutters.


The Mediterranean style is sometimes referred to as Spanish Colonial Revival, as the designs are quite similar to each other. The exterior is made of stucco or plaster, and it has shallow, red tile roofs. The windows and doors are often arched. Intricate wrought iron grillwork is another common feature, and the influences on the structure come from Southwestern, Moroccan, Tuscan, Spanish, and Italian villa models.

Tudor (also known as Medieval Revival or Tudor Revival)

This style typically has tall, narrow windows with small panes. It also has a steeply pitched roof. The siding is stucco or brick. The chimney is usually oversized with patterned stones. These homes are reminiscent of medieval English cottages and manor houses. The doors are half-round or arched with decorative hardware, and these structures usually have 1-1/2 to 2 stories.


These structures reflect the style of architecture during the reign of Queen Victoria. However, what most consider Victorian did not become popular until after the 19th century. These constructions are romantic, filled with detail, and come in all shapes and sizes. They often have steeply pitched roofs, patterned shingles, bay windows, and a front porch.

New American

This style emerged in the late 20th century during the affluent years. These houses are massive, asymmetrical structures, and homeowners seeking large lots will love this choice. The exterior is built from stucco, brick, stone, or a mixture of all three. It features oversized windows and varying roof lines.

These styles are just a sampling of what builders can do for new homes, so research architecture types thoroughly to select the one whose design best fits your lifestyle.


Maintaining Your Home’s Heritage

Maintaining your homes heritage can be extremely rewarding. There are grants available that may help you conserve your property and at the same time help protect England’s built heritage.

Living in older buildings often means trying not to compromise its historic character, whilst still endeavouring to make it meet your needs. Regular and effective maintenance is extremely importance in older houses to help slow the process of deterioration, and, keep your home a safe and pleasant place to live in. It makes sense to keep a check list and draw up a maintenance plan. Keeping an older building dry should be at the top of a maintenance to do list. Regularly check roof coverings, guttering’s, downpipes and drains to make sure they are in good working order.

If your home is listed or in a conservation area, permission may need to be granted if you want to make repairs rather than carry out maintenance work. Finding out about the style and construction of your home is useful when carrying out maintenance and repair, this will help guide your ideas about any changes you may wish to make.

According to English Heritage, you will need Listed Building Consent for all work to a listed building that involves alterations, extensions or demolition and will affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest.

Some conservation areas are subject to special controls, specifically when the local authority wants to protect particular building features, such as doors or windows. Contact your local authority if you are unsure.

The Victorian period began with the ascension to the throne of Victoria in 1837 and ended in 1901. It was divided architecturally into several phases. Windows and furnishings can be particularly authentic if you do your research. Sliding sash windows were common throughout the Victorian period, however, that said, in the 1870’s, the Queen Anne Revival style came into fashion, which saw the return of glazing bars.

The Georgian period began in 1714, and is regarded as having ended in 1820. This overlapped with the Regency period. This is a bit of a confusing period with many stylistic differences. The double-hung sash window is the preferred window of that period. It is thought that virtually no Georgian windows were constructed to a standard size. The mid-Georgian sash window was usually of six-over-eight panes. As that century progressed however, they were superseded by windows that were larger in size, including four-over-four or even two-over-two panes. Glazing bars were thinner and the look was more refined. Refinement was the buzz word of that era.

Treating your house as a prize possession rather than an investment plan, will hopefully spur you on to maintain your homes heritage. If your building is listed for example it is considered to be of merit, either due to the architecture or because of the historical value. These buildings are listed so that the heritage invested in historic buildings is preserved for future generations.


Home Improvements – How To Grout Ceramic Tile

Grout is the product used to finish the spaces between the ceramic tiles. Cement based grouts are most commonly used for residential installations. There are three general grades of grout.

UNSANDED: usually for walls – for maximum 1/8 inch joint widths
SANDED GRADE: used for 1/8″ – 1/4″ inch joints
QUARRY GRADE: uses coarser sand for joints in excess of 1/4 inch

The two sanded grades are slightly rougher but are substantially stronger and must be used for floors.

Grout should not be applied for at least 24 hours after the tiles have been laid. Clean the surface of all debris and protruding bits of bonding material.

The cement in grouting material is what makes it hard and takes a reasonable time to totally harden. If grout dries to fast the hardness can be reduced. To improve the resulting grout dampen (not soak) the joints between the tiles and hour or so before applying the grout. This can be done with a damp rag, brush, sponge, spray bottle etc.

Mixing the Grout:

When mixing dry powder grouts with water or a liquid grout additive, very little mixing is required to evenly blend the grout. Over mixing can entrap air bubbles which may increase shrinkage, allow moisture to dissipate easier and can affect the overall uniformity of colour. To reduce air bubbles add the liquid to the powder instead of the other way around. DO NOT MAKE THE MIX RUNNY! Mix to about the consistency of peanut butter. Let sit for about five minutes then lightly remix. The use of latex additive when mixing grout substantially improves the color and surface hardness.

Applying the Grout:

1. Apply the grout into the joints with a rubber-faced grouting trowel or float. To prevent internal voids pack the grout into the joints. After the joints are full, use the float to squeegee the excess grout off the surface of the tile and to level off the grout joints.

2. Let grout dry for about 15 minutes. Using a spray bottle spray a misting of water on the entire surface. Immediately use the float trowel and repeat the squeegee process to further remove surface grout and smooth out grout joints.

3. Let the grout sit about 30 minutes, then use a damp (not wet) sponge and lightly wipe surface of the tile. Do not use a circular motion with the sponge, use diagonal strokes so as to not disturb the grout lines.

4. Fine dust residue can easily be removed with a clean dry cloth the following day when the grout is hard and not subject to damage. Allow a minimum 12 hours to harden before further washing or in the case of the floors walking them.

5. All cement based grouts should be sealed to retain their appearance and reduce cleaning problems. Grout must be allowed to cure for a minimum of one week before applying a sealer.