Some New Laundry Room Ideas

Like it or not, your laundry room is a space you’ll have to spend time in. Often, it’s a room that’s forgotten about because of all the chores that must get done. But by improving your space, you can change the way you think about the housework that must be done.

From laundry room organization to simply sprucing up your space with a coat of paint, there are many ways to change how you tackle your housework. See a few laundry room ideas to make your daily or weekly chores much easier.

Laundry rooms can be small and oddly shaped in some homes. For the best paint job, it’s best to leave it to a professional. Contact a painting contractor for up to four quotes from pros in your area for free.

1. Laundry Room Color Ideas
Though doing laundry is a task most of us dread doing, you can make it a little easier by changing up the color of the space. Bright, cheerful colors do well here or a clean white pallet with brighter accents. The average cost to paint a home interior is $1,679, with most homeowners spending between $1,130 and $1,826. However, since most laundry rooms are smaller than other rooms in the home, you may not need to spend quite as much.

Think patterns for your laundry room. A bright accent wall or painted stripes can be the perfect way to dress up a small space with a burst of color. The laundry room is a great place to experiment with color and styles. Get creative in this space!

2. Laundry Room Storage Ideas
Since laundry rooms are generally small spaces, the storage available is critical. Drying racks, ironing boards and other loose items frequently take up usable space in the room. Wall-mounted drying racks and ironing boards can be a great way to store these items and save space where you need it most. Create a shelf to host all of your laundry supplies, with special sections for each one. This can be as simple as an easy to reach shelf to a small cart that can move as you work.

Loose items, such as change found in shirts and pants, can often be a problem for your washing machine. Many of us empty them out on the spot, leaving a pile of pennies and quarters just growing by the laundry load. Add to the room’s décor and storage with a cute display to collect all the loose coins. It’s a simple DIY project that’s a great way to solve this common problem. See the tutorial from Blonde Ambition.

3. Laundry Room Cabinets
Cabinetry is an essential part of any laundry room for both style and storage. These can help keep items out of sight and your laundry room looking clean. The right cabinets can make your laundry room more functional, simply by storing items properly. The average cost to install cabinets is $4,305 with most homeowners spending between $2,413 and $4,641. However, since you may not need as much cabinetry as other rooms, this can cut costs significantly.

4. Laundry Room Wall Décor
Your laundry room should be fun and whimsical, even if the task at hand is not. Vintage washing boards and wood signs as wall décor are a great way to get the look. Floral pattern prints are a great way to add a whimsical style to the space.

A popular trend in laundry room wall décor right now is simple, framed prints. You can make these easily yourself simply by finding a printable you love and hanging it in your favorite stylish frame. A great place to start is, with eight of their favorite laundry room printables.

5. Laundry Room Rugs
The last thing you want when getting the washing done is cold feet! Laundry room rugs can make you comfortable and the room more stylish. From cute, personalized laundry room rugs, to standard floor runners, the options are endless. However, because you’ll be working around water, a waterproof rug is suggested so you know that regardless of any spills, your rug will stay looking great.

6. Laundry Room Organization
When you’re ready to get to work, throwing everything in the washing machine at once is not always the best plan. Most separate our clothes into various piles such as lights, darks, whites and delicates. Rather than just throwing them on the floor, have separate bins for each one. This can be part of the cabinet system you choose, for better storage, or you can get specialty hampers that can assist in keeping all the items separate. So, you’ll never have to worry again about that one red sock finding its way into your load of whites.

Best Spot To Use Chalk Paint In Your Home

Do you long for the vintage look in your home? Or maybe you love to DIY, but don’t have as much time as you’d like to tackle the myriad of projects you want to get done. Painting is a great DIY project to undertake, as it can transform items big and small. However, even this task can take a significant amount of time.

Chalk Paint is the answer to those wanting to change their look without sacrificing a lot of time. Read on to learn more about this paint and how you can use it in your home.

Do you have a large paint project you could use a little help with? Contact a painting contractor for up to four quotes from painters in your area for free.

What Is Chalk Paint?

Chalk Paint has gained in popularity recently as the vintage look is making a comeback. Chalk Paint gives the appearance of an older, distressed piece of furniture without much preparation needed. Annie Sloan, the paint company’s namesake, first developed the product in 1990 with the idea of painting something quickly with little preparation such as sanding or priming. While Annie Sloan was the first company to make, produce and trademark this paint type, other companies have also followed with their own style as well.  Chalk Paint can be applied to virtually any surface, from metal to wood and laminate, so it’s time to get creative.

Where To Buy Chalk Paint?

Annie Sloan brand Chalk Paint, among others with chalky finishes, can be found in your local hardware store. Prices vary depending on location but you can expect to pay around $40 for one quart. Be careful to not confuse this with “chalkboard paint” as it has a different purpose and painting process. You’ll also need a special chalk brush to get the desired vintage effect.

Some homeowners choose to make their own chalky finish paint. There are a few methods you can use to cut down on costs. See a few DIY ideas on Salvaged Inspirations Best Homemade Chalk Paint Recipes.

Painting With Chalk Paint

While the idea of Chalk Paint is simply to paint without preparation, there is a technique to it. It’s recommended to work with Chalk Paint at room temperature. Since Chalk Paint is non-toxic, there won’t be any fumes to worry about indoors. It’s also a good idea to clean your piece before painting to remove any dust. But that’s about all the prep work needed!

When painting, be aware that the paint is thick, so watch how much you apply at one time. Less is more in this situation. If you’re painting wood, paint in the direction of the grain. Chalk Paint dries quickly, so be ready to apply your second coat within a few hours. Once it’s dry, you can distress the paint if you choose to give it the vintage look by using sandpaper to scuff up the edges.

Chalk Paint Colors

Chalk Paint comes in an array of colors from traditional neutrals to bright hues. Some of the more popular paint colors are the pastels, which end up looking great accompanied by the matte finish. You can also mix colors to get the exact look you desire. If you’re looking for a versatile paint color, you’ve made a good choice!

Chalk Paint Ideas

Because Chalk Paint can adhere to almost any type of material, your options are endless for the items you can makeover. Here are some Chalk Paint ideas you can use:

Chalk Paint Furniture

Repainting furniture is an obvious choice when it comes to Chalk Paint. The ease of application is what makes this the perfect way to spruce up old furniture and give your room a new look.

Chalk Paint Cabinets

As a prominent part of the kitchen and bathroom, cabinets are the largest style element. If your your cabinets are making your kitchen or bathroom a little drab, Chalk Paint will give you the trendy vintage look you desire.

Chalk Paint Outdoors

Because Chalk Paint is extremely durable, it can be used outdoors. It’s a great way to dress up outdoor furniture. However, it’s a good idea to seal any outdoor painted furniture with a waterproof sealant spray.

Chalk Paint Décor

Chalk Paint can easily adhere to many materials, making it the perfect way to take photo frames, coffee table trays, and knick-knacks from drab to fab. Create beautiful new wall art or dress up an old vase, the options are endless.

Chalk Paint Finishes

If you want to protect your finish or give it a less-matte appearance, you should consider a finish to your Chalk Paint. Wax is the first choice for many who are DIYing their Chalk Paint project. However, for an added sheen and durability, a lacquer is a good choice. This can be used both indoors and outdoors to keep your paint project looking its best.

Simple Steps To Decorate The House With Flowers

Flowers are the perfect addition to almost every room in the home. They can brighten a dull living room, add extra freshness to the bathroom and even bring elegance to the bedroom. If you’re looking for a quick decorative element to add, flowers are the answer.

From daisies that add a pop of color to a bouquet that can incorporate many styles at once, you can easily incorporate flowers in unique ways. Fresh flowers are a good choice, but quality faux flowers will give you a look that will last. Here are some ideas of how you can decorate the house with flowers.

Flowers are a great way to freshen up the look of any room quickly and simply, but are you looking for a long-term redecorating solution? Contact a remodeling pro today for up to four quotes from contractors in your area, for free.Decorative Flower Choices

Decorative Flower Choices

When it comes to decorating with flowers, the choices seem to be endless. If you’re choosing from real flowers, your choices are limited to what’s in season. Some homeowners choose to use flowers that they have grown directly in their yard. Regardless if you choose real or faux, here are some styles that work great in any interior.

  • Gerber Daises
  • Hydrangeas
  • Alstroemeria
  • Ranunculuses
  • Lilies
  • Gardina
  • Crasspedia
  • Tulips
  • Spray RosesReal Or Artificial Flowers

Real Or Artificial Flowers

When considering decorating your home with flowers, you’ll likely have to decide between real or faux flowers. Many choose to do a combination of both depending on the project. If you’re working on flower wall art or a permanent decorative piece, faux flowers will work best. But if you’re freshening up a room, real flowers are your answer. Here are a few things to consider:

Real Flowers

Real flowers bring warmth and life to any space. Often, they help a room to smell better and can add a touch of sophistication. Though they may not have a long lifespan, these can easily change seasonally, making it a great choice for versatile table décor.

If your adding real flowers, be sure that they are safe to have and out of reach for any pets or children in the home. Flowers like daffodils and lilies can be deadly to pets. If you must have these flowers in your home, keep them away from any small hands or paws.

Artificial Flowers

Quality faux flowers can be a great alternative for homeowners who are looking for a low-maintenance floral option. However, some homeowners shy away from artificial flowers because of how unrealistic they may look. But certain types of faux flowers can bode well for interior projects. Or, embrace the faux look by finding floral designs with unique patterns and textures.

The downside to artificial flowers is that they may have to be dusted every once and awhile. Some cheaper options also can be tacky when used in a setting where fresh flowers are best.Flower Wall Decor

Flower Wall Décor

If you’re looking for a new DIY project, flower wall décor is a perfect way to dress up your space. Since you’ll want your wall art to last, utilize artificial flowers. I love the look of a faux flower mobile or wreath, which is becoming more popular. Or, you can create a paper flower decorative piece, with many items you may already have. See the tutorial from The Sits Girls.Flower Table Decorations

Flower Table Decorations

To compliment your kitchen or dining room table décor, a centerpiece is necessary. While traditionally, vases full of flowers have been the norm, latest trends show homeowners are looking to other objects to hold their flowers, such as pitchers or old soda bottles. Additionally, popular flower table décorincludes floral centerpiece wreaths that lay flat. Of these options, most of these include fresh flowers, but a realistic faux flower can save you time and money on your flower table décor.

Decoration With Candles & Flowers

Candles make a great accent to your flower décor. However, flowers are flammable. So be sure to practice proper fire safety when using candles near flowers. Never place a candle directly underneath a flower or near it.

One way to get creative safely with candles and flowers is to find a clear vase and fill it with water. Submerge the flower, real or fake, into the vase. Then, you can light a floating candle on top. This is a safe way to combine these elements while making a stunning piece for your home décor.Decorative Vase With Flowers

Decorative Vase With Flowers

The simplest way to decorate your home with flowers is by filling a vase with a beautiful bouquet. The vase you choose should complement the look of your flowers, so make sure to find one that matches well. Use a large decorative vase to make a statement while smaller vases are  great for kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms.

When arranging your bouquet in a vase, you’ll first want to consider the size of the vase. The flowers should be arranged at different lengths to fit the size and shape. Here are some other helpful flower arranging tips:

  • Work in odd numbers.
  • Start with the foliage before larger flowers.
  • Don’t just stick flowers straight into the vase, work in a circle.
  • Remove any leaves that might touch the water.
  • Change the water every three days.

Learn More About Basement Remodeling Tips

One of the easiest ways to “add a new room or rooms” to your home is to better utilize the space you already have. Most basements are dark areas where we store seasonal decorations, old toys, sporting equipment and anything else not used on a regular basis.

But, perhaps it is time you reconsider how you use your basement? Basement remodeling is a cost-effective way to greatly expand your home’s living space. Suddenly you could have a guest room, a children’s play room, a home office, a recreation room—the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

Below are eight easy steps to basement finishing.

1. Solve Basement Water Problems First

Even if your basement rarely has problems with dampness or flooding, it’s best to solve the problem completely before beginning any remodeling work. A finished basement is only as good as the thoughts behind it and the quality of work that made it.

Permanent solutions can take time to implement. A good place to start is to talk to a local home inspector who specializes in basement or foundation waterproofing problems.

2. Decide on the Best Use of Your Basement

Consider using the space for activities for which typical basement characteristics offer natural advantages.

The lack of light is useful when setting up a home theater or a dark room. The isolation helps create a sound break for a play area, a teenager’s hangout or a place to practice a musical instrument.

Also, in basements, there is usually ready access to things like water lines and heating and cooling ducts. This makes adding a bath easier than it would be elsewhere in the house.

3. Get Help with Your Basement Design

While your basement may not be much to look at now, you’ll want to end up with quality living space when the project is complete. An architect or interior designer can help you get the most out of the space. A little forethought and careful planning now can help you create a space that is attractive, comfortable and useful.

4. Pay Attention to Air Circulation

When your home was first built, the odds are that there were few if any registers or vents installed in the basement. When you remodel your basement, you need to think about the need for good air circulation, adding openings where necessary.

You’ll also have to include a return air duct, but it’s important that it be located far from the furnace. Otherwise, it may suck dangerous furnace exhaust fumes back into the house.

To be on the safe side, install a carbon monoxide detector in your basement so that you’ll have an early warning of any problems with the venting of the furnace or any other major appliances.

5. Maximize Your Basement’s Natural Light

For many reasons, you’ll probably want to add more light in your basement. If parts of the basement extend above the ground, you can add new windows or enlarge existing ones. If that isn’t possible, another option is to dig window wells. Window wells can increase the odds of water problems, so it’s a good idea to build ones with waterproof covers.

Another advantage of enlarged windows is that they provide alternative escape routes in case of fire. One concern that some people have about basement windows is that they provide thieves with ideal access to the home. One way to mitigate that risk is to install glass bricks (rather than conventional windows) at high-risk locations.

Maximize the effect of regular windows by mounting some windows in the interior walls between rooms that open pathways for natural light to reach interior rooms.

6. Make Creative Use of Artificial Light

Typically, basement ceilings are low, creating the feeling that you’re in a cave. To offset this, use indirect lighting that splashes large pools of light on the ceiling. This will open up the space and make rooms appear higher than they are.

A mix of this up-lighting and traditional recessed lighting will give you the flexibility you need to create a variety of lighting moods.

Mirrors, mounted on the walls or even ceilings, can also amplify and reinforce lighting effects.

7. Insulate Your Basement Well

Proper insulation is critical to creating a comfortable, dry basement.

Besides keeping out the cold, basement insulation prevents condensation. The ground stays cool year round. It in turn keeps basement walls cool. When the warmer air in the room comes in contact with all those cool walls, it has to give up some of its moisture in the form of condensation.

Condensation is, in fact, the primary source of the moisture that causes mold and mildew problems in basements. Effective insulation separates the warm air of the room from the cool walls, thereby preventing the moisture problems that stem from condensation.

8. Select Practical Furnishings

Use plush carpets and drapes sparingly, if at all. Surfaces that don’t absorb moisture are best. Also, be careful about storing clothes, linens and books in a basement.

For floors, area rugs are ideal because they can be removed, cleaned and dried. If you must have wall-to-wall carpeting, consider a low pile commercial or indoor/outdoor type.

If you pay attention to details, there is no reason why you can’t create high value, high comfort living space in a basement. Properly finishing a basement only costs a fraction of what it costs to build an addition. That means you’ll have more money in your pocket for the next big home improvement project on your list!

Learn More About Basement Waterproofing

If, as a homeowner, you’re a little wary about spending a couple thousand dollars to have your basement waterproofed, that’s good—you should be. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have your basement waterproofed, it just means you should take particular, cautionary steps when hiring a basement contractor to waterproof your basement. Most of the time, if you find a reputable contractor, he or she will be able to seal, repair, and renovate your basement and the surrounding area to prevent any further basement flooding. Still, the unforeseeable can happen to even the best contractors, and the most important thing is that you and the contractor have a clear understanding of what will happen in the event of another basement flooding incident.

Basement Flooding

If you live in a high precipitation climate, you probably know that basement flooding is a potential problem for almost any homeowner. This doesn’t make it any less aggravating. It’s important to understand why your basement is flooding. Unfortunately, your basement could be flooding for any number of reasons.

  • The concrete walls in your basement could be cracked.
  • Poor yard drainage causes water to overwhelm your foundation or increases the stress load of your sewage system.
  • A blockage forms in your septic system.
  • Poorly designed or damaged gutters and downspouts have led to poor water runoff.

The cause of your basement flooding may be obvious or it may require the expertise of a professional inspection. In either case, it’s usually a good idea to check on the possible causes, as you may have more than one contributing factor. Only by sealing off all potential water sources can you make your basement truly waterproof. (Even then, nothing can really be done for natural disaster flooding.)

Preventing a Flooding Basement

Naturally, preventing a flooding basement involves fixing these problem areas. Gutters may need to be replaced. Concrete walls may need to be filled in and sealed. Increasing yard drainage or sloping and grading your yard will help keep the water running away from your basement. (Be careful, though, that you’re not just funneling the water into your neighbor’s yard.) And, last but not least, you’ll need to check your interior pipes and drains to prevent a flooding basement from springing up from within the otherwise sealed concrete walls.

A Common Basement Waterproofing Scenario

Of course, taking every single precaution will drive up the cost of your basement waterproofing project and may be unnecessary. You might have three separate basement contractors give you three wildly different estimates to waterproof your basement. These different quotes may result from various degrees of basement waterproofing. Obviously, you want to err on the side of caution, especially if you’re waterproofing your basement as part of a basement remodel, but you may not want to pay an extra thousand dollars, either, “just to be totally safe.”

Choosing a Basement Waterproofing Contractor

Before you even consider the price issue, get references on all the contractors and call the homeowners. Find out if they are satisfied, have they had any further water problems, was the contractor clean and neat, did he show up on time and finish on schedule. Most important, ask if they had any service problems and did the contractor return and address them.

If you get a bad feeling about any of them, don’t consider them further. If they can’t give you current references with phone numbers, forget them. You should choose the lowest price proposal that you feel comfortable with, but don’t forget that feeling secure that the contractor will stand behind his work and be there to service the job is an important part of feeling comfortable.

Know More About Major Basement Remodels

It would stand to reason that homeowners seeking more space would renovate their basements when the housing market is weak and move into bigger homes when the economy is strong. A recent analysis of HomeAdvisor data shows the exact opposite to be true.

In 2015, 6.31 percent of homeowners categorized their basement remodels as ‘major remodel — multiple rooms.’ While the percentage may not seem high it represents a 7.5 percent year-over-year increase from 2014 and a nearly 200 percent increase from 2008.

Encouraged by historically low interest rates and the strengthening economy, the percentage of major basement remodels has steadily grown year over year for the past several years. The question now becomes: Will the percentage of major basement remodels continue to increase given the drop in existing home sales and the rise in new home sales? And, if major renovations represent a small percentage of basement renovation projects, what relative jobs represent the higher percentages?

According to HomeAdvisor data, homeowners have most frequently submitted requests for the removal and hauling of waste, junk, building materials and debris over the past four years. Since this project represented 15.87 percent of basement projects in 2015, this could indicate that these homeowners are preparing for a larger remodel down the road. Other health-and habitation-related maintenance projects — such as air duct and vent cleaning, replacing a water heater and removing mold and toxins — also consistently ranked in the top categories for basement renovation.

More Information About Basement Mold Removal

Your basement is one of the most common areas of the home for mold to prosper. Mold is a fungus and, like many living organisms, all it needs to grow is the presence of water and something to feed on. Basement mold is so common because these conditions are so easily created. Dry basements are notoriously difficult to create and maintain.

Basement mold can land and feed on wood, ceiling tiles, wallpaper, paints, carpet, sheet rock, brick, or insulation—and that’s just to name the most common feeding materials. There isn’t a basement that doesn’t have something for mold to feed on. Of course, not all basements are infested with basement mold. Part of this is simply the randomness of living organisms, but doing your best to reduce moisture levels and water leaks will reduce the likelihood that you have to deal with basement mold.

Finding the Problem

Basement mold is usually detected by sight or smell. If you think you see or smell mold, you probably have a problem. A certified mold inspector should be able to give you a more definitive assessment of the problem, but the first thing you should do is identify the source of water entering your basement. If you have mold, you also have a moisture problem. Some causes of moisture in the basement might be:

  • Water seepage
  • Clogged gutters or poor yard drainage
  • Cracks in the basement wall
  • Cracks in the foundation
  • High humidity and cold temperatures
  • Flooding

In any case, you’ll need to find the nature of the water problem and have that fixed first. Then you need to remove the mold and fix the cause to avoid future mold.

Where Mold Grows

Some areas to check for signs of mold include:

  • Walls
  • Building frames
  • Ceiling
  • Insulation
  • Furniture
  • Pipes
  • HVAC vents
  • Floor

If you can’t find mold in any of these places but still smell or suspect it, you can have a mold professional come out to look around. If you do DIY the inspection, make sure you wear the appropriate gear — gloves, googles, mask — so you don’t end up with health problems.

Basement Mold Removal

Depending on the size of the mold infestation, you may need to hire a certified professional to take care of your mold problem. Average costs range from $1,100 to $3,200. Spores are most likely to be stirred up during the removal process. This is the primary reason why it’s imperative you take care of your water problem first.

Some forms of mold are harmless; others can be harmful to your health, especially if you have allergies or asthma. You should always use gloves, goggles, and some kind of breathing equipment. You’ll need to seal the affected area off from the rest of your home. Carefully remove and throw away any mold-affected material and then scrub the area clean. After the area is clean, use a borate-based detergent to keep the mold from reappearing. Again, for larger areas of mold growth, you’ll probably need to hire a mold removal professional. In some places, you may be required by law to hire a certified professional.

Learn More About Green Lawns

Herbicides, whether applied by themselves or in the form of weed and feed products that combine fertilizer and herbicide in one application, can easily run off into streams and lakes and can migrate into groundwater supplies in areas of porous soils.

Preventing Weeds in your Lawn
Weeds move into lawns when conditions favor their growth over that of turf grasses. A healthy lawn will be able to endure drought, diseases and pest infestations better than a stressed lawn. Healthy grasses can also compete better with undesirable weeds.

Promote lawn health by mowing and watering properly:

    • Mow at a 2.5 -3″ height. Taller grass develops deeper roots, an advantage during dry spells
    • Water deeply once a week. Lawns need about an inch of water a week. Supplement with irrigation only when necessary
    • Water early in the morning
  • Water at a rate that the soil can absorb

To control the spread of broad-leaf weeds, try using corn gluten, a non-toxic corn by-product. Apply at the suggested rate in the spring (when forsythia is blooming). Corn gluten will not kill existing weeds, but will prevent new ones from germinating each year that it is applied, and it adds some nitrogen to the soil as well.

Preventing Weeds in Garden Beds
For newly planted beds a two to three inch deep layer of mulch will help keep weeds down until the plants grow and shade the ground. Take care to keep mulch away from the trunks of trees and shrubs as this encourages certain pest problems. Shredded leaves can also be used as a temporary mulch. They will decompose and enrich the soil.

A “living mulch” of ground covers and/or low perennials planted beneath trees and shrubs will add beauty and shade out annual weeds.

Help for Tough-to-Weed Areas
Weeds often take root in between pavers or stones used for walkways and patios, as well as in cracks in asphalt or concrete. Manage weeds in these areas with a highly acidic spray to kill the above-ground portion of the plant.

The commercially available sprays are typically made with vinegar or lemon juice either alone or in combination with herb or citrus oils such as thyme and orange. These sprays work well on annual weeds. Pouring boiling water over the weeds is also an option. Killing perennial weeds with either method will take repeated applications to exhaust the nutrients stored in the root.

Reduce Pesticide Use with Smart Plant Choices
Head off pest and disease problems by choosing plants that have built-in disease and insect resistance.

    • Cool season grasses such as tall and fine fescues, kentucky bluegrass and perennial rye grass are appropriate for the Northeast. Choose fescues for shadier areas. Pick grass seed mixes with more bluegrass for areas that are sunny and will receive a lot of use.
    • Crabapples are a popular tree with multi-season interest. Choose varieties resistant to rust, scab and fireblight – three very common diseases.
    • Roses are susceptible to black spot, but there are some resistant varieties. Or try the hardy “landscape roses” which offer beautiful flowers, excellent cold-hardiness and are disease resistant too.
    • White-barked birches are extremely popular, but plagued by the bronze birch borer. Choose the ‘Heritage’ river birch over the European white birch.
    • Phlox, bee balm and certain asters are susceptible to powdery mildew. Newer cultivars and hybrids such as Phlox ‘David,’ or ‘David’s Lavender,’ New York Aster, and the beebalms ‘Raspberry Wine,’Coral Reef’ and ‘Marshall’s Delight’ are less prone to mildew.
    • Lilacs are also mildew targets. Try ‘Miss Kim,’ the Meyer Lilac, little-leaf lilac or the cultivar ‘James McFarlane.’

Controlling Lawn and Ornamental Pests Naturally
There is an array of natural alternatives to pesticides for controlling insects in your lawn and on your ornamental plants. For example, parasitic nematodes can be applied to the lawn to control grubs before they turn into Japanese and other beetles that eat our plants. Suppressing grubs will also help with mole problems. For specific fixes for insect problems on other ornamentals, consult the Resources page.

Lawns: The Best Way to Fertilize
Over-fertilization or applying fertilizer at the wrong time can harm your lawn. First determine IF there is a nutrient deficiency that needs to be corrected. A soil test can determine this and also give essential information about soil pH. Adding fertilizer will not solve a pH problem. Too much nitrogen decreases root growth, increases susceptibility to disease and decreases tolerance of environmental stresses.

Is the pH Correct?
Turf grasses grow best in soil that is neutral to slightly acidic (pH 6.5-7). Soils in the northeast often need lime to make the soil less acidic. It is best to apply a high-calcium or calcitic limestone rather than dolomitic limestone to avoid adding too much magnesium to the soil.

Adding Nitrogen
Most lawns that are kept green all summer will need extra nitrogen. Nearly 50% of this can be supplied by leaving clippings on the lawn. The best time to apply the other 50% is in the fall (mid to late October). Instead of raking leaves, use a mulching lawn mower to shred the leaves and leave them on the lawn. By spring they will have decomposed, adding nutrients and organic matter to the soil.

Lawns fertilized in the fall will stay greener longer, green-up earlier the following spring, and have higher energy reserves through the summer. This stored energy helps keep turf grasses healthy and more drought resistant. If you fertilize an existing lawn in mid-summer, you’re feeding the weeds.

Broadcasting up to a half of an inch of finished compost on an established lawn provides nitrogen and other trace nutrients and builds organic matter in the soil. More serious nitrogen deficiencies should be corrected with a slow-release, organic source of nitrogen such as blood meal, cottonseed meal or fish meal. Apply in the quantities indicated by your soil test while soil temperatures are above 65 degrees.

How Much Lawn Do You Really Need?
Lawns are often the default landscape, used for “something green” and perceived as low-maintenance. In reality, lawns are one of the most high maintenance and high cost elements of the landscape. Think about how much lawn your lifestyle requires and if there are areas of your yard that could become a garden of perennials and grasses, a mixed shrub border, or a grove of trees with groundcovers beneath.

Tips To Increase Your Home’s Curb Appeal

Curb appeal is something everyone should work on but is of particular importance to those wishing to sell their home. As soon as a new listing comes up, perspective buyers are going to drive by to decide which if they’re interested in seeing more. These handy tips can make your house outshine all the others on the real estate market.

  1. Be certain your house can be clearly seen from every direction of the yard. If there are bushes or trees blocking windows trim them back.
  2. Have your curtains/blinds all uniform in color from the outside.
  3. Wash your windows.
  4. Power wash the exterior of your home and all decks and sidewalks.
  5. Schedule your driveway to be sealed as soon as weather permits. If you have a stone driveway, put down a new fresh layer of stone.
  6. Paint your front door.
  7. Add new mulch and edge your yard.
  8. Repair all cracked and chipping paint on the exterior of your house. A buyer may look past this defect, but a mortgage appraiser may insist that the deteriorating paint be repaired or they will not give your buyer a mortgage.
  9. Clean the gutters.
  10. Rake your yard to remove all dead leaves and debris
  11. Cut back all the dead brown remains from last season’s perennials.
  12. If you have a front porch highlight it with a pair of chairs to sit on.
  13. Display an American flag. All other decorative flags should be avoided.
  14. Remove lawn ornaments.
  15. Replace your mailbox if it is not in mint condition.
  16. Make sure your house number is large and clearly visible.
  17. Park in your garage and shut the door. Your home will appear bigger.
  18. Buy a simple new front door mat.
  19. As long as it is safe, add new light bulbs with a brighter wattage to your porch lights.
  20. Keep in mind that your yard is the first thing a potential buyer will see. The care and maintenance you invest here will give a favorable impression for the level of maintenance in the rest of your home. A good rule of thumb: keep your yard as clean as if it was another room in your house.

Best Choices for Basement Flooring

With all the options available, choosing a floor is already a difficult process. Basement flooring is even worse because a basement more often than not presents a moisture problem that may render some flooring options nonviable. Even the driest of basements often have more humidity than the rest of the house. If you have a serious moisture problem, you may need to address this before any flooring is laid. The easiest way to check on the moisture level of your basement floor is to take a non-porous material — a trash bag works well — and seal the material with tape to a couple different places around your basement floor. Wait for 24 hours and then check underneath the material. If you can feel any condensation build up, you should get your moisture problem taken care of first.

Recommended Flooring

These are the flooring options that are best suited for basement floors:

  • Concrete Flooring — This should be, by far, your first option. Concrete floors can be stained and or painted to almost any design and look. In almost all circumstances, concrete floors are the cheapest choice you can make. Good insulation can make concrete nearly as warm as any other flooring option.
  • Stone Tiling — Not every stone material is a natural for basement flooring, but more durable stones such as slate are a popular choice for basements. The problem is that softer, faux stone may not hold up in basements and tougher, natural stone is often cost-prohibitive.

Exercising Caution

If you’ve determined that your basement is for the most part dry, here are some additional flooring options to consider:

  • Engineered basement flooring — This hardwood flooring is layered with different kinds of hardwood and often fitted with a high density fiberboard core. The flooring is specifically engineered to withstand moisture and is thinner than solid hardwood flooring, allowing for the installation of extra insulation. Nonetheless, even engineered flooring can become warped and damaged with too much moisture.
  • Laminate flooring — This flooring comprises a wood core and aluminum oxide surface. Each laminate is slightly different and some are not designed to be used in basements. Check with the manufacturer and make sure your basement doesn’t have a moisture problem; damaged laminate flooring is nearly impossible to repair.
  • Ceramic and vinyl tile — These tiling options will work for basements, but only if the sub-flooring remains dry enough for the adhesive. Take extra care preparing the sub-flooring before you start installing the tile.

Avoid at All Costs

Unless you live in the driest of climates and have ideal basement circumstances, these flooring options are generally not recommended for basements:

  • Solid hardwood flooring — There’s really no way to justify the cost of a solid hardwood floor for a below grade installation. Engineered hardwood flooring looks and feels nearly identical to its solid hardwood counterpart and will hold up under basement conditions much, much better.
  • Carpet — The most common mistake homeowners make is installing carpet in their basements. Carpet will trap moisture and is especially susceptible to mold and mildew. If you feel strongly about the feel of carpet, it may be better to throw down some large area rugs and plan on having them replaced every few years.

Learn More About Curb Appeal Tips

Curb appeal is the attractiveness of your home from the curb; this includes the home’s exterior and yard. Having a clean, uncluttered and neat appearance makes a strong first impression to potential buyers and is the key in getting them to view the inside.

Landscaping efforts, even low-cost improvements offer a solid return on investment that you’ll recoup nearly all of. Here are a few tips to maximize your home’s curb appeal.

  • Mow the Lawn – make sure the lawn is cut regularly – in some cases twice a week to give it a well maintained look. If you don’t have the time hire a service until the house is sold
  • Edge the Lawn – a properly edged lawn stands out and shows your commitment to maintaining the property.
  • A Green Lawn – if the grass is unhealthy or worn plant grass seed and water it to get it back into shape. Patching with turf is a good option for bald spots and heavy trafficked areas.
  • Trim the Trees – tree limbs and foliage should not be touching or hanging near your roofline, have them and hanging limbs removed.
  • Trim the Shrubs – all shrubs should be neatly trimmed – critical for curb appeal.
  • Add Color – plant some color to have the yard pop. Potted annuals at the entrance, near walkways and planting beds can make a big difference. Consult with your local garden center or hire a pro to maximize seasonal color.
  • Pull Weeds – remove weeds from the yard, planting areas and walkways. If you don’t remove the entire root or use a weed killer they will come right back.
  • Mulch & Stone – put a down a fresh layer of mulch and if you have stone make sure all thin and bare spots have proper coverage.
  • Lighting – If you have outside lighting make sure everything works.
  • Clear the Yard – remove all litter, leaves, sticks, and other objects that don’t complement a neat lawn.
  • A Neat Yard – coil water hoses, remove toys from the yard, get rid of broken patio furniture.
  • Seal the Driveway – have the driveway sealed and any cracks repaired.

If your yard and lawn need real help consider hiring a landscape service to get your house ready to compete with others. Again, landscaping offers a great return on investment and having a strong curb appeal is essential to maximizing value and speed of sale.

More Information About Driverway Sealing Alert

Carmen Santora, Executive Director of the Better Contractors Bureau is warning consumers contemplating having their driveway sealed that there are contractors presently in our area from out of state using unscrupulous tactics when sealing driveways.

Santora says, “The usual rule of thumb when sealer is mixed is, for every 100 gallons of sealer 30-40 gallons of water should be added. The scam artists are doing it the opposite and in some cases we have been told that some are mixing as little as 10 gallons of sealer to 100 gallons of water.” In reality all you’re getting is black, colored water that will wash off with a rain.

In one such case a caller complained (wouldn’t give his name) and said that the contractor he went with practically was chasing the sealer down the drive way, that’s how much water was in the mix. He said he went strictly on price and he should have known better when he paid $39.00 after getting two other estimates for $89.00 and $99.00. He also forgot that when he did his driveway himself a few years back that it took 4 five gallons pails at approximately $18.00 each and along with having to buy a broom/squeegee the cost to do it then was $65.00 for materials only.

Consumers should watch out for special so called deals and especially watch for out of state license plates and don’t fall for the line, “I’ve got some sealer left over and can give you a really good price”.

Remember, a good driveway sealer contractor will blow off the entire driveway, use a weed eater on the edges, cover the sidewalk between the truck and driveway to prevent accidental spillage from a storage tank and barricade the entrance when finished.

Contractors should also carry liability insurance in case of damage to your property, such as over splash on your overhead garage door or siding. Remember, the old saying “you get what you pay for” really applies with driveway sealing.

Tips to Sell Your Home Quickly

When you’ve decided it is time to move and don’t have the time to prepare your home for that quick sale, consider home staging. This does not mean a total redesign, it does however, require a serious plan to make your home inviting and desirable to prospective buyers.

So, where do we begin?

The first step to successful staging is to clean out and declutter. Remove all piles of newspaper, magazines, third class mail. Put all folders back into your office space. Clear off dressers and bathroom vanities. Clean up the laundry room. Rid the space of extra baskets and move extra bottles of soap into cabinets or down in the lower level on shelves. Neatly organize all closets, especially the master closet and main coat closet. Give prospective buyers the opportunity to visualize their belongings in large, clean spaces.

Depersonalize! Remove all family photos from tabletops and bookcases. Take a look at your fridge. Is it plastered with soccer schedules and coupons? Get rid of those too. Sort your child’s artwork into folders and store in bins that are out of sight. Sort your children’s shoes and donate outgrown hockey skates and soccer shoes.

Take a walk through your home and remove large pieces of furniture. The idea is to showcase the home, not your inherited, oversized coffee table. Make the spaces in your home appear to be more spacious. Purchase new throw pillows and remove heavy draperies. Let as much natural light in as possible. If you have a fireplace, clean the bricks and remove any accumulations of ashes. Neatly place a few logs in a large basket nearby.

Think about painting. Paint your rooms a soothing, warm, neutral color. Choose a shade that will appeal to most buyers. So, if you have a wall in your great room painted red, neutralize it. Repaint your master bedroom in a soft color and then paint the master bath two shades deeper. Buy a new duvet in white or ivory and keep patterns limited. Have your carpeting cleaned and wash any throw rugs… or just get rid of them. If your dining room is formal, set the table with your finest china. Your prospective buyers will want to see if they can entertain here. Remove large pieces of artwork too, so the new owners can imagine their artwork on your walls.

To sell your home quickly and get your asking price, you need to prepare. A few days staging will pay off in the end. The day of your first open house, purchase fresh flowers for the dining room and another bunch for the coffee table. A large basket of apples or lemons should be placed on the kitchen countertop. Remember to make your home smell inviting, crumble chocolate in a glass dish and place in a very low oven. The take away here is appeal to all the senses. Put on a classic CD, make away plans for your kids and yourself. Hand your home over to your real estate agent, and relax. With any luck, you will quickly hear the word… SOLD!