Here are some basic tasks you need to do now to prepare for wintry weather and to ensure your family stays healthy and safe inside.
(BPT) - No matter where you live, there are bound to be weather challenges this winter. Your home may suffer damage, minor or major, from the onslaught of colder weather, along with wind, heavy rain, ice storms or even major snow systems. This can affect not only the integrity and value of your home, but may lead to costly repairs down the road. That's why it's smart to prep now, to prevent bigger problems in the future. It's also a good idea to make sure that your home is prepped for spending more time indoors.
Here are basic tasks to prepare for wintry weather, and to ensure your family stays healthy and safe inside.
1. Perform a safety check
Are your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in good working order? Make monthly testing of these safety features a regular part of your seasonal household chores. For battery-operated units keep up-to-date with battery changes as per manufacturer instructions. Also be aware and take action if you hear any low battery alarms. Also, do you have a home fire extinguisher in your kitchen?
2. Ensure clean indoor air
Make sure your home’s heating and air conditioning units are in good condition, and schedule regular tune-ups to avoid unpleasant surprises. Change your furnace filter frequently, so your air quality stays clean indoors, where you’re likely to spend more time as temps get cooler. Also, consider setting up a schedule with a professional to have your ductwork cleaned on a regular basis.
3. Keep the outside out
Check weatherstripping around exterior doors, replacing where necessary, then seal and caulk exterior wood, since wood trim can rot around windows and outside doors. Walk around the outside of your home with spray foam gap sealer and caulk to plug gaps, cracks and holes in siding and around windows. Find and seal air leaks where you may be losing valuable heat and letting in the cold. Many energy companies offer an energy audit to discover where you may be losing both heat and money — and advise you on ways to improve your insulation. Making sure your gutters are cleaned out and in good condition helps protect your home's exterior from exposure to moisture due to rain, ice or snow melt.
4. Install back-up power
Power outages occur for many reasons, usually outside your control. In major storms, outages can last for days or even weeks when a large area is affected. To protect your home and family, an automatic standby generator gives you peace of mind — even when you’re not at home.
Look for a unit that comes in a durable aluminum enclosure with options that can withstand up to 181 mph winds and can be installed as close as 18 inches from your home (important for areas with tight lot lines and strict building codes), such as select models of KOHLER standby home generators. They will automatically start and restore your power in seconds, whether you’re home or away.
Units can be monitored remotely from your smartphone or laptop. The unit is permanently installed near your home, and provides high-quality power that can run your sump pump, furnace or air conditioner, and major appliances — plus delicate electronics. KOHLER generators feature commercial-grade engines built to withstand extreme workloads over many years, and they come with a five-year warranty. This is not a do-it-yourself job; you will need to work with a professionally licensed and insured generator installer.
5. Trim your trees
Now is a great time to get your trees trimmed, while it’s easier to access branches without all the extra foliage. Trimming dead branches helps prevent problems that can occur due to wind or ice storms, when a falling branch could endanger a power line, car or home. Like all professional contractors, work with tree service companies that have proper credentials and insurance.
6. Check your roof
Whether you inspect your roof yourself or hire a professional, it's a good idea to take care of repairs before winter wind, hail, snow and ice do their worst. Look for blistering, curling, buckling — or missing — shingles. Moss or lichen growing can indicate decay underneath. Any visible sagging of your roof, rust or cracks around flashing or vent pipes should also be repaired promptly to avoid later problems like leaks.
Don't let the calamities of winter take you and your family by surprise. Doing prep work and maintenance on your home now, with a focus on safety, will ensure that you're ready for anything that may come your way — even if it's just hunkering down in your home for the season.
Summer is here, and with the season comes plenty of time outside in the yard. When the weather is pleasant, you want to be able to enjoy a beautifully maintained outdoor room, but nature's elements and natural growth can leave your yard looking overgrown or old. There are, however, a few things that you can do to maintain your outdoor space on a weekly and daily basis to help keep it looking fresh and inviting.
More than likely, you'll need to mow your lawn at least once or twice per week, according to this source. When you mow your lawn, make sure that you double check the height of your blades so that you avoid scalping your grass. Also, be careful around smaller plants in the landscaping. It's easy to mow over a seedling if it's just starting to sprout. Usually, you should mow grass about 2-3 inches high. This lets you stimulate growth by cutting it back without taking so much of the top off that the roots aren't protected. For small plants and seedlings, put wire fences around them so that you don't accidentally cut them down with an edge trimmer.
Beware of Sun Damage
Rays from the sun can do a lot of damage to almost every piece of metal and plastic that you have outside. After a few years, you will likely begin to notice that your patio furniture is a lighter color than it was even a couple of seasons previously. One of the simplest solutions is to use patio furniture covers. According to this source, protecting property, such as patio furniture, is dependent somewhat on climate, but in general, lightweight covers do best. That way, whenever you're not using you're furniture, you can easily put the covers on to protect furniture from the sun and storms.
WoodStaining wooden decks and furniture is the type of job that most people try their best to put off because it can be labor intensive. It can take some time to sand and apply protectant to the wood, but it looks great when it's finished. A coat of paint or sealer can also prevent wood from warping, helping you protect your property for years longer. There's even a simple test to know when to apply a new coat of stain or sealant. According to this source, you should just drop some water on the boards to see if it beads up. If it doesn't, the wood needs some TLC.
When you're looking for a few ways to make sure that your outdoor space always looks its best, there are a few simple techniques that can make a great impact. More than likely, you're already doing some of them, but you might need to tweak them to get the best results.
If you’re redoing your outdoor space, why not update your indoor space while you’re at it? Take a look at these tips for taking the headache out of a remodel!
Whether you’re keeping up with the Joneses or capturing attention from would-be buyers, give your home’s curb appeal a boost with easy steps, such as making a list of any imperfections that require replacing or repair; prioritizing your to-do list, taking your budget into account; cleaning siding, doors, shutters and delicate items like patio tables with a power washer; making improvements to stop current and prevent future problems; cleaning outdoor surfaces such as decks, sidewalks and driveways; and adding finishing touches like flowers, lighting and other small details.
6 Steps to Up Your Home's Curb Appeal
(Family Features) For good or bad, first impressions count. Whether you’re keeping up with the Joneses or capturing attention from would-be buyers, give your home’s curb appeal a boost with these easy steps.
Find more solutions to make the view from your curb as appealing as possible at briggsandstratton.com.
A tree can shift from asset to liability when branches, trunks or roots suffer an injury and threaten to cause property or personal damage. Insects and disease are also potential threats to valuable trees. Use this five-step checklist to help achieve optimal springtime tree health and ensure that your established trees will thrive for years to come.
Keep Your Trees Green and Your Property Value Greener
(Family Features) Mature trees increase property value by as much as 10 percent, according to the U.S. Forest Service. But a tree can shift from asset to liability when branches, trunks or roots suffer an injury and threaten to cause property or personal damage. Insects and disease are also potential threats to valuable trees.
There are several steps you can take to ensure that your established trees will thrive for years to come. Use this five-step checklist from Lance Walheim, lawn and garden care expert for Bayer Advanced, to help achieve optimal springtime tree health:
1. Renew Mulch. Mulching is one of the best things you can do for your trees – and one of the easier garden chores to tackle. Two-to-three inches of organic mulch conserves water, reduces compaction and helps control weeds. It’s best placed in a ring that extends outward from the trunk at least 3-6 feet.
2. Be Cautious with Water. Make sure you don’t overwater. Unless there have been prolonged dry spells or exceptionally warm weather, most established trees may not need water until mid-to-late spring. Overwatering in spring can weaken trees and promote disease.
3. Protect Trunks. Make sure lawn mowers and weed eaters do not damage tree trunks by wrapping them with trunk protectors (sold in nurseries and garden centers) or surrounding the tree with a grass-free, mulched area.
4. Prune. Because pruning permanently changes a tree’s structure and appearance, you want to prune intentionally. Light pruning of small trees can improve structure and appearance, but be mindful of branch diameters to help guide your cuts. For more information on how to prune trees without damaging them, visit BayerAdvanced.com.
5. Protect and Feed. Now is a good time to treat trees and shrubs susceptible to damage from insects such as borers, aphids, scale insects, whiteflies and others, and taking this opportunity to provide a nourishing slow-release fertilizer is also a good idea. Using an all-in-solution that doesn’t require spraying, such as Bayer Advanced 12 Month Tree & Shrub Protect & Feed liquid or granules, is an easy and convenient way to care for your trees.
As your yard awakens this spring, applying these tree care best practices can help keep your trees healthy and happy for many years to come.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
(BPT) - From annoying itchy welts to serious conditions like Malaria and West Nile virus, mosquitoes have been making humans miserable and sick for thousands of years. And now, there's Zika - a mosquito-spread virus that may be linked to serious birth defects. In fact, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the diseases mosquitoes spread make them the deadliest animal on the planet.
The arrival of warm weather means it's time to step up your mosquito prevention and protection efforts in order to help protect your family. The National Pest Management Association offers some information that can help:
* The type of mosquito that transmits Zika bites during the daytime hours. Most other types of mosquitoes bite during dusk and dawn.
* Within the U.S., mosquitoes have been known to spread West Nile virus, Chikungunya, and encephalitis-causing viruses in humans, and heartworms in dogs.
* Mosquitoes spread disease when they bite one person, fly to another and bite again, spreading the infection. What many people don't realize is that the saliva from the mosquito's bite causes the red, itchy irritation that we all know so well.
The NPMA recommends some ways you can help reduce your exposure to mosquitoes:
* Eliminate breeding areas - Mosquitoes need only about a half-inch of standing water in which to lay their eggs. Get rid of any stagnant water around your home, such as flower pots, bird baths, kiddie pools and standing water in low areas of your yard.
* Use repellent - Whenever you spend time outside, protect your skin from mosquito bites by applying an insect repellent that contains at least 20 percent DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon-eucalyptus. Also, consider wearing long pants, long-sleeved shirts and closed-toe shoes.
* Be aware of the time of day - Mosquitoes are most active around dawn and dusk, although the variety that transmits Zika prefers to bite during the day. Minimize outside activity during peak biting hours, or, if you must be outside, wear long sleeves, pants and repellent to thwart mosquitoes.
* Watch what you wear - Dark colors, floral prints and sweet-smelling perfumes or colognes can attract mosquitoes to you. Wear light colors and forego perfume when spending time outside.
* Protect your house - Screens help keep mosquitoes out of your house. Be sure all windows and doors are outfitted with screens, and that all are in good shape. Repair tears to keep mosquitoes from getting inside.
* Travel wisely - Mosquito-borne diseases that may be rare in the U.S. are common in many foreign countries, so if your summer vacation will take you outside the country, check what travel advisories may be in effect in your destination. If someone gets sick upon returning home, seek medical care immediately.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts at control, mosquitoes on your property can still be a problem. A licensed pest control professional can help you manage mosquitoes. To find a professional near you, visit the NPMA's website at pestworld.org.
(BPT) - After months of winter, warmer weather is finally here. It's time to head to the lake, spend time on the deck or take your kids to the park. Yes, you're ready for the season - but is your lawn mower?
One of the season's most important tools has been hibernating through the winter, and it will need a helping hand to get ready. So before you fire it up for the first cuts of the season, make sure you follow these important mower maintenance tips.
1. Replace any existing gas. Did you run your mower out of gas or add fuel stabilizer last fall? If you didn't, stored fuel is likely to break down over the winter months and can go bad in as little as 30 days - making your mower hard or impossible to start in the spring. To protect your mower, make sure you fill it with fresh fuel from the gas station. And make sure it doesn't have too much ethanol, as most mowers can only accept up to a 10 percent ethanol blend (E10).
2. Monitor the oil levels. It's a new season and your mower deserves new oil. Check the engine's existing oil level, you'll likely find it's low. If it is, add oil as appropriate. Operating a mower with too little oil can burn out your engine. At the same time however, you want to avoid overfilling the oil level. Consult your owner's manual for the right oil type and amount for your engine. And as your changing the oil, this is also a great time to inspect and possibly replace your oil filter.
3. Focus on the spark plug. Inspect the area around your mower's spark plug to make sure no dirt or other debris will enter the cylinder once the plug is removed. Once you're satisfied the area is clean, use a socket wrench to remove the plug and inspect it for any damage or carbon deposits. These deposits will appear as a black coating. If the plug appears to be worn, or has been used for several mowing seasons, replace it.
4. Clean the air filter. A mower's air filter collects a significant amount of dirt, dust and other debris over a typical cutting season, so it's good to start the year with a clean one. Consult your owner's manual to determine which filter is right for your mower and to learn how to make this simple replacement properly.
5. Adjust the blade. When performing your spring maintenance, this is also a good opportunity to inspect your mower's blade. Look for cracks, nicks, bends or any other signs of damage. If you find these, replace the blade. Also, if the edge is dull, the blade should be sharpened. If you feel uncomfortable sharpening the blade yourself, take it to your local hardware store or small engine shop. For safety, always unplug the spark plug when inspecting the blade.
Considering a replacement?
If you've applied the seasonal maintenance tips above and it's obvious your old mower just isn't cutting it anymore, you'll need to shop for a new one. Start your search by focusing on the mower's most essential component, the engine. Look for an engine that offers minimal maintenance, like the Kohler XTX Series, which never requires an oil change over its lifetime. Simply check the oil level before each use and you're good to go. The engine is built to last, with a rugged cast iron cylinder bore for extended life. It also features Smart-Choke and Easy-Pull technology to make starting a breeze. And with its Consistent-Cut power, it will make short work of tall grass. The Kohler XTX Series is the perfect choice to make this mowing season everything you hoped it would be without any of the hassle.
To learn more about how the right engine can improve the performance of your mower, visit www.KohlerEngines.com.
(BPT) - Malaria, West Nile virus and heartworms - as if you didn't already have enough reasons to fear and loathe mosquitoes and the illnesses they spread, now there's Zika, a virus that is possibly linked to birth defects. Mosquitoes are much more than itchy nuisances; the illnesses they can transmit with their bite kill thousands of humans every year. In fact, some scientists believe malaria, a mosquito-borne illness, has killed one out of every two humans who has ever lived, according to a report in National Geographic.
Keeping mosquitoes away from your home, yard and family is much more than a matter of convenience; it may help preserve your health. Eliminating standing water from your property is the single most effective thing you can do as a homeowner to minimize the presence of mosquitoes around your property. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in still water - puddles and standing water in your yard can be a breeding ground.
"When warm weather arrives, that low spot in the backyard where water always collects becomes much more troublesome than just being an eyesore," says Ryan Larsen, a civil engineer with NDS Inc., a leading manufacturer of water management solutions. "It will attract mosquitoes that will want to lay their eggs in that standing water, but first they need to bite a human or two."
Homeowners may think solving their drainage problems will be difficult and costly, or that they'll end up with an ugly drainage ditch on their property. But Larsen says it is possible to eliminate standing water cost-effectively and attractively. He suggests homeowners take these five simple steps:
1. Identify actual or potential trouble spots.
Is there a low area in the yard where water collects after rain? Are any downspouts or gutters on your home clogged with debris? Does water linger along a retaining wall, edging, walkway or patio after you've irrigated the lawn? Mosquitoes can lay their eggs in very shallow standing water, so anywhere water collects could be a breeding ground.
2. Address the easy fixes first.
The gutters, downspouts and minor collection spots are easily addressed by simply clearing away the obstructions. When those issues are resolved, homeowners should concentrate on addressing low areas, Larsen says. "These muddy, wet areas look bad, can kill grass, attract mosquitos and eventually lead to more serious damage to a property," he says.
3. Determine the scope of the problem.
Standing water on a property can occur in multiple spots, from walkways to lawns. NDS offers an online Home Drainage Center to help you identify your problem, possible solutions and whether the resolution is a DIY project or if you'll need to hire a professional.
4. Choose and install your solution.
French drains, underground drainage and catch basins are typical solutions for many home drainage problems. Placing drainage underground not only minimizes the risk of mosquitoes breeding in standing water, it can preserve the visual appeal of your landscape. For example, for NDS drainage solutions that involve catch basins, the company offers a wide selection of decorative catch basin grates, so the portion of the system you can't hide will be visually appealing. Most drainage systems can be installed in just one weekend.
5. Take steps to protect yourself.
Mosquitoes have been around since the time of the dinosaurs (and they've been spreading malaria for that long, too), according to National Geographic. While eliminating standing water on your property will go a long way toward reducing the number of mosquitoes in your environment, it's virtually impossible to remove them entirely. The American Mosquito Control Association says some mosquitoes will travel 40 miles or more in search of a meal. When outdoors, wear insect repellant on exposed skin and clothing. Choose repellants with an active ingredient like DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Dark colors attract mosquitoes, so wear lighter colored clothing, and burn citronella candles or run a fan near the ground when you're enjoying your deck or patio.
For more information about home drainage solutions, visit www.ndspro.com/home-drainage, where you'll also find instructional videos, the Home Drainage Center, production recommendations, installation instructions and helpful links. You can also email your home drainage questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(BPT) - If you're a part of the nearly 90 percent of Americans who believe it's important to have a well-maintained yard, you and your backyard will appreciate these seven simple steps for tending to your natural turf lawn with minimal effort.
According to Grass Seed USA, a coalition of American grass seed farmers and academics, investing a little repair time in early spring and a small amount of maintenance time in summer will pay off with a lush lawn ready for all your summer activities.
1. Test your soil. Good soil is one of the essentials of a healthy lawn. A soil test is simple, inexpensive and provides valuable information about current pH levels. Simple amendments like lime or sulfur can be added to neutralize overly acidic or alkaline soil and help grass thrive. Find a soil test kit at a local garden store or make your own using common household items.
2. Aerate. Older or heavily trafficked lawns can suffer from soil compaction. A core aerator with hollow tines will pull small plugs of soil out of the ground, allowing increased movement of water, nutrients and oxygen. Aeration can also increase the soil contact with new seeds and promote new growth. You can rent an aerator or hire a professional to do the work for you.
3. Seed. According to Grass Seed USA, the ideal lawn planting season is April through the mid-to-end of October, depending on where you live. Turf specialists at a garden store or local university extension office can help select the right seed for your area and usage, pointing you toward the seed closest to existing grass or suggesting alternatives for problem areas. After seeding, water lightly but regularly, keeping the reseeded areas damp until the new grass grows in.
4. Control weeds. Healthy lawns essentially control weeds by squeezing them out. However, if crabgrass or dandelions invade, herbicides may help. Consult a garden specialist about which herbicide is right for your lawn and how to use it. Applying a pre-emergent herbicide in the spring before weed grass emerges can reduce problems down the line. If you've applied seed, keep in mind herbicides can kill it, so use a product that will not affect new growth. For dandelions, digging them up is often effective, but a broadleaf herbicide may be applied.
5. Water as needed. On average, a lawn needs about 1 inch of water per week, from rainfall or irrigation. Letting the lawn dry out completely between waterings will encourage the grass to grow stronger, deeper roots as it searches for water deeper in the soil. Put a rain gauge on your porch to measure rainfall; skip the watering and save your irrigation money if you receive 1 inch of rain in a week.
6. Fertilize naturally. Don't break your back trying to bag lawn clippings. If you mow frequently (about once a week during the growing season) and don't remove too much height (only one-third of the blade), you can leave the grass clippings on the lawn. They contain the same nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium as commercial fertilizer - and they're free.
7. Mow to the right height. Wait until your grass is 3 inches tall before mowing and then cut it to 2 inches in height. By only trimming one-third of the blade length, you will avoid stressing the grass while leaving enough leaf to protect the roots from the sun - helping you create a low-maintenance, drought-tolerant lawn.
A lawn doesn't need constant pampering. Ongoing lawn maintenance can be quick and easy, and the reward is a beautiful, environmentally-friendly setting for outdoor activities of many kinds. So, fire up the grill, hang up the hammock and get busy enjoying your personal great, grassy outdoors.
More lawn care tips can be found at www.weseedamerica.com.
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