Lawn and Garden

Preserve seasonal flavors through the joy of canning

9/21/2017

(BPT) - With summer coming to a close, there’s more of a desire than ever to hang on to those breezy afternoons and peak flavors from newly picked fruits and vegetables. Canning, a time-honored tradition, makes it simple to not only preserve our favorite garden-fresh flavors, but also share them with those we love.

Whether you’re experienced or trying it for the first time, canning offers a simple approach to preserve fresh, seasonal flavors. Those who have a home garden, are a member of a farm-share program or frequent farmers markets have found that canning is one more way to be more involved in the food they eat.

For generations, Ball(R) Fresh Preserving Products, brought to you by Newell Brands, has been helping people experience the joy of canning so that they can continue to find inspiration with the food they grow. As intimidating as it may seem, canning is as easy as simply following the steps in a recipe — if you can boil water, you can also can!

With this spirit in mind, here are four tips from canning expert Jessica Piper that’ll help you get started.

1. It’s always important to follow a tested and approved recipe when canning. You can find tested recipes on FreshPreserving.com and from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

2. When preserving, it’s always important to preserve in the jar size indicated in the recipe. You can always safely go down and process at the same time, but you cannot go up in jar size.

3. Whether you are filling the jars or allowing them to cool, be sure to always place your hot jars on a towel to avoid a rapid change in temperature.

4. When canning, make sure your canning pot is tall enough to cover the jars by 1 – 2 inches of water to ensure they seal correctly.

Corn and Cherry Tomato Salsa recipe

A simple recipe sure to become a hit with the whole family this summer is Corn and Cherry Tomato Salsa. Once you stock your pantry with it, you can even get inspired with other fun recipes to add it to, like these 3 Step Skillet Tacos, found on FreshPreserving.com.

Ingredients

5 pounds cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped; 2 cups corn kernels; 1 cup red onion, finely chopped; 2 teaspoons salt; 1/2 cup lime juice (about 3 large limes); 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced; 1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder (optional); 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro; six pint-size canning jars with lids and bands

Directions

1. Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Wash lids in warm soapy water and set aside with bands.

2. Bring all the ingredients to a boil in a large stainless steel or enameled saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer five to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Ladle the hot salsa into a hot jar, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe the jar rim. Center the lid on the jar. Apply the band and adjust to fingertip-tight. Place the jar in the boiling water canner. Repeat until all the jars are filled.

4. Process the jars for 15 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Turn off heat, remove the lid, and let the jars stand 5 minutes. Remove the jars and cool.

NOTE: The use of fresh lime juice in this recipe is for the purpose of fresh flavor and has been verified as safe by scientific testing.

In the spirit of sharing, and to encourage new canners, Newell Brands(R) will donate up to $150,000 from the sale of Ball(R) Sharing Jars to Feeding America(R). One more way that canning is about tradition, community, and of course, sharing great food with others.



Build a classic concrete fire pit with a modern look

9/20/2017

(BPT) - Getting your backyard ready to entertain during the fall and winter months can take many forms. One popular outdoor trend is the addition of a fire pit. This trend seems to resurface every year for a variety of reasons. For some, a fire pit provides the perfect area for gathering family and friends on chilly nights. For others, a fire pit is an attractive feature that can increase the beauty of a backyard while offering the functional benefit of hosting “camp-style” type dinners. There are even homeowners that simply enjoy the calming effect of sitting by a cozy fire.

Whatever the reason, there are countless fire pit options ranging from cast iron cauldrons and paver stone kits to ceramic bowls and clay chimineas. However, for that truly authentic and rugged fire pit with a modern look, homeowners might consider building one out of a pre-mixed, packaged concrete like QUIKRETE 5000. While this approach will require some time and a little heavy lifting, you can take pride in creating a monumental finished product that is an affordable alternative to many other fire pits.

Steps for building a concrete fire pit

Note: When working with cement-based products, always wear eye protection and waterproof gloves.

* Build an exterior frame and smaller interior frame using two-by-fours and two-by-sixes assembled with metal L-brackets. This will serve as the form.

* Place the exterior frame in the desired spot, mark 6 inches around the outside of the frame and dig an 8-inch hole within the perimeter.

* Spread gravel about 4 inches deep into the hole and level before placing the interior frame within the exterior frame.

* Level the frames and secure in place using a couple of scrap two-by-fours.

* Drive metal stakes into the ground and suspend rebar horizontally using wire to attach the rebar between each to give the fire pit strength.

* Mix and pour the concrete foundation about 3 and 1/2 inches thick, making sure to fill all corners and tap with a rubber mallet to avoid air pockets. Let the concrete cure for about 24 hours.

* Use QUIKRETE Mortar to lay one row of fire bricks placed vertically on top of the concrete and against the interior frame.

* Mix and pour more concrete on top of the first level of concrete and the fire bricks. Let the concrete cure for about 24 hours.

* Remove the scrap two-by-fours holding the interior and exterior frames apart before mixing and pouring the final layer of concrete.

* Smooth the concrete by screeding with a two-by-four, floating with a wood trowel and finishing with a steel trowel.

* Cover the concrete with a sheet of plastic so it stays moist during the 48-hour time.

* Remove the exterior and interior frames with a prybar, chisel and circular saw.

* Spread several inches of lava rock in the bottom of the fire pit for additional thermal resistance.

* Let the concrete cure for 28 days before starting your first fire.

Homeowners can customize their concrete fire pit by adding one 10-ounce bottle of liquid cement color per 80-pound bag of concrete mix before pouring. For more detailed instructions on building a concrete fire pit, watch the how-to video at QUIKRETE.com.



5 tips to keep ticks away

9/19/2017

(BPT) - Researchers are predicting 2017 will be one of the worst years for ticks that we have seen in quite some time — and by all indications, those researchers are correct. People who have found themselves pulling ticks off their pets, children and their own bodies can readily attest to this. The question is, what to do?

While the tick population may be booming and becoming an increasing problem, there are effective measures you can take to prevent them from getting on you and your loved ones.

1. Cover up. One of the easiest ways to keep ticks off of you when you're hiking in tall grass or a wooded area is to make sure you and your family wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and closed-toe shoes. You may think dressing this way during warmer months is anything but comfortable, but if you dress in lightweight, breathable clothing, you’ll be surprised at how cool you can stay.

2. Keep up with your yard. Ticks love a messy yard. They seek out tall grass, patches of weeds and unkempt gardens. Take the time to keep your lawn cut, remove any loose debris and keep the weeds out of your garden. Areas you want to be particularly concerned about are around patios, play areas and anywhere people congregate or pets explore.

3. Protect your yard. Ticks and other pests may seem like an insurmountable problem, almost impossible to avoid or get rid of. But rest easy knowing there is a solution to help protect against these blood-feeding pests. Whether you’re concerned about protecting your family’s health from tick-borne illnesses or need help controlling an infestation, contact a licensed pest control professional to come in and assess the situation. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) can help you find a qualified, local expert to identify and treat your tick problem.

4. Wear insect repellent. Just like you make it a habit to always apply sunscreen when going out on a bright, beautiful day, get in the habit of applying insect repellent any time you are out in an area that might harbor ticks. To be effective, make sure the insect repellent contains at least 20 percent DEET.

5. Perform regular inspections. At the end of the day, take the time to comb through your pet's fur and check them for ticks, even if they are wearing a tick collar. Also, don't forget to do a check on yourself and your children. Since it usually takes between 24 and 48 hours for a tick to attach to a host and transmit diseases like Lyme disease, it’s important to remove them quickly.

To learn more about ticks or other common pests, visit www.pestworld.org. There you’ll find a wealth of information and resources that will help you and your family have a safe and tick-free year.



Prevent falls this fall with a home safety checklist

9/18/2017

(BPT) - After months of sticky heat and humidity, it’s time to put away the shorts and pull out the sweaters because the autumn season is finally here. But, late September brings us more than just cooler temperatures and a wardrobe change. If you or a loved one are over the age of 65, the change in seasons is also an opportunity to think about another kind of fall — the kind that impacts one in four older Americans every year — and the steps we can all take to help prevent them.

According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and account for the majority of emergency room visits for older adults. More than 75 percent of falls happen in or around the house, but fortunately there are ways to evaluate our loved ones’ homes and make them safer for everyday living.

Use the checklist below, based on suggestions from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to help guide your review of the exterior and interior of the property. Many of the safety measures listed can be made at little to no cost, but more significant modifications could require a considerable investment.

Keep in mind, there are financial options available for seniors who want to modify their homes to meet their changing needs. Area Agencies on Aging, state and local governments, and some nonprofits offer grants, loans or other assistance programs for eligible seniors in need of home repairs and modifications.

Older homeowners may also want to consider using a reverse mortgage loan to convert a portion of their home's equity into cash proceeds that can be used for many reasons, including home modifications and maintenance. Unlike a home equity loan, a reverse mortgage requires no monthly principal or interest payments and cannot be frozen or reset.

Borrowers do not have to repay the loan balance until the last eligible spouse permanently leaves the home, or if they fail to meet their loan obligations, which include staying current on property taxes, insurance and any condominium or HOA fees.

For a comprehensive overview of reverse mortgage loans and a Borrower Roadmap to the loan process, visit http://www.reversemortgage.org/Your-Roadmap, a free consumer resource created by the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association.

Home Safety Checklist

Start on the outside:

* Make sure the driveway and any paved walkways are smooth and stable. Seal any cracks before more damage is created. Crumbling or uneven concrete surfaces should be repaired.

* Porch and deck flooring should be flat, even and nonslip. Any loose or broken floorboards should be nailed down or replaced.

* Outdoor steps should have sturdy, easily graspable handrails.

* The porch and entryway should be well-lit and light switches should be easily accessible.

* Consider whether the doorway to the home can be converted to a no-step entrance way. There are many creative ways to achieve this.

Check out the inside:

* Floors should be flat and nonslip; floorboards should be stable and carpets should be free of holes and tears that could create a tripping hazard.

* Throw rugs should be fully fastened to the floor with tacks or double-sided tape, or taken out of the house.

* All stairs and steps should be flat and even, and clutter should be removed.

* Add nonslip treads to stairs that are not carpeted.

* Stairways should have solidly mounted handrails on both sides of the steps if possible, and should be well-lit.

* If you or your loved ones face mobility challenges and stairs are an obstacle to accessing different levels of the home, consider installing a chairlift that will enable them to enjoy all the rooms in the house again.



5 green lifestyle changes that are positively habit-forming

9/13/2017

(BPT) - Going green: It’s more than an idea — it’s a fundamental change you make to support the environment and reduce your carbon footprint. In making this change, you probably started with the small stuff. You turn the lights off when you’re not in the room, unplug devices that aren’t in use and adjust your thermostat temperature regularly. It’s a baseline, and you’re off to a great start, but you can do so much more.

Implementing a green approach can seem like a lot of work, and you may be worried that you won’t be able to keep up with everything you want to do. The trick is to look at your green initiatives not as a to-do list but as a new lifestyle. Once you do that, your green efforts will become habits, and you’ll forget how you went about your day without them.

To support your new green lifestyle, add these five positive habit-forming strategies.

* Rent instead of buy. Whether you’re sprucing up your yard or diving into a home improvement project, there are always machines and tools that you need but simply don’t have. Too often that means buying these items, using them once and then stashing them in the garage or basement. Renting helps reduce the energy, pollution and waste that goes into making, storing and maintaining machines and tools. Renting is an easy and cost-effective way to locate just the right equipment — think aerators, chain saws, pressure washers and paint sprayers — while helping the environment. Visit RentalHQ.com to easily find a rental store near you.

* Remove wasteful water use. The average American uses between 80 and 100 gallons of water each day, according to the United States Geological Survey. Fortunately, there are a number of water-saving habits you can embrace that will reduce your usage as well as your bill. Avoid running the dishwasher or washing machine until you have a full load. Turn the faucet off while brushing your teeth, and take a shower instead of a bath. Outside, you should avoid watering your lawn as much as possible and if you do, try to do so in the evening when the water can soak into the soil instead of evaporating in the afternoon heat.

* Start the carpool. You and your co-workers have talked about this for years, but nothing ever comes of it because no one wants to take the initiative. Now’s the time. Announce that you are starting a carpool — volunteer to drive the first week — and invite your friends to join you. This habit is more likely to stick if you all consistently rely on each other.

* Adopt green, chemical-free lawn care practices. Everyone wants a lush, green lawn, and too many people use chemicals, fertilizers and unhealthy products to achieve their dream. Resolve to eliminate lawn care habits that harm Mother Nature, such as chemical dethatchers, fertilizers and weed killers. Instead, rent a dethatching machine and aerator to improve your lawn's health naturally. You can even rent a chipper or grinder to turn yard debris like twigs, branches, fallen leaves and grass clippings into mulch for planting beds.

* Make your own cleaning chemicals. Cleaning chemicals are a staple in every home; they’re also rarely environmentally friendly. However, you can get the same cleaning benefits without the negative environmental impact by making your own cleaning chemicals from natural sources. Mineral oil and lemon juice combine to make a great furniture polish, just as vinegar and salt can be used to clean copper or brass. For an all-purpose cleaning solution, try liquid soap, baking soda and tap water. Recipes for these solutions and more are found easily online, so browse around and you’ll discover the perfect natural solution for your needs.

A green lifestyle doesn't happen overnight, and while you've already set the initial stages in motion, there is more you can do. Adding a few of these green habits will help. Apply the tips offered above and your new green lifestyle will be effective and enjoyable before you know it.



Bringing sustainability home is as easy as ABC

9/13/2017

(BPT) - With 67 percent of consumers from across the globe preferring products from sustainable sources, according to a recent Nielsen survey, creating a more sustainable home is the new normal. From buying down and feather products to repairing leaky pipes, making your home more sustainable is as easy as the ABCs. Here are three small ways you can make a big difference (and spare your wallet) when it comes to the sustainability of our world:

A is for AUDIT

Do a home energy audit by checking your windows and doors for air leakage, and by checking your pipes — faucets, toilet flappers and valves — for any leaks.

Air leakage from windows and doors can impact your home’s energy use. The United States Department of Energy claims sealing uncontrolled air leaks will save you 10 to 20 percent on your heating and cooling bills. Check your home for drafty windows and doors and discuss leak prevention options, such as weather strips and caulk, with your local hardware store.

Fixing leaky pipes can prevent gallons of water from being lost every day. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency states that tightening pipes and repairing leaks can prevent the average household from leaking 10,000 gallons of water per year. These types of leaks are often easy to fix, which can save homeowners about 10 percent on their water bills.

B is for BEDDING

Changing your bedding to down and feather can help reduce your heating bill. Down and feather pillows, comforters, duvets and mattress toppers provide superior warmth, which in turn lets you lower the thermostat. You can save as much as 10 percent on your heating bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, by lowering the thermostat by 10 to 15 degrees while you sleep.

Better yet, down and feathers are a natural byproduct of the food industry. So recycling them into warm comforters means the down and feathers do not end up in our global landfills. Since down and feathers are a natural fill material, they have a lower carbon footprint than products made from synthetic fill materials. They are biodegradable and can be composted along with your food scraps or yard trimmings. Not to mention down and feather products are long-lasting with a lightweight feel, so you don’t have to replace them as often. For more information about the sustainable benefits of down and feather products, visit the American Down and Feather Council website at www.DownandFeatherCouncil.com.

C is for COMPOST

Composting is the practice of recycling decomposed organic material waste with manure to turn it into rich soil. By composting in your own backyard, nutrients are restored into the ground and less waste ends up in landfills, waterways and water treatment facilities. What’s more: landfills cause organic waste to generate greenhouse gasses, so methane emissions are greatly reduced when waste is composted. This practice can also help you save money, since it allows you to purchase fewer soil conditioners and bagged manures for your property. By using down and feather, a byproduct of the food industry, along with creating your own compost by using vegetable scraps, you can make composting a core part of your lifestyle.

These simple steps make it easy to reduce the carbon footprint of your home, and contribute to the overall sustainability of our Earth. By following the ABCs and making these small changes in your everyday life, not only will you be doing something good for our planet, you’ll be helping out your wallet as well!



3 new considerations when choosing your next garage door

9/12/2017

(BPT) - If you’re buying a garage door this fall, you’ll be faced with several decisions that you likely never had to make before. Before you call your local garage door dealer to make that purchase, here are some of the new decisions that you need to face.

The design decision

Remember the old adage that the front door is the most important design element in the home? It’s not true anymore.

In most homes today, the visual impact of the garage door is many times greater than that of the front door. Studies have even proven that your garage door design can affect the appraisal value of your home.

Today, manufacturers offer hundreds of new, unique and stunning looks. Design experts recommend that you choose a door design that blends in well with your home design, complementing its overall appearance. To do that, match the door with your home’s exterior colors, textures and patterns.

To help you with your design decision, the garage door industry has created the free consumer site www.garagewownow.com, which contains dozens of photos of the latest garage doors from many manufacturers. Plus, most manufacturer websites now feature a “door designer” that lets you see how different designs will look on an uploaded photo of your own garage.

New opener decisions

The garage door and the opener are two separate items, but they are often purchased together. And since today’s openers offer many more features and accessories than ever before, you’ll have several new decisions to make.

AC vs. DC: Openers with DC (direct current) motors, which were rare 10 years ago, are now widely available. DC and AC motors are both durable and reliable, but DC motors are quieter, and they allow the door to soft-start and soft-stop, instead of clanging to an abrupt stop.

Accessories: Here, the decisions are many. For example, you can now operate and monitor your garage door from your smartphone. You can also get a battery backup unit, a real lifesaver in a power outage. When you consider motion detection, music speakers, mini transmitters, automatic deadbolt locks, LED lighting, external keypads and more, you’ll realize how far openers have come.

New thinking on insulation

Insulation isn’t a new decision, but there is new thinking to consider. “The garage acts as a ‘buffer zone,’ much like the vestibule to a restaurant or a grocery store,” says Joe Hetzel, P.E., technical director for the garage door manufacturers’ association. “An insulated garage door makes it easier to control the heating and cooling costs for the home.”

This new “buffer zone” thinking considers garage door insulation as a must. Fortunately, insulation typically pays for itself. Dow Chemical recently reported that, for every $100 you invest in an insulation project, you generally get a return of $117 in recouped energy costs.

“Once you get an insulated door, you never go back to uninsulated,” says Ed Hermanns, a door dealer in New Jersey and president of the International Door Association. “Most of our customers today buy an insulated door, and that number seems to increase every year.”

You might be buying a new garage door out of necessity, but as it turns out, it’s a smart purchase. An upscale garage door replacement delivers the highest return on investment for all upscale remodeling projects in the new 2017 Cost vs. Value Report from Remodeling Magazine.

So, while you have a few decisions yet to make, you’ve already made the good choice to get a new garage door. After you add the latest designs and technology, you’ll have a chance to admire all your choices every time you pull in the driveway.



Inspirational tips for autumn outdoor entertaining

9/6/2017

(BPT) - The days are shorter, the temperatures are cooler and kids are back in school. You've said goodbye to summer socials, but that doesn't mean it's time to put away your apron and stow the patio furniture. Autumn is one of the best times of the year for outdoor entertaining, and with a few smart tips you'll fall in love with hosting fall gatherings.

Extend the fun feeling of summer entertaining into the autumn months by taking a few simple steps to create a memorable experience.

Switch up dishes: The cool dishes of summer should be swapped with savory recipes that feature hearty ingredients. A roast or slow-cooker meal is the perfect option. Visit the farmers market and feature local fresh harvest foods. In addition to standard drinks like water and soda, offer a signature warm beverage, such as spicy hot apple cider.

Enjoy the night: Autumn evenings are spectacular, with cool temperatures and star-studded skies. Serve dinner al fresco and then ask guests to stay to gather around the bonfire to roast marshmallows and make s'mores. Add an element of entertainment and guests will enjoy themselves all night.

Make movie magic: To really wow guests, host an outdoor movie experience day or night. The LG ProBeam smart TV laser projector has an HD picture of up to 120 inches with impressive visibility, sharp contrast and rich blacks, even when there is abundant ambient light. Plus, with the award-winning webOS Smart TV platform, you can stream your favorite services just like on a smart TV, creating a seamless viewing (and hosting) experience.

Set up superior sound: Whether you're setting the mood with some music or enhancing the movie-viewing experience, a high-quality speaker makes entertaining easy. The LG LOUDR FH6 is a 600W Bluetooth speaker system that can fill your room (or backyard) with booming audio. Plus, with the Karaoke Creator feature, you can suppress the vocal frequencies of any song to turn it into a karaoke track, which is sure to be a hit with kids and adults alike.

Mind the weather: Fall weather can change drastically throughout a day. Encourage guests to dress in layers so that attire for daylight fun can transition into warmer wear for evening hours. What's more, keep a couple extra jackets on hand just in case people forget and need a light coat.

Create a cozy atmosphere: Whether you're watching a movie, star gazing or sitting around the bonfire, help guests stay warm by setting out a variety of throw blankets and outdoor pillows. Nothing encourages guests to cozy up and stay longer than a big blanket, a fun flick and a mug of something warm.

Light the night: Cloudy days or early evening hours don't have to ruin your good time. Add a soft glow and an element of safety by adding string lights to railings and pathways. For kids attending the party, bracelet and necklace glow lights are always a big hit. For bonfire and movie spaces, add a basket of flashlights guests can use as needed.

Perfect parting gifts: If you decide to offer favors when guests depart, embrace the fall feeling and consider goodies they can savor later while reminiscing about your party. Mini apple or pumpkin pies are cute and creative. Caramel apples are a tasty autumn delight. A container featuring a variety of tea will keep them warm all season long.

Once you try autumn entertaining it might become your favorite time of year to host friends and family. With these tips, everyone is guaranteed to have a splendid time.



5 safety essentials for working outside

8/22/2017

(BPT) - Remember when you were a kid and biked around the neighborhood without a helmet? Or how excited you were to sit in the front seat when your mom or dad picked you up from kindergarten?

These days, it can be shocking to think about how lax people once were when it comes to certain safety issues.

Nonetheless, statistics suggest that injuries related to power tools are on the rise, and no matter how sure of yourself you might be, accidents happen to the best of us. One area where many people tend to put safety on the back burner is in yard work. Though the potential for serious injuries is everywhere when using a power tool, people can often be too relaxed in this area.

These five precautions are simple ways to prevent serious accidents when using power tools around the yard.

1. Ear plugs. If you go to a concert these days, you'll probably see people with foam plugs sticking out of their ears. If lovers of music and noise are taking steps to protect their ears, shouldn't you be doing the same when using power tools? Snug, comfortable ear protection goes a long way in preventing permanent hearing loss. Any time you rev up an engine in your yard, your ears should be covered!

2. Wear protective clothing. Homeowners who regularly use outdoor power tools, especially chainsaws, need specialized clothing like chainsaw chaps, pants and jackets that can prevent injuries. Especially suited for occasional chainsaw users, Husqvarna’s personal protective equipment is a line of highly movable, durable and affordable protective wear that can stop a chain and mitigate serious injuries.

3. Foot protection. The perfect weather to go out and do some yard work is also the perfect weather for flip flops and sandals. However, the two do not go together. In fact, wearing any kind of closed-toe shoe isn’t enough. You need to protect your feet with specialized footwear that maximizes stability and keeps you comfortable all day long.

4. Proper gloves. Too often people use power tools to do yard work and don’t put on any gloves. This relaxed attitude can be dangerous. A good pair of work gloves not only prevents blisters, but protects against more serious injuries. This is one piece of equipment that is essential to keeping you both comfortable and safe while you work.

5. Eye protection. Though your eyes are incredibly vulnerable, it’s easy to go out to trim the hedges or take down a few overhanging branches and think you don’t need eye protection. All it takes is one stray wood chip or flying piece of debris to injure an eye and cause permanent vision loss.

Essential items for eye protection and hearing protection, as well as other accessories such as suspenders, rubber boot liners, boot studs, harnesses and braces can be purchased together in the Husqvarna’s Protective Powerkit. This is an easy way to have the essential safety equipment available for you to do the work you love and stay safe while doing it.



3 things you'll need to throw the ultimate tailgating party

8/21/2017

(BPT) - Football season is finally upon us and fans everywhere are getting revved up to cheer on their favorite team. Whether you watch the big game from the comfort of your home or head down to the stadium, it’s the perfect time to throw the mother of all football celebrations — a really big tailgating party.

Tailgating is a chance to enjoy (or brave) the fall weather and bond with friends over the anticipation of football. At its peak, stadium tailgating can turn into a free-flowing block party that anyone can crash.

Whether at home on the deck or camped out at the stadium, an unforgettable day of tailgating starts with a good plan and the right mindset. Whatever you do, be sure and roll out the welcome mat and tackle the tailgating experience head on, creating the ultimate football party zone.

1. Up your grill game

You can’t tailgate without great food and mountains of meat. That means this is a good time to evaluate your outdoor cooking gear.

Consider adding a second grill, and you'll have plenty of extra cooking space to feed the crowd. One great addition to your lineup is the Black 3-Burner Liquid Propane Gas Grill by Char-Broil, available at Lowe’s. It’s easy to start so you’ll have those extra burgers, steaks or chicken wings sizzling right away.

Explore other additions to your grilling kit to help you fix up a memorable feast. Invest in that smoker you always wanted so you can perfect your brisket recipe and make your tailgate party an instant fan favorite. Nowadays, portable grills come with larger cooking spaces, so you can keep those bellies filled while making the trip to the stadium much easier.

2. Make room for the crowd

Wherever you tailgate, meeting new people is part of the fun and tradition, so be prepared for extras. Take a look at your seating situation and add folding chairs so you'll always have space for special guests. When people are enjoying the spread of snacks, appetizers and sides, extra tables will keep the buffet well-organized with plenty of elbow room. Finally, preparation will keep everyone comfortable through that unpredictable fall weather. A spacious pop-up canopy or two with your team’s colors and logo can keep the party going and those spirits up whether the day brings intense sun or a chilly fall drizzle.

3. Get everyone off their feet

Tailgating is not just hanging out for a couple hours in a parking lot; it can last an entire day. Break up the lull and get everyone on their feet with some yard games. You could always purchase some game sets, but with a little effort and the help of some power tools, you can build your own.

Building a few sets of cornhole boards and ring toss games is easier than you think. Or you can keep it casual with homemade diced darts made with giant foam dice. A high-stakes giant-sized balancing block tower game is a sure way to amp up the excitement. In any case, a bit of friendly competition creates the perfect ice breaker for any gathering.

Lowe’s is the place where you can find everything you need to create the ultimate tailgating experience that will please any fan. Find more creative tailgating ideas at lowes.com.



Cypress siding: It's what the pros choose

6/28/2017

(BPT) - If current design trends are any indication, wood siding is back. Design professionals are recommending one species in particular: cypress. What’s behind this revival of cypress siding?

“Good looks, dependable performance and affordability,” says Stephen Logue of the Southern Cypress Manufacturers Association, www.CypressInfo.org. “Cypress has a unique appearance with its honey-like hues and intriguing grain pattern. Its ability to withstand the elements and nature has long made it a favorite siding material in areas of the country that experience constant heat, high humidity and torrential rains. Additionally, cypress is a competitively priced material. We see it being requested more and more.”

Architects side with cypress: Take it from the pros

Atlanta-based architect Daniel Martin says he recommends cypress to clients based on his firsthand experience with the unique wood.

“The performance is great,” Martin says. “I’ve had cypress siding on my own home for more than 20 years, and I’ve only had to repaint it once in that time. One of the main reasons I recommend cypress is because it’s resistant to decay, as well as insects like termites and bees. Carpenter bees love some other species of wood, such as cedar. They’ll bore in and lay their eggs, and then woodpeckers come along and gouge out grooves to get to the eggs, destroying the wood. That’s not an issue with cypress.”

As Martin has learned, cypress comes by its durability naturally, thanks to an oil that is produced while the tree is growing. The oil acts as a preservative, meaning cypress wood doesn’t need to be pressure treated with chemicals like some other wood siding options.

David and Laurel Mullikin, a husband-and-wife design/build duo in Atlanta, say they use cypress regularly in outdoor applications.

“We’ve designed some of our best projects with cypress,” Laurel says. “It’s one of our favorite species of wood to use. In fact, we’re currently designing our own new home. We are incorporating cypress as the ceilings for our porches, adding a lot of aesthetic warmth to a part of the house many people overlook. And we’re using cypress siding and finishing it with the Shou Sugi Ban method, which involves charring the surface of the wood and then sanding and sealing it. The process not only provides a unique look to an already beautiful wood, but also enhances its natural durability."

For the best performance

As with any wood siding, cypress will require a little TLC every now and then to look and perform best. With properly applied finishes and regular maintenance, cypress siding will last a lifetime or longer.

Whether installing new cypress siding or refreshing existing wood, the first step is to make sure its surface is clean so that it can better absorb the desired finish. Wash the wood with a mild bleach-and-water solution, using a pressure washer on a low setting. Let the solution soak for 15 minutes before thoroughly rinsing. Then, allow the wood to dry for about a week. This also is a good time to repair any nail holes and surface irregularities.

Homeowners who prefer cypress’ natural color can preserve the look by applying a clear, water-repellant sealer to all sides and edges of siding boards. It’s also suggested to look for products with a UV inhibitor to block out the sun’s fading rays. Sealers should be reapplied every few years to rejuvenate and protect the wood. If left untreated, over time, cypress will weather to a dark gray.

To bring out the richness of cypress’ grain, semi-transparent, oil-based stains work best. These stains will penetrate the wood, prevent water problems and allow the wood to breathe. Stains typically need to be reapplied every two years.

If you like the clean look of a solid finish, paint it. For best results, apply a 100 percent acrylic latex paint with a compatible primer. It’s also recommended to back prime the boards to avoid any potential moisture issues.

No matter your chosen finish, remember to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for best results. For more information on cypress, or to get inspired for your next home or renovation project, visit www.CypressInfo.org.



Simple steps to create the perfect outdoor oasis

6/2/2017

(BPT) - Summer is home to many of the year’s most beautiful days, so who can blame you for wanting to spend them all outside? Your yard becomes your living room and your patio the kitchen. It’s your home away from home, which begs the question — do you like your current digs?

If your home's outdoor space lacks the comfort and appeal you are longing for, don’t worry. Now is the perfect time to transform your backyard into the perfect outdoor oasis you can enjoy all summer long.

To get started upgrading your backyard without breaking the bank — follow these tips from the experts at Lowe’s.

* A place to gather. Think of the parties you’ve hosted in your home. They've likely all had a common gathering place such as the kitchen counter, the living room couch or the dining room table. Your outdoor space needs a similar location and a dining set naturally invites guests to relax. Five-piece dining sets from Lowe's are perfect for more intimate gatherings, while seven-piece sets comfortably accommodate larger crowds.

* The focal point of your kitchen. Grilling out is a staple of any summer party, so if your existing grill isn’t hitting all cylinders, it’s time for an upgrade. The Master Forge 5-Burner Modular Gas Grill features four heavy-duty burners, one infrared searing burner and one infrared rotisserie burner, giving you a solution for any menu choice. Plus, its built-in halogen lights can keep your party going long into the night.

* A place to relax. The sofas and armchairs in your living room are popular sitting destinations during any indoor event, and you can create the same environment outdoors with sectional patio furniture. The Garden Treasures Palm City Patio Sectional Furniture features sleek and sturdy black steel frames coupled with tan Olefin cushions that up the comfort level, meaning when you sit, you'll never want to leave.

* A little shade goes a long way. An all-day party means plenty of sun, and when guests need a break from the heat, it’s good to provide an area of relief. Patio umbrellas are an affordable option, available in 8-1/2 and 9-foot varieties, providing ample coverage for a large gathering. And to keep the awning a hot destination into the evening, look for an umbrella outfitted with LED lights.

* The perfect accents. The difference between a backyard and an outdoor oasis is in the details you add to your space. Island King Garden Torches bring light to any situation. With durable metal construction and a long-lasting fiberglass wick, these lights will keep their look in any conditions. To add a little extra green space to your outdoor entertaining area, consider purchasing raised garden beds. They provide a grand ambiance upgrade to your oasis at an affordable price.

Summer has just begun! Implement any of the upgrades listed above and you'll be able to enjoy the season's greatest days from your brand-new oasis. To find everything you need to remake your backyard, without breaking your bank, visit lowes.com.



DIY done simple: 5 projects you can tackle in a weekend

6/2/2017

(BPT) - This time of year was made for DIY projects. The weather is perfect, the projects have mounted, you’ve got the time and the motivation. Now if only you had the budget.

Not to worry, DIY doesn’t have to be synonymous with expensive! There are plenty of impactful DIY projects that can be tackled quickly and affordably in just a single weekend. Below is a list of five projects that you can use to scratch that project itch without putting a noticeable dent in your wallet.

* Seal the gaps. Hidden gaps and cracks in your home could be allowing air to escape, making the temperature in the house more difficult to regulate and your energy bill more expensive than it needs to be. Seal these gaps with an innovative air-sealing insulating foam to help protect against air and moisture infiltration. It will create a tighter building envelope that helps to reduce your energy waste and your monthly bill.

* A fresh coat of paint. How many times have you walked by that wall, those cabinets or that wooden chair and thought, "I need to repaint that"? Well, now’s the time. Painting small spaces and furniture yourself is a small, inexpensive project that can be finished in a single weekend. So start picking colors today. Once you’re done, you can feel proud knowing that you put in the hard work to give your home a fresh look.

* Ward off vermin. You’re not the only one who’s happy to see that warmer weather has arrived. Vermin of the mammal, reptile or insect variety will also be more active during the warmer months and they may set their sights on your home. GREAT STUFF(TM) Pestblock Insulating Foam Sealant helps block vermin from entering your home through gaps, cracks and holes. Spray the foam to block these points of entry and the only guests you’ll greet this season are those you actually invited.

* Update your window treatments. If “treatment” is a generous word when describing the accent pieces around your windows, it’s time for an upgrade. Whether curtains, blinds or drapes, window treatments can be as cost effective as you want them to be, so don’t be afraid to be picky. And once you find treatments that appeal to you, use them to block the sun on the hottest days to reduce your energy expenses.

* Expand your DIY. Your DIY projects don’t have to be confined to your home; they can also involve your boat, your RV or your other vehicles. GREAT STUFF(TM) Multipurpose Black Foam Sealant can be used to fill unwanted gaps and cracks in vehicles, allowing you to cruise into vacation with no worries.

You can scratch that DIY itch without a month-long commitment or completely draining your bank account. All you have to do is pick the projects that match your budget, your time frame and your goals, and get to work. And when they're done, you'll have the rest of the season to enjoy your new and improved home. To find more simple projects you can tackle with GREAT STUFF(TM) Insulating Foam Sealant, visit greatstuff.dow.com.



Home innovations that protect against moisture

6/1/2017

(BPT) - There is an insidious enemy that every homeowner dreads: moisture and the damage and degradation it can cause if left unchecked. Luckily, home improvement manufacturers have discovered new ways to prevent moisture from penetrating the home in the first place. With new home product innovations, there is no reason to suffer the costly and damaging effects of rain, snow or ice.

Unique fasteners add longevity to decks

Innovative fastening methods can extend the life of your deck and provide a beautiful fastener-free surface that also stands up better to weather and moisture. Although there are several kinds of deck fasteners that conceal the fastener, edge fastening is the latest method. “With edge fastening, which delivers real screws into the edge of the deck boards with a series of unique guides and drill bits, fastener-related splitting and cracking can be eliminated,” said Greg Palmer, Director of Marketing at National Nail's CAMO Edge Fastening. “This can add to deck life because moisture is not seeping into those cracks and splits, causing accelerated degradation.” He adds that the company has also expanded its warranty to cover the deck boards, as well as the screws. “Edge fastening works great for composite, PVC and all types of wood decks and creates a safer, fastener-free surface.”

Exterior cladding that resists moisture

When searching for alternative exterior products that have beauty and curb appeal, make sure they repel moisture, especially near the foundation or near the gutters at the roof line. It is now possible to have the look of rich wood cedar shake or a variety of stone looks to cover foundations or to upgrade the ugly space under decks. New technology enables polymers to actually be stained or finished to be indistinguishable from the real thing. “There are new levels of realism in shakes that resemble true cedar,” said Ralph Bruno, president, Tando Building Products. “Beach House Shake" by Tando is an example of this superb realism — it installs easily and is impervious to moisture with little to no upkeep.” He adds that homeowners can keep moisture at bay and have luxurious exteriors without sacrificing beauty.

Protect your home in every season

As if heavy spring rains and winter’s melt-off didn’t threaten homeowners' properties enough, the hurricane season is expected to be more erratic than in years past — with a predicted early start and activity right into late fall. Thankfully, there are new, affordable technologies to quickly remove standing water from homeowners’ properties, keeping it away from their foundations. “Having both dependable sump pumps and multi-use pumps are the first lines of defense against storm damage,” said Jeremy Cantor, VP of Marketing for WAYNE Pumps. “One example is the innovative WaterBUG Submersible Water Removal Pump, which can remove large volumes of standing water quickly and easily from flat grassy yards, basement floors, and even tight spaces like window wells because it has both top and side water flow.” He emphasizes that having reliable multi-use and sump pumps in your home can save thousands of dollars in property damage and basement repairs.

Seal it or patch it to keep water out

Water damage doesn’t have to happen, and by having the right caulks, sealants and hand tools, homeowners can easily do the job themselves and save on contractor costs. And, if moisture gets ahead of you, there are ways to repair the damage and prevent it from happening in the future. After winter, check windows, under door frames, gutter lines, concrete and other vulnerable areas that need sealing or patching. Very often, the simple act of sealing these areas with the right type of caulk can make a big difference in keeping out moisture. “One of the most popular sealants on the market is LIFETIME Ultra, which is a perfect solution for outdoor fix-ups after winter’s damage,” said Alan Crupper, VP of Marketing, Red Devil, Inc. He added that premium acrylics like this work very well and are paintable, unlike silicones. “You need a caulk that has a tight seal, won’t sag or crack no matter the temperature and especially for outdoors, one that adheres well to any surface.”

No matter the season, moisture can put your home and valuables at risk, so don’t delay in taking preventative action or repairing damage where it starts. With innovative new technologies on the market, you can easily protect your home from nature’s wrath.



5 fabulous deck fix-ups

8/17/2017

(BPT) - Are you tired of having a deck you’re no longer proud to show off? You’re not alone. According to the 2017 U.S. Houzz Landscape Trends Study, one of the top reasons motivating homeowners to tackle outdoor projects like deck upgrades is their open-air space is past its prime.

If you’re like surveyed respondents and ready to return your fixer-upper to its former glory, the process may seem daunting. Fortunately, a little inspiration is all you need to transform your deck into a backyard beauty. With these fabulous fix-ups, your deck will be re-energized in no time.

1. Refresh your color palette

One of the easiest ways to transform a ho-hum deck into a stylish oasis is an updated color palette. Refreshing the look of outdoor accessories and furnishings is a simple and cost-effective solution. MidwestLiving.com says, “Focusing on one or two colors adds a unifying feel to your décor. Punchy blue and green furnishings brighten the deck while not distracting from the view.” You can even swap out fabrics, accent pillows and cushions as the seasons change to keep your outdoor room looking fresh all year long.

If you’re increasing the size of your deck, consider choosing decking in a color that complements your home. It will help ease the visual transition from indoors to out and create a beautiful base for planters and deck furnishings. If you are looking to make a statement, consider varying the color of deck boards, inserting feature strips or using contrasting railings to frame your outdoor room.

2. Landscape your deck-escape

To create a deck-escape that draws guests in, integrate landscaping into your design. Start small by lining your deck with planters, curving flowerbeds and grasses. A punchy mix of seasonal annuals and perennials will help encourage visitors to explore your outdoor living space. Or, go a step further and use today’s versatile, moisture-resistant composite decking products to turn your deck into an extension of your garden. With proper installation, the boards can easily curve around trees or flower beds to blend your deck into its natural surroundings.

3. Provide pretty privacy

There’s no reason to give up style and comfort on your deck just because you want privacy, especially if your neighbors are within close quarters. Trellises, lattices and vertical gardens can screen an exposed view and freshen up your outdoor room. Nature can also act as a beautiful barrier. Slender evergreens like arborvitae can establish a relaxed sense of privacy and create a soft, lush backdrop. You can even add different shade-providing trees near your deck, creating a secluded space with a more intimate feel.

4. Build a beautiful addition

If your outdoor room is limiting the number of guests you can entertain, a new deck addition may be just the right fix. You’ll gain extra square feet and valuable space for themed outdoor areas. Try bumping your deck out on one side to make a basic square deck more interesting and gain room for an al fresco dining area or a spa-themed deck nook with a hot tub. With the right decking materials, you can even add a meandering garden path deck or curved getaway encircling a water feature.

“Composite decking with a plastic and wood blend throughout the board like ChoiceDek can be ripped, routed and bent to fit nearly any deck design,” says Randy Gottlieb, president of A.E.R.T. “The boards are easier to curve than capped composites and traditional wood planks. They give homeowners a lot more design flexibility at an affordable price point.”

5. Create on-deck destinations

To give your outdoor room a lasting edge, create on-deck destination areas that go beyond eating and socializing. Love gardening? Build a vertical garden or use extra deck boards to create planter boxes that allow you to pass on your “green thumb” to your children. If you’re a DIYer, use complementary decking to create a corn hole set for birthday parties and gatherings. With a spark of inspiration, the possibilities for reinventing your outdoor space are virtually endless.



Practical meets pretty: Fresh herbs at your fingertips, even in autumn

8/16/2017

(BPT) - The end of summer doesn’t have to mean the end of your gardening enjoyment, even if you don’t have the time or climate for a full plot of food plants. Herbs are perfect fall crops; they are prolific growers, can satisfy your desire for fresh, garden-grown greens and are one of the easiest ways to elevate your recipes from so-so to so good! Plus, they’re ready to harvest and growing your own will make a dent in your grocery bill.

The fall gardening experts at Bonnie Plants offer some gardening guidance for planting herbs this fall:

Getting started

Multiple factors will influence your choice of herbs, including fall temperatures, where you live, and your taste in seasonings.

If you decide to plant outdoors, it’s important to know when to expect the first hard frost. You can find the estimated first frost date in your area by checking out Bonnie’s online frost map.

You’ll want to choose herbs that like cooler weather, such as parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, mint, chives, lavender and oregano. They’re all prolific producers and some, like mint and rosemary, are especially easy to grow. Availability of Bonnie’s fall varieties is limited to specific regions, so check your local garden retailers.

Pick a place

You may envision pots full of leafy, green herbs sitting on a sunny windowsill, while colorful autumn leaves, or even snow, fall outside. However, windowsills aren’t always a best bet for indoor herbs, especially if your windows are drafty or the herbs brush the cold glass.

Herbs need at least four to six hours of natural light per day to grow indoors, so choose a sunny spot near a window where they’ll be protected from drafts and cold. South- and southwest-facing windows will give you the most natural light throughout the day. Windows facing north won’t provide enough sunlight.

Picking the right pots

If you really love rosemary, you may be tempted to try to plant the largest pot appropriate for your kitchen, but stick with manageable-sized pots that will fit better indoors, allow you to keep your herbs more organized, and still produce plenty of yield. Be sure to choose pots that have good drainage and always use a premium potting mix.

Caring for container herbs

Any type of plant growing in a pot needs water, and herbs are no exception. You’ll need to keep a close eye on your herb plants’ watering needs. Remember, dry topsoil is not an indication plants need water. A quick and easy test is to stick your finger, or a pencil, into the soil right where the stem enters the soil. If the soil is moist at 1.5 to 2 inches deep, do not water. If dry, it’s time to water! Always water in the morning, at soil level and avoid watering the leaves, as bacteria can breed in cool, wet, damp and dark conditions, like night time.

Fertilize your food plants. Water is an obvious must, but irrigation can wash nutrients out of the soil. Plus, some potting mixes only have a short-term supply of fertilizer while others are slow-release. Read the label on your premium potting soil mix and follow the brand’s recommendations for fertilizing frequency. Timed-release granular fertilizer or a plant food you mix with water will help keep herbs nourished. Remember food plants are hungry!

Best bets on basil

Although basil is the most popular herb, it can sometimes struggle growing indoors. Start off growing it outdoors on a sunny deck. Be sure to continually pinch-off the prolific leaf growth, which encourages more growth and harvest, until the weather turns cool, then bring the pot indoors. Harvested leaves can be continually dried, although freezing does a better job of preserving the herb’s flavor. Tip: Try using old ice-cube trays, inserting basil leaves in cells, filling with water and freezing. When weather gets cold, you can easily pop your “basil ice-cubes” in recipes throughout the cold weather season. Basil is also tasty in some drinks, like lemonade and tea.

While clipping sprigs when cooking is a great way to harness the freshness of any herb, you can also store them and they’ll maintain their flavor. Preserving by drying and freezing aren’t your only options; try adding herbs as seasoning to cooking oils.

Whether you’re an expert gardener or a first-time fall grower, autumn is the perfect time to fall in love with the freshness, flavor and ease of herb gardening. You’ve still got time to get growing!



Enjoy the latest trend in swimming pools

8/14/2017

(BPT) - It was supposed to be a community swimming pool, but many people stayed away because they couldn't tolerate the biting, nose-curdling odor of chlorine. Others experienced breathing and skin problems.

So the Evergreen Commons senior center in Holland, Michigan, converted its 65,000-gallon chlorine pool into a saltwater pool. People who had stayed away are now coming back, getting exercise and therapy, while socializing with others.

The senior center is hardly alone. Across the country, traditional chlorine pools are being converted into saltwater pools, sometimes called saline pools.

Swimmers noticed the difference right away after the switch, making their pool experience much more enjoyable. The new system also meant softer water without harsh chemicals that sometimes required a shower to wash off.

Homeowners and pool managers have many motivations for converting pools from chlorine to salt, including:

* Simplified, more convenient maintenance. Saltwater pool owners don't have to buy, transport, store and handle hazardous chlorine chemicals. This saves time and money.

* Water that's gentle on skin, eyes, nose and hair. Saltwater pools have approximately one-tenth the salinity of ocean water and about one-third the salinity of human tears, with no unpleasant chlorine smell.

* A more environmentally friendly approach. Routine pool maintenance doesn't involve the handling and storage of manufactured chlorine and lessens the need for other potentially hazardous chemicals.

How do they work?

Saltwater pools use a generator to convert the salt into mild chlorine that keeps the pool free of harmful bacteria. This chlorine is added to the water at a constant rate, displacing the bad smell and burning irritation we normally associate with chlorine and maintaining the right amount. Once the chlorine sanitizes the pool it converts back to salt. The process continues, over and over again, conserving the salt and keeping sanitizer levels balanced.

The technology for a saltwater pool was first developed in Australia in the 1960s and today more than 80 percent of all pools Down Under use this system. In the United States, saltwater pools first began to see use in the 1980s and have grown exponentially in popularity. According to data published in Pool & Spa News, today there are more than 1.4 million saltwater pools in operation nationwide and an estimated 75 percent of all new in-ground pools are saltwater, compared with only 15 percent in 2002.

The other good news for homeowners and pool managers is that pool salt is far cheaper than traditional chlorine. This is a big reason why so many hotels and water parks in the United States have already made the switch. The initial construction and installation of an electrolytic converter is very small and easily made up in maintenance savings. Even converting an existing chlorine pool to saltwater pool can pay off quickly.



5 ways to stop mosquitoes from bugging you this season

8/11/2017

(BPT) - Ask people what they love about the warm weather months and you’ll get a variety of answers. They love the sun, the warmth, camping, picnicking, boating and just being outside with family and friends. However, if you ask them what they like least about being outdoors during the warm weather months, the answer is simple — mosquitoes.

Everyone is familiar with the buzzing of a mosquito by their ear or the itchy sensation that accompanies a mosquito bite. However, concern regarding mosquitoes has grown in recent years as these insects are capable of transmitting potentially serious diseases to humans, including the West Nile virus and Zika virus.

Follow these tips from the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) to reduce biting mosquitoes around your property:

* Ditch that standing water. A small puddle of water or a child’s toy filled with rainwater may seem insignificant to you, but it is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. Eliminate stagnant water areas — including emptying the water out of clogged gutters, flower pots, bird baths and children's pools — and you deny mosquitoes a place to lay their eggs. Don't ignore even the smallest water collection as mosquitoes can breed in as little as a 1/2 inch of water — that’s about the size of a bottle cap.

* Protect the indoors. Adding screens to your windows and doors allows you to welcome warm, fresh air into your home without letting mosquitoes in as well. Carefully inspect existing screens and repair any holes using a patch kit.

* Minimize outdoor activity at peak times. Mosquito species are most active at dawn and dusk, so try to remain indoors during these periods. Plan indoor activities for these times and save your outdoor fun for time periods when mosquitoes are less active. However, the Aedes species responsible for transmitting the Zika virus is a daytime biter, so protective measures should be taken when spending time outdoors as well.

* Double your protection. When you are outside, double your protection by wearing long clothing and properly applying insect repellent. Long clothing that is loose fitting will make it harder for mosquitoes to bite. Also, use a repellent that contains at least 20 percent of either DEET, picaridin or IR3535, or at least 30 percent lemon eucalyptus oil. Apply over top of sunscreen and according to the product label.

* Contact the experts. If you’ve tried all of the tips above and your mosquito problem is still a concern, it may be time to hire a professional. A pest control expert can help you rid your property of mosquitoes and pinpoint those hidden breeding grounds. Visit pestworld.org today to find a pest control professional in your area and to find more tips on how you can prevent pest problems in and around your home.



5 tips to make the most of your outdoor space

8/9/2017

(BPT) - A beautiful, sunny day is one of the best parts of the season and when you have one, you simply have to be outside. When you step outdoors, where do you go? To the park? The lake? A friend's home?

How often do you stay home and enjoy a beautiful day in your own outdoor space?

If your answer is not often or never, it’s time to create your own home field advantage. With just a few simple improvements you can make even the smallest outdoor space feel comfortable and welcoming to you and your guests. Start with these five projects and you’ll make your own yard the place to be when the weather turns beautiful.

* Replace the cement with a raised deck. That old cement patio or walkway in your backyard may be unsightly and uninviting, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can make that space much more appealing by replacing it with a raised cedar deck. Easy to build and affordable as well, installing a raised cedar deck to your outdoor space makes the entire area more inviting without taking up any additional space. Cedar is also naturally resistant to rot, decay and insects, and it is cool underfoot, making it the perfect decking solution for your newly improved outdoor living space.

* Light smart. Your current outdoor space may have only a single light or it may have no light at all, making it impossible to use at night. To make the space more welcoming, add string lights or uplighting to your outdoor area. These lights are available in a wide array of styles to match your personality and they take up very little space, allowing you to create the perfect — well lit — environment you’re looking for.

* Focus on furniture. If finding the right furniture to fit your space has been difficult, consider making your own instead. Building a customized bench or sectional from Western Red Cedar is easier than you think and it allows you to build your furniture to meet the design requirements of your space. Plus, Western Red Cedar is pitch and resin free so it accepts and holds a wide range of finishes to match your style choice. You can even add built-in storage to your bench or furniture design for more space-saving solutions. To find building plans for this and other Western Red Cedar projects, visit www.realcedar.com.

* Place a plant or two. The right plant could provide just the pop of color your outdoor space needs. Herb gardens, hostas, even a pot of flowers all up the scenic appeal of your outdoor area. If space is a concern and you have a pergola structure, hanging plant baskets is a great option, so you can enjoy their beauty from above.

* Play a zone strategy. When space is at a premium, you need to utilize every inch. To do this, segment your outdoor space into defined zones such as cooking, relaxing and eating areas. You can then further define these zones by adding the perfect finishing touches to each like a barbecue enclosure for your cooking area and a pergola over your dining table. Each of these DIY projects is a worthy addition to your outdoor space and will make it the area you can't wait to enjoy every time you step outside.



Forward-thinking yard projects to tackle as the weather cools off this fall

8/8/2017

(BPT) - The temperature may not have dropped just yet, but make no mistake, fall is coming. Soon enough, baseball will give way to football, green leaves will turn yellow and red and your lawn care routine will take on a whole new set of tasks. Fall lawn care isn’t the long marathon of the summer yard season, but it packs plenty of work into a few short months before the winter. You can make this lawn care blitz a little bit easier by applying the following tips.

* Stimulate your lawn. While your grass may no longer need its weekly mowing in the fall, you can’t ignore it until spring. Look for brown, tan or white patches on your lawn, as this can be a sign of mold growth. Apply a lawn fungicide to halt this growth and an organic fertilizer to stop its spread and support future root growth.

* Blow those leaves away. Raking leaves can be a Herculean task, so simplify the process by investing in a lithium-ion blower. The Greenworks 60-volt Backpack Blower is a heavy-duty solution perfect for homeowners with a quarter to three-quarters of an acre to cover. And for yard-lovers that prefer a handheld blower, Greenworks has you covered there too! Both solutions are lightweight and reduce noise while eliminating emissions, and because they're battery powered, you don’t have to bother with mixing gas and oil.

* Seed and sod. If you do notice patches of dead grass in your yard — a common occurrence if fallen leaves have not been blown away — don’t wait until spring to address the issue. Over-seeding the area can rectify the problem if the spaces are small. If your lawn has significant portions that have died, it may be time to look into sodding options instead for more comprehensive coverage.

* A fresh spray clean. A season’s worth of wind and rain can leave the sides of your home looking pretty dingy. Fall cleanup is the perfect time to give your home a reset by spraying down your siding, decks, and patios. Greenworks 2200 PSI Electric Pressure Washer is an environmentally friendly gas-alternative solution with five nozzles that allow you to adjust the tool’s water pressure based on the task at hand. The pressure washer is also designed with Smart Response Technology to adjust motor RPMs as nozzles are changed, ensuring the perfect water flow for every job — and the on board LED display guides you to the best job for each nozzle, letting you clean your home in a smart, efficient way.

* A hole in the ground supports future growth. Fall is arguably the best time of year to aerate your yard, allowing water, oxygen and fertilizer to more easily reach the root structure of your grass. Self-propelled aerators are relatively inexpensive, and you can also rent one if you plan to make this a once-a-year chore. Whatever you decide, tackling this chore now will allow your lawn to grow back thicker and fuller next year when it will be time to start thinking about spring lawn care once again.



Turn your basic backyard into an outdoor oasis

7/28/2017

(BPT) - Summer’s in full swing, but are you truly making the most of it? Creating a vibrant outdoor space can expand the living area of your home, while providing a unique venue for entertaining or relaxation, allowing you to enjoy every free moment to the fullest.

From the ultimate sports bar to a zen paradise, the outdoor design possibilities are endless and can be customized to meet your priorities, be it entertaining friends and family or creating the perfect tranquil retreat. As a leader in home comfort for nearly 40 years, Napoleon has extensive expertise in designing products and environments that help create memorable moments that last a lifetime. The company recently enlisted a third-party research firm to help examine the connection people have to different areas of their home and outdoor spaces, and how the design of those spaces can have a direct impact on emotions.

“The research shows the most-loved areas of the home combine relaxation, socialization and functionality,” said Stephen Schroeter, Napoleon’s senior vice president of sales and marketing. “Outdoor spaces provide a great opportunity to accommodate all three, yet they are still vastly underutilized by most homeowners.”

Following are Schroeter’s top tips for creating the outdoor oasis of your dreams:

1. Add an outdoor kitchen — Outdoor kitchens are growing in popularity, and for good reason. Not only do they meet a basic need, but they do so in a fun, engaging atmosphere. No one wants to be stuck inside preparing a meal when the party is out under the sun — or stars. The showpiece of every great outdoor kitchen is a quality, professional grill, which can be freestanding, or built-in to save on space. Napoleon’s Prestige PRO Series grills are packed with features for professional-level grilling right in your own backyard. Innovative products like the OASIS Outdoor Kitchen allow you to personalize your outdoor area with a cooking and storage solution that fits your space and your budget. Other culinary considerations include outdoor refrigerators or beer dispensers to keep beverages cold and flowing freely, pizza ovens and sinks for easy clean-up.

2. Establish a gathering place — One of the most important features of an outdoor space are areas for socialization. A central location with a variety of seating options creates a welcoming atmosphere. Adding the element of fire to a space sparks emotion, provides a focal point, and enables the space to be used later into the season. Consider a built-in fireplace or a fire pit that can be moved to different locations depending on your needs.

3. Create privacy, divided zones — Escape the hustle and bustle while making your space feel more intimate with the use of barriers like large plants or trees, a pergola, or privacy panels. Designing distinct spaces with divided zones helps create the feel of a secluded getaway and gives each area purpose.

4. Design for all the senses — Our favorite spaces are those that delight all the senses. In addition to designing a comfortable, beautiful space, consider adding outdoor speakers for music that sets the mood, or a water feature that eliminates street noise. Relax and enjoy the delicious smell of grilling or the experience of roasting marshmallows over an open flame. Consider adding fragrant bushes to fill the night with a sweet scent. Get creative.

5. Add accents — Small touches can go a long way. Personalize your space with items that define your style and personality or focus on a fun theme. Don’t be afraid to add bold pops of color — your outdoor living area is a great place to explore a more adventurous design than you might consider inside your home.

It’s never too late to transform your backyard into a welcoming oasis. For more outdoor design ideas, visit http://napoleonfireplaces.com/inspiration/outdoor-spaces.



Take precautions in the heat - lifesaving tips

7/21/2017

(BPT) - From tornadoes and floods to hail and lightning storms, the United States experiences a broad array of extreme weather. Fatalities do occur, but many people are surprised to learn that the weather event that causes the greatest number of deaths is heat.

According to the National Weather Service, heat causes the greatest number of weather-related fatalities each year. In fact, an average of 130 people a year lost their lives as a result of heat from 1986-2015. This is a higher number than all other weather events, including hurricanes.

From coast to coast, many regions are experiencing heat waves and extreme temperatures this summer. The toll the heat can take on the body should not be underestimated. It's important to take precautions to ensure safety in the heat when exercising, entertaining or working outdoors or in non-air-conditioned areas like the garage.

Hydration: The top tip for giving your body the power to beat the heat is to stay hydrated. You need water to sweat, which cools the body. When sweat evaporates, it cools the air around the skin so you can maintain a comfortable body temperature. Be certain to avoid sugar or caffeinated drinks, as they are not as effective as plain old H2O.

Rest: Whether at work or play, be sure to take breaks from the heat. Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, both of which are dangerous conditions caused by too much time in hot temperatures. Frequent breaks from strenuous activity allow the body to rest and cool down.

Shade: High temperatures paired with the UV rays of the sun can be a dangerous combination. If you must spend time outdoors, try to do so in the shade. Shaded surfaces, for example, may be 20–45 degrees cooler than the peak temperatures of unshaded surfaces, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Cooling: While air conditioning is not an option for open areas like the patio, deck or garage, consider achieving cooling in these spaces with a portable evaporative cooler. Using the ambient air and the natural process of evaporation, these coolers produce chilled air to create a comfortably cool environment. Portacool portable evaporative coolers offer a variety of sizes to accommodate spaces from 1,000 to 6,000 square feet. They operate with a standard 110-V, are energy-efficient and are equipped with heavy-duty castors for easy mobility.

Clothing: Loose-fitting clothing made from lightweight materials can help keep your body cool during hot temperatures while shielding you from sunburn. This type of clothing can breathe, meaning that air can easily circulate to your body and keep you cool. Be selective when it comes to colors. Choosing light-colored attire is wise because it can reflect heat more efficiently than darker tones.

Peak hours: While it's not always possible, it's wise to avoid being outdoors during peak heat periods of the day. This is typically noon to 5 p.m. So if you must work in your garage or plan to exercise outdoors, start early in the morning. Consider planning family cookouts for later in the evening when the sun lowers and temperatures start to drop.



Transform your backyard with these 3 elements

7/19/2017

(BPT) - It’s amazing to contemplate that all the famous paintings in history — from da Vinci’s Mona Lisa to van Gogh’s Starry Night — are essentially formed from three primary colors. Artists skillfully combine red, yellow and blue to formulate an infinite range of colors to bring their paintings to life.

Likewise, when creating your own outdoor living space, you can combine three basic elements — decking, railing and lighting — in nearly endless ways to "paint" a personal masterpiece of fun and relaxation.

1. Get decked out with modern decking

For decades, backyard decks mainly have been rectangles. This is largely because of the rectangular shape of traditional wood deck boards. With the advent of modern materials, it is now easier to fashion decks of virtually any shape — from curved sections following the contours of a sloping yard to round decks. Or, let your imagination run wild and create a specialty shaped deck of something you love, like a giant guitar or stacked leaves.

“Today’s decking options offer exceptional design flexibility,” says Brent Gwatney, senior vice president of MoistureShield Decking. “Composites, in particular, are more easily bent into creative shapes than wood decking, and can be ripped and routed to form virtually any design you can think of.” DIYers and deck builders can even install moisture-resistant boards in the ground or under water for more design possibilities, notes Gwatney.

2. Rail against the ordinary

Many decks are required by law to have safety railings. But, with some creativity, the railing can enhance your deck’s look even as it prevents falls. With the variety of products now available, the railing can be a visual complement to your home and deck. For example, if you have a cabin, you could install hewn timber posts and railings for a rustic appeal. For a waterfront home, a nautical-themed railing system of posts and ropes could do the trick. Or, if you have a modern home and prefer simple visual lines, cable-and-wire railings or glass panels could be your style.

For a distinctive look for your deck, consider mixing colors and materials, like combining white aluminum railing and balusters with rich brown composite posts to create a dramatic look. Or, to add a sophisticated mix of texture and color, you can install on the top of a black or white railing a composite board that complements the decking color.

3. Light up the night

A third element to add to your outdoor living design palette is deck lighting. With the right lighting, you can extend your hours outside and keep your deck as charming in the nighttime as it is during the day.

From subtle post lights that cast a magical evening glow to understated recessed lights and rail strip lights that help guide guests’ steps, today’s deck lighting choices are both functional and affordable. And, with the emergence of energy-efficient LEDs, you can use them liberally with little effect on your monthly electricity bill. Some decking manufacturers like MoistureShield offer deck lights specifically designed to integrate with their decking and railing.



5 ways to keep your cottage comfortable this summer

7/12/2017

(BPT) - Although it’s officially summer, the fluctuations in temperatures, sporadic downpours and tornado-inciting weather would make you think otherwise. While many of us take the opportunity to hit the beach, lake or ranch during the summer for some rest and relaxation, cottage home improvements are often the furthest thing from our mind.

More often than not, cottages aren’t built to last as long as homes, because they are used only for a short time of the year. Yet, with newly changing weather patterns and humidity affecting the structure of a cottage home, homeowners can seek ways to keep their cottages comfortable well after summer has ended and the crowds of day-trippers have left.

Extending the usability of your summer home can also increase its market value, should you ever decide to sell. If you’re unfamiliar with how exactly to go about improving your summer home’s comfort, here are five quick tips to get you started:

* Plant shade-giving trees and shrubs to reduce how much heat your cottage absorbs from direct sunlight. Not only will these plants add ambiance and character, but they will help contribute to keeping the cottage cooler.

* Consider upgrading your cottage’s small and large appliances to ENERGY STAR-rated appliances that can run on very low energy during the low season.

* Consider having an independent contractor perform a home energy audit, to determine where your home could improve its energy efficiency. This is obviously the most straightforward approach, and the one that will give you the most tangible objectives to aim for moving forward.

* Take advantage of local tax incentives to upgrade your cottage to be more energy efficient.

* Replace your home’s existing insulation with a high-performance spray foam insulation like Icynene, which can help to reduce air leakage, thereby reducing the amount of work your HVAC unit has to do to keep your home heated or cooled.

Air leakage forces your air conditioner unit to work overtime to cool the warm air that enters your home through leaks, increasing energy usage and increasing your utility bill at the end of the month.

Spray foam insulation is a wise investment for cottage owners who want to make energy-efficient improvements and extend the livability of the cottage beyond just summer. Able to perform in all climates, spray foam insulation allows homeowners to adjust air conditioning use throughout summer and their furnaces during winter. This modern insulation material helps effectively control a cottage’s indoor environment, letting you and your family stay cool all summer long while also helping to minimize the entry of pollen and allergens that enter the space, making it ideal for allergy sufferers.

An energy-efficient and modern investment, spray foam insulation expands rapidly to completely seal a cottage’s walls, floors and ceilings to prevent air leakage. Experts note that insulation can noticeably reduce monthly cooling and heating costs due to its ability to seal the home, a great bonus when considering that cottages and summer homes are typically only used for a limited period of time. More information on how spray foam insulation can help homeowners minimize air leakage and transform their city home or their summer home into an energy-efficient one is available online at www.icynene.com.



Transform your home in a weekend with these DIY projects

7/11/2017

(BPT) - Summertime isn’t just for vacations or weekends at the cabin. Summer weekends — with longer days — are ideal opportunities for quick and inexpensive DIY projects that make a big statement around the home.

The average American homeowner spent nearly $3,000 on home improvements in 2015, according to a Statista report. The following list of affordable projects can be achieved for a fraction of that cost.

Create wood accents

Use flooring to make headboards and accent walls. Retailers like Lumber Liquidators offer a variety of styles of flooring such as laminates, engineered, vinyl, click ceramic plank and more, and these flooring materials can easily be incorporated into many accent features. The flooring material can be affixed to walls and other surfaces with a special acrylic flooring tape. Flooring comes in a variety of styles, which can also be cut into striking patterns like chevron or herringbone.

Install butcher block countertops

Butcher block is a warm and rustic countertop style that’s affordable and increasingly popular. Made from strips of wood bonded together, it can be sliced and chopped on directly — a great option for the minimalist homeowner. Installation is DIY-friendly, making butcher block an ideal weekend project with a good step-by-step tutorial in hand.

Build a trellis

Building a garden trellis is a great way to draw more attention to what your green thumb has created. Dedicate Friday to sizing the trellis and cutting and framing the pieces, Saturday to building the panels and assembling and Sunday for digging the holes and setting the trellis into place. Tailor to what’s best for your backyard by building out of wood, bamboo or PVC pipe.

Repurposed planters

When gardening outside isn’t an option, bring the garden inside by making unique planter boxes. A DIY planter box is typically more affordable than store-bought, and the design possibilities are endless. Reuse vessels like shipping crates, Mason jars and tin boxes. Personalize them with colors and patterns to match your interior and inject personality and life into your space.

Add crown molding

Crown molding adds distinguished curves and angles to a ceiling, instantly elevating a room to a polished and sophisticated look. DIY crown molding does require attention to detail when measuring and marking the wall and cutting pieces, so measure twice to cut once.

These are just a few of the weekend-ready projects homeowners can knock out this summer to bring new life to spaces indoors and out. A weekend DIY project is a minimal time investment that not only creates a sense of accomplishment, but adds value to your home.



5 affordable weekend DIY projects that completely recreate your home

6/30/2017

(BPT) - The cold months of winter have a batten-down-the-hatches feel to them, don't they? Fortunately, they're over. Now that summer is here, you want to spread out, bask in the beautiful weather and finally tackle those home improvement projects you were eyeing during those colder months.

Now is the perfect time to make a big impact on your home, and you can do so without spending a lot. Below are five do-it-yourself projects you can tackle in a single weekend, and each will still leave you enough money in your budget to enjoy everything else summer has to offer.

* Freshen up your landscaping. Your home’s outdoor appearance gets a pass during the winter, but in the summer the exterior of the house is all about curb appeal. That makes improving your landscaping a great place to start your summer projects, plus the work you do can be completely customizable to your budget. If you have some extra money, plant a tree or a bush. If your budget is tighter, opt for potted flowers. Even an activity like trimming around your trees and bushes or pulling weeds can have a big impact on the look of your home and it costs you nothing.

* An accent wall that truly accents. You’ve seen hundreds of DIY tips suggesting you add an accent wall to your home with a fresh coat of paint. However, to add an accent wall that goes above and beyond, replace the paint project with Charred Wood Shiplap from UFP-Edge instead. This wood, burnt through an ancient Japanese technique to highlight its beauty and character, then sealed with a satin finish, offers the perfect contrast to any room for an accent you'll relish every time you see it.

* Update your bathroom on your terms. A full bathroom remodel is hardly DIY, and you’re certainly not finishing it in one weekend. However, that doesn’t mean this room is completely off-limits when it comes to improvements. Instead, pick the project that matches your needs and your budget. Large-scale improvements could include replacing your outdated sink or toilet. You could go smaller and simply replace the hardware on the sink. This is also a great time to look at the smaller aspects of your bathroom and see if you want to replace your medicine chest, your towel rack or the handles on your cabinets.

* The perfect wrap for your kitchen or bar. The kitchen is a focal point in any home, so improvements made here tend to stand out. If you’re looking to improve your kitchen with an incredibly popular country look, you can add your island to the motif with a rustic wrap. UFP-Edge Rustic Collection is new lumber that has been distressed to provide that worn country charm. Rustic wood is available in shiplap siding and trim boards that allow you to create a wood project that supports your style in any size and any location. Start with a wrap for your kitchen or bar and see where your creativity takes you.

* Rethink your window treatments. Like your bathroom, a full-scale replacement of your window treatments can be pretty expensive. However, like your bathroom, you also have plenty of freedom to pick and choose your options here as well. If a favorite room feels too dark, replace the existing curtains with something light and airy. If you want the room to feel darker, install room-darkening shades. Spend your money and your time on the rooms that matter most to you and you won’t be disappointed.

These warm-weather months are the perfect time to make your home everything you want it to be, so invest your time in a little DIY. You, your home and your budget will all be better for it. To learn more about these accent wall materials available from UFP-Edge, visit UFP-Edge.com.