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Winterize Your Yard and Garden

September 23, 2013 1:09 am

As the days become shorter and the leaves begin to change color, now is the time to prepare your yard and garden for winter. There are a number of simple tasks that will not only protect plants and lawn from the cold, but will make for an easier spring.

"Tending to your lawn and garden in fall can ensure that it has every chance to develop through the colder months," says Heidi Ketvertis, director of marketing communications for a power tools manufacturing company. "Also, winterizing your equipment will make for a better spring start."

• Evaluate. Before you start your preparations, take a moment to review what worked and did not work in the garden over the past season and jot down notes in a garden journal so you remember a year or two from now. Fall is the best time to move plants because roots are given ample time to establish.

• Clean up. Removing leaves and debris reduces the likelihood of future problems since they can harbor pests and diseases. Using a leaf blower can save time and effort.

• Repair damage. Fall is the best time to reseed a lawn that's been damaged by summer heat. Top-dressing the seed with up to one-quarter inch compost or soil will help it take root.

• Don't put away the hose. Continue to water plants and lawns in the fall, as the rainfall tends to slow down. Plants need to stay hydrated to properly retreat to their winter states. However, as soon as freezing temperatures hit, make sure to drain garden hoses and store them in a sheltered place where they will not freeze and crack.

• Fertilize. Despite what many people might think, autumn – not spring – is the most crucial time to fertilize lawns and gardens. Renewing the mulch in flower beds, especially the top two or three inches, will protect many plants from harmful freezes.

• Go easy on pruning. Pruning promotes growth. It's important to prepare plants to go dormant during the winter rather than growing.

• Think spring. Some spring bulbs, such as crocus and grape hyacinth, should be planted in the fall. Larger bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, should be planted in the fall but won't bloom until spring. Many vegetable plants, like beets, broccoli and cabbage grow best in the winter.

• Cover plots. Covering a garden bed with burlap keeps weeds at bay. Another option is to plant a nitrogen-rich cover crop, like clover, which can be easily turned under when spring arrives.

• Tune-up tools. After completing all preparations, clean, oil and sharpen tools, and then store them in a dry place to prevent rusting.

• Winterize your power equipment. Make sure to drain the gas from your lawn mower and other gas-powered equipment after you've finished using them for the season to keep the engine running smoothly next year.

• Know when to stop. When frost is in the forecast or the temperature drops below 40 degrees consistently, usually around late October or November, it's time to close down the garden.

Although it may seem like a hassle, winterizing your garden will make for less work come springtime. Consider these practical ways that will protect and care for your yard and garden so they can survive the winter and thrive for seasons to come.

For more information, visit www.troybilt.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Are You Covered? Five Tips for Roof Replacement Projects

September 23, 2013 1:09 am

(BPT)—Summer storms are a reminder to make certain your roof is well-equipped to help provide protection from Mother Nature. Considering a roof replacement? Follow these tips for outstanding performance, increased curb appeal and enhanced comfort for your family.

1. Check the warning signs
One of the best ways to stay in front of a roof replacement is to look for small annoyances that could eventually turn into big problems. Do a thorough investigation, but remember to practice ladder safety. Look for discoloration, cracking, uneven surfaces, curled and missing shingles and stains on the underside of the roof deck when viewed from the attic and excessive amounts of granules in the gutter, which fall from shingles and expose the asphalt underneath. If any warning signs are evident, it's time to get in touch with a contractor to assess your roof's condition and discuss replacement.

2. Choose a complete roofing system
When most people think about roof replacements, they think shingles. While shingles add beauty and character to a home's exterior, it's important to understand that they're only the first line of defense in protecting your home from the elements. For true peace of mind, your roof should consist of high-quality shingles and underlayment products to help guard against severe weather outside, as well as ventilation products that balance airflow to control temperature and humidity inside.

"A high-performance roof needs to include components and layers that are specifically designed to work as one system for outstanding protection," says Carl Baca, director of strategic marketing for Owens Corning Roofing and Asphalt.

3. Select your contractor wisely
Finding a skilled and reputable professional who will be able to guide you through the roof replacement process from start to finish is key. It may seem like a difficult task, but it doesn't have to be. Begin by looking for preferred contractors on roofing manufacturers' websites. Ask trusted friends and neighbors for recommendations. Then, obtain quotes from multiple contractors and ask for references. Insist on someone who is in good standing with the Better Business Bureau, holds at least $1 million in general liability insurance and carries all required state and local licensing. The best contractor for the job will be specifically certified to install the roofing components you've selected and possess both a dedication to outstanding craftsmanship and knowledge of the latest industry standards and technologies.

4. Plan for the future
Replacing a roof can be a significant investment, so make sure it's protected with a strong warranty. If you've installed a roofing system, ask your contractor about adding on a warranty that covers the system of components.

5. Don't hesitate to insulate
While your roof is being replaced, consider adding another layer of protection to the top of your home. Ask your contractor to assess your insulation levels when he's in the attic inspecting the underside of your roof. When installed in an attic, loosefill insulation contributes to energy savings and helps control interior temperatures for a comfortable living environment. This could be a DIY project, but many contractors are specifically certified to install insulation - making it an easy add-on to your roofing project.

Source: www.OwensCorning.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Mortgage Rates Move Lower

September 20, 2013 12:03 am

Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates moving lower amid signs of a weakening economic recovery, which in part also prompted the Federal Reserve (Fed) to continue its bond buying program. Mortgage rates have increased more than one percentage point since early May when speculation about Fed tapering began.

Findings:

-30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.50 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending September 19, 2013, down from last week when it averaged 4.57 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.49 percent.

-15-year FRM this week averaged 3.54 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.59 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.77 percent.

-5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.11 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.22 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.76 percent.

-1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.65 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.67 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.61 percent.

"Mortgage rates drifted downwards this week amid signs of a weakening economic recovery. Retail sales rose 0.2 percent in August, which was nearly half of July's 0.4 percent increase. In addition, industrial production in August grew 0.4 percent, less than the market consensus forecast. And lastly, consumer sentiment fell for the second consecutive month in September to the lowest reading since April,” said Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Warm Up the Fall Season with Seasonal Paint Color and Decor Trends

September 20, 2013 12:03 am

Ace Hardware announced its top paint color and décor trends for fall 2013, chosen by Ace's panel of design experts. Nature-inspired color palettes and décor are trending this season to reflect the changing colors of the outdoors; rich shades of red, auburn and pumpkin paired with warm neutrals such as mocha and chocolate will be accented by deep jewel tones in shades of emerald, purple, deep pink and blue.
"Fall is the perfect time to paint and redecorate your home in order to get a head start on the busy holiday entertaining season," said Katie Reynolds, one of the design experts.

Based off of the season's most anticipated design trends, experts have selected the following colors for fall 2013:

Jewel tones, including emerald green, will continue to be popular this season. Ground these pops of color with neutral hues.

Equestrian palettes with warm hues will be on trend, especially when paired with brass, leather and wood décor accents.

Give the kitchen a quick makeover with a bold cabinet facelift. Try a rich shade of dark brown and add accents of red and pink for a touch of drama.

To give a room a rich, masculine feel, use shades of darker green and blue. Add gold accents in the form of a lamp or mirror to complement these darker shades.

Inspired by the beautiful fall colors in nature, shades of auburn are a great way to bring seasonal outdoor tones inside.

Once the colors are selected, the following fall décor tips are recommended to freshen up homes this season:

Look outdoors for inspiration -- nature-inspired graphic details will be a big trend. A faux bois design on an entry floor is a stunning, unique way to welcome guests into the home.

Kitchens are getting more cozy and rustic this season. After a run of modern countertops, handmade tiles and weathered flooring will regain popularity and offer a more timeless feel.

Use grayed out wood tones throughout the home to show off wood grain. These tones work well as flooring, dining tables or even smaller accent pieces for a distinct, on-trend look.

Natural elements such as branches or stones are becoming increasingly popular as unique art displays. Display a branch or stone on a bookcase for a designer touch.

Look for products that show some life this fall. Handmade accent tiles, vintage items, distressed wood flooring and reclaimed materials are very popular this season.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Can Certain Colors Make Kids Smarter?

September 20, 2013 12:03 am

Yes, it's true - certain paint colors can enhance learning. While parents may not have much control over the colors in their kids' classrooms, they can certainly make sure the study area in the home is conducive to learning. Dunn-Edwards, a supplier of low and Zero VOC paints, provides paint for thousands of schools and universities throughout the Southwest, often consulting on color.

"The best palette is a range of colors using lighter hues with deeper accents to provide a stimulating environment," explained Dunn-Edwards color expert Sara McLean. "For example, a softened, sage green paired with a pop of orange catches the eye without being overwhelming. Creating a monotone color scheme tends to not work for children, as the lack of color doesn't engage the senses." She points out that nature-based greens create an atmosphere of calm and restfulness, therefore, easier places to study and learn.

Productivity or creativity? Choose your paint color. Softened yellows are cheery and warm, and if not too bright, yellow can assist in productivity. Blues tend to be spa-like and restful, and reminders of oceans and tranquility; studies have shown that blue rooms assist in more creativity. Violets and softened lavenders also are shown to engage children in increasing their creative senses.

Young children tend to be attracted to warm, bright colors. "Parents and teachers can see that just by looking down the toy aisles and looking at the brighter toys for young age groups. As children age, they grow to an interest towards pastels in elementary school to brighter medium-cool colors in middle school," McLean points out. "In high school, darker colors are preferred and there is less preference for primary colors."

If parents have any input on colors in school rooms, opt for blues, greens, violet and turquoise.

"Classrooms should incorporate a variety of colors to reduce the monotony and increase mental acuity. Warm colors tend to make large spaces feel more intimate, while cool colors make smaller rooms appear larger. By moderating the use between warm and cool, a classroom environment can make a child feel engaged without feeling overly stimulated," she added.

Source: Dunn-Edwards

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Hard vs. Soft Water - What Do They Really Mean?

September 19, 2013 12:22 am

In a nutshell, hard water, which to one extent or another is most of the water that flows through our neighborhood pipes, is water that contains an appreciative amount of dissolved minerals. Soft water is treated water in which the only ion is sodium.

As rainwater falls, it is naturally soft. But as it makes its way through the ground and into our waterways, it picks up minerals like chalk and lime and a lot of calcium and magnesium.

Hard water is to blame for dingy looking clothes, dishes with spots and residue, and bathtubs with lots of film and soap scum. Because soap is less effective in hard water, it takes more soap and more shampoo to achieve acceptable results, and even appliances will work harder and use more energy in the process.

Most consumers prefer using soft water because chores can be performed more efficiently. Lather is rich and bubbly even when using a minimal amount of soap or shampoo. Glasses will sparkle, hair will look healthier, and the shower curtain will be scum-free.

Soft water users will also save money. In addition to saving on detergents and soaps, appliances have to work less hard, prolonging their productive lives, and energy bills are noticeably lower in households with soft water systems.

There is a downside to soft water in that it is not as healthy to drink. In the softening process, as minerals are removed, sodium content increases. Soft water not only tastes salty, but research shows the risk of cardiovascular disease is lowest where water has the most mineral content.

But the conundrum may be easily solved. Consumers may enjoy all the benefits of softened water while safeguarding their health by bringing bottled water into the home for drinking purposes – or by installing a reverse osmosis system, which may be installed under the kitchen sink for less than $500.

If you are on a municipal water system, the water supplier can tell you the hardness level of the water they deliver. If you have a private water supply, you can have the water tested for hardness. They can also help you evaluate the significance of the test results, so that you can make an informed decision about how – and where – to opt for softened water.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Little-Known Credit Card Perks

September 19, 2013 12:22 am

Many credit card users can be saving hundreds or even thousands of dollars by using their plastic and they may not even know it. Visiting your credit card's website is a good first step to finding out what benefits you may be missing out on, along with any rules and limitations you many need to know. Knowing these perks ahead of time can help you shop smarter and save big, especially during the holidays when you've got a full list of friends and family to buy for.

Here are three examples of credit-card benefits to look out for:

1. Extra product warranties. Some issuers automatically extend manufacturer warranties, usually up to a year - a great perk for expensive items that otherwise would be costly to replace. But it usually also applies to cheaper items that consumers may not know come with a warranty, such as eyeglasses or coffeemakers.

2. Coverage for damaged goods. A credit card with theft, damage, and loss coverage reimburses users for items purchased with it that are lost, stolen, or accidentally damaged within a stated time period, often 90 days. But some cards limit the number of times users can make a claim within a certain time period.

3. Rental-car coverage and travel insurance. Some credit-card issuers will cover any loss to a rental vehicle, up to certain limits. Some cards also offer trip cancellation, which covers losses if the user has to cancel plans, perhaps due to illness or injury. But check card issuers' rules about what doesn't qualify and how much can be recouped.

Source: ShopSmart

Published with permission from RISMedia.


After the Storm: Tips for Filing Insurance Claims

September 19, 2013 12:22 am

In the wake of a storm, homeowners may have questions about what damages are covered by insurance.

While each insurance policy differs, Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine offers the following examples of what is and is not covered in a typical homeowner's policy:
  • Flood damage. Standard homeowners and renters insurance does not cover flood damage. Flood coverage, however, is available in the form of a separate policy from the National Flood Insurance Program and takes 30 days to become effective. If your flooding was related to sewage backup, ask your insurance agent or carrier if an endorsement for sewer backup coverage was added to your homeowner's policy. If so, your losses may be covered if the water damage was caused by sewer lines backing up through your home's drain pipes.
  • Auto damage. If you have comprehensive coverage on your auto insurance policy, the damages sustained from flooding will be covered.
  • Power outages. Generally, there is no coverage for damage or a loss caused by a power outage if the source of the power outage did not occur on the insured premises. However, if the source of the power outage occurred on the insured premises, there is coverage.
  • Removal of trees and branches. The removal of downed trees and/or debris may be covered if there is damage to a covered structure or if state government declares the area where the damage occurred is a disaster area.
  • Additional living expenses. There may be an allowance for offsite housing until your home is repaired. Keep all your bills and payments made for offsite housing.
After you contact your insurance company, take pictures of the damage and log your expenses:
  • Do not throw away your damaged property and do not make any permanent repairs. Your claim could be denied if the insurance company or adjuster is unable to see the extent of the damage to your property. If you do make permanent repairs before the adjuster has seen the damage, your claim could be denied.
  • Be wary of anyone who knocks at your door and offers to do your home repairs. Natural disasters can be a magnet for scam artists.
  • Know your options when working with a property claims adjuster. You have the option of working with a company-appointed adjuster or you may choose to use a public adjuster to assist you in filing your claim. Be aware that public adjusters will charge a fee for their services.
  • Be sure you are working with a reputable, dependable contractor. Make sure your home-improvement contractors are licensed.
Source: Pennsylvania Department of Insurance

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Clever Storage for Kids' Rooms

September 18, 2013 12:36 am

(Family Features) To many parents, the process of keeping kids’ rooms clean never seems to end. And while a kid’s room may never look quite like the perfect rooms in magazines, a few clever solutions can make it easier to get – and keep – toys, books and clothes more organized.

Think Vertical
If your child’s room is small or doesn’t have a lot of built in storage, vertical storage may be helpful.
• Add wall hooks or a peg rack at a height your child can reach and hang up sweaters, pajamas, jackets and book bags.
• Tiered organizers that hang from a closet rod can hold small stuffed animals, clothing items, or shoes.
• Wall hangers with pockets can be hung on the back of a door to hold shoes, small toys and craft supplies.

Boxes, Baskets and Bins, Oh My

Use containers to keep toys and other items sorted and make it easy to put away. Label the outside with words or pictures to help your child know exactly where to put things.
• Home Bento boxes have internal flex dividers, which let you divide up the space within the box however you need it. Use them for small clothing items, craft supplies, small toys and games. They stack on top of each other, making it easy to maximize shelf space.
• Baskets are lightweight and often have handles, so it’s easy for a child to take them off the shelf and put them back. Basket liners let you coordinate the look to match your child’s room.
• Plastic storage bins can hold larger toys and play sets, off-season clothing and shoes. You can find bins to fit on shelves and under the bed, as well.

Make it Fun
There’s no reason something as pragmatic as storage can’t be fun, too.
• Keep pens, pencils and markers together in a plastic paint can or flower pot the kids have decorated.
• Place Velcro strips on toys and on playroom walls. Kids will enjoy sticking their toys to the wall, and you’ll enjoy a cleaner play space.
• Get an unpainted wooden crate from Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft stores, and paint, stain or decoupage it with whimsical colors and designs.

Source: Joann Fabric and Craft Stores

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Choosing the Best Mattress for You

September 18, 2013 12:36 am

Health experts agree the average mattress should be replaced after 10-15 years. But traditional mattress types have given way to new breeds. If you are in the market for a new mattress, which type is best for you?

“The only way to choose the right mattress is to lie on it for at least 20 minutes,” said Omaha mattress store manager Joe Paginolo. “Don’t let anyone rush you. Get comfy in the position you usually sleep in—and try it out for at least that long.”

Paginolo points out some of the pros and cons of four basic mattress types:

Innerspring
• Pros: They range in firmness, price and fluffiness of the pillow top to satisfy nearly everyone’s preference and budget.
• Cons – The cheapest may not have enough springs and cushioning to offer proper support. Be sure the mattress you choose has at least 390 coils. Firmer versions are best for the overweight and people with chronic back pain.

Memory foam
• Pros: By molding to the shape of your body as your weight shifts through the night, memory foam reduces pressure points and relieves pain. Memory foam also absorbs movement, so if you sleep with a partner, you're not likely to be disturbed by his tossing and turning.
• Cons - Because they are temperature sensitive, they soften and mold with body heat, so they can make you feel hot during the night. Also, some memory foam mattresses have been known to emit an unpleasant chemical smell.

Latex
• Pros – Made from either natural or synthetic rubber, they provide a very firm, bouncy support that is uniform throughout the bed. They are supportive but comfortable for most sleepers.
• Cons - If you don't like the feel of a firm mattress, latex is probably not the right choice for you.

Air mattresses – (Unlike the blow-up kind you use for overnight guests, the high-end types known as “sleep number” beds use air-filled chambers instead of coils, and are covered by a foam layer on top.)
• Pros – The firmness of each side can be altered, so they are a good choice for couples who have different firmness preferences.
• Cons – They can tend to pop up on one side when you sit on the other. Be sure your choice has multiple chambers, so this does not occur.

Published with permission from RISMedia.