Six Steps To A Well-Maintained Home
(NAPSI)—Your home is, most likely, your
biggest investment. Here, from an assortment of experts, are a few hints on
how to keep it in good shape:
1. Good Clean Fun: When it comes to cleaning ceramic
floors, there’s no need to wax. Just sweep and mop on a regular basis and
they stay clean and shiny. Mop floors with clear water or just a dash of
liquid dish soap. Be sure to change the water when it gets cloudy. Too much
soap or dirty water will make floors dull or sticky. Don’t use scrub pads
on ceramic tile floors or you might scratch them. Professional cleaners
wash most floors by hand, cleaning and drying a small area at a time.
That’s the advice from Merry Maids
comprehensive cleaning service, which can scale a plan—weekly, biweekly or
monthly—to meet your needs and your budget.
2. Floor Facts: To maintain your carpets’ appearance,
they should be professionally cleaned every six to 12 months. If, however,
you’ve suffered damage from water, fire or smoke, they need help right
away. The ServiceMaster Clean residential services division specialists in
carpet and upholstery cleaning can help either way. In an emergency, their
yellow trucks can be dispatched 24/7, 365 days a year to restore your home
to pre-disaster condition.
3. When Your Yard Wants to Be a Lawn: Great lawns
require great soil with the right balance of alkaline and acid. If your
soil is out of balance, you can adjust the pH with lime, potassium or other
micronutrients. To help your lawn grow great, a leading provider of lawn
and landscape services, TruGreen,
delivers customized solutions that are effective, innovative and
4. Best the Pests: Household pests are more than an
embarrassing nuisance. They can carry harmful Terminix into your home. To protect
your home, keep the firewood pile away from the house. Seal any cracks
around windows and doors and be sure all screens are in good repair. A
quarterly pest control plan from Terminix can help eradicate any pests. The
program is managed by certified professionals who can also recommend
modifications to prevent new infestations.
5. Deter Termites: You can also make your house less
attractive to termites. Since the pests need moisture to survive, grade the
soil around your foundation so it carries water away from the house. Keep
gutters and downspouts in good repair. Consider a Termite Inspection and
Protection Plan from Terminix. You get an annual inspection of home and
property. If new termite activity is later found, the damage will be
covered at no cost to you.
6. Protect Your Appliances: For example, it’s a cool
idea to clean the refrigerator’s interior shelves, shell and gaskets at
least every three months. Once a year, clean the coils on the back or
underneath with a vacuum cleaner. You can get a home warranty from American Home Shield that can be one
of the best defenses against extensive and unexpected covered repair costs,
with a national contractor network made up of over 11,000 approved,
independently insured home-service contractors.
You can learn more at www.servicemaster.com
and (866) 348-7672.
How To Protect Your Home From Power Outages
(NAPSI)—Every year, millions of homes
lose power for hours—or even days—at a time. Being prepared is the best
defense for such energy emergencies—and for many homeowners,
that means investing in a standby generator.
While virtually all homeowners can benefit from having a standby
generator, it is especially important in homes with elderly residents or
young children, for home businesses, and for travelers who are not home to
deal with the often damaging consequences of a power outage.
Adding a home generator can be easy. A standby generator is installed
outside the home, much like an air conditioner. It runs on propane or
natural gas and hooks up to existing gas lines.
“Generators can be retrofitted into existing homes and new home
construction can be prewired,” said Ed Del Grande, a three-time master
pipefitter, plumber and contractor and a home improvement expert on HGTVPro.com and the DIY Network.
Standby generators, such as those from Kohler, turn on automatically
when the power goes off. A transfer switch automatically monitors utility
power and transfers the electrical load to the generator if power is lost
(usually within 10 seconds).
The generator can power critical appliances and systems in your home,
including lights, furnaces, air conditioners, refrigerators, sump pumps,
home security systems and office equipment.
Permanent standby generators are different from portable generators,
which are designed for worksites. There’s no need to fill them up with
gasoline every few hours or change the oil and they have no exposed engine
parts. Permanent standby generators are also better suited to delicate
electronics such as computers or TVs.
Since they range from 8 to 125 kilowatts, it’s important to choose a
standby generator that meets your lifestyle and needs. If you simply want
to power a few key appliances/loads, an 8- to 20-kilowatt generator may
serve you well. If you want to keep your whole house powered up, a larger
generator is required.
To determine what size you need, contact a local generator dealer or
licensed electrical contractor familiar with standby generators. A
professional can help you determine the right size for your needs. He or
she will also help with the following:
• Pulling appropriate permits
• Adhering to local ordinances
• Assessing your flood risks
• Compliance with noise and electrical codes
• Professional installation and service.
When shopping for a standby generator, Del Grande encourages people to
consider the following qualities:
• Look for a standby generator that comes with a commercial-grade engine
providing clean, consistent power and one that can handle heavy loads.
• Make sure you purchase a generator that comes with a minimum five-year
• Don’t forget about appearance. A generator sits outside your home, so
look for a unit with a bold, clean look that’s corrosion-resistant.
For more information about residential standby power, visit www.KohlerSmartPower.com.
Two Words For Those Trying To Sell Their Homes: Be
(NAPSI)--If you’re still having trouble
selling your house, it may be time to think outside the box.
We’re not talking about renting out your property until the market
improves—something even Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was reportedly
forced to do more than a year ago when there were no takers for the
five-bedroom Tudor in upscale Larchmont, N.Y., that he’d paid $1.602
million for in 2004. Although, if you absolutely need to relocate for job
reasons, say, that could be one way to go.
No, we’re talking creative ways that Bankrate.com and others say help “stressed-out
sellers”—sound familiar?—make their homes stand out from all the others on
the market. Read on for some tips:
• Sweeten the Deal. In an effort to weed out sketchy
borrowers, the Federal Housing Administration, which backs the bulk of all
new mortgages these days, recently lowered the ceiling on the monetary
“concessions” sellers can offer buyers to help cover expenses like loan
fees and closing costs. But that doesn’t mean you can’t try sealing the
deal by throwing in a 3-D TV. . .Or a country club
membership. . .Or a car, ŕ la the Prius that one real-estate agent
justified to CNN by saying: “In this market, you have to learn to do things
• Go Viral. “The Internet has essentially leveled the
playing field across the real-estate market,” proclaims ForSaleByOwner. com’s Greg Healy. True. But don’t limit your thinking to
just eBay or Craig’s List. If a YouTube video of a cat bouncing off a
mirror can garner gazillions of views across the world, surely you can
think of some novel way to show off your home’s assets.
• “Gift Box” Your Roof. One of the questions that
potential buyers routinely ask, according to MarketWatch.com, is how old is
the roof? One nice touch is to present your documentation tied in a bow
with a box of chocolate-covered strawberries. That’s assuming, of course,
your roof is new and attractive enough to have even gotten you to the
walk-through stage. If not, and you want to replace it with one that
practically screams “curb appeal,” check out GAF’s Lifetime Designer
Shingles Value Collection at www.gaf.com.
These shingles from North America’s
largest roofing manufacturer are designed to add style to your home—at a
very affordable price. (Strawberry-Boxing Alert: All the company’s laminated
shingles now come with a lifetime limited warranty that’s transferable to
new owners, which can be another powerful selling point.)
• Enlist Your Neighbors. Sure, some would help spread
the word out of the kindness of their hearts. But human nature being what
it is, offering a $200 gift card to anyone who brings you a real, live
serious buyer can work wonders.
Oh, and for those questioning whether any of this works, the award for
the “Most Out-of-the-Box Thinking” goes to Bob and Ricki Husick of Wexford, Pa.
They gained international attention a while back after advertising that the
buyer of their two-story Colonial would receive the full purchase price
back after they die.
The house, originally listed for $399,999, sold soon after for $377,000.
Not bad, these days.
Could Your Yard Use An Intervention?
(NAPSI)—Are you struggling with a problem
lawn and yard? Are the weeds growing but the grass isn’t? Maybe you’re
embarrassed by patchy grass and an overgrown landscape. If so, it may be
time for a yard care intervention, and a chance to grow your confidence and
a better-looking lawn and landscape.
This spring and summer, the Briggs & Stratton Yard Doctor will roll
up his sleeves and help homeowners confront their yard care demons,
bringing three of America’s
neediest yards back into their neighborhoods’ good graces. Yard Doctor Trey
Rogers and his team will spend a day providing advice and hands-on help to
transform the winning homeowners’ yards into points of pride.
In addition to a yard makeover, the winners will receive new lawn care
equipment and $1,500 in landscape cash. To enter, visit www. yardsmartsintervention.com. Homeowners can apply for an
intervention for themselves or (with permission) they can call out a
neighbor, family member or friend in need of help. Each “application”
should explain the yard care problems faced and why an intervention is
needed, using either a short video or up to four photos to show the yard.
One yard will be selected each month from May through July by online
voting. Runners-up each month receive cool Yard Smarts gear and a signed
copy of the Yard Doctor’s book on growing the perfect lawn.
Rogers, who has helped homeowners across the country bring their yards
back under control, has the following tips:
• Eliminate yard clutter. Pick up and put away kids’
bicycles, balls, lawn furniture, garbage cans and other clutter.
• Mow correctly for a lush lawn. When you mow, cut only
one-third of the height of the lawn to encourage strong roots. Cutting too
short stresses the lawn, creating an environment ideal for weed growth and
• Be sure to trim. Mowing your lawn without trimming is
like getting half a haircut. String trim around flowerbeds, sidewalks and
• Eliminate overgrowth. Trim back or replace overgrown
bushes and trees that overwhelm the front of your house.
• Add a focal point. Every home should have a focal
point, such as a front door painted in a contrasting color to the home or a
landscape feature, such as a beautiful tree, flowerbed or curving pathway
to your door.
The intervention is sponsored by Briggs & Stratton, the largest
maker of gasoline engines for a variety of yard care equipment. The
company’s educational web- site, www.yardsmarts.com,
provides expert advice and information on topics related to yard care and
yard care equipment.
Inspiration Helps Your Garden Grow
(NAPSI)—With so many beautiful plants to
choose from, gardeners may wonder where to start. One of the most enjoyable
ways to plant a seed of inspiration is to visit a public garden.
Found at zoos, historical sites and entertainment complexes, such public
gardens can demonstrate what’s possible—including
flower choice, layout and landscaping practices.
According to the American Public Gardens Association (APGA), public
gardens can show you how to create a water-wise landscape at home through the
use of native and adapted plants and efficient irrigation. Visitors can
learn what plants bloom at similar times and what arrangements look good
together. Staff members who understand the region are available to offer
advice on gardening techniques, and on-site sales can be a great source of
top-quality additions to a home garden.
Here are a few types of public gardens you can visit:
• Zoos—Although the focus is on the animals, zoos also
have interesting horticultural collections that show both flora and fauna
in their native habitats.
courses, theme parks and water parks can also have beautiful horticultural
• Historical Sites—Places of historic or cultural
significance-such as churches, historic homes and cemeteries-often have
grounds shaped to reflect the horticulture of their historical period.
and designed to help visitors connect with nature, these gardens inform and
educate about the botanical and ecological origins and functions of plant
life and how they relate to human beings and animals.
The nonprofit American Public Gardens Association has partnered with
Rain Bird, a leading manufacturer and provider of irrigation products, to
promote the important role that gardens play in promoting environmental
stewardship through National Public Gardens Day. Many of the nation’s
public gardens will mark the day with special events and activities for
schools, families and thousands of visitors. For more information, you can
Note to Editors: May 6, 2011 is the third annual National Public
Playsets: 10 Tips For Parents
(NAPSI)—Few things work as well as an outdoor
playset to get kids out of the house and into the fresh air. There are,
however, several things to keep in mind:
1. Placement. Find a spot with at least a six-foot
space around the playset so kids don’t swing, jump or fall into or onto
anything dangerous. Loose fill materials such as mulch, wood chips or
reground plastic should be placed under the playset to cushion falls. Also,
the set should be placed where parents can monitor children’s activities.
2. Lumber. Look for a naturally decay- and weather-resistant
lumber, such as cedar, which is also a natural insect repellent and blends
well with any backyard.
3. Assembly. Consider your options. Should the playset
be hand-built? Will the lumber be hand-picked and the playset built with a
kit? Or will the playset come ready to assemble-pre-cut, pre-stained and
pre-drilled with all the hardware and accessories pre-packed?
4. Cost. Most playsets are built to last whatever the
price, but features vary. A playset is something to be enjoyed for years, so
be sure it can grow with your family.
5. Safety Railings. Safety features must be put in
place during assembly. All elevated surfaces, such as platforms, need
guardrails, and sit-down bars should be above the slides. Most quality sets
will have an arched entrance area to protect little heads.
6. Anchoring. Make sure the entire structure is firmly
anchored to avoid tipping.
7. Maintenance. Preventative maintenance helps keep
kids safe and the warranty in effect. Every season, tighten any loose
supports, anchors, bolts and screws and replace any missing nuts, bolts or
protective caps. Following manufacturer’s directions, playsets should be
periodically sealed, stained and painted to prevent deterioration.
8. Everyone Plays. Playsets should be developmentally
appropriate, so consider the ages of the children who will play on it. Size
depends on how many children will play on the set, as well. Consider how
many swings and how many features you need for a fun and safe environment
9. Warranty. You should know what type of warranty is
offered and what it covers. Playsets should last a long time, so seek a
warranty with long-term protection.
10. Features. Decide if you need an infant swing, a
hammock or a two-person glider. Accessories like a buoy ball, rock wall,
gangplank, hammock or ship’s wheel create a fun play experience. With most
quality playsets, accessories can be added later. You can see some of the
features available for Backyard Discovery playsets at www.swingsetsonline.com.
Taking these small steps toward a safer play area can make a big
difference when it comes to long-term safety.
To Prune Your Hydrangea
(NAPSI)—You prize your hydrangeas for
their beautiful flowers. You also want to make sure you prune them at the right
time to encourage the stunning blooms every season. But do you wonder
whether or when to prune them?
“The first step is to determine the variety of your hydrangea,” said Tim
Wood, new product manager at Proven Winners ColorChoice. “This is fairly
easy to do. If your plant produces big pink or blue flowers, it is a
Hydrangea macrophylla. If its flowers are round and white—or pink in the
case of the new Invincibelle Spirit—the plant is a Hydrangea arborescens.
Finally, if the plant has large, conical flowers, which are often white but
may also be green or pink, you own a Hydrangea paniculata.”
If you have Hydrangea macrophylla, also known as Bigleaf Hydrangea, Wood
says you can relax. This plant requires little more than a trimming and
only immediately after flowering. You should never prune it in winter or
spring, because it sets flower buds the year before and if you shear it
back, then you will cut off all of summer’s flowers.
Newer reblooming varieties such as the Let’s Dance series from Proven
Winners ColorChoice will also bloom on the current season’s growth, but you
still want to leave the plant intact through spring so you can enjoy early
Hydrangea arborescens, also known as Smooth Hydrangea, are beloved for
their adaptable nature and reliable blooms. You should prune it back in
late winter or early spring. These hydrangeas bloom on “new wood”—the
current season’s growth. Pruning them back at that time encourages new
growth, which produces flowers. Spring pruning will also result in a
fuller, stronger plant that’s less likely to flop under the weight of its
abundant summer flowers. Cutting the stems back to one or two feet will
leave a good framework to support the blooms.
Today, there are two new “Annabelle” Hydrangea arborescens with stronger
stems, so they won’t flop after being established. Invincibelle Spirit
Hydrangea is the very first pink-flowered form of “Annabelle.” Invincibelle
Spirit continues to produce new pink flowers right up until frost,
providing a beautiful display across several seasons in your garden, from
mid-summer to fall. Incrediball Hydrangea has the biggest flowers and the
strongest stems of any of the “Annabelle” hydrangeas. Incrediball produces
incredibly large white blooms as big as a basketball.
Hydrangea paniculata, sometimes called Hardy Hydrangea, also blooms on
new wood. You should prune it back in late winter or early spring. You can
cut it back to the ground or, if you want slightly taller plants, cut it
back to one to three feet. This is a great job for one of those early
spring days when everything is still dormant but it’s so beautiful and warm
you need to be in the garden.
A new variety of Hydrangea paniculata won’t require as much pruning to keep
it smaller. The new Little Lime Hydrangea boasts the same colors and
benefits of the famous “Limelight” Hydrangea though only reaching three to
five feet fully grown. At one-third the size of other hardy hydrangeas, it
fits well into practically any landscape. Little Lime produces bright
cone-shaped lime-green flowers, later turning into pink, from mid-summer to
Fortunately, even if you make a mistake and prune at the wrong time of
year, these plants will forgive you. You may not have flowers for a season
but, with proper timing, you’ll see them the following year. Just remember
to start by correctly identifying which kind of hydrangea you have. With
just a little work, you’ll get beautiful flowers from your hydrangeas year
after year. For more information on the newest hydrangeas, visit www.provenwinners.com.
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Create A Tropical Paradise
In Your Own Backyard
(NAPSI)—Even if you can’t get away to an
exotic locale this year, you can still escape to a tropical paradise—without
ever leaving home. Thanks to a new crop of tropically inspired outdoor
living products and accessories, converting your backyard into an oasis is
easier than ever.
“Tropical-inspired designs are extremely popular right now in outdoor
living,” explains Adam Zambanini, vice president of marketing for Trex, the
world’s largest manufacturer of wood-alternative decking and railing.
“Combining warm, nature-inspired hues and textures, these exotic looks are
ideal for creating a luxurious, restful backyard retreat.”
Here are some tips for transforming your outdoor living space into an
exotic getaway—no passport required:
Lights, Color, Accents: Add ambience for cocktail
parties or evening cookouts with dimmable LED deck lighting and create an
inviting lounge area with comfortable, durable outdoor furnishings. Even if
the budget is tight, adding vibrant pillows or tropical flowers and plants
can serve as a quick and colorful pick-me-up.
Take Your Cues from the Tropics: When it comes to
decking and railing, look for colors that are rich and saturated and draw
inspiration from exotic streaked hardwoods, such as the new tropical
additions to the Transcend line from Trex. Offered in vibrant colors such
as Spiced Rum (a warm, earthy umber) and Lava Rock (a rich reddish-black),
these exotic wood looks lend themselves beautifully to a relaxing,
Go Green: Opt for eco-friendly outdoor living products
made of recycled materials, which both protect and enhance the environment.
Wood-alternative decking (made from recycled plastic bags) boasts the
beauty of tropical hardwoods, without the environmental stresses associated
with importing these endangered materials. It also requires no sanding,
staining or power washing, so you can spend more time enjoying—rather than
maintaining—your outdoor living space.
For more tips on designing an exotic outdoor living space, call (800)
289-8739 or visit www.trex.com. The site
features helpful information along with user-friendly online tools,
including a Color Visualizer and Deck Designer, which allow visitors to
experiment with different products, finishes and layouts.
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