Improve Air Quality

Landscape Trends

Container Gardening

Prevent Weeds

Curb Appeal With Flowers

Power Washing

Remodeling Projects

Scratch Repair


Make Your Home More Allergen Free

(NAPSI)—If yours is like most American families, someone in your household has allergies or asthma. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, approximately one in five people suffer with these problems. For most, the symptoms are worse indoors, where people spend up to 90 percent of their time exposed to dust mites, pet dander and other allergy triggers.

Shots and other types of medications can alleviate much of the misery. Allergists say, however, the first step in treating allergies is to reduce exposure to allergens. While many health care providers recommend getting rid of the family dog, that’s not very likely in most households. Fortunately, there are ways for many allergy sufferers to live with “man’s best friend.”

1. Pay special attention to bedrooms. Consider replacing wall-to-wall carpet with hardwood, tile, laminate or other hard-surface flooring, particularly in bedrooms. Change sheets frequently and wash them in hot water and encase mattresses and pillows in allergen-impermeable covers.

2. Consider installing a central vacuum system. Using a BEAM Central Vacuum System has been clinically proven to improve allergy symptoms by up to 61 percent. They offer deeper cleaning than a conventional vacuum and completely remove contacted dust and allergens from the area. Since a central vacuum system doesn’t exhaust inside the living area, it won’t expel surface allergens into the air. There also are pet-grooming attachments available that can remove dander at the source.

3. Filter the indoor air. Whole-house HEPA air filtration systems, such as those made by BEAM, remove almost 100 percent of airborne particles in the home, including allergens. Pleated furnace filters also have been proven somewhat effective in reducing airborne particulate.

4. Keep indoor humidity levels low. Dust mites thrive in warm, moist air. Setting the relative humidity at 50 percent or lower will significantly reduce dust mites in the home.

While these steps won’t cure allergies, they can certainly make living with them and the family pet much easier.

For more information on improving indoor air quality or to locate a BEAM dealer, visit

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Outdoor Feature Trends Growing In Popularity

(NAPSI)—Whatever the economic climate, homeowners prefer landscape trends that let them make the most of the weather in their own outdoor space.

A recent American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Residential Trends Survey asked residential landscape architecture professionals to rate the popularity of different outdoor living and landscape features. Today’s homeowners, the survey said, prefer function, efficiency and fire pits, choosing such basic features as light, fire, food and a place to sit and enjoy it all.

Overall, 96.2 percent of respondents rated exterior lighting as somewhat or very popular for this year, followed by fire pits/fireplaces (94.2 percent), seating/dining areas (94.1 percent), grills (93.8 percent) and installed seating like benches or seat walls (89.5 percent).

While the most popular outdoor features reflect an enduring sensibility, the interest in modern technology such as stereo systems (58.3 percent), Internet access (46.3 percent) and televisions (45.4 percent) adds to the growing trend of taking what people enjoy inside to the outdoors—up to a point. Only 10.4 percent of respondents thought outdoor sleeping areas would be popular this year.

“Homeowners continue to reconnect with their outdoor space. However, expect many households this year to either phase in projects over time or carefully select fewer features,” said ASLA executive vice president and CEO Nancy Somerville.

When it comes to landscape elements, efficiency and sustainability reign supreme. Very popular are low-maintenance landscapes (94.2 percent), native plants (87.2 percent), water-efficient irrigation (83.1 percent), ornamental water features (81 percent) and food/vegetable gardens (80.3 percent).

Other popular sustainability features include permeable paving (77 percent), reduced lawn (72.6 percent) and rainwater harvesting (63.6 percent).

More information can be found at

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Successful Container Gardening

(NAPSI)—Container gardening lets you add character and color to your patio or balcony. If you’re really hurting for space, then a window box can give you the splash of color you’re looking for.

“Container gardening lets you bring interior design components to your outdoor space,” said Lance Walheim, co-author of “Landscaping for Dummies” and gardening expert for Bayer Advanced™. “It allows you to express your creativity.”

The National Gardening Association says that more than 26 million households have container gardens-that’s the equivalent of the total number of households in California, New York and Texas.

• What to grow: You can try just about anything as long as the pot is big enough. Options: Japanese maples, azaleas, camellias, roses, dwarf apples, lemons, peaches, pears, blueberries, strawberries, impatiens, marigolds, geraniums, daffodils and tulips.

• Match the plant to the container: A Japanese maple looks great in a glazed ceramic pot. You also want to have one consistent style of pot, such as clay or wood. Snap a photo of your outdoor space with your smart phone and let your garden center guide you on options. Make sure the pots have drainage holes.

• Buy packaged potting soil, not gardening soil: Potting soil is well aerated and holds necessary moisture and nutrients for successful container gardening.

• Plant flowers like you arrange a bouquet: Taller plants or flowers go in the middle. Place smaller ones around that and cascading flowers around the outside. Mix plants with the same sun requirements.

• Keep it moist: Stick your finger deep into the soil. Water the plants if the soil is dry. You’ll need to water often to keep the root ball wet.

• Establish a wellness plan: Bayer Advanced Natria Insect, Disease & Mite Control kills aphids, mites, whiteflies, plant bugs, black spot, powdery mildew and leaf spot on contact before they can damage or destroy your container garden ( Always read and follow label directions.

• Feed your container garden: Frequent watering washes nutrients from the soil, so you’ll need to fertilize more often to keep your plants blooming.

If you do all the right things, your plants will stay healthy and grow. That means you’ll need to transplant them into larger pots. You can reuse the older pot when you buy new plants or flowers.

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Help Prevent Weeds And Protect Your Property Value

(NAPSI)—Anyone who lives in Oklahoma City or Washington, D.C., is living in an improving housing market with a projected 6 percent annualized gain in home values over the next three years, according to Local Market Monitor, a real estate research firm. A 5 percent annualized gain is projected for Austin, Texas.

The real estate investment mantra of “location, location, location” also applies to neighborhoods. You can drill it down even more. The condition of a specific property also impacts value. Real estate experts say property value can drop if a home’s manicured lawn turns to weeds and landscaping deteriorates.

“The secret to weed control is prevention,” said Lance Walheim, author of “Lawn Care for Dummies” and lawn care expert for Bayer Advanced™. “The easiest way to help keep weeds out is to have a healthy lawn.”

Weed Prevention Tips

• Don’t cut your grass too low: Set your mower’s wheel height to the type of grass you have. The thicker the grass, the fewer weeds you’ll have.

• Use pre-emergent weed control and weed killer: One application of Bayer Advanced Season Long Weed Control for Lawns ( kills existing broadleaf weeds and prevents new broadleaf weeds for up to six months. Always read and follow label directions.

• Fertilize: Your local county extension service can advise you on how much fertilizer to apply and when to apply it based on the grass you have and the conditions of your area.

• Deep, infrequent watering is best: It promotes strong root growth and strong turf. Overly wet, dry or compacted soil promotes weeds.

If you plan to sell your house in 2011, keep one thing in mind: You must have curb appeal before a prospect even considers walking inside your home. If your lawn has lots of weeds, you’ll never get a second chance to make a first impression.

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Create Curb Appeal With Flowers

(NAPSI)—Flowers are a low-cost way to add curb appeal to your home. They provide a positive first impression. And if you’re selling your house, they’ll entice prospective buyers to come inside and see more.

“Hot colors such as red, bright pink, yellow, orange and orange-red make distances seem shorter,” said Lance Walheim, co-author of “Landscaping for Dummies” and gardening expert for Bayer Advanced™. “Cool colors such as white, blue, purple, deep red and pastels make spaces seem longer.”

If you want to make a small yard seem bigger, plant hot colors at the entryway and cool colors at the far end of your yard to create a living watercolor painting.

• Take color cues from your house, paving or other blooming plants: You should choose complementary colors with similar shades to create a harmonious landscape with lots of character. You also want to fill empty spots. Need some help? Snap a photo of the area with your smart phone and show it to your local garden center expert. He or she can give you some great ideas.

• Maximize your mulch: Mulch makes your garden look neat and protects your flowers, trees and shrubs. It also helps keep the weeds out. Your options include pine straw, shredded bark and nuggets. Choose one type for consistency throughout your landscape. If you need a lot of mulch, buy it all at one time to save money on delivery costs.

• Protect your flowering investment: Flowers need food. They also need to be protected against insects and diseases. Bayer Advanced All-In-One Rose & Flower Care Granules ( provides all three. Sprinkle it around the plant, work it into the soil and water it in for six weeks of protection. Always read and follow label directions.

Proper watering will make your landscape a flowering success. Stick your finger a few inches into the soil. If it’s dry, it’s time to water. If the forecast calls for rain within 24 hours, then Mother Nature will help you save money on your water bill. Otherwise, use a soaker hose to water your flowers, since it’s more effective than spraying with your garden hose.

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What To Know About Power Washing

(NAPSI)—Whether you are getting your home into shape after a season of rough weather, preparing to put your house on the market or just want to see it sparkle, the answer can be a power washer.

What It Does

A power washer is an outdoor power tool that makes cleaning easier by using the force of a high-pressure spray to loosen dirt and flush it away. A typical garden hose dispenses water at about 35−40 pounds per square inch (PSI), while a coin-operated car wash provides about 700 PSI. A power washer, by contrast, typically dispenses water at several thousand PSI, depending upon the model. You can also use detergents with a power washer for even more effective cleaning. Often, there are accessories you can buy that make cleaning even easier.

You can use it to simply take the dirt and grime off the driveway or patio furniture, scrub mold and mildew off concrete or prep the house for painting, depending on how high the pressure the unit provides.

Making It Better

To make high-pressure cleaning jobs faster and easier, Generac Power Systems, a leader in portable engine-driven products, conducted extensive research with users to learn what they wanted from a power washer.

For example, every power washer Generac produces has an easily accessible pump well above the ground, so you don’t have to kneel down to make hose connections. Plus, they all boast an overhead valve (OHV) horizontal-shaft engine so you get plenty of power. Each engine also comes standard with low-oil shutdown—a feature that is not often available—to protect and prolong engine life. Both the pump and engine are perfectly balanced above the axle for almost effortless maneuverability, regardless of terrain.

Additionally, Generac completely customized the spray gun with ergonomics in mind. Longer than many other spray guns, it features a unique cushion grip that reduces fatigue by minimizing vibration. The innovative easy-to-pull trigger can be pulled and held with only a minimum of effort, while a Quick-Click™ nozzle tip can tackle virtually every cleaning task.

These units from Generac feature tool-free assembly, so you can use the power washer right out of the box.

Learn More

For more information, visit or call (888)-GENERAC.

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Remodel Without Regret

by Kate Morrical, AutoCAD LT Technical Marketing Manager, Autodesk

(NAPSI)—After years of living with your outdated kitchen—complete with orange linoleum floors, no windows and a completely non-functional work triangle—you’ve decided to take the leap and remodel. As you work with your contractor to design the perfect kitchen, you begin to doubt the placement of your kitchen window and the size of your new cabinetry. “I’m sure it will be perfect when it’s completed,” you tell yourself. But as the project progresses, the window isn’t exactly where you want it, the cabinets are a little too big, and now there’s no room for your French door refrigerator. Meanwhile, construction continues to disrupt your life.

Remodeling disasters such as these happen far too often. Choosing the right contractor can help you avoid these situations and a contractor with the right tools can make design dreams come true. When you’re working on a project as important as your home, a clear plan can help you improve communication, save money and create an end result you’re proud of. Contractors who use professional-grade drafting and detailing software understand that planning and design come first and are essential to efficient construction. Precise digital drawings of the project provide an accurate depiction of what the final result will be, keeping you and your contractor on the same page and helping you avoid spending more time and money than you planned.

Often, renovation projects can get derailed with time-consuming changes or easily avoidable errors. For example, contractors who still use a pencil and graph paper can spend more time making edits and have greater risk for error—like a misplaced window—using drawings that may not be exactly to scale. Contractors who use professional design software, such as AutoCAD LT software, can avoid these issues by working with drawings that more accurately represent the data throughout the design project. With a robust set of drafting tools, contractors can more easily create and modify their design documents based on client needs. Hiring a contractor who uses professional drafting software helps make sure that everyone involved is speaking the same language, avoiding confusion and coordination errors among the different trades installing the plumbing, wiring and tile. Drafting and detailing software is an excellent solution to help professionals efficiently and accurately create clear, precise drawings and drive projects to completion.

You need a reliable contractor with the tools to complete a quality project in a timely and efficient manner and avoid remodel disasters. Professional drafting software helps contractors get the job done more accurately and efficiently.

To learn more, visit

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Easy Scratch Repair

(NAPSI)—While the “distressed” look—slightly worn edges, light scratches and missing finish in spots-is popular for furniture and other wood pieces, it may not be the look you’re going for.

Fortunately, it’s easy to fix conspicuous scratches and other minor wood damage.

For light nicks and touch-ups on wood, you can get a Minwax Stain Marker—a marking pen−style dispenser that contains oil-based stain in colors to match most wood stains. Apply the stain to the wood and wipe off any excess with a soft cloth.

To repair scratches and nail holes in stained and finished wood on furniture, cabinets and more, try the company’s Blend-Fil Pencils. They come in a variety of colors to match specific stain colors. You simply work the pencil point into the nail hole, scratch or other imperfection and then wipe off the excess for a durable repair that’s virtually undetectable.

When you’re done, step back—you probably won’t even be able to find the scratch.

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