deck dog

Deck Maintenance & Care

deck dog

We have discussed curb appeal and concrete resurfacing – let’s move on to one of our favorite, and often most neglected, outdoor home  areas.

Summer is here in full swing, which means your deck is probably in high use. With winter’s weather and increased foot traffic, there’s a good chance your deck is in need of some attention. Here are some quick and easy steps for getting it in shape.

Clean your deck

Regular cleaning prevents your deck from graying and looking worn down. You can employ a few different methods to keep it spotless.

Use a hose: Use a garden hose with a spray nozzle to get rid of debris and dirt.

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Pressure wash: High-pressure water can get between slats and take off any stubborn debris. The cost to pressure wash a deck is about $250 or you can buy a new one at your favorite home repair store for under $200 and do it yourself.

 

Scrub it down: For really harsh debris, you might need to get down on your hands and knees and apply (a lot of) elbow grease to remove the build-up or stains.

Check for repairs

Once the deck is clean, inspect for any potential damage points. Keep an eye out for:

  • Broken boards
  • Missing stain
  • Termite holes
  • Cracks

Most deck repairs can be handled in-house, but if you have termites infesting your deck, think about hiring a pest control service. Otherwise, consider replacing boards or re-staining the surface.

Sand it down

If your stain is stripped away, consider sanding the surface. For smaller decks, an angle grinder should suffice and cost under $50. If you don’t want to spend all day sanding, you can rent a floor sander. After you’ve sanded your decking smooth, apply a finish.

Stain or seal your deck

Once you’ve sanded down the surface, think about sealing or staining. Finishes help protect against water damage, mildew and inclement weather. Here are some considerations when determining whether to seal or stain a deck:

  • Seal: Seal your deck if you like a natural look. Sealing your deck will cost about $790 and you can choose from a variety of sealing products.
  • Stain: Staining will cost about $850, depending on the size of the deck. You can stain your deck in different colors and finishes – this is where you can really customize your deck.

deck stain

Brighten it up

Use a brightener if your deck has stains or grey spots. You can apply brightener using a garden spray hose. A fresh coat of brightener will renew the appearance of your deck without expensive and time-consuming repairs.

Make sure to keep your deck in shape with regular maintenance and cleaning. Most of these jobs you can do as DIY projects. It is a chance to improve both the function and aesthetics of your home, while putting your personal mark on it.

Do you plan to undertake any deck repair projects this year?

 

ants

Ants: That Pesky Little Problem (That Nobody Wants to Talk About)

ants

The summer time brings us many wonderful things – longer days, sunny beaches, and warm nights. However, summer also brings us ants – those invasive little pesks that can get into all levels of your house, any room, and every unsealed morsel of food. They are especially drawn to kitchens and cooler spaces like basements, bathrooms, and near air cooling units.

Pesticides are typically manufactured with harsh chemicals that can be harmful to both the humans and the animals in a home. Luckily, there are many ways to stop ants in their trails without the use of pesticides. Below are some home remedies to keep ants away from and out of your home.

Stop Them Before They Get In

The best offense is sometimes a good defense. Take cornmeal and pour a bit of it near doors or other areas where the ants are coming into your house.

Soap Barrier

Ants often swarm pet food bowls because they are typically pungent and easily accessible at floor level. An easy way to avoid this issue is to place the food bowl into another bowl filled with soapy water. This bubbly moat acts as barrier to keep ants away from your pet’s food.

Spice it Up

Ants abhor the fresh smells of cinnamon and lavender. Freshen your rooms while scaring away unwanted visitors.

ants cinnamon

Rubber Band

Whether it is through a loose lid or due to a little residue left on the exterior, persistent ants can sometimes still get to jarred goods and other containers. Adding a simple rubber band to your containers may help keep the ants away.

Drawing a Line 

Chalk or baby powder are two non-toxic remedies for ant protection. Both contain talc powder, which is a natural ant deterrent. You can sprinkle either substances on areas where you see ants without risk of contaminating food.

It’s a Grind

Like chalk and baby powder, coffee grounds naturally deter these invasive insects. Coffee grounds are especially useful when sprinkled in your garden and anywhere you have mulch. Added bonus – coffee grounds tend to harmlessly repel cats, too.

ants coffee

Vinegar

Vinegar is a remarkably versatile thing. In addition to being a useful cleaning agent it is also an ant repellant!  Due to its level of acidity, vinegar solutions can kill most bacteria, mold, and germs. Due to its scent, ants avoid vinegar. Thus, cleaning your counter tops, floors, and any other at-risk surfaces can keep your house clean and ant free.

Remove the Food Source

Summer often means wonderful, fresh fruit, a favorite ant food. This may appear simple enough, but during the summer season, eliminating the food source is a sure-fire way to eliminate the ants.

Though an invasion feels icky, ant infestations have less to do with the cleanliness of your home and more to do with the weather. Ants are more prone to invade during rain and drought – it is simply their biology. Regardless of how you decide to tackle the problem, sometimes you will just have to wait it out.

What are some of your tried and true ant repellant solutions?

 

Ten Quick & Easy Upgrades

It doesn’t necessarily take deep pockets to make upgrades your home. Below are some tips to inexpensively, and often quickly, add a little flair to your home and make it your own.

Plant an Evergreen Screen

Plant an evergreen screen to add privacy and curb appeal. If planted on the north side of your house they can also block winter winds. Arborvitae ‘Green Giant’ can climb 3 feet in one year!

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Hook Yourself Up

Wall-mount a row of hooks above your kitchen counter to keep dish towels and measuring cups at the ready.

Turn a Closet into a Home Office

This is a great space-creator! Remove a closet door and swap hanging rods for shelves. One deep one for the desktop and several shallow ones above for storage.

Instant Shelving

Remove the doors on upper cabinets, then paint the interiors for instant open shelving. Just a gallon of acrylic paint in a washable semi-gloss sheen will let your true colors show.

Install a New Doorbell

A new, attractive doorbell can add a polished and welcoming element to your entryway.

Raise the Lighting

Free up some space by swapping end table lamps with matching pendant lighting.

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Doorway Shelf

Add a shelf above a doorway, paint it to match the trim, then use it to display pottery, books, whatever fits your style.

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Install a Ceiling Fan

Install a vintage-look ceiling fan to recirculate warmed air in winter. Reverse the blades’ spin to lower summer cooling costs.

Add Floating Shelves

Add floating wall-mount shelves in place of a bookcase. Floating shelves create an open, airy look and frees up floor space, making the room feel bigger.

10 4Paint Your Front Door

For an instant transformation, brush on your favorite vibrant color, such as a rich red or warm blue, for a more welcoming entry that makes a statement.

What are some of your favorite, affordable home upgrades?

Curb Appeal Starts at the Curb

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Have you ever seen a house with a beautiful lawn, lush landscaping, a tasteful and well-maintained exterior – and an unsightly cracked concrete driveway?

Many common concrete problems can be easily and quickly addressed by the average homeowner, using the right products and a little bit of elbow grease.  Tackling concrete repairs on your own can save you time and money – and leave you with a great-looking end result, as well as the satisfaction of knowing you did it yourself.

Clean it

Outdoor concrete that’s dirty, moldy or covered with algae can often be restored with a simple cleaning. Pressure washers are great for this type of work. If you don’t own one, you can rent a machine for a day or use oxygen bleach and a scrub brush on a pole. Never use chlorine bleach to clean an outdoor concrete surface, as the toxic chemical will poison any nearby grass, landscaping or trees.

Overlay products

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If the cleaning wasn’t enough, you can apply a thin overlay that will bond well and give the concrete new life and many years of extended service. Powdered pigments can be added to the water you use to mix the overlay to create the look that fits your home.

Overcast days with temperatures in the 55-65 degree range are the best. You want the thin overlay to dry slowly and cure well so that it bonds permanently to the old concrete. Place sheets of plastic barrier down under the drywall and around the edges of your existing concrete to protect it from overspray.

Repairing cracks in sidewalks and concrete driveways

Resurface

Even properly poured concrete can crack over time. Cracks that appear over time can be caused by tree roots pushing under the slab or a shift in the ground under the slab. Minute fissures eventually leads to larger, visible cracks. This is especially severe in winter when the water turns to ice, the ice expands and the cracking process accelerates. Repairing small cracks can prevent them from becoming larger.

For any size crack, begin by cleaning the crack and the concrete around it. Use a wire brush or screwdriver to remove loose chips and dust from the crack. Use a garden hose to spray water directly into the crack to force out all loose material. Allow standing water to drain before filling the crack.

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Once the surface is ready, apply the crack-filling product of choice per the manufacturer’s directions.

Resurfacing

As long as your walkway or driveway is structural sound, you can coat the slab with a concrete resurfacer –  a no-shrink blend of Portland cement, sand, and polymer additives that fills divots and makes a uniform finish.

One 40-pound bag coats about 35 square feet. Its natural color is dark gray – if you want a different color, just add a concrete tint.  Before resurfacing, strip off any paint or sealers. Temperatures should remain above 50 degrees F for 8 hours after the pour and above freezing for 24 hours after that.

resurface tint

When it comes to concrete makeovers the possibilities for colors and design is limited only by your imagination.

Do you plan to tackle any concrete projects this year?

Summer Home Maintenance

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Summer is officially here! Now is the time to undertake some preventative maintenance on your home to prepare it for the months ahead and prevent damage that can occur in hot weather. Below is a checklist of essential summer home repairs.

Prevent Water Damage

Summer often means heavy rains and thunderstorms, so protecting your house against water damage may be one of the most important things you do. Start with your foundation; check your basement for cracks and leaks.

Check gutters for breaks or low spots that allow water to pool near the house, potentially damaging the foundation. Ensure that downspouts are in good repair and direct water away from your house by at least three feet. This can be done with a gutter extension or splashguard. Inspect your windows and doors — anywhere there is trim — for cracks, leaks, or wear in the caulking.

HVAC

Give your HVAC system a good checkup before cranking the cool air. Change the air filters monthly so the system runs efficiently. Clear grass, leaves, and debris away from the condensing unit outside, which could cause it to malfunction. Remember to disconnect the power before you begin cleaning, and be careful not to bend the cooling fins.

Touch Up Paint

Paint isn’t just for aesthetics — it protects wood from water and other natural elements, so chipping or peeling paint on siding and fences leaves wood vulnerable to things like mold and rot. Take the time to spot repair and retouch before it becomes a much bigger job.

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Trim Trees and Shrubbery

While shade can reduce AC bills, be sure to cut any tree limbs or shrubs that touch your house. Over time, the wind will cause these to rub on your roof or siding, resulting in potentially dangerous and expensive damage.

Deck

Don’t forget to protect one of your greatest summertime grilling and entertaining assets. Seal your deck with an outdoor wood stain, sealant, or paint to ensure its longevity. Remove dirt and grime with a power washer or deck cleaner before you apply the product, or it won’t adhere properly to the wood. A well-maintained deck should last most of your lifetime; a neglected deck may only last a few years.

Home

Pest Defense

Check the caulking around doors and windows, both inside and out to prevent insects from coming in your home. Replace cracked or worn weather stripping on doors (this may lower your energy bills, too). Next, spray the outside of your house — around the foundation, windows, and doors — with a preventative insecticide, creating a perimeter the bugs won’t cross.

Concrete

Inspect concrete slabs for signs of cracks or movement. All exterior slabs except pool decks should drain away from the home’s foundation. Fill cracks with a concrete crack filler or silicone caulk. When weather permits, power-wash and then seal the concrete.

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Firewood

Make sure to remove firewood stored near the home over the winter. Firewood should be stored at least 18 inches off the ground at least 2 feet from the structure.

Summer is a season for fun and relaxation. Take the time to inspect and maintain your property so you can enjoy the months ahead. A few maintenance tasks at the beginning of summer can save you a lot of time and money in the future.

 

 

 

air

Home Prep for Hot Days Ahead

airSummer is officially here and it is starting to feel like it. Below are some handy tips to prepare your home ready for the warm weather.

Add Fresh Air

Fill your home with fresh air by opening your windows, and place a houseplants to help filter the air. Some of the best air-cleaning houseplants are snake plants, spider plants, English ivy, and small-leafed rubber plants.

Fresh air

Screen Check

Enjoy warm summer evening breezes through your screen doors. Clean screening and repair or replace it, if needed. Tighten and lubricate door hinges and closers, especially on wooden doors that can become warped with changing temperatures, humidity, and wet weather.  The same goes for window screens.

Refrigerator Cleanup

A summer without cold drinks on hand is no summer at all. Take care now to clean your refrigerator’s condensing coils to keep it running smoothly all summer long. Unplug the fridge, and remove the base plate or top grate.  Use a vacuum cleaner with the nozzle attachment to remove any dirt and lint.

Keep Air Moving

You may not be able to get through even the early part of summer without running your air conditioner, but don’t discount the value of a ceiling fan. Set fan blades to revolve counterclockwise, which forces the hotter air near the ceiling to mix with the lower, cooler air, leveling out the room temperature.fresh air 3 fan

Window Treatments

Even the coolest AC is no match for direct sun coming through a window. Install reflective film, sunscreen-fabric curtains, or roller shades. If you’re investing in new windows, choose panes with a low solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC).

Lighten the Linens

Swap warm flannel sheets and heavy duvet covers for lighter linens with a high thread-count. Choose solid, light colors to give the whole room a breezy feel. A simple, thin coverlet should be enough to keep you warm during the summer months

Irrigation Issues

Make sure your sprinkler system is good to go for the summer, as you’ll need it to keep the lawn green, the flowers blooming, and the Slip ‘n Slide slippery. Check around outside for swampy areas, erosion, or dying plants—you could be losing water and attracting mosquitos.

Dry it Out(side)

Give your dryer, energy bill, and the environment a break by hanging laundry to dry outdoors on warm days. And it could extend the life of your clothes. Did you know that clothes dryers are one of the biggest energy drains in a house?

Bugs be Gone

There are many remedies for keeping mosquitoes at bay; bug spray and citronella candles are two of the most popular methods. To help stop the bugs before they gather, clear underbrush around trees and shrubs and avoid planting thick vegetation.

How are you prepping your home for summer?

Building for the Future

BGF constructBuilding Goodness Foundation (BGF) is a nonprofit construction organization based in Charlottesville, Virginia. Each year, BGF helps build and renovate structures for nonprofits doing great things in local communities both in the US and abroad.  I am proud to say that Building Goodness Foundation is one of the local groups supported through Win Win for a Cause donations.

Domestic

They connect skilled volunteers from the design and construction industries with high-impact nonprofit organizations in need of new or renovated space. Local volunteers are coordinated to design and build structures for non-profits, including health clinics, birthing centers, women’s clinics, schools and community venues.

BGF school

BGF often reduces the cost of U.S. partners’ capital projects by as much as half. This allows a nonprofit’s scarce funding to be funneled back into their life-affirming services.

They also provide critically-needed housing repairs for several low-income U.S. families each year.

International

BGF successfully builds structures for partners in some of the poorest nations in the world.

Through a Field Manager living on site, BGF collaborates with a partner NGO to design and build a needed structure, while employing and training local workers in the construction process, side-by-side with volunteers.

The above-average wages paid to local workers in these communities contribute positive economic impacts on areas in dire need.

BGF house

Help them build communities and improve lives

BFG’s specialty is placing design and construction professionals in volunteer roles that play to their strengths, but they welcome volunteers of all skill sets and backgrounds. Find out how you can help them make a lasting impact where it most needed.