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Winterizing 101: How to prepare your yard for winter

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Removing debris, including dead leaves, from a lawn before the arrival of winter weather can help prevent suffocation.  METROCREATIVE

Removing debris, including dead leaves, from a lawn before the arrival of winter weather can help prevent suffocation.
METROCREATIVE

Changing seasons can be tough on a lawn. Always exposed to the elements, lawns can fare especially poorly upon the arrival of winter, a season known for its harsh and unforgiving weather. Even the most perfectly manicured lawn can suffer at the hands of winter weather, causing homeowners to sit idly by and hope spring arrives that much sooner.

But as punishing as winter weather can be on a lawn, homeowners are not without recourse. Much like homeowners can take steps to help their lawns survive sizzling summer heat waves during the warmer months of the year, they also can take steps to help their lawns make it through the often stormy weather synonymous with winter.

  • Don’t procrastinate. Putting off the process of winterizing a lawn can put that lawn in jeopardy. Lawns will turn dormant the closer you get to winter, and they may reject the nutrients found in fertilizer as a result. Those nutrients will prove valuable once spring weather returns, so start the winterization process in early fall so the lawn has sufficient time to absorb nutrients and strengthen itself for the seasons to come.
  • Treat trouble spots. Summer can be even harder on a lawn than winter, especially for lawns located in regions where heat waves and drought are common. In such instances, certain spots on the lawn seem to be hit harder than others, and those spots should get special attention when winterizing the lawn. Check the soil’s pH levels before fertilizing or applying any treatments. Such a test will reveal which spots need the most attention, and treating trouble spots now will make spring lawn care that much easier.
  • Aerate the property. Aerating can help a lawn recover after a long summer and help it survive the potentially harsh months that lie ahead. Aerating, which involves puncturing the soil or removing cores of soil from the ground, can restore a lawn to health by improving its drainage and allowing more water and air to reach the roots of the grass. Aerating also makes it easier for nutrients to penetrate the soil, which encourages a healthier lawn over the long haul. Aerators can be purchased or rented, but homeowners uncomfortable with the process may want to enlist a professional to tackle the job. Parents of small children who spend lots of time in the yard may need to aerate their lawn more than most, as heavy lawn traffic compresses the soil, a potentially harmful process that can be reversed via aeration.
  • Take steps to strengthen the roots. Aerating promotes stronger roots, but homeowners might also want to find a winterizing product with potassium and phosphorous, both of which can strengthen roots. Different types of lawns will respond differently to certain winterizers, so discuss your options with a lawn care professional who can help you find the right fit for your property.
  • Remove debris from the lawn. Debris left on a lawn over the winter can prove very harmful. Piles of debris left scattered around a lawn can suffocate the blades of grass, leading to long-term damage and a potentially unsightly lawn come the spring. In addition, piles of debris might make good homes for organisms that can damage the lawn. As fall moves into winter, periodically remove all debris, including leaves and branches fallen from trees.
  • Make the lawn off-limits once the temperatures dip below freezing. A lawn should be off-limits once the ground freezes. Stepping on grass that has frozen snow will leave noticeable footprints, and walking on frozen grass can kill the turf. When winter arrives, people should avoid using the lawn as a shortcut into and out of your home and stick to driveways and sidewalks instead.

— MetroCreative

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How to invite more natural light into your home

New windows may allow more natural light to enter a home. METROCREATIVE

New windows may allow more natural light to enter a home.
METROCREATIVE

A dark home can be dreary and drain residents’ energy levels rather quickly. Natural light has the power to make a person feel more energized and it also can buoy spirits. As a result, many homeowners want to increase the amount of natural light in their homes.

Increasing natural sunlight in a home reduces reliance on interior lighting. This reduces energy bills and lowers the home’s carbon footprint. Natural light also can help people in a home feel happier and more content.

According to the National Institutes of Health, some people experience serious mood changes during the winter months. Dubbed seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, this condition may be effectively treated with light therapy. Exposure to more light can alleviate fatigue, loss of interest and sad or anxious feelings. Homeowners looking to increase the natural light in their homes, be it for medical or aesthetic reasons, can do so in a variety of ways.

  • Keep the drapes open. Opening blinds and curtains as far as they will go allows as much light to shine in without having to do major home renovations or spend any money at all. Homeowners concerned about privacy can install a window film that allows viewing from the inside only.
  • Clean the windows. Dirty windows obstruct sunlight from entering the home. They also can make a home appear unkempt. Spend a free day cleaning the windows so that they’ll let ample light in.
  • Install seamless or low-profile windows and doors. Seamless sliding doors enable a large amount of light to enter the home. Such doors can replace an entire wall to brighten up a dark area of a home. The more windows and doors a home has, the brighter it will be.
  • Take inventory of dark spots. A room may be dark because it simply does not have a layout conducive to brightness. Is a wall blocking light from reaching a portion of the room? Think about changing the room’s layout or even making structural changes to improve light distribution. The addition of a small window on a south- or west-facing wall can greatly improve natural light. Using mirrors can also reflect light where it is needed.
  • Invest in skylights or solar tubes. Both skylights and solar tubes enable light to enter a home from above. Skylights are larger and require considerably more work to install, while solar tubes are more low-profile and can be put into rooms that do not abut the roofline, such as those obstructed by attic space. The tubular cylinders are installed between the roof and the ceiling and carry light through a reflective tube to the room below. Diffusers on tubular daylighting devices scatter the rays so the light doesn’t cast harsh shadows, and UV filters can help protect furniture from discoloring.
  • Trim shrubs and trees. If trees and bushes are blocking light from entering your home, trim them to enable dappled light to come through. Deciduous trees that will naturally lose their leaves come autumn can be planted in sunny areas of the property. This way in the summer months they will shade the house and keep it cooler, while in winter more sun will stream in when the leaves are shed.
  • Create a three-season room. Make a spot in the home where sun will be at a premium. A solarium or greenhouse attached to the home can be a warm and sunny spot.

Increasing natural light in a home can improve feelings of wellbeing and also reduce energy consumption during daylight hours.

— MetroCreative

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Home improvement projects perfect for fall

Fall is an ideal time of year to tackle home painting projects. METROCREATIVE

Fall is an ideal time of year to tackle home painting projects.
METROCREATIVE

Home improvement projects can add value to a home and do-it-yourselfers know the sweat-equity that goes into such projects can give homeowners a greater sense of pride in their homes. But no two home improvement projects are the same and homeowners should know that certain projects are best tackled during certain times of the year.

Fall is a great season to work on your house, as the weather is often at its most agreeable once the summer heat has gone and before winter weather arrives. The following are a handful of fall-friendly home improvement projects for homeowners looking to improve their homes.

 

Roof repair

Whether you’re repairing or replacing the roof, fall is a great time of year to dust off the ladder and get some work done on your roof for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, fall is ideal for roof work because you won’t have to be up on the roof with the summer heat bearing down on you. This can make the project move along more quickly, which is especially beneficial if you are paying laborers to work on the roof. The fewer hours workers are fixing your roof, the less you will be paying in labor costs.

In addition, fixing up the roof in the fall ensures those winter storms, be it rain or snow, won’t find their way into your home via leaks. A leaky roof in winter is hard to fix, as the roof surface could be treacherous in the winter and winter winds can make it dangerous to be up on the roof at all. Addressing leaks in the fall can prevent damage to your home’s interior, which can mount up if a leaky roof is not addressed until the following spring.

 

Window work

When the weather outside gets frightful, poorly insulated windows can allow cold air into the home. That often has a trickle-down effect on finances, forcing you to turn up the thermostat in an attempt to offset the cold air pouring into your home. Whether you need your windows replaced or simply need to patch up any leaks, a proactive approach to leaky or older windows in the fall can save you from unnecessarily high heating bills come winter. Addressing leaky windows also makes a home more comfortable for its inhabitants.

Fall is the ideal time to address a home’s windows because the temperature outside tends to be pleasant. This means you likely won’t have to make much of an effort to offset the elements, and open windows in the fall won’t make your home’s interior very hot or cold like they might if you were to tackle the project during the summer or winter.

 

Fixing the floors

Wood flooring is a hot commodity for many homeowners. But not all flooring can be added to a home at any time of year. That’s because certain types of flooring employ adhesives that need temperatures inside the home to be within a certain range, and that range is often within 70-80 F, which makes fall a great time to install such floors. Colder temperatures can make it difficult for the flooring to dry and bond, which will prove problematic down the road. What’s more, many people entertain friends and family come late fall and into the holiday season, and it can be difficult to do so if you are busy installing new flooring.

 

Painting projects

Painting is another home improvement project that seems tailor-made for fall. A fresh coat of paint or a new color scheme around the house can give a home an entirely new look and feel. But paint can be pungent and the aromas may last if it’s applied at a time of year when it can’t dry while the windows are wide open. Paint fumes inside a home can make the home uninhabitable, but painting at a time of year like the fall, when you can keep the windows open during and after the project, can help air the home out.

But interior painting isn’t the only painting project homeowners can tackle in the fall. Many exterior paints are temperature-sensitive and need the temperature outside to be above 40 F. Paint that freezes won’t dry properly and homeowners might be left with a costly and unsightly mistake on their hands. Fall temperatures tend to be amenable to both interior and exterior painting projects, just be sure to check the weather forecast before making your first brush stroke.

— MetroCreative