Enrich your garden and landscape soil by making leaf mold

Building soil is important to any home gardener. One of the best ways to build soil is by creating leaf mold, which is a type of compost that uses only leaves and nothing else.

Different from composting, making leaf mold is a cold process, done primarily by fungus while composting relies on bacteria for decomposition. With composting, you’d add green material (grass clippings, manure, kitchen scraps, etc.) In addition to adding different nutrients, it also adds heat.

This process recreates the environment of the forest floor in a small space and results in a nutrient and mineral rich soil additive you can use in a number of ways.

How to make leaf mold

The other way this process differs from compost is that you can just throw the leaves in and leave them alone. You don’t have to mix or turn the compost periodically to promote decomposition.

The first thing you’ll need to do is build a wire mesh bin to hold the leaves. Put the leaves in and soak them. You can shred the leaves in order to accerlerate the process. Moisture is important to helping the leaves break down. If the bin is too dry, you can cover with a tarp to retain moisture. You can also weave slats from old window blinds into the mesh or line it with sheet plastic to help retain the moisture. If you live in a cooler climate, the process can take as long as three years. In warmer climates, it can take as little as nine months.

Over the course of a year, your leaf pile will have lost about half of its volume. Open the bin and give the leaves a stir to get some aeration. Move the bin over and start the process again. By the third year, the first pile that you created should be broken down, black and crumbly. It should smell like you’re walking in the woods after a rainstorm. It’s now ready for use and you can start a new pile on that spot.

Another method is to just store your leaves in lawn bags. Stuff the bags full of leaves and wet them down before closing the bag. Use a garden fork to poke a number of holes in the bags to let some air in. Mark the bags and put them in some out-of-the-way nook of the yard.

Leaf mold is not only organic and environmentally friendly, it is also one of the most effective ways to create the nutrient-rich soil essential for growing vegetables, flowers and shrubs.

Love Your Home

Homeowners who are ready to move sometimes think that they need to make some quick improvements to either add value to the home or increase the likelihood that it will sell quickly.

Although it may add perceived value to the current homeowner, prospective buyers are not likely to be impressed with the new renovations and sure aren’t going to pay for your sweat equity and monetary investment. Click here for more information.

Here are some projects that you think add value to your home, but don’t.

Adding a pool

Swimming pools are expensive to build and maintain, will add to your insurance premiums and can be a deterrent to families with young children. Sometimes, the buyer will write in a contingency that the pool be filled in or dismantled.

Overbuilding for the neighborhood

Some improvements and additions will not add value if it causes the home to stand out as “too good for the neighborhood.” If the average home in the area is $150,000, potential buyers aren’t likely to pay $225,000 for yours if you’ve added a major addition. The house will seem overpriced even if it is more desirable than the surrounding homes.

Speaking of a new addition

If you need an addition to improve your life in the home, then go ahead with the project. If you’re only doing it to increase the value at the time of the sale, you’ll never recoup the investment. Buyers are unlikely to increase their offer to cover the amount that you paid for the major renovation.

High-end upgrades

Remodeling the kitchen and bathrooms will add to the value of your home and the expense and effort of doing so are worth the investment. However, many prosepective home sellers make the mistake of overdoing it by installing new stainless steel appliances, imported ceramic tiles, or state-of-the-art electronics in the media room.

New carpeting

Removing the carpet and restoring wood floors to like new condition is usually a more profitable investment than putting in wall-to-wall carpeting. It may clash with the new owners’ tastes and furniture. It’s expensive and you’re unlikely to recover your investment.

Green improvements

While making your home more environmentally friendly is a good thing, prospective buyers will not care that you’ve made the improvements unless they find eco-friendly homes as important as you do. You’re better off sinking any investments on green renovations into your new home.

Invisible improvements

Invisible improvements are usually costly and usually expected to be up to snuff by any new owner. (Think plumbing, HVAC.) A buyer is unlikely to pay extra just because you did this type of project.

Upscale landscaping

A lush, green lawn with nice landscaping is one thing; shaped bushes and ornate trellises are another. It’s best to keep it simple with native plants, adding a little color so the new homeowners can see how good the yard can be by adding plants and bushes that fit their tastes.

Driveway expansion

A common mistake made by homeowners is tearing up the front lawn to make room for another automobile. Not only is it expensive, it actually detracts from your home’s aesthetic.

If you’re considering a renovation and plan to stay for several years to enjoy it, that’s one thing. Making home improvements to increase the likelihood that it will increase the value of your home is another. You’re unlikely to recoup your investment and could actually hurt your home’s value to a prospective buyer.

Affordable Ways To Spice Up Your Bathroom

Are you embarrassed to have people in your bathroom? Here are some affordable ways to spruce it up!

Whether you’re preparing to show and sell your home or just planning on having company over, you don’t want to be embarrassed about the look of your bathroom. If it’s outdated or dirty, it’s definitely time for a makeover. Because the bathroom is typically one of the smallest rooms in the house it doesn’t have to be expensive to update, but a great looking bathroom can offer you a great return on investment (second only to the kitchen). From the National Association of Realtors ®, here are 5 ways to spruce up your bathroom for cheap!

  1. Repaint. Giving any room a fresh coat of paint can totally transform the room and give it an updated look, but when choosing a paint color for your bathroom it’s important to coordinate with other elements in the room. Are the toilet, tub, and sink white or off-white? What’s the finish on the light fixtures and door knobs? Does your mirror have any color to it? Just as it is for any room in the home, it is important that the colors in your bathroom complement each other. *TIP: clean walls thoroughly with a washcloth before repainting; many beauty products leave residue on the walls that could cause problems with your new paint.

  2. New Flooring. Dirty, worn, or peeling flooring can be a major turnoff for potential homebuyers and guests. Again, because the bathroom is typically a small area, the cost of new flooring for the room and all necessary supplies won’t break the bank. Consider installing large tiles (it’s easier to clean than small tiles) or linoleum for a fresh look. *TIP: you can save more money by installing the new flooring yourself.

  3. Replace your shower curtains and curtain rod. Curtains need replaced fairly regularly, as they can accumulate mold and mildew if they aren’t properly cared for, but curtain rods should be replaced at some point as well. For the most part this is simply because things go out of style. Also, usual wear-and-tear often leaves curtain rods looking rusty and dinged up; if your curtain rod is out of style or a little worse for the wear, consider purchasing a nice, new rod to transform the look of your bathroom with relatively little effort.

  4. Upgrade your lighting. Many people tend to get ready for the day in the bathroom, so it’s very important that you have good lighting. Good lighting means that the room is well lit and that the light isn’t discolored for any reason. The National Association of Realtors ® says that bathrooms should have two different types of lighting: “ bright wall or ceiling light for regular use and a softer, warmer type of light, like a night light, to keep on when the bathroom is not in use”. *TIP: try replacing your lighting fixtures to update the look of the bathroom as well.

  5. Update the Vanity. Vanities experience wear-and-tear just like everything else in your bathroom. If your vanity is outdated or beat up, replacing it with something brand new can completely transform the look of the bathroom. Most home improvement stores have a variety of options for vanity and sink combinations for reasonable prices. If you’re not ready to purchase a new vanity, you can update the one you have by deep-cleaning it and possibly adding new paint.

Simple and cheap updates, such as adding a fresh coat of paint, purchasing new lighting fixtures, and adding a new curtain, can dramatically enhance the look and feel of your bathroom. These quick and easy fixes will help you transform your bathroom from drab to fab in no time, and you won’t be embarrassed to show it to guests or potential homebuyers.

Read the original article from realtor.com here.

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Avoid These Home Audio Wiring Mistakes

Considering adding a surround system in your entertainment room? Be sure to avoid these common home audio wiring mistakes.

Adding a surround system can transform any room into a first class entertainment area and can help create the perfect room for entertaining your family and friends. However, to achieve the best possible sound and look, it’s important that homeowners are aware of common mistakes that people make when adding a new wiring system. From Realtor.com, here are the top mistakes homeowners make, and things you need to avoid.

Don’t run audio wires too close to other electrical components or cables. The flexible plastic ‘casing’ that goes around the wires protects them from radio frequency interference and noise, but the environment has to be right. For instance, if you run your audio wires too close to electrical components, like a computer, or other voltage-carrying wires, like lamp cords, phone lines, extension cords, then you’ll likely experience interference with your audio wires. Also, avoid running audio wires too closely to compact fluorescent light bulbs.

Make sure cables are well insulated and shielded. If you have to run audio wires close to electrical components or other cords, course, sometimes it is impossible to prevent running audio cables near other electrical components or electrical cords, so if you must, make sure that you use cables that feature very high quality insulation and shielding materials.

Don’t use a busy circuit for your home theater. Your home audio system can be negatively affected by voltage spikes and drops, which happen when motors, compressors and other types of appliance equipment turn on and off. It’s important to take care of your media equipment, so make sure that the circuit that powers your media equipment is only used to power  your media equipment.

Make sure you choose the right cable length. The longer the cable, the lower quality sound you’ll get. Cables that are too long can cause distortions in high frequencies and looping or folding up the excess cable can cause all kinds of nightmares because of the magnetic fields being produced. Choose a cable that is just long enough and always keep the cable as straight as possible.

Know how to make the right connections. Sloppy connections, poorly attached conductors, and over-stripped shielding can cause all sorts of problems for you because it can ruin the cable’s integrity. Make sure you have the right tools for the job so that you can avoid unnecessary problems.

Don’t accidentally reverse the polarity of the wires. One of the most common mistakes homeowners make when installing audio wires is simply wiring the speakers wrong. Connect the right wires to the right ports so that you don’t end up with a terrible, flat sound from your speakers.

If you follow these home audio installation tips from Realtor.com, your project should run smoothly and you’ll be able to get back to enjoying music and movies quickly. To read the original article from Realtor.com, click here.

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Renovating Your Home: How To Reface Your Cabinets

The quality and style of the cabinets in your kitchen and bathrooms can affect the value of your home; is it time to invest in refacing them?

Your kitchen and bathrooms are the most important rooms in your home, in terms of real estate. Improvements in these rooms can offer you the biggest return on investment and can quite literally make or break the deal if you’re trying to sell your home. In terms of kitchen renovations, paying for new cabinets can take up nearly half of your budget, according to HGTV, so deciding whether to replace or reface them is not a decision to take lightly. If your cabinets are in decent condition, it will be more cost-efficient to reface them, rather than replace them. Here’s how to do it from the DIY Network:

Start by refacing sides, drawers, and doors with veneer and stain.

  1. Remove cabinet doors, drawers and all hardware.

  2. Flat-front doors and drawers are easily refaced (if yours have raised panels or other architectural detailing, consider buyingnew unfinished doors and drawers and stain them along with your cabinets)

  3. Sand the side and front surfaces of the old cabinets enough to rough up the surface so the new wood veneer will adhere properly

  4. Practice applying veneer in less visible areas of the cabinet like the side panel

  5. Apply a thin film of wood glue to the cabinet surface

  6. Use a nail gun with 5/8-inch brads to fix the veneer panel in place (adjust the nailer to sink the brad heads just below the veneer surface)

  7. Nail from top to bottom to avoid creating a bubble in the middle of the panel

  8. When all side panels are in place, use a block plane to trim the veneer edges so they are flush with the old cabinet faces

  9. Apply veneer to the cabinet fronts – veneer all of the horizontal areas and rails first, then use a razor knife to cut in the pieces for the vertical stiles.

  10. Trim all intersecting edges and corners so they are flush with the sides

  11. Reface the cabinet doors following the same procedure as above

  12. Fill all brad holes with wood putty colored to match your intended stain color.

  13. Let it dry and sand lightly to remove excess, use a sanding block to evenly distribute pressure and avoid gouges and indentations

Next: stain cabinet interiors

  1. When all of the cabinets are ready for stain, use a paint brush or rag to stain the inside edges and openings first, then the sides, and finally the cabinet fronts

  2. Apply a generous coat of stain, wipe away the excess and allow to dry according to the manufacturer’s directions

  3. Repeat with a second, final coat

  4. Stain the cabinet doors and drawer fronts, along with any separate wood pieces or moldings (if these parts have raised or routed features, use a paint brush to flow the stain into crevices and corners but don’t allow it to accumulate in these spots)

Finish Cabinets with Polyurethane

  1. Apply three coats of polyurethane to protect cabinets from heat, grease, steam, etc.

  2. Water-base polyurethane is a good choice because it’s relatively odor-free, “flattens” better than oil or alkyd urethanes and dries fast, allowing you to put on all three coats in a day.

  3. Use a brush recommended for the finish you choose and apply the first coat – Always brush in the same direction as the wood grain or pattern. Don’t lay the finish on thickly, and don’t overwork the brush — too many brush strokes will cause air bubbles in the finish, leaving bumps and pits when it dries

  4. After the first coat is dry, sand all surfaces lightly with fine-grit sandpaper to prepare them for the second coat

  5. Wipe away all sanding dust with a tack cloth, then apply the second coat of finish

  6. Repeat these steps with the third and final coat

Reassemble the Cabinets

  1. Install the door hinges first: position each hinge one hinge-length from the bottom and the top of the door (use the hinge itself to mark the location by lining it up with the door edge and marking the wood at its opposite end)

  2. Create a jig for pre-drilling door hinge holes in the cabinets – a shelf clamped to the bottom rail ensures that all doors will line up evenly when hung

  3. Install door shock absorbers inside each cabinet opening to enable the doors to open and close smoothly

  4. If you purchased new drawer fronts and boxes separately, lay one of the new drawer boxes on an old drawer front to ensure proper alignment (take equal measurements on the top, bottom and sides, then transfer these dimensions to the new front panel and drill pilot holes for the screws and clamp the front and box together when installing the screws from inside the drawer box)

  5. Repeat these steps with the other drawers

  6. When finished, install the drawer pulls

  7. Reattach the old slides to the new drawers, or install new drawer slides

Refacing cabinets can be more work than simply replacing them, but refacing allows you to save money while still giving your kitchen and/or bathrooms a great new look and thus increasing the value of your home. Read more on refacing cabinets from the DIY Network here.

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How To Spruce Up An Old Deck

We all know that Summer means more BBQ’s, cookouts, entertaining, dinners on the deck, and more. So take a minute or a weekend to spruce up your old worn out deck to get it ready for these warm weather festivities.

Here are a few ways you can spruce up your deck…

Clean it up

Sweep off our even power wash your deck to clean off the leaves, debris, and dirt from the winter months. Don’t forget the stairs and around the outside of your deck too.

IMPORTANT TIP: Power washing your deck incorrectly can damage to wood. If you choose this method, use low pressure. With lower pressure you can also use a broom to help break up and push away debris.

Using Cleaners

Make sure you use the correct cleaning solution for your deck. Talk to a professional at your local home improvement store, let them know what type of wood you are working with and they can point you in the right direction for the best solution. The purpose of cleaning your deck is to brighten up its appearance and to make it last a long time. Don’t work against yourself by dulling the color or ruining your deck with the wrong solution.

Staining and Sealing

How often should you do this? According to a credible website, this will vary. Before thinking about staining or sealing make sure you prepare your deck by cleaning it properly.

  • Semitransparent stains – typically every year

  • Solid stains – recoat after 4-5 years (average)

  • Sealers – typically last 1 cycle so renew each year

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