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Category Archives: Exterior

Top trends to inspire your outdoor living

April 1, 2018

Outdoor living spaces rank first among special function rooms desired by consumers, and so homeowners are expected to be going all-in for the outdoors in 2018.

According to gleaned insights from contractors, homeowners and industry experts, here are the outdoor living trends that will dominate 2018:

Year-round enjoyment

Among the biggest trends is a shift away from seasonality as consumers adopt more of a year-round mindset, no longer restricting outdoor living to spring and summer. Thanks to new high-performance materials and innovative design approaches, homeowners everywhere are transforming their outdoor spaces into multi-seasonal extensions of their homes.

Minimal maintenance, maximum enjoyment

Just because people are spending more time outdoors doesn’t mean they’re willing to put in extra hours for upkeep. In fact, high-maintenance materials like wood are seeing a decrease in demand as people are opting for offerings that deliver better performance and sustainability.

Unlike wood, high-performance composites resist fading, staining, scratching and mold – and won’t rot, warp, crack or splinter. No sanding, staining or painting is required, and food and drink spills wash off easily with just soap and water.

Comfy cozy

Among the hottest design influences right now is “hygge” (pronounced hoo-gah) – the Scandinavian term for a feeling of coziness and comfort. This year, outdoor spaces will beckon homeowners and their guests to relax and rejuvenate with hygge-inspired accents, from plush cushions and throws to protective pergolas, cozy warming features and outdoor lighting.

Residential goes commercial

While railing matched to the decking remains popular, an increasing number of homeowners are taking advantage of the complementary decking and railing pairings afforded by new railing materials in modern, metal finishes, as well as sleek designs inspired by commercial architecture. More homeowners are inspired by outdoor spaces they find in commercial settings, such as hotels and urban rooftops, and want to replicate those looks in their homes. A prime example of this commercial-to-residential trend is the growing popularity of horizontal railings such as rod rail – a sleek, industrial look that’s ideal for optimizing a panoramic view.

Hide and chic

With the increased usage of outdoor living spaces comes higher demand for chic decor and privacy. An easy design trick that adds personal style and functionality, lattice panels are perfect for enhancing privacy and concealing storage areas or unsightly views. With styles ranging from romantic to deco, lattice panels can be integrated into any outdoor area and applied to structures such as arbors, trellises and gazebos, or used as decorative wainscoting or deck skirting.

Fun and games

Kids are not the only ones who enjoy playing outside. Outdoor play spaces for all ages are on the rise, including everything from swimming pools and embedded sandboxes to regulation cornhole courts, horseshoe pits and dedicated spaces for volleyball, badminton and bocce ball.

Beyond yard games, electronics manufacturers now offer televisions and entertainment systems specifically designed for the outdoors, taking into consideration differences in lighting and outdoor acoustics. Meanwhile, new storage options include durable wall-mounted television and entertainment centers that beautifully protect pricey electronics from the elements, while concealing all of the unsightly – and potentially unsafe – cords and cables.

4 tips for protecting your home this season and beyond

February 17, 2018

Winter is in full swing and extremely cold temperatures continue to grip much of the country; which mean hats, gloves and high home maintenance bills could be in your future. According to recent data, in 2016 severe winter weather cost homeowners millions of dollars in property damages. While the seasonal shift can be a challenge for homeowners, taking these four steps today could ease home maintenance burdens this season and all year-round.

1. Take a look at your windows

Old windows – especially those with multiple panes of glass- are notorious for air leakage, allowing heat to escape the home while letting in cold air. If your home still feels drafty after you’ve turned the heat on, it may be time to upgrade to more energy-efficient windows.

It’s recommended that homeowners pay attention to insulating values and glass packages when selecting new windows for their home. Manufacturers have made significant technology advancements over the years. Thermal performance of windows can now achieve performance well beyond building code and Energy Star levels, significantly increasing energy efficiency. Along those same lines, low-E glass coatings allow us to customize windows to specific regional climate conditions. So, if a home has old windows, replacing them with new energy efficient ones can make a significant difference in comfort, while also saving energy.

2. Seal up any leaks

Air leakage through holes, gaps, or cracks in the home’s structure is one of the biggest causes of home heating and cooling loss. It’s estimated that reducing drafts could save homeowners from 10 to 20 percent on their annual energy costs. To help control air leakage through gaps and cracks larger than two inches, such as where the wall sets on the sub-floor or where pipes and wires go through wall plates, homeowners should use caulk or foam sealant materials. For smaller cracks, typically found around windows and doors, weather stripping can help manage leaks. Steps taken to seal your home and save heat in the winter will also help improve indoor air conditioning flow during summer months.

3. Think about adding insulation

In addition to sealing up any small leaks, it’s important to evaluate your home’s air tightness on a few fronts. For instance, consider adding materials such as fiberglass, cellulose or natural fibers to interior walls for enhanced insulation. On the exterior, look at areas like your home’s cladding and consider upgrading to an insulated vinyl siding system. In addition to boosting curb appeal and minimizing ongoing maintenance, insulated vinyl siding, efficiently reduces air leakage by providing continuous insulation along the entire exterior and covering wall studs that are left exposed by traditional wall coverage.

4. Keep your gutters clean

As temperatures drop, check your gutters to ensure they are completely devoid of leaves and debris so that water can flow freely. If needed, have professional gutter protection installed, such as a gutter protection system that includes a continuous hanger, to reduce the possibilities of ice damming. If melting ice is unable to drain due to buildup, it could seep into the walls and ceilings of your home. Having an effective gutter system installed is a simple solution that can prevent the hassles of gutter cleaning and damage throughout the year.

By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll be able to better protect your home from mother nature’s ways this winter and throughout the remainder of the year.

Simple steps to create the perfect outdoor oasis

June 27, 2017

Summer is home to many of the year’s most beautiful days, so who can blame you for wanting to spend them all outside? Your yard becomes your living room and your patio the kitchen. It’s your home away from home, which begs the question – do you like your current digs?

If your home’s outdoor space lacks the comfort and appeal you are longing for, don’t worry. Now is the perfect time to transform your backyard into the perfect outdoor oasis you can enjoy all summer long.

To get started upgrading your backyard without breaking the bank – follow these tips from the experts at Lowe’s.

A place to gather. Think of the parties you’ve hosted in your home. They’ve likely all had a common gathering place such as the kitchen counter, the living room couch or the dining room table. Your outdoor space needs a similar location and a dining set naturally invites guests to relax. Five-piece dining sets are perfect for more intimate gatherings, while seven-piece sets comfortably accommodate larger crowds.

The focal point of your kitchen. Grilling out is a staple of any summer party, so if your existing grill isn’t hitting all cylinders, it’s time for an upgrade. The Master Forge 5-Burner Modular Gas Grill features four heavy-duty burners, one infrared searing burner and one infrared rotisserie burner, giving you a solution for any menu choice. Plus, its built-in halogen lights can keep your party going long into the night.

A place to relax. The sofas and armchairs in your living room are popular sitting destinations during any indoor event, and you can create the same environment outdoors with sectional patio furniture.

A little shade goes a long way. An all-day party means plenty of sun, and when guests need a break from the heat, it’s good to provide an area of relief. Patio umbrellas are an affordable option, available in 8-1/2 and 9-foot varieties, providing ample coverage for a large gathering. And to keep the awning a hot destination into the evening, look for an umbrella outfitted with LED lights.

The perfect accents. The difference between a backyard and an outdoor oasis is in the details you add to your space. Torches bring light to any situation. With durable metal construction and a long-lasting fiberglass wick, these lights will keep their look in any conditions. To add a little extra green space to your outdoor entertaining area, consider purchasing raised garden beds. They provide a grand ambiance upgrade to your oasis at an affordable price.

Summer has just begun! Implement any of the upgrades listed above and you’ll be able to enjoy the season’s greatest days from your brand-new oasis.

Burglaries peak in summer: Is your home secure?

May 1, 2017

Long days, moonlit nights and endless opportunities for adventure are probably causing you to daydream about travel. Whether you’re planning a day trip or a month-long extravaganza, summer is full of opportunity for you. But what about your empty house while you’re away?

Unfortunately summer months are also peak periods for home burglaries. Seasonal patterns exist in household burglary rates, with these crimes happening more frequently in the summer than during other seasons of the year because people are traveling more and are away from their homes.

Planning your next weekend at the cottage doesn’t have to involve worry about a break-in back home. Give yourself peace of mind no matter where you are by taking a few proactive steps to protect your home today.

Step 1: A smart home is a secure home

Law enforcement agencies agree that one of the best ways to protect a home is with a security system. Something as simple as a sign noting an alarm system is onsite can be enough to deter a potential theft. Closing and locking all doors (including dead bolts) and then setting an alarm dramatically decreases burglary odds.

Smart home technology is creating greater innovation in home security, with systems to create a do-it-yourself, tailored system that’s not only convenient but effective security. These systems can feature more than 100 compatible devices that include security cameras, motion sensors, smart locks, adjustable light bulbs, connected thermostats, smoke alarms and more.

For an even more secure home, get professional home monitoring. The service gives homeowners the ability to have emergency responders dispatched to their homes in the event of a security, smoke, carbon monoxide or panic alarm, with no long-term contract required. Whether you’re at work or across the country, you can rest easy knowing someone will respond quickly to any home emergency.

Step 2: Avoid signs that show your home is vacant

An empty home is an easy target for break-ins. It can be pretty obvious when homeowners are away, especially if they’ve been gone for a while. But with a mix of simple steps and effective technology, you can give your house a “lived-in” feel, even when you’re miles away.

Stop your mail and newspaper delivery when traveling, or ask a neighbor to gather these items for you so they don’t accumulate on your property. Have someone come and tidy your yard and water plants so everything appears tended to. Use your Iris smart home system to set lights to turn on and off throughout the day. You may even ask a neighbor to periodically park in your driveway to give the impression people are coming and going.

Keep in mind social media has become a rich resource for criminals. Keep profile settings to private and never post photos or other messages on social media about your vacation while still away. Travel posts are like news alerts that your home is empty. It’s best to wait until you return before sharing those precious images with friends and family.

Step 3: Rid your property of hiding spots and easy points of entry

Homes with lots of overgrowth and natural coverage provide hiding spots that make break-ins simpler. That means now is the time to trim bushes, hedges and trees, especially around entrance points in the home.

Next, look for vulnerable areas of your house. For example, the garage door may be easier to open than you think. Consider using a C-clamp on garage doors while gone or integrating a smart garage controller so you can keep tabs on whether it’s opened or closed from your smartphone.

Windows are another common way for burglars to enter a home. Hot summer months often mean cracked windows, so double check all are closed and locked. With a smart home system, you can even check on this remotely and get notified if a window is opened or broken. If you have a window air conditioning unit, you may want to install window frame locks to prevent a criminal from pushing out the unit and entering the home.

Summer should be a time of relaxation instead of worry. These three steps can help you be smart about securing your home so you can actually enjoy that vacation.

DIY pressure washing: How to get great results

March 5, 2017

Clean siding and trim can do as much for a home’s curb appeal as fresh flowers, neatly trimmed hedges and a repainted front door. You could scrub for hours trying to remove dirt, mold and mildew, or you could do the job more quickly and easily with a pressure washer.

However, if you decide to pressure wash your home’s siding, trim, fence or other surfaces on your own, it’s important to choose the right equipment for the project, and to know the basics of good pressure washing.

Pressure washer basics

Pressure washers use powerful pumps to boost water pressure and force water through a special nozzle. The intense spray powers away dirt, grime and debris, and depending on the type and size pressure washer you choose, they can be great for both major and minor home cleaning projects. While professionals often use gas-fueled versions for home renovation projects, electric versions are affordable, convenient, and easy to use and maintain for most around-the-home applications such as siding, driveways, fences, patio furniture and vehicles.

Pressure washers use less water and complete cleaning jobs more quickly than simply scrubbing by hand. Generally, the higher the PSI (pounds of pressure per square inch) the greater a pressure washer’s cleaning power. However, PSI is not the only consideration when choosing a pressure washer.

You should also look for ease of setup and use, and availability of accessories like extensions and wands for the different projects you might want to complete with your pressure washer. In addition to affordability, look for compact storage, an integrated detergent tank and ergonomic features such as an on/off pedal switch and tall folding handles. These features make it more comfortable to use a pressure washer and more convenient to store it when you’re done.

It’s also important to understand the type of detergent the washer will use in addition to water. Some cleaners might be too harsh for certain applications. Look for biodegradable options that protect the environment and the pressure washer itself. Never use bleach with a pressure washer, as this can permanently damage the pump.

How to use a pressure washer

Pressure washers are powerful pieces of equipment, and you should always follow basic safety practices, such as using eye and face protection, and the manufacturer’s instructions for use. Be aware that using too high a pressure setting or holding the nozzle too close to surfaces could cause damage. Further, there are some things you should never do with a pressure washer, including:

– Never point the jet at people, animals, windows or the pressure washer itself.

– Never stand on a ladder when using a pressure washer. The kick from the wand could cause you to lose your balance. Instead, use an extension wand or second-story nozzle to clean overhead areas.

To clean siding on your home:

– First, place drop cloths over nearby shrubs and greenery to protect them from the spray and detergent.

– With the washer set at low pressure, apply detergent, moving from top to bottom. Don’t allow the detergent to dry on the siding. Use a brush to loosen any stubborn dirt.

– Use clean water and a higher pressure setting to rinse off detergent, again moving from top to bottom.

– Use a sweeping motion to clean, and keep the nozzle at least 6 inches from the siding.

To clean cement, brick or stone:

– Whether it’s a cement retaining wall, a brick path or a patio of stone pavers, first rinse the surface to be cleaned using fresh water.

– If you’re using detergent, apply it at a low pressure and work in smaller sections of about 25 square feet.

– Using a rotating turbo nozzle and a sweeping motion, clean by holding the nozzle 3 to 6 inches from the surface.

Before tackling any project with a pressure washer it’s a good idea to test the unit in a small, out-of-the-way spot to ensure you won’t damage the surface you want to clean.