Home Help: Quick and easy ways to improve your back yard

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Home Improvements: Easy backyard upgrades

- Deck. A stylish deck that has the look of real wood but without the maintenance headaches can add living space while reducing upkeep costs. There are several types of alternative materials designed to look like wood. The experts at AZEK Building Products say a new type of cellular PVC decking resists mold/mildew, scratches from dog paws, greasy food and even red wine.

- Details. Dress up your deck with planters, window boxes, a trellis or pergola. There are beautifully crafted wood look-a-likes on the market that last for years without requiring re-painting.

- Tools. To create a backyard sanctuary, it's important to get rid of the clutter. The one item homeowners use all the time is the garden hose, which can often be found spread across the lawn or hung on the side of the house in a sloppy mess. Tools like the No-Crank line of automatic hose reels keeps yards clean with little effort.

- Caulk. There are areas of your property that may have become unsafe over the winter season, whether you're in a freeze/thaw zone or damp and rainy climate. Concrete, stone and brick can especially show signs of wear. Check porch railings, stone steps, retaining walls and chimneys for cracks or chips. The caulk experts at Red Devil say that the newer caulk formulations provide a permanent bond for just about any damaged areas. (ARA)

How to save money on cooling costs

- Turn off the AC and open doors and windows during cooler periods.

- Use the unit fan and portable fans to draw in cooler outside air and increase circulation.

- Use a higher (warmer) thermostat setting during peak periods or when the area is unoccupied. A 75 to 80 degree setting will cut power consumption by 15 percent.

- Don't let heat build up all day and then try to cool areas quickly by turning the controls to maximum settings.

- Avoid activities that generate high heat and humidity (like cooking, bathing and laundering) during high heat hours.

- Draw the shade or window blinds to reduce solar and outdoor heat.

- Regularly change or clean filters and check air flow for blockage or frost on evaporator coil. Use the vacuum cleaner attachment on accessible parts but be careful not to damage them. (ARA)

Did You Know …

You can use shampoo to clean greasy spots and food messes from your refrigerator and/or stove. Simply mix some shampoo and water, dampen a rag with the concoction and wipe the area down.

Garden Guide

One all-natural way to deter garden pests is tobacco. No, not used cigarettes – a tobacco plant. If you plant tobacco around your garden, it will keep out aphids, slugs and other pests.

Decorating Tip: Wallpaper is back

Wallpaper is back in style, so if you’re considering using some, here’s a quick guide to a few types:

- Easy-hang wallpapers. Almost all wallpaper companies produce easy-hang "non-woven" wall coverings, which are easy to hang and remove. Installing non-woven wall coverings can be faster than painting. Non-woven wall coverings adhere to walls with magnet-force yet are easily repositionable.

- Natural textures. Wallpaper companies have always produced eco-friendly wallpapers such as naturally textured sea grass, bamboo, grasscloth, silk, burlap and jute -- but only for the high end of the market. Recent technological advances have made them both far more affordable and colorful. Natural wall coverings are now available in fashion-forward peacock blue, silver, gold, kiwi and violet. 

- Peel-and-stick. At first glance, these new "wallternatives" look like giant stickers in a box. But this peel-and-stick technology sticks to walls only as long as you want with no residue. They can be repositioned, removed and reused on any flat surface. (ARA)

Backyard Buddies

Some tips from on how to attract ladybugs to your yard:

- Place several ladybug habitation boxes around your garden. Fill with ladybug lure and organic material such as peat or compost. This will encourage the ladybugs to roost and lay eggs inside the box.

- Offer plenty of water sources such as a birdbath or ground-level water source.

- Place commercially available ladybug lure in your habitation boxes and spray ladybug lure on your plants and flowers.

- Avoid using chemical pesticides.

GateHouse News Service