6 Ways to Create a More Livable Outdoor Oasis

If your home is your sanctuary, then your backyard is your oasis. You work hard and should be able to come home after a long day and relax in comfort. But, for all the comfortable accoutrements, the modern backyard haven won’t be enjoyable if you can’t temper the climate anb2ap3_thumbnail_misting-system1-150x150d other natural forces. If you have all the basic necessities for relaxing and want to make your retreat even more livable, take a look at what you can do:

Misting System
– These systems work best in low-humidity climates, but are still valuable anywhere it’s just too hot. A misting system sends out a vapor mist that cools the surrounding air a few degrees, similar to the mist from a waterfall. Used in conjunction with an exterior ceiling fan, this type of cooling system can really make a difference during warmer days.


b2ap3_thumbnail_artic-heaterOutdoor Heaters
– Utilizing heaters in your outdoor design allows you to extend the enjoyment of your backyard well into the chillier fall months and open things up earlier in the spring. You can now find a large variety of free-standing heaters specifically made for patio and pool areas. Also look for built-in versions and compare pricing. If you have a beautiful backyard and can only enjoy it three or four months out of the year, the investment may be worth it.

Bug Misting System – This may be one of the best inventions ever. Instead of running around lighting citronella candles and spraying guests down with bug spray, maybe it’s time you consider investing in a bug misting system. Basically, small misters are strategically placed throughout the yard, in planting beds, near the pool or next to the porch. The mechanisms spray an all-natural bug repellent that works on flies, bees and even those annoying mosquitoes.

 


b2ap3_thumbnail_shade-sailsShade Sails
– We dream for the warm summer sun all winter, and when it finally arrives, we are reminded that it can be (too) hot to enjoy the outside the way we want. Shade sails are a great, contemporary way to bring a little shade into your outdoor life. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors, and are made of weather-resistant materials. A few areas of shade are always welcomed the deeper we get into the summer heat.

Pergola – For a more classic shade solution, build a traditional pergola. You can find pre-fabricated pergolas available, or there are often craftsmen looking for just such a project. The structure creates a romantic, dappled shade formed by the frame work and climbing vines. You can even drape flowing curtains from the support posts to add to the ambiance.


b2ap3_thumbnail_Outdoor-Furniture-300x210Cozy Seating
– Move beyond the folding lawn chair. Instead, design dining and living areas in your outdoor space with comfortable seating just like you do indoors. A comfortable sofa and chairs pulled  up close to an outdoor fireplace or fire pot would be welcomed by all. Think about including a chaise lounge or small daybed tucked away in a shady corner for lazy afternoon naps.

Putting a few chairs and tables next to the pool or on the patio is not the same as making your outdoor area comfortable. Think of your outdoor area the same as you do your home. After all, the square  footage you enjoy outside should be as important as the square footage inside.

How to Get the Kitchen Remodel You Expect

b2ap3_thumbnail_2012-07-11-08.36.51-300x201You’ve lived with a Kitchen that you don’t necessary like for years. Perhaps it has functioned fine enough, but it isn’t your style; or your kitchen works – but doesn’t work well and you need more storage. No matter the reason, you’ve saved the money and now you’re finally ready to remodel your kitchen.

But where do you start? Here are three critical things to keep in mind so that you get the Kitchen remodel you expect … and deserve.

Use a reputable contractor

Although you are handy, you’ve already determined that remodeling your Kitchen isn’t a smart DIY project to tackle. It is an important room in the house, and it needs to be remodeled with expediency and it needs to be built correctly and to code. However, picking a contractor that is right for the job isn’t an easy task. You don’t want to just open up the phone book and start calling numbers listed under “remodeling contractors.”

One way to find a good contractor is to check with your friends, neighbors and family who have had work done to see who they’d recommend. Also, check with realtors or other area professional business people, who know who the reputable remodeling contractors are in your area. You’ll also want to check with your area home builders association or other trade organization and pick one of their members.


b2ap3_thumbnail_DSC_0216-300x201Use Quality Materials

Saving money on a Kitchen remodel does not necessarily mean skimping on materials. Often, you get what you pay for. If you are using cheaper materials, such as inexpensive cabinets or countertops, in your Kitchen remodel project, your Kitchen may not provide the pizzazz you’d hoped for. Consult your remodeling contractor about the materials you select for your project. He’s knowledgeable on the ways you can cut spending in particular areas yet still get the quality Kitchen you want. Additionally, be truthful with your budget – as your contractor can only help you get the Kitchen you want while staying in budget if he has all the facts.

Finally, Don’t Be Afraid to Get What You Really Want. While on the topic of budget, don’t be afraid to spend a little extra on quality, comfort and design. This is a Kitchen you will live with for many years to come. If you are taking the time and money to remodel your kitchen, you might as well get what you really want.

Decorating the Bathroom: Finding the Right-Sized Furniture

There are many ways to decorate a bathroom, but one that is often overlooked is including furniture. Even a small powder room can be accented with a foot stool or shelf to give the room your unique touch.

No matter what the room size, the first step is to take the time to plan ahead. Before purchasing anything, measure your space. From there, make a detailed layout of the room with grid paper so you know exactly how much floor and wall space you have to work with. What you don’t want to do is buy lots furniture that will fill up your bathroom and make it look cluttered.

b2ap3_thumbnail_DSC0502-300x199When laying out your decorating scheme, take special care not to block windows and doorways. It will be one of the rooms you will be using a lot, so you want to make the atmosphere relaxing, soothing, and you want to make it a calm place.

After you have a final layout for your bathroom, decide the size and shape of the furniture you would like to place in the room. This is important because it will give your bathroom a sense of tidiness, completion and cleanliness. That is, of course, if the correct furniture is added. Depending on the size of the room, some furniture to consider purchasing include:

  •     Cabinets
  •     Mirrors
  •     Shelves
  •     Stools
  •     A comfortable high-backed chair (to sit on while dressing)
  •     A vanity

This is in addition to any artwork or other accent pieces you plan to incorporate into your bathroom’s décor.

The key to having a bathroom that you love is to take your time to find pieces that fit the space. Plan ahead, take measurements and work within the space, and you’ll have a bathroom that is functionally furnished.

Clean Your Home Naturally with These Common Items

You can scrub your home from top to bottom and until every room shines, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your home is clean … at least in a way that is good for you. Many of the chemicals in today’s commercial cleaning products actually can taint the quality of indoor air and also be absorbed into your body through your skin.

This is why it is important to pay attention to the labels – and consider using organic cleaning supplies. Products that contain only organic ingredients not only are safer for the environment, but they are also better for your family, too.

Organic cleaning supplies will often have plant extracts and natural minerals on the ingredient lists. Some will have flower essences (such as lavender) to give your home a soothing scent.

Look for products that contain essential oils. These are oils from natural items such as lemon or pine. Cleaning ingredients that are organic will also often have the word “biodegradable” on the label.

Baking soda is a natural cleaner and is often used to scrub and whiten stains.

White vinegar is another good cleaner that will cut through grease, get rid of stains and even can be used as a pest control. Ants will avoid white vinegar, so if you clean around your window frames and any crevices with white vinegar, this will take care of any ant problems.

Vinegar can also be used to kill mold, clean a garbage disposal, and even remove stains left by tea and coffee in your cups. It’s also great for getting rid of lime deposits.

Some other organic cleaning ingredients found in “green” cleaners are coconut, minerals and salt. You might not think of salt as a natural cleaner, but it is. Salt can be used as an abrasive and it can also be used to dry up liquids spilled on carpets.

Look for cleaners that contain castile soap. This soap is made of natural olive oil and can be used for cleaning countertops. It can also be used to clean clothes, and it’s great on hands. People with allergies often find castile soap easier and less irritating to the skin.

When choosing cleaning products, look for those that are natural – recognizing that some products will use the word “natural” in their description even when they aren’t 100 percent. Read labels carefully and avoid products that contain preservatives or synthetic materials. Also look for keywords like non-abrasive and non-flammable, because this is indicative of the cleaner being chemical-free.

How to Choose the Right Fire Extinguisher

Every home should have at least one fire extinguisher for the kitchen, one for the garage, and if you have a separate workshop, one there. However, there are several types to choose from, so how do you know which one is proper?


b2ap3_thumbnail_fireThere are 4 categories of fire extinguishers for different types of fires:

Class A

This is for ordinary combustible materials like wood, paper and cardboard. It also includes most plastics. These types of extinguishers may be filled with water that is air pressurized, but you should only use a Class A extinguisher when you know that only ordinary combustible materials are involved.

Class B

Kitchen fires need this type of extinguisher. It is for flammable or combustible liquids, including grease, oil, oil-based paints and gasoline. Water should never be used on a grease fire, as it will spread the fire.

Class C

If you have an electrical fire, you’ll want to break out this this type of fire extinguisher. It is for appliances and tools that are plugged in, or electrically charged equipment. Many people don’t know that you should never use water on an electrical fire because of the risk of electrical shock.

Class D

Class D models extinguish fires that involve combustible metals, so you will usually only see these in businesses that use metals.

Class K

You will mostly find these extinguishers in commercial kitchens, as they are for fires involving vegetable or animal oils or fats. However, you can buy a Class K extinguisher for use in your home kitchen as well.

It’s possible that a fire has a combination of these categories. If your fire extinguisher has an “ABC” rating, it is good for Class A, B and C fires. Such extinguishers are usually filled with dry chemicals and pressurized by nitrogen. They leave behind a residue that can damage equipment and other items, however they are better than carbon dioxide (CO2) extinguishers because they leave a non-flammable material to prevent the fire from re-igniting. A CO2 fire extinguisher is only meant for Class B and C fires. They contain highly pressurized carbon dioxide, and they don’t leave any residue, which is why they are good for electrical fires. Class D extinguishers should only be used on Class D fires.

If you’ve never used a fire extinguisher before, remember these 4 simple steps:

  • Pull the pin so you can discharge the contents of the fire extinguisher.
  • Aim at the base of the fire because that is where the fuel is. Don’t be tempted to hit the flames.
  • Squeeze the lever so the contents come out. If you let go, nothing will come out.
  • Sweep the extinguisher from side to side until the fire is out.

Always make sure you stand at a safe distance and move in closer to the fire once it gets smaller.

Most fire extinguishers only have 10 seconds of use. If the fire extinguisher has already been partially discharged or is old, it may have even less than that. Be sure you immediately recharge the extinguisher once it’s been used.

Even though it may sound like a fire extinguisher is easy to use, proper training will help you in an emergency situation. For example, you will learn that it is only safe to use a fire extinguisher: 1) when everyone has been notified of the fire, 2) you know the fire department has been called, 3) the fire is small, 4) you are not inhaling toxic smoke and 5) you have a way to escape. If all of these conditions are not met, make sure everyone is out and call the fire department from a safe location.

Just like everything else, fire extinguishers need to be maintained. They should be stored in an accessible place, be pressurized at the proper level, not have any damage and be clean. If you have a dry chemical extinguisher, shake it so the powder doesn’t settle.

It is also a good idea to have several fire extinguishers in your home. Just be sure to have the right extinguisher for the area and that you know how to use each one.

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