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Every homeowner wants the best for their family. From cozy living rooms to serene bathrooms, we all want to improve the way we live by considering home improvement projects that help us achieve a more appealing home.

But when it comes to making a home that’s safe and healthy, we will have to look for green solutions. After all, this is the first step to achieving a healthier home.

Let’s check out a few important tips to a greener home.

  1. Ditch commercial materials

Whether you’re mopping up the living room floor or repainting the exterior walls of your home, the materials you use may contain chemicals that not only pollute the air but also cause a wide range of health conditions on your family. You may need to update your shopping list and get rid of brands that are known to contain high traces of cancer-causing chemicals such as glycol and benzene.

If you’re making a change for the better, you might as well look online for shops selling organic materials for your next home improvement project.

  1. Think of a redesign

Often the best way to build a green home is to start from scratch. Fortunately, if you’re planning to settle in a home that’s both functional and eco-friendly, there are local builders who can help you along those lines.

If you live in Baltimore, you’ll find Maryland home builders who can provide custom designs that help reduce your carbon footprint. But if you already have a home, you can always opt for a redesign by using proper insulation, as well as materials and concepts that allow for better cooling and heating.

  1. Upgrade your lighting

If there’s anything that passes as an eco-friendly solution, changing your light bulbs will do the trick. Especially if it has been a while since you last upgraded your lighting, swapping your bulbs with LEDs will really keep your energy consumption low along with your power bills.

  1. Prepare a compost pit

Managing a garden is tough work, but choosing a safe alternative to commercial fertilizers has to be tougher. Sure enough, familiar fertilizer brands could be more acidic and, in effect, harmful to your plants.

Commercial fertilizer might give your garden the lushness it needs, but when it comes to keeping the soil healthy, preparing your own compost using kitchen scraps has to be the better option. It’s organic and it won’t pollute the ground much as synthetic fertilizers do.

  1. Improve your insulation

Whether there’s a blizzard or a heatwave, the thermostat has to be your best bet in keeping your home’s temperature well-regulated. Then again, you will have to pay a price for keeping your home well heated or cooled during extreme weather. By keeping your home well-insulated, you won’t have to set the thermostat high or low.

 

A greener home is possible, so long as you use the right approach. That way, you won’t have to worry about putting your family’s health and safety at risk.

 

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Your home design is all about you, your partner and your family. Every element present at home reflects a certain aspect of life. The colors painted all over the walls remind you of peace and serenity. The decor beautifying the walls project decision-making and artistic skills. The materials used inside and outside the house, from flooring to roofing, display style and preferences. Spacing and arrangement either defies customs or depicts centuries-old traditions and beliefs.

When buying a new home, building one or making a facelift, you want to be immersed in the process, from planning the details to the finishing touches. After all, the house is your safe haven for years or even for a lifetime. It is a pleasure to flip through the color palette, the portfolio of home decor and the gallery of design ideas you want your eyes to scour. It is also no wonder if you have been making sketches or notes with design ideas for the kitchen, living room, master bedroom or even the garage.

To help you out, we have compiled a list of unique bits of design that may seem bizarre but are actually awe-inspiring ideas that will make your house stand out from the rest.

Pendant Lighting

More and more restaurants, especially intimate ones, are now adorned with pendant lighting that hangs just slightly over the heads of guests. From a style perspective, pendant lighting offers a great addition to your home. But it provides more than just a decorative accent. It also plays a major role in terms of highlighting a room, adding a different glow while incorporating a decorative style.

Now, how do you plan on adding pendant lights at home? You can try hanging them to illuminate your entryway, a kitchen counter or dining table. Although the lights are usually close, you may also opt for a design that spreads all throughout the space you want to brighten up, like a dining table with a large seating capacity.

Natural Lighting and Ventilation

Sustainability solutions start at home. Measures to lower consumption of energy and water do not just lead to lesser utility bills but also contribute less to greenhouse gas emissions. Apart from using less electricity and water, you can incorporate sustainability measures in your building design.

This means you will need less light during the day and nature’s fresh breeze will surround your home, instead of turning on air conditioning for cooling the house. Ask your home renovations and remodeling service provider or a local Excel Builders to craft a design that allows natural lighting and ventilation to come inside the house.

Big Plants

Desert plants are the usual staple for decor inside the house. But it is 2019, and trends change over time. Small plants, flowering or non-flowering, are also attractive. Nowadays, big plants are eye-catching accessories that can attract attention. Before you purchase bold plants, you need to know the relevant information such as water and sunlight requirements to keep plants healthy and green.

Floral Patterns

While people live in a modern world, everybody loves a design redux for styles that were trendy in the past. In 2019, floral patterns have risen to the occasion. You might think the floral pattern thrived during your grandma’s adolescent period. Well, yes indeed. But filling your home with floral design may be a better replacement for bland or flashy colors that dominated the previous years.

Fortunately, floral print today is redesigned with contemporary lines and is much bolder than in years past. There is a list of fresh design for your floral patterns, from orchids to cherry blossoms, to give your room an updated look. 

Multi-Functional Space

Whether you’re limiting furniture to save space or just practicing less is more through minimalism, a multi-functional space can work wonders at home. You can remodel existing furniture pieces or purchase new ones that offer more than just one function, such as a bed with pull-out drawers or ottomans with added storage.

You can also design two or more rooms in one space, such as an office space in a living room or transforming kitchen counters into a workstation. Success in multi-functional space depends on layout. The design should manifest proper balance between two or more functions, and clearly indicate the division between spaces.

Bar Area

You, your partner, friends and family members can enjoy the spirits and entertainment at your home by putting up a bar. You can display your prized wines, tequila and other liquor you want to enjoy. Hang those wine glasses, put in the rotating stools and roll out those barrels to start partying without going outside.

With a bar area, it’s easy for guests to get cold drinks while the party is hot on the dance floor. The bar does not have to be limited to drinking alcoholic beverages alone. You can also have your morning coffee, brew a late-night tea or whip up a smoothie at the bar.

Biophilia

It is now that we are seeing more and more people that are interacting with nature. By installing sustainable solutions at home or in the office, everyone is more involved today than on previous years when it comes to getting closer with nature. At home, people create gardens to commune with the environment. Now though, design has brought nature closer to you through biophilia. A biophilic setting expands beyond houseplants or floral patterns. It has design and decor that bring the sight, sound and smell of nature indoors.

So, how do you create this biophilia? For one, work with water. The sound of flowing water not only relaxes our senses, it also blocks noises caused by street sounds. Another element is to breathe in the fragrant scent of nature with aromatic candles or essential oils. Aim to create a space devoid of gadgets, equipment and screens. A biophilic setting wants us to awaken our senses and technology works against it. Just have a corner where distractions are absent.

There is a Santa Claus list of eclectic home design ideas you can experiment in your new dwelling or for an upcoming renovation. As long as it speaks to your style, character and beliefs, you can never be wrong with your choices.

 

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Installing a new fence can be a demanding DIY project if the area to be surrounded is large enough, but it isn’t the most difficult project that you can undertake either. That being said, mistakes are quite common and, therefore, in case you have any plans to set up a few fences on your own anytime soon, it’s worth it to glance over these three tips that even experienced DIY enthusiasts can find useful at times.

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Asking the All-Important Questions

Before you even start planning your fence installation project, it is of the utmost importance to ask yourself and your family a few questions first, and they should be along the lines of the following.

  • What is the primary objective behind the installation of the fence?
  • Is privacy more important to you or does security take precedence?
  • How much are you really willing to or can afford to spend on your fencing project?
  • What are the choices in material that you have?
  • How much maintenance will your new fencing require and how much will that cost you?

To illustrate why all these questions are so important, let’s get to the next tip.

Understand What Your New Fencing Will Bring With It

Steel fences last for decades. In fact, the steel fencing from Northland Fence comes with a warranty of two decades! It will remain unhindered by the weather conditions as neither the sun nor the frost will be able to even scratch your steel fencing for years. While the durability of steel also makes it an excellent material of choice when security is your priority, it will not provide you with any privacy at all. When privacy is more important, then go for vinyl fencing instead of steel. Northland Fence has consciously switched over from cedar wood to vinyl because the material lasts longer than wood and provides better security than wood as well. As far as the looks are concerned, vinyl fencing can be made to look exactly like cedar, so you won’t have to sacrifice on décor. Besides, to make wooden fences last, it does require a lot of maintenance.

Checking with the Local Zoning Laws

There are limitations, rules, and regulations, alongside must-have safety precautions that every household in a US state must adhere to while putting up any kind of fencing. For example, in order to put up any fences in Minnesota that are more than 30-inches in height, you will require a building permit that will only be granted on producing a satisfactory site plan. These laws change with the state in question, so do make sure you are thorough with your understanding of what you can and can’t do in your area.

Given the time, effort, and knowledge of fine details it requires, it is recommended that you leave any big fencing project to the professionals, as they deal with them regularly and are well aware of them. Nevertheless, if you want to do it all on your own, at least now you are a bit wiser than before!

 

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Whats So Special About Saltwater Pools

Saltwater pools are gaining popularity as an alternative to traditional chlorine pools. Saltwater pool owners enjoy key benefits, but it’s important to learn what you’re in for before deciding on the right type of pool for your home.

Here, we’ll clear up some common misconceptions about saltwater pools, and weigh the pros and cons of saltwater pools over traditional pools.

The Basics

In a traditional pool, the chlorine level is maintained by periodically adding chlorine to the pool. However, a saltwater pool generates salt chlorine from added salt by the process of chemical electrolysis, using a salt chlorine generator. This highlights an important fact: a saltwater pool is a chlorine pool, it simply uses an alternate means of chlorination. That being said, a saltwater pool’s chlorine content tends to be much lower than that of a traditional pool. The significantly lower chlorine content in a saltwater pool is much gentler on the skin, hair, and eyes.

 

But, What is a Salt Chlorine Generator?

A salt chlorine generator is a metal cell that carries a low voltage electrical current. The generator is installed inline the pool’s existing pump system so the water is pumped through the generator before being returned to the pool. As the water passes through the metal cell, the current splits the salt into water and hypochlorous acid, which provides the disinfecting function normally achieved by adding chlorine.

A saltwater generator creates salt chlorine from simple table salt (NaCl), eliminating the need to handle chlorine. Because the chemical electrolysis converts the salt back and forth between salt and salt chlorine, and because salt does not evaporate (unlike chlorine), there is a reduced need to replenish the pool’s chlorine content. Still, the chlorine content of a saltwater pool must be monitored and salt must be added, as appropriate, to maintain safe levels.

 

Is It Like Swimming in The Ocean?

Note quite. The salinity of a saltwater pool is about one-tenth that of seawater. In fact, a saltwater pool is less salty than human tears. In the ocean, it’s easier to float on your back due to the added buoyancy of the salt. Saltwater pools don’t provide the effect quite as well.

The reduced salt of a saltwater pool in comparison with the ocean has a few benefits. You won‘t feel the “salty” feeling on your skin and hair quite as intensely after drying off. A pool’s water also does not sting your eyes in the same way ocean water will.

 

How Do I Convert My Pool?

Converting a traditional chlorine pool to a saltwater pool is fairly easy, but can be expensive. First, you would need to determine what size pool you have and install a salt chlorine generator capable of handling the volume. Salt chlorine generators range in cost from several hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. If you are not completely confident in your understanding of the system, you might also want to high a professional to do the installation so as to avoid damage to your equipment. It’s also important to not that the salt chlorine generator will need to be replaced every few years.

Then, you need to determine how much salt your pool needs. Pool salt test strips can tell you your pool’s existing salt level so you can accurately determine how much you need to add. Again, a saltwater pool uses simple table salt which should be easy to find. After you add the salt, you should run the pump (but NOT the salt chlorine generator), for 24 hours to allow the salt to evenly mix with the pool water. After that, you should test the water for appropriate salt, free chlorine, pH, cyanuric acid, total alkalinity, and calcium hardness, before running the salt chlorine generator. This process is referred to as “balancing the pool water.”

 

Are Saltwater Pools Low Maintenance?

Again, we’re here to debunk a common misconception. While saltwater pools require reduced maintenance steps, the water must still be routinely tested and adjusted to maintain proper sanitation. The salt chlorine generator cell must also be inspected at regular intervals for buildup and debris. Calcium buildup is a common issue in salt chlorine generators.

 

Is It Worth It?

The general consensus has been that the benefits of a saltwater pool far outweigh the negatives. The popularity of saltwater pools is on the rise as people appreciate the improved swimming experience:

  • The low salinity of the water means that very little salt remains on the skin.
  • The significantly lower chlorine level gives the water a softer feel, and is gentler on skin, hair, eyes, and even clothing.
  • Not having to physically handle toxic liquid chlorine or tablets has also been a big selling point among pool owners. Owners also appreciate the savings from no longer needing to purchase chlorine.
  • Also, there is generally less loss of chlorine to the environment with a saltwater pool than there is in a traditional pool.
  • Restoring a saltwater pool’s chlorine level can be as easy as simply adding some table salt.

 

While the benefits of saltwater pools are clear, it’s important for a potential owner to know the facts about what they are and what they are not:

  • A saltwater pool is not quite like the ocean. The salinity of a saltwater pool is far lower than that of seawater.
  • Installing a saltwater pool requires a higher initial investment, and fixing any broken equipment can be more expensive.
  • A saltwater pool is not low maintenance. Maintaining a sanitary saltwater pool requires consistency and attention to detail. All other parameters required for a safe pool still need maintenance.
  • Since a saltwater pool simply employs an alternate means of chlorination, many of the same issues that come up with a traditional pool will persist with a saltwater pool.
  • Salt can be corrosive to equipment surrounding your pool.

 

About the author:

Jason Caldwell is a Seattle-based writer and contributor to lifestyle blogs and magazines. His clients include An online swimming pools supply company. When he’s not running up against a deadline, he enjoys planning DIY projects and cooking for his family.

 

 

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Keeping your landscape healthy, green and attractive throughout the hottest part of summer is easy, provided you know all the right tricks. Want to know the best ways to keep your gardens growing and flowers blooming despite the summer heat? The following tips will show you how to help your landscape thrive all summer:

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1. Know When to Prune

With some trees and shrubs, you can wait until fall or winter to prune. In fact, the University of Minnesota recommends that you prune many trees during the last stages of winter while the trees are still dormant. The exceptions are sap-heavy trees like maples, butternuts and birch trees.

In the summer, however, you’ll need to focus your attention on the ornamentals that bloom early in the spring. Azaleas, lilacs, forsythia and anything else that blooms early needs plenty of time to recuperate before winter so that you have a good flush of blooms during the following spring. For these plants, start pruning after the blooms fade but don’t prune any later than the end of July. As a bonus, because early blooming plants devote more energy to producing new branches once they’ve been pruned, you’ll be rewarded with a flush of fresh greenery to enjoy over the summer.

2. Mow to the Right Height

In the spring, grass can take a little more abuse, simply because the extra moisture in the ground helps it recover after a harsh mowing. As the weather heats and the soil dries, you’ll need to be a little more particular about mowing. Make sure that you never remove more than one-third of your lawn’s height, even if that means you need to raise the mower deck. This will prevent stress to your lawn, which in turn keeps your lawn green and healthy rather than brown and parched.

3. Deadhead Your Flowers

Deadheading seems like a no-brainer — it gets rid of all the ugly, lifeless blooms. However, there’s an even more important reason to keep up with the deadheading. Flowers, whether annual or perennial, put a lot of energy into seed production. Let some flowers go to seed, and you’ll have far fewer blooms for the rest of the summer, whereas if you pluck the spent flowers, the plant will release chemical signals to increase bloom production.

4. Top Your Mulch

If you’re like most people, you do your mulching in the spring. Between rains, wind, transplanting and weeding, however, some of that mulch can disappear in a matter of weeks. Keep in mind that mulch is doubly important in the summer — not only does it give your gardens a neat, weed-free look, but according to Cornell University, mulched soils can retain twice as much water as bare soil. In addition, the soil will stay eight to 13 degrees cooler, which is good for your plants’ root systems. With that thought in mind, buy a few bags of mulch and top your beds wherever necessary.

5. Tend to Your Cool-Season Vegetables

Come July, certain crops in your vegetable garden — cool weather crops like peas, cabbage and broccoli — should be finished for the season. With those plants out of your vegetable garden, you can do three things with the extra space:

  • Mulch the empty beds to keep the weeds down and help prepare the soil for the next year.
  • Replant cool season vegetables for a fall crop.
  • Plant cover crops to help enrich and soften the soil.

If you try cover crops, look for late season crops like radishes, wheat and rye. Plant them thickly, and these crops will choke weeds even as they improve your vegetable beds.

6. Pick the Right Time to Water

Should you water daily, weekly or not at all? The answer to that question depends on the amount of rain your region has received and the water requirements of the plants within your landscape.

However, if you do need to water, then always water as early as you can in the morning. The logic behind this is two-fold: Watering early gives the moisture more time to soak into the soil before the heat of the day evaporates it, but at the same time, leaves will have enough time to dry, which makes it harder for diseases and fungal infections to take hold.

With these tips, you can easily keep your summertime landscape healthy and lush without a lot of fuss. As the weather gets hotter, relax and enjoy all the hard work that led to your gorgeous landscape.

Author Bio

Rick Ryan is the owner and president of All Valley Landscaping. With more than 21 years of experience in landscape renovations Rick is a certified expert in the construction industry, including: landscape renovations, yard renovations and exterior home, tree trimming and removal services and sprinkler repair and installations.

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Your backyard is an extension of your home, so why not treat is as such? Renovating your backyard will not only increase your home value, it will expand your living space and your enjoyment of your home. Here are three stellar upgrades that can transform your backyard from boring to breathtaking.

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  1. Install a rain garden. Do you have problems with rainwater runoff, or want to camouflage an unattractive downspout area on your house? Are you concerned about the quality of lakes and streams in your area? Or, are you simply looking for a low-maintenance way to beautify your yard? A rain garden is an excellent solution to all three.

A rain garden is an area of your yard where rainwater is directed and allowed to sink naturally into the ground. It is a perfect alternative to a retention pond because it doesn’t breed mosquitos. Rain gardens also help the environment by reducing flooding, erosion, and surface water pollution, and by helping maintain the water table. Because of this, some cities now offer rebates to help cover the cost of installing a rain garden.

Most rain gardens use native plants that require little or no care. With careful plant selection they can be a beautiful addition to the landscape. This makes them an ideal backyard upgrade for busy people. As a bonus, rain gardens are a haven for butterflies and birds. Consider adding a garden bench to your rain garden so you can enjoy their antics!

  1. Add an outdoor entertainment area. Do you wish you had more space for entertaining? Expanding your living space into your backyard can be quite cost-effective compared to building an addition to your home. Outdoor spaces also lend themselves to parties and gatherings, especially if you include a fire ring or grill.

Your outdoor entertainment area can be as simple as an open patio with some attractive patio furniture and a nice grill. It can also be as elaborate as your budget and imagination allow. How about a pool, outdoor kitchen and bar, an outdoor fireplace, lighting to illuminate pathways and steps, a sandbox or child-sized table for the kids, or even a built-in flat-screen TV? The possibilities abound, and a good landscape professional can help you bring your ideas to life.

  1. Grow a potager garden. Leave it to the French to find a way to enjoy great food while still looking fabulous. “Potager” is French for edible, and a potager garden is an ornamental kitchen garden that provides a feast for the eyes as well as fresh, succulent produce for the table. Originating during the French Renaissance, these gardens combine vegetables and small fruits with flowers and herbs, and are carefully designed for beauty and aesthetics.

When designing your potager garden, think of it as a place to relax and enjoy life as well as grow food. Including arbors, winding paths, and outdoor furniture such as benches or a patio table and chairs will add to its inviting quality. How about a bird bath, sundial or gazing ball? Add a small fruit tree or two and train vining plants up trellises to add levels to your garden design. Don’t forget to plant lots of flowers and fragrant herbs in between your veggies!

Next time you look out at your boring backyard, don’t just sigh and turn away. Whether you are looking for a low-maintenance facelift for your yard, a place to entertain family and guests, or a beautiful source of fresh food for your table, imagine how your home life would change with an improved backyard — and then start planning how you will transform yours!

 

About the author:

Jessica Kyriakos is Brand Manager for Webcoat, Inc. in McAlester, OK. She has 15 years of experience in the site furnishing industry, which brought her to her current role at the company. Webcoat provides durable, economical and comfortable amenity designs to furnish your outdoor space.

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Furnishing and decorating the home’s interior is an aspect of home ownership many people enjoy. However, while homeowners are busy creating style with unique design concepts inside their homes, they can easily forget about the home’s exterior. If you are a DIY (Do It Yourself) type, this article will point you in a few, very fun, outdoor landscaping directions, enjoy!

Get the Complete Landscaping Guide = 7,250 Landscaping Ideas for Your Home

Fortunately, you do not have to use professional landscapers to achieve a beautiful yard. Although landscape design may seem like a challenge, there are many easy projects you can complete yourself. These projects are all afforable but add a great deal of curb appeal. Plus, you will most likely have a lot of fun during this very educational process.

Natural Areas
Many homes have some sort of natural area in their home’s landscape. Natural areas can be incorporated in the front of the home or the backyard space. Natural areas are incredibly easy to install, too. If you have a group of trees located in the front or back of the home, creating a natural area will be much easier for you. You should first choose a group of 3 to 4 trees that are close together. Then, you will need to decide on a natural element to use as the area’s foundation. Most people will use pine straw or mulch because it is easy to install, affordable, and readily available. However, many homeowners are choosing pebbles or stone as the foundation base. This choice is completely up to you and the look you are hoping to achieve. You should spray a weedkiller down around the group of trees, first. Then, you can lay down your natural element as the base. The pine straw or mulch should be created in a circle space or an oval around the tree grouping. A thick layer should be applied. Once the base is created, you can choose to add other elements such as a few shrubs, flowers, or decorative accents. Many homeowners will add patio furniture such as a couple of Adirondack chairs so you can enjoy relaxing in your new natural area space.

Mailbox Flower Bed
Every home has a mailbox but not every homeowner chooses to decorate the space with beautiful flowers and plants. To get started creating a mailbox flower bed, simply dig out an area surrounding the mailbox. Although many homeowners will choose a small circle shape around the mailbox space, you can create a larger area that starts at the road and makes a shape similar to a semicircle. This will give you more space to add more elements but the choice is up to you. Once you have created the space and removed all the grass, make sure you spray some weedkiller. Purchase a few flowers and shrubs and place them in a few different ways to create a look that you find most appealing. You can arrange and rearrange these before planting them. For color, perrenials are best when choosing flowers so they will bloom each year. Phlox is an excellent perrenial because it is very easy to grow and enjoys the sun. Phlox also will spread to create a blanket over the mailbox flower bed area. Once you have the plants that you desire, go ahead and plant them. Then, you can spread mulch or pine straw around the flowers and plants. Make sure to water to establish roots.

Outdoor Living Spaces
Although many homeowners do not believe a comfortable outdoor living space is part of landscaping, it most certainly is. While many homes have a deck and patio, there are also other ways to add inexpensive spaces for enjoyment and entertainment. A firepit can easily be created in any home’s backyard. There are numerous firepits on the market but many homeowners are choosing to create their own. You should choose a space in the backyard or on the patio that will offer enough room for the firepit and a few chairs around it. You can purchase a few bricks or curved stones and stack them in a circle on the ground or patio. Many people will purchase aluminum rings to go in the center of the firepit but this is not actually necessary. Choosing to create a firepit like this will allow you the option of moving it later on. Once the firepit is constructed, you can purchase a few Adirondack chairs to encircle the firepit and then invite friends and family over for a great evening together.

Get the Complete Landscaping Guide = 7,250 Landscaping Ideas for Your Home

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Gardeners love to dream of having a greenhouse that will extend the growing season. Seedlings can be started when the spring weather is unpredictable and temperature swings prevent soil from warming sufficiently in the garden plot. Basic greenhouse models offer an affordable starting point for the at-home gardener. There are many “How-To Guides for Greenhouses” available online, but here are some must haves when it comes to building your own!

STANDARD GREENHOUSE ATTRIBUTES
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Every greenhouse requires the shopper to make some choices that are appropriate for the use and location of the garden greenhouse. Following these initial selections, the gardener can enhance the greenhouse with each passing year.

• Wall material – Double, or triple, thickness of various materials will offer the necessary insulation against heat loss. Gardeners are happiest when the best possible wall composition is selected for the climate. Saving money on this feature could be expensive later.

• Floor composition – Every greenhouse expert has a different opinion about whether the floor should remain dirt, be a poured concrete slab or consist of wood planks, which would allow moisture to run through the boards.

• Size – Advice from current greenhouse owners includes the admonition to “buy large.” An estimate based on current needs will require replacement of the greenhouse in the next two years. During the first spring, the gardener might have unused space inside the greenhouse.

• Location – Gardeners know where the greenhouse will fit within the yard space. Deciduous trees must be considered since the shade in the yard will change as the weather warms in the spring. Observation of the light patterns will provide important information for the gardener’s final placement decision.

ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS FOR THE GREENHOUSE
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Living conditions inside the greenhouse must be maintained at all times, regardless of the weather events outside. Advanced greenhouse features can be added to make the gardener look like a master gardener through the magic of technology.

• Fans for separate purposes – The air-circulating fan will run constantly to ensure that the air inside the greenhouse will not become stale, or stagnant. A heat-saver fan pulls the warmest air from the top of the greenhouse toward the plants to create an even temperature throughout the living space.
• Solar vent opener – Moderating the temperature is achieved with solar-powered openers on every vent around the greenhouse. As the temperature rises, the vents will open until the fans are able to cool the greenhouse. The setting sun triggers the vents to close and preserve heat through the night.
• Humidity dial – The amount of moisture in the air inside the greenhouse is an important factor in the health of the plants. Monitoring this level is essential for tropical plants inside the greenhouse.
• Soil analyzer – Probes are inserted in the plant soil to provide important information concerning the levels of light, pH content, moisture and soil nutrients. Readings from this analyzer tells the gardener how to adjust light, fertilizer and water.
• Light meter – No batteries are needed for the photovoltaic cell in this sensor. Light intensity throughout the greenhouse can be measured to determine if a plant needs more shade or sun.
• Thermostat – In combination with a moisture resistant heater, the greenhouse thermostat will maintain the optimal climate to support plant life. Vents will be opened, or the heater will run to adjust the temperature if it leaves the set range.
• Start trays and heat mats – Soil temperature inside the greenhouse can be maintained while seeds are germinating. Moisture is held close to the soil by clear lids on each flat to allow the tender shoots to break through the surface. A probe inserted in the soil ensures that the soil is warm, but not too hot.
• Misting system – Automated misting at the proper time throughout the day provides sufficient moisture for young plants. Any gardener who is away all day will have better results when the misting system is available to help the plants in the greenhouse make it through warm spring days.
• Monitoring station – A wireless electronic monitor can be mounted inside the house when the greenhouse is within 300 feet. The radio-controlled clock will maintain perfect time against the U.S. atomic clock. Temperature and humidity readings are received from the sensors inside the greenhouse. Frequent checks of the greenhouse conditions provide peace of mind for the gardener.

ASSEMBLE THE BEST COMBINATION
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Gardeners are dreamers of the highest order. Visions of row after row of healthy vegetables and flowers begin each year on the darkest winter days. Plans are drafted for spring projects before the gift wrap is stored away in January. Technology is advancing to support the dreams of perfect greenhouse conditions regardless of spring temperature swings. More information allows the gardener to make adjustments early to prevent loss of plants because certain areas of the greenhouse might be unnoticed through casual observation. A custom combination of these features can be assembled to address the highest priority challenges the gardener faces.

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An attractive patio cover serves to define your outdoor living space and will increase the value and appeal of your home. A patio cover’s primary purpose is to provide shade from the sun’s scorching rays and shelter from light rainfall. The structure will also preserve the beauty of outdoor furniture, barbecue grills and other belongings as it protects them from weather damage.

Patio covers come in a variety of styles, from simple and streamlined overhead slabs that rest on support posts to elaborately constructed fixtures that evoke images of an ornate Greek or Tuscan villa. When contemplating the choices, it is important to choose a patio cover that will compliment the overall design style of the house’s exterior so that the two flow together naturally. Begin by pondering these five popular patio cover design options.

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1. Pergola
Pergolas are freestanding structures that can be custom built to situate over patios, driveways, walkways and decks. Their appeal as a patio cover comes from the characterizing network of crossbeams overhead that allow limited amounts of sunlight to stream through. Vertical support posts enable climbing plants to intertwine and grow up the posts and across the overhead beams. This creates a natural canopy of beauty as such climbers as variegated ivy, roses, morning glories, wisteria and other attractive blooms and foliage adorn the framework. Pergolas may be constructed of wood, vinyl, fiberglass or metal and come in an array of structural designs. An open corner of the pergola can be partially enclosed with a lattice wall for additional shade and a privacy shield. The look of a pergola provides a timeless, European-inspired focal point.

2. Closed Roof
This patio cover design is typically an attached structure that is built onto the house. The roof is constructed from wood beams and may be covered with shingles to match those of the house’s roof. Support posts may be constructed of wood, vinyl or a combination of wood and masonry. The effect is a sturdy structure with rustic appeal, offering full protection from sunlight and precipitation. The inner beams of the roof are exposed, providing anchors for installing overhead lighted ceiling fans once electrical power has been incorporated into the structure. Colorful blooms in baskets, whimsical birdhouses or melodic wind chimes hung from outer perimeter beams add decorative personal touch.

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3. Gazebo
Many homeowners opt for a gazebo to cover a portion of a large patio or deck. Covering the outdoor dining area, for example, allows for eating in the shade without shrouding the entire patio area from sunshine. Gazebos are pavilion-like structures that can be round, square or octagonal in perimeter shape and are crowned with a pointed roof. Gazebos feature half walls with vertical posts in between these walls and the roof. Some gazebos offer built-in bench seating along the inner edges and ornate railing for embellishment. The ornamental look is a statement of cottage charm.

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4. Canopy
Similar to the tent structures seen at outdoor events, a canopy provides shade and shelter by way of a large sheet of fabric that is draped over a simple frame structure and secured decoratively at each corner post. The fabric is woven with durable, weather-resistant material and comes in a variety of color choices, from elegant neutral cream or taupe to bold hues to match the painted trim of the home. The fabric may be easily swapped out when a new replacement becomes necessary or a change of color is desired. This economical option provides a look that is light and airy. Due to the limitation of solid structure, hanging items or installing light fixtures is not an option.

5. Screened In Patios
As an increasing number of homeowners embrace the concept of outdoor living and entertaining, covering the patio with a complete, screened-in enclosure is becoming more favorable. Like the aforementioned closed roof design, this option is an attached construction that is built onto the house. The roof is a closed outer design that may be covered in shingles and from which a lighted ceiling fan may be hung from the exposed inner rafters. Half walls surround the perimeter of the patio and screens are attached to the vertical posts between the wall and the roof. This full enclosure not only offers protection from the elements, it also serves as a barrier against unwelcome insects and blowing leaves and keeps toddlers and pets corralled while playing in the fresh air. This design offers the ultimate protection for outdoor furniture, cushions and area rugs, allowing for more luxurious seating and decorative options for your outdoor room.

Once you have made your patio cover selection and furnished this new additional living space, you will be rewarded with a fresh air retreat where your family can revel in an extended season of outdoor enjoyment.

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Hardscaping can expand your home’s living space and provide a solid foundation for outdoor design. You can go for a huge mosaic-tiled brick patio or add rock walkways leading to secret gardens. Imagine how best to use your private backyard space with a mix of nature and hardscaping for an attractive, relaxing retreat for you and your family.

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Wood and Water
You can strategically mix wood and water for a soothing display to balance each element’s design effect on the space. If you have a large yard, think about changing it radically with an equally large patio. You could fill this space alone with furniture for entertaining.

However, you also can mix it up a bit by adding a fountain, reflecting pool or pond. For certain locales, an infinity pool might even be the way to go to make the most of a dramatic landscape or scenic vista overlooking a valley. Water elements, mixed with hardscaping, can instantly transform your backyard.

The important thing is to not limit the setting with just one design element. A mix of plants and water along with hardscaping can create a versatile and eye-pleasing space. Imagine an Asian-inspired outdoor theme using lattice fencing to create outdoor rooms. Use a large, colorful table umbrella in a bold print for shade and add a fountain for soothing sounds to block out neighboring street noise. Statues and gazing balls tucked in corners can add visual interest to the setting. You also can add mirrors decorated with ivy or other climbing vine to seemingly enlarge existing space.

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Garden Walkways
Indulging your green thumb in the backyard does not mean you have to sacrifice order and definition. Walkways can help define specific areas of the yard. With careful planning, you can enhance your existing gardens with a professional touch by outlining paths, enabling you to build gardens within the available spaces on either side. You can go with rock, brick or manmade materials to create your paths.

New materials allow you to construct pathways that glow in the dark at night, lighting the way to a beautiful rose garden or your favorite moon garden filling the air with rich fragrance. For certain areas, even a simple wooden boardwalk with a bridge might be a perfect way to join large spaces, particularly if you are lucky enough to have a creek on your property. There may be an attractive way to start these paths from a central location in your yard, such as a patio, and add solar lights to add subtle touches of shimmer along the way.

Patio and Outdoor Kitchen
You can combine all the best elements of hardscaping by blending your patio theme with the surrounding elements that support an outdoor grill and table set. Think about a California spa theme, with white bleached wood with matching overhead horizontal boards spaced to cast dramatic afternoon shadows of shade amid a clear sky setting. The cooking space could be encased in a marble-topped steel cabinet for easy cleanup. Add built-in seating with fun, bright-colored pillows, and you will have an appealing space for spending lots of time enjoying the fresh air.

The outdoor seats could serve a dual purpose with seating that lifts up to reveal storage. In fall or before any inclement weather, you could store the pillows inside and away from the elements. Built-in planters can complete the theme so that you can switch out seasonal plants to further brighten the area. Depending on where you live, you could try tulips in the spring, fragrant calla or oriental lilies in the summer and colorful mums in the fall displayed in clean, white wooden box planters. All the built-in layers with this design can add character and personality while remaining easy to clean for a streamlined, low-fuss appearance.

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Does your backyard need a face lift? If so, a modern patio may be the way to go. While there’s something to be said for traditional styles, a contemporary patio can breathe new life into any backyard. The clean, sleek designs of these patios make them work well with many different landscaping styles. In most cases, a minimal amount of maintenance is needed to keep modern backyard patios looking great. As an added bonus, modern patio design usually has a strong emphasis on sustainability and eco-friendliness, so you can enhance your backyard while doing your part to help the environment. If you need inspiration, check out the following five modern backyard patio design ideas.

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1. Get Creative with Flagstone Pavers

Flagstone pavers are popular options for modern backyard patios. Their irregular lines and eye-catching textures can have a very positive impact on the appearance of any outdoor space. For a thoroughly modern look, choose oversize flagstone pavers in a variety of muted colors. Due to the irregular shaping of these pavers, it’s not possible to create neat, orderly patterns. That’s part of the charm, actually, so play around with them until you achieve the look that’s right for you.

A great way to spice up a flagstone paver patio is by adding a border. If you’re going to go through the trouble of building a patio made out of flagstone pavers, why not put in a little extra work and add a border too? You can take your pick from many different stones and pavers for your border, but make sure that they stand out dramatically on your patio. Don’t just choose stones or pavers that have contrasting colors; look for contrasting textures too. River rocks are wonderful options in this situation. Arrange them so that your border has a bumpy surface. The end result is sure to be fantastic.

2. Try Oversized Concrete Pavers

There’s no law that says you have to cover every last inch of your patio with pavers and other materials. Why not let nature do its thing too? A great way to add a dose of green to your patio is by arranging oversize rectangular or square concrete tiles in creative ways. Instead of filling the spaces between the pavers with concrete or gravel, you could just allow grass to grow. If you’d rather not deal with cutting the grass and sweeping the patio, try planting Scotch moss between the pavers instead. Just keep in mind that it takes a long time for moss to fill in all the spaces.

The great thing about using oversize square or rectangular concrete pavers is that you can arrange them in so many different ways. You could even try mixing and matching different shapes and sizes. There are many colors, textures and styles available too, so the possibilities here are truly endless. Just make sure to plan ahead for things like tables, chairs and other furniture so that table and chair legs have sturdy places to rest.

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3. Freshen Up an Existing Patio with Deck Tiles

If your patio has seen better days but you can’t afford to build a new one from scratch, you might want to consider deck tiles instead. Deck tiles are also excellent options for renters because they can be removed quickly and easily. Unlike so many modern patio ideas, deck tiles simply snap into place. No thin set or glue is required. There’s a dizzying array of options, so coming up with a customized, modern look is a snap. They work just as well on compact patios as they do on large ones, which is also convenient.

The most popular deck tiles are squares of wood planks. A variety of woods is available, but tropical hardwoods like eucalyptus and ipe tend to be the most popular. You can also choose from many finishes, which allows you to mix and match colors for a richly textured look that somewhat resembles parquet. Wood deck tiles are lovely, but stone and ceramic styles are worth your consideration too. Because deck tiles aren’t permanent, they give you a lot of flexibility. If you grow tired of them, just remove them and replace them with something else. The one caveat here is that these tiles must be installed on a stable, steady surface.

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4. Enhance Your Yard and Help the Environment with Permeable Pavers

Like many homeowners, you may be looking for ways to help save the environment. It’s easy to waste a lot of water to keep a yard looking great, but you can minimize your impact with the right patio materials. Permeable pavers are a prime example. These popular pavers allow water to seep through to the ground instead of forcing it to run off elsewhere. This helps to recharge the groundwater below, which has enormous benefits for the environment.

Permeable pavers also help to filter pollutants to help keep them out of the ground. If you think you have to trade style for sustainability, think again. Thanks to the growing popularity of these pavers, there are more options than ever.

5. Spice Things Up with Brazilian Ipe Wood Decking

When most people think of patios, pavers made of stone, concrete and brick usually spring to mind. Pavers can definitely be used to achieve a chic, modern look, but why limit yourself? Wood decking is a viable option for modern patios too, and ipe is one of the best options of all. Ipe is a durable, sturdy Brazilian hardwood that naturally stands up well to a variety of forces. In addition to being strong, ipe is absolutely gorgeous.

If you’re going to use ipe decking for your modern backyard patio, select long, narrow planks. Arrange them so they are all running in the same direction. This design manages to look sleek and contemporary while also having a nice dose of eye-catching texture. Unlike many types of wood that are used for decks and patios, ipe doesn’t need to be sanded and refinished constantly. However, it is on the pricier end of the scale, so keep that in mind.

Why bother putting in a new patio if you’re not excited about it? By considering a few of today’s best ideas for modern backyard patios, you’re sure to find something that truly inspires you. In addition to sprucing up your yard and creating a lovely place to spend time outside, the right patio will have a sustainable design that lets you do your part to help the environment. If you have a backyard, you can do whatever you’d like to it. Broaden your horizons by choosing a stylish, eco-friendly patio design.

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