While well-designed outdoor spaces continue to gain in popularity, more and more people are choosing composite decking because of its low maintenance and its latest advancements in material and accessories. Composite decking is made of equal parts of wood fiber and recycled plastic mixed with pigments, ultraviolet inhibitors, and borate preservatives.
Today’s options offer less fading, staining, or breeding of mold and mildew than a few years ago. Multiple brands, numerous colors and beautiful exotic hardwood looks as well as textured surfaces give consumers many more design options. Some ideas include colorful borders and fun shapes like a sunrise pattern.
A prime benefit of composite decking is a lack of need to stain, paint, or seal like wood decking. The only maintenance required of composite decking is to clean off dirt and debris. Most manufacturers offer matching railing systems and accessories.
Disadvantages include being more expensive than wood decking, a slippery surface if there is no texture, and a sizzling hot feel with darker colored planks. Prices range from $1.50 to $5.50 per linear foot.
If considering a new deck this year, check out what’s available in composite decking. Be sure to contact your local building department for requirements, such as architectural standards and if the material is approved for use in your city. Also, ask for the “Evaluation Service Report,” ESR, that is required of each manufacturer showing test results for moisture absorption, abrasion resistance, fastener spacing, allowable spans, stresses, etc.
It is said that renovating a house to accommodate the needs of mobility-impaired persons will increase its property value by as much as 25%. People see the value of future-proofing their home for aging or sudden health challenges. There’s also a convenience factor in making it easier to carry laundry, luggage, the vacuum, or even moving furniture.
People are living longer and many desire to stay in their homes as long as possible. Whether building a new home or renovating an existing one, plans can be made to allow for aging in place. Considering mandatory space requirements, a good place to start planning is with upward/downward movement. Recent technological advances give us several good options to move between floors utilizing chair lifts or platform lifts.
Chair lifts provide a seat for one person that moves up/down the length of a stairway. With many safety features, these lifts are easy to use and affordable. Both straight and curved stairways can be accommodated by a chair lift that attaches to stair treads and can be placed on either side. Chairs fold away when not in use and swivel seats are highly recommended for ease of movement. Chair lifts are powered by battery or electric sources but A/C power with a rechargeable battery is ideal. They are available both indoors and outdoors.
Platform lifts can accommodate anyone including those in wheelchairs, power chairs, or scooters. The most common platform lift is also called an elevator. In addition, there are open vertical platform lifts best used for shorter distances and incline platform lifts that move mobility devices like a wheelchair up/down a stairway.
Home elevators are not only for the rich and famous anymore. New technology allows better affordability, a slimmer profile, energy efficiency, quieter operation, and customization. Elevators are typically enclosed with solid walls and/or glass and move between floors. Today, there is no need to dig a pit or shaft or provide space for a machine room. In many cases, little to no construction is required. A few power options exist: pneumatic, battery, cable/pulley, and hydraulic. In some cases, a separate dedicated power line does not need to be installed. The fun part is choosing size and finish materials like flooring, walls, lighting, and hardware. Check safety features between manufacturers when deciding what works best for your needs.
Open vertical platform lifts, sometimes referred to as “porch lifts” are a lower cost option typically suited for for situations with a smaller number of stairs. These lifts look like an open cage with swinging doors.
An incline platform lift transports most mobility devices up/down a staircase. This is a good option if there is no space for a vertical platform lift. While the lift takes up a majority of the stairway, some models fold to within 13” when not in use. They are available for both indoors/outdoors.
Ramps, of course, are another option best used outdoors. The disadvantage is space requirements: 12” horizontal travel is needed for every 1” of vertical travel. Ramps can also cause fatigue.
Also, when planning for barrier-free accessibility, keep in mind that extra square footage is necessary to maneuver wheelchairs and other mobility devices through wider hallways and doorways. Kitchens and bathrooms also require special design. Stairlifts, platform lifts, or home elevators will become necessary to remain living in the same house. The costs for these Universal Design features will be miniscule if a need arises due to accident, health problems, or aging.
Pavers have been used for centuries due to their flexibility and strength. Three main pavers to choose from are brick, stone, and concrete. Over time, however, they succumb to the aging effects of weather, dirt, weeds, stains, and shifting.
Keep pavers from looking dull and faded by cleaning, weeding, re-jointing, and sealing. Sweep and gently hose pavers using care to avoid joints. Scrub stains with a wire brush using a mild masonry detergent. Heavy stains may need power washing. Pour equal amounts of boiling water and vinegar between bricks for weed control. Rejointing with polymeric sand will help keep pavers from shifting. Polymeric sand hardens when moist and also prevents weeds. Brush sand into joints on a 45° angle then lightly mist bricks. Pavers should be sealed once every three years and no more than a couple of times over their lifetime, any more than that will result in a film and discoloration. Choose a wet look or dry look sealer designed specifically for pavers. Don’t forget to cover delicate plants with plastic when treating pavers.
Regular maintenance will prevent the need for replacing pavers for many years. A little tender loving care will enhance the look and structure of pavers.
Are you interested in adding color to your yard this year? It’s time to start thinking about planting spring annuals. Below are a few helpful hints to make the process more successful.
Start by taking a picture of each side of your home, standing far enough back to get a broad view. Print several color copies. Using markers or colored pencils, draw in areas where you want color. Use fine point tips to add fine textures and broad strokes to make coarse textures. Keep in mind large groupings of the same type of plant/flower versus a sparse mix of many colors throughout the yard. Lead the eye throughout the whole garden by repeating the same groupings in several places. Practice many designs on several sheets of copies until you are satisfied.
Go outside and measure the designated areas noting sun and shade patterns throughout the day. When shopping, keep in mind textures, sizes, and colors, as well as what plants will thrive in your climate or hardiness zone.
A mix of textures will add depth and visual interest to the garden. Planting only medium textures is not interesting to look at while planting too much contrast is overwhelming to the eye. Finely textured plants have small leaves and feel light and airy. An example is Baby’s Breath. It makes small spaces appear bigger. In contrast, coarse plantings have larger leaves or blossoms. They have a heavy tropical feel like Hostas. Used in masses, coarse textures make spaces feel smaller.
Consider height and spacing of all plantings in the garden, including perennials. Varying heights are more interesting to look at and be careful not to plant taller plants in front of shorter ones. Some plants spread out quickly, others slowly. Make room for growth.
Every color of the rainbow can be found but that doesn’t mean you should use all colors! Use two to three colors that look good together. Arrange them together in the store to see if you like it. Too much of the same color is boring while too much color contrast is overwhelming.
With forethought and proper care, as well as hard work and patience, a glorious garden will surround and nurture you. Have fun with it and, remember, there’s no right or wrong and it’s not a permanent decision. Next year you can do something completely different!
Along with smart watches that monitor heart rate and activity, the latest craze in the fitness world is on demand services. Personal fitness has transitioned from gyms, to home videos, and now to online. Technology opens up many opportunities in all aspects of our lives. So, just what requirements are needed for a home gym?
Online health and fitness services provide convenience, privacy, flexibility, and education for your self-motivated “get fit” plan. Ranging from free to monthly or annual packages, these services offer beginner to advanced level workouts like yoga, pilates, stretching, mindfulness, strength training, abs, cardio, walking, rehab, and many others. There’s something for everyone! There are programs that incorporate equipment like ellipticals, treadmills, and stationary bicycles. Diet plans, one-on-one personal training, blog posts, recipes, nutrition, and even goal tracking are offered in pricier programs. Routines typically range between 15-60 minutes at any time of day for your convenience. On demand streaming can be accessed anywhere there is Wi-Fi or a Network Connection.
In designing a home gym, consideration needs to be made for an inviting, functional, and motivating space. Natural or bright lights stimulate energy. Mirrors allow a visual for proper form. Air quality is important in hot and humid environments. A separate heating/cooling system or controls is ideal. Ceiling or stand-alone fans will help make the room more comfortable. Desirable is sound-deadening flooring, walls, and ceiling accomplished with insulation and special finishing materials like carpet tiles. Recommended flooring includes, rubber, sheet vinyl, hardwood, or carpet tiles.
Be sure to allow plenty of room for planned activities. On demand fitness requires space to move around doing aerobic moves, lifting weights, and floor space. Large equipment requires certain clearance so be sure to check with the manufacturer. A good home gym will have a rack, bench, barbells, plates, and dumbbells for strength training. Proper placement of technology allows face-to-face interaction with an instructor via a webcam. Let us design and build your virtual home gym to hone a more efficient healthy body so you feel amazing!
The Houzz website bills itself as “The New Way to Design Your Home.” Houzz showcases the work of architects, designers, remodelers, and even landscaping contractors who interact with Houzz users to provide inspiration, advice, and product sources for their projects. Sign up for a free account and you can search over three million full color photos of home improvement and decorating ideas, which you can then save to your own personalized Idea Books.
Ask a decorating or remodeling question in one of the discussion areas and get advice from both pros and other homeowners. Articles written by experts in their field offer valuable tips and insights into every topic imaginable, from choosing the right marble countertops to waterproofing your basement. Find a pro in your area for pool maintenance, tree removal, garage door repair, and more. Shopping for the home? You can find light fixtures, furniture, pet supplies, and even holiday décor.
Have fun browsing, saving favorites, and sharing on social media – all from one place. Houzz is an invaluable tool for everyone interested in home design and decoration. It’s a vast source of ideas to use when planning your dream home.