Growing Region 101: Why It Matters for Your Lawn

growing region

Want a lush lawn? Plant the right grass type for your growing region. Image: Westend61/Getty Images

If you ever cruise Pinterest or home design sites (and we’re guessing you do), you’ve probably fawned over a gorgeous lawn or two. And that can be sort of a bummer if your own grassy area is looking a little lackluster. Worried you don’t have a green thumb? Are you just cursed? Actually, it turns out that you might be trying to grow the wrong type of grass for your growing region.

growing region

Tall fescue grows best in the northern half of the country. Image: Billy Lau/Getty Images

What is a growing region?

A growing region is an area where certain types of plants are likely to thrive based on the climate. Some people group the continental U.S. into just a few distinct growing regions, while the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map has over two dozen distinct zones. The latter divides each region based on a 10 degree Fahrenheit difference in annual average winter temperature.

Fortunately, there are a number of different turfgrasses that can thrive in a fairly wide temperature window. You probably don’t need to drill down to those specific zone details to get a gorgeous lawn. Instead, understanding a few things about the general growing regions across the U.S. can help you choose the right grass for your lawn.

It’s easiest to think of the country as divided into three distinct growing regions: warm-season, cool-season, and transition.

Cool-season growing region

The largest growing region, the cool-season region includes the northern half of the country. Split California in half and extend that dividing line across the southern border of the following states. Everything north of the line gives you a pretty clear idea of this growing region. The states that fall in this region include:

  • Nevada
  • Utah
  • Colorado
  • Nebraska
  • Iowa
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • New Jersey

Transition growing region

That state border trick is mostly accurate, but the southern half of California, the southern tip of Nevada, and the southeastern corner of Colorado are all generally considered to fall in the transition region. Other transition region areas include most of Arizona, most of New Mexico, the northern half of Texas, and the following states:

  • Oklahoma
  • Kansas
  • Arkansas
  • Missouri
  • Tennessee
  • Kentucky
  • West Virginia
  • Maryland
  • Virginia
  • North Carolina

Warm-season growing region

Everything else is considered warm-season. That includes:

  • The southernmost parts of Arizona and New Mexico
  • The southern half of Texas
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • South Carolina
  • Florida
growing region - bermuda

Image: pyzata/Getty Images

The best grass types for each growing region

Now that you know your region, it’s a whole lot easier to pick the right type of grass to thrive in your lawn. Certain grass types thrive in generally warm to hot weather, while others like a cooler winter. Knowing which type will work in your specific part of the country can save you a lot of headache.

Here’s a brief overview of some of the grass types that might work well in your region.

Cool-season grasses

  • Kentucky bluegrass
  • Red fescue
  • Perennial ryegrass
  • Tall fescue
  • Buffalo grass

Transitional grasses

  • Tall fescue
  • Bermudagrass
  • Zoysia grass
  • Buffalo grass

Warm-season grasses

  • Bermudagrass
  • Zoysia grass
  • Centipede grass
  • St. Augustine grass
  • Buffalo grass

This is a quick overview to guide you in the right direction, but make sure you talk with a local lawn care expert about what grows best in your region based on your local moisture levels and other factors. A lawn is an investment and you don’t want to find yourself struggling to grow the wrong turf type down the road.

This is especially true if you live in the transitional region. A blend of warm-season and cool-season grasses may be best for your lawn and its varied climate, so talk to a lawn care professional to find out what works in your area. Want help finding the perfect turf for your growing region — and beautifully maintaining it? Get in touch with a lawn care expert in your area to schedule a professional lawn analysis of your yard today.

The post Growing Region 101: Why It Matters for Your Lawn appeared first on Freshome.com.

What’s Tripping Your Circuit Breaker?

You’re cooking, washing clothes or just turning on the blender. All of a sudden, the power goes out in some area of your home. Something is tripping one of your circuit breakers. But what could be causing this?

Should you treat it as a minor inconvenience, or should you be concerned that you might eventually have a house fire? Homeowners with an older house or a fixer-upper home may be particularly susceptible. Freshome asked the electrical experts to explain what’s tripping your circuit breakers and how you can solve this problem.

short circuit

Sometimes, a short circuit also causes sparks and smoke. Image: gcafotografia/Shutterstock

Short Circuit

One cause of a tripped circuit breaker is a short circuit. “A short circuit is common, but not necessarily dangerous,” according to James Dickson, Owner at Mr. Electric of McKinney, TX.

“This is when a hot wire is contacting either a neutral or a ground wire anywhere along the circuit,” Dickson says. “This causes an overload of current to flow through the circuit breaker for a very brief period of time, usually a second or less, creating heat,” he explains. Dickson says the circuit breaker automatically shuts off in cases like these to prevent an electrical fire.

dont repair equipment

Don’t attempt to repair equipment or cords yourself unless you’re a pro. Image: Artazum/Shutterstock

Ground Fault

Approximately 200 people a year die from ground faults, making this the source for the majority (66%) of residential electrocutions. “A ground fault happens when a neutral wire’s return current does not exactly match the hot wire’s current that was given to an appliance,” Dickson says. “In order to avoid a ground fault trip, the currents must match to within 3-5 milliamps.”

Here’s an example from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission of what could happen with a ground fault. A bare wire that is inside of an appliance touches the appliance’s metal case, charging it with electricity. If you happen to touch the appliance while you’re also touching a grounded metal object (like a cool, trendy water faucet), you will get shocked.

arc fault

An arc fault can cause a fire. Image: JR/Stock/Shutterstock

Arc Fault

“Circuit breakers know what standard arc conditions are and can differentiate between series and parallel arcs,” Dickson explains. “When a certain flow of electricity falls outside of these standards, the breaker interprets this as a potential fire hazard and will trip the breaker.” This breaker tripping fault relies on circuit boards and preloaded data to determine the conditions of a circuit, setting it apart from other circuit breaker trips. “The other three (short circuit, ground fault and overloaded circuit) all use mechanical means to control the tripping,” Dickson says.

redistribute electrical loads

Redistribute electrical loads if needed. Image: Rashevskyi Viacheslav/Shutterstock

Overloaded Circuit

Another cause of a tripped circuit breaker is an overloaded circuit. Dickson considers this the most dangerous condition that would trip a circuit breaker. An overloaded circuit occurs “when your electrical circuits are pushed to, or past, their rated limits due to too high of a load,” he says. “Components (switches/receptacles) can start to fail or the insulation on the copper (hopefully not aluminum) wire will start to melt off.” And when this happens, Dickson says the electricity will start to arc between the wire and any combustible source. This situation is dangerous because it increases the chances of starting a fire.

According to Tom Wallace, a Certified Master Inspector at Home Check Inspections in Riverview, FL, an overloaded circuit is the most common reason why circuit breakers trip. “A circuit can become overloaded if too many appliances are being operated at the same time or a single device is using too much power.” Make sure your new bathroom technology isn’t contributing to the problem.

large appliances

Large appliances need dedicated circuits. Image: Breadmaker/Shutterstock

Dedicated Circuits

Some fixed appliances need separate, dedicated circuits. They ensure that these appliances can operate without overloading the system. According to the National Electrical Code, these are some of the appliances that need a dedicated circuit:

  • Refrigerators/freezers
  • Ovens
  • Wall ovens/electric ranges
  • Dishwashers
  • Toasters
  • Washers and dryers
  • Space heaters
  • HVAC units and furnaces
  • Blow dryers
  • Garage door openers
don't reset

Don’t continue to just reset tripped circuit breakers. Image: Yentafern/Shutterstock

GFCI/AFCI protection

Circuit breakers can also trip if they are GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) or AFCI (arc fault circuit interrupter) protected, Wallace says. “GFCI breakers trip when a ground fault is detected in the circuit,” he says. Most new home builds require GFCI protection in wet areas including the bathrooms, kitchen, exterior and garage. “AFCI breakers trip when an arc fault is detected in the circuit,” Wallace says. “These breakers are typically required in bedrooms, dining rooms and living rooms.

hazardous situations

Find a solution to hazardous situations. Image: Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Avoid Tripping Circuit Breakers

“One way homeowners can avoid tripping circuit breakers is by ensuring that their installer or remodeler is using both GFCI receptacles and an AFCI circuit breaker in their home,” advises Bill Timmons, Marketing Manager of Residential Products at Legrand.

“Many new appliances in kitchens and laundry rooms confuse circuit breakers,” Timmons says. And it’s not easy for older or disabled homeowners to go to the basement to reset tripped breakers, he notes. An AFCI breaker is better than a standard circuit breaker in recognizing and removing an arcing situation before it becomes a fire hazard.

If something continues to trip your circuit breaker, Freshome recommends that you consult a qualified electrician to safely diagnose the problem.

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5 Inexpensive Ways To Make Your Home More Energy Efficient This Summer

There’s a lot of information out there on how to make your home more energy efficient. While it’s all meant to be helpful, some of the advice is not the most practical. Not all of us can afford to install solar panels or to buy all new appliances. With that in mind, we’ve brought you a few budget-friendly ways to save on energy. Read on to learn how to start lowering your utility bills.

energy efficient

An energy audit will take stock of your home’s strengths and weaknesses. Image: tommaso79/Shutterstock

Get an energy audit

If you’re unsure of where to start with making your home more energy efficient, having an energy audit done is a great first step. Also known as an energy assessment, these audits are designed to take stock of how much energy your home is currently using, to identify problem areas where energy might be being wasted and to offer suggestions on how to solve those issues.

As for how to get an auditor out to your home, calling your electric or gas utility company may be your best bet. There’s a good chance they’ll either conduct assessments themselves or be able to recommend local auditors. However, if not, the Residential Energy Services Network offers a search directory for qualified professionals. Just remember to always do your research before hiring any service provider to come into your home.

insulation

Insulating your attic will help keep cool air where it belongs. Image: Arturs Budkevics/Shutterstock

Insulate your attic

Your attic isn’t just a place to store your excess belongings. It’s also one of the places in your home that’s most likely to let cool air out. This, in turn, causes your HVAC systems to have to work harder, using more energy overall. However, by adding some extra insulation, you can go a long way towards keeping your temperature-controlled air where it belongs.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, you can save an average of 15% on heating and cooling costs — and an average of 11% on total energy costs — by taking the time to properly insulate your home. Here, they especially recommend insulating attics, crawl spaces and floors.

seal

Fixing drafty doors and windows will keep you more comfortable indoors and help you save big. Image: Ray B Stone/Shutterstock

Seal drafty doors and windows

In addition to insulating the attic, you can also take care of any drafty doors and windows that might be allowing cool air to escape your home. While an energy auditor will be able to identify these “cold spots” during your assessment, you can DIY this task just by paying attention to where you can feel drafts coming through on windy days.

As far as how to do the sealing, this is definitely one home maintenance task where you won’t need to call in a professional. Adhesive sealing strips are sold at nearly every home improvement store. Once you have the strips in hand, it’s simply a matter of measuring the area you need to seal, cutting the strip to size and applying it securely.

light bulbs

Change out your light bulbs for newer, energy-efficient varieties. Image: New Africa/Shutterstock

Change your light bulbs

If you can’t afford to splurge on a new energy-efficient appliance package or to upgrade to solar panels, replacing the light bulbs in your home is one of the fastest and most affordable ways to make a difference in your energy usage. This move can help you save around 5% on your total energy bills.

In terms of which lighting options offer the biggest savings, you have three choices:

  • Halogen incandescents: Halogen incandescents are popular bulbs because they come in a wide range of shapes and colors. In addition, they tend to work well with dimmer switches. However, while they do meet the minimum energy-efficiency standard, they are not the most efficient option that’s currently available on the market.
  • Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs): CFLs are where you really start to see energy savings. These bulbs use about one-fourth the energy of traditional incandescent options. They also are said to last up to ten times as long. While these bulbs did not offer a lot of variety when they first came out, they are starting to become available in more shades and colors.
  • Light emitting diodes (LEDs): Though LED lights have been traditionally used in outdoor applications, they are becoming more commonplace in indoor settings. LEDs use only 20% to 25% of the energy and last 15 to 25 times longer than the traditional incandescent bulbs they replace. They also use 25% to 30% of the energy and last 8 to 25 times longer than halogen incandescents.
electronics

Plugged-in electronics like coffee makers can use up a lot of unnecessary energy. Image: rawf8/Shutterstock

Unplug energy vampires

This last tip is more of an ongoing effort than a one-time task. Though it may be convenient to leave electronics plugged in even when you’re not using them, the reality is that unless they are certified as energy-saving, they are likely wasting energy. Directenergy.com estimates that you can save $100 to $200 per year simply by unplugging these devices when they’re not in use.

The post 5 Inexpensive Ways To Make Your Home More Energy Efficient This Summer appeared first on Freshome.com.

Hidden Fire Dangers in Your Home

In the U.S., fire departments respond to one fire every 88 seconds, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Cooking is the most common cause of home fires and smoking is the leading cause of home fire deaths. But there are many other ways that you could inadvertently start a fire. These are some of the hidden fire sources in your home.

batteries

Don’t store batteries near metal. Image: Mariva2017/Shutterstock

Batteries

All batteries pose a fire risk, even those with a weak charge, according to Craig Gjelsten, VP of Operations at Rainbow International, which restores damage caused by fire, water and mold. Gjelsten says that 9-volt batteries are the biggest fire culprit. Since their terminals are in close proximity, they can easily short. “I recommend a battery storage case or just leave batteries in their original packaging instead of lying around loose.”

Gjelsten also recommends storing batteries standing upright and placing electrical tape over the ends of each battery — regardless of the battery type. Other tips include not storing batteries in metal containers or placing them near keys, steel wool or other metal objects. “Also, be sure to store 9-volt batteries separately,” Gjelsten says.

damaged

Check for dust bunnies around sockets. Image: NothingisEverything/Shutterstock

Damaged electrical equipment and dust bunnies

If your electrical equipment is damaged, it can easily overheat and result in a fire, according to Tom Wallace, a Certified Master Inspector at Home Check Inspections in Riverview, FL. “It is important to regularly inspect the electrical equipment in your home for damaged or frayed cords and plugs,” Wallace advises.

You may be thinking that you’d know if you had damaged or frayed cords and plugs. But that’s not necessarily the case. “Power or extension cords hidden behind a bed or table that are repeatedly knocked against can become worn out,” explains Bill Timmons, Marketing Manager of Residential Products at Legrand. He also warns against walking over cords — for example, under carpets or on your hardwood floors — since this can also result in damage.

And don’t forget the dreaded dust bunnies. When they form around electronics, sockets and heaters, Gjelsten says they can ignite and start a fire. “Regularly vacuum dust near outlets, wires and appliances, including crevices and areas behind furniture,” he says.

coffee maker

Turn off your coffee maker when it’s not being used. Image: John Kasawa/Shutterstock

Coffee makers

“Your coffee pot could overheat and start a fire,” says Battalion Chief Raymond Williams of the Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service Department in Birmingham, AL. He says coffee pots with plastic components can get too hot if you forget to turn them off. Although most coffee pots with digital clocks have an automatic two-hour shut off, that’s still plenty of time for them to overheat. Also, several years ago, Kenmore recalled 145,000 coffee makers due to faulty wiring. So, to be on the safe side, don’t leave your coffee maker unattended and manually turn it off when you’re not using it.

flammable liquids

Use care with flammable liquids. Image: Elder von Rabenstein/Shutterstock

Flammable liquids

It’s probably no surprise that gasoline or kerosene can inadvertently start a fire. “These flammable items should be stored away from heat sources in appropriate containers,“ says Wallace. “The containers should be labeled and easily identifiable.”

However, there are other flammable liquids that can also start a fire. For example, a woman in Texas opened a bottle of nail polish remover and left it near a candle in an unventilated room. The bottle ignited and she suffered third-degree burns.

soft surface

Keep laptops off of soft surfaces. Image: Twin Design/Shutterstock

Laptops

If you’ve ever held your laptop in your lap for an extended period of time, you know it can get very hot. However, you might not have known that it can actually catch on fire. “Laptops can get pretty hot during normal operation. When placed on a blanket or similar surface, the batteries can overheat and cause a house fire,” Gjelsten says. He warns against leaving your laptop on any type of soft surface. If you don’t have a home office or desk, consider using a laptop stand.

lilght fixture

Use the proper wattage for your light fixture. Image: Darin Echelberger/Shutterstock

Light bulbs

Are you familiar with the term “overlamping”? It occurs when the light bulb wattage is too high for the lamp, and Gjelsten warns that overlamping can start a home fire. For example, if you use a 75-watt bulb in a 40-watt lamp, you’re overlamping.

“If the fixture is unmarked, stay under 60 watts to be safe,” Gjelsten says. He also advises caution with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). “Avoid using CFLs when the base of the bulb is enclosed by the fixture, such as with track and recessed lighting,” he says. “If your CFLs are burning out early and they’re brown at the base when removed, the bulbs are overheating.” Gjelsten recommends a cooler option, like LED.

dryer maintenance

Perform preventive maintenance on your dryer. Image: Good moments/Shutterstock

Dryer vents

While you’re sprucing up your laundry room, don’t forget to clean your dryer vent on a regular basis. You should empty the dryer lint screen before every load, according to Dave Lavalle, Founder of Dryer Vent Wizard. “While the dryer vent and duct system carries the air and lint outdoors, some of it gets trapped in the lint screen,” he explains. And since lint is very combustible, he says the screen should be emptied before every load. “Also, on a quarterly basis, clean the lint screen in soapy water,” he adds. That’s because detergent, fabric softener and other materials can build up and create a transparent film.

In addition, you need to check the vent cover on the home’s exterior to ensure that there’s no mulch or bird/rodent nesting materials. “Lastly, check the flexible tube-shaped transition duct that connects the dryer and the duct,” Lavelle says. Every other month, he recommends checking behind the dryer to ensure the transition duct hasn’t been crushed or broken.

paper pile

Don’t let paper pile up. Image: Nongnuch L/Shutterstock

Other hidden fire sources

Gjelsten also warns that if you leave stacks of newspapers and magazines too close to a heat source, they can ignite. “And if you use heating blankets and pads, do not place the cord between the mattress and box spring,” he adds. Gjelsten also advises against using these heating items on anything but the lowest setting.

“Also, throwing that unused bag of charcoal in the closest storage closet is never a good idea.” He says that damp coal can ignite and start a serious fire. Instead, Gjelsten recommends storing the bag in a metal pail or garbage can with a tightly closed lid.

The post Hidden Fire Dangers in Your Home appeared first on Freshome.com.

What is a Barndominium? Could It Be Your Next Home?

Barndominium Color Ideas

Choosing the right paint color for every room of your barndominium is easy when you’ve already created the perfect color palette. Image courtesy of PPG – Modern Farmhouse Palette.

You may be new to the barndominium style, but this pretty and practical home style is gaining in popularity. Barndominiums, nicknamed “barndos,” got their start as a practical living option. Many farmers and ranchers created a loft area above a working barn so that animal caretakers could stay close by.

Today, the popularity of barndominiums has evolved into luxury homes and vacation rentals, especially in upscale rural areas with ranch land and vineyards. Fixer Upper’s Chip and Joanna Gaines remodeled a barndominium on their show, creating a social media buzz about these unique homes. Most barndo construction uses a steel shell, then adds tons of interior customization options.

Entertaining is a breeze with large doors and windows that flow outside. Image: Mint Images/Getty Images

The Advantages of a Barndominium Home

There may be no ‘typical’ barndominium, but most share a few key advantages:

  • Simplicity: Barndos are often built as a shell with simple interior framing.
  • Construction Time: The popular metal shell construction goes up quickly.
  • Durability: Metal barndos withstand the elements and have a longer life than most standard home-building materials.
  • Flexibility: Barndominiums can be configured for living or work/live space.
  • Indoor/Outdoor Lifestyle: Rollup doors and large windows encourage indoor/outdoor living.

Designing the Interior of Your Dream Barndo

One of the barndo features owners like best is the flexibility of the interior layout of their new space. Some rooms will require a specific location due to plumbing and other utilities built into the home. Beyond that, though, the interior layout can be customized to your needs.

Plan your essential needs first, like square footage and how each room will be used, before you start your interior layout sketch. Knowing how you’ll live in your home is essential to a comfortable design. Barndominiums work best as an open concept home, often with a loft area above. 

The structure of a barndo encourages indoor/outdoor living. Rollup doors, big windows and wrap-around decks can give a feeling of spaciousness to your interior living space. 

Bring the outdoors inside with dramatic windows in your barndominium or open concept home. Image: hikesterson/Getty Images

Interior Design Tips for This Open Concept Home

A barndominium is truly an open concept home, so tips and ideas for an open interior layout definitely work here. When you’re decorating a barndominium or great room in any home, color becomes your easiest and best tool for defining space. To unify a large, open space, a colorful stripe that runs the perimeter of the room is a great trick that helps it look more intimate. Accent walls are still very much in style and can create a focal point in a large open space. And don’t forget, ceilings can be accents walls, too.

Furnishing the main areas of a large barndominium can be a challenge, but there are a few tips that make it easier to get a balanced look.

  • Choose Large Furniture: If you are furnishing a big, open space, using large furniture, like sectionals and oversized chairs, can fill the space without looking too busy.
  • Create Areas Within the Space: Grouping furniture together for conversation or eating areas prevents the “furniture store” look from which many open layouts suffer.
  • Use Color to Unify: If you’re grouping furniture within your barndo great room, stick with one color palette across all the areas you’re furnishing. That way, your colors tie everything together.

The HGTV Fixer Upper Barndominium Episode

HGTV’s Fixer Upper tackled a barndominium in Season 3 for a family looking for acreage and a unique home. Chip and Joanna Gaines reimagined a 1980s barn that already had an apartment upstairs. Their remodel used the upstairs apartment and the stable area downstairs to create a two-story, 2,700 sq. ft. home.

The Fixer Upper floor plan created a large upstairs kitchen and living room. Family bedrooms and an indoor/outdoor gathering space for entertaining complete the downstairs floor plan, including a 17-foot custom dining table for entertaining. The owners listed the totally remodeled barndo for sale in 2019 with a 1.2 million dollar price.

The post What is a Barndominium? Could It Be Your Next Home? appeared first on Freshome.com.

4 Ideas for Creative Stepping Stone Pathways

If you’re looking for a timeless addition to your yard, consider stepping stone pathways. These add a rustic, natural element that is great for the outdoors. They’re also very versatile in style. Many stepping stone pathways are part of a zen style, as these types of yards make great use of stone elements. Stepping stones can also be set into grass for a more rustic and aged look. Or they can sit in more modern and neat gravel displays. Plus, many of these styles go well with water features. So take a look below for some inspiration for stepping stone pathways. You may just be installing a new pathway before you know it.

Stepping Stone Pathways Zen Garden

Naturally cut stepping stones work well in classic styles like zen. Image: Sakarin Sawasdinaka/Shutterstock

Zen Stepping Stones

As touched on above, zen styles and stepping stone pathways were made for each other. You can see in the photo above how well stepping stones work against sand or gravel designs. The stepping stones give an additional visual element among all the light gravel. Also, by choosing darker stones to sit on the light gravel, you can create some visual interest in the garden area.

Stepping stones are also a practical element, as the pathway allows you to travel across the garden without disturbing the sand or gravel patterns. Also, stepping stones with natural textures keep the space looking classic and organic.

Stepping Stone Pathways Water Feature

Stone pathways work well over water. Image: Rigamondis/Shutterstock

Water and Stepping Stone Pathways

Stepping stones also work beautifully when used alongside a garden water feature, like a backyard pond. Stepping stones were a classic way to get across rivers, creeks and other small waterways, so this is another way to create a classic and rustic element in the backyard.

You could go a couple of different directions with this idea. You could create a more clearly defined trail with larger stepping stones, like in the photo above. It’s also common to see widely spaced stepping stones in backyard ponds. These are more for show than actual use, but they give a romantic and slightly adventurous feel.

Stepping Stone Pathways Grass Style

Place stepping stones deeper if you want them to integrate with the grass. Image: Paolo Omero/Shutterstock

Set-In Stepping Stones

Another idea for stepping stone pathways is to place the stepping stones into the soil so that grass grows around them, or even over them in some cases. That gives the look that the stone pathway is very old, adding some rustic appeal. Choosing stones with deep textures also makes the stones look old, and stones with a natural cut to their shape further add a rustic look.

Placing the stones in a mosaic pattern also gives tons of visual interest. Stepping stone pathways like this are good in natural-looking gardens, leading to pool areas or bridging the gap between patio spaces, as a few ideas.

Stepping Stone Pathways Clean Modern

Gravel and stepping stones can create a clean, updated look. Image: Yatra/Shutterstock

Gravel and Stepping Stones

Not all stepping stone pathways need to look rustic. The clean gravel stepping stone pathway in the photo above is so organized that it has a modern appeal. The colored gravel gives the look some visual texture and helps the neutral stepping stones pop. This style goes well in garden spaces where the plants are clearly defined and organized themselves, as the photo above shows.

The stepping stones themselves have an attractive design of small stones encased in concrete. This style reminds us to feel free to make our own stepping stone designs, since they’re fairly simple to create. That way, you can have a customized and artistic look in the garden.

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Container Gardens: Landscaping for Renters

container garden 3

Completely removable and customizable, a container garden is a renter’s dream. Image: Oscar Wong/Getty Images

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So you’re renting. And, sure, that’s going to limit you in some ways. You probaly won’t replace those countertops you hate and you’re not going to paint the walls (you might throw up some removable wallpaper, though). But you can transform your outdoor space. With a container garden, you don’t need your landlord’s approval to avoid forfeiting your security deposit.

Why container gardens are ideal for renters

A container garden presents a world of possibilities. Homeowners love them for a few of the reasons we’re about to get into, but they really shine if you’re paying rent for your space. Here’s why.

container garden 2

Your container garden can move with you. Image: Visit Roemvanitch/EyeEm/Getty Images

They’re not permanent

It’s the renter’s dilemma: do you live with parts of your space that you dislike or do you risk losing your security deposit to change them? We can’t help you out with that terrible bathroom grout or oddly colored carpet in your bedroom, but when it comes to outdoor space, we’ve got a solution. If you want to landscape your space in a way you can remove without a trace, choose a container garden. When you move out, all you need to do it pack up your pots and your landlord will be none the wiser.

They’re portable

Plants are expensive, especially if you want large-scale ones to capitalize on the plant-focused design trends taking over in 2019. And it’s a real shame to dump money into something you’re going to have to leave behind when you hand over your keys.

But with a container garden, you don’t have to worry. All your lovely plants can come with you wherever you relocate to next.

container garden 1

You can add a container garden virtually anywhere to put your personal design on your outdoor space. Image: Linda Raymond/Getty Images

Containers are design-friendly

Oftentimes if you’re renting, space is tight. You want to make your rental feel like your own, but options can feel limited. Expanding your design into your outdoor areas expands your opportunity to make your rental feel like home. And it can take formerly dreary areas — like a concrete patio or plain front steps — and transform them.

And planters are pretty versatile these days. You can get ultra-mod monochromatic concrete ones, metal ones, and patterned ones. You can go with the classic terracotta or put your plants in rustic-inspired wooden planter boxes. Your options are endless, which means your design options are, too. You can use the containers you pick to set the tone for your outdoor space. It’s where your green thumb meets exterior design.

They don’t need soil

If you’re a renter with an actual yard, congrats. But if you’re living in a walk-up with a small patio, an apartment with a concrete slab out back, or a rental with virtually no outdoor space, you don’t have to give up your landscaping dreams. With a container garden, you can add some green without any preexisting soil.

container garden 6

Ready, set, plant! Here’s what you should know about setting up your garden. Image: PhotoAlto/Sigrid Olsson/Getty Images

How to set up your own container garden

Sold on the idea? Sweet. Because we’ve got more good news: starting your container garden is easy. Like, really easy. Take a quick look at the steps:

  • Pick your location. It helps if you have a fair idea of what types of plants you’re going to want since certain types of plants require certain amounts of light. Think through where you’re going to put your containers and how you’re going to arrange them before you start buying stuff.
  • Pick your plants. Next, choose your plants. Again, remember to think about their light requirements. If your chosen place doesn’t have much light, don’t worry. Just head to the indoor section of your home improvement store and choose from the plants you find there.
  • Pick your containers. Now that you know which plants you’re going to use, you can get containers that will fit them. Pro tip: check the bottom for drainage holes unless you’re keen on drilling them yourself. And if you’re going to be placing your container garden somewhere draining water could be an issue (e.g., on a wood surface), buy saucers to place under your containers, too.
  • Get a watering can or pitcher (if necessary). If you don’t have a water source near where you plan to place your container garden, buy something to make watering easy.
  • Buy soil. Unless you’re really talented or really lucky, you probably didn’t choose plants that will fit exactly in each of the containers you chose. Buy some potting soil to help them fit comfortably.
container garden 5

With proper plant care, your container garden will thrive. Image: Maskot/Getty Images

Now you’re ready to get to planting. Make sure you read the care tips on your plants before you take them out of their pots or toss those little plant care tags they stick in the soil.

Then, water regularly, give them plenty of plant food and you’ll be well on your way to the container garden of your dreams.

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Here’s Why an HVAC Inspection is Worth the Cost

Is an HVAC inspection worth the small price now? Absolutely, especially when you consider you’re avoiding a big, unexpected repair bill later. During an annual HVAC maintenance visit, a licensed AC technician can spot issues and prevent the need for costly repairs.

HVAC maintenance by HVAC technicians near me

An annual HVAC maintenance visit can save you on repair and energy costs. Image: Serenethos/Shutterstock

Is an HVAC inspection worth the money?

An HVAC system costs thousands of dollars and features lots of moving parts that wear down over time. A neglected system doesn’t work its best.

According to the contractor-consumer matching website Thumbtack.com, the average HVAC technician charges $50 to $80 for an AC service tune-up. Compare that to a repair, which can run you between $150 and $1,000 on average, and it’s a no-brainer. It pays to prevent HVAC problems before they happen.

You’re also likely to save money on your energy bills after a spring HVAC maintenance visit. The Department of Energy says that routinely replacing or cleaning your AC’s air filters (one of the jobs an HVAC technician performs during the tune-up) can reduce your home’s energy consumption by 5 to 15 percent.

HVAC inspection and AC maintenance schedule by HVAC technicians near me

An HVAC inspection should be performed at least once per year. Image: I AM NIKOM/Shutterstock

When should I schedule an HVAC maintenance visit?

Spring is an ideal time for HVAC maintenance. You’ll be running your air conditioner soon enough, so get your preventative maintenance in early. The last thing you want is your AC to break down and leave you in the lurch on the hottest day of summer. And scheduling an HVAC inspection before the summer busy season could save you money on the visit.

If your system also includes heating, the technician can inspect the heating elements during the same visit. Or if you use your heating as much as your air conditioning, you may want to schedule two inspections separately: a spring inspection to review your AC system and a fall inspection to review your heating system.

HVAC technicians near me for HVAC service

During an HVAC maintenance visit, the technician reviews and inspects all components. Image: Joyseulay/Shutterstock

What should I expect during an HVAC tune-up?

An HVAC technician will set a time to visit your home. The HVAC maintenance visit takes about an hour. If the refrigerant needs a refill, it may add another 30 minutes to the service visit. During your appointment, a technician will inspect all the components of your system. This includes checking:

  • The thermostat
  • Electrical connections
  • Refrigerant levels
  • Controls

And adjusting, replacing or cleaning the coils, plus:

  • Adjusting and lubricating moving parts
  • Straightening the fins
  • Cleaning the condensation drain
  • Changing the air filter
  • Adjusting the blower motor and all belts
HVAC inspection

A licensed HVAC technician is familiar with all aspects of an annual HVAC maintenance schedule. Image: Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock

How to choose an HVAC technician near you

Most states require HVAC technicians to be licensed (or certified) and insured. There’s good reason for this requirement: state licensing programs are designed to protect consumers by requiring that HVAC technicians have experience working with heating and cooling systems and are adequately insured to cover anything that could go wrong while working in your home.

Once you find an HVAC technician near you, you can check to see that their license and insurance is up to date, by state, at contractorquotes.com.

HVAC maintenance schedule

One of the HVAC maintenance jobs you can DIY is to keep your unit(s) clear of shrubbery and debris. Image: Christian Delbert/Shutterstock

Can I do my own annual HVAC service or should I hire an HVAC technician near me?

There are a few things you can do to maintain your HVAC system yourself. Most maintenance and service, however, should be left to a licensed professional, or you could void your warranty. Some of tjhe tasks you can do yourself to extend the life and function of your heating and cooling systems include:

  • Change your filters at least once a year
  • Trim all grass and shrubs around the AC unit outside and clean away any debris like cobwebs or leaves
  • Check the insulation around the exterior unit for damage
  • Clean the air vents inside your home

Your HVAC unit is an essential part of your home. Just because it quietly runs behind the scenes doesn’t mean you can forget about it. An hour of your time once a year and an affordable visit by a licensed HVAC technician can extend the life of your unit — and your family’s comfort level.

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Here’s How Much It Costs to Sell Your Home in 2019

Zillow, the real estate database, just released a report showing the hidden costs of selling. So how much does it cost you to sell your house in 2019? Get ready to spend about $21,000. Don’t balk at the cost yet, though. Some of that cost goes toward home improvements and Zillow found that “sellers who make improvements to their homes are more likely to sell for more than their asking price than those who don’t.”

When you’re selling your house, here’s where your money will go:

how much does it cost to sell my house

A large portion of the selling cost goes to closing costs after your home is sold. Image: 

Closing Costs, $14,281 on average

The bulk of the expense in selling your house is the closing costs, which include real agent commissions, sales taxes and state transfer taxes. This figure is an average. The actual amount is a percentage based on the home’s sale price and can vary widely. Here’s a list of average closing costs throughout the U.S. from greatest to least:

San Jose, CA: $76,015

New York, NY: $28,090

Denver, CO: $24,443

Austin, TX: $18,522

Las Vegas, NV: $18,163

Philadelphia, PA: $16,296

Phoenix, AZ: $15,924

Dallas-Fort Worth, TX: $14,580

Tampa, FL: $14,291

Atlanta, GA: $13,286

Houston, TX: $12,342

Cleveland, OH: $9,046

The one positive of this expense is that it doesn’t come out of your pocket upfront. It’s usually deducted from the home sale’s proceeds.

how much does it cost to sell your home

Your house only has one shot to make a first impression, so make it a good one. Image: Artazum/Shutterstock

Home Improvements To Get The Home Ready For Sale, $6,570 on average

This amount is the average for sellers who hire professionals for their home updates. For those who wonder how much it costs to sell your house and want all the details, here is the $6,570 in home improvements, broken down by category:

  • Exterior painting: $2,600
  • Home staging: $1,805
  • Interior painting: $1,245
  • Local moving to the new home: $475
  • Full-service lawn care: $145
  • Carpet cleaning: $140
  • House cleaning: $160

Based on these projects, it looks like curb appeal plays a big role in successfully selling your home. If your time and budget are limited, it’s probably best to focus on presenting a clean, crisp home that is nicely but neutrally furnished to appeal to most buyers.

Home improvement costs will vary by market. The report found that sellers in Sacramento spent about $7,800 compared to Phoenix home sellers, who could spend around $4,000 for the same projects. And DIY curb appeal projects may help a home seller save money.

what is the cost of selling my home

Sellers that make some upgrades before listing their house are more likely to sell their home successfully (and for more money). Image: Andy Dean Photography/Shutterstock

If you’re selling this year, get started on updating your house now. Spruce up your garden and lawn, plant new flowers and freshen up the space both inside and outside with paint. As you get closer to listing your house, start decluttering and storing your personal items so that your house shows best. Don’t forget about the details like clean carpets, walls and windows.

The post Here’s How Much It Costs to Sell Your Home in 2019 appeared first on Freshome.com.

Exclusive! The Most Popular Benjamin Moore Colors Across the US

No two individuals are alike. Similarly, each region in the U.S. has distinct styles in fashion, food and music. “These traditions and trademarks permeate all elements of the region’s culture, including into the homes of its residents,” Hannah Yeo, Color & Design Expert at Benjamin Moore, tells Freshome.

In fact, Yeo says Benjamin Moore has been able to spot a geographic design trend in how colors are being used. These are the most popular paint hues in eight cities across the U.S.

white entrance

Benjamin Moore: Simply White. All images courtesy of Benjamin Moore.

Los Angeles

“Lighter colors are favored in the interior of the home across the nation and Los Angeles leads this trend,” Yeo says. As a hub for great design, she says white becomes an essential color in this area. “From warm pinkish white to the palest blue — or even the combination of whites — the soft nuances of whites enhance LA homes.”

On the home’s exterior, Yeo says homeowners often use richer colors to add curb appeal. In the photo above, you’ll see a top pick: Simply White. It’s a clean, crisp, multi-purpose white. Simply White is a favorite for ceilings, trim and walls. Iceberg, Swiss Coffee, and Revere Pewter are some of the other popular colors in the area.

Black kitchen

Benjamin Moore: Black HC-190

San Diego

With over 39 million residents, California is the most populous state in the U.S. Although San Diego is only 120 miles away from Los Angeles, the state is so large that it could be considered a separate region. And San Diego also has a different color palette. While Los Angeles embraces shades of white, San Diego leans toward the most stylish color of every year: black.

“San Diego isn’t afraid of color,” Yeo says. “Dark, neutral colors, like black, are balanced with light yellows, blues and pinks.” Black HC-190 is part of the Historical Collection inspired by America’s historic landmarks and works well in traditional and contemporary spaces. Other popular colors in this area include Eagle Rock, Sidewalk Gray, Butterfly Kisses and Love & Happiness.

Blue attic

Benjamin Moore: Van Cortland Blue

Denver

“In Denver, nature-inspired hues such as blues, greens and cool neutrals complement the surrounding landscape,” Yeo says. Van Courtland Blue is a decorative old-world blue that also works well in contemporary spaces. Plus, it mimics the city’s mountainous views. Other popular colors in this part of the country include Kendall Charcoal, Pale Oak, Decorator’s White and Silver Marlin.

Balboa Mist office

Benjamin Moore: Balboa Mist

Chicago

“From off whites to light grays, soft neutrals dominate Chicago,” Yeo says. “Blues with gray undertones are fresh additions to the soft, neutral palette.” Balboa Mist, a part of the Classic Color Collection, is a timeless, elegant color that is always a favorite among consumers and professionals in the Windy City. Other popular colors include Edgecomb Gray, Sea Haze, Gray Owl and Beach Glass.

If you’re selling your home, take a note from Chicago. Soft, neutral colors are recommended by many realtors when your home is on the market.

Blue door

Benjamin Moore: Toronto Blue door

Miami

“Florida also has a distinct color palette,” Yeo says. “Due to the warm temperature, cool whites are often used on the exterior of the home to keep the heat away. Bright blue accents are used to bring a nice breeze indoors.” Toronto Blue is a bold, saturated hue that excites and inspires, adding pops of color. Mountain Peak White, Collingwood, Evening Blue and Pale Oak are other popular colors in this area of the U.S.

beige room

Benjamin Moore: Shaker Beige

Philadelphia

“Philadelphia’s palette is comforting yet sophisticated,” Yeo says. “From cool grays to warm neutrals, these versatile hues provide a soothing backdrop to any space.” Shaker Beige is an inviting mid-toned tan with a beachy vibe. Other popular colors in Philadelphia include Stonington Gray, Pleasant Pink, Buckland Blue and Woodlawn Blue.

Caliente door

Benjamin Moore: Caliente door

Dallas

“Red, white and blue colors best represent Dallas,” Yeo says. “Off-whites and pale neutrals provide a soft backdrop for bold reds and blues to pop.” Caliente is a vibrant, charismatic shade of red — radiant, strong and full of energy. Other popular colors in this part of the country include Bermuda Turquoise, Icicle, Chantilly Lace and Iron Mountain.

gray walls

Benjamin Moore: Raccoon Fur

Nashville

“Nashville also embraces colors from the Benjamin Moore Historical Collection, which was inspired by 18th– and 19th-century architecture,” Yeo says. “Neutrals and blues feel calm and composed for an updated traditional look.” Raccoon Fur is a pure gray color that can be used in a variety of color combinations. Other popular colors in Nashville include Manchester Tan, Palladian Blue, Wickham Gray and Shaker Beige.

pink desk area

Benjamin Moore: Touch of Pink and Sunlit Coral

Tips for homeowners trying to choose paint colors

Selecting colors for your home can be overwhelming, but Yeo provides a few tricks to make the process easier.

“First, start by finding a point of inspiration. This can be anything from a favorite fabric to the colors in your kitchen countertops,” Yeo says. “Even a color drawn from a piece of wall art, a page torn out of a magazine or a picture found online can be a great source of inspiration.” This can be a helpful first step in narrowing down the color choices you consider.

Navy wall

Benjamin Moore: Hale Navy

“Once you’ve figured out which general color families appeal to you, set your focus on that portion of the display at the store or that section of the fan deck,” she explains. “Within each color family, you will see a wide range of colors, so go with your instincts. Chances are you will be drawn to a few colors that will help you narrow down the choices.”

Yeo also recommends thinking about the existing dominant color in your space. “This can help you to further narrow down your selection,” she says. “For example, if you have cherry wood kitchen cabinets, you should consider that in making your color choice.”

beach glass walls

Benjamin Moore: Beach Glass

Before making a final selection, Yeo recommends buying a pint sample to fully understand how the color will look in your home. “Remember that the light in the store will be different from the light in your home,” she says. “So the best way to make an informed decision is by painting a sample in the room where you’ll be using the color.”

Be sure to view the sample during the day to determine if you like it. Also, consider the different types of paint sheen — flat, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss and gloss — to ensure you pick the right finish for your project.

The post Exclusive! The Most Popular Benjamin Moore Colors Across the US appeared first on Freshome.com.