How to Mow a Yard

July 18, 2008 by  
Filed under Home & Garden

how to mow a lawnMoving from an apartment to a house is exciting. Not only do you now have your own garage, you also have your very own front and backyard to care for. Your yard is very exciting, at least until its time to mow it for the first time. Here’s how to mow a yard.

Locate a Mower

Your first step in a successful mowing experience is to actually locate a mower to use. You may already own one in anticipation of this very day. You might be able to borrow one from a friend, family member or new neighbor, but don’t plan on making a habit of it. The old owners might have left one behind, but most likely your mowing needs are the cause of one of many trips to the home improvement store.

Buy a Mower

If you’re going to buy a mower, be sure you know what sort of yard you are working with – especially if this mowing experience is completely new to you. An average yard can be cut with a gas powered push mower. A self propelled mower helps with a yard that has hills or dips, or a larger yard, but is not required. Electric lawn mowers work best on smaller yards, and very large yards might be best cut with a riding or heavy duty propelled mower.


Buy Accessories

You’ll also need at least one additional piece of lawn equipment. A mower will cut 95% of the grass in the yard, but you need a weed eater or edger to go around sidewalks and objects in the yard such as metal yard art. A leaf blower and separate edger can supplement a weed whacker, but are not required.

Start the Mower

When you’ve assembled your supplies, read the instructions for your new mower or get help from its owner as to what fuel it requires. It’s likely it takes a combination of gas and oil, but read to be sure. Different mowers turn on different ways, but the most common push lawn mowers require a pull start. Push the prep button three to ten times to prime the mower. Then hold the handle down while pulling up quickly on the start cord.

It is common that a mower requires a few attempts at starting before the engine catches. If the engine doesn’t catch right away, don’t despair. Prime the engine again and pull. If the mower doesn’t catch in a few tries, consult with a friend or neighbor to see if you’ve missed a step.



Once you get the mower going, hold down the handle and begin pushing it in rows over the yard. Overlap your rows slightly to avoid leaving a path between each pass. Go in straight lines to make your lawn appear manicured. If you are bagging your grass clipping you may have to stop to put the clipping in trash bags. If you’re mulching, you can mow your entire yard without stopping.


When the moving is complete, use your weed whacker to cut in on the edges you were unable to reach with the mower. Be sure to trim the grass along the flower beds, house walls, driveway, sidewalk and any other lawn objects. Then, put your equipment away, relax, and enjoy your manicured yard.

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How to Paint a Room

July 17, 2008 by  
Filed under Home & Garden

how to paint a roomThere is no faster, or less expensive, way to change the appearance of a room than to give it a new coat of paint. Painting a room requires a bit of prep work and time, but the more carefully you attend to the details, the better the result.

Buy Paint

The first step to painting a room is to determine what paint color and any texture you will be using. You can obtain samples from a paint or home improvement store to see what colors work best in your room. Then, with a color in mind, head back to the store to buy your paint. Plan on at least two coats, so a small room may need only one can, but two gallons of paint is your best bet. If you are painting over stained walls or dark paint, you should also buy a gallon of primer. Be sure to also buy paint supplies such as rollers, brushes, painter’s tape and paint trays.


Tape the Edges of the Room

While professionals shun painter’s tape, it can help keep your ceilings and floors paint free. Take time to carefully apply painters tape to the outside of your paint area. This will give you a bit of freedom in case a brush slips or there are drips while you are painting. Tape the ceiling, doorways, floorboards, and any other built-ins that will not be painted.

Remove Wall Art and Spackle

Remove any wall art or other hangings and spackle the holes left behind. Sand down any spackle that dries uneven with the wall texture.

Prime and Paint!

Cover your floors with a drop cloth and carefully pour the primer (if you are using one) into your paint tray. Use a roller to carefully roll the primer onto the walls in a V pattern. Overlap your strokes and refill your roller with paint frequently to get the best coverage. Avoid too much paint on the roller at a time as this can lead to drips and splatters.


When the walls have been primed, clean the tray, attach a new roller, and pour in your paint color. Ensure the primer is completely dry, and then begin rolling on your paint color using the same V technique. Use a brush to paint the narrow spaces where a roller won’t fit such as corners, the tops and bottoms of walls and the areas around windows and doors. Allow the first coat of paint to dry, then repeat with a second coat. Some dark colors may require three or possibly even four coats of paint for solid coverage.

Clean Up

Allow the paint to dry completely before removing the tape. Pull the tape carefully to reveal crisp corners and straight lines. Throw the tape away, clear away your tools and drop cloth, and enjoy your painted room.

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How to Obtain a Building Permit

July 16, 2008 by  
Filed under Home & Garden

how to get a building permitWhen beginning a construction project, you must obtain a building permit before any concrete is poured or any nail is driven. Building without one can result in heavy fines and will actually cause you to lose time on your project. Take the time to do it right and it will pay off in the long run.

Plan Ahead

Getting approval for construction and obtaining a building permit can take time, particularly if there are complications along the way. Be sure you start the application process early and leave yourself plenty of time before the planned start date of the construction project. This way you can be sure you have the necessary permit and will not cause any delay in the project.


Obtain Architecture Plan

If you are building new construction, obtain several copies of the architect’s plan for submission to the municipal building department. Be sure you have the architect’s seal of approval on the plans. For additions or major modifications, you must go through similar steps and get an architect’s approved copy of the plan.

Complete the Application

Contact the permit group of your local municipal building department to get a copy of an application for a building permit. Fill out the main section of the application, supplying all requested information. Ask your plumber, electrician, and any other contractors to fill out relevant parts of the application as well. Check with the permit office for any additional paperwork, such as septic design plans, that may be required. Turn in the completed application with the required number of architectural plans and a survey of the land to be developed. Be sure to include the necessary payment for the application fee.


Wait for Approval

The approval process can take anywhere from three to six weeks, or longer if there are complications. As you wait for approval on your building permit, make sure you have your construction loan in order and any special supplies have been ordered for your project. After receiving your building loan, typically a building inspector will periodically come out to the site to ensure you are in compliance with approved plans and codes.

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How To Increase Your Home Value

July 16, 2008 by  
Filed under Home & Garden

how do I increase the value of a homeRead a home decorating magazine or watch a cable-TV home improvement show, and you might easily conclude that any upgrade will pay off when you sell. This is simply not so because even in good times, not all projects have widespread appeal. You’ll earn back virtually your entire investment in a kitchen or deck, but less than 75 cents on the dollar if you add a home office or sunroom, according to "Remodeling" magazine’s annual cost vs. value survey.

What’s worse, some renovations can even hurt you in the eyes of home buyers, a costly problem if you hope to sell in a softening market like today’s.

The Swimming Pool:

In some areas, especially hot-weather spots like Arizona and Florida, a pool is a must-have. In the Southwest, adding one boosts your home’s value by 11 percent on average, according to a National Association of Realtors study. But elsewhere it can just as easily turn off buyers, who worry about affording the upkeep and insurance. And if the most likely buyer of your home is a family with small children, think long and hard before installing a pool.


"People with younger children may be leery of houses with pools for safety reasons," says Barry Graziano, a real estate agent with Prudential Rand Realty in White Plains, N. Y. "I’ve had families walk away. A pool can cut down on the number of people who will want to buy your house."

The Addition:

You’ve thought about how that great room and master bedroom wing will let the family spread out. But what you probably haven’t considered is what the space will look like from the outside.

"A badly designed addition can kill your resale value," says Sal Alfano, the editorial director of Remodeling. "People focus on the floor plan and the flow, but not on how it fits into the neighborhood or even the house itself."

Watch out for boxy, poorly detailed additions and be careful of a style that will look dated when you throw your open house. Spotting the trend that’s on its way out is trickier than you think. While it is easy to assume that sleek red European kitchen cabinetry is tomorrow’s harvest gold fridge, other design staples that seem like sure bets can quickly drift into obscurity too.


That’s what Mark Johnson, a Whirlpool design manager, says is happening to stainless-steel appliances. "For a period of time, people aspired to a commercial kitchen" he says. "What I am seeing is more interest in warmer finishes."

You want a design trend with legs. Johnson says custom panels that dress appliances in maple or mahogany finishes are likely to remain popular for several years. Also, think about the materials for hardware like hinges and light fixtures. Polished brass or anything shiny is out. Brushed nickel is a better option. Johnson is betting that oiled-bronze finishes will take off next.

The Jacuzzi:

The elaborate master bath is okay, but the big circular tub with 15 jets that can pulse or massage is risky.

According to Holly Slaughter, brand manager at, you’re better off with an oversize shower that has a rain showerhead and multiple jets (think of it as a car wash for humans).

Baby boomers have little time to spend hanging out in the bathtub, and parents with small kids prefer a conventional tub. Ultimately, don’t expect a future buyer to pay up for the luxury you considered an essential.