How to Withstand Severe Summer Weather

weather 1(BPT) – Mother Nature can be hard on your home, especially during the summer months. Thunderstorms, tornadoes and hurricanes can cause extensive damage to houses and entire communities. Some preparation, however, can help homeowners defend their homes against severe-weather damage.

“It pays to prepare your home to handle the worst of what Mother Nature dishes out in any season,” says Ed Del Grande, a home improvement expert, author, TV host and spokesperson for Kohler. “Damage resulting from storms can create costly repairs, or even force you to leave your home altogether.”

Here are six home improvements you can undertake to help protect your home from summer storm damage:

1. Repair or replace windows.

Check the condition of your home’s windows as well as the weather stripping around them. Re-caulk windows where stripping is worn, and replace any windows that are damaged. If you live in an area prone to storms and high winds, such as those from hurricanes and tornadoes, consider investing in some plywood or permanent storm shutters that you can keep on hand to cover windows when a storm approaches.

2. Trim trees and shrubs, and take care of landscaping.

Keep your yard free of debris and items like kids’ toys and gardening tools. During storms with high winds, debris and items on the lawn can become projectiles that damage siding and windows. Inspect trees and shrubs to ensure they’re healthy. Remove diseased trees, which are more likely to come down in a storm, and keep trees and shrubs trimmed to minimize the risk of branches damaging your house.

3. Install a standby generator.

Power outages are a common result of severe weather, and losing power can cause further damage to your home. Automatic standby generators, like those from Kohler, turn on within seconds of a utility power outage, run on propane or natural gas and are connected to the home, similar to an outdoor air conditioning unit. Automatic standby generators keep critical appliances operating when the power goes out, ensuring you won’t go without refrigerators, sump pumps, and critical home systems such as air conditioning. If you’re interested in learning more about standby power options, visit www.KohlerGenerators.com for informational videos, sizing calculators and other helpful information.weather 2

4. Install a sump pump.

Summer storms frequently bring flooding to many areas of the country. If your home has a basement, investing in a sump pump – which removes water when it accumulates in a basin – can help prevent the costly damage caused by flooding. Heavy rains can quickly fill a basement with water, damaging anything stored there, as well as vital systems such as furnaces or water heaters. A sump pump with an automatic sensor will turn on as soon as it detects water, protecting your basement even if you’re not home when the flooding occurs.

5. Take care of gutters.

Clogged gutters can cause flooding in the basement and leaks in the ceiling during storms with heavy rain. Before storm season arrives, check your gutters and clear them of debris. Repair or replace any damaged parts of the overall system. Gutters provide vital protection for your home, so if yours have seen better days, consider replacing them altogether.

6. Install roof clips/hurricane straps.

If you live in an area prone to hurricanes, roof clips or hurricane straps can help ensure the roof stays on your house in high winds. Check building codes in your area, as some states require new construction to be built with these protections. If your home doesn’t have them, a professional can easily retrofit your roof with clips and straps to help prevent the roof from blowing off. Losing the roof is not only a massively costly repair, it means you’ve also lost the part of your home that does the most to protect everything and everyone inside it.

“You can’t control the weather, but you can definitely prepare for it,” Del Grande says. “And you can protect your home and family from bad weather’s worst effects. It’s essential to be proactive, before storm season really gets going.”

Power Tools to the People: Getting Your Outdoor Equipment Ready for Summer

Power ToolsPower tools to the people: Getting your outdoor equipment ready for summer

(BPT) – Some people eagerly anticipate summer barbecues, beach vacations and blue skies, but for avid do-it-yourselfers, the best thing about summer is the opportunity to use their favorite power tools to make their yards look great. Before you revel in the rich rumble of your prized lawnmower or the energetic buzz of a trimmer, it’s vital to do some basic maintenance that will get your tools ready for summer.

While many of the most rewarding outdoor projects are within the abilities of the average DIYer, some aspects of power tool prep are best left to professionals. The power tool experts at Husqvarna offer some tips for ensuring your outdoor equipment is ready for warm-weather chores. However, when performing any maintenance on your equipment, make sure to read and follow all instructions in the operator’s manual – that way, you know you are doing it right.

Lawn mower maintenance tasks

You’ll likely mow your lawn dozens of times during the growing season. A quality lawn mower like a Husqvarna AWD or Z200 is an investment well worth protecting. Here are some maintenance tasks that should be performed periodically during the mowing season:

* Every time you finish using your mower, tractor, or zero-turn mower, clear the mower deck of accumulated grass clippings and debris. During normal operation of the lawn mower, built-up debris can loosen and fly off, potentially damaging belts and critical parts. Built-up debris can also dry out, potentially creating a fire hazard if it contacts hot moving parts.

* Sharpen blades. Dull blades reduce your mower’s cutting power, and can also damage your lawn.

* Replace spark plugs. Old plugs can make starting your mower difficult, cause misfires and reduce fuel economy.

* Check the operation of all-wheel drive parts. Lawn mowers like the Husqvarna HU625 use all-wheel drive to make mowing easier, so keeping these parts in good repair directly affects the quality of the mower’s function.

* Replace the fuel filter. Chances are good that if you ran all last summer on the same filter, it’s time to replace it. Dirty fuel filters can be a factor in hard starting and reduced fuel economy. Whenever working with fuel system components, be sure to read and follow the operator’s manual, use manufacturer’s recommended components, and make sure all connections are secure when complete.

* Replace the oil filter and change the oil. Just as oil quality and a clean oil filter are key to your automobile’s good performance, your lawn mower needs clean oil and a fresh oil filter, too.

* Check the air filter and change it if it’s worn out. Clean it if it’s just dirty but in good shape otherwise.

* Lubricate all joints and moving parts on your mower per the instructions in your owner’s manual.

Properly prepping your lawn mower for spring and summer can be time consuming and tedious. If you don’t have the time or expertise to do the job well, it pays to take your mower to a professional Husqvarna service center, of which there are thousands across the country. Visit www.husqvarna.com to find one near you.

Taking care of your trimmer

If the lawn mower is the powerhouse of yard care, the trimmer is the crowning touch that makes your lawn and landscaping look polished. To ensure they work well throughout the summer, gas-powered trimmers like Husqvarna’s 525L trimmer need maintenance at the beginning of spring. Tasks should include:

* Replacing the string. You’ll likely replace the string throughout the season as you use it up during trimming chores. Starting the season with fresh string also affords the opportunity to clean and inspect the cutting shield and the area around the trimmer head.

* Be sure to replace any gas still left in the trimmer from last season. Gas degrades over time and old fuel can make it difficult to start the trimmer and keep it running. Consider using Husqvarna XP pre-mixed 50:1 fuel/oil mix, which has the right blend of fuel and oil, without all that Ethanol, to keep your trimmer running smoothly.

* Check the spark plug and replace if necessary.

* Check the oil level and add oil if needed.

* Clean the entire trimmer and lubricate it per the recommendations in the owner’s manual.

Husqvarna service centers can also take care of trimmer maintenance.

The fresh, earthy aroma of newly cut grass is one of the best-loved scents of spring and summer. Taking care of your power tools before and during the season begins can help ensure easier lawn tasks throughout the summer.

This Top Garage Trend Keeps Gaining Momentum

Carrige House Garage Doors(BPT) – The carriage house garage door is to your house what the little black dress and strand of pearls are to your wardrobe; classic style elements that never go out of fashion.

At the dawn of the automobile age, those who were affluent enough to own a car kept it in the carriage house, where the horses and buggy would have been stored. But this cohabitation became a little, well, smelly, and the need for separate storing structures was soon realized.

Enter, the garage. Built in the style of the original carriage house, the garage’s sole intent was to store the car away from the animals and elements. The word garage actually comes from the French word, garer, which means to shelter and protect. Naturally, the garage needed a door to offer protection to the automobile. The ensuing “carriage house door” was a hinged, double door that swung outwards, and can be considered the original garage door.

In the early 1920s, the kickout door was invented and progress continued from there, bringing homeowners the modern convenience of today’s overhead garage doors. Today’s carriage house sectional garage doors open overhead and continue to gain in popularity, constituting 35 percent of the volume in the garage door industry with projections to remain a huge trend.

When it comes to the style of garage door chosen, most homeowners want something classic, that won’t fade in popularity over the years and will also enhance curb appeal. This is especially true if home resale is a factor.

The carriage house door also offers a myriad of design elements. For example, the Classica Collection by Amarr offers a dual-directional wood grain design that provides the realistic look of wood with the practicality and low-maintenance upkeep of steel. With a three-section design and the option of larger windows, this door offers a more authentic carriage house look with the benefit of additional natural light flow into your garage. Two-tone looks are also available with many color combinations and panel designs, and hardware and window choices are plentiful. These different design options can be tailored specifically to your home’s fa├žade and will further enhance curb appeal.

Planning a Home Improvement Project? Financing is the First Tool You’ll Need

Capture(BPT) – If you’re planning a home improvement project this year, you’re in good company. The economy and housing market are recovering, home values and equity are rising, and many homeowners are beginning projects they had put off over the past few years. A recent report by the Joint Center of Housing Studies at Harvard University predicts that the home improvement industry could post record-level spending in 2015.

Creating your dream home could involve major work, like remodeling a bathroom or finishing a basement, or smaller changes like landscaping or new flooring. As costs can range from $30 for a can of paint to six figures for big additions, a significant part of planning your project is financing. Numerous options may be available, and it’s important to seek information from an experienced financial professional.

“Many consumers aren’t aware of all the financing options for home improvement, or they may not have thought of those options to pay for the work they want to do,” says Kelly Kockos, senior vice president with Wells Fargo Home Equity. “Homeowners can start by defining a vision of what they want their finished project to look like, and talking with a banker or lender to explore how to pay for it.”

As you prepare to make decisions about financing, ask yourself these questions to get started:

Size of project: How much do you want to spend, and will you need access to funds throughout your project or one lump sum? You may not know your total budget, but it’s important to have a good idea of what your project might cost. DIY vs. contractor: Are you planning to do the work yourself or hire a contractor? If you are using a contractor, references and your own research can help you make an informed choice. Repayment plan: Will you need long-term financing or is short-term financing sufficient? If you plan to borrow funds, consider the monthly payment that would fit your budget.These are some common financing options to explore:

*Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) – A HELOC can provide ongoing access to funds using the equity in your home, which typically results in lower interest rates than unsecured credit. This type of credit may also provide you potential tax benefits. Consult your tax advisor regarding the deductibility of interest. Wells Fargo has a combination of industry-leading features to help you borrow responsibly – principal and interest payments that rebuild your equity, annual and lifetime rate caps, and the ability to lock and unlock your rate with a fixed rate advance.

*Mortgages with built-in renovation financing – These loans help homeowners complete renovations with a loan amount that is based on an appraiser’s estimate of what the property value will be with completed improvements. This is also an option for aspiring homeowners who purchase properties that need repair. Whether a home purchase or a refinance, this option finances the renovations and mortgage in one loan. Wells Fargo is the nation’s leading originator of renovation financing, with a dedicated team of home mortgage consultants specializing in renovation lending.

*Cash-out refinance mortgages – A cash-out refinance replaces your current mortgage with a new and larger mortgage that pays off your current balance and allows you to use the equity in your home to provide additional funds for other purposes.

*Credit card – Credit cards can be used for large or small purchases and may earn rewards, which can add up to significant benefits when you’re making big home improvement purchases. However, credit cards often have higher interest rates than other loan or credit options, which should be taken into consideration.

*Personal loans and lines of credit – These personal credit options typically offer quick credit decisions and access to funds in a day. Lines of credit provide ongoing access to funds.

*Savings – If you have a do-it-yourself project or a small renovation, accessing your savings might be an option. By paying cash, there is faster access to funds and nothing to repay.

Your bank may not be the best source for what color to paint your room or which walls to move, but it can help you identify your financial options. Each option has its associated benefits and considerations, and your bank can provide valuable information to help you make informed decisions about which options are right for you. More information and tips on home improvement financing are available online in the Wells Fargo Home Improvement Lending Center, including a financing option comparison tool.

With these tips and the help of a finance professional, you can go from imagining your modern kitchen or new deck to getting started on them.

Easy Ways to Protect Your Home’s Exterior

exterior(BPT) – When considering home improvements, people often picture costly, time-intensive endeavors. But enhancing and protecting your home this season can be enjoyable – and deliver plenty of bang for your buck. One of the fastest, easiest ways to dramatize your home’s exterior is to install vibrantly colored window headers and matching shutters.

In fact, shutters decorate the sides and back of the home exterior too, not just curbside. With the emergence of outdoor living and gathering in yards, elegant window decor creates a warm, welcoming atmosphere.

Popular craftsman-style Flat Panel and geometric-style Classic Dentil headers are both available from Mid-America Siding Components from The Tapco Group. For functional, professionally installed shutters, select a design from Wood-Composite Premium Atlantic Architectural, Classic, ProSeries, and Storm-Rated Collections. For purely decorative, ultra-low-maintenance, choose Mid-America Exterior Vinyl Shutters, which never fade or crack. These shutters offer endless, enduring possibilities, including custom Board-N-Batten and Panel-Louver combinations to shutters for double-wide, arched and long narrow windows.

Trend-wise, board-and-batten shutters are on the move, while raised-panel shutters are the most sought-after. Black is ever-popular for shutters and headers, and neutral colors are holding their own. But the trend toward richer tones is growing. Lush forest greens, autumn reds and deep blues are gracing more homes, creating attention-grabbing contrasts between shutters and siding. For the main entryway, understated white or cream door surrounds complement richly-toned shutters.

“Shutters and matching window headers are the easiest way to upgrade your home if you don’t want a massive undertaking and want the biggest impact for your investment,” says Trisha Anderson, product manager of Mid-America. “Shutter and header colors change everything by enhancing the tone of your whole home. You’ll gain more satisfaction from rich-colored matching shutters and headers than from virtually any other exterior home improvement.”

Decorative hardware on shutters is another easy, economical way to upgrade exteriors. Yet this fine detail often gets overlooked. Beautifully crafted, historically accurate Atlantic hardware, including elegant pintel and hinge combinations, make functional shutters pop on homes, adding dimension and drawing attention. Artful, refined Mid-America hardware, including charming hinges and spindle-hooks, can make vinyl shutters indistinguishable from functional shutters, boosting curb appeal.

During new construction or exterior remodeling, SturdiMount fiber cement mounting blocks offer a simple, affordable way to enrich architectural beauty and provide water management capabilities that prevent costly damage to fiber cement, stucco and wood siding. “SturdiMount is an innovative solution for mitigating water in fiber cement cladding. It’s an essential detail that protects home investments long-term, enhances aesthetics, is easily installed, and saves contractors time,” says Anderson.

Designed with a robust, built-in flange, SturdiMount offers four distinct profiles, which professionals can install right out-of-the-box for exterior finishing touches that cover every need. The solid, level, crack-proof surface makes it easy to mount decor, such as coach-light fixtures, and necessities, including outlets and vents. For seamless aesthetics, SturdiMount blocks can be maintained in original white or spray-painted to color-match exteriors during whole-house paint jobs.

For more information on beautifying your home with shutters and trim, visit TheTapcoGroup.com or call 800-521-8486.

5 Ways to Protect Your Family From CO Poisoning

19400905_original(BPT) – Most homeowners recognize the importance of protecting their homes from fire. They do this by checking the batteries in their smoke alarms, completely extinguishing fires in their fireplaces and keeping flammable materials away from candles or space heaters. However, while fire safety is front and center, many homeowners overlook the ways they can protect their families from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

And that’s a mistake no homeowner can afford to make.

Census data shows most homes in the U.S. have either fuel-burning appliances or an attached garage, but only approximately half of all homes have a working CO alarm – the only safe way to detect this odorless, colorless and invisible threat. Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the United States; claiming more than 400 lives each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, more than 20,000 people visit the emergency room and more than 4,000 are hospitalized due to accidental CO poisoning annually.

Thankfully, protection can be as simple as applying these five tips.

* Seek professional help. One of the most common causes of CO poisoning is a filthy or inefficient heating system. Poorly maintained chimneys and flues can crack, causing ventilation problems and preventing CO from escaping up the chimney. Likewise, a faulty furnace could also emit CO into the home. Have your chimney or heating system cleaned and serviced by trained technicians annually to eliminate this risk.

* Add or upgrade your carbon monoxide alarm. Your CO alarms is just as important as your home’s smoke alarms, so make sure you have one and that it is working properly. Kidde Worry-Free carbon monoxide alarms have the longest life available in a CO alarm – 10 years – and come in both battery and hardwired power options. Each alarm contains a sealed-in lithium battery that last a decade providing homeowners with peace of mind knowing their alarms are always on. The Worry-Free Combination alarm offers warning of both fire and CO and includes a voice alert to clearly identify the hazard present. It also features a unique smart sensing technology to significantly reduce nuisance alarms.

* Keep the grill and generator outdoors. Using a grill or generator due to a power outage? Put on a jacket and go outside. Never bring the grill indoors or operate it or a generator in a space attached to your home such as a porch, patio or garage. Both can emit high levels of CO, and need plenty of ventilation. Even having the garage door open does not offer enough air flow to reduce CO levels.

* Use your indoor appliances properly. Only use appliances as they are designed by the manufacturer. For instance, never use gas appliances, like your range or oven, to heat in the house. This increases your risk of CO poisoning.

* Know the symptoms. CO symptoms mimic the flu without fever. Since winter is also peak flu season, know the difference. If you or a loved one is feeling confused or dizzy, or if he/she is suffering from headaches, nausea, sleepiness, vomiting or weakness, but has no fever, it may be a case of CO poisoning. Get the victim outside in fresh air and dial 911 immediately.

Carbon monoxide poisons thousands each year, but you can protect yourself and your family by employing the tips above. To learn more about how Kidde alarms can raise your family’s awareness of CO threats, visit www.KnowAboutCO.com.

Enjoy Your Backyard This Summer

Capture(BPT) – In the midst of the winter we love to think of the summer as this idyllic time when we live barefoot under the sky and everything is perfect and beautiful. Then when the summertime comes, we find ourselves complaining about too much sun, being too hot or bugs – and stay inside in the cool AC to avoid them. The good news is you can create a cool, shady and even bug-free spot for yourself, no matter the size of your outdoor space or your wallet.

Natural Tree Shade

Before building a patio or deck canopies, take another look at your yard. Perhaps nature has a solution. If you don’t have a nice tree already, consider planting one. Trees provide natural canopy, especially during the summer when they have the most leaves.

If that is not an option or you want to enjoy shade while your newly planted tree is growing, take a good look at your backyard and think of how and when you want to use the space, which will help you pick the right solution.

Umbrellas

A freestanding umbrella, grouped with a table or a chair, will provide shade for alfresco dining or a morning coffee. Also, a bright umbrella can add a splash of color to your home’s exterior. Most umbrellas can be easily moved, so you can block the hot sun from any direction or stow it away when not in use.

Pergola

For a more traditional and permanent option consider a custom-made pergola. They can provide a real sense of having a room outside that is either open to the sky, air and nature, or fitted with a Somfy automated system of fabric or slats. You can also screen the sides of your pergola for added privacy or insect protection.

Think low maintenance materials such as acrylic trim boards, fiberglass columns and woods such as ipe and redwood. This way you can enjoy your pergola rather than spending time cleaning, scraping and painting it.

Cabana

For a tropical option at a fraction of the cost, go with a cabana that you can pick up at most outdoor furniture stores. Customize your piece with outdoor fabrics in colors or patterns that match the style of your home. Pack it up and store it when the weather turns cold or if you’re expecting a storm.

Retractable Awning

Motorized retractable awnings powered by Somfy are a great adaptable option, which allow you to enjoy the sun or shade, whenever you choose, at a press of a button. Maximize energy savings by having your awning react to the weather or a schedule set by you. Automatic sensors will also protect your awning during high winds or rain by retracting it.

Shade “Sails”

Tension fabric shade sails can be ready-made or custom designed. Select durable material and make sure that the cloth is pitched to allow rainwater to fall off of it. Water that collects in the middle of the cloth sail can stretch the fabric or damage the system. Design it so you can easily take down the fabric canopy and store it for the winter, especially in climates that get ice and snow.

Covered Patio

If you already have a covered patio or are adding one to your home, consider integrated, automated screens to keep the bugs out, and/or to provide additional sun protection. This option gives you a useful space no matter the weather, year round.

Saving Money with Soft Water

Pros of Soft Water(BPT) – For many homeowners the biggest utility bill is electricity. Heating and cooling the home makes up nearly half of electricity costs, but the next biggest source is the water heater. Water heaters can account for up to 25 percent of total household energy use. Taking steps to improve the energy efficiency of a home with better insulation and more efficient furnaces and air conditioners can reduce energy costs significantly, as can making sure water heaters are operating properly.

However, purchasing a high efficiency water heater does little good if the environment in which it operates is not right. The main culprit in reducing the efficiency of water heaters is hard water. Nearly 90 percent of American homes have hard water which contains high levels of calcium and magnesium. These minerals cause scaling, a buildup that clogs waterlines and plumbing forcing appliances to work harder and operate less efficiently. Hard water can reduce the efficiency of water heaters and increase electricity costs by as much as 48 percent according to the Battelle Memorial Institute.

The problem can be particularly severe with electric water heaters. These can accumulate up to 30 pounds of calcium carbonate, a rock-like scale, eventually damaging the heating element which will have to be replaced. The cost of hard water is not higher just because of reduced energy efficiency and higher electric bills; hard water also damages appliances like water heaters, dish washers, shower heads and faucets. These must be repaired and replaced more often as a result.

To determine if you have hard water, look for spots and scale build-up on fixtures. “A less obvious indication is the lack of that luxury feeling of a hot shower you get at a nice hotel,” says Michael Mecca of Performance Water Products. “That feeling is not because of the nice towels and soaps. It’s because nice hotels use soft water not only for their guests’ benefit but also to protect their investments in boilers, piping and fixtures.”

Kitchens benefit from soft water as well because soft water is up to 12 times more effective at cleaning dishes than increasing the amount of detergent used. Researchers also found that for washing machines, the most important factor in removing stains from clothing was water softness. Reduction of water hardness was up to 100 times more effective at stain removal than increasing the detergent dose or washing with hotter water. In fact, soft water can reduce soap use by as much as half.

Many water treatment companies offer free tests to homeowners to measure the degree of hardness in the water and offer appropriate systems that fit. “Hardness in water can vary widely in some parts of the country and pipe size, number of bathrooms, number of people in the house, types of showerheads and intended use all need to be considered for the right system,” says Mecca.

“Wells in particular are susceptible to hard water since municipal water departments often take care of the worst offenders such as iron-manganese-hydrogen sulfide. Even if you get municipal water you likely still have calcium and other hard water deposits and can benefit from a water softener. Systems for well water will cost a little more but it is well worth it,” he adds.

The only way to truly remove the calcium and magnesium from household water systems is with a salt-based water softener. These remove the scaling in the pipes entirely by running the incoming hard water through a resin filter that traps the calcium and magnesium in the water – as well as any iron, manganese or radium ions. It then replaces them with sodium ions.

A salt-based water softener is one home improvement that will not only pay for itself but add value to a home. A properly sized quality water softener appliance can save a homeowner thousands of dollars over its life in reduced soap and detergent costs, electricity, efficiency and extended life for expensive appliances.

Creating an Inviting, Low Maintenance Porch

Capture(BPT) – Your porch should be a warm, welcoming outdoor living space that offers comfort and helps make a house a home. Whether you want to remodel your porch from the ground up, or just give it a refreshing new look and feel, it’s easier than you think to create a perfect porch.

Start with a Kleer deck as enchanting flooring for your remodeled porch, choosing from the rich, nature-inspired color palettes available for the Sierra Series and Coastal Series Decking. Sierra offers deep, solid earth tones with wood grain textures such as Sequoia, plus streaked tropical wood looks, such as Golden Teak. The Coastal Series offers charming Cobblestone and serene Sand Dune hues, which give your porch a relaxing feel reminiscent of a seaside resort.

Framing your porch, like a picture for the world to see, is easy with Kleer Trimboard. Add elegant white or colorfully painted accent trim around the top, bottom and sides of the porch using durable cellular PVC trimboards in a variety of sizes. This trim can even be crafted into ornate gingerbread or curved using heat-bending to make soaring arches. Kleer Mouldings can be readily cut so that you can add eye-catching detail anywhere. Using Kleer Beaded Sheets, you can build a porch ceiling with great warmth and charm. For a picturesque porch, enclose columns in Kleer Post Wraps to protect them from the elements while adding wood’s natural, finished look.

To complete your perfect porch, dress up nearby windows and doors with distinctive touches that complement the look and feel of your outdoor livingporch space. High-impact, budget-friendly ideas include adding Mid-America Siding Components’ richly-colored shutters with matching window headers to enhance your porch’s warmth and curb appeal. The sophisticated Flat Panel and geometric-style Classic Dentil headers pair perfectly with decorative shutters like the classic Open Louver or Old World-style Board-n-Batten.

Another quick, easy upgrade is an inviting door surround in cream, white or another neutral color to enhance porch aesthetics. Adding a door surround is a natural way to create that “welcome home” feeling too.

Designed for easy living, Tapco’s enduring Kleer and Mid-America brand solutions never require painting or wood’s time-intensive upkeep. Whether you want to transform your porch into a cozy gathering spot or grand wrap-around retreat, Tapco’s exterior products can put the perfect low-maintenance outdoor living space within your reach.

Spring: 4 Designer Touches For a Well-Dressed Deck

(BPT) – When spring arrives, will your deck be ready for “primetime?” Or will it still be wearing the shabby remnants of last season’s look? Clunky,spring home improvements view-blocking railings, a rectangular layout and dark stain are so last decade. Before warm weather gets here, consider upgrading your outdoor living space with the trends that every well-dressed deck will be wearing this year.

Cable railing = better views

Whether you’re lucky enough to live on the water or you spend a lot of time keeping your backyard green and blooming, wouldn’t it be great to be able to enjoy the view from your deck? Traditional wooden railings can block your view, and glass can be hard to clean.

More view-seeking homeowners are replacing wooden balusters with Ultra-tec stainless steel cable railings. Do-it-yourself kits from manufacturers like The Cable Connection make it easy to replace old balusters with stainless steel cable, creating a sleek, upscale and view-friendly look. The cable can be used with wood, metal or sleeved posts with a solid core, and you can retrofit any railing with the cable. Whether your deck is made of wood or composite, cable railing works wherever you would install a traditional railing, including the deck perimeter and stairs. Visit www.thecableconnection.com to learn more.

A deck of a different color

Clear sealant for a natural look or subdued rustic hues have long been the colors of choice for decks. This year, expect to see a plethora of fresh colors popping up on decks. While changing the color of a wooden deck from a darker hue to something brighter may be problematic, composite decking manufacturers have branched out into a variety of brighter colors, including whites and light grays. You’ll even see pops of color like greens and blues in designs and inserts set into decking planks.

You can also add color to your deck through plantings. Think outside the planter box – and traditional floral plantings – to mix things up with decorative grasses and leafy foliage that will splash color around your deck throughout the summer.

Mixed media ups interest

Wooden planks, wooden railings, stairs and even furniture – long gone are the days when decks were single-material constructions. Today’s decks are a study in mixed media, incorporating traditional materials like wood, brick and tile with modern elements such as composite planks, cable railings and even ceramic tile.

The amalgam of materials can yield a multitude of patterns, styles and looks. Pair a traditional wood deck with cable railing and stairs that descend to a patio of pavers set in a herringbone pattern. Use heat-resistant ceramic tile to create a decorative and functional cooking area on a composite deck. Varying the materials used in your deck adds visual depth, interest and excitement to your outdoor living space.

On the lighter side

Outdoor lighting isn’t just for the purposes of safety, or to extend the deck’s usability well into the night. Lighting can be a design statement and a powerful decorative element for your deck.

Decorative post caps can add a designer look to railings while also providing ample light for outdoor activities. Inset lights create mood and ensure safe footing on stairs. For a soft, glowing effect, tuck rope lighting beneath upper and lower railings. Don’t forget the beauty of natural light, too; fire pits and chimineas offer up warmth, ambience and gentle light.

With some designer touches, it’s easy to turn your deck from dull to delightful – and ensure your outdoor spaces stay in step with today’s best-dressed decks.