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Home Care

7 Backyard improvements that make a difference

With more people staying home to work, relax and play, many homeowners have chosen to renovate rather than move to a new home to obtain their dream house and have it work better for their family.

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The housing market always has its ups and downs, and home renovations appear to be hitting some record highs in the last few years. With more people staying home to work, relax and play, many homeowners have chosen to renovate rather than move to a new home to obtain their dream house and have it work better for their family. But what about extending those enhancements outside, into the family backyard?

According to a recent poll commissioned by the TurfMutt Foundation and conducted online by The Harris Poll, more than three-quarters of Americans who have a yard (76 percent) say the family yard space is one of the most important parts of their home. When it comes to design, it makes sense family backyards are being taken as seriously as the interior of the home.

“Backyard improvements can impact your home’s value should you decide to sell someday, but we think it’s also important to make changes that enhance your experience and enjoyment of your yard today,” says Kris Kiser, President & CEO of the TurfMutt Foundation, which encourages people to care for and utilize the green space around them, including our own backyards and community parks.

He adds, “Mulligan the TurfMutt and I are loving our newly renovated backyard as we’ve brought some of our indoor living, outdoors. It feels like we’ve added onto the house by just utilizing the outdoor space more effectively.” 

Maybe you’ve already completed the improvement projects inside your home such as adding a fresh coat of paint, putting in new flooring, or updating appliances and furniture. But how are home improvements taken to the backyard so the “outdoor living room” works better for your family and at the same time make your home feel new?

Here are seven suggestions from the TurfMutt Foundation for turning home renovations “inside out”:

1. Replace flooring inside = cleaning up the yard and improving its turfgrass.

Grass is the canvas for your outdoor living room. Improve existing turfgrass by overseeding or aerating, or start fresh with new sod. Clean out flower beds and remove debris from all parts of your yard, and then build the other elements from there. Remember, outdoor power equipment like a lawn mower, hedge trimmer, or leaf blower can help make even big jobs easier. 

2. Repaint inside = planting flowers to attract and support backyard wildlife.

A fresh coat of paint can transform a room, just like planting flowers outside does for a yard. Choose native plants that have evolved to thrive in your microclimate (they are better for the ecosystem and require less input from you). Selecting native perennials over annuals means only having to plant once to enjoy their beauty for years to come. Plus, pollinators and other backyard wildlife will thank you as these types of plants are natural habitat and food for them.

3. Replace household appliances = freshening up your cache of outdoor power equipment. 

Getting the right equipment for your lawn size and type customizes the experience of caring for your yard. Good news is there are lots of options available for all needs and tastes. Robotic mowers that act like a Roomba for the lawn and battery-powered leaf blowers that are lightweight, powerful, and portable are good choices. For larger lawns, zero-turn mowers and even a UTV might be helpful.

4. Swap out furniture inside = creating high-value spaces outside. 

Spending time outside is all about connection with nature and others. Really think about what you need for your lifestyle, and buy outdoor furniture accordingly to create spaces that support your family’s lifestyle. Things like a picnic table for backyard study sessions, an outdoor sectional for connecting with others, a hammock for swinging away stress, or even an outdoor office to strike a better work life balance are all ways you can create high-value outdoor spaces.

5. Kitchen renovation = adding an outdoor kitchen. 

The sky is the limit when adding an outdoor kitchen. You can certainly create full set-up complete with a sink, refrigerator, and built-in grill and cooktop. Or keep it simple with a beverage cart or cooler and spend a little more on a quality grill to cook meals on.

6. Add on to your home = creating a true outdoor living room. 

Go all out and add a deck, hardscaped area or screened in porch if you have the time and budget, or simply make the most of the yard you have. Create a soccer or croquet field on a grassy flat area. Add a fire pit and use string lights in trees to enhance enjoyment in the wintertime. For warm summer days, a pergola covered in colorful vines that attract butterflies might be just the ticket.

7. Add a game room inside = creating activity zones outside. 

Make your backyard the neighborhood gathering hot spot by creating activity zones that are fun for the whole family. Cornhole, soccer, bocce ball, and a giant checkers board game can help parents more easily manage their kids’ screen time. A patio or deck is a great setting for family game nights. Or go all out and add a swimming pool to lock in your backyard as the place-to-be for your kids and their friends. Involve your family in the planning and keep in mind that shrubs and hedges are a great way to distinguish the different activity zones you create in your yard.

For more information, sign up for Mutt Mail, a monthly e-newsletter with backyarding tips and all the news from the TurfMutt Foundation here.

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Home Care

Tips to a residential refresh

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We all look for a “home”, not just a “house”. Mainly because your home is an expression of you, your personality and your lifestyle. And this is why when it comes to personalizing your home’s aesthetic, try leaning into your senses to inspire change within your space.

Talking about personalizing your home, inspiration can be found everywhere around you – from taking cues from Mother Nature to “shopping” your own house or, with a little help from Air Wick, finding and incorporating your home’s signature scent.

Give yourself a residential refresh with these tips:

Rearrange Living Spaces

Breathing fresh air into a room doesn’t always require a complete overhaul, or even any construction or DIY projects. Sometimes all you need is a little rearranging. Shifting furniture to better suit your needs or let more natural light in can significantly improve the space’s aesthetic.

Additionally, the items you currently own are most reflective of your style; try “shopping” your own house by repurposing items from other areas or rooms to give them a fresh feel. When decor pieces are overused in one spot, they may feel brand new in a different space. These are practical and cost-effective tactics to create a new and inviting space for both you and any guests entering your home.

Introduce Plants and Greenery

When sourcing your design inspiration from nature, adding greenery is an inherent way to bring in the beauty and freshness of the great outdoors. To personalize your home with plants, visit a nursery or local flower shop and choose ones that are appealing to you based on their shape, color or size. Live plants offer multiple benefits, like naturally purifying the air, and studies have shown numerous therapeutic benefits of spending time with nature. Therefore, designing with natural elements, like house plants or flowers, can bring a sense of serenity into your home.

Find Your “Scentscape”

A home upgrade rooted in nature includes more than just what you can see and feel, it also includes engaging the sense of smell. One of the latest home decor trends, “scentscaping,” is growing in popularity as a way for individuals to enhance the ambiance of their homes through tailored scent.

“Scent is an often-overlooked aspect of design,” said Egypt Sherrod, HGTV personality who is both an interior designer and real estate broker, and Air Wick partner. “People tour homes and experience spaces with all their senses. It adds a new layer to home personalization, as an authentic fragrance experience often heightens the aura of your space beyond its physical layout. Scentscaping is the perfect way to add a bespoke vibe for your home that reflects your personal style, in turn creating a welcoming atmosphere.”

With innovative devices designed to deliver carefully blended scents like Air Wick’s Advanced Plug-In Scented Oil, you can enjoy long-lasting pulses of scents inspired by nature in the comfort of your home for up to 60 days on low setting. With anti-fading technology, an on-demand boost button and adjustable intensity settings, you’ll notice the fragrances from the first drop to the last.

Update Colors

Introducing color to a room can transform its look, and the scale of change is up to you. You might repaint the entire space, simply paint an accent wall or even just spruce up a corner with a pop of color. Incorporating accessories or decorative elements with new colors can also create some variety, such as including pops of seasonal-inspired colors in artwork and textiles.

Switch Out Light Fixtures

A room’s lighting is an important detail for personalizing the type of mood and ambiance you are trying to achieve. Swapping out light fixtures for dimmers, for example, can create a brand new atmosphere, allowing you to adjust the light to the time of day and for your intended experience. Consider updating old lighting fixtures with new ones to enhance the presence of natural light or changing the bulb wattage to further impact the mood.

Embrace the Scent of the Season

If you tend to make frequent edits to your home’s design, you may also find the idea of experimenting with different fragrances appealing. A short-term scent can be ideal for seasonal swaps, like trading fresh spring blooms for sweet summer citrus, for example. Lasting for up to 45 days on low setting, Air Wick’s Essential Mist Diffuser fills the room with a gentle, fragrant mist with natural essential oils so you can set it and forget it. Adjustable settings are included on the device, and the cordless and portable design allow it to blend seamlessly into any home decor.

Scentscaping to Give Your Home a Personalized Style

Achieving your perfect scentscape begins with nature-inspired fragrances, including classics like White Sage + Mahogany, Lavender + Waterlily and Eucalyptus + Wild Berry. If sweeter scents are your preference, consider enticing blends like Pink Watermelon + Mimosa, Lush Honeysuckle + Raspberry or Hawaiian Guava + Tropical Flowers.

To establish a one-of-a-kind scentscape for your home, start with these tips from Sherrod:

  1. Identify your scent preferences, whether leaning toward citrus, spicy, fruity, floral or woody notes.
  2. Consider the scent’s intensity and the scent level you and your guests find pleasing.
  3. If you plan on creating room-specific scents, or want to use different fragrances in each room, consider how these scents interact with one another to harmonize the scents with contrasts that add dimension.
  4. Consider rotating your seasonal scents to freshen up your home and bring new energy to your space at different times of the year.
  5. Maintain a scent balance so different scents do not overpower each other. Rather, create a soft and pleasing aroma that establishes inviting spaces throughout your home.
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Home Care

6 Solutions to safeguard valuables while moving

After moving into a new space, there’s an immediate need to keep valuables and important documents organized and secure in case of theft, fire or flood.

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Moving season means packing up valuables like tech devices, family heirlooms, jewelry and beyond and trusting they’ll make it safely to your new space. Ensuring a new home or apartment is properly secured is top of mind for many homeowners and renters, for both their personal safety and their most prized possessions.

After moving into a new space, there’s an immediate need to keep valuables and important documents organized and secure in case of theft, fire or flood. Whether or not a large security system is available on-site, Master Lock and SentrySafe’s DIY security and safety solutions equip your home with an extra line of defense and provide new homeowners and renters confidence.

Bar the Door

For instance, the Master Lock 270D Folding Door Bar is a reliable, on-the-go solution that’s perfect for securing entry doors during a move-in transition. It offers an updated design from the original – now more compact with a quick-release foldable design for ultimate convenience and portability. Folding to just 16.5 inches and extending up to 43.5 inches, it’s small enough to fit in a backpack but strong enough to prevent forced entry on hinged, patio and sliding doors due to the pivoting rubber grips.

Keep Your Property Secure

Look for those that feature expanded storage capacity to accommodate keys, fobs and cards, ensuring safety and convenience when accessing a home or apartment. The dials on the lock box are easy to read and grip, providing smooth operation. Built to last, the solid metal body with a rubber bumper protects against tampering while safeguarding surfaces from scratches and damage.

Turn to a Timeless Security Device

Keeping valuables secure can start with a tried-and-true classic solution. These versatile security devices can be used for a wide range of applications. Extend the security of your valuables during a move by using it on self-storage units and lockers, trailers, vans and moving trucks.

Fireproof and Protect Valuables at Home

Consider fireproof and waterproof solutions (e.g. SentrySafe FPW082HTC Fireproof and Waterproof Safe) as these could be your line of defense against fire, water and theft. The best-in-class fire and water protection solutions feature 1-hour UL-certified fire resistance at 1,700 F and ETL-verified protection in up to 5 inches of water for 24 hours. These could also have security built-in technology that offer an advanced, multi-point protection system that effectively resists physical attacks and lock manipulation while its pry-resistant hinge bar in the safe door protects against theft attempts.

Safeguard Documents and Files

Provide yourself an extra line of defense (for instance, with the SentrySafe FHW40100 Digital Fireproof/Waterproof File Safe) that safeguards important documents and records with a durable design and peril protection. Built to hold hanging file folders for easy organization, such a safe can be easily transported with its convenient carrying handle when moving into a new home or apartment.

Opt for Renter-Friendly Security

Renters who live in a small space may not be ready for a full-sized safe. Lightweight offerings – such as the SentrySafe 1200 Fire Chest – are affordable and convenient security solutions that safeguard precious valuables and electronics from theft attempts to keep items safe and sound. It’s convenient carrying handle allows users to easily move the chest from room to room and seamlessly pack and store their valuables at the end of their lease.

Get more information from MasterLock.com and SentrySafe.com.

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Home Care

How to check for bed bugs

Following these tips to check for the pesky insects while traveling and back at home.

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Bedbugs can make you itch just by thinking about them. These tiny, reddish-brown insects that feed on blood are notorious for infiltrating hotel rooms and luggage, hitchhiking their way back to a new home virtually undetected.

“Understanding what to be on the lookout for when checking for bedbugs is key,” said Danilo Del Campo, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in Chicago. “If you’re able to catch the infestation early enough you can avoid bringing a problem home, which can save a lot of frustration. However, these insects are tiny and that’s not always possible.”

Although bedbug bites are not usually dangerous, bedbugs can come home with you, infest your home, and cause a great deal of discomfort and anxiety. If bedbugs are present in your home, you will likely find bites on your body. These bites sometimes turn into itchy, red or purple welts and are often found in zigzag clusters of 3 to 5 bites.

To find bedbugs before they find you, Dr. Del Campo and the AAD recommend following these tips to check for the pesky insects while traveling and back at home:

1. Store your luggage. 

When you arrive at your lodging, temporarily place your luggage in a tiled area, like the bathroom, while you inspect your room. There are fewer spots for bedbugs to hide in bathrooms, so you can check your room without worry.

2. Check your furniture. 

Bedbugs often hide in upholstered areas. Carefully inspect your bedding, mattress, headboard, and any fabric-covered furniture for:

  • Rusty or reddish specks of blood.
  • Tiny, blackish dots that look like dots made by a marker—these may be bedbug feces.
  • Whitish, oval bedbug eggs the size of apple seeds.
  • Shell-like bedbug exoskeletons.
  • Live bedbugs.

3. Check your room. 

Make sure to check the seams of fabric, in dressers, behind wall hangings or wallpaper, in corners, and in between cushions. If a credit card could fit in a crack, a bedbug could fit, too—they are that small. 

  • After you check your room, you can bring your luggage in.
  • Place your bags on a luggage rack away from the wall.
  • If you find signs of bedbugs, request a new room.

4. Check your luggage when you get home. 

After your trip, look at your belongings before unpacking to make sure no bedbugs came home with you.

  • Use a flashlight to check the contents of your bags, including the seams of your clothing—look closely at your luggage to make sure no bedbugs are hiding inside.
  • If you find signs of bedbugs in your luggage, wash your clothes on high heat and use a hand steamer to clean your luggage.

If you notice any physical signs of bedbugs on your body or experience blistering, a skin infection (bites feel tender or ooze discharge, such as pus), or an allergic reaction (red or purple swollen skin or hives), make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist.

You’ll rarely see bedbugs due to their small size, so many people mistake their bites for mosquitoes, fleas, spiders, or common skin conditions such as a rash or chickenpox.

“Unfortunately, bedbug bites can look similar to other insect bites,” said Dr. Del Campo. “A dermatologist will be able to help determine the cause of your bites and symptoms.”

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