August 2015

  • Unexpected Landscape, Outdoor Living Improvement Costs

    So, you’ve decided it is high time to really deck the halls or deck out your outdoor living space. You’re envisioning a new deck or patio, complete with an outdoor kitchen, plenty of comfortable lounging space, and a beautiful landscape to make it all pop. You’ve even gone so far as to calculate the cost of a new deckand found just the right outdoor furniture. But, there’s a lot more which you probably haven’t factored into your budget. Regardless, there are still unexpected landscape and outdoor living improvement costs which surprise many homeowners.

    Unexpected Landscape, Outdoor Living Improvement Costs

    There are a number simple ways to update an outdoor living space. Such as upgrading the lighting, installing fans and misters, replacing that outdated outdoor furniture, hanging curtains, installing a multi use fire pit, putting in a mini bar and laying down an area rug. None of these are terribly expensive but they do a whole lot to really enhance the look and function of your outdoor living space.

    Think you know down to the penny what your remodeling project will cost? Not so fast. You may be able to recite the price of materials and the budget for labor in your sleep, but you’re bound to get tripped up by odds, ends and extras — known in the trade as soft costs — that you never imagined shelling out for. That’s why it’s always a good idea to budget 20 to 30 percent over your remodeling estimate so that you’re covered no matter what happens. —

    There are also several ways to customize a wood deck. But, you have big, grand plans for a marvelous new, outdoor living space and an eye-catching landscape. You’ve included the cost of materials, furniture, and more. You’ve also thought about the cost of hiring a professional to get the very best results. But what’s likely escaped your planning are the following unexpected landscape and outdoor living costs which really add up quickly and to a lot of money:

    • New plumbing. While you have factored in the cost of a new sink, countertop, small refrigerator, and all else that’s needed for an outdoor kitchen, you could easily have overlooked the cost of installing new plumbing. It’s not just about water supply lines and drainage, but also, permits. Oh, and the new landscaping you have planned is also going to run up the cost. You might have to upgrade your irrigation system.
    • Higher utility costs. When you undertake any type of home improvement, your utility costs will increase the entire time it’s underway. After all, it takes electricity to power the equipment and your water use will skyrocket as the project goes on. Not to mention, having to go inside and out constantly, which adds to heating and cooling costs. All of that equals higher utility bills, so be prepared. Once your project is finished, you’ll still have more expensive utility bills.
    • Waste management. Perhaps the single-most overlooked renovation or new feature installation project cost homeowners forget to include is waste management. After all, you’ll have to do something with the debris that’s created. And make no mistake about it, waste will be plentiful. So, you’ll have to rent a roll off dumpster or hire a local junk removal service. Even if you manage to do it yourself, there’s still dumping fees to pay.
    • New electrical wiring. If your outdoor home improvement project calls for more lighting (which it really should so you can actually enjoy the space at any time of day), don’t forget about the cost of installing new electrical wiring for things like fans, lights, outlets, and more. It’s not just the cost of materials, but also, will include labor and probably some building permits will be necessary to obtain.
    • Ongoing maintenance. After the entire landscape and outdoor living project is totally complete, you’ll have to maintain it all. Even if you go the do-it-yourself route, it’s going to be an ongoing expense for your household. Although these will likely not be too expensive, they will add to your overall operating expenses.
    • Future repairs. Last but certainly not least are future repair costs. Something will inevitably break down or need to be completely replaced and that doesn’t come without a cost. At some point, you will have to pay for repairs or replace this or that.

    If it’s time to update your landscape or add more features, like a new deck, just go ahead and contact us. We are a full-service, professional landscape design company and serve all of Sarasota, including near Bayfront Drive, around Rolling Green Golf Club, along Longboat Club Road, and elsewhere.

  • Don’t Make These Big-Time Landscaping Mistakes

    Every homeowner wants their property to look its best, inside and out. After winter and spring has passed, the summer sun comes on strong and it’s a great time to give your home’s curb appeal a boost. However, some homeowners make some big mistakes, not thinking things through when they are planning their new landscape.

    Taking ideas from various websites, from home improvement stores, and magazines, they get excited about how it will look once it’s done and that provides the inspiration to get outside and get started. Unfortunately, in the excitement of a new yard comes a bit of myopic thinking, not taking some factors into consideration.

    In just a few weeks, months, or even a couple of years, it becomes quite obvious that some of those things were not the best ideas. It’s then you’re left with the task of undoing the damage, which can be costly in some cases, or just purely inconvenient in others. In order to avoid such mistakes, make sure you pick and choose wisely because that will save you time, energy, and money in the future.

    How Landscaping Impacts Your Home’s Value

    Real estate professionals, such as brokers and home stagers, know the value of a beautiful landscape. They also know when it’s gone too far and when it’s lacking. Curb appeal is a big thing because people form an impression of a home in just 7 to 10 seconds. A nice looking yard with colors not only helps boost your home’s value, but also makes it more welcome for guests and the envy of your neighbors.

    Clumsy, neglected, and hodgepodge landscaping not only hurts your home’s curb appeal, it can cut the value of your property and make it harder to sell. Real estate appraisers say bad landscaping is a buyer turnoff that can increase the number of days a property languishes on the market, which also hurts prices. Even more important, bad landscaping is a downer that hurts the way you see and enjoy your home. Don’t let bad landscaping happen to you. —House Logic

    Small changes make a big impact and when you’re planning your landscape, think about accenting your home’s exterior features. Try to avoid linear, hard lines, because those aren’t visually appealing. The ebb and flow of non-linear features will look the best.

    Identify the best features on the exterior of your home and be sure to pick landscaping material that highlights them. You want to amplify those and spruce-up the not-so-exciting features to really make your curb appeal of maximum value to your home. Another thing to keep in mind is consistency. You want the landscape to have a single theme and not to be a hodgepodge of different things because that’s precisely how it will look. What’s more, it will detract from your property’s curb appeal.

    The Top Landscaping Mistakes You Need to Know

    When it comes to landscaping, you should have a realistic and actionable plan. Piecemeal, disparate, off-the-cuff installation of different plants, flowers, hardscape features will yield and unsightly result. What’s more, you’re much more likely to sabotage your own lawn. Here are the biggest landscaping mistakes you’ll want to avoid:

    • Planting too close to your home’s exterior. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that plants grow, as do their roots. Shrubs, bushes, and trees might be a great idea for specific areas, but be sure they have ample room to grow, or you could see them growing under your home’s foundation or running into plumbing.
    • Clumping plants too close together. Not only do you want to put plants away from your home’s exterior, driveway, and walkway, you also don’t want to plant them too close to one another. That will cause them to not only grow into one another, but “fight” for nutrients and water from the ground and sprinklers.
    • Planting non-native plants. Invasive plants might look beautiful, but if they are not native to the locality, then the best policy is to outright avoid them. If you choose not to refrain, you’re likely going to deeply regret throwing caution to the wind.
    • Putting in messy trees. Ginkgo biloba, sweetgum, and pine are some of the messiest trees and no trees should be planted near a swimming pool. Not only will you have to constantly skim out leaves, but the roots could easily find their way to the walls of your pool and that will be a big problem to deal with.
    • Repeating the same thing. Another mistake that many homeowners make is choosing a few plants they really like and planting them all over the place, creating a monotonous look that seriously lacks charm.

    Last but not least, and this is where most homeowners get themselves unwittingly into trouble–they overestimate they’re DIY abilities. They put in a lavish landscape and then become disenchanted when they’re spending too much time in upkeep.

  • How to Prepare a Landscape for a Tropical Storm

    With Hurricane Matthew spinning just off the east coast of the Florida peninsula, it’s good to know how to prepare a landscape for a tropical storm. Those conditions are highly expected to occur on the central west coast of the Sunshine State, and Sarasota, still reeling from previous storms, will likely be affected. The good news is, because Sarasota was previously hit earlier in the year, a lot of loose debris has already been cleaned up. What’s more, Sarasota is on the west side of the cyclone, which is much more preferable to the east side. With Hurricane Matthew still a good day, two, or three away, now is the time to prepare your landscape for a tropical storm.

    Common Tropical Storm Damage

    Tropical storm conditions wreak havoc on homes and landscapes. With so much rain, it’s very possible to have to save a completely flooded lawn. Common tropical storm damage to homes and landscapes include scattered debris, HVAC damage, siding and window damage, roof damage, vehicle damage, uprooted trees, downed trees and branches, scattered mulch, fence damage, downed or damaged hardscape features (like a damaged or fallen pergola), pool debris, deck damage, and more.

    The worst thing that people who live along coastlines can do is not to prepare for tropical storms and hurricanes. According to the National Hurricane Center, the two key factors contributing to weather safety during hurricanes are preparing in advance for the risks and to act on those preparations when alerted by emergency officials. —

    This is why upkeep and maintenance are so important. For instance, periodically resealing a wood deck, regular pool filter maintenance, pruning trees, bushes, and hedges, repairing retaining walls, and other proactive steps. But, just keeping your landscape maintained and updated isn’t enough to prepare it for the impact of tropical storm conditions. When winds begin to gust at over 39 miles per hour or higher, your landscape must bear the brunt.

    How to Prepare a Landscape for a Tropical Storm

    When we think about tropical storm preparation, we typically think about our homes. Covering windows, staging sandbags, buying plenty of non-perishables, water, batteries, charging devices, getting a first aid kit ready, and more. What we tend to forget are the very things which can’t escape the severely inclement conditions — young trees, vegetables, flowering plants, hardscape features, and more. So, here are some helpful tips for how to prepare a landscape for a tropical storm:

    • Lay potted plants and trees on their sides. It seems perfectly fine to wrap potted plants and potted trees in tarps but that creates dangerous situations. If you wrap a potted plant or tree in a tarp, the material will probably come loose and act like a sail — creating an unstable projectile. Lay potted trees and plants on their sides and brace with bricks. Face the tops away from the anticipated wind direction, as well.
    • Take care of trees, especially near your house. Take time to look at the trees on your property to spot any dead or dying branches, particularly any trees near your house or those with branches extending over the roof. While previous storms might have broken weak branches, there could be more branches will are susceptible to wind damage. Any leaning trees should be dealt with appropriately, especially those which can fall onto your house or vehicles.
    • Remove all debris from your front and back lawns. If there is any debris on your lawns, front or back, now is the time to clean it up. Remember, any loose objects become dangerous projectiles when winds gust to speeds of 39 miles per hour or higher. If you have the equipment to cover your pool to repel debris, now is the time. But don’t use the cover if it’s worn or damaged, or if it cannot be totally secured.
    • Bring outside furniture and decor inside your garage. Outdoor patio furniture and any decor hung around should be taken to an inside location, such as a garage, shed, or even a pool house or cabana. In the alternative, rope or chain furniture together and secure it to a strong tree that’s well away from your house.
    • Don’t forget to harvest your vegetables out of the garden. Now is also the time to harvest vegetables out of your garden so they aren’t lost to the storm. During heavy wind gusts, vegetables will be damaged and/or carried away. Even those which survive and are submerged under flood water will need discarding.

    If it’s time to update your landscape or add more features, contact us. We are a full-service, professional landscape design company and serve all of Sarasota, including near Bayfront Drive, around Rolling Green Golf Club, along Longboat Club Road, and elsewhere.

  • How To Make a Clay Pot Smoker

    Terra cotta pots are one of the single most versatile household items. These are not only ideal for planting flowers, but also, to convert into fountains, make wonderful outdoor aesthetic decorations, and serve many more purposes. What you might not know is just how durable clay pots really are and what they can be used for, other than plants.

    In fact, these are so versatile and durable, they date back to antiquity, used for storing food, grain, and many other items. A little known fact about clay pots is they are the reason for the word, “insincere.” While that might sound quite strange, even fantastic, it’s nonetheless true. When a potter made a clay pot that wasn’t up to standards, it could be revealed by holding it up to the sunlight. If there was a defect in the glaze, it would be apparent, and the phrase “insincere” was used to describe it.

    Today, terra cotta is still very popular, precisely because of its simplicity and many uses. They can hold plants, water, and be used indoors and outside. One surprising use it to convert a clay pot into a smoker. Before you think it’s too difficult and requires tools, you can make a clay pot smoker in a short amount of time, and, with little effort. You don’t need a big work space or specialized skills, just a terra cotta pot and a few materials.

    Repurposing for Landscaping and Entertaining

    One great thing about landscaping is the fact that you can use all kinds of common household items for different purposes. For instance, you can take an old wood ladder, give it a good sanding, brush on a coat of paint, and now, you have shelving for plants. An unstable wooden chair can make a great porch swing. Just saw off the wobbly legs, fasten four eye hooks to the chair, and then hang it.

    True barbecue involves cooking meat over low heat for a long time – often for many hours. Though you may have a grill, but having to manage the fire for hours isn’t a lot of fun. Smokers like the Weber Smokey Mountain start around $300 – and still others start at about $700+, like the Big Green Egg! —

    Old tires can be transformed into planters, while an old bed headboard can be made into an outdoor table. Take the shelves out of an old bookshelf, line it with landscape fabric or plastic, and turn it into a small composting bin. If you use your imagination, you’ll come-up with quite a few uses for old items to give them new life in your landscape. For instance, empty wine bottles can serve as citronella candle holders to keep mosquitoes at-bay when you are entertaining.

    First 3 Steps to Make a Clay Pot Smoker

    If you want to enjoy the taste of slow-cooked barbecue, you don’t have to resign yourself to buying an expensive smoker. For a lot less money, you can make a clay pot into a smoker, and here’s how to do that in five easy steps:

    1. Gather needed tools and materials. You’ll need a terra cotta pot (of course), a pot drain pan, a hotplate burner, grill grate, three or four clay pot feet, gate handle, nuts and bolts, drill-driver, grill thermometer, some gravel, and cast iron or stainless steel skillet.
    2. Drill holes for the burner wiring, the handle, and thermometer. To start the assembly, drill holes as needed to accommodate the burner and to fasten the gate handle. You should drill the holes a few inches from the bottom on one side of the pot. The handle is optional, as there are many clay pots that come with a cover and handle. One more hole should be drilled into the cover to accommodate the thermometer to easily monitor temperature.
    3. Attach the legs to the bottom. Turn the pot upside down and attach the legs. You’ll have to drill holes into the bottom if the pot is not already equipped with legs. As an alternative, you can skip attaching legs and just set the pot on bricks.

    Last 2 Steps to Make a Clay Pot Smoker

    1. Fill the bottom with loose gravel. To keep the bottom in-tact, it needs to be insulated with loose gravel that will support the burner. Place the burner on top of the gravel and feed the wires through the holes you drilled in the side. Then, place the skillet on top of the burner–this is where the wood chips will go when you’re ready to cook.
    2. Fix the grill grate into place. Now, you can place the grill grate inside the pot, pushing it down until it is snug. There ought to be some space between the skillet and the grill grate, enough to accommodate wood chips but not much more.

    That’s all you need to do to make a smoker out of a clay pot! Now, you can smoke your meat and enjoy the wonderful slow-cooked taste.

  • Keeping Rain Barrel Water Clean and Mosquito Free

    The rain barrel, an ancient and efficient way of temporarily storing water for those not-so-rainy days or dry spells. Used for irrigating plants and lawns, vegetable and flower gardens, even for washing clothes. They’re also used for drinking water when properly distilled. So, these devices are a great way of cutting down costs and conserving water.

    Generally, homeowners install rain barrels under a drain spout connected to a gutter system on their houses. When it rains, the gutters channel the rainwater down through the spout and into the barrel. For areas like ours, where rain is a common occurrence, especially in the summer, these simple collection devices are a smart way to harness the power of nature’s wet nourishment.

    Like with most things in life and landscaping, there’s some trade-off for free future irrigation and these particular problems come in two forms: stale, dirty water and disease carrying mosquitoes. When a rain barrel is full, the water begins to stagnate, slowly creating a stench; and, any standing water is quite attractive to the local mosquito population.

    Keeping Rain Barrel Water Clean

    The reason for rainwater stagnating isn’t the water itself, so-to-speak. It becomes stagnate and “dirty” when organic matter is introduced into it. During a rainstorm, it’s common for a lot of organic matter to be carried by running rain water channeled through a gutter system. Leaves, insects, sticks, and more are all swept away, particularly during a downpour. That’s why most homeowners elect to put a filter of sorts at the end of the downspout, to keep said organic matter out of the water.

    Rainwater collection is an age–old technology that has long been used in arid southwestern places such as Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, as well as states like California and Nevada, where growing populations are stressing limited water supplies. Lately, though, it’s been finding new practitioners even in more well-saturated environs, where rising water bills and dwindling rainfall levels are making homeowners think twice before blasting the tap. —This Old House

    By cutting off outside contaminates, it’s possible to keep the rain “fresh” for several weeks, even months. A tightly closed lid and “sealed” system will keep the water free of organic matter; and, hence, no stench. Another trick is to keep the sunlight out. When sunlight hits the water, algae can start to bloom, which is organic, creating the same problem. A small dose of chlorine bleach will keep algae from blooming and will evaporate away in a few days, making it safe for watering plants. A single cup of vinegar or putting charcoal at the bottom will also keep the water clean.

    Of course, you should clean it well after use to keep the barrel itself intact. Regular cleaning will prevent things from festering and growing after collecting rainwater and will help to ensure better quality water for your landscaping and gardening needs. Last but not least, if you do have a continual problem with odor emanating from your barrel, it could be the design. Containers with spigots placed too high will collect rain below that line and sit, therefore stagnating, contaminating the entire contents.

    Keeping Mosquitoes Away from Your Rain Barrel

    Another common problem with a water tank is that any standing water attracts mosquitoes. That’s not good for a number of reasons, the least of which are annoying bites that cause itching. Because these tiny blood thirsty insects breed in and around standing water, a water butt is the perfect place to take-up residence.

    To keep mosquitoes away, the barrel should not only be closed-off, but proofed. In other words, don’t leave water lingering on the top, if it’s a truly closed system. Warding off mosquitoes can be done with these three simple, easy to do solutions:

    • Liquid dish soap. Add just one tablespoon once per week or after a storm. By doing this, you’re creating a thin film on the surface of the water. This breaks the surface tension and what that does is drown any mosquitoes that might find their way into the container. They die off before they can lay eggs, but, now you’ve potentially got organic matter that will break down.
    • Mosquito dunks. These contain what’s called “bacillus thuringiensis israelensis” or Bti. You sink one dunk per month or as they are needed and it kills the larvae of mosquitoes and blackflies. It works by dissolving and releasing bacteria.
    • Vegetable oil. A quarter cup of vegetable oil applied weekly or after a storm will do much the same thing as dish soap. The difference here is, the larvae are suffocated by the floating layer of oil.

    With these little tips and tricks, you can easily keep your barrel water from stagnating and repel mosquitoes, making it free to use for watering your garden or lawn.