Lawn & Garden
How often should I mow my lawn?
You should mow grass to about two inches during the spring, and then raise the cutting height another half-inch when summer arrives. In mid to late summer cut your lawn to about 3 inches. This length helps limit weed growth and reduces the need for watering by promoting strong root structures.
Try to mow frequently so that no more than one-third of the grass blade is removed at one time. It's best to avoid mowing your grass when it's wet as it damages both the blades and your lawn. Lastly, don't buzz-cut an overgrown lawn to "get back on schedule." Instead, cut the grass back in increments, never by more than a third of its current length.
How much should I water my lawn?
Most lawns require about one inch of water per week to penetrate into their roots. This can be achieved by using your sprinkler for approximately 1 to 1 1/2 hours at a time, depending on your type of lawn sprinkler. Shorter, more frequent watering can produce a shallow root system that makes the grass more vulnerable to weeds and insects. The best time to water is early in the morning.
Everything you need to know about proper lawn care is right here.
How much should I water my trees?
Saturate the drip line – an imaginary line drawn from the canopy edge to the ground – until the water penetrates to a depth of 3 feet. Water the young tips at the outer edges of the root system that are actively taking up water and nutrients.
Watering plants and trees is easy. Learn more.
Can you suggest a few ways to save water in my lawn and garden?
Water grass in the early morning using low-water sprinklers. Avoid using mists and fine-spray sprinklers as they lose a lot of water to evaporation. Put mulch in your garden areas to keep soil moist and reduce evaporation. Lastly, use organic matter, like peat moss or compost to allow the soil to hold it's moisture.
How can I keep weeds from growing through my mulch?
Simply lay down a sheet of plastic or landscaping fabric below the decorative elements. This layer helps keep weeds from popping up and ruining your carefully planned landscaping.
Haven't added mulch to your landscape yet? Learn how to fertilize and mulch your garden.
Is there a way to prevent insects from nesting in my trees?
When winter approaches, insects lay their eggs on tree trunks. Spraying trees with a diluted dormant oil spray will suffocate the larvae.
Trees are just the beginning. Here's how to rid your entire backyard of bugs.
How do I keep slugs away?
Copper wire can save your outdoor potted plants from hungry slugs. Simply wrap thin copper wire once around your pot. To secure the wire, just twist the ends tight with pliers.
Here are even more great ways to control garden pests.
What's the best way to prune roses?
Starting fairly early in the season, you should cut away stems that are too close to the ground or each other. Also, remove weak or diseased stems. After a flower blossoms and dies, prune it back to renew the growth for next year.
Specifically with Floribundas, preserve both new shoots and old stems. Cut young shoots by 1/3 and keep older stems about 12-inches long. Keep the remaining branches to 6 inches.
For hybrid tea roses, don't prune too drastically because flowers come from the older, longer stems. Maintain thick stems to a length of 12-inches or more.
Roses look even better when the rest of your yard looks great, too. Here are several great ways to enhance the appearance of the rest of your yard.
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Maintenance & Repair
I'm a first-time homeowner. What tools should I buy?
There are certain tools every homeowner should have in his or her toolbox. Here's a list to get you started:
- 16-ounce claw hammer
- A set of Phillips and slot screwdrivers
- An assortment of pliers
- Adjustable wrench
- Electric drill and drill bits
- Tape measure
Add more tools as you go. Avoid cheap tools because they're hard to use, break easily and need frequent replacing.
Where should you go to get your new tools? Where else – your local True Value hardware store.
What are the different types of screwdrivers and what are they used for?
- Regular or slotted tips - used to screw in large, heavy-duty screws. The tip is flared so it is wider than the driver bar and can fit more easily into the screw.
- Phillips head drivers - used on cross-slotted screw heads with modified U-shaped slots of uniform width. Sizes range from 0 to 4, with 0 being the smallest.
- Hex (hexagonal) tips - used to tighten socket set screws and usually come in a set with several different sizes.
- Square-tipped (Robertson) screwdrivers - characterized by a square head to grip the screw better and provide better torque.
- Multi-bit screwdrivers - incorporates a whole set of drivers in the space of a single tool.
- Offset screwdrivers - designed to remove and insert screws for spaces that would be too difficult for other straight drivers to get at.
Still not sure what kind of screwdriver you need? Ask the experts at your local True Value hardware store.
How do I determine what length nail to use?
The accepted rule for nail length is to use nails that are two and a half times the thickness of the wood you are nailing through. So, for one-inch thick lumber, use a 2-1/2-inch nail and for two-inch thick material you' d use a 4-1/2-inch nail.
Got more nail questions? Here are even more helpful nail know-how tips.
How do I fix a leaky faucet?
- First, remove the faucet handle and the escutcheon trim ring. Then, unscrew the stem to get to the washer.
- Carefully unscrew and remove the washer. Inspect it closely. If it looks okay, flip it over and re-install it to stop the leak. Then, reassemble everything else in the reverse order in which it was removed.
- The result: a temporary but quick fix that will stop the leak until you can get into your local True Value hardware store for a permanent solution.
Need to install a new faucet? It's easier than you think.
How do I protect wood from wayward hammer blows?
Make a simple hammer shield:
- Cut a piece of pegboard a few inches square.
- Start the nail in with a few light taps and then slip one of the holes in the pegboard shield over the nail head.
- Start hammering. The pegboard will put a buffer between the hammer and the surface.
- Once you've driven a nail as far in as possible, lift off the shield and finish the job with a nail set.
A great project for trying out this trick is installing wainscoting.
How can I save water in my bathroom?
- Low Flow Showerheads: New and improved flow control technology has made it possible for these devices to deliver up to 2 1/2 gallons per minute while still retaining good pressure. This is about half the amount of water used by standard showerheads.
- Toilet Tune-ups: Invest in a low-flow toilet that utilizes a "power assisted flush" mechanism that combines compressed air with water to push waste out of the bowl.
- Check for Toilet Leaks: Place some food coloring inside the toilet tank and leave it overnight. Then check the toilet bowl the next morning. If the dye has leaked into the bowl, you will need to replace the rubber flush valve.
Repairing a leaking toilet is easier than you think. Here's more expert advice on easy bathroom repairs.
How can I make my home more energy efficient?
- Windows – Replace or add weather stripping and caulk, as needed, or seal completely by attaching clear plastic sheeting to the inside of the window frames.
- Doors – Add weather stripping, caulk and door sweeps.
- Chimneys – Close the fireplace damper when not in use.
- Ducts – Seal seams with aluminum tape and wrap them in insulation.
- Outlets – Install foam gaskets behind outlets and switch plates on exterior walls.
- Furnace – Clean or replace furnace filters monthly, and install a programmable thermostat to lower the temperature in your home while away or asleep.
- Plumbing – Add a water heater blanket to the water heater and wrap hot water supply lines with tubular pipe insulation to prevent heat loss.
These tips are just the beginning. Here are additional ways to make your home more energy efficient.
How do I keep my garbage disposal running properly?
You should always run cold water when grinding as hot water can dissolve fats and grease, which may then accumulate in the drain line. It also helps to grind small bones, eggshells or ice to clean the disposal by scraping away stubborn deposits or citric acid and pulp.
Avoid throwing peanut shells, rice, cornhusks or other material with high fiber content into the disposal. Similarly, avoid putting any non-food materials into your disposal.
Kitchen sink already clogged? Follow these easy steps.
What size ceiling fan should I get?
Here's how to determine what size fan you will need:
- 42-In. ceiling fan is ideal for a room with 144 sq. ft. (approx. 12 x 12 ft.)
- 44-In. ceiling fan is ideal for a room with 225 sq. ft. (approx. 15 x 15 ft.)
- 52-In. ceiling fan is ideal for a room with 400 sq. ft. (approx. 20 x 20 ft.)
- If your room is larger than 20 x 20 ft., think about getting two fans.
Now that you know what size fan works for you, get started and install your own ceiling fan.
Where are the best places to put smoke detectors?
Smoke detectors should be in every bedroom and just outside bedrooms in halls and wherever fire danger may exist due to heat generating appliances, water heaters and furnaces. Detectors should be placed in such a way that any smoke would quickly waft into them. Avoid placing them too near to corners of any sort or in rooms with frequently closed doors, since these are air-current dead spots. Likewise, avoid things such as fans, doors, and drafty windows which might draw smoke away from the unit. Finally, if you live in a multilevel house, definitely put detectors at the top of stairwells, to give early warning of fires moving upwards.
Next: How to install a smoke detector.
What's the best way to clean tile and grout?
To clear away the fine film that sometimes accumulates on old tiles, rub the tiles with a mixture that's one part muriatic acid to five parts water, then immediately dry it with a cloth. For extra grungy grout, try bleaching it using an old toothbrush as an applicator. If that fails, consider staining it a dark color using grout stain. If a white grout is preferred, carefully scrape away the top layer with a small flat blade. Then, apply a tile sealer to keep it white longer.
Tired of your ceramic tile color and ready for a change? Give it a new look and save money by painting it.
What's the best way to repair plaster and drywall cracks?
- Start by digging out each crack with a utility knife to remove loose plaster.
- Use the blade to cut the crack a little wider underneath the plaster than on the surface, creating an angled channel for drywall compound.
- After wetting the channel with a rag or paintbrush, use a putty knife to smooth the compound into the crack, and then apply drywall joint tape.
- Once it is dry, sand the area down to a smooth surface and paint away.
Here's a more in-depth look at repairing drywall and cracked plaster.
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Should I use latex or oil-based paint?
Latex based paints offer the easiest application and soap-and-water cleanup. They are the fastest drying and give off fewer odors than solvent paints. Latex performs well on interior walls and ceilings; its quick drying time prevents the kinds of ripples and sags that can occur with slower-drying alkyd finishes. For brick, concrete and cinder block, only latex should be used.
Alkyd (oil-based) paints generally cost more than latex. Application requires patience--thin coats are usually necessary to avoid problems like sagging and streaking, and the drying time is usually longer than latex. The upside of oil-based paint is a paint job that stands up beautifully to long-term wear and tear. Scrubbing dirt and scuffmarks won't harm the paint. Alkyd paints are the superior choice for painting floors and metal surfaces.
Ready to take on a painting project? Why not spruce up a guest room?
How do I find out which type of paint was previously used on my walls?
- Scrub a small area with a solution of household detergent and warm water.
- Rinse well and towel-dry it, then soak a cotton ball, Q-Tip or soft rag in alcohol and rub it back and forth over the cleaned area.
- If paint comes off, it's latex paint and should be covered with another coat of latex paint. If the paint doesn't come off, it's oil-based, and a pre-coat of oil-based primer is a must. You then have the option to use latex or oil-based paint.
Here's everything you need to know when you're ready to start painting.
How do I decide what brushes, rollers and pads to use?
- A two-inch angular or straight-cut brush is best used for woodwork and windows.
- A two-inch sash brush is used for "cutting in" around odd angles, corners and thin detailing. The tighter the space, the narrower a brush you'll need.
- A roller frame and cover with extension pole is used for flat, unornamented expanses such as walls, ceilings and doors.
For all the tools and paint you need to start your painting project right, head to your local True Value hardware store.
How can I paint neater edges?
To get your roller as close as possible to an edge, first, slip your hand inside a plastic bag. Then grasp the paint-soaked roller handle cage so it extends about one inch past the roller knob end. You'll now be able to roll super-close to edges to hide any telltale brush stroke messes.
But you still have to paint that perfect edge and to make sure paint doesn't get on the molding, ceiling edges, trim, etc., buy yourself a large wallpaper edger. To paint a wall, hold it with the flat edge on the ceiling, paint underneath, then move the edger to the next spot. Occasionally wipe it off to prevent paint build-up. This is a super quick method that gives a straight, clean edge.
Give this trick a try and paint a room.
How do I eliminate overlap brush strokes when painting siding?
The simplest solution is to stroke out all the paint for each board in one continuous series so it dries evenly. In addition, you should avoid applying wet paint onto already dried layers.
Here's the whole story on exterior painting.
What's the best way to clean-up spilled paint?
If you're using latex paint, wet paint is easily removed with water. Dry latex paint cannot be cleaned with water, so always keep a damp rag handy to clean as you paint.
Oil-based or alkyd paints require mineral spirits for clean up. If you spill paint on your carpet use paint thinner to get as much out as you can. Finish the cleaning with a carpet cleaner. When you're through painting, air-dry your rags and dispose of them in a safe manner. The rags should be put into an area that does not allow combustible fumes to accumulate and present a fire hazard.
Need more paint clean-up information? Get the details here.
How do I clean my paintbrushes?
- Start by removing paint in the bristles. For latex, rinse thoroughly under warm, soapy water until the water runs clear. For oil-based, wear protective gloves as you work paint thinner through the bristles until the thinner comes out clear. If you have an empty baby wipe container, use it as a holder for your brushes while they soak in the thinner. The slit in the top should hold the handles of most brushes in place. But don't let the bristles touch the bottom because the paint residue will settle down there.
- After soaking, use a brush comb to separate bristles that stick together near the heel of the brush. Then shake them out or put the brush in a spinner if you have one.
- Dry the bristles with a rag and fold them tightly into a piece of butcher paper or in its protective sleeve to help them keep their shape--otherwise they'll fan out over time and lose their precision.
- Hang on a nail or hook for storage.
Need more paint clean-up information? Get the details here.
How do I protect my deck from the elements?
The best way to protect your deck is with a coating that blocks UV rays and contains a mildewcide. The following are coating options:
- Clear Coatings allow natural wood to show through and should be renewed yearly.
- Semi-transparent/Pigmented coatings offer more protection, some color and should be renewed every two or three years.
Don't just protect your deck – beautify it.
What's the best way to apply caulk?
For inside corner seams and small cracks, apply a simple straight bead of caulk.
For wider gaps 1/8-inch or more, the caulk should be applied only to the sides of the gap being filled. If the gap is entirely filled with caulk, it will adhere to the bottom and can fail prematurely as it cures and dries. To prevent this, first push a backer rod into the gap that is fit for the specific size needed. Caulking won't adhere to the backer rod; instead it will only adhere to the sides and not to the bottom.
If you're caulking to prep walls for painting these pointers will definitely help.
What's the best way to apply spray paint?
If you're painting a flat surface always start with the side nearest to you and work your way toward the opposite end with a smooth stroke and a steady sweeping motion. You will notice that it overlaps the pass made just before it. The over-spray settles ahead of you, which is good, because you can cover it up as you go. If you did the reverse, the spray would be settling all over your freshly painted finish leaving a pebbly texture in its wake.
Spray can clogged? Here's how to unclog it.
How important is sizing before wallpapering?
Wallpaper sizing does NOT mean measuring your walls so you buy the right amount of paper (although that IS important). Sizing refers to preparing your wall for papering with sizing compounds and is a key first step when wallpapering. These essential compounds prime and seal walls to create better adhesion and allow increased slip for better alignment and pattern matching. Plus, when it's time for removal, sizing even lets the wallpaper come off easier and protects the wall from damage.
Apply sizing with a roller or brush. It dries quickly, so you can begin hanging the paper almost immediately, unless the manufacturer recommends otherwise.
Remove the old wallpaper. Here's how.
How do I remove wallpaper glue from my walls?
First, try using hot water to wash your walls. This should cause the glue to break down. Follow behind with a clean towel and wipe the surface. You'll need to let the walls dry for a day before priming and painting. If that doesn't work, try an adhesive remover but make sure you follow the directions on the label. For more stubborn glue, consider renting a wallpaper steamer from your nearest rental store. When all else fails, try sanding.
Before you remove the glue, you'll need to remove the wallpaper. Here's how.
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