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Video: The Most Important Garden Tasks to Do This Fall

Fall yard maintenance is about more than just raking the leaves. These jobs should be your top priorities this season.

Whether you love fall, or dread it, there’s no arguing that autumn is here and winter is right around the corner. Before temperatures dip and the ground freezes, there are a few must-do landscaping projects that need to be done.

So what tasks should be on your to-do list this season? For starters, sow cool-weather grass seeds to allow new turf grass to take root before it goes dormant, and insulate garden beds with a layer of leaf mulch to provide protection for delicate landscaping plants.

See more of our fall garden recommendations in our video, and find even more ideas right here.

For more landscaping advice, consider reading:

The Best Things You Can Do for Your Yard This Fall

10 Low-Cost Solutions for an Ugly Lawn

18 Ways to Color Your Garden This Fall

7 Things to Know Before Installing Butcher Block Countertops

Just because it's one of the most affordable options doesn't always mean it's the best choice. Weigh these key considerations before updating your entire kitchen with butcher block countertops so you can feel confident in your decision.

Butcher Block Countertops Pros and Cons

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Gilbert, AZ

Butcher block, consisting of individual wooden strips fused together into a sleek slab, is a timeless and trendy material for kitchen countertops. But its warm tones and “country kitchen” vibes aside, there is a lot about the surface that homeowners don’t know—including real estimates on its cost and required maintenance. To find out if this material right for your kitchen, read through this comprehensive list of butcher block countertop pros and cons before committing to an installation.

PRO: Butcher block is one of the more affordable countertops.

Butcher block countertops will run you only $20 to $60 per square foot in materials. That beats the cost of most other popular options, including stainless steel ($20 to $150), glass ($25 to $100 per square foot), concrete ($25 to $75 per square foot), marble ($25 to $75 per square foot), and soapstone or limestone ($20 to $75 per square foot). You can save even more money by choosing a do-it-yourself installation over hiring pros to do the job, which would otherwise add $5 to $10 per square foot to the total cost. For handy homeowners, a DIY butcher block countertop installation isn’t tricky business, either: It entails cutting sheets of wood down to size with a circular saw, creating the necessary holes for sinks and other fixtures, then mounting the various segments over a cabinet with screws.

For context, let’s compare that to another trendy countertop material like quartz. Not only does this cost almost double in materials ($70 to $100 per square foot), but it’s generally not DIY-friendly—the countertop slab is too heavy for one person to lift, has to be cut with a wet saw, and can seriously damage surrounding surfaces in the home if dropped.

RELATED: 7 Countertop Materials You Can Actually Afford

CON: It’s ultra-sensitive to liquid.

You’ve likely been warned to keep wood out of the bathroom because of how it reacts to water. Wood can gather germs, grow mold, stain, or even warp in shape when exposed to moisture. To counteract these unwanted effects, you’ll need to seal your butcher block countertops immediately following installation and on a monthly basis afterward—one bit of maintenance more than non-porous countertop materials like glass, stainless steel, quartz, or ceramic tile take. Fortunately, all it takes is one to two coats of food-safe mineral oil or walnut oil applied with a soft cloth. These non-toxic sealants create barriers that keep spills collected on the surface and thus prevent water damage.

Every 10 years, or as needed when stains grow numerous, use sandpaper (start with 80- to 100-grit, then move up to 220-grit sandpaper as the surface smoothens) to sand away the old sealant. Re-oil the sanded surface to make it look like new.


Butcher Block Countertops Pros and Cons

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Phoenix, AZ

PRO: You can keep it spic-and-span with mere household cleaners.

While soap can streak or spot shiny glass or stainless countertops and acid-based cleaners can erode quartz countertops, both are safe to use on a butcher block. In other words, cleanup is not rocket science! For everyday cleaning of butcher block countertops, scrape off food debris with a plastic spatula, then use a dish sponge saturated in a solution of two cups warm water and one teaspoon dish soap to wipe away the residue. Vinegar works great as a stand-in for soap and water, capable of both cleaning and disinfecting the countertop. Need to banish a stain? Sprinkle table salt over the stain, then gently rub it with half of a lemon to remove it.

RELATED: 10 Unusual Tips for Your Cleanest Kitchen Ever

CON: Butcher block countertops ding easily.

Being softer and more yielding than glass, granite, and stone, butcher block countertops are more vulnerable to scratches and dents. One way that homeowners prematurely wear their butcher block countertops is by using them as cutting boards. Despite the name “butcher block,” you’d do well to resist the urge to chop directly on its surface. Knife blades can cause uneven wear on certain regions of your countertop, so use a dedicated cutting board for cooking prep work, instead. If a wayward knife stroke dents the countertop, sand down the dent with a fine-grit sandpaper (220-grit or greater) and then apply mineral oil to the spot. You can use this same solution to remove burn marks on the countertop left by a hot pot.

RELATED: DIY Lite – Craft a Homemade Cutting Board


Butcher Block Countertops Pros and Cons

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Seattle, WA

PRO: You can have your pick of hardwood and grain.

Unlike uniform countertop materials like glass or stainless steel, butcher block allows you to customize the hue and pattern of your countertop through your choice of wood and wood grain. You can choose from a variety of hardwoods, each lending a distinct color and character to the countertops and your kitchen’s overall scheme. Teak and cherry wood confer a dark and dramatic effect; oak evokes a classic, colonial feel; and blonde bamboo is an excellent option for a modern (and sustainable) home.

You can further define the look of the space through your choice of wood grain, or the pattern visible on the surface of your butcher block countertop. The two primary types of grains are edge grain and end grain. the surface of edge grain butcher block resembles a series of long, lean strips like the sides of a 2×4. The surface of end grain butcher blocks looks like a checkerboard comprising the short ends of a 2×4.

CON: It expands or contracts as the temperature fluctuates.

As it does with water, wood swells or shrinks with changing temperatures. Homeowners can expect their butcher block countertops to expand by roughly one-eighth of an inch in summer and contract by the same amount in the winter. Now, if you don’t prepare for this by leaving enough room along the perimeter, the expansion could cause it to warp or crack.

The best way to create ventilation and wiggle room for your countertop is to install it over an open cabinet top (not over a solid underlayment) and leave one-eighth of an inch between the edges of the countertop and the walls if installing the countertop between two walls. If your cabinets have a solid top, mount furring strips above the cabinet top and then rest the countertop on top of the strips so that it has room to breathe.

RELATED: Don’t Make These 6 Common Mistakes in Your Kitchen Renovation

PRO: It can last for a couple of decades.

Follow the above tips on installation, sealing, and cleaning your butcher block countertops, and the surface should last for 20 years or longer. This gives it a major advantage over laminate countertops (which typically last for only 10 to 15 years before an inevitable replacement) and puts it on par with the ever-durable granite countertops (which also last at least 20 years).

If these butcher block countertop pros and cons leave you thinking that wood isn’t the best fit for your future kitchen, consider installing one of these other countertop materials.

How To: Thin Latex Paint

Don’t throw away that thickened can of latex paint! With this simple tutorial, you can thin it out and get back your painting project in under 10 minutes.

How to Thin Latex Paint


Thanks to its easy clean-up and short drying time, latex paint has a leg up over oil-based paint for easy weekend projects. But the water-based product also has a downside: It tends to thicken when stored without an airtight seal, at below-freezing temperatures, or for an extended period of time. The consistently change–which occurs because heavy paint particles settle at the bottom of the can while the solvent rises to the top–is problematic for two reasons. First, gooey paint won’t readily work with rollers, brushes, and sprayers. Second, it looks uneven and bumpy when applied to a surface. Although commercial paint thinners can help loosen up your latex paint, there’s a quick and easy way to salvage the can yourself with a few household products. Keep reading for how to thin latex paint to the perfect consistency for your next paint job.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
3in1 painter’s tool
Flathead screwdriver (optional)
 Dust mask
 Paint stir sticks
 Paint trays or paper plates
 Fivegallon bucket
 Empty gallonsized paint can

Ventilation is a must when handling paint due to the potency of the fumes, so carry your latex paint can and supplies into a well-ventilated room or outdoor space.

Pop open the can on a sturdy work surface. Take care not to bend and distort the lid so much that it won’t reseal completely—this will affect the quality of your paint if you intend to save the excess. The best way to do so is to open using a 3-in-1 painter’s tool. If you don’t have one, though, position the flathead end of the screwdriver between the lip of the lid and the rim of the can. Lever the handle down gently and, rather than pry the whole lid off in one go, turn the can so that the screwdriver can break the seal on all sides and slowly drive the lid open. Remove the lid and set aside.

First determine if the paint needs to be thinned. Donning a dust mask and protective gloves, dip a stir stick into the paint for a few seconds, then remove it and hold it over a paint tray or paper plate.

• If the paint drizzles off of the stir stick in an even flow with the consistency of heavy cream, it’s ready for application. Thinning it further will lead to messy application and inadequate coverage of the surface.

• If, on the other hand, the paint sticks to the stir stick, or if it comes off of the stick in uneven globs, you should thin it before use. Continue onto the next step.

How to Thin Latex Paint


Pour all of the paint from the can into a clean five-gallon bucket, and add a half-cup of room temperature water for every one gallon of paint. Then thoroughly combine the paint and water with a stir stick, using a combination of upward and downward spiral motions.

Remove the stir stick from the paint can and hold it over a paint tray or paper plate. If the paint readily drizzles off of the stir stick, it’s ready for application. If the paint still comes off in globs, proceed to the next step.

Add one ounce of room temperature water to the bucket, and mix the paint again with the stir stick. Keep adding water, one ounce at a time, until the paint reaches the consistency of heavy cream. Perform the stir stick test to check for the desired consistency.

Pour the paint from the bucket into a clean empty paint can, then proceed with your painting project as usual.

Before resealing the lid of the can at the end of your do-it-yourself project, add an ounce of water over the top of the paint to keep it from drying out or forming a skin.

To preserve your latex paint’s consistency, store the can at above-freezing temperatures in a dry place without wild temperature fluctuations, and make sure it’s protected with an airtight seal. Remember that the useful lifespan of an opened can of latex paint is two years.


All of the Expert Painting Advice from
Of all the options available to remodelers, paint provides the quickest, easiest, and most affordable way to achieve a transformation, inside or out. Ready to look at your home in a new way? Click now for the color ideas to make your project beautiful.

How To: Make Concrete Jack-o’-Lanterns

This Halloween, it's all treats and no tricks! You'll have no need to worry about smashed or rotting pumpkins when you create a jack-o'-lantern from classic candy pails.

How to Make Concrete Pumpkins with Quikrete


If you love having a cheerful jack-o’-lantern (or two) on your front porch, but you’re tired of all the mess and hassle of pumpkin carving, we’ve got just the thing: concrete pumpkins made from your kids’ favorite candy pails! Molding concrete into a jack-o’-lantern shape is an easy and inexpensive project that the whole family can enjoy. Be forewarned, though: While the mixing and casting part of the project takes less than 20 minutes, the concrete will need an additional day or two to harden before you can decorate your jack-o’-lantern. Plan on getting started on the next crisp fall weekend and splitting the work into two parts.

These concrete pumpkins are trending because they’re so easy to make, and they come out looking every bit as happy and welcoming as the gourd that inspired them—only they last a lot longer! With the concrete version, you won’t have to worry about protecting your pumpkin from rot or marauding squirrels. You just need to decide which pail to use, how to decorate it, and how to display it. You can paint your jack-o’-lantern in the colors of your favorite sports team, use it as a planter for potted mums, or place a battery-operated tea light in its center to create a soft glow after dusk. Can’t decide? Well, you’re in luck! One 80-pound bag of Quikrete concrete mix can fill up to four average-size pumpkin pails (roughly eight inches in diameter), so you’ll be able to cast a few of these cool concrete pumpkins to welcome all the little ghosts and goblins to your house on Halloween night. The full instructions appear below, and you can even follow along in the viral Facebook video by Mother Daughter Projects that started it all.


How to Make Concrete Pumpkins with Quikrete

Photo: G Taylor

TOOLS AND MATERIALS Available on Amazon
Plastic pumpkin pails
 Plastic tarp
Dust mask
Waterproof gloves
Old clothing
 Quikrete 5000 Concrete Mix
 Quikrete Countertop Mix (for a smoother concrete surface)
Large bucket
Quikrete Liquid Cement Color (optional)
Medium bucket (optional)
Hand trowel
Disposable plastic cup or bottle
Paper towels
Large brick
Utility knife, fitted with hook blade
Paint (optional)
Plant (optional)
Batteryoperated tea light (optional)

Prepare your work area. Concrete is heavy, so you might want to work on the ground rather than having to lift and pour the concrete mix at table height. To prevent wet concrete spills from marring a sidewalk or patio, put a tarp down first. You’ll also want to wear a dust mask, waterproof gloves, and old clothing when working with the dusty concrete mix.

Use scissors to cut and remove the handle from the pumpkin pail.

Pour dry concrete mix into a large plastic bucket or tub. (It has to be big enough also to hold the water, which you’ll be adding in the next step.) Quikrete 5000 is a good, quick-setting all-purpose concrete mix for casting jack-o’-lanterns, but if you’re looking for a super-smooth surface, try Quikrete Countertop Mix instead—its gravel and sand are very fine, so you won’t notice any large gravel pieces on the exterior of your concrete pumpkins once they have cured.

The amount of concrete you’ll need for each pumpkin depends on the size of your pumpkin pail, so follow the mixing instructions on the bag. You can even use the pumpkin pail as a measure: Fill it completely with the dry mix, and then dump that amount into your mixing bucket or tub. If you’re making multiple jack-o’-lanterns, you can mix the concrete for all of them at the same time.

STEP 4 (optional)
If you know you want to add color and don’t want the extra step of coating a whole pumpkin in paint, you can inject the color right into the wet concrete mix! Fill a medium bucket with the amount of water recommended for your particular bag of Quikrete, adjusting the amount according to the size of the project, then stir in Liquid Cement Color—you can see what that process looks like here. It takes at least half of a 10-ounce bottle to color a 60-pound bag’s worth of concrete, or you can use the whole bottle if you’re looking for some truly intense coloring.

Add water (colored or plain) to the large tub filled with dry mix. Again, the amount of water you will need depends on the amount of dry mix (which, in turn, depends on the size of your pumpkin and whether you’re making multiple pumpkins), but err on the side of too little water rather than too much, and add water a little at a time.

Mix thoroughly and quickly using a sturdy hand trowel. Once you add the water, a chemical reaction begins, and you have limited time before the concrete starts to harden, so stir vigorously! See how the concrete pros mix by hand in this video.

The properly mixed concrete should have no dry spots and should be the consistency of thick brownie batter. If it’s too thick or thin, add water or dry mix until the mixture reaches the correct consistency.


How to Make Concrete Pumpkins with Quikrete

Photo: G Taylor

Using the hand trowel, spoon or pour the wet concrete into the plastic pumpkin pail. Push it down with the trowel as you go, working the tool through the wet concrete in a chopping motion to remove all air bubbles.

Fill it up quickly, but not all the way to the top—leave about one inch of space near the top of the pumpkin.

Insert a disposable plastic cup (or a plastic bottle) into the center of the wet concrete mix, pushing it down until the top is level with the top rim of the bucket. This will create a recess so you can fill your jack-o’-lantern with a tea light, flowers, or whatever else strikes your fancy. The concrete will rise as it is displaced by the cup. Wipe away any overflow using paper towels.

Place a large brick or another heavy item over the opening of the pumpkin to weight down the plastic cup. This prevents the pressure of the heavy concrete mix from pushing the plastic cup up and out of the pail.

For the smoothest surface possible, work air bubbles out of the concrete by carefully bumping the filled pumpkin on the ground and tapping it repeatedly (and firmly) on all sides with the back of the hand trowel. For the best results, don’t skimp on this step—the more you tap, the smoother the final product will be.

Put the pumpkin aside and allow the concrete to set for at least 24 hours.

Use a utility knife that’s fitted with a hook blade to cut and remove the plastic pumpkin pail. Proceed cautiously: Stand over the pumpkin and position the tip of the blade at the bottom of the pumpkin (in one of the grooves) and pull slowly upward. The plastic is quite thick, so cut slowly and carefully. After you’ve made a couple of slices, you can peel the plastic away.

Remove the plastic cup or bottle from the center by making a single cut along the inside edge, then breaking the cup and pulling it out.

Allow your concrete pumpkins to dry out another day or so (a week, even, if you can contain your excitement!) before adding any paint or glue-on decorations. The longer you wait, the further along your concrete pumpkins will be in their monthlong curing process, which means that the paint will be less likely to peel. We colored ours with milk paint!


How to Make Concrete Pumpkins with Quikrete

Photo: G Taylor

Pro Tips for Pouring and Casting Your Concrete

• If you intend to use your concrete jack-o’-lantern as a planter, drill a couple of drainage holes in the bottom when you remove the plastic mold. At this point, the concrete is still green—concrete actually takes a full 28 days to cure—and you can drill through it with relative ease. If you wait even a couple of days, it becomes more difficult to drill through and may then require a masonry bit.

• Unless you’re using the countertop mix, you’ll probably see a few holes on the surface of your concrete pumpkins. Don’t sweat them! They just add to the character of the jack-o’-lantern.

• Resist adding too much water to the concrete mix. Wetter concrete is easier to handle, but if the mix is too wet, your concrete pumpkins are more likely to crumble and crack.

• Are you already committed to casting multiple concrete pumpkins? For bigger projects, it’s a good idea to mix the concrete in a wheelbarrow and use a hoe to stir it.


This content has been brought to you by Quikrete. Its facts and opinions are those of

How To: Protect Plants from Frost

Prepare for dipping temperatures now so your garden will come through the winter beautifully.

How to Protect Plants from Frost


Unexpected early fall and late spring frosts—periods when outside temperatures go below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit)—often catch home gardeners off-guard, nipping tender fruit buds, cutting short vegetable harvests, and killing houseplants that were left outdoors. When a plant is damaged by frost, leaves appear wet and limp due to ice forming within the cells, which interrupts the natural flow of water throughout the plant. Tender annuals usually die from frost exposure, and while trees and shrubs will survive, they’ll lose any buds or mature fruit.

Local weather forecasts can tip you off to frosts, but you shouldn’t depend on them entirely. Pay attention to clues like the state of the sky, keeping in mind that temperatures are more likely to dip dangerously on clear nights that lack insulating cloud cover. But why wait till the last minute to swoop in and save your plants? The best way to prevent frost damage is to gather and implement strategies in advance of a cold front. Just follow this guide for how to protect plants from frost—you and your garden will be glad you did!


Wrapping the entire branch system of small trees or shrubs with horticultural frost cloth, burlap, plastic sheeting, or even old bedsheets will keep the temperature underneath a crucial few degrees warmer than outside. Use twine or clothespins to hold the material in place.

Two flat bedsheets sewn on three sides will provide a large covering for a small fruit or ornamental tree, such as a dwarf or semi-dwarf peach or cherry tree of approximately 12 to 15 feet.  Place it lightly over the tree, covering the branches, and secure the excess around the trunk with twine. For smaller frost-susceptible species like tomato or pepper plants, set a stool or a patio chair over them drape it with a sheet.

When an extra cold night (below 30 degrees Fahrenheit) is predicted, tuck an outdoor light bulb in an approved outdoor fixture under a large wrap to produce additional heat. Position the bulb where it is sheltered from rain and cannot make contact with either the wrap or the branches to prevent the risk of fire. As a further safety measure, use an exterior extension cord with an inline ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). A 40-watt incandescent bulb will often generate sufficient heat under the wrap to protect a small tree, but skip the LEDs—they don’t produce heat.

Remove wraps the following morning as soon as temps rise above freezing, so plants can receive direct sunlight and air circulation. Keep the materials handy in case you need them again.

How to Protect Plants from Frost



You can purchase glass or plastic domes, called “cloches,” to shelter vulnerable seedlings in early spring—or DIY them by cutting the tops off opaque plastic milk jugs. Other spur-of-the-moment cloches include inverted buckets and flowerpots. Simply place cloches over young vines and shrubs, such as tomatoes and peppers, to protect plants from frost.

If the temperatures are expected to hover around the freezing mark, cover long rows of seedlings lightly with loose straw or mulch to help the soil retain heat a bit longer. This will only work for light frosts, however. If temps fall below 32 degrees Fahrenheit for longer than a few of hours, place cloches over the rows.

Penny-pincher tip: If you’re planning on starting a large garden, save milk jugs throughout the winter to use as cloches in spring.


Well-watered plants are stronger and more likely to withstand exposure to a touch of light frost. Water retains heat and has an insulating effect on plant cells. A thirsty plant is more likely succumb to light frost because its cells are already stressed. So saturate vegetable and annual flower beds early in the day if frosty temps are in the forecast. That will give plants plenty of time to absorb the water before the temperatures drop.

For additional protection, fill plastic jugs with water and set them beside plants. At night, cover plants and jugs with fabric or sheeting. During the day, the water in the jugs will warm up. At night, they will radiate the retained heat to the air beneath the cover to keep plants warmer.

How To: Protect Plants from Frost



In warm weather, keeping such popular tropical houseplants as jasmine, philodendron, and shefflera outdoors in protected areas like covered patios allows them to bask in light and air. Alas, just one premature frost can kill them, so don’t risk leaving them out too long! To prep plants for their winter indoors, water early in the day and mist foliage with water to remove any garden pests that have taken up residence. Then let plants dry until the evening before moving them inside.


Tender bulbs and tubers, such as calla lilies, elephant ears, and gladiolas, should be dug up before freezing temperatures arrive and stored in a cool, dry place (around 50 degrees Fahrenheit). A basement makes a good storage spot. Dig cautiously, taking care not to do damage with your shovel or trowel. Rinse bulbs and tubers with water to remove stuck-on soil, and then let them dry completely before layering them in a ventilated box filled with clean straw or peat moss.


Anti-transpirant foliage sprays, available from garden centers, help guard ornamental plants including rhododendrons, azaleas, and laurels from light frosts. These sprays impart a light coating of polymer film to the leaves, which is designed to protect plants’ leaves for up to a month by sealing in moisture. If the temps dip below 30 degrees Fahrenheit for more than a few hours, however, or if the leaves are not adequately covered by the spray, plants may still suffer frost damage.


Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from
With fair weather having arrived finally, it’s time to turn your home improvement efforts to the backyard and your deck, porch, or patio—the parts of the home built specifically to enjoy the extra hours of sunlight. Guided by these practical pointers and inspiring ideas, you can introduce beauty, comfort, and utility to your backyard and outdoor living areas, making them as inviting and enjoyable as your home interiors.

7 Important Reasons Never to Skip Your HVAC’s Yearly Checkup

Can't remember your last HVAC tune-up? Mark your calendars now, and read on for why skipping this piece of routine maintenance is risky business.

7 Reasons to Never Skip Your Yearly HVAC Checkup


Out of sight, out of mind: If your heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system has recently been operating well, you probably haven’t given a thought to scheduling a professional checkup. Lucky for you, we’re coming up on one of the two best times of the year to do so! Smart homeowners schedule HVAC checkups before seasons of heavy use: in the fall before it’s time to run the furnace to heat your home, and in spring before turning on the AC to cool it. Neglecting to have your HVAC serviced at least once a year, though, could put the system—as well as the comfort and health of your family—at risk. Keep reading to learn why professionals like David Kenyon, a Project Consultant for Sears Home Services HVAC Department, insist upon this essential maintenance. In fact, the experts at Sears recommend preventative maintenance checks in the fall and spring.

1. You Can Help Avoid Breakdowns—and Costly Repairs
The worst time to discover a problem with your furnace is the dead of winter. Not only will you be left in the lurch comfort-wise, but repairs are almost always more costly than preventive measures. Even worse, in the wake of a breakdown, you could be stuck without heated or cooled air until a technician can order parts to repair the broken unit. During a professional checkup through Sears Home Services, however, potential problems are identified and fixed before they can lead to larger problems that could cause a component failure.

“With newer model HVAC systems, our technicians can use plug-in diagnostics, similar to the diagnostics auto mechanics use to find problems with newer cars,” Kenyon says. “It’s a great way to ensure that every component of the system is functioning correctly.”

2. You’ll Help Protect Your Warranty
Those high costs for replacement parts and repair service? Well, if you’re hoping that the manufacturer’s warranty will help cover the expense of an unfortunately timed disaster, don’t neglect your unit’s annual checkup.

“Manufacturer warranties require regular professional maintenance in order to remain in effect,” Kenyon explains. “If the homeowners do not follow the exact terms of their warranty, the manufacturer could void it.”

Study your warranty, adhere to its terms carefully, and keep records of each time you have the system serviced.

7 Reasons to Never Skip Your Yearly HVAC Checkup


3. You Might Extend Your HVAC System’s Useful Life
Checkups include more than just tests to ensure that all HVAC components are running as they should be. In fact, professional cleaning and maintenance of the units are an important part of a checkup. “Removing blockages, replacing filters, cleaning evaporator coils, and lubricating moving parts will all prolong the life of your HVAC system,” Kenyon says. Units that are serviced regularly run smoother and tend to run longer, making an annual checkup vital if you want to enjoy years of uninterrupted service.

4. You’ll Protect Your Family
“Anytime you have fuel and electricity combined, you have a safety risk,” Kenyon says. That’s why with every tune-up a Sears Home Services expert checks for anything that could pose a fire hazard: leaks in oil or gas lines, loose connections in the electrical lines, and problems with the electrical wiring that could cause short circuits. Plus, the technician will test for the presence of hazardous carbon monoxide gas that can escape through a crack in the furnace’s heat exchanger. One single inspection helps ensure that families can breathe easy—and that the air they breathe will be healthy and clean.

5. You Could Improve Energy Efficiency
“Without a yearly inspection and servicing, you’re simply not getting the most out of your furnace or air conditioner,” Kenyon says. A clean HVAC system can operate at peak performance, whereas a neglected system has to work overtime—using more energy and more money—to keep the temperature in your home comfortable. Whether your system’s efficiency is being reduced by a clogged vent system, dirty evaporator or condenser coils, incorrect gas pressure, or a soiled burner, a Sears Home Services technician will clean and service the components to get them back in working order.

Moreover, a checkup offers the opportunity for an energy-efficient upgrade on the spot. Licensed technicians typically carry a variety of thermostats with them and can install a new one during the checkup call, if desired. For instance, adding a programmable thermostat allows you to enter preset heating and cooling cycles to avoid operating the system when it’s not necessary. If you opt for a smart thermostat, it will take out the guesswork by learning your habits and preferences and acting upon them.

6. You’ll Maintain Optimum Comfort Levels
Maybe your HVAC system used to keep all the rooms in your home at a comfortable temperature, but these days it’s leaving some rooms cooler or warmer than others. What you’re feeling could be the result of a blocked or leaking vent system, not just the sign of an aging system. A vent system that’s dirty or blocked has a more difficult time distributing heated or cooled air to every room in your house, which can result in dramatic temperature differences from room to room. “The visiting technician can pinpoint and fix blockages and leaks, so you’ll have better-balanced airflow throughout your home,” Kenyon says.

7. You Can Help Prevent Damage to Other Home Components
That’s right: A fully functional HVAC can mean fewer repairs for your system and also protect other components of the home. During an annual servicing, for example, the Sears technician will check an AC unit’s drain line and condensate pump for signs of trouble. “A poor-functioning pump or a clogged drain line can result in leaks and, ultimately, water damage to the ceiling of the room below,” Kenyon explains. The moist environment in a drain line can lead to algae growth, which might block the line and cause the drain pan to overflow, but a regular inspection can clear drain lines before leaks can occur.

If you haven’t set up this year’s maintenance yet, what are you waiting for? Schedule a house call with Sears Home Services before the first snowfall by calling 1-888-577-4342.

This post has been brought to you by Sears Home Services. Its facts and opinions are those of

Video: The Top 10 Home Projects for October

Put down that pumpkin spice drink and start planning your fall home improvement project with the help of our quick video guide.

The month of October is full of autumnal joys like rust-colored leaves, Halloween preparations, and crisp, cool air. As you’re enjoying all that this season has to offer, make sure you’re taking care of important maintenance work around the home and yard. This is the moment to pack up your summer gear and button up the house for winter. Take a look at our video to see the top projects you should undertake at this time of year.

For more seasonal advice, consider:

15 Tricks to Know If You Hate Fall Yard Work

21 Ways to Color Your Yard This Fall

How To: Rust Metal

Lend a centuries-old look to metal accents in under an hour with this rusting tutorial.

How to Rust Metal (on Purpose!)


Though unwelcome on most functional gardening tools and patio furnishings, rust isn’t always something to remove. In fact, with rustic and industrial decorating schemes trending, more and more people are embracing the look of aged metal to the point of encouraging corrosion on newer metal housewares. Metals made of iron or iron alloys like iron and steel will, of course, rust naturally with enough exposure to moisture and oxygen, but savvy do-it-yourselfers can speed up the process and nab aged metal accents sooner by whipping up a secret rusting solution.

Whether you wish to rust hinges and hardware to further disguise the age of distressed wooden chest or you prefer the look of older metal candlesticks atop your farmhouse table, follow these easy steps for how to rust metal and you can transform any object around your home. It only takes an hour to add years to your metal accents!

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
 Paint stripper (optional)
 Paint scraper (optional)
 Sandpaper (100grit or higher)
 Plastic bin
 Safety goggles
 Plastic spray bottles (2)
 White vinegar
 Hydrogen peroxide
 Table salt
Clear acrylic spray sealer

How to Rust Metal (on Purpose!)


Move the metal object you want to rust out to a yard or open garage on a hot day. Direct sunlight helps speed up the rusting process. Plus, hydrogen peroxide and vinegar can give off a moderate level of fumes, so you’ll want to work in a well-ventilated space anyway.

STEP 2 (optional)
If your metal is painted, apply a paint stripper to the entire surface of the object according to the manufacturer’s instructions to remove this layer of color. Gently scuff off any remaining flecks of paint using a paint scraper.

Lightly sand the entire surface of the metal with a fine-grit sandpaper to shed any protective coating present that might prevent the object from rusting. Place the sanded object in the center of a plastic bin that’s rested on either hard ground or a flat work surface in the garage.

Donning gloves and goggles to protect yourself from splashes, pour white vinegar into a plastic spray bottle, then generously spray the metal.

Let the object air-dry in the sun (five minutes or longer depending on the size of the object). As it dries, the acid will begin to corrode the surface of the metal and you will start to see rust appear.

Pour two cups of hydrogen peroxide, four tablespoons of white vinegar, and one-and-a-half teaspoons of table salt into a plastic spray bottle. Vigorously swirl the bottle to mix the contents. Once the salt has dissolved, spray the solution over the object to coat it partially or completely, depending on the desired effect. The peroxide should begin to bubble on contact with the metal, and rust will start forming immediately. Let the object air-dry in the sun for another five minutes or longer, depending on the size of the object.

A single application of the solution should produce a subtle rusted patina on your metal object. For a deeper and more distinct patina, though, repeat the application of this rusting solution up to four more times.

Remove your rusted metal from the plastic bin, then fill with water to dilute whatever rusting solution has collected in the bottom from your thorough sprays. Discard the contents of the bin into a sink drain or toilet basin, and flush with additional water.

Finally, spray a thin coating of clear acrylic sealer to the dry rusted object. Though the aerosol can might specify that your chosen sealer prevents rust, it won’t undo your work. It will set the rust and preserve the aged appearance for years to come while providing an acrylic barrier that keeps it from inadvertently staining any other metal or wood with which it comes into contact in the future.


How to Rust Metal (on Purpose!)


So, You Want to… Paint Your Home’s Exterior

Simplify a major exterior paint project without taking any shortcuts that could affect the quality of the finished job. All it takes is a smarter set of tools.

HYDE Airless Spray System with RVT Technology - Painting Brick


Painting the exterior of your house is a big project that can quickly turn into a huge headache if you’re not adequately prepared. Just picture yourself atop a ladder, brushing on coats of paint in the sweltering heat as wasps circle your head. While the image may seem cartoonish, some variation of it is an all-too-common tale—but it doesn’t have to be. The right materials, tools, and techniques can help you minimize disaster and maximize your time. The key to it all is a new technology that’s taking the painting world by storm: Hyde Tools’ Airless Spray System with Rapid Valve Transfer® (RVT) Technology.

The RVT system takes airless paint spraying to a new level—both literally and figuratively—by allowing the user to paint areas that are higher up just as easily as lower ones via a quick-switch valve that attaches to both a spray gun and a special telescoping pole. Homeowners and professional painters alike can now paint the entire exterior of a home while keeping their feet firmly on the ground, eliminating the need to erect scaffolding or the danger of climbing up and down a ladder.

While the following tried-and-true painting techniques will also work if you want to brush on or roll on exterior paint, you’ll save time and reduce the risk of falls when you use Hyde Tools’ new RVT system, which works with any standard airless spray pump rated up to 3600 PSI.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Hyde Tools’ Airless Spray System with RVT® Technology
Exterior paint appropriate for your type of siding
Exterior primer appropriate for your type of siding (optional)
Pressure washer
Hyde Tools’ 5in1 Painter’s Tool
Cleanser with mildewcide
Paintable exterior caulking
Masking tape
Plastic tarp

Plan Accordingly
Check the weather forecast before you start painting. The best temperature for painting the exterior of your house is between 50 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit; in temperatures higher than that, the moisture in the paint can evaporate too quickly and weaken its bond to the siding. Choose a calm day when no rain or wind is expected. The siding should be bone-dry when you paint, and the last thing you want is for high winds to blow dust onto your new paint job.

Choose the Right Paint
Choose a high-quality exterior paint that’s advertised as formulated for your type of siding, whether that’s wood, vinyl, or steel. (See below for more about painting specific types of siding.) Once you’ve found a paint that’s right for the exterior of your house, you should keep a few other points in mind:

• Exterior paint that contains 100 percent acrylic resins will hold up best to the elements.

• A low-sheen or flat paint works well on the siding itself, while a satin or semi-gloss paint is best saved for doors and trim.

While priming before painting is a good rule of thumb in almost any situation, it’s not imperative. If, however, you’re painting the first coat on bare siding, primer is a must; it adheres tightly to the siding and provides an optimal surface for the paint to cling to. (Make sure to check the label carefully to pick a primer that’s suitable for use with both your type of siding and the paint you are applying.) If you’re just repainting, though, you can skip the stand-alone coat of primer. Note that some newer products offer a combination of paint and primer in a single product, which can be a real time-saver for both do-it-yourselfers and pro painters.

Get Specific to Your Siding
Most types of siding can be painted, although some require additional preparation or a specific type of paint. To make sure you’re on track with your plans for your exterior paint project, check out these basic tips for different types of siding.

• Wood Siding: This common material is easy to paint, so long as it’s completely clean, dry, and free from flaking paint.

• Masonite Siding: Masonite is also easy to paint, but be sure to caulk gaps between siding planks carefully to keep water from penetrating beneath the painted surface.

• Vinyl Siding: Choose paint manufactured specifically for vinyl siding. Appropriate paints contain a high percentage of acrylic, which adheres well to vinyl.

• T1-11 Siding: Pronounced “tee-one-eleven,” this type of wood or wood-based siding does not hold paint well. Its surface tends to flake off, taking off bits of paint with it. A better choice for T1-11 is to spray it with a penetrating acrylic-based stain—but don’t worry, this can be accomplished just as easily with the Airless Spray System with RVT Technology. It’s rated up to 3600 PSI and works with a variety of paints and coatings.

• Masonry or Stucco: Both can be painted successfully if you remove mold or mildew stains prior to the job. If the siding has been painted previously, you can use virtually any high-quality exterior paint, but bare masonry or stucco needs a coat of exterior masonry primer, which will protect the paint from the strong alkali content in the masonry.

• Steel Siding: Choose an exterior paint specifically designed for steel siding. Before you go to town, though, clear all rust or corrosion spots and seal those areas with a rust-remediation product to ensure that they do not bleed through the new paint.

Prep the Surface
In order for paint to adhere, siding should be spotlessly clean and damage-free. First, power-wash the outside of your home, but be careful not to use so much pressure that you dig chunks out of softer exteriors, such as wood siding. Once the siding is dry:

• Scrape away any loose paint using a 5-in-1 Painter’s Tool, and sand down rough patches, if necessary.

• Caulk gaps around windows and doors with paintable exterior caulking.

• Remove all traces of mold and mildew using a cleanser that contains mildewcide.

• Replace or repair loose, broken, or rotted siding planks, as paint will not adhere to these damaged surfaces.

• Remove shutters before painting, and if you’re going to spray the paint on—as we recommend—cover windows, doors, and any nearby objects with plastic sheeting to prevent overspray from affecting these features.

How to Paint Your Home Exterior


Apply Primer and Paint
When updating the color of your home’s exterior, you’ll use the same techniques for both priming (if necessary) and painting, so the following guidelines apply to both processes. If this is the first time you’ve operated an airless spray gun, practice on a sheet of plywood before aiming it at the house! Concentrate on smooth, even strokes while holding the tip of the spray gun approximately 12 inches from the surface.

Ready to try it out on the house? Tape up trim and cover windows—and any other feature you cannot unscrew—with a plastic tarp before you get started. To paint the lower portion of the house, attach the RVT valve to the spray gun that comes with the Hyde Tools’ Airless Spray System. (Also included in the system are a spray tip, a tip guard, an inline filter, and a pole that telescopes from five to eight feet in length.) As you paint, guide the spray gun in careful strokes, just as you did while practicing, and keep its tip approximately one foot away from the siding; this distance is close enough for the primer or paint to lightly coat the siding, but not so close that drips develop. The trick to accurate paint spraying is to keep the gun an even distance from the surface at all times. If your strokes arc and flare out at the start or stop of your strokes, you won’t get uniform coverage. To keep from leaving start and stop marks, which can show through later even after multiple coats of paint, the movement of your stroke should begin before you squeeze the paint gun trigger and should continue after you release it.

Coat the entire lower half of the exterior, working back and forth uniformly. Then, when it’s time to start painting above chest level, there’s no need to drop everything to assemble scaffolding or haul out a ladder. Here’s where the unique telescoping pole comes into play. In just seconds, you can remove the live RVT valve from the handheld spray gun and snap it into place on top of the telescoping pole. Because you don’t have to fuss with depressurizing the gun or changing hoses—and you’re not climbing up and down scaffolding or a ladder—this quick and simple switch won’t slow down the job one bit. With the RVT valve locked in place, extend the lightweight pole and continue spraying the upper part of the siding by squeezing the trigger, conveniently located at the base of the pole. And, since you’re using the same valve, you won’t spot any difference in your paint spray pattern from top to bottom. You’ll get all the convenience of a shortcut without any of the consequences!

Continue working up and down the side of the house, focusing on keeping your transitions seamless. For the best coverage, spray on multiple (three or more) light coats of paint, always waiting until the previous coat has dried completely. Check the paint can for recommended dry times.

Finish the Job
After you’ve completely refreshed the siding, you won’t want the old, failing paint jobs on the trim, doors, and decorative molding to detract from your smart new facade. To tackle these areas, you’ll need to apply paint by hand with a roller or brush. Fortunately, you’ve saved so much time using the RVT airless spray system that you can afford to lavish attention on these last details, giving them a flawless finish.


This content has been brought to you by Hyde Tools. Its facts and opinions are those of

7 Things to Know Before Choosing a Metal Roof

If your current roof is the root of your headache (and maybe even a long list of costly home repairs), consider these metal roofing pros and cons before you patch it. You may find that these highly efficient, low-maintenance materials are just right for your home.

Metal Roofing Pros and Cons


Rain on a tin roof proves so soothing that it can be found on white noise machines and meditation apps alike, but that’s not the only reason (nor one of the top!) for its popularity among today’s homeowners. Growing numbers of people are installing metal roofs in both new construction and roof replacement projects. In fact, McGraw-Hill Construction and Analytics estimates that 750,000 U.S. homeowners chose metal roofing for their residences as of 2015. That number indicates an 11 percent share of the roofing market—second choice only to asphalt shingles.

Curious why this construction material has won over so many homeowners? See the complete list of metal roofing pros and cons below. Weigh them carefully, and you may find that you, too, could benefit from this reliable roofing overhead.

PRO: Metal roofs are durable and long-lasting.

At the top of the list of metal roofing “pros,” the material’s long lifespan is why most homeowners make the switch in either a re-roofing or new construction. Indeed, that recent McGraw-Hill survey found that 26 percent of homeowners cited longevity as their primary reason for investing in metal and another 22 percent said they were swayed by its strength. A properly installed metal roof typically will last as long as the house, with an expected lifespan of 40 to 70 years and, often, a 30- to 50-year manufacturer’s warranty to boot. (By contrast, traditional asphalt roofing typically lasts 12 to 20 years.) Thanks to the material’s unique durability, you can count on it to withstand the elements—including gusts of wind up to 140 miles per hour—and not corrode nor crack thanks to rust-proof coatings.

CON: Metal roofs are expensive.

The many years of service that a metal roof promises come at a high cost. This material can run from $120 to $900 per 100 square feet (or one “square” of material), according to Home Advisor’s Guide to Roofing Costs. Though this range is comparable to the costs of other premium roofing products, higher-end metals run as much as 10 times the cost of asphalt shingles. Then, not only do materials come with high price tags, but the installation labor is also more expensive than what you’d pay for other types of roofing because of the specialized training, knowledge, tools, and equipment it entails. That’s not to say that homeowners won’t recoup money on your initial investment, though. While you might have to pay for replacing a conventional asphalt shingle roof several times over the lifespan of your home, a high-quality metal roof could very likely be the last roof your home will ever need. It’s as the saying goes, “You get what you pay for.”

7 Metal Roofing Pros and Cons to Consider


PRO: Metal roofs are environmentally friendly.

Traditional asphalt shingles are a petroleum product and, as such, increase dependency on fossil fuels. Plus, they require replacement every 15 to 20 years, which means that nearly 20 billion pounds of old asphalt shingles are sent to U.S. landfills every year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Metal roofs, on the other hand, are considered a more sustainable alternative for a number of reasons. For starters, they consist of at least 25 percent recycled materials and are 100 percent recyclable themselves. (Steel roofing can be recycled repeatedly without loss of strength!) Metal roofing also provides an ideal platform for homeowners who want to embark various eco-conscious initiatives, including solar panels and systems for harvesting rainwater. Finally, in some re-roofing projects, a metal roof is so light—roughly one-third the weight of asphalt—that it can be installed directly overtop asphalt shingles without overburdening the roof’s structural support. This strategic move saves the effort and sheer waste of ripping off the old roofing and sending it to a landfill.

CON: Metal roofs can be dented.

Although today’s metal roofs are designed to withstand decades of abuse from extreme weather—including heavy snow and ice, both of which slide right down the slick metal slope rather than linger and cause leakage—some metal can still be dented by large hail or falling branches. Depending on the type of roof, you may not even be able to walk on the metal shingles without damaging them. If these drawbacks sound more like dealbreakers, rest assured that they can be sidestepped altogether if you choose the right shingle (preferably one that comes with a guarantee to never dent!). Some types of metal are just stronger than others. Aluminum and copper, for example, are both softer and therefore more prone to this type of damage than, say, steel.

PRO: Metal roofs are energy-efficient.

Money spent on the installation of a metal roof can be recouped from the savings in monthly cooling and heating costs thanks to this type of roof’s reflective properties. Metal roofs reflect solar radiant heat instead of absorbing it, which—yearround, but especially during the long days of summer—can reduce cooling costs by as much as 25 percent, according to the Metal Roofing Alliance. Furthermore, some metal roofing comes coated with special reflective pigments to minimize heat gain, keeping occupants comfortable without having to crank up the air conditioner.


7 Metal Roofing Pros and Cons to Consider


CON: Metal roofs can be noisy.

Though listed here as a “con,” this particular drawback doesn’t need to be a given. Sure, metal could be noisier than other types of roofing, especially during a heavy rain or thunderstorm, but extra layers of solid sheathing or insulation installed beneath it will typically minimize the sound heard inside. (That said, these layers will need to be factored into the overall cost of the roof.)

PRO: Metal roofs are stylish.

Today’s metal roofs are a far cry from the corrugated tin barns of the bucolic past—indeed, now you can choose from tin, zinc, aluminum, copper, or galvanized steel, in a dizzying array of colors, finishes, and even shapes! Their variety surpasses that of the much more conventional asphalt shingle. While asphalt might offer 15 to 20 color choices, modern metal roofing comes in more than 100 different colors, including standard, premium, and custom hues. Steel and aluminum, the two most common metals used in residential roofing, are both designed to hold paint finishes well.

Seven out of 10 homeowners living under metal roofs designed theirs with the traditional vertical ribbed panels or “standing seam” construction, but metal roofing is not short on style options either. Fans of more traditional profiles can opt for a metal shingle manufactured to resemble wood shakes, slate or clay tiles, or any other number of designs instead. The metal doesn’t have to stand out like a sore thumb to do its job; rather, it can mimic nearly any look using multiple-layer factory finishes that ensure that the appearance is not only beautiful but long-lasting and durable.


Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from
With fair weather having arrived finally, it’s time to turn your home improvement efforts to the backyard and your deck, porch, or patio—the parts of the home built specifically to enjoy the extra hours of sunlight. Guided by these practical pointers and inspiring ideas, you can introduce beauty, comfort, and utility to your backyard and outdoor living areas, making them as inviting and enjoyable as your home interiors.