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How To: Get Rid of Rabbits

Got rabbits nibbling on your vegetable garden? Follow a combination of these four methods to safely—and humanely—get rid of them.

How to Get Rid of Rabbits

Photo: istockphoto.com

While children love big-eared Bugs Bunny chomping on a carrot, gardeners can identify closely with his cartoon nemesis, Elmer Fudd. That’s because rabbits wreak widespread havoc on landscapes, gardens, and yards foraging for food. Razor-sharp teeth allow these herbivorous mammals to cut through vegetation of nearly any kind, including leafy green plants, carrots, broccoli, strawberries, apples, and other produce. Additionally, rabbits may dig burrows on residential properties, which can leave unsightly holes and become a tripping hazard. And rapid reproduction rates—30-day pregnancies that can create as many as 12 offspring each time—can overrun your property in just a season.

As Elmer Fudd is famous for saying, “rascally rabbits” can be especially smart and elusive, making an infestation quite difficult to manage.  If you have a serious rabbit infestation, call professional pest control for help. But if you spot only a few roaming your yard, ward off the beginning of a warren by following a combination of these humane methods for how to get rid of rabbits.

METHOD 1: MAINTAIN YOUR YARD

An unkempt and overgrown yard will undoubtedly attract rabbits, since the animals take cover in tall grass. Preventing an infestation of rabbits begins by properly maintaining your lawn and garden.

STEP 1
Mow your grass regularly (about once a week), and don’t leave clippings around for rabbits to nosh on. Then, stay on top of yard maintenance tasks, like pulling weeds and trimming overgrown vegetation. Remove piles of wood, sticks, branches, trimmings, and debris—all of which provide the perfect hiding places for rabbits.

STEP 2
Search your property for burrows and holes. These could indicate the presence of rabbits, which take cover in the holes during cold or rainy weather. Fill the burrows with gravel or dirt.

 

How to Get Rid of Rabbits

Photo: istockphoto.com

 

METHOD 2: TRAP HUMANELY

Despite homeowners’ best efforts keeping a well-manicured yard, this strategy alone may not always deter them. Humane traps offer an effective complementary solution for small numbers of rabbits that still roam your property. By catching the animals, you can then release each somewhere far from your yard so they don’t wander back.

STEP 1
Buy a “live trap” or “cage trap” fit to catch a three- to four-pound rabbit from a home center; these medium-sized traps generally cost around $40 or $50. Take a minute now to pull on gloves before handling the trap, as rabbits may pick up a human’s scent and avoid the cage. Then, following manufacturer instructions, set up the trap in a shady, sheltered area of your yard, preferably near vegetation. Place lettuce and carrots in the trap as bait.

STEP 2
Check the cage multiple times per day. A rabbit or other small animal entering the cage will trigger a mechanism to snap the door shut without harming the animal. Being trapped in a cage causes stress for a rabbit, though, so you’ll want it to spend a minimum amount of time inside before you’re ready to release it.

STEP 3
Find your live trap filled? To get rid of rabbits, take the trap to a wooded, grassy area at least five to 10 miles away from your home, then release any animals caught.

 

How to Get Rid of Rabbits

Photo: istockphoto.com

METHOD 3: INSTALL FENCING

Perhaps the best method to ward off large numbers of rabbits involves fencing. Following the steps below, a homeowner can install their own backyard barrier.

STEP 1
Purchase chicken wire fencing and stakes (either wood or metal) from a home store. Make sure that the mesh holes in the chicken wire have a maximum one-inch diameter; some adult rabbits can squeeze through anything larger than that.

Back at home, plan out the area you intend to fence. Rabbits can navigate under shallow fences, so you’ll want to dig a six- or eight-inch trench along the planned perimeter. Later, you’ll bury the fence inside the trench.

STEP 2
Cut the chicken wire to size with wire cutters. For maximum efficiency, you’ll need fencing to extend 36 inches above the ground and six or eight inches beneath (depending on the depth of the trench you dug in Step 1)—that’s 42 to 44 inches tall by the length of the perimeter.

STEP 3
Working along the perimeter, drive a stake into the ground every six feet, using a hammer. This distance will ensure the chicken wire will remain strong and taut, preventing sagging that may potentially let rabbits through. The stakes should be four feet tall, with one foot underground and three feet above ground (the same height as the chicken wire fence).

STEP 4
Fasten the sheets of chicken wire to the stakes with staples or hooks. Ensure there aren’t any gaps by overlapping the wire pieces where necessary and securing the edges to the stakes as best as possible.

STEP 5
If desired, install a garden gate. The frame can be constructed with four pieces of 1×1 lumber attached together with wood screws; the sides pieces should be the same height as your fence (36 inches), while the width of the top and bottom pieces can vary based on your preferred gate size. Staple chicken wire to the interior of the frame, then attach one side of the gate to a stake with hinges. The other side of the gate can be attached to a stake with a latch, with which homeowners can open and close the door.

Since rabbits can dig underneath the gate, you’ll want to bury a piece of metal flashing vertically six- to eight-inches underneath it. That way, any rabbit who tries to go under the gate will hit a wall.

STEP 6
Fill the trench you created in Step 1 with dirt or soil, packed securely together so the fence doesn’t wobble in the wind.

STEP 7
Every few days, check your fence for signs of weakness—particularly along the bottom and the stakes. Keep spare chicken wire for bolstering and patching as needed.

 

How to Get Rid of Rabbits

Photo: istockphoto.com

METHOD 4: USE REPELLENTS

Rabbits follow their powerful noses to find delicious-smelling foods (like your vegetable garden). Repellents work by changing the smell or taste of these items, thus deterring rabbits. Check with your garden center for natural rabbit repellents, and keep the following considerations in mind when choosing the best option for your yard:

• If you’re using the repellent on produce in the vegetable garden, ensure the product is safe to use and won’t affect the flavor of your food.
• Weigh the pros and cons of water solubility for your property, since water soluble repellents may be easier to apply but more quickly dissolve from hose or rain water (and therefore require lots of reapplication).
• Avoid high-toxicity products if you have children or pets playing the yard.

Once you choose a product, apply it per the manufacturer’s instructions and follow up accordingly to keep pests out of your yard and garden all season.

 

Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from BobVila.com
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.


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How To: Mow a Lawn

Make cutting the grass a faster, more efficient process—and keep your turf in tip-top shape—with these techniques.

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How to Mow a Lawn

Photo: istockphoto.com

If you’ve got grass, it may feel that the more you mow, the more it grows! But keeping your lawn neatly manicured is a must for optimal enjoyment and curb appeal. So rather than go at it in a haphazard manner, follow our tips for how to mow a lawn quickly and smoothly while still ensuring the health of your grass. Then kick off your shoes and love your lawn!

Maintain Your Mower
The quality of your mowing is directly related to your equipment. So keep up with regular mower maintenance, like checking the oil, tire pressure, and cleaning the deck and blades after use. A most important task? Ensuring that those blades razor sharp. Dull blades tear rather than slice grass, making it more difficult for your lawn to recover; sharp blades will also reduce mowing time. The rule of thumb is to sharpen mower blades twice a season, once in the beginning of spring, and once halfway through the summer.

Tip: Never mow wet grass! That will clog your mower deck, causing it to clump as it discharges, leaving blobs to decay all over your yard.

Trim and Edge First
Before you get behind the mower, trim and edge your yard to lessen the risk of damaging trees, plants, and hardscaping by getting too close with your mower. Plus, weed whacking around obstacles like trees, mailboxes, and fences will make mowing a lawn go faster, because you won’t have to work tediously around them. Edging around garden beds will prevent turf grass from encroaching onto your landscaping plants, and you won’t need to continually pull that grass back by hand.

How to Mow a Lawn

Photo: istockphoto.com

Mow Often, Mow Early
Resist the temptation to let your lawn get knee high and then give it a crew cut. Mowing more than 1/3 of the length of grass blades prevents optimal photosynthesis. Make a point of mowing approximately every five days in early spring and late fall—your lawn’s growth spurt periods. If you should be late in mowing, raise your blade height to keep from taking off too much plant tissue. Then, mow again in a couple days if you’d like a shorter lawn. Also keep in mind that the best time to mow is in mid-morning, between the hours of 8 AM and 10 AM. Early morning dew will have evaporated, but grass won’t be limp from harsh, midday sun.

Change Things Up
Once you fall into a mowing routine, you may be inclined to always cut exactly the same way. Don’t! To reduce turf wear and soil compaction, change direction each time you mow a lawn. Go horizontally one day, vertically the next; try to master the beautiful diagonal rows of a professional baseball diamond, or mow in circles like a Zen labyrinth. Just be sure to switch it up.

Make Smart Use of Clippings
There are two ways to go with clippings. Some people bag them in the interest of preventing a layer of thatch developing at the grass roots, but if you choose to collect clippings, add them to your compost pile—they’ll yield beautifully rich soil for landscaping and pots. However, as long as you mow a lawn regularly so that clippings aren’t overly long, it’s fine to leave them where they fall. They’ll break down and provide much-needed nutrients for your lawn, with no ill effects to the roots.

Blow or Sweep to Finish
When running through the steps for how to mow a lawn properly, the last always involves removing any stray clippings from paths and driveways. Whether you blow the clippings back onto the lawn with a blower or sweep them up with a broom, it’s a neat finishing touch that’s also kind to your community and the environment. Lawn waste left untended can wash into storm drains leading to clogs, and can make its way into rivers and lakes to cause phosphorus pollution.

 

Sounds easy enough, right? Well, not so fast. You might need to break a few bad mowing habits before you earn the reputation as the top groundskeeper in the neighborhood. Watch our video to learn some of the biggest mowing mistakes you should avoid. Then get out in the yard and put your newfound knowledge to use.


Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from BobVila.com
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.


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Flip Your Fridge to Save Money—and the World!

Are you paying way too much to run your refrigerator? If it's been years since you last shopped for a new one, the answer may be yes. Read on to learn more about the hidden costs of keeping your food fresh and all the ways you can save by upgrading to a brand-new, ENERGY STAR certified refrigerator.

WIN A BRAND-NEW KENMORE FRIDGE FROM SEARS!

Exclusively on BobVila.com, you can enter to win an ENERGY STAR certified Kenmore refrigerator provided by Sears. Remember—for the best possible chance of winning, enter once a day, every day until the contest closes on May 31. There may be a million reasons to flip your fridge, but there's only one way to win our Sears Kenmore refrigerator giveaway—enter now!

The electricity bill comes at the end of the month. You open it (perhaps begrudgingly), pay the amount owed, and then move on with your life. But you can’t shake the feeling that you’re paying too much. After all, you make a reasonable effort to save energy. It’s not like you’re lighting up the neighborhood with a crazy Christmas lighting display every night of the year. So really, how come your utility costs always seem to be so mysteriously high?

A big part of the story is that from table lamps and TVs, the majority of devices and appliances you interact with daily consume relatively little energy. It’s the “big stuff” that devours power— space heating, air conditioning, water heating, and, believe it or not, refrigeration. Keeping your food fresh requires more electricity than you’d expect, and that’s especially true if, in effort to control costs, you’ve resisted the temptation to upgrade to a new model.

The irony is that since older refrigerators consume so much more energy than the highest-efficiency units today, sticking with the fridge you’ve had for years actually costs you more in the long run. In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR program, finally swapping out your aging, inefficient fridge for an ENERGY STAR certified replacement can save you more than $270 over the next five years. And you’ll save even more by recycling your old one versus putting it in the garage or the basement. Exactly how much would you save? Use the ENERGY STAR Flip Your Fridge calculator to find out now!

If you buy a new fridge without an ENERGY STAR label, seizing savings isn’t out of the question. But to lock down lower bills over the long term, it’s only prudent to opt for a certified model. Why? In order to earn the ENERGY STAR label, refrigerators must be at least nine percent more energy efficient than the federal standard. In other words, ENERGY STAR has done all the research for you, making it effortlessly easy to select a model able to deliver slashed operating in the future.

Focusing on fridge efficiency may seem trivial, but it’s not. In the United States, there are as many as 60 million decade-old refrigerators in use. If every one of those were recycled and replaced with an equivalent, ENERGY STAR certified unit, the energy conserved would be enough to light 876,000 homes for an entire year. At the same time, the associated reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would be equivalent to taking more than 1 million cars off the road. Now that makes your contribution to saving the world easy, right?

That’s the impetus behind the 2017 ENERGY STAR Flip Your Fridge campaign—a national call to action for owners of old, inefficient refrigerators (and freezers) to recycle the old in favor of new models efficient enough to earn ENERGY STAR certification. Flip Your Fridge is a collaboration of leading appliance brands, national retailers, and participating utilities. Visit energystar.gov/FlipYourFridge for facts and figures to help you make informed consumer decisions and to learn about rebates and other incentives offered in your area.

 

This article has been brought to you by ENERGY STAR.


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Solved! The Best Flooring for Dogs

Furry friends can wreck havoc on your floors. When you get a do-over (or start from scratch), select one of these top flooring options to spare yourself unsightly scratches, dents, and dirt.

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Best Flooring for Dogs – Solved!

Photo: istockphoto.com

Q: I’m considering a complete overhaul of the floors in my home, but I’ll need something that stands up over time to wear and tear from two pets. What’s the best flooring for dogs?

A: There’s no doubt about it: Dogs and cats make great companions. But while pet owners enjoy having their four-legged friend around the house, the pitter-patter of furry feet takes a toll on your flooring. That’s why pet owners should consider installing floors that stand up to dents, scratches, and dirt over time. Of course, the best flooring for dogs and other pets will vary by type of animal and personal taste, but here are the pros and cons of five popular options.

Stone, tile, and concrete are durable yet uncomfortable. Hard flooring options such as stone, tile, and concrete are most likely to withstand the constant wear and tear of clawed feet. These hard surfaces are also the easiest to clean after a wet dog does its trademark shake, a long-haired cat sheds its fur, or an untrained pup leaves behind a messy surprise. As a downside, flooring made of stone, tile, or concrete can get chilly during cold weather, and dogs may be uncomfortable relaxing on the hard surfaces. Both issues, though, can be addressed easily by scattering thick rugs and pet beds throughout your home. As an alternative solution, some homeowners may choose to install heated floorboards.

Best Flooring for Dogs – Solved!

Photo: istockphoto.com

Laminate flooring stands up against pet messes but has little traction. An excellent choice for easy cleanup, laminate floors offer the beauty of hardwood with less maintenance. Homeowners won’t need to worry about letting moisture linger for too long on the surface, which is ideal for those with accident-prone or water-loving pets. Additionally, the durable surface of laminate resists scratches and scuffs. Laminate flooring’s only disadvantage is its slippery sleekness; fast-moving dogs may end up skidding across the room and hurting themselves. Consider choosing a laminate with a textured surface to provide more traction for Fido.

Luxury vinyl has many advantages for pet owners. Nowadays, many manufacturers produce luxury vinyl planks that look remarkably similar to laminate or hardwood. The affordable option offers easy cleanup, high comfort for four-legged friends, resistance to scratches and stains, and minimal noise when walking across the surface. The single downside of luxury vinyl planks is that they may dull easily. Always make sure to choose flooring with a thick top layer and an aluminum oxide coating to ensure longevity and durability.

Stick with certain varieties of hardwood. Although hardwood floors are beautiful and classic, not all types hold up well in households with pets. Moisture can warp and destroy wood floors, making it critical to clean up pet-related messes immediately after they occur. Even so, some stains may absorb into the floor, necessitating costly refinishing or replacement. Hardwood floors also scratch easily; paws, pet toys, and water bowls can leave an ugly scuff mark on the surface. If you’re determined to incorporate hardwood floors into your home, opt for the hardest varieties, such maple, Brazilian walnut, and bamboo. Just remember to keep those claws trimmed and clear away messes ASAP.

Avoid carpeted flooring with pets. Easily the toughest type of flooring for pet owners to clean, carpet bears the burden of potty-training accidents, excessive shedding, and other messes. Carpet also harbors odors and stains that slowly build up over time, eventually causing your carpet to look and smell bad. The negatives of carpet will most likely outweigh the only positive: Pets love the comfortably soft surface. If you must choose a carpeted floor, opt one without loops (which snag on animal nails) and invest in a high-quality vacuum cleaner.


Finding the Right Type of Grass for Your Lawn

Learn to choose and nurture the best turf for your lawn.

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4 Types of Grass You Should Know When Landscaping

Photo: istockphoto.com

Everyone wants a lush, green lawn that’s the envy of the neighborhood, but no one wants to work too hard at it! The secret lies in choosing the grass that suits your locale and climate. Sow the correct seed and, while you’ll have to put in some regular lawn care, you’ll stress less and enjoy your yard more. It comes down to understanding different grasses’ unique growing requirements, maintenance needs, and resistance to wear and tear, disease, and pests. This guide will help you distinguish between the dominant types of grass and the species within each category so you can pick the ones sure to thrive and give you the curb appeal you crave.

WARM-SEASON VERSUS COLD-SEASON GRASSES

Types of grasses found in the United States are broadly classified as either warm season or cool season. These labels indicate the geographic region with the ideal climate for the grass. Each region is further classified into humid or arid zones, with some zones being more hospitable to certain grasses than others.

Warm-season grasses are ideally grown in midsummer at temperatures ranging between 75 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Once temperatures fall below 55 degrees, these species go dormant and turn tan or brown until spring returns. Because these types of grass originally hail from the tropics, in the U.S. they’re inherently better suited to warm climates of the Deep South and the lower southwest and southeast.

Cool-season grasses flourish in temperatures ranging from 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, making early spring and early fall peak growing season. These types of grass are best suited for regions that experience cold winters and hot summers (Northern California, the Pacific Northwest, the upper Great Plains, the upper Midwest, and New England), and they’re hardy—likely to remain green throughout winter, except for periods of freezing temperatures.

If you live in between the north and south, in a region known among turf breeders as the Transition Zone, you can grow either cool-season or warm-season grasses. Among warm-season grasses, Zoysia, Centipede, and Bermuda are winter-hardy enough to flourish in the Transition Zone. Similarly, Tall Fescue, a cool-season species, is suitable for the Transition Zone because of its drought tolerance and adaptability to a variety of soil types.

4 Types of Grass You Should Know When Landscaping

Photo: istockphoto.com

WARM-SEASON GRASSES (HUMID): St. Augustine, Centipede, Zoysia, Bahia

The sandy soil, brackish air, and high humidity of the Gulf states make for the ideal breeding ground for St. Augustine, a coarse, light to dark green textured grass, and Bahia, resembling a dense sod of tapered, dark green blades. But Southern Californians can also find success growing St. Augustine grass. Along with Bahia, a light green, creeping grass known as Centipede is commonly grown in the southeast, where rainfall is abundant, while Zoysia, a highly drought-resistant grass with thick, soft, light to medium green blades, is more frequently grown in the South.

Warm-season grass species are prized for their ease of maintenance, with requirements typically limited to irrigation every three to seven days, fertilization on a semiannual basis, and regular mowing to variable heights.

Growing conditions can vary among warm-season species. Zoysia, for example, can be grown in partial shade, while Centipede and most varieties of St. Augustine grass require full sun exposure to thrive. Moreover, each grass type can withstand wear, disease, and insects to varying degrees. Zoysia is one of the quickest to mend itself, and is also resistant to weed infiltration. Centipede grass, though rarely plagued by disease or pests, is slow to mend after damage, making it less suited to high-traffic lawns.

WARM-SEASON GRASSES (ARID): Bermuda, Buffalo

If you live in the Deep South, chances are you get enough sun to successfully grow either Bermuda or Buffalo grass. Both varieties of grasses are desirable on residential lawns for their low maintenance and relatively strong resistance to drought, disease, and pests. But because both require full sun exposure for optimal growth, avoid sowing them in shady areas.

Bermuda is one of the rare warm-season grasses that can grow in both arid and humid warm climates. Its dense, dark green blades make it the turfgrass of choice for play areas. Moreover, the deep root system of Bermuda grass allows it to withstand and recover from heavy wear, making it an apt choice for areas where pets and children play. While the thin, softly-colored blue-green turf of Buffalo grass makes it a uniform-looking and attractive lawn option, the species is not well-suited for high-traffic lawns.

COOL-SEASON GRASSES (HUMID): Kentucky Bluegrass, Ryegrass, Tall and Fine Fescues

High humidity areas in the Northeast, Upper Midwest, and Pacific Northwest create prime conditions for winter-proof grasses such as dense, bright green to blue-green Kentucky Bluegrass, shiny, finely-textured dark green Ryegrass, moderately dense, medium to dark green Tall Fescue, or the deep green turf of Fine Fescue—boasting the thinnest blades of all lawn grasses.

While sowing a single cool-season grass is usually sufficient to maintain a green winter lawn, homeowners with high-traffic lawns can opt to grow two or more cool-season grasses together to achieve more wear-resistant turf. For example, Ryegrass and Fine Fescue can grow in shade, while Kentucky Bluegrass loves full sun—but if you sow the three species together on an area that receives a mix of sun and shade, the combination grass should do well, even if your lawn receives full sun or shade only intermittently. As a highly disease-resistant and pest-hardy grass, Ryegrass can also serve to bolster the resistance of Kentucky Bluegrass.

Annual or perennial Ryegrass can also be planted over warm-season grasses. Using this symbiotic approach, lawns can maintain a lush appearance in winter, because when warm-season grasses go dormant, Ryegrass stays green. Later, when the warm-season grass turns green again in spring, the Ryegrass will die off.

Even when planted as single species, cool-season grasses require only moderate maintenance. Fine Fescue can get by with irrigation as infrequent as once a week, and can even go without mowing for a more natural, prairie-like appearance. Kentucky Bluegrass, however, should be watered weekly to moisten its deep root system.

COOL-SEASON GRASSES (ARID): Canadian Bluegrass, Wheatgrass

Live in the cold and arid climate of the west or western Midwest? Canadian Bluegrass and Wheatgrass may be your prime picks. These grass species can be cultivated in either shade or full sun. Canadian Bluegrass, aptly named for its bluish-green, canoe-shaped blades, is particularly hardy grass, able to recover quickly from damage—one reason it can still be spotted in drought-ridden areas with poor soil conditions, which a less resilient grass couldn’t survive. Wheatgrass, resembling a tuft of vivid green needles, can be prone to mold, but a moderate, dry climate with indirect sun exposure can help prevent fungus from forming.

 

A good-looking lawn, whatever the grass type, lives and dies by your knowledge of proper mowing techniques. Take a lesson from these common lawn care mistakes, then kick your mowing routine into gear for a flawless yard.

Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from BobVila.com
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.


How To: Pressure Wash a House

Get the skills you need to obtain a spotless exterior.

How to Pressure Wash a House

Photo: istockphoto.com

There may not be a magic wand to instantly banish years of mildew, soot, dirt, and grime from your home’s exterior, but pressure washing can get rid of unattractive build-up to restore a tidier look to traditional stucco, aluminum, steel, wood, and brick. Pressure washing can be performed every few years for general maintenance; it’s also a great way to prepare an exterior for painting.

The task takes some skill, however, and strict adherence to these guidelines for how to pressure wash a house. Spraying too aggressively could harm siding or paint—and in fact, pressure washing is not recommended for hardboard, bottle-dash, and rock-dash stucco, all of which could easily be damaged by the process. You’re bound to be in for some physical labor, too: Serious scrubbing is virtually guaranteed if it’s been a long time since the last pressure wash. And failure to follow all safety measures to the letter could result in personal injury (if your home is higher than one story, you may be best advised to hire a pro for the job).

Pressure washers use a high-pressure water spray ideal for tough cleaning jobs on boats, sidewalks, and decks, as well as houses. Their power is measured in pounds per square inch (psi)—the amount of pressure the liquid contents put on the walls of its container. They are available in gas and electric models; the gas variety can create greater psi and is advised for tougher jobs and hardier material. It’s also portable, so better suited to hard-to-reach areas.

The psi required for building materials varies. Painted soft-grain wood siding, stucco, and aluminum siding are best treated with 1,200 to 1,500 psi models. For delicate stucco, it’s also best to use a 25- to 30-degree wider spray nozzle to disperse water over a wider area and with less force, preventing any gouging or nicking. For rugged, unpainted materials like brick, stone, vinyl, and steel, it’s recommended to use a machine rated for 2,500 to 3,000 psi.

Professionals charge anywhere from 10 to 80 cents per square foot, while gas and electric pressure washers may be rented from large home centers for about $100 a day. If you decide to DIY the job, speak with the rental agent and refer to the manual to ensure you’re picking the right machine for the job. Have the rental agent demonstrate how to attach and detach nozzles to the spraying wand, then try it yourself to become familiar with it. Also, ask for a demonstration on attaching the extension wand as well. Note: The bulky equipment starts at around 75 pounds and can exceed 150 pounds, depending on the power and size of the model, so you may need a helper and a truck to get it home.

The instructions ahead are for pressure washing a house with exterior siding. Choose a mild day in spring or fall to tackle the project; preferably avoid strong summer sun, which could dry the cleaning agents before you could rinse them off. With a combination of proper cleaning products, scrubbing, technique, and a good rinse, your home will clean as a whistle once again.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Drop cloths or plastic sheeting
– Duct tape
– Measuring cup
– House-cleaning detergent with mildewcide
– Bleach
– 5-gallon mixing bucket
– Siding brush with extension handle (optional)
– Stiff deck-cleaning brush with extension handle (optional)
– Garden sprayer
– Garden hose
– Safety goggles or safety-rated sunglasses
– Pressure washer with 15- to 30-degree nozzles
– Gasoline (if using a gas-powered pressure washer)
– Extension cord (if using an electric pressure washer)
– 6-foot to 12-foot extension wand
– Rolling, lockable-wheel scaffold (optional)

SAFETY FIRST!

Follow these precautions when taking on a pressure wash project:

• Wear eye protection. Projectiles of dirt, rock, wood, or anything the water hits are a common hazard.

• Pressure washers are powerful enough to tear off skin or cause blindness if sprayed at eye-level. Never goof around with the equipment to spray a friend or use it to “rinse” your hands or feet.

• Water and electricity are a dangerous combination. Close any outdoor plug outlets, or cover them with duct tape to prevent water from getting inside. Also be aware of any overhead power lines that could be struck by the extension wand, and be careful to avoid these as you work.

How to Pressure Wash a House

Photo: istockphoto.com

• Never use a ladder with a power washer. Washer recoil could propel you off right off (even if a helper holds the ladder). Pros commonly use scaffolding, due to the dangerous threat of recoil. If your home is taller than a single story, and you are adamant about DIYing the job, rent, borrow, or buy (for about $200) a six-foot rolling, lockable-wheel scaffolding. Combined with your reach and a 12-foot extension wand, you could be able to manage 24 feet of cleaning.

 

STEP 1
Protect shrubbery, gardens, lawn, and by covering with drop cloths or plastic sheeting. Secure all sheeting/cloths with duct tape.

STEP 2
Follow the package’s instructions for your detergent with mildewcide (available where you rent the machine or home centers) to mix it with water in the five-gallon bucket. Add bleach at a volume of one part for every nine parts of the mildewcide-detergent solution. Pour this solution into the garden sprayer.

STEP 3
Set the pressure washer up prior to scrubbing so it will be ready to go. Locate the hose mount on the back of the pressure washer, and attach the garden hose to this mount as well as to the hose faucet on the outside of the house. For harder surfaces and a higher psi, use a 15-degree spray nozzle. For softer surfaces and a lower psi, choose a 25- or 30-degree nozzle. If you’re doing a two-story structure, you’ll want to do the top floor first, so attach the extension wand. Also set up the scaffolding in advance, following manufacturer’s instructions. Position it far enough from the wall that you can stand in the center of the scaffolding and have between 1.5- to 3-feet reach, with the wand held comfortably in hand. Remember to lock the wheels in position before using the scaffold.

STEP 4
Thoroughly spray a six- to 10-foot section of a single floor of your home with the mildewcide solution. Starting from the bottom of the section and working your way up, gently but firmly scour the siding with the soft siding brush. Working “up” is most effective because, if you start from the top, suds and liquid will run down the wall, potentially obscuring sections enough that you overlook them. If doing a two-story home, start scrubbing on the top floor first, but cleaning from the scaffolding’s “floor” up to the top of the house.

STEP 5
Once the first section is thoroughly scrubbed, don the safety goggles. Standing a three-foot nozzle-to-wall distance, turn on the pressure washer. If this stance allows you to remove dirt without damage, maintain it. If not, move in at increments of four to six inches and gauge the cleaning power, and continue to work from whatever distance seems fitting.

STEP 6
Once you’ve established the right distance, start at the top of the scrubbed section. Spray overhangs first and work your way down. To prevent water from getting under the siding, reach up with both arms (as high as you can safely without recoil knocking you off balance) and angle the sprayer down to a 45-degree angle.

STEP 7
Move on to the next section, repeating Steps 4 through 6, until you’ve cleaned the entire home. When finished, pull up the drop cloths and plastic sheeting, toss the duct tape out, and put the cleaning agents and equipment away. Wait at least two days for the exterior to dry thoroughly before any paintwork you plan to do—or simply admire your sparkling clean home!

 

How to Pressure Wash a House

Photo: istockphoto.com


Solved! The Best Time to Plant Grass Seed

Dreaming of a lush lawn? The trick to successful sowing is a clear understanding of your type of grass and the climate it thrives in.

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When to Plant Grass Seed, Solved!

Photo: istockphoto.com

Q: I’d like to lay some grass seed this year, but I don’t want to get the timing wrong and create more work than necessary. What’s the best time of year to sow a new lawn from scratch?

A: More than anything else, when to plant grass seed depends largely on the climate in your part of the world and the types of grasses that thrive in them.

Grass seed generally falls into two categories: warm-weather and cool-weather varieties. Each of these varieties requires different maintenance and—you guessed it—minimum sowing requirements to grow good-looking grass.

● As you might imagine, warm-weather grasses (including bahia, Bermuda, centipede, and St. Augustine) thrive in climates with mild winters and hot summers and don’t require as much water as other grasses. Since they germinate and grow in temperatures above 80 degrees, you’ll want to wait to plant them when that’s the average daily temperature in the forecast for the next week. That may be any time between March and September, depending on your part of the country. Take care not to distribute your seeds just before heavy rains, though, which can erode the soil and disrupt germination. (Planting right after it rains is fine, but dry soil is generally easier to seed.)

Cool-weather grasses such as bluegrass and ryegrass, on the other hand, fare best in places where summers are temperate and winter days often dip below freezing. Requiring more hydration (often delivered via snowfall), these varieties lie dormant in warmer summer months and do most of their growing in autumn and spring. September is typically when to plant grass seed for cool-weather varieties, although you might be able to get away with seeding as early as mid-August or as late as mid-October. The deciding factor, here again, is temperature: When temperatures begin to dip below 60 degrees, evaporation rates are lower and irrigation is more efficient.

● If you live in an area that falls between those two climate zones, you’re in what’s considered a transitional region. Cool-weather grasses (with late summer/early fall preparation) are more likely than their warm-weather cousins to flourish in a zone that falls in between the extremes, but homeowners in these zones may well plant a mix of both—cool-weather grass sown in late fall and warm-weather planted during the spring and summer months of the following year. You may also take your neighborhood’s altitude into consideration as well. Some local research via the USDA’s recommended university extension programs might benefit you if you’re in a vertiginous area, for example, and looking for a safe choice. Otherwise, consult the professionals at your local home and garden center for best bets.

When to Plant Grass Seed for a Lush Lawn

Photo: istockphoto.com

Time when you plant grass seed well after you’ve last applied herbicides. Ideally, you’ll want to wait at least a month after chemically treating your existing lawn for weeds before you lay down new grass seeds. If you’ve used a crabgrass prevention product, though, the recommended waiting period is even longer—usually around four months. Ideally you plan your lawn maintenance well in advance so that you can wait out the appropriate amount of time before your part of the country sees ideal temperatures for seed germination. If you didn’t save yourself enough time to weed before seeding, know that you can safely resume your weed prevention routine once your new lawn has been mowed at least four or five times.

Scheduling your seeding depends on when you have the time to prep the soil. As the time for seeding draws near, allot a weekend on your calendar for a bit of prep work. Starting with bare ground? Loosen the top two inches of soil, remove any materials (i.e. sticks and stones) that could block airflow. Otherwise, if you’re working with an existing lawn that just needs some rehabilitation, take the weekend to mow it as short as you can and loosen up the soil in any bald spots. Then, no matter whether your lot is bare or simply balding, inspect that the surface is as level as possible and add fresh topsoil wherever it dips; this helps prevent puddles of standing water once you begin the irrigation process. With this prep work under your belt, you’re ready to begin sowing grass seeds—and soon—enjoying a lush lawn.

 

Seeds already sown? It won’t be long before it’s time to mow that grass. Before you get started, make sure you don’t commit these cardinal sins of mowing.

Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from BobVila.com
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.