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Choosing a New Appliance: Gas vs. Electric Dryers

Which is cheaper to run? Dries your clothes quicker? Lets you do DIY troubleshooting? Read on to get a load of the differences between these two types of must-have machines!

Shopping for Laundry Room Appliances? The Lowdown on Gas vs Electric Dryers

Photo: istockphoto.com

As you no doubt know, dryers operate by either electricity or gas. An electric dryer (which has a lifespan of about 14 years) employs an inner coil to generate heat, which is then circulated by a fan as the clothes tumble in a rotating drum. A gas dryer (life expectancy: 13 years) works on the same principle, except the heat is produced by a gas burner. An electric dryer requires a 240V outlet to provide enough juice to produce heat and tumble the clothes. A gas dryer requires both a gas supply line and a 120V electric outlet; the lower, 120V outlet is used only for tumbling the clothes and running the fan—the gas burner produces the heat.

One of your home’s hardest working appliances has got to be the clothes dryer, so if yours is about to conk out, you’ll soon be in the market for a new one. While the type that’s best for you may ultimately come down to the existing utility hookups in your home, there are several notable differences between gas and electric dryers. Consider the following key distinctions in the question of “gas vs electric dryers” while shopping for the right replacement.

Electric dryers are more common. You’ll find more electric than gas models on the showroom floor because virtually all homes have electricity. In many communities, however, homes have both electric and gas lines, allowing a choice between appliances. Most gas dryers are designed to run on natural gas, as that’s what runs through community gas lines, but rural dwellers might not have access to it. In that case, a natural gas dryer can easily be made to run on propane via a conversion kit that costs between $30 and $40.

Gas dryers must always be vented. When gas dryers operate, the combustion that takes place inside produces carbon monoxide, which must be vented either outdoors or into a suitable HVAC ventilation system. Most electric dryers also require venting to keep from blowing hot, moist air into the home. Some newer electrical models, however, eliminate the need for venting. Similar to the process that takes place in an HVAC unit, a ventless dryer recirculates hot moist air through a loop system that cools the air, removes the moisture, and recirculates the air back through the dryer. A ventless electric dryer is a good choice where there’s no suitable way to install an exhaust vent.

Shopping for Laundry Room Appliances? The Lowdown on Gas vs Electric Dryers

Photo: istockphoto.com

Gas dryers cost more than electric dryers. A mid-range electric dryer runs around $400 to $600, while a mid-range gas dryer will set you back $500 to $750. On average, a gas dryer will run approximately $100 more than an electric dryer of the same style and quality. When it comes to high-end dryers, however, price differences between are less. A top-end dryer, gas or electric, runs $1,200 to $1,600. At that range, added costs have less to do with the power source and more to do with such bells and whistles as whisper-quiet operation, delayed start modes, and even steam cycles that dry clothes virtually wrinkle-free. All ventless dryers are electric and if you want one, you’ll pay on average, $75 to $125 more than a standard vented model.

Gas dryers are pricier to install. While a handy homeowner with some DIY skills can often install an electric dryer just by plugging the dryer in a 240V outlet and connecting its vent hose to an in-wall exhaust hookup. A licensed plumber, however, is required to hook up a gas dryer, because gas line connections must be carefully fitted and then tested to ensure that no gas leaks will occur. This can add $75 to $125 to the cost.

Maintenance and repair costs are higher for gas dryers. A DIYer can often troubleshoot operating problems that occur with an electric dryer, such as replacing worn belts or a faulty switch or even installing a new heating element if the old one goes out. But repairs to gas dryers usually require the services of a qualified technician. A typical service call, excluding any necessary replacement parts, can run $75 to $125, and if the technician must make more than one trip, costs can add up quickly. During the warranty period for either type of dryer, you’ll want to contact the manufacturer and have them set up the service call, which will often be free.

Gas dryers cost less to operate. If by now you’re wondering why anyone would wish to dry with gas, it’s this: In most areas, natural gas and propane are less expensive than electricity, so it costs approximately half as much to dry a load in a gas dryer versus an electric one. Gas dryers typically cost 15 to 25 cents per load to dry, whereas it may cost 30 to 40 cents per load in an electric dryer. While you will pay more initially for a gas dryer, the operating savings over time will often make up the difference.

Gas dryers work faster. On average, a gas dryer can dry a load in about half the time of an electric dryer. Gas dryers heat up more quickly because their burners fire immediately producing instant heat. Electric dryers dry slower because their heating elements take longer to warm up, and they never get quite as hot as a gas burner, so you’ll be waiting on those jeans and sheets quite a bit longer (though there are a few things you can do to help your appliance dry clothes faster).

Gas and electric dryers present different safety concerns. Gas-powered appliances always pose a concern because ill-fitting gas line connections can lead to gas leaks in the home—a potential fire hazard. Improperly vented gas dryers also increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. If you have any gas appliances, it’s a good idea to have a carbon monoxide detector located nearby. Electric dryers also pose a small risk of fire, or electrocution, due to improper installation or faulty wiring. Don’t let that scare you, however: When installed correctly, and maintained properly, such as emptying lint filters after every load, not overloading the dryer past its approved capacity, keeping the area around the dryer free from lint and dust buildup, and not using an extension cord, both gas and electric dryers are very safe household conveniences.


Video: These 11 Items Should Never Go in the Trash

Beware, homeowners: Before you toss those everyday items in the trash, make sure you're not breaking the law or endangering your local environment.

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Conscientious homeowners may already know that there’s a right and a wrong way to dispose of unwanted items. For instance, many people are aware that leftover cooking oil belongs in the trash—not poured down the kitchen sink—and that lawn waste can be composted instead of left on the curb for trash pickup. On the flip side, not everyone has the facts about which household trash items should never go in the bin. Watch and learn about some of the most dangerous (and illegal) items to dump in the landfill. To get more information about safe disposal alternatives, click here.

For more trash removal hints, consider:

9 Little Tricks to Make Trash Day Less of a Chore

Let It Go: 14 Things to Trash Without Thinking Twice

10 Things Never to Flush Down the Toilet


This DIY Christmas Tree Stand Makes Your Fake Fir Look Real (and Taller!)

An exposed tree base is a dead giveaway that your fir is fake. Upgrade yours with a wooden stand that hides its metal legs and even makes your tree appear taller!

How to Make a DIY Christmas Tree Stand

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

You’ve adorned every limb with baubles, tinsel, and ribbon, but what’s a fully decorated tree if its base remains bare? This year, instead of leaving it exposed or simply draping a blanket around it on the floor, build the perfect finishing touch for your fake tree: a DIY Christmas tree stand. This boxy wooden base will elevate your tree both figuratively and literally by raising it 7-½ inches off the floor—perfect for showcasing your decorations and providing plenty of room for Christmas presents.

 

How to Make a DIY Christmas Tree Stand

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
1×3 lumber (40 feet)
2×3 lumber (6 feet)
Handsaw
Carpenter’s square
Wood glue
1inch nails
Hammer
Palm sander
60 and 120grit sandpaper
¾inch corner molding (or larger)
2inch metal brackets (4)
Cordless drill
1½inch screws
 6mm plywood
Jigsaw (optional)
Pencil
 Stain
Varnish
Brush

 

How to Make a DIY Christmas Tree Stand

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 1
Measure the diameter of your metal tree stand before diving right in. These instructions build a wooden box with a high bottom to fit stands that are 17 inches across, but it can be adjusted to accommodate the wider ones meant for extremely large trees.

Start with the box sides. Cut your 1x3s (which will actually measure to be ¾ inches by 2-½ inches) into 20 slats that are each 19 inches long; you should be able to get four from each length. Then, cut your 2×3 lumber (which measure to be 1-½ inches by 2-½ inches) into four 12-½”-long pieces to reinforce the corners of the box.

To assemble the first side of the box, place two 2x3s next to one another, positioned so that their 2-½-inch side faces up and they have about 14 inches between them. Lay five 1x3s across the top of both and attach them with wood glue and 1-inch nails (two in each end). Use a square as needed to help keep your DIY Christmas tree stand’s lines perfectly straight. Repeat this process to create a second identical box side.

 

How to Make a DIY Christmas Tree Stand

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 2
Once the glue is dry, stand both sides vertically (with the 2×3 ends in the air) so that they face each other 14-½ inches apart. Check again that your sides are square to one another, and fasten five lumber pieces across the two sides using wood glue and nails.

Repeat on the other open side.

 

How to Make a DIY Christmas Tree Stand

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 3
Sand the outside of the box, especially on the edges. You can start with a 60-grit sandpaper and finish with a 120-grit for a nice smooth finish.

 

How to Make a DIY Christmas Tree Stand

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 4
Cut corner molding (any size larger than ¾-inch by ¾-inch works well here) into four pieces that are all 12-½ inches long. Glue those L-shaped onto the outside of each corner on the DIY Christmas tree stand to hide the nails and the boards’ exposed edges.

 

How to Make a DIY Christmas Tree Stand

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 5
Measure five inches down from the top of the box and mark on each corner 2×3. Then, secure 2-inch metal brackets at each mark by boring 1-½-inch screws directly into the corners of the DIY Christmas tree stand. Those four brackets will hold the plywood board (see Step 6), which supports the weight of the tree.

 

How to Make a DIY Christmas Tree Stand

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 6
Cut a 19-inch by 17-½-inch rectangle from the 6mm plywood board. (It’s easier to do with a jigsaw, but it totally works with a handsaw, too.)

Then, you’ll need to make notches in the corners so that it can lower into the box, between the 1×3 edges and around the 2x3s. The easiest way to do this is to lift the entire box and place it on top of the plywood board, positioned just so that only the plywood’s corners are covered. Trace around the 2x3s at the corners, then lift the box away so that you can cut them out.

Sand the board’s edges and any raised grain.

 

How to Make a DIY Christmas Tree Stand

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 7
Slide the board with notched edges into the top of the DIY Christmas tree stand. Since we’ve sized it for a snug fit, you can pretty much count on it not moving around too much. Just apply a little construction adhesive to the tops of the brackets to hold the plywood in place.

 

How to Make a DIY Christmas Tree Stand

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 8
Stain or paint your DIY Christmas tree stand. We chose a very light coat for ours, which is versatile enough to work with a Scandinavian white-and-wood wintry theme one year and buffalo check and country Christmas decorations the next.

After the finish has dried following the manufacturer’s recommendations, apply a coat of varnish on top to help it last for many holidays to come.

 

How to Make a DIY Christmas Tree Stand

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 9
Place the feet of your artificial tree inside the top of this DIY Christmas tree stand, cover with batting to look like snow or burlap, and you’re all set to decorate. Merry Christmas!

 

How to Make a DIY Christmas Tree Stand

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Looking for fresh ideas for how to trim the tree? Check out these 25 super-simple DIY ornaments that you can knock out before the big day.

 

How to Make a DIY Christmas Tree Stand

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Ama is a DIY addict and the creative mind behind Ohoh Blog. She likes home decor, lighting, and furniture projects that may involve painting, sewing, drilling…no matter the technique! Whatever she has on hand is inspiration to create, and fodder for her serious addiction to upcycling.


Solved! When to Use Your Oven’s Confusing “Self-Clean” Function

Weigh the pros and cons of using the self-clean feature of your oven before putting it to the test.

Self-Cleaning Ovens 101: If and When to Use The Cleaning Feature

Photo: istockphoto.com

Q: The oven in my new house has a self-clean feature, but I’ve heard there are pros and cons to using it. Should I try it, and is it a viable replacement for manually cleaning my oven?

A: On paper, it’s a home-keeper’s dream come true: an oven that actually cleans itself! In practice, this function—developed in the early 1960s for both gas and electric ovens—can be confusing, even controversial. In fact, self-cleaning ovens are only used by slightly under half of all households in America according to 2001 U.S. Census data. The term is actually something of a misnomer, too, because there will always be some manual cleaning involved. What’s more, the function is by no means intended to replace a hands-on cleaning routine.

Some folks swear by the time-saving convenience, while others have sworn it off due to a few unfortunate drawbacks—and we’ve laid it all out here to help you decide whether or not this feature will work for you.

Self-Cleaning Ovens 101: If and When to Use The Cleaning Feature

Photo: istockphoto.com

It does the heavy lifting. The self-clean function works by blasting either high heat or steam throughout the oven interior to release hardened food remains. This saves the time and effort of getting on your knees and scouring stubborn gunk with a scrubber and also does away with the need for pricey, chemical-laden commercial cleaners. Simply start a self-clean cycle and allow it to work; then, when the cycle is complete, use a water-dampened rag to manually remove loosened debris from the oven’s smooth, heat-resistant enamel coating.

• In high-heat models, the self-clean cycle is usually initiated by closing the oven door and setting the oven to a “self-clean” mode. The oven door automatically locks and the temperature rises to between 900 to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit to incinerate any food remains, in a cycle lasting between two to six hours. Once the cycle is complete and the oven has cooled completely, the door automatically unlocks.

• The self-clean cycle of a steam-based model is usually initiated by pouring roughly one cup of distilled water into a floor cavity, then closing the door and setting the appliance to “steam clean” mode. During the cycle, which lasts only half an hour to an hour, the oven door remains unlocked and the interior temperature rises to only around 250 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to generate steam that softens and loosens food remains.

High heat beats steam on heavy-duty grime. High-temperature self-cleaning ovens evenly distribute heat throughout the chamber, so you’ll rarely find leftover food residue on the sidewalls or ceiling. Steam-based self-clean cycles, however, tend to generate the most steam near the oven floor (where the water is poured)—so while this effectively removes food debris on the oven floor and lower sidewalls, you may still need to manually scrub the ceiling and upper sidewalls.

Beware of fumes and oven failures. Both high-heat and steam self-cleaning ovens can emit unpleasant burning odors and fumes, and even harmful by-products like carbon monoxide from the vent of the oven during the cleaning cycle. High-heat models tend to emit a higher volume of more noxious fumes due to the extreme temperature. These fumes emanate from both food particles and the enamel lining that coats the oven interior. Fumes circulating in the kitchen can irritate pets, children, and adults, especially those who suffer from respiratory conditions.

Excessive heat buildup in the oven can also short a thermal fuse or burn out a heating element. While a one-time do-it-yourself replacement of either a blown fuse or a heating element should set you back no more than $30 in parts, repeat occurrences can become costly and time-consuming.

Replacement parts won’t be the only expenses with the self-clean feature. Consider the amount of energy (and the money) it takes to run the oven at such high levels for an extended period of time. A single high-heat self-clean cycle can rack up 8 Kilowatt (kWh) hours of energy on average (roughly the equivalent of a month’s use of a traditional oven), while the average steam self-clean cycle consumes less than 3 kWh of energy.

Self-Cleaning Ovens 101: If and When to Use The Cleaning Feature

Photo: istockphoto.com

Proper preparation is key. If you choose to try out the feature, you can take steps to mitigate the risks of using the self-clean setting and ensure that the clean cycle runs without hiccups. Follow these safety rules:

• Install a carbon monoxide detector in your kitchen to monitor for harmful fumes.

• Before running a self-clean cycle, remove all pots and pans and any metal oven grates or tin foil shards. In the high heat of the self-clean cycle, the debris on charred metal grates can catch fire, while tin foil can melt on top of the oven’s interior lining and warp it.

• Prior to using the feature, remove any large fallen chunks of food from the oven floor with a pair of tongs to prevent them from smoking and emitting fumes. Similarly, wipe up any visible spills with a water-dampened rag.

• If your oven allows you to adjust the time of the self-clean cycle, set it to the shortest possible duration to reduce the risk of overheating (which can lead to blown fuses) and also reduce energy consumption.

• Prior to starting a self-clean cycle, ensure the oven vent, located above or below the oven door or behind the oven door handle, is uncovered. If you have a range (an oven connected to a stove), turn on the exhaust fan on the range hood to ensure that fumes get expelled to the outdoors. If you don’t have a range hood, ventilate the room by opening windows.

• Aim to use the self-cleaning feature no more than five times per year, or only when the oven is heavily soiled. Schedule these days well before or after holidays or other occasions when you know you’ll need the oven so that any malfunction won’t interfere with your hosting duties.

Maintain a manual cleaning routine. The self-clean feature wasn’t designed to replace the manual cleaning method. Following oven use, wipe down wet food or liquids from the inner door glass, sidewalls, floor, and ceiling with a water-dampened rag. On a monthly basis, clean the interior and grates of your self-cleaning oven as you would clean a traditional oven, preferably using the safe, natural agents of white vinegar, baking soda, and water. Never use abrasive cleaning utensils (e.g., steel wool) or chemical cleaners in self-cleaning ovens, which could easily damage the interior enamel coating.


Video: 11 Trusted Techniques for Flu-Proofing Your Home

Let's face it: Even mostly clean homes are hotbeds for germs—not great news as cold and flu season ramps up. Take control of your space with these helpful hints.

The world is full of germs—we encounter them every day on our way to work, at school, or as we prepare dinner in the kitchen. With all the nastiness that we encounter day in and day out, it may seem like it’s impossible to dodge flu and cold germs going around this time of year. Luckily, that’s not entirely true. There are several steps you can take at home to protect your family from almost certain illness. While we can’t guarantee that following these tricks will keep you illness-free all season, experts agree that following this helpful advice might be more effective than you’d expect.

For more healthy home advice, consider:

10 Ways You’re Accidentally Poisoning Your Home

7 Reasons Every Home Needs a Humidifier

The 10 Best Winter Buys for a Happy, Healthy Home


Official Rules: Bob Vila’s $4,000 Smart Storage Giveaway with IKEA

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Bob Vila’s $4,000 Smart Storage Giveaway with IKEA (the “Sweepstakes”) is sponsored by Vila Media, LLC, Post Office Box 835, West Barnstable, MA 02668 (“Sponsor”). The Sweepstakes consists of four (4) random drawings; one (1) Winner per random drawing and one (1) prize awarded per random drawing.

The Sweepstakes and entry period begins at 12:00 p.m. EST on December 31, 2017, and runs through January 31, 2018 (the “Sweepstakes Period”). NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. MAKING A PURCHASE DOES NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. ODDS OF WINNING WILL DEPEND ON THE TOTAL NUMBER OF ENTRIES RECEIVED. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. AFFIDAVIT OF ELIGIBILITY AND RELEASE OF LIABILITY FORM MAY BE REQUIRED.

Open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia who are age 18 or older. Void in all other geographic locations. Employees of Sponsor and its respective parents, affiliates, subsidiaries, and advertising and promotion agencies and any other entity involved in the development or administration of this Sweepstakes, and their immediate family members or household members are not eligible to participate in or win the Sweepstakes. Sponsor reserves the right to disqualify any person who fails to meet the eligibility requirements or any person it determines, in its sole discretion, to be sufficiently connected with the Sweepstakes such that such person’s participation could create the appearance of impropriety. Entries generated by script, macro or other automated means are void, and Sponsor expressly reserves the right to disqualify any entries that it believes in good faith are generated by an automated program or via scripts. Entries that are determined, in the sole discretion of the Sponsor to constitute advertisements, commercial messages, or “spam” will be disqualified and deleted. Void where prohibited by law. All applicable federal, state and local laws apply. No purchase is necessary to participate in the Sweepstakes.

You may enter any given Drawing one (1) time per household per day by visiting the BOB VILA website at http://www.bobvila.com and submitting your name and email address using the online “Bob Vila’s $4,000 Smart Storage Giveaway with IKEA” submission form. Each entry submitted in response to a Drawing and in accordance with the Official Rules will constitute an official entry. Duplicate entries submitted through either method within one day will be deemed void. If you do not have internet access, alternative means of entry for each Drawing is available by faxing your name, address and phone number to the Sponsor at 508-437-8486 during the Sweepstakes Period. One (1) alternate entry per household per day. Any additional entries submitted via fax within one day will be deemed void. Entries received after the end of the Sweepstakes Period will be deemed void. Normal time, toll, connection and usage rates, if any, charged by your Internet service provider will apply. All entries become the property of the Sponsor. By entering any Drawing during the Sweepstakes, you will be agreeing that any information collected in connection with the Sweepstakes may be used by Sponsor in accordance with Vila Media, LLC’s Privacy Policy, a current copy of which can be found here. By participating, all entrants agree to abide by these Official Rules.

At the end of the Sweepstakes Period, employees or representatives of Sponsor will hold four (4) Drawings in which four (4) potential winners (“Winner”) shall be selected from all eligible entries to receive the prize designated for the respective Drawing. A limit of one (1) prize and one (1) Winner for each Drawing. Each winning entry will be chosen at random. The number of eligible entries received during the Sweepstakes Period determines the odds of winning for the Drawings. The Sweepstakes will be conducted under the supervision of the Sponsor. If the Winner is determined to be ineligible, forfeits or does not claim the prize, the prize will be re-awarded, in Sponsor’s sole discretion based on a subsequent drawing from the pool of eligible entries. Other restrictions may apply. Decisions of the Sponsor are final and binding with respect to all matters related to the Sweepstakes. All prizes (or in the event of a lost, misdirected, or otherwise unavailable prize, a prize of equivalent value) will be awarded. In no event shall the Sponsor be obligated to award more prizes than the number of prizes stated in these Official Rules. Winners shall be responsible and liable for all federal, state and local taxes on the value of their prize. Must be 18 or older to win.

To receive a complete list of winners or a copy of the Official Rules, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Prize Fulfillment, Vila Media, LLC, PO Box 835 West Barnstable, MA 02668. Specify winner’s list or rules on your request. The Winner will be notified by email, or in the case of alternate entry, by phone; Sponsor reserves the right to determine the method of notification. The Winner must claim their respective prize within twenty-four (24) hours after the date of notification of their prize. A Winner’s failure to respond to the prize notification within the specified twenty-four (24) hours will be considered such Winner’s forfeiture of the prize and an alternate Winner may be selected from the pool of eligible entries. If an entrant is found to be ineligible, an alternate Winner may also be selected from the pool of eligible entries. Sponsor reserves the right to ship prizes directly to the mailing address (as applicable) provided by Winners during their entry to the Drawings. Prizes will be shipped via regular ground mail up to four (4) weeks after the official Winner is declared for each drawing.

The prizes for the Drawing held shall be from IKEA. Four (4) winners will receive a $1,000 gift card. No transfer, substitution or cash redemption will be awarded in lieu of Prize. Limit one prize per entrant. Prizes shall be delivered within 30 days after the winner is verified. An entrant or winner may be disqualified from the Sweepstakes, and his or her entry may be deleted, if he or she fails to comply with each provision of these Official Rules, as determined in the sole discretion of the Sponsor. Participation in the Sweepstakes is at entrant’s own risk. The total approximate retail value of all prizes to be awarded in this Sweepstakes is $4,000. Income and all other federal, state and local taxes (if any) are the sole responsibility of each Winner.

Sponsor shall not be liable for (1) failed, returned or misdirected notifications based on inaccurate information provided by the winner on the Drawings entry forms, (2) entries and responses to winner notifications which are lost, late, incomplete, illegible, unintelligible, postage-due, misdirected, damaged or otherwise not received by the intended recipient in whole or in part or for computer or technical error of any kind, (3) any electronic miscommunications or failures, technical hardware or software failures of any kind, lost or unavailable network connections, or failed incomplete, garbled or delayed computer transmissions which may limit an entrant’s ability to participate in part or wholly in the Sweepstakes, (4) any technical malfunctions of the telephone network, computer on-line system, computer equipment, software, program malfunctions or other failures, delayed computer transactions or network connections that are human, mechanical or technical in nature, or any combination thereof, including any injury or damage to entrant’s or any other person’s computer related to or resulting from downloading any part of this Sweepstakes or (5) any warranty of fitness or merchantability of any prize or the function or operation thereof, which shall be the sole responsibility of the manufacturer of the prize. Sponsor does not make any, and hereby disclaims any and all, representations or warranties of any kind regarding any prize. Unless prohibited by applicable law, your entry constitutes your permission to use your name, photograph, likeness, voice, address (city and state) and testimonials in all media, in perpetuity, in any manner Sponsor deems appropriate for publicity purposes without any further compensation to such entrant.

By entering or accepting a prize in the Sweepstakes, the Winner agrees to be bound by these Official Rules and to conform to all federal, state and local laws and regulations. When applicable, the Winner may be required to execute and return to Sponsor within three (3) business days an Affidavit of Eligibility, a Liability and Publicity Release and relevant tax form W-9s to be eligible for the prize or an alternate winner may be selected. Winner may be required to furnish proof of identity, address and birth date in order to receive a prize. By entering, an entrant agrees to indemnify, release and hold harmless Sponsor, and each of their respective parents, subsidiaries and affiliated entities, directors, officers, employees, attorneys, agents, licensees and representatives (collectively, the “Released Parties”) from any damage, injury, death, loss, claim, action, demand, or other liability (collectively, “Claims”) that may arise from their acceptance, possession and/or use of any prize (or any part thereof) or their participation in the Sweepstakes, or from any misuse or malfunction of any prize awarded (or any part thereof), regardless of whether such Claims, or knowledge of the facts constituting such Claims, exist at the time of entry or arise at any time thereafter. Released Parties are not responsible or liable to any entrant or to any Winner or any person claiming through such Winner for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action, regulation, order or request by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action, regulations, order or request proves to be invalid), equipment failure, threatened terrorist acts, terrorist acts, air raid, blackout, act of public enemy, earthquake, war (declared or undeclared), fire, flood, epidemic, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal) labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond the Released Parties’ sole control.

The Released Parties are not responsible for: (1) any incorrect or inaccurate information, whether caused by entrants, printing, electronic or human errors or by any of the equipment or programming associated with or utilized in the Sweepstakes; (2) viruses or technical failures of any kind, including, but not limited to malfunctions, interruptions, or disconnections in phone lines or network hardware or software; failed, incorrect, incomplete, inaccurate, garbled or delayed electronic communications or entry information, any error, omission, interruption, deletion, defect, delay in operation or transmission, failures or technical malfunction of any computer online systems, servers, providers, computer equipment, software, email, players or browsers, whether on account of technical problems, traffic congestion on the Internet or at any website, or on account of any combination of the foregoing; (3) the unavailability or inaccessibility of any transmissions or telephone or Internet service; (4) unauthorized human intervention in any part of the entry process or the Sweepstakes; (5) technical or human error which may occur in the administration of the Sweepstakes or the processing of entries; (6) any injury or damage to persons or property which may be caused, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, from entrant’s participation in the Sweepstakes or receipt or use or misuse of any prize; or (7) late, lost, misdirected, illegible, incomplete or mutilated entries or for theft, destruction or unauthorized access to, or alteration of entries. These indemnification and release provisions shall survive expiration of the Sweepstakes.

Persons found tampering with, abusing, or otherwise disrupting any aspect of this Sweepstakes, or otherwise attempting to defraud Sponsor, as solely determined by Sponsor, will be disqualified and their entries will be deleted. If disqualified, Sponsor reserves the right to terminate the entrant’s eligibility to further participate in this Sweepstakes and future promotions and sweepstakes of Sponsor or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates. Any attempt by an entrant or any other individual to undermine the legitimate operation of this Sweepstakes may be a violation of criminal and civil laws. Should such an attempt be made, sponsor reserves the right to seek damages from any such person to the fullest extent permitted by law.

This Sweepstakes is strictly for promotional and entertainment purposes and may not be used in connection with any form of gambling. In the event this Sweepstakes is challenged by any legal or regulatory authority, Sponsor reserves the right to terminate the Sweepstakes, or to disqualify entrants residing in the affected geographic areas. In such event, the Sponsor shall have no liability to any entrants who are disqualified due to such an action. Sponsor reserves the right to modify these Official Rules in any way or at any time. Sponsor reserves the right, in their sole discretion, to cancel or suspend this Sweepstakes should viruses, bugs or other causes beyond their control corrupt the administration, security or proper play of the Sweepstakes. In the event any portion of this Sweepstakes is compromised by any non-authorized human intervention, actions of entrants, or other causes beyond the control of Sponsor which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, corrupt or impair the integrity, administration, security, or operation of this Sweepstakes, Sponsor reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to suspend, modify, abbreviate or terminate the Sweepstakes without further obligation. If Sponsor elects to abbreviate the Sweepstakes, Winner(s) will be determined from all eligible entries received for Drawing(s) prior to the action or compromise giving rise to the suspension or termination of this Sweepstakes. In the event of cancellation, abbreviation or suspension, Sponsor shall promptly post a notice on the Sweepstakes entry page to such effect.

This Sweepstakes shall be governed by New York law. By participating in this Sweepstakes entrants agree that New York courts shall have jurisdiction over any dispute or litigation arising from or relating to this Sweepstakes and that venue shall be only in New York City, New York. The failure to exercise or enforce any right or provision of these Official Rules shall not constitute a waiver of such right or provision. If any part of these Official Rules is held by a court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid or unenforceable, that part will be enforced to the maximum extent permitted by law, and the remainder of these Official Rules will remain fully in force.


How To: Clean Mattress Stains

Be good to your bed by banishing smelly, unsightly messes with a few household staples and these smart techniques.

How to Get Rid of Mattress Stains

Photo: istockphoto.com

A good mattress is a big-ticket purchase, but stains—from bodily fluids to breakfast-in-bed accidents—are often inevitable. What’s more, in most cases a visible stain will void the warranty on your mattress. So, protect your investment by making regular cleaning and stain removal part of your housecleaning routine. It’s easy to do, involving everyday ingredients that you no doubt already have hiding in your cleaning caddy. Here, we’ve laid out the essential formulas for how to clean mattress stains so that you can quickly banish any of the most common mattress mishaps (and rest easy once more).

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Vacuum with upholstery attachment
Spray bottle
Water
Dishwashing liquid
Hydrogen peroxide (3%)
Baking soda
Laundry detergent
Vinegar
Soft scrub brush or old toothbrush
Hand towel and/or sponge
Absorbent towel

STEP 1
Prep the mattress for stain removal by stripping all bedding and sheets. Give it a thorough vacuuming with the upholstery attachment and, as a “while you’re at it” measure, employ the crevice tool around all the piping, where dust and hair collect. Dust and hair may not be related to the stain you intend to treat, but removing them keeps down the dust mite population, which is especially important to restful sleep if you’re an allergy sufferer.

STEP 2
How to clean mattress stains will depend on the type of stains themselves. Target each stain with the appropriate cleaning technique.

How to Get Rid of Mattress Stains

Photo: istockphoto.com

• Urine, sweat, and vomit: These bodily fluids are the most likely culprits for mattress messes. Unfortunately, you can’t soak a mattress as you would a piece of clothing; rather, you must use liquid sparingly, with a spray bottle, in order to avoid turning its slow-drying cushiness into the ideal damp conditions for mold and mildew growth (yuck!). First, gently mist the stained area with plain water until just slightly damp. Then mix one cup of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide with three tablespoons of baking soda and a few drops of dishwashing liquid in a spray bottle. Mist that solution over the stain, and gently brush with a soft scrub brush or old toothbrush until the stain is gone. Finally, mist the cleaned area with fresh water and blot with an absorbent towel.

• Blood: Banish blood with the technique above, making sure that the water and cleaning solution are both cold (hot will set the stain in for good!). Put the hydrogen peroxide-baking soda solution in the fridge for an hour or so after mixing to bring the temperature down. You’ll likely need to use extra brushing action on blood stains and may need to repeat the procedure more than once. Blot up all the excess liquid with a clean, absorbent towel.

• Food and drink stains: For coffee, red wine, or other food and beverage bloopers, mix one part laundry detergent, one part vinegar, and 10 parts water in a spray bottle. Mist the stain and agitate with a soft scrub brush or toothbrush. Give the solution 10 to 15 minutes of dwell time. Then blot with a wet hand towel or sponge to remove the stain and the cleaning solution. Rinse the towel/sponge and continue blotting as necessary. Then blot with a dry absorbent towel to remove any excess liquid.

STEP 3
To deodorize the mattress, sprinkle the cleaned area generously with baking soda. This will help to draw out unpleasant odors while absorbing any remaining moisture.

Allow the mattress to sit for up to 24 hours, if possible, so it can dry completely (plan to sack out on the sofa or another bedroom that night). Or if time is of the essence, you can use a fan or a hairdryer on the cool setting to speed things up.

STEP 4
Once the mattress is completely dry, vacuum up the baking soda and make the bed. You’ll rest well knowing that your mattress is stain-free and daisy fresh!

 

Cleaning Tips for a Spotless Home

All of the Essential Cleaning Advice from BobVila.com
There’s no way around it: Keeping the house clean demands your time, your energy, and even some of your money. Fortunately, this arsenal of cleaning tips can help you finish the housekeeping more quickly—and with fewer commercially sold products.


Buyer’s Guide: Cutting Boards

Wondering whether to choose plastic, bamboo, or wood for your chopping surface? Find out which cutting board will offer safest and most efficient meal prep.

SHARES
The Complete Buyer's Guide for the Best Cutting Boards

Photo: istockphoto.com

Interested in keeping your investment countertops in tip-top shape? Cutting boards are key accessories for any kitchen, providing a durable, hygienic place to slice and dice ingredients without marring the beautiful work surface beneath.

Available in a range of materials, shapes, and sizes with a handful of features to choose from, they may seem like a dime a dozen, but some are better than others when it comes to how suitable they are for different types of food. If you’re on the lookout for a new cutting board, read on. We’ve outlined exactly what should be considered—from material to design—as well as three of the best cutting boards that combine our wishlist features so that you can find one that’s a cut above the rest.

First, narrow down the material.

The first thing to think about when you’re in the market for a cutting board is its material. Get to know the differences between the most common types so that you can weigh their pros and cons.

Plastic
Cutting boards made of plastic may seem like the most health-conscious option since they’re dishwasher-safe, but studies show that they may not be as germ-free as we assume. While a brand new one can be completely cleared of bacteria with a run through the dishwasher, even a lightly-used plastic cutting board can never be truly cleaned once knives have compromised the surface. (Even shallow scratches will catch and harbor some.) On the upside, plastic options are slim and easy to store, gentle on knives, and not particularly expensive.

Advice: Plastic options may be the best cutting boards for bread and vegetables if you avoid cutting meat on it and wash all other foods vigorously before chopping, dicing, or mincing them. Even so, you’ll still need to replace it once or more a year to avoid potential foodborne illness.

The Complete Buyer's Guide for the Best Cutting Boards

Photo: istockphoto.com

Bamboo
Most bamboo cutting boards are considered to be an eco-friendly choice since they’re made from a sustainably grown material. An additional perk: They offer similar sanitary properties to traditional wood cutting boards (potentially even better, some say, since bamboo boards tend to be less soft and absorbent than wooden counterparts). Just know that you should wash these by hand because your dishwasher’s concentrated heat and water can warm the grass fibers that make up a bamboo board.

Advice: While overall cleanliness and environmental consciousness work in its favor, know that bamboo can be particularly hard on knife blades, requiring you to sharpen your blades more often.

Wood
Least likely to wear down your knife blades, handsomely textured, and available to complement whatever wood finish exists in your kitchen, wood options are quite popular. They aren’t always a clear winner, however, because they are both the priciest and the most “high maintenance” of the bunch: These boards must be washed by hand to prevent warping and require occasional conditioning with a food-grade mineral oil to keep it in great shape.

Advice: Whether you prefer a traditional butcher block made of several types of wood or a sleek, heavy slab of maple, know that most wood boards are two to three times as expensive as a bamboo alternative. Still, with the right maintenance, your wooden cutting board can serve double-duty as both work surface and serving platter for generations to come.

Marble or Granite
If you’re a fan of luxury culinary products, you might consider an upscale material like marble or granite. These slabs cost three to four times as much as any other material, however, and are technically more visually appealing than useful. For example, granite is too porous to resist absorption of the foods you set and chop on it; therefore, it may enable cross-contamination even after a thorough cleaning if you were to use it for cutting meat one night and vegetables the next.

Advice: Either marble or granite slabs are perfectly safe and strikingly beautiful to use when slicing fruits, cheese, and crudités, but not necessarily practical for day-to-day meal prep.

Select the right size and shape for your kitchen.

Of course, a cutting board won’t do you much good if it’s too small for the task at hand or too large to fit onto your countertop. (The latter can cause dangerous wobbles if you allow it to hang over the edge while you cut your food!) Most boards’ dimensions range from around 8-by-10 inches to 20-by-30 inches, or even larger. Before you purchase a new one, be sure to measure the area where you’ll be using it and plan for at least a one-inch perimeter around it while you work. But don’t feel limited to just the one: Many households do well with several cutting boards of various sizes—all smaller than your countertop—with which you can easily divide and conquer food prep tasks between yourself and a sous chef.

Consider added conveniences.

Many cutting boards are simple rectangular slabs, but a few subtle details can work in your favor to make the chopping process less of a mess.

• If you’re on a mission for a bamboo or wood cutting board to use specifically for meat preparation, a trench that runs a half-inch in from the edge all the way around your board can help collect excess juice from running off the board and onto your countertops.

Rubber feet in the corners of your board afford you extra control while you rock your knife back and forth on top. Of course, feet designate one side of the board as the top and the other as the bottom, meaning that you cannot make use of both sides for cutting—when the one gets all carved up, you won’t be able to simply flip the board over to work on the “new” side. Board edges wrapped in rubber, on the other hand, create a similar grippy effect without eating up any space on the face of your board. If you decide to go ahead and skip feet altogether, though, you can still steady the board easily by placing a wet paper towel or a clean rag underneath your board.

Shop from top picks.

Whether you’ve decided to pursue a plastic, bamboo, or wood option, we’ve rounded up the best cutting board in each material to shave time off of your shopping trip. Not only do these combine some of the most-wanted features outlined above, but each one has been highly ranked by consumers and rated by independent reviewers as the best buys for your money.

 

Best Cutting Board - Catskill Craftsman Pro Series

Photo: homedepot.com

Catskill Craftsmen Pro Series #1326 ($48)
Home Depot shoppers are big fans of this classic wood cutting board made by Catskill Craftsmen from sustainably harvested Northern hardwood grown in the United States. Reversible and durable, the 1-¼”-thick slab runs 17 by 23 inches, offering plenty of space to cut a handful of produce or several pounds of meat at once. The rectangular board must be hand-washed and should be conditioned with food-grade mineral oil a few times a year if used frequently. Available at The Home Depot.

 

Best Cutting Board - OXO Good Grips

Photo: amazon.com

OXO Good Grips Utility Cutting Board ($15)
Amazon shoppers can’t get enough of this grooved plastic cutting board from OXO, which received 4.4 out of 5 stars for its dishwasher-safe properties and petite size. The ½”-thick polypropylene board measures 10-½ by 14-½ inches, small enough to slip into most drawers for storage between uses. This lightweight model features nonslip edges (hence the “Good Grips” name), a trench to catch liquids, and tapered handles for easy moving around the kitchen. Plus, its affordable price point means it won’t be hard on your wallet to replace once or twice a year. Available on Amazon.

 

Best Cutting Board - Totally Bamboo 3-Piece Set

Photo: amazon.com

Totally Bamboo 3-Piece Set ($13)
If you’re looking for replacing all of your boards at once, the team at The Spruce deemed this versatile three-piece set to be the best bamboo option on the market. Its three sizes—9-½ by 13 inches, 9-½ by 11 inches, and 6 by 8 inches—allow home chefs to separate sliced meat from chopped produce from finely diced herbs during meal prep. Then, after dinner, the nonabsorbent (i.e., stain-resistant) Moso bamboo surfaces can be easily hand-washed. Together, that winning combination of sustainable sourcing, durability, and natural good looks earned the set 3.7 out of 5 stars from more than 2,700 Amazon reviewers. Available on Amazon.


Video: Here’s What NOT to Put in Your Microwave

Ready to warm up your leftovers? First check your plate for these items that should never go in the microwave.

The microwave oven may be the pinnacle of modern convenience. At the press of a button it can heat your lunch, refresh your coffee, or soften ingredients for your latest cooking adventure. While there are myriad things this appliance can handle, there are several things that you should never put in the microwave. Watch and learn about which items to keep far away from your microwave.

For more kitchen advice, consider:

9 Signs You Need to Replace Your Fridge

10 Kitchen Products That Will Last a Lifetime

12 Smart Dish Washing Hacks No One Ever Taught You


4 Trees to Plant for a Beautiful Landscape All Year

In search of a tree that looks good all year long? Colorful leaves come and go, but limbs covered with white bark appear striking no matter the season.

4 Trees with White Bark

Photo: istockphoto.com

Often, trees are selected and grown for their foliage, fruit, or flowers—seasonal features that blossom and fade over the course of several months—but it’s not impossible to find deciduous trees (those with leaves that often drop over the winter) capable of delivering beauty year-round. The key is to narrow your search to trees with white bark. Even in winter months, when barren, uniquely alabaster branches offer a striking contrast against dark siding, a backdrop of evergreens, or even against the winter sky.

While whitebark trees are not rare, they’re not as common as other trees for two reasons: Certain varieties require very specific growing climates, while others are subject to disease and insect infestation. Before choosing a tree, make sure it’s suitable for your geographic region, by consulting the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, which indicates the coldest average winter temperatures by region. Keep in mind that some trees with white bark have additional geographical requirements on top of planting zones, such as altitude limitations, so do your homework for what your property can grow. The following four types of trees are among those most commonly chosen for the beauty of their white bark, and, hopefully, one will be just right for your yard.

4 Trees with White Bark - The Himalayan Birch

Photo: istockphoto.com

Himalayan Birch

You may be familiar with some species of birch that have beige or brown bark, but a select few species of Himalayan birch (Betula utilis var. jacquemontii) feature creamy white trunks and limbs. Native to the Himalayan region, these birch trees prefer cool, well-drained soil and full-to-partial sun exposure. These birch varieties grow best in zones 1 through 7, although areas where summer temps regularly exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit can be detrimental to their growth. If you live in northern areas of the contiguous United States, Canada, or Alaska, check out the following trees with white bark—though very similar, each has a few special qualities.

Doorenbos (Betula utilis var. jacquemontii, ‘Doorenbos’) grows up to two feet per year to reach a mature height of 40 to 50 feet with a 30-foot crown spread. Doorenbos features peeling white bark that falls away to reveal light orange under-bark. The under-bark turns white soon after the surface layer falls off, and the shedding of its bark is an ongoing process. Brown trailing flowers, known as “catkins,” appear in spring, followed by dark green leaves that turn yellow-gold in the fall before dropping.

Jermyns (Betula utilis var. jacquemontii, ‘Jermyns’), another peeling-bark Himalayan birch, grows about two feet per year until it reaches a mature height of 30 to 35 feet with a crown spread of 20 to 25 feet. Slightly smaller than other Himalayan birch trees, Jermyns is well-suited to smaller yards. The tree forms long brown catkin blooms in spring, followed by heavily ribbed green leaves that turn soft yellow in autumn.

Grayswood Ghost (Betula utilis var. jacquemontii, ‘Grayswood Ghost’) reaches 30 to 50 feet at maturity with a 30-foot crown spread. Grayswood Ghost is a fast grower, gaining up to three feet per year, and its bark is smooth and non-peeling. Expect brown bark on young Grayswood Ghost until the tree is about eight years old; by then, its bark gradually turns stark white. Like other Himalayan birch trees, it develops catkins in spring, followed by green leaves that turn a mellow yellow shade in fall.

Silver Shadow (Betula utilis var. jacquemontii, ‘Silver Shadow’), a slightly slower grower, will climb one to two feet per year to reach a mature height of 35 to 45 feet and a crown spread of 20 feet. Like Grayswood Ghost, its bark is non-peeling, and it features brown catkins in spring and soft yellow autumn foliage.

While the trees, themselves, love full sun, the ground around their roots should be shaded. This can be accomplished by adding a layer of hardwood bark mulch around the trunk. Additionally, Himalayan birch trees are prone to infestation by sawflies and aphids, and they can develop diseases, such as rust and leaf spot. For the best results, have your tree checked annually by a tree professional (arborist) and treated as necessary to keep it in top health.

 

 

4 Trees with White Bark - The American Aspen

Photo: istockphoto.com

American Aspen

If you’re a fan of colorful autumn foliage, nothing beats the brilliant gold and orange show put on by a grove of Aspen trees on the side of a forested mountain. The American Aspen (Populus tremuloides), also known as “quaking aspen” or “trembling aspen,” produces smooth white bark on a strong vertical trunk that can reach 80 feet at maturity with a narrow crown spread of only 20 feet. American Aspen’s striking white bark will develop contrasting black markings as it matures, which add to its visual interest. In optimal conditions, American Aspen is a quick grower, growing as much as four feet per year.

This soaring tree grows best in zones 2 through 7, and while it likes full sun, it doesn’t care for summer temperatures that regularly exceed 85 degrees Fahrenheit. It also will not abide low elevations: American Aspen rarely grows at elevations less than 2,000 feet, and grows best at elevations between 5,000 to 12,000 feet. By entering your city and state on this interactive elevation map, you can determine if an American Aspen is suitable for your area. (Bonus points if you’re in the right elevation range and located near banks and streams, as these trees with white bark thrive with plenty of water and well-drained soil.)

With its tall, lean stature, American Aspen is well-suited to growing in clumps, and when planted three to five inches apart will produce a multi-trunk effect. It’s just as attractive when planted individually along fences and property lines, or anywhere else a statuesque border is desired. Aspens spread by root shoots, so if you have an optimal location, a few clumps of Aspen could become a spectacular grove in a 15 to 20 years.

 

4 Trees with White Bark - The American Sycamore

Photo: istockphoto.com

American Sycamore

Reaching an average height of 100 feet at maturity with a similarly wide crown spread, the whitebark American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), is a dramatic addition to a large landscape. It grows well in zones 4 through 9, averaging two to two-and-a-half feet of growth per year. It produces insignificant yellow-red flowers in spring that give way to large green leaves (up to nine inches wide) in summer. Brownish non-edible fruit balls develop in summer and eventually dry out, bursting open to release downy seeds. Its mottled white bark, which starts out brown and turns creamy white after 10 to 12 years, makes it a favorite in the winter landscape.

Due to its large size (the average mature trunk measures three to eight feet in diameter but has been known to reach as much as 16 feet!), American Sycamore is best suited as a single specimen tree in a large area where it can reach its full growth potential. It thrives in well-drained, moist soil that’s high in organic matter. The largest American Sycamore specimens are found along waterways so plant this tree near a pond or stream for the best results.

 

4 Trees with White Bark - The Ghost Gum

Photo: istockphoto.com

Ghost Gum

If you live in zones 9 and 10 and are looking for a fast-growing, whitebark tree that won’t lose its foliage during the winter months, consider planting a Ghost Gum (Eucalyptus pauciflora). Native to Australia, the Ghost Gum, also called “snow gum” and “white sallee,” has made a name for itself in warmer regions of the US. With its ability to grow up to three feet per year, it doesn’t take Ghost Gum long to become a specimen in the landscape. At maturity, it reaches 45 to 50 feet in height with a crown spread of 25 to 30 feet. In addition to its creamy colored smooth bark, Ghost Gum features attractive gnarled branches, and the tree emits a faint, but distinct, aroma of eucalyptus. Ghost Gum blossoms from October through December, covering the tree in an explosion of delicate white flowers that offer striking contrast against its deep green waxy leaves.

This variety grows in all types of soil, won’t mind drought, and flourishes in full sun (although it will tolerate partial shade). Perhaps unsurprisingly, it thrives in salty coastal regions. Its rapid growth rate and tough demeanor—resistant to smog, insects, and diseases—make it a good choice for planting in urban neighborhoods. Ghost Gum makes a good single specimen tree but is just as attractive when planted in groups of three or more.

 

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.