After last year’s wildfires, some of the largest and deadliest in recent memory, spread along the west coast, homeowners are on edge as to what this fire season will bring. The questions of whether their home will be burnt, or if they will be affected by poor air quality, hang in the air much like the smoke of a nearby fire. Accompanied by heatwaves hitting much of the U.S. these fears can turn into realities just as quick as a spark in brush. Luckily there are ways to prevent damage and to prepare for anything coming your way.
Be prepared with fire insurance
Are you currently protected in case of a fire? Make sure to talk with your insurance agent and work on a plan to insure your home.
Questions to ask them are:
- What is covered should our home be destroyed in a fire?
- What kinds of documentation do we need to do in order to get the full benefit of the insurance?
- It’s usually a great idea to keep a log of what is in your home and how much it costs. Keep receipts and invoices if possible.
- Who at the company should we contact in case of emergency?
Be prepared with an emergency kit
Cal Fire has a comprehensive guide to all things wildfire preparedness. Here they suggest putting together an emergency kit that’s always ready in case of sudden evacuations. They recommend including:
- Map marked with at least two evacuation routes
- Non-perishable foods to last three days
- Prescriptions and medications. Also, eyeglasses or contact lenses.
- Change of clothes
- Toiletries and sanitation supplies
- And extra set of car keys, as well as credit cards, cash or traveler’s checks
- First aid kit
- Flashlight and batteries
- Copies of important documents like birth certificates and passports
- Food and water for your pet
- Chargers for cell phones and other devices
Some other items you might consider having close by are easily carried valuables, sentimental items like family photos, and computers or hard drives. Keep a sturdy pair of shoes and a flashlight near your bed for any evacuations at night.
Prevent damage by fortifying the building
You don’t have to re-do the entire garden to slow the fire down. Home Advisor recommends you create a balance of aesthetically pleasing flora and slow-burning plants that are less likely to ignite.
Additionally, keep your garden and property free of dry materials that are ideal for kindling either in your bonfire or for a wildfire. Not only does creating this barrier protect your home, it also gives firefighters a safe area to work from as they work to control the fire.
To see what plants to use and other ways to fireproof your property, visit HomeAdvisor.
Build or remodel with flame-resistant materials
Materials like brick, stucco, metal, or concrete are great exteriors that can prevent the fire from taking hold of your home, at least initially. If your home is already built with one of these materials, the weak points might lie in your extremities like your deck or porch. Consider re-building these with fire-proof materials or add a coating to protect them.
Additionally, protect the most vulnerable areas of your home, like your windows and any air vents. Add retractable fireproof panels to your windows or replace the glass with wire glass or fire-proof safety glass. Don’t forget your skylights or windows on your doors.
A delightfully warm spring in many parts of the Western U.S. has many folks brushing off their summer clothing early. While this is exciting for all who love the outdoors, public spaces like parks and beaches may be overcrowded. What better time, then, to focus on ways to maximize the space you have in your own home. There’s no one ideal way to design or set up your deck, but we’ve put together a few of our favorite ideas to help inspire your next redesign.
Credit: H. Camille Smith / HGTV
- Especially if your square footage is limited, tiering your deck into multiple levels is a great way to incorporate extra outdoor space into your home.
- By separating your deck into multiple levels, even slightly, you can create a cozy sense of separation between spaces.
- Give yourself options for privacy. Depending on your property, the base level of your deck may be below your fence-line. If you have a view you’d like to enjoy with your barbecue, consider a second tier.
- A simple way to save space and hassle is to build in your seating spaces during your deck’s construction.
- It’s important to consider what you will predominantly be doing on your deck. Lounging while reading? A corner bench is a great fit and can be outfitted comfortably. Potlucks and cookouts? Consider higher benches or fences with wide tops for easy plate placement.
- Consider your environment. If your deck will weather rain, sand, or wind consistently, don’t write off surfaces like brick and concrete, which can be framed as appealingly as wood or other stone.
- As the sun fades, your deck’s utility can shine or fade with it. Including discreet lighting within the construction of your deck is a small step that can pay huge dividends.
- Increasingly popular low-voltage systems have made a well-lit backyard and deck drastically more affordable.
- Depending on your location, solar powered lighting is a worthwhile investment that can help accentuate your stairs, fences, and other outdoor decorations.
Now that spring has sprung, let’s clear the cobwebs and get your home ready! Here is our quick guide to spring home maintenance:
Inspection top to bottom: Now that the weather is temperate you will want to check on how your home weathered the winter. Check the roof for leaks, the gutters for damage, and the siding for cracks. You will also want to inspect your basement or foundation for any shifts. Make repairs now to prevent further damage.
Clean out the gutters: April showers bring May flowers… so clear out the gutters to keep rain from pooling on your roof or near your foundation.
Pest control: Spring is mating season for eight-legged critters, so sweep out cobwebs, clear debris, and check the nooks and crannies. If you live in an area prone to dangerous species like brown recluse or black widows, you may want to contact your local pest control, but otherwise, household spiders do help eliminate other bugs.
HVAC system: If you have an air conditioner now is the time to check to make sure it is ready before summer gets here and everyone else is clamoring for maintenance. Now is a good time to check your home air filters and replace or upgrade to keep allergens at bay.
Clear the clutter: Do a sweep around the house and get rid of junk that you don’t use! Take a little time each week to tackle a room. Closets, playrooms, and basements can be especially daunting, but getting rid of old stuff and refreshing your space will go a long way!
Deep clean: On a nice day open the windows, dust, wipe, scrub, and clean. You will get a nice workout and your home will look and feel so fresh after a winter of being cooped up.
Update your décor: Add a splash of color to your home with small embellishments. Add a colorful vase, a lighter throw for your sofa, pretty pastel pillows, or spring-time candles, to upgrade your living space.
Take it outdoors: Let your throw rugs, curtains, and other tapestries air our outside. Shake off the dust, spot clean what you can and let everything bask in the sun for an afternoon.
Don’t forget the back yard: It may not be time to start up the grill, yet, but you can get started on your outdoor entertaining checklist. Check your lawn, and if you have some spare spots start filling in with seed. Check your outdoor plants, prune, plant bulbs, start to replenish the soil for your garden, and mow, so you are ready to start when the season allows.
Speaking of the grill – if you have a gas grill you will want to pull this out and perform a maintenance check. Clean everything up and check to make sure all the gas lines are clear, as these can get clogged after sitting idle all winter. Make sure the grill is clear of spiders too, as they can build webs in the tubes, causing damage to your grill. You can start to bring out your garden furniture too, or clean it up if you left it covered outside all winter. Because before you know it, it’ll be barbeque season!
Cooking and dining alfresco is arguably the single greatest thing about warm weather in spring and summer, but most backyard barbecues involve a million trips to and from the kitchen. As such, one of the hottest trends in new home construction is outdoor kitchens. Outdoor kitchens typically feature a comfortable eating area with a combination of cabinets, sinks, warming drawers, prep counters, ranges, and refrigerators—all within arm’s reach of the grill. Outdoor kitchens provide a natural gathering spot for friends and family and can add to the value of your home.
How elaborate your outdoor kitchen should be depends on how often you plan to use it. Some people enjoying dining outdoors every evening, while others reserve it for special occasions and social gatherings. Regardless of the frequency of use, you need to use materials that do well in all kinds of weather. Stone sinks, stainless steel cabinets, and slate counter tops will withstand the Seattle rain, as well as the months that pass between barbecue seasons. Many outdoor kitchens also feature pergolas or other roof structures to shield guests from sun and rain. Something else to consider is adding an outdoor gas heater or fireplace, which will extend the amount of time you can use your outdoor kitchen into the fall and winter months.
In addition to the convenience of having all your grilling accoutrements within a handy distance, a well-built outdoor kitchen also adds to the value of your home. And you don’t have to have a new home to reap the benefits. With the right space and backyard layout, owners of existing homes can easily add-on an outdoor kitchen area. When adding an outdoor kitchen to an existing home, power, gas, and water lines often have to be extended from the home, so be sure to hire a qualified contractor to do the work for you. By extending your living space outside, you have essentially increased the square footage of your home. In many cases the increase in your home’s value will equal or even sometimes exceed the cost of the project itself.
The benefits of an outdoor kitchen area and living space are many. And with the convenience of having your drinks, condiments, meat, and cooking space all in one easy-to-reach place, you can spend the precious summer moments right where you should—outside with friends and family.
What features would you include in an outdoor kitchen?
A home that exudes beauty from the inside and the outside is also a true reflection of its owner. Today, homes are not just mere living spaces that are filled up with furniture – every home has a character, design theme, and personality of its own, characterized largely by the material used to build it, the color scheme on the inside and outside, and also the accents and hues of every element that goes into it.
One such building material is Timber, which truly brings out the class and beauty in a home. Timber frame houses have many positive attributes to them and are rightfully becoming one of the most popular choices for home building material. Let’s look at some of the pros of using timber for your home:
- Look and feel
Timber is one of the classiest looking building materials, with a sleek finish and a light but sturdy build. Timber, being a natural material, also has a natural feel to it, of course without compromising on reliability. Timber both on the inside and the outside looks amazing and is also quite easy to work with in terms of designing and color palettes. Timber comes in a number of finishes and colors. You could go for a smooth and sleek finish it even a textured look for a more rustic feel. There’s also distressed timber which gives a home a vintage and retro look and comes in a darker shade.
- Heat and cold
Timber framing and construction allows you to enjoy the benefits of its insulating properties. Not just that, it also retains heat and maintains a conducive temperature and atmosphere inside the home. Timber is one of those materials that would sustain you in both hot and cold climatic conditions, and you wouldn’t have to spend too much on HVAC solutions either.
- Longevity and ease of use
Timber is surely one of the most durable materials for constructing a home, especially the new age timber frames which go through special treatment to make the material is stronger, more resistant and also durable. The best part is that timber is also such an easy and convenient material to work with. The build time for a timber frame home is significantly lesser than most other traditional materials. Erecting a timber frame home can be done with ease, and it also does not require any extensive concrete footings, hence the quickness of construction.
- Versatility outdoors and indoors
There are umpteen options for you to choose from, where timber can be used to add-on to the beauty of your home both internally and externally. Outdoor kitchens, pergolas, gazebos, picnic shelters, covered decks, bridges and so much more can be done to the external area of your home.
For the interiors as well, timber can be used for frame accents, staircases, and beautiful railings, and complete timber frame kits and packages come with everything you’d need, including door, window, roof and wall enclosure systems that provide the support your timber frame home needs. Imagine a spacious timber frame home with an open, gourmet kitchen and a dramatic winding staircase? Or even floor to ceiling windows that allow ample natural light to encompass the home. All of this and more is very much possible with timber as the main material.
- Space utilization
Want to make the most of every inch of space you have for your home? Timber framing is one of the best ways to do this! A timber frame floor plan is so flexible and dynamic, and you can add absolutely anything you want, as long as you include it into the final plan. Want to add an extra room? Opt for bigger doors and windows? Or maybe use the extra roof space to create a handy loft? All of this and more is quite easy to do with a timber frame home, and that’s what makes your home uniquely yours in both design and functionality.
Costs are usually a concern while building a new home or re-doing an existing one, but timber is one material that gives you total value for the money you spend. A regular brick and mortar home is expensive as is and doesn’t provide you with any additional benefits. Timber, on the other hand, gives you all the above-mentioned benefits and more, so in terms of cost to value ratio, is a much smarter and more sensible option to go for. So, to create a uniform look and feel both inside and outside, timber is the ideal material to bring out the true beauty of your abode!
Our Guest Author is Tyler of Hamill Creek Timber Homes.
Much of the Western United States is grappling with the same issue this summer – the specter of smoke and fire from some of the largest forest fires in recent memory. For individuals, even the decreased air quality can be a threat, while the destruction that the fires themselves can wreak is devastating. Homeowners living near impacted areas are often left with an impossible choice – pack up what they can and evacuate or remain in a dangerous location and hope for the best. Thankfully, homes needn’t be defenseless against the heat. To help fortify your home against damage stemming from fires, we brought together advice from a few experts.
Opt for Flame-Resistant Walls and Roofing
- It may be obvious but building a home out of non-flammable materials like brick, stucco, metal, or concrete is a key way to prevent a fire from taking hold initially.
- The troublesome spaces tend to be beyond the core of the home. Decks, balconies, and overhangs all commonly include wooden components that can be easy points of egress for embers.
- Replacing or coating these accent points with fireproof materials is a short-term expense that, much like insurance, prevents far greater financial strains in the future.
No Space is Too Small to Protect
- Think that little vent in the attic is too small to be an issue? Think again!
- Even vents built into kitchens and dryers should be considered as potential problem areas. Protecting these can allow continued circulation of air without incurring an excess fire risk.
- Wire screens with 1/8th” to 1/4th” between screen bars are typically enough to keep treacherous embers from sneaking into your home.
Fortify Your Windows
- The most vulnerable spots in most homes are glassy exterior windows. While their views are understandably gorgeous, they can be easy pressure points for fires to overpower.
- If you have the means to replace single-plane glass with wire glass or fireproof safety glass, that’s a worthwhile expense to ensure neither flames themselves nor radiant heat can shatter into your home.
- Beyond simply upgrading the glass, installing retractable fireproof exterior panels is the safest route to fire protection. And don’t forget your skylights!
It is the official start to the gardening season! For those who have large outdoor spaces, it is the perfect time of year to make a trip to the home and garden store, work in your gardens, and plant new growth. For those who live in smaller city quarters and whose outdoor space comfortably holds little more than a potted plant, we are forced to be more creative with our green space.
Decorative plants and nurturing vegetation is something that makes my house a home, even if small city living quarters has forced us to learn to take the outdoors- in and work with what space we have. Indoor plants, flowers, and gardens are a pleasing alternative when you do not have the space or the desire to be outdoors. Adding some green to your home can be decorative, fragrant, and even edible. Planting and nurturing your growth is a fun do-it-yourself project that can be a whole household activity.
Where to start
Traditional Potted Plants are a great starting point for the non-gardening types. Potting plants is relatively simple, cost efficient, and spatially low maintenance. Check out these ideas for potting and planting in small spaces.
Vertical Gardens break away from the customary terracotta pot. They are both modern and space saving. In a vertical garden you are able to grow a variety of plants, flowers, herbs, and vegetables. They can be practical and decorative inside or out. Learn more about creating your own vertical garden here.
Hydroponic Systems are a soil-free gardening solution that can involve little to no pesticide use. Green Tree’s Hydroponics reports that the growth rate of a hydroponic plant is 30-50 percent faster than that of a soil plant. Here’s what it takes to build your own, however you can also purchase hydroponic systems online.
Terrariums are “making a comeback” according to the New York Times. Terrariums can be uniquely ornamental and perfect for tight spaces that need a hint of green. Check out some samples and get design ideas here.
What growing methods have worked well for you?
What to grow?
That are good to eat …
Herbs: growing edible items can be very rewarding. Herbs are my go-to item to grow inside because they are low maintenance and take up little space. I prefer to pot basil, parsley, chives, thyme, cilantro, and oregano.
Grasses, like wheat grass, are becoming popular to grow indoors and decorate your home with.
Fruits and vegetables tend to take up more space and are more demanding. However tomatoes, peppers, radishes, leaf lettuce, potatoes, and carrots are a few fruits/vegetables that will grow well indoors.
That are good to look at …
Several flowers and house plants will flourish and bloom indoors. I enjoy the fragrance of Gardenia and the appeal of a Boston Fern in a hanging basket. However, using a plant encyclopedia will help you find which plant is right for you and your home.
What do you prefer to grow?
Making it look good?
The great part about bringing your garden inside is that it lets you use vegetation as a decoration. Whether you prefer to arrange flowers, string kokedama, or paint a fun plant pot, your vegetation and the way you display it can have an impact to your overall décor. How do you decorate with your vegetation?
Memorial Day traditionally represents the kick-off of summer. Kids are getting out of school, families are making summer vacation plans, and backyard barbeques are on everyone’s minds. This is also a great time of the year to get your house in order and ready for the summer season. The following is a handful of ideas and tips to help you with this process.
Gardening– It’s not too late to start your garden! This weekend I will be planting an herb garden; I planted summer vegetables a few weeks ago. If you’re thinking of doing the same, just make sure you use starts because many summer harvest vegetables won’t start from seed this late in the season.
Outdoor living– My home has an outdoor space with great potential, including a partially covered patio perfect for entertaining. This weekend I plan to upgrade the space with small touches to make it summer party ready. This includes finding outdoor lighting options, updating the seating and cleaning up the barbeque.
BBQ- Make sure your grill is ready to go this season by making sure everything is clean and in working order before you fire it up. In the northwest that includes making sure the fuel lines are spider-web-free. Also, make sure you have propane or charcoal on hand for impromptu dinners.
Clean Windows- Now is a great time to clean your windows, inside and out. Sun shows more dirt and smudges.
Lawn care- Prepare your lawn for the months ahead. Depending on where you live this means different things. Check your sprinkler system to make sure it wasn’t damaged over the winter; upgrade your lawn care to ensure fuller greens, check for and remove moss to prevent dead patches and start your weeding regimen.
Pool prep- If you have an outdoor pool get this ready for a summer season of fun in the sun, (unless you are lucky enough to enjoy your pool year-round). Same goes for hot-tubs. Make sure your equipment has been serviced, chemicals are available and your pool is clean and ready to use. OR, head to the local hardware store and buy your kiddie pool now before they run out, as I learned one particularly hot July!
De-winterize- I once was doused head to toe when we were turning the water back on to our exterior pipes because the pipe had split in the winter- so make sure all your pipes survived the cold, check your winterized projects and prepare your house for summer. This is also a good time to look around the exterior, checking roof, gutters and siding.
Summerize- Check or replace AC filters, window screens, and household fans to make sure these are all functioning and will help provide maximum circulation in your house. Consider installing an attic fan or vent to help pull heat out of your home all winter long. Pack away excess cold weather items such as heavy blankets, jackets and other items so they aren’t in your way. Same goes for any sundry items you only use during fall and winter.
Lighten the Space- Though I likely won’t spend much time inside once the mercury rises, I want to keep the house as light and cool as possible. I have found that replacing the curtains with a lighter shade lets the light in, but also keeps the rooms from overheating from sun exposure. Summer always makes me want to lighten up with the accessories- lighter colors, more whites, bright accents and less clutter.
Rearrange – Freshen up spaces by rearranging some of your wall art. If you don’t have enough wall pieces to rearrange regularly it may be time to add to your collection. You can find inexpensive original art online at stores such as Etsy or in person at local galleries. You can always play with other items like framed images from books, vintage posters or record albums. Here are some terrific ideas for using what you have to add interest to a room.
Air it out- Open all the windows, shake out the rugs and update home fragrances to fit summer moods (citrus, freesia, clean linen, coconut, melon, fruits and tropical, etc.). You can create your own diffuser with essential oils to distribute fragrance. This may be more symbolic than practical but it always makes me feel ready for summer.
Paint- If you have a room you really want to refresh, a three-day weekend is a good time to take on a project of scale, so you have plenty of time to prep, paint, dry, and clean up. Painting is one of the least expensive ways to really transform how a room feels. Need help picking colors and paint type? Here is some good advice.
Garage or Basement- Tackle a big space that makes a big difference. Our garages and basements often become year-long dumping grounds for seasonal decorations and clothing, items that don’t fit in cabinets, memorabilia and maintenance tools. Go through your items and sort by keep, throw out and donate/sell and then group your keeps by function. Make sure your tools are accessible for easy gardening and entertaining by making sure your tools are accounted for, ready to go, and easy to reach. Here is a useful video on garage organization.
Yard/Garage Sale- If you have overflow at your house, plan a yard/garage sale to get rid of items you no longer need or want. Just make sure to pack everything up and donate it at the end of the sale otherwise you are just letting the clutter back in!
Plan a party- Once your space is all cleaned up and redecorated you will want to show it off! Plan a summer BBQ, dinner party, pool party, picnic or any other gathering.
What are your planning for Memorial Day weekend?