Camouflage Unsightly Outdoor Appliances

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Fri, May 20, 2016


A lean to carport could be just the thing you need to help camouflage your valuable items or block those things you want hidden.

There are many familiar sights in and around the exterior of most homes: Trash cans, air conditioning units, utility meters, and automatic garage door openers are just a few examples. All of these items have a purpose, but they can be unsightly on an otherwise attractive piece of property. Fortunately, there are creative ways you can camouflage these items and others so they don't detract from the look of your home, garage, or yard.

Air Conditioning Unit

Though you're grateful to have air conditioning on those 80-degree days in July, an outdoor AC unit can be unattractive. The metal on the unit may even be dirty or starting to rust. One way to camouflage your outdoor AC unit is to purchase an inexpensive screen at a home improvement store. These durable screens hide three sides of an AC unit. If you have a wooden fence around your yard, look for a wooden screen with an attractive lattice design. There are screen designs available that can enhance the appearance of your property.

Trash Cans

If you want to hide your trash cans from view, you can get a portable privacy screen to put up in front of them. This is an option whether your garbage cans are lined up in the garage or sitting next to a wall outside your home. There are some very decorative screens that feature faux wooden panels or even a wall of faux ivy. Another option is to decorate the cans to make them look more presentable. You could get a stencil of the first letter of your last name at a craft store and spray-paint that letter on each of your cans. Flowers, trees, and birds are other ideas if you want to decorate your trash cans with painted images. Just think of how easy it will be to find them if they ever blow down the street on a windy day!

Utility Meter

There is really nothing visually appealing about a utility meter. Placing a portable trellis in front of your utility meter is one way to camouflage it. Just make sure that the meter is still accessible to the meter reader. You could decorate a traditional white trellis with English ivy, clematis, or climbing hydrangeas. I think morning glories are especially pretty on a white trellis.

Automatic Garage Door Opener

Homeowners with an automatic garage door usually have a unit on the wall of the garage. One way to hide this unit is to put an old wooden picture frame over it with a small door that opens on a hinge. When you need to operate the garage door, simply pull the decorative door knob on the little wooden door to gain access to the buttons.

Dog Carriers

Perhaps you put your dogs in the garage overnight to sleep inside their carriers. To dress up the look of the carriers, you can attach colorful pieces of fabric to them with the help of some Velcro. Pieces of fabric featuring famous cartoon dogs, stars, cats, or even the dog's name are all fun ideas that add color to a plain-looking dog carrier.

Try a few of these ideas and tell me how they work. Thanks for reading! - Alan

Topics: Camouflage Outdoor Appliances

Check the Safety of Your Deck In 5 Simple Steps

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Fri, May 6, 2016


"Backyard deck with an Alan's Factory Outlet gazebo kit built on top of it"

If you have a deck, you know how much fun it can be to sit outside and enjoy the view. Inviting friends over for a cookout on the deck may even be a regular occurrence at your house. I think it's especially fun to spend time outdoors with friends and family during the warm-weather months. But before you start to plan your first spring party, it's important to check the condition of your deck. You want to be sure that your deck can handle all of the gatherings you're planning this spring and summer.

Five Steps for Checking the Safety of Your Deck

  1. Look at the Condition of the Wood. Take a walk around your deck to look for holes or splits in the wood. Small holes could have been made by carpenter ants or another type of boring insect. Boric acid powder can help to get rid of carpenter ants. Take a flat-head screwdriver and gently insert it into any splits or cracks in the wood. If it goes in further than a quarter of an inch, the wood may be rotting. Rotting planks of wood should be replaced so they don't present a safety hazard.
  2. Check the Ledger Board. The ledger board is the connection between your deck and your home. Your deck should be bolted securely to your house with galvanized screws and bolts. Inspect the screws in the ledger board to make sure they are flush with the outside wall of your home. If it looks like the deck is moving away from the wall, it must be looked at by a professional to prevent a collapse.
  3. Inspect the Railings. Grasp your deck railing and try to wiggle it back and forth in several places. You should feel very little, if any, movement beneath your palm. If you find that your deck railing is wobbly, it's important to make the adjustments necessary to solidify it. Sometimes, a railing can be strengthened by adding blocks of wood beneath the deck at the rim joist. Also, check the balusters beneath the deck railing. Each of them should be securely in place.
  4. Inspect the Surface of the Deck. Every deck should be sealed in order to keep water from soaking into the wood, causing rot. If you see water beading on the surface of the wood, you know that the deck is sealed. Look for discolored spots on your deck, which could indicate the growth of mildew. If you find mildew, you should remove it to prevent family members and visitors from slipping.
  5. Check Out the Support Beams. Walk around beneath your deck to look for any loose bolts in the support beams or posts. If you find any, use a wrench to tighten them or replace them if necessary. Also, look for discolored bolts, which could mean that they are rusting.

Taking a few minutes to inspect your deck gives you peace of mind when family and friends are enjoying time together outdoors. Thanks for reading! - Alan

Topics: Deck Safety

Unexpected Outdoor Flooring Ideas

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Tue, May 3, 2016


4 car metal garage with a gravel floor (garage doors are shown on the side, with two optional walk in doors and two optional windows)  Most popluar option for the metal buildings is concrete, 2nd most popular would be gravel.

With the arrival of the warm weather, there is a good chance that you're spending more time outdoors. Maybe you love to relax on your patio with a favorite novel. Or you may enjoy walking in your garden or throwing a party on your city roof terrace. If you'd like to update these outdoor areas, you may want to start with the flooring. There are plenty of creative flooring ideas that can make these outdoor spaces all the more inviting. Check out a few examples.

A Patio

Putting down wooden tiles can add interest to a simple concrete patio in the backyard. There are outdoor wooden tiles available in dark or light-colored wood. Often, wooden tiles feature slats that contribute texture to the design. Non-slip wooden tiles that snap together are especially easy to install on a concrete patio. Wooden planks are another idea for patio flooring. These are perfect if you live near a wooded area and want to give your patio a more rustic appearance.

A City Roof Terrace

If you're a city-dweller with a roof terrace, consider putting down some artificial grass. It's relatively easy to install, and you don't have to water or fertilize it to keep it looking great! This option brings a little bit of nature to your place in the city. I suggest you put out some big potted plants to enhance the look of your faux grass. Mosaic tile is another interesting choice for a city roof terrace. It brings a colorful, engaging design to your terrace. Wooden planks are another durable, attractive choice for the floor of a city roof terrace.

A Garden Area

A stone walkway is one idea for flooring in a garden area. A collection of flagstones in different shapes and colors adds an extra element of beauty to a gathering of plants and flowers. You could embed the stones in mulch to make your flagstone pathway even more unique. Some homeowners prefer traditional red-brick flooring in their garden. Rectangular red bricks can contribute to the symmetry of a carefully planned garden.

More Tips for Choosing Outdoor Flooring

When choosing your outdoor flooring, think of what you have indoors. You may want to select outdoor flooring that is similar to what you have inside of your home. For instance, if you have tile in the kitchen that opens onto your patio, you may want to choose tile for your patio as well. You could opt for a different color or style of tile for your patio to make it stand out from your kitchen tile. Alternatively, you may want to choose outdoor flooring that is completely different from your indoor flooring to create a dramatic effect. For example, maybe you have white plush carpet in the living room that leads out onto your city roof terrace. You may choose mosaic tile for your terrace to give your guests a colorful surprise as they walk out onto your roof. A dramatic difference between your outdoor and indoor flooring can add to the character of your home.

Good luck with your outdoor flooring projects, and thanks for reading! - Alan

Topics: outdoor flooring

How to Prep Your Lawn for Spring

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Fri, Apr 22, 2016


Spring is here! It's the perfect time to get out and start working on your lawn. There are plenty of things you can do to make your lawn the best it can be throughout the warm weather season. Discover some steps you can take to give your lawn a healthy start this spring. Enjoy!

Check the Condition of Your Lawn

An important step in your spring lawn care routine is to check the condition of your lawn. You can do this by raking the entire area. This allows you to see any damage that was done over the winter. You may uncover several bare areas that need grass seed or holes that need to be filled in. Or you may find some clumps of leaves that were overlooked when you raked last fall.

Test the Soil for Acidity

Use a soil pH test to gauge the level of acidity in your lawn. These tests are available at home and garden stores. Unfortunately, wintertime weather can raise the level of acidity in soil. It's hard to grow healthy grass in soil that is overly acidic. Spread lime over the soil if the test shows an elevated level of acid.


Spring is the time to fertilize warm-season grasses. As temperatures rise, warm-season grasses quickly absorb nutrients in the fertilizer. You want to make sure that the fertilizer is in place so your warm-season grasses can begin to flourish over the next few months.

Kill Weeds

Many people treat their lawns with weed killer during the fall. But if you know your lawn is vulnerable to a lot of weeds in the springtime, you can apply pre-emergent weed killer now. Use the weed killer sparingly so you don't mistakenly kill any healthy grass.

Seeding Bare Spots

If you found bare spots on your lawn while you were raking, you can put down some seed to spark new grass growth. It's a good idea to aerate the area at the same time so the new seed can fall down into the holes and take root. Grass starts to grow when the soil reaches a temperature of 50 degrees, so I suggest you make plans to address those bare areas in your yard as soon as possible. You want the newly planted grass to have plenty of time to grow!

Removing Dead Grass Tops

Check the oil in your lawn mower and pull it out of your garden shed! Early spring is an ideal time to give your lawn a trim to remove dead grass tops. When the dead grass tops are removed, it allows your lawn access to the sunlight it needs to grow!

Add Some Extra Interest to Your Yard

Along with caring for your lawn, you may want to add a couple of extra touches to your yard to make it more inviting. For example, you may want to set up a birdbath. This is a great way to attract a variety of birds to your lawn. Gazing globes, a tire swing, and a birdhouse are other additions that can make your yard all the more appealing.

Good luck with your springtime lawn care, and thanks for reading! - Alan

Topics: getting your lawn ready for spring

Using Tree Stumps to Decorate Your Lawn

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Fri, Apr 22, 2016


Are there any trees in your yard that you're planning to take down? If so, there are plenty of ways to make good use of the tree's stump. Don't just pull it up and get rid of it: Look at some creative ideas on how to give new life to an old tree stump.

A Planter

One idea is to transform your tree stump into a planter. A tree stump would make a great setting for a gathering of bright red geraniums, white Shasta daisies, or yellow marigolds. If you don't want to hollow out your tree stump, you could simply put several small containers of flowers on top of the stump. Using containers of different sizes adds interest to the arrangement. Make sure the surface of the stump is even so your containers don't slide off.

A Birdbath

Create an instant birdbath by putting a large shallow saucer or bowl on top of your tree stump. These types of decorative bowls and saucers are readily available at home and garden stores. Make sure the bowl is secure on top of the stump so dogs and other animals won't be able to knock it off. If you prefer, you could put bird seed in your bowl or saucer and make your tree stump into a bird feeder. I suggest buying seed that appeals to a variety of birds so you get a lot of different visitors. The birds in your neighborhood will certainly be grateful.

A Mosaic Table

Some colorful mosaic glass tiles and glue can transform the top of your tree stump into a work of art. You can find mosaic tiles as well as glue at any craft store. Take some time to plan out your mosaic design on paper before getting busy with the glue. A tree stump turned mosaic table would be a colorful addition to your patio or back porch.

The Base for a Garden Sculpture

Use an old tree stump to display a favorite piece of garden sculpture. For example, you could set up a gold or silver gazing ball on the stump to give it a more prominent place in your garden. Or place a stone frog, fairy or bunny on top of the stump and surround it with flowers or greenery to create a pleasant scene. A tree stump makes the perfect natural pedestal for practically any garden decoration.

Make a Tic-Tac-Toe Board

This is a fun option if you have kids or grandkids who love to play tic-tac-toe. All you have to do is even out the top of the stump and draw a tic-tac-toe board on it with bright white chalk. Players can put oversized plastic X's and O's on the game board, or they can use colored chalk to make their X's and O's. When they want to play a new game of tic-tac-toe, they can use a damp washcloth to wipe the board clean. Kids can enjoy a favorite game as well as some time outdoors.

Remember the best thing about reusing your tree stump is that you don't have to pay someone to dig it up and cart it away! Thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: decorate tree stumps

How To Prepare Your Yard for Spring

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Fri, Apr 1, 2016


I don't know about you, but I'm already celebrating the arrival of spring. I love to hear the birds singing on especially warm, sunny mornings. There are several things you can do in early springtime to nurture a healthy, beautiful lawn. Take a look at some simple steps that can give you a lawn you can be proud of. Enjoy!

Checklist for Yard Preparation

  1. Rake the lawn. Raking your lawn removes thatch. Thatch consists of dead grass, decaying leaves, and layers of roots. A buildup of thatch on a lawn can lead to diseased grass. Raking also allows you to get a good look at your lawn to see if there is any damage.
  2. Trim your lawn to a short length. This helps to get rid of dead grass at the surface level so the roots of your lawn can get the sunlight they need to grow.
  3. Aerate your lawn. Most people aerate their lawns in the fall, but spring is also a good time to get this done. Aerating allows nutrients and air to circulate throughout a lawn. Plus, aerating helps with new root growth.
  4. Put down grass seed. When you put down grass seed early in the spring, it gives the seeds time to take root. One idea is to put down the seed right after aerating the lawn. The seeds drop into the holes made by aeration and enjoy the added protection of being underground. Pay special attention to bare areas of your lawn.
  5. Fertilize your lawn. Fertilizing should be done when the grass is really starting to grow, around the middle of April. If you put fertilizer down too early, the grass can grow too thickly and interfere with the healthy development of the roots. It's a good idea to apply a light layer of fertilizer again around Memorial Day.
  6. Water your lawn. Early spring brings plenty of rain, which can supply your lawn with an adequate amount of water. It's time to water the lawn when you start to get long stretches of dry days.
  7. Uncover plants. If you put coverings on and around your plants for the winter, you can remove them. Also, if you put mulch around your trees or plants, you can remove that, too.
  8. Examine your lawn for disease. Take several minutes to walk around your lawn looking for fungus or mold. As the winter snows melt, it can create the perfect environment for mold or fungus. If you see either of these things, it's best to call a professional lawn care company to take care of the problem.
  9. Plan your garden. Get a piece of paper and sketch out where you want to put the vegetables in your garden, or plan out how you want to organize your flower garden. You can even make little signs for different areas of your garden. Better yet, ask your kids to make some garden signs and attach them to posts that can be stuck into the dirt.

Enjoy the arrival of spring and all of the wonderful sights and sounds it has to offer. Thanks for reading! - Alan

Topics: prepare your yard for spring

Avoiding Animal Damage to Your Pergola

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Fri, Apr 1, 2016


I think that a pergola is a beautiful addition to practically any piece of property. It's so pleasant to sit and chat with friends beneath an ivy-covered pergola. But you may find that many animals also like to spend time around your pergola. Mice like to chew on the wood and leave their droppings behind. Squirrels and rabbits are known for digging holes and burrowing underneath pergolas as well as tearing up vegetation. But there are some simple things you can do to discourage these animals from visiting your pergola.

Remove Hiding Places

Take a few minutes to walk around your pergola and check out the area. Are there any piles of sticks in the vicinity? Piles of sticks and patches of weeds are perfect hiding places for rodents. Furthermore, an area of tall grass can be very enticing to a rabbit that wants to dig holes and search for food near your pergola. Getting rid of these types of hiding places can discourage animals from hanging around your pergola and causing damage.

Apply Peppermint Oil to the Wood

If you're looking for a natural way to deter mice, you may want to spray peppermint oil at the base of your pergola. Mice are repelled by the strong scent of this liquid. Remember to reapply the oil after heavy storms during the spring and summertime.

Keep Your Pergola Clean

Not surprisingly, mice and other rodents always seem to make an appearance when there is a new food source. If you have a party under your pergola, be sure to remove items of dropped food, fruit peels, and wrappers. I suggest setting up a big garbage can before the party begins. Rodents that find food beneath your pergola just one time are likely to make return visits to try their luck again.

Spray Hot Sauce on the Legs of the Pergola

If you see squirrels digging a lot of holes around your pergola, you may want to try bringing some hot sauce into the mix. Pouring some hot sauce at the base of the legs of your pergola can help. There is also a hot pepper wax spray you can purchase that stays put for about a month. Rabbits are also repelled by the smell and taste of hot sauce.

Plant Marigolds Around Your Pergola

Planting marigolds is another way to discourage visits from squirrels. Squirrels do not like the strong fragrance of these flowers. You could put some in hanging pots or plant them around the base of your pergola. These flowers will bring color to the area while discouraging squirrels from approaching the structure.

Offer Other Enticing Alternatives

Sometimes, putting out alternative food sources can discourage animals from visiting your pergola. For instance, you could put a squirrel feeder up at the opposite end of your yard. The squirrels may bypass your pergola for a tasty combination of seeds and nuts in a feeder. Another idea is to plant a few vegetables in a separate part of your yard to feed any rabbits that visit. Of course, the rabbits' vegetable supply would need to be far away from your family's vegetable garden.

I hope these ideas help you keep your pergola free of animal visitors. Thanks for reading! - Alan

Topics: avoid pergola damage

Make Your Own Shed Cleaner

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Mon, Mar 14, 2016


We all know that a garden shed is a practical structure perfect for storing small tools, flower pots, wheelbarrows, and lawnmowers along with many other types of items. But there's no reason why a shed can't look good while serving its practical purpose. Wooden sheds can be vulnerable to mold and mildew. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to get rid of mildew and protect your shed. Consider some tips on how to clean your shed and keep the mildew away.

The Benefits of Using a Natural Cleaner

Using a natural cleaning solution helps you maintain the walls of your shed while being environmentally friendly. When you wash away the cleaning solution, you don't have to worry about it hurting the plants and animals living around your shed. Plus, it's likely that you already have many of the simple ingredients used to create a natural cleaning solution for your shed. This helps you to avoid spending money on expensive pre-made cleaners.

How to Clean Your Shed

The first step of cleaning your wooden shed is to rinse all of the excess dirt and dust from the walls. A high-pressure hose is excellent for removing dirt and grime that has been there for a while. Next, put on a pair of rubber gloves and use a sturdy-bristled brush to apply your homemade cleaning solution to the wood. Move your scrub brush evenly over the wood so you don't miss any spots. It may be necessary to scrub areas of stubborn mildew with a toothbrush. Check to see if there is any damaged wood or splinters. Also, take a moment to check the condition of your shed windows to see if they need your attention. After washing all of the walls, thoroughly rinse them with plain water. It's best to clean your walls on a sunny day so your shed has a chance to dry out.

Protecting the Walls of Your Shed from Mildew

If you want to protect your shed from mildew, you can put a sealant on the wood. A sealant keeps water from getting into the wood and causing mold and mildew to form. Plus, a coat of sealant can protect the shed's color from fading in the sun. Sealant can be applied with a paintbrush to all of the walls of a shed.

Clear the Area Around Your Shed

Sometimes the items stacked around your shed can lead to wall damage. For instance, a pile of logs stacked next to your shed can attract termites, carpenter ants, and other insects that can burrow into the walls of your shed. Plus, mice and other rodents can make a home in a log pile and invade your shed. Rodents can chew on the walls as well as destroy items inside your shed. Leave a foot or so between your shed and any items around it.

Cleaning the walls of your shed can help it to last longer and look its best on your property. Just a couple of hours of work on your walls can give you a shed you can be proud of. Thanks for reading! - Alan

Topics: wood shed cleaner

Essential Updates For Your Tire Swing

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Mon, Mar 7, 2016


Did you have a tire swing in the backyard when you were a kid? If you did, you know how fun it can be to sit on a tire as you glide back and forth beneath the branches of a sturdy old tree. Traditional tire swings are still popular today. In fact, many parents and grandparents like these swings because they give new life to an old tire. Let's look at some simple ways you can make a traditional tire swing even more fun for the little ones in your life. Enjoy!

Paint Your Tire

Who says that a tire swing has to be monochromatic? One way to spruce up your tire swing is to paint it. You can paint it in a child's favorite color or even choose a color that matches your home. Be sure to use outdoor paint so the color can withstand the rain, snow, and sunlight without losing its true color. If you want to get even more creative with colors, find a template and add a design to your tire swing. You could decorate it with a line of waddling ducks or make a galaxy of stars on your tire. Get the young ones to help you decide on a design for their backyard swing.

A Tire Swing With an Animal Theme

If you have a child or grandchild who likes horses, you may want to try making a pony tire swing. This project takes a little more time and effort, but kids can really let their imaginations run away with them as they play on this unique swing. I suggest that you let the kids decorate the pony with outdoor paint to make it all their own.

Twin Tire Swings

If you have a traditional tire swing, why not choose another sturdy branch for a second one? That way, two children can swing outside at one time and no one has to wait for a turn on the tire! I think kids would enjoy being able to talk and laugh as they swing. Be sure to hang the swings far enough apart so they can't crash into one another while the kids are having a ball.

Enhancing the Tire Swing Experience

There are simple things that can add to the fun of a tire swing in the backyard. One idea is to put a lawn sprinkler near the tire swing and turn it on so the child gets a shower every time they coast through the spraying water. This is a great option for a hot summer day. Kids can take a portable radio or CD player outside with them and play some tunes as they swing back and forth. Or kids can play a game where they put a line of beach balls on the ground near the tire swing to see how many they can kick as they swing in that direction.

But don't leave all of the fun to the kids. Try taking a turn or two on the tire swing just to see what all the fuss is about! Thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: tire swing

Buying A Car? Don't Forget About Your Garage

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Mon, Feb 29, 2016


Getting a new car is an exciting event for any family. I must admit that I enjoy the smell of a new car's interior; don't you? It's nice to think about all of the fun trips and adventures you'll have on the road. But is your garage ready for a new vehicle? Parking your car in the garage can help to maintain its great condition. Look at some tips on how you can prepare your garage for the new addition to the family. Enjoy!

Making Room for a Car

Imagine pulling your car into the driveway and opening your garage door only to realize that there is not enough space for your vehicle. That would definitely take some of the fun out of bringing your car home. Maybe you have a lot of boxes and other items that are taking up too much floor space. If this is the case, put aside a few days to remove some of those items so you have adequate space for your car. Donating items to Goodwill is a great way to get rid of clothing, appliances, and other items you don't need anymore.

A Place for All of Those Car-Related Items

There are many items that go right along with owning a new car. Bottles of motor oil, cleaning fluid for the windshield, clean cloths, sponges, tire cleaner, and a small portable vacuum cleaner are just a few examples of items that are useful to a car owner. Try putting these and other car-related items into a cabinet or bin in one corner of the garage so they are easily accessible.

Check Above and Below for Potential Hazards

Take a look around your garage to make sure that it's safe for your car. For instance, if you have heavy items stored in a loft above your car, make sure that they are secure. Some people like to store bins in racks attached to the ceiling of the garage. Remove any item that could topple over onto your car. Don't forget to check the floor of your garage. Look for loose nails as well as crumbling areas of concrete. Keeping your garage floor clean and in good condition can help protect your car's tires.

Examine the Garage Door

If you have an automatic garage door, it's a smart idea to test it to make sure it's in good working order. It shouldn't fall to the floor too quickly or get stuck halfway down. A malfunctioning garage door can be hazardous to a new car as well as the people riding inside it. You may even want to change the batteries in your remote so there's little chance of getting stuck outside in the rain. A manual garage door requires the same type of examination. Be sure that it is traveling up and down in a smooth way. Plus, when the door is up, ensure that it is secure in the open position. A door should never look like it is about to slide back down on its own!

Happy driving, and thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: steel garage to protect your new car


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