The simple act of planting a tree is a gift of nearly immeasurable value. A tree will add natural beauty and cool shade to your property, and life-giving oxygen to the planet. And if that weren’t enough, a tree is a gift that can be enjoyed for generations to come.
However, for a tree to survive long enough to reach full maturity, it must get a healthy head start with a proper planting. To learn the correct way to plant a young tree, we turned to our resident expert, This Old House landscaping contractor Roger Cook.
Here, Roger shares his secrets for each step of the planting process from digging the hole to watering techniques for proper hydration. And don’t miss his comprehensive three-year plan for maintaining a young tree.
Planting a tree isn’t particularly difficult because you don’t need any special tools. With a shovel, tape measure, and garden hose, plus the strength and patience to dig a hole, it should take only a few hours. Planting it right, however, does require some attention to detail. Here, This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook shows how to add a young shade tree to a sunny front yard.
Surprisingly, tree planting is often done incorrectly, says Roger. “I see improperly planted trees all the time, many of them put in by professional landscapers.”
The most common mistake is burying the entire root ball because the hole is too deep. Not watering enough after planting is another common mistake. Roger suggests tying drip- irrigation bags to the tree and refilling them everyday.
marking the ground to plant a tree
Decide where you want the tree. Stay at least 15 feet away from the house, sidewalk, driveway, and other trees. Also, watch out for overhead power lines — most shade trees will grow at least to the height of residential power lines. Drive a stake into the ground at that spot.
Measure the diameter of the tree’s root ball.
Use a can of brightly colored spray paint to mark a circle around the stake that’s two to three times wider in diameter than the root ball.
Tip: Use special marking paint, which has a spray nozzle that works when the can is tilted upside down.
measuring the height of the root ball of a new tree
Stand the tree upright and untie the burlap from around the base of the trunk.
Use a cultivator or garden trowel to carefully remove the soil from the top of the root ball. Excavate only enough soil to expose the root flare, which is where the trunk spreads out into the individual roots.
Now, measure the height of the root ball from the ground to the top of the exposed root flare.
Tip: Don’t untie the burlap beyond the root flare at this point.
digging the whole for a tree
Subtract 2 inches from the height of the root ball; that’s how deep to dig the hole. It’s critical that you don’t go any farther, since a deeper hole will bury the root flare.
Use a pointed shovel to cut through the grass all around the perimeter of the painted outline. Remove the grass and discard it or transplant it elsewhere; don’t use it to backfill the hole.
Spread a plastic tarp beside the hole and shovel the soil onto the tarp, not directly onto the grass, so you can easily get it back into the hole when the time comes.
measuring the depth of the tree hole
Drive a stake (or your shovel) into the ground beside the hole and tie a string to it at grass level.
Pull the string taut across the hole and measure down from it to the bottom of the hole.
If necessary, dig out more soil to reach the desired depth. Then use the shovel to scrape the bottom of the hole flat.
Dust the hole with superphosphate, which will promote a healthy root system, following the directions for your size tree on the packaging.
positioning the tree
Carefully carry or roll the tree into the hole.
Stand back and view the tree as a helper slowly rotates it. Look for the tree’s best face (every tree has one) and position it so the face is aimed in the most prominent direction—typically toward the street.
Remove the wire basket from the root ball with bolt cutters or metal snips.
Tip: To avoid damage, have a helper support the crown of the tree as you move it.
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backfilling the hole when planting a new tree
Spread superphosphate and 3-4-3 fertilizer onto the soil pile, using the amounts recommended for your size tree on the packaging, and scratch it into the soil.
Thoroughly mix up the soil, then start shoveling it into the hole. Be careful not to bury the root flare.
When the hole is full, use the blade of the shovel to form a 6-inch-high curbing around the tree.
Next, use a garden hose to fill the crater you created with water. As the water absorbs into the soil, knock down the curbing and smooth out the dirt.
Once an offer on a property is accepted, most buyers hire a professional home inspector to assess the condition of the home. The inspector will write a detailed report for the buyer to use in deciding how to proceed with the purchase. Should the buyer cancel the contract and terminate the purchase; ask for the seller to complete repairs; or request a price reduction or purchase credit from the seller to cover repairs?
Unfortunately, many buyers fail to realize the importance of the home inspection. Keeping the factors below in mind can help ensure that you get the most value from the process.
Attend the inspection
Many buyers let their real estate agent handle the process and don’t even attend the inspection. This is a huge mistake. Most real estate sales professionals are going to do a great job for you, but if you rely on them to handle this process alone, then you aren’t going to hear the inspector point out any issues that might cause you to think again about whether it is the right property for you.
Check the inspector’s credentials
In many states an inspector doesn’t need any formal inspection education and may not have to be licensed or bonded. In order to make sure your inspector is a competent professional, you should do a little research on your state’s requirements, certifications and professional designations. Then question, and verify, the experience and knowledge of your inspector. If you don’t, you might get a really bad inspection report that fails to find important issues.
Inspect the home for yourself
Most of the time a home inspection is only the second or third time a buyer has walked through the property — and probably the first time with a few hours to really look around. This is the most expensive purchase you will ever make. Doesn’t it make sense to do many detailed reviews of the property before you make the final decision to proceed forward with your purchase? Bring a friend or family member along for an additional set of eyes. If you discover something that makes you second guess whether it is the right property for you, you’ll be glad you found it before you closed escrow.
Make a list of costs
At the home inspection, separately from the inspector, you should add up all the costs of items you want to repair, replace, paint, improve, landscape, etc. Adding up all those costs, plus getting bids and estimates to make those repairs and upgrades, will give you a better feel for how much you will be spending on the property once you take ownership.
With your inspection report in hand — plus your list of needed improvements and the assistance of your real estate sales professional — you can request that the seller make repairs. The seller may say no, give you a purchase credit or repair some items. But the more detailed your list, the better the chances the seller will at least give a little — and maybe a lot.
The Mather Company is a real estate company that works with buyers and sellers in Columbia, South Carolina and serves the Columbia, Forest Acres, West Columbia, Cayce, Northeast Columbia, Lexington, Irmo, Lake Murray, Chapin and Blythewood areas. Our company is knowledgeable of the real estate market in and around Columbia, SC. We help our clients buy and sell homes. We also work with property management, helping renters find rental properties, and managing rental properties for landlords and investors. Whether this is your frist time buying or selling a home, or a veteran at the game, The Mather Company would love to help you get the job done. We have a proven track record. Please contact us and let us know how we can help you and your real estate needs.
Have you ever though that your room might use a little touching up? Perhaps the rooms in your home aren’t colored to match each other? Interior decoration is always open for creativity and experimenting, but sometimes we like to settle with minimalism. For example, having only one color dominate your home and your rooms instead of combining many different colors.
If you can see from one room to the other, and they are painted with drastically different colors, then it might create a sense of disarray and chaos. Here are some tips for using single color decoration to create the desired harmony in your room or house.
Yellow is the color of joy, happiness, and wisdom. It is used to attract attention. If you want to emphasize something, yellow is the color for you. It is very warm and comforting; its energy inspires clarity of thought and swiftness of action. If you need to focus on something and you don’t know what to do, take a long stare at a yellow piece of furniture in your home, it should do the trick.
However, having too much yellow in your home can be a bit disturbing, especially if you are a baby (it is proven that babies cry when there is too much yellow). So be careful when using this color for decorating a child’s room. On the other hand, yellow instills energy into everyone, so a little bit will do wonders for your child and won’t be harmful at all.
An important aspect of using yellow in decorating is that you don’t have to paint the walls. A yellow table or chair will create the same effect as painting walls would.
The best thing you can do to create the perfect decoration for your room is to choose a dominant color and then combine it with other colors that match. Here are some great combinations for you, with yellow being the dominant color.
Yellow and Blue
To brighten up a dark blue room, add a little yellow and break the coldness instantly. The same will happen when you combine yellow and gray, except that gray is a more neutral color and adding yellow to it will make the room shine with style.
Yellow and Orange
The most cheerful effect is achieved by combining yellow and orange. This energetic combination will keep you happy and motivated throughout the day.
Yellow and Turquoise
Another pleasing effect is achieved by mixing yellow and turquoise. It is the brightest combination, very refreshing and sunny. It’s excellent for a children’s room or a living room.
Yellow, White, and Black
If you use yellow, white and black as your room’s main colors, it will create a high-tech, fancy and elegant look. You can never go wrong with this combination.
Conventional wisdom, as it relates to houses, is often too much convention and not enough wisdom.
Every year, somebody publishes a list of which conventional home improvements will give you the best (or the worst) return on your remodeling investment.
Remodel a bathroom. Replace your siding. Don’t build a swimming pool. Paint everything neutral colors.
Sit up straight. Get a haircut. Call your mother.
If “return on investment” (ROI) is why you bought a home, or why you’re remodeling one, you can stop reading now. Because the rest of this article isn’t for you.
Three, two, one…still here?
You invest in your home to improve livability first, not value. If you get more value in the process, consider it a bonus, but don’t make ROI your prime directive.
Otherwise you’ll end up like the potential client that came into my office a few years ago with a three-page single-spaced typewritten (as in made with a “typewriter”) list of things he wanted in his house.
His list included this line: “A large dining room, near the kitchen. Although we don’t need or want a dining room.” Why would he want to build a room he didn’t need?
Because he’s thinking of things to make the house valuable, instead of things to make it livable.
So let me rephrase the remodeling-ROI question this way: what are some cost-effective ways to improve the livability of your house?
Here’s my short list:
1. Walk-in pantry instead of kitchen cabinets
Kitchen cabinets are expensive. Half of them are up high on the wall where they’re hard to reach, and the wall space they take up could be better used for windows. A pantry takes up less space, stores a lot more, is much easier to use, and costs less to build.
2. Comfortable shower instead of big bathtub
My firm does a lot of work in late-70s/early-80s neighborhoods that are loaded with huge tubs. We’re taking them all out, one at a time, and replacing them with comfortably-sized showers (not the racquetball-court sized ones you see in home shows) that people actually use every day.
A shower takes up less space, uses less hot water, and is far more sanitary than a big tub.
3. Group windows together facing best views instead of scattering them around the house
Got a great view somewhere? Bring it into the house with lots of glass. Take excess windows from bedrooms and baths and use them to connect the inside of the house with the outside.
We once remodeled a house on the coast of Lake Erie that had one window – one – facing the lake. Hey pal, did ya notice the Great Lake in your back yard?
4. Keep ceiling heights reasonable for the room size
“Volume” ceilings do not automatically make better rooms. They just make taller rooms. Rooms that are harder to decorate and more expensive to heat and cool. Instead, focus attention on a view, a large fireplace, or other element and away from the ceiling height. Use wall trim and multiple paint colors to break up the volume of the room and create the illusion of height.
5. Spend more time planning, and less money building
I toured a client’s existing home before we began designing the new one. “Of course,” she said as we peeked in on the kids’ rooms, “these bedrooms are way too small.” Really? I thought. The smallest was probably 14’ x 15’. But each bedroom had at least one door or one window on each wall.
Pretty, but the design left little room for furniture.
I suggested we more carefully design the new bedrooms – keeping the furniture placement in mind. In the end, we were able to easily accommodate each child’s bedroom furniture comfortably in smaller bedrooms than what they’d had before.
6. Consider the simple elegance of the box form house
Subtlety and restraint used to be virtues in home design. These days, far too often, inexperienced designers attempt to attract attention to their homes by adding more stuff… more gables, more materials, more bays, etc. Others know that proper proportion, scale, and details are what turn heads.
The simple box house is a classic American form that’s survived 150 years of stylistic changes. Greek Revival, American Four-Square, Tidewater Georgian…all simple boxes. Great proportions, great details…done.
And here’s a bonus – the box form is easier and cheaper to build, and because it encloses a larger volume in less perimeter, it’s less expensive to heat, cool, and maintain.
7. Share part of the master bath
This isn’t for everyone, but it really tightens up the budget and the floor plan. Make the toilet and a sink in the master bath accessible to the rest of the house, instead of building a separate half bath – it won’t be used much by you during the day, and rarely by guests at night.
Why have two baths when one will do?
8. Spend it when you have it, not before
Sure, it’d be great to have those granite countertops now, but your budget’s tight and granite is ten times the cost of laminate tops. So how about putting in nice laminate tops now, and replacing them with granite in five years when you have the cash? You can easily do the same with light fixtures, flooring, window treatments…
9. Compartmentalized bath – two baths in the space of one and a half
Each kid doesn’t need his/her own bath, but they do need privacy and room to share. A compartmentalized bath puts two sinks in one room and the toilet and tub/shower in another – so three kids can use the bath at once and keep a little more harmony in the family home.
I doubt any of these ideas will ever make a magazine’s list of “Best Remodeling ROI” projects. But every one saves you money over a more “conventional” design strategy, and every one increases the livability of your home.
When you buy a smoke detector, you assume it will sound quickly in a fire, giving you plenty of time to escape. But some experts warn that’s not always true. In fact, we found that the most common type of smoke detector — the kind you probably have in your house right now — may not go off in time, even when surrounded by thick, toxic smoke, giving little warning to get your family out.
Amanda Debuty awoke to a house full of smoke, her children trapped upstairs. “As I’m trying to get upstairs, my first thought is the four people that I have upstairs, that they’re not scared, that they’re safe,” she said tearfully.
Tragically, the kids didn’t make it. Cause of death: Smoke inhalation. So why didn’t they have more warning? After all, Amanda said, the house had working smoke detectors.
“We put fresh batteries in the smoke detectors, we pushed the test button, so I knew they worked,” Amanda said. “And then when it was time, they never went off.”
Amanda said she had the common type of smoke detector, used in 90 percent of homes: inexpensive, easy-to-find alarms that rely on “ionization” technology. They work well to detect fires with fast flames. But experts say some of the most deadly fires are the smoldering, smoky kind that can fill your home with toxic gases while you sleep.
In those fires, experts say, ionization alarms don’t work well, going off way too late — or not at all. “And that means the individuals could have a fire in their home and never receive a warning,” said Dr. Don Russell, an engineering professor at Texas A&M who’s run hundreds of tests.
Dr. Russell says that while it is “reasonable” for a consumer to assume that a smoke detector will sound when there’s smoke, it’s a wrong assumption to make. “It’s very scary and that’s why people die every year because of this problem.” His findings are a bombshell in the industry — that the most popular smoke detectors may not help you in a fire.
An alarming test
We had Dr. Russell set up a test at the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service. First he placed three ionization detectors, the kind most of us have, in a room with a couch. Next, firefighters set a slow, smoldering fire, using a soldering iron.
Firefighters say every minutes counts to get your family out, so you want the earliest warning possible. But in our test, the room filled up with smoke and the smoke detectors still hadn’t gone off after 30 minutes.
Finally, at 36 minutes, one of the three detectors sounded. Minutes later, the other two went off — just as the couch was about to erupt in flames. “It’s way too late, it’s too dangerous,” Dr. Russell said. “You couldn’t get out of that room reliably.”
Remember, this was the type of smoke detector most of us have. But there’s another technology out there that experts say gives you better warning in those fires. It’s called a photoelectric detector, and even government tests show it goes off much sooner in smoky fires.
Dr. Russell set up another test — this time with a photoelectric next to those three ionization detectors.
Seventeen minutes in, with barely any smoke in the room, the photoelectric sounded the alarm. “Photoelectric is telling us you’ve got a fire, get up, solve the problem, get out of the house,” Dr. Russell said.
“And what are the ionization detectors telling us?” we asked.
Sell, donate, and whittle down. Then get out a ruler.
• Start with what’s hanging. Place clothes flat, on their hangers, in two piles—one for short items, like shirts, and the other for long items, like coats and pants hung full length by their cuffs or waistband. Measure the height of each pile to get the desired lengths for short- and long-item rods. Keep in mind that hangers need sliding space.
• Next up: Clothes that fold. Arrange foldables in 10-inch-high stacks—any higher and they could topple. Each stack needs 14 inches of shelf length.
• Extras. Size up items like ties and T-shirts that also need real estate.
Dimensions You Need to Know
The ideal reach-in closet (we’re not talking walk-ins here) is 6 to 8 feet wide and 24 to 30 inches deep. Standard double doors are best, assuming there’s room to swing them open. To prevent blind alleys, the inside of the return walls, the ones to which the doors are hinged, should be no longer than 18 inches.
Time to Plan The Interior
Size up Your Space
• Beginning with the left wall, measure everything to a T.
• Sketch a to-scale layout on graph paper, with each wall’s width and height as well as details such as base moldings, chases, and receptacles.
• Make note of sloped ceilings, knee walls, and other old-house oddities. If facing walls aren’t the same length, at least one angle isn’t square.
Divide and Allocate• Start with storage for your shoes. While options include slide-out racks and tilted shelves, your best bet is open shelves without dividers. To squeeze in an extra pair, alternate toes-facing-out and toes-facing-in.
• Sketch in rods for shorter items, making them as wide as your wardrobe warrants, and a higher rod for longer items.
• Draw shelves 4 inches above the rods plus a high shelf for less-used items, and mark their depths.
Look for Nooks
• Allocate space for a folding stepladder, against the wall under the highest rod, say.
• See if there’s space for a robe hook on a return or side wall.
Sixty-one percent of consumers say they’re interested in learning more about home automation, according to recent market research from the Consumer Electronic Association. Home owners have an increasing number of options, too.
Smart-home technologies are growing, with everything from the ability to remotely control a home’s lights and temperature to sending text messages to appliances or monitoring a home’s security and energy consumption from a smartphone.
Several technology companies are showing off gadgets for the connected home during this week’s 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Mass adoption of smart home technology has been slow and is likely still 10 years away, said panelists at a Wednesday session called “Exploring the Future of the Connected Home.”
But smart-home technology has made strides in recent years with easier-to-use designs and more flexible products. The smartphone has been fueling that growth, said Matt Rogers, co-founder and vice president of engineering at Nest.
Smart homes can be trained to react to the owner and be automated based on the owner’s lifestyle: Lights can turn on when it senses the owner is a certain distance and can turn off as the owner leaves, said Mike Soucie, Revolv’s co-founder and head of marketing.
Homes are being outfitted to capture predictive analytics that can help owners know when something is wrong, too.
“You have a check engine light on your car that tells you when something is wrong,” explained Mark Hanson, product development lead at Alarm.com, during a CES session on Tuesday called “Home Sweet Radical Home.” “But with a home, you often don’t know until something breaks. With [smart home] technology, your home will tell you when something is about to go wrong.”
Smart Home Technology Debuts at CES
A range of smart home technologies were featured at this year’s CES, including:
•Texting appliances: LG’s new Home Chat smart platform connects your home’s appliances to your smartphone, allowing you to text back and forth. For example, you can text your fridge: “What groceries do I need?” And it’ll respond with a text containing a grocery list.
•App-controlled home: Samsung debuted its Smart Home App, which allows home owners to control several appliances in their home, from the TV to connected appliances, wearable tech, and more. Home owners can personalize settings on their electronics and then control them remotely. For example, they can view cameras in their TV or other devices while they’re away from home; receive alerts from the Smart Customer Service feature when something in their home is going wrong, such as an appliance malfunctioning; and use a voice-control setting to speak commands to the home, such as turning off the lights by saying “leaving.”
•Voice-controlled thermostat: Honeywell recently introduced a Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat that responds to voice commands. For example, say “make it cooler,” and the thermostat will cool the house by one degree. Or, tell the thermostat to “make it five degrees warmer,” and the thermostat will follow your voice prompts.
•Touchscreen locks: Schlage touted a new lock that can be opened or locked with a four-digit code and controlled with a smartphone app. The lock will also send home owners alerts if the lock is being tampered with or the wrong code has been entered a certain amount of times.
•Smart lights: Lumen introduced an app-enabled LED Smart Bulb that can be controlled wirelessly via a smartphone. You can dim the lights, set the lights to come on at a certain time, and even choose from 1 million colors to set the right mood. The lights also can be set to blink to alert you when you have an incoming phone call.
It’s official – you really are selling your home and moving away!
As anybody who has ever sold a home knows quite well, it takes a lot more than sticking a For Sale sign in the front yard and hoping that potential buyers will love it as much as you did.
In order to get the best price for your home and pique the interest (and bidding power) of buyers, you need to take some time to stage your home so that it looks and smells – yes, smells – terrific, inviting, and worth every dollar of your asking price.
The following four tips can help home sellers effectively and attractively stage their home:
1. Consider new window treatments
Take a look at the various window coverings in your home and ask yourself if they look new, clean, and in excellent condition.
If the answer to any of these questions is an honest “no,” then consider getting some new window treatments. Home window treatments are available in a variety of textures and colors, and can make a huge difference in the quality of light that enters a room.
Photo by PoshSurfside.com via Flickr
2. Upgrade your tile with paint
As HGTV notes, bathrooms have been known to help sell a home, but old and shabby tile will definitely steer potential buyers away faster than you can say “avocado and almond tile.” Because replacing tile can be on the costly side, sellers can repaint them. After coating the tiles with a primer (be sure you purchase one that is marked “high adhesion”), paint the tiles with a ceramic epoxy coating. This relatively easy and low-cost job can really help update the look of the bathroom without having to spend a ton of money on new tile.
3. Tone down an old fireplace
Sure, that brick fireplace in the living or family room looks great during the holidays when it’s festooned with stockings and the various trimmings of the season, but the rest of the year it really doesn’t do much for the look of the room. To lessen its visual impact, try adding a thin coat of paint to the bricks. In order to avoid the mortar, you do have to paint one brick at a time, which can be time-consuming. But the pay-off of painting your fireplace is well worth your patience when you have a new neutral focal point in your room. One additional tip: to make sure the fireplace blends in as much as possible, choose a color that closely matches the surrounding walls.
Photo by dusty! via Flickr
4. Simmer some apples
Nothing will turn off home buyers faster than a musty, moldy, smoky, and/or any other type of undesirable smell. Even the cleanest home can often benefit from the addition of a nice aroma. Shortly before your open house, place some sliced apples and cinnamon sticks in a sauce pan on the stove, and let them simmer. The delicious smell will be sure to tempt potential buyers to spend even more time—and hopefully money—on your home.
Take a look under your house. Damp, dangling insulation is a sure sign of outdated or shoddy installation. If your house was built before energy-conserving building codes were standardized in 1990, you may find no insulation at all. The U.S. Dept. of Energy currently recommends insulation with an R-value of at least R-9 in floors.
To keep things cozy underfoot, you’ll need to select the right insulation approach for your local climate. Winter temperature is the continental divide:
- In moderate or dry climates without the threat of sustained subfreezing temperatures, insulation between floor joists makes sense.
- Where winter temperatures are extreme, opt for insulating the walls and sealing off the crawl space entirely.
Pantone has crowned “Radiant Orchid” as the “2014 Color of the Year.” Pantone calls this attention-getting hue a “captivating, magical, enigmatic purple” that is expected to catch on in everything from home interiors, accent pieces, and accessories to clothing lines in 2014.
“An enchanting harmony of fuchsia, purple, and pink undertones, Radiant Orchid inspires confidence and emanates great joy, love, and health,” says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. “It is a captivating purple, one that draws you in with its beguiling charm.”
Pantone says the color complements olive and deeper hunter greens as well as makes a great combo when paired with turquoise, teal, and light yellows. It can also help liven up neutrals, such as gray, beige, and taupe.
Radiant Orchid will replace the 2013 color of the year, Emerald.