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Home Improvement

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As you take a break from yard work outside this month, our garden guru explains what you should be doing inside to prepare for spring.

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I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t spend a lot of time in the garden in December. I might be finishing the final leaf cleanup and maybe doing a little pruning but it is a good month to take a break from the hands-on work outside. I will, however, spend some time inside getting things ready for the spring.

If you have time it’s never a bad idea to take a look at your gardening tools and evaluate the need for any maintenance and repairs. I like to sharpen my hand pruners and shears and even cleanup the edge on my shovels at the end of each season. I’ll also replace any handles that may be worn or cracked on rakes, shovels and brooms. These are also services that most hardware stores will do for you. Gardening tools will last for decades if well maintained.

December is also great time to drop off your lawn mower, string trimmer, blower or anything else with an engine at the local service center. Waiting until you need them in the spring can be a big mistake as most reputable service centers are backed up several weeks and even a month or more by the time the grass starts growing in late March and early April. I highly recommend taking care of this during your gardens slow season and the slow season of the local mower repair shop. Even though I may not be working in the garden much I do still like to get outside especially in the neighborhood parks like Ault Park. While the winter landscape can be stark there is also the opportunity to have plants that have features that are most noticeable in the winter. A winter landscape favorite is the Harry Lauders Walking Stick with its contorted branching structure. Some plants with interesting bark are the Oakleaf Hydrangea, Paperbark Maple an any of the red and yellow stemmed dogwood shrubs. Plants with brilliant red winter berries like the winterberry, chokeberry, nandina, hawthorn and holly are hardy to our area and work well in our gardens. There are also plenty of evergreens in dwarf and full sizes that shine in the winter landscape. You’ll find some of these around the arboretum at Ault Park and around the gardens. Take note and even a photo of any plants you see that catch your eye in the winter that you think may work well in your garden. If unsure of the plant name and or variety show those photos to your local landscaper or garden center staff for identification and more information on the availability.

Thanks for allowing me to share some of my thoughts on gardening over the last twelve months. Have a wonderful winter!

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As foliage begins its last act of the year, see what our green thumb guru says you should do now to prepare your garden for bountiful blooms next year.

Goose
Gooseneck loosestrife

It’s hard to believe it’s October already. Our gardens will show that last burst of color before going into the long rest of winter. Our trees and shrubs are going to lose the green provided by the chlorophyll in their leaves and go to their true colors of red, orange, purple and yellow. We’re fortunate to live an area with hills and valleys where we can get a great perspective on the amazing colors of our fading gardening season. A walk in a city or state park is always a good idea this time of year.

After that walk, we’ll find that there is still plenty of work to do in the garden. One of my primary goals will be dividing and moving perennials so that I can fill in all open spaces in my garden. Now, that doesn’t have to be your goal at all. There is something to be said for open areas of mulch and space between plants. Depending on your preference in how you want your property to look and the types of plants chosen to achieve that goal, you may just be dividing plants to keep them from taking over. In my garden, I divide with the idea of filling in spaces that don’t have a plant. I just like that really full and kind of crowded look.

The first plants I’m going to work on are my hyperion daylilies along my back steps. In just two seasons, they’ve gone from a handful of flowers per plant to a dozen or more per plant and the leaves are hanging halfway over the steps. I’ll remove the entire clump, use a sharp garden knife to separate the roots, install some in the original spot and move the remaining to areas around the front and back gardens. Daylilies recovery quickly and will bloom next year.

I’ll also be moving many of my ostrich ferns. I love a plant that easily spreads without being a headache to deal with and ferns fall in that category. In the shady areas of my backyard, I continually add more ferns from my existing stock. Ferns look great as a foreground to my hydrangeas, viburnums, serviceberry, arborvitae and dawn redwood. And, the deer don’t eat them, which is a bonus.

Another plant that I’ll be dividing is my gooseneck loosestrife. This plant does spread rather quickly but with a little bit of work in the fall, I can have it under control for next year. I’ve actually taken to adding the roots I remove to the bank of a wooded creek in our backyard and its doing a fine job of holding back the hillside. And it’s much better looking than the wild mustard there currently. The flowers on this plant are very eye-catching.

Other plants that will come under the dividing knife are my sedum, ornamental grasses, daisies, and beebalm. Plants that will receive a pretty heavy fall pruning without risk of ruining any spring color are my oakleaf hydrangea and low-gro sumac. The former just gets a little too tall in some areas so I head it back by about one third to one half every few years and the latter just needs a heavy pruning once a year. After it sheds its scarlet leaves, I give it a heavy pruning knowing it will take off again in the spring.

It’s important to keep in mind that while the growing season is wrapping up, our gardens still have plenty of work that can be done in the fall that will provide big dividends next spring and beyond. Do this work before it gets too cold out and we get too near the busy holiday season.

We got a sneak peek of a beautiful home that's being featured in the 2016 CiTiRAMA! Click to see our exclusive video and get all the details about what's new this year!

CiTiRAMA is coming up Sept. 10-18, 4P-9P Monday-Thursday and 12Noon-9P Friday, Saturday & Sunday.

This year’s show will be held in College Hill in a cul de sac community – Gershom Grove – and it features 4 Homes by Cincinnati’s Premiere Builders – DREES Homes, MARONDA Homes, Potterhill Homes and Bookstone Homes.

But just imagine Gershom Grove is a 36 lot community and you can have a home built your way, receive great special assessment incentives and live in the city close to downtown, shopping, parks, and the arts. So whether you are a young professional looking to build your first home or an empty nester that loves College Hill, CiTiRAMA is for you.

Prices of the Show Homes range from $200,000 – $350,000. And actually, the City of Cincinnati has adopted a special assessment policy for the Gershom Grove neighborhood that gives NEW CiTiRAMA homeowners the benefit of an equivalent of a 50% property tax abatement for 20 years.

What I love about going to CiTiRAMA is that it gives you a chance to tour the homes, meet the builders, see design trends live and in person (not just on your Pinterest board)

Admission to CiTiRAMA is just $10, and kids 12 and under FREE, You can get discounted tickets for $8 at area Kroger stores or at the gate for $8 with your AAA Membership. Parking is FREE!

This is the 13th CiTiRAMA over 20 years in Cincinnati and it’s produced by the City of Cincinnati and the Home Builder’s Association of Greater Cincinnati.

New this year is Family Fun Day on Sept. 11 from 12:30-3:30 where they’ll have a firetruck, animals from the Park district, sport demos, FC Cincinnati player meet-and-greets, and free Kona Ice for the first 200 people! Plus, for the Pokemon Go fans – College Hill is jam packed – you can pick up a Pokemon Go map at CiTiRAMA, tour CiTiRAMA first, then hit the Pokemon Go Tour after. There is no additional charge for Family Fun Day – it’s part of the CiTiRAMA admission, kids under 12 are free!

More details at www.cincybuilders.com!

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Our landscape expert explains why an increase in the water bill this month will be much less than replacing your mature trees, shrubs, and lawn in the future.

The garden
Our gardening expert shares why sacrificing for an extra water bill this month will save your garden down the road.

After the prepping our gardens in March and April, planting annual color and possibly trees, shrubs and perennials in May and June, we may find that July is a nice month to just sit back and enjoy the hard work. There are still weeds to pull and lawns to keep mowed but for the most part the garden is on cruise control.

That being said, we still have to be aware of what’s going on with the weather. We really need to be sure we’re providing enough water to our landscape and the heat of July can present some problems. We’ve had summers where we have some significant weekly rains and others where we wont see much rain for six to eight weeks. One of the most costly natural disasters we’ve ever had in the US was the drought of 1988. In today’s dollars, its cost would be over $120 billion, second only to hurricane Katrina. The drought affected 45% of the continental US. The wildfires in Yellowstone National Park occurred during this period. I recall that here in Cincinnati we didn’t have a significant rain from about mid-May until September.

While that extreme doesn’t happen often, we can see a lot of damage in our landscapes from even just a week or two of hot weather with no rain. While a lawn may go dormant and have resurgence later in the summer or early fall, the stress of a drought can cause all kinds of problems. Our lawns stay weed free with much less effort when they stay thick. Insects are also attracted to lawns under stress. What looks like a lawn that may come back can actually be a lawn in need of complete reseeding.

In the case of our trees, the damage from drought could take years to be recognized with slowly thinning crowns, a sign of declining roots. Trees under stress are also more likely to be attractive hosts to insects and diseases. Watering a lawn is a great way to also take care of our mature trees.

Our shrubs will also let us know when they need a drink. While wilting leaves late in the day aren’t uncommon on a hot day, we want to watch out for leaves that are not perking up over night. Hydrangeas, viburnums, barberries, azaleas, and rhododendrons are all going to tell us when they need help.

My first preference for a well-watered landscape would be an in ground irrigation system. The ability to assign watering frequency by various zones around a property is really a wonderful feature. The fact that they keep on working while you’re out of town is another. If the in-ground system isn’t an option, then the good old oscillator is the next choice. If you add a timer at the faucet your can “set it and forget it,” at least in that one part of the property. You still have to move the sprinkler around to ensure complete coverage.

Impact sprinklers also work well but I find that if you need some height in applying the water they are somewhat limited. My least favorite is the soaker hose. They’ve been shown to only apply water right under the hose with very little very actual coverage.

Whether from the clouds or the spigot, our landscapes need about an inch of water per week, sometimes more when the temperatures climb into the mid to upper 80s and beyond. An inexpensive rain gauge is a great investment. The next investment would be some time on your part to look at your plants and landscape for signs of drought stress like wilted leaves, faded color, dropped leaves, cracked soil, etc. The increase in the water bill will be much less than replacing mature trees, shrubs, and lawns.

093013ADVERTORIAL

California Closets now calls the heart of Kenwood home, to provide custom storage solutions for yours. For 24 years, the Cincinnati California Closets franchise has been dedicated to providing local clients with world-class customer service, fully customized closet design, and with the highest quality and most diverse product offerings in the marketplace.

 

To see what California Closets designs and products look like — and how they function — in real life, visit their brand new showroom on Montgomery Rd. in the Kenwood Galleria. There, you can view and touch the displays to truly understand the craftsmanship and quality of its closet systems and products.

 

You can also schedule a complimentary in-home consultation with a California Closets design consultant. They will come to your home and begin the California Closets process by discussing your lifestyle and needs and helping you assess what’s important to you and how to create the best use of your space.

 

According to owner, Charlie Meyer, working with California Closets is an easy three-step process:
1. An assessment of your space that incorporates measurements and an inventory of your possessions.
2. A discussion of how best to bring your vision to life, use of finishes, materials, accessories, and architectural design.
3. A computer-generated three-dimensional walkthrough of your new custom system.

 

“We have a great set of experienced and industry leading designers that truly consult with our clients to a solution that fits their needs, at their budget, with their style,” Meyer explains. “The process is truly client-centered and is an experience where you will feel a tangible difference.”

 

In fact, Meyer says, California Closets’ internal processes are focused on delivering comfort, control, convenience, and connection. “From the simple idea of being able to schedule an appointment with us with one phone call to our installers leaving your space cleaner than they found it, we not only design and install a product second to none in quality, but strive to be the best in-home service you have ever experienced,” he explains.

 

To check out the new showroom for yourself, visit: 8110 Montgomery Rd. Cincinnati, OH, 45236. Or, contact them at (513) 793-3055 or kheinrich@calclosets.com.


On Oct. 3, from 6-8pm, Cincy Chic and Cincinnati Profile are hosting a “Create, Design and Organize” event at the new showroom. Enjoy light bites and cocktails as well as design tips and ideas from the experts! Attendees will receive a free swag bag and be entered to win a $250 Paolo giftcard and dinner for 2 at La Poste! Space is limited! Sign-up for one of the two available registration times by October 2nd at createdesignorganize.eventbrite.com. Watch the exclusive webcast below to learn more about the showroom, products and client-centered experience!

This is a special advertising supplement, paid for by California Closets

Most people have no plans to move in the next year whether impacted by the real estate down turn or the current state of the economy. People plan to just enjoy what they have or potentially make improvements instead of buying something newer. The key in this environment is to not invest too much in your property unless you plan to live out your life there and just enjoy your home. So what kind of improvements are people thinking about that plan on doing something.

 

The majority are planning exterior improvements either with landscaping or exterior living spaces also exterior improvements like replacement windows or new siding and gutters. The next highest area people are expressing interest in is general home improvement like new flooring or interior painting. As many as one in three or one in four are looking to do these types of improvements. About one in seven is looking at kitchen or bathroom upgrades or improvements. A smaller group, roughly one in 20 is looking to finish or remodel a basement. So whether you are looking to create more living space or just update what you have to make your current home more comfortable and enjoyable you are probably not alone. It is sort of like looking at repairs for your car. It is usually a lot less expensive to repair your car than to buy a newer one. Also like a house, if the needed repair is major you will probably have trouble selling your old one anyway. You also don’t want to invest more in the repairs than the property is worth.

 

If some updating improvements or repairs are in your plans, HomeServicesLink is here to assist you with locating insured, reliable providers and contractors for your needs. You can reach us at info@homeserviceslink.com or (513) 271-1888. We can also help address questions you might have directly or in a future article.


Did you know if you live in Hamilton, Kenton, Boone or Campbell counties, you can get a home energy audit from a BPI Certified Envelope Professional for as little as $50 and $129 in other areas. These audits usually retail for at least $400. The Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance in partnership with HOUSH –The Home Energy Experts has federal funding to support the program and to aid homeowners with up to 35% of the cost to make upgrades and repairs. A typical homeowner can receive up to $4,200 in “free” money to help pay for the energy upgrades and is open to all income levels. The objective of the program is to reduce energy consumption.

 

So what makes these audits any different than some of the free ones offered by utility companies and others? First of all the audit is conducted by BPI Certified Building Analyst. These are specialized energy auditors that provide instruction for energy efficiency using the house-as-a-system approach. They go beyond the traditional energy audit and identify problems at the root cause, then prescribe and prioritize solutions based on building science.

 

The energy audit highlights are:
• Analyze utility bills
• Check insulation levels of the home
• Check for gas leaks
• Evaluate mechanical equipment for efficiency and proper sizing
• Perform blower door testing to evaluate home for air leakage
• Check home for visual moistures issues
• Check ductwork for leakage into unconditioned spaces
• Perform carbon monoxide and flue draft testing
• Customized report of all test results
• Create a priority solution list based on return on investment

 

We understand that you want the best contractors working on your home. The bar has been raised in this arena by adhering to national standards, training, professional certification, and company accreditation and quality assurance programs. Your problems will be diagnosed and fixed correctly the first time. That means you will get your money’s worth resulting in a comfortable, safe, durable home with improved air quality and lower energy bills. HomeServicesLink is here to assist you with locating quality, insured providers for all of your home needs. Contact us at info@homeserviceslink.com or (513)271-1888.



This has been a different and record setting year so far with the weather. Did not really have a winter, jumped early into summer type temperatures, back to spring and now 90s in May. So summer may have slipped in here quickly without you being fully prepared. I read last week that we can expect a hot summer. Probably the most critical item will be the air conditioner. The one in our office building seems to be struggling and we are just getting started. So what should you have on your must do list for the summer.

 

AC Service or Replacement: At a minimum you should have the unit cleaned and serviced. Freon levels are critical to the health and performance of your unit. One common symptom of low Freon is ice forming on the condenser or the copper lines carrying the Freon. Low Freon will cause the unit to work much harder than normal to deliver the expected cooling. This not only increases your utility bill but also puts excess wear and tear shortening the life of the unit. If you have had Freon added once or twice per year to keep yours running, it may be time to consider replacement with a higher efficiency model that also uses the new approved EPA approved Freon.
Insulation/Windows: How well do you keep the cool air your AC generates in your home? Have you checked the thickness of the insulation in your attic? Over time the blown-in type can compact decreasing the effectiveness. The recommended level has also been increased so if you have an older home you could probably use some more. Insulation is a quick payout item for reducing your energy bill. Do you have old drafty windows that you feel in the winter? Well your cool air is going out in the summer. The cost of good quality replacement windows is much more affordable these days and the energy efficient glass is much improved as well.
Foundation Maintenance: As it gets hotter and dryer it becomes important to keep the soil along your foundation moist throughout the summer. The high clay content that is present in this area expands and contracts greatly. Drying of the soil will pull away from the foundation doing a couple things. Excessive dryness can cause the foundation to shift resulting in cracks. It also provides a direct channel for rain water to potentially enter your basement. Just use a soaker/misting hose along the walls to keep the soil damp and avoid bigger problems.

 

Beyond these items, it is a good time to reseal an asphalt driveway if you have not had this done in a couple years. It is also the season to clean and seal your wooden deck. You should be able to get several days in succession of dry sunshine to get the job done correctly. Getting it done correctly also involves using qualified, capable people to do the job. Have it done correctly the first time. It may cost a little more to have it done by qualified people but it is a lot cheaper than paying twice. HomeServicesLink can help you locate insured, reliable, capable contractors and service providers for all of your needs around the home. You can reach us at (513) 271-1888 or info@homeserviceslink.com.



Memorial Day weekend officially marks the beginning of the outdoor season (along with the start of the church festivals). What better way to enjoy the outdoors than with an outdoor living space. Anything from a simple deck to an elaborate extension of the interior of your home depending on the budget available and the amount of investment that fits the property.

 

Basic outdoor spaces mainly consist of a simple deck or patio. The cost of this feature will be mainly driven by the complexity of the design and the materials selected. For a deck, the higher end composite materials or more exotic hardwood along with number of levels will drive the cost. Patio costs will mostly be driven by the materials. Basic would be plain concrete. The next level would be decorative concrete advancing up though paver stones or other natural stones.

 

Enhancing the basic deck or patio with a hot tub or fire pit would be a nice upgrade. Just make sure the deck is designed structurally to support the massive weight of a full hot tub. Adding a pergola or awning can provide protection from the harsh mid-summer sun. Your selection of fire pits is also quite extensive from pre-fabricated models to custom built as part of the patio. Fire pits are not recommended for decks since they are usually constructed of combustible materials. A stone fireplace is a very nice feature if the budget allows.

 

The ultimate in outdoor luxury is the outdoor kitchen/bar/dining/sitting area. These contain all of the luxuries you would normally have in your kitchen and entertaining areas. The appliances are typically stainless steel and premium priced because they can tolerate the outdoor elements.

 

The grill is built into the structure and hard surface countertops like granite are utilized as well. The cost of an outdoor living area can easily run into the $50,000-100,000 range depending on the features. Incorporating features like disappearing screen panels and folding window walls are very nice features that extend the hours you can utilize the space and investment. Make sure your property values can support such an investment unless you plan to live there for many years and just want the enjoyment benefits. If you are looking to add an area such as this you will definitely want to involve an architect or a general contracting firm that can provide a rendering or model of the expected finish product to make sure it blends well with the existing house and lot.

 

Our outdoor living spaces many times are as important to us as the inside areas and provide more enjoyment. If you are considering such an addition to your home we can help you with a variety of specialty contractors. You can reach HomeServicesLink at (513)271-1888 or info@homeserviceslink.com to request contractor references or address any questions to us.



It is hard to believe that Memorial Day weekend and the official beginning of pool season is just a week away. With the warmer than average temperatures we have been experiencing many of you may already have your pool open and in use. For those waiting, don’t wait too much longer to schedule with a service if you do not do it yourself. Whether or not you use a pool service, here are a few tips on keeping it in top condition.

 

• Clean the skimmer baskets and collect any floating debris every couple days. This will reduce your chlorine demand and make the weekly cleaning easier.
• Brush the walls and tile weekly to reduce algae and calcium deposits. This also includes vacuuming the bottom of your pool.
• Clean your filter when the pressure change is 10-15 pounds. A slightly dirty filter actually performs better than a clean filter at trapping particles.
• Maintain the water level above the skimmer openings. The skimmers will not serve their purpose if the water cannot flow into them properly. If the water gets too low, the pump will starve and potentially burn up.
• Maintain the water ph at 7.2-7.8 for swimmer safety and efficient use of sanitizer. Extremely high or low ph can cause burning eyes, dyed hair to turn strange colors to name a few symptoms.
• Superchlorinate the water to get rid of a strong chlorine smell. It seems counter intuitive but you actually have to shock the pools water with a heavy dose to drive it back to a normal range.
• If you have a pool heater that is not working properly I would strongly suggest using a professional to look at it and repair for your own safety.

 

Beyond the maintenance items, be sure that the safety elements are addressed as well. If the pool is fenced as many insurance providers and municipalities require, make sure you have child proof locks on the gates. Many security companies now offer pool sensors as part of the home alarm system that detects someone falling into the pool. These can be especially beneficial to grandma and grandpa who may have difficulty keeping up with active grandchildren. Pools are a great source of exercise and enjoyment for many. With a little weekly effort you should be able to enjoy the entire season without an incident. If you are in need of a pool service, safety sensors for your pool or better fencing to secure it, we can help. You can reach HomeServicesLink at info@homeserviceslink.com or calling (513) 271-1888.

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