Summer can't get here fast enough. I've been thinking that I can just put off those home improvement chores for just a few more days until the weather starts to turn. I should just really tackle them now so I can enjoy the weather when it does get warmer. Of course it is easy to say that until the sun comes out... and then all bets are off. What has made me start longing for the warm weather... it is the number of stories that are dealing with outdoor topics this week. From the Kitchen Herbs at Drakes, and the Terra Casa bubblers, to the outdoors lights at Al's Garden Center and even the window cleaning tips from Champion Windows (I look longingly outside as I clean) everything seems to be drawing me to the sun! Oh well, back to the chores...

Terra Casa Bubblers

The sound of water is wonderful. In your yard or garden it can make a soothing area for you to relax and enjoy your time outdoors better. We caught up with Diana at Terra Casa (503-577-8242) to check out how easy it is to add one of these to your backyard. Terra Casa is an expert in building these water features and with their huge selection of pots, they can help you build a custom feature with your favorite container. The first one we saw was a self-contained one that had been drilled with a hole in the side so all the pumps could be hidden inside. Diana recommends that you don't drill the hole yourself. It requires a masonry bit for the drilling and it is very hard to drill without damaging or destroying the pot. She recommends that Terra Casa do it for you so they can face the consequences of the broken container. The next one was a stacked self-contained pot. The top 2 containers were designed to flow over the edges while the bottom one became the reservoir for the water. These self contained ones can go anywhere in your yard and all you need is an extension cord.

The next few were ones with an in-ground reservoir. This reservoir doesn't require a lot of digging and they can hold a lot more water so you don't need to check the water level so often. You will only need to dig a shallow hole of about 1 foot deep. The only thing that would change the size of the reservoir would be the size of the vessel; the larger the pot the larger the reservoir.

Once you have your fountain up and running you will notice how much wildlife it attracts to your garden too. Birds, dogs and cats all like the sound of water and the easy access to drinking water as well. If you are looking to add water to your patio or garden just stop by Terra Casa. They can do it all or they can set you up with the drilling and give you a do-it-yourself sheet so you can build your own.

Outdoor Patio Lights

As the seasons change we find ourselves heading outdoors to enjoy the warm evenings of summer and fall. But to really enjoy the atmosphere and create that wonderful ambiance most of us seek a little soft lighting. We found a large number of choices at Al's Garden Center (503-726-1162) in Sherwood. Jeanette showed is how easy it can be to create that ambiance.

First we saw the Patio Umbrella lights that can be attached to the spokes of the umbrella. These are great because they still allow for the closing of the umbrella. If you don't have access to power or you don't want an extension cord to trip over there are other options. Jeanette showed us the battery operated lights that can be attached to the pole of the patio umbrella. These can last up to 8 hours when fully charged. Another option are the Firepots which use a jell type of fuel to burn. The flames stay nice and low and give off a very soft light, plus they come is some really decorative pots too. The final items we saw were candles. There are lots of choices here including citronella candles which help keep the mosquitoes away and ones that will not blow out even in a breeze.

Kitchen Herbs

There is nothing like the flavor of fresh garden herbs in your best dishes. A twig of this, a sprig of that, and your meal has more zest and zing. We stopped by Drakes 7 Dees (503-256-2223) to learn about growing herbs in your kitchen from Lynn. First, the choice of herb is important. Some herbs do better outside and others are perfect for indoor use. Lynn recommended using Italian parsley, peppermint and thyme. She also told us that basil was a good indoor herb that you will find many uses for. The important thing is to remember the growing conditions that are required by each plant, mainly enough sunlight and enough water.

Teflon Cookware

If you are cooking in the kitchen you need to have good cookware. One of the most popular styles of cookware is the Teflon coated cookware. Chef David did some research and shared some information with us. A reminder, Chef David is not an expert, so if you have questions you may want to check out the Teflon webpage. What Chef David was able to find out was that Teflon is safe when used in normal conditions. Under certain extreme circumstances, like extreme high heat, it can release a gas that can be harmful. How to avoid that? Use your exhaust fan when cooking and never leave your pan unattended on the burner. If you are cooking at a very high heat, you may want to use a different pan.
Avoid using metal spatulas with your cookware. Use plastic, wood or bamboo. These won't damage your cookware or the coating and your cookware will remain 'non-stick'. If you do notice flaking or bubbling of your cookware you may be worried about ingesting some of the particles of material from the pan. We have found out that the material is inert and should be safe. If you are worried, then you should replace your pan with a new one. If you still have concerns then you can go to a stainless steel, enameled or a cast iron pan.

Hardwood Floor Choices

A lot of home improvement projects start from the ground up and we are talking about floor coverings, and for some people they are looking at choices in hardwood floors as a replacement for their current flooring. We caught up with Tyler Paulson from Paulson's Floor Coverings (503-620-7080) to learn about the new and different choices available on the market. The first choice had us fooled. We thought it was a wood product but it turned out to be a laminate. Tyler called it an updated version of the Pergo flooring of a few years ago. It can handle the wear and tear of kids, pets and other abuses better than the old laminates and even better than some wood products. Next we moved to a true hardwood floor. It was hand-scraped to give it that weathered look. There are various ways for manufacturers to get this look. One way is by using machines and the other way is to send it to prisons and let the inmates beat up on the wood to get the desired effect!

Next we moved to the newest in 'green' products. We started with bamboo. This is one of the most popular materials because it is very durable, is sustainable and is easy to care for. They can now caramelize it (slightly toast it to darken the grain) and stain it so you can use it in many different applications. Finally we moved to cork, another sustainable product and one that can be used in many different applications. Cork is good because of its ability to absorb sound. It is a softer material that is also durable. Because of its porous nature it shouldn't be used in bathrooms or anywhere there could be excess moisture. If you have any more questions about these or any other floor coverings, check with the experts at Paulson's.

Quick Tip - Window Cleaning

We are going old school when it comes to window cleaning. We have pulled out the Windex and newspaper for this must do chore. Jon Holman of Champion Windows (503-624-2678) uses his mother's method. Jon joined Robin to show her what they recommend at Champion. First of all you must use a quality product to do the job. At Champion they offer a really nice cleaner to all their customers when they buy new windows, but he said you can also use a Windex product as well. Then you just wad up a piece of newspaper and, using a circular motion, wipe your windows clean. Jon also shared his mother's recipe of using an apple cider vinegar and water mixture. This avoids streaks and seemed to repel the dust too. To get answers to all your window questions, check with the experts at Champion.

Cleaning Your Countertops

You have spent the money to buy and install those new counter tops in your kitchen or bathroom, now you need to protect that investment by use the correct cleaners and techniques to clean them. Fabio from Parr Cabinet Outlet (503-614-2655) joined us to fill us in on the best products. The first top we looked at was Corian. This type of material can be cleaned with the harshest of cleaners because it is a non-porous, single material countertop. It is used in restaurants and hospitals because of that. Granite countertops used to be difficult to clean, but have become much easier. Newer granite styles come with a lifetime sealer that can protect your countertops if cleaned correctly. Don't use a highly acidic cleaner or bleach and you should be fine. You will also want to reseal the granite about every 2-3 years. It is not a hard process to reseal these either. It is a 2-step process that can be done in a half hour. Laminate countertops can be damaged very easily, so you will want to be very careful when cleaning these. Do not use acidic cleaners or bleach. Soap and water or a 'Windex' type of cleaner are the best for this countertop. Laminate is just compressed paper, so you will want to avoid placing hot pans on it too.

Budget Kitchen Makeover - Structure

You don't have to break the bank to redo your kitchen. If you take small steps, get creative and do some of the work yourself, it can be pretty inexpensive. Linda from Rejuvenate Your Home (503-803-8000) is redoing her kitchen and she walked through the first steps of dealing with structural issues. The reasons for changing her kitchen were to add room, create a more open space and to make it easier to use. To get started you need to do a lot of shopping and planning. We said shopping, but not buying. The shopping is to help you narrow down choices in new appliances and countertops and to get measurements and ideas. Next you want to get your plan into writing. If you are looking at major changes you will need to have a more formal and detailed plan and you may need to get a permit.

The major considerations include gas, water, power and load-bearing walls. Moving any of these will require an expert and we recommend that you contact a licensed and bonded contractor to do the work. You can avoid future problems if this work is done right the first time. This will also become your largest expense. For Linda, unforeseen problems with a major electrical move cost more than she budgeted for, but they had also penciled in a contingency fund for cost overruns. Linda used Mike Nicoletti from 'One Last Caress Construction (503-810-5870) as her contractor and he was able to help her determine what needed an expert and what she could do on her own.

Finally, you have to be prepared to live with a mess for awhile. While having a full-time contractor can make the job go faster you will still need to deal with the noise and the dust for a few days or weeks (or months in some cases) so have your microwave and outdoor grill ready for use. By doing most of the work themselves, Linda and her husband are spending $5,000 instead of $50,000. But if you are willing to take the time and put out the effort you could have a new kitchen in no time and still have money in your pocket.



Website design and content 2009 Gustin Creative Group.  Please send website inquiries to gustingroup@comcast.net
This page last modified
October 24, 2018.